Michael Saunders Rumors
Players with at least two years and 139 days of service time will be eligible for the potentially lucrative arbitration process this offseason, according to the Associated Press (via FOXNews.com). The top 22% of players with between two and three years of MLB service qualify for arbitration under baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement.
Nationals reliever Drew Storen, Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Mets catcher Josh Thole, Rays outfielder Sam Fuld, Rockies outfielder Tyler Colvin and Diamondbacks third baseman Chris Johnson are all eligible.
Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders missed the cutoff by one day. Others, including Justin Smoak, Danny Valencia, Michael Brantley, Jordan Schafer, Giancarlo Stanton, Stephen Strasburg, Daniel Hudson, Dan Runzler, Andrew Cashner, Alex Burnett, Esmil Rogers and Alexi Ogando, came close to super two status without reaching the threshold.
Super two status entitles certain players to four years of arbitration eligibility, rather than the usual three. As a result, players who earn the super two designation generally earn more than their peers. The cutoff would have been two years and 144 days under baseball’s previous collective bargaining agreement, according to the AP. In previous years the top 17% of players with between two and three years of MLB service qualified. The players and owners agreed to a new system last fall.
The Mariners cashed in their biggest chip yesterday, dealing Cliff Lee to the Rangers for Justin Smoak and three prospects. With the team currently 34-52 and 16 games back in the division, it's reasonable to expect GM Jack Zduriencik to continue making moves geared more towards contending in 2011 than righting the ship in 2010.
Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times points out that with Smoak set to man first on an every day basis, the Mariners now have three players (Milton Bradley, Russell Branyan, and Michael Saunders) for two roster spots (left field, designated hitter). Bradley's sore knee buys them some time, and Saunders could also be optioned to Triple-A, but flipping Branyan to a contender looking for some pop is very possible.
Saunders was almost sent to Philadelphia in last winter's Lee deal before the Phillies' requested Tyson Gillies instead, and Baker says the Zduriencik regime "hasn't exactly been in love" with holdover prospects from the Bill Bavasi era. Saunders could again find himself on the chopping block.
Backup first baseman Casey Kotchman could go at any time, though it's tough to believe there will be much trade interest in his .208/.292/.344 batting line, regardless of how good his defense is. The same could be said of the currently injured Mike Sweeney, though he was hitting a tolerable .263/.327/.475 before his back flared up.
Jose Lopez is very much available, but Baker doesn't think either Brandon League or David Aardsma will be dealt. Both are under team control for the next two seasons, so the Mariners aren't feeling pressure to move them immediately.
The Lee trade basically represented the white flag, but the Mariners don't have much left to trade away beyond Lopez, some relievers, and possibly Branyan. More than anything, they need to start getting better production out of Chone Figgins (.235/.334/.277) and Bradley (.211/.295/.368) while Jason Vargas (3.09 ERA) and Doug Fister (also a 3.09 ERA) continue to establish themselves as viable starters behind Felix Hernandez.
Thursday night linkage..
- Indians catching prospect Carlos Santana is making major strides behind the plate, writes The Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises.
- Boston GM Theo Epstein doesn't believe that personnel changes in May can make much of an impact, writes Scott Lauber of The Boston Herald.
- Astros outfielder Carlos Lee says that he may retire following the 2012 season, writes Bernardo Fallas of The Houston Chronicle. Lee is due to make $18.5MM in each of the next three seasons.
- The Mariners have promoted Michael Saunders after placing Milton Bradley on the restricted list, tweets Shannon Drayer of ESPN Radio Seattle.
- Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com spoke to Scott Podsednik, who said that he wasn't surprised that the White Sox didn't come up with an offer strong enough to keep him. After months of negotiation, Scotty Pods signed a one-year, $1.75MM deal with Kansas City, which included a 2011 club option.
Seattle's lineup has struggled through April, managing just a .241/.314/.349 team line entering Monday's game with Kansas City and hitting an AL-low nine home runs. While Chone Figgins and Jose Lopez have gotten off to slow starts, the designated hitter spot has been a particular trouble spot. There has been little production from the veteran platoon of Ken Griffey Jr. (.519 OPS) and Mike Sweeney (.349 OPS).
Larry LaRue of The Tacoma News Tribune points out, however, that while the Mariners could release Sweeney (due to make just $650K in 2010) or bench Griffey (releasing a franchise icon like the Kid is probably not an option for the M's), there aren't any obvious options to fill their shoes in the lineup. Milton Bradley could see some time at DH since his injury history makes him an unlikely candidate to spend a full year playing in the field, but as LaRue notes, moving Bradley then just leaves a hole in Seattle's outfield.
Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik is certainly not adverse to making big moves to help his club, but LaRue thinks it will be until at least June before the M's can "find a team willing to admit it's given up on 2010" and talk trade. The June deadline seems like a bit of a stretch given that teams will always be looking to shed a big bat with a big contract if the offer is right, though LaRue doesn't think Seattle has the pitching prospects to net such a player.
One name that LaRue doesn't mention is Michael Saunders. The outfielder hit just .221/.258/.279 in 129 major league plate appearances last season, but he posted a .922 OPS in 282 plate appearances at Triple-A Tacoma in 2009. Saunders was sent to the minors during spring training since the Mariners wanted him to play every day, and has just a .385 OPS thus far for Tacoma. Should Saunders turn things around at the plate and earn a call-up, though, his good glove should provide defensive value in left field in Seattle and provide cover to move Bradley to DH.
Another minor league option is first baseman Mike Carp. LaRue dismissed him due to his low average at Tacoma thus far, but Carp is still slugging .484 for the Rainiers and has put up good on-base and power numbers in his last two minor league campaigns (not to mention a .878 OPS in a 65 PA cup of coffee with Seattle last year).
And, of course, Griffey and Sweeney could still turn things around given that there's a lot of baseball left to be played this season. While the DH spot may be a problem for the M's in the short-term, things haven't quite reached Jose Vidro-esque critical mass.
We've completed the National League, so now it's time to jump over to the so-called junior circuit...
- Angels: They moved three pretty good young players to get Scott Kazmir last season, so they might prefer to hold onto the rest of their top prospects. Their best chip is someone you may not have heard of, out of options catcher Bobby Wilson. He's on the 25-man roster but has barely played as the third stringer, yet how many teams would love to have a 27-year old catcher with a very good defensive rep, a .290/.345/.425 batting line in 820 Triple-A plate appearances, and six years of team control left? Pretty much all of them. He'll never clear waivers if the Halos try to send him back to the minors.
- Athletics: Oakland has plenty of young pitching, but Billy Beane likes to hang on to those kind of guys, and for good reason. With ten infielders on the 40-man roster, someone like Jake Fox or Eric Patterson could be moved, as could outfielders Travis Buck or Gabe Gross since Michael Taylor is coming fast. Plus there's always Ben Sheets.
- Mariners: Jack Zduriencik surrendered a good amount of prospect depth this offseason by acquiring Cliff Lee, but no one will argue with that move. Dustin Ackley, the second overall pick in 2009, will make Jose Lopez expendable in short order, and they could choose to make one of two minor league outfielders - Michael Saunders or Greg Halman - available. Seattle's best trade chip might be their potential ability to absorb some money.
- Rangers: Texas is absolutely loaded with young players, so they have plenty of pieces to offer. They can move Chris Davis because Justin Smoak is knocking on the door, or they could move Derek Holland because Martin Perez isn't too far away. They dangled Max Ramirez this winter, and outfielder David Murphy is about to get expensive through arbitration, so he could find himself on the block. Bottom line: the Rangers have the pieces to go out and get anything they need or want.
Just because it's Christmas Eve doesn't mean the hot stove is taking a holiday. Let's check out some links....
- Washington's signing of Matt Capps takes one more option off the table for the Chicago Cubs, writes Dave van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune.
- Within today's blog entry, ESPN.com's Buster Olney notes that none of the remaining teams in need of a closer (Florida, Pittsburgh, and Detroit) have the payroll flexibility to spend $8-10MM on Jose Valverde. Valverde will probably have to settle for significantly less money than he is asking for, and could potentially even be forced into a setup role somewhere.
- David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News breaks down the options for the Phillies' bullpen.
- The longer Matt Holliday and Jason Bay remain unsigned, the more the rest of the league is asking the Red Sox and Yankees to swoop in, according to Yahoo's Jeff Passan. Sam Borden at LoHud.com understands that logic, but is skeptical about the conclusion.
- Amidst talk that the Pirates are engaged in discussions with Kevin Gregg and Octavio Dotel, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wonders if Joel Hanrahan could be the answer as the team's closer.
- If you want a full summary of the road to the Roy Halladay trade, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun has you covered. Elliott offers an extended look at the rumors that led to the deal, and the trade's aftermath. Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times breaks down the most interesting piece of info from Elliott's account, involving Mariners prospect Michael Saunders.
- Rob Neyer of ESPN.com isn't a big fan of the Angels' offseason so far, and questions whether the team even has room to make additional moves.
12:45am: Jason Churchill of Prospect Insider has had this info for quite a while today - the Phillies will get Aumont, Gillies, and righty Juan Ramirez from Seattle.
11:33pm: Rosenthal reports that the Phillies get $6MM from the Jays. Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor and probably Travis D'Arnaud are headed to Toronto, Rosenthal says. Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and a third player are apparently headed to Philadelphia.
10:12pm: Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun (via Twitter) has Toronto getting Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, and Travis D'Arnaud; Philly getting Roy Halladay and Phillippe Aumont; and the Mariners getting Cliff Lee, plus another piece (or, pieces).
9:46pm: One Mariner prospect headed to Philly would be 21-year-old outfielder Tyson Gillies, writes Stark in his latest update.
9:25pm: As the deal stands now, M's prospects would only be going to Philadelphia, not Toronto, sources tell Todd Zolecki of MLB.com (via Twitter).
9:15pm: After going through several incarnations over the last 48 hours, the latest version of the deal has outfielder Michael Taylor, catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud, and a pitcher - either J.A. Happ or Kyle Drabek - going to Toronto, writes Stark in his latest update.
Under this scenario, the Phillies would get to hang on to Domonic Brown and would recieve Phillippe Aumont.
8:26pm: Check that. Aumont is in the deal, but heading to the Phillies rather than the Jays, says Elliott (via Twitter).
7:51pm: Elliott says (via Twitter) that Drabek is in the deal, but Aumont is not.
7:11pm: M's shortstop prospect Carlos Triunfel could be in the deal in place of Saunders, tweets Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.
7:04pm: Drabek and "other top [Phillies] prospects" will be involved in the deal, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com (via Twitter). According to Salisbury, Brown will remain with the club.
6:55pm: J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton took physicals and could be a part of the deal, writes Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press. Domonic Brown also took a physical today, who is said to be coveted by the Jays.
6:46pm: "People" tell Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun that Aumont is not a part of the deal (via Twitter).
6:18pm: An interesting update to Jayson Stark's article. Prior to turning to the M's, the Phillies first attempted to complete a two-team deal with Toronto alone for Halladay. However, when Philly refused to include their top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek - as they did last summer - they got Seattle involved.
The Phillies also tried to move Joe Blanton in an effort to make space on the payroll for Doc - but couldn't get enough back to allow them to make a Halladay deal. Stark also adds that the team did no actual negotiating with Lee on an extension but had heard that he was seeking a C.C. Sabathia-type contract. This was apparently enough to put a scare into Ruben Amaro Jr. & Co.
5:20pm: Jon Heyman (via Twitter) hears that Morrow may not be leaving Seattle after all. He also hears that Aumont is likely involved the trade and "perhaps" Saunders as well.
5:00pm: ESPN's Jayson Stark heard this deal is close but not done. He says Halladay's extension would be just three years and $60MM (starting in 2011), with possible vesting options for another year or two. Aside from Aumont, the M's would also give up two others in the deal. The Jays would get Phils catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud and Domonic Brown or Michael Taylor plus one other player. The Blue Jays prefer Brown.
3:56pm: Rosenthal and Morosi write that pitcher Phillippe Aumont of the Mariners and "possibly" outfielder Michael Taylor of the Phillies are among the players heading to Toronto in the trade. They add that outfielder Michael Saunders and pitcher Brandon Morrow are "in play." The FOX duo confirms an agreement is in place to send Halladay to the Phillies and Lee to the Mariners. MLB.com's Jordan Bastian sees an official announcement Wednesday at the earliest.
3:17pm: In an article, Heyman notes that Halladay's extension "is expected to be a formality" (though it may not be done today). Heyman appears certain that an agreement has been reached on a Phillies/Jays/Mariners deal that will net the Phils Halladay. Lee's agent Darek Braunecker hasn't heard anything, tweets Tyler Kepner of the New York Times.
2:56pm: Heyman tweets that a three-way deal has been agreed to with Halladay going to the Phillies and Lee to the Mariners. The Phillies are now trying to sign Halladay to an extension. However, in a subsequent tweet, Heyman apologizes for a quick trigger finger and says that while the Ms are confirmed as the third team he is checking to verify they'll get Lee. And MLB.com's Noah Coslov has no confirmed deal from Lee or the Ms.
2:36pm: Morosi tweets that MLB hasn't granted the Phils permission to negotiate with Halladay yet, but a deal "looks close."
1:49pm: CSN's Jim Salisbury reports today that the Phillies are "actively talking" about a contract extension with Roy Halladay's agent, according to two baseball sources. One of those sources told Salisbury Doc is likely to take a physical with the Phillies this week. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Andy Martino adds that Halladay and his agent have checked into a Philadelphia-area hotel.
What's more, Salisbury writes of "indications that pitcher Cliff Lee could be traded." SI's Jon Heyman wrote today that Lee would take no discount to sign an extension. Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports write that "a three-team blockbuster that would send Halladay to the Phillies and Lee to another club is under discussion." They add that the Mariners have "contemplated dealing for Lee in recent days," but a straight Phillies-Jays trade is also possible. The writers say these complex talks involve the Phils receiving money to put toward Halladay's $15.75MM salary next year.
Questions: would Halladay command a C.C. Sabathia contract, even though he'll be 33 in May? (The New York Post's Joel Sherman suggests Halladay would take less to play for the Phillies). And which teams could match up for Lee aside from the Mariners? The Angels, Dodgers, Brewers, Rangers, Rays, and Red Sox were linked to Lee in July trade talks, but things have changed since then.