Hank Blalock Rumors

Youngest Remaining Free Agents

We're weeks into Spring Training now, so few notable free agents remain. But some players (min. 50 PAs) and pitchers (min. 20 IP) remain unsigned. Here's a look at the remaining free agents who will play the 2011 season while no older than 32:

  • Willy Aybar (28) – The Rays declined Aybar's option and non-tendered him, but he can play first, second and third and has a career .341 OBP. He wouldn't be in line for more than a minor league deal if he signs. 
  • Jeremy Bonderman (28) – Bonderman may sit the season out, but you have to think he can help someone (the Cardinals?) despite the 5.53 ERA he posted in 171 innings last year. He's only 28 and he has recovered from shoulder surgery.
  • Manny Corpas (28) - Corpas will miss the 2011 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. He posted a 4.62 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 62 1/3 innings last year, and defense independent pitching stats suggest his ERA should have been lower, so he would have drawn interest if healthy.
  • Hank Blalock (30) - Blalock averaged 29 homers per season from 2003-05, when he made two All-Star teams. That power was nowhere to be seen last year, when he posted a .254/.319/.349 line in 69 plate appearances for the Rays. Blalock just turned 30 last fall, but he probably needs to rebuild value in the minor leagues to make a complete comeback.
  • Bobby Crosby (31) – Three teams were interested in the former AL Rookie of the Year earlier in the winter, but he remains on the open market. In 189 plate appearances for Pittsburgh and Arizona last year, Crosby hit .220/.294/.298 and played all four infield positions. 
  • Ryan Church (32) - Church, who was traded with Crosby from Pittsburgh to Arizona last summer, also struggled in 2010. He posted a .201/.265/.352 line, though he had 59 extra base hits as recently as 2007.
  • Ben Sheets (32) – If he wasn't going to miss the season with flexor tendon surgery, Sheets would likely have found a team by now. He won't sign this year.

Rays Release Hank Blalock

JULY 9th: The Rays officially released Blalock, according to MLB.com's transactions page. You can now find him on our list of 2010 free agents.

JUNE 29th: The Rays designated Hank Blalock for assignment, according to the Tampa Tribune (via Twitter). Gabe Kapler returns from the disabled list tomorrow, so the Rays can afford to part with Blalock. They promoted him in mid-May, just as Pat Burrell's disappointing stint in Tampa was coming to an end. But after tearing through Triple A pitching early on in the season, Blalock hit just one homer and posted a .254/.319/.349 line in the majors.

Blalock, 29, signed a minor league deal with the Rays in March. He makes $925K plus incentives, but even at that salary, it would be a surprise to see a team claim him. Instead, Blalock could be traded or released within the next ten days.

The White Sox have been relying on Mark Kotsay to DH and could use depth at third. Blalock could be a consideration, but he may not be the answer since he has hit righties better than lefties in his career, much like Kotsay. The Twins could look to improve over Danny Valencia and the Angels could use corner infielders, but there's no guarantee either team believes in Blalock's bat or his ability to defend. Blalock was mostly a DH for the Rays, though he did appear at first, third and in right.

Angels Interested In Hank Blalock

The Angels have some interest in Hank Blalock, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times. Blalock, available since the Rays designated him for assignment yesterday, is not one of the Angels’ preferred options this summer. Lance Berkman, Adam LaRoche and Ty Wigginton are having more productive seasons, but GM Tony Reagins is open-minded as he looks for production.

"We're not limiting our options," Reagins said, without referring to Blalock in particular. "There are opportunities to get better, and we're exploring all of them."

The Angels appear to be operating without financial limitations, but Blalock will cost just a pro-rated portion of the major league minimum if he clears waivers. He posted just a .254/.319/.349 line in the majors this year, though he did hit well in the minor leagues before his stint in Tampa. When the Rays cut Blalock yesterday, I speculated that the Twins could have interest as well as the Angels.

Kendry Morales is out with a season-ending leg operation and Brandon Wood has a .438 OPS, so the Angels could use a corner infielder. Blalock was mostly a DH for the Rays, though he did appear at third and first.

Odds & Ends: Green, Gonzalez, Berkman, Stanton

Links for Saturday….

Odds & Ends: Scherzer, Lamb, LaRoche

Saturday night linkage..

Blalock To Join Rays Today

2:31pm: Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman confirmed the promotion of Blalock in a blog post by Topkin

Friedman insists that the move has nothing to do with Blalock's contract situation and potential opt-out clause.  The club, he says, talked during Spring Training about re-evaluating things at this point in the season. 

He added that Dan Johnson, currently in Triple-A Durham, was also considered for promotion.  The 30-year-old has been posting even stronger numbers than Blalock, hitting .311/.382/.647 with 11 HRs.

10:52am: The team has yet to confirm the move, but it appears that Hank Blalock will join the Rays for today's game against the Mariners according to Heath Baywood at DRaysBay. Marc Topkin of The St. Petersburg Times backs up the report.

Earlier this week Scott Boras indicated that Blalock would exercise the opt-out clause in his contract if he wasn't called up within a week. The two-time All Star hit .349/.405/.505 with Tampa's Triple-A affiliate, though oddly enough he hit lefties better than righties. That could easily be a function of limited at-bats, however.

Tampa Bay has two open spots on it's 40-man roster, but they will need to clear a 25-man roster spot for Blalock. Topkin says that it remains to be seen if this is the end of the Pat Burrell era, even though he's hitting just .202/.292/.333 this year. Either way, the Rays are the hook for his $9MM salary this season.

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Greinke, Blalock, Berkman

Lots of cool things have happened on May 14th throughout baseball history. Mickey Mantle joined the 500 homerun club in 1967 (just the sixth player to do so at the time); Reggie Jackson passed Mantle on the all-time homer list with his 537th on the same 1986 day that Cardinals' utility player Jose Oquendo became the first non-pitcher in history to get a decision when he took the loss in extra innings; Doc Gooden threw his no-hitter in 1996, and the Mets set a single game franchise record with seven steals against the Giants in 2009 without the help of Jose Reyes. Also, this happened in 2008. 

Here are a few links from around the web…

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.

Odds & Ends: Hillman, Cubs, DeRosa, Marquis

Links for Wednesday, as Stephen Strasburg continues to dominate in the minors…

  • Royals manager Trey Hillman told MLB.com's Dick Kaegel that he's as frustrated as ever about his club's slow start.
  • R.J. Anderson of FanGraphs is not completely convinced that Hank Blalock is the solution for the Rays, even as Pat Burrell's struggles continue. Blalock may exercise the opt-out clause in his contract in the coming week. ESPN.com's Buster Olney names the A's as a possible suitor for Blalock (Twitter link).
  • An Associated Press article on ESPN.com notes that the deadline for signing players with remaining college eligibility has been pushed back a day to August 16th this year because August 15th falls on a weekend.
  • RotoAuthority identifies Scott Olsen as a candidate to post a sub-4.00 ERA and respectable strikeout totals for your fantasy team going forward.
  • MLB.com's Carrie Muskat says the Cubs aren't about to make a deal any time soon.
  • If you have experience designing databases, MLBTR has a project for you. We’re interested in finding someone to design a searchable database for the site, so send an email to mlbtrdatabase@gmail.com if you are the right person for the job.
  • Mark DeRosa told MLB.com's Chris Haft that last year's wrist surgery was "a total failure."  With numbness in a couple fingers and ligaments "flapping all over the place again," DeRosa might need another procedure.  From Day 1, two years and $12MM was an aggressive commitment by the Giants.
  • In a similar vein, Nationals free agent signing Jason Marquis will likely miss another eight to ten weeks with surgery to remove spurs and bone chips from his elbow, according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports asked Ken Griffey Jr. about retirement, and Junior said, "I'll figure it out when I get to that point."  The Mariners, meanwhile, have made a villain of Larry LaRue, the reporter who quoted a couple of unnamed players about a recent Griffey in-game clubhouse nap.

Rays Face Decision On Blalock

WEDNESDAY, 10:49am: ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that other teams are beginning to weigh interest in Blalock, in case the Rays are willing to trade him.  Olney guesses his opt-out date is May 15th.  He adds that "once Blalock informs the Rays that he wants to opt out, they have 48 hours to deal him or put him on their roster."  Olney's sources presume the Mariners and White Sox would get in the mix if Blalock becomes a free agent.

TUESDAY, 10:54pm: Scott Boras indicated to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times that Hank Blalock may exercise the out clause in his contract within a week if the Rays don't call him up.

"I would imagine that we'll probably know something about Hank in the next seven days," Boras said. "The time has come. The time has come. He's playing third base, obviously he's hitting well, he's a young guy."

Blalock, 29, has a .375/.435/.552 line and four homers in Triple A Durham (though that batting average has been inflated by a .421 batting average on balls in play). Meanwhile, Pat Burrell is hitting .221/.315/.364 with two homers in the majors. Willy Aybar has yet to start at DH for the Rays, but he has appeared in ten games as a backup DH, so the Rays could turn to him.

The Rays could cut their losses and release Burrell, who earns $9MM this year, to make room for Blalock. They could also attempt to trade Blalock, perhaps to the Mariners. But if Blalock hits free agency again, Boras says he is confident that there will be interest in his client.

"I think a lot of people understand Hank's a better choice for them, so we'll see," Boras said.

Under his current contract, Blalock is set to earn a base salary of $925K in the major leagues.

Discussion: Possible Targets For The Mariners

As the Mariners' offense continues to struggle, they're likely looking to make deals with teams that have rapidly fallen out of contention, writes Larry Stone of The Seattle Times.  Stone writes that the teams falling into that category are the Royals, Indians, Astros, and Orioles.

Kansas City's Jose Guillen has been mentioned as a possibility for the M's, though as of yesterday they have reportedly yet to make a formal inquiry.  Lance Berkman of the Astros has been mentioned as a fit for Seattle, though Stone points to his health, salary, and poor performance this season as reasons why Jack Zduriencik would want to steer clear of him.

Stone suggests that Baltimore could offer up Luke Scott or Garrett Atkins, though they have been struggling mightily.  On the flipside, Ty Wigginton and Miguel Tejada are in the final years of their respective deals and could be available at some point, though they have been hitting well for an O's team that desperately needs offense.

Austin Kearns and ex-Mariner Russell Branyan could be pried away from the Indians (especially Branyan), but Stone says to "forget about" Cleveland dealing Grady Sizemore.  Moving the reasonably-priced star outfielder would be a PR nightmare for a club that has made of a habit of losing their marquee players in recent years.

Stone also says to keep an eye on Hank Blalock, who is hitting quite well in the International League and has an out-clause in his deal with the Rays.  However, the M's passed on the two-time All-Star this winter.

Also hampering Seattle is that GMs from around baseball seem unwilling to make trades at this point in the season.

What other sluggers could you see the Mariners inquiring on?  Will they be able to talk a GM into making a significant trade with them at this juncture?