Nate McLouth Rumors
Before the season, MLBTR writers identified 13 players who were set for 'make or break' years. These players had experienced ups and downs in their respective careers and were positioned to re-establish themselves as difference makers at the Major League level and set themselves up for success in free agency. Now that we're at the quarter pole for the 2011 season, let's check in on the lucky 13 players (all links go to the MLBTR posts):
- Scott Kazmir - Kazmir, now on the DL, has appeared in one game this year and he allowed five runs, five hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings. I'll be surprised if he signs a guaranteed contract this winter.
- Nate McLouth - McLouth was coming off a poor 2010 season, but the results are much better in 2011. He has a .262/.355/.379 line, though UZR/150 suggests his defense in center field has been poor since 2009.
- Grady Sizemore - After missing most of 2010 with a knee surgery that required microfracture surgery, Sizemore returned with a vengeance, only to hit the disabled list with an injury to his other knee. In 18 games before he got hurt, Sizemore posted a .282/.333/.641 line with six homers.
- Ryan Doumit - Though he has only stepped to the plate 82 times, Doumit has a healthy .278/.358/.458 batting line. The switch-hitter has been available in trades for a while and it wouldn't be surprising to see him dealt this summer.
- Jonathan Broxton - Broxton is on the disabled list with a bruised right elbow and there's no timetable for his return. If he doesn't pitch well later this season, he will be overshadowed by this offseason's strong crop of free agent relief pitchers.
- Joel Zumaya - Zumaya had elbow surgery a week ago today and is now resting and rehabbing. It's not clear that he'll return to the Tigers this year.
- Casey Blake - Blake required surgery for an elbow infection and could return to the Dodgers soon. Before he got hurt, the 37-year-old had a .956 OPS in 66 plate appearances.
- Aramis Ramirez - Ramirez is off to a so-so .287/.347/.368 start, but his power can sneak up on people, as it did last year when he hit 19 homers after July 5th.
- Edwin Jackson - Still just 27, Jackson has a 4.53 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 55 2/3 innings. His name appears multiple times on the leaderboard for free agent starters.
- Bobby Abreu - The 37-year-old doesn't have much power at this stage in his career (.327 slugging, .072 isolated power), but you won't find many hitters capable of a .377 OBP.
- Carlos Beltran - Beltran has rebounded in a big way this year. The way he's hitting (.286/.381/.564, 8 homers) he'll be among the most appealing free agents available after the season. I suggested this spring that he and agent Scott Boras could ask for a multiyear deal and that seems even more likely now.
- Matt Capps - Capps hasn't walked anyone in 18 1/3 innings and he has five saves and a 3.93 ERA. The 27-year-old's value doesn't appear to have changed much this year.
- Jeff Francis - Though Francis is 0-5 with a 4.83 ERA, he has averaged 6.0 innings per start for the Royals and has a respectable 27K/10BB ratio. The left-hander seems healthy after consecutive seasons with shoulder issues.
The Orioles don’t look like contenders to Jon Heyman of SI.com, who suggests yesterday's 10-0 loss to the Yankees could be a sign of things to come. Here are Heyman's latest rumors...
- Three rival GMs tell Heyman that they expect the Cardinals to exercise Adam Wainwright’s $21MM option for 2012-13 after the season. Wainwright is recovering from Tommy John surgery and won't pitch in 2011, but has pitched at a Cy Young level for the past two seasons.
- However, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak says he “hasn’t thought about” Wainwright's option yet.
- Matt Holliday and Heyman agree that it’s a no-brainer for St. Louis to pick it up. To see what $21MM buys on the free agent market, click here.
- Some people in the Braves organization are referring to Nate McLouth as "Pittsburgh Nate,'' since they’ve been impressed with his performance this spring. McLouth posted an .801 OPS in Pittsburgh and has just a .709 mark with the Braves.
- Braves GM Frank Wren says Craig Kimbrel’s slow start doesn’t worry him.
- One NL scout expects the Marlins to “surprise some people” despite their current spring losing streak.
- Luis Castillo remains a “slight favorite” to win the Mets’ second base job.
We tend to hear a lot about "selling high" on a player during the offseason, which means trading a player when his value is at its absolute apex. It's a difficult thing to do for a number of reasons, especially when it involves a young player who might just be on the upswing of his career. Pirates GM Neal Huntington sold high on Nate McLouth two summers ago, dealing his All Star center fielder to the Braves for three young players in June of 2009.
The year before the trade, the then 27-year-old McLouth broke out by hitting .276/.356/.497 with 26 homers, earning a Gold Glove for his defensive effort in center field. At the time of the trade he was hitting a more than respectable .256/.349/.470. Unsurprisingly, reaction to the trade was mostly negative in Pittsburgh, and it didn't go over well in the clubhouse either.
McLouth gave the Braves a respectable .257/.354/.419 performance in the three months after the trade, but the good times ended there. He hit just .118/.217/.196 in Spring Training last year, then followed that up with a .176/.295/.282 performance in his first 205 plate appearances of the season. A collision with Jason Heyward sent McLouth to the disabled list with a concussion in early-June, then Atlanta decided to send him to minors after he returned in late-July. He hit just .234/.338/.383 in 151 trips to the plate in Triple-A before finishing the season with a .263/.358/.509 performance (68 PA) while playing sparingly after coming back up in late-August.
Since the trade, the now-29-year-old McLouth has hit just .229/.330/.379 with 17 homers in 684 plate appearances. His -25.8 UZR since 2008 ranks 48th out of 58 qualified outfielders, just a touch better than Carlos Lee. Was 2010 a fluke season for McLouth, or was it the sign of a bigger problem after the league got a chance to put together a book on him?
The Pirates gave McLouth a three-year contract extension before the 2009 season, and right now it seems pretty unlikely that the Braves will exercise his $10.65MM club option for 2012 after the upcoming season without significant improvement in his performance. His main competition in center field is Jordan Schafer (.201/.268/.255 in 307 minor league PA in 2010), so McLouth will definitely have the opportunity to show what he's got before hitting the open market in a little more than ten months.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has a new installment of Full Count up. Let's dive in and see what he has for us..
- The Yankees are talking to the Marlins and the two teams could match up in a few different ways. Cody Ross, a right-handed hitting outfielder, would be a perfect fit for the Pinstripes. Trouble is, Ross is a regular for Florida and the Yanks may not want to pay that price for a player they'd only use part-time. Leo Nunez would also make sense for the Yankees in a set-up role but they'll want a lot for him as well. The closer is under team control for two seasons after this one.
- The Braves like Ross as well but their opinions on Corey Hart are mixed. Some Atlanta officials are rather fond of Hart, but others see him as a slightly better version of Jeff Francoeur. If Matt Diaz hits well and Nate McLouth comes back strong, they may not even need the Brewers outfielder. If their guy ultimately is Hart though, it'll be at their price.
- Two of the top starters on the trading block hold no-trade clauses, though they may not be much of a factor. Ted Lilly can reject trades to ten teams, though the only contenders on his list are the Twins and Phillies, who may not even be interested in him. Arizona's Dan Haren can reject deals to twelve clubs, including the Reds. However, a source says that his list is not a factor as he has not been pitching well.
- The Phillies, at the moment, are not playing well enough to make a run at Roy Oswalt. However, they don't expect to fall far enough out of contention to sell. Jayson Werth, Rosenthal says, could be moved in order to improve the team in the short-term and long-term. A Werth-for-Javier Vazquez swap could make sense if the Yankees could acquire another starting pitcher. Cliff Lee, in theory, would have been that guy.
Links for Friday, as interleague play begins...
- Dodgers GM Ned Colletti told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that he expects to have the flexibility to make deals this summer. That doesn't mean the Dodgers be able to take on much payroll, though.
- Jon Heyman of SI.com thinks the Nationals will call Stephen Strasburg up in mid-June. The team will limit him to about 100 major league innings (Twitter link).
- The Nationals don't expect Brian Bruney to be claimed on waivers and the pitcher isn't sure what he'll do if he isn't claimed, according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson (Twitter links).
- As WEEI.com's Alex Speier explains, the Red Sox considered trading for Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez last winter, but acquiring either player would likely have meant giving up Jacoby Ellsbury. The Red Sox wanted to keep him, so they signed free agents instead.
- Trying to predict which teams might become sellers? The Orioles, Astros and Pirates each have less than a one percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Baseball Prospectus' postseason odds.
- Top July 2 prospect Eskarlin Vasquez has questions swirling around his age, according to Frankie Piliere of FanHouse (via Twitter).
- GM Frank Wren told ESPN.com's Buster Olney that the Braves liked walk-off hero Brooks Conrad's versatility and power when they signed him to a minor league deal before last season.
- Former Pirates outfielder Nate McLouth tells Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he's very excited to return to Pittsburgh. This time, it's as an opponent.
- The Mets will probably fire at least one coach if they fire manager Jerry Manuel, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post says the Mets can't build their team around Jose Reyes and David Wright at this point.
- Troy Renck of the Denver Post confirms (via Twitter) that the Rockies will have interest in Kazuo Matsui once he clears waivers.
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.
Someone alert Dr. Dre and the Beach Boys, since here's a rundown of news from the Golden State...
- The Padres are so high on Chase Headley that MLB.com's Corey Brock says the team once turned down a deal with Pittsburgh that would've brought Nate McLouth and Xavier Nady to San Diego.
- MLB.com's Lyle Spencer reports that the Angels will pay their five regular infielders a total of $8.05MM in 2010 --- or, almost $1MM less than Chone Figgins by himself will make in Seattle.
- Tony Jackson of ESPN Los Angeles talks to Jeff Weaver, whose minor league contract with the Dodgers allows him to opt out and become a free agent if he doesn't make the club out of spring training. Weaver said the escape clause allows him to stay out of the minors: "I am here to make this team. If it doesn't work out...then I don't really want to do the Triple-A thing again."
- As part of a reader mailbag, Jackson said it's unlikely that Jamie McCourt's claim of half-ownership of the Dodgers will hold up in court. But if it does, then Jackson predicts Frank McCourt "probably will be forced to sell, whether it's to Jamie and the group she allegedly has lined up to buy the club or to someone else." One would think that if this divorce halves McCourt's fortune as many predict it will, he may have to sell the team regardless of the result of his ex-wife's claim.
- Scout X (who may or may not be ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski) previews the 2010 season. One of the more interesting tidbits in the piece is that Scout X would take Matt Cain over Tim Lincecum if he had to choose between the two Giants aces because "Cain pitches with such ease."
Here are some links to kick off Sunday morning:
- Some Blue Jays players approached CEO and President Paul Beeston with complaints about Cito Gaston, reports Ken Fidlin of the Toronto Sun. “They raised the issues,” said Beeston. “They were listened to. They have not been addressed at this time. I had my ears open. I kept my mouth shut. I gave them some comments and that’s all I want to say about that.”
- Jordan Bastian of MLB.com writes that newly appointed Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos was emotional in his introductory presser. The article notes that the position of president and CEO will be filled soon, relieving the interim hire, Paul Beeston. Beeston says that while the next president and CEO will have the authority to hire its own staff, he will recommend that Anthopoulos remain as GM.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that Kevin Towers didn't deserve to get fired considering all the obstacles he has had to work around in San Diego.
- Towers conducted a farewell press conference in San Diego and Craig Elsten of 619sports.net posted some key sound bytes. Towers insisted that the organization maintained a strong focus on scouting and player development under his watch. He also said that he has been contacted by seven or eight other teams to work immediately, but wants to take some time off before jumping into another job. The 47-year-old made it known that he wants the opportunity to be a GM again. Also available are team owner and CEO Jeff Moorad's post-podium comments.
- The Pirates have talked to Andy LaRoche about possibly moving from third base to second next year to make room for Pedro Alvarez, writes Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Pirates would like to call-up Alvarez by the middle of the 2010 season, but first he must improve his strength and conditioning. The 22-year-old excelled after his mid-season promotion to AA, posting .333/.419/.590 with 13 HR in 60 games.
- More from Kovacevic as he labels the Pirates' trade of Nate McLouth to the Braves to be the worst personnel move of the year. Kovacevic says the deal hurt the players' trust in Pittsburgh management and was a poor public relations decision.
- Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post tweets, "Jerry Manuel was in meetings all morning and said he expects an announcement tomorrow on changes and the team's offseason plans."
- Jon Heyman reports via Twitter that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria refused to comment on a possible manager change. Recent reports suggest that Fredi Gonzalez could be on the way out and Bobby Valentine could be on the way in.
On this date 70 years ago, Lou Gehrig played his last game with the Yankees. Gehrig would retire with a career batting average of .340, 493 home runs and a 179 OPS+. For comparison, Albert Pujols has a career batting average of .334, 337 home runs and a 171 OPS+. More than a third of the way through the '09 season, let's take a look at what is being written in the Blogosphere...
- Josh Q. Public takes a look at what Stephen Strasburg would have to accomplish statistically to justify a 6-year, $50MM contract.
- Federal Baseball spoke with Lee Jenkins about Strasburg and Jenkins' research of dominant amateur pitchers.
- Nationals Park wonders if the Nats can sign Strasburg.
- Ladies... say that Strasburg is destined to break down.
- Bareknucks makes the case that Strasburg will be the next Mark Prior and baseball's version of Tony Mandarich.
- Fanhouse has a pool going on how much Strasburg will ultimately sign for.
- MLB Notebook argues that Pedro Martinez makes sense for the Rays.
- Operation Shutdown makes a case that the Pirates did well in the Nate McLouth trade.
A report coming from the Associated Press says that Tom Glavine may file a grievance against the Atlanta Braves for releasing him on Wednesday.
There are a number of factors here, of course. The combination of money saved by releasing Glavine matches up well with the salary owed newly-acquired Nate McLouth.
Also, the Braves wanted room for Tommy Hanson, their top pitching prospect, in the rotation.
But left unsaid is what effect this may have on Glavine's ability to sign with another team. To the extent that baseball protects its own, will owners want to give Glavine a job?