- Free agent right-hander Rich Harden is drawing interest from teams that would use him either as a starter or a reliever, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Harden posted 9.9 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 82 2/3 innings as a starter for the Athletics in 2011.
- The Twins continue eyeing affordable right-handed relievers and have been in touch with the agent for Dan Wheeler, according to Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com. Wheeler, who has also drawn some interest from the Pirates, sits below a couple of pitchers on the Twins’ list.
- The Pirates have had discussions with free agent left-hander Paul Maholm, but it remains highly unlikely that he'll return to Pittsburgh, according to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- The Mat Latos trade improved a Padres farm system that already ranked among the game’s best, Jim Callis of Baseball America wrote in this week’s edition of Ask BA.
- One MLB executive suggested to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that the Cubs and Blue Jays may prefer to pass on Prince Fielder, since Joey Votto projects to hit free agency two years from now when both Chicago and Toronto could have stronger teams (Twitter link).
- Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com provides contract details for Mets relievers Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco, who both agreed to terms during the Winter Meetings.
December 19th: The Mets officially announced Francisco's two-year deal.
December 6th: The Mets appear determined to fill out their entire bullpen before the night is out. The team has agreed to a two-year deal with Frank Francisco, pending a physical, tweets Ken Davidoff of Newsday. Francisco is the third reliever the Mets have added to the fold tonight, following their signing of Jon Rauch and their trade for Ramon Ramirez. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that Francisco's two-year contract will earn the right-hander $12MM.
Francisco, 32, will close for the Mets, with Rauch setting up, tweets Davidoff, and Bryan Grosnick provides the fantasy spin at CloserNews.com. The Blue Jays employed a similar setup in their bullpen for much of the season, and will receive compensation picks for Francisco and Rauch, both Type B free agents. In his lone season in Toronto, Francisco posted a 3.55 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 17 saves.
In MLBTR's list of this winter's top 50 free agents, Francisco ranked 44th. MLBTR's writers identified six different destinations for the righty in our prediction contest, but none of us picked the Mets.
Free agent notes I found lying around on Twitter…
- Righty Chris Young should be ready for spring training following shoulder capsule surgery, his agent told MLB.com's Corey Brock.
- Aaron Rowand is looking for a big league job, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports. The Phillies said no.
- Manny Ramirez is calling teams directly in his search for employment, tweets Bob Klapisch.
- Reliever Frank Francisco is likely to sign elsewhere in the wake of the Blue Jays acquiring Sergio Santos, GM Alex Anthopoulos told reporters today.
- Infielder Miguel Tejada hopes for a Major League deal, tweets Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.
- More than a dozen scouts are expected to watch Joel Zumaya throw next week, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney. The Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Padres are among the team's that will be in attendance.
- Sidney Ponson has no intention of pitching again, writes MASNSports.com's Roch Kubatko. Currently, Ponson is contemplating whether to purchase a boat. I say go for it, big guy!
10 American League teams have free agent arbitration offer decisions to make, and we'll update them in this post throughout the day in advance of the 11pm central time deadline. For a fantastic customizable chart with all 57 Type A/B free agents and their teams' decisions in real-time, click here.
Updated team decisions:
- The Blue Jays offered arbitration to Frank Francisco (B), Kelly Johnson (A, will not cost signing team a draft pick), Jose Molina (B) and Jon Rauch (B), according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca (on Twitter). They declined to offer Shawn Camp (B) arbitration.
- The Red Sox announced that they offered David Ortiz (A) and Dan Wheeler (B) arbitration. They declined to offer Jason Varitek (B) arbitration. Jonathan Papelbon (A) already signed with the Phillies.
- The Yankees offered Freddy Garcia (B) arbitration according to MLB.com's Bryan Hoch (on Twitter).
- The Royals offered Bruce Chen (B) arbitration, according to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.
- The White Sox announced they've offered arbitration to Mark Buehrle (B) and not Juan Pierre (B).
- The Athletics announced David DeJesus (B) and Josh Willingham (A, will not cost signing team a draft pick) were offered arbitration.
- The Rangers announced C.J. Wilson (A) will be offered arbitration. Modified Type B free agent Darren Oliver does not require an offer.
- The Orioles announced they will not offer arbitration to Vladimir Guerrero (B).
- Twins GM Terry Ryan said today on a conference call that he will offer arbitration to Michael Cuddyer (A, will not cost signing team a draft pick) and Jason Kubel (B), and noted that no arbitration offer is necessary for modified Type B free agent Matt Capps.
Teams with decisions still due:
Ten months ago, Frank Francisco and cash brought the Rangers two years of Mike Napoli. After a season with the Blue Jays, Francisco is now a free agent, and MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan says the Rangers have expressed interest in bringing him back. So far, the Mets have also been linked to Francisco.
Francisco, 32, posted a 3.55 ERA, 9.4 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9, and 38.6% groundball rate in 50 2/3 innings this year. He was diagnosed in March with tightness in his right pectoral and biceps inflammation, which delayed his season debut until April 20th. He bounced in and out of Toronto's closer role, saving 17 games in 21 opportunities. The Rangers are very open to the idea of moving Neftali Feliz to the rotation next year, which may create a need at the back end of the bullpen even with summer acquisitions Mike Adams and Koji Uehara under team control.
Manager Ozzie Guillen says the Marlins are "dead serious" about making a splash in free agency this offseason, and he's not alone. According to Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post (Twitter link), Marlins president David Samson said that, this winter, "the poachee is becoming the poacher." I think we've found our tagline for the hypothetical Miami Marlins movie. Here are a few more notes on the Marlins' division rivals:
- The Mets and Frank Francisco's representatives met today, tweets Newsday's Ken Davidoff. GM Sandy Alderson also said that bringing back Jason Isringhausen is possible, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (on Twitter).
- The Nationals don't expect to be in on Ryan Madson or any of the other big-name closers on the market, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. "We have a big closer already," said GM Mike Rizzo, referring to Drew Storen. "Anything can happen. But we like where our bullpen is at. Can we improve the bullpen? Certainly, we could improve the bullpen. But we're really satisfied that we have three guys who are very young, very controllable, very talented."
- Rizzo also told Kilgore (Twitter link) that there's more trade interest in his players this year than at most previous GM meetings.
- The Braves have added three minor league pitchers to their 40-man roster, protecting them from the upcoming Rule 5 draft, according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman.
The upcoming class of free agents figures to present an interesting study in the way teams are evaluating relievers these days. After Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, many of the most recognizable names are closers or relievers who have previously closed.
Modern analysis suggests it's foolish to invest heavily in relief pitchers due to their limited contributions and volatility in year-to-year production. But someone has to get those crucial late-inning outs, and the temptation for a team that thinks it's a contender to throw a lot of money at a guy who's coming off a year in which he posted a minuscule ERA or eye-popping strikeout rate is often too great.
Undoubtedly, suitors will use a variety of criteria to evaluate free-agent closers, one of which will be usage. Because usage can encompass so many things — innings, appearances, pitches, "high-stress" pitches, and so on — it's tough to say which is the most accurate reflection of a pitcher's workload; of course, this debate continues on for starters, too.
During the season, with the launch of CloserNews.com, we began keeping an eye on relievers who had pitched on three (and four) consecutive days, as that seems to be the breaking point for when most relievers must be rested. We've tallied that up here in a spreadsheet, along with a few other measures (standard and otherwise) of reliever usage, for the upcoming class of free-agent closers.
The objective here isn't to make any bold proclamations based on who threw the most innings; I may as well pen the inevitable mea culpa right now if it were. Rather, there are some interesting tidbits of note here, a few things to file away as these relievers ready themselves for free agency and teams prepare to bid.
- Heath Bell and Francisco Cordero were the only two of this group to pitch on four consecutive days in 2011. Bell is the only one to do it twice.
- Bell's abundance of pitches certainly seems to correspond with his dip in strikeout rate (7.32 K/9 in 2011 vs. 9.22 for career). Looks like he was having trouble putting away hitters, at least relative to his past performances.
- Francisco Rodriguez paced the group by pitching on three consecutive days six times.
- Heavy usage is not unusual for K-Rod, though. He's pitched fewer than 65 innings only once in his nine full big league seasons, the red herring due to an off-field incident in 2010.
- Info was culled from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.
The AL East winner has had at least 95 wins every year since 2000 and the Blue Jays haven't had more than 87 wins during that stretch. Toronto finished fourth in the American League East with an 81-81 record this year, so they have some improving and developing to do before they make their first playoff appearance since 1993.
GM Alex Anthopoulos discussed the 2011 season this afternoon. Here are some highlights, from video on the Blue Jays' site:
- Anthopoulos declined to discuss his contract in detail, but said he's happy in Toronto. "I expect to be here as long as they want me here," he said.
- Anthopoulos likes the humility and drive to improve that first-year manager John Farrell showed this season. To see how Farrell and other new managers did in 2011, click here.
- The Blue Jays haven't decided how they'll approach Edwin Encarnacion ($3.5MM option, $500K buyout) and Frank Francisco (free agent) after the season. I predicted this month that they'll pick up Encarnacion's option.
- Kelly Johnson, who hits free agency in a month, did a "nice job" and is a possibility for the Blue Jays in 2012. The Blue Jays will reach out to his representatives this month.
- The Blue Jays would like to improve their rotation, but won't likely be shopping for back-of-the-rotation types.
- Anthopoulos says the Rays are arguably the best-run organization in sports and says they do "everything right."
- Anthopoulos suggested that the Blue Jays don't have the internal pitching depth to improve the bullpen as much as they hope to, so expect him to acquire relievers via trades or free agent signings.
Colby Rasmus is making his Blue Jays debut in Toronto, where he’s batting second and starting in center field tonight. Here’s the latest on a Blue Jays team that could make another move or two before Sunday afternoon…
- Though the Blue Jays have said they're likely done making deals, other teams believe they may still trade Jon Rauch and/or Frank Francisco, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).
- The Diamondbacks, who had interest in some of the relievers the Blue Jays traded, aren't willing to mortgage the future for middle relief, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (on Twitter). Octavio Dotel, Jason Frasor and Marc Rzepczynski were dealt yesterday.
- Rasmus' father, Tony, says Cardinals manager Tony La Russa pushed his son out of town. “Tony needed pitching and wanted to force the GM into making a trade, so he belittled Colby to the fans,” the elder Rasmus told Bob Eilliott of the Toronto Sun.
- One MLB executive told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that the only thing he's sure of is that Toronto GM "Alex Anthopoulos is the smartest dude in the game." Rosenthal warns his readers that forming snap judgments about trades is dangerous, but most of his sources like the deal for the Blue Jays.
- Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun previews the Orioles' Opening Day roster and checks in on some 2010 Orioles who have since joined other organizations.
- Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas asks whether the Rangers made a mistake when they traded Frank Francisco for Mike Napoli. Rangers GM Jon Daniels says Francisco was "very good" out of the bullpen when healthy, but notes that Francisco isn't completely healthy at the moment. The right-hander is set to visit Dr. James Andrews.
- The Indians are almost ready to announce their starting rotation, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
- Meanwhile, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer says the Indians didn't draft well enough from 2004-07.