Ron Belliard Rumors
Chico Harlan of The Washington Post reports that the Nationals traded infielder Ronnie Belliard to the Dodgers following today's game. Washington will receive A-ball pitcher Luis Garcia and a player to be named in the deal.
Belliard, 34, was hitting .247-.297-.376 in 203 plate appearances for the Nats this year, spending time at first, second and third base. He is in the final year of the two year, $3.5M extension he signed during the 2007 season. Garcia, 22, has a 2.92 ERA in 34 appearances (15 starts) in the Low-A Midwest League this season, and was not considered one the Dodgers' top 30 prospects by Baseball America this spring.
Some links to peruse as we await the baseball equivalent of the Shaq trade...
- MLB.com's Bill Ladson reports that Ronnie Belliard isn't sure if he'll play another season.
- Mark DeRosa tops the list of infielders most likely to be traded, if you ask Matthew Pouliot of NBC Sports.
- Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post says the Rockies shouldn't deal anyone but Garrett Atkins.
- Huston Street believes getting traded led to a "good opportunity," according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- ESPN.com's Rob Neyer says Luis Ayala is far from irreplaceable.
- I'll be talking rumors on the TEAM 1380 in St. Louis at around 6:20 CST tonight, so tune in if you get the chance.
9:15pm: MLB.com's Bill Ladson thinks the Nats will keep Belliard, because they're in a bind at shortstop due to injuries.
FRIDAY, 7:57am: MLB.com's Bill Ladson says Jim Bowden and Ned Colletti have not spoken this week. Ken Rosenthal believes the Dodgers are interested in Belliard, and says he did not clear waivers. Dylan Hernandez says the Dodgers made the claim on Belliard to block the D'Backs, but Rosenthal does not agree.
THURSDAY, 11:26pm: According to Tony Jackson of the L.A. Daily News, the Dodgers won a waiver claim on Nationals infielder Ron Belliard. The two teams are discussing a trade.
Belliard, 33, is hitting .237/.340/.442 in 259 plate appearances. He's played first, second, and third base this year for the Nats. Belliard is owed another $395K this year plus $1.9MM in '09. With Casey Blake in the fold and Nomar Garciaparra off the DL, Belliard makes less sense for the Dodgers than he did in July. Still, he could be a cheap second baseman for '09 if Jeff Kent retires.
With veteran infielders Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent both likely to miss opening day, the Dodgers are scrambling to find themselves some backups. Ken Rosenthal says that since the Astros are unlikely to trade Mark Loretta while Kaz Matsui is out, L.A. is considering Ron Belliard of the Nationals and Esteban German of the Royals. Another possibility, Morgan Ensberg, seems unlikely, as the Yankees added him to their 40-man roster yesterday. Joe Crede of the White Sox and Brandon Inge of the Tigers are both probably too expensive.
This could impact roster decisions Los Angeles will make on Monday, when they decide whether they can afford to carry twelve pitchers with so much uncertainty around their infield.
Ned Colletti, meanwhile, says he expects Monday to mark an uptick in trade chatter---but also that he's content, for now, to fill his third base hole from within. It's worth noting that Ensberg's spot on the opening day roster is still not guaranteed, and that Matsui is expected to return in two to three weeks, perhaps freeing up Loretta.
Nationals GM Jim Bowden signed veterans Dmitri Young and Ron Belliard to curious two-year extensions last year. He's now faced with a logjam at two infield positions.
Ben Goessling of the Washington Times describes the first base battle between Young and Nick Johnson, who get along well. Johnson has more trade value, given his age. Neither player is a lock for 150 games though. Johnson is injury-prone, but his perennial .400 OBPs are appealing. He and Young are both signed through '09; Young has a vesting option for '10. The Yankees or Mets could be in the market for Johnson if their current options don't work out. Either team could then add Mark Teixeira after the season, creating another surplus.
The Nats have handed the starting shortstop job to Cristian Guzman, creating a battle for second base between Belliard and Felipe Lopez. Lopez responded with a "hell no" regarding a bench role. Hell no to your .659 OPS and lousy defense, Felipe! Belliard is more open to a part-time role, though he's been outplaying Lopez. Lopez may be the one to trade, given his impending free agency. Barry Svrluga notes that the Orioles have been scouting the Nationals this spring, perhaps with the idea of acquiring Belliard or Lopez if they trade Brian Roberts to the Cubs. The O's are also interested in Mark Loretta and Juan Uribe for that reason.
- An update to the Ken Rosenthal article discussed earlier suggests that either Esteban German or Ron Belliard would be better, cheaper alternatives for the Dodgers than Joe Crede or Brandon Inge. It would take less to get Belliard or German, they're paid less, and either of them could back up Jeff Kent, 40, at second base in addition to playing third. Both players are "attracting the Dodgers' interest" according to Rosenthal.
- The Baltimore Sun is now reporting that the Orioles have an interest in Mark Loretta. Hopefully this is a sign that the Brian Roberts-to-Chicago saga will soon mercifully come to a conclusion. Loretta apparently isn't slated for regular duty in a Houston infield that now features Miguel Tejada, Kaz Matsui and Ty Wigginton, which is why he might be in play. The Astros sent a scout to watch the O's on Sunday.
- Rocco Baldelli spoke with Joe McDonald of the Providence Journal about his myriad health problems, and dispelled some of the more creative speculation about him. He didn't, however, address the big decision on his future that the Rays will be forced to make in the coming weeks. As discussed here a couple of days ago, and again in Sunday's St. Petersburg Times, the decision on whether the team will pick up Baldelli's 2009 option has to be made by April 1st. The Times suggests the Rays will pass, meaning a $4MM buyout.
Ken Rosenthal checks in with all kinds of hot stove info.
- Continuing on yesterday's post regarding Joe Crede and the Dodgers , Rosenthal reports that a source close to Dodgers management explained that the team trading for a third baseman like Crede or Brandon Inge is "all about the budget and whether [owner Frank] McCourt will allow them to add money." Rosenthal continues to point out that Crede is a better deal than Inge in terms of their contracts, and that Crede could also be more attractive to Dodgers management because the White Sox might be willing to trade for prospects, while the Tigers are looking for immediate bullpen help.
- The Mariners had been in the market for a veteran right-handed hitting outfielder, but have opted instead for in-house options. It seems Coco Crisp could have filled a need. Sure, he's a switch-hitter, but his splits suggest it could have made some sense. If they didn't have to part with too much, it might have worked.
- The Angels have a surplus in the outfield -- Juan Rivera and Reggie Willits -- and Rosenthal reports that Willits is now untouchable according to the Angels (two teams have inquired after him recently). The two are blocked by Vladimir Guerrero, Garrett Anderson, Torii Hunter, and Gary Matthews Jr. While it sounds as if they'd prefer to move Rivera (a free agent at season's end), it's hard to imagine that they'd send Willits to the minors (he has options remaining) if they don't find a good match for Rivera (Umpbump Coley suggested the Padres or Mets yesterday). As Coley pointed out, the Angels have numerous banged up pitchers, and there are a number of teams out there who are going to be starting center fielders with inferior skill sets compared to Willits (as Tim pointed out a few days ago).
- The Nationals are dealing with a surplus at second base, and Rosenthal believes that Ron Belliard is the most logical piece to move, what with his $1.6MM salary this season, and his $1.9MM for next. Rosenthal pinpoints the Rockies (perhaps too little range on the right side with Jeff Baker and Todd Helton), Cardinals, Twins, and White Sox as potential trade partners.
More on this in a bit, but the Nationals have surprisingly locked in Ron Belliard through 2009. He'll get $3.5MM over the two seasons, so you can't really complain about it. Belliard hits for decent average, shows a little pop, and plays multiple positions.
Belliard will make $1.6MM in 2008 and $1.9MM in 2009. Nice security for a guy nobody wanted last winter.
Ken Rosenthal's got a new column up; let's dive in.
- Fun new rumor: the Nationals are pursuing Adam Dunn. Huh? Makes no sense on the surface. Jim Bowden's possible motivation would be to sign Dunn long-term and make him the cornerstone of the franchise. If he fails at that, all would not be lost given the draft pick compensation. Rosenthal says the market for Dunn beyond Washington is a bit foggy - the Twins, Angels, Yankees, Red Sox, and Padres could all get involved but none stand out.
- Rosenthal adds some color to my recent Nationals post. He mentions that Ron Belliard is a name that might interest the Mets, an idea that has come up before. Rosenthal says the Mets will not do a Lastings Milledge for Chad Cordero trade.
- The Dodgers have jumped to the forefront on Octavio Dotel, with Takashi Saito ailing. According to Rosenthal, the Royals aren't demanding the very specific bounty Joel Sherman claimed. Instead, they just want a near MLB-ready player. Rosenthal says Tony Abreu is out of reach but Chin-Lung Hu might not be. He suggests moving Hu to second base to accomodate Tony Pena Jr., which should probably be reversed. It appears the Indians wouldn't surrender Franklin Gutierrez or Ben Francisco for Dotel. I'd give one up, personally.
- I didn't know this: Jermaine Dye can veto a deal to four clubs. With his solid play, interest is picking up. As are Kenny Williams' demands; he wants an elite prospect. The Indians and Red Sox have inquired; the Cubs might make sense too. I thought we had ruled out the Red Sox earlier though.
- The Padres are looking for bench help, perhaps in the name of Ryan Klesko, Mike Piazza, Mark Loretta, or Mike Lamb. Couple of prodigal sons there. Would Piazza be happy as a pricey bench player? Rosenthal says Matt Stairs isn't available. Why not?
UPDATE: Baseball Digest Daily is reporting that the Nationals have signed Belliard to a non-guaranteed minor-league contract. RotoWorld says he'll earn $750K upon making the team. A disappointing result for the second baseman.
It looks like the best Ron Belliard might be able to manage is a backup infielder role with the Nationals. The club is eyeing him for their bench, though they probably wouldn't pay more than a million or two. Belliard had lousy luck, reaching free agency in a year with a surplus of second basemen.
If signed, Belliard would back up Felipe Lopez at second and Ryan Zimmerman at third. It's not a hopeless situation for him, though. As Bill Ladson says, Lopez could shift back to short if Cristian Guzman is awful again or is dealt. This might be Belliard's best shot at regular duty.
Earlier this month, Belliard was named in a federal extortion case.