Yuniesky Betancourt Rumors

Brewers Seek Boost On Left Side Of Infield

The Brewers aren't done trading yet. They're working to improve the left side of their infield, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Brewers want a definite upgrade over shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt or third baseman Casey McGehee, but they aren’t close to making a deal, since few quality infielders are available in trades.

Jamey Carroll isn’t available now and J.J. Hardy will likely sign an extension with the Orioles, according to Rosenthal. The Brewers would like to obtain a player with a good glove and they can consider adding payroll on a case-by-case basis.

Brewers shortstops (Betancourt, Craig Counsell and Josh Wilson) have combined to rank 28th in MLB with a .267 OBP. Brewers third basemen (mostly McGehee and Counsell) rank 28th in MLB with a .206 average, a .264 OBP and a .277 slugging percentage. Betancourt has a .237/.255/.342 line while McGehee checks in at .223/.279/.315.


Rosenthal On Rodriguez, Tejada, Brewers

MLB executives tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that the struggles of large market teams such as the Mets and Dodgers have helped build competitive balance in baseball this year. Here are Rosenthal’s notes from around the league:

  • Though Francisco Rodriguez has 15 saves (16 chances) and a sparkling 0.76 ERA, his fastball velocity (90.4 mph) continues to drop and two scouts say his stuff is diminished. That perception could affect the right-hander’s trade value this summer.
  • D’Backs GM Kevin Towers told Rosenthal that righty Josh Collmenter’s arm angle almost makes him look left-handed and helps create deception.
  • While Miguel Tejada has struggled this year, he’s heating up at the plate and the Giants aren’t about to quit on him, according to Rosenthal.
  • The Brewers are pleasantly surprised by Yuniesky Betancourt’s defensive work this season. If you haven’t seen these plays, you’re in for a pleasant surprise yourself.
  • Rosenthal confirms that the Mariners figure to call top prospect Dustin Ackley up before long.

Dead Money: Paying Players To Play Elsewhere

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…

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.



Brewers Notes: Marcum, Cabrera, Betancourt

This winter the Brewers have been working to sign Rickie Weeks to a multiyear extension.  There hasn't been much news on that front in the last week, but here are some other noteworthy developments out of Milwaukee..

  • The Brewers and pitcher Shaun Marcum remain deadlocked as they are less than 24 hours away from a scheduled arbitration meeting, writes MLB.com's Adam McCalvy.  As seen on MLBTR's Arb Tracker, Marcum is seeking $5MM while the Brewers have offered $3MM.  Brewers senior director of business operations Teddy Werner remains hopeful that the two sides can work out a deal, citing previous cases that the club has settled in the eleventh hour.  As McCalvy pointed out on Sunday, Francisco Liriano's arb case could impact Marcum's as both pitchers submitted figures of $5MM.  Liriano wound up settling with the Twins for $4.3MM.
  • The club has not inquired about free agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera, GM Doug Melvin told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (via Twitter).  Some have speculated, including SI's Jon Heyman, that Milwaukee was a possible landing spot for the veteran.  This likely means that the club will take care of the shortstop position internally, turning the keys over to Yuniesky Betancourt.

Brewers Rumors: Marcum, Betancourt, Weeks

The Brewers are going to be a different looking team in 2011. GM Doug Melvin appears to have improved his starting rotation significantly with a pair of major trades. Here's the latest on what remains for the Brewers between now and Opening Day…


Brewers Acquire Zack Greinke

The Brewers entered this offseason with the goal of upgrading their rotation. Today, they acquired Zack Greinke, Yuniesky Betancourt, and $2MM from the Royals for Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress, and Jake Odorizzi. The Royals have confirmed the move in a press release. After already acquiring Shaun Marcum in exchange for Brett Lawrie last month, it's safe to say Milwaukee has accomplished its goal.

Greinke, 27, had been one of the winter's most discussed trade candidates, with rumors picking up steam after the right-hander requested a trade earlier this weekend. Although many clubs reportedly inquired on and pursued the Royals ace, a trade was no sure thing, due to Greinke's no-trade clause and the Royals' high asking price. However, neither issue ultimately proved to be an obstacle for the Brewers, who had made repeated attempts to acquire the righty despite being on his no-trade list, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter links).

During his time in Kansas City, Greinke posted a 3.82 ERA in 1108 innings, including a 3.25 ERA and 8.4 K/9 over the last three years. Prior to his Cy Young campaign in 2009, Greinke signed a four-year extension, meaning he'll remain under Milwaukee's control for two more seasons, at a cost of $13.5MM per year.

Escobar, who turned 24 earlier this week, was viewed by Baseball America as the Brewers' top prospect heading into the 2010 season, his first full year in the bigs. Although he struggled at the plate, hitting .235/.288/.326 in 552 plate appearances, Escobar provided above-average defense at shortstop, according to UZR. Baseball America's scouting report prior to the season dubbed Escobar a "defensive whiz" and a "special defender," while also citing a hope that he'd develop into a solid leadoff option. The 24-year-old's minor league numbers (.293/.333/.377, 176 SB) indicate that his offensive game should continue to improve at the major league level.

Cain, 24, was considered one of the Brewers' top 10 prospects even before a hugely successful 2010 campaign. After hitting .317/.402/.432 across two minor league levels, Cain received his first shot at the bigs, and posted a .306/.348/.415 slash line in 148 plate appearances in Milwaukee. Like Escobar, Cain's primary strengths are his speed and athleticism. Baseball America suggested before the 2010 season that he "could be a more prolific and successful basestealer," and Cain responded by stealing 33 bases in 37 attempts between the minors and majors. According to Baseball America, the former 17th-round pick shows "flashes of power but is mostly a gap hitter."

Both pitching prospects heading to Kansas City are former first round picks; the Brewers selected Jeffress with the 16th overall pick in the 2006 draft, while Odorizzi was taken 32nd overall in 2008. Jeffress' path to the bigs has been sidetracked by repeated suspensions for substance abuse. His most recent violation resulted in a 100-game ban that saw him miss significant chunks of the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Jeffress' fastball has touched 100 mph and Baseball America raved that he had "as much sheer talent" as any player in the Brewers' system heading into this season, but his off-field issues and control problems (5.5 BB/9 in his minor league career) had slowed his development.

Odorizzi, meanwhile, was rated by some teams as the best high school pitcher in the 2008 draft, according to Baseball America. Just 20 years old, Odorizzi is the only player in the deal who has yet to see major league action, but he turned in an impressive year at Class A Wisconsin, recording a 3.43 ERA and 10.1 K/9 in 120 2/3 innings. ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick notes in a tweet that the two right-handers were ranked first (Odorizzi) and third (Jeffress) in Milwaukee's system in Baseball America's upcoming Prospect Handbook.

The Brewers had long indicated a desire to shore up a starting rotation whose 4.65 ERA ranked near the bottom of the National League in 2010. Moving a handful of young players in two trades, while hanging on to Prince Fielder, suggests that the club feels they can immediately contend in the NL Central.

Credit Jim Breen of Bernie's Crew with the scoop last night, with an assist to Andrew Wagner of OnMilwaukee.com. ESPN's Buster Olney confirmed the story this morning, while Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus cleared up some conflicting reports and confirmed that Jeffress would indeed be included in the deal (via Twitter).

MLBTR's Luke Adams and Steve Adams contributed to this post.


Greinke Links: Nationals, Yankees, Pavano, Reactions

It's not often that the Brewers and Royals are the two teams dominating discussion around baseball, but that's exactly what's happening today, after the clubs agreed to a blockbuster deal. Let's check out some reactions and a few more details on the trade that will send Zack Greinke to Milwaukee….

  • According to Yahoo's Tim Brown (via Twitter), the Dodgers were discussing Greinke and even brought a third team into the mix in an attempt to meet Kansas City's needs. Ultimately, they ran out of time.
  • SI.com's Jon Heyman reports that the Royals were close to a deal that would've sent Greinke to Washington, if not for the right-hander's no-trade clause. MLB.com's Bill Ladson confirms that Greinke turned down a potential trade to the Nationals (Twitter links). Heyman adds that Drew Storen and Danny Espinosa likely would've been involved in the hypothetical deal (Twitter link).
  • Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post hears that the Royals coveted Jordan Zimmermann, who the Nats were reluctant to give up.
  • Heyman tweets that Greinke approved the Brewers and not the Nats because he believes Milwaukee is closer to serious contention. He's also apparently fond of the city.
  • According to Heyman (via Twitter), Greinke told the Royals that he wouldn't mind playing for the Yankees, but New York never got close to making a trade for the Kansas City ace.
  • The Brewers had some interest in Carl Pavano, who they presumably won't pursue now. As such, the Twins' leverage with Pavano should improve, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
  • Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets that the $2MM going to Milwaukee will cover the buyout for Yuniesky Betancourt's 2012 option, if the Brewers choose to buy him out.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports praises Brewers GM Doug Melvin for choosing an established player over prospects. Rosenthal also examines the trade from the Royals' perspective.
  • With Prince Fielder a year from free agency, Melvin saw the team's window for playoff contention closing and moved aggressively to improve the 2011 roster, writes Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.
  • Fangraphs' Marc Hulet breaks down the package acquired by Kansas City, noting that their haul is "certainly quantity over quality." In an Insider-only article, ESPN.com's Keith Law makes a similar point, calling the Royals' return "bulk, and fit, but not impact."
  • Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus and two front office people he spoke to "really like" the move for the Royals (Twitter link).

Odds & Ends: Bettis, Royals, Astros, Pierzynski

Links for Friday, as interleague play resumes…


Discussion: Mike Aviles

Following a promising 2008 campaign in which he hit .325/.354/.480 and finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting, Mike Aviles underwent Tommy John surgery last year. Now that he's playing again and working his way toward full health, a note in ESPN.com's Rumor Central (Insider only) speculates that he could become trade bait for Kansas City.

The Royals' incumbent starter at shortstop, a position where Aviles posted a +31.6 UZR/150 in 2008, is Yuniesky Betancourt. Aviles offers more upside than Betancourt, who displayed little value with the bat (.245/.274/.351) or the glove (-23.9 UZR/150) last season. However, Aviles' recovery from arm surgery has necessitated at least a temporary move to second base, where he'll compete for playing time with Alberto Callaspo and Chris Getz.

Presumably, the Royals are hoping Aviles builds up the arm strength needed for throwing across the diamond, taking away some of Betancourt's playing time at shortstop. Even so, the Royals may end up having more middle infield depth than they need, and GM Dayton Moore could consider moving Aviles or perhaps Callaspo, who was the subject of trade rumors earlier in the winter.

Are there any teams you see as a possible match for Kansas City? If you're a Royals fan, how would you like to see the club handle their potential middle infield surplus?


Royals Slightly Reducing Payroll

Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star writes that the Royals would like to leave themselves some wiggle room for in-season financial flexibility. As such, they're likely to enter the 2010 season with a payroll in the $66MM-$67MM range, as opposed to last season's $70.5MM payroll. Dutton quotes general manager Dayton Moore:

“I think we can be better positioned to improve our team for 2010 and into the future if we have more flexibility… That may be as simple as being more aggressive in the draft or being more aggressive internationally to build our farm system. And, certainly, it allows us the flexibility to make a deal to take on some money when necessary. I just think it makes more sense right now.”

The Royals currently have $50.4MM allocated to Jose Guillen, Gil Meche, Zack Greinke, David DeJesus, Kyle Farnsworth, Juan Cruz, Joakim Soria, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Willie Bloomquist. They have eight more players eligible for arbitration, although Mike Jacobs, John Buck, and John Bale are all non-tender candidates after disappointing 2009 campaigns. All of this projects to about $63MM before the Royals can even think about making moves.

They'd obviously love to be free of Guillen's $12MM owed in 2010, but much like Farnsworth ($4.5MM) and Cruz ($3.25MM), he'll be tough to move after a poor 2009. Meche could be moved as well – he's owed $24MM over the next two seasons – but his salary and injuries in 2009 will likely mean a poor return in any trade. They'll listen on DeJesus, but the Royals would miss his strong defense and solid bat and would like a replacement in any deal..

Alberto Callaspo may be the club's sole appealing trade chip. Kansas City hopes that Callaspo's strong offensive skills and the fact that he's not even eligible for arbitration will outweigh his defensive woes and yield a catcher or center fielder.

The Royals remain interested in Erik Bedard, Ivan Rodriguez, and Scott Podsednik, but it's tough to imagine them having the cash for those three without making some moves first. Any future GMs out there have some insight as to how Dayton Moore could free up the payroll to make it happen?