Takashi Saito Rumors

NL Central Rumors: Astros, Reds, Saito, Bedard

Tuesday night updates out of the NL Central, as MLBTR's 24-hour coverage of the Winter Meetings continues….

  • Rival executives view Rockies assistant GM Bill Geivett as the favorite for the Astros' GM job, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.
  • Stephen Goff of the Houston Examiner hears (Twitter link) that the Astros may select a reliever with the first pick of Thursday's Rule 5 draft.
  • Reds GM Walt Jocketty talked about the team's search for pitching, and MLB.com's Mark Sheldon has the quotes. Jocketty also said Edgar Renteria's reps had contacted him, but the Reds probably aren't interested in signing him.
  • All signs are pointing to the Brewers bringing back Takashi Saito on a one-year deal, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Erik Bedard is drawing interest from the Pirates, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.

Diamondbacks Targeting Kuroda, Saito

12:16pm: The D'Backs also have reliever Takashi Saito in their sights, tweets Henson.  Recently Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweeted that the Brewers and five other teams have shown interest in Saito.

9:18am: We've known for a while now that the Diamondbacks are targeting free agent righty Hiroki Kuroda.  According to a tweet from Yahoo's Steve Henson, an official says a deal could get done this week if the 36-year-old drops his demand for a second-year player option.

Reportedly, Kuroda will consider all offers regardless of location, and seeks a $12-13MM salary.  In addition to Arizona, the Hiroshima Carp, Rockies, Red Sox, and Angels appear to have varying levels of interest.

Reliever Rumors: Madson, Saito, Qualls, Rays

Jonathan Papelbon and Heath Bell are off the market now, but as our Free Agent Tracker shows, there are still a ton of relievers out there for clubs looking to improve their bullpen. Here's the latest on some free agent relief arms…

  • Earlier today we heard that the Red Sox continue to have dialogue with Scott Boras about Ryan Madson, and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio hears that their stiffest competition is "clearly" coming from the Blue Jays and Angels (Twitter link).
  • Six teams have shown interest in Takashi Saito, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The Brewers are one of those six teams. Earlier today we heard that Milwaukee wants to bolster its bullpen.
  • SI.com's Jon Heyman hears that there is not one, but two mystery teams interested in Chad Qualls (Twitter link).
  • DRays Bay examined the possibility of the Rays using an 11-man pitching staff next season, suggesting Rich Harden as a potential free agent target to throw multiple relief innings.
  • For all the latest fantasy closer analysis, make sure you check out Closer News.

NL Central Notes: Saito, Fielder, Pujols

The Astros announced last night that GM Ed Wade and longtime executive Tal Smith have been dismissed. Here are some notes from the NL Central…

  • The Brewers announced Johnny Narron will replace Dale Sveum as their hitting coach. Narron, who's the older brother of Brewers bench coach Jerry Narron, had previously worked with the Rangers and developed a strong relationship with Josh Hamilton. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reaction from GM Doug Melvin, manager Ron Roenicke and Narron. 
  • Jon Heyman of SI.com says the Brewers need relievers (assuming Francisco Rodriguez turns down arbitration). 
  • The Brewers have maintained dialogue with the agent for free agent reliever Takashi Saito, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter).
  • Baseball executives tell Yahoo’s Jeff Passan that they have trouble identifying a team other than the Cardinals that’s a realistic potential destination for Albert Pujols. The Marlins bid on Pujols, but they aren’t seen as a realistic suitor.
  • Generally speaking, Passan’s sources say they prefer overweight players to aging ones. This could play in Prince Fielder’s favor, since he’s just 27.

National League Free Agent Arbitration Offers

10 National League teams have free agent arbitration offer decisions to make today, and we'll update them in this post in advance of the 11pm central time deadline.  For a fantastic customizable chart with all 57 Type A/B free agents and their teams' decisions in real-time, click here.  

Updated team decisions:

Teams with automatic decisions only:

Type B Compensation To Stay For This Offseason

10:23am: There will be Type B free agents this offseason, clarifies Sherman in a tweet.

WEDNESDAY, 8:33am: Lesser Type As such as Kelly Johnson, Octavio Dotel, and Takashi Saito will be made Type Bs in the new CBA, tweets Sherman.  The players' teams will still get compensation, but the players' markets will not be hurt by the cost of a draft pick.  Sherman talked yesterday about Type B compensation being eliminated, but I am guessing that would go into effect for the 2012-13 offseason.  By the way, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Brewers have already agreed not to offer arbitration to Saito.

Sherman says the new CBA will be for five years, and could be announced as early as Friday.  A hard cap and floor for international signings will be included, tweets SI's Melissa Segura.

TUESDAY, 10:50am: Teams such as the Rockies, Dodgers, Twins, Royals, Cardinals, Yankees, and Astros may lose out on potential supplemental draft picks in 2012, if a new report from Joel Sherman of the New York Post holds true.  After talking to two executives briefed on the collective bargaining negotations, Sherman says there is a "strong possibility that Type-B compensation will be eliminated this offseason."  As you can see from the current list of Type B free agents, not all of them can expect arbitration offers next Wednesday, but several were likely.  

This year, teams like the Blue Jays, Rays, and Padres added multiple draft picks in the #44-60 range by having Type B free agents turn down their offseason arbitration offers.  That type of opportunity may have already passed.

Compensation is expected to remain the same this offseason for top Type A free agents, Sherman learned.  For example, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he's received assurances from the Commissioner's Office that the compensation for Jose Reyes will remain unchanged.  Sherman hears that tinkering at the bottom of the Type A spectrum is possible, to help players like Octavio Dotel and Kelly Johnson.  I imagine the main objections would come from the A's and Blue Jays, teams that made summer trade decisions based on Josh Willingham and Johnson projecting as Type As.

Melvin On Brewers’ Offseason

The Brewers’ season is over and while GM Doug Melvin wishes his club were in the World Series, he’s proud of its accomplishments. "There's just too many good things that happened this year for me to be hanging my head,” he said, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Here are more details from today’s press conference via Haudricourt:

  • Melvin and Brewers owner Mark Attanasio will meet in early November to discuss what kind of offer they can make free agent first baseman Prince Fielder.
  • The Brewers aren’t concerned about Shaun Marcum’s health, though the right-hander struggled in the postseason.
  • Melvin said Yuniesky Betancourt was “a better player than what his critics said.” The Brewers have a $6MM option ($2MM buyout) for the shortstop in 2012 and Melvin declined to say whether they'll pick it up.
  • Melvin explained that he would like to improve defensively without sacrificing on offense.
  • He said the Brewers will seriously consider giving Mat Gamel a chance to make an impact in the Major Leagues if an opportunity emerges (i.e. Fielder signs elsewhere).
  • The Brewers haven’t talked about moving Corey Hart to first base.
  • Melvin said he’ll check in with free agents LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito. Francisco Rodriguez is likely to sign elsewhere, probably as a closer.
  • Melvin said Casey McGehee can still be a good player, despite his disappointing 2011 campaign.
  • Craig Counsell hasn’t told the Brewers whether he intends to play again next year, but it sounds as though Melvin would have some interest in re-signing him. Melvin also expects to speak to Jerry Hairston Jr. and his representative.
  • Mitch Stetter, Manny Parra and Josh Wilson are non-tender candidates, as MLBTR's Tim Dierkes explained this week.

Quick Hits: Rockies, Pelfrey, Verlander, Brewers

Links for Thursday…

  • The Rockies have signed second round pick Carl Thomore, reports Nick Groke of The Denver Post. Thomore, a high school outfielder from New Jersey, was the 77th overall pick of the draft, and that carries a slot recommendation of approximately $472K.
  • Multiple sources have told Jeff Passon of Yahoo! that labor talks between the owners and players' union are going well, unlike labor talks in the other major sports (Twitter link).
  • Mike Pelfrey faced the Tigers this afternoon, and Jason Beck of MLB.com notes that Detroit had interest in the righty during the 2005 draft (Twitter link). The Mets took him one pick before the Tigers could grab him though.
  • Interestingly enough, Justin Verlander (who pitched against the Mets this afternoon) was close to pitching for them at one point as Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal explains. The Mets were prepared to draft Verlander with the third overall pick in 2004, but the Tigers grabbed him with the second pick.
  • Brewers manager Ron Roenicke expects a position player to be demoted once Takashi Saito is ready to be activated off the disabled list this weekend, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel
  • ESPN's Jerry Crasnick wrote about nine players that have stepped up to help their teams following injury. Hot stove afterthoughts Ryan Vogelsong and Phil Humber top his list.
  • Matt Eddy of Baseball America rounded up this week's collection of minor league transactions, which includes a ton of draft and undrafted free agent signings.

Oldest Current MLB Players

Generally speaking, young players tend to have athleticism, upside and a salary right around the MLB minimum. It’s no wonder that teams tend to gravitate to those players when constructing their rosters. There’s not much demand for aging, positionless sluggers in this era, yet a small group of older players are contributing to winning teams. In honor of Jason Giambi’s three-homer game, here’s a comprehensive list of every 40-plus player to don an MLB uniform in 2011:

  • Tim Wakefield (44) – The knuckleballer is once again a member of Boston's rotation. He has a 5.40 ERA with 4.3 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 23 1/3 innings this year.
  • Omar Vizquel (44) – The active leader in games played is showing few signs of age. Vizquel isn't on this list for his bat, but his .327/.358/.388 line is excellent. The 11-time Gold Glove winner has played second, short and third this year.
  • Matt Stairs (43) – Stairs, who figures to DH in interleague play this weekend, needs to turn his season around. The New Brunswick native has just two hits and six walks in 28 plate appearances. Give Stairs credit for staying in the majors this long; Bryce Harper wasn’t even born when Stairs made his MLB debut with the ’92 Expos.
  • Takashi Saito (41) – Before hitting the disabled list with a left hamstring injury, Saito appeared in just two games for the Brewers.
  • Mariano Rivera (41) – How is Rivera this effective at 41? He leads the league in saves (13) and has a 1.80 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9. His average fastball still checks in at over 91 mph.
  • Arthur Rhodes (41) – Rhodes hasn't quite matched his 2010 performance so far, but a 3.97 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 isn't bad at any age.
  • Craig Counsell (40) – The 16-year veteran has a .234/.321/.255 line in 55 plate appearances at second, third, short and left field. Consider that the average MLB shortstop has a .254/.312/.361 line and Counsell's numbers look a little better.
  • Jason Giambi (40) – Giambi has an unusual .194/.306/.581 line after his three-homer game.
  • Miguel Batista (40) – Batista has a 1.69 ERA through 16 innings despite having an equal number of walks and strikeouts (9).
  • Darren Oliver (40) – Oliver has a 2.95 ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 1.0 BB/9 in 18 1/3 innings of relief. He and Rhodes provide the Rangers with a pair of dependable lefty relievers.
  • Jim Thome (40) – After a tremendous 2010 season, Thome's numbers have fallen off and he has spent time on the disabled list. He hit a pair of homers and posted a .214/.333/.375 line before hitting the DL with an oblique strain.

Bartolo Colon Looks To Stem Cells For New Start

At least for the moment, it's safe to say that the Yankees' decision to sign Bartolo Colon to a minor league deal has paid off. Aside from a four-inning, five-run no-decision at the hands of the Rangers four days ago, Colon has pitched efficiently into the late innings in each of his four starts, his fastball is just a half-a-mph below his career average, and he's striking out batters at his best rate since 2000.

Of course it's early in the season, but MLBTR's Mike Axisa recently pointed out that according to a Fangraphs statistic that calculates a player's financial value based on how much teams have paid free agents for similar production, Colon is already worth more than double the $900K the Yankees are paying him.

What's to explain Colon's resurgence, at age 37 and after five years dominated by shoulder and elbow problems?  According to a story in the Dominican daily Diario Libre, the new life in Colon's arm could be partially attributable to two treatments of stem cells – or "células madre" as they're called in the Dominican Republic, where Colon had the procedures. The doctors, Sergio Guzman and Leonel Liriano, told the newspaper they had envisioned using the treatment on Pedro Martinez, but they also sent "an invitation" out to Colon, which he accepted in March 2010. (Pedro's invitation, the article says, is still open). Guzman was quick to insist, though, that when they took fatty tissue and bone marrow from Colon's hip and injected it into injured tissues in his rotator cuff and elsewhere in his right shoulder, they weren't doing anything revolutionary.

"We have not invented anything, nor have we done anything new. This is being done the world over," Guzman explained. "We received some training overseas to handle this type of things. Harvard University donated the centrifuges. This is no invention. What we do is take a little bit of bone marrow and we put it into an affected area."

Among major league pitchers, the bar for success with stem cell treatments is Takashi Saito, who received an injection of platelet-rich plasma in his pitching elbow in July of 2008, at age 38, in an attempt to avoid Tommy John surgery. Saito was closing for the Dodgers again by September, and was a largely reliable option for the Red Sox and Braves over the next two seasons.

The Yankees would be thrilled to have similar production from Colon, though they did not know the full story behind Colon's resurgence until recently. Yankees GM Brian Cashman told Serge F. Kovaleski of the New York Times that he had not known about the treatment when the team signed him. (Cashman has since learned about the procedure and informed MLB about it). In both Saito's and Colon's cases, the doctors insisted that age is precisely what made the pitcher a suitable patient.

"We did not want to do a trial on a young 23, 24 year old, because the effectiveness could be questioned due to his age," Guzman said. "We did it with a veteran, and we hope that Felix Sanchez and other Dominican athletes that have suffered injuries will also submit to this treatment so that they can prove what can be done with stem cells."

While Colon has had success on the international stage after his treatment, this new chapter in his career has yet to truly play out. But with no imminent threats to his role with the Yankees, he stands likely to be given the opportunity to prove himself as the first stem-cell success in a starting rotation.