Rafael Furcal Rumors

Pirates Notes: First Base, Furcal, Burnett, Trade, Jones

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review relays a host of updates on the Pirates (all links to Twitter):

  • One area where GM Neal Huntington hopes to make a move is at first. Though the club believes that Gaby Sanchez can increase his production against same-handed pitching, he is still in need of a platoon partner to hit righties.
  • The Pirates have joined seven other clubs in reaching out to shortstop Rafael Furcal, his representatives at Kinzer Management Group told Sawchik.
  • Turning to the still-unresolved situation of free agent starter A.J. Burnett, Huntington said he was hoping to see some movement. "It has not inhibited our abiity to do things at this point in time," said Huntington, "but there is no question it is something we would like to see move forward if it's possible. If not, we'll have to operate as we see fit." The GM had more pointed words as well, telling MLB.com's Tom Singer that, "if he or others want a market-value deal, they'll sign elsewhere." As Singer notes, there must be at least some temptation for Burnett to look outside the Pittsburgh market given the money promised recently to mid-to-late 30's starters like Dan Haren ($10MM, one year) and Tim Hudson ($23MM, two years).
  • On the club's acquisition today of outfielder Jaff Decker and righty Miles Mikolas, Huntington noted that Decker can play anywhere in the outfield and has a realistic shot at making the team's active roster out of Spring Training. Huntington also indicated that Decker has appeal both from an analytic and a scouting perspective. As for Mikolas, Huntington indicated that his groundball inducing abilities were the primary draw.
  • Meanwhile, Garrett Jones, who lost his roster spot as part of the day's dealings, was just going to be too expensive to bring back, according to Huntington. "[T]he arbitration process was likely to drive the dollars above where we were comfortable," the GM said. Decker's move to Pittsburgh could also have an impact on Travis Snider, with respect to whom Huntington would only say that the front office is "working through the process."

AL Central Rumors: Hughes, Royals, Pierzynski, Twins

The Royals are among the clubs with interest in free agent pitcher Phil Hughes, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  Kansas City pitching coach Dave Eiland knows Hughes well from his time spent with the Yankees and is a fan of his.  A return to New York isn't in the cards as both sides recognize that a change of scenery would be best.  The latest from the AL Central…

MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post


Five To Six Teams Interested In Rafael Furcal

Rafael Furcal appears to be drawing quite a bit of interest with free agency in its early stages. Jorge Castillo of the Star Ledger reports that the Mets have already reached out to the former Rookie of the Year and three-time All-Star, and Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets that as many as five to six teams have shown early interest.

Furcal, who turned 36 just two weeks ago, didn't play in 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but should be healthy for the 2014 season. Castillo notes that Furcal participated in fielding drills with the Cardinals prior to postseason games without any noticeable hindrance.

Furcal flopped in his final season with the Dodgers, prompting a trade to the Cardinals where he restored quite a bit of his value. Furcal helped the Cards to the 2011 World Series, and his strong performance in St. Louis was enough to earn him a two-year, $14MM contract that offseason. Furcal spent 171 regular-season games in a Cardinals uniform from 2011-12, slashing .262/.323/.367 with 12 homers and 16 stolen bases in 748 plate appearances.

In addition to the Mets, contenders such as the Pirates and Cardinals have a need at shortstop. The Twins have little stability at the position outside of Pedro Florimon's defensive wizardry, and other teams such as the A's and Indians could make sense. Oakland could play Jed Lowrie at second base and use Furcal as a bridge to top prospect Addison Russell, while the Indians, who likely would be open to dealing Asdrubal Cabrera, could use Furcal as a bridge to Francisco Lindor in the event of such a trade. Doing so would allow them to reallocate some or all of Cabrera's $10MM salary to fill other needs.



Cardinals Don’t Expect To Pursue Shortstops For Now

Rafael Furcal will undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and miss most or all of the 2013 season, the Cardinals announced today. GM John Mozeliak said he doesn’t expect to pursue outside help at shortstop, at least for now.

"From the immediate standpoint, I think we’re OK,” Mozeliak told reporters in Jupiter including B.J. Rains of MLBTR. “Now, as the season develops, if we don’t feel that things are going as we hoped, then we explore other options. But I think in the short-term, we feel comfortable where we’re at."

That leaves Pete Kozma as the Cardinals’ primary shortstop option with Ronny Cedeno as a backup and Daniel Descalso as another internal option. Though Kozma has limited MLB experience and a pedestrian minor league record, he impressed late in the 2012 campaign. Mozeliak expressed optimism that Kozma will play well enough that outside options won’t be required.

"I don’t see the free agent market putting much out there for a team from the middle infield standpoint in the near future,” he said. “But that could change because guys have options. But I think the trade market, might bear some things. We’re open. I don’t have the answer today.”

If the Cardinals were to look outside of the organization for shortstops today they wouldn’t find many options. Jason Bartlett, Ryan Theriot and Munenori Kawasaki are available in free agency and it’s possible players such as Reid Brignac will be available in trades. 

If the Cardinals wait until midseason it’s at least conceivable that impact players such as Asdrubal Cabrera, Stephen Drew and Troy Tulowitzki could be available. Once the season ends there could be additional trade candidates such as Elvis Andrus and J.J. Hardy plus free agents Brendan Ryan, Jhonny Peralta and Yunel Escobar. Furcal's two-year, $14MM contract expires this offseason.


Central Links: Furcal, Drew, Crosby, Kazmir

Some late-night links pertaining to baseball's two Central divisions…

  • Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal is going to visit Dr. James Andrews to have his problematic elbow re-evaluated, writes Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. However, GM John Mozeliak isn't second-guessing the decision not to operate on Furcal following the 2012 season.
  • Hummel's colleague, Derrick Goold, writes that while the Cardinals had interest in Stephen Drew this offseason, Drew's decision came down to the Athletics or Red Sox because Furcal's presence didn't allow the Cards to guarantee Drew playing time.
  • MLB.com's Adam McCalvy profiles Bobby Crosby and his decision to make an attempt at a Major League comeback with the Brewers. Crosby was persuaded to pursue a comeback by his father, former Major Leaguer Ed Crosby. McCalvy notes that Crosby's agent, Paul Cohen, has orchestrated successful comebacks for clients Gape Kapler, Jim Edmonds and Troy Percival in the past.
  • Another comeback story — Scott Kazmir — is taking things slowly with the Indians, writes MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. Kazmir will work on his breaking pitches in a minor league "B" game Wednesday as he builds confidence in the pitches in a low-pressure setting. Kazmir has fired four scoreless frames with four punchouts for the Tribe thus far.

NL Notes: Pirates, Nationals, Cardinals, Kershaw

With Spring Training in full swing, wonderful stories from present and past are always emerging. Take Rays starter Chris Archer, who is not just fighting for a spot on Tampa Bay’s opening-day roster, but is on a quest for self-discovery. (As told by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.)  Or today's matchup between former and current Padres workhorses Jake Peavy and Clayton Richard, who were traded for one another back at the 2009 trade deadline.  (Courtesy of Corey Brock of MLB.com.)  Or, going back further still, recall Roberto Clemente, whose presence was felt strongly in Fort Myers, FL during his playing days and lives on vividly today. (From David Dorsey of News-Press.com.)  On to some National League notes …

  • While there was never a question who would cover the right-field grass for Pittsburgh when Clemente was roaming Forbes Field, the team must find someone to man that role in 2013. Jose Tabata has shown hustle and power this spring that have exceeded the Pirates' expectations, Tom Singer of MLB.com writes.  Still just 24 years old, Tabata’s strong showing thus far has only further complicated Pittsburgh’s right field situation. As Singer explains, in addition to Tabata and trade-deadline acquisition Travis Snider (who the team hopes will lay claim to the position), the Pirates are considering options like Clint Robinson, Jerry Sands, Alex Presley, Garrett Jones, Felix Pie, Darren Ford, and Brad Hawpe
  • Also making a surprising impression in Pirates camp is right-handed reliever Brooks Brown, who Singer says has emerged as an unexpected favorite to earn a spot in the Bucs' bullpen.  Brown was selected by Arizona in the first round back in 2006, but has yet to make a big league appearance.
  • Another darkhorse bullpen candidate who appears to be making strong moves towards a roster spot is the Nationals' Fernando Abad.  As reported by The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, with fellow left-handed relievers Bill Bray, Will Ohman, and Brandon Mann being sent to minor league camp, the 27-year-old minor-league-invitee Abad now stands as the most likely candidate to round out the Washington bullpen should the Nationals decide to keep another lefty alongside Zach Duke.  (Ohman was apparently cut during today's game, just after his poor outing, according to Mark Townsend of Yahoo.)
  • The Nationals also welcomed back catcher Wilson Ramos, who made his first appearance in a game since tearing his ACL early in the 2012 season, reports James Wagner of The Washington Post.  Ramos will likely split time with Kurt Suzuki as soon as he is able to catch regularly.
  • With Rafael Furcal being shut down indefinitely after a setback in his recovery from the elbow injury he suffered late last season, the Cardinals are planning what GM John Mozeliak is calling “an open competition” at shortstop, reports Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. After emerging last season when Furcal went down, Pete Kozma will battle with veteran Ronny Cedeno for the starting job out of camp.
  • The Dodgers' outstanding young starting pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, says that he is not thinking about whether or not he can top the Felix Hernandez contract, Tracy Ringolsby or MLB.com writes.  Kershaw explains that he'll "play the game the same way" regardless of salary because "it's the best job you could have. … I talk to my buddies all the time.  They are putting on suits and ties, and going to the office every day.  I put on a uniform and play a game."

Cards Notes: Wainwright, Miller, Descalso, Matheny

Hall of Fame and Cardinal icon Stan Musial passed away yesterday at the age of 92. Today, tributes are pouring in ranging from fans outside the Stan the Man statue at Busch Stadium (St. Louis Post-Dispatch video) to the White House (h/t MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch). Daniel Solzman of Redbirdrants.com even suggests the Cardinals name the playing field at Busch Stadium in honor of Musial. The Cardinals are holding their 17th annual fanfest this weekend and, while the Musial official memorabilia booth was closed today in tribute to the St. Louis legend, players still made their appearances and made some news.

  • Chairman Bill DeWitt, Jr. says the club is prepared to increase payroll in the coming years, tweets Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Goold adds the 2013 payroll is around $115MM.
  • Adam Wainwright, who is entering the final year of his contract, admitted the Cardinals approached him about a contract extension during the final month of this past regular season, Goold reports. Wainwright said he wanted to focus on the playoff stretch and "it wasn’t going to hurt my case to just wait it out and see where some of these guys signed."
  • On the upcoming Wainwright extension talks, Goold, within the same piece, quoted GM John Mozeliak as saying, "It’s going to be long. It’s going to be expensive.
  • Wainwright has become a mentor to pitching prospect Shelby Miller, Goold writes in a separate article. Miller, who will compete for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, says he doesn't know what he was thinking last offseason when he "was trying to be a beach bod" with his workout regimen. Miller's performance suffered and the club questioned the right-hander's conditioning. Enter Wainwright who exchanged texts with Miller throughout the season and challenged him to reach training camp at a weight that would help his strength and durability. 
  • While Miller has gained enough pounds to reach his playing weight, Jake Westbrook's outlook on the offseason is to copy last year's regimen in hopes of slimming down, writes Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. "It worked out so well last year that I thought I would just do it again," Westbrook said.
  • The injury reports on Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, and Rafael Furcal are positive, according to Langosch
  • Mozeliak says second base is Daniel Descalso's "job to lose," but he is open-minded about Matt Carpenter making a push for playing time there, writes Langosch
  • Mike Matheny told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he only became the Cardinals' manager because of losses he sustained in a failed real estate venture. A Missouri judge recently ruled Matheny and his wife owe more than $4MM from that deal plus interest and court costs. Matheny will earn $750K in the final guaranteed year of his contract

Daniel Seco contributed to this post.


National League Notes: Cardinals, Rolen, Dodgers

On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave baseball the go-ahead to play despite World War II. In his famous "Green Light Letter" FDR said‚ "I honestly think it would be best for the country to keep baseball going." He also encouraged more night baseball so that day-shift workers would have the opportunity to attend games.

Here's the latest news and headlines from around the National League…

  • The Cardinals' hope for building a successful middle infield in 2013 will be closely tied to the health of shortstop Rafael Furcal, writes Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. The 35-year-old veteran suffered a season-ending elbow injury in August.
  • The Reds have yet to hear back from Scott Rolen regarding his plans for the 2013 season, says John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The 37-year-old third baseman posted a .245/.318/.398 batting line in 2012.
  • Count the Dodgers as a potential suitor for Rolen's services as the team looks to strengthen the left side of its infield, writes Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Rolen has enjoyed success at Dodgers Stadium over the course of his career as he's batted .338 with a .955 OPS.

NL Notes: LaRoche, Phillies, Reds, Cardinals

Today is the 63rd anniversary of Jackie Robinson becoming the first African-American player to win the MVP Award. This would be the only such honor during Robinson's Hall of Fame career. Here's the latest news from the Senior Circuit:

  • Negotiations between the Nationals and Adam LaRoche are going slowly, a source tells MLB.com's Bill Ladson. The source also says LaRoche's top priority is to return to the Nationals, but the free agent first baseman is thinking about his two children, which is why he wants a three-year deal and has talked with several teams. 
  • A five-year, $75MM contract might be accurate for B.J. Upton but expect Michael Bourn to seek more, tweets Dave O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • Despite the declining influence of home runs to change a game, as typified by the Giants winning the World Series after slugging the fewest home runs in baseball, the Phillies still need a power surge in 2013, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Bob Brookover.
  • Centerfield is one position where the Phillies could seek to boost their power output. ESPN's Buster Olney breaks down their various centerfield options in his latest Insiders-only blog.
  • John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer sees the Reds' 2013 payroll being $92MM, but a team insider tells him the actual number could start with an eight. This would make it difficult, in Fay's opinion, to do anything in free agency except sign a closer or re-sign Ryan Ludwick.
  • Within the same piece, GM Walt Jocketty says he will wait until after Thanksgiving to speak with Scott Rolen, who is contemplating retirement.
  • The Cardinals' needs are simple for 2013, writes Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The team needs to reinforce a thin bench by adding some right-handed power and find a fourth outfielder who can generate some offense. Miklasz adds the health of shortstop Rafael Furcal is also a significant question.
  • Blessed with the deepest of pockets, the Dodgers' desire to pursue an elite starting pitcher reveals myriad ways the team can approach the process, writes Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. Common sense, however, may still prevail at Chavez Ravine as Dodgers controlling partner Mark Walter once eloquently stated, "Pitchers break." 

Daniel Seco contributed to this post.


Mozeliak Talks Furcal, Kozma, Lefty Relief

For the most part, the Cardinals are well-positioned for the 2013 season. They’ll consider upgrades in the middle infield and hope their injured players recover quickly. Other than that, their biggest offseason need might be left-handed relief. GM John Mozeliak addressed his team’s offseason plans at the GM Meetings today in a conversation with MLBTR. Here are some highlights:

  • The Cardinals like internal middle infield options such as Rafael Furcal, Pete Kozma and even prospect Kolten Wong. Mozeliak said he’s “very hesitant” to seek a long-term answer in the middle infield at this point. “We feel like we do have some depth there, but clearly if Furcal were injured we might have to look at it a little differently,” the GM said. The shortstop dealt with an elbow injury late this past season.
  • Kozma’s late-season performance “definitely saved him” his roster spot, according to Mozeliak. The Cardinals like the shortstop’s energy and enthusiasm. 
  • Mozeliak said the Cardinals would offer free agent relievers multiyear deals under the right circumstances. “It really comes down to seeing if we can find the right fit for the role we’re looking for,” he said, acknowledging that the Cardinals are interested in adding a left-handed reliever.