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Joe Blanton Rumors
This morning we learned that Mike Cameron has decided to retire after 17 seasons in the majors. The 39-year-old played for eight different teams during his career and won three Gold Gloves. Here's more on the Nats and other notes from around the National League East..
- Last week, the three-way trade the Phillies were looking to send Joe Blanton to the Angels for Bobby Abreu, then flip Abreu to the Yankees for A.J. Burnett, sources tell Buster Olney of ESPN.com (via Twitter). The Phillies' thinking was that two years of Burnett would have provided at least a bit of a safety net if they lost Cole Hamels to free agency, Olney tweets.
- Cameron's retirement will force the Nationals to get creative in center field and possibly look for another right-handed hitter at the position, writes Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider. Alternatively, Washington could let either Rick Ankiel or Roger Bernadina take the job outright or move Jayson Werth to center field and put Bryce Harper in right.
- Bill Ladson of MLB.com (via Twitter) spoke with Cameron who said Nationals GM Mike Rizzo tried to talk the veteran out of retiring. The center fielder said that he made up his mind last Wednesday.
- Third baseman David Wright's future with the Mets is likely independent of the club's performance, writes Dan Martin of the New York Post. The Mets hold a $16MM team option on the 29-year-old for next season, but Wright can void that option if he is traded.
- Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton isn't worried about hearing his name in trade rumors, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Phillies have reportedly shopped Blanton in order to create payroll flexibility and explored a three-way trade to land A.J. Burnett before he was traded to the Pirates.
The Phillies have called around to determine trade interest in Joe Blanton, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reports (all Twitter links). Moving Blanton and part of his $8.5MM salary would create payroll room for Roy Oswalt, but GM Ruben Amaro Jr. doesn't expect to be able to free up money to sign the right-hander. Though the Phillies have had dialogue about bringing Oswalt back to Philadelphia, a deal seems unlikely.
We heard yesterday that there's no traction between the Red Sox and Oswalt, that the Reds haven't had serious talks with him, and that he doesn't want to play in Pittsburgh. Oswalt, the top free agent pitcher remaining, is likely to sign a one-year deal for 2012. I doubt teams would commit $8.5MM to Blanton, who pitched just 41 1/3 innings last year.
As ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark points out, the NL Central will look considerably different in 2012, now that Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa have moved on. Ryan Braun could miss 50 games with a suspension that would make the division even less recognizable. Here are Stark’s latest notes and rumors:
- Scouts and executives doubt Miguel Cabrera will be able to play third base with much skill in 2012.
- One AL executive suggests the Tigers would have to eat a lot of money to trade Victor Martinez next offseason. Insurance will likely cover approximately half of the switch hitter’s 2012 salary of $13MM, Stark writes.
- Stark hears that the Phillies have sent signals that they might make Joe Blanton available this spring.
- Jason Bartlett has been available this winter and the Red Sox could pursue him, Stark writes. However, the shortstop will earn $5.5MM in 2012 and the Red Sox aim to stay below the luxury tax threshold.
- Scott Kazmir intends to pitch in 2012, but his fastball velocity is in the 84-85 mph range. The 28-year-old appeared in one game for the Angels last year and they released him after a rough stretch at Triple-A.
- There’s every indication that the commissioner’s office will discipline Juan Carlos Oviedo/Leo Nunez and Roberto (Heredia) Hernandez/Fausto Carmona for using false identities.
- Though many have told Bud Selig that adding a second Wild Card team to each league this year will create scheduling issues, the commissioner seems intent on expanding the playoffs in 2012, and Stark expects him to get his wish.
The Red Sox have five proven starters and a handful of viable alternatives, but that’s not stopping GM Theo Epstein from looking for more possibilities for the rotation, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Red Sox are looking for starting pitching depth and would love to add a veteran who’s open to pitching at Triple-A until he’s needed.
Wakefield, Aceves and Doubront are the team’s primary alternatives to the starting five of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. It also appears that the Red Sox will start Andrew Miller at Triple-A and stretch him out as a starter in the minors.
Though some starting pitching is available, none of it appears to be a logical fit for the Red Sox. The $16MM remaining on Joe Blanton’s contract makes him an unattractive option; it seems doubtful that the Red Sox would meet the Twins' asking price for Kevin Slowey only to stash him in the minors and the Red Sox don’t appear to have much interest in Jeremy Bonderman.
I listed a number of potentially available starters earlier in the week.
Here's the latest from the four-time defending National League East champs…
- In an interview today on Philadelphia's WIP Radio, Cliff Lee said that his top priority as a free agent was to join the team with the best chance of winning. After the Phillies, his next choices were the Rangers and the Yankees, in that order. New York was the third choice since, Lee says, "I felt like with what the Red Sox had done and it seems like some of the Yankee guys are getting older, but I liked the Rangers.”
- It seems unlikely that the Phillies could manage to take on Michael Young's salary, but Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News outlines how the Phils could conceivably acquire the Rangers' infielder. Hagen surmises the club can partially pay for Young if they receive some insurance money back from a lengthy Chase Utley injury, and if the Phillies can move Joe Blanton (owed $17MM over the next two seasons) to the Rangers in the trade.
- Both Hagen and MLB.com's Todd Zolecki point out that the Phillies want to avoid having their payroll reach the $178MM threshold that would cost them a luxury tax payment. The Philadelphia payroll currently projects to be in the $165MM-$168MM range. GM Ruben Amaro tells Zolecki that the team believes Utley "will be healthy enough sooner rather than later," but if the team does look outside the organization for help, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes recently looked at some potential second base candidates.
Blanton, with two years and $17MM remaining on his contract, became prominent in rumors when the Phillies committed five years and $120MM to Cliff Lee. Those talks had seemingly cooled as we drew nearer to Spring Training, but Blanton's name resurfaced earlier Wednesday in connection with the Cardinals when it was announced that their ace, Adam Wainwright, could be headed for Tommy John surgery.
Even still, Amaro hardly shut the door on Blanton trade talks for good with his assurance that the right-hander would be starting for the Phillies in April. There's plenty of time to get a deal done thereafter.
The Cardinals are expected to receive some bad news pretty soon, as it appears as though right-hander Adam Wainwright will miss the 2011 season with Tommy John surgery. Manager Tony LaRussa told Derrick Goold of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that they "have to overcome this," though St. Louis still has a formidable front of the rotation featuring Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, and Jake Westbrook.
Reliever Kyle McClellan is already working under a starter's program this spring according to Goold, so he could be first in line for the vacated rotation spot. The team could also turn to Brian Tallet, Miguel Batista, Ian Snell, P.J. Walters, or Lance Lynn if needed. What about external options? Let's take a look…
- Kevin Millwood – The 36-year-old free agent is said to be "waiting for the right widespread panic," and Wainwright's injury would certainly qualify. Millwood was rumored to be seeking $4-5MM, and recently declined a minor league offer from the Yankees.
- Joe Blanton – It's long been speculated that the Phillies would try to unload the $17MM owed to Blanton over the next two years, though St. Louis' payroll is said to be "leaking." Philadelphia would likely have to eat a significant portion of Blanton's contract to facilitate a trade, defeating the point of moving him.
- Jeremy Bonderman – Still just 28, Bonderman has been connected to the Indians recently but is still without a job for 2011.
- Chad Durbin – At least one team (the Red Sox) have interest in him as a starter, but he'd have more of an opportunity with the Cardinals. Durbin has 75 big league starts to his credit, but none since 2007. He could also provide bullpen depth if McClellan moves into the rotation.
- Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia – both right-handers are with the Yankees on minor league contracts that allow them to become free agents if they don't make the team out of Spring Training.
There's no way to replace a pitcher of Wainwright's caliber, so the Cardinals will have to hope that whoever takes his place in the rotation simply provides quality innings while the rest of the team takes their game up a notch.
Even now that Andy Pettitte has announced his retirement, it seems the debate over whether he'll pitch again won't die. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe talked to one scout who, following Pettitte's press conference, was still unconvinced the left-hander is done for good.
"I get the feeling his career isn’t over. For one, he can still pitch at a high level. Secondly, he didn’t retire with any conviction. The stuff about going back and forth on whether or not to pitch leads me to believe he’ll decide to pitch again."
Whether or not the scout is on to something, the Yankees are looking elsewhere for starting pitching. Cafardo has a couple notes on their search among this week's hot stove updates….
- We heard yesterday that the Indians were "making progress" with Kevin Millwood, who is talking to multiple clubs. Cafardo names the Yankees, Mets, and Tribe as teams still in on the right-hander, with salary as the primary hang-up. Given Scott Boras' success so far this offseason, it would actually be somewhat surprising if he and Millwood don't eventually get what they're asking for.
- The Yanks will "see what they have" with pitchers like Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and Sergio Mitre before they consider trading for someone like Joe Blanton.
- The Red Sox are eyeing former Yankee Alfredo Aceves as a potential injury rehab project.
- According to Cafardo, it would be the "shock of the century" if Adrian Gonzalez and the Red Sox don't come to terms on a contract extension by the end of Spring Training.
One year ago, the Orioles officially signed Miguel Tejada, bringing him back for his second stint with the club. Unfortunately for the O's, the veteran infielder couldn't match the numbers he'd previously put up in Baltimore, posting a .670 OPS before a July trade sent him to the Padres. While we wait to see what January 23rd will bring this year, here are a few links to browse:
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman would prefer to run a small market team, opines Bill Madden of the New York Daily News, who is beginning to think Cashman may walk away from the Yankees when his contract expires following the 2011 season.
- ESPN's Adam Rubin provides a breakdown of the Mets' 2011 payroll following Jeff Wilpon's statement that the team payroll will be in the $145MM-plus range.
- Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer makes a case for Joe Blanton's value, then says the Phillies need to sell that argument to just one other team. Brookover opines that shedding some money by dealing Blanton could give the Phils a little wiggle room to address other potential areas of need.
- Within a multi-sport mailbag, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer addresses the Indians' third base picture, which could include Jason Donald, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Jared Goedert.
- Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at what the Giants can expect from Mark DeRosa this season. DeRosa is entering the second and final year of the $12MM deal he signed last winter.
- In their newest blog entries, the Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck and MASN's Roch Kubatko each discuss the most recent Orioles rumblings, with a focus on Vladimir Guerrero.
It's been widely assumed that the Phillies would trade Joe Blanton after signing Cliff Lee, if for no other reason than to shed the $8.5MM he's owed in each of the next two seasons to create some salary relief. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that might not be the case, however.
"I don’t feel comfortable doing it," said Amaro. "He’s going to pitch for the Phillies, probably for the entire season … We do not need to trade the man."
The number of teams looking for starting pitching is plentiful, but one rival GM told Rosenthal there was "not a chance" that his team would want Blanton unless the Phillies ate a significant portion of his salary.
The 30-year-old right-hander pitched to a 4.82 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 175.2 innings last season. It was the first time he failed to throw at least 194 innings in a full season in his career, but you can blame that on an oblique strain that robbed him of all of April.