- The Braves are working hard to acquire an outfield bat, but there are "still no dance partners" according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter).
- The Astros sent $2MM (not $1MM) to the Phillies in the Pence deal, according to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark (on Twitter). The Phillies won't have to pay the luxury tax this way, Stark reports.
- Kevin Goldstein and R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus break down the trade that sent Pence to the Phillies.
- The Braves would have included Mike Minor in a deal for Pence, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (on Twitter).
- One executive tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that the Braves have six untouchable players (Twitter link).
- The Mets thought they were going to trade Carlos Beltran to the Rangers earlier in the week, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Texas was being more aggressive than other teams and even though they weren't willing to include elite prospects, the Mets considered a multi-prospect package. Finally, the Giants offered Zack Wheeler and the Mets moved on from the Rangers, who wouldn't budge on certain requests.
- The Marlins intend to keep Leo Nunez, Omar Infante, Ricky Nolasco and Randy Choate, according to Olney (on Twitter). They've gotten tons of hits on those players, Olney reports.
The NL East looks much different than it did 24 hours ago. Carlos Beltran is out, Zack Wheeler is in and the Phillies and Braves will have to turn elsewhere in their respective searches for offense. Here are the details on the division…
- The Marlins are asking for a lot in exchange for Leo Nunez and Randy Choate and Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez are off-limits at this point, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter).
- It appears that the Braves will hold onto Derek Lowe, according to Heyman (on Twitter).
- The Brewers obtained $1 from the Braves for catcher Wil Nieves, according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com (on Twitter). That's right – one dollar. The Braves will pay Nieves' remaining salary while he plays for their Triple-A affiliate.
Danny Knobler of CBS Sports has the latest on the market for starters, from Miami to Detroit to Seattle. Here’s the latest:
- Though the Tigers are a possible destination for Carlos Beltran, they've been focusing all of their attention on upgrading their rotation at this point (Twitter link). Derek Lowe and Jeremy Guthrie are two of the pitchers who have drawn the Tigers' interest.
- The Mariners have suggested to teams that they would discuss dealing starting pitching – specifically Jason Vargas and Doug Fister, according to Knobler. They may not get much for Erik Bedard, but they're getting calls on Adam Kennedy and Jamey Wright.
- Though the Marlins will consider trading Javier Vazquez, Leo Nunez and Randy Choate, they won't talk about Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez or Josh Johnson, according to Knobler. The Marlins are looking to add starting pitching and a third baseman, though those moves may not happen this month.
Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com has some interesting tidbits of note in his latest blog post. Here's the latest …
- The Marlins could be an intriguing seller this month, with closer Leo Nunez, starter Ricky Nolasco, reliever Randy Choate and infielders Omar Infante and Greg Dobbs potentially being made available. However, Florida does not yet consider itself a seller and won't commence an all-out firesale, what with a new ballpark opening in 2012.
- The slow-developing trade market can be attributed to the league's great parity this season, but the generally healthy financial situations of most teams is playing a role, too. Few teams need to dump big contracts.
- The Royals, for example, will be willing to listen on veteran outfielders Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur, but Kansas City is under no pressure to trade either one.
- The Mariners, like the Fish, are still deciding whether they are ready to sell. Third-place Seattle is 7 1/2 games behind the division-leading Rangers.
In today's Insider-only blog post, ESPN's Buster Olney notes that while the market for right-handed relief pitching is bountiful, the market for lefties is pretty thin. The Nationals will talk about Sean Burnett but the Cubs will not discuss Sean Marshall, though one southpaw to keep an eye on is Randy Choate. Olney says the Yankees have already asked the Marlins about his availability.
Here are the rest of Buster's rumors…
- The Padres are unlikely to trade Heath Bell to the Diamondbacks even though the latter would love to have him. Padres owner Jeff Moorad used to run the D'Backs.
- "The key guys this time of year really aren't the general managers," said one GM. "The owners are the key guys. Because they'll decide whether to add payroll, and when to raise the white flag on the season."
- Jason Isringhausen of the Mets is "destined to draw a whole lot interest" because he's cheap and experienced. A handful of GMs feel that a Francisco Rodriguez trade is "all but impossible" because of his vesting option.
- Teams have received their preliminary 2012 schedule, and the chances of realignment dwindle with each passing day.
- Labor negotiations are progressing as scheduled, though recent buzz that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement could be announced at the All-Star Game has been dismissed.
Six prominent Rays relievers hit free agency and signed elsewhere for a total of $67.65MM last offseason (for reference, the Rays’ payroll has surpassed that figure exactly once since 2000). We know how the Rays' new 'pen is working out (pretty well, so far) but let’s check in on last year’s relievers:
- Rafael Soriano – three years/$35MM, Yankees – After allowing 12 earned runs and 14 walks in 62 1/3 innings last year, Soriano has allowed 9 earned runs and 9 walks in 14 innings this year. His ERA is approaching 6.00, his strikeout rate is down and his walk rate is up. What's more, he underwent an MRI on his right elbow this week. It doesn't appear that he'll need DL time, as there's only mild inflammation. Still, Brian Cashman must be shaking his head over this one.
- Joaquin Benoit – three years/$16.5MM, Tigers – Benoit has already allowed more earned runs (10) in 2011 than he did all of last year (9). After allowing just 30 hits in 60-plus innings last year, he has allowed 17 hits in 13 2/3 frames for his new club. The spike in hit rate is no doubt related to the fact that opponents had an improbably low average on balls in play against Benoit last year (.192) that has since risen to an unusually high level (.356). His strikeout (7.2 K/9) and walk (2.6 BB/9) numbers have fallen off, though they're still strong.
- Grant Balfour - two years/$8.1MM, Athletics – Balfour's walks are up, but he is still striking out over a batter per inning and his ERA is under 2.00.
- Dan Wheeler – one year/$3MM, Red Sox – Wheeler, currently on the DL, has an 11.32 ERA for the Red Sox despite an 8K/1BB ratio through 11 appearances. Wheeler appears to be unlucky in terms of opponents' batting average on balls in play (.389) and home run per fly ball rate (21%).
- Chad Qualls - one year/$2.55MM, Padres – Qualls has replaced Ryan Webb in the Padres' 'pen and has already pitched 20 2/3 innings. The results are good so far despite a drop in Ks, as Qualls has limited baserunners and been considerably more fortunate than he was in 2010.
- Randy Choate – two years/$2.5MM, Marlins – Choate has been excellent so far; the lefty specialist has an 11K/2BB ratio and a 1.50 ERA in his first 14 appearances as a Marlin.
The early results are disappointing, as Wheeler and Soriano are dealing with injuries and Benoit hasn’t come close to replicating his 2010 performance. The results will likely improve for Wheeler and Benoit, who have been unlucky so far. But this group probably won’t reproduce the 2010 performances that helped the Rays win the AL East. Reliever performance is simply volatile, even for pitchers who appear to be safe investments.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Cliff Lee (A) declined the Rangers' offer, as expected.
- Miguel Olivo will decline the Blue Jays' offer, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Jason Frasor (A) will accept the team's offer, according to Mike Wilner of the FAN 590. Scott Downs (A) will decline the Blue Jays' offer, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported earlier that Jason Frasor would either sign a multiyear deal or accept arb (Twitter link).
- Adrian Beltre will decline arbitration from the Red Sox, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter). Felipe Lopez (B) will also decline an offer of arbitration, reports WEEI's Rob Bradford.
- Carl Pavano (A) has officially turned down arbitration, according to Newsday's Ken Davidoff (on Twitter). Orlando Hudson (B) will decline the Twins' offer of arbitration, tweets SI's Jon Heyman. Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune tweets of "strong indications" Jesse Crain (B) will also decline.
- A source tells Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times that Paul Konerko (A) will decline arbitration (Twitter link). J.J. Putz (B) declined arbitration from the White Sox, according to MLB.com's Scott Merkin (on Twitter).
- Chad Qualls (B) and Carl Crawford (A) have declined arbitration, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times (on Twitter). Grant Balfour (A) turned down arbitration, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). As anticipated, Randy Choate (B) declined the Rays' offer, according to Newsday's Ken Davidoff. ESPN's Buster Olney predicted the decision earlier today. Rafael Soriano (A) will decline the Rays' arbitration offer, tweets SI's Jon Heyman. Brad Hawpe (B) will decline the Rays' offer as well, tweets SI's Jon Heyman.
- Frank Francisco (A) will accept the Rangers' offer, according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan.