Kenny Lofton Rumors

Free Agent Matchmaker: Braves Need An OF

A look at the remaining 2009 free agents reveals a number of household names still without a job. True, most of these are over the hill veterans, but in many cases they can help contending teams fill roster gaps. Over the next few weeks we'll look at which team/player combinations make sense. Since we're right around the 1/3 mark of the season, now is the time for teams to take chances on these guys. Since they'll probably need at least a few weeks to get into game-playing condition, acting soon would mean having them around the halfway mark.

The 23-23 Braves are lacking in the outfield. Of their Opening Day starters, Jordan Schafer holds the highest OBP at .322. His .301 SLG and .209 BA make his low OBP look even worse. After a hot start Jeff Francoeur has stumbled, and now posts a paltry .629 OPS. Garrett Anderson and his .300 OBP and .322 SLG have been sitting more in favor of Matt Diaz, whose numbers have been more than acceptable in his 93 plate appearances. Still, the Braves could use someone else to shore up the outfield. They could look to a trade, but they might as well scour the free agent market first.

The crop of free agent outfielders have a common problem: lack of mobility. The Braves already have Anderson, so adding another no-glove outfielder who is also a gamble with the bat makes little sense. Maybe Jay Payton could help, but he didn't exactly post sterling statistics as a 35-year-old in 2008. In fact, the Braves would probably be better off just sticking with Diaz-Schafer-Francoeur than signing someone like Payton.

One name on the list sticks out: Jim Edmonds. Yes, he's 39, so his range is going to be limited. In fact, he posted a -14.1 UZR (-23.3 UZR/150) last year as a CF for the Padres and Cubs, so he might only be a help defensively at a corner. But if he can put up even 85 percent of his OPS with the Cubs last year, he'd be a definite upgrade over Francoeur at this point. He could make sense as a replacement if the Braves decide to bench or trade Frenchy.

Yet there is a name which does not appear on the official MLBTR list, and who might not only be willing to play, but would be a mobile outfielder who still has some skills left, even at 42 years old. Yes, that's Kenny Lofton. He's an outside the box pick, mainly because of his age and that he hasn't played in a game since 2007. Way back when the off-season started, Lofton expressed a desire to play in 2009. The downside is that Lofton doesn't just want to play: he wants to get paid. It's doubtful even the desperate Braves will pay Lofton the $6 million he made in '07, even if prorated.

Still, Lofton put up good defensive numbers in 2007 and had a .781 OPS to boot. But if we're talking about the 85 percent production as we did with Edmonds, it doesn't seem as attractive. Even so, he could represent an upgrade over Schafer in center, given his defense and what we'll assume will be league-average offense for a center fielder.

The question facing the Braves right now is of whether checking out these two free agents is more attractive than dealing prospects for outfield replacements. They're in a decent spot with their pitching, and that could become even stronger if Tommy Hanson jumps out of the gate and/or Tim Hudson comes back. With the Mets battling injuries and pitching issues of their own, and with the Phillies doing much the same (more on the pitching front than injuries), the Braves are certainly in the NL East race. They'll certainly look to upgrade in the outfield. Will it be through some gambles on free agents? Or will they reach into their bag o' prospects and try to acquire a younger player?

Joe Pawlikowski is a writer for River Ave. Blues.


Odds And Ends: Tejada, Manny, White Sox

 A few links for Thursday night…

  • Good news for the Astros: The AP (via ESPN) reports that a federal prosecutor recommended that Miguel Tejada get probation, but no prison time for his involvement with PEDs.
  • MLB.com's Ken Gurnick passes along a memorable Manny Ramirez quote: "No more cricket. I'm not signing to play cricket. Well, I can be a free agent after this year, so we'll see. But don't ask me about cricket."
  • Scot Gregor of the Daily Herald writes that the White Sox need to make a deal for a center fielder who can bat leadoff. He thinks GM Kenny Williams is "probably close" to making a deal. Gregor doesn't like Jim Edmonds or Juan Pierre for the job, but he doesn't rule out Kenny Lofton.
  • This isn't a rumor, but MLB.com's Mark Sheldon has a quirky anecdote. Micah Owings and Norris Hopper hit home runs with the same bat today. I might be more surprised that Hopper hit one.
  • Ivan Rodriguez is looking forward to joining the Astros, according to this article in the Detroit Free Press.
  • Padres CEO Sandy Alderson says it was a huge mistake to let Joakim Soria slip away through the Rule 5 draft in this article by Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Rosenthal On Fielder, Buchholz, Edmonds

The latest from Ken Rosenthal

  • Rosenthal suggests the Brewers trade Prince Fielder for "premium pitching" and then sign Adam Dunn to replace him.  Which begs the question, why wouldn’t the team giving up this premium pitching just sign Dunn instead?
  • Despite signing John Smoltz, the Red Sox still are not willing to trade Clay Buchholz for Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  The Sox may be willing to move Michael Bowden or especially Daniel Bard for Salty.
  • The Yankees’ interest in Mike Cameron "seems to be waning."
  • Despite Jon Heyman’s report, the Phillies, Angels, and Brewers deny interest in Derek Lowe.  Rosenthal says the market for Oliver Perez is even worse.
  • Rosenthal suggests veterans such as Nomar Garciaparra, Frank Thomas, and Jim Edmonds could go the Kenny Lofton route.  Lofton, a capable player, sat out the 2008 season when his salary demands weren’t met.  As I mentioned yesterday, we’ll soon see which former stars are willing to play for a pittance (if you consider more than $500K a pittance).
  • The Orioles have Edmonds on the radar as a first base candidate.
  • Suitors for lefty reliever Dennys Reyes: the A’s, Mets, and Dodgers.  The Tigers and Rangers are also known to be on the lookout for a southpaw in the pen.


Odds and Ends: Teixeira, Hunsicker, Burrell

Links for Monday…


Rosenthal’s Latest: Tex, Furcal, Johnson, Lofton

Here’s a look at the latest from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

  • If they are to sign Mark Teixeira, the Angels would like to do it quickly.  However, it’s Scott Boras’ custom to let the market develop until late December or so.  It’s possible the Angels change gears on November 14th.  There are other big names to pursue, though none fit as perfectly as Tex.
  • Rosenthal’s worst case scenario for the Yankees: C.C. Sabathia goes to a West Coast team while A.J. Burnett re-signs with Toronto.  The Jays truly are in the mix for Burnett.  ESPN’s Keith Law says Burnett expects to receive multiple five-year offers.
  • The Orioles plan to make serious offers to Teixeira and Burnett.  Still, both are considered long shots for Baltimore.  Another note: the Orioles were one of the teams the Yankees outbid for Sergio Mitre.
  • The Dodgers are considered "a good bet" to re-sign Rafael Furcal.  The Giants have their eye on him if he hits the open market.
  • About ten teams have inquired on Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson.  We had a Cardinals rumor yesterday.
  • The Rangers figure to trade one or two of their catchers, with Gerald Laird a strong candidate to be traded.  The Red Sox and Marlins are looking for catching, though the Rangers are wary of Florida’s Scott Olsen.
  • Rosenthal wonders if Brandon Webb could leave the D’Backs after the 2010 season.
  • Kenny Lofton wants to play in 2009.

Rays Not Interested In Bonds

Just to hammer the point home, Barry Bonds‘ agent Jeff Borris told Ken Rosenthal today that Rays GM Andrew Friedman failed to respond to his text message.  The Rays would like to add a hitter, but they’ve never had serious interest in Bonds.  Borris believes his client has been "blackballed" by MLB.

Rosenthal says the Rays would only consider Gary Sheffield if the Tigers picked up the majority of his contract, understandably.  They’re not interested in Kenny Lofton or Jose Vidro.


Heyman’s Latest: Washburn, Cashman, Garcia, Lofton

SI.com’s Jon Heyman checks in with a new column.

  • Jarrod Washburn reportedly cleared waivers, though Heyman’s use of the word "reportedly" makes me think the statement came from one of the shaky reports floating about.  We’ll wait for definitive word on that one.
  • Heyman’s sources say the Yankees plan to offer a new contract to GM Brian Cashman after the season.  Hank Steinbrenner has apparently warmed to Cashman.  Additionally, "club higherups" expect Cashman will want to stay rather than jump to the Seattle job.
  • Heyman loves the Freddy Garcia acquisition; he wonders if Garcia will be motivated by Ozzie Guillen’s comments.  The White Sox weren’t interested; Guillen doesn’t think Garcia will be ready for the playoffs.  There’s a chance Garcia could return to the Tigers in ’09.
  • Heyman says it was a 2-2 vote whether to keep Manny Ramirez in Boston – Theo Epstein and Tom Werner advocating a trade, and Larry Lucchino and John Henry preferring to keep him.  Henry changed his mind and the deal was made.  Lucchino recently denied Heyman’s speculation that he might leave after the season.
  • The Rays made an offer to Kenny Lofton in spring and even gave Barry Bonds consideration.  But now a signing of either is "highly unlikely."  Giants GM Brian Sabean thinks the Rays should sign Bonds.
  • Heyman continues to speculate that Jim Bowden could be fired.
  • One GM expects the Padres to pick up Brian Giles‘ $9MM option for ’09.  It’s an easy decision since it has a $3MM buyout.  However, Peter Gammons says it will be declined.

Odds and Ends: Ibanez, Dunn, Blake, Stewart

Let’s kick off the morning with some random links.


Rosenthal’s Latest: Teixeira, Yankees, Padres, Fish

And now, the latest from Ken Rosenthal’s Full Count video:
  • If the Braves decide to shop Mark Teixeira, they may have a tough time getting as much as they’d like. The Red Sox, Angels, and Diamondbacks – among other contenders – are set at 1B/DH with David Ortiz, Casey Kotchman, and Conor Jackson respectively. Rosenthal notes Boston will only pursue Teixeira if Ortiz’s wrist fails to heal.
  • Brian Cashman isn’t sure whether the Yankees are buyers or sellers.  Most of their high paid players have no-trade clauses.  Should they want to buy, Rosenthal suggests A.J. Burnett is a guy they could make a play for: an underperformer with a contract the Blue Jays would be happy to pass off.
  • The Padres are planning to hold onto Brian Giles with the anticipation that a better replacement will not be available this winter. They continue to shop Randy Wolf, who can veto up to 14 clubs, and Greg Maddux to the Cubs continues to be bandied about.
  • The Marlins need help in the bullpen, at catcher, and particularly centerfield. They could pursue Willy Taveras, Scott Podsednik, or potentially free agent Kenny Lofton, 41, who has generated interest but not signed anywhere.

Stark’s Latest: Holliday, Lofton, Hudson, Greinke

Time to delve into Jayson Stark’s latest column for ESPN.

  • The Rockies are 9.5 games out, and if they slip further over the next month they may trade Matt Holliday or Garrett Atkins (not both).  If so, they’d be flexible on the number and ages of the players they’d want in return.  Aaron Cook will not be traded.
  • Stark talked to one team official who speculated the Pirates could keep their outfield intact in the name of a run at .500.  Presumably they’d be doing this for the fans, but diehards would probably prefer a sweet bounty of young players and a better ’09 draft pick.
  • As we’ve discussed here, the Mariners don’t have much to trade.  Raul Ibanez has decent value, but Erik Bedard will probably stay put unless a new GM is installed.    
  • The White Sox "made the most serious run yet" at Kenny Lofton, but he they balked at his $2.5-3MM asking price.  Kenny…c’mon.  We want to see you in baseball this year.
  • Orlando Hudson might’ve signed below-market to play in New York, but the Mets signed Luis Castillo through 2011.  How about the other New York team, in the event of a Robinson Cano trade?
  • One AL exec believes the Royals would be best served to trade Zack Greinke now, and get an influx of even younger talent.