J.P. Howell Rumors

AL East Notes: Yankees, Niemann, Howell

Every American League East team except the Orioles has a winning record. We've already checked in on the Red Sox and Blue Jays tonight, now here's the latest news out of the Bronx and St. Petersburg…

  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman told Dan Martin of the New York Post that he doesn't expect to make a trade this week. However, he continues to go through the motions in search of a possible upgrade. “I go into the marketplace with a team that's a championship-caliber team as it sits," Cashman said. "It's hard to upgrade on that.”
  • Rays manager Joe Maddon told Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times that he isn't anticipating major trades (Twitter link).
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that the Rays didn't offer Jeff Niemann and J.P. Howell for Colby Rasmus, contrary to earlier reports.

Rays Re-Sign J.P. Howell

At least one of the Rays' free agent relievers is returning to Tampa Bay. The team re-signed left-hander J.P. Howell, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times (Twitter links) who reports that the deal is for $1.1MM plus incentives. The Rays non-tendered the 27-year-old earlier this month, but continued working toward a deal with him. Legacy Sports represents Howell.

The 2004 first rounder missed all of 2010 after undergoing left labrum surgery in May. Back in 2009, Howell was effective for 66 2/3 innings, posting a 2.84 ERA with 10.7 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 and picking up 17 saves. He was equally effective in 2008, when he posted a 2.22 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 89 1/3 innings.

The Rays will be able to retain Howell in 2012, since he won't have six years of service time after next season.

Joaquin Benoit already signed elsewhere and Rafael Soriano, Lance Cormier, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler, Chad Qualls and Randy Choate are all free agents, so Tampa Bay's bullpen will likely look completely different in 2011.

Rays Rumors: Howell, Johnson, Bartlett

The latest on the Rays, who are looking to re-build their bullpen and acquire a hitter or two:

American League Non-Tenders

This post will list all the American League players non-tendered today, but the best place to track all 200+ arbitration eligible players is our new non-tender tracker.

Odds & Ends: Strasburg, Ruiz, Millwood, Crawford

Links for Wednesday, as we make sense of Angel Pagan's unbelievable night

Looking At The Needs Of Some Contenders

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?

Odds & Ends: Alvarez, Strasburg, Church, Rays

Links for Saturday…

Players To Avoid Arbitration: Tuesday

Noon ET today was the deadline for both the team and player to submit their salary figures for arbitration, however the two sides can come to an agreement at any point before the actual hearing. The hearings are scheduled for the first week of February.

We'll keep track of the players who avoid arbitration today by agreeing to deals here. Make sure you check back in for updates, and be sure to click the "Continue Reading" link to see today's full list of settlements.  Yesterday's list can be found here.

  • Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels avoided arbitration with Mike Napoli and Reggie Willits by signing the duo to one-year deals.  Napoli will earn $3.6MM in 2010 with a $100K bonus if he makes 120 starts.  Willits' contract is worth $625K. 
  • Zach Duke's one-year contract with Pittsburgh is worth $4.3MM with no performance bonuses, tweets Dejan Kovacevic of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • The Padres and reliever Mike Adams have agreed to a contract, reports MLB.com's Corey Brock (via Twitter).  Brock's follow-up tweet says Adams' deal is worth $1MM, virtually splitting the difference between San Diego's $875K offer and Adams' $1.2MM demands.
  • Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune tweets that the Twins have agreements in place with all eight of their arbitration eligible players.  In a follow-up tweet, Christensen reports that Francisco Liriano agreed to a one-year deal worth $1.6MM and Jesse Crain agreed to a one-year contract worth $2MM.
  • Marc Carig of the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports that the Mets avoided arbitration with reliever Sean Green (via Twitter).  The one-year deal was worth $975K, according to the New York Daily News' Anthony McCarron.
  • The Tigers avoided arb with Gerald Laird and Zach Miner as well according to James Jahnke of The Detroit Free Press.  MLB.com's Jason Beck tweets the details on the one-year contracts: Laird will earn $3.95MM, Miner will earn $950K.
  • Christensen tweets that the Twins avoided arb with Brendan Harris, signing him to a two year deal worth $3.2MM with another $650K in possible incentives.
  • The Tigers and Bobby Seay avoided arbitration according to MLB.com's Jason Beck (via Twitter), agreeing to a one year deal worth $2.475MM.
  • Thesier tweets that Matt Guerrier agreed to a one year deal worth $3.15MM with the Twins, avoiding arb.
  • Amalie Benjamin of The Boston Globe tweets that the Red Sox have avoided arbitration with Ramon Ramirez and Manny Delcarmen, with Delcarmen getting $905K plus incentives according to Joe McDonald of The Providence Journal. Boston avoided arb with Jonathan Papelbon as well.


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Odds & Ends: Kouzmanoff, Taguchi, Draft

Some links on this frosty Saturday night…

  • Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic spoke to Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes, who took full responsibility for Eric Byrnes' three-year, $30MM contract.  Arizona designated Byrnes for assignment on Friday.
  • The Rays have four remaining arbitration-eligible players in Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, J.P. Howell, and B.J. Upton.  The club will stick with their policy of cutting off negotiations after exchanging figures, which happens at noon on Tuesday, writes Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times.  Tampa Bay does this to try to bring about a settlement and to avoid settling at an artificial midpoint between the two figures.
  • Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com isn't terribly upset that the O's weren't the club to land Kevin Kouzmanoff.  Kubatko understands frustrations over the Orioles' lack of production at third, but notes that the 28-year-old's offensive production was nothing to write home about in 2009.  Kouzmanoff hit .255/.302/.420 with 18 HRs for the Padres last season.
  • As we heard earlier today, a committee is being formed to work on changes to the amateur draft.  The committee will look into making the draft worldwide and instituting a slotting system.  Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues doesn't see any changes being made until after 2011, when the collective bargaining agreement expires.
  • The Orix Buffaloes are close to signing So Taguchi, according to a report from Sponichi passed along by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker (via Twitter).  The 40-year-old emerged with the Cubs at the end of last season, making 12 plate appearances in six games.

Rays, Rangers May Be Left Out

While many of baseball's contenders are set to stock up on talent, the Rays and Rangers may not be among them. Oh, they're contenders, all right. They just may not add to what they have.

In Tampa Bay's case, MLB.com's Bill Chastain points out that the Rays have already dealt Jason Hammel and Edwin Jackson within the past year, making any further pitching depletion a risky move. He adds:

"Ben Zobrist's improvement has made the right field and second base situations look better, while the double-dose of Gabes in right field — Gross and Kapler — has begun to look like what the Rays hoped it would prior to the season.  Both are producing when facing either a right-hander in Gross' case or a left-hander in Kapler's.  Finally, a proven closer would be nice, but, again, look at what the bullpen is doing without one and you wonder how much better could the bullpen be with such an addition. Meanwhile, J.P. Howell appears to be taking charge of the closing role."

As for the Rangers, it simply comes down to money, according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, though Texas would like to add starting pitching.

"The Rangers are also limited in their ability to take on significant payroll with a possible sale of the club by owner Tom Hicks still pending," Sullivan writes.

Of course, it also hurts Texas that Roy Halladay won't approve a trade to Texas, and Cleveland won't trade Cliff Lee, according to Sullivan.