Rocco Baldelli Rumors

AL East Links: Baldelli, Fuld, Yankees, Lackey

Rocco Baldelli was forced into premature retirement at age 29, but the former Rays outfielder has adjusted well to his post-playing career.  As MLB.com's Bill Chastain relates, Baldelli is acting as something of a jack-of-all-trades as a special assistant in the Rays' baseball operations department, helping the club with everything from scouting to draft preparation to Spring Training work.  "I get to see everything. I really enjoy gaining a perspective on everything we're doing. … It gives you a big picture view, and during the year I get the micro view of the organization," Baldelli said.

Here's some news from around the AL East…

  • Sam Fuld is keeping the Rays in "the mix" as he decides his next contract, the outfielder tells Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.  "Would definitely be nice to be back if the opportunity is right," Fuld said, adding that he is "just waiting for the landscape to clear a bit."  MLBTR's Zach Links reported last week that Fuld has been offered minor league deals from five teams, some of which have already been ruled out.
  • The Yankees' plan to drastically overspend on the 2014-15 international free agent market is further explored by Scout.com's Kiley McDaniel, who explains why the Yankees are making this splash now and how they're exploiting this loophole in what McDaniel believes is a "broken" international spending system.
  • There has been some speculation that the Red Sox could trade John Lackey, as the team is looking to move a veteran starter to make room for a younger arm.  Trading Lackey would definitely be a sell-high move for Boston and they could command a strong return given Lackey's 2013 performance and his team-friendly contract, but MLB.com's Ian Browne doesn't "see any way the Red Sox will look to trade Lackey."  That same team-friendly deal is also a boon to the Sox, Browne notes, and "barring a stunning development," Lackey will be on the Opening Day roster.
  • In AL East news from earlier today on MLB Trade Rumors, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons' option for 2015 was guaranteed since he was still employed at the start of the calendar year, the Rays claimed southpaw Pedro Figueroa off waivers from the A's, and we shared a collection of Orioles notes.

Olney On Rays, Baldelli, Dodgers

The Rays have 11 of the first 75 selections in the upcoming June draft, which means they could infuse their highly-regarded farm system with another group of top prospects. "If they hit it right on just half of those picks," a rival executive told ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, "then this draft will set them up for years to come." Here’s the latest on the Rays’ draft and more from around the majors:

  • Rocco Baldelli and former Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland are scouting players for the Rays in anticipation of the draft, according to Olney.
  • The Rays will take the best players available when they select, instead of entering the draft with a pre-determined approach (for example, loading up on college arms).
  • Olney hears that Frank McCourt’s financial problem is “serious and it is immediate.” The Dodgers owner has reached a “tipping point," according to Olney and is close to “rock-bottom.”

Cafardo On Sizemore, Carmona, Delcarmen, Milledge

Rocco Baldelli tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that, despite having to retire at age 29, he considers himself fortunate to have had as much time as he did in the majors. "I have no regrets," Baldelli said. "I played major league baseball. I got to the big leagues and I had some moments I'll never forget." Cafardo opens this week's column by wondering what might have been, had Baldelli stayed healthy throughout his career. The Globe writer also shares a handful of hot stove notes….

  • Although recent trade rumors involving Grady Sizemore and Fausto Carmona were quickly shot down, Cafardo says if both players are healthy and playing well this year, they could be "major trade deadline chips."
  • Four teams are in discussions with agent Jim Masteralexis, regarding client Manny Delcarmen. We heard earlier this month that the Rays had interest in the ex-Red Sox, so they're likely one of the four.
  • One executive told Cafardo that he's surprised Lastings Milledge is still available. While the exec's team doesn't need another outfielder, he argued that "you just don't give up" on a talent like Milledge.
  • Scott Schoeneweis, who hopes to play this season, is being considered by the Diamondbacks.
  • Friends of Pedro Martinez say the right-hander has yet to get pitching out of his system. Pedro will turn 40 later this year, and didn't pitch in the bigs in 2010, but he had success for the Phillies in 2009, compiling a 3.63 ERA, 7.5 K/9, and 1.6 BB/9 in nine starts.
  • Cafardo speculates that Boston could be a good fit for Jeremy Bonderman on a minor league deal.


Rocco Baldelli To Retire

Rocco Baldelli told Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times that he will retire as a major league player. The former sixth overall pick will remain in the Rays front office as a special adviser in scouting and player development, the team has confirmed with a press release.

After a promising debut in which Baldelli played center field, stole 27 bases and added 51 extra base hits, the injuries started piling up. He missed the entire 2005 season and considerable chunks of the 2006-10 seasons as he dealt with foot, hamstring, and hip injuries, plus a type of channelopathy, which has caused muscle fatigue.

"It's tough, because you almost never put playing and being an athlete behind you," Baldelli told Topkin. "But in my mind, I already feel like it's a step behind me."

Baldelli, who is still just 29, decided to retire in October and spent a few months making sure he was ready to call it a career.


Baldelli Plans To Continue Playing

In yesterday's game against the Orioles, Rocco Baldelli belted a two-run pinch hit homer in the seventh inning in his first big league swing of the season.  Prior to signing a minor league deal with the Rays, Baldelli worked with the club as a special assistant.  Now that he's back in the majors, he has no immediate plans to return to coaching, writes Ben Shpigel of the New York Times.

“I like playing; I don’t know what else I would do,” Baldelli said. “I have some ideas. What I did earlier this year was definitely pretty nice, but there’s nothing better than playing. Coming out here every day, it’s something that I’ve done the last ten years of my life and it’s not something I’m going to let go of easily," said the soon-to-be 29-year-old.

The right-handed hitter spent 2009 with Boston, posting a slash line of .253/.311/.433 in 164 plate appearances.


Rays Sign Baldelli To Minor League Contract

12:46pm: Baldelli has officially been signed to a minor league deal, according to a Rays press release.

12:09pm: Rocco Baldelli is expected to sign a minor league contract with the Rays this afternoon, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times.  Topkin says Baldelli is set to DH tonight for the team's High A club, the Charlotte Stone Crabs.  The Crabs boast familiar names such as Tim BeckhamMatt Moore, and Matt Bush.  Baldelli is transitioning from a special assistant role and trying to come back from a shoulder injury.  He hit .253/.311/.433 in 164 plate appearances for the Red Sox last year.


Odds & Ends: Loe, Baldelli, Vizquel, Hill

Links for Tuesday, as catcher Chris Iannetta rejoins the Rockies after a torrid Triple A stint


Rosenthal On Vargas, D’Backs, Hillman, Baldelli

Jason Vargas is off to a hot start with the Mariners, but when they acquired him in the 2008 J.J. Putz deal, he wasn’t considered a major part of the trade. GM Jack Zduriencik tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that he asked for Vargas while trying to “finish up the deal.” Here are the rest of Rosenthal’s hot stove-related notes:

  • One NL official wonders how the D'Backs can operate without a left-handed reliever in a division that includes many imposing left-handed hitters.
  • The Royals fired manager Trey Hillman last week, but his baseball career is probably not over. Hillman is still "well-thought of in the industry," according to one GM. 
  • Rocco Baldelli could make a comeback this year. He's a special assistant to the Rays, and he continues to hit daily. The 28-year-old outfielder hit .253/.311/.433 for the Red Sox last year in 164 plate appearances.

The Latest On The Unsigned Position Players

After recapping the most recent news on some remaining free agent starting pitchers yesterday, let's focus on the bats today. Here are the latest updates on a few of the notable unsigned position players:

  • Jermaine Dye: Dye had the Mariners on his wish list, but Seattle didn't have much interest in the 36-year-old. Another team out west, the Giants, also had no interest in signing Dye. Washington was in the mix for the right-handed slugger at one point, though they've since backed off. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe thinks Dye will sign somewhere soon, and an American League club where Dye could DH would make sense. Like Jarrod Washburn though, he'll likely need to reduce his asking price.
  • Gary Sheffield: Cafardo also believes Sheffield should sign soon, and tweeted that the veteran had "something on the table" a couple weeks ago. The Nationals also had discussions with Sheff, but the club seems happy with their current selection of outfielders for now. Even though he's 41, Sheffield could have value to a National League team as a pinch-hitter and part-time player, like he did for the Mets last year (.276/.372/.451 in 312 PAs).
  • Carlos Delgado: Delgado might end up being the offensive equivalent of Pedro Martinez: a hired gun that could contribute to a contending team in the second half of the season. The Mets were considered a possibility prior to their promotion of Ike Davis. Before Delgado catches on with any club, the 37-year-old will have to show that he's fully healthy following his second hip surgery in February.
  • Joe Crede: Considering Crede is a Scott Boras client, it's somewhat surprising that we've heard next to nothing regarding his status. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reported in early March that Crede was hitting and throwing while he waited for an offer, but there has been very little news since then. Crede has homered 32 times over the past two seasons and plays an above-average third base, so it may be health questions that are keeping him on the free agent market. As MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith suggested earlier this month, a healthy Crede "could become an attractive mid-season option for risk-taking GMs."
  • Elijah Dukes: Shortly after Dukes' surprising release by the Nationals, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeted that a few teams were interested in the 25-year-old. Since then though, we haven't heard anything concrete. Perhaps clubs are still hesitant to invest in Dukes, given his off-field history.
  • Rocco Baldelli: There was some speculation earlier in April that Baldelli could be an option for the Rays if they gave up on Pat Burrell, since Baldelli has been working out at Tropicana Field and wants to play. Burrell has played better since that point, hitting .275/.318/.500 in his last 11 games, silencing those rumors somewhat. For the time being, Baldelli will continue to serve as a special assistant for the Rays.

Check out our full list of available hitters here.


Could Rays Release Pat Burrell?

Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times writes that the Rays will have to consider cutting Pat Burrell loose if their designated hitter doesn't start producing. Although Tampa Bay management maintains that they have confidence in Burrell's ability, Topkin speculates that by mid-May or early-June, the club may run out of patience.

Burrell hit .221/.315/.367 in 2009 and is off to another slow start in 2010, the final season of his two-year contract. He'll make $9MM this year, a figure which will likely make him unmovable. Topkin thinks that at some point the Rays "will just have to accept their mistake and cut him loose."

If they were to cut ties with Burrell, the Rays would have other options available. Hank Blalock is currently in Triple A, waiting for an opportunity to earn Major League playing time. Additionally, Topkin points out that Rocco Baldelli has been taking regular batting practice at Tropicana Field and would like to play again. The long-time Ray would be a cheap right-handed alternative, and, as this Rays Index article suggests, Tampa fans would have more patience with him than they've had with Pat the Bat.

Burrell's $9MM salary would be a huge cost for the budget-conscious Rays to eat, so expect them to give the 33-year-old every chance to succeed. However, if his struggles continue and compromise the club's chances of contending, they could be forced to make a change.