Rumor Royalty Rumors

Neal On Garza Trade

I recently named La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune as Rumor Royalty for the Twins.  He answered a few questions for MLBTR.

MLBTR: Given the loss of Carlos Silva and probable trade of Santana, was it wise for the Twins to send Matt Garza to the Rays?

Neal: The Twins needed to address their offense. They were deficient last season at third base, left field and, on the days Joe Mauer wasn’t available, designated hitter. Scouts from other organizations keep talking about Delmon Young‘s 40-homer potential, and it was nice to hear Brendan Harris say, "everyone has to pull their weight at the dish," on the day of the trade. I’ve covered this team for 10 years and have seen a lot of bad offense.

You can’t blame the Twins for not re-signing Silva, but you wonder why they didn’t trade him during the season when the Phillies and other teams were interested.

Neal On Johan Santana Talks

I recently named La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune as Rumor Royalty for the Twins.  He answered a few questions for MLBTR, so let’s kick it off.

MLBTR: Are you sick of the Johan Santana saga yet?  These talks have been dragging for a month after it seemed like something would get done at the Winter Meetings.  Who will cave in – the Twins, Yankees, Mets, or Red Sox?

Neal: Can’t wait for this to end! I think the Twins have sent out signals in recent weeks that they have lowered their demands some in order to get something done. I initially felt that the Red Sox had the best chance to land Santana because I kept hearing how well talks were going. Then I thought the Yankees would step up and make the deal because they have a greater need for a front line starter than Boston. But the Mets have a greater need than the Yankees, and as soon as the Twins indicated that they would accept a deal with the Mets without Jose Reyes being involved the Mets’ chances shot upward.

I don’t blame a team for holding out to get what they want, but Santana will require a hefty contract extension wherever he winds up. A team won’t empty its roster and take on salary. So get what you can and move on.

Rumor Royalty: La Velle E. Neal III (Twins)

As originally described here, Rumor Royalty is an MLBTR series where I name the one journalist for each team who has done the most for us hot stove junkies.  If the writer is up for it, I ask that person questions for publication on the site.  You can see all of the entries in the series here.

Today we present the honor for the Twins to La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.  You may also know him by the nickname LEN3, which I first saw on Aaron Gleeman’s site.  In addition to filing stories as the Twins’ beat writer, La Velle keeps a blog for the paper.  This has become an invaluable resource, especially for Johan updates.  La Velle kindly answered three Twins questions for MLBTR, which will be appear over the next few days.

Slusser On The Dan Haren Trade

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle was recently named Rumor Royalty for the A’s.  She answered a few questions for MLBTR for the series.

MLBTR: Some have called Billy Beane’s return on Dan Haren "quantity over quality."  Do you agree?  What is your opinion on the Haren haul?

Slusser: My understanding is that the A’s felt that Arizona might be the best match all along for Haren and that they received pretty much exactly what they asked for, so clearly these are prospects the A’s valued highly, Carlos Gonzalez and Brett Anderson in particular. Maybe there’s some belief the A’s should have gotten one of the Diamondbacks’ young big-leaguers, but that was never on the table. I’m not sure they would have done better elsewhere, and they got some quality and certainly quantity – which isn’t a bad thing. Mark Ellis was a throw-in in the Damon deal, essentially; no one really noticed him at the time. He turned out to be the most valuable piece, long-term.

Slusser On Barry Bonds Possibilities

We recently named Susan Slusser Rumor Royalty for the A’s.  She is the team’s beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle.  As part of the feature she answered a few questions for us.

MLBTR: Could you see any team beside the A’s signing Barry Bonds?  In your estimation, what’s the most the A’s would pay for a year of Bonds

Slusser: An insider told me at the winter meetings that two other teams besides the A’s had asked about Bonds, so it’s impossible to rule out. If he plays – and that seems to be a pretty big if — Oakland has the best shot, but estimating a salary is really tough. If there’s no other interest and Bonds really wants to play, considering all the issues that surround him, the price tag could be pretty cheap, say $5-$6 million. If there’s more interest, it could go up. The A’s did pay Mike Piazza $8 million last year.

Do the A’s really want Bonds, though? There are good reasons to sign him, and equally solid reasons not to. They need to put fans in the seats after moving their most popular player, and they don’t have much in the middle of the order right now. On the other hand, they might alienate much of their fan base with Bonds, and a team that is in "full bore” rebuilding mode might not be looking to spend on a 43-year-old free agent with lots of legal problems and an iffy clubhouse reputation. There is no doubt it has been discussed internally, however.

Slusser On Blanton/Street/Ellis Trade Possibilities

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle was recently named Rumor Royalty for the A’s.  As part of the feature, I asked her a few questions.

MLBTR: It seems Joe Blanton is a hot commodity, but we’re not hearing much about Huston Street or Mark Ellis. Do you expect any of these three to be with the team on Opening Day?

Slusser: I think Blanton gets moved by the trading deadline, at the latest, but probably before then. Street opens the season with the team but potentially could get moved by the deadline if a contender were to lose a closer, but overall, he’s less likely than Blanton to get dealt – he’s three years younger and, coming off an arm injury, he’s not going to bring back as much. Ellis has one year left on his deal, so wouldn’t bring a ton in return, plus he’s a great guy to have as a role model for young players. Clearly, no one is untouchable at this point, but of all the A’s more veteran guys, he’s the best bet to be around all year.

Rumor Royalty: Susan Slusser (Athletics)

As originally described here, Rumor Royalty is an MLBTR series where I name the one journalist for each team who has done the most for us hot stove junkies.  If the writer is up for it, I ask that person questions for publication on the site.  You can see all of the entries in the series here.

Today we present the honor for the Oakland Athletics to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.  Here’s a link to the newspaper’s A’s page.  Slusser also contributes to their A’s Drumbeat blog.  Slusser has been the A’s beat writer for the Chronicle for over a decade, bringing a refreshing sense of humor to what can be a grueling job.  She has answered three questions for MLBTR, and they’ll be running over the next few days.

Other journalists on tap: La Velle E. Neal III (Twins) and Mike DiGiovanna (Angels).

Dutton On The Buckner/Callaspo Trade

Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star recently snagged our Rumor Royalty honor for the Royals.  It’s a way to acknowledge the best beat writer for each team, the person who brings us the most hot stove material.  I do a Q&A with each writer, if they’re willing.  Click here and scroll to see all the entries in the Rumor Royalty series.

MLBTR: Do you think swapping a solid-looking starter in Billy Buckner for a young second baseman in Alberto Callaspo was a wise move by Dayton Moore?

Dutton: I think it was a reasonable gamble — but it was a gamble, no question about it. Callaspo’s off-field problems are well-documented, but he’ll get a new slate in Kansas City.

The Royals’ reasoning was this: They have no long-term replacement for second baseman Mark Grudzielanek, who turns 38 at the end of June. Esteban German is a top utilityman but his production tends to fall off when given regular duty.  Callaspo was a top prospect throughout his minor-league career.

The Royals also believe Buckner tops out as a No. 4 starter. I’ve got to say that I didn’t see much in his limited big-league time, but I mean that in both ways. His stuff didn’t particularly impress me, but I really didn’t see him pitch a lot. Some folks I respect think he’s got a real chance.

From Arizona’s view, put Buckner on a young, talented team in a rotation that includes Webb, Haren and, probably, Johnson, and there’s a chance he really blossoms. Also, the D-Backs don’t need Callaspo even if he wasn’t a headache.

The question for the Royals, however, is whether it’s worth trading a young, back-of-the-rotation starter for a young second baseman with high-end potential. If you need a second baseman, I think it’s a no-brainer — until you factor in that the second baseman brings some baggage. That baggage makes it a gamble.

Dutton On DeJesus/Teahen Trade Value

Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star took home the Rumor Royalty trophy for the Royals.  We did some Q&A as part of the series.  Click here to read the other parts of the Dutton Q&A.

MLBTR: What would you consider a reasonable trade return for David DeJesus?  Does he have more trade value than Mark Teahen?

Dutton:  DeJesus is a proven, reliable player who is under contract for favorable terms through 2011. In other words, he’s a long-term piece in the club’s plans. Not an All-Star but a good player capable of helping any club.

The Royals are willing to trade him because they have a reasonable alternative in Joey Gathright and have two solid CF prospects (Jose Duarte and Derrick Robinson) who played last year in A-ball. But the only way they trade DeJesus is if they get similar value in return — a young, proven, reliable player with a favorable contract.

That could be a No. 3 starter — someone closer to a No. 2 than a No. 4; a corner-position player with some pop; or a long-term fit at catcher. Personally, I don’t see that deal out there at the moment, but the Royals are willing to listen.

DeJesus should have more trade value, right now, than Teahen because he’s much more of a proven commodity. He also has that club-favorable contract. That said, Teahen has more upside. He can play first, third, left, right and even center. He showed an ability to drive the ball in 2006 before experiencing a power dive in 2007.

Teahen has the tools to be an All-Star, but lots of guys with tools never turn them into skills. This is a big year for Teahen. 

Dutton On Royals’ Strategy

I recently named the Kansas City Star’s Bob Dutton as Rumor Royalty for the Royals.  He was kind enough to answer a few questions for the site.

MLBTR: In general, the Royals are signing and entertaining free agents as if they expect to contend in 2008 (Miguel Olivo, Ron Mahay, Jose Guillen, Yasuhiko Yabuta).  What’s your take on this strategy?

Dutton: They’ve done all that and tried to do more. As I mentioned above, I think they had the top bid on Kuroda, and I’m pretty sure they had the top bid on Andruw Jones. They were also a serious contender to sign Torii Hunter before the Angels blew away all bidders.

The reason is simple: They’re trying to win. General manager Dayton Moore knew only winning in his time in Atlanta and, for now, he’s got the green light from owner David Glass to spend money. They’ll never be one of the top-spending clubs, but they figure to be closer to the middle than the bottom.

One reality is, right now, they have to overpay guys to come to Kansas City. And one problem, right now, is overpaying isn’t always enough to get the player. The Tigers went through the same lurching process a few years back before Dave Dombrowski got things rolling.

What happened in Detroit was some of their pricey signings paid off and, more importantly, their farm system began to produce in a big way. That’s what must happen for the Royals to succeed.

Gil Meche pitched well last year and needs to continue doing so. Jose Guillen needs to be a reliable run-producer. The Royals can’t afford to be wrong when they shell out big bucks. Not often, anyway.

But the bigger key is whether Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Mark Teahen, David DeJesus, Tony Pena, etc., can become the cornerstone of a winning club, and whether the farm system can produce top talent at a much higher rate.