Yu Darvish Rumors
Last night, the L.A. Times' Dylan Hernandez elaborated on reports that Michael Young is said to be weighing retirement, noting that if Young played in 2014, it can be considered a "safe bet" that it will be for the Dodgers. Young has been connected to a number of teams thus far, but to this point, there's yet to be a concrete indication as to whether or not he will play next season. Here's more out of baseball's Western divisions...
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels said over the weekend at the team's fan fest that he would approach ace Yu Darvish about an extension "at the right time," writes ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett. Daniels pointed out that Darvish is controlled for four more years, so there's no urgency in getting a new deal worked out. The team's current focus is on getting Darvish, who was unsurprisingly announced as the Opening Day starter, ready to make 33 starts in 2014. As Durrett reminds, Darvish's contract allows him to opt out of the final year if he wins a Cy Young or finishes No. 2-4 in the voting twice from now through 2016.
- Troy Renck of the Denver Post has still not heard of any interest from the Rockies in terms of a potential reunion with Ubaldo Jimenez (Sulia link). The relationship between the two sides ended poorly, says Renck, and it wouldn't make sense on Jimenez's behalf to spend the bulk of his career pitching at an altitude.
- Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes that the Mariners are comfortable using a rotation of Corey Hart, Justin Smoak and Logan Morrison at first base and DH, with Hart eventually getting more time in the outfield as his surgically repaired knees recover. Hart has been doing simulated ground-balls to work on his footwork and agility but has not yet progressed to taking fly-balls, he said at the Mariners' fan fest this weekend. The presence of all three first base/DH-type players led to trade speculation earlier in the offseason.
- Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News writes that Prince Fielder will hit third ahead of Adrian Beltre in next year's Rangers lineup -- a concept that caused Beltre to boldly proclaim that Fielder will win the American League MVP award. Though he's usually been the one in the No. 4 spot (behind Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera), Fielder said he's excited to hit in front of Beltre. New leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo's robust on-base percentage figures to help Fielder's counting stats as well, Fraley points out.
In less than two years, Yu Darvish's contract went from a big risk for the Rangers to a major bargain, ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett writes. Between Darvish's posting fee and six-year contract (plus bonuses), Durrett calculates that Darvish will cost Texas roughly $111MM over the six years, a deal that looks very reasonable compared to the massive contracts signed by other ace pitchers around baseball since the 2010-11 offseason. Masahiro Tanaka, for instance, is set to earn twice as much as Darvish over the next four seasons though most scouts concur that Darvish is the better pitcher.
Here's some more from around the AL West...
- Athletics manager Bob Melvin and assistant GM David Forst discussed the club's signing of Eric O'Flaherty in a conference call with reporters, including Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com. Forst said the A's were satisfied that O'Flaherty was making good progress in his recovery from Tommy John surgery in May 2013. The reliever expressed similar confidence to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) that he is "100 percent certain" he'll be able to pitch in the first half of the season, possibly as early as May.
- The Angels aren't looking for relievers "with closer experience," GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters (including Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register). The Halos seem set with Ernesto Frieri returning as closer and Joe Smith serving as a setup man.
- In a mailbag piece, MLB.com's Greg Johns addresses such topics as why the Mariners went after Corey Hart and Logan Morrison instead of re-signing a known quantity in Kendrys Morales, as well as Seattle's chances of pursuing some of the big names remaining on free agent market.
- From earlier today, the Angels agreed to sign Ian Stewart to a minor league deal, while the Mariners agreed to bring Endy Chavez back on a minor league contract.
One year ago, the Red Sox shocked the baseball world when they hit the reset button with their massive blockbuster deal with the Dodgers. Today, Boston finds themselves atop of the AL East, something that very few could have predicted after they shed roughly $270MM in payroll. Alex Speier of WEEI.com has a fascinating article today on the trade that altered the direction of the club and the possible alternatives that could have also taken place. Here's a look at some of the highlights..
- One rumor prior to last year's non-waiver deadline had the Red Sox considering a swap of Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez with the Marlins. However, such a deal never came close. One source familiar with the talks said that Boston would done the deal straight up, but the problem was the difference in salary. Such a move would have required the Marlins to break out the checkbook as there was $37MM+ owed to Ramirez through 2014 and a whopping $110.5MM owed to Crawford through 2017.
- However, there were other proposed deals that had legs, particularly ones involving Josh Beckett. According to multiple industry sources, the Rangers and Red Sox explored a number of possible deals including one that had a framework of Beckett and Jacoby Ellsbury going to Texas with the Red Sox getting left-hander Derek Holland. However, Beckett told WEEI's Rob Bradford that the talks never gained enough traction for the team to discuss the possibility of him waiving his no-trade rights.
- The Dodgers were among the clubs with interest in Beckett prior to the July 31st deadline and that was information that the Red Sox stored for later.
- The club's previous free-spending ways handcuffed them from even considering a run at Yu Darvish after the 2011 season. Of course, the blockbuster with L.A. gave them much more flexibility going forward. GM Ben Cherington acknowledged that a trade deadline deal like the Jake Peavy trade this year simply wasn't possible given the payroll constraints that the team previously faced.
- Boston considered using their prospects to help get out from under bad contracts, but they ultimately decided against that. "We'd made the decision long term, we were just going to need to start holding on to [top prospects] and figuring out what they could do," said one team official. "Instead of picking the right guy, keep them all in the tub and let them decide for us. Back when we were good, that's what we did."
- Up until the Dodgers deal happened, Cherington says that he wasn't planning on making any significant moves in August. There was some thought given to turning the Dodgers down and waiting until the offseason when they could revisit talks with L.A. and other clubs. However, Boston didn't want to let the opportunity to start fresh pass them by.
On this day in baseball history in 1941, Joe DiMaggio won his second American League MVP award. The runner-up was Ted Williams, who had batted .406 on the season and lost the award thanks to a writer who left him off the ballot. Here's the latest news and headlines from around the league...
- The American League, more specifically the AL West, served as home this season to a talented crop of rookies beyond just Mike Trout, writes Paul Hagen of MLB.com. Hagen points to Yoenis Cespedes, Jesus Montero and Yu Darvish as players who have strong cases that would easily win AL Rookie of the Year any other year, but Trout's not only a finalist for being the top rookie as he looks to take home league MVP as well.
- While the Nationals failed to collect the hardware that comes with winning the World Series, the team's manager, top rookie and ace look to make up for it this week as the BBWAA award winners are announced, says Amanda Comak of The Washington Times. Strangely enough, Washington manager Davey Johnson was fired the same day he last won a Manager of the Year award thanks to a contract dispute with the Orioles back in 1997.
- Count the Indians among the teams interested in pursuing Jason Bay's services, writes Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer in his latest mailbag. Beyond Bay, Hoynes suggests the team could be in play for Melky Cabrera as the pressure-free environment in Cleveland could help him rebound next season.
- Bobby Valentine's future may not take shape in a dugout, but Peter Gammons of MLB.com believes the veteran manager would be an asset to Major League Baseball by working for commissioner Bud Selig.
In today's Insider-only blog post, ESPN's Buster Olney compares the current state of the trade market to shopping at an airport, where priced are designed to gouge customers. Buyers want more sellers and sellers want more buyers. Olney also previewed the NL trade market, so let's dive in...
- The Mets are among teams looking for bullpen help and are waiting for the market develop. The division-rival Nationals are also in the market for relief help but do have Drew Storen on the mend. Olney wonders if they'll look for a starter given Stephen Strasburg's inning limit.
- Executives expect the Padres to deal Carlos Quentin and Huston Street, plus they continue to get calls about Chase Headley. Olney speculates that the Reds could be a fit for Quentin.
- The Braves are looking to add a veteran starting pitcher, but Olney says they're unlikely to swing a trade for Zack Greinke without having some kind of long-term contract agreement in place.
- Olney wonders if the Diamondbacks could become surprise buyers for pitching help given Joe Saunders' injury and Trevor Bauer's early struggles. The Cardinals figure to jump into the pitching market given Chris Carpenter's season-ending shoulder surgery.
- The Cubs, Astros, and Rockies are among the clubs in sell mode. The Brewers will wait a little longer before deciding to sell, and while Greinke, Shaun Marcum, and others could be on the block, Corey Hart will not.
- Olney says the Blue Jays actually finished third in the bidding for Yu Darvish behind the Rangers and Cubs. No bid was within $35MM of the $51.7MM Texas submitted.
No team in baseball has scored more runs or allowed fewer runs than the Rangers, so it's no wonder they're 13-3. Here are some Rangers-related links as they prepare to host the Yankees...
- GM Jon Daniels tells Tyler Kepner of the New York Times that the team didn't mind potentially overpaying during the bidding process for Yu Darvish. “We said, ‘Here’s how we evaluate him, let’s go to the top of our means, whatever we’re willing to pay,’” Daniels said. “It was not about getting the best possible deal. It was about getting the player. And we had to be O.K. with that.”
- One MLB agent said told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton has a strong case for an extension, despite his history of off-field and injury issues. "He's done nothing but perform for them, and nothing he's done has affected him there,” the person said. “He's always performed there, and he continues to perform."
- Ivan Rodriguez and the Rangers have discussed the possibility of working together in the future, Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com reports. "It would be good for our organization and he wants to stay involved in baseball, so we're looking forward to working something out," CEO Nolan Ryan said of his former battery-mate. Rodriguez formally announced his retirement today.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports says the Rangers have the best lineup in baseball and may be the best team in the game right now (video link).
- The Rangers released Justin Miller, Anthony Andro of FOXSportsSouthwest tweets. The right-hander has a partial tear of his right UCL. Here's a complete list of the day's minor moves.
Angels owner Arte Moreno spoke to GQ's Nathaniel Penn about a number of the team's recent moves (and non-moves) in this Q&A piece...
- Moreno isn't worried that he'll be paying Albert Pujols $30MM per season after he turns 40. “If he's healthy enough and he's playing for us, then I'm gonna just say, ‘Merry Christmas to all baseball fans,' because we get to see one of the best players of our generation coming to bat," Moreno said. The owner also noted that his wife played a role in the Pujols negotiations, as both she and Pujols' wife have ties to the Kansas City area.
- The Angels didn't investigate rumors that Pujols is older than his listed age. "Somebody starts checking on your age you start wondering, 'Do we really want to have a relationship like this?'", Moreno said.
- The Angels never bid on Carl Crawford during the 2010-11 offseason. Moreno stood by his criticism of Crawford's seven-year/$142MM contract with Boston since "I don't think anybody...was in the vicinity of that offer." In Pujols' case, however, the team felt comfortable signing him to a massive contract since the Halos had lots of new funds coming in via their new TV deal.
- "Still, I don't think in a perfect world we really thought Albert was going to be available," Moreno said. "They just won a championship in St. Louis, he had been there eleven years, and you think they're gonna make a deal."
- Moreno wasn't keen to discuss the firing of former GM Tony Reagins, saying "I just think what happens is over a period of time you don't think you're going in the direction you want to go." Moreno did hint that Reagins was fired due to the combination of the Halos missing the playoffs for the last two seasons and the thus-far disasterous results of team's deal for Vernon Wells.
- Speaking of that deal, Moreno said his team's baseball staff felt Mike Napoli's throwing arm wouldn't hold up for an entire season of catching and he was about to get too expensive for the team's liking through arbitration. Moreno praised Rangers manager Ron Washington's handling of Napoli and also noted "the book's not closed on Vernon, you know."
- The Angels didn't bid on Yu Darvish and Moreno said was never approached by his baseball staff about the Japanese right-hander, guessing it was due to the size of the required posting bid.
A few notes to pass along out of baseball's West divisions ...
- Former Giants top prospect Angel Villalona is expected to report to Spring Training after missing the entirety of the past two seasons while dealing with legal issues in his native Dominican Republic, writes Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. Villalona, a first baseman, has been on the Giants' 40-man roster since last fall. He's 21 now, so he's hardly beyond old, but he'll have plenty of catching up to do.
- The Rangers have a plan in place to ease Yu Darvish's transition from NPB to MLB, writes Tom Verducci of SI.com. Essential to their strategy is to ween Darvish off the high-pitch-count outings he frequently posted in Japan in favor of more efficient pitch counts. As well, the Rangers will limit Darvish's exposure to AL West opponents during Spring Training, and they could skip a couple of his starts in the second half.
- Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times has a look at how the Rangers and Angels positioned themselves shrewdly for their recent TV contracts, and cautions that it won't necessarily play out the same way for the Mariners -- or other teams, for that matter.
THURSDAY, 10:41pm: Jeff Wilson of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has the year-by-year breakdown of Darvish's contract. The right-hander will earn $5.5MM in 2012, $9.5MM in 2013, $10MM annually from 2014-2016, and $11MM in 2017.
WEDNESDAY, 6:41pm: Even if they’d had a relatively quiet offseason, the two-time defending American League Champions could have been a playoff-caliber team in 2012. Yet they spent aggressively on one of the top available arms and became a little scarier in the process. The Rangers have agreed to sign Yu Darvish to a six-year deal in the $60MM range. Agents Don Nomura and Arn Tellem represent the 6'5" 25-year-old and negotiated for bonuses that could be worth another $10MM.
Darvish can opt out of the contract after the fifth year, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. However, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports adds (on Twitter) that Darvish must hit certain "high-end award levels" to be able to opt out of the contract. The deal is worth just $56MM guaranteed, Wilson tweets. Wilson says the deal includes $4MM in bonuses with the potential to reach even more incentives by winning Cy Young Awards.
GM Jon Daniels liked what he saw when he watched Darvish pitch in June, and the Rangers committed a record-setting amount for the right to negotiate with the right-hander. The Nippon Ham Fighters obtain a $51,703,411 posting fee from the Rangers, who topped the $51.1MM Boston paid for the rights to speak with Daisuke Matsuzaka five years ago.
Darvish posted a 1.44 ERA with 10.7 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 232 innings this past season and he hasn't posted an ERA above 2.00 since 2007. He'll join a Rangers rotation that looks considerably different than it did a year ago. C.J. Wilson is gone, but Neftali Feliz will move to the rotation and Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Scott Feldman and Alexi Ogando provide manager Ron Washington with an abundance of alternatives for the rest of the rotation.
The Angels finished ten games behind the Rangers in both 2010 and 2011, but GM Jerry Dipoto has signed Wilson and Albert Pujols, so the Angels are considerably more threatening entering the 2012 campaign.
Prince Fielder may have lost a suitor this afternoon. It's been reported that the Rangers are unlikely to sign both him and Darvish, so agent Scott Boras may turn elsewhere as he looks to find a deal for the 27-year-old free agent. ESPN.com's Jayson Stark tweets that the Rangers feel "less urgency" to sign Fielder, though a deal is still possible.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first tweeted news of the agreement, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweeted the value of the deal and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweeted news of the incentives. The Rangers have confirmed the deal.
The Athletics signed Brian Fuentes to a two-year, $10.5MM contract on this date last year. The veteran left-hander posted a 3.70 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 36.7% ground ball rate in 58 1/3 innings for the A's and is set to earn $5MM this coming season. Here are the latest links from the AL West...
- The Rangers want Prince Fielder to go along with Yu Darvish, but are wary of saying so publicly, Bob Nightengale of USA Today writes. Though they don’t want to offer an Albert Pujols-like $240MM deal, they’d like to sign Fielder, the top free agent remaining.
- The Angels are likely to add a late-inning reliever before Opening Day, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. Francisco Cordero and Brad Lidge are among the relievers who have been linked to the Angels this month.
- The Mariners, who signed Oliver Perez yesterday, view the lefty as a reliever, Morosi of FOX Sports tweets.
- Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times explains that before Darvish turned pro, the Angels were willing to offer a lucrative bonus to lure him to MLB. The Dodgers had been scouting Darvish since he was 15 and Tommy Lasorda was intrigued by the right-hander’s stuff.
- The A's are shopping first baseman Brandon Allen, Jerry Crasnick reported this morning.