Darren Oliver Rumors

AL West Notes: Donaldson, A’s, Young, Harrison, M’s

While multiple reports yesterday raised the possibility of the Athletics trading Josh Donaldson this offseason, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) spoke with an A’s official who completely dismissed the notion, bluntly stating, “That would be stupid.”  Of course, one such comment doesn’t completely rule out the possibility, but it does seem unlikely that the A’s are feeling too much pressure to move their All-Star third baseman, as he’s just hitting arbitration for the first time.

In other Oakland and AL West news…

  • Athletics GM Billy Beane doesn’t regret pulling the trigger on the trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to Boston in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, he told reporters, including Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com“Simply put, if we don’t have Jon Lester, I don’t think we make the playoffs,” Beane said. First baseman Brandon Moss also spoke, noting that he doesn’t think there was any way for the A’s to catch the Angels based on their torrid second-half run.
  • The A’s could potentially have a strong pitching staff fronted by Sonny GrayJeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir in 2015, writes John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, but they’re left with question marks surrounding that strength. The team has no middle infield to speak of, and the free agent market doesn’t offer much in the way of impact options. Meanwhile, a large portion of the roster — including Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Brandon Moss, Stephen Vogt, John Jaso, Derek Norris, Craig Gentry and Sean Doolittle — is marred by injury concerns. Building a team that can contend in 2015 is a long shot, in Hickey’s estimation.
  • Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News has some more details on Michael Young‘s upcoming role in the Rangers‘ front office. Young and the Rangers are finalizing a deal that will make him a special assistant to GM Jon Daniels — a role that the Rangers are also discussing with Darren Oliver. However, while many former players that land special assistant roles are loosely affiliated with the club and have a light workload, Grant reports that these roles would be far more significant. The Rangers feel they’ve lacked insight into the psychology of modern players when making recent decisions, and the presence of Young and Oliver could help to provide that insight. The roles will also involve field work and player evaluation at times.
  • Rangers lefty Matt Harrison has pushed back the beginning of his offseason throwing sessions from November to January, reports Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com. Harrison called the move precautionary, noting somewhat ominously, “I got only one shot at this. I just have to make sure it’s right.” The talented southpaw, who is entering the third year of a five-year, $55MM extension, is attempting to work his way back from his third back surgery in a span of two years.
  • Perhaps the Mariners‘ biggest weakness was the lack of a productive DH this season, writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. That flaw, he opines, should be remedied with a hard pursuit of Victor Martinez. Though he’s 36, will cost a draft pick and is sure to be expensive, Stone points out that the time for exhibiting patience is waning, as Felix Hernandez and especially Robinson Cano move closer to the end of their primes. He also points out that Martinez “reveres” manager Lloyd McClendon, who was his hitting coach with the Tigers prior to becoming Seattle’s manager.

Darren Oliver Joins Rangers’ Front Office

The Rangers announced today, via press release, that retired left-hander Darren Oliver has joined the front office as a special assistant to general manager Jon Daniels. In his new role, Oliver will work with Daniels and his staff “in a variety of areas with an emphasis on pitching,” according to the release. Daniels issued the following statement:

We are very happy to welcome Darren Oliver into an official capacity with the Rangers. Darren will focus on pitching on both the major and minor league levels, and he will have a presence in Arlington and with our minor league affiliates. I also expect that he will be a valuable sounding board to our baseball operations group on all fronts. Darren has been working with us on an informal basis over the last several months and was a great asset on our trip to the Dominican Republic in January and during his several weeks at spring training camp. I am glad that we have been able to formalize that relationship.”

The 43-year-old Oliver was a third-round pick of the Rangers back in 1988. He spent 20 seasons in the Major Leagues, pitching to a 4.51 ERA with 5.9 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, a 118-98 win-loss record, 11 complete games, four shutouts and seven saves. Oliver’s career looked to be winding down after the 2005 season, as he’d posted a 5.83 ERA in 573 innings from 2000-04. However, he converted to the bullpen on a full-time basis from that point forth and proceeded to pitch for another eight seasons. In that final stretch, the durable Oliver was a workhorse out of the ‘pen and enjoyed a 2.95 ERA (149 ERA+) with 7.5 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in his final 508 2/3 innings.

Oliver spoke with Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith back in February about his post-retirement plans and his final season, noting that he was proud to end his career with a productive 3.86 ERA in 49 innings for the Blue Jays: I’d rather go out like that than hang on and get beat up on the mound and have the fans boo you. No one likes to go out like that.”

AL West Notes: Iwakuma, Astros, Cruz, Moreland

Mariners righty Hisashi Iwakuma is expected to be out for four-to-six weeks with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand (Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune has the details on the injury).  While the injury doesn't appear to be too serious, one wonders if it could spur the M's to bolster their rotation with a free agent starter, as the club was already rumored to be asking about Ervin Santana earlier this week.

  • The Astros' increase in spending this offseason had nothing to do with a statement from MLBPA head Tony Clark that the team was being monitored for its low payroll, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports.  The additions of Scott Feldman, Dexter Fowler, Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls and others will boost Houston's payroll to over $40MM in 2014 (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts), not counting several players making the league minimum.  Owner Jim Crane noted that the Astros were willing to spend even more this winter but did not succeed in signing Masahiro Tanaka or Jose Dariel Abreu.
  • Speaking with reporters (including MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan) today, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said that he has kept in touch with Nelson Cruz's representatives but he doesn't think a reunion will happen.  "We check in periodically, but nothing has changed," Daniels said. "My expectation is he will sign elsewhere."  Cruz has been heavily linked to the Mariners within the last week, and Texas only seems interested in re-signing Cruz if his market completely dries up.
  • The Rangers' arbitration case with Mitch Moreland is a week away and Daniels said the two sides are "so close, I would like to think we would avoid it. But until you have a deal, you have to be prepared for anything."  Moreland asked for a $3.25MM contract for 2014 while the Rangers countered with a $2.025MM offer.
  • While the Rangers have been looking for a right-handed bat, Daniels said "We're not talking to anybody" on the free agent market.  The GM hinted that Texas would turn to internal options like Michael Choice as candidates to provide a right-handed hitting balance to Moreland.
  • Darren Oliver will work with the Rangers as a special assistant and will spend a week with the club during Spring Training, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith reports.  Oliver retired following his 20th Major League season and is now enjoying his first (mostly) free spring in over two and a half decades.  Oliver also shared a few opinions about what his former team, the Blue Jays, needs to do to improve in 2014.
  • The Angels made a number of low-cost moves this offseason, a tactic MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince believes is a nod towards saving money to lock Mike Trout up to a long-term extension.  Trout's future price tag is the biggest question facing the Angels franchise and "the most captivating contractual conundrum in the game today."  We heard earlier today that Trout and the Angels would discuss a multiyear deal this spring.

Retirement Notes: Helton, Johnson, Oliver, Konerko

The season ended Sunday for 19 of baseball's 30 teams, many of which feature players who will not be back in 2014. Here are some notes on players whose careers might (or might not) be over.

  • Rockies great Todd Helton's illustrious career ended in Los Angeles, Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports. Dodgers broadcaster recorded a tribute to Helton that played on the scoreboard before the game, and he received a standing ovation for his last plate appearance. "The last at-bat, I got a little emotional, but other than that, it's Sept. 29th and I'm ready to go home," Helton says. Helton finishes his 17-year career with 369 home runs.
  • Nationals manager Davey Johnson leaves the game with a 1372-1071 career record, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Johnson will continue on with the Nationals as a senior adviser, although he's not expected to play a strong role in the organization.
  • Veteran lefty Darren Oliver ended his two-decade career with a perfect inning for the Blue Jays on Sunday, MLB.com's Evan Peaslee reports. "20 years — very few guys get to do that," Jays manager John Gibbons says. "Longevity in this business is hard to come by, but to do it for that long and be that effective until the very end that speaks volumes." Oliver, 42, also pitched for the Cardinals, Red Sox, Rockies, Marlins, Astros, Mets and Angels, and he had three separate stints with the Rangers. He finishes his career with a 4.51 ERA, 5.9 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 over 1,915 2/3 innings.
  • White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko still hasn't announced whether he's retiring, but he left Sunday's game against the Royals to applause, reports MLB.com's Scott Merkin. After a tough .245/.314/.356 season, it's unclear whether Konerko will be back, and if so, if that might be in a part-time role. Merkin notes that Konerko think for a month this offseason about whether or not to return in 2014. If he does want to return, the White Sox will have to decide whether to re-sign him.

East Notes: Oliver, Davis, Roberts, Mets, Nats

This is the end of the line for Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, but 2013 will also mark the final season for Blue Jays reliever Darren Oliver.  After 20 seasons, more than 1,900 innings and two near-retirements, the 42-year-old is ready to walk away from the game, writes Evan Peaslee of MLB.com.  Here's more out of the AL and NL East..

  • Slugger Chris Davis says that he's eager to sign a long-term extension with the Orioles, tweets Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.  Davis, who owns a .286/.369/.634 slash line on the season, avoided his first go-round in arbitration last winter by agreeing to a $3.3MM, one-year deal. 
  • Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts says that he understands if the club opts not to bring him back for next season, writes Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com.  Roberts, who has been with the organization since 1999, has a has a .265/.341/.429 slash line with six homers over his last 41 games.
  • OF all the Mets' free agents, LaTroy Hawkins is the most likely to return, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Matt Williams refuses to comment on the possibility of him managing the Nationals, but people around him are more than happy to discuss his credentials, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.  
  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo says that the next manager of the club will have some input on the roster, writes Bill Ladson of MLB.com.  In addition to Williams, bench coach Randy Knorr and third base coach Trent Jewett are considered strong candidates for the job.
  • Wally Backman, who was long rumored to be in line for the Mets' managerial job if Terry Collins was fired, is unlikely to join the coaching staff in 2014, tweets Andy Martino of the Daily News.  General Manager Sandy Alderson previously said that Backman would likely be offered a position inside the organization if Collins was brought back.

AL East Notes: Oliver, Price, Red Sox, Hendrickson

Jeff Frye, Darren Oliver's agent, was apparently not speaking for his client when Frye said earlier this month that Oliver wanted a raise to return to the Blue Jays or else the veteran southpaw would retire, Oliver said during a conference call with reporters (including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca).  "I was out of town when that article was written, and I didn't say those things, that was coming from Jeff Frye," Oliver said. "Obviously if I had something to say, I would have said it a long time ago, not once did I ever demand anything from the Blue Jays or Alex [GM Alex Anthopoulos]."  The Jays announced today that Oliver would return to pitch in Toronto in 2013.

Here are some more items from around the AL East…

  • David Price's one-year deal with the Rays was structured in a way that both saved Price several hundred thousand dollars in taxes and also gave the Rays the ability to potentially save $4MM in salary deferred to Price in 2014 if the southpaw is dealt by then, reports Jon Paul Morosi for FOX Sports.
  • Price loves playing in Tampa Bay but knows the franchise has financial limits and feels a responsibility to get a fair multiyear contract, the Rays ace tells Yahoo Sports' Tim Brown.  "I don't want to mess up for the future of other guys that could be in my position as well," Price said.  "You don't want to do that, because that's not only affecting you, that affects everybody else. I want to be happy. I don't want to sell myself short. I guess 'appreciation' is the word I could use the most. I just want to feel appreciated."
  • The Red Sox talked to the Nationals about Mike Morse but Washington's asking price was too high, reports Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe.  Now that Morse has been dealt to the Mariners, Abraham wonders if Mike Carp is now expendable in Seattle and could fit as left-handed bench depth in Boston.
  • Xander Bogaerts is "as close to untouchable as any player in the Boston organization," writes CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam in an interview with the highly-touted Red Sox prospect.  Sox GM Ben Cherington reportedly turned down several trade offers involving Bogaerts this winter.
  • Mark Hendrickson looked good during a tryout at the Orioles' minicamp today and will pitch again for the team on Friday, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.  We heard earlier this week that Hendrickson is trying to return to the Major Leagues as a sidearm pitcher.
  • In AL East news from earlier today, the Orioles extended Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette, the Yankees avoided arbitration with Phil Hughes and the Red Sox made progress with Mike Napoli.

Darren Oliver To Return To Blue Jays

The Blue Jays announced that left-hander Darren Oliver will return to the team in 2013.  The 42-year-old reliever will earn $3MM this coming season, as the Blue Jays exercised his option earlier in the offseason.

Oliver, a Frye McCann Sports client, wanted the Blue Jays to increase his salary, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reported this month.  The veteran reportedly planned to retire if Toronto didn't give him a bump from his $3MM salary and sources indicated that he would have welcomed a trade back to the Rangers as his family lives in the area.  

Instead of calling it quits or being traded elsewhere, he'll return for a 20th MLB season without a raise.  Oliver posted a 2.06 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 56 2/3 innings this past season.  Despite his advanced age, Oliver has made more than 60 relief appearances in each of the past four seasons.

Rangers Unlikely To Acquire Darren Oliver

The Rangers have spoken to the Blue Jays about acquiring left-hander Darren Oliver but a trade between the two clubs isn't likely, industry sources tell MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan.  We heard earlier this week that Oliver would retire unless the Blue Jays paid him more than his agreed-upon $3MM salary in 2013, and Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has said the team isn't interested in re-negotiating the deal. 

Oliver has been on the fence about retirement all winter but seemed to be willing to continue into his 20th Major League season if he either received a pay bump from Toronto or if he could play for the Rangers, as the veteran lefty lives in the Dallas area.  Oliver was originally drafted by the Rangers in 1988 and has pitched 317 games for Texas over three separate stints with the team.

It isn't surprising that Texas and Toronto can't come to an agreement given the unique circumstances of Oliver's situation.  The Blue Jays probably aren't inclined to both help an AL Wild Card rival and do Oliver a favor unless the Rangers made a very generous offer, and while Oliver is coming off perhaps the best season of his long career, one figures Texas won't give much up for a 42-year-old relief pitcher.

As Sullivan outlines, Robbie Ross and Michael Kirkman are slated to be the Rangers' main left-handed relievers, with Neal Cotts and Jeff Beliveau also serving as lefty options heading into Spring Training.  If Ross becomes a starting pitcher, Martin Perez (another southpaw) could rejoin the bullpen.

Anthopoulos Talks Oliver, Thole, Extensions

After introducing R.A. Dickey to the Toronto media, GM Alex Anthopoulos discussed the composition of his team and the possibility of more offseason moves. Here are some highlights…

  • The Blue Jays haven’t heard a final decision from Darren Oliver, who’s weighing retirement against a $3MM salary. Anthopoulos said he’d be pleased to have the left-hander back, though retirement now seems more likely. “If Darren wants to choose to come back we would certainly honor that,” Anthopoulos said. “We would be thrilled to have him.” Anthopoulos suggested Oliver could be placed on the restricted list if he doesn’t report to Spring Training on time or officially file for retirement. If Oliver doesn’t return, the Blue Jays don’t necessarily have $3MM to spend elsewhere.
  • Oliver, a Frye McCann Sports client, wants the Blue Jays to increase his salary, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reported this month.
  • One of the leading reasons the Blue Jays acquired catcher Josh Thole along with Dickey was because he has experience catching the knuckleballer. “The thought is that Josh has had so much success with [Dickey], why break that up,” the GM said. 
  • Anthopoulos didn’t rule out the possibility of extending players in the coming months, but he stressed that such deals are possible at any time. And don’t expect much advance warning. “If we’re talking extensions [the media] will be the last to know if I have any say in it,” Anthopoulos said.
  • The Blue Jays are looking at ways of adding a right-handed bench player capable of playing multiple infield positions. That said, they’re considering leaving the spot open because players will inevitably become available toward the end of Spring Training when teams need roster space and out of options players get traded.
  • The Blue Jays could still add to their bullpen, though Anthopoulos said he expects to move forward with what he has. The GM has had some trade talks “on a few fronts” about the possibility, but those discussions haven’t progressed.
  • In case you missed it, Anthopoulos and Dickey are optimistic about the 2013 season.

Darren Oliver Wants Raise To Continue With Toronto

FRIDAY: Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told MLB.com's Chris Toman that he doesn't expect to renegotiate Oliver's contract. "I don't want to really get into the trade talk; things can happen," said the GM. "As far as restructuring his contract, I would never say never, but his contract is his contract. That's what we signed him to … I don't see us doing that."

THURSDAY: Left-hander Darren Oliver has been contemplating retirement for most of the winter, but his decision is more complicated than it might appear.  The 42-year-old wants to play, but is not willing to return to the Blue Jays unless they increase his salary from $3MM, major league sources tell Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports

Oliver would welcome a trade back to the Rangers as his family lives in the Dallas area, according to sources.  The veteran is coming off of the best season of his long career and does not want to take a pay cut in the follow-up campaign.  However, the Blue Jays are over budget and are unwilling to give him a pay bump.  A source says that Toronto has stretched their budget so far that they might have to cut in other areas just to pay Oliver his original $3MM salary.

Oliver signed a one-year, $4MM deal with the Blue Jays last January with a $3MM option for 2013 that could have been bought out for $500K.  Sources tell Rosenthal that Oliver signed the deal knowing that he would likely call it career after 2012.  A trade to the Rangers could satisfy all parties involved, however, as Oliver would be more flexible in his financial demands if he is closer to home.

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.