Jon Rauch Rumors
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.
TUESDAY: Arizona will receive pitcher Kevin Mulvey as the player to be named later in the Rauch trade, according to John Gambadoro of Sports 620 KTAR. Mulvey, of course, joined the Twins in February of last year as part of the Johan Santana trade. The 24 year-old righty has a 3.93 ERA with 113 strikeouts and 54 walks in 149 Triple A innings this year.
FRIDAY: The Twins acquired Jon Rauch from the Arizona Diamondbacks for a player to be named later, according to an MLB.com press release. Rauch, who should become a free agent after next season, makes $2MM this year and his contract includes a $2.9MM club option for 2010.
The 6'11'' righty has allowed 57 hits and 17 walks in 54.1 innings, striking out 35. Rauch, who turns 31 next month, has seen his strikeout rate dip and his walk rate rise this year, though his ERA is identical to last year's 4.14 mark.
2:38pm: Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports report that the Marlins are no longer pursuing Bell or Nick Johnson. That should leave the Angels or Dodgers if anyone.
2:11pm: ESPN's Buster Olney says the Twins have interest in Bell, as well as Oakland's Michael Wuertz.
1:18pm: Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times says the Angels and Dodgers are battling for Bell.
9:19am: Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel says the Padres wanted Cameron Maybin and Miller for Bell. The Fish have seen other trade ideas dry up as well, leading Rodriguez to suggest "it might be Nick Johnson or bust for the Marlins." SI's Jon Heyman agrees.
7:02am: The latest on Padres closer Heath Bell, who is under team control through 2011...
Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune says that "late Thursday night, both the Angels and Marlins were still talking to the Padres regarding Bell." We learned yesterday that the Padres requested Andrew Miller or Sean West from the Marlins, and Florida declined. Marlins president David Samson appeared on the radio yesterday to discuss the trade deadline, and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald has a nice summary of that.
Some more links to pass along...
- Steve Melewski of MASN.com reports that Orioles president Andy MacPhail is "open" to talking with Aubrey Huff about a possible extension. Huff, a free agent at the end of the year, has been the subject of many trade rumors.
- ESPN.com's Rob Neyer agrees with a suggestion Howard made on this site yesterday: Jon Rauch would be a good fit for the Rays.
- Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cards GM John Mozeliak was among those watching as two college hitters worked out at Busch Stadium this morning. Josh Phegley and A.J. Pollock took some swings in front of the Cardinals' scouting staff.
- As Ian Browne of MLB.com points out, the Red Sox have drafted well in recent years even when they haven't had early selections.
- MLB.com's Jim Street writes that it would be shocking for the Mariners to pick someone other than Dustin Ackley.
- As ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reports, Angels scouting director Eddie Bane is amazed by Scott Boras because he intimidates, but "never says a price."
- Tim Keown of ESPN the Magazine passes along one scout's thoughts on Stephen Strasburg: "He'd be a front-of-the-rotation guy for almost every team right now."
While Tampa Bay is still reeling from another loss due to a faulty bullpen, R.J. Anderson of DRaysBay.com has some suggested additions to the beleaguered group.
- Winston Abreu, currently dominating at Triple-A Durham, could simply be called up.
- Jason Grilli, recently designated for assignment by the Rockies, could be had for nothing.
- Joel Hanrahan, recently taken out of the closer's role by Washington, would require a trade.
Considering that Grant Balfour, Joe Nelson and Dan Wheeler all have ERAs of 5.50 or higher, some fresh arms in the Tampa Bay bullpen would certainly be welcome.
Meanwhile, a less-treasured member of a major-league bullpen is Jon Rauch, who had a closed-door meeting with manager A.J. Hinch after Saturday night's game.
Rauch is still only utilized in low-leverage situations, and it seems he's worn out his welcome in Arizona. But his ERA dropped from 9.31 in April to 3.46 in May, and he's pitched two scoreless innings so far in June.
Whether the Rays, desperately seeking saves, and Rauch, America's tallest reliever, get together remains to be seen. No smoke here yet, let alone fire, but this seems like a natural connection to make.
5:57pm: K-Rod's agent Paul Kinzer said the Cardinals did not offer his client a similar contract.
9:08am: According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals made a bid for Francisco Rodriguez in the neighborhood of the Mets' successful three-year, $37MM bid. The search continues. Strauss says the Cards plan to explore trades before escalating talks with Brian Fuentes. Potential trade targets: J.J. Putz, Matt Capps, and Jon Rauch. Talks for Jose Valverde "stalled abruptly earlier in the week." The trade bait will probably be on of the Cardinals' outfielders.
Strauss adds that GM John Mozeliak met with Scott Boras yesterday, possibly to discuss Oliver Perez.