Omar Vizquel Rumors
On this date 20 years ago, a 26-year-old Barry Bonds took home his first National League MVP Award thanks to a .301/.406/.565 season with the Pirates. He went on to win the award again in 1992, his final season in Pittsburgh, and then five more times with the Giants. The latter part of Bonds' career was clouded by PED allegations, but he did hit .301/.424/.566 in his final three seasons with the Pirates and .305/.438/.600 with far more unintentional walks (825) than strikeouts (685) from 1990-1998, age 26-34. Barry could have retired at that point and waltzed into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
Here's a look at the best the baseball blogosphere had to offer this week...
- We Should Be GMs celebrates Omar Vizquel, the last remaining active player from the 1980's.
- Capitol Avenue Club wonders what's next for the Braves following the Dan Uggla trade.
- Pittsburgh Lumber Co. contemplates Jorge de la Rosa.
- Meanwhile, Pine Tar And Pocket Protectors pieces together Pittsburgh's 2011 rotation.
- Baseball Analysts looks at Japanese pitchers and the hot stove.
- Crashburn Alley says that right now is a prime opportunity for the Phillies to sign Jimmy Rollins to a contract extension.
- Fenway Faithful Reports thinks that Victor Martinez is destined to sign with the Tigers.
- Splashing Pumpkins breaks down some shortstop options for the Giants.
- Baseball Time In Arlington explains the regression that the Rangers could experience.
- FanSpeak believes the Nationals should go all-in to acquire Justin Upton.
- Boston Sports Pulse provides a blueprint for the Red Sox offseason.
- Phoul Ballz looks at Matt Rizzotti, a Phillies' farmhand that will be eligible for this year's Rule 5 Draft.
- The Sports Banter finds some interesting minor league free agents.
- Cubs Billy Goat Blog lists some minor moves that could have a big impact on the Cubs.
- SPANdemonium muses about why teams have to wait a year before trading drafted players.
If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.
Vizquel, 44 in April, hit .276/.341/.331 in 391 plate appearances for the White Sox this year while earning $1.375MM. The 14-time Gold Glove winner logged innings at second base, shortstop, and third base.
Indians GM Chris Antonetti told Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that finding a third baseman will be one of his main jobs this winter. Here’s a look at needs, options and possible solutions for the Tribe:
It would make sense to sign someone who can play third for a year while Jared Goedert and Lonnie Chisenhall develop into major league regulars. Goedert, 25, batted .283/.358/.532 with 27 homers in the upper minors this year. Chisenhall, who turned 22 this week, had a strong season at Double-A, but likely needs seasoning.
Antonetti told Hoynes that he’d like to see improved infield defense next year, so free agents who can hold their own at the hot corner will appeal to Cleveland's front office.
Jayson Nix, Cord Phelps, Luis Valbuena and Andy Marte are internal options for the Indians, but none of the four have guarantees and it seems more likely that the Indians will add someone from outside the organization.
Adrian Beltre is a fantastic defender, but he has set himself up for a long-term deal and the Indians are probably not looking to make a long-term commitment to a third baseman given their minor league depth at the position.
Lots of other third basemen hit free agency this winter; the Indians could approach Jorge Cantu, Melvin Mora, Miguel Tejada, Brandon Inge or Juan Uribe about a deal. All of those players should draw interest from multiple teams - Inge has discussed a deal with the Tigers - but there should be plenty of alternatives.
Joe Crede has a reputation as a good defender and could look to return next year after sitting out the 2010 season. Felipe Lopez and Pedro Feliz could also be considerations for the Tribe, but, like Crede, both come with question marks.
A Possible Solution
The Indians have lots of choice, but here’s one solution I’d like to see: longtime Indian Omar Vizquel paired with Edwin Encarnacion (if he’s non-tendered). Vizquel, a switch-hitter who handles right-handers better than left-handers, could face tough righties and be a late-game defensive replacement at third and short. Encarnacion, who mashes lefties, could start against all southpaws and lots of right-handers.
The Indians may not have the chance to sign either player and even if they’re both available, there are surer ways for Antonetti to improve his infield defense than combining a 44-year-old with someone who has played below average defense in every season of his career (Encarnacion’s career UZR/150 is -11.7).
But Vizquel can still get on base (.341 OBP in 2010) and play all around the infield and Encarnacion definitely has power. It’s one fun option to think about, even if the Jays decide Encarnacion is worth $5-6MM in arbitration and Vizquel re-signs with the White Sox.
Though they fell short of the playoffs, the White Sox won 88 games this year. Notes from yesterday:
- GM Kenny Williams told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune he seeks "balance from the left side" of the lineup. Williams said A.J. Pierzynski could provide that balance, or he could find someone on the trade or free agent market. Luke Scott, Adam Dunn, Prince Fielder, Carl Crawford, Hideki Matsui, Adam LaRoche, and Bobby Abreu are a few of the available left-handed bats.
- Pierzynski told CSN Chicago that he wants to return, but he has to do what's best for him and his family and isn't going to come crawling back.
- Williams told MLB.com's Scott Merkin Manny Ramirez helped others in the lineup and brought life to the team, even if his .319 slugging percentage fell short of expectations.
- Manager Ozzie Guillen told Merkin he'd love to have Omar Vizquel back, suggesting the infielder could play another two years. The interest is known to be mutual.
Links for Tuesday night, as the Rays, Yankees and Reds clinch playoff berths...
- Former Rangers and Indians GM John Hart has prepared in case he becomes a candidate for the Mets GM job, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (on Twitter).
- ESPN.com's Jayson Stark profiles Braves manager Bobby Cox, whose storied managerial career is coming to an end after the season.
- The Blue Jays, who were once managed by Cox, are looking for a new manager, but GM Alex Anthopoulos says the organization's search cannot be rushed, according to MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.
- Brewers bench coach Willie Randolph would like to manage in the big leagues again, according to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy.
- MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy will resign after the season, according to this MLB press release.
- Jason Giambi told Troy Renck of the Denver Post that there's "no chance" he's retiring after the season (Twitter link).
- A.J. Pierzynski would like to return to the White Sox next year, according to Scot Gregor of the Daily Herald. His teammate, Omar Vizquel, told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune that he'd like to return, too.
Back in May, Omar Vizquel told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times that he'd probably retire unless he finished the season well. Three months later, with the White Sox in a pennant race and Vizquel getting regular playing time, the veteran shortstop sounded as if he's ready to stick around in another chat with Cowley.
"I think it would be sad that if at the end of the season I look back, look at my year, and say, 'Man, I don't think I can do this anymore,' " Vizquel said. "Taking a look at the numbers and the things that I have done this year, it will give me a good possibility to come back next year and try and see if a team is interested in wanting me again.''
Entering tonight's action, Vizquel has a .283/.349/.341 slash line in 259 plate appearances for Chicago. While the .690 OPS is modest, it would represent Vizquel's best season since the .749 OPS he posted in 2006 as San Francisco's everyday shortstop. Vizquel has played mostly third base for the Sox this season filling in for the injured Mark Teahen, and has made five of six starts at third since Teahen returned from the DL last week.
Vizquel signed a one-year, $1.375MM contract with Chicago last winter and would certainly sign a similar pact with the White Sox or another club if he chooses to return for his 23rd major league campaign. If he does come back, Vizquel will continue his surprising ascent up baseball's all-time hits leaderboard. Though Vizquel is known for his defense (he's an 11-time Gold Glover), he is also 49th all-time with 2768 hits heading into Thursday. He'll already pass Hall-of-Famer Andre Dawson (2774 hits) and future HOF-er Ken Griffey Jr. (2781) before this season is out.
Tracy Ringolsby of FOX Sports reports that the Rockies received some bad news today, finding out Troy Tulowitzki has broken his left wrist and will likely miss at least the next six weeks. While the Rockies can't hope to sufficiently replace their superstar's production, GM Dan O'Dowd said the team may look into trading for infield depth, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post.
Yesterday, we examined another club that might need a shortstop: the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels have since expressed optimism about Erick Aybar's health, meaning an infield acquisition probably won't be necessary. However, many of the same names we mentioned as possibilities for the Halos could be options for the Rockies. Stephen Drew is an unlikely target for a team in need of a stopgap solution, but the Rockies could look at players like Adam Everett, Cesar Izturis, Omar Vizquel, and Ryan Theriot.
In the meantime, former first-round pick Chris Nelson has been called up to replace Tulowitzki on the roster, and Clint Barmes and Jonathan Herrera should see increased playing time. If they're unable to contribute more offensively than they have to date, the Rockies could be forced to make a move.
- Kameron Loe has a clause in his contract that allows him to ask for his release if he isn't in the major leagues by June 5th, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Loe is pitching well for the Brewers' Triple A affiliate.
- Morosi also notes that Rich Hill, who is pitching at Triple A for the Cardinals, has a June 1st opt-out clause in his contract (Twitter link).
- Rocco Baldelli tells Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal that he hasn't thought about returning to the majors for a team other than the Rays. Baldelli says he would prefer the Rays to another organization.
- Omar Vizquel says he will likely retire if he doesn't finish the year well, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- The Rays released Eduardo Morlan and Cody Strait, according to Stacy Long of the Montgomery Advertiser. The Rays acquired Morlan in the Matt Garza-Delmon Young trade.
- Click here to listen to my appearance today with Jeff & Jeff of KFNS St. Louis.
- Yahoo's Jeff Passan tells the story of Sergio Santos, a converted shortstop who has a 0.52 ERA and 10.9 K/9 as a White Sox reliever.
- Baseball America's Jim Callis compares Manny Machado to other high school shortstops in recent draft history. Yesterday in his mock draft ESPN's Keith Law wrote that the Pirates have Machado and lefty Drew Pomeranz high on their list for the second overall pick.
- AOL FanHouse's Frankie Piliere is hearing buzz about the Reds considering Alex Wimmers with the #12 pick (Twitter link). Law had the Ohio State righty going 16th to the Cubs, picking catcher Yasmani Grandal for the Reds.
- Law ranked James Paxton 12th overall, but doesn't project the lefty as a first-round pick. Paxton, a Boras client, is now pitching independent ball after losing his NCAA eligibility. According to Matthew Sekeres of The Globe and Mail, Paxton has no ill will toward Paul Beeston and the Blue Jays.
Even though he'll turn 43 in April, Omar Vizquel isn't assuming this will be his final season, according to MLB.com's Chris Haft. Haft reports that the veteran defensive specialist hopes to stick around for as long as his body lets him.
"My body's holding on good, I'm feeling good, I feel I have the passion for it, I consider that I had a good year last year (.266 in 62 games with Texas) and that's why I'm here, because my body's telling me that I can still be out there and compete with the other guys."
Vizquel signed a one-year, $1.375MM pact with the White Sox shortly after the 2009 season. While his 195 plate appearances with the Rangers last year were a career-low, he still provided solid value off the bench. In the admittedly limited sample size, his defense was as good as ever, according to UZR/150. Until those numbers slip, he should be able to find a role as a utility infielder and late-inning defensive replacement.
Links in Spanish, because English is so last season...
- Jose Julio Ruiz's new agent Mike Maulini tells Jorge Ebro at Nuevo Herald that the Cuban first baseman made the switch from Jorge Luis Toca after realizing that his much-rumored signing with a major league team was "long overdue." Ruiz had a $2MM offer in hand from Tampa Bay in February, but since then, the market has stagnated and the lefty feared he was in danger of missing his opportunity to play stateside.
- While Haitian baseball prospects exist, don't expect to see any of them signing with Major League teams, writes Juan Mercado in the Dominican newspaper El Dia. He talks with two coaches who complain that the MLB office on the island won't allow promising Haitian players to attend teams' academies because of the difficulty in verifying the players' backgrounds and paperwork. One source tells Mercado that the teams simply "prefer not to waste time" in fruitless investigations, while the two coaches call the policy discriminatory, saying many Cuban and Venezuelan players don't receive the same level of scrutiny. The only current Major Leaguer of Haitian descent is the Orioles' Felix Pie, though he was born in the Dominican.
- Several veteran players were signed during this offseason under the justification of mentoring developing players. But lost in the circle-of-life storyline is the idea that those veterans are being paid for their blunt critical eye. New White Sox backup shortstop Omar Vizquel brings the point home to Luis Rangel of Nuevo Herald when he says that mentee Alexei Ramirez "needs to move his feet when fielding. He has the tendency to stand still and not move to the ball." Ramirez committed 20 errors in his first full season at short, tying for fourth most among major league shortstops.
- Who says winter leagues help keep players in shape for the regular season? Yankees reliever Jonathan Albaladejo tells Esteban Pagan Rivera at Primera Hora that he shed 30 pounds this offseason after the team forbade him from playing in his home country of Puerto Rico. At the other end of the scale sits Pablo Sandoval, whose much-ballyhooed "Camp Panda" proved for naught when he came back from the Venezuelan Winter League in January heavier than when he arrived.
- The Twins signed one of Sandoval's fellow Navegantes of Magallanes in Venezuela, righty reliever Yoslan Herrera, to a minor league deal, confirms Joe Christensen at the Star Tribune. Herrera, who defected from Cuba in 2005, was a highly touted prospect in the Pirates system but disappointed in his only brief showing with the team in 2008. He showed more promise at the Bucs' Double-A and Triple-A levels in 2009 and will start out at Triple-A Rochester for the Twins. The Cuban blog Terreno de Pelota first reported the signing on Tuesday.