Michael Wuertz Rumors

Heyman On Astros, Adams, Matsui, Yankees

Incoming Astros owner Jim Crane has ordered a decrease in payroll from $76MM to $60MM, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com. Here’s the latest on Houston’s deadline plans and other notes from around MLB:

Olney On The Bullpen Market

Teams like the Yankees and White Sox are already encountering bullpen problems and it won’t be long before other clubs are looking for relief help as well. The Yankees aren’t optimistic about the current relief market, while Chicago’s search for an effective closer has manager Ozzie Guillen dreaming of Bobby Thigpen. As one GM points out to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, lots of teams will be looking for bullpen help this summer and lots of effective pitchers should eventually become available.

Unless Heath Bell takes a massive discount to stay in San Diego, Olney suggests the Padres will deal him. The White Sox should be considered the early favorites to land Bell, Olney says.

Jonathan Broxton, Francisco Rodriguez and the Blue Jays and Rays relievers could also become available this summer. Jose Valverde will probably stay in Detroit unless the Tigers fall far out of the race, but Michael Wuertz (now on the disabled list) could be on the block even if Oakland contends.

Mike Adams & Michael Wuertz

Mike Adams was never going to match the 0.73 ERA he posted for the Padres in 2009, but his 2010 season hasn't been bad at all. In a career high 63 appearances, Adams has a 1.79 ERA and he's striking out more than a batter per inning. If the Padres choose to extend Adams this offseason, they could model a deal after one signed by another right-handed setup man who strikes out tons of batters without the benefit of an upper-nineties fastball.

When Michael Wuertz signed an extension with the A's last offseason, he had similar career numbers to the ones Adams has now. Adams has a lower ERA than Wuertz did and he walks fewer batters, but he hasn't pitched as much as Wuertz had. As the table below shows, Adams is now in a similar position to the one Wuertz found himself in a year ago.

Wuertz & Adams
Wuertz ultimately signed a two-year $5.25MM extension that covered his remaining two arbitration seasons. The Padres could look to buy out Adams' remaining two arbitration seasons for a similar amount this winter. Given the pitchers' remarkably similar rate stats, service time and salaries, a two-year deal worth $5MM or so would be fair value for both sides.

Red Sox Have Explored Trades For Many Relievers

FRIDAY, 1:03am: Theo Epstein has discussed multiple possible trades with former Red Sox assistant GM and current Padres GM Jed Hoyer, according to Peter Abraham and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Globe duo believes Boston could have interest in a reliever like Joe Thatcher, and, given the team's excess of outfielders when Jacoby Ellsbury returns, they may match up with San Diego.

THURSDAY, 12:59pm: Though they're on his no-trade list, the Red Sox asked the Brewers about Trevor Hoffman, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX SportsRosenthal adds that the Brewers are not inclined to move Hoffman.  Meanwhile they're getting calls on Carlos Villanueva and Todd Coffey.

12:05pm: The Red Sox are leaving no rock unturned in their search for relief help.  They've explored Rafael Perez, Will Ohman, Mike Gonzalez, Matt Capps, Michael Wuertz, Craig Breslow, Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood, David Aardsma, and Kyle Farnsworth, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.  Cafardo says Scott Downs looks unlikely unless the Blue Jays back down from their top prospect requests.  On a related note, SI's Jon Heyman tweets that the Jays asked the Mets for outfield prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis and one other player for Downs and were denied. 

Marshall is the interesting name here.  The 27-year-old lefty has had a dominant year in relief, posting a 1.71 ERA, 10.4 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9 in 52.6 innings with one home run allowed.  He's been especially strong against lefties.  Marshall is under team control through 2012 and would presumably be very difficult to pry loose from the Cubs.  Gonzalez is another surprising name, since he's spent most of the season on the shelf with a shoulder injury and is still owed good money.

Cafardo adds that the Red Sox have been shopping reliever Ramon Ramirez, and offers the opinion that a National League team might want to take a look at him.  Ramirez has a 4.57 ERA, 6.5 K/9, and 3.3 BB/9 in 41.3 innings with six home runs allowed and is a potential non-tender candidate after the season.

Stark On Phillies, Indians, Ross, Athletics

Today's rumblings from ESPN's Jayson Stark

  • Shane Victorino's oblique injury yesterday appears to close the door on a Jayson Werth trade.  MLB.com's Todd Zolecki seems to agree, but unlike Stark he feels that the Phils "remain a top contender" for Roy Oswalt.  More on Oswalt here.
  • Stark writes of indications the Phillies have turned to starters such as Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona and relief options like Octavio Dotel. Jon Heyman of SI.com notes that the Indians are talking trades with the Phils (Twitter link).
  • Speaking of the Indians, Stark senses they do want to move money off the books.
  • The Marlins have told teams they could deal Cody Ross in August if they fall out of contention, but they'd have to match up only with the team that wins the claim.
  • The Braves maintain strong interest in Josh Willingham, though there's a good chance they stand pat.  Willingham is just one of many Nationals veterans generating interest, GM Mike Rizzo told ESPN 980.
  • Athletics assistant GM David Forst told Stark "it would have to be an over-the-top deal for us to even consider it" in regard to trading relievers such as Michael Wuertz, Craig Breslow, and Brad Ziegler.

Red Sox Like Michael Wuertz

Athletics reliever Michael Wuertz is on Boston's wish list, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.  The 31-year-old righty has had an off-year while dealing with a shoulder injury, but he appears to be back to normal based on this Athletics Nation post by Dan Lependorf.

Wuertz comes with cost certainty, as he's signed at $2.8MM for 2011 and has a $3.25MM club option for '12.  He's known to be on the radar of the Tigers and Yankees as well.  However, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the A's won't trade Wuertz barring a knockout offer.

The Red Sox seem likely to acquire a reliever this month.  They've also been linked to Scott Downs, Craig Breslow, and Leo Nunez so far.

Contenders Scouting The Athletics

The Athletics' record stands at exactly .500 after 92 games, but they sit seven games back of the molten hot Rangers in the AL West. GM Billy Beane said he didn't anticipate being that active before the non-waiver trade deadline, but that hasn't stopped contending teams from checking out his roster for potential fits. 

Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle brings us the latest and greatest from the East Bay…

  • Ben Sheets is a potential target for both the Phillies and Twins, though the A's have no desire to move the righthander. He is still owed $4.3MM for the remainder of this season, and he is currently on pace to earn the full $2MM worth of incentives in his contract, which are based on innings pitched. $6.3MM total is pricey for a guy with a 6.66 ERA away from his home park.
  • Slusser says that Vin Mazzaro's emergence (3.50 ERA in 64.1 innings) could make Sheets expendable, ditto healthy returns by Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden.
  • Detroit scouted reliever Michael Wuertz this weekend, which is not the first time they've done so this season. They also have their eye on Craig Breslow. Slusser says Oakland might not want to sell low on Wuertz, who's gone from a 2.63 ERA and 11.67 K/9 last year to 5.30 and 6.75 this year, respectively.  

Odds & Ends: Nolasco, Wuertz, Vazquez, Workman

Some links for Friday, as the Cliff Lee drama unfolds…

  • Ricky Nolasco may become trade bait, according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro (via Twitter). The Marlins would listen to offers for the 27-year-old righty.
  • The Yankees have Orioles infielder Ty Wigginton and A’s reliever Michael Wuertz on their radar, according to George A. King III of the New York Post.
  • The Yankees aren't close to moving Javier Vazquez and could hold onto him until July 31st even if they acquire Lee, according to Newsday's Ken Davidoff (via Twitter).
  • Red Sox second rounder Brandon Workman and his advisor have given clear indications that the pitcher would not accept a deal for second-round money, according to Alex Speier of WEEI.com. Workman has turned down a six-figure bonus before and appears ready to re-enter the draft in 2011 if the Red Sox don't offer him the bonus he feels he deserves.
  • The Chiba Lotte Marines are closing in on a deal with Hayden Penn, a right-hander currently pitching in the Pirates' system, according to reports that Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker passes along.
  • The Marlins, Brewers, Orioles, Phillies, Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox watched Mark Prior pitch, according to Tom Krasovic of AOL FanHouse (Twitter link). The 29-year-old Prior is making a comeback.

Minnesota’s Trade Deadline Wish List

La Velle E. Neal of the Minneapolis Star Tribune examined the Twins' biggest needs (starting pitching, third base, bullpen) and threw out a few names that the current AL Central leaders are known to be looking at, or could potentially look at as the calendar turns to July.  Let's examine the likelihood of some of Neal's possibilities…

  • Roy Oswalt.  Thanks to Target Field, the Twins have raised their payroll to account for such big moves as Joe Mauer's extension.  Absorbing the rest of Oswalt's contract, however, could be a bit much for the club.  He is owed a little more than $9MM over the rest of this season, $16MM in 2011, and $16MM in 2012 with a club option for a $2MM buyout.  As noted over the weekend, Oswalt could demand that that option year be automatically picked up in any trade, making it an even bigger financial pill for the Twins to swallow.
  • Cliff Lee.  Neal notes that acquiring Lee will come at a hefty cost, given the two compensatory draft picks that the soon-to-be free agent could bring back in the winter.  Neal raises the possibility that Lee might be enough to entice Minnesota into swapping touted (and Mauer-blocked) prospect Wilson Ramos.
  • Rich Harden, Dan Haren, Ben Sheets.  Neal doesn't delve into detail about these three, probably because Harden and Sheets don't fit the profile of the "big workload" ace that Neal thinks the Twins need to complement Francisco Liriano.  Haren has a cleaner injury history than the other two, but he's struggled this year and is due to earn $25.5MM in 2011-12 (plus a $3.5MM buyout of his $15.5MM club option for 2013).
  • Mike Lowell.  We heard about Minnesota's interest in Lowell over the weekend, and how Twins management had obvious concerns about Lowell's health and his big salary.  Boston's catch-22 with Lowell seems to be that teams will want to know he's healthy before dealing for him, but the Red Sox can't find a way to showcase him without taking a hot player like Adrian Beltre, David Ortiz or Kevin Youkilis out of the lineup.
  • Michael Wuertz.  The Austin, Minnesota native was pursued by the Twins last summer, and we heard last week that the Twins were looking for bullpen help.  Neal points out that the Twins' bullpen is pitching well already and they have some good relievers in the minors, so Wuertz would strictly be a depth pick-up.  Also, if Oakland remains in the AL West hunt, the A's may not be willing to swap the right-hander.

Odds & Ends: Gaudin, Mets, Cain, Parra

Links for Sunday evening..