Tony Gwynn Jr. Rumors

Dodgers Notes: Zach Lee, Mattingly, McCourt

Some news as the Dodgers start a weekend series in San Diego…

  • Zach Lee, the Dodgers' first-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft, made his pro debut tonight for the Class A Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League, reports Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times.  Lee allowed two hits and three walks in four scoreless innings for the Loons, striking out five.  Lee was recently ranked as the 89th-best prospect in the game by Baseball America.
  • From that same item, Dilbeck reports that the Dodgers have brought back Preston Mattingly, son of manager Don Mattingly.  The younger Mattingly was drafted 31st overall by L.A. in the 2006 amateur draft, traded to the Indians in September and released by the Tribe last week.
  • Major League Baseball has not yet reached a decision about Frank McCourt's proposed new TV deal with Fox, tweets Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.  SI's Jon Heyman reported earlier that MLB wasn't going to approve a $200MM loan from the network to McCourt, but that was in reference to a seperate proposal that Bud Selig rejected last month.
  • Tony Gwynn Jr. talks to ESPNLosAngeles.com's Tony Jackson about how he's enjoying playing for the Dodgers and how disappointed he was to be non-tendered by San Diego over the winter.
  • Matt Kemp is off to a strong start, and ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne looks at some of the little things the center fielder is doing to rebound from a disappointing 2010 season.

Quick Hits: Weeks, Dodgers, Cuddyer, Mets

On this day 20 years ago, the Atlanta Braves signed Falcons cornerback Deion Sanders as a free agent. Though he struggled in his first year as a Brave, 'Prime Time' was a key contributor for the National League champs in 1992; he hit .304/.346/.495 with 26 stolen bases in 325 regular season plate appearances and added eight hits and five steals in four World Series games. Sanders ended up leaving both Atlanta franchises in 1994, but not before he racked up 75 stolen bases and ten touchdowns for the Braves and Falcons respectively. Here are Sunday's links:


Dodgers Sign Tony Gwynn Jr.

The Dodgers signed Tony Gwynn Jr. to a one-year major league deal, according to Tom Krasovic of AOLFanHouse (on Twitter). The contract will pay Gwynn $675K, according to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times (Twitter link). The Padres non-tendered the 28-year-old last week, making him a free agent. Gwynn batted just .204/.304/.287 in 339 plate appearances last year, but he can play strong defense.

He'll likely back up Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in center and right, respectively. The Dodgers could still explore a deal for a right-handed hitting complement to left fielder Jay Gibbons.

The Dodgers can retain Gwynn for a few years if they want, since he won't have enough service time to hit free agency until after the 2013 season. Legacy Sports represents the outfielder.



National League Non-Tenders

This post will list all the National League players non-tendered today, but the best place to track all 200+ arbitration eligible players is our new non-tender tracker.


Padres Notes: Denorfia, Gwynn, Hairston

The Padres have agreed to terms with Chris Denorfia on a one-year deal worth $800K, but two of San Diego's other outfielders may find themselves on the open market before long. MLB.com's Corey Brock hears that the Padres will non-tender Tony Gwynn Jr. and Scott Hairston (Twitter links).

Both Gwynn and Hairston showed up on Tim Dierkes' revised list of non-tender candidates after they were identified as such earlier in the year. Check out our new non-tender tracker here.


Matching The Team To The Stadium

Fenway Park has the Green Monster, Coors Field has the humidor, and Minute Maid Park has the Crawford Boxes. Lots of stadiums have quirks or tendencies that favor certain kinds of players and big league executives are well aware of it. MLB GMs say they prefer to have players whose skill sets match their parks, but that's just one consideration when constructing a roster.

The Tigers, for example, play 81 games per season in spacious Comerica Park, so GM Dave Dombrowski says he looks for outfielders who can cover lots of ground whenever possible.

"Fortunately we have an outstanding defensive center fielder now in Austin Jackson," Dombrowski told MLBTR last week in Orlando. "But you know you have to have an outstanding center fielder in Comerica Park who can really go get the ball or it’ll hurt you a great deal."

Jackson, Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn will be in the Tigers organization in 2011, but longtime right fielder Magglio Ordonez is a free agent, so the Tigers may look to acquire a corner outfielder via trade or free agency. If they do, Comerica Park will be a factor.

"Even your corner outfielders, it’s hard to get just a guy who is a stationary type guy because our outfield’s big, so we take it into consideration quite a bit,” Dombrowski said.

Like Comerica Park, San Diego's Petco Park has a larger than average outfield. And Padres GM Jed Hoyer acquired former Tigers prospect Cameron Maybin partly because his athleticism should make the club better defensively.

"Having a big station to station team that plays poor defense doesn’t seem like a recipe for success given the ballparks we play in,” Hoyer said.

No team adds or subtracts players purely because of their ballpark and the Padres are no exception. But because of the unbalanced schedule, Hoyer is intent on fielding a team that can cover lots of ground at Petco.

"We play 81 games there, we play nine in AT&T Park, we play nine in Dodger Stadium, the outfield in Coors Field is huge so you start adding it up and the number of games we play in big fields is a lot and we need to be fast," Hoyer said.

Similarly, some teams in homer-friendly ballparks are inclined to acquire pitchers who keep the ball on the ground. Camden Yards has been one of baseball's five friendliest home run environments for four years running, according to ESPN's park factors, and the Orioles front office knows how their home stadium plays. As president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail points out, you can't hit a ground ball out of the park.

"We do pay attention to [ground ball rate], we definitely factor it in," MacPhail said. "All things being equal it’s a positive, but it’s not a sole driver in terms of what we do."

If the O's really did make decisions completely based on ground ball rate, they would not have signed Koji Uehara, who was effective in 2010 despite allowing 2.5 times as many fly balls as ground balls. Instead, park factors are one element of the team's decision-making process.

"If we think we can find the right guy even if he doesn’t have that [ground ball] number that would be ideal, we’ll [consider him],” MacPhail said.


Hoyer Talks San Diego Outfielders, Relievers

Last year this time, Jed Hoyer was two weeks into his tenure as Padres GM. Now, he's attending the Orlando GM Meetings with a better sense of his club and a surplus of outfielders. He told MLBTR that he likes having outfield depth, but Cameron Maybin, Ryan Ludwick, Kyle Blanks, Will Venable, Scott Hairston, Chris Denorfia, Aaron Cunningham and Tony Gwynn won't all end up on next season's Opening Day roster and Hoyer did acknowledge that a trade is possible.

"Whenever you have surplus, if a team asks about a guy, you're always going to be willing to listen," Hoyer said.

The Padres like Venable in right and Maybin in center. Tony Gwynn's 2011 role has been unclear since the Marlins sent Maybin to San Diego. He is a non-tender candidate (like LudwickHairston and Denorfia) but Hoyer says Gwynn could be covering even more ground than usual at Petco Park next year.

"He's a guy we can use in all three outfield spots and going forward that's probably how we think of him," Hoyer said.

The Maybin trade left the Padres short on relievers, but don't expect immediate additions to the San Diego 'pen. The Padres are likely to replace the recently-traded Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica with other relievers later in the winter. As expected, Hoyer says the Padres will do a lot of their "damage" late in the offseason.


Non-Tender Candidate: Tony Gwynn Jr.

Even before they acquired Cameron Maybin, the Padres had more outfielders than jobs. Ryan Ludwick, Kyle Blanks, Will Venable, Scott Hairston, Chris DenorfiaAaron Cunningham and Tony Gwynn Jr. are all options in San Diego, but the Padres can't hand big league jobs to all of those players in 2011. Not only do they have limited roster space, they have limited payroll.

With more outfielders than jobs and a number of holes to address on a limited budget, GM Jed Hoyer will likely consider non-tendering some of his arbitration eligible players. Ludwick is one candidate to be non-tendered and Hairston and Denorfia are others, but today we'll examine the case for Gwynn.

A top defender, Gwynn fits in Petco Park for the same reasons the Padres acquired Maybin. Last year Gwynn stole 17 bases (21 attempts) and his career 18.4 UZR/150 is spectacular. However, he doesn't have the same offensive upside as Maybin. He has never posted an OPS above .700. and last year he batted just .204/.304/.287 in 339 plate appearances.

Gwynn, 28, is arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason and could be in line for a salary of $1MM or so. That's more than any team wants to pay for a fifth outfielder and the Padres don't have as much room for error as big market teams. That doesn't mean Gwynn will be non-tendered, though. The Padres could keep him and cut others or tender him a contract and flip him to a team looking for a defense-first outfielder. Click here to predict what the Padres will do and here to view the results.


Possible Destinations: Andruw Jones

Was a better bargain than Andruw Jones signed this winter? The White Sox added him on a one-year deal worth $500K, and all he's given them so far is a batting line of .260/.360/.604. Meanwhile, the man patrolling his old Atlanta center field home, Nate McLouth, checks in at .167/.302/.271, and Gary Matthews Jr., who will make twice what Jones does from the Mets this year (and next year!), is hitting .152/.235/.196.

The problem is, this hasn't allowed the White Sox to move into contention. Thanks to a 14-20 start, combined with Minnesota's 22-12 beginning, Chicago is already eight games out, with Memorial Day still weeks away. So it may well be that the White Sox can, and should flip Jones to a contending team down the stretch. And that reasonable short-term deal means some of the smaller-market contenders are likely to be in the Jones sweepstakes.

What are some possible destinations?

  • Washington could be a good fit. Willie Harris is hitting just .182/.313/.418, and with Willy Taveras also getting outfield at-bats, so Jones could be a good fit for regular corner outfield time. The Nationals have several pitchers set to join the big league team, but little in the way of outfield prospects at the top of their system. For now, the Nationals say they're content with Harris and Roger Bernadina.
  • Cincinnati has seen Drew Stubbs struggle in center field so far; he's hitting just .196/.283/.321. It shouldn't be hard to convince Dusty Baker to play the veteran Jones over Stubbs, either. It's not clear that Jones is still an every day center fielder, but Chicago has already played him there four times in 2010.
  • The Padres have Kyle Blanks in left field, Tony Gwynn Jr. in center field, and Will Venable in right field. Of the three, only Blanks profiles as a top prospect, so the other two could be vulnerable to a Jones acquisition, should San Diego remain in the race.
  • With Eric Chavez and Jake Fox struggling, and Rajai Davis reverting to form, the Athletics could use Jones in either center field or at designated hitter to support an imposing starting rotation. The move sounds a lot like acquiring Frank Thomas, doesn't it?
  • And don't fall asleep on Seattle, either. Currently 6.5 games out, the Mariners have the talent to climb back into the race, but their DHs, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney, simply aren't hitting. Jones could also slot into left field.

One thing's for sure: those who believed Andruw Jones' career was over- a sad thing for anyone who saw him dominate baseball in his 20s- appear to have been premature.


Odds & Ends: Blue Jays, Mets, Padres

The Winter Meetings motor is getting revved up…