Hank Blalock Rumors

Olney’s Latest: Oswalt, Berkman, Rays, Wood

In today's blog post at ESPN, Buster Olney discusses the trade value of Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, which might not be as good as owner Drayton McLane would like. One GM noted that Houston's ace battled back trouble last year, which makes him a scary investment because of the potential to underperform and/or breakdown. 

Another executive noted that the contracts of both players might be prohibitive. Oswalt is guaranteed $33MM through 2011, while Berkman is making $15MM this season with a $2MM buyout of his $15MM club option for next season. It's also worth noting that the first baseman is hitting just .185/.290/.352 in 62 plate appearances since coming off the disabled list. If McLane decides to move one of his franchise players, it might be a tough pill to swallow since the return is expected to be less than stellar. 

Here's the rest of Olney's rumors…

  • Despite having the game's best record and run differential, the Rays need a righthanded reliever and lefty hitting designated hitter. The latter will likely have to come from outside the organization, and the opportunity to acquire such a player will assuredly arise during the summer. Remember, the Rays do have Hank Blalock hitting .388/.448/.541 in Triple-A.
  • Olney speculates that the team could use top prospect Jeremy Hellickson as that righty reliever, though it might compromise their rotation depth since he's effectively their sixth starter.
  • Kerry Wood's injury probably increased the chances that he'll be traded, because now his $11MM option for next season is unlikely to vest.

Could Rays Release Pat Burrell?

Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times writes that the Rays will have to consider cutting Pat Burrell loose if their designated hitter doesn't start producing. Although Tampa Bay management maintains that they have confidence in Burrell's ability, Topkin speculates that by mid-May or early-June, the club may run out of patience.

Burrell hit .221/.315/.367 in 2009 and is off to another slow start in 2010, the final season of his two-year contract. He'll make $9MM this year, a figure which will likely make him unmovable. Topkin thinks that at some point the Rays "will just have to accept their mistake and cut him loose."

If they were to cut ties with Burrell, the Rays would have other options available. Hank Blalock is currently in Triple A, waiting for an opportunity to earn Major League playing time. Additionally, Topkin points out that Rocco Baldelli has been taking regular batting practice at Tropicana Field and would like to play again. The long-time Ray would be a cheap right-handed alternative, and, as this Rays Index article suggests, Tampa fans would have more patience with him than they've had with Pat the Bat.

Burrell's $9MM salary would be a huge cost for the budget-conscious Rays to eat, so expect them to give the 33-year-old every chance to succeed. However, if his struggles continue and compromise the club's chances of contending, they could be forced to make a change.

Hank Blalock And Joe Crede

Hank Blalock is healthy, hit 25 homers last season and has Scott Boras representing him, but he still couldn't find a major league job after the Rays assigned him to the minors. Blalock figures to contribute to the Rays at some point this season even though this is not the route he wanted to take. But Blalock's trouble finding a job shows that another Scott Boras client doesn't have it easy.

Joe Crede turns 32 in April, which makes him two and a half years older than Blalock. Crede underwent surgery in September because of a herniated disk in his back. He has since recovered and was throwing and hitting a month ago, but teams haven't forgotten the back, shoulder, hand, knee and hamstring injuries Crede struggled with last year. 

Crede's bat is comparable to Blalock's at this point. Blalock appeared in more games than Crede, picked up 128 more plate appearances and hit ten more homers, but Crede's rate stats (.225/.289/.414) resemble Blalock's (.234/.277/.459). 

Even though Crede is older, more injury-prone and no more productive at the plate, Boras can point to Crede's defense. Every year since 2002, when data became available, UZR has ranked Crede as an above-average defender at third and he has defended particularly well in recent years.

If Blalock can't find a job now, it's unlikely that Crede can. It's hard to imagine Boras and Crede finding a guaranteed contract now, when roster spots are at a premium. But if Crede proves his health in workouts, he could become an attractive mid-season option for risk-taking GMs in search of a cheap third baseman who can play defense and add a little power. 

Blalock To Accept Minor League Assignment

Hank Blalock will report to the Rays' Triple-A affiliate in Durham, according to the Tampa Bay Tribune (via Twitter).  Marc Topkin of The St. Petersburg Times tweets that this means the 29-year-old was unable to find a major league job elsewhere.

Late last week, Reid Brignac made Tampa Bay's Opening Day roster, leaving Blalock as the odd man out.  Despite his assertion that he does not want to play minor league ball, he told Topkin that he would remain in Durham for the "foreseeable future" if he could not land a gig in the big show (link goes to Twitter).

Blalock is not today's only notable addition to Triple-A Durham, as Elliot Johnson was also placed on the squad after clearing waivers.

Odds & Ends: Rule 5, Jones, Hechevarria, Brewers

Links for Easter Sunday…

Blalock To Assess Major League Options

Reid Brignac made the Rays' Opening Day roster, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times and that makes Hank Blalock the odd man out. Topkin says Blalock will now assess his major league options. Blalock has until Sunday morning to find another big league opportunity, according to Topkin (via Twitter). Otherwise, Blalock will play in the minors for the "foreseeable future."

Blalock, who would have earned $925K if he'd made the team, can opt out of his deal with the Rays since he's not on their major league roster. Earlier in the week, Blalock said he's not interested in playing minor league baseball at this point in his career. Before Blalock signed with the Rays, the Marlins appeared to have some interest as well.

Blalock hit .175/.277/.325 in 46 plate appearances this spring. Last year he hit 25 homers and posted a .234/.277/.459 line for the Rangers. That's a better representation of what the 29-year-old Scott Boras client can do at the plate.

Blalock Not Interested In Minors

Hank Blalock's minor league deal with the Rays allows him to opt out tomorrow if he's not on the Rays' 25-man roster.  According to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times, the Rays have "until after Friday‚Äôs exhibition to put him on the roster."

Topkin spoke to Blalock, who suggested he'd leave baseball before playing in the minors:

"I don't have any plans on playing minor-league baseball this year.  At this time in my life, if there's no major-league opportunities for me then I'll find something else to do."

Topkin explains that the Rays are currently choosing between Blalock and Reid Brignac, with Brignac offering more positional flexibility.  When Matt Joyce recovers from an elbow strain, the roster picture will get even muddier.  Employing two DHs in Blalock and Pat Burrell wouldn't make things easy for manager Joe Maddon.  Burrell could be released at some point, though that's just speculation on my part.

Hank Blalock Agrees To Terms With Rays

Hank Blalock and the Rays have agreed to terms on a minor league deal worth $925K, plus $350K in incentives. The deal will allow Blalock to opt out if he's not in the majors, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com.

Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reported (via Twitter) that the sides were near a deal and added that the deal should be finalized soon (via Twitter). Heyman reported that Blalock was deciding between the Rays and Marlins and later added that the infielder was in "serious talks" with the Rays before noting the specific details (all Twitter links). 

The Scott Boras client will make substantially less than the $6MM the Rangers paid him last year. The Marlins were the only other team linked to Blalock recently, but apparently did not make an offer.  Blalock told the Tampa Tribune (Twitter link), "Well, I didn't have any other choice. So that's why I'm here."  Joe Smith of the St. Petersburg Times tweets that Blalock's opt-out clause is for April 1st.

Blalock, 29, hit .234/.277/.459 last year with the Rangers, adding 25 homers. Blalock, who hasn't played more than 39 games at third since 2006, split his time between first base and DH in 2009.

Heyman On Pujols, Torre, Blalock, Lopez

Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt told Jon Heyman of SI.com that he wants to keep Albert Pujols in St. Louis for life, even though the first baseman will likely require a historic contract when he becomes a free agent, presumably after the 2011 season.

"We all have our financial limitations," DeWitt said. "It depends on how the contract is structured. We feel there's an area that could work where it would be affordable to us."

Pujols says he wants to finish his career as a Cardinal and the executives who watch him believe he's in line for big money. Some suggested Pujols could command a contract worth as much as the $275MM deal Alex Rodriguez signed with the Yankees. Here are the rest of Heyman's rumors:
  • The Dodgers continue to work on a one-year extension with Joe Torre. Don Mattingly appears "likely" to take over as Dodgers manager after 2011.
  • The Marlins have Hank Blalock on their radar and the Rays are also in the mix. 
  • The Cardinals haven't ruled out making an addition and Felipe Lopez seems like a fit. Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says (via Twitter) that the Cardinals are interested in Lopez, but not 'in' on him.

Odds & Ends: Tigers, White Sox, Lannan, Looper

Monday night linkage..

  • The Tigers went from sellers to buyers this offseason, writes MLB.com's Jason Beck.
  • Hank Blalock's former teammates are surprised to see him still without a job, writes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com.  Earlier today we heard that the Rays and Marlins are thought to have interest in the 29-year-old.
  • Pitcher Cha Seung Baek tried out for the Mariners today, tweets Corey Brock of MLB.com.  Baek last pitched in the majors in 2008 and was released by San Diego in October of 2009.
  • Chuck Garfien of CSNChicago.com spoke to White Sox GM Ken Williams, who said that he nearly pulled off a deal that would have possibly given the club the best rotation in the history of the game.  Williams wouldn't name names, but Garfien believes that he was referring to Roy Halladay.
  • Nats pitcher John Lannan has decided to part ways with agent Andrew Mongelluzzi and latch on with Brodie Van Wagenen of Creative Artists Agency, according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com.  Lannan will be arbitration-eligible after the 2010 season and become a free agent after the 2013 campaign.
  • While the Dodgers remain in contact with Braden Looper's representation, the chances for a deal are slim as they cannot offer him a spot in the rotation or the salary he wants, writes MLB.com's Ken Gurnick.