Josh Willingham Rumors

Stark On Hamels, Ruiz, Scutaro, Willingham, Pirates

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com has plenty of news in his latest edition of Rumblings & Grumblings.  Let's dive in and take a look..

  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro says that his value assessment on Cole Hamels hasn't changed but he will have to take his other free agents into account this winter.  "But the biggest thing is all the other decisions we have to make…at third base [Placido Polanco], in center field [Shane Victorino], and at right field [Hunter Pence] and catcher [Carlos Ruiz] in two years. And we haven't solved our left-field situation, either," Amaro said.
  • Amaro says that he is high on Ruiz but will consider the club's payroll as a whole before considering a long-term deal.  The GM also pointed out his age (33) and demanding position.  The Phillies hold a $5MM club option for next year on Ruiz, which would put him on the open market  on the verge of his age-35 season.
  • The Phillies GM also seems confident that the club won't be in a position to cave before the deadline and become sellers.  For the Phillies to pull the plug and sell, he says the club would have to "fall out of contention pretty significantly."  
  • The Tigers might want to consider waiting around for the Rockies' Marco Scutaro as a solution at second base.  Clubs that have checked in with the Rockies say they're still at least a month from selling but Scutaro, Rafael Betancourt, and Jeremy Guthrie are all likely to be available when they do.
  • There's been a surprising amount of trade talk surrounding Twins outfielder Josh Willingham but teams that have kicked the tires on him have been rebuffed. 
  • The Pirates are telling other teams that they're likely to approach this deadline like they did last year's, looking to add.  They've indicated that they're likely to trade arms for bats, especially hitters they can control beyond this year. 
  • Meanwhile, potential shoppers wonder if the Pirates are willing to move enough quality to make a splash.  Pittsburgh is hinting that they'll keep James McDonald, A.J. Burnett, and probably Erik Bedard if they have a shot to win.  If that's the case, they'll instead be shopping the likes of Charlie Morton, Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens, and prospect Rudy Owens, which won't net them the same kind of return.
  • Despite reports to the contrary, Roy Oswalt never received offers from the Phillies or Cardinals according to Amaro and a source who spoke with the Cards' brass, respectively.  While there was other interest, it seems that this was a one-team negotiation with Oswalt and the Rangers.

Quick Hits: Kubel, Chapman, Aoki, Cuddyer

On this day last year, the Padres traded Brandon Gomes, Adam Russell, Cesar Ramos, and Cole Figueroa to the Rays for Jason Bartlett and a player to be named later (though Tampa would eventually send cash instead). Here's some notes from around the league…

  • The Reds have had conversations with Jason Kubel, according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (via Twitter).  GM Walt Jocketty told Fay (Twitter link) that the club does not have the type of money to sign someone to a Josh Willingham-type deal.
  • Even after trading for Mat Latos, Reds GM Walt Jocketty still plans on using Aroldis Chapman as a starter, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnatti Enquirer.  Jocketty did leave room for a change of heart, however, noting that things could change later on.
  • We should soon find out which team won the bidding for Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki, tweets Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.
  • ESPN's Keith Law feels that the Rockies overpaid for Michael Cuddyer, who he considers to be a part-time player (ESPN Insider link). In Law's opinion, Colorado is receiving perhaps a one win upgrade over Seth Smith, but paying $7-8MM more than Smith would earn.
  • In that same piece, Law says that he likes the Twins' gamble on Josh Willingham better, but notes that he should be a DH rather than an outfielder and that the contract is still a gamble because Willingham showed signs of decline in 2011.
  • Willingham told MLB.com's Jane Lee that leaving the Athletics wasn't an easy decision, but GM Billy Beane was honest and up front about the fact that he could probably only offer a one-year deal through arbitration.
  • Juan C. Rodriguez of the Miami Sun-Sentinel provides some details on the heavily backloaded contracts that Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle received from the Marlins. Bell's vesting option triggers if he finishes 55 games in 2014, or a combined 100 between 2013-14. He and Buehrle both took signing bonuses deferred withiout interest, and all three have contractual obligations to donate to charity each season.
  • Law (via Twitter) prefers Aaron Cunningham to Cory Burns. The Indians acquired Cunningham from the Padres in exchange for Burns yesterday.

Twins Notes: Willingham, Kubel, Pitching

It was on this day in 2002 that the Twins released an oft-injured, underachieving first baseman by the name of David Ortiz.  The Red Sox signed Ortiz a month later and "Big Papi" went on to lead Boston to two World Series titles.  This isn't exactly the best memory for Minnesota fans to look back upon, so let's instead focus on these Twin-related news items…

  • Josh Willingham's two preferences were to play for the Twins and Reds, agent Matt Sosnick tells Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Twitter link).
  • The Twins's three-year, $21MM deal with Willingham saves the team some money from the three-year, $24MM contract they offered Michael CuddyerESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets that the Twins plan to put those savings towards finding pitching help.
  • Assistant GM Rob Antony tells Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities radio that the Twins want to add a starting pitcher.  "I would say the door is still open for Jason Kubel, but pitching is a priority," Antony said, adding that Kubel would have to lower his salary demands to work out a return to Minnesota.  (Both links are two Mackey's Twitter account.)  We heard earlier today that the Twins had increased their efforts to sign Kubel to a new contract.
  • Fangraphs' Jack Moore doesn't think the Twins should re-sign Kubel, arguing that the compensatory draft pick the Twins would receive if Kubel (a Type B free agent) signed elsewhere brings more value to the club.


Quick Hits: Dobbs, Indians, Zumaya, Mariners

MLB announced that baseball’s 30 owners unanimously approved the five-year collective bargaining agreement with the MLB Players Association today. Here are some other notes from around MLB…

  • The Marlins remain in the mix to sign Greg Dobbs, according to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. The Nationals are also interested in the free agent utility player.
  • The Mets remain in regular contact with free agent shortstop Jack Wilson, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).
  • Though the Indians never made Josh Willingham a former proposal, they indicated that they were willing to offer a two-year deal in the $15MM range, according to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter links). Willingham has agreed to terms with the Twins, but GM Chris Antonetti says the Indians are still considering external options.
  • A scout tells Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that just about every team in baseball saw free agent right-hander Joel Zumaya throw in Houston yesterday (Twitter link).
  • Japanese shortstop Munenori Kawasaki is in Seattle and may sign a minor league deal with the Mariners in the relatively near future, according to Larry Stone of the Seattle Times (Twitter links). The deal may not be finalized until after the holidays, but he will sign with Seattle, Stone reports.

Twins To Sign Josh Willingham

The Twins announced that they have agreed to sign Josh Willingham to a three-year, $21MM deal. The contract provides Willingham with the chance to earn an additional $1MM through incentives, reports ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter). Willingham, who has passed his physical, is represented by Sosnick Cobbe Sports.

Willingham, 33 in February, is a modified Type-A free agent under the new collective bargaining agreement. The Twins will not have to surrender a draft pick to sign him, but the Athletics will still receive two picks as compensation for the loss. One will be a supplemental first round pick, the other a pick one spot ahead of Minnesota's second rounder since their first rounder is protected.

The Twins hit an AL worst 103 home runs in 2011, so Willingham provides some much needed pop. He hit a career-best 29 homers for Oakland this past season, and has cleared the 20 homer plateau four times in the last six years. He's also shown a knack for drawing walks and getting hit by pitches, leading to a solid .361 career OBP despite a .262 batting average. The Twins figure to use him in left field, where UZR has consistently said he's below average defensively.

MLBTR's Tim Dierkes ranked Willingham 24th on his list of the top 50 free agents, predicting he would sign with the Reds. Crasnick first reported the agreement, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported that the two sides were nearing a deal (on Twitter) and Joe Christensen of The Star Tribune added detail.


Michael Cuddyer Rumors: Tuesday

Michael Cuddyer is drawing lots of interest and with Josh Willingham agreeing to sign with the Twins, it won't be long before the market for Cuddyer becomes easier to read. Here are the latest details on Cuddyer:

  • Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com say (on Twitter) that the Mariners are talking to Cuddyer as well.
  • The Rockies offer to Cuddyer was larger than the three years and $25MM the Twins offered him, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter links). Cuddyer is seeking $30MM+ and has been mulling Colorado's offer for days.
  • The Twins maintain that their deal with Willingham is not yet finished, and that they are still talking with Cuddyer according to Joe Christensen of The Star Tribune (on Twitter).
  • There has been no immediate movement between the Rockies and Cuddyer following the news of Willingham's agreement with the Twins, reports MLB.com's Thomas Harding (on Twitter). 
  • Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports that there is at least one team besides the Rockies pursuing Cuddyer, and it's hardly a given that he heads to Colorado (Twitter links). The Giants and Red Sox are not the teams interested in Cuddyer, according to Morosi (Twitter links).
  • Cuddyer's original asking price was $36MM over three years and he continues to seek $30MM for three years, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).
  • A person close to Cuddyer told Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he'll likely decide on his next team within three or four days. It appears that the Twins' most recent offer to Cuddyer — $24MM over three years, according to Christensen — is essentially a final offer. Jason Kubel remains high on the Twins' list as well, but the team will sign just one of Willingham, Cuddyer and Kubel.
  • The Twins are feeling some confidence that they'll end up with either Cuddyer or Willingham, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter).
  • Earlier today, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that the Rockies are pushing for Cuddyer or Carlos Beltran.

Josh Willingham Decision Expected Soon

3:43pm: Though the Indians aren't entirely out on Willingham, they haven't made him an official offer, according to MLB.com's Jordan Bastian (Twitter link).

2:35pm: The Twins are the front-runner for Willingham, Rosenthal tweets. The Reds are not involved, according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (on Twitter).

2:23pm: The Indians are out on Willingham, Rosenthal tweets. At this point, we know the Twins and up to two more teams remain in the mix.

1:56pm: The Indians are believed to be in the mix for Willingham, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The Rays and Rockies are out.

1:15pm: Agent Matt Sosnick told Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Josh Willingham "has three viable options" available to him. The free agent outfielder and his wife will make a decision within 48 hours, possibly as soon as today.

The Twins are one of Willingham's three options and though Sosnick didn't mention the other clubs by name, it wouldn't be surprising if the Indians and Rockies remain in the mix. Both clubs were linked to Willingham over the weekend. The Rockies and Twins also have interest in free agent Michael Cuddyer

Willingham is a Type A free agent who declined his team's offer of arbitration, but it won't cost a draft pick to sign him under modified free agent compensation rules. Many other clubs, including the Rays, have expressed interest in Willingham this offseason.


Twins Nearing Deal With Josh Willingham

5:25pm: Phil Mackey and Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN hear that Willingham is expected to make his decision before the end of the day on Wednesday. Terms are unknown. Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com says (on Twitter) that Willingham became an option for the Twins once they had trouble bridging the money gap with Cuddyer.

4:47pm: The Twins are nearing a deal with free agent outfielder Josh Willingham, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The move would likely mean free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are moving on from Minnesota and it could facilitate a deal between Cuddyer and the Rockies.

Willingham, a Sosnick Cobbe Sports client, had narrowed his choices down to three teams. The Twins would not have to surrender a draft pick to sign him, but the Athletics would obtain two top selections for him, since they offered arbitration earlier in the offseason.

This post was originally published on December 13th.


Quick Hits: Aoki, Cuddyer, Buerhle, Sherrill, Quentin

Some links to check out as we await tomorrow night's non-tender deadline..

  • As expected, the Yakult Swallows filed posting paperwork on outfielder Norichika Aoki Monday morning in Japan, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com.
  • Free agent Michael Cuddyer's decision will be huge news and could happen soon, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.  Morosi adds that the decision will have a big impact on the Twins' and Rockies' plans.
  • Chuck Garfien of CSNChicago.com spoke with Mark Buerhle who said that he hopes to return to the White Sox in some capacity after his four-year deal with Miami is through.  The veteran also said that the Sox didn't make him an offer after the Marlins put their deal on the table.
  • Free agent left-hander George Sherrill is drawing interest from the Royals, Phillies, Blue Jays, and Mariners, a source tells Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).  The Rockies were also said to be targeting the veteran last week.
  • Even though the two sides were reportedly talking on Tuesday, the Red Sox aren't discussing a deal for Carlos Quentin with the White Sox, tweets Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald.  Earlier today we learned that Quentin has come up in talks with the Blue Jays, though those discussions have apparently cooled.
  • The Indians are in on all "non-[Prince] Fielder" bats, including Josh Willingham, but don't have much financial flexibility, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  The Tribe is after a right-handed bat and the club has been linked to Derrek Lee, Andruw Jones, and Mike Cameron among others.
  • Troy Renck of The Denver Post (via Twitter) doesn't see catcher Eliezer Alfonzo returning to the Rockies but could see the club going after someone like Jeff Mathis if he is non-tendered.  Mathis, 28, was shipped from the Angels to the Blue Jays on December 3rd for left-hander Brad Mills.
  • Craig Breslow, who was traded to the Diamondbacks along with starter Trevor Cahill on Friday, first heard of the deal via Twitter, not the A's front office, writes Katie Dowd of the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • Former Mets General Manager Steve Phillips likes the Astros' hire of Jeff Luhnow as GM and believes that he understands how to operate a small market team, writes Stephen Goff of Examiner.com.

Willingham Market Hinges On Cuddyer

1:36pm: The Rockies are focused on Cuddyer, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Should they lose out on the long-time Twinkie, they'll turn that focus to Willingham.

1:24pm: MLB Network's Jon Heyman adds the Rockies to the list of teams still eyeing Willingham, but doesn't go as far as calling them a "finalist" as Camino did with the Indians and Twins (Twitter link). Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Willingham market hinges on Michael Cuddyer, because the Twins view Willingham as their top alternative. Rosenthal also mentions the Rockies as a player for Willingham.

SUNDAY, 11:57am: The Mariners are out of the running for Willingham, tweets Nick Camino of WTAM 1100. The outfielder's choice is down to the Indians and Twins, according to Camino.

SATURDAY, 10:32pm: The Mariners and Indians appear to be the front-runners for free agent outfielder Josh Willingham, reports Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio (on Twitter). MLB.com's Jordan Bastian says (on Twitter) that other teams remain in the mix though, including the Indians. Cleveland has not yet made an offer though. The Rockies, Twins, Rays were also in the mix at one point.

Willingham, 32, hit .246/.332/.477 with a career-high 29 home runs in 2011. The right-handed hitter tallied 829 1/3 innings in left field, and also has experience in right field in 2009. First base and designated hitter could be options as well. Willingham's agent Matt Sosnick guessed in October that his client would sign a three-year deal.