Mike Sweeney Rumors
August transactions don't boast the same excitement as their July counterparts, but they can still have ramifications for contenders and non-contenders alike. Teams readying for the postseason will often fine-tune their rosters by adding a specialty piece -- a LOOGY or power bat off the bench, for example -- and ones looking ahead to next year will look to shed payroll.
There's still a few days left before September arrives, and prominent players such as the Rays' B.J. Upton was claimed as recently as Friday. But in the meanwhile, here's a look back at some of the bigger names who were on the move -- whether by trade or waiver claim -- in August 2010, and the subsequent fallout (for the complete list, check out MLBTR's Transaction Tracker):
- Mike Sweeney, acquired by the Phillies from the Mariners on Aug. 4: Seattle sent the right-handed-hitting veteran and what remained of his $650K salary to Philly, where he hit .231/.310/.385 down the regular season's stretch and went 1-for-1 in his lone postseason at-bat. The M's later received cash from the Phils for Sweeney, who signed a one-day contract with the Royals in March and retired.
- Jim Edmonds, acquired by the Reds from the Brewers on Aug. 9: Cincinnati added Edmonds for its postseason push, sending Chris Dickerson back to Milwaukee in exchange. Edmonds didn't do much, hitting .207/.281/.586 in the regular season before being left off the Reds' postseason roster due to an Achilles injury. He retired this spring after signing a minor league deal with the Cards, while Dickerson was traded in March to the Yankees for Sergio Mitre.
- Mike Fontenot, acquired by the Giants from the Cubs on Aug. 11: The Lads scooped up Fontenot for infield depth during their run to the World Series in exchange for minor league outfielder Evan Crawford. Fontenot remains in San Francisco is under team control for through 2013, though he could be a non-tender candidate this offseason, as he was last.
- Derrek Lee, acquired by the Braves from the Cubs on Aug. 18: Lee joined Atlanta after his long tenure in Chicago, the Cubs acquiring three prospects in return. Lee was one of the better acquisitions of this period, posting a fine .287/.384/.465 line for the Braves to help them reach the postseason, though he went just 2-for-16 in their NLDS loss to the Giants. He signed with the Orioles before this season.
- Pedro Feliz, acquired by the Cardinals from the Astros on Aug. 19: St. Louis sent David Carpenter and cash to Houston in exchange for Feliz, who was added to help out at the hot corner when David Freese was injured. Feliz's already declining bat didn't improve for the Redbirds, who missed the postseason. Feliz signed a minor league deal with the Padres this month, while Carpenter is currently in the Astros' bullpen.
- Cody Ross, acquired by the Giants from the Marlins on waiver claim on Aug. 22: The Giants added an eventual World Series hero in acquiring Ross from the Marlins, who had little interest in retaining Ross, as he was becoming expensive with his final year of arbitration-eligibility looming.
- Brian Fuentes, acquired by the Twins from the Angels on Aug. 27: Minnesota added Fuentes to bolster its bullpen, and the lefty threw 9 2/3 shutout innings in the regular season and 2 2/3 shutout innings in the postseason before signing with the Athletics this offseason. The Angels acquired Loek Van Mil from the Twins as a player to be named.
- Manny Ramirez, acquired by the White Sox on a waiver claim from the Dodgers on Aug. 29: This was arguably the most notable move of the August post-deadline period, but it didn't amount to much for either teams or the player. The White Sox missed the postseason, the cash-strapped Dodgers got some salary relief, and Manny hit a quiet .261/.420/.319 before signing with the Rays this offseason (and eventually retiring).
- Manny Delcarmen, acquired by the Rockies from the Red Sox on Aug. 31: The Rox, still in contention for the wild card, needed bullpen depth, so they sent Chris Balcom-Miller to Boston for Delcarmen. The righty didn't pan out in Colorado, posting a 6.48 ERA in 8 1/3 innings for a team that missed the playoffs before being non-tendered this offseason. He's kicked around since then.
- Jeff Francoeur, acquired by the Rangers from the Mets on Aug. 31: Texas sent Joaquin Arias to the Mets for Frenchy, who played well in his brief time in Texas, hitting .340/.357/.491 down the stretch and seeing playing time during the postseason. Arias was waived by the Mets, while Francoeur signed the Royals this offseason and recently inked a two-year extension.
Mike Sweeney signed a one-day contract with the Royals before officially announcing his retirement from baseball, the team announced.
Sweeney, 37, spent 13 years in Kansas City and represented the Royals in the All-Star Game from 2000-03 and in 2005. He'll retire with a career line of .297/.366/.486 in 16 seasons with the Royals, Mariners and Phillies. He appeared in the postseason for the first time last year and singled in the only playoff plate appearance of his career.
Sweeney ranks in the top six in Royals history in 17 offensive categories. He's second all-time in average (.299) and home runs (197). The Royals created the Mike Sweeney Award in his honor in 2008.
Kansas City drafted Sweeney in the 10th round of the 1991 draft, 262nd overall, as a catcher. He transitioned to first base and then DH, though the position shift didn't prevent him from making frequent DL trips. Sweeney earned nearly $73MM in his career, according to Baseball-Reference.
Mike Sweeney has been telling former teammates that he would like to play in 2011, but only if he can find a contending team willing to give him a Major League contract according to ESPN's Jayson Stark (Insider req'd). The Phillies told Sweeney that they would have interest in bringing him back on a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.
The 37-year-old Sweeney hit .231/.310/.385 in a reserve role for the Phillies after coming over from the Mariners in a midseason trade. He finally got his first taste of postseason play in 2010, the 15th full season of a career that features a .297/.366/.486 batting line.
Stark speculates that the Padres could have interest in Sweeney as a bat off the bench and possible platoon partner for Brad Hawpe at first.
Some news items from the western side of the American League...
- Michael Young has said he's open to being a primary DH in the wake of the Rangers' acquisition of Adrian Beltre, but ESPNDallas.com's Jeff Caplan wonders if the career infielder will get "bored" from not playing in the field. Caplan talks to Lance Berkman, who signed with St. Louis in part because he disliked being a designated hitter, about the transition away from fielding.
- As part of an MLB.com mailbag, Greg Johns reports the Mariners ended up receiving cash from the Phillies in the Mike Sweeney trade last August, rather than a player to be named later. From the same piece, Johns also shoots down the idea of Seattle trading Felix Hernandez or signing Jermaine Dye.
- In regards to the Angels' lack of major free agent signings, manager Mike Scioscia said "These contracts just ran away from what our team can do," during an interview on 710 ESPN Radio's Mason & Ireland Show (as reported by ESPNLosAngeles.com's Mark Saxon). Scioscia noted the club might have "some other minor things" in the works.
- Eric Denton of LAAngelsInsider.com wonders if the Angels would be better served by rebuilding and putting "some long term pieces in place for the Mike Trout era."
With their 2010 season officially in the books, MLB.com's Todd Zolecki examined the Phillies' decisions regarding both free agency and arbitration this offseason. Here are some highlights:
- The Phillies and Jayson Werth will both say they have interest in working something out, and while that's probably true, Zolecki agrees with the common belief that Werth will be playing elsewhere in 2011. The Phillies already have $145MM committed to 16 players in 2011, and Werth's probable $15MM+ salary will be too much to add on.
- J.C. Romero's option will probably be declined due to the left-hander's injury problems and control issues (7.1 BB/9 the past two seasons).
- Jose Contreras could be this season's Chan Ho Park. Both pitched well out of the Philadelphia bullpen, but in doing so significantly raised their stock. Contreras could be in line for more money than Philadelphia wants to offer. Zolecki does note that Contreras' best friend and fellow Cuban, Danys Baez, is under contract for 2011, so that may help sway Contreras.
- Chad Durbin is 50-50 on whether or not he'd take less money than he could get on the open market to stay with the Phils. As Zolecki points out, this could be Durbin's only chance to secure a decent multiyear deal.
- Jamie Moyer, Mike Sweeney, and Greg Dobbs are all unlikely to be brought back.
- Ben Francisco will almost certainly be tendered a contract, and could platoon with Domonic Brown. Kyle Kendrick is due a raise and could be non-tendered and then re-signed at a more affordable price.
On this day in 1999, Mark McGwire hit his 500th career homer, reaching that plateau faster than any other player in history. It was McGwire's second consecutive season with a home run milestone, as he hit homer #400 during his (then) record-breaking 1998 campaign. But since we're not here to talk about the past, let's get to some news items...
- Jon Weisman of ESPNLosAngeles.com looks at Russell Martin's hip injury and how it might spell the end of his tenure with the Dodgers. Weisman also notes that L.A.'s chances of acquiring another catcher to replace Martin this season are "slim to none."
- Mike Sweeney is excited to get his first taste of a pennant race, writes Charles Nobles of MLB.com.
- The Red Sox dealt former Mets infielder Argenis Reyes and minor league catcher Juan Apodaca to Cleveland for future considerations, reports Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.
- J.P. Ricciardi discussed the waiver wire, the Jarrod Saltalamacchia deal, the Kevin Youkilis injury and other Boston-related news on WEEI's The Big Show today. Maryalice Gill of WEEI.com has the full transcript here.
- Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall took questions from Arizona fans in an MLB.com web chat.
- Speaking of the Snakes, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic looks at how the D'Backs might reallocate the $2MM they had earmarked for first-round draft pick Barret Loux before he failed his physical.
- Pittsburgh has yet to sign 10 of its top 13 picks from the June amateur draft, reports MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch.
The Phillies acquired Mike Sweeney from Seattle for a player to be named later or cash considerations, according to a Mariners press release. The 37-year-old has six homers and a .263/.327/.475 line for the Mariners this year. However, Sweeney has been on the disabled list since late June with back spasms and was just activated.
He'll presumably become a pinch hitter and occasional first baseman for Charlie Manuel's Phillies once Ryan Howard returns from the DL. Until then, Manuel told reporters that he'll use Sweeney regularly at first base. He made five All-Star teams as a first baseman/DH, but has only played 25 innings in the field this year.
Sweeney makes just $650K this year before becoming a free agent, so there won't be a ton of money changing hands in the deal. If the Mariners obtain a player instead of cash, they'll likely get a fringe prospect, but GM Jack Zduriencik says he wanted to see Sweeney play for a contender and will be "pulling for him to succeed in Philadelphia.”
The deal means all 14 American League teams and every NL team with a worse record than the Phillies passed on Sweeney. It's possible that every NL team passed on him, but that cannot be verified.Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports first reported the deal on Twitter.
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.
Was a better bargain than Andruw Jones signed this winter? The White Sox added him on a one-year deal worth $500K, and all he's given them so far is a batting line of .260/.360/.604. Meanwhile, the man patrolling his old Atlanta center field home, Nate McLouth, checks in at .167/.302/.271, and Gary Matthews Jr., who will make twice what Jones does from the Mets this year (and next year!), is hitting .152/.235/.196.
The problem is, this hasn't allowed the White Sox to move into contention. Thanks to a 14-20 start, combined with Minnesota's 22-12 beginning, Chicago is already eight games out, with Memorial Day still weeks away. So it may well be that the White Sox can, and should flip Jones to a contending team down the stretch. And that reasonable short-term deal means some of the smaller-market contenders are likely to be in the Jones sweepstakes.
What are some possible destinations?
- Washington could be a good fit. Willie Harris is hitting just .182/.313/.418, and with Willy Taveras also getting outfield at-bats, so Jones could be a good fit for regular corner outfield time. The Nationals have several pitchers set to join the big league team, but little in the way of outfield prospects at the top of their system. For now, the Nationals say they're content with Harris and Roger Bernadina.
- Cincinnati has seen Drew Stubbs struggle in center field so far; he's hitting just .196/.283/.321. It shouldn't be hard to convince Dusty Baker to play the veteran Jones over Stubbs, either. It's not clear that Jones is still an every day center fielder, but Chicago has already played him there four times in 2010.
- The Padres have Kyle Blanks in left field, Tony Gwynn Jr. in center field, and Will Venable in right field. Of the three, only Blanks profiles as a top prospect, so the other two could be vulnerable to a Jones acquisition, should San Diego remain in the race.
- With Eric Chavez and Jake Fox struggling, and Rajai Davis reverting to form, the Athletics could use Jones in either center field or at designated hitter to support an imposing starting rotation. The move sounds a lot like acquiring Frank Thomas, doesn't it?
- And don't fall asleep on Seattle, either. Currently 6.5 games out, the Mariners have the talent to climb back into the race, but their DHs, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney, simply aren't hitting. Jones could also slot into left field.
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.