Randy Choate Rumors

New York Notes: Castillo, Choate, Garza, Soria

In his Insider-only ESPN.com blog, Buster Olney writes that the Mets have internally discussed the possibility of simply releasing Luis Castillo. The team has repeatedly tried to free up some money by trading the second baseman, but has yet to find a taker. Olney indicates that it's possible the Mets could drop both Castillo and Oliver Perez before Opening Day. Here are this morning's other New York-related notes:

  • The Mets were one of the teams pursuing Randy Choate before the southpaw signed with the Marlins, according to Newsday's Ken Davidoff. Davidoff says the Mets made Choate a one-year offer worth about $1.4MM, but the veteran lefty accepted more years and more guaranteed money from Florida. If the Mets still intend to add a Pedro Feliciano replacement, Davidoff continues, it'll probably be someone on a minor-league deal, since the market is thinning.
  • Brian Cashman told Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News that he felt the asking price for Matt Garza was too high to seriously pursue a trade with the Rays. "We never got off the dime, but strong impressions were that it would be something that would cost us more because we are in the division, kind of like Roy Halladay," said the Yankees GM.
  • Considering Andrew Friedman's comments about using the money saved in the Garza deal to sign other players, Chad Jennings of the Journal News wonders if the Rays' targets could overlap with the Yankees'.
  • The Royals have told interested clubs that Joakim Soria will not be traded, a stance which Bill Madden of the New York Daily News finds puzzling. Madden suggests the Yankees were willing to part with Jesus Montero and Eduardo Nunez for Soria.
  • In his blog entry linked above, Olney disagrees with Madden's argument that the Royals need to trade Soria. According to Olney, Soria's contract is so team-friendly it makes it nearly impossible for the Royals to get equal value from the Yankees or anyone else at the moment.

Marlins Sign Randy Choate

The Marlins announced that they signed Randy Choate to a two-year deal. It's worth a total of $2.5MM plus incentives, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who first reported the deal (all Twitter links). Choate will earn $1MM in 2011 and $1.5MM in 2012 with $150K in incentives each year, depending on the number of appearances he makes. ACES represents Choate.

The 35-year-old led the league in appearances (85), but logged just 44 2/3 innings, since he's generally a lefty specialist. Choate posted a 4.23 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 for the Rays last year.  Against lefties, he had a 9.2 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, and 61.8% groundball rate.  Choate had similar numbers against them the prior year.

At least two teams besides the Marlins pursued Choate. The Rays offered the Type B free agent arbitration, so they'll receive a supplementary first round pick in next year's draft.  


Marlins, Three Other Teams Pursuing Randy Choate

8:30pm: Choate confirmed to Marc Topkin of The St. Petersburg Times that he is in fact in talks with the Marlins, as well as three other teams that he declined to name.

11:17am: Looking to bolster their bullpen, the Marlins are "working to sign" Randy Choate, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter).

Choate, 35, spent his last two seasons in Tampa Bay, and appeared in over half of the Rays' games in 2010. The left-hander pitched just 44 2/3 innings in his 85 appearances, recording a 4.23 ERA and striking out 8.1 batters per nine innings. He's best used as a one- or two-out pitcher against left-handed batters, as exhibited by his 2010 splits – lefties posted a .529 OPS against him, while righties hit at a 1.162 clip.

Choate declined an arbitration offer from the Rays, so as a Type B free agent, he'd net Tampa Bay a supplemental round draft pick if he signs elsewhere.



American League Free Agent Arbitration Decisions

23 American League free agents were offered arbitration on November 23rd.  Four of those - Joaquin Benoit, John Buck, Victor Martinez, and Javier Vazquez - already have new contract agreements.  Current free agent Kevin Gregg has chosen to decline.  The remaining 18 AL free agents offered arbitration will have their decisions noted here and in our tracker.


American League Free Agent Arbitration Offers

10 American League teams have free agent arbitration offer decisions to make, and we'll group them in this post.  For a fantastic customizable chart with all 65 Type A/B free agents and their decisions in real-time, click here.


Five Potential Bargain Lefties For 2011

Teams are perpetually searching for effective left-handed relievers, so here are five southpaws who could become useful pieces at a bargain price next year. Some of the pitchers below are inching closer to 40, but Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver proved this year that there's no age limit for lefty specialists. The list focuses on pitchers who will likely sign for a couple million dollars at most, so I haven't included Hisanori Takahashi, Scott Downs and others:

  • Randy Choate – The 35-year-old hits the open market as your prototypical 'left-handed one out guy.' He made 85 appearances in 2010, but logged just 44.3 innings. His numbers are strong (8.1 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 4.23 ERA) and suggest he could play anywhere, but teams that play in homer-friendly parks such as the D'Backs, Rockies and Brewers may take note of Choate's ability to keep the ball on the ground. His 60% ground ball rate ranked 15th among big league relievers with at least 20 innings.
  • Will Ohman – Ohman, 33, recovered from a poor 2009 season and posted a 3.21 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 between the O's and Marlins. He's going to walk hitters, but he can still get lefties out.
  • Ron Mahay – Mahay turns 40 in June, but that didn't stop him from posting a 3.44 ERA this year and striking out three times as many batters as he walked. He's not in position to demand a multi-year deal, but he could help someone's bullpen in 2011.
  • Taylor Tankersley – The 27-year-old is the least predictable of the options listed, but possibly the most intriguing. Tankersley, a former first rounder, has struck out nearly a batter per inning in his big league career and has held lefties to a .223/.313/.372 line. There are drawbacks – he missed the 2009 season with a stress fracture in his pitching elbow and has trouble against righties – but Tankersley would be a good fit for the Pirates, Mets or Mariners at the right price. Why those clubs? As a fly ball pitcher, he probably fits best in a park that limits home runs and as an unproven pitcher, he fits best on a non-contender. That makes Pittsburgh, New York and Seattle potential fits.
  • Brian Tallet – Unlike the pitchers above, Tallet won't necessarily hit the free agent market, but the 33-year-old is a non-tender candidate so he may be available by early December. Tallet, another fly ball pitcher, limited lefties to a stellar .176/.228/.343 line this year with a 28/6 K/BB ratio.

Dennys Reyes' 2010 numbers look OK, but don't let that 3.55 ERA fool you. Reyes posted a 0.54 ERA through May and a 5.91 ERA afterwards. He can induce grounders, but he walks more than one batter per two innings pitched.


Odds & Ends: Ross, Hale, Daniels, Mets, Coaches

Some links to check out as Cody Ross attempts to follow up yesterday's two-home run performance and the Phillies look to even the score…


Players Tendered Contracts

Midnight ET is the non-tender deadline, so we'll keep track of all the players who are offered and/or agreed to contracts today in this post. Keep coming back throughout the day for updates.