Jesse Crain Rumors

Cafardo On Utley, Gonzalez, Crain, Yankees

As impressive as young players like Manny MachadoMiguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Yasiel Puig have been, no one was more spectacular than young Alex Rodriguez, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.  However, A-Rod has since tarnished his legacy by being linked to performance enhancing drugs.  It all comes back to Rodriguez's love of baseball, because for him, being the best was never good enough.  Now he finds himself rehabbing from injury in Tampa, Florida and no one knows how it will play out.  Rodriguez could retire because of a physical disability and collect the remaining $114MM on his contract or he return to the Yankees after the All-Star break and provide the righthanded bat they sorely need.  Here's more from today's column..

  • One team that has at least discussed acquiring the PhilliesChase Utley is the Royals.  Kansas City would love to stabilize their lineup and/or second base situation with someone of Utley’s caliber.  Meanwhile, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says that he wants the second baseman to retire in a Phillies uniform, if possible.
  • The Red Sox are one of the teams extremely interested in Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, but they won’t break the bank for him, according to a team source.  The Sox were certainly burned by the Daisuke Matsuzaka signing and don’t want to get burned again on a deal for the 26-year-old righthander. Even though Gonzalez seems to be the real deal, past injuries seem to be giving some teams pause. 
  • White Sox reliever Jesse Crain will draw interest and Cafardo warns not to rule out the Red Sox. Pitching coach Juan NIeves coached him in Chicago and he’s a stable force at the end of games.  Meanwhile, there will be others vying for Crain, including the Orioles and Yankees.  Our own Charlie Wilmoth recently examined Crain as a trade candidate.
  • FIrst baseman Chris Carter is an interesting righthanded bat the Astros would move for the right package of young players. The Yankees are a possibility since they need a righthanded hitter who can play first base and the outfield.  Even though he strikes out a lot, the 26-year-old Carter could be an intriguing option for clubs. 
  • The Cubs have a lot of desirable trade pieces, starting of course with Matt Garza, who could be dealt sooner rather than later – maybe even sooner than the Marlins' Ricky Nolasco.  Besides Garza, there’s been a lot of interest in outfielder Nate Schierholtz and veteran righthander Scott Feldman, who Cafardo sees as a match for the Orioles.  Outfielders Alfonso Soriano and David DeJesus along with relievers Kevin Gregg and James Russell could be moved as well.
  • While the Twins say that Glen Perkins is not available, they should expect some club – possibly the Tigers - to offer a substantial package.

White Sox Ready To Sell; Won’t Trade Sale Or Konerko

We heard last week that the White Sox had begun to receive calls on their veteran players. Now, rival executives tell Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that the ChiSox are "open for business" and willing to discuss anyone on their roster with the exception of Chris Sale and Paul Konerko.

That means that even John Danks, who just last year signed a five-year, $65MM extension with the Sox, could be had in the right deal. The team also has desirable trade chips like Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Jesse Crain, Matt Lindstrom, Matt Thornton and Jake Peavy (though he's currently on the DL). Heyman also adds that Jeff Keppinger's name has already come up in conversations, despite the fact that he signed a three-year deal just this past offseason.

Not surprisingly, one executive told Heyman that Adam Dunn will be difficult to move. Dunn is owed $15MM in 2014 and is hitting .194/.303/.460 this season. Another said that Peavy will be tough to find a match for as well. The White Sox will have a high asking price on their co-ace, but teams won't have much time to determine if he's truly healthy.

Another executive told Heyman that the Mets could look at Ramirez as a potential long-term option at shortstop. While he's not hitting for power anymore, Ramirez is batting .280/.308/.345 with 18 stolen bases and outstanding defense, according to advanced metrics like UZR and DRS. He's owed $10MM in 2014 and has a $10MM club option for 2015 on his contract as well.


Trade Candidate: Jesse Crain

The White Sox have fallen 9.5 games back in the AL Central after losing their last four games, and unless they can pull off the unlikely feat of battling their way into the playoff picture in the next few weeks, their veterans will likely be part of trade rumors as late July approaches. USATSI_6512624

Jeff Todd recently discussed the possible fate of one of those veterans, Alex Rios. Another is righty reliever Jesse Crain, who the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo discussed in his latest rumor roundup. "As bullpens become depleted teams are looking for solid, dependable guys who can be used from the seventh inning on. [Crain] is becoming a top name on wish lists around baseball," Cafardo says.

Crain has never been a closer, and thus doesn't have the "proven closer" label that occasionally causes teams to overpay for relievers at the trade deadline. The White Sox's closer, Addison Reed, has also pitched well this year, though he's unlikely to be traded due to his youth and the fact that he isn't even arbitration-eligible yet.

But Crain, 31, should be a valuable piece nonetheless. His strikeout rate has improved in every season since 2005, and this year he's taken a step forward with his control as well. He's posted an 0.60 ERA this season, with 11.7 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9, and he hasn't allowed a run in 26 straight appearances. The 0.60 ERA isn't sustainable, clearly, but Crain's strikeout rate and walk rate are both very strong. He's capable of getting outs with either his mid-90s fastball or his plus slider. He's also effective against both righties and lefties, which makes him an excellent fit in his current role as a setup man. A creative team in need of a closer could also do worse than to trade for Crain and use him in that position.

Assuming they can't fight their way back into the playoff race, the White Sox would be well-served to deal Crain. He'll be a free agent after the season, and the White Sox's farm system is poor — before the season, Keith Law and John Sickels both ranked it the third-worst farm system in baseball. Trading a non-closing reliever in his 30s, even an excellent one with a cheap $4.5MM salary, isn't the easiest way to build a farm system. But given their place in the standings and Crain's impending free agency, the White Sox have little to lose, and there are occasional trades where a contender will pay premium prices for a very good setup man. (The Padres' 2011 trade of Mike Adams to the Rangers for Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland comes to mind, although, unlike Crain, Adams had a year and a half left before he was eligible for free agency.)

There are few contenders that couldn't use Crain, although a team with question marks at the back of its bullpen would be an ideal fit. The Reds and Red Sox could well be on the hunt for bullpen help at the trade deadline. The Tigers would also make sense if Detroit and Chicago are willing to make a trade within the AL Central.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Cafardo On Norris, Crisp, Papelbon, Vazquez

Now that the draft is over, teams are focusing more on bolstering their rotations with one more piece, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.  No one more aggressive in the pursuit of pitching than Orioles GM Dan Duquette who knows that one veteran starter could make all the difference.  While they're anxious to improve their starting five, it doesn't sound as if the O's will be in the mix for someone like Cliff Lee.  “We’re looking for a starter and a reliever,” said Duquette. “We’d like to solidify our pitching all around because that’s the name of the game, really. We have to look at everything. Don’t think we’re going to be in the market for a big-money pitcher, but there seem to be some guys out there that we might focus on and see where it takes us.”  Here's more from today's column..

  • The Astros will craft a game plan early this week for how to approach their veteran assets.  Teams are already calling about Bud Norris, who has a cheap $3MM salary, but won't be cheap to acquire. The Orioles, Giants, and Pirates have kicked around the idea of acquiring Norris, but one National League exec says there will be about a dozen teams interested before all is said and done.
  • It seems like a no-brainer for the A’s to pick up Coco Crisp's 2014 option for $7.5MM, but he'll be in demand if they don’t.  Even though he's 33-years-old, there aren’t many top center fielder/leadoff hitter types out there.  Jacoby Ellsbury will be the No. 1 guy in that department, but , one American League special assignment scout said Crisp might be a better low-cost option because “he can do everything Ellsbury can do. Neither of them have an arm, but Coco is still fast, a very good outfielder, and can still be a game-changer.
  • The Phillies believe there are at least three teams — Red Sox, Tigers, and Cardinals — that may have some interest in Jonathan Papelbon at the trade deadline and the Phillies are scouting those teams with a potential deal in mind.  General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week that he’s not ready to “blow up” the Phillies, but a Papelbon trade could help retool the club.
  • Teams continue to nudge Javier Vazquez into coming back to pitch, but the right-hander seems to be content with staying with his family, according to a source familiar with Vazquez’s thinking. 
  • The Red Sox can trade Stephen Drew now that June 15th has come and gone, and they would have no problem finding a taker given the lack of shortstops around baseball.  However, Boston firmly believes that Drew is their guy.  One National League GM doesn't quite understand their infatuation with the shortstop. “They’re either trying to justify the $9.5MM they paid him, or they’re not sold on [Jose] Iglesias, who could start for 29 other teams.” 
  • If the White Sox decide to finally bolster their farm system, they could get some helpful prospects back by moving right-hander Jesse Crain.  The reliever is becoming a top name on wish lists around baseball.
  • While many baseball people remain focused on Giancarlo Stanton’s availability in a deal, 25-year-old Logan Morrison is now healthy and has returned to the lineup.  The Marlins first baseman/outfielder is a big lefthanded hitter who will be monitored closely by scouts over the next month.

Quick Hits: Biogenesis, Ortiz, Crain, Reed, Diaz

If Major League Baseball is really hoping to suspend the 20+ players involved in the Biogenesis scandal, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal thinks the league will need more evidence than just the word of clinic founder Tony Bosch.  It will be too easy, Rosenthal argues, for the players' representatives to claim that Bosch lacks credibility and that he is only naming names to avoid possible criminal prosecution and getting himself sued by the league.

Here are some news items from around the sport…

  • "To be honest with you, all those years I got to free agency, I never thought about going somewhere else," David Ortiz tells WEEI.com's Alex Speier.  "I feel like I'm a big part of these ball clubs. I feel like what I was asking for wasn't anything they couldn't give me. You look into situations, and I never had the feeling that I was going to go somewhere else, to be honest with you."  Ortiz is off to a big start this season and is making good on the two-year, $26MM deal he signed to remain with the Red Sox last offseason.
  • Jesse Crain and Addison Reed both aren't worried about possibly becoming trade bait this summer if the White Sox decide to rebuild, MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports.  Merkin notes that the veteran Crain is the likelier of the two to be moved, and I'd argue that Chicago would only move Reed if they received a knockout offer.
  • Aledmys Diaz is playing with a Mexican League team this summer and during the winter, MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez reports.  The Cuban shortstop hopes to sign with a Major League team in February.  Diaz drew attention from at least 10 teams last winter, though at least one team (the Twins) thought Diaz's asking price was "too high" and MLB was investigating whether Diaz was really 23 years old.
  • Nationals manager Davey Johnson told reporters (including Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington) that he expects both Henry Rodriguez and Zach Duke to be claimed by other teams.  The two relievers were both designated for assignment by the Nats today.

Antony On Nishioka, Hardy, Pavano, Liriano, More

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."

Antony also talked about Justin Morneau's health, Delmon Young's breakout, injury concerns, minor league prospects, and much, much more. Make sure you give it a read.


Twins Notes: Pavano, Liriano, Crain, Punto

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.

White Sox Sign Jesse Crain

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.

MLB.com's Peter Gammons and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reported on the deal as it developed.

Tim Dierkes contributed to this post.


Odds & Ends: Hudson, Jackson, Lee, Crain

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.

Latest On The Rockies’ Search For A Reliever

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.