J.J. Putz Rumors

Rosenthal on Angels, Qualifying Offers, Drew, Jays, Putz

The Angels are likely to eclipse the $189MM luxury-tax threshold eventually, despite their efforts to avoid doing so this offseason, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. Sources tell the columnist that the Angels have between $13MM and $15MM of space left beneath the cap, figures that are much lower than what will be required to sign Masahiro Tanaka. However, extending Mike Trout at, say, $300MM over 10 years would make it difficult to avoid surpassing the threshold anyway, so the Angels may as well do so now, Rosenthal surmises. Here's more from his new column:

  • This offseason's big contracts for less-than-durable stars like Jacoby EllsburyCurtis Granderson and Brian McCann show that position players can earn more as free agents than they would with club-friendly, long-term deals. Meanwhile, clubs appear increasingly willing to move players who resist extensions. For example, sources tell Rosenthal that rival teams have asked about Astros catcher Jason Castro, who could be moved if Houston is unable to ink him long-term.
  • Qualifying offers appear to have suppressed the market for players such as Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales, frustrating player representatives. Potential fixes to the system include guaranteeing that free agents receive a qualifying offer only once, or ensuring that teams signing free agents who received qualifying offers lose only draft picks and not their associated bonus-pool amounts. The current system will remain in place for another two offseasons, Rosenthal notes.
  • Stephen Drew appears to be a fit for the Mets, rival executives say, despite the club's insistence that it will consider Ruben Tejada for its starting shortstop job.
  • The Blue Jays remain among the favorites to sign either Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, despite their quiet offseason thus far. The Jays could acquire as many as two starters before the offseason is over, Rosenthal reports. In addition to upgrading through free agency, the club has also discussed trades for the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija and other starters.
  • The Diamondbacks could trade J.J. Putz after acquiring Addison Reed from the White Sox. Swapping the righty for Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki is one potential deal, or Putz could be packaged with other players in a deal for a starter such as Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers.

Stark On Howie Kendrick, Cubs, D’Backs

ESPN's Jayson Stark begins his latest column with a look at the Biogenesis situation.  As Joel Sherman of the New York Post first reported, suspension announcements are not expected today.  Sherman expects the announcements to come Thursday or Friday.  In Stark's opinion, the Rangers are acting like a team that knows what Nelson Cruz will do if suspended, in that their aggressive search for a bat suggests he might serve a suspension now to preserve his free agent value.  Meanwhile, the Tigers' lack of pursuit of a backup plan to shortstop Jhonny Peralta suggests he'll appeal.  Elsewhere in Stark's column:

  • The Dodgers and Angels, who haven't made a trade in 20 years, had a "mostly casual conversation" regarding Halos second baseman Howie Kendrick.  There are no indications a deal is in the works.
  • The Angels are at least listening on infielders Kendrick, Erick Aybar, and Alberto Callaspo, and seeking high quality big league ready pitching in return.
  • The Cubs could move Kevin Gregg and Nate Schierholtz, but are extremely unlikely to trade lefty reliever James Russell and there's just about zero chance of a Jeff Samardzija trade.
  • Pitchers Ian Kennedy and J.J. Putz of the Diamondbacks and Kyle Farnsworth of the Rays "have suddenly been made available."  Trading Kennedy would allow Arizona to clear around $1.4MM toward another move.  Are they that hard up for cash?

Diamondbacks To Extend J.J. Putz

The Diamondbacks have agreed to sign J.J. Putz to a one-year extension that will keep him in Arizona through 2014, the team announced via Twitter. The LSW Baseball client will reportedly receive a $7MM salary in 2014.

Putz

Putz, who turns 36 next month, pitched to a 2.82 ERA, 10.8 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and 45.7 percent ground-ball rate with 32 saves for the Snakes last season. In 518 2/3 Major League innings between the Mariners, Mets, White Sox and Diamondbacks, Putz has a 3.04 ERA, 9.5 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 with 183 saves.

Putz signed a two-year deal worth $10MM to take over as Arizona's closer following the 2010 season. Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers exercised a $6.5MM club option on Putz back in October. He will be joined by flamethrower David Hernandez and one-time shutdown closer Heath Bell — acquired from the Marlins in a three-team trade — at the back-end of Arizona's bullpen in 2013.

Towers sang Putz's praises in a press release:

“J.J. has provided much-needed leadership and stability for our bullpen the last two years. He has been an integral piece and helped set the foundation for our bullpen’s turnaround so we are excited to have him in place the next two seasons.”

The move is just one of many in what's been a busy season for Towers and his staff. As MLBTR's Transaction Tracker shows, the team has traded away Chris Young and Trevor Bauer, acquiring Bell, Cliff Pennington, Didi Gregorius, Tony Sipp and Lars Anderson. On the free agent front, they've signed Brandon McCarthy, Cody Ross, Eric Chavez, Eric Hinske and Wil Nieves to Major League contracts.

Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic was the first to report the financial terms of Putz's extension (Twitter link). Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Diamondbacks Notes: Putz, Bell, Towers

The Diamondbacks started off the day by finalizing the long awaited decision of exercising J.J. Putz's $6.5MM option for 2013.  It turns out that was small potatoes compared to the move they would pull later in the day – a three-team deal sending Chris Young to Oakland and bringing in Heath Bell from Miami.  Here's more on the D'Backs..

  • Some scouts are already speculating that Putz could be on the trading block after Bell's arrival, tweets Scott Miller of CBSSports.com.  However, Miller notes that General Manager Kevin Towers is a fan of strong bullpens and would relish the chance to have David Hernandez, Bell, and Putz as the club's 7-8-9 relievers (Twitter link).
  • Towers believes that Bell can help "get the ball" to Putz, tweets Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.  That would seem to infer that Putz is still part of the club's plan for 2013, but the closer would absolutely have value if the D'Backs chose to shop him.
  • Prior to the deal being announced, Towers told Jack Magruder of FOXSportsArizona.com (via Twitter) that he will talk to Putz about a contract extension.  "I hope he finishes his career in a Diamondbacks uniform," said the GM.

Diamondbacks Exercise 2013 Option For J.J. Putz

The Diamondbacks have exercised their $6.5MM club option for J.J. Putz, the team announced. The right-hander is represented by LSW Baseball and would have been owed a $1.5MM buyout had Arizona declined to bring him back for 2013.

Putz, 35, has pitched to a 2.48 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in two years with the D'Backs while saving 77 games in 86 chances. Injuries have been a problem for the veteran closer throughout his career, and he missed close to four weeks with elbow inflammation this season. Despite the injury, the net price of just $5MM was far too good to pass up. Arizona signed Putz to a two-year, $10MM contract during the 2010-2011 offseason.


Derrick Hall On Diamondbacks’ Offseason Priorities, Miley As ROY

Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall recently held an online town hall meeting with fans (transcript courtesy of MLB.com). Here are the highlights:

  • Hall says there will not be a major overhaul of the Diamondbacks this offseason, but more of a tweaking. The focus of that tweaking will be the left side of the infield and "it is safe to say" a left-handed bullpen specialist. The club will look to do so through trades. Hall, however, would like to keep their pitching (both starting rotation and bullpen) and any of their young talent, so look for the Snakes to use their outfield logjam as trade bait.
  • One outfielder mentioned as a trade candidate is Chris Young. "If we decide to move anyone, we always take chemistry into account and how such a move will impact our club," Hall explained. Neither the fans nor Hall brought up the Justin Upton trade rumors.
  • On picking up the $6.5 MM option on closer J.J. Putz for next season, "It is likely a priority of ours," said Hall. "He has been outstanding. He is a great leader in that bullpen and mentor to our relievers. We have had so much confidence turning the ball over to him to close out games, it is hard to imagine us not doing so."
  • Admitting his bias, Hall said left-hander Wade Miley should win the NL Rookie of the Year award, "He was fantastic and clearly our most consistent starter. He was dominant most of the season, which is difficult to accomplish as a rookie."
  • Though the team finished third after winning the NL West a year ago, Hall saw some positives in 2012, "I think we all expected more. But we had some great individual years when you look at Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Montero, Jason Kubel, J.J. Putz, Brad Ziegler, David Hernandez and Wade Miley, to name a few. And our Minor League system is very strong. We had five teams make the playoffs and they brought home four different championships."

Diamondbacks Notes: Upton, Bauer, Putz, Drew

The latest on the Diamondbacks as General Manager Kevin Towers and Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick opened up a bit on the club's plans..

  • Towers told Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com that he has a very open-minded approach to improving the roster and wouldn't rule out a trade of Justin Upton.  However, finding the right deal could prove to be difficult.  "It's probably going to be very difficult to move him. We've explored it the last couple of years and there wasn't a deal that presented itself that made sense, that we felt was going to make us better," said Towers.
  • Kendrick had a similar take in an interview today on KTAR radio, tweets Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic.  "I would think it’s highly likely that we’ll see Justin Upton in a Diamondbacks uniform next year," Kendrick said.  Kendrick also emphasized the club's never-say-never attitude to trades (Twitter link).
  • Kendrick seemed to give a less-than-enthusiastic evaluation of right-hander Trevor Bauer.  "In an employer/employee situation it’s incumbent on employee to make adjustments to satisfy the needs of the employer," said Kendrick, according to Piecoro (via Twitter).
  • When asked if Bauer has a future with the D'Backs, Kendrick responded, "Well he has talent," (via Twitter).  Kendrick wasn't asked to expound on his specific issues with the former third-overall pick.
  • The club has time to decide on J.J. Putz's $6.5MM option for next season, but Towers termed it a "no-brainer" based on his performance this year and the going rate for closers of his caliber.  If Arizona has a sudden change of heart, Putz can be bought out for just $1.5MM.
  • Despite falling short of expectations this season, Towers told Bloom that he still believes that the club isn't far from contending once again.  The GM also chalked up some of the disappointment for the 2012 season to raised expectations heading into the year.
  • Asked about his shopping list for this offseason, Towers said that he will likely target a shortstop to replace Stephen Drew.  He doesn't see Willie Bloomquist as a full-time answer given his injury history and John McDonald probably couldn't fill the void at the age of 38.  Beyond that, Towers would like to bolster the pitching, but any veteran pitching they acquire would happen via trade.  Towers will also look to upgrade at third base this winter.
  • Towers won't completely rule out a return for Drew via free agency, but it's not likely seeing as how they already opted to move him this year.
  • In general, Towers believes that he will look to improve via trade rather than free agency.  The club could free up additional cash by moving an outfielder as they are high on both A.J. Pollock and Adam Eaton, though they should already have enough money to contend next season as it stands.

Closer Options For 2013

Last offseason's Hot Stove was notable for the hefty contracts signed by the likes of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, but the abundance of closers in free agency was an interesting secondary arc. A few stoppers signed for big bucks, and if there were any takeaway, it was that many teams have not necessarily adopted a frugal philosophy with respect to bullpen spending.

The upcoming offseason's class of free-agent closers is pretty interesting, too, and several of its potential members have options for 2013. Here's a list of those pitchers and a very preliminary look at whether their options figure to be picked up:

  • Matt Capps (2013 age: 29), $6MM club option with a $250K buyout: Capps' signing this offseason was maligned after he pitched poorly in 2011, but the Twins' bullpen was pretty barren, so it may have been a devil-you-know situation. He's pitching roughly the same so far this year, but the guess here is that if they were willing to bring him back after last year, they'll be willing to do so again. He could be a trade candidate, but I'm not sure there will be takers.
  • Ryan Madson (32), $11MM mutual option with a $2.5MM buyout: The Reds will be on the hook for at least $2.5MM, so will they want to gamble an extra $8.5MM on a guy coming off Tommy John surgery? With Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall in the back of the Reds' bullpen, I think they'll pass.
  • J.J. Putz (36), $6.5MM club option with a $1.5MM buyout: Putz is getting on in years, and his health is always a concern (including a DL stint during his brilliant 2011), but the right-hander is really good when he's on the mound. If he can get through this year relatively unscathed in terms of injury, which is no sure thing, I think the Diamondbacks will roll the dice, seeing as the penalty for snake eyes is relatively low.
  • Joakim Soria (29), $8MM club option with a $750K buyout: Similar to the Reds and Madson, the Royals will have a tough decision to make with Soria coming off (a second) Tommy John surgery. They've been very reluctant to part with him via trade previously, so I'm thinking they'll pick up the option just to save face and see what he can yield — either in terms of on-field contributions or perhaps a trade later in the season if he comes back healthy.
  • Huston Street (29), $9MM mutual option with a $500K buyout if club declines: The Padres will likely look to trade Street before this year's deadline, so his recent injury development must make them a little nervous. He has plenty of time to get healthy before the deadline, though, and I'd expect the Friars to move hard to flip him. If they can't, they could always pick up the option and then look to trade him again next summer.
  • Grant Balfour (35), $4.5MM club option with a $350K buyout: The A's will be shopping Balfour hard before the deadline, as he'll draw plenty of interest, as MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently noted. Wherever he is, his option will look pretty attractive, with his durability and effectiveness probably trumping any concerns over his age.
  • Rafael Soriano (33), $14MM player option or a $1.5MM buyout: Soriano is very likely to exercise this option, meaning the Yankees will almost certainly be paying this hefty tab in 2013. The temptation may be there for Soriano to decline and rake in another two- or three-year deal elsewhere on the market, but he can get one of those after 2013, assuming for health.

Quick Hits: MVP, V-Mart, Wang, Bullpens

A few stray items of note on this Thursday evening …


Top Interleague Acquisitions For 2011

Another round of interleague play begins tonight, so let’s take a look at some players who switched leagues last winter and are off to hot starts in 2011. Here are a few of the players thriving in new leagues – and what it cost to acquire them:

Free Agents

  • Cliff Lee – It cost $120MM in guaranteed money and a first round pick for the Phillies to reacquire Lee. He has a 3.84 ERA with a 68K/13BB ratio through 58 2/3 innings.
  • Adam Dunn – After a slow start, Dunn has been hitting like his usual self this month and now has a .203/.321/.368 line. He cost the White Sox $56MM and the 23rd overall selection in this year's draft.
  • J.J. Putz – Putz, one of many relievers to sign multiyear deals last winter, is living up to Arizona's $10MM investment. He has a 2.12 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 through 17 innings of work.
  • Lance Berkman – Berkman wasn't out of the National League for long and he must be happy he's back. Though currently sidelined, the 35-year-old has a .349/.455/.683 line and is among the league leaders in many offensive categories. Well worth the Cards’ $8MM investment. 
  • Russell Martin – Easily one of the offseason's best bargains, Martin has a .268/.371/.480 line. Not only did he cost just $4MM, he's under team control in 2012.
  • Jeff Francis – Francis has a 4.83 ERA with a 27K/10BB ratio through 54 innings and he cost just $2MM. 

Trades

  • Adrian Gonzalez – Gonzalez has a .314/.370/.560 line back in the American League, but he didn’t come cheap. The Padres obtained top pitching prospect Casey Kelly, former first rounder Reymond Fuentes and Anthony Rizzo, who is tearing through the Pacific Coast League. Rizzo has a .371/.443/.702 line through 174 plate appearances and it won't be long before he's making an impact at Petco Park.
  • Shaun Marcum – Marcum is pitching better than ever for the Brewers and the Blue Jays are no doubt pleased with what 21-year-old Brett Lawrie’s doing to Triple-A pitching. The #40 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America, Lawrie has a .335/.395/.607 line with nine homers and as many steals.
  • Matt Garza – Garza leads the National League with 11.0 K/9 and has a 3.72 ERA through 55 2/3 innings, though it took Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer to acquire him. We've all heard about Fuld’s hot start and Guyer homered in his first MLB game.