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The Astros are playing spoiler against a former bitter rival of theirs tonight, as they try to halt the Cardinals’ improbable playoff bid. Here are some notes from the NL Central, while the two clubs play in Houston…
- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts told Cubs reporters, including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, that he's looking to name a GM as soon as possible, but cautions that there's "no point in rushing" the process. Ricketts pointed to the Diamondbacks to remind reporters that turnarounds can happen quickly in baseball under the right circumstances.
- Ricketts added that he expects GM candidates to see the four-year extension that director of player personnel Oneri Fleita obtained this summer as a positive.
- It's looking like the Reds will complete a deal with Francisco Cordero instead of picking up his $12MM option for 2012 ($1MM buyout), according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (on Twitter). We heard yesterday that Reds GM Walt Jocketty is optimistic about working out a deal with his closer. For the latest on Cordero and other MLB closers, check out CloserNews.com.
- Ryan Doumit told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he thinks his chances of returning to Pittsburgh in 2012 are "slim" (Twitter link). The Pirates hold a $7.25MM option ($500K buyout) for the backstop next year.
- Clint Barmes told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart that he would like to return to the Astros next year. However, the shortstop is open to exploring other options and he realizes that Houston’s ownership changes could affect offseason plans. Earlier in the month, I revisited the trade that sent Barmes to the Astros.
Before the season, MLBTR writers identified 13 players who were set for 'make or break' years. These players had experienced ups and downs in their respective careers and were positioned to re-establish themselves as difference makers at the Major League level and set themselves up for success in free agency.
We checked in on the players at the quarter pole of the campaign and let's do it again now that we're midway through the season (all links go to the MLBTR posts):
- Scott Kazmir - Kazmir spent time on the DL, made one appearance for the Angels and posted a 17.02 ERA with more walks than strikeouts at Triple-A before getting released. The former first rounder is now a free agent.
- Nate McLouth - McLouth's .225/.345/.330 line is better than it was last year and features a respectable on-base percentage, but his offensive production has fallen off considerably since 2007-09. He spent time on the DL this June.
- Grady Sizemore - Sizemore missed time with a knee injury, but he still has nine homers and a .231/.295/.448 line. However, he has a career-high 29.5% strikeout rate and a career-low 6.1% walk rate.
- Ryan Doumit - The switch-hitter has spent most of the season on the disabled list, though he has a .269/.333/.441 line when healthy.
- Jonathan Broxton - Broxton is on the disabled list with a bruised right elbow and he has had another setback, so there's no timetable for his return. If he doesn't pitch well later this season, he will be overshadowed by this offseason's strong crop of free agent relief pitchers.
- Joel Zumaya - Zumaya had elbow surgery in March and it's not clear if he'll ever return to the Tigers.
- Casey Blake - Blake has returned from surgery for an elbow infection and has a .243/.346/.386 line as a third baseman, first baseman and left fielder. The 37-year-old isn't in the Dodgers' everyday lineup anymore.
- Aramis Ramirez - Ramirez has a .298/.346/.497 line with 15 homers and could be en route to his best season since 2008.
- Edwin Jackson - Jackson, a free agent this winter, has a 4.30 ERA (3.31 xFIP) with 7.8 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 106 2/3 innings for the White Sox.
- Bobby Abreu - Abreu, 37, has a .277/.394/.363 line this year. A year after hitting his usual 20 homers, Abreu's power is diminishing, but his on-base skills still exist.
- Carlos Beltran - Beltran has a .285/.377/.503 line with 13 homers. There seems to be a good chance that he'll finish the season with another team, as he would agree to waive his no-trade clause under the right circumstances.
- Matt Capps - Capps has 15 saves, but his strikeout rate has fallen from 7.3 K/9 to 4.9 K/9 and his average fastball velocity has fallen from 94 mph to 92.8 mph.
- Jeff Francis - The 30-year-old left-hander appears to be headed for the second 200 inning season of his career. Francis, who battled shoulder injuries in 2009-10, has a 4.60 ERA with 4.4 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9.
Here's the latest from around the NL Central, with an emphasis Jordan Lyles. The Astros' right-hander debuted against the Cubs tonight and pitched seven-plus innings, allowing one earned run on five hits with four strikeouts and no walks….
- Astros manager Brad Mills pointed out that Lyles could be with Houston for two starts or 20 years, according to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. Lyles' debut may be the most anticipated in Astros history since Hunter Pence's 2007 debut, according to McTaggart.
- Lyles' promotion represents a victory for assistant GM and amateur scouting director Bobby Heck, according to Stephen Goff of the Houston Astros Examiner.
- I examined the service time implications for Lyles earlier tonight.
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he hasn’t had talks with the Mets. That means speculation linking the Reds to Jose Reyes is unfounded at this point (though the Reds could have had internal discussions about the shortstop).
- Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit has fractured his left ankle and will miss at least a month, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (on Twitter). Doumit, a potential trade target, would have a few weeks to re-establish his value before the trade deadline if he makes a speedy return. But his $5.1MM salary could clear waivers, which would enable the Pirates to deal him in August.
Before the season, MLBTR writers identified 13 players who were set for 'make or break' years. These players had experienced ups and downs in their respective careers and were positioned to re-establish themselves as difference makers at the Major League level and set themselves up for success in free agency. Now that we're at the quarter pole for the 2011 season, let's check in on the lucky 13 players (all links go to the MLBTR posts):
- Scott Kazmir - Kazmir, now on the DL, has appeared in one game this year and he allowed five runs, five hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings. I'll be surprised if he signs a guaranteed contract this winter.
- Nate McLouth – McLouth was coming off a poor 2010 season, but the results are much better in 2011. He has a .262/.355/.379 line, though UZR/150 suggests his defense in center field has been poor since 2009.
- Grady Sizemore – After missing most of 2010 with a knee surgery that required microfracture surgery, Sizemore returned with a vengeance, only to hit the disabled list with an injury to his other knee. In 18 games before he got hurt, Sizemore posted a .282/.333/.641 line with six homers.
- Ryan Doumit - Though he has only stepped to the plate 82 times, Doumit has a healthy .278/.358/.458 batting line. The switch-hitter has been available in trades for a while and it wouldn't be surprising to see him dealt this summer.
- Jonathan Broxton – Broxton is on the disabled list with a bruised right elbow and there's no timetable for his return. If he doesn't pitch well later this season, he will be overshadowed by this offseason's strong crop of free agent relief pitchers.
- Joel Zumaya - Zumaya had elbow surgery a week ago today and is now resting and rehabbing. It's not clear that he'll return to the Tigers this year.
- Casey Blake – Blake required surgery for an elbow infection and could return to the Dodgers soon. Before he got hurt, the 37-year-old had a .956 OPS in 66 plate appearances.
- Aramis Ramirez - Ramirez is off to a so-so .287/.347/.368 start, but his power can sneak up on people, as it did last year when he hit 19 homers after July 5th.
- Edwin Jackson - Still just 27, Jackson has a 4.53 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 55 2/3 innings. His name appears multiple times on the leaderboard for free agent starters.
- Bobby Abreu - The 37-year-old doesn't have much power at this stage in his career (.327 slugging, .072 isolated power), but you won't find many hitters capable of a .377 OBP.
- Carlos Beltran - Beltran has rebounded in a big way this year. The way he's hitting (.286/.381/.564, 8 homers) he'll be among the most appealing free agents available after the season. I suggested this spring that he and agent Scott Boras could ask for a multiyear deal and that seems even more likely now.
- Matt Capps - Capps hasn't walked anyone in 18 1/3 innings and he has five saves and a 3.93 ERA. The 27-year-old's value doesn't appear to have changed much this year.
- Jeff Francis - Though Francis is 0-5 with a 4.83 ERA, he has averaged 6.0 innings per start for the Royals and has a respectable 27K/10BB ratio. The left-hander seems healthy after consecutive seasons with shoulder issues.
The Red Sox have made contact with Bengie Molina, but aren't ready to move on him yet, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. With Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hitting a combined .179/.246/.241 in 123 plate appearances this season, Molina could grow more appealing to the Sox in the near future.
We heard last month that Boston was eyeing catching help and that Molina was on the team's list of possibilities. Although Ivan Rodriguez and Chris Snyder were also on that list, Rosenthal says the Sox are "cool" on Pudge, and the Pirates are more inclined to move Ryan Doumit than Snyder.
Jeff Mathis, who received high praise from Varitek, could be available as well. However, as Rosenthal points out, while Mathis is a strong defensive backstop, his .199/.262/.311 career slash line wouldn't help the Sox.
The legendary Cy Young threw a perfect game against the Philadelphia Athletics on this date in 1904. The perfecto was one of three no-hitters thrown by Young in his career, and it accounted for nine of Young's record 24 consecutive hitless innings.
Some notes from around the majors…
- Red Sox reliever Dan Wheeler has appeared in more games than all but two other pitchers since the start of the 2005 season, and The Providence Journal's Brian MacPherson believes Wheeler's workload is the reason for his poor start this year. MacPherson also points out how the other heavily-worked pitchers on the list (like Chad Qualls, Francisco Cordero and Aaron Heilman) have "hit the same wall."
- Ryan Doumit is unlikely to get much more playing time with the Pirates despite the club's desire to trade him, writes Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. GM Neal Huntington said the Doumit trade market had "kind of died" back in February, though the Bucs have no plans to release him.
- "While fully realizing that it'll never, ever, ever happen," Alex Remington of Fangraphs looks at how Major League Baseball could implement a franchise relegation system akin to that of European soccer.
- Matt Eddy of Baseball America recaps the week's minor league transactions.
- The 42 players who made their Major League debuts in March and April combined to hit .172/.248/.212 though April 30, reports Sean Forman of the New York Times. "The worst-hitting bunch ever" has just one home run, courtesy of the Giants' Brandon Belt.
The Pirates optioned Daniel McCutchen to Triple-A and reassigned Sean Gallagher, Tyler Yates, Wyatt Toregas and Josh Fields to minor league camp today. Here are more updates on the Pirates from Florida…
- Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review hears that the Pirates will not release Ryan Doumit if they can't work out a trade (Twitter link). Though Doumit will earn $5.1MM this year, the Pirates like his bat.
- GM Neal Huntington told Pat Lackey of Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke that the Pirates haven't focused on pitching in recent drafts, even though it might appear that way. The Pirates have just been selecting the players at the top of their draft board, according to Huntington. Pittsburgh picks first overall in 2011.
- In a separate post, Lackey points out that John Bowker's strong spring has likely assured that Rule 5 selection Josh Rodriguez will be returned to the Indians.
- Huntington told reporters this morning that the goal for McCutchen at the Major League level would be for him to pitch multiple innings as a reliever. The right-hander may return to the Triple-A rotation.
Jason Castro's 2011 season came to a quick end when the news broke that Castro had suffered a torn ACL in his right knee. The injury leaves the Astros with Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles as their top internal options behind the plate, and it's possible that Houston is content to stick with this duo. Quintero is a solid defender, if nothing else, and Towles is just a couple of years removed from being considered a top prospect himself, so the Astros might be willing to give Towles one last chance to prove himself at the Major League level.
As with any notable injury, however, the hot stove is already heating up with speculation about who Houston could pursue if the team looked outside its organization. Brian McTaggart of MLB.com and David Golebiewski of Fangraphs have both already chimed in on the situation, so let's take a look at their possible candidates…
- Ryan Doumit. Pittsburgh is known to be shopping the veteran, and willing to eat some of his $5.1MM salary for the right talent in return. MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch, however, wonders if the Astros would really give up anything of value for just one year of Doumit.
- A.J. Ellis. He isn't exactly a proven veteran, but Ellis could be available. Ellis and Dioner Navarro are battling to be Rod Barajas' backup in Los Angeles.
- Jesus Flores. The Nationals could be the most fitting trade partner here, given the number of catchers on their roster. Flores has looked healthy in Spring Training and could probably be obtained at a low cost.
- Tyler Flowers. His future with the White Sox suddenly became blurry following a mediocre 2010 season in Triple-A and A.J. Pierzynski's new two-year contract with the club. Flowers is just 25, however, and was ranked by Baseball America as the 60th-best prospect in the game heading into last season. It's very unlikely that Chicago has already given up on Flowers.
- Bengie Molina. Unlike these other players, Molina is a free agent, and would cost Houston nothing but money. We heard last month that Molina was on the fence about returning next season since he couldn't find a team that would offer him regular playing time.
- Brian Schneider. McTaggart observes that Ed Wade and Ruben Amaro Jr. have collaborated before, most notably on the deal that sent Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia last summer. Schneider and Carlos Ruiz make a nice lefty-righty platoon, however, and it's unlikely the Philles would want to break that combination up.
- Kelly Shoppach. John Jaso is pencilled into the starting job in Tampa Bay, so the Rays could listen to offers for their veteran backup, who makes $3MM in 2011.
McTaggart also notes the Yankees' minor league depth at catcher, but says they're an unlikely trade partner since the Astros would be looking for a Major League-ready catcher. Besides, New York is dealing with their own injury problems behind the plate, as Francisco Cervelli will be sidelined with a broken foot.
Pirates GM Neal Huntington says that the trade talk surrounding Ryan Doumit has "kind of died" for now, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. This appears to be a recent development, as Huntington confessed just two weeks ago that the club could deal the catcher before Opening Day.
“Things kind of died, in terms of most conversations, once you get into February,” the GM said. “They (usually) pick back up again the first couple weeks of games. Right now is a very quiet period for most clubs.”
As our own Mark Polishuk recently explained, 2011 is a make or break year for Doumit. The Pirates hold options on the soon-to-be 30-year-old worth $7.25MM in 2012 and $8.25MM in 2013 but the club will almost certainly choose to pay a $500K buyout instead.
Huntington also indicated today that if the Pirates decide they can’t keep Rule 5 pick Josh Rodriguez on the roster, they will first try to work out a trade with the Indians in order to keep him.
Some links to check out as you celebrate Valentine's Day…
- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel says he won't want to discuss an extension with the Phillies anymore if he doesn't have a new deal by the time the season starts, according to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark. Manuel's contract expires after the season and his agent has been discussing a deal with the Phillies.
- Yahoo's Tim Brown chronicles Giants manager Bruce Bochy's path to last year's World Series championship.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington says Ryan Doumit "has value" to Pittsburgh, but admitted that the team could trade Doumit before Opening Day, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (on Twitter). As MLBTR's Mark Polishuk recently explained, it's a make or break year for the catcher/outfielder.
- The Twins agreed to sign Dominican right-hander Felix Jorge for $250K, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. Jorge has an 88-91 mph fastball with "a good delivery, a loose arm and [some] feel for spinning a solid curveball," according to Badler.
- A's GM Billy Beane told John Sickels of Minor League Ball that he likes the idea of trading draft picks. Click through for an interesting read on what Beane looks for in a pitcher and how he evaluates some of the current Athletics.
- Be sure to check out RotoAuthority if you're a fantasy player wondering how this year's crop of shortstops looks.