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Rumor Royalty Rumors
MLBTR: How do you perceive the relationship between Wayne Krivsky and Walt Jocketty?
Fay: On the surface, everything is fine, but I don’t see what happens behind closed doors. I think if the Reds win this year, you could very well see the arrangement continue. Jocketty said as much when I did a story about the two this spring.
MLBTR: Any idea what the Reds offered for Joe Blanton and/or Erik Bedard?
Fay: Baltimore wanted Jay Bruce, the Reds weren’t going to do that. I believe they offered a package that included Homer Bailey and Joey Votto, plus a third player. I think the A’s wanted Johnny Cueto and the Reds never seriously considered that.
MLBTR: Do you think the catching concerns with Dave Ross and Javier Valentin will lead to a trade? If so, any ideas who Krivsky might favor?
Fay: The Reds were and probably still are pursuing a catcher. The thing that complicates it a bit is how well Paul Bako‘s worked with Cueto and Edinson Volquez. I think Bako stays on the club when Ross comes off the DL. Valentin will strictly be used a pinch-hitter/emergency catcher. Catching is so thin around baseball that there aren’t many options. The only name I’ve heard mentioned is Gerald Laird from Texas.
MLBTR: Do you expect Ken Griffey Jr. and/or Adam Dunn to be traded this year?
Fay: It depends on where the Reds are as far as contention when the trading deadline approaches. If the Reds are out of it, they’d be silly not to move them. I still think there’s a good chance they’ll extend Dunn’s contract. But, again, that depends somewhat on how he plays and the teams plays.
Rumor Royalty’s been in a bit of a hibernation lately, but we’re bringing it back for the Reds. Beat writer John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer gets the nod; he’s kindly agreed to answer a few questions. John’s blog can be found here.
If you’ve got Reds hot stove questions for John, fire away in the comments. I will pick a few and send them over.
MLBTR: How do you see the first base situation turning out? Richie Sexson is entering a contract year and his production has been below average. Do you think anyone else in the system could see time at the cold corner?
Baker: If Sexson struggles out of the chute again, then fails to rebound by mid-May, I could see a chain reaction of moves that could lead to someone like Raul Ibanez or Jose Vidro being moved over to first base. A lot will depend on the progress of Jeff Clement. If Clement shows he’s ready for a big-league job, it gives the Mariners plenty of flexibility where Sexson is concerned. Clement himself could be moved over to play first base. The reason I said Ibanez or Vidro first is because they’ve both played first base in the majors already. I could see Clement taking over as DH if Vidro were to be moved to first base. Or, if Vidro struggled as well, him and Clement seeing time as DH. The point is, the M’s have no excuse to spend an entire season waiting for Sexson this year. Once Clement and outfielder Wladimir Balentien show they’re ready for the bigs (and a couple of months at Class AAA could be all it takes) there are plenty of moves that could be made to bring in a new first baseman.
All that said, I do expect Sexson to rebound to something more reflective of his career norms. He’s in a contract year, and last season sort of snowballed away from him quickly. The combination of nagging hurts, getting booed by his own fans and the pressure he put on himself after a terrible start all conspired to drag him down. Not saying he’ll hit 30 home runs again, but an .800 OPS is the minimum I expect.
MLBTR: Do you think the Mariners are giving any consideration to signing Barry Bonds, despite Jose Vidro‘s presence as the DH?
Baker: I’d be very surprised. The Mariners have made a point of not hanging on to players with black marks against them in the community. We saw that last year when Julio Mateo was traded to Philadelphia at a time when an assault charge (for beating his wife) was pending against him. Bonds is also charged with a crime — perjury. He may not have been found guilty yet (and the M’s have given chances to folks caught using steroids, like Mike Morse) but the team won’t want that cloud and the distraction that is Bonds himself hanging over their clubhouse and season. He’s a perfect match for this team. If they wanted Bonds, he’d already be signed.
MLBTR: Can you tell us which Mariners with less than five years of service time are out of options?
Baker: Mike Morse, who can play the infield or outfield, is the biggest name and will likely not get through waivers if he fails to make the team out of spring training. I’d say Morse has a great shot at joining the club. He’s already hitting well this spring, offers them plenty of versatility and I’m not sure the M’s feel Wladimir Balentien is ready to leave Class AAA just yet. If Morse doesn’t stick in Seattle, some other club will likely use him in the big leagues.
Cha Seung Baek is also out of options. A right handed pitcher, he’s had his share of appearances with the club the past two years, but, for some reason, hasn’t made a lasting impression. Seemed like a surefire option as a fifth starter heading into last spring, but the M’s opted to sign Jeff Weaver instead. That tells you plenty. There sould be a question about Baek’s durability and willingness to take the ball. The rotation is set for this year, so he’s either a long reliever or likely gone. My guess is he’s gone.
MLBTR: Do you expect both Kenji Johjima and Jeff Clement to be Mariners in 2009?
Baker: I do expect Clement to be there, mainly because Sexson, Ibanez and Vidro could all be gone. That’s a lot of power to lose without replacing some of it from within. That said, I’d expect to see Clement in a first base or DH role more than as a starting catcher. Unless he makes tremendous strides in catching this season at Class AAA.
And if that’s the case, I would expect Johjima to return. The Mariners are pleased with the progress he’s made in transitioning from the Japanese to the American game. He offers pretty good offensive power for a catcher. At this point, not knowing how he’ll do this season, I think the team is leaning towards keeping him. Not like there’s anyone else in the system ready to step in and play every day. That could change over the next seven months, but right now, there isn’t. If Rob Johnson, or Clement, was going to be Johjima’s backup this season, I’d feel differently. But it’s going to be Jamie Burke.
That said, if Clement has an absolute monster year as a Class AAA catcher, or half a monster season down there and then fills in as a major leaguer at any spot the rest of the way, we’ll talk. But for right now, the way I see it, Clement won’t be catching for the M’s in the big leagues. That means Johjima stays put.
Todd Zolecki is our Rumor Royalty recipient for the Phillies. Todd covers the team for the Philadelphia Inquirer and also keeps a blog, the soon-to-be-renamed Zo Zone. Todd has kindly agreed to answer a handful of reader questions for the series.
MLBTR: Does signing Ryan Howard to a long term contract make sense for the Phils?
Zolecki: It depends what price we’re talking about. Before and after winning $10 million in arbitration, Howard is seeking major money. Maybe in the $200 million range. The Phillies are not the Yankees or Red Sox, so if they commit that type of money to one player, it almost certainly would cost them elsewhere. That could mean Cole Hamels going elsewhere. Or Brett Myers. Or others. I’m not sure the Phillies want to do that, and get stuck in a contract they hate like the Rangers and A-Rod.
MLBTR: For many years, the Phillies’ farm system has been lackluster with respect to pitching. Why is this the case, and do you think the farm system is improving in this respect?
Zolecki: There’s no question it’s been a source of frustration. The Phillies haven’t had a homegrown 20-game winner since Chris Short in 1966. That’s remarkable. There are millions of theories out there, but lately it seems like they’ve had better success. Hamels. Myers. Kendrick. They like Carlos Carrasco, Joe Savery, Josh Outman and Kyle Drabek (who’s recovering from Tommy John) in the minors. Will these guys pan out? We’ll see. But it seems like they are turning some things around. Of course, things would be easier if they spent a little more money to sign players in the draft.
MLBTR: Do the Phillies have the goods to acquire Joe Blanton without hurting the ’08 team?
Zolecki: I don’t think so. The Phillies are very hesitant to give up some of their top talent because they don’t have much at the moment.
MLBTR: What was your opinion of the Brad Lidge trade? Do you think he can handle Philly?
Zolecki: I like it. They got him relatively cheaply — Geoff Geary, Michael Bourn and Mike Costanzo. If Lidge pitches like they think they can, the Phillies improved their bullpen and rotation with one move. That’s tough do. Fortunately for them, Myers is versatile and should transition back into the rotation.
Geoff has kindly agreed to answer some questions for MLBTR readers. Please leave your Mariners hot stove queries in the comments and I’ll choose my favorites.
Todd has kindly agreed to answer a handful of reader questions for the series. Please leave your Phillies hot stove queries in the comments and I’ll choose the best three or four.
Submit your Rangers questions for Grant in the comments I will choose the best. Let’s keep ’em focused on the hot stove.
Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times has been named Rumor Royalty for the Angels; he is the best source of Halos hot stove buzz. He was kind enough to answer three questions for MLBTR.
MLBTR: What do you make of the Paul Konerko rumors? Do you think the Angels and Sox have had post-Meetings discussions about him, despite Kenny Williams’ claim otherwise?
DiGiovanna: I had heard the White Sox and Angels might be up to something four or five days before that report came out. I made several calls looking into the matter, as did my counterpart from the Chicago Tribune, White Sox beat writer Mark Gonzales, and after two or three days, we determined that there had been exploratory conversations between the teams during the winter meetings but nothing substantive since. Neither of us decided to write anything on it. Then a report was published claiming the Angels and White Sox were discussing a deal that would send Howie Kendrick and Ervin Santana to Chicago for Konerko. I was very skeptical about it because the Angels would not trade Kendrick straight up for Konerko, let alone Kendrick AND Ervin Santana. Then that afternoon, Kenny Williams shot down the rumor forcefully, saying on the record that there had been no talks with the Angels since the winter meetings and that he hasn’t discussed Konerko. I know GMs don’t always tell the whole truth, but when a GM knocks down a rumor so forcefully, I tend to believe him.
I know Angels Manager Mike Scioscia likes Konerko a lot, but Konerko will be 32 this season, he’s got three years and some $30 million left on his contract, and I don’t think his power projects as well outside of U.S. Cellular Field, a known hitter’s haven. The Angels might get almost as much production, though without as many homers, from first baseman Casey Kotchman for a lot less money over the next three years.
MLBTR: Will the Angels will make a push to sign Francisco Rodriguez to an extension during the season? What kind of dollars and years would you expect?
DiGiovanna: New GM Tony Reagins does not seem at all motivated to secure Rodriguez to a long-term deal, and since the two sides were unable to come to terms on a 2008 contract before exchanging arbitration figures last week—Rodriguez wants $12.5 million; the Angels offered $10 million—that’s an indication that they are still far apart on a multiyear deal. Rodriguez believes he is one of the top closers in the game and thinks he should be paid like one, so I would not be surprised if he is seeking a deal similar to the three-year, $45-million contract Mariano Rivera signed this winter. The Angels like Rodriguez and would love to lock him up for a few years, but I don’t think they want to pay him $15 million a year. I think Rodriguez will become a free agent after the season, the Angels will move Scot Shields into the closer role and, if there is still no spot for him in the rotation, convert Ervin Santana to a set-up man.
MLBTR: Is Ervin Santana the odd man out as far as the Angels’ six starters? Do you expect him to be with the organization on Opening Day?
DiGiovanna: Barring injury to any of the other starters, yes, I think Santana will be the odd man out unless he has a phenomenal spring training and Joe Saunders struggles. John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, Jon Garland and Jered Weaver are rotation locks, so Saunders and Santana will battle for the fifth spot. But in talking to Angels scouts and front-office executives, I get the sense they think Saunders—now that Bartolo Colon is out of the picture—has earned a big league spot, that he has done all he can in the minor leagues, and that another demotion to triple-A Salt Lake would be detrimental to the left-hander. They also like having at least one left-hander in their rotation.
However, I think Santana will not only be with the organization on opening day but on the big league roster. He has shown during his brief stints as a reliever that he can be very effective coming out of the bullpen, and he would be valuable as a swing man, a guy who could pitch long relief or spot start in case of injury. The Angels also may use this season to start grooming Santana into a short reliever.
Jon Paul Morosi of the Detroit Free Press snags our Rumor Royalty honor for the Tigers. Here’s a link to the paper’s Tigers page and one to Morosi’s blog. Many thanks to Jon for participating. Click here and scroll to read all Rumor Royalty entries.
MLBTR: We’ve heard chatter that Miguel Cabrera could be baseball’s next $200 million player. Is there any chance this could happen with the Tigers? Seems that it would require an 8-10 year commitment.
Morosi: This much is clear: The Tigers love Cabrera and will do what they can to sign him long-term. (He’s two seasons away from free agency now.) I’m confident that they would make him a six-year offer for a little more than $100 million. But there’s a big gap between those figures and a 10-year deal in the $200 million range. There is little doubt that his free agency years will be valued at more than $20 million each; he has better career offensive numbers than Torii Hunter, whose contract with the Angels averages $18 million per year.
MLBTR: The Tigers have become major spenders in recent years. Do you expect them to make a play for any of the big name free agent starters next winter, such as C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Ben Sheets, or Oliver Perez?
Morosi: I don’t anticipate them being major players in the market for big-money starters next off-season. Then again, I didn’t think they were going to trade for Dontrelle Willis when I arrived at the winter meetings last month. Right now, they have four starters — Willis, Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson — who are under club control through at least 2009. That’s pretty good depth. And Kenny Rogers could borrow a page from Jamie Moyer — who is two years his senior — and pitch longer than anyone expects.
On the other hand, the Tigers might need to look for a starter next winter if Rogers leaves/retires and one of the other four is injured or traded.
MLBTR: Will we see Brandon Inge and/or Marcus Thames in the Detroit organization on Opening Day? Which one is more likely to be traded?
Morosi: Inge is the more likely of the two to be traded, but I wouldn’t be surprised if both are still with the team on Opening Day. A quiet development here has been Vance Wilson‘s uncertain health after missing all of last season with an elbow injury that ultimately required Tommy John surgery. Jim Leyland said during the Tigers’ caravan over the weekend that he’s concerned about whether Wilson will be ready for the start of the season. Inge, who preceded Pudge Rodriguez as the starting catcher, could provide some insurance there. (Last year’s backup, Mike Rabelo, went to Florida in the Cabrera/Willis deal.)
The Tigers are still trying to trade Inge — Leyland said as much over the weekend — but it doesn’t seem that there’s a big market for him as a starting third baseman. And the Rolen-Glaus trade meant two more teams solved their third base questions, reducing the number of potential suitors for Inge. So, he may have no choice but to accept a bench role.
Detroit has been open to trading Thames at various times, but he’s still a very valuable player for this team. He has 44 home runs over the past two seasons in roughly the same number of at-bats (617) that some everday players get in a single season. He’s continued working out at first base this winter, and he could get some part-time at-bats there, in the outfield, and at designated hitter on Gary Sheffield‘s days off.
La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune was recently named Rumor Royalty for the Twins. As part of the feature, he answered a few questions for MLBTR.
MLBTR: In your estimation what is the percent likelihood that Johan Santana stays with the Twins for all of ’08 and Bill Smith just collects the draft picks? I imagine fans wouldn’t mind seeing Johan and Francisco Liriano paired up one last time.
Neal: I would guess 10 percent – and some people would say that’s too high. The Twins had to deal with Torii Hunter‘s lame duck season last year and, while it would be entertaining to watch Santana work his craft during a walk year, the Twins would be criticized all season for not dealing Santana to get players who could fill holes on the major league roster and boost the minor league system.