Jake Westbrook Rumors

Dodgers & Angels Notes: Payroll, Crawford, Werth

Kevin Baxter and Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times bring us the latest from Tinseltown…

  • Pitching is the number one item on the Dodgers' shopping list this offseason. "Pitching is a priority — both starters and relievers," said GM Ned Colletti. "We're open-minded to both left-handers and right-handers."
  • Colletti declined to give an exact number, but he promised that payroll would rise from the $95MM or so they spent in 2010.
  • Ted Lilly might end up being the Dodgers' biggest pickup. They aren't likely to pursue Cliff Lee, and could instead turn to Carl Pavano, Javier Vazquez, and Jake Westbrook. Jon Garland, Hiroki Kuroda, and Vicente Padilla might also become options if their prices drop as the offseason progresses.
  • Colletti also wants to add a left fielder, "full time or platoon," plus figure out his bench and catching situation. Russell Martin is a non-tender candidate, but they could look at Miguel Olivo.
  • There is nothing to indicate that the Dodgers will make a run at either Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth
  • "We're going to be active. Whether it's via free agency or trades," said Angels GM Tony Reagins. "We're going to look at the opportunities and be aggressive when the opportunity presents itself."
  • Owner Arte Moreno is expected to approve a 10% payroll increase, pushing it to about $135MM. The team already has close to $93MM committed to 2011 contracts, not including the arbitration eligible Jered Weaver, Howie Kendrick, and Erick Aybar.
  • The Times' scribes call Werth and Adrian Beltre "more economical Plan B options" to Crawford, relatively speaking of course. Both Werth and Beltre are Scott Boras clients however, and the Angels still have a bad taste in their mouths from the Mark Teixeira negotiations two winters ago.
  • Rafael Soriano might be an option after Fernando Rodney's terrible finish (6.08 ERA after Sept. 1st).

Odds & Ends: Mets, Reds, Nationals, Cardinals

Links for Monday, as impending free agent lefties Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte prepare to duel in New York…

Cardinals, Westbrook Discussing Extension

We've heard for a while now that the Cardinals would love to retain Jake Westbrook, whom they acquired at the trade deadline in a three-team deal. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that there's more to the situation than just interest now; the Cards are "making a push" to sign Westbrook and discussions are already taking place.

Westbrook, 33, totaled 75 innings over 12 starts with the Redbirds and posted a tidy 3.48 ERA in that span. His strikeouts trended upward and his control improved, while his sinker induced even more groundballs (62% vs. 53.3% with Cleveland) under Dave Duncan. While he would hit free agency for the first time this season, Westbrook has mutual interest in working out a deal with St. Louis and forgoing the process entirely.

Jason Marquis and Joel Pineiro figure to be solid comparisons for Westbrook, meaning he could be in line for a two-year deal in the $16MM range. Locking up Westbrook early would allow the Cardinals to focus on offense this offseason. It would also likely set their 2011 rotation (barring injuries) to feature Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Westbrook, and Kyle Lohse, giving them potential for one of the better rotations in all of baseball, especially if Lohse can rediscover his 2008 form.

Cardinals Notes: La Russa, Pujols, Payroll

In an afternoon meeting yesterday, the Cardinals made an offer to Tony La Russa to manage the team in 2011, according to MLB.com's Matthew Leach and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold.  Leach quotes GM John Mozeliak saying that he hopes to have a resolution within seven to ten days.  La Russa indicated he would not manage another team next year, but would not rule out working for another team in a different capacity.  But in the opinion of Goold, "All indications are pointing toward La Russa's return, from the All-Stars the Cardinals have coming back to the recent comments he's made about the team in 2011."

Perhaps of more interest to us hot stove junkies is Joe Strauss' take on the offseason in a separate piece.  Strauss notes that the team has a small arbitration class (first-timers Kyle McClellan and Brendan Ryan) but almost $80MM committed to nine players.  Among those nine is Albert Pujols, whose $16MM club option is a formality.  Extension talks are expected to occur after the La Russa situation is resolved.  The team's $94MM payroll appears to be on the rise, though retaining Jake Westbrook might compel the team to fill other holes internally and cheaply in Strauss' opinion.  Strauss explains the team's needs:

The Cardinals go forward seeking a backup catcher, a lefthanded reliever, an upgrade at either second base or shortstop, a safety net at third base, heft for the bench and possibly a right fielder.

Westbrook, Cardinals Have Mutual Interest

Jake Westbrook and the Cardinals have mutual interest in working out a deal to keep the starter in St. Louis, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. GM John Mozeliak says the club “obviously has interest” in re-signing Westbrook and has reached out to the pitcher’s representatives. Discussions haven’t picked up yet, but Westbrook says he wouldn’t mind signing a deal before other teams have the chance to bid on him.

"I'm definitely going to be open-minded about pretty much everything," Westbrook said. "If they had interest, I've definitely enjoyed my time here. I've gotten to know the guys well. The organization is definitely one that everybody knows about, that I've certainly heard a lot about, and now, firsthand, I've gotten to see that everybody was right."

The Cardinals have experience locking up starters on the cusp of free agency; they signed Kyle Lohse to an extension two years ago this week and locked up Joel Pineiro in October of 2007. Lohse will figure into the team’s 2011 rotation if healthy, but the Cardinals could still use starting pitching depth. Westbrook won’t cost as much as Lohse did ($41MM), but as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes explained yesterday, he could be in line for a two-year deal worth $15MM or so.

Westbrook has put together 195 solid innings this year, posting a 4.38 ERA between Cleveland and St. Louis. In 11 starts since joining the Cards, the right-hander has pitched especially well, posting a 3.88 ERA.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Jake Westbrook

Jake Westbrook has found the National League to his liking since being acquired by the Cardinals on July 31st.  He's provided them with 67.3 innings of 3.48 ball, improving his strikeout and groundball rates.  Westbrook would be open to returning to the Indians next year, and the Cardinals could try to extend him next month, but let's analyze his situation assuming he heads to free agency for the first time.

The Pros

  • Westbrook has always been a groundball monster, but his 62.8% National League rate harkens back to his best years and would rank second in the league behind Tim Hudson.  Teams in homer-happy ballparks figure to target Westbrook.
  • He won't cost a draft pick.  In fact, he's not even close to Type B status, so the Cardinals have no reason to offer arbitration.
  • Westbrook tallied fewer than 190 innings from 2007-09 due to Tommy John and hip surgery and an oblique strain; the missed time could suppress his price.

The Cons

  • Some teams may be concerned that Westbrook's improved National League performance wouldn't hold up if he left Dave Duncan's tutelage.  That might be unfair; Joel Pineiro was no worse for the wear this year.
  • Perhaps Westbrook's asking price will be significant – he's finishing a three-year, $33MM contract and should be one of maybe seven free agent starters coming off a 200 inning season.  Hudson received a three-year, $28MM extension from the Braves in November of last year with a much smaller post-Tommy John innings sample.
  • Westbrook is not a dominant pitcher.  His career K/9 is 5.0 and he's allowed 9.6 hits per nine innings.

The Verdict

Westbrook might be able to find a two-year, $15MM deal in the mold of the contracts signed by Pineiro and Jason Marquis last winter.  He'd be wise to jump on an offer guaranteeing multiple years, as GMs figure to remain cautious this winter in general.

Cardinals Notes: Westbrook, Carpenter, La Russa

In a recent chat, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch writes that few appreciate how much turnover could occur if Tony La Russa does not return to the Cardinals next season.  Let's see what else he has for us..

  • Offering Jake Westbrook arbitration would be a risky move for the Cards as he is virtually guaranteed to receive an increase over this year's $11MM salary.  If St. Louis does want to keep the soon-to-be 33-year-old in the fold, Strauss believes that they will open talks before the free agency filing period like they did with Joel Pineiro and and Kyle Lohse.  However, the club locked up Pineiro and Lohse with multi-year deals at market or above-market rates, something that they're probably not capable of doing at this time with Westbrook.
  • Speaking of starters, it's hard to imagine the Cardinals giving Chris Carpenter similar money to what he makes now if they re-sign Albert Pujols.  Carpenter's contract calls for him to earn $15MM next season with a $15MM club option ($1MM buyout) for 2012.
  • It's fair to say that Felipe Lopez found himself unmotivated to perform after the Cards acquired Pedro Feliz last month.  The infielder struggled at the plate this season, hitting just .231/.310/.340 with seven homers in 425 plate appearances.  The club sent Lopez packing yesterday afternoon.
  • Strauss expects to see La Russa back in St. Louis unless he hears something that he doesn't like from the ownership or front office.

The Cardinals’ 2011 Rotation

With a 4-13 record over their last 17 games, an eight-game deficit to make up in the NL Central, and a weekend series against an in-form Cincinnati club, the Cardinals could be looking ahead to next year by as soon as Monday.  Let's get a head start on the process by examining what the St. Louis starting rotation may look like by Opening Day 2011.

Leading the way for the Cards are Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia.  Carpenter is signed through 2011 and St. Louis has a club option worth $15MM in 2012 that they're certain to exercise if Carpenter remains as healthy and effective as he has been over the last two seasons.  It's possible the Cards could explore an extension with Carpenter this winter, if they're not already too busy trying to extend Albert Pujols.

Wainwright seems well on his way to a top-five finish (at least) in the NL Cy Young voting, which will trigger a clause in his contract that guarantees the 2012 and 2013 club options St. Louis currently holds on the right-hander.  Wainwright is set to earn $21MM over those two seasons, plus an extra $1MM should he actually win the Cy either this season or in 2011.  The Cards were a virtual lock to pick up those team options anyway given how well Wainwright has pitched in his career.

If Wainwright is a bargain, then Garcia is a steal.  The 24-year-old southpaw has a 2.33 ERA and a 2.03 K/BB in 25 starts this season and he carries a 20 1/3 scoreless inning streak into tonight's start against the Reds.  Garcia doesn't reach arbitration until after the 2011 season, so he will remain a very affordable option for St. Louis unless the club tries to cover his arb years with a long-term deal.  It's still just Garcia's first full major league year, so if the Redbirds do approach him with a long-term contract, it will be a step down from the Romero/Lester/Gallardo deals.

When Kyle Lohse signed a four-year, $41MM extension with St. Louis in September 2008, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes prophetically asked, "What are the odds this deal looks solid even halfway through?"  Now that we're about halfway through the deal, it's indeed looking like a miss for the Cards.  Lohse has battled forearm and groin injuries over the last two seasons and has a 5.55 ERA in 35 games (34 of them starts) over that stretch.  Lohse will be pencilled into a spot in the 2011 rotation, since it would be hard for the Cardinals to eat the remaining $23.75MM owed to the right-hander and even harder to trade him.  (Plus, Lohse has a no-trade clause.)

With four spots accounted for, the fifth rotation job is wide-open.  The Cards' strategy over the last few winters has been to sign veterans (Rich Hill, Brad Penny, Matt Clement, Lohse in March 2008) to one-year or minor league contracts to see if pitching coach Dave Duncan can get them back into top form, so the team could pursue that option again.  St. Louis might have gotten a head start on this strategy with the acquisition of Jake Westbrook at the trade deadline.  Westbrook has pitched well (4.03 ERA, 5.67 K/BB ratio) in his first six National League starts, so he will come at a higher price than those other past winter signings should the Cardinals want to bring him back.

Another midseason pick-up, Jeff Suppan, hasn't performed as well and would only be brought back as roster depth.  Penny could be another low-cost veteran option from the current roster.  After signing a one-year, $7.5MM deal with the Cards last December, Penny had a solid first nine starts but hasn't pitched since May due to a back injury.  The lingering nature of what was originally thought to be a minor back injury will definitely scare some teams away from the 32-year-old, so the Cardinals (who have been monitoring Penny's status all year) could bring the right-hander back if they're satisifed that he's healthy.

P.J. Walters, Blake Hawksworth and Adam Ottavino have started games for St. Louis this season, though all would need superb spring training performances to get into the running for the fifth starter's job.   Baseball America projected Walters as a future middle reliever in the preseason, Hawksworth has pitched mostly out of the bullpen for St. Louis and Ottavino may be a question mark for the spring since he needs labrum surgery.

Shelby Miller, the top prospect in the St. Louis system, has only increased his stock in his first full season of pro ball.  Miller, the 19th overall pick in the 2009 draft, has a 3.62 ERA and a 12.1 K/9 rate in 24 starts for Single-A Quad Cities.  Baseball America had Miller rated as the 50th-best prospect in baseball in the preseason, and their midseason prospect report again slotted him in the #26-50 range.  Miller doesn't even turn 20 until October 10, so the Cards will probably hold off his major league debut until 2012.

Other farm system options include southpaw Evan MacLane and right-handers Lance Lynn and Brandon Dickson, all of whom have had solid seasons in the hitter-friendly Triple-A Pacific Coast League.  All could factor in as spot starters or candidates for the No. 5 position.  Keep an eye on right-hander Scott Gorgen, a fourth-round pick from the 2008 draft who has a 2.99 ERA in his 49-game minor league career thus far, including a 1.31 ERA in 10 games (eight starts) at Double-A this season.

Stark On Padres, Manny, Wandy, Harang

The Rangers appear to be headed toward stability, but they added $4.6MM in payroll before the trade deadline and, as ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reports, that left some rival executives unhappy. Here are the rest of Stark's rumors:

  • The Padres had asked the Cardinals about Ryan Ludwick more than once leading up to the trade deadline.
  • GM Jed Hoyer had also inquired on Jake Westbrook and even Roy Oswalt.
  • When the White Sox called the Dodgers to ask about Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers ended the conversation quickly. That didn't stop the Rays and two other American League teams from calling the Dodgers, however. We should note that GM Ned Colletti told Jim Bowden of Sirius XM Radio that he only fielded one call about Manny (Twitter link).
  • Not one team pursued Jose Guillen seriously before the deadline. The Royals designated the outfielder for assignment today, so we'll see in the next ten days if any teams have mild interest.
  • Joe Beimel drew lots of interest last weekend, but the Rockies never seriously shopped him. 
  • A number of teams tried to acquire Wandy Rodriguez, including the Twins, Reds, Mets, Dodgers and Blue Jays.
  • The Reds tried to determine interest in Aaron Harang, so they could attempt to move him in August if he returns from the DL and proves that the back spasms that sidelined him are no longer an issue.

Odds & Ends: Dodgers, Rangers, Maya, Lowell

Sunday night linkage..