Jesse Crain Rumors
Twins Assistant GM Rob Antony recently sat down for a chat with Jesse Lund from Twinkie Town to discuss a variety of topics. Let's recap the hot stove talk...
- Tsuyoshi Nishioka first popped up on the team's radar after Antony mentioned to his agent that the team was looking to get more athletic on the infield. This was long before they decided to trade J.J. Hardy.
- The Twins believe Nishioka is a good player, but they understand there might be a bit of a transition period. Not just for the move to MLB, but the move to the United States. They've hired an interpreter for Nishioka, and don't believe the additional Japanese media will be an issue in the clubhouse.
- The three-year, $9MM contract Nishioka signed was "exactly what we pretty much anticipated and were willing to give." They were trying to add speed and athleticism to the lineup, but no one on the free agent market jumped out at them, hence the pursuit of Nishioka.
- Hardy was expected to make $5MM+ in 2011 (he eventually signed for $5.85MM), and the team "just decided that we wanted to put that money into other areas." Carl Pavano, Jim Thome, and most of the bullpen were free agents, so they had to prioritize. "Trying to fit all those guys into a budget was going to be impossible."
- The Twins had conversations with other teams about Hardy, but there were never any real offers. The trade with Baltimore was "by far [their] best opportunity to make a deal." It became apparent that Brendan Harris wasn't a fit anymore, hence his inclusion in the trade.
- Antony says the Twins like Rule 5 Draft pick Scott Diamond in long relief, and Dusty Hughes' success against Minnesota last year played a role in claiming him off waivers.
- Although they would have liked to retain Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, and Brian Fuentes, the Twins just "couldn't compete" with the multyear offers they were receiving as free agents.
- Thome decided that Minnesota was where he wanted to be after talking with his family, and the money didn't appear to be much of an issue.
- Antony expected Pavano to get two or three years at $10-11MM per season, and he knows the Brewers had some interest in the right-hander. Pavano's agent basically told the Twins he wanted to play there, and he wasn't a guy that was "chasing the last dollar."
- Rumors of Francisco Liriano being available in a trade were just that, rumors. As far as a multiyear deal with the lefty, Antony said there "can be many reasons why you don't consummate a multiyear deal, and sometimes the player doesn't want to, sometimes the club doesn't want to, sometimes you just don't agree on numbers, or whatever. So we're not going to talk about any of our negotiations with that or anything else, but he was a big part of our rotation. We're not talking to anybody right now on Francisco Liriano."
- The team is at the "far reaches" of where they can go with payroll, so they tried to maintain flexibility for 2012 by not doing any multiyears deals this offseason (aside from Pavano).
- "If the right deal arises and we can improve our ballclub, we could look at it from that point of view," said Antony, regarding a potential trade involving one of the team's excess starting pitchers. "I don't think we'd trade away one of our starting pitchers for a middle reliever or something. It would have to be something that would make sense for us. And a trade isn't even the most likely scenario, it's a possible scenario."
Let's take a look at some Twins tidbits..
- The Twins and Carl Pavano are still close to a deal but appear to be in a temporary holding pattern, writes Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune. The sides still have some details to work out but they've agreed to put the talks on hold through Tuesday.
- Tabling the talks with Pavano should allow the Twins to focus on their potential arbitration cases. Matt Capps, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, and Delmon Young are all scheduled to swap figures with the Twins on Tuesday. Christensen points out that the Twins settled all eight of their potential arbitration cases at the eleventh hour last year.
- The Twins made some attempts to retain Jesse Crain but ultimately knew that relievers Brian Fuentes, Matt Guerrier, and Jon Rauch would sign elsewhere, according to Christensen.
- Nick Punto is still on the open market but the Twins don't have any plans to bring the infielder back, writes Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune. Punto, 33, has spent the last seven years with the Twins, hitting .248/.323/.324.
The White Sox officially signed righty reliever Jesse Crain to a three-year, $13MM deal today. He'll earn $4MM in 2011 and $4.5MM per year in 2012-13, tweets MLB.com's Scott Merkin. Crain was rumored to be seeking a contract on par with Joaquin Benoit's, and Chicago has been looking for relief help all offseason. The Sox lost about half of their 2010 bullpen innings with the departures of Bobby Jenks, J.J. Putz, Scott Linebrink, and others.
Crain, 29, had the best season of his career in 2010, pitching to a 3.04 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9, and 39.2% groundball rate in 68 innings for the Twins. Crain missed most of the 2007 season due to shoulder surgery and then missed a few weeks with a shoulder strain in 2009. He doesn't have much of a platoon split, holding righties to a .239/.299/.359 batting line in his career compared to .238/.332/.366 for lefties.
With the White Sox deal Crain becomes the fourth reliever to sign a three-year contract this winter, joining Benoit, Scott Downs, and former teammate Matt Guerrier. He also drew interest from the Rockies and Red Sox. Crain is represented by SFX.
Tim Dierkes contributed to this post.
These days it takes more than a dollar to get a can of soda from a vending machine. Back in 1936, a dollar represented the late Bob Feller's signing bonus with the Indians. Pretty nice bargain for the Tribe on that one.
Onto tonight's links...
- Orlando Hudson is running out of suitors, but ESPN.com's Jason A. Churchill suggests the Blue Jays could be a potential match, with Aaron Hill moving to third base to accomodate Hudson at second. Hudson was originally drafted by Toronto in 1997 and played four seasons for the Jays before being dealt to Arizona following the 2005 season.
- The White Sox are pushing their payroll to new heights, and ESPNChicago.com's Doug Padilla suggests they might consider trading Edwin Jackson to create some salary breathing room.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com (Twitter link) has the breakdown of Cliff Lee's annual salaries with the Phillies. Lee will earn $11MM next season, $21.5MM in 2012, and then $25MM per season from 2013 to 2015, plus the previously-reported vesting option for 2016. Rosenthal tweets that Lee's $27.5MM vesting option in 2016 becomes a club option for the same total if it fails to vest, but in such a situation it seems a lock that Philadelphia would just pay Lee the $12.5MM buyout.
- There was no pressure put on Lee by the players' union to take the largest contract offer, says Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman (Twitter link). "As long as a player makes an informed choice, we're happy," says MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner.
- Jesse Crain spoke about his all-but-official contract with the White Sox in an interview on KFAN 1130 AM in Minneapolis, and MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports on the highlights of the chat. Crain said he was swayed by the chance to close games and Chicago's offer of a three-year deal, also noting that "the Twins didn't really make an offer" to re-sign him.
- Washington GM Mike Rizzo says Oakland's offer for Josh Willingham was better than any of the offers he received for Willingham before last year's trade deadline, tweets MASNsports.com's Ben Goessling.
- The Tigers have the young pitching (Andy Oliver or Jacob Turner) and middle infield prospects (Danny Worth, Will Rhymes, Scott Sizemore) to meet Kansas City's asking price for Zack Greinke, writes Steve Kornacki of MLive.com. Count me as skeptical --- it's hard to see the Royals dealing Greinke to a division rival unless they got an absolute monster of an offer, and they'd probably ask Detroit for both Oliver and Turner just as a starting point.
- ESPN's Keith Law covered such topics as Jay Bruce's extension, the 2011 amateur draft and the spate of multi-year contracts for relievers in an online chat with fans today.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com outlines ten of the major holes that various contending teams still need to fill this winter.
The Rockies have been looking to strengthen their bullpen basically all offseason, but they haven't done much in that regard beyond trading for Felipe Paulino. They did make an offer to Matt Guerrier before he agreed to sign with the Dodgers, according to Troy Renck of The Denver Post (Twitter link), but their search for relief help won't stop there.
In a series of tweets, Renck says the Rockies maintain interest in Jesse Crain, but like many clubs they prefer not to go three years on a reliever. He adds that they also like Bobby Jenks and former Rockie Brian Fuentes, but they might be out of their price range. Finally, Renck says it would not be surprising to see them pursue Jon Rauch, though Chad Qualls, Hideki Okajima, and Mike MacDougal are interesting options as well.
The back end of Colorado's bullpen is pretty well set with Huston Street, Rafael Betancourt, and Matt Belisle, but there's no such thing as too much depth. Street missed time with a shoulder issue and battled an oblique problem late in the season, and I'm sure the team would like to ease off Belisle, who led MLB with 92 relief innings in 2010.
1:16pm: The Red Sox liked Matt Guerrier well enough to offer him a two-year deal, but the Dodgers offered a third guaranteed year and the right-hander has agreed to play for Los Angeles. The Red Sox will have to move on to other targets as they look to round out their 'pen. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe has the details on what he says is the biggest challenge of the offseason for GM Theo Epstein.
Two former Twins, right-hander Jesse Crain and left-hander Brian Fuentes are the team’s priorities now. The Red Sox are also considering trades and would “love” to reacquire Justin Masterson, according to Cafardo. The Indians have been reluctant to part with Masterson, whom they acquired in the 2009 Victor Martinez trade.
There are a number of alternatives for Epstein to pursue, including Indians relievers Joe Smith and Rafael Perez, who “could be on Boston’s radar.” The A’s are likely willing to listen on their relievers and the Mariners would listen on David Aardsma, Cafardo writes.
The AL East is a busy division these days. The Yankees have to finalize their rotation, the Rays have to reconstruct their 'pen and the Orioles are acquiring players in bunches. The Red Sox have added two star players to their lineup, but they're still contemplating more moves. Here's the latest:
- The Red Sox would only offer a three-year contract to an elite reliever, a source tells Alex Speier of WEEI.com. Rafael Soriano fits that description, but Speier says the Red Sox are an unlikely suitor, since they already have Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard.
- Boston had significant interest in Scott Downs after signing Carl Crawford, according to Speier. Downs was a Type A free agent who would ordinarily cost a top pick, but the Red Sox had already surrendered their top pick to sign Crawford, so adding Downs would only have cost Boston its second round selection. The Angels gave Downs a three-year deal, more than the Red Sox were comfortable offering.
- The Red Sox maintain interest in Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain. Guerrier is not looking for a Joaquin Benoit-like deal ($16.5MM over three years) and, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, remains one of the team's top targets.
- The Phillies have kicked the tires on Mike Cameron, according to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark (on Twitter).
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe names the winners and losers of the Winter Meetings in his newest piece, with the Red Sox, Nationals, and White Sox topping his list of winners. Cafardo also shares a handful of hot stove notes. Here are the highlights:
- Before they signed Carl Crawford, the Red Sox "did a ton of work" on Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Beltran.
- Carl Pavano figures to wait for Cliff Lee to sign, so he can see the type of offers he receives as the top pitcher on the market. Cafardo thinks Pavano could be a backup plan for the Rangers if they don't land Lee, though the Twins still remain the favorites for the 34-year-old. Texas has also inquired on Matt Garza and James Shields.
- The White Sox will listen to offers for Mark Buehrle, whose contract expires after the 2011 season. Buehrle earned ten and five rights this year, so he'd have the option of vetoing any trade.
- Agent Scott Boras says a strong market is developing for Kevin Millwood.
- Team officials that spoke to Cafardo had mixed opinions on free agent backstop Russell Martin. One opined that Martin "can't call a game," while another raved about the enthusiasm the catcher brings each day.
- According to Cafardo, the Red Sox were the only team to discuss Justin Upton with the Diamondbacks, balking at Kevin Towers' insistence that Daniel Bard be included in a potential deal.
- The Astros would have interest in trading Matt Lindstrom and Jeff Keppinger.
- Grant Balfour is seeking a three-year contract. The Red Sox have looked into him, but are hoping Matt Guerrier will accept their offer. As Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston noted today (via Twitter), Guerrier is one of the top relief targets for Boston, along with Brian Fuentes and Jesse Crain.
3:46pm: Guerrier's agent informed Miller that his report was inaccurate (Twitter link). Guerrier is not looking for a Benoit-like contract.
3:15pm: Emboldened by Joaquin Benoit's $16.5MM deal with the Tigers, Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain are looking for similar contracts, according to Scott Miller of CBSSports.com. Like Benoit, Crain (a Type B free agent) and Guerrier (who wasn't offered arbitration) can be signed without surrendering a draft pick. The former Twins are durable and effective, so they're drawing interest from multiple teams.
Despite the Benoit deal, clubs are reluctant to hand middle relievers multiyear deals worth $5MM per season. One NL GM told Miller that there's "no way in hell" he'd endorse that kind of signing. Red Sox GM Theo Epstein recently told Alex Speier of WEEI.com that some deals are exceptions and don't necessarily represent the market.
"Sometimes when there’s a contract that exceeds expectations early, it can embolden players and agents within that subset of players who have a similar resume,” Epstein said. “Time will tell whether they get attached to that contract or it’s an outlier contract.”
Brandon Lyon signed a three-year, $15MM deal at the Winter Meetings last year before the market settled and comparable relievers signed for less guaranteed money.
We've heard that Ty Wigginton is the Rockies' top target for a right-handed bat, but the club has other targets for that role, as well as interest in several other players, according to Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post. Let's go over some of them:
- Jorge Cantu is one alternative to Wigginton, despite a miserable second half to the 2010 season. GM Dan O'Dowd acknowledged that they'd prefer someone who can play in the outfield, but that's not critical.
- The Rockies have soured on Josh Willingham due to Washington's asking price and concerns over the 31-year-old's knee. They've also called about Jeff Francoeur, believing he could handle first base.
- Colorado would have interest in Rich Harden in a bullpen role, if the righty would be willing to make the switch from starting pitching. There's also the question of whether or not the injury-prone Harden could hold up physically. Renck says the Rox have tried to acquire Harden numerous times in the past, but to no avail.
- Colorado is also looking at Kevin Gregg, Bobby Jenks, Brian Fuentes, Jesse Crain, and Pedro Feliciano, though the first three prefer to close, which won't happen in Denver.
- The Rockies also haven't closed the door on Joe Beimel, who tells Renck he'd love to come back to Colorado.