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Several player agents tell Larry Stone of the Seattle Times that the Mariners' chances of attracting free agent hitters have improved now that Safeco Field's fences are being moved in. That said, while the shorter fences will help, "players look at all of those factors, but in the end, it still comes down to where they can get the best contract. And it always will," one agent says.
Here are some items from a very busy day in baseball….
- The Dodgers met with Zack Greinke on Thursday, tweets Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports.
- In an interview with 1500 ESPN Twin Cities radio (via Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN), Twins assistant GM Rob Antony said his team will likely pursue free agents over trades at the Winter Meetings. "We probably don't have a lot of pieces that we do have to trade for starting pitching [with Denard Span now gone]," Antony said. "We'll probably be a little more aggressive and spend our time at the winter meetings talking to agents rather than clubs."
- Russell Martin said the Yankees told him they didn't have the money available to match Pittsburgh's two-year/$17MM offer, reports David Waldstein of the New York Times. The Yankees didn't make Martin an offer and have yet to make any offers to position players this offseason, reports ESPN's Buster Olney (both links are to Twitter).
- The Yankees aren't likely to pursue either A.J. Pierzynski or Mike Napoli, reports Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York.
- The Pirates considered pursuing Napoli but didn't think he could stay healthy and effective as a full-time catcher in the NL, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- The Royals offered Ryan Dempster a two-year, $26MM contract but are no longer bidding on the Canadian right-hander now that his price tag has risen, reports Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. At least six teams besides Kansas City have been connected to Dempster this offseason.
- Also from Dutton, the Royals offered Scott Feldman a one-year, $4.5MM deal before the righty agreed to a one-year, $6MM contract with the Cubs earlier this week.
- MLB.com's John Schlegel lists 10 potential bargain signings on the free agent market.
- The week's minor league transactions are recapped by Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
- Orioles GM Dan Duquette tells MASNsports.com's Mel Antonen (Twitter link) that negotiations with Nate McLouth and Joe Saunders have been a "little slow" to develop.
The Braves just added a high-profile center fielder, and the Phillies and Nationals have also been connected to the top options available, but those aren’t the only NL East teams exploring the outfield market. The Marlins also need a center fielder and “would love” to acquire Peter Bourjos from the Angels, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). However, a deal for Bourjos remains unlikely, so the club could pursue a free agent such as Nate McLouth.
Justin Ruggiano hit .313/.374/.535 in 320 plate appearances while playing all three outfield positions this past season and he represents one internal center field option for Miami. The 30-year-old responded to Rosenthal’s tweet and explained that the Marlins don’t need to acquire a center fielder. “I got this,” Ruggiano wrote. Giancarlo Stanton and Juan Pierre project as Miami’s corner outfielders.
If the Mets non-tender Andres Torres as expected tomorrow, they’ll also be in the market for a center fielder. New York will presumably pursue multiple outfielders this offseason, though the Mets are expected to look for bargains instead of spending at the top of the market.
It was on this day in 1977 that Rich "Goose" Gossage signed a six-year, $2.75MM free agent contract with the Yankees. The Goose lived up to that then-exorbitant deal, posting a 2.10 ERA and saving 150 games over those six seasons, notching three top-five finishes in Cy Young Award voting and helping New York win the 1978 World Series. Gossage went into the Hall Of Fame as a Yankee in 2008.
Here's the latest from New York and elsewhere in the AL East…
- DeMarlo Hale is "likely" going to be the Blue Jays' next bench coach, a source tells MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli (Twitter link). Hale served as the Orioles' third base coach in 2012 and was interviewed as a managerial candidate by the Jays two years ago before Toronto hired John Farrell. Hale's contract may be for three years, reports MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko.
- The Red Sox have Nick Swisher "on their radar," a source tells George A. King III of the New York Post. At least seven teams are known to be interested in Swisher, whose ability to switch-hit and play both first base and right field is a boon to many clubs. King hears from an industry source who believes Swisher could find a four-year, $60MM contract, though with that many teams and big markets in the running, it wouldn't surprise me to see that number jump to between $65-$70MM in guaranteed money.
- Other teams were offering Hiroki Kuroda more expensive and longer-term deals with player options than the one-year, $15MM contract he signed with the Yankees, reports Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York. Kuroda took the relatively smaller deal with New York due to his familiarity with the city and his desire to keep his options open next winter for a possible return to Japan. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link) notes that Kuroda has left money on the table for each of the four contracts he's signed in his Major League career.
- The Orioles were interested in Jonny Gomes but are "not too heartbroken" that Gomes has signed with Boston, reports Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. The O's prefer to use the money earmarked for Gomes to re-sign Nate McLouth instead.
- In AL East news from earlier today, Josh Johnson's agent Matt Sosnick discussed the possibility of his client signing an extension with the Blue Jays.
Condolences to the family and friends of Lee MacPhail, who passed away at the age of 95 today. MacPhail was a long-time executive who worked with the Yankees and Orioles in addition to serving as Commissioner William Eckert's chief aid. He also served as president of the American League and was the oldest living Hall of Famer.
Here is the latest from around the league as Friday turns into Saturday…
- MLB.com's Bill Ladson hears that Adam LaRoche hasn't heard from the Nationals in a few days, but he's still interested in returning to the team (Twitter link). LaRoche turned down Washington's qualifying offer today.
- The Orioles are still talking to Nate McLouth, reports Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). The team is optimistic a deal will get done, but nothing is imminent.
- The Mets have more payroll flexibility than expected, but GM Sandy Alderson told Mike Puma of the New York Post that he's still "realistic" about the players they can acquire (Twitter links). Alderson referenced the "bottom end" of the free agent market.
- "We are not shopping him," said Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez when asked about the Trevor Bauer trade rumors. "Again, if they ask, [GM Kevin Towers'] response is 'Hey, we are willing to listen,' and that's what's happened here."
- Earlier today we heard that the Tigers made a contract offer to Jeremy Bonderman, but the right-hander told MLB.com's Jason Beck that it's news to him (Twitter links). Bonderman cautioned that he usually lets his agent handle contract matters.
- MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith reports (on Twitter) that outfielder Nick Weglarz is drawing interest as a free agent thanks to his left-handed bat. The 24-year-old hit .239/.349/.413 with 14 homers in 436 plate appearances for the Indians' Double-A affiliate last year.
Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston will continue in his current role after the end of October, when his contract had been set to expire, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports. Beeston and the Blue Jays are believed to be working toward a two-year extension. The 67-year-old acknowledged to Davidi that the sides are "in discussion" and that he's "committed to seeing this thing through." Here are more notes from the AL East…
- Rays bench coach Dave Martinez hasn't heard from the Red Sox or Rockies about possible manager interviews, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Martinez was one of the top candidates to manage the Astros before they hired Bo Porter last month.
- The Red Sox shouldn't have any regrets about dealing Marco Scutaro last winter, writes WEEI.com's Alex Speier, despite Scutaro's strong performance down the stretch with the Giants.
- Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun lists the five biggest questions facing the Orioles this winter.
- It doesn’t appear that Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar will be interviewed for the team’s managerial opening, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports (on Twitter).
- Jon Lester just completed a disappointing season, but as Rob Bradford points out at WEEI.com it could be a good time for the Red Sox to approach the left-hander about another contract extension. Lester, who's under team control through 2014, has said he's "always open" to extension talks. So far the sides haven't discussed a new deal, Bradford reports.
- Outfielder Nate McLouth would like to re-sign with Baltimore when he hits free agency this offseason, but the Orioles could decide to stick with internal options and try to find another McLouth-like performer next year, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. In case you missed it, Mike Axisa examined McLouth’s free agent stock over the weekend.
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post
It'll be interesting to see how the Rays look to improve this winter given their limited financial flexibility, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays, who were last in the majors in attendance, will save more than $22.5MM with Carlos Peña, B.J. Upton, Luke Scott, and Kyle Farnsworth off the books. However, built-in and projected arbitration increases will cost them around $50MM to keep 17 players. After opening the season with a higher-than-planned $64MM payroll, the club is expected to try and scale back the payroll this year, leaving them with limited room. Here's more out of the AL East..
- Yankees President Randy Levine appeared on ESPN 98.7 FM's Sunday Morning with Ian O'Connor (partial transcript courtesy of ESPNNewYork.com's Matt Ehalt) and did not commit to Alex Rodriguez remaining in pinstripes for the duration of his contract through the 2017 season. "That's like one of those questions: Where's the stock market going to be in 2017, who's going to be president on Nov. 15?" Levine said. "If I had crystal ball to predict all of that stuff, I'd be a lot smarter than I am. I'm not going to go there. That's stuff for people to speculate on your show and elsewhere, but it's irresponsible for me to do so."
- Orioles manager Buck Showalter says that he isn't ready to start thinking about a contract extension despite the fact that he enjoys being in Baltimore. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com wonders aloud if the skipper has his eye on becoming a General Manager somewhere. Showalter was interested in running the O's front office before Dan Duquette was brought in as executive vice president.
- The Yankees should have passed on giving Alex Rodriguez a ten-year, $275MM contract following the 2007 season, opines Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News. Lupica notes that the Cardinals made a shrewd business decision by letting Albert Pujols sign a $200MM+ contract elsewhere last winter and now find themselves in the championship hunt.
- With Curtis Granderson struggling, the trade that sent Austin Jackson to Detroit for him no longer seems like a smart move, writes Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Last year it seemed like both the Tigers and the Yanks came out as winners in that trade, but Madden believes that the W now goes squarely in the Tigers' column.
- The Orioles will likely be forced to make a decision between Nate McLouth and Nolan Reimold as to which ballplayer will be called upon to man left field next season, writes MASNsports.com's Steve Melewski. While Reimold got off to a strong start to the season before succumbing to injury, McLouth proved to be a valuable asset for Baltimore towards the end of the year and playoffs.
Edward Creech and Daniel Seco contributed to this post.
The last few seasons have been a rollercoaster for 30-year-old Nate McLouth, a former All-Star with the Pirates who finished the season as the regular left fielder for the Orioles. In between he was traded to the Braves, had his option declined, re-signed by the Pirates, released by Pittsburgh, and signed by Baltimore.
McLouth earned himself a three-year deal worth $15.75MM back in 2009 after hitting .276/.356/.497 with 26 homers, 23 steals, and a league-leading 46 doubles back in 2008. He was traded to Atlanta shortly thereafter, where he put together just a .229/.335/.364 batting line in over 1,000 plate appearances across three years. After a second tour of duty as a bench player with the Pirates failed, McLouth hooked on with the Orioles and had the best stretch of his career since breaking out in 2008.
Called up in early-August after hitting .244/.325/.461 in 209 plate appearances for the team's Triple-A affiliate, McLouth quickly assumed Baltimore's left field job full-time and even batted third for a few weeks. When Nick Markakis went down with a season-ending thumb injury, the 2008 All-Star assumed the leadoff spot. McLouth finished the season with a .268/.342/.435 batting line in 236 plate appearances for the Orioles, and he went 7-for-22 (.318) with a homer and two steals against the Yankees in the ALDS.
McLouth is now set to head back onto the open market, this time on much more favorable terms after the Braves declined his club option last winter. He's a .248/.335/.421 hitter in nearly 3,000 career plate appearances, and he's shown both speed and decent pop from the left side. As a left-handed hitter, most of his damage comes against righties (.257/.346/.447) and not lefties (.223/.303/.346). Although he's is a strong defender by reputation, the various advanced metrics actually rate him as below-average.
Two strong months and one great playoff series with the Orioles won't be enough to make teams forget McLouth's performance with Pirates earlier this year as well with the Braves. He fits best as a platoon corner outfielder who can fill in at center on occasion, and the good news is that he's on the "heavy" side of the platoon as a lefty. I think McLouth's best free agent comparable may be Casey Kotchman, another guy who bounced around and struggled for years before having the proverbial "one good year" with the Rays a season ago. He turned that year into a one-year, $3MM contract with the Indians last offseason.
Earlier today we learned that McLouth would like to return to the Orioles, but the club already boasts impressive outfield depth with Markakis, Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, and even Chris Davis. There simply may not be a spot for him in Baltimore next season. McLouth played well enough down the stretch that he will likely be able to find a guaranteed contract (rather than a minor league deal) on the open market, but that contract may only be for one year and a few million bucks. He'll have to repeat this year's his success again in 2013 before richer opportunities come along.
Photo courtesy of US Presswire.
The Orioles impressive season ended with an ALDS Game Five loss to the Yankees yesterday, but the team improved so much that a pair of impending free agents told MLB.com's Adam Rosenbloom that they would like to return to the club next year.
"I'd definitely like to come back," said Mark Reynolds. "This is the most fun I've ever had playing baseball, this group of guys. There's a bunch of ballplayers in this room. No prima donnas, nobody for themselves. Just ballplayers who pull for each other, and who wouldn't want to be in that environment?"
The 29-year-old Reynolds hit .221/.335/.429 with 23 homers in 538 plate appearances this year, making the transition from third base over to first base full-time. The club holds an $11MM option for his services next year, but even if they decline it they would still control his rights as an arbitration-eligible player. Baltimore could turn down the option and try to re-sign him at a lower salary without having to worry about a bidding war on the open market.
Nate McLouth, 30, also indicated a willingness to return to the Orioles next season, telling Rosenbloom that he "couldn't have had a better time in the time" with the team. He signed a minor league contract with Baltimore at midseason before taking over their left field and leadoff hitter jobs full-time in the second half. McLouth was their best hitter in the ALDS and produced a .268/.342/.435 batting line 236 regular season plate appearances with the team.
With Nick Markakis and Nolan Reimold expected to be healthy in time for next season, plus 33-homer guy Chris Davis' ability to play first base or right field, the Orioles may not have spots for Reynolds and/or McLouth next year. McLouth in particular figures to look to parlay his strong finish into a full-time job somewhere.
After an arduous start with the Dodgers, Brandon League has settled in nicely as the team's closer, writes Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. The right-hander turned his season around thanks to 18 scoreless appearances out of his last 19, giving him a 0.44 ERA during that stretch. Here's a look at the news and stories making headlines on the final Sunday of the regular season…
- Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki has exceeded all expectations for Washington after the team acquired him from the A's at the non-waiver trade deadline, writes Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com. The 28-year-old's strong performance has come on both sides of the ball, especially with his bat. "He's gotten clutch hits," Ryan Zimmerman said. "I think we all knew he was a better hitter and his track record shows he was a better hitter than what he was doing this year.
- Thanks to a strong campaign replete with increased playing time, Mets outfielder Scott Hairston heads into the offseason looking for a deal that will allow him to continue to expand his role in 2013, says Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. Hairston will be able to use his 1.9 Wins Above Replacement as a negotiating chip as he looks to become an everyday player for the entirety of the season. "I pretty much played in every role possible, and the last few weeks or so I've been playing every day," Hairston said. "It's just one of those things where I really don't know what's going to happen. I'm just going to prepare myself this offseason as if I'll be playing every day."
- The resurgence of Nate McLouth hasn't been an easy endeavor for the former All-Star, but the hard work has the scrappy outfielder playing a major role in the Orioles' success, writes Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun. "It's part of the path that God has laid out for my life. And I don't question it. Were the last couple years tough? Heck yeah they were. But I know I am stronger and better because of it," McLouth said.
Here's a look at a couple of items on the Mets and Yankees..
- Terry Collins will be back to manage the Mets next year despite the club's second-half slide, people familiar with the situation tell Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Despite the fact that the Nationals and Braves have won more games at Citi Field than the Mets in the second act of the 2012 season, all of Collins' bosses support him. It was reported last month that the Mets were prepared to stand behind Collins, though the club had hoped for a third-place finish in the NL East.
- The only question now appears to be whether Collins is given an extension of a year or two to avoid lame duck status in 2013, Heyman writes. Wally Backman, currently managing the Mets' Triple-A affiliate, is seen as a possible heir for Collins.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the Yankees offered Nate McLouth a minor league deal after he was released by the Pirates in June. McLouth instead opted to go with the Orioles as he felt that he had a better shot of reaching the majors. The outfielder is hitting .279/.350/.418 in 35 games for the O's this year.