Nick Punto Rumors
Derrick Goold and Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have a round-up of what the Cardinals could be planning now that Albert Pujols has left town...
- The Cardinals "have explored what the market is" for Carlos Beltran. Beltran would see most of his playing time in center field, since Allen Craig is slated to be the everyday right fielder.
- Jimmy Rollins' desire for a five-year contract will probably keep the Cards out of the bidding unless Rollins is willing to accept a shorter-term deal. The team is still talking to Rafael Furcal and would like to bring back Nick Punto as a veteran backup, should the Cardinals decide to look within and give Tyler Greene a shot at the everyday shortstop job.
- The team is looking for a left-handed reliever and have spoken to representatives for Mike Gonzalez and J.C. Romero.
- The planned $110MM payroll for 2012 won't be lowered because Pujols is gone, said GM John Mozeliak.
- In regards to the Jake Westbrook/Kyle Lohse trade rumors, Mozeliak said no deals materialized and one of the starters would be dealt only if the Cards need to "reallocate" some money towards another move.
The latest on the Braves...
- The Braves would not be a suitor for Hanley Ramirez if the Marlins decide to trade him, reports David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. They've got Tyler Pastornicky penciled into the starting shortstop role for 2012, though GM Frank Wren seeks "a traditional backup shortstop," not a semi-regular. O'Brien says the Braves don't want to make a multiyear commitment. I'd consider Nick Punto a semi-regular and a candidate for a two-year deal, but O'Brien says he is a Braves target.
- Next week's potential non-tenders are not among the Braves' targets, Wren told reporters including MLB.com's Mark Bowman.
- The Cardinals offered Pujols a nine-year, $198MM extension in January, confirmed Goold. Though this would be the third-largest contract in baseball history, the average annual value of $22MM would have the game's best hitter outside of the all-time top ten. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak wouldn't comment on whether the January offer still stands.
- Mozeliak explained his Pujols timeline to Goold: "I don't feel like right now everything outside of Albert's situation is urgent. That said, the one takeaway we have to have in the next couple weeks is what is the likelihood of us getting something done (with Pujols). I think directionally, that's what we're looking for as we move into the winter meetings and toward (the holidays)."
- One pressing factor might be the division-rival Cubs, who have "serious interest" in Pujols according to a Goold source, yet the talks so far have been preliminary. Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reported that the Cubs are showing interest in Pujols and Prince Fielder. Goold says Pujols has indicated a desire to meet face-to-face with any legitimately interested party, so perhaps a sit-down will occur with the Cubs soon.
- Octavio Dotel's agent Dan Horwits told Goold, "Dotel would like to be a Cardinal. Obviously, the Cardinals have some other contracts to address first, and we understand that." This week the Mets, Reds, Tigers, and Angels have been named as other suitors for the 38-year-old righty.
- J.C. Romero's agent Melvin Roman told Goold he has heard from the Cardinals and expects to have a discussion at the Winter Meetings. The 35-year-old southpaw is open to a one-year deal after allowing 44 baserunners in 24 2/3 big league innings this year. In September, Romero said his first choice was to return to the Rockies.
- Mozeliak commented on his team's shortstop situation to Goold: "If we had to wake up and give Tyler Greene an opportunity (at shortstop) we would be comfortable with that." The Cardinals have an internal debate about whether to give Greene the job, Mozeliak told B.J. Rains of FOXSportsMidwest.com. Rafael Furcal is willing to wait on the Pujols negotiations to a point, though you have to think he'll pounce if a strong three-year offer comes along from another team. Goold believes Jimmy Rollins could be a possibility for the Cardinals at shortstop if Pujols signs elsewhere.
- Regarding the bullpen, Mozeliak told Rains, "There may be some things that we look at in January to add depth to that but I don't think we see anything short term on that now."
- Rains also learned that Bryan Anderson and Tony Cruz will compete for the Cardinals' backup catcher job, and the team has interest in retaining free agent infielder Nick Punto.
The Cardinals announced that they signed Nick Punto to a one-year deal, according to MLB.com's Matthew Leach (on Twitter). It's a $700K deal, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Agent Charles Schneider represents the longtime Twin.
Punto hit .238/.313/.302 in 288 plate appearances for Minnesota last year. He played second, short and third in 2010, his seventh campaign in a Twins uniform. Punto has never hit more than 4 home runs in a season, but the switch-hitting 33-year-old can steal a base and back up around the infield. He'll presumably play a similar role to the one Brendan Ryan has in the past few seasons.
The Indians and Punto had "meaningful negotiations" earlier in the winter.
Let's take a look at some Twins tidbits..
- The Twins and Carl Pavano are still close to a deal but appear to be in a temporary holding pattern, writes Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune. The sides still have some details to work out but they've agreed to put the talks on hold through Tuesday.
- Tabling the talks with Pavano should allow the Twins to focus on their potential arbitration cases. Matt Capps, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, and Delmon Young are all scheduled to swap figures with the Twins on Tuesday. Christensen points out that the Twins settled all eight of their potential arbitration cases at the eleventh hour last year.
- The Twins made some attempts to retain Jesse Crain but ultimately knew that relievers Brian Fuentes, Matt Guerrier, and Jon Rauch would sign elsewhere, according to Christensen.
- Nick Punto is still on the open market but the Twins don't have any plans to bring the infielder back, writes Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune. Punto, 33, has spent the last seven years with the Twins, hitting .248/.323/.324.
In a chat with fans today, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch dished out some information about the Cardinals' remaining offseason wants, some free agent rumors and the Albert Pujols extension talks. Here are some of the highlights...
- Strauss thinks it's "feasible" that Pujols could agree to an extension that doesn't stretch over as many years (maybe a five- or six-year deal) but pays him the highest average annual salary in baseball history. This way Pujols gets his big payout, but it doesn't leave St. Louis on the hook for a huge salary in the seventh or eighth year of a longer contract.
- The Cardinals are looking for some infield depth at shortstop and third base, plus another starter to provide rotation depth. They're looking for players with Major League experience to fill these roles, but on non-guaranteed contracts.
- There is "little enthusiasm" for bringing back Brad Penny. Strauss isn't sure Penny would be content with serving as an emergency starter out of the bullpen.
- If the Cards sign a backup infielder, it will have to be an infielder who is "adroit" at third base in case David Freese can't handle the everyday job. This seems to rule out a return to St. Louis for David Eckstein, but Strauss says Nick Punto "is a popular name within some quarters of the organization." We haven't heard much about Punto since the Winter Meetings, where the former Twins infielder engaged in "meaningful negotiations" with Cleveland.
- The Cardinals believe Mitchell Boggs and/or Jason Motte can develop into a solid closer, so there isn't much interest in Rafael Soriano.
- The Red Sox have made an offer to reliever Matt Guerrier, reports WEEI.com's Alex Speier (as passed along in a tweet from WEEI.com's Rob Bradford).
- Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review looks at how Jay Bruce's extension might influence a future extension offer from the Pirates to Andrew McCutchen.
- Lyle Overbay would be a familiar solution to Toronto's search for a first base/DH partner for Adam Lind, but MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm thinks Overbay "does not appear to be a good fit" since Overbay wants an everyday job. Chisholm's piece also contains several quotes from Alex Anthopoulos from the winter meetings and what the Jays might look to do during the rest of the offseason.
- The Indians and Nick Punto had "meaningful negotiations" at the winter meetings, reports MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.
- Manny Ramirez will receive $15MM in deferred payments from the Dodgers over the next three years and $1.94MM for each of the next 16 years from the Red Sox, reports Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com (with a tip of the cap to Cot's Baseball Contracts).
- Larry Stone of the Seattle Times looks back at the 11-year contract Dave Stieb signed with the Blue Jays before the 1985 season.
- Also from Stone, Jack Zduriencik says the Mariners could be in the market for an extra infielder.
The Indians have been quiet this offseason, but GM Chris Antonetti is making progress on potential moves, as MLB.com's Jordan Bastian and others report:
- The Indians have some interest in bringing Bartolo Colon back to Cleveland, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes (on Twitter). The right-hander pitched for the Tribe from 1997-2002 and is back on the radar and attempting a comeback. He last pitched in the majors for the 2009 White Sox. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer disagrees, shooting down the idea on Twitter.
- The Indians' interest in Edwin Encarnacion appears to have cooled, Bastian notes on Twitter.
- The Indians will discuss the possibility of a Shin-Soo Choo extension with agent Scott Boras this offseason. I looked at Choo's case for an extension back in September.
- Antonetti said the club could have interest in adding an infielder. They are interested in Adam Everett, according to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark.
- The Tribe met a number of agents today, including the representatives for free agent infielder Nick Punto.
- The Indians are close to signing former Rockies catcher Paul Phillips to a minor league contract.
Some items to wrap up the week...
- The Pirates were close to a trade for J.J. Hardy on Thursday night, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com. Pittsburgh is known to have an interest in Hardy and could still work out a deal given that the Twins tendered Hardy a contract.
- There is "mutual interest" between Nick Punto and the Indians, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. (Twitter link) The two sides will continue their talks during the winter meetings.
- Yahoo Sports' Big League Stew blog collects some of the Washington media's reaction to Adam Dunn leaving town, and it isn't very positive.
- It's looking increasingly unlikely that Arizona will trade Justin Upton, but if Upton is moved, it won't be to Florida, writes Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Rodriguez says the Marlins are looking for a left-handed bench bat and possibly a left-handed reliever, though the club is unlikely to re-sign Will Ohman.
- Phillies assistant GM Scott Proefrock tells Fox Sports Radio's Jim Bowden (Twitter link) that his club isn't interested in bringing back Cliff Lee. "That ship has sailed," Proefrock said.
- Erik Bedard tells Larry Larue of the Tacoma News Tribune that he was offered a guaranteed deal from another club but turned it down to sign a non-guaranteed contract with Seattle.
- The Mariners "are becoming a West Coast version of the Orioles, a place top-tier free agents avoid because the stench of losing is overwhelming," writes Yahoo's Steve Henson in his winter meetings preview.
Kubel posted a .249/.323/.427 line this year and his lowest OPS since 2006. He hit 21 homers, spending most of his time at right field and DH. The 28-year-old would have been a Type A free agent, so Minnesota could have obtained draft picks if Kubel had turned down arbitration to sign elsewhere. As we predicted in August, the Twins chose to retain Kubel for another season.
Punto, 33 next month, batted .238/.313/.302 in 288 plate appearances and played short, second and third. As Thesier pointed out earlier this month, the Twins were not expected to pick up Punto's option. He is not a ranked free agent, so the Twins won't get compensation picks if they offer arbitration and he signs elsewhere. An offer of arbitration for Punto seems extremely unlikely.