Starlin Castro Rumors
Second baseman Mike Fontenot may not fit in with the Cubs' long-term plans if Starlin Castro lives up to expectations, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Castro has knocked Fontenot out of the starting lineup as he has taken over at shortstop with Ryan Theriot taking over at second.
Even though Fontenot has been sent to the bench, he has been decent offensively with an OPS+ of 96. In 80 plate appearances, the soon-to-be 30-year-old is hitting .315/.363/.397, a slash line that is a significant step-up from his posting in 2009. For his career, he has a 10.7 UZR/150 at his preferred position.
Fontenot is set to earn $1MM this season after avoiding arbitration with the Cubs this winter. He became arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career when he was awarded Super Two status in November of 2009.
Let's start this Friday off with some links...
- Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com feels that Neal Huntington's rebuilding plan has yet to yield results.
- Olney tweets that rival executives feel that both Oswalt and Lance Berkman would have trade value, but only if Houston was willing to eat a lot of money and accept secondary prospects in return. Yesterday we learned that Berkman would be willing to waive his no-trade clause.
- SI.com's Melissa Segura hears that MLB will announce a pilot program that will allow international amateurs to register before the July 2nd signing period begins, which should streamline age investigations and signings (link goes to Twitter).
- Meanwhile, MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez chatted with MLB's Dominican office consultant Sandy Alderson about what he hopes to achieve regarding how he hopes to improve the international market.
- ESPN's Enrique Rojas tweets that the Cubs have called up top shortstop prospect Starlin Castro. The 20-year-old was rated as the 16th best prospect in the game by Baseball America prior to the season, and was hitting .376/.421/.569 in 121 Double-A plate appearances. Chicago has already pushed his free agency back a year, but he can still qualify as a Super Two after 2012.
- Richard Justice of The Houston Chronicle mentions that the Astros have only $44MM in salary commitments for next season, most of which is tied up in Roy Oswalt and Carlos Lee. I respectfully disagree that Oswalt's $16MM salary "can easily be traded." How many teams have that much room in their budget?
- ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that Carl Crawford has put himself in a pretty good position going into free agency. The Rays' left fielder is hitting .343/.408/.571, but is only 7-for-11 in stolen base opportunities, and there's still 83% of the season left the play.
- ESPN's Keith Law and Jason Churchill go back and redo the 2004 draft. Both see Justin Verlander and Dustin Pedroia going 1-2 in a redraft.
Links to check out as we await Cliff Lee's Mariners debut...
- BoSox manager Terry Francona says that the upcoming player move to make room on the roster for Daisuke Matsuzaka will almost certainly involve a pitcher, tweets Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald.
- If you play fantasy baseball, be sure to follow our @closernews feed on Twitter. We've got instant news on all closer situations, enabling you to conquer the save category.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports takes a behind-the-scenes look at the Ryan Howard extension negotiations, speaking to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and Howard's agent, Casey Close.
- In an MLB.com mailbag, T.R. Sullivan suggests that Frank Francisco could be a prime trade candidate in July, particularly if the Rangers are slipping from playoff contention.
- Luis Mendoza cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Omaha, tweets Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. Mendoza was designated for assignment by the Royals last week.
- GM Jim Hendry says prospect Starlin Castro will join the Cubs at some point this season, but he won't say how soon, according to ESPNChicago. A source told Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago earlier in the week that Castro's promotion could be right around the corner.
- ESPN.com's Rob Neyer doesn't think the White Sox have any need for Jermaine Dye. We heard earlier today that Dye believes he'd be a fit for the South Siders.
- Talking to Tom Krasovic of AOL FanHouse, Brewers outfielder Jody Gerut explained why the Padres should retain Adrian Gonzalez.
- Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez answered questions from Denver Post readers, explaining that "it's a really bad feeling when you get traded" and he'd like to sign a contract "for a few years." Gonzalez is not arbitration-eligible until after the 2011 season, and he's represented by Scott Boras.
- The Yankees are not typically inclined to sign young players to long-term deals. It makes sense to maintain flexibility, as they did going year-to-year with Chien-Ming Wang. On the other hand, Joel Sherman of the New York Post points out that Robinson Cano's extension has worked out quite well. Will the Yankees exercise his $14MM club option for 2012, or choose the $2MM buyout?
- Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald believes that the future of the Red Sox catching position points more toward Adalberto Ibarra than Victor Martinez.
MLB.com's Carrie Muskat answered a few Cubs-related questions from readers today in a mailbag. Within the piece, she addresses some potential roster moves for the Cubs. Here are the highlights:
- Look for super-prospect Starlin Castro to start the year in the minors, where he'll be able to play every day. The Cubs are hoping Mike Fontenot can back up Ryan Theriot at shortstop. That way, the club can use their final bench spot on a player with some pinch-hitting pop, rather than a reserve infielder like Andres Blanco.
- Asked if the Cubs will fill their bullpen holes through free agency or trades, Muskat acknowledges that GM Jim Hendry has been looking for an experienced right-handed reliever since before the Winter Meetings. However, the club could still stand pat, using younger, in-house options to fill out their bullpen. As Muskat notes, "there's nothing wrong with youth as long as they get the job done."
- One reader poses the idea of Carlos Silva moving to the bullpen as a right-handed setup man. Muskat suggests that, given some more time with pitching coach Larry Rothschild, Silva could be successful at the back of the rotation.
Lots of rainouts in Florida, so here are some links to get you through the day...
- Jayson Stark takes a look at pitching phenoms not named Stephen Strasburg. Also featured: Strasburg.
- MLB.com's Steve Gilbert looks back at the trade that sent Jose Valverde to Houston and says the D'Backs now look like winners for obtaining Chad Qualls, Juan Gutierrez and Chris Burke.
- Rickie Weeks told Colin Fly of the AP that he'll miss former teammate J.J. Hardy, who was traded for Carlos Gomez this winter (link via the Miami Herald).
- MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo profiles highly-touted high schooler Jameson Taillon, from his academic background to his hobbies, to his upper-90s fastball. Taillon will likely be a top pick in this year's draft.
- Top Cubs prospect Starlin Castro will start the season in Triple A no matter how good he looks in Spring Training, according to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.
- Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail repeated to Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun that the Orioles will consider other options in case Brian Roberts isn't going to be ready on Opening Day.
- In case you're wondering, Jermaine Dye is the only remaining free agent who qualified for the batting title last year.
- Cubs manager Lou Piniella feels healthy going into the last year of his contract, according to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. Team president Crane Kenney expects to have an "interesting conversation" with Piniella after the season.
- The Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League signed Toshihisa Nishi, according to this Sanspo report passed along by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker (via Twitter).
- Jason Bay says he feels more comfortable than before, now that he has a no-trade clause in his contract, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com.
- Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times can't think of a Dodger to successfully make a comeback like the one Eric Gagne is attempting.
- A former GM tells Baseball America that teams didn't worry about losing players out of minor league options in the past. Check out MLBTR's list of players out of minor league options here and go to the Baseball America article for Matt Eddy's explanation of options and why they matter.
- Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post suspects that the Nationals may not draft Bryce Harper with the first overall pick in this year's draft.
10:31pm: Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that the Yankees spent "much of the day" trying to acquire Granderson. They still haven't offered Johnny Damon a contract.
5:14pm: Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times talked to a Cubs source who's heard nothing to support rumors that the Tigers are trying to move Granderson this week.
4:05pm: With USA Today's Bob Nightengale suggesting the Tigers hope to trade Curtis Granderson this week, the center fielder requires his own post.
ESPN's Peter Gammons says the Tigers wanted shortstop prospect Starlin Castro and two others from the Cubs. That price is too high for the Cubs. Gammons' colleague Buster Olney says the Tigers want Phil Hughes and Austin Jackson from the Yankees for Granderson.
The Chicago Cubs are interested in Curtis Granderson, but would prefer to move Milton Bradley before aggressively pursuing Granderson, according to Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune.
Earlier today, we heard rumblings that talks of a Bradley-Pat Burrell swap are still alive. If the Cubs were to deal Bradley and acquire Granderson, it would allow them to play Granderson in center field and move Kosuke Fukudome to right (Bradley's position).
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Rogers indicates that the Tigers are seeking multiple major-league-ready players in any trade for Granderson or right-hander Edwin Jackson. The Cubs also seem unwilling to part with top prospect Starlin Castro in order to acquire Granderson, so it remains to be seen if they have the chips to complete a deal.
Rogers expects Bradley and Granderson discussions to heat up during or before next week's winter meetings.
Here are some links on an understandably slow Thanksgiving night...
- Baltimore GM Andy MacPhail tells Steve Melewski of MASN Sports that the Orioles are willing to offer a big contract under the right circumstances. MacPhail points out that the club offered $140MM to Mark Teixeira as evidence that they are willing to spend. Given their recent history, do you believe him?
- The Padres are keeping close watch on first round draft pick Donavan Tate, writes Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The third overall pick is recovering after undergoing sports hernia surgery in October.
- Despite plans to shift Ryan Theriot from shortstop to second base, Cubs GM Jim Hendry tells Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune that he has faith in the soon-to-be 30-year-old. Theriot has been told to prepare for a shift to the other side of the bag to make room for Starlin Castro. Recently it has been reported that the Cubs are interested in Mets second baseman Luis Castillo.
9:01pm: The Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan is reporting that Toronto "wants no part of Milton Bradley." Meanwhile, Cubs GM Jim Hendry said that Chicago hasn't given up on Bradley, according to MLB.com's Scott Merkin. Of course, Hendry has to say that until the moment Bradley is traded.
5:55pm: A very interesting idea is being reported by Ken Rosenthal: a three-way deal, with Milton Bradley going to the Blue Jays, Luis Castillo to the Cubs, and Lyle Overbay to the Mets. Rosenthal said "The teams indeed have discussed the framework of such a deal, though not in direct fashion, according to major-league sources."
Breaking it down, the trade makes the most sense for the Mets, who would clear second base for long-coveted Orlando Hudson, a free agent. Overbay has also mashed righties for his entire career - .847 OPS career, .905 in 2009 - and could be paired with Daniel Murphy or Nick Evans for a high-reward platoon.
Castillo does block the movement of Ryan Theriot to second base when Starlin Castro arrives, but adding Castillo's on-base percentage would be a boon to the top of Chicago's lineup.
As for the Blue Jays, the deal would open up first base for Adam Lind, with Bradley slotting in as designated hitter. The question is: Overbay slugged .466 in 2009, while Bradley slugged just .397 - so is this an upgrade?