Juan Gutierrez Rumors

Minor Moves: Royals, Stavinoha, Santiago, German

Today's minor moves…

  • The Royals signed Juan Gutierrez to a minor league deal, according to MLB.com's Steve Gilbert (on Twitter).  The right-hander posted a 5.40 ERA with 11.3 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 in 18 1/3 innings with Arizona this past season.
  • The Astros released Nick Stavinoha so that he can sign with a Japanese team, according to Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle.  The 29-year-old spent the 2011 season at Triple-A, where he hit .270/.329/.488 in 586 plate appearances.  The Hiroshima Carp are working toward a deal with Stavinoha, according to a Japanese report passed along by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker.
  • The Nationals signed Jarrett Hoffpauir to a minor league deal, according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson (on Twitter).  Hoffpauir, 28, posted a .281/.356/.428 for the Padres' top affiliate this past season.
  • The Royals announced that the club has granted the release of minor league pitcher Mario Santiago in order for the right-hander to sign a contract with the SK Wyverns of the Korean Baseball Organization.  Santiago, who turns 27 on Friday, split time between the Royals' Double-A and Triple-A affiliates in 2011.
  • Japan's Seibu Lions signed former Rangers utility man Esteban German for $1MM, tweets Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes.  The 33-year-old was removed from the Rangers' 40-man roster in November.

NL West Links: Hill, Gutierrez, Bell

Some notes from the NL West….

  • Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers spoke with Aaron Hill's agent this week, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The two sides made little progress and didn't exchange figures, but Towers said another talk is tentatively scheduled for next week. Hill hit .215/.386/.492 in 142 plate appearances for the Snakes after being dealt from the Blue Jays, but Towers said he isn't necessarily looking at a multi-year deal for Hill since he doesn't "want to get too crazy about six weeks [of production]. There’s a reason they moved him and a reason we moved Kelly Johnson.”
  • Also from Piecoro's piece, the recently-released Juan Gutierrez said he expected the move and hopes to re-sign with the D'Backs on a minor league deal. Gutierrez underwent Tommy John surgery in September.
  • The Padres are willing to give Heath Bell a two-year, $15-$16MM contract with an option for a third year, reports Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune as part of an online chat with fans. Bell wants three years guaranteed, but Center wonders if the closer would accept a two-year deal with a partial no-trade clause. Center discusses several other Padres topics during the chat, including what he would want in a possible Mat Latos trade and Kyle Blanks' future with the team.

Diamondbacks Release Juan Gutierrez

The Diamondbacks have released right-hander Juan Gutierrez, the club announced via its official Twitter page.  Gutierrez only pitched in 20 games for the Snakes this season (posting a 5.40 ERA but an impressive 23 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings) due to elbow and shoulder injuries that eventually required Tommy John surgery in September.

Gutierrez, 28, was part of the trade package that came from Houston to Arizona in December 2009 in exchange for Jose Valverde.  In three years with the D'Backs, Gutierrez appeared in 143 games and posted a 4.62 ERA and an 8.4 K/4 rate, though his effectiveness was undermined by his inability to avoid hits (a 8.9 H/9 rate) and the long ball (a 1.1 HR/9 rate).  Given the long recovery time associated with Tommy John surgery, we might not hear of Gutierrez signing with a new team until the 2012-13 offseason.

Gutierrez would have been eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter.  The righty earned $430.5K with the Diamondbacks last season.

Diamondbacks Set To Add Payroll, Says CEO

TUESDAY 3:41pm: D-Backs' managing general partner Ken Kendrick says the payroll will likely increase to north of $75MM next year, according to MLB.com's Steve Gilbert. The payroll in 2009 was appoximately $73.5MM.

"We definitely have more than $10 million to spend in the market," Kendrick said. "There are other moves that we may make that could change the money landscape that have yet to be determined."

MONDAY 6:54pm: Arizona Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall said his team is "definitely adding to the payroll" during a web chat on MLB.com Monday.

Hall weighed in on a huge number of issues, including:

  • He wants to look at free agent starting pitchers, relievers, and a bench player. He expects most acquisitions to come through trades.
  • He believes both Juan Gutierrez and Esmerling Vasquez can pitch the sixth, seventh or eighth innings next season.
  • Only Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and Max Scherzer are guaranteed rotation spots in 2010. Billy Buckner, Kevin Mulvey, and possibly free agents could also be in the mix.
  • Stephen Drew "would be too tough to replace if we ever moved him."

Check out the full discussion. This is a great example of a team using new media to connect to fans.

Padres Looking For Pitching

Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes about the Padres’ intention to add pitching to the organization.  He learned that the Nationals inquired about Padres first base prospect Kyle Blanks, but were not willing to trade their own top prospect Jordan Zimmermann.  Would’ve been interesting to see.

Krasovic says the Padres are focused on out of options pitchers, and in particular inquired on Arizona’s Juan Gutierrez.  Krasovic tosses out names of other out of options hurlers on the D’Backs and Angels: Jason Bulger, Shane Loux, Dustin Moseley, Yusmeiro Petit, and Travis Blackley.  Two more possibilities: Giants Rule 5 pick Luis Perdomo and Rangers veteran Jason Jennings.  I don’t know whether the Padres are interested, but a few more out of options pitchers include David Pauley, Hayden Penn, Dustin Nippert, Jeff Niemann, and Jason Hammel.

According to Krasovic, GM Kevin Towers is focused exclusively on pitching this month.  Krasovic adds:

Some Padres evaluators have become dismayed, according to other clubs, by a perceived dearth of power arms high in the organization and are wondering if the club’s four-year emphasis on “pitchability” got overdone.

Waivers Possible For Nippert, Medders?

The Diamondbacks are facing too much of a good thing this spring, with five relievers competing for just one remaining spot in the bullpen.

Righthander Dustin Nippert was the frontrunner, but has stumbled in Spring Training. Strong performances by young throwers Billy Buckner, Juan Gutierrez, and Yusmeiro Petit have also complicated the situation, as each has made a strong case for his inclusion on the big-league roster. However, Nippert and fellow righty Brandon Medders have both been with the team for three years, and are out of minor league options. If the Diamondbacks leave them off the roster, they’ll hit the waiver wire.

One thought is that if Randy Johnson isn’t ready to go, his absence will leave a second slot open for a pitcher. However, that could still leave Medders and Nippert disappointed.

Sarah Green writes for the Boston Metro and UmpBump.com; she can be reached here.

Dissecting The Jose Valverde Trade

Regular MLBTR readers know I have mostly been a harsh critic of Ed Wade’s short tenure as the Astros’ GM.  Well, not this time.  He made an excellent deal in acquiring Jose Valverde for Chris Burke, Chad Qualls, and Juan Gutierrez.

Valverde, 27, is a nasty shut-down closer with two seasons before free agency.  He gets strikeouts by the bushel and can handle the ninth in a tough hitter’s ballpark.

Burke was once the 10th overall pick in the 2001 draft, but he turns 27 in March.  His best year was a .765 OPS in 2006.  The D’Backs hope he can match that and take over for Orlando Hudson after the 2007 season. I have to think his trade value was minimal.

Qualls, 29, has three seasons before free agency.  He’s quietly compiled a 3.39 ERA in 284 career innings. He had a solid strikeout rate last year and also posted a strong groundball rate near 60%.  Josh Byrnes is gambling that Qualls is nearly Valverde’s equal, just without the fancy 40-save season.

Gutierrez, 24, didn’t impress as a starter in Triple A or the bigs this year.  Baseball America recently ranked him as the Astros’ fourth best prospect, with an excellent heater and sometimes plus changeup.  He may end up in relief, but is an intriguing arm.

This trade could definitely work out for Byrnes and Co. – they gave up two years of Valverde for 12 years of Burke, Qualls, and Gutierrez.  If Qualls can be 80% as good as Valverde, the D’Backs win the deal on service time alone.

I just question whether Byrnes got the best possible package for Valverde.  The Astros, meanwhile, did a nice job getting a possibly elite closer for a reasonable package.