Jim Bowden Rumors
Rounding up rumors and links from the weekend...
- SI.com's Jon Heyman says the Mariners are asking the Mets for Jon Niese for Raul Ibanez. Not likely.
- ESPN's Buster Olney says the Braves would require Conor Jackson from the D'Backs in a Mark Teixeira deal, but Arizona is not biting.
- Another quick hit from Olney: the White Sox are surveying the relief market in the wake of Scott Linebrink's shoulder injury.
- Several readers have written in about Phillies' lefty J.A. Happ being pulled early from a Triple A start (2.2 scoreless innings) with no sign of injury. Something to keep an eye on, as the Phillies hunt for a lefty reliever on the trade market. UPDATE: Happ may be getting the call to replace Adam Eaton.
- Even on the DL, Phil Hughes has been in high demand.
- The White Sox let Esteban Loaiza go.
- No team claimed Kei Igawa off waivers. Also, the Yankees designated LaTroy Hawkins for assignment.
- Ned Colletti on the possibility of trading Derek Lowe: "No."
- Jim Bowden and Chad Cordero patched things up, making a re-signing possible this winter.
- The emergence of Jeff Samardzija this weekend may make Scott Eyre or Jon Lieber expendable.
- At least 20 teams have called about one of the Rangers' catchers.
- Jamey Newberg wrote a few days ago that most likely the only way Kevin Millwood can lock in his $12MM for 2010 will be to pitch 180 innings next year.
SI.com's Jon Heyman has a new column up.
- Given Richie Sexson's expected part-time role, the Yankees are in the market for an everyday outfielder to replace Hideki Matsui's bat. Barry Bonds is not under consideration. Heyman tosses out names such as Matt Holliday, Xavier Nady, Jason Bay, and Adam Dunn, while noting that the price on most is too high (the Pirates deny this).
- Heyman is still saying the Cardinals will consider trading Colby Rasmus, despite various denials.
- The Yanks are also looking to add a #3-4 starter type. Here's a look at the market.
- Manny Ramirez probably isn't going to get what he wants - free agency, an extension, or a trade.
- The Nationals are supporting GM Jim Bowden despite his recent problems. Heyman reported rumblings last month that Bowden "could be in trouble."
- Despite the Marlins' interest, the Tigers are unlikely to trade Ivan Rodriguez. Jon Paul Morosi agrees, while noting that Pudge's salary might be too high for Florida anyway.
- Same old story with Adam Dunn - he's just not drawing much interest. Even with the whiffs and ugly defense, this is surprising to me. Rosenthal says the Reds "will take a considerable risk" if they offer Dunn arbitration after the season and he accepts. Would having Dunn on a one-year deal at market price really be so bad?
- Rosenthal says "it remains to be seen whether Jim Bowden's authority will be compromised" in the wake of his involvement in the FBI's bonus-skimming investigation. The Nationals have a couple of mildly interesting starters to shop in Tim Redding and Odalis Perez, plus perhaps the top righty reliever in Jon Rauch. Maybe Rauch will be packaged with a starter.
- The Angels will try to retain Francisco Rodriguez after the season.
- The Blue Jays started A.J. Burnett on three days rest in an attempt to maximize his starts before the trade deadline, though the J.P. denies it. Burnett responded well against the Yankees. Rosenthal wonders whether he would abandon his opt-out clause if his contract was extended through 2011 upon a trade. A dissenting opinion - Jon Heyman talked to one GM who does not expect Burnett to opt out.
- The D'Backs apparently do not see Raul Ibanez as much of an upgrade over Chad Tracy. However, Jack Magruder wrote Saturday that the Mariners and D'Backs had discussions on Ibanez.
- The Dodgers are still interested in Jack Wilson.
- Rosenthal says some teams are skeptical that the Pirates would offer Damaso Marte arbitration after this season. Why wouldn't they? The Red Sox are interested in the lefty.
Cheers to MLB for following George Mitchell's suggestion and creating an investigative unit. It's already helping to crack down on a couple of serious scandals, along with the FBI. I also like ESPN's hiring of Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn. If I had something to hide, I wouldn't want these guys on the case.
First we had several White Sox employees canned in May for possibly skimming bonuses intended for Dominican prospects. Then a week ago the L.A. Times said at least one GM "has already come under suspicion."
On Saturday, the Fainaru-Wade/Quinn team broke the news that Nationals GM Jim Bowden and special assistant Jose Rijo are under investigation for possible roles in the scandal. Bowden says he had no role and is not under suspicion, though. Rijo says he and Bowden are both "clean as a whistle" and "clean as Irish Spring soap."
Meanwhile SI.com's Jon Heyman discovered that Orioles scout Alan Marr was fired for ties to sports betting. Other scouts may be implicated, but there's no indication of game-fixing. Heyman believes Marr was tied to a bookmaking operation.
Today's link collection.
- Joel Sherman puts on his GM hat and proposes five trade offers the Yankees should make.
- Troy E. Renck doesn't believe the Rockies are ready to start trading off veterans.
- Jon Heyman heard rumblings that Nationals GM Jim Bowden "could be in trouble."
- Dave Cameron discusses next year's frontrunner for the #1 draft pick, college pitcher Stephen Strasburg. The pick could be made by Bill Bavasi's replacement.
- The MLB draft is definitely gaining popularity, but Nick Friedell's suggestions would provide a big boost.
A few notes from the MLBiverse...
- Anthony Reyes, who has been the object of much trade speculation, made his first start at AAA on Friday night. Reyes pitched 3+ scoreless innings with a strict pitch-count. The Cardinals appear to be reconverting Reyes into a starter in the hopes of increasing his value for potential trade partners.
- Jim Bowden hinted that he may implement a full-fledged youth movement in the near future, noting that a number of top prospects are close to being ready. Specifically, he mentioned two outfielders which would likely mean that Bowden will seek to move Austin Kearns and/or Wily Mo Pena. Kearns is due $8MM next year and there is a $10MM option for 2010 ($1M buyout). Pena may be easier to move with only a $5MM team option for 2009.
- Justice B. Hill suggests that the Indians are now paying the price for their inability to swing a deal this past offseason for another offensive weapon at one of the corner outfield spots or third base. The timing of the story was unfortunate as the Tribe laid a 12-spot on the Jays last night.
- The Red Sox do not have a need for a starting pitcher at this point, but they may soon have one too many arms for the rotation if Bartolo Colon continues to progress. Colon allowed one run in three innings, touching 97 on the radar gun. The obvious move would be to move somebody to the bullpen, but if somebody does go down with an injury, Colon's availability likely means that the Red Sox will not be in the market for an extra arm down the stretch.
A week ago, Mike Glab weighed in on Jim Bowden's tenure as Reds' GM. Today, he takes on Bowden's trade work with the Nationals below.
At last, Jim Bowden will be working in a relatively stable environment in Washington. Ownership issues are settled, his title is no longer qualified by the interim tag and the Nats open their new ballpark in March.
Bowden’s taking a different tack in opening a stadium this time around. Last time, when the Reds were gearing up to open Great American Ballpark, Bowden shot for the moon in 2000 and traded for Ken Griffey, Jr. hoping the superstar would lead the team to glory just as the new place opened its doors in 2003. Sadly, the plan flopped and Bowden was canned midway through GAB’s inaugural season.
This time, though, Bowden seems to be going in the opposite direction. That is, accumulating young, unproven phenoms to populate a roster that last year lost 89 games and avoided the cellar by a mere two games. During the off-season, Bowden snared outfielders Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge as well as beanpole righthanded pitcher Tyler Clippard, none of them older than 23. Only Paul Lo Duca, Aaron Boone and Dmitri Young on the 40-man roster have reached their mid-30s. Clearly, Bowden hopes the new facility will draw fans while the young players gel.
Now, working without Marge Scott breathing down his neck nor being saddled with an orphaned organization, Bowden will show us what he’s got.
Like any good GM, Bowden caught lightning in a bottle last year with the late-career resurgence of Young. The first baseman put up some decent numbers in the hitters’ mausoleum that was RFK Stadium. Nationals Park can’t help but be a better environment for offense and Bowden showed faith in Young by rewarding him with a $10M, two-year contract. The pact won’t be the albatross Griffey’s deal was for the Reds; Bowden will have some financial latitude to tweak or even remake his roster if needed.
Bowden’s made 29 deals since taking over the Nats in early November 2004 (Download nats_trades_under_bowden.xls here). He hasn’t shown any tendency to favor one opposition GM over another in his second go-round running a team. He has made three deals with Boston’s Theo Epstein and two each with the Giants’ Brian Sabean, the Rockies’ Dan O’Dowd, the Brewers’ Doug Melvin and the Snakes’ Josh Byrnes. The O’Dowd swaps are a continuation of a favorite relationship initiated when Bowden was in Cincy.
He’s spent a lot of time ridding the Nats roster of ancient or no-longer bankable names like Tomo Ohka and Royce Clayton as well as players who had a little bit left in the tank but were of no value to a perpetually rebuilding team. These included Jose Vidro, Livan Hernandez and Daryle Ward.
As in Cincinnati, Bowden split his deals almost equally between leagues and favored doing business with the National League West and the American League East.
His biggest trade, for Alfonso Soriano, could be construed as being in the vein of the Griffey deal. Bowden hooked up with Jon Daniels of the Rangers in December 2005 to bring Soriano to Washington for his walk year in exchange for the youngish Brad Wilkerson and Terrmel Sledge as well as Armando Galarraga. Bowden made noises indicating he’d like to sign Soriano long-term although nobody but a fool would’ve bet Washington could win a bidding war for him. After losing Soriano in the fall of 2006, the Nats selected pitchers Josh Smoker and Jordan Zimmerman in last year’s amateur draft as compensation.
The entire Soriano experience may reveal more about the presence of Stan Kasten as the Nats president than Bowden’s acumen. Bowden swung the deal with Daniels before Kasten was hired by Washington. Kasten has made it clear his team won’t be backed into a gargantuan no-trade deal, which is precisely what Soriano received on the open market.
Bowden got himself into hot water with the one trade he has made with his old club. In July 2006, Bowden shipped a package of five players to his Cincinnati successor, Wayne Krivsky, for Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez and Ryan Wagner. Soon after the trade, Krivsky learned that one of the pitchers Bowden had sent over, Gary Majewski, had been given a cortisone shot in his pitching shoulder prior to the deal. Krivsky filed a grievance with MLB, claiming Majewski was damaged goods. Each of the two GMs exchanged charges in the media that the other was playing fast and loose. “It’s in the hands of our lawyers,” Krivsky told ESPN. The case is still being decided as of this late date. It’s a safe bet, though, that Krivsky and Bowden won’t be doing much business together for the foreseeable future.
Looking at Bowden’s overall record, including 10 ½ years with the Reds and three and a half with Washington, it’s hard to ascertain if he’s a miracle worker or a bum. Cincinnati almost won a division title in the strike year, 1994 and did win the demi-flag the next year. The Reds spent seven years in the upper half of their division during his term and four years in the bottom half. The Nats under Bowden have done nothing but fight for last place. Of course, the Nats under a brain trust of Branch Rickey, Dave Dombrowski and Albert Einstein wouldn’t have done much better.
It’s likely that Bowden is a middling GM, one who won’t single-handedly destroy a team but who probably can’t raise the dead either. The Nats right now are the dead. It’s Bowden’s moment to discover if he has a magic touch.
If James Gordon Bowden III knows how to do anything, it’s working under circumstances that would make most people run, screaming, for the door. From the time the mercurial Marge Schott hired him to run the Cincinnati Reds to the start of his current term as GM of the orphaned Washington Nationals, he has been able to remain focused on wheeling and dealing.
We’ll split Bowden’s tenures with the two teams into separate posts, starting today with his Cincinnati tenure. Download reds_trades_under_bowden_iii.xls here - a spreadsheet listing all of Bowden's trades as the Reds' GM.
For a guy who eventually earned the nickname “Trader Jim,” Bowden’s career as a trafficker in baseball players began inauspiciously. His first deal after taking over the Reds in 1992 sent outfielder Paul O’Neill to the Yankees. O’Neill, a key member of Cincy’s 1990 World Series champions, went on to become the heart and soul of the end-of-the-century Yankees’ dynasty.
Bowden was only 31 years old when Schott hired him. At the time, he was the youngest general manager in Major League history. Perhaps his inexperience provided a built-in alibi for the swap, which sent O’Neill and a minor-leaguer to New York for the eminently forgettable Roberto Kelly.
If Bowden’s first deal was a disaster – try to find a Reds fan who doesn’t think it was – it didn’t stop him from making 100 other trades in his 10½ years at the Cincinnati helm.
Former Mets GM Steve Phillips once told Tim Kurkjian of ESPN: The Magazine, “Jim Bowden is the guy who will call you at 1:30 in the morning and say, ‘I have the deal that will win the World Series for you.’”
Bowden took over a 90-win team and watched them lose big in 1993. Then the Reds ruled the newly-formed NL Central for a couple of years. They won the division in ’95 with a top-tier salary structure but Schott ordered a payroll cut in the off-season and drove manager Davey Johnson out of town.
Bowden managed to keep the Reds’ core together but Cincinnati dropped to a .500 record in 1996 on the way to a stretch of sub-mediocrity until a brief revival five years later. After this blip, the Red spent the 2000s far out of contention.
In 2002, Bowden came under heavy fire for comparing a potential players walkout to the 9/11 attacks, with the public pillorying him for insensitivity to the victims of terrorism and MLB thrashing him for speaking publicly about labor negotiations.
He was fired along with manager Bob Boone in July 2003 and then spent a year and a half doing occasional studio analysis for ESPN until the Montreal/Washington opportunity opened up.
As the Reds’ GM, Bowden established some productive relationships with a handful of other GMs, notably John Hart of the Indians, Woody Woodward of the Mariners, Randy Smith of the Tigers and John Schuerholz of the Braves, all of whom are out of the business as of this time.
Several of Bowden’s preferred trading partners in the Reds years still run MLB teams, though. Bowden engineered six swaps each with Dave Dombrowski (five with the Marlins and one with the Tigers) and Dan O’Dowd of the Rockies. Bowden also worked four deals with Bill Bavasi, GM of the Angels at the time.
O’Dowd clearly was a favorite dance partner. During a year and a half span after O’Dowd took over the Colorado operation in 1999, he and Bowden traded a total of 17 players.
The Rockies (nine trades) were Bowden’s favorite team to deal with overall from 1993 through 2003. The Indians came in a close second with eight trades. As a trader, Bowden split his deals evenly between the leagues (51 with the AL; 49 with the NL.) He swung 21 deals with teams in the National League East teams (19 after the six-division set up was introduced), his favorite division.
Bowden seems not to be terribly shy about acquiring controversial or troubled players, dealing for Deion Sanders in Cincy and Jose Guillen in Washington. He often sought established veterans whose better days had passed, including Kevin Mitchell twice, Lee Smith, Ruben Sierra, Greg Vaughn and Dante Bichette. Only Bichette and the second Mitchell acquisition could be considered stretch drive deals.
Sean Casey and Danny Graves flowered after Bowden trades brought them to Cincy. Bowden missed recognizing Paul Konerko’s potential, getting him from the Dodgers, then sending him to the White Sox for Mike Cameron. After one year, Bowden turned Cameron around, peddling him, Brett Tomko and a couple of palookas to the Mariners for Ken Griffey, Jr.
The February 2000 Griffey deal was Bowden’s biggest in Cincinnati. A native of Cincinnati whose father was part of the Big Red Machine, Griffey was brought in to jumpstart a revival that, it was hoped, would put a contender in Great American Ballpark when it opened in 2003. It wasn’t a bad gamble, considering that Griffey at the time of the trade was acknowledged as one of the two or three top players in the game. Additionally, the Reds had just come off two straight second-place finishes. Griffey’s subsequent streak of injuries played a part in Bowden’s demise in Cincinnati.
Bowden called the shots in 11 entry drafts for the Reds. Only Austin Kearns (1998) became a productive big leaguer. (Incidentally, C.J. Nitkowski, selected in 1994, started one of the very first pro athlete personal websites, offering stream-of-consciousness in diary form that presaged blogs.) Among Bowden’s later Reds draft choices, only Jeremy Sowers (2001, first round) and Joey Votto (2002, second round) seem to offer promise. Bowden apparently was impressed with a Long Island high school left handed pitcher named Nick Markakis, drafting him twice, in 2001 and 2002. Markakis declined to sign both times, converted to the outfield in college and eventually signed with the Orioles.
Tainted by the 9/11 remark and saddled with a team that would go on to lose 93 games, Bowden was fired in mid-season 2003 along with manager Bob Boone. His reputation as a glib bargainer was well-established, his survival through the Schott years was a testament to his resilience, but even after a decade at the helm, no one could say if Bowden had the capability of building a contender with staying power.
Next up: the Washington experience.