Jon Rauch Rumors
The Rays find themselves in a difficult position as the 2011 season approaches. Forced to cut payroll, they've lost Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, (presumably) Rafael Soriano, and most of their bullpen to free agency, and traded Jason Bartlett as he approaches his final arbitration year.
Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times looks at some of the issues left to be addressed as the Rays begin bargain shopping this offseason:
- The Rays have added some bullpen pieces in Joel Peralta, Adam Russell, Cesar Ramos, J.P. Howell, and Rule 5 pick Cesar Cabrel, but they'll still need someone to pitch the ninth and probably the eighth, Topkin opines. He lists some potential candidates as Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel, Kevin Gregg, Trevor Hoffman, Grant Balfour, and Chad Qualls as options. Remember, the Rays also have Jake McGee.
- There's not much in terms of affordable names for the Rays on the market. Some clarity will be brought to the issue once Adam LaRoche and Derrek Lee sign. Topkin mentions Casey Kotchman as a speculative option. Dan Johnson is a fallback if the team can't find an upgrade.
- Johnson is also a backup plan at designated hitter, but the Rays have options at designated hitter, with Johnny Damon, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, and Jason Giambi on the market.
Links for Sunday, though it's unlikely that any news will top today's Zack Greinke trade:
- The Rays have enough money to pursue another low-end bullpen signing or two, writes Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. Topkin quotes executive vice president Andrew Friedman in saying there's no way they could've predicted the relief market would look like this.
- WEEI.com's Alex Speier says the Red Sox would like to add a left-hander to their bullpen, but will wait to see if someone falls into their lap. Boston is against multiyear deals for relievers, though they did recently make an exception in the case of Bobby Jenks.
- Rockies' owner Dick Monfort answered some questions for the Denver Post's Troy E. Renck. Topics included Troy Tulowitzki's new contract, extending young stars, and their odds of keeping Carlos Gonzalez long-term.
- Bill Madden of the New York Daily News opines that the Padres' elite bullpen last season which nearly brought them an NL West title has fueled the rising prices in the relief market. Madden also wonders if the Yankees might make a run at Jon Rauch to replace the departed Kerry Wood.
On this date in 1997, the Red Sox traded Tony Armas Jr. and Carl Pavano to the Expos for reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez. A case can be made that Pedro's 1999 and 2000 seasons were the two best pitching seasons in baseball history, in which he held batters to a .186/.231/.274 batting line with 597 strikeouts in 430.1 innings.
It's highly unlikely that we'll see a pitcher of Pedro's caliber traded anytime soon, but that Zack Greinke kid is pretty good in his own right. Here are today's links...
- Two days ago we heard that the Rockies had interest in David Aardsma, Grant Balfour, and Todd Coffey, and now Troy Renck of The Denver post throws Jon Rauch's name into the mix.
- Marc Topkin of The St. Petersburg Times has some quotes from Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg, who called the size of free agent contracts being handed out this winter "discouraging." He also commented (briefly) on the team's 2011 payroll.
- Bobby Jenks will take his physical on Monday, tweets Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. It was originally scheduled for today but was pushed back, and it's necessary to finalize his contract with the Red Sox.
- Renck also has the goods (Twitter links) on two recent Rockies signings. Ty Wigginton took less money to sign in Colorado, earning $3.5MM in 2011, $4MM in '12, and a club option for $4MM in '13 ($500k buyout). Meanwhile, pitcher Eric Stults has an out in his $435k minor league deal that will allow him to sign with the Hiroshima Carp if he does not make the big league roster.
- Richard Durrett of ESPN.com applauds the Rangers' efforts to bolster their starting depth.
- Dan Wheeler is happy to be a member of Boston's improved bullpen, writes MLB.com's Ian Browne.
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets that Seth McClung's deal with the Rangers will pay him $700K if he makes the team. There are another $700K available in bonuses tied to the number of starts he makes.
- Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker passes along a report (via Twitter) indicating that Hideki Matsui's contract with the A's has a limited no-trade clause preventing trades to the Mariners, Orioles, Twins, Blue Jays, Indians, and Royals.
- Mariano Rivera told Erik Boland of Newsday that he plans to give long-time teammate Andy Pettitte a call to try to convince the lefty to come back for another season.
- Finding a left-handed bat off the bench is one of the last remaining items on the Marlins offseason agenda, but MLB.com's Joe Frisaro says they might already have that guy on their roster. Catcher John Baker, who is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery, said he would be up for the job until he's cleared to catch again.
- Former Mets GM Omar Minaya told Ian Begley of ESPN New York that he plans to sit down with new GM Sandy Alderson after the holidays to discuss a potential new role with the team. Minaya said he has several offers on the table, including interest from the Diamondbacks.
- Hey iPhone users, do you have the MLBTR app yet? Jason Bartlett does, and that's how he found out his trade to the Padres was in the works.
The Rockies have spoken to the Mariners about a possible David Aardsma trade, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post (Twitter link). Colorado has also shown interest in right-handers Grant Balfour and Todd Coffey, though Renck tweets that Balfour would have to be acquired in a "sign-and-trade" arrangment since the Rockies don't want to lose their first round draft pick as compensation for signing the Type A free agent.
Aardsma, who is known to be on the market, would be used in a set-up role with the Rockies since Huston Street is established as Colorado's closer. Balfour's Type-A status isn't the only hindrance to a possible signing, as he reportedly wants a three-year contract. The Rockies may be hesitant to give a middle reliever that kind of long-term commitment, though Joaquin Benoit, Jesse Crain, Scott Downs and Matt Guerrier have all signed three-year deals this winter.
Coffey, non-tendered by the Brewers earlier this month, comes with the smallest price tag but is also coming off the least-accomplished season (4.76 ERA, 9.4 H/9 rate) of the three pitchers. Renck adds that Colorado's "wish list" also includes Jon Rauch and Chad Qualls (Twitter link).
10 American League teams have free agent arbitration offer decisions to make, and we'll group them in this post. For a fantastic customizable chart with all 65 Type A/B free agents and their decisions in real-time, click here.
- The Blue Jays offered arbitration to Scott Downs (A) Jason Frasor (A) Kevin Gregg (B) Miguel Olivo (B), according to MLB.com's Gregor Chisolm (on Twitter).
- The Twins offered arbitration to Carl Pavano (A), Jesse Crain (B) and Orlando Hudson (B) and declined to offer arbitration to Matt Guerrier (A), Brian Fuentes (B) and Jon Rauch (B), according to Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (on Twitter).
- The Rays offered arbitration to Grant Balfour (A), Carl Crawford (A), Rafael Soriano (A), Randy Choate (B), Brad Hawpe (B) and Chad Qualls (B), according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. They did not offer Dan Wheeler (A) or Carlos Pena (B) arbitration. It seems possible that Hawpe has agreed in advance to turn down arbitration.
- The Orioles won't offer arbitration to Koji Uehara (B) or Kevin Millwood (B), according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links).
- The Angels declined to offer Hideki Matsui (B) arbitration, the team announced.
- The Rangers offered arbitration to Cliff Lee (A) and Frank Francisco (A), but not to Vladimir Guerrero (A) and Bengie Molina (A), according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan.
- The Yankees will offer arbitration to Javier Vazquez (B), but not to any of their other free agents, according to Ken Davidoff of Newsday on Twitter. Andy Pettitte (A), Derek Jeter (A), Mariano Rivera (A), Lance Berkman (B) and Kerry Wood (B) were the team's other ranked free agents. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported that the Yankees would offer Vazquez arbitration and noted that the right-hander has agreed to reject the offer, a common gentleman's agreement that can take place with Type B free agents. Marc Carig of the Newark Star-Ledger first reported on Twitter that the Yankees would not offer Jeter arbitration.
- The Red Sox offered arbitration to Adrian Beltre (A), Victor Martinez (A) and Felipe Lopez (B), but not to Mike Lowell (B) or Jason Varitek (B), according to the team.
- The White Sox offered arbitration to Paul Konerko (A) and J.J. Putz (B), but not to A.J. Pierzynski (A) or Manny Ramirez (A) according to the team (on Twitter).
- As expected, the Tigers announced that they will not offer arbitration to any of their free agents, including Scott Boras clients Magglio Ordonez (A), Johnny Damon (B), and Gerald Laird (B).
Twins fans feared the worst when Joe Nathan underwent Tommy John surgery last spring, but Jon Rauch's ability to close games was a big reason why Minnesota won the AL Central. Though Rauch lost the closing role to Matt Capps in July, the 6'11" right-hander still went 21-for-25 in save opportunities, posted a 3.12 ERA in 59 appearances and had an impressive 3.29 K/BB ratio.
Let's see how Rauch stacks up on the free agent market this winter...
- Rauch is a Type B free agent, so a team can sign him without losing a compensatory draft pick.
- Rauch might be eager to get away from Target Field. His ERA in 30 home games last season was 4.45, compared to just a 1.84 ERA in 29 road games.
- He's pretty solid against hitters on both sides of the plate. He's obviously better against right-handed hitters (holding them to a .238/.280/.372 career slash line) but Rauch has also done well against left-handed bats --- .255/.328/.417.
- Rauch lost the stopper's job both last year and in Arizona in 2009. Teams looking for a closer could be worried by the fact that Rauch has yet to show he can handle the job for a full season.
- Rauch tends to make things interesting at the end of games. His H/9 rate was a career-high 9.5 last season.
- After averaging 80.5 appearances per season from 2006 to 2009, Rauch pitched in just 59 games last year due to a variety of minor injuries. He turned 32 last month.
Rauch is more likely to be signed as a set-up man than as a closer, and his solid career track record makes him a candidate for a multi-year deal in the neighborhood of two years and $7MM. Teams looking for closing help this winter include the Diamondbacks, White Sox, Angels and Rays, so Rauch could get a look from those clubs to be at least part of a closing committee. Rauch could also be signed by a team like Atlanta or Washington as an experienced backup option should their young closers (Jonny Venters and Drew Storen, respectively) falter.
It's possible the Twins offer Rauch salary arbitration. He'll get a raise from his $2.9MM salary last season, but if he can't find more than that on the open market, he could accept arbitration and then work out a contract to stay in the Twin Cities. The Twins would be giving up the sandwich pick they'd receive if Rauch signed elsewhere, but with so many free agent relievers in their bullpen, Minnesota will still be in line for other compensation picks. The Twins themselves are one of the clubs looking for closing depth if Nathan isn't fully recovered or back in form after his surgery.
It’s not easy to imagine a bullpen with more question marks than Minnesota’s. That's not to say the Twins don’t have quality relievers, it’s just hard to predict which ones will return in 2011. Kelly Thesier of MLB.com breaks down the team’s bullpen, which includes six free agents and a non-tender candidate.
Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, Brian Fuentes, Ron Mahay and Randy Flores all hit free agency but they won’t all return. Thesier says the Twins are not likely to keep Mahay or Flores and seem most likely to target Crain and Guerrier.
Crain, who ranks as a Type B free agent, says he loves Minnesota but would like the chance to close. That won’t happen if he stays put, since Joe Nathan should return from Tommy John surgery next year. Matt Capps, who saved 42 games in 2010, figures to be next in line for saves.
The Nathan-Capps duo promises to be effective, but it will definitely be expensive. Nathan earns $11.25MM next year and Capps will get a raise from his $3.5MM salary through arbitration.
If the Twins lose certain pitchers after offering arbitration, they could gain picks in next year’s draft. Crain, Rauch and Fuentes rank as Type B free agents and could each bring the Twins a supplementary first round pick. Guerrier is a Type A free agent, so the Twins would get two top picks if he leaves after declining arbitration.
With Spring Training wrapping up around the country, teams are finalizing their rosters and picking the 25 players they'll start the season with. There's always room for improvement, but some contenders have some very obvious weak spots on their rosters. Here's a look at some of them, which may need to be addressed during the season...
- Angels, third base: Brandon Wood and Maicer Izturis will get the first cracks at replacing Chone Figgins, but if neither is up to par, the Halos might be looking for a fill-in at the hot corner.
- Braves, outfielder: Superstar in training Jason Heyward will start the year in right, but incumbent centerfielder Nate McLouth had a brutal spring (6-for-51), which may push Melky Cabrera into full-time duty.
- Rays, setup man: With J.P. Howell on the shelf due to a bum shoulder, the team has no obvious candidate to hand the ball off to new closer Rafael Soriano. Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour represent solid options, but if Howell misses more time than expected, the Rays might be looking to add a reliever.
- Twins, closer: This is the most obvious hole of them all. Joe Nathan is out for the season after having elbow surgery, and Jon Rauch will get the first chance to replace him.
- Yankees, left field: The team is breaking camp with Brett Gardner, Randy Winn, and Marcus Thames set to share time in left, but we've already seen a scenario laid out in which they might need help sooner rather than later.
That doesn't include all of the clubs that could very well be looking to add a starting pitcher at some point, like the Mariners, Mets, Phillies, Cubs, and Dodgers. Some other holes aren't so obvious though. Maybe the Red Sox could use another reliever (who couldn't?), or perhaps Seattle will go looking for a big bat that fits into their extreme run prevention plan.
What other areas of need to do you see out there for contenders?
The Diamondbacks could have two potential holes to fill in their rotation depending on what happens with Doug Davis and Brandon Webb after the season, but GM Josh Byrnes also wants to add a veteran reliever according to Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic.
"We've had our share of adversity this year, and in the bullpen it's not going to be a smooth ride for six months," Byrnes said. "We'd like to have people who can sort of understand that a bad game is going to happen but not let it happen too often and set an example that way."
Arizona's pen was supposed to be anchored by Chad Qualls, Scott Schoeneweis, Tony Pena and Jon Rauch, but Rauch and Pena were traded, Qualls battled injury, and Schoeneweis dealt with the unfortunate passing of his wife. The foursome combined for a 4.46 ERA in 163.1 IP for the D-Backs this season.
Looking the list of available free agents this offseason, could Bobby Howry or Octavio Dotel make sense? Maybe a Brandon Lyon reunion?
Links for Wednesday...
- Due to Bengie Molina's injury, the Giants have changed their mind and called up top prospect Buster Posey according to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. So Posey's clock starts earlier than planned.
- Speaking of service time, MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith tells me Cameron Maybin's call-up gives him 129 days of service time after this year. That puts him on the fringe of Super Two status after the 2011 season.
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick ranks the impact of trades made by contenders in July. He talked to an exec who thinks Matt Holliday "could make an extra $3MM a year as a free agent this winter because of his strong finish."
- Yahoo's Gordon Edes has his trade deadline winners and losers.
- Ryan Doumit's agent Matt Sosnick shot down recent negativity surrounding his client, while Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette gets to the bottom of the catcher's recent benching.
- Brad Penny still hates the Dodgers, a team he'll face twice this month according to Baggarly. Baggarly also has a quote from Penny ripping on the Marlins.
- Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has more from Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy, who knows he gained trade value when the team delayed his free agency.
- J.C. Bradbury of Sabernomics wonders whether the Braves should pick up Tim Hudson's $12MM option for 2010. Hudson has the right to void that option, not that he would. Back in January Dave O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said the Braves "fully intend to exercise it, barring some unexpected turn of events."
- Dave Cameron of FanGraphs notes that Kendry Morales has matched the production of the Angels' former first baseman, $180MM man Mark Teixeira.
- Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic has comments from Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes on the team's Jon Rauch-Kevin Mulvey swap. Piecoro says the D'Backs have about $23MM to work with this winter as they presumably look to add pitching.
- Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times guesses Ken Griffey Jr. will retire after this season.