Jose Contreras Rumors

Stark On Oswalt, Braves, Carmona, Yankees

Astros scouts haven't been told to watch specific teams or players, so Roy Oswalt doesn't need to start preparing for life after Houston just yet.'s Jayson Stark has the details on Oswalt and more rumblings from around the major leagues:

  • Oswalt has told friends he'd love to play in St. Louis and it's believed that he would be interested in joining the Dodgers and Braves.
  • We've heard lots about the $29MM remaining on Oswalt's deal, but the Angels have some money, according to an official Stark spoke to. The Nationals may be "the one team that would pay the whole freight on the contract."
  • GM Andrew Friedman says he wasn't sure how Rafael Soriano's National League experience would translate to the American League East when the Rays dealt for him last offseason. Needless to say, the Rays have been pleased with Soriano's dominant start to the season.
  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells Stark that other teams offered Jose Contreras "much more money" last winter.
  • Braves GM Frank Wren says he's pleased with Eric Hinske's play and notes that teams probably don't pay enough attention to their benches.
  • Wren says the Braves would not have interest in adding a starting pitcher. Besides their current rotation, they have the injured Jair Jurrjens and Triple A pitcher Chris Resop.
  • GM Jon Daniels says the Rangers saw "a guy with major league ability and pedigree" when they scouted Colby Lewis in Japan last year.
  • One scout says the Blue Jays are definitely tracking Fausto Carmona and have watched his last 12 starts.
  • The Red Sox have tried trading Mike Lowell unsuccessfully, but they aren't eager to eat the $8MM-plus remaining on his salary. 
  • Rival clubs say the Yankees haven't decided what their trade deadline needs are, though they're showing some interest in versatile outfield bats.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Jose Contreras

After an ugly outing against the Yankees on August 29th of last year, Jose Contreras' record stood at 5-13.  He had a 5.42 ERA on the season and was well overpaid at $10MM.  At the August 31st deadline, the White Sox shipped Contreras to Colorado for minor league pitcher Brandon Hynick plus cash in a salary dump move.  The 38-year-old Cuban pitched well in his Rockies debut but suffered a quad injury in his second start.  Contreras returned from the injury as a reliever and did a good job in five appearances.  

The Phillies signed Contreras in January to a $1.5MM deal.  He's been lights-out this season, and has already ascended to second in line to close if Brad Lidge struggles or isn't available.  Contreras' dominance is no fluke – as a reliever this year his average fastball has jumped up to 94.7 mph and he sports an 11.6 K/9 with a career-best 54.2% groundball rate.  The relief sample is growing – since his Rockies role change Contreras has a 0.95 ERA, 10.4 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9 in 19 innings.

Contreras appears to have found a second baseball life as a reliever.  Admittedly, the 2010 season has just begun.  But if Contreras' excellence continues until free agency, he'll be positioned for a two-year deal or even a closing job.

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Mets, Gonzalez, Contreras

On this date back in 1983, Dodgers' hurler Fernando Valenzuela became the first player in baseball history to receive a seven-figure award through the arbitration process. During his first two-plus seasons as a big leaguer, Fernandomania had been named the Rookie of the Year, appeared in two All Star Games, and won a Cy Young Award. The arbitration panel awarded him a $1MM salary in his first year of eligibility, nearly tripling his 1982 salary. 

As the last few present day arbitration cases wrap up, here are some links to check out from around the baseball blogiverse…

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.

The Phillies’ Search For Pitching Depth

The Phillies acquired arguably the best pitcher in baseball earlier this offseason. As Spring Training approaches, Roy Halladay starts training every morning at 7 am and his team is considering some less formidable options in an attempt to add depth. Here are the details, from a pair of beat writers:

Phillies Sign Jose Contreras

The Phillies officially signed righty Jose Contreras to a one-year, $1.5MM deal today.  GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said he'll be stretched out in Spring Training as a starter but is best suited for the bullpen.  Enrique Rojas of ESPN first reported the agreement on Friday.

Contreras, 38, posted a 5.42 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 21 starts for the White Sox before getting traded to the Rockies in late August.  Contreras pitched well as a reliever in his brief stint for Colorado.

Rockies Notes: Mora, Giambi, Speier

Troy Renck of the Denver Post looks at a number of Rockies-related items in his latest blog entry….

  • Eric Goldschmidt, agent of veteran infielder Melvin Mora, says his free-agent client is "definitely interested" in playing for Colorado.  Renck points out that Mora's versatility would make him a logical signing for the Rockies, given that their other recent bench signing (Jason Giambi) can only play first base.  Mora could decide on his future by the end of the week as he picks from between "roughly" five interested teams.
  • Speaking of Giambi, Renck said that his clubhouse presence was a big factor in his re-signing with the Rockies.  Troy Tulowitzki credited Giambi with "helping…with the mental side" of baseball.
  • Renck says the Rockies are "expected to sign" reliever Justin Speier to a minor-league contract.  Released by the Angels in August, Speier pitched for Colorado from 2001 to 2003 and has a 2.55 K/BB ratio in 12 major league seasons.
  • Eric Gagne is "becoming a more likely non-roster invite than Derrick Turnbow."  We heard yesterday from ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter) that Arizona is also interested in Turnbow, so perhaps Colorado doesn't want to get into a bidding war with its divisional rival.
  • Colorado GM Dan O'Dowd told Renck he was "surprised" when Jose Contreras signed with Philadelphia.  O'Dowd said the Rockies wanted to use Contreras out of the bullpen while the Phillies offered him a chance to start.  Interestingly, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said today (as reported by Todd Zolecki of that Contreras will only start during spring training and will be a reliever by Opening Day.

Stark On Holliday, Lee, Phillies, Rockies, Cubs's Jayson Stark says the Baseball Writers' Association of America needs to establish an award for relief pitchers. He also provides plenty of rumblings from around the league; here they are:

  • Stark hears that the only offers Matt Holliday had in-hand when the Cardinals signed him were one-year deals worth $18MM or so.
  • The Phillies offered Cliff Lee a three-year extension worth $60MM or so before trading for Roy Halladay. It's unclear whether Lee and agent Darek Braunecker formally turned the offer down, but others believe Lee will seek a longer-term deal once he hits the open market after this season.
  • The Phillies are "plenty interested" in Pedro Martinez on a half-season deal similar to the one he signed last year, but one NL club hears that Pedro is looking for a full-season job at "market" dollars.
  • The Phillies have backed off on John Smoltz, who wants to start, but they are interested in Jose Contreras.
  • The Rockies talked actively to the Marlins about Dan Uggla. Now, the Rockies are more intent on free agent options including Miguel Tejada, Orlando Cabrera and Orlando Hudson.
  • They'd also like to bring Jason Giambi back.
  • Scouts who have seen Carlos Delgado play first base in Puerto Rico say the slugger should look for a DH job, since his fielding is suspect.
  • Stark has the impression that the Cubs have set aside their interest in Ben Sheets as they pursue a bench bat and a setup man.

Five Teams Pursuing Jose Contreras

At least five teams - the Cubs, Cardinals, Rockies, Phillies, and Padres - are named as suitors for free agent righty Jose Contreras in a tweet from Newsday's Ken Davidoff.

Perhaps Contreras' stuff will play up in the NL.  The 38-year-old posted a 7.2 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, and 4.92 ERA in 131.6 innings for the White Sox and Rockies last year.  He whiffed a batter per inning in his Rockies stint, though we shouldn't read into 17 innings.  Contreras averaged 92 mph on his fastball last year, so it appears something is left in the tank.  Swingman candidate D.J. Carrasco just got a $950K minor league deal with the Pirates; maybe Contreras will sign a similar deal.

Cubs Interested In Contreras, Spilborghs?

8:30pm: A report from notes that recent acquisition Carlos Silva will likely fill the role of long reliever for the club, making Contreras an unlikely fit in Chicago.  Furthermore, the 38-year-old will likely attract better offers from teams that see him as a starter.

As for Spilborghs, a major league source told Troy Renck of the Denver Post that reports of the Cubs' interest in him are overstated.  Renck's gut feeling tells him that the Rockies' asking price will be too high to get a deal done.

3:27pm: With plenty of holes remaining throughout their roster, the Chicago Cubs are looking at free agents and trade options at a variety of positions, according to Bruce Levine of Let's check out a few highlights from Levine's latest article….

  • The Cubs have talked to Jose Contreras' agent, Jaime Torres, about possibly signing the right-hander. Contreras would provide some versatility for the club, who could use him out of the bullpen, or as a possible 4th or 5th starter.
  • According to major league sources, the Cubs and Rockies have had discussions about a trade that could send Ryan Spilborghs to Chicago. If such a deal were to occur, Spilborghs would take over as the Cubs' fourth outfielder, a role Reed Johnson held last year.
  • Marlon Byrd and Scott Podsednik remain the top two candidates for the Cubs' center field opening.
  • Kiko Calero is another bullpen arm the team is considering.

Diamondbacks Rumors: Johnson, Winn, Valverde

Some D-Backs tidbits courtesy of Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic..

  • The club is still waiting to hear back from Kelly Johnson on the offer they made to him last week – believed to be for about $2MM.  Johnson's people told the D-Backs that he has better offers out there, but if all things were equal he'd prefer to play for them.
  • Arizona continues to be interested in free agent Randy Winn, but it seems as though Winn is looking to be a starter.  While the Diamondbacks can't guarantee him that, Piecoro says that he would likely get a fair amount of at-bats with them.
  • The D-Backs remain interested in bringing back Jose Valverde, but at their price.  A "scenario the Diamondbacks would consider" would be to offer him a one-year deal at a lower base salary than he is seeking (perhaps in the $5MM range) with a promise not to offer him arbitration after 2010.  This way, Valverde could hit the open market unencumbered by draft pick compensation.  Piecoro notes that he has "no idea" if Valverde would agree to that.
  • While they don't feel as though adding a starting pitcher is a neccessity, Arizona will monitor righty Jose Contreras.  The 38-year-old posted a 4.92 ERA with 7.2 K/9 for the White Sox and Rockies last season.