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Yesterday we learned that talks between the Astros and Yankees about Jeff Keppinger didn't get very far. The 30-year-old utility player appeared to be a fine fit for a team in need of bench help, but New York could instead turn to rookie Eduardo Nunez to fill the role. That, however, seems like a Plan B more than anything right now.
If the Yankees want to sift through other options on the open market they'll find that there isn't much left to choose from. Former Yankee prospect Cristian Guzman is still available after posting a less-than-stellar .648 OPS with the Nationals and Rangers. Despite a solid body of work throughout his career, Julio Lugo disappointed in Baltimore last season, hitting .249/.298/.282 in 93 games. Both players offer average defense at shortstop (-0.2 and -0.4 career UZR/150, respectively) but Lugo has more experience playing second base. Those two are essentially the cream of the free agent utility infielder crop.
The Yankees have had trouble signing bench players in recent years in part because no free agent in their right mind would join the Yanks only to sit on the bench behind their impressive cast of regulars. They've had to trade for bench help as a result, grabbing the likes of Wilson Betemit, Jerry Hairston Jr., Eric Hinske, and Austin Kearns at the deadline in recent years. John Hickey of Sportspress Northwest writes that the Mariners need to make a deal if they hope to free up spending cash this winter, so perhaps a deal involving Jack Wilson and the $5MM left on his contract deal could make sense for both sides.
GM Brian Cashman has started each of the last two seasons with young gloveman Ramiro Pena on his bench, so the team could go with him again if they feel Nunez needs more minor league seasoning. The Yankees have money to spend after missing out on Cliff Lee, but quality reserve players are tough to find these days. Overpaying for bench players is a good way to waste money, so don't be surprised if New York starts the season with Pena before making yet another in-season trade. What do MLBTR's readers think the Yankees will do with their bench during before Spring Training?
Mike Axisa contributed to this post.
After shocking the world by signing Jayson Werth, the Nats have been looking to make a second, albeit smaller, splash to fill their first base vacancy. The club has talked extensively with Adam LaRoche but the two sides seem to have hit a wall as the SFX client seeks $21MM over three years. They've also been linked to 35-year-old Derrek Lee who is willing to take a one-year deal. Lee hit just .260/.347/.428 with 19 HRs in 2010 but finished out the year in solid fashion with the Braves. Like LaRoche, Lee is also being looked at by the Orioles.
It seems likely that Washington will end up with either Lee or LaRoche at first base but they do have other options. It has been said that the Nationals could look into signing Casey Kotchman as a Plan B. The M's let the 27-year-old hit free agency back in November after he turned in a .217/.280/.336 slash line in 2010. Kotchman made a shade over $3.5MM last season and can probably be had for less in '11. His bat may be suspect but his career 8.8 UZR/150 at first base helps to offset his recent offensive shortcomings.
Kotchman might not be a real upgrade over Mike Morse at first base but he could be a nice complement to the burly slugger. While Kotchman has always performed better against right-handed pitching, Morse has shown that he has a knack for hitting against lefties. While he only made 99 plate appearances against southpaws in 2010, the 28-year-old impressed by hitting .295/.374/.625 with eight homers.
ESPN's Jason A. Churchhill suggests a different platoon option: ex-National Nick Johnson. The oft-injured 32-year-old missed the bulk of 2010 with a wrist injury and predictably had his '11 option declined. It's hard to say what kind of contract Nicky J will fetch on the open market but it's safe to say it'll be for less than the $5.5MM he made last season. There isn't a great disparity in how Johnson hits against lefties and righties but he tends to hit for a little more power against right-handers.
There's obviously a significant drop-off in talent after LaRoche and Lee in what remains of this year's free agent class but the Nats could fill their gap at first cheaply while addressing other needs.
The Phillies appeared to have their bullpen all squared away for 2011 when they agreed to a one-year, $1.1MM deal with 33-year-old Dennys Reyes. However, the deal fell apart roughly a week later for unknown reasons. While Ruben Amaro has already landed the biggest item on his Christmas wish list, a reunion with Cliff Lee, he is still looking to add a reasonably-priced left-handed reliever.
On Monday, J.C. Romero made it known that he would like to return to Philadelphia. The left-hander would likely have to take a pay cut however, as he earned $4.5MM in 2010. Hideki Okajima is another attractive available relief option but with strong interest from the Mets and other clubs, he could be too pricey for the Phillies.
Recently, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer identified four relievers who would sign for a deal similar to the one Reyes and the Phillies (initially) agreed upon. Joe Beimel, Randy Flores, Ron Mahay, and Will Ohman would all fall into that price range. With those options available, Gelb argues that the Phillies would be better off rounding out their bullpen from within. If you were in Ruben Amaro's position, what would you do?
At the start of this month, the Orioles began their pursuit of Adam LaRoche in earnest. The two sides have been talking frequently but earlier this week it was said that talks had reached an impasse. The 31-year-old has been looking for a three-year deal and despite reports to the contrary, skipper Buck Showalter says that he club has not put a three-year, $21MM offer on the table.
As they hit a wall with LaRoche's representation, the O's rekindled talks with free agent Derrek Lee. While Lee's offensive production was flat during the early portion of the 2010 campaign, he started to rebound in July for the Cubs and Braves. Lee is also just one year removed from a brilliant 2009 season in which he hit .306/.393/.579 and 35 homers. Perhaps the most important "pro" in the Orioles' t-chart is the fact that Lee seems willing to sign a one-year deal for $8MM, while LaRoche continues to seek a multi-year agreement.
However, the Orioles are not confined to these two options. On Wednesday, ESPN's Buster Olney suggested that the club could put together a platoon at first base. For example, Jason Giambi or Russell Branyan could hit from the left side of the plate while someone like Troy Glaus could provide a right-handed bat. While those names aren't necessarily glamorous, they would allow the O's to patch up their hole at first without breaking the bank. How do you envision Baltimore rounding out their revamped infield?
Dodgers reliever George Sherrill, who earned $4.5MM in 2010, might not be offered arbitration this winter. In other news, I might not receive consideration for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize.
With all due respect to Sherrill and his past accomplishments, which include a fantastic second half of 2009 in Los Angeles, his 2010 numbers indicate that he's not worth another year at a similar rate. However, Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times offered up a defense of the left-hander earlier this week in which he pointed out that Joe Torre often used him in the wrong situations. Sherrill, who shines against lefties, faced 85 left-handed batters and 95 right-handed batters. His stat line for the year was a 6.69 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 5.9 BB/9, though lefties batted just .192/.286/.288 against him.
Sherrill won't be offered arbitration but he could certainly be a solid value for the Dodgers or another club looking to take a small gamble on a strong left-handed specialist. Dilbeck predicts a "serious pay cut" and perhaps even a minor league deal in the 33-year-old's near future. When utilized properly, however, one has to think that Sherrill can deliver results worthy of a guaranteed deal. The only question is, will the market force a team to offer one?
Earlier today, Padres GM Jed Hoyer all but guaranteed that Ryan Ludwick would return to the Padres next season, as MLB.com's Corey Brock tweeted. Given the Padres' lack of middle-of-the-order pop around Adrian Gonzalez, bringing back Ludwick appears to be the right call. However, it's not the team's only option.
Ludwick, 32, earned $5.45MM in 2010 and will enter his final year of arbitration eligibility. While his overall numbers (.251/.325/.418, 17 HR) were slightly disappointing, he should still be a line for a small bump in salary, making him one of the highest-paid Padres heading into next season. While $6MM+ will be well-spent on stars like Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell, Ludwick's stock isn't quite as high. After coming over from St. Louis, the outfielder hit just .211/.301/.330 in 239 plate appearances as a Padre. The sample size is small and the change in home park has to be taken into account, but San Diego will clearly be expecting improvement from Ludwick if he's on next year's roster.
Hoyer has said he's open at least to listening on trade offers for Gonzalez and Bell, but there are a few factors working against dealing Ludwick. Not only could Ludwick's second-half struggles scare away interested teams, but the 32-year-old means more to the Padres than he would to most other clubs. Given San Diego's pitcher's park and limited payroll, they'll have trouble bringing any big free agent bats to town; plus, the club's outfield and lineup would become even thinner if non-tender candidate Scott Hairston isn't retained.
As Brock notes in a separate tweet, the Padres acquired Ludwick from St. Louis this summer in part because the outfielder had an additional year of team control. So it seems San Diego's best plan of action is bringing back Ludwick and hoping that he helps the team contend for the postseason in 2011. If things aren't going well by next year's trade deadline, the club could consider cutting their losses by moving the former Cardinal at that point. What do you think? Is retaining Ludwick the right move for the Padres?
Adam Dunn's defensive limitations are under scrutiny again today after a pair of plays he failed to make in last night's 1-0 loss to Philadelphia, writes Ben Goessling of MASN.com. It's "no secret," according to Goessling, that as the Nationals decide whether or not to extend Dunn past this season, his defense is one of their primary concerns.
Dunn's prowess at the plate is undisputed; with 31 home runs and a slash line of .266/.354/.557 this year, The 30-year-old is poised to match or top last year's .267/.398/.529, 38-homer campaign. And his defense at first base has actually improved, according to UZR. Playing the infield on a full-time basis for the first time this season, Dunn's UZR/150 is only slightly below average, at -1.3. Still, UZR is a statistic best evaluated over multiple seasons, and Dunn's career numbers aren't flattering.
It could cost Washington in excess of $40MM to lock up Dunn to a multi-year extension, and it's unclear whether they'd want to commit that money to a player some observers feel is more suited to DHing. Additionally, Dunn projects as a Type A free agent and could net the Nats compensation picks if he signs elsewhere. As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes noted, the club figures to offer Dunn arbitration even if they think he may accept, since they could live with having him for one year at around $15MM.
Goessling indicates that the Nats would have some interest in Carlos Pena, who will also be a free agent this winter. Pena isn't as dangerous offensively as Dunn, but he has a similar power stroke and is more adept in the field. Other above-average defensive players available this offseason in an overcrowded first base market include Derrek Lee and Lyle Overbay. Both players have struggled offensively at times this year, but are still helping their teams defensively.
Will concerns about Dunn's defense mean the Nats let him walk this winter? How much money and how many years would you commit to the slugger if you were running the organization? Or would you elect to pursue another corner infielder instead?
The Dodgers picked up Cubs lefty Ted Lilly at the trade deadline with the hopes of making a run at the postseason. As they host the Reds at home tonight, they sit 12 games back of the Padres for the NL West crown and seven games back in the wild card chase. Their playoff hopes aren't quite dashed at this point but with Manny Ramirez and Rafael Furcal still sidelined with injuries, things do not look good for Los Angeles.
Earlier today, ESPN's Buster Olney wondered if the Dodgers might try to flip the two-time All-Star to a playoff contender. He notes that Lilly would not clear waivers as he would have several teams interested and points to Philadelphia and St. Louis as possible candidates. With a 1.29 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in four starts thus far for the Dodgers, it's no surprise to hear that he is highly sought after.
Lilly becomes a free agent at season's end and based on the Dodgers' actions last season, many observers believe that they will not offer him arbitration. If you were in GM Ned Colletti's position, would you hang on to the hurler to keep your playoff hopes alive or would you ship him to his seventh career major league destination?
After being unable to land Nationals slugger Adam Dunn, the White Sox turned their attention to another target in the hours leading up to the Trade Deadline: Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez. The conversation reportedly didn't last long as Dodgers GM Ned Colletti essentially told White Sox GM Kenny Williams, "Thanks, but no thanks." Reportedly, the Rays made an inquiry of their own as well.
As they sit a surmountable seven games back in the NL West, the Dodgers made moves at the deadline to improve themselves in the short-term. Octavio Dotel and Ted Lilly were brought aboard and younger players with upside and team-friendly contracts like Blake DeWitt, James McDonald, and prospect Andrew Lambo were shipped out. However, the club's goals can change very quickly if they are unable to make up ground or even tread water in the coming weeks.
The enigmatic superstar has spent a good deal of time on the disabled list this season but has still managed to put forward a .317/.409/.516 slash line and eight homers in 61 games. For a team still in the playoff hunt, the 38-year-old could be very attractive, even for the roughly $7MM he is owed for the rest of the year. If the Dodgers can't keep their playoff dreams alive, one has to imagine that Ramirez will be an August trade target. The White Sox, Rays, and other contenders will certainly be keeping an eye on the club.
When the Orioles fired manager Dave Trembley on Thursday, it represented the club's first major shake-up, and Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun hopes it won't be the last. Schmuck writes that, no matter who is managing the O's, changes need to be made to the team's roster. He advocates trading away many of the team's veterans and focusing on player development for the rest of the season.
In his blog post this morning, ESPN.com's Buster Olney quoted a talent evaluator who thought the Orioles might be better off hanging on to older players such as Kevin Millwood, Ty Wigginton, and Luke Scott, to help stabilize the clubhouse. And, as Schmuck notes, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail doesn't seem ready to give up on the current roster quite yet:
"I'm still hopeful we can end up with a better record than we had last year,'' said MacPhail. "I still want to move that needle…. Obviously we've handicapped ourselves greatly, but I think getting our players healthy will help us in that regard."
Still, with no chance of contending this season in a stacked AL East, and prospects like Josh Bell and Jake Arrieta close to being ready, revamping the roster seems like the logical next step for the Orioles. Schmuck suggests that the ideal approach would be dealing the aforementioned veterans (plus Miguel Tejada), giving a few young players a shot in the majors, and aggressively diving into the free agent market this coming offseason. If you were running the Orioles, would you do things differently?