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Rookie outfielder Mike Trout hit his 30th home run in the opener of the Angels-Rangers doubleheader this afternoon to become the youngest player in MLB history to slug 30 homers and steal 30 bases and the first rookie with a season of 30 homers and 40 steals. Trout is also the first player in MLB history to record 30 home runs, 45 steals, and 125 runs scored in a single season (h/t ESPN, via Twitter). Trout swiped his 48th base in that game and is now just two stolen bases away from joining Barry Bonds and Eric Davis as the only 30/50 players in baseball history. Today's historic performance further fuels the AL MVP debate between Trout and Miguel Cabrera, a debate chronicled by Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Elsewhere on the Junior Circuit:
- White Sox manager Robin Ventura had to clarify comments he made about his future yesterday, reports CSNChicago.com's Dan Hayes. Ventura said he was only making a joke when he said he just wanted to get through this season. "I plan on being here for two more years, yes,” Ventura said. “Unless they don’t want me to be here.”
- If the White Sox opt for the $4MM buyout of Jake Peavy's contract rather than exercise the $22MM 2013 option, the right-hander may act as his own agent, reports Toni Ginnetti of the Chicago Sun-Times. Barry Axelrod, Peavy's longtime agent, is no longer able to represent him because Axelrod will be taking a position in the Diamondbacks' front office. For his part, Peavy says he wants to remain with the White Sox, "I love Chicago and this team. I hope we'll be able to work something out."
- The Twins will have to work something out with pitcher Scott Baker, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery. The club has a $9.25MM team option for 2013 and it seems highly unlikely they'd exercise that and make Baker the team's highest-paid pitcher coming off surgery, writes 1500ESPN.com Phil Mackey. GM Terry Ryan wouldn't say much about Baker's status other than, "If you think he's going to be able to contribute in 2013, the answer is yes (we do have interest)."
- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has a feeling some of his coaching staff won't be back after the team's second consecutive 90-loss season, according to MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger and Jordan Garretson. "I have all the faith that they can do the job, but some of these things aren't going to be left up to me, it's going to be left to ownership and [general manager] Terry [Ryan]," Gardenhire said. "If he thinks change is needed, he's going to talk to the owners and we'll go from there."
- Within the same piece, Bollinger and Garretson confirmed Gardenhire hadn't spoken to Joe Mauer about moving to third base. Gardenhire said he has considered playing Mauer some at third when asked about the possibility during a conference call with season-ticket holders on Thursday.
- The Blue Jays' Darren Oliver is undecided if he will continue playing in 2013, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Oliver says the main deciding factor will be "my two kids and my wife." The Blue Jays hold a $3MM club option on the left-hander, who has posted a 1.78 ERA, 8.4 K/9, and 2.3 BB/9 in 60 relief appearances this year covering nearly 56 innings.
- The Rays ultimately may be known more for not providing enough support to take advantage of one of the best overall pitching performances in recent times; but, there has been a lot accomplished, writes Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin who recounts the good, bad and interesting.
- Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com has obtained an assessment of the Red Sox’s top 20 prospects by pro scouts for another big-league team. The young talent will be needed as Boston lost 90 games for the first time since 1966 after being swept by the Orioles today.
- The Yankees, Rangers and Orioles each clinched a playoff spot on Sunday evening thanks to a Mike Napoli-led Texas victory over the Angels. All three teams remain in the hunt for division titles, but three more regular season games must be played this week before final seeding can be determined. For the Orioles, the return to the playoffs comes after a lengthy absence as Baltimore's last postseason appearance came in 1997.
Daniel Seco contributed to this post.
Every AL Central team except the Royals has won the division at least once since 2007. Here are the latest AL Central links as the Tigers look to win back-to-back division titles for the first time since they won the 1934-35 pennants…
- The Indians are hoping for modest production from Travis Hafner in 2012, which will probably be his final season with the Indians, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. "If Travis can be a productive major-league hitter this year, we'll be happy," GM Chris Antonetti said.
- Justin Verlander and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports discussed the right-hander's newfound celebrity in a piece that's well worth reading. Verlander makes it clear that he loves Detroit, but admitted he’s thought about what playing in a bigger market would be like. “It would be fun, but hopefully I help turn Detroit into a major market,” Verlander said. “Other teams are major markets not just because of their fan base but because of the national fan base.”
- No talks about a new contract for Verlander have taken place, but he’s “open for conversation” with the Tigers. Verlander, who’s under team control through 2014, is intrigued by free agency.
- In this FOX Sports video, Morosi said the Tigers are realistic about Miguel Cabrera's limitations as a defender at third base, and seem committed to making the arrangement work.
- Tigers manager Jim Leyland recently joined Evan & Phillips on Sirius XM Radio and said he's willing to accept that Cabrera won't get to as many balls as Brandon Inge might.
As ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark points out, the NL Central will look considerably different in 2012, now that Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa have moved on. Ryan Braun could miss 50 games with a suspension that would make the division even less recognizable. Here are Stark’s latest notes and rumors:
- Scouts and executives doubt Miguel Cabrera will be able to play third base with much skill in 2012.
- One AL executive suggests the Tigers would have to eat a lot of money to trade Victor Martinez next offseason. Insurance will likely cover approximately half of the switch hitter’s 2012 salary of $13MM, Stark writes.
- Stark hears that the Phillies have sent signals that they might make Joe Blanton available this spring.
- Jason Bartlett has been available this winter and the Red Sox could pursue him, Stark writes. However, the shortstop will earn $5.5MM in 2012 and the Red Sox aim to stay below the luxury tax threshold.
- Scott Kazmir intends to pitch in 2012, but his fastball velocity is in the 84-85 mph range. The 28-year-old appeared in one game for the Angels last year and they released him after a rough stretch at Triple-A.
- There’s every indication that the commissioner’s office will discipline Juan Carlos Oviedo/Leo Nunez and Roberto (Heredia) Hernandez/Fausto Carmona for using false identities.
- Though many have told Bud Selig that adding a second Wild Card team to each league this year will create scheduling issues, the commissioner seems intent on expanding the playoffs in 2012, and Stark expects him to get his wish.
The Indians made a trade today, acquiring 2011 International League MVP Russ Canzler from the Rays. It wouldn't be surprising to see Cleveland add another hitter before Opening Day, but their division rivals appear to have completed most of their offseason shopping at this point. Here's the latest from the AL Central…
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski ruled out the possibility of playing Miguel Cabrera in left field, according to James Schmehl of MLive.com.
- White Sox starter Gavin Floyd joined Jim Memolo and Jeff Nelson on MLB Network Radio and said he's been kept in the dark about the trade rumors surrounding him this offseason and that he knows it's out of his control.
- GM Dayton Moore told Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star that he'll consider ways of upgrading the Royals if they're in the pennant race midseason. For now, Kansas City is likely done adding major pieces.
Miguel Cabrera, Alex Avila and Victor Martinez collected MVP votes this year, but none topped the winner of the award, Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander. Here are some updates on the Tigers' top players…
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that the Tigers aren’t considering moving Cabrera to third base in 2012, though they may consider playing him at the hot corner during interleague play. Doing so would enable the Tigers to keep Martinez in the lineup without subjecting him to the grind of catching (he'd play first).
- Morosi also credits Cabrera for putting together an MVP-caliber season after being arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated during Spring Training.
- One veteran baseball executive told Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com that Verlander would be positioned for a deal worth at least $25MM per season if he were a free agent right now. Before the 2010 season, Verlander signed a five-year, $80MM extension that provided the Tigers with three additional years of team control. If he hadn’t signed the deal Verlander would be one of the offseason’s top free agents and might be positioned to eclipse C.C. Sabathia's record $161MM contract (no starting pitcher has obtained more guaranteed money).
In extending Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki through the year 2020, the Brewers and Rockies made bold commitments to their young stars by adding multiyear extensions on top of pre-existing contracts that already covered both men through 2015 and 2014, respectively.
Are these deals risky? Absolutely, but the contracts represent the latest step in how clubs attempt to lock up their young stars. It isn't enough to just gain cost-certainty on a player through his arbitration and first few free agent years. If a team feels they have a true franchise player, it won't hesitate to sign that player to what essentially could be a lifetime contract in order to (hopefully) avoid spending even more money to re-sign that player or a comparable star as a free agent.
Should other clubs look to explore this tactic of extending an extension, here are some of the possible candidates to join Braun and Tulowitzki in the "2020" club.
- Evan Longoria. We start off with the man with arguably the most team-friendly extension in baseball history. Longoria's six-year, $17.5MM contract signed in April 2008 contains three team option years (worth $7.5MM, $11MM and $11.5MM, respectively) that could keep him in Tampa Bay through 2016, his age-29 season. As MLBTR's Mike Axisa pointed out over the winter, however, the Rays' uncertain financial situation makes it unlikely that they would make an even longer commitment to Longoria than they already have.
- Robinson Cano. Cano signed a four-year, $30MM extension before the 2008 season that also includes team option years for 2012 ($14MM) and 2013 ($15MM). New York will obviously keep Cano in the fold through his age-30 season by picking up those two options, unless those years get replaced by a longer-term contract. Cano hired Scott Boras as his agent in February and while Cano said he isn't planning to ask for an extension before his current deal expires, the second baseman is clearly already thinking ahead.
- Justin Upton. The first overall pick of the already-legendary 2005 draft is signed through 2015 on a six-year, $51.25MM extension that will run out when he's 28 years old and right in the middle of his prime years. The Diamondbacks explored a few deals for Upton over the winter and set off a flurry of speculation, but it appears as if GM Kevin Towers was simply doing his due diligence to see if another team would go overboard with a trade offer. Upton had a slightly disappointing (.799 OPS) 2010 season, so Arizona might wait for at least one more superstar campaign from their young star to make sure he's worth the risk of another multiyear extension.
- Hanley Ramirez. It seems odd to think of the Marlins doling out any major extensions, let alone two to the same player. With the team moving into its new Miami ballpark next year, though, the extra revenue could make another multiyear deal for Ramirez into a reality — not to mention generating some goodwill amongst Marlins fans to get them to spring for season tickets. Ramirez is under contract through 2014 on a six-year, $70MM deal and 2015 will be his age-31 season. If Florida did explore an extension for Ramirez, they would surely have to factor in a move away from shortstop, since his defensive woes (a career -9.4 UZR/150) are likely to worsen as he ages.
- Ryan Zimmerman. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently outlined how the Nationals' previous extension with Zimmerman — a five-year, $45MM pact that runs through 2013 — was a terrific bargain for the club. Given Zimmerman's production, age (he'll be 29 when his deal runs out) and Washington's willingness to spend, Zimmerman is probably the most likely player on this list to receive a Braun/Tulowitzki-esque deal.
- Joey Votto. The Reds took the first step towards locking up the reigning NL MVP when they signed Votto to a three-year, $38MM pact that covered the first baseman's arbitration years. Votto is still on pace to hit free agency as a 30-year-old in his prime, and as one agent put it, "the Reds took on all the risk" with this initial deal. Cincinnati has put itself in position to contend over the next few seasons, so that will theoretically take care of the Great American Ballpark's attendance problems and make it possible for the team to get Votto signed to an even longer-term contract.
- Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera signed an eight-year, $152.3MM extension with the Tigers before the 2008 season. He'll turn 33 in 2016, and that advanced age plus his off-the-field issues make him an unlikely extension candidate. Detroit has the money and Cabrera has put up Cooperstown-worthy numbers throughout his career, but there just may be too much risk involved for the Tigers to commit more money to the slugger.
Here are some items of note for Friday night, including an interesting question posed by Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com on the Mets' and Dodgers' messy financial situations:
- Giants outfielder Aaron Rowand will be under a lot of scrutiny this spring, writes Chris Haft of MLB.com, as he looks to be the odd man out in San Francisco's crowded outfield. It won't be easy to flip him though, Haft notes, because two years and $24MM remain on his contract, and he's coming off a down year in 2010. If the Giants do move Rowand, according to Haft, their trade partner will probably ask them to eat some salary or take on a similar financial commitment in return.
- Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera made his on-field debut at Spring Training on Friday, writes Jason Beck of MLB.com. His arrival, of course, was delayed by last week's arrest for allegedly driving under the influence and resisting arrest. Cabrera is facing the proverbial two-strike count with respect to his off-field travails, writes Steve Henson of Yahoo! Sports: If Cabrera slips up again, he will likely face serious repercussions from Major League Baseball.
- Orioles right-hander Alfredo Simon is no longer facing a civil suit after he was a suspect in a fatal shooting in his native Dominican Republic on New Year's Eve, but, per a Santo Domingo prosecutor, an investigation is ongoing and Simon has been denied bail, according to the Baltimore Sun. Prosecutors have till April 9 to file formal charges that could lead to a trial.
- The Mets' $25MM loan from MLB may be the most damning indication of their financial woes, says Rosenthal in an audio clip. Rosenthal also finds it curious that MLB loaned the cash to the Mets but denied the Dodgers' request to borrow $200MM from FOX, as was reported by Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. "It's a simple question of fairness," says Rosenthal.
In the aftermath of Miguel Cabrera's DUI arrest late Wednesday night, his second alcohol-related arrest in the last 17 months, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told ESPN's Jayson Stark (on Twitter) that "right now there's no language that can void [his contract], and we're not trying to do that." Two days ago we heard that some executives believed Detroit would try to make the contract non-guaranteed as a result of the incident.
Cabrera, 28 in April, signed an eight-year, $152.3MM contract extension before the 2008 season, not long after the trade that brought him to Detroit and before he ever played an official game for them. There are still five years and $106MM left on the deal, between $20MM and $22MM annually through 2015. It was the fifth richest contract in baseball history at the time it was signed.
Despite his off-the-field troubles, Cabrera is one of the game's premier sluggers, hitting .328/.420/.622 with career highs in doubles (45) and homers (38) last season. He's hit .317/.392/.558 in his seven full seasons, and his 247 homers before age 28 are the 12th most all-time.
Dombrowski told Tom Gage of The Detroit News and SI.com's Jon Heyman that he'd be surprised if MLB sanctioned Cabrera in any way, though his star first baseman will miss the start of camp to be evaluated by doctors (Twitter links). The absence is not expected to spill over into the regular season.
Here are a few items of note for Feb. 17, the day on which Wally Pipp was born 118 years ago.
- The Orioles will hold a press conference for Vladimir Guerrero on Friday, tweets Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com, so it's safe to assume that he passed his physical earlier this week and that his one-year deal is now official.
- The Cardinals at some point offered Albert Pujols a nine-year contract extension worth more than $200MM, tweets Jon Heyman of SI.com. To this point, the value of St. Louis' offer has been consistently around the $200MM range, but the length has been less clear.
- Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, arrested in Florida late Wednesday night and charged with DUI and resisting arrest, will not likely face jail time, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com, who spoke to a "leading criminal defense attorney." Whether Cabrera will enter a treatment program at this time remains unclear, Morosi notes.
Some thoughts and details on contracts around the game…
- Some executives in baseball wonder if the Tigers will try to make Miguel Cabrera's contract non-guaranteed, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Twitter links). The first baseman, who was arrested and charged with driving under the influence last night, has five years and $106MM remaining on his long-term deal with the Tigers. The Mets unsuccessfully attempted to convert Francisco Rodriguez's contract into a non-guaranteed deal after his legal trouble in 2010.
- Pedro Feliz can opt out of his deal and become a free agent if he isn't on the Royals' Opening Day roster, according to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. Alternatively, he can go to the minors for $75K.
- Russell Branyan has a similar clause in his deal with the Diamondbacks, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link).