Juan Cruz Rumors

Mets Looking At Gil Meche

6:39am: Matthew Cerrone at MetsBlog relays some info from Jon Heyman's appearance on WNBC in New York. Heyman agrees with Sherman that the Mets could look to spread their available funds around before turning to a big-name free agent.

6:27am: While the Mets plan to look at Matt Holliday and Jason Bay, and have high hopes that John Lackey's price will come down enough to entice him to accept a four-year offer, they also realize that's an unlikely scenario and are exploring other avenues. They're currently intrigued by Royals righty Gil Meche, according to Joel Sherman.

Meche has two years and $24MM left on his contract, which includes a limited no-trade clause. As we heard earlier tonight, the Royals are working to trim payroll in order to address some needs within their lineup. While Meche (when healthy) is an important part of their rotation, the $24MM owed to him could be better spent improving multiple areas of the team, especially in this economy.

Sherman says the Mets may explore moving Luis Castillo as part of a Meche deal, possibly taking back another bad contract such as Kyle Farnsworth or Juan Cruz if necessary. If it were to happen, Castillo's .387 OBP alone would be of benefit to a Royals team that was starved for OBP last season, posting a team mark of .318, tied for third-worst in baseball.

The Mets are concerned, however, about adding another injury risk to a rotation that already features such question marks as John Maine, Mike Pelfrey, and Oliver Perez. However, most free agent options lack elite talent and/or strong durability.

Meche seems like a solid target for the Mets, provided he's healthy. What sort of offers do you see being proposed by Omar Minaya?

Royals Slightly Reducing Payroll

Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star writes that the Royals would like to leave themselves some wiggle room for in-season financial flexibility. As such, they're likely to enter the 2010 season with a payroll in the $66MM-$67MM range, as opposed to last season's $70.5MM payroll. Dutton quotes general manager Dayton Moore:

“I think we can be better positioned to improve our team for 2010 and into the future if we have more flexibility… That may be as simple as being more aggressive in the draft or being more aggressive internationally to build our farm system. And, certainly, it allows us the flexibility to make a deal to take on some money when necessary. I just think it makes more sense right now.”

The Royals currently have $50.4MM allocated to Jose Guillen, Gil Meche, Zack Greinke, David DeJesus, Kyle Farnsworth, Juan Cruz, Joakim Soria, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Willie Bloomquist. They have eight more players eligible for arbitration, although Mike Jacobs, John Buck, and John Bale are all non-tender candidates after disappointing 2009 campaigns. All of this projects to about $63MM before the Royals can even think about making moves.

They'd obviously love to be free of Guillen's $12MM owed in 2010, but much like Farnsworth ($4.5MM) and Cruz ($3.25MM), he'll be tough to move after a poor 2009. Meche could be moved as well – he's owed $24MM over the next two seasons – but his salary and injuries in 2009 will likely mean a poor return in any trade. They'll listen on DeJesus, but the Royals would miss his strong defense and solid bat and would like a replacement in any deal..

Alberto Callaspo may be the club's sole appealing trade chip. Kansas City hopes that Callaspo's strong offensive skills and the fact that he's not even eligible for arbitration will outweigh his defensive woes and yield a catcher or center fielder.

The Royals remain interested in Erik Bedard, Ivan Rodriguez, and Scott Podsednik, but it's tough to imagine them having the cash for those three without making some moves first. Any future GMs out there have some insight as to how Dayton Moore could free up the payroll to make it happen?

Heyman On August Trades

Executives tell Jon Heyman of SI.com that we saw the "softest deadline ever" last week because there's still the possibility for trades this month. Here's an explanation of how trades can occur after the deadline and here are the players Heyman deems likely to clear waivers (player who clear waivers may be traded):

  • Bronson Arroyo, Adam Dunn, Jose Guillen, Aaron Harang, Adrian Beltre, Aubrey Huff, Jason Giambi, Melvin Mora, Miguel Batista, Juan Cruz, Ty Wigginton, Ron Mahay, Willie Bloomquist, Lyle Overbay, Willy Taveras.

Some players who could clear waivers:

  • Jon Garland, Doug Davis, Gil Meche, Alex Rios, Carl Pavano, Mark Hendrickson, Jhonny Peralta, Jamey Carroll, Ron Villone

And some players who probably won't clear waivers, but who could be dealt to a claiming team: 

  • Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez, Heath Bell, Adrian Gonzalez, Marco Scutaro, Chad Qualls, Michael Wuertz, Brian Bannister, Josh Willingham, Gary Sheffield, David Eckstein, Jason Frasor, Mark Teahen.

Trade Candidates: Relievers

Just about every team could improve its bullpen and some clubs, like the Marlins and Rockies, are working aggressively to add relievers. Here are some of the names to consider, ordered from highest 2009 salary to lowest.

  • Kerry Wood – He's been a disappointment in Cleveland, and the Indians owe him about $15MM before the end of next year, and possibly more in 2011.
  • Rafael Soriano – Could the Braves get creative and deal Soriano ($6.1MM) or Mike Gonzalez ( $3.5MM), who will also become a free agent this winter.
  • Danys Baez – At $5.5MM, he's an expensive option, but he could help a contender.
  • LaTroy Hawkins – He's been effective in 38 appearances for the Astros, who are still in contention and may hold onto Hawkins ($3.5MM) and fellow reliever Jose Valverde ($8MM).
  • Rafael Betancourt – He's still nowhere near as effective as he was in 2007, but Betancourt's pitched well enough this year; he'll make $3.35MM this season.  
  • Russ Springer – He's been hittable, but he can still strike major leaguers out. He makes $3.3MM this year.
  • George Sherrill – Affordable and effective, Sherrill ($2.75MM) is under team control through 2011.  
  • Chad Qualls – The D'Backs already traded Tony Pena, so they may be reluctant to part with Qualls, who makes $2.5MM this season.
  • John Grabow – Makes $2.3MM this year, before hitting free agency this winter. He's pitching well, but his control's been off this season.  
  • Matt Capps – Like Grabow, he makes $2.3MM this year, but Capps will likely hit free agency after 2012.
  • Juan Cruz – Still tough to hit, but not as effective as last year, Cruz makes $2.25MM this year and more in 2010.  
  • Joe Beimel – The 32-year-old lefty makes $2MM this year. He's pitched well, but not quite as well as his 3.57 ERA suggests.
  • Takashi Saito – A relative bargain at $1.5MM plus incentives, especially when you consider the affordable team option for next year.
  • Heath Bell – At an affordable $1.3MM, the All-Star closer would be appealing to many clubs, especially since he's under team control through 2011.
  • Cla Meredith – By far the cheapest option on this list at just $431k, he's had three respectable seasons in a row since his breakout 2006 campaign.  

The Twins, Angels, Rangers, Phillies, Rockies and Dodgers are among the teams that could make deals to improve their respective ‘pens.

Stark On Royals, Phillies, Holliday

ESPN.com's Jayson Stark asks some thoughtful baseball people why we're not greeting Manny Ramirez like the "team-wrecking, alibi-distorting, female-fertility-drug-popping scoundrel he is." And, of course, Stark has piles of rumors. Here they are:

  • The Mets were never willing to move Bobby Parnell or other top young arms for Mark DeRosa, so they weren't as close to acquiring him as the Reds and Cubs were. The Phillies, Marlins and Giants were also in the mix.
  • The Indians are more interested in dealing Rafael Bentancourt than Kerry Wood, whose contract ($15MM remaining) would be hard to move.  
  • The Royals will listen on anyone but Zack Greinke, but that doesn't mean they're looking to deal starters. They're "reluctant" to deal Brian Bannister, Kyle Davies or Gil Meche, who has a no-trade clause.
  • The Phillies were looking at Juan Cruz, who the Royals say they'd only deal for an upper-tier prospect ready to make a big-league impact.  
  • The Reds will wait it out and ramp up their pursuit of a bat if they're in the race later in the month.  
  • One executive says Pedro Martinez didn't look bad in last month's workout; Pedro's just demanding too much money. 
  • The Phillies haven't given up on pursuing Cliff Lee, Erik Bedard or Roy Oswalt 
  • The Braves are trying to deal Jeff Francoeur everywhere, but no one's interested. One front-office guy says his team would be interested if Francoeur's non-tendered.  
  • Officials are divided on whether Yunel Escobar could be dealt, but a trade is unlikely at best.  
  • Rangers GM Jon Daniels says he is now looking to bolster his rotation.  
  • As expected, Daniels confirmed that the Rangers will have "limited" ability to take on salary at the deadline. 
  • The A's will want "two prospects with tremendous upside" for Matt Holliday if they deal him. It's unclear how much of the $6.75MM remaining on his contract the A's would pick up.
  • Could Josh Willingham be the next-best bat on the market? One exec says he might be if Russell Branyan and Miguel Tejada don't become available.  
  • Another official says Willingham's unappealing because of his back issues.  

Odds & Ends: Contraction, Pudge, German, Jays

Links for Monday…

Odds And Ends: Orioles, Bowden, Nathan

A few links for Sunday afternoon…

  • According to MLB.com’s Spencer Fordin the Orioles used "number crunching and statistical analysis" to compare Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis to similar past and present players before locking them up to deals worth $40MM and $66MM, respectively.
  • Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that Joe Nathan‘s happy to see Jonathan Papelbon making lots of money this year ($6.25MM) because it’s good for closers in general.
  • Jayson Stark of ESPN.com points out the absurdity of the Manny Ramirez negotiations and suggests the structure of a deal that could work for both sides. It’s been nearly four months since the Dodgers made their initial offer of two years and $45MM.
  • Pete McElroy of MASN Sports reports that Dmitri Young‘s "shocked" to see Jim Bowden resign. Young, who first dealt with Bowden on the Reds, spoke glowingly of his former GM.
  • According to MLB.com’s Jason Beck Jim Leyland confirmed that the Tigers had some offseason discussions about Juan Cruz.
  • The draft’s still three months away, but Keith Law of ESPN.com is already putting together scouting reports about some top amateur players.
  • MLB.com’s Lyle Spencer dreams up a deal that sends Adrian Gonzalez and Jake Peavy to the Angels for 10 players.

Royals Sign Juan Cruz

3:16pm: Buster Olney with information on each year’s value: "He receives $2.25 million for 2009, $3.25 million for 2010, and a $4 million option for 2011, with a $500,000 buyout. " Royals beat writer Dick Kaegel of MLB.com confirms it.

2:25pm: According to a press release from the team, the Kansas City Royals have signed Juan Cruz to a two-year deal, with a club option for a third year.

While it is Royals policy to keep contract terms under wraps, Ken Rosenthal has contract details. The first two years of the deal are worth $6MM, while the option year would pay Cruz $3.5MM if exercised.

Rosenthal also has details on the Royals’ ability to complete the deal without negotiating a sign-and-trade with the Diamondbacks:

In the end, no sign-and-trade solution was necessary. The Royals preferred to lose their second rounder rather than give up prospects to the Diamondbacks. The team’s first-round pick is protected because it finished with one of the 15 worst records in the majors last season.

Juan Cruz To Royals?

Juan Cruz may be close to a deal with the Kansas City Royals, according to Buster Olney at ESPN.com.

The Royals’ signing Cruz may entitle the Arizona Diamondbacks to two compensatory draft picks, since Cruz was a Type A free agent offered arbitration. However, a potential sign-and-trade deal with the Diamondbacks may affect those circumstances. Writes Olney:

It was not immediately clear on Saturday afternoon whether Cruz would just sign with the Royals, or if a sign-and-trade with the Diamondbacks would be part of the process.

We’ll keep an eye on this one.

Twins, Cruz End Contract Talks

According to La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Twins have ended their pursuit of right-handed reliever Juan Cruz.

Cruz rejected the Twins’ contract offer before talks ever evolved into the sign-and-trade stages, and it doesn’t sounds like the club plans on making another run at him.  Cruz, 30, posted a 2.61 ERA in 51 2/3 innings last season.

Neal suggests that the Twins might now focus their attention on free agent Chad Cordero, who threw for several teams on Wednesday.