J.J. Putz Rumors

Diamondbacks Interested In J.J. Putz

The Diamondbacks had one of the worst bullpens in baseball history last season (league-worst 5.74 ERA), something new GM Kevin Towers will undoubtedly try to correct this offseason. Part of the solution could be free agent reliever J.J. Putz, whom the D'Backs have interest in according to Mark Gonzales of The Chicago Tribune

Putz, 34 in February, was fantastic with the White Sox this year. He struck out 65 and walked just 13 unintentionally in 54 innings, pitching to a 2.83 ERA and holding opponents to a .204/.261/.313 batting line against. He did spend 16 days on the disabled list with knee tendinitis, a year after having bone spurs removed from his elbow. It's not long ago that Putz was one of the game's elite closers, a role he could easily fill in Arizona.

As Gonzales notes, Putz resides in nearby Peoria, something that will surely be attractive to the righty. The D'Backs also plan to pursue another former White Sox and Arizona resident, Paul Konerko. Putz earned $3MM in 2010 and is a Type-B free agent.

Free Agent Stock Watch: J.J. Putz

Adding right-handed reliever J.J. Putz last December for a $3MM guarantee was a brilliant move by White Sox GM Kenny Williams.  Putz's stock is back up after a lost 2009; let's take a look.

The Good

  • In four of the last five seasons, including last year, Putz struck out more than ten batters per nine innings.  His control with the Sox this year returned to an acceptable level, at 2.5 walks per nine.  Putz posted a solid 48.5% groundball rate, his best since '06.  He had no problems getting left-handed hitters out.  His 2.83 ERA was well-deserved.
  • Putz has closing experience from 2006-08 with the Mariners.  With an average fastball velocity of 94.0, he can be intimidating in the ninth inning.
  • He's a Type B free agent, so he won't cost a draft pick to sign regardless of whether the White Sox offer arbitration.

The Bad

  • Putz, 34 in February, hasn't reached 55 innings in a season since '07.  His only ailment this year was a knee injury, but he had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow in June of '09.
  • It may have been related to the elbow injury, but Putz walked 5.6 per nine innings from 2008-09.  He walked 4.8 per nine over the last two months of this season.
  • Potentially, Putz could seek a multiyear deal or a salary matching his '09 base of $5MM.

The Verdict

Closing jobs are hard to come by, but my guess is that Putz will instruct his agent at LSW Baseball to seek such an opportunity first.  That could mean the Rays, Blue Jays, Angels, Braves, Marlins, or Diamondbacks.  He could also stay close to home and sign with the Tigers, or set up for teams such as the Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers, Cubs, or Cardinals.  Two years and $10MM seems plausible.

Phillies Scouting Jenks, Putz

The Phillies are scouting Bobby Jenks and J.J. Putz of the White Sox, according to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com.  Philadelphia is "among a couple of teams" looking at the White Sox and trying to project which players will be available if they are unable to get back into the AL Central race in the next few weeks.

Jenks and Putz would help solidify the back end of the Phillies' bullpen, which is their main area of concern.  Jenks, 29, has 12.0 K/9, 4.2 BB/9 with a 5.40 ERA in 16 appearances this season.  However, he has looked strong in his last three outings where he surrendered two hits and no runs.  Putz, 33, has a 3.95 ERA with 11.9 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 13.2 innings. 

Jenks will make $7.5MM after avoiding arbitration with the White Sox this offseason.  Tim recently wrote that Jenks is a non-tender candidate.  Meanwhile, Putz is set to earn $3MM in 2010 with the opportunity to earn more through incentives. 

Following a team meeting on Wednesday, White Sox GM Kenny Williams told reporters that he has been politely turning down overtures from other teams to make a deal.  However, if they continue to struggle, it's hard to imagine Williams keeping that stance.

Rosenthal’s Full Count Video: Griffey, Pena, Dye

In his latest Full Count video for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal says that retirement could become a more realistic option for Ken Griffey Jr. if the 40-year-old continues to see less playing time. Rosenthal adds that, during their past two contract negotiations, Griffey and agent Brian Goldberg have discussed with the Mariners "how a phase-out might occur," since Griffey hopes to continue his relationship with the team after his retirement. Here are Rosenthal's other hot stove notes:

  • Although Carl Crawford likely won't be a Ray past this season, the club has a chance to retain Carlos Pena. With Adam Dunn, Derrek Lee, and Paul Konerko eligible for free agency after this year, and Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, and Prince Fielder potentially hitting the open market in 2011, there are a slew of alternatives to Pena. A power-starved club like the Mariners and Orioles could make a run at Pena, but it's still possible he ends up back in Tampa Bay, assuming there's mutual interest.
  • If the White Sox decide to blow up their roster, it may happen sooner rather than later, given the ten and five rights that will kick in for A.J. Pierzynski and Mark Buehrle this summer. Pierzynski, Konerko, J.J. Putz, and Andruw Jones would be the most likely trade candidates.
  • Although the Padres spoke to Jermaine Dye in the offseason, they'd prefer to stick to their current, younger players. If they decide to add a bat, it's more likely to be an active outfielder than the inactive Dye.

White Sox May Be Finished With Offseason Shopping

MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports that White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen seems satisfied to stand pat with the current composition of his roster, a decision that would leave Chicago without the everyday DH that seemed to be the club's top priority this winter.

Guillen tells Merkin that he likes the idea of using several different players (such as Andruw Jones, Paul Konerko, Mark Kotsay, Jayson Nix, or even Omar Vizquel) as a designated hitter depending on matchups or, in Konerko's case, to rest him without taking him out of the lineup altogether.

Chicago GM Kenny Williams doesn't sound entirely convinced with this plan, but seems to be willing to acquisece to Guillen on this front.  Williams told Merkin, "I don't want to do anything that conflicts with what my manager wants….Regardless if I think there might be a need for another left-handed bat in middle of the lineup, he's the one in there, and I fully support how he sees the situation fitting and piecing it together."

It's not like the Southsiders haven't been active this offseason — they acquired Mark Teahen and Juan Pierre in trades and signed Jones, Vizquel and J.J. Putz.  But given all of the high-profile designated hitter options on the market this winter, it's safe to say that White Sox fans were counting on a bit more than just Jones and Vizquel as DH upgrades.  Do you think that Williams should, in fact, look to acquire that left-handed bat or do you agree with Guillen and think the Sox roster is fine as it is?

Odds & Ends: Balfour, Orioles, Chapman, Lowe

Rounding up the first batch of miscellaneous Sunday links….

  • The Rays agreed to terms with reliever Grant Balfour, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. Balfour signed a one-year, $2.05MM deal, avoiding arbitration.
  • The Baltimore Orioles are still searching for a closer, writes Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. Zrebiec suggests that Fernando Rodney and Kevin Gregg could be atop the O's list of targets.
  • MASN's Roch Kubatko runs down the Orioles' closing options too, adding new free agent Matt Capps to the mix.
  • Meanwhile, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has reaction from GM Neal Huntington, who says that media reports of the 26-year-old being non-tendered hurt his trade value.  Huntington also said that the Bucs would "love" to have him back in the bullpen – at the right price.  Capps isn't on the Yankees radar, says Marc Carig of the Newark Star-Ledger (via Twitter).
  • John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press writes that the Tigers' closer search also continues. The team was looking at J.J. Putz, but backed off because of health questions, not money concerns.
  • Tuesday could be "Judgment Day" for Aroldis Chapman, according to MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez. Chapman will throw a session with a slew of teams expected to be in attendance.
  • Within a piece which focuses on yesterday's non-tender decisions, ESPN.com's Buster Olney mentions that a handful of clubs are interested in Brian Giles, including the Yankees and Reds. It's still up in the air whether teams will be willing to offer Giles more than a minor league contract.
  • One interesting tidbit from the latest article by Newsday's Ken Davidoff: An AL West official tells Davidoff that he'd like to see Jered Weaver, rather than Joe Saunders, leaving the division in a potential Roy Halladay trade offer. I have to think Jays fans would agree. Both pitchers were selected 12th overall in their respective drafts: Saunders in 2002 and Weaver in 2004.
  • Speaking of the AL West, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports thinks it's the most intriguing division for hot stove news this winter.
  • David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter) says that the Angels are a possible destination for Derek Lowe if they cannot re-sign John Lackey.  Other possibilities include the Mariners, Red Sox and Yanks.  O'Brien also suggests the Mets, provided that the Braves are willing to trade within their division.

White Sox, J.J. Putz Agree To Terms

The White Sox reached a one-year, $3MM deal with reliever J.J. Putz, tweets MLB.com's Noah CoslovAOL FanHouse's Ed Price tweets that Putz can earn another $3MM in incentives for games finished.  Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets of another $250K in incentives for appearances.  A Bobby Jenks trade might be good for Putz's wallet. 

Putz was scheduled to throw for teams today; he had also drawn interest from the Cubs, Nationals, Pirates, Tigers, D'Backs, and Phillies.  The righty, 33 in February, tallied only 29.3 innings this year for the Mets due to elbow issues.  He was dominant for the Mariners in '06 and '07.

On a related note, MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports that Sox reliever D.J. Carrasco could be non-tendered tomorrow.  Carrasco, 33 in April, posted a 3.76 ERA, 6.0 K/9, and 2.8 BB/9 in 93.3 innings this year.  His peripheral stats weren't much different from Brandon Lyon's.

Phillies Bullpen Search: Dotel, Putz, Smoltz

The Phillies are moving on to other bullpen options, now that the Astros have signed Brandon LyonScott Lauber of the News Journal reports that the Phils have had conversations with the representatives for Octavio Dotel and J.J. Putz. They're negotiating with Chan Ho Park, but Lauber hears that other teams might be interested in Park as a starter, which he would prefer.

Lyon had been linked to the Phillies for weeks before former Phillies GM Ed Wade signed him to a $15MM deal with the Astros. As Amaro tells Lauber, the Phillies were interested until the end.

"We were in there pretty deep,” Amaro said. “Ed stole him from us.”

The Phils also had productive talks with John Smoltz, who seems willing to pitch in a small ballpark for the chance to win another title. We heard earlier in the week that the Nats are also interested in Smoltz.

Relief Names On D’Backs’ Radar

The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro gives us three relief names on the D'Backs' radar, now that LaTroy Hawkins is off the board: J.J. Putz, Bob Howry, and Brendan Donnelly.  The D'Backs already added Aaron Heilman on November 19th.

Putz will reportedly throw for teams tomorrow; he's got the White Sox, Cubs, Nationals, Pirates, and Tigers as other known suitors.  We haven't heard much on Howry and Donnelly yet.  I think Donnelly is a possible sleeper, as outlined in this October discussion post.

The Diamondbacks can certainly expand their search beyond those three righty relievers - we outlined the free agent market here and trade market here.

White Sox Made Offer To J.J. Putz

THURSDAY, 2:53pm: ESPN's Bruce Levine wrote last night that the White Sox made an offer to Putz, though other teams are involved and the reliever will work out for teams on Friday.

WEDNESDAY, 9:20pm: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that other teams are involved with Putz. 

3:57pm: Yesterday Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times said the White Sox were closing in on a deal with free agent reliever J.J. Putz, perhaps encouraging Putz's friend Matt Thornton to leverage their bromance as a recruiting tool.  Today, Williams implied that leaks of the team's interest affected the possible deal.  Cowley thinks they'll still get it done:

The Sox might have to up the ante a bit, but Putz wants to pitch on the South Side and there is still a deal close to happening.

Putz, 33 in February, pitched only 29.3 innings this year due to elbow issues.