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Tim Hudson Rumors
To start off the weekend, I recommend you have a read of this interesting look at baseball across the pond. On the MLB side of things, here are a few notes from around the National League East:
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is poised to decide between buying and selling — or, perhaps, somewhere in-between — depending upon the club's performance in the ten-game homestand it kicked off last night, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com was among those to report. The team picked up a game on the division-leading Braves last night, but has two more against Atlanta before welcoming the Nationals and then White Sox. While not among the quotes passed along in the article, in the video found at the link, Amaro says that he has "had a lot of discussions in the last three or four days" and has seen "a lot of interest in some pretty good players on our club."
- In his worthwhile look in at available relievers, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal did not include the Mets and closer Bobby Parnell. In a tweet, Rosenthal explained that he has been told that the team is not interested in dealing Parnell unless it is "blown away" by an offer. Parnell, 28, has been excellent for New York and still has two more years of arbitration eligibility before reaching free agency.
- Braves starter Tim Hudson said he was surprised to learn of a report suggesting that he expected to be traded and denied it completely, according to a post from MLB.com's Trade Deadline blog. Of course, Hudson enjoys ten and five rights, meaning he would have the authority to veto any potential trade. As Rosenthal reports on Twitter this morning, Braves GM Frank Wren also says there is "no validity at all" to the notion that Hudson will be dealt.
- The Nationals are definitely interested in adding a starter, according to a report (on Twitter) from ESPN's Buster Olney. As the struggling Dan Haren tries to work out his issues while on the DL, the team has turned to youngster Taylor Jordan. Though Jordan has been successful in two starts, it would be risky indeed to rely on him (and the team's other minor leaguers) to step up if Haren is unable to regain his form down the stretch.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum is upset with his team's recent play and says that players who don't perform won't have big-league jobs, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times reports. That goes for top young players Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. "I don’t think [anyone’s] invincible if you’re not performing," Sveum says regarding Castro and Rizzo. "It’s not about what we think can happen three or four years from now. It’s time to perform on a consistent basis."
Wittenmyer writes that Sveum's harsh words for Castro and Rizzo "threw a sudden dose of skepticism and doubt into the widespread assumptions about the Cubs’ core," but acknowledges that, in reality, Castro and Rizzo will be with the Cubs for the foreseeable future. Sveum is suggesting they might be demoted, but that seems extremely unlikely, and it's even less likely that either of them would be traded. The Cubs signed Castro to a seven-year, $60MM contract last August. Rizzo is not signed to a long-term deal. Both players have hit well this season despite occasional mistakes in the field. Here are more notes from around the majors.
- John Poloni — also known as the "fat scout" in Michael Lewis' Moneyball – lobbied for the Athletics to draft Tim Hudson in 1997, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Hudson wasn't regarded as a top draft prospect due to his size, but Poloni told the A's that Hudson had "the best sinker he'd ever seen." 16 years later, Hudson is nearing his 200th win in the big leagues. That doesn't mean Poloni is rushing to take credit, however. "He exceeded my expectations, too," Poloni says. "A lot of times, it's pure luck."
- Last offseason's big-ticket free agents haven't performed well so far, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Rick Hummel. One of the highest-profile disappointments thus far has probably been Josh Hamilton of the Angels, although it's still early enough in the season that one big series could make any player's statistics look considerably better.
The Mets are optimistic that they can surprise people in 2013 then spend more liberally starting next offseason. Here’s the latest on their division rivals…
- As Tim Hudson begins the final year on his contract with the Braves, he's hopeful of staying in Atlanta long-term. The right-hander told Mark Bowman of MLB.com that he hopes to play for "a while longer" with the Braves. "I think when the day comes when I'm not a Brave or not playing for anybody, it's going to be a sad day around the Hudson house," he said.
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said he’s “open minded” to the notion of pursuing a contract extension with shortstop Ian Desmond before the season begins, Amanda Comak of the Washington Times reports (on Twitter). Desmond said he's open to the possibility of an extension, but not in a rush to complete a deal, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports (on Twitter). The 27-year-old will earn $3.8MM as a first time arbitration eligible player in 2013 following a breakout offensive season.
- Phillies ace Roy Halladay doesn’t sound intrigued by the possibility of hitting free agency this coming offseason, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News reports. The right-hander’s three-year, $60MM contract will expire assuming he doesn’t pitch 259 innings or more in 2013. "I think if I have my druthers I would be here until I'm done," he said. "As good as they've been to me, I think they realize that I would be as good to them as I could be. So going forward, if that that was the case, I really can't see myself playing anywhere else.” Halladay ranked fifth on Tim Dierkes' 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.
2:03pm: The Braves announced they've exercised the options for McCann, Hudson and Maholm.
10:46am: The Braves are expected to announce today that they've exercised the 2013 contract options for Brian McCann, Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter). The Braves have until tomorrow to decide whether the players will return to Atlanta for another year or become free agents.
McCann recently underwent shoulder surgery that was more extensive than expected, so there was some question as to whether GM Frank Wren would exercise the $12MM option. The 28-year-old hit 20 home runs and posted a .230/.300/.399 batting line in 2012, the worst offensive season of his career.
Hudson will earn $9MM in 2013 instead of a $1MM buyout. He posted a 3.62 ERA with 5.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 179 innings with the Braves in 2012. Joining him in the rotation will be Maholm, who posted a 3.67 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 189 innings this past season. The 30-year-old left-hander will earn $6.5MM.
Following the conclusion of this year's World Series, the Braves will have three days to decide on whether or not to exercise a $9MM option on Tim Hudson or pay a $1MM buyout. It seems practically inevitable that they'll pick up the option, but David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Hudson is hoping for more than just one final year as a Brave:
"I’d love to stay here,” said Hudson … who’s been with the Braves for eight seasons. “Obviously for next year, but I’d love to stay here as long as they’ll have me.”
Hudson, 37, pitched to a 3.62 ERA with a 5.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 179 1/3 innings of work for the Braves this season. His 55.5 percent ground-ball rate ranked seventh in all of baseball among qualified starters, but still represented a noticeable departure from the 62.2 percent mark he posted from 2007-10.
The sinkerballer missed time with bone spurs in his ankle this season, but told O'Brien that he believes the back surgery he underwent last November has prolonged his career:
“I felt better this year than I have in a while, except for the ankle,” he said. “My arm felt great all year, my back never gave me any problems, so that was definitely encouraging. I feel good that I can pitch for a while longer.”
The Braves, of course, don't have to decide on a long-term extension right now. Hudson would like to discuss such a deal this offseason, but the Braves could simply wait to see how he fares in 2013 before deciding on his fate. There are some signs for concern that would merit such caution. Hudson's ERA rose in both 2011 and 2012, his ground-ball rate declined in each of those seasons, and his 5.1 K/9 in 2012 was his lowest since 2004. Hudson's sinker also averaged just 89 mph — a full 1.5 mph drop from 2011.
The Alabama native has been with the Braves since being acquired from the Athletics following the 2004 season. In hindsight, that trade looks like a steal, as the Braves gave up just Juan Cruz, Dan Meyer and Charles Thomas. While all three were highly regarded, none developed into a superstar. Hudson, meanwhile, has pitched to a 3.52 ERA in 1,441 2/3 innings for the Braves.
The latest out of Atlanta, courtesy of David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution..
- Braves General Manager Frank Wren said that he approached Michael Bourn and agent Scott Boras in Spring Training about starting contract talks and Boras said he would wait until after the season, tweets O'Brien.
- No surprise here, but Wren said that the club would like to re-sign the outfielder this winter (Twitter link). The GM added that he would have to see how the market shapes up for Bourn, who figures to be a hot commodity.
- Pitcher Tim Hudson said that he would like to finish his career in Atlanta, even though he knows that's not a given, O'Brien tweets. The Braves hold a $9MM team option on the 37-year-old for 2013 and are expected to exercise it.
- Wren says that the team will target premium players but don't plan to "go outrageous" with any one player in particular. Instead, the Braves are more likely to go for two high-salaried players than one player with an enormous price tag (Twitter links).
- Catcher Brian McCann told reporters that he believes he'll need shoulder surgery and could miss between 2-5 months of action, according to O'Brien (via Twitter). Meanwhile, Wren says that unless an MRI shows something worse than the initial diagnosis, McCann won't require surgery (Twitter link).
- The Braves have asked all of their coaches back for '13 and they are all expected to return, according to O'Brien (via Twitter).
It happens every spring. Pitchers nurse shoulders, backs and elbows to health in preparation for the season. But there are no guarantees for any injured pitcher, regardless of his resume.
“You’ve got to know what your body can and can’t do,” John Smoltz told me in a recent interview. “Not every pitcher’s going to be perfectly healthy their whole career, so there has to be some degree of discomfort that you have to pitch through. Once you learn how to do that, you’re able to overcome more.”
Smoltz speaks from experience. He recovered from Tommy John surgery to reinvent himself as a dominant closer and worked through shoulder problems to strike out nearly a batter per inning as a 42-year-old. Now an analyst with MLB Network, he recently caught up with a number of high-profile pitchers returning from injuries for his role on MLB Tonight.
When Smoltz signed with the 2009 Cardinals, Adam Wainwright was at his peak, in the midst of a season that would see him post a 2.63 ERA in a league-leading 233 innings. Two and a half years later, Wainwright’s returning from ligament replacement surgery and expectations are lofty.
“That’s where Tommy John surgery is a little misunderstood,” Smoltz said. “Adam basically is looked upon this year I think unfairly as a big cog to replace the departure of Albert Pujols and now possibly the delay of Chris Carpenter. That’s an unfair situation for him to go in, since he needs the same kind of time and grace that everybody does returning from Tommy John.”
Regaining full strength following Tommy John surgery took more than a year for Smoltz, who missed the 2000 season recovering from the operation. But he acknowledges recovery times vary from pitcher to pitcher and anticipates a strong season from Wainwright.
“Can he go back to the Cy Young type numbers? I don’t know,” Smoltz said. “I think it’s a little unfair [to expect that] the first year. But I certainly can see him doing easily some of the things that we’ve expected him to do in that first year.”
Smoltz believes Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson will rebound from a disappointing 2011 season. In fact, Johnson may have benefitted from his team's cautious approach late last season. He didn't pitch after May 16th last year, and Smoltz suggested the Marlins could have rushed him back under different circumstances.
“That’s a luxury," he said. "I expect that everything is where it needs to be and that he’s going to go out there and, unfortunately for the hitters, probably dominate.”
Smoltz last played for the Braves four years ago, but he spent two decades in Atlanta, so he knows the organization as well as anyone. He says former teammates Tim Hudson (back) and Jair Jurrjens (knee) must make most of their starts to have successful seasons. The Braves will be relying on their starters, since a repeat performance from their relievers may be unrealistic.
“There’s no way the bullpen can do what they did last year with the amount of times they were used,” Smoltz said. “I think the starting pitching has got to find a way to pitch some much-needed innings over the course of the season.”
A few months ago, the Braves seemed to have an abundance of starting pitching, and Mike Minor seemed expendable. Now that Julio Teheran has been sent to the minor leagues and Arodys Vizcaino is out for the season, Minor’s a key component of the Braves’ pitching staff. “Sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you don’t make,” Smoltz noted.
Mets fans who wish their team had never traded for Johan Santana might agree with that sentiment whole-heartedly. But there’s optimism that the Mets will see some return from the $24MM left-hander in 2012. Smoltz says the two-time Cy Young Award winner seems just as motivated as the 26-year-old Jurrjens.
“They both have the urgency to want to pitch, but it’s different,” he said. “You’ve got a guy in Johan Santana with all of the hardware, big contract. He wants to get out there and compete. I’ve heard nothing but unbelievable things.”
Cy Young Awards are a motivator for pitchers coming back from injury, but contracts also lurk in the background. Even Smoltz, a future Hall of Famer, wasn’t able to generate interest based on his resume alone during his playing days. Successfully returning from an injury can make all the difference when it’s time for a new contract.
“In sports you’re as good as your last impression,” Smoltz says.
For these pitchers, the 2012 season represents the opportunity to create new impressions and erase old ones.
John Smoltz will be a game analyst for the MLB Network Showcase schedule this season beginning on Friday, April 20 featuring the Red Sox v. Yankees at 3pm ET. MLB Network will feature a package of live 30 games featuring all 30 Clubs beginning on Thursday, April 5 between the Dodgers & Padres. Photo courtesy of US Presswire.
The Braves blew a late-inning lead before losing a painful game to the Phillies tonight, but if Atlanta goes on to win in the playoffs this year, their bullpen will probably be a major reason for their success. The Braves’ late inning trio of Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel is as good as it gets.
Health permitting, the three relievers figure to return to Atlanta in 2012, but the same can’t necessarily be said for the Braves’ starting corps. Every one of the eight pitchers who has started a game for the Braves in 2011 is under team control next year and with a trio of MLB-ready arms entering the discussion for big league rotation spots, it won’t be surprising if the Braves hear an offer or two for their surplus arms.
Before we get too carried away with assumptions about health, it’s important to note that two Braves starters are on the disabled list and another one is dealing with an injury. Kris Medlen hasn’t pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery last August and won’t be ready before 2012. Tommy Hanson is also on the disabled list (shoulder) and Jair Jurrjens (knee) is banged up as well.
Despite those injuries, the Braves have a full rotation: Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Brandon Beachy (pictured), Mike Minor and Randall Delgado. Top prospects Arodys Vizcaino and Julio Teheran (who will start one of tomorrow’s games) also represent viable rotation options for manager Fredi Gonzalez.
All told, the Braves have nine options. Hudson, Lowe, Jurrjens, Hanson, Beachy and Minor have all had extended looks in the rotation this year, Teheran, Delgado and Vizcaino spent most of the 2011 season in the minors and Medlen, a wild card heading into 2012, hasn’t pitched at all.
Not only do the Braves have nine pitchers around in 2012, most of them are under team control in 2013 (Lowe’s contract expires after next season and the Braves have a $9MM club option for Hudson in ’13). This group isn’t going anywhere.
As unusual as it is for a team to have too much pitching, this Braves team may find themselves with extra arms over the winter. Unlike most teams, however, the Braves already have the main components of their roster in place for 2012. They won’t have many obvious holes to address over the winter.
Yet the Braves aren’t set at every position – shortstop Alex Gonzalez hits free agency and Martin Prado hasn't shown the on-base skills or power you'd expect from a left fielder. If the Braves decide not to retain the slick-fielding Gonzalez and opt to move Prado back into a utility role, they could have holes at shortstop and left field (assuming they don’t view Jose Constanza as a permanent solution).
The Braves are a playoff-caliber team and they seem poised to contend in 2012, but significant needs could emerge within a month or two. Wren avoided last year's free agent frenzy and if he hopes to do the same this offseason without ignoring possible weaknesses, he could make the organization's pitching depth available in trades.
Photo courtesy Icon SMI.
A few pitching notes from around the league…
- In today's blog post at ESPN (Insider req'd), Buster Olney reports that the Yankees did not inquire about Tim Hudson. Yesterday we heard that the Braves aren't looking to move one of their starters anyway.
- Within the same post, Olney says he finds the timing of the report about White Sox ace Mark Buehrle's willingness to accept a trade interesting. It's been presumed that the Missouri native would embrace a chance to pitch for the Cardinals at some point, and St. Louis now has an opening in its rotation with Adam Wainwright headed for Tommy John surgery.
- Joel Sherman of The New York Post believes Cardinals co-ace Chris Carpenter could potentially be a fit for the Yankees, and the news of Wainwright's injury makes him wonder if Carpenter will "become available in a stronger way." I looked at how Wainwright's injury could have a trickle down effect on the Yankees over at River Ave. Blues.