Johan Santana Rumors
The Phillies will attempt to advance to their fourth consecutive NLCS on Friday, when former teammates Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter face off in Philadelphia. Until then, we've got some links from the NL East to keep you entertained...
- Mark Zuckerman of NatsInsider says the Nationals could have room on their roster for Rick Ankiel next year, though it would probably be as a fourth outfielder. There's "virtually no chance" the Nationals re-sign Laynce Nix and Ankiel, according to Zuckerman. Jonny Gomes could be back, but the out-of-options Roger Bernadina isn't assured of a roster spot going forward.
- The Mets announced that Johan Santana will rest to prepare for the 2012 season instead of playing winter ball or pitching more in the instructional league. GM Sandy Alderson says he's optimistic that Santana will "maintain a Spring Training schedule with all other Mets pitchers next February and will be ready for the start of the 2012 season." The Mets owe the left-hander $24MM in 2012, $25.5MM in 2013 and at least a $5.5MM buyout in 2014.
- The Mets also announced that bench coach Ken Oberkfell, third base Coach Chip Hale, first base coach Mookie Wilson and bullpen coach Jon Debus won't be back in 2012. The A's signed Hale to be manager Bob Melvin's bench coach for the next two years.
Joey Votto celebrated his 28th birthday with a 3-for-4 performance today against the Rockies, including his 27th homer of the year. It wasn't enough, however, as Cincinnati dropped a 12-7 result to Colorado.
Some notes from around the majors....
- The Red Sox could use another solid starting pitcher but "for the moment don't feel there's anyone out there available who's better than what they have," a team official tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
- The Rockies will give catcher Wilin Rosario a lot of playing time this month as they decide what to do with Chris Iannetta this winter, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post. If Rosario plays well, Colorado may decide to deal Iannetta, who's due to make $3.55MM in 2012. Iannetta's name was mentioned in trade rumors involving the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Pirates and Padres at the July deadline.
- Johan Santana will probably not pitch in the Major Leagues for the Mets this season, reports Anthony DiComo for MLB.com.
- Dontrelle Willis probably won't be back with the Reds next season, writes John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Willis has re-established himself as a big league starter this year but Fay figures that this progress has likely priced the southpaw out of the Reds' range.
- Another Red who likely won't be back in Cincinnati next year is Paul Janish, opines Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News. Despite some excellent glovework (a +11.6 UZR/150 at shortstop this year), Janish will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter and is probably a non-tender candidate with Zack Cozart taking over at short.
- Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune says several American League scouts have asked him about Jesus Guzman's fielding ability in recent weeks, a sign that AL teams could have an interest in Guzman as a DH candidate. Center discusses Guzman, Bud Black's status, a possible extension for Cameron Maybin and other Padres-related topics in an online chat with fans.
- Andruw Jones has been playing all season with a small tear in his left knee, reports Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger. The Yankees discovered the injury during Jones' physical but signed the veteran outfielder anyway (both Twitter links).
When George Kottaras hits for the cycle, left-hander Tom Milone homers on the very first pitch he sees in the Major Leagues and the Tigers come back from an 8-1 deficit for a 9-8 win over the White Sox, you know it's been a wild day in baseball. Let's end it off with some news items...
- The Rangers should offer C.J. Wilson a five-year contract worth between $92.5 and $97.5MM, writes Jean-Jacques Taylor for ESPN Dallas, but not any more than that since Wilson isn't quite one of the game's elite aces. If you think that Wilson isn't worth that kind of money, remember that unless C.C. Sabathia opts out of his deal, Wilson will be clearly the best free agent arm on the market this winter. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes thinks Wilson could even score a $100MM contract.
- Kaja Whitehouse of the New York Post isn't impressed by the Mets' plan of offering ownership "units" worth $20-$30MM to several different investors. She believes the club will find it hard to find investors willing to buy in without getting any say in the franchise's operations.
- Johan Santana threw 30 pitches for Class A St. Lucie today in his first minor league appearance since July 28, reports Adam Rubin for ESPN New York. Mets manager Terry Collins didn't rule out the possibility that Santana could pitch in a Major League game this season.
- The Cubs' new general manager may have a difficult decision to make about Geovany Soto, writes Patrick Mooney for CSNChicago.com. While Soto will have to rebound in 2012, it's hard to imagine any new GM immediately getting rid of a catcher who has performed very well in two of four Major League seasons.
- Bruce Chen tells Tyler Kepner of the New York Times that he wants to return to the Royals next season, what he's learned from pitching for 10 different organizations and how he wants to be like Jamie Moyer. Will MLBTR still be writing posts about Chen in 2025?
- Juan Rivera's performance for the Dodgers has convinced the team that it needs another big bat for next season, reports MLB.com's Ken Gurnick. That big bat is intended for first base or left field, which would mean that the Dodgers would part ways with either Rivera or James Loney.
The Yankees and Mets will send Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee, respectively, to the hill today as they look to take the rubber matches of their weekend series. Before they get underway, let's run down this morning's New York links....
- ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider-only link) says the Yankees might approach the deadline like they did a year ago, when they acquired Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood, and Austin Kearns. As July 31st nears and teams decide to dump money, the Yanks could wait for the market to come to them and "gobble up depth."
- Andy Martino of the New York Daily News follows up on yesterday's tweet, in which he said the Mets are unlikely to trade anyone besides Carlos Beltran. Martino says that if the Mets do trade anyone else, left-hander Tim Byrdak may be the best bet.
- The Yankees may not be able to trade for a number two starter this week, but John Harper of the New York Daily News thinks GM Brian Cashman needs to try, given the shakiness in the rotation behind C.C. Sabathia.
- Jeff Bradley of the Star Ledger examines the tricky trade situations facing both the Yankees and Mets.
- Johan Santana talked to reporters yesterday about his rehab progress, and the Bergen Record's Steve Popper has a few quotes from the southpaw.
With 17% of their season in the books, the Mets are 12-16. That's good for last place in the NL East, 6.5 games back of the Phillies and Marlins. The latest on the club:
- The sale of a minority stake in the Mets is likely to be completed by the end of this month, though it's not imminent, according to ESPN's Adam Rubin. On April 22nd, Josh Kosman and Lenn Robbins of the New York Post reported that the Mets were a few weeks from choosing the winning bidder, with Ray Bartoszek, Steve Cohen, Steve Starker, and Anthony Scaramucci the finalists. According to Rubin, the sale should bring the Wilpons $200MM, with which they can pay off $47MM worth of debt.
- Yesterday the Mets announced that top prospect Jenrry Mejia has "a complete MCL tear of the right elbow," and planned to seek a second opinion after Dr. David Altchek recommended surgery. Today Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets that Mejia will see Dr. James Andrews soon, and Tommy John surgery is "highly likely" for the 21-year-old. Joel Sherman of the New York Post calls the injury "devastating" for a team that "needs some breaks with their more talented youngsters."
- Sherman says much has gone right for the 2011 Mets, and they're still 12-16. He thinks it's practical to start talking about trading Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez, and Jose Reyes. Sherman wonders whether retaining Reyes would even improve the Mets' chances of re-signing him, if that's something they're interested in. By the way, Sherman doesn't see the Yankees as a July suitor for Reyes but won't rule out an offseason pursuit. For my take on what the Giants could offer for Reyes in July, click here.
- Kevin Kernan of the New York Post talked to rehabbing lefty Johan Santana, who hasn't set a date for his return. Santana threw on flat ground yesterday, and the next step is throwing from the slope of the mound possibly next week. Santana, 32, is guaranteed $55MM for 2012 and '13.
- Johan Santana and the Mets denied a report by Steve Popper and Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record that suggested Santana's rehab wasn't progressing and the Mets were close to shutting him down. The left-hander, who turns 32 today, told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork, "We're right on the right track and where we're supposed to be. Whoever is saying that I'm not ready I think is lying."
- While pitching coach Dan Warthen was also positive about Santana's progress, a July return is definitely no sure thing. ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider-only) says the Mets consider the southpaw's rehab a long process, and aren't expecting a significant contribution from him this year. If Santana needs more time to recover, he won't be rushed back.
- Olney's piece indicates there's some optimism about the Mets being competitive this season, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post isn't so sure. He runs through all the pieces that would have to fall into place for the Mets to become a contender.
- Within Sherman's column, one scout says he has been pleasantly surprised by Lucas Duda this spring. As Rubin writes in an ESPN.com piece, Duda could be an important contributor for the Mets this season if Carlos Beltran's knees act up.
- You can throw Luis Hernandez's name into the Mets' second base mix, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson confirmed that the team will not spend more than $135-140MM on 2011 payroll. That's a ton of money for most teams, but the Mets have committed most of that to the players already on their roster, so they don't have much to spend. Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork has the details:
- Not surprisingly, Alderson said there's "no market" for Luis Castillo or Oliver Perez, even if the Mets wanted to trade them. The two players will be in Mets camp this Spring Training.
- Alderson confirmed that he's looking to sign a "bounceback" starter to a low base salary. Chris Young was Alderson's "hypothetical" example of such a pitcher, but the tall right-hander is more than just an example. As Rubin notes, the Mets are still interested in Young.
- It appears that Johan Santana will return around the All-Star break. The lefty underwent surgery to repear an anterior capsule tear in his left shoulder in October.
- The Reds and Mets have not discussed a potential Jose Reyes trade, GM Walt Jocketty told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link).
Some links to check out as the Rockies try to win their ninth straight...
- Astros Senior Director of Social Media Alyson Footer tweets that Brandon Backe is working out and hopes to throw for scouts this winter with the idea of getting an invite to Spring Training with a team next year. Backe hasn't appeared in a big league game since last June.
- Billy Beane told MLB.com's Jane Lee that the decisions on the 2011 options for Mark Ellis and Coco Crisp likely won't be made until after the season (Twitter link).
- Tom Haudricourt of The Journal Sentinel reports that the Brewers and Ken Macha have yet to discuss the manager's club option for next season.
- Matt Holliday volunteered to move to right field after the Cardinals traded Ryan Ludwick according to FoxSportsMidwest.com's B.J. Rains. The idea was to the give the team the flexibility to pursue a player limited to left field if the opportunity presented itself.
- Andy Martino of the New York Daily News doesn't agree with the report earlier today that John Ricco is out of contention to take over as the Mets' general manager if Omar Minaya is removed from the role.
- The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham says that Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman might be celebrating the "best deal they never made" -- trading for Johan Santana -- following the announcement that he requires shoulder surgery.
- Edwin Rodriguez loves managing the Marlins and hopes they factor him into their search for a permanent candidate this offseason, writes Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post.
- ESPN's Buster Olney says the Diamondbacks aren't going to spend a ton of money on their next general manager, but they will pay Kevin Towers what is needed if they decide he's their guy (Twitter links). Olney says the team is likely to decide on their next GM within the next couple of weeks.
- The Phillies have traded "over 20 players" from their farm system over their last four years according to assistant GM Chuck Lamar, but Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer says the team's minor league system is still in good shape. Keep in mind that they've traded for Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Roy Oswalt within the last 14 months.
- Paul Sullivan of The Chicago Tribune lists nine traits the Cubs' next manager should have.
It seems like an odd thing to say about a team currently sitting at 67-71, but next year's version of the New York Mets may not have room at the inn for additional acquisitions.
Currently starting for the Mets are four pitchers who have certainly performed well enough to be relied upon in 2011, while a fifth, currently auditioning, has the best stuff of any of them. Furthermore, all five are under team control for next year.
Let's break the staff down:
Next year's Opening Day starter is likely to be Johan Santana, who has weathered an alarming early-season slide to become the Santana the Mets expected when they signed him to a six-year, $137.5MM contract after trading for him in in February 2008. Through the end of June, Santana pitched to a respectable 3.55 ERA, but that masked a strikeout rate on the season of just 5.7 K/9, down more than two per nine from his 2008-2009 levels.
Since July 1, however, Santana has a 2.37 ERA, with a far stronger 7.4 K/9. It appears that temporary dip may have been Santana recovering from elbow surgery - Santana appears to believe that's the case. It is certainly a relief to the Mets, who owe Santana $22.5MM in 2011, $24MM in 2012 and $25MM in 2013.
Meanwhile, the best ERA among the starters belongs not to Santana, but to R.A. Dickey, who actually began the year in Triple-A. And while it is tempting to believe a 2.91 ERA from a 35-year-old pitcher who entered the season with a career 5.43 ERA is a fluke, there are plenty of reasons to believe otherwise in this case.
For one thing, Dickey has only been relying on his knuckleball for five years and his minor league performance has improved steadily since. For another, his peripherals are quite good, particularly his 2.2 walks per nine innings, despite throwing a huge majority of knucklers, a notoriously hard pitch to control.
With his limited time in the major leagues, Dickey has yet to accrue enough service time for free agency, so the Mets control him merely by offering arbitration. The smart money here is on the two sides agreeing to a multi-year deal that avoids arbitration and provides Dickey with some security. Remember: Phil Niekro had 12 200-plus inning seasons after age 35. The clock is different with knuckleball pitchers.
Another mainstay for 2011 is Jon Niese, who has impressed all year long and now has a 3.85 ERA with 3.0 walks and 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings. His numbers are actually skewed by three recent poor starts; the Mets have left Niese in games until he looked fatigued, rather than managing his workload more cautiously.
The fourth horseman for the Mets is Mike Pelfrey, who seems to constantly be disappointing people who are waiting for him to be something other than a reliable innings-eater. Pelfrey's fluctuating ERA- 3.72 in 2008, 5.03 in 2009, 3.96 in 2010- is almost entirely a function of luck and defense, with peripherals staying ludicrously consistent in all three seasons. Even during his 10-2, 2.93 ERA start in 2010, his strikeout rate never reached six per nine innings. Pelfrey will almost certainly be offered arbitration and remain in the rotation in 2011.
That leaves the fifth spot, and Jenrry Mejia, the 20-year-old with the blazing fastball and intermittent command of his secondary pitches, aims to fill the role. He made his first major league start last Saturday, after his lone Triple-A start.
It is nearly impossible to know exactly what Mejia can give the Mets in 2011. His upside is certainly high, with terrific movement on his curveball and changeup to go along with a major league fastball that sits in the mid-nineties. But he is also an inexperienced pitcher with no track record of starting success, aside from a combined 17 starts above Single-A.
Still, with plenty of other holes and signals from the team that very little money will be spent this offseason, Mejia will likely get the opportunity to learn on the job.
One can imagine the only opportunities New York will have for starters in 2011 will be in the area of organizational depth. If Mejia falters, or one of the other four pitchers gets injured, the only Plan Bs available right now are the underwhelming Dillon Gee (who starts tonight) and Tobi Stoner, or the much-maligned Oliver Perez, who will head to the Mexican League after the season and try to find his fastball.
While we ponder if the Jerry Seinfeld/Lady Gaga feud will reach the heights of Seinfeld's rivalry with Newman, here are a few news items concerning the Big Apple's NL side...
- Bob Klapisch of FOXSports.com wonders if the Mets should be worried about Johan Santana given a few shaky starts and some declining peripheral numbers. Klapisch notes that the Mets might look at Cliff Lee if they're worried about not having a top-tier ace to match against other clubs' best arms. It's way too soon to panic about Santana given his still-solid 3.31 ERA and 2.00 K-BB ratio, though when a team has at least $88MM invested in a pitcher through 2013, it's probably not wrong to be concerned about any dip in form.
- Klapisch also quotes senior team officials who say that Jon Niese wouldn't be moved in a hypothetical Lee deal, and an unnamed Mets player who doesn't think adding Kevin Millwood or Jake Westbrook would help the team.
- ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand writes that with Angel Pagan playing so well in place of the injured Carlos Beltran, the dispute between the Mets and Beltran's agent Scott Boras over "the timing and authorization of Beltran's offseason knee surgery" could be "a converging storm." Beltran is owed approximately $28MM over the rest of this season and 2011, and it was announced today that he is expected back playing by July 15.
- Jenrry Mejia's demotion to Double-A and conversion back into starting pitching means the Mets will probably get an extra year of control over his rights, says Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.