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Raul Ibanez Rumors
The Yankees are considering a defensive change for next season, shifting Curtis Granderson to left field and Brett Gardner to center, reports Danny Knobler of CBS Sports. Granderson's defense has declined in recent years, as he has posted negative UZR/150 ratings in four of the last five years, including a -18.2 UZR/150 in 2012. Gardner, on the other hand, has a career 30.6 UZR/150, ranking him amongst the best defensive outfielders in the game.
Here's the latest from both the Yankees and Mets…
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman doesn't plan to offer Rafael Soriano a deal similar to the one he signed after the 2010 season that established Soriano as Mariano Rivera's set-up man and understudy at closer, reports ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews. "I don't think Soriano would sign here if he's not going to be the closer," Cashman said. "And I don't think we would do again what we did before. He's going to want closer money and I doubt he would want to come back here as a set-up man." Soriano is a free agent after opting out of the last year of his deal, and agent Scott Boras said Soriano is looking for a four-year contract to close. Soriano could still return to the Bronx, of course, if Rivera retires and the Bombers suddenly have a hole at the back of their bullpen.
- Also from Matthews, he reports that the Yankees will make qualifying offers to Nick Swisher and Hiroki Kuroda. Swisher will almost surely turn this offer down but Kuroda "might accept it." The Yankees have interest in bringing back Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez on short-term contracts, while the club also would like to re-sign Andy Pettitte and Russell Martin.
- The Yankees haven't received any calls from teams interested in Alex Rodriguez, reports USA Today's Bob Nightengale. It could be a moot point, as Nightengale hears that Rodriguez isn't willing to waive his no-trade clause for any team.
- The Mets are continuing to talk to David Wright about a multiyear extension but talks are "stuck in neutral" and there is "nothing imminent" between the two sides, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post and Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger (both links to Twitter).
- ESPN's Jim Bowden believes Wright and the Mets will agree to a new long-term contract, but if they can't, Bowden suggests five teams who could become trade destinations for Wright.
On this date back in 2000, the Blue Jays gave Carlos Delgado the richest contract in baseball history in terms of average annual value, a four-year pact worth $17MM per year. Delgado hit .282/.405/.555 with 146 homers during the life of the deal. Here's the latest from his former division, the AL East…
- Joel Sherman of The New York Post hears that Robinson Cano is seeking a ten-year contract at "top-of-the-market dollars." The Yankees will retain Cano for 2013 with their $15MM club option, but it's unclear if they will break team policy to discuss an extension before he hits free agency.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Farrell didn't always see eye-to-eye, reports Bob Elliott of The Toronto Sun. He says Farrell wanted to release Omar Vizquel in July and wasn't pleased the club didn't acquire starting pitching at the deadline. The Jays and Red Sox are currently making progress in talks to send Farrell to Boston.
- Raul Ibanez told reporters (including Kristie Ackert of The New York Daily News) that he is "not even thinking about" free agency at the moment. The 40-year-old hit .240/.308/.453 in 425 plate appearances for the Yankees this season, including a number of huge homers in the postseason.
- The Red Sox must focus on quality over quantity in their search for starting pitching this offseason, writes Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal. Four of the team's five rotation spots already seem to be accounted for, so there is room for a high-end arm.
- Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com wrote about the Orioles' second base job, which is up in the air. Brian Roberts is still recovering from hip surgery, and both Robert Andino and Omar Quintanilla are non-tender candidates.
- Meanwhile, Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com lists five players the Orioles should look to sign long-term, including Jim Johnson and Matt Wieters.
The Yankees have averaged more than 97 regular season wins per year since 1996. Here's the latest on the 2012 club via Joel Sherman of the New York Post…
- Yankees officials say Michael Pineda is a hard worker and his teammates say he’s mixing in well, Sherman reports. There’s been some concern about Pineda’s velocity and conditioning this spring, but Sherman points out that it’s wise to avoid definitive statements based on Spring Training information.
- The Yankees say they aren’t worried about Raul Ibanez’s spring struggles, Sherman tweets. Ibanez has been facing more left-handed pitching than he will during the regular season.
- The Yankees offered Dontrelle Willis a minor league deal this offseason, Sherman tweets. The Yankees might look into signing Willis, who was released by the Phillies this morning.
The AL East figures to be one of the game's most competitive divisions in 2012. Here are the latest links from Florida, where all five AL East teams are preparing for the season…
- Raul Ibanez doesn’t have emotional, historical or financial ties keeping him on the Yankees’ roster, so Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders how long the club will stick with Ibanez if his struggles continue. But as Sherman point out, it’s still just March 15th.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman and third baseman Alex Rodriguez tell Joel Sherman of the New York Post that the Blue Jays are becoming a serious threat in the AL East. “They aren’t a secret anymore,” Rodriguez said. “They are knocking on the door,” Cashman added. “It is undeniable that they are going to win and win for a while.” Blue Jays ownership could support a top ten payroll in time and “that isn’t a guess, that’s a fact,” GM Alex Anthopoulos said.
- John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports that the relationship between Red Sox GM Ben Cherington and manager Bobby Valentine seems to be starting off well. If the Red Sox name Jose Iglesias their starting shortstop, it'll be a sign of just how much Valentine's opinion matters. The front office has maintained the defensive whiz needs more seasoning.
- Mark Melancon's interleague experience could help him transition from the NL Central to the AL East, Brian MacPherson Providence Journal writes.
- Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com ranks the AL East rotations, placing the Orioles fifth. They have intriguing arms such as Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta, but their rotation is filled with uncertainty from top to bottom this spring.
The Yankees have found their new designated hitter, officially announcing an agreement with Raul Ibanez that was first tweeted by ESPN's Buster Olney yesterday. The framework for a deal was done weeks ago with the ACES client, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post, who pegs the value at $1.1MM. Plate appearance incentives can bring the total to $4MM, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
Never known for his defense, Ibanez has spent most of his career as a left fielder. He dabbled at DH with the Mariners and Royals before signing with the Phillies after the '08 season, notably appearing 69 times in that role for the 2001-02 Royals. Only eight other free agents hit more home runs in 2011 than Ibanez's 20, but he batted just .245/.289/.419 overall in 575 plate appearances. The Yankees hope the 39-year-old can take advantage of their short right field porch. Ibanez has a .304 OBP against lefties over the last three seasons, so he could be complemented by Andruw Jones, a right-handed hitter.
In a February 18th poll, about 32% of MLBTR readers felt Ibanez was the best DH option for the Yankees, which edged out other free agent choices such as Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero, and Hideki Matsui. Ibanez was linked to the Yankees as early as January, but they preferred to dump some of A.J. Burnett's contract on the Pirates before finishing a DH deal. That move opened a 40-man roster spot for the Yankees. The Phillies offered Ibanez arbitration in November, which almost certainly involved a handshake agreement he'd decline. In June, the Phillies will receive a supplemental draft pick for their loss.
Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.
SUNDAY,8:40pm: Eric Chavez confirmed to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com (via Twitter) that he was waiting on the A.J. Burnett deal to come back to the Yanks, but the veteran says that his return is still 50-50.
6:06pm: The Yankees have a framework in place for a deal worth about $1MM plus incentives with Raul Ibanez, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The deal has been on hold, however, because the club first had to be sure that they didn't have to take on a DH type such as Garrett Jones, Travis Hafner, or Bobby Abreu in an A.J. Burnett trade, Sherman tweets.
SATURDAY, 2:46pm: The Yankees have been negotiating extensively with representatives for Raul Ibanez, tweets Ken Davidoff of Newsday. An agreement seems very likely once the A.J. Burnett trade is finalized.
The Yankees agreed to trade A.J. Burnett to the Pirates yesterday, two days before their pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Spring Training. With less than 24 hours officially remaining in their offseason, let's round up the latest news surrounding the team…
- Burnett will take his physical tomorrow and final approval of the trade from the commissioner's office is likely to come Monday afternoon, reports Erik Boland of Newsday (on Twitter).
- Even after the Burnett trade, the Yankees have room in the budget for Eric Chavez or a left-handed DH but not both, according to Joel Sherman of The New York Post (Twitter links). Team executives plan to meet after the trade becomes official to discuss whether room can be made for both.
- The Yankees still prefer Raul Ibanez to Johnny Damon because he's better against right-handed pitchers and on defense, but Damon is not entirely off the board according to Sherman (on Twitter). MLBTR readers were split pretty evenly between those two (and Vladimir Guerrero) in this morning's poll about the club's DH spot.
- Hiroki Kuroda reported to camp today and spoke to reporters (including Chad Jennings of The Journal News) about his decision to stay with the Dodgers at the trade deadline last year. The 37-year-old right-hander also wouldn't commit to any plans beyond this season.
- Joe Brescia of The New York Times chatted briefly with Gene Michael, the team's former GM and current advisor to Brian Cashman. He talked about the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda trade, the difference between how the Yankees are run now compared to George Steinbrenner's heyday, and more.
The Yankees freed up some money yesterday by agreeing to trade A.J. Burnett to the Pirates for two minor leaguers and a total of $13MM in salary relief. They’ll save $5MM in 2012 and $8MM in 2013. Reports indicate that they’re expected to sign both Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez once the trade becomes official.
Chavez will fill out the bench like last year, but Ibanez would step in as the left-handed half of a DH platoon with Andruw Jones. Even though Spring Training is right around the corner, there is no shortage of DH-type bats on the open market as our Free Agent Tracker shows. If the Yankees were to decide to pass on Ibanez, they could always turn to Vladimir Guerrero or former Yankees Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui. Guerrero is a right-handed hitter, however. They also signed Russell Branyan to a minor league contract recently.
Given Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch and the presence of Jones, it makes sense for the Yankees to pursue a left-handed bat. Ibanez hit .245/.289/.419 overall last year but .256/.307/.440 against righties, which is good but not great. Damon (.255/.314/.401) and Matsui (.242/.318/.336) weren’t any better against righties, and in fact Guerrero outperformed all three of those guys against northpaws (.291/.315/.428). The Yankees have no shortage of DH options, but which one is the best?
4:46pm: Heyman says the Yankees won't "finalize" things with Ibanez and Chavez until after Burnett has passed his physical and the league has approved the trade (Twitter link).
8:00am: The Yankees are "intent" on acquiring two hitters and "remain focused" on Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The team's attention will turn to adding hitting depth once the rumored A.J. Burnett trade with the Pirates is finalized.
New York has long been known to be targeting one left-handed hitter as a part-time DH and bench bat, but moving Burnett would free up the payroll space for the Yankees to add even more depth. Ibanez would be limited to DH, pinch-hitting and only very occasional outfield appearances, but in Chavez, the Yankees would also have an infield option capable of spelling Alex Rodriguez at third base. The Bombers were already in serious talks with Ibanez as of last week.
- "Vladimir Guerrero has made it known to the Yankees that he wants their DH spot," tweets ESPN's Buster Olney, but Raul Ibanez remains the frontrunner. Ibanez had a slightly worse 2011 season, but the Yankees seem to prefer his left-handed bat.
- The Cubs and Red Sox submitted briefs regarding the Theo Epstein compensation issue, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, and a decision could come this week.
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington told WEEI after the Ortiz settlement that he doesn't expect any major moves between now and when pitchers and catchers report Sunday, but added, "We're still working on some stuff." WEEI's Rob Bradford hears there's still no traction with Roy Oswalt.
- Orioles executive director of international recruiting Fred Ferreira will still fly to the Dominican Republic this weekend to scout six Cuban players, including outfielder Jorge Soler, he told Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com. The Orioles had interest in Yoenis Cespedes, but Ferreira isn't surprised or disappointed about not getting him.
- Matt Moore, Dylan Bundy, Manny Machado, Travis d'Arnaud, Jake Marisnick, Manny Banuelos, Xander Bogaerts, Gary Sanchez, Brandon Jacobs, Daniel Norris, Will Middlebrooks, Dellin Betances, Hak-Ju Lee, Anthony Gose, Jonathan Schoop, Noah Syndergaard, Ryan Lavarnway, and Mason Williams are the division's best prospects, based on Kevin Goldstein's recently-released top 101 prospects list for Baseball Prospectus. Jacobs, Norris, and Syndergaard didn't merit mentions on Keith Law's top 100 or his "just missed" list for ESPN. On the other hand, Law included Drew Hutchison, Chris Archer, Enny Romero, Mikie Mahtook, Taylor Guerrieri, Aaron Sanchez, and Blake Swihart on his list and Goldstein did not.