Pablo Sandoval Rumors
Emilio "Millito" Navarro, believed to be the oldest living professional baseball player at 105, passed away in Puerto Rico today. The former Negro Leaguer also played in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico during his career. Our condolences go out to his family.
- Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports that former Mets GM Omar Minaya has spent the past two days on a "friendly visit" with Indians GM Chris Antonetti, president Mark Shapiro, and manager Manny Acta. Cleveland interviewed former Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes during the offseason, and Hoynes says Antonetti has "made [it] no secret that he'd like to add the right person to the front office."
- While researching the impending free agency of young stars, SI's Jon Heyman (via Twitter) learned that we can count on Jered Weaver and John Danks filing after 2012.
- It's been a bad day for star third basemen, writes Justin Sablich of the New York Times. The Giants lost Pablo Sandoval for 4-6 weeks with a broken bone in his right wrist and the Nationals announced that Ryan Zimmerman, who has been on the disabled list since April 12, will miss at least an another six weeks. If both players return within those timeframes, it's unlikely that either squad will look for an out-of-house fill-in.
- Matt Klaassen of Fangraphs questions the Blue Jays' wisdom in demoting Travis Snider to work on his hitting after just 99 plate appearances in 2011.
Some news about the defending World Series champs and their division rivals...
- The Padres "remain open" to the idea of signing another Major League starter, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com. This is just pure speculation, but of the five hurlers on Luke Adams' list of pitchers that could benefit from the NL, three (Jeremy Bonderman, Bruce Chen and Kevin Millwood) are still available and would likely be open to the idea of pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
- Brandon Belt "has a legitimate chance" to win an everyday job playing first base or left field in San Francisco, writes MLB.com's Chris Haft. Belt, who turns 23 in April, has just one minor league season to his name, but he hit .352/.455/.620 in 595 plate appearances for the Giants' Class A, Double-A and Triple-A affiliates.
- Pablo Sandoval has lost 17 pounds training with former Olympic decathlete Dan O'Brien and plans to lose more weight before the start of Spring Training, Rich Aurilia tells Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Sandoval was threatened with a demotion to the minors by GM Brian Sabean unless the "Kung Fu Panda" improved his conditioning this offseason.
- The Rockies' big extensions with Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki put more pressure on the team's minor league system to produce low-cost, quality players, writes Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post.
It's been less than a week since the Giants were crowned World Champions, but GM Brian Sabean has already started to act on his offseason agenda. Here's the latest from San Francisco, courtesy of Andrew Baggarly of The Mercury News...
- Sabean was very explicit in saying that Pablo Sandoval will be sent to the minors next year if he doesn't improve his conditioning. Kung Fu Panda will spend the winter with fitness and nutrition experts in San Diego before reporting to Spring Training a month early. He will have benchmarks to meet this offseason.
- Sabean has reached out to the agents for Aubrey Huff and Juan Uribe, and although he acknowledged that both players are priorities, he couldn't commit to bringing them back. The market could play out very favorably for those two.
- The team is currently discussing Pat Burrell internally, who would be brought back in a reserve role if anything. Remember that the Giants will have Mark DeRosa and his righty bat back from injury next season.
- Sabean's priority is to get more left-handed, and when asked about Carl Crawford, he responded "We'll see. That's the best answer I can give you."
- Sabean also said that he's still upset about being portrayed as a suitor for CC Sabathia two offseasons ago, claiming he never met with the player or his representatives. "[W]e do not want to be somebody’s fallback or stalking horse to be used as leverage," said the game's longest-tenured GM.
- Baggarly doesn't think the Giants will be serious players for Jayson Werth, and their desire to get more athletic could take them out of Adam Dunn sweepstakes.
- The team's payroll is expected to eclipse the $100MM mark for the first time, and Sabean wouldn't commit to offering arbitration to all eight of his eligible players. He is interested in bringing them all back, however.
- It almost goes without saying, but Sabean is hopeful that the World Series victory will make San Francisco a more desirable landing spot for free agents.
Aardsma was a first-round pick of Brian Sabean's Giants back in '03 but was traded to the Cubs with Jerome Williams two years later for LaTroy Hawkins and cash. His peripheral stats haven't changed much since last year, and his groundball rate is actually up, but his ERA increased from 2.52 to 4.73. One plus is that he's under team control through 2012. Lopez, a potential non-tender candidate for the Mariners after the season, doesn't seem to hold much trade value despite last year's 25 home run campaign.
Sandoval has seen a big downturn this year, with a .263/.325/.384 line after last year's amazing performance garnered MVP votes. His injuries have seemingly been minor, though he is just returning from personal leave. Sandoval remains under team control through 2014 and the Giants probably aren't inclined to sell low.
The early verdict on Ryan Howard's five-year, $125MM contract extension isn't pretty from the point of view of several pundits, but the deal has to be great news for other slugging first basemen who may soon be hitting the free agent market. Here are some opinions on how Howard's contract will impact other major players...
- Fanhouse's Tom Krasovic spoke to John Boggs, who represents Adrian Gonzalez. Boggs feels that "[Howard's deal] bodes well for Adrian Gonzalez, because it validates the fact that he's worth that kind of money or more." Boggs noted that there have been no talks of an extension with the Padres, who have a $5.5MM club option on Gonzalez for the 2011 season that they're sure to exercise. Given Gonzalez's youth (he will be 29 when he hits free agency), great away splits (his lifetime line of .264/.365/.443 at PETCO Park is well below his .282/.364/.510 career line) and steadily improving glove (he has posted positive UZR/150 numbers over the last two years), he looks to be a strong bet to get a contract larger than Howard's from a team other than San Diego.
- Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at Howard's place in largest-contract history, and notes that Albert Pujols "figures to zoom by" the Phillies' slugger. Indeed, if the Cardinals had signed Pujols to a five-year, $125MM extension, they would be doing jumping jacks in St. Louis right now. The Cardinals have a no-brainer $16MM option on Pujols for 2011, and no matter if Pujols re-signs in St. Louis or goes elsewhere, he'll be looking at a contract with an average annual value of over $30MM. Braves manager Bobby Cox told Goold Pujols is worth $50MM a year in light of Howard's deal.
- Prince Fielder is eliglble for arbitration this winter and can also be a free agent after the 2011 season. We've already heard whispers about the size of the deal that Fielder is looking for, and he will be just 27 when he hits the free agent market. Fielder, however, has to deal with question marks about his long-term fitness and his fielding ability (a -6.2 career UZR/150), but agent Scott Boras will no doubt have his best counter-argument prepared to rebut those concerns. With Boras at the negotiating table, it's very unlikely the Brewers will get a hometown discount.
- Pablo Sandoval is under San Francisco's control through 2014, but Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News points out that Howard's extension is a "great lesson" to Sandoval that getting in better shape can lead to bigger money in the future.
Sandoval, 23, burst onto the scene with a late season cameo in 2008, then finished seventh in the 2009 NL MVP voting when he hit .330/.387/.556 with 25 homers in his first full season. He won't be eligible for arbitration until after the 2011 season, but that doesn't mean San Francisco can't secure some cost certainty now.
The best comparable for a contract extension might be David Wright, who inked a six year, $55MM deal in the middle of his second full season. The Mets' third baseman hit .306/.388/.523 with 27 homers in his first full season, and was hitting .308/.382/.545 on the August 2006 day he signed his deal. Sandoval started the 2010 season at nearly the same exact age that Wright started the 2006 season, but the biggest difference between the two is that Wright was a far safer bet to remain at third base long-term.
With a 5-foot-11, 245 lb. frame (that's what the team's official site says), Sandoval has a -2.3 career UZR at the hot corner, and is expected to slide over to first as he gets older and potentially gets even bigger. That's something the Giants will have to consider if they approach their best hitter with a contract, that it's easier to find a first baseman that hits like he does than a third baseman.
Wright's deal bought out his last remaining pre-arbitration year (for $1MM), his three arbitration years (for $22.5MM total), and two free agent years (for $29MM total). There's also a $16MM club option ($1MM buyout) for the 2013 season, which would have been Wright's third free agent year. That framework seems reasonable for Sandoval, though the Giants might not want to assume so much risk with a bad bodied player. Buying out his last four years of team control for $23MM or so with (ideally) a club option or two for some free agent years would make sense.
Some links to browse, as teams continue to make spring cuts....
- Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe writes (via Twitter) that the Red Sox will not pick up David Ortiz's $12.5MM option for 2011 regardless of what he does this season.
- Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas reports that the Rangers have kept in contact with Khalil Greene, even after voiding his contract last month, though assistant GM Thad Levine says "there were no overtures about coming back and playing."
- Murray Chass interviewed John Smoltz about his future, and the result is an interesting read. "I don't know if I’m going to pitch, but I haven't ruled it out," Smoltz said. "I have a lot of options, and I don't want the options to rule me." Smoltz adds that he laughs at all the "rumors and speculation that’s out there." We won't take it personally.
- In his ESPN Insider blog, Buster Olney expands on a couple tweets he made yesterday, about the Twins' closer situation and the possible appeal of Smoltz.
- John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that the Giants haven't entered into any long-term contract negotiations with Pablo Sandoval yet, since he's still a couple years away from being arbitration-eligible.
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo says that "money has nothing to do with who's going to play and who's not going to play," according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. This stance is relevant not only for Stephen Strasburg's ETA in the majors, but also for determining Ian Desmond's role. Rizzo suggested that Desmond "is in the running to be an everyday guy."
- Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland will undergo brain surgery, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. Best of luck to Westmoreland.
The Giants are not currently looking to give Pablo Sandoval a multi-year contract, writes Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Team official Bobby Evans told Schulman that the club is negotiating a one-year deal with the 23-year-old, as is their custom for players with less than two years of major league service time. Sandoval has just over one year of service time to his credit.
Finding precedent for a player like Sandoval could prove to be difficult. This past season Kung Fu Panda hit .330/.387/.556 with 25 HRs in 633 plate appearances. Last spring, the Giants and Tim Lincecum agreed to a $650K deal, though Tiny Tim had a bit more service time under his belt than Sandoval.
Schulman suggests Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard as comparisons, as they also had brilliant campaigns in their first full seasons. Fielder was renewed for $415K while Howard was given $900K, a record salary for a one-plus player.
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.
Pat Burrell's move to the American League did not go as smoothly as he or the Rays hoped. Burrell left the World Series-winning Phillies to sign a two-year, $16MM free agent contract with Tampa Bay last January, and then suffered through a season's worth of injuries and inconsistency to finish with a career-worst .682 OPS (.221/.315/.367) in 476 plate appearances.
With $9MM due to Burrell in 2010, the Rays have been openly shopping the slugger this winter. Rumors of a deal of Burrell-for-Milton Bradley swirled for months before the Cubs dealt Bradley to Seattle last week. With seemingly their best trade option gone, it appears as if Tampa Bay will go into next season with Burrell back in the DH spot --- which, if 2009 was just an aberration, might not be a bad option given Burrell's 251 homers and .852 OPS over his first nine years in Philadelphia.
If the Rays still want to move Burrell and save some cash, however, here are a few of the clubs that are in need of a DH/LF type and might have the payroll flexibility to absorb some or all of Burrell's contract.
- The Mets. Should they give up on signing Jason Bay (or lose him to the Red Sox), New York would still have a hole to fill in left field. The downside of Burrell going to a National League team, however, is his glove. He played just two games in the outfield last season, and according to Fangraphs, his defense ranged from mediocre to terrible (a -25.2 UZR/150 in 2007) over his last four years in Philadelphia.
- The Cardinals. Just as Burrell is a backup plan for the Mets if they don't sign Bay, he can also be a backup plan for St. Louis if they don't sign Matt Holliday.
- The Braves. Atlanta's biggest offseason need was a right-handed power hitter. While they are close to a deal with Troy Glaus, Glaus made just 32 plate appearances in 2009 after undergoing shoulder surgery last January. Burrell is perhaps a more reliable option, and may regain his batting stroke back in the NL East.
- The White Sox. Ozzie Guillen likes the idea of a rotating designated hitter, but GM Kenny Williams didn't close the door on the possibility of picking up an everyday DH if the right opportunity presented itself.
- The Giants. Mark DeRosa may be coming in as San Francisco's new left fielder, but Burrell could be an interesting alternative should DeRosa not accept the Giants' offer. Or, the power-starved Giants could acquire Burrell to play in left, and then sign DeRosa to play third base, thus moving Pablo Sandoval over to first. (Or, Sandoval plays 1B, DeRosa plays 2B and Freddy Sanchez moves over to 3B.) If the Rays pay some of Burrell's contract, then he is a much cheaper option for San Francisco than Johnny Damon.