Mystery Team Rumors

Jason Bourgeois, Humberto Quintero Traded

Jason Bourgeois and Humberto Quintero of the Astros have been traded, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports (all Twitter links). The Nationals have been linked to Bourgeois while the Royals and Phillies are known to be looking for catching depth. The Royals have been trying to trade for Quintero, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com tweets.


A.J. Burnett Rumors: Thursday

Multiple teams are discussing right-hander A.J. Burnett with the Yankees, according to yesterday's rumors. The right-hander vetoed a trade to the Angels, so it's down to the Pirates and at least one unknown club. Burnett will earn $33MM between now and the end of the 2013 season, and the question of how much money the Yankees absorb figures to shape trade talks. Here are the latest rumors as we await resolution on a deal:

  • The Yankees and Pirates are nearing a deal that would send Burnett to Pittsburgh for two marginal prospects and $13-15MM in salary relief, reports George A. King III of The New York Post"It will happen this weekend,'' said King's source. "Probably Saturday.''
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have countered the Pirates offer with a sliding scale, meaning they'd have to surrender lesser prospects the closer they get to eating $15MM of the $33MM left on Burnett's contract. He says it would be an upset if he's not traded before the Yankees open camp on Sunday (all Twitter links).
  • Ken Davidoff of Newsday reminds us (on Twitter) that MLB will need to approve any trade because of the large amount of cash changing hands.
  • The Yankees and Pirates know which players would go from Pittsburgh to New York if the Pirates take on $13MM in salary, Davidoff tweets.
  • The Yankees and Pirates should complete a deal within 24 hours, according to Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio and ESPN.com (on Twitter).
  • A team other than the Pirates and Indians made a proposal for Burnett yesterday and the Yankees appear to be approaching a decision, ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports (Twitter links). Burnett told the Yankees three weeks ago that he would block a trade to Anaheim.
  • Considerable optimism exists that the Yankees and Pirates will work out a deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. Heyman adds that the Yankees will pay $20MM of Burnett's contract.

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.


A.J. Burnett Rumors: Tuesday

There’s a feeling the Yankees and Pirates will complete a deal involving A.J. Burnett and judging by the most recent rumors, Pittsburgh would take on $10-15MM of the $33MM remaining on Burnett’s salary if the trade goes through. Here are today’s rumors:

  • A fourth team has checked in on Burnett, Heyman reports.
  • The Hafner for Burnett deal is no longer on the table, MLB.com's Bryan Hoch tweets.
  • The Indians have checked in, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (Twitter links). Talk between the Yankees and Indians has revolved around Burnett and Travis Hafner, though the Indians aren't sure they'd make that trade.
  • The Angels are interested in Burnett, but they're on his no-trade list, Rosenthal tweets.
  • Momentum for a deal stayed strong last night, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The Yankees continue to engage two other teams, but the Pirates are the favorites to land Burnett. Pittsburgh has offered to pay $10MM and if they raise their bid to $13MM, the Yankees would be more inclined to accept lesser prospects in return. The Pirates view the Derek Lowe deal as a relevant point of reference for their discussions with the Yankees.
  • The teams are still trying to decide which players would head from Pittsburgh to New York, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (all Twitter links). Some Yankees people oppose trading Burnett now, and believe they could obtain more in return at the trade deadline.


Edwin Jackson Rumors: Thursday

The Red Sox have offered Edwin Jackson a contract and the Orioles would consider offering a four year deal. The market for Jackson — arguably the top free agent remaining — seems to be picking up. Here are the most recent rumors from around MLB:

  • The Red Sox are believed to be one of a few teams with which Jackson would accept a one-year deal, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets.
  • The Cardinals checked in on Jackson, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. The right-hander, who finished the 2011 season in St. Louis, has a multiyear offer from an unknown team that's not the Red Sox or Cardinals.

Tigers To Sign Prince Fielder

Prince Fielder, who hit baseballs out of Tiger Stadium as a 12-year-old, is on his way back to Detroit, where his father, Cecil Fielder, starred for seven years. The Tigers have officially agreed to sign the free agent first baseman to a nine-year, $214MM contract.

Prince Fielder MIL

The agreement — the fourth largest in baseball history behind Alex Rodriguez's mega-contracts and Albert Pujols' recent deal with the Angels — will keep Fielder in the Motor City through his age 36 season for an average annual value of $23.78MM. It doesn't include any opt-outs, Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio and ESPN.com tweets.

Though the market for Fielder seemed far from robust at times this offseason, agent Scott Boras has found an unexpected suitor once again. Over the years, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and GM Dave Dombrowski have dealt extensively with Boras regarding clients such as Kenny Rogers, Ivan Rodriguez, Johnny Damon and Magglio Ordonez.

Fielder will play first base and Miguel Cabrera will change roles, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. Victor Martinez will miss most or all of the 2012 season with a torn ACL, so it's possible that Cabrera will DH this year. He has only played 14 games at third base since being traded to Detroit after the 2007 season, but a return to the hot corner seems to be a possibility for Cabrera. 

Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com suggests a return to third base is likely for Cabrera and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports hears that Cabrera was "really excited" about the Tigers' new addition (Twitter links).

Fielder's considered a below average defender at first base, but he's a force at the plate. He posted a .299/.415/.566 line with 38 home runs in 2011, finishing in the top five in MVP balloting for the third time in the past five seasons. He has a .282/.390/.540 line in seven seasons in Milwaukee, where he averaged 37 home runs per 162 games played. Concerns about Fielder's stocky physique do exist, but Boras defended his client's build at the December Winter Meetings.

“Everyone talks to me about Prince’s body, but when you have that 5’11” strike zone, that is a huge advantage and that’s why that on-base percentage is sitting there," he said. "Those pitchers have to put the ball into a smaller window and I believe that it’s more difficult to do.”

This June the Tigers will surrender their first round pick (27th overall) to the Brewers, who offered Fielder arbitration earlier in the offseason. Milwaukee will also obtain a second compensatory pick for losing Fielder, the seventh overall selection in the 2002 draft. Fielder is among the Brewers' all-time leaders in many offensive categories, including home runs (230), on-base percentage (.390), sluggling percentage (.540) and walks (566).

Cecil Fielder, whose off-and-on relationship with his son has been well-documented, hit 245 home runs in a Tigers uniform, good for fifth on the franchise's all-time list. The elder Fielder led the American League in home runs in 1990 with 51 and in 1991 with 44.

When MLBTR polled readers in mid-December, just 5.6% of 27,000 respondents expected Fielder to sign a nine or ten-year deal. He ranked second on MLBTR's list of top free agents this offseason, trailing only Pujols.

The deal figures to provide lots of leverage for Joey Votto, who will hit free agency after the 2013 season if the Reds don't extend him first. On the other hand, free agent designated hitters such as Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Raul Ibanez and Vladimir Guerrero lost a potential suitor this afternoon.

Heyman tweets that the Nationals and a third mystery team were in on Fielder until the end. Heyman first reported the agreement on Twitter and Yahoo's Tim Brown first reported that the sides were close to a deal. 

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.


Reactions To The Prince Fielder Signing

Scott Boras did it again. Just when it looked like the market for Prince Fielder had slowed late in the offseason, Boras got his prized client the fourth richest contract in baseball history. The Tigers agreed to sign the slugger to a nine-year contract worth $214MM today, giving them the most devastating 3-4 lineup tandem in the game. Here's a recap of what's been said about the deal…

  • "In some sense, I'm glad he got a good contract that he's satisfied with. We knew early on that we probably weren't going to be in it. I think Prince probably knew that, too," said Brewers GM Doug Melvin to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. Melvin confirmed they hadn't had serious extension talks with Fielder since Spring Training of 2010, and he credited the slugger with helping the team get back to being contenders.
  • Rival executives told Joel Sherman of The New York Post that they think the signing came from ownership, not GM Dave Dombrowski (Twitter link). He says deals for other Boras clients — Johnny Damon, Ivan Rodriguez, and Magglio Ordonez — happened the same way. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports heard that owner Mike Illitch influenced the signing "100%" (Twitter link).
  • The Nationals and a mystery team were strongly in on Fielder, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter links). The Mariners, meanwhile, told teams they didn't have money to spend on a hitter of Prince's caliber, which is why they traded for Jesus Montero according to Sherman.
  • Andrew Baggarly of The Mercury News says (on Twitter) that the Giants were never really in on Fielder.
  • ESPN's Keith LawDave Cameron of FanGraphs, and SI.com's Cliff Corcoran agree that Fielder will improve the Tigers in the short-term, but the last few years of the contract could be messy.

Coco Crisp Decides Where To Sign

2:29pm: An announcement from Crisp's new team should come today or tomorrow, Comte tells Joe Stiglich of the Bay Area News Group.  Comte ruled out the Cubs, while Stiglich gets the impression Crisp could return to the A's.

TUESDAY, 7:33am: Though the Orioles talked to Crisp's agent, Heyman does not believe they are the team he chose.  The O's are looking elsewhere for a leadoff hitter.

MONDAY, 8:55pm: The Orioles have been talking to Crisp in recent days and they’re interested in signing him, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. However, it hasn’t been confirmed that the Orioles are the mystery team.

7:19pm: Coco Crisp won’t be on the open market much longer. The free agent outfielder has decided which team he’ll sign with, agent Steve Comte told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Basically, we just have to let that team know," Comte told Slusser.

The Athletics want to re-sign Crisp, according to Slusser. They’ve been in touch with him all offseason, but 12-13 other teams have discussed Crisp with Comte. The A’s have also spoken to free agent Ryan Ludwick, according to Slusser. Oakland selected Ludwick in the second round of the 1999 draft and traded him to the Rangers three years later.

The switch-hitting Crisp led the American League with 49 stolen bases in 2011, hitting .264/.314/.379 with 27 doubles as Oakland's center fielder. The California native seems to prefer West Coast teams, but explained in September that he’s also looking to play on a winner and find a good "financial situation" for himself.


The Mystery Team Position By Position

It's been a puzzling winter. Some have speculated that the big winners have been the Miami Marlins or the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Others will hold up the Rangers as the true offseason giant after landing Yu Darvish.

It's all academic, really. The most active team by far over the past two offseasons has been Mystery Team. Some have speculated that this was simply a device used by agents to drive up the price of their clients. But a closer look at Mystery Team's acquisitions makes it clear: an entire lineup and pitching staff has been built that will be the envy of everyone in baseball next year. Let's take a closer look at how Mystery Team stacks up:

At catcher, Russell Martin brings strong playcalling and a decent bat to Mystery Team's forces. He went Mystery Team back in the winter of 2010, living proof that Casey Stengel's phrase, "Without a catcher, you have a lot of passed balls" still holds power over the best front offices.

Newly-acquired first baseman Albert Pujols represents one of the great Mystery Team pickups, with conventional wisdom assigning him to either the Cardinals or Marlins right up until Mystery Team emerged. As you'll see, however, Pujols was merely the final piece in the Mystery Team championship puzzle.

Mystery Team isn't just about the stars, either, and that kind of focus on detail comes through in double-play combination Orlando Hudson, a Mystery Team member since January 2010, and Jamey Carroll, who will play shortstop for Mystery Team after joining the club this winter.  This kind of veteran leadership is bound to help this clubhouse find its identity.

At third base, Adrian Beltre has been a reliable contributor to Mystery Team since last winter. Speculation had him in talks with Mystery Team prior to this, but he'd ultimately chosen reality-based clubs too quickly for Mystery Team to swoop in until last year.

In the outfield, the defense is a little shaky. Johnny Damon is the Mystery Team's left fielder (acquired on waivers in August 2010), and Vladimir Guerrero plays right. The question: who is able to cover all that ground between them? Why, none other than the Mysterious Yoenis Cespedes, team unknown. Or is it?

Obviously, the addition of Darvish gives Mystery Team a devastating one-two punch in the starting rotation. Few players make more sense for Mystery Team than Darvish, whose ultimate destination remained a secret for days after teams submitted sealed bids. The entire process would have made Richard Nixon proud.

Darvish will follow Cliff Lee, last winter's biggest Mystery Team pickup, in any postseason series. Lee spurned the Yankees for Mystery Team, and you'd have to figure it was because Mystery Team's GM, whoever he is, told Lee about all his teammates to come.

The rotation has depth as well as star power, with C.J. Wilson slotting in as a strong third starter, Carl Pavano a capable fourth starter, and the fifth starter a competition between Justin Duchscherer and Brandon Webb. Mystery Team is hoping one of them will stay healthy, but isn't counting on both of them. It's called Mystery Team, not Fantasy Team.

The bullpen is anchored by Mystery Team's most engaging personality, Heath Bell. But Bell isn't alone. Mystery Team wanted Chad Qualls so badly, Jon Heyman reported they wanted him two times over. And lefty Joe Beimel is an old reliable Mystery Team standby, filling capably the role of MOOGY (Mysterious One Out Guy).

It's only a matter of time until baseball fans everywhere begin to object to the incredible amount of money Mystery Team is spending to land the finest players at every position (though the exact number is unidentified). What seemed like fun at first has turned into a monster that could threaten competitive balance in the game.

So the next time you see someone wearing the Mystery Team colors, don't just smile and indulge this lark. Your favorite player could be heading their way next. You never know.


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Hiroki Kuroda May Be Nearing Deal

Yahoo’s Tim Brown heard yesterday that Hiroki Kuroda was close to agreeing to a new contract. However, it’s not clear which team is nearing a deal with the right-hander. Here are the details and more of Brown’s links from around MLB:

  • The Mariners, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Rangers, Red Sox and Yankees were among the teams that informed Brown they were not the team nearing a deal with Kuroda.
  • The Dodgers didn’t scout Yoenis Cespedes in earnest or consider bidding on Yu Darvish, Brown reports. It cost the Rangers $51.7MM for the rights to negotiate with Darvish and Cespedes figures to cost tens of millions as well, so the players are too expensive for the cash-strapped Dodgers to consider.
  • Carlos Beltran figures to agree to terms by Sunday. His market includes the Cardinals, Blue Jays, Red Sox and a fourth team, possibly the Rays. Beltran is weighing two and three-year offers, Brown reports.

Nightengale On Albert Pujols Negotiations

Bob Nightengale has a fantastic story up at USA Today that provides a timeline of the negotiations involving Albert Pujols and a handful of clubs at the Winter Meetings. The must-read piece includes word that Pujols' contract could be worth as much as $280MM with incentives. Here are the other highlights:

  • When Dodgers manager Don Mattingly spoke to Pujols last weekend, he sensed Pujols wasn't entirely happy with the Cardinals: "You could just sense something was wrong. He was getting frustrated by it."
  • The Marlins were "relentless," increasing their offer to Pujols multiple times until it reached $275MM. They expected to leave Dallas having signed Pujols, but never offered the no-trade clause he wanted.
  • A mystery team (not the Angels) stepped in on Monday and offered Pujols ten years and $225MM. This mystery club "refuses to be publicly identified," writes Nightengale.
  • On Tuesday, the Cardinals offered a nine-year, $210MM deal with a tenth-year vesting option. At around this time, the Marlins were eliminated from the mix (whether by Pujols or the team), narrowing the decision to the Cards and the mystery team.
  • Late Tuesday, Angels GM Jerry Dipoto called agent Dan Lozano to talk Pujols. Early Wednesday morning, the Halos offered a ten-year deal worth about $250MM.
  • As of Wednesday night, Lozano expected Pujols to mull the decision for a few days, but the slugger called him early this morning to accept the Angels' offer.