Julio Lugo Rumors
On this day back in 2003, the Tigers became the first team in baseball history to have four pitchers make their Major League debut in the same game. The starter was 20-year-old Jeremy Bonderman, who gave way to 22-year-old Wil Ledezma, 25-year-old Chris Spurling, and 23-year-old Matt Roney before "veteran" closer Matt Anderson entered the game. Anderson was just 25-years-old at the time, but the first overall pick of the 1997 draft already had 210 big league appearances to his name.
The Tigers went on the finish the season 43-119, and were rewarded by selecting Justin Verlander with the second overall pick the following season. Here's this week's set of links from around the web...
- A Cubbies Consilience throws some kudos Jim Hendry's way for his offseason.
- Camden Crazies calls the O's trade for Julio Lugo an okay one.
- The Kept Faith finds some players Kevin Towers passed on while he was the Padres' GM.
- 1 Blue Jays Way remembers Roy Halladay's time in Toronto.
- Meanwhile, Around The BasePath looks at some expectations for Halladay's first year in Philadelphia.
- Drunk Jays Fans wonders why Lyle Overbay was named the team's every day first baseman when he can't hit lefties.
- Lookout Landing compares Eric Byrnes and Ryan Langerhans with regards to the Mariners' spare outfielder's job.
- Bronx Bombers Beat examines the Yankees' plan for Phil Hughes.
- More Hardball lists the players who will begin the season on the disabled list.
- Capitol Avenue Club rounds out the Braves' roster.
- Crashburn Alley looks at the Phillies' winners and losers from Spring Training.
The Orioles acquired infielder Julio Lugo from the Cardinals (pending MLB approval), reports Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli tweets that the Cardinals will receive a player to be named later. Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun notes that the Orioles will pay Lugo the league minimum, with the Red Sox paying the remaining $8.6MM. Lugo asked the Cardinals to trade him, reports Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez first reported word of a deal to an AL club and later suggested the O's.
Lugo provides insurance for Brian Roberts, who dealt with back spasms earlier this spring. He can also back up Cesar Izturis at shortstop. Ghiroli says the Lugo acquistion could mean Robert Andino is on the chopping block.
The Cards' signing of Felipe Lopez made Lugo unnecessary. Lugo, 34, hit .280/.352/.405 in 293 plate appearances for the Red Sox and Cardinals last year. The Cardinals acquired him in July for Chris Duncan, with the Sox assuming Lugo's contract.
Jorge Ebro at the Nuevo Herald interviewed newly signed Blue Jays prospect Adeiny Hechevarria in Spanish, digging out a few fresh insights concerning both the signing and the 19-year-old Cuban shortstop's potential.
Hechevarria avoids saying directly that the Blue Jays aren't the team of his teenage dreams, but he lets slip that he "played shortstop for Santiago imagining that it was Yankee Stadium." Nevertheless, Ebro notes that Hechevarria turned down an offer from the Yankees in the hopes of rising more quickly to prominence in Toronto's system. The New York Post's George King II wrote three days ago that the Yankees were likely willing to offer similar money to Toronto, and more recently, the Toronto Sun's Bob Elliott quoted an unnamed executive as saying that "the word in the scouting community" was that the Yankees' offer was larger Toronto's winning bid of $10MM for four years.
Shortstop for the Blue Jays has been a sorespot in terms of both reliable production and reliable attendance since back when the team was a perpetual contender, as last year's .789 OPS by Marco Scutaro was the highest by a Blue Jays shortstop logging at least 500 PAs since Tony Fernandez in 1987. Over those ensuing years, other AL East teams have built their lineups around the likes of Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, and Miguel Tejada. Even the Rays have been able to bank on shortstop with more reliability than the Jays, as Tampa Bay's recent history has witnessed the best years of Julio Lugo's career and the arrival of Jason Bartlett.
But what to expect from Hechevarria himself? In the absence of minor league stats and scouting reports, Ebro's sources reach for comparisons. One scout labels him "an Alfonso Soriano who can defend," while another describes him as more polished than last year's highly regarded Cuban shortstop prospect, Jose Iglesias, who will start the season in Double A Portland for the Red Sox. Comparisons between the two prospects are seemingly inevitable, for reasons of age (Iglesias is 20), nationality, contract size, and because Hechevarria got the nod over Iglesias at short for the Cuban team at the World Baseball Junior Championships in 2007.
Elliott at the Toronto Sun quotes an AL executive who calls Hechevarria "a much better player" than Iglesias, while another official from a team who made an offer to Hechevarria labeled him "probably more of a fielder than a hitter" for the time being, albeit one who will be "pretty offensive when it all plays out." Like Iglesias, Hechevarria will likely start out at Double A, notes Dave Perkins at the Toronto Star.
All comparisons with other prospects aside, though, Ebro's article starts out by comparing Hechevarria's potential to the next few years of his idol, Jeter, and writers in New York have noted the comparison as well. Mike Vaccaro at the New York Post most recently wrote that Hechevarria was widely believed to be "earmarked for the Yankees," and that that missing out on Hechevarria shows the team's commitment to an iconic shortstop who "will have to morph from shortstop into either a left fielder or a full time designated hitter" by the end of his next contract—especially if that contract stretches to six years, as Jon Heyman recently posited.
According to some, though, Hechevarria's future isn't even at short. One scout tells Elliott that the prospect's skills will eventually put him in the outfield, while Vaccaro notes that Hechevarria's bat could translate well to second base or center field, just one more reason why the newest Blue Jay "made all the sense in the world" for the Yankees.
Vesting options are always fun for hot stove junkies to follow during the season. Last year we had Kevin Millwood's $12 Million Out and the Tigers allowing Magglio Ordonez's pricey option to vest. 2011 vesting options to watch this year:
- Brian Fuentes, Angels: $9MM option vests with 55 games finished. Fuentes has finished 55+ three times in his career, last year included. Fernando Rodney will be lurking.
- Billy Wagner, Braves: $6.5MM option vests with 50 games finished.
- Trever Miller, Cardinals: $2MM option vests with 45 games, but reverts to a club option with a left arm or shoulder injury.
- Matt Cain, Giants: $6.25MM option vests with 182.3 innings or 27 starts. The Giants will exercise this even if it doesn't vest, as the alternative will be going to arbitration with Cain and potentially paying him more.
- Kerry Wood, Indians: $11MM option vests with 55 games finished. A trade into a non-closing job could affect Wood's bank account. That's three closers whose GF totals we'll be monitoring.
- Alex Cora, Mets: $2MM option vests with 80 starts.
- Darren Oliver, Rangers: $3.25MM option vests with 59 appearances.
- Ramon Hernandez, Reds: $3.25MM option vests with 120 games played.
- Magglio Ordonez, Tigers: $15MM option vests with 135 starts or 540 plate appearances.
- Note that a game finished is given to the last non-starting pitcher of record. Also, thanks to Cot's Baseball Contracts for the info.
When the Rangers voided the contract of Khalil Greene last week, it appeared as if the club would look within their system for a replacement. Indeed, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan was told by Texas officials that there was a "100 percent probability" that this would be the case (via Twitter).
A week later, however, Sullivan reports that the team is changing its tune. Greene provided both infield depth and a right-handed corner infield bat, and now the Rangers "are re-assessing the situation and early confidence that the roles could be filled from within may be eroding." The team hopes that prospect Max Ramirez or former Angel Matt Brown can handle the corner infield job, but several options exist outside the Rangers organization for the utility infield spot. Sulllivan noted the Dodgers have some extra infielders in camp and listed a few other specific names as options...
- Julio Lugo. He may be the odd man out in St. Louis given the Cardinals' recent signing of Felipe Lopez. Sullivan noted the irony of Lugo possibly again being acquired to replace Greene, given that St. Louis did the same thing last summer. Sullivan also said Lugo "is somebody [the Rangers] have talked about internally."
- Augie Ojeda. We heard last winter that Texas had some interest in the Diamondbacks infielder.
- Ramon Vazquez. Sullivan said "the Pirates may be willing to talk about" dealing the former Ranger.
Sunday night linkage..
- Dave Cameron of U.S.S. Mariner tweets that it'll be interesting to see which sabermetric-friendly team will ink recently-DFA'd pitcher Edwar Ramirez. Cameron's bet is on Tampa Bay.
- Jason Churchill of ESPN (Insider subscription required) explains why second basemen aren't often selected in the first round of the amateur draft. He writes that the best athletes usually play center field and shortstop in high school and college. The second basemen typically come from the shortstops who cannot keep up with the position defensively.
- Ben Sheets threw live batting practice for the first time with the A's and impressed the coaching staff with his velocity, according to the Associated Press. Sheets inked a one-year deal with Oakland worth $10MM plus performance bonuses in late January.
- Felipe Lopez's arrival may mean less at-bats for Julio Lugo, writes Matthew Leach of MLB.com. Lugo sounds less-than-thrilled about a reduced role but said that his agents have not approached the Cards about a move.
- Dusty Baker isn't worried about his contract situation, writes Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. The Reds skipper is entering the final season of a three-year pact.
- Todd Zolecki of MLB.com writes that despite trading away several highly-rated prospects in the last 19 months, the Phillies still have talent in their farm system.
On this date eight years ago, Major League Baseball acquired the Montreal Expos from owner Jeffrey Loria for $120MM, who then purchased the Marlins for $158MM. Loria took everything not nailed down in Montreal with him to Florida, including manager Jeff Torborg. MLB ran the Expos for the next four-plus years until ownership was transferred to Ted Lerner in July 2006.
Here's a look at what's being written around the web...
- Capitol Avenue Club analyzes the players the Braves are bringing to Spring Training as non-roster invitees.
- The Bottom Line wonders if Marco Scutaro is going to be the next Julio Lugo.
- Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness thinks the Dodgers jumped the gun when they signed Jamey Carroll.
- Mets Merized looks at the best of what's left on the free agent market.
- Camden Crazies tries to make sense of the Orioles' interest in Jarrod Washburn.
- U.S.S. Mariner breaks down the incentives in Erik Bedard's contract.
- TAUNTR touched on the Tigers' reported offer to Johnny Damon.
- Fantasy Rundown links to every prospect ranking you can think of.
If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.
Some links for the morning...
- ESPN.com's Peter Gammons says the Adam LaRoche acquisition won't prevent the Red Sox from pursuing an impact bat like Victor Martinez.
- MLB.com's Jason Beck predicts that the Tigers will trade close to next Friday's deadline if they decide to deal.
- Manager Jim Leyland spends so little time thinking about trades that he doesn't even know who's available, according to Chris Iott of MLive.com. Someone needs to tell him about MLBTR.
- ESPN.com's Rob Neyer says the notion that the Mets are contenders "borders on delusional."
- Royals GM Dayton Moore tells Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that he will "be very aggressive and put the throttle down" if he sees an opportunity to improve his club.
- Justin Smoak, Martin Perez and Neftali Feliz lead Jamey Newberg's list of top Rangers prospects this week at MLB.com.
- As anticipated, the Seibu Lions acquired minor league reliever Jonah Bayliss from the Blue Jays, according to the Kyodo News.
- More than half of St. Louis Post-Dispatch readers believe the Julio Lugo-Chris Duncan swap was necessary.
5:30pm: The haul for Lugo is bigger than originally thought. The Sox receive a player to be named later or cash along with Duncan, according to the team's press release.
3:32pm: Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that the Cardinals will trade Chris Duncan to the Red Sox for Julio Lugo. Via Twitter Miklasz says the Red Sox will still pay Lugo's salary and Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald agrees.
Duncan has a career .851 OPS against right-handers and is under team control through 2012. Reid Laymance of the Post-Dispatch says the Red Sox are expected to assign Duncan to Triple A Pawtucket.
Jim Donaldson of the Providence Journal wrote today that evaluating Red Sox GM Theo Epstein is "as tricky as [Julio] Lugo trying to field a hot grounder." The reason, says Donaldson, is that the Sox can afford to make expensive mistakes like Lugo's contract.
Donaldson seems to argue that Epstein is overrated, citing continual problems at shortstop and big contracts to Daisuke Matsuzaka and J.D. Drew as his biggest flaws so far.
Well, if our readers can't resolve this, nobody can. What do you think? Does large payroll capacity allow Epstein to get away with mistakes? Where do you rank his moves compared to those of other GM's?
If you need a crib sheet, don't forget MLBTR contributor Brendan Bianowicz's GM Trade History for Epstein from last year.