Derek Lowe Rumors
Here's a look at some highlights from today's column by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe..
- One National League GM said that Roy Oswalt's desire to pitch closer to home has some teams wondering if the hurler might not be enthused about pitching this season. "Everyone knows he has back issues, but the thing that bothered teams was that all of a sudden, he wanted to be closer to home and wanted to start picking and choosing where he wanted to be. A lot of people felt he lost that desire he used to have to pitch, and now we’re seeing him say, ‘Maybe I’ll show up somewhere around midseason and make just as much as I’d make if I signed now,'" said the GM.
- The Angels are unlikely to outright release Bobby Abreu as they owe him $9MM, but their efforts to deal him have been fruitless so far.
- Peter Bourjos, meanwhile, is still prominent on the Nationals’ wish list for center fielders, but the Angels want considerable value back if they deal him. With Torii Hunter in the final year of his contract, there is room for the Halos to keep both Bourjos and Mike Trout.
- Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez will be a top "go get" guy before the deadline for teams needing an extra piece. Astros people remain surprised at the lack of interest in Rodriguez, even with the club willing to pick up about half the $36MM owed to him.
- Indians pitcher Derek Lowe has strong interest in returning to the Red Sox after this season as a starter or reliever. Cafardo writes that the veteran could have been an interesting solution as the BoSox's fourth or fifth starter, but picking up a large chunk his salary from the Braves didn't interest Boston.
- Jason Varitek's friends still insist that he is leaning toward retirement as he can’t envision himself in a non-Red Sox uniform. However, he feels that he can still play and at least be a backup catcher somewhere.
The Indians started their offseason off with a few major moves today, acquiring Derek Lowe from the Braves, picking up Fausto Carmona's option and declining Grady Sizemore's. Here are some more notes about the Indians...
- Indians GM Chris Antonetti told Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he visited Sizemore's Arizona home to tell him that the Indians had decided to decline his option. The decision was "very difficult" for Antonetti, but he determined that there were better ways for the Indians to spend the $8.5MM they saved.
- The Indians will pursue a "quality outfielder" through free agency, Antonetti said. There's still a chance that the Indians will re-sign Sizemore.
- The Indians are expecting better results from Carmona in 2012, since the groundballer has bounced back from difficult seasons in the past.
- Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer says the Indians should make Michael Brantley their everyday center fielder and shop for a corner outfielder this offseason.
- ESPN.com's Keith Law breaks down the Lowe trade and says it helps the Indians, since they get another groundball pitcher who makes his starts. Lowe isn't much more than a back-of-the-rotation pitcher, Law writes, so Atlanta's willingness to part with him for salary relief and lefty reliever Chris Jones is understandable.
- Jason Roberts of FanGraphs explains that there's reason for the Indians to expect Lowe to rebound from his ugly 5.05 ERA in 2012.
- When I looked ahead to the Indians' offseason last week I explained that adding rotation depth was a significant part of the team's offseason challenge. Now that they've acquired Lowe and declined Sizemore's option, their next job will be to re-establish outfield depth.
We have our first trade of the 2011-12 offseason! The Indians acquired Derek Lowe from the Braves, tweets John Kreger. The Braves will pay all but $5MM of Lowe's $15MM salary, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney. Olney says the Braves will receive 23-year-old High-A lefty reliever Chris Jones in return for Lowe. Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein provides a quick scouting report.
Lowe, 38, posted a 5.05 ERA, 6.6 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 0.67 HR/9, and 59% groundball rate in 187 innings this year for Atlanta. Lowe's Braves career ended on a sour note, as his 8.75 September ERA contributed to their collapse. Still, his groundball rate ranked second in all of baseball. Lowe signed a four-year, $60MM deal with the Braves in January of 2009.
With Lowe, Justin Masterson, and Fausto Carmona, the Indians' rotation now has three of MLB's top seven in 2011 groundball rate. Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Tomlin are also penciled in, with Carlos Carrasco down for Tommy John surgery.
For the Braves, the benefit is $5MM in much-needed salary relief for a pitcher otherwise projected for middle relief on their 2012 club. The Braves and Indians last matched up on a trade in July of 2006, when the Tribe sent reliever Bob Wickman to Atlanta for Max Ramirez.
Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.
Upon joining the Cubs, Theo Epstein will leave behind one contractual headache in John Lackey and acquire another one in Carlos Zambrano, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The difference between the two, as a National League scout pointed out, is that Zambrano could once again be a top-of-the-rotation hurler while some doubt if Lackey is even a No. 4 or 5 starter. The answer for both clubs could be a "garbage-for-garbage" deal that allows them to exchange one bad contract for another. Some prime candidates include Chone Figgins, Barry Zito, Vernon Wells, and Derek Lowe. Here more from Cafardo..
- While Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle is an interesting free agent possibility for the Red Sox if they could get him on a two-year deal. The veteran could be their No. 5 starter or serve as a strong lefty in the bullpen.
- It's hard to tell if David Ortiz is serious about leaving the "drama" of Boston for the Yankees, but the veteran wouldn't be a fit in New York as they have no need for a DH.
- A.J. Hinch, the vice president of pro scouting for the Padres, could have interest from teams like the Red Sox, and possibly the Cubs with Epstein there. Las Vegas agrees, as oddsmaker Jimmy Shapiro placed Hinch as the odds-on favorite to get the Sox managerial job. Meanwhile, Josh Byrnes is currently a special assistant with San Diego and could depart for a bigger role with Epstein in Chicago.
- Mariners skipper Eric Wedge is a very interesting name that could be involved in the Red Sox’s managerial search. However, getting Wedge out of his deal in Seattle could be a problem as he has a good deal of personnel power there.
- Tony La Russa would be an interesting choice for Boston, but it appears he'll be staying in St. Louis or retiring. La Russa has always spoken fondly of the city, but it doesn’t appear at this stage of his career that he would want to deal with some of the issues in the BoSox organization.
- Brian Cashman's contract extension is nowhere near done. The Yankees GM’s deal expires at the end of the month, but neither side is feeling any pressure to get something completed.
- Meanwhile, Cashman's top two assistants, Billy Eppler and Damon Oppenheimer, are being interviewed by the Angels for their GM job. Cashman told the paper that he feels both men are absolutely qualified to take the next step. Recently, our own Ben Nicholson-Smith spoke with Oppenheimer about the possibility of becoming a GM.
- Cafardo wonders if history will be kinder to Dan Duquette now that the Theo Epstein era is concluding in Boston. Duquette never won a championship as the Red Sox's GM but the 2004 team certainly had his fingerprints on it. Now working as a business consultant, the longtime MLB exec never got the chance to be a GM again, but hasn't ruled out doing so in the right situation.
The National League portion of the playoffs don't start until tomorrow, but there's plenty of news coming out of Senior Circuit. Let's round up some links from the NL East...
- "That's a tough call, a tough call" joked Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies when asked by Newsday's David Lennon if he would play in New York (Twitter link). Rollins will become a free agent after the season, like Mets shortstop Jose Reyes.
- Braves GM Frank Wren told Dave O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Derek Lowe is not projected to have a spot in the rotation next year (Twitter link). The bullpen or a trade are options. Lowe is owed $15MM next year, the final one on his contract.
- Wren also said that Jason Heyward is not guaranteed to start in right field next year, but the GM told MLB.com's Mark Bowman that the Braves have never talked about trading the 22-year-old (Twitter link).
- Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com looked at five issues the Nationals must deal with this offseason, including settling on a manager.
The Braves blew a late-inning lead before losing a painful game to the Phillies tonight, but if Atlanta goes on to win in the playoffs this year, their bullpen will probably be a major reason for their success. The Braves’ late inning trio of Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel is as good as it gets.
Health permitting, the three relievers figure to return to Atlanta in 2012, but the same can’t necessarily be said for the Braves’ starting corps. Every one of the eight pitchers who has started a game for the Braves in 2011 is under team control next year and with a trio of MLB-ready arms entering the discussion for big league rotation spots, it won’t be surprising if the Braves hear an offer or two for their surplus arms.
Before we get too carried away with assumptions about health, it’s important to note that two Braves starters are on the disabled list and another one is dealing with an injury. Kris Medlen hasn’t pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery last August and won’t be ready before 2012. Tommy Hanson is also on the disabled list (shoulder) and Jair Jurrjens (knee) is banged up as well.
Despite those injuries, the Braves have a full rotation: Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Brandon Beachy (pictured), Mike Minor and Randall Delgado. Top prospects Arodys Vizcaino and Julio Teheran (who will start one of tomorrow’s games) also represent viable rotation options for manager Fredi Gonzalez.
All told, the Braves have nine options. Hudson, Lowe, Jurrjens, Hanson, Beachy and Minor have all had extended looks in the rotation this year, Teheran, Delgado and Vizcaino spent most of the 2011 season in the minors and Medlen, a wild card heading into 2012, hasn’t pitched at all.
Not only do the Braves have nine pitchers around in 2012, most of them are under team control in 2013 (Lowe’s contract expires after next season and the Braves have a $9MM club option for Hudson in ’13). This group isn’t going anywhere.
As unusual as it is for a team to have too much pitching, this Braves team may find themselves with extra arms over the winter. Unlike most teams, however, the Braves already have the main components of their roster in place for 2012. They won’t have many obvious holes to address over the winter.
Yet the Braves aren’t set at every position - shortstop Alex Gonzalez hits free agency and Martin Prado hasn't shown the on-base skills or power you'd expect from a left fielder. If the Braves decide not to retain the slick-fielding Gonzalez and opt to move Prado back into a utility role, they could have holes at shortstop and left field (assuming they don’t view Jose Constanza as a permanent solution).
The Braves are a playoff-caliber team and they seem poised to contend in 2012, but significant needs could emerge within a month or two. Wren avoided last year's free agent frenzy and if he hopes to do the same this offseason without ignoring possible weaknesses, he could make the organization's pitching depth available in trades.
Photo courtesy Icon SMI.
The latest on the Red Sox...
- The Mariners are offering Jason Vargas to the Red Sox, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, who hears that the Red Sox are all over the map in trade discussions. Don’t expect Derek Lowe to return to Boston and don’t expect Carlos Zambrano to become a trade target, but Aaron Harang and Jeremy Guthrie are possibilities for GM Theo Epstein.
- The Red Sox and Yankees scouted Rich Harden in Oakland today, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).
- A source familiar with Clay Buchholz's back injury tells WEEI's Alex Speier the Red Sox are "'very concerned' that the issue is not muscular, but instead could involve a structural issue such as a bone." Speier says the Sox are "monitoring the starting pitcher market broadly," because of Buchholz as well as concern with current members of the rotation.
- The Red Sox are "all over" Mariners lefty Erik Bedard, report Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, and they'll be among the many teams scouting him against the Rays tomorrow night. They note that the Mariners had two scouts watching Boston's Double-A club on Wednesday and one watching their Triple-A affiliate.
- Though the Sox continue to look for starting pitchers, CBS Sports' Danny Knobler tweets that they're telling teams the focus is now a right-handed hitting outfielder. He notes that they would "almost certainly" try for White Sox right fielder Carlos Quentin, if Chicago makes him available.
The NL East looks much different than it did 24 hours ago. Carlos Beltran is out, Zack Wheeler is in and the Phillies and Braves will have to turn elsewhere in their respective searches for offense. Here are the details on the division...
- The Marlins are asking for a lot in exchange for Leo Nunez and Randy Choate and Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez are off-limits at this point, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter).
- It appears that the Braves will hold onto Derek Lowe, according to Heyman (on Twitter).
- The Brewers obtained $1 from the Braves for catcher Wil Nieves, according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com (on Twitter). That's right - one dollar. The Braves will pay Nieves' remaining salary while he plays for their Triple-A affiliate.
- While the Braves still figure to acquire a right-handed hitter, Rosenthal points out that Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward have recently shown signs of heating up. Increased production from that pair could be the equivalent of adding an impact bat.
- The Braves view their starting rotation depth as one of their greatest strengths, and aren't inclined to compromise it by dealing Derek Lowe.
- Rosenthal backed off his Saturday guarantee that B.J. Upton will be traded before the deadline, cautioning that he doesn't know the Rays' exact intentions.
- Before the Giants acquired Jeff Keppinger from the Astros, the Yankees inquired on the infielder.
- The Cardinals are "hotter" on Heath Bell than Mike Adams, especially considering the Padres continue to "need to be overwhelmed" to move Adams.
- One executive offered this metaphor on Pirates GM Neal Huntington using his farm system to facilitate potential acquisitions: "He’s been planting a garden for four years, and now he’s going to be picking flowers out of it."
Guthrie sports a 4.45 ERA, 5.8 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 1.17 HR/9, and 35.7% groundball rate in 123 1/3 innings this year. He's earning $5.75MM this year, and depending on how his peers do in arbitration, Guthrie could jump to the $10MM range in 2012. Word is that the Orioles will listen on Guthrie, but they'll need to get pitching back in return.
Morosi notes that the Orioles had a Major League scout at Sunday's game between the Triple-A affiliates of the Tigers and Yankees. Not only did the Tigers' second-best pitching prospect Andy Oliver start that contest, but the Tigers' front office instructed manager Phil Nevin to use Charlie Furbush. It appears that the Tigers and Orioles match up well for a Guthrie trade.
On the Derek Lowe front, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets that the chances of the Tigers acquiring him are extremely low. He says the Braves would have to pick up at least 75% of the $21MM owed to Lowe through next year, so about $15.75MM, and that's not happening. Surely there's a team that values Lowe at more than $5.25MM through 2012.