Grant Balfour Rumors
Between the Angels' big signings, the Rangers winning the Yu Darvish bidding, the Athletics' rebuilding, the Mariners' dabbling in the Prince Fielder derby and even the news that the Astros are coming in 2013, no division has generated more news than the AL West this offseason. Here's the latest...
- Albert Pujols will earn base salaries of $12MM in 2012 and $16MM in 2013, reports ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. Pujols' 10-year, $254MM contract with the Angels was backloaded so the Halos could afford to sign C.J. Wilson. As a result, Pujols will receive more than $30MM per year in the latter years of his deal. The contract's total value could be worth as much as $265MM should Pujols reach various incentive and milestone bonuses.
- Jim Bowden of ESPN.com names the contract between Pujols and the Angels as the transaction of the year. The trade that sent Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski to St. Louis for Colby Rasmus gets an honorable mention, as does the Tigers' trade for Doug Fister and the Phillies' trade for Hunter Pence.
- Athletics right-hander Grant Balfour is receiving trade interest, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The Australian has a 2.85 ERA and 266 strikeouts in 243 innings over the last four seasons and, if he remains with the A's, is a candidate to replace Andrew Bailey as Oakland's closer in 2012.
- The Rangers have re-signed Matt Kata to a minor league deal, reports Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The infielder spent last year with the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate, posting an .832 OPS in 447 plate appearances. Kata has a career line of .239/.290/.370 in parts of five Major League seasons and last appeared in the majors with the Astros in 2009.
MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith also contributed to this post
- A's people mention the Dan Haren deal as a point of reference for Gio Gonzalez trade talks, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The A's obtained Carlos Gonzalez and Brett Anderson for Haren, so it's clear they'll be looking for top prospects in any deal involving the 26-year-old Gonzalez. Andrew Bailey is "more available" than Gonzalez, according to Slusser, but the A's aren't in a rush to make a move despite interest in both pitchers.
- Slusser suggests the A's could also trade Grant Balfour or Brian Fuentes.
- Kurt Suzuki's trade value isn't particularly high, so the backstop may stay put in Oakland, Slusser writes.
- Free agent left-hander Darren Oliver told Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that re-signing with the Rangers would be his “first choice, no doubt.” The Rangers will be looking to add lefty relievers this offseason.
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels told reporters, including Anthony Andro of FOXSportsSouthwest that he's realistic about re-signing C.J. Wilson, though he hasn't ruled the possibility out (Twitter link).
- Click here to read about Joe Nathan’s deal with the Rangers and here for the latest on the Angels.
The Diamondbacks are likely to come away with a reliever today; here's the latest...
- Arizona is closing in on acquiring a reliever, tweets MLB.com's Steve Gilbert.
- The D'Backs are talking to the A's about reliever Brad Ziegler, tweets Olney. The 31-year-old sidearmer is under team control through 2014.
- The D'Backs have taken a very close look at Oakland's Grant Balfour, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney. The 33-year-old Australian has about $5.6MM left on his contract through next year if his club option for '13 is declined.
Now that Carlos Beltran is heading to the defending World Champions, last year’s American League pennant winner can focus its attention elsewhere. The Rangers, who showed some interest in Beltran before the Giants agreed to acquire him, continue to pursue relievers, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
They are talking to the Padres about Heath Bell and Mike Adams, who are among the most highly coveted relievers available. They are also interested in Grant Balfour and Andrew Bailey of the A’s, though Bailey is a “distinct longshot,” in Rosenthal’s estimation.
Incoming Astros owner Jim Crane has ordered a decrease in payroll from $76MM to $60MM, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com. Here’s the latest on Houston’s deadline plans and other notes from around MLB:
- The Astros are looking for at least three pieces for Hunter Pence. They’d probably demand young, MLB-ready talent, so a deal appears unlikely.
- Houston is shopping Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers harder than Pence
- Padres GM Jed Hoyer told Heyman that he’d have to be “blown away” to trade Mike Adams and that he’d prefer to keep the setup man.
- The Rangers are in talks with the Padres about Heath Bell, who is also drawing interest from the Cardinals, Angels and Reds.
- No one has called the A’s about Hideki Matsui and Oakland isn’t looking to trade Grant Balfour.
- The A’s are taking calls on Michael Wuertz, Brian Fuentes and Craig Breslow.
- The Yankees’ wish list includes a right-handed bat along with a lefty reliever and a starter. Perhaps the newly-signed Marcus Thames will help the Yankees at some point in 2011.
ESPN's Buster Olney outlined plans for National League teams heading into the trade deadline yesterday, and today he follows up with the American League in an Insider-only column that comes highly recommended. Here's a brief recap...
- The Mark Ellis trade could just be the first domino that falls for the Athletics. Other veterans like Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp, and Grant Balfour could follow him out the door.
- The Twins aren't as willing to trade now as they were a few weeks ago, and the big question they have to ask themselves is if eating a chunk of the $5.5MM left on Michael Cuddyer's contract is worth it to trade him.
- We've heard this before, but B.J. Upton and Kyle Farnsworth of the Rays figure to draw interest.
- The Red Sox and Angels don't have a lot of financial flexiblity and are more likely to target smaller pieces.
- Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera, and Wilson Betemit are all affordable and reasonably productive, but Olney notes that the Royals might want to keep some veterans around so the youngsters don't get pounded.
- The Indians and Mariners will not blow up their rebuild processes despite their surprising runs at contention. Erik Bedard's injury took away Seattle's best chip.
- Poor seasons from Alex Rios and Adam Dunn make it difficult for the White Sox to do anything. They need those two to get back on track more than anything.
- The Yankees are convinced their internal pitching options are better than what's available on the market right now. A Rafael Soriano setback would put them in the reliever market.
- It's all about right-handed relief pitching for the Rangers, who will have plenty of options to choose from. The Blue Jays have lots of bullpen help to deal.
- The Tigers are asking around about pitching, specifically left-handers.
- The Orioles are having an internal debate about whether or not to trade Jeremy Guthrie, but they are expected to at least listen to offers.
Today the Diamondbacks purchased the contract of Wily Mo Pena with the aim of employing him in the middle of their order as a designated hitter during the AL leg of their interleague schedule. The D'Backs had open spots on the 40-man roster for Pena, who hasn't played in the bigs since '08 but has a .363/.439/.726 line with 21 home runs in 271 Triple-A plate appearances. Today's links...
- Braves GM Frank Wren spoke to Dave O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the state of the trade market, saying teams are "starting to reach out and talk to each other." He added that they "talked to a number of clubs about where they think they’re going to be going at the trade deadline, but that’s even somewhat nebulous on a lot of clubs."
- Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times explored the idea of the Mariners trading either Jason Vargas or Doug Fister for offensive help and tried to figure out what a realistic return would be.
- In today's Insider-only blog post, ESPN's Buster Olney mentions that Grant Balfour of the Athletics is among the relievers expected to be available this summer. He speculates that the Rangers could be a fit.
- Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal looked at how the Red Sox were about to snag Anthony Rizzo in the sixth round three years before he was a key piece in the Adrian Gonzalez trade.
- NPB has decided against pursuing changes to the posting system according to a Japanese report passed along by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker. Reasons include the difficulty of changing things on MLB's side, as well as the potential for large posting fees offered by the current system.
- In the wake of Andrew Miller's return to the big leagues, WEEI.com's Alex Speier listed the seven pitchers in the last 15 years that reached the Majors the year they were drafted. It's not a pretty list.
Rival executives have wondered whether the Nationals will eventually shift top pick Anthony Rendon to second base, so ESPN.com’s Buster Olney constructs an impressive-looking 2013 Nationals lineup with Rendon at second and prospective free agent Prince Fielder at first base. Here are the rest of Olney’s rumors:
- The Mariners wondered whether Safeco Field would limit Rendon’s offense, but they’re confident that their second overall selection, left-hander Danny Hultzen, will be a good fit in their home ballpark.
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin confirmed to Olney that it’s possible (though not likely) that top pick Taylor Jungmann could help them this year.
- Some executives tell Olney that top Orioles pick Dylan Bundy is the greatest pure talent in the draft. He's certainly looking to get paid like an elite talent.
- Olney wonders if Grant Balfour could be dealt to the Rangers, who could use relief help.
- Teams like the Braves and Phillies are looking for offense, so Josh Willingham could become a target if the 27-34 Athletics do become sellers.
Six prominent Rays relievers hit free agency and signed elsewhere for a total of $67.65MM last offseason (for reference, the Rays’ payroll has surpassed that figure exactly once since 2000). We know how the Rays' new 'pen is working out (pretty well, so far) but let’s check in on last year’s relievers:
- Rafael Soriano - three years/$35MM, Yankees - After allowing 12 earned runs and 14 walks in 62 1/3 innings last year, Soriano has allowed 9 earned runs and 9 walks in 14 innings this year. His ERA is approaching 6.00, his strikeout rate is down and his walk rate is up. What's more, he underwent an MRI on his right elbow this week. It doesn't appear that he'll need DL time, as there's only mild inflammation. Still, Brian Cashman must be shaking his head over this one.
- Joaquin Benoit - three years/$16.5MM, Tigers - Benoit has already allowed more earned runs (10) in 2011 than he did all of last year (9). After allowing just 30 hits in 60-plus innings last year, he has allowed 17 hits in 13 2/3 frames for his new club. The spike in hit rate is no doubt related to the fact that opponents had an improbably low average on balls in play against Benoit last year (.192) that has since risen to an unusually high level (.356). His strikeout (7.2 K/9) and walk (2.6 BB/9) numbers have fallen off, though they're still strong.
- Grant Balfour - two years/$8.1MM, Athletics - Balfour's walks are up, but he is still striking out over a batter per inning and his ERA is under 2.00.
- Dan Wheeler - one year/$3MM, Red Sox - Wheeler, currently on the DL, has an 11.32 ERA for the Red Sox despite an 8K/1BB ratio through 11 appearances. Wheeler appears to be unlucky in terms of opponents' batting average on balls in play (.389) and home run per fly ball rate (21%).
- Chad Qualls - one year/$2.55MM, Padres - Qualls has replaced Ryan Webb in the Padres' 'pen and has already pitched 20 2/3 innings. The results are good so far despite a drop in Ks, as Qualls has limited baserunners and been considerably more fortunate than he was in 2010.
- Randy Choate - two years/$2.5MM, Marlins - Choate has been excellent so far; the lefty specialist has an 11K/2BB ratio and a 1.50 ERA in his first 14 appearances as a Marlin.
The early results are disappointing, as Wheeler and Soriano are dealing with injuries and Benoit hasn’t come close to replicating his 2010 performance. The results will likely improve for Wheeler and Benoit, who have been unlucky so far. But this group probably won’t reproduce the 2010 performances that helped the Rays win the AL East. Reliever performance is simply volatile, even for pitchers who appear to be safe investments.
Yankees officially announced that they signed Luis Ayala, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Warner Madrigal, Ronnie Belliard and Eric Chavez to minor league deals. Here are some notes on the Yanks and the rest of the AL East...
- Jordan Parraz, who was designated for assignment by the Yankees, cleared waivers, according to MLB.com's Bryan Hoch (Twitter link).
- Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun asks if you'd extend any of the seven Orioles who were arbitration eligible this offseason.
- If you answered Jeremy Guthrie, think again. The right-hander, who avoided arbitration with the Orioles today, told Jeff Zrebiec of the Sun that the Orioles appear to have ruled out an extension for him, though he wouldn't rule one out himself and doesn't have hard feelings about the team's decision.
- Here's a fun fact from Zrebiec on Twitter: Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail has never gone to an arbitration hearing with a player in 25 years of running baseball teams. Pretty astounding.
- Daniel Bard told Rob Bradford of WEEI.com that he would like to try starting again and has not discussed an extension with the Red Sox.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post has the latest on some creative discussions between Kevin Towers and the man he worked for last year, Brian Cashman.The Yankees, who considered completing a sign-and-trade with Arizona to acquire Carl Pavano without surrendering a draft pick, discussed a similar deal with the D'Backs about Grant Balfour. The Yankees were moving toward Balfour before they signed his former teammte, Rafael Soriano.
- Justin Ruggiano and Leslie Anderson both cleared waivers and were outrighted to Triple-A, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. The Rays designated the players for assignment to create roster space earlier in the week.