Vernon Wells Rumors
- The Cubs are shopping starter Ryan Dempster to multiple teams, including the Dodgers. Chicago is willing to include significant amounts of cash in any trade in hopes of landing better prospects. Dempster has 10-and-5 rights, however, and thus can veto any deal, although he's willing to move to a contender.
- The Orioles are pursuing starting pitching and scouted both Dempster and Matt Garza this week, although the Diamondbacks' Joe Saunders may be a better trade fit for Baltimore.
- The Blue Jays are asking around for pitching help, although they may end up sellers before the non-waiver trade deadline.
- The Astros are willing to listen on "virtually all of their players." Younger players like Jed Lowrie and third baseman Chris Johnson are all in play, although it would take a huge offer to pry away second baseman Jose Altuve.
- The Indians are unlikely to make a move for a DH type like Vladimir Guerrero or Manny Ramirez. Their bigger need is a player who can play left field -- perhaps someone like Carlos Quentin -- but they first need to figure out where they stand with Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore, who are both injured.
- The Marlins will have trouble bolstering their weak offense because of a depleted farm system. With Emilio Bonifacio injured, their most obvious need is center field. The Twins' Denard Span and perhaps the Phillies' Shane Victorino are potential targets.
- The Angels no longer have room in the starting lineup for the injured Vernon Wells now that Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout have solidified the outfield, and one rival GM thinks Wells could be released when he's ready to return from the disabled list.
- There's already moderate interest in Abreu, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).
- Abreu doesn't have any hard feelings about his release, reports Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. “There’s not really any bitterness -- it’s just a tough situation here,” Abreu said. “I’m going to wait and see what happens. I’m going to talk to my agent, make some calls, see who’s interested. I’m going to keep working and be ready.”
- The Angels released the wrong player in dropping Abreu and keeping Vernon Wells, opines Fangraphs' Paul Swydan. Abreu is set to earn $9MM in 2012 while Wells is owed $63MM through 2014 but Wells' contract is already "a sunk cost." Swydan argues that Abreu is better suited for a pinch-hit role than Wells and, as a left-handed bat, Abreu brought balance to an otherwise right-handed Angels outfield.
- The Angels' busy Friday (releasing Abreu, calling up Mike Trout and elevating Scott Downs to the closer's job over Jordan Walden) is a sign that the team is already feeling the pressure of high preseason expectations, writes ESPN Los Angeles' Mike Saxon.
- Mike Axisa of the River Ave Blues blog thinks the Yankees might have an interest in Abreu as at least a short-term fix while Brett Gardner is on the DL. New York tried to acquire Abreu for A.J. Burnett in the offseason, before Burnett blocked the deal to avoid playing on the west coast.
- Even once their new ownership group takes over, the Dodgers "might not be as active at the trade deadline as a lot of people think." While the team will now have the financial resources to absorb a big contract, the Dodgers' minor league system isn't very deep and they want to keep their few quality prospects.
- Peter O'Malley is "making a strong push" to buy the Padres and wants to have a deal arranged by the All-Star break.
- The Nationals would've preferred to give Bryce Harper more minor league seasoning but their hand was forced due to their lack of production in left field, plus Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse going on the DL.
- The Red Sox "aren't optimistic" they can convince Aaron Cook to stay put, as Cook is eager to pitch in the majors again. The veteran right-hander can opt out of his contract on May 1 if he isn't called up to the Red Sox Major League roster before that date. With Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront pitching well, Boston doesn't have a spot in the rotation for Cook unless, as Rosenthal notes, the club "does something" with Clay Buchholz.
- Bobby Abreu is only the latest high-priced member of the Angels to have his contract eaten by the team under Arte Moreno's ownership. The Halos have also let go of Kevin Appier, Scott Kazmir, Gary Matthews Jr. and Justin Speier in recent years, and those four plus Abreu amounted to around $60MM in dead money. This doesn't mean that the Angels will release Vernon Wells, however, as Wells' contract alone would cost the team more than those five players combined; counting this year, Wells is set to earn $63MM through the 2014 season.
Upon joining the Cubs, Theo Epstein will leave behind one contractual headache in John Lackey and acquire another one in Carlos Zambrano, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The difference between the two, as a National League scout pointed out, is that Zambrano could once again be a top-of-the-rotation hurler while some doubt if Lackey is even a No. 4 or 5 starter. The answer for both clubs could be a "garbage-for-garbage" deal that allows them to exchange one bad contract for another. Some prime candidates include Chone Figgins, Barry Zito, Vernon Wells, and Derek Lowe. Here more from Cafardo..
- While Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle is an interesting free agent possibility for the Red Sox if they could get him on a two-year deal. The veteran could be their No. 5 starter or serve as a strong lefty in the bullpen.
- It's hard to tell if David Ortiz is serious about leaving the "drama" of Boston for the Yankees, but the veteran wouldn't be a fit in New York as they have no need for a DH.
- A.J. Hinch, the vice president of pro scouting for the Padres, could have interest from teams like the Red Sox, and possibly the Cubs with Epstein there. Las Vegas agrees, as oddsmaker Jimmy Shapiro placed Hinch as the odds-on favorite to get the Sox managerial job. Meanwhile, Josh Byrnes is currently a special assistant with San Diego and could depart for a bigger role with Epstein in Chicago.
- Mariners skipper Eric Wedge is a very interesting name that could be involved in the Red Sox’s managerial search. However, getting Wedge out of his deal in Seattle could be a problem as he has a good deal of personnel power there.
- Tony La Russa would be an interesting choice for Boston, but it appears he'll be staying in St. Louis or retiring. La Russa has always spoken fondly of the city, but it doesn’t appear at this stage of his career that he would want to deal with some of the issues in the BoSox organization.
- Brian Cashman's contract extension is nowhere near done. The Yankees GM’s deal expires at the end of the month, but neither side is feeling any pressure to get something completed.
- Meanwhile, Cashman's top two assistants, Billy Eppler and Damon Oppenheimer, are being interviewed by the Angels for their GM job. Cashman told the paper that he feels both men are absolutely qualified to take the next step. Recently, our own Ben Nicholson-Smith spoke with Oppenheimer about the possibility of becoming a GM.
- Cafardo wonders if history will be kinder to Dan Duquette now that the Theo Epstein era is concluding in Boston. Duquette never won a championship as the Red Sox's GM but the 2004 team certainly had his fingerprints on it. Now working as a business consultant, the longtime MLB exec never got the chance to be a GM again, but hasn't ruled out doing so in the right situation.
Brad Pitt says he now feels "a little bit romantic about the A's" after portraying GM Billy Beane in the Moneyball movie, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Here's the latest from Oakland's division...
- Vernon Wells, who could opt out of his contract this offseason, told Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register that he doesn't expect to walk away from the three years and $63MM remaining on his deal. It will be a shock if he opts out given his .219/.252/.406 season line.
- The Mariners named Joe McIlvaine an assistant to GM Jack Zduriencik. The 64-year-old former Mets and Padres GM has spent the last 12 seasons working for the Twins. When MLBTR’s Howard Megdal ranked every GM in Mets history last October, McIlvaine placed fourth.
- Michael Young was the subject of near-constant trade rumors last offseason. He tells the Associated Press (link via ESPN) that he never really wanted to leave Texas, even after he requested a trade. The Rangers are glad they held on to Young, who has a .331/.374/.472 line with 40 doubles this year.
Ichiro Suzuki's streak of ten consecutive 200-hit seasons will likely end this year, since he's 49 hits away from 200. But as the Mariners point out, Ichiro has picked up at least 49 hits in a month six times in his career. Here are some more notes from the AL West...
- The A's will need to make a 40-man roster move tomorrow, when they add Neil Wagner to their active roster, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link). They'll have room on the 25-man roster once Jerry Blevins clears waivers tomorrow.
- The Rangers expect Nelson Cruz to miss three weeks with a strained left hamstring, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (on Twitter). The Rangers could consider Lance Berkman of the Cardinals, but GM Jon Daniels indicated that he expects to find help from within the organization.
- Wilson notes that Leonys Martin will take Cruz's roster spot for now and that a Berkman deal seems unlikely (Twitter links).
- As Kevin Baxter of the LA Times explains, the Angels have been playing better partly because of Vernon Wells' increased productivity. The offseason acquisition started off slowly and his season line is still just .216/.249/.393, but he has four multi-hit games in his last six contests.
A few items of note out of the AL East, as we get word that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez will soon begin a minor league rehab assignment in his return from hip surgery ...
- The time is right for Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. to return to the Orioles in some kind of executive role, writes Matt Vensel of the Baltimore Sun. Ripken has expressed an interest in assuming such a position with Baltimore in the past, and the O's could be looking for new leadership this offseason, as president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail's contract expires at season's end. Owner Peter Angelos said this spring that he expects MacPhail to return, but MacPhail has not yet discussed his plans.
- Orioles manager Buck Showalter told Steve Melewski of MASNSports.com that Baltimore scouting director Joe Jordan thinks the team will sign first rouder Dylan Bundy, second rounder Jason Esposito and sixth rounder Nicky Delmonico. Melewski guesses the O's will ink Bundy and Delmonico but not Esposito, though he framed that as speculation.
- Angels outfielder Vernon Wells will make his first appearance in Toronto on Friday since the offseason trade that sent him from the Jays to the Halos, writes Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. Chisholm wonders what the reception will be like for Wells, who signed a questionable seven-year, $126MM extension with the Jays that turned out to be one of the defining moves of former GM J.P. Ricciardi's tenure in Toronto. Just for kicks, here's a comprehensive list of all of Ricciardi's moves as Jays GM, courtesy of MLBTR's Transaction Tracker.
Eating money in trades or by releasing players is far from an ideal business practice, but sometimes it's a necessary evil. The Mets believe they are better off paying Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo a combined $18MM not to be on their team this year, and released the two just last month. David Wharton of The Los Angeles Times wrote about the concept of "dead money" today, speaking to Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, sports economist J.C. Bradbury, and Scott Boras.
With some help from Cot's Baseball Contracts, let's look at the teams that are paying players to be anywhere but on their roster this season...
- Angels: Gary Matthews Jr. ($11.4MM)
- Astros: Roy Oswalt ($7MM)
- Blue Jays: Vernon Wells ($5MM)
- Cubs: Carlos Silva ($7.25MM, plus $2MM in 2012)
- Diamondbacks: Chris Snyder ($3MM)
- Dodgers: Manny Ramirez ($8.33MM per year through 2013), Andruw Jones ($3.2MM per year through 2014), Juan Pierre ($3.5MM)
- Mariners: Carlos Silva ($5.5MM), Yuniesky Betancourt ($1MM), Josh Wilson ($179K)
- Mets: Oliver Perez ($4MM), Luis Castillo ($6MM), Gary Matthews Jr. ($1MM)
- Rockies: Manny Corpas ($3.55MM, $250K in 2012)
- Royals: Yuniesky Betancourt ($2MM)
- Twins: Brendan Harris ($500K)
- White Sox: Scott Linebrink ($3.5MM)
This doesn't include money the Braves owe Kenshin Kawakami ($7.4MM) or the Yankees owe Kei Igawa ($4MM). Both Japanese imports remain in the organization, but they've since been banished to the minor leagues. It also doesn't include all the money the Mets famously owe Bobby Bonilla for the next two decades.
Yuniesky Betancourt is the only player collecting paychecks from three different big league teams at the moment, but Carlos Silva could join him if he's called up by the Yankees. Gary Matthews Jr. could also be in that mix if he catches on somewhere this summer.
The Red Sox should complete a seven-year extension worth $154MM or so with Adrian Gonzalez at some point in the next ten days, as ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reminds us. On a lighter note, Olney points out that Boston appears to be functioning despite a winless week for the Red Sox. Here are the rest of Olney’s rumors.
- Starlin Castro has “made the adjustment” to the big leagues and is no longer phased to be playing at the highest level, Cubs GM Jim Hendry says.
- Another young shortstop, Alcides Escobar of the Royals, may be the best defensive shortstop in the American League, according to at least one scout.
- Angels fans may not like hearing it, but one evaluator says that in sending Mike Napoli elsewhere they “traded a player who would've given them similar production to what they'll get out of Vernon Wells , except it'll cost them about $75 million more."
- Instead of delaying Michael Pineda’s service time and/or arbitration, the Mariners called him up to start the season in Seattle. "He earned the right to be on the club," GM Jack Zduriencik said. "We actually talked about calling him up last September."
In my Angels offseason in review article, I suggested that Vernon Wells might have gotten four years and $52MM at best if he had been a free agent this offseason. Since the Angels essentially took on a four-year, $75.75MM commitment to Wells in the trade with the Blue Jays, they overpaid by at least $20MM - even if we leave Mike Napoli's positive trade value out of the equation.
I decided to conduct an informal poll on this topic. I asked an assortment of team executives and agents what Wells would have gotten as a free agent this winter. Three executives and three agents responded. Here's what they said:
- "At age 32 coming off a big year -- but also realizing his previous three years were littered with injuries and inconsistency -- I would think Wells would be in line for three-year, $36 million type deal. He isn't as hot a name as Jayson Werth or even Jason Bay the year before but he still had a good year and has a performance history."
- "Wells had a strong bounceback year last year and the market was WEAK for guys who can play center field...Wells would have commanded six years at $15-17MM a year for a contract anywhere from $90-102MM over the life of the contract."
- "$50MM over four years from the Angels. He had a nice year last year, plus I think the Angels got pretty desperate when everybody said no to them."
- "I'd say Wells would have gotten a deal short of what Jason Bay received last year [four years, $66MM]. He’s still a decent enough player — but I can't see him doing any better than about one-half of the total package of what Werth received."
- "I could see him being a $10-12 mil guy for maybe four years. If you put on blinders to the contract, he is a 25 home run guy...inconsistent for sure, but still above average production."
- "In the ballpark of three years, $40-45MM or four years, $50-55MM. I assume Wells would probably have signed after Werth and Crawford. Obviously same market as Beltre, but not sure the value is the same there."
I hadn't expected a consensus, but four years and $52MM does seem to be a fair estimate. The Angels overpaid by about $24MM to get Wells, plus whatever trade value Napoli had.