November 2010

Roundup: Arbitration decision deadline looms

There are an abundance of dates and deadlines in MLB’s offseason, but Tuesday night’s deadline for free agents to accept or decline arbitration offers could affect Hot Stove action heading into next week. 
Big name free agents, like Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth and Adrian Beltre all were offered and expected to decline.   
With the decisions made one way or the other, teams are better able to gain a sense of which players will be back with the club or conversely where funds might be available. That coupled with the impending Winter Meetings next week could finally get things moving on the free agent and trade markets.
The trade market did see some action on Tuesday afternoon as the Dodgers sent infielder Ryan Theriot to St. Louis in exchange for pitcher Blake Hawksworth. Los Angeles was expected to non-tender Theriot after signing Uribe, so the deal wasn’t altogether surprising. 
Theriot struggled after arriving in L.A. at the Trade Deadline, but owns a strong career batting average of .284. He will also bring some of his speed on the basepaths to the Cards lineup.
In a seperate move on Tuesday, the Cardinals added some pitching depth by inking veteran pitcher Brian Tallet. The 33-year-old left-hander had an off year with the Blue Jays in 2010, but could provide some valuable innings for the Cards.  
 
As we await the midnight arbitration deadline, here’s a look around the league on Tuesday:  
- The Rangers added a veteran pitcher off the International market on Tuesday, signing Japanese right-hander Yoshinori Tateyama. Tateyama, who will be 35 when Spring Training opens, signed a one year deal with two club options. Primarily a reliever in his career, Tateyama sported a career-best 1.80 ERA for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in 2010. 
-The Yankees have temporarily paused their talks with free agent shortstop Derek Jeter, but negotiations are expected to pick back up shortly. While the talks have stalled a bit, Jeter is still widely expected to been in pinstripes next season. One place he won’t be is Boston, according to SI.com’s Jon Heyman. The Red Sox reportedly have no plans to pursue Jeter with a long wish list of their own. If for some reason Jeter doesn’t return to the Bronx in 2011, the Yankees do have a backup plan, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, who tweeted that the team’s Plan B is Eduardo Nunez. 
- Veteran pitcher Jamie Moyer isn’t ready to call it quits, yet. The 48-year-old will undergo Tommy John surgery on his left elbow with hopes of making a comeback in time for the 2012 season. A free agent, Moyer originally injured the elbow  in July but had rehabbed with the goal of proving he was healthy in Winter Ball. In his first start this Winter, though, Moyer re-injured the elbow.  “We are cautiously optimistic superman will make a comeback!” he and his wife wrote on the page.
- The Dodgers have had an active winter, so far, but they might not be done yet. Free agent Johnny Damon is on the club’s radar, FoxSports.com reported Tuesday. Damon isn’t the only player the Dodgers have their eyes on. The club is looking at nearly every free agent catcher, including Jason Varitek and Rod Barajas, with catcher Russell Martin’s status up in the air.  
- The Royals have been pretty clear that they aren’t overly inclined to trade away Zack Greinke. In fact, one source with the club told Heyman that it’d take a blockbuster type deal to move the 2009 Cy Young pitcher. Greinke, though, could have other ideas. An acquaintance of Greinke’s also told Heyman that the 26-year old is “ready to go.” 
- With a particularly ripe market for free agent relievers, multiple teams have reportedly expressed interest in Jesse Crain. There is a mutual interest, between one of those clubs, the Blue Jays, and Crain, Fox Sports.com reported on Tuesday.
–Bailey Stephens

Tigers expected to tender contract to Zumaya

The speculation surrounding Joel Zumaya’s future with the Tigers seems to be reaching a conclusion. Not only is the team expected to tender a contract to their hard-throwing, oft-injured reliever, they could reach a deal sooner rather than later.

Joel Zumaya said by phone Tuesday morning that his agents have started talks with the Tigers about a contract, presumably a one-year deal that would take him into free agency next winter. Even if a deal doesn’t come together in the next couple days, Thursday’s deadline to tender contracts shouldn’t come into play. Zumaya, who has been wondering about his situation himself after reading reports, indicated he was told the Tigers have no intention of nontendering him.

The Tigers haven’t yet announced their nontender decisions, which basically come down to Zumaya and starter Armando Galarraga, and they probably won’t until sometime Thursday. But a look at the situation breaks down like this: While there’s a risk to paying a million dollars or so to somebody who hasn’t had a full, healthy season since 2006, there’s another risk of watching Zumaya finally put together a healthy season for another team, reaping the benefits of all the time the Tigers put in getting him healthy.

When asked how much interest Zumaya would attract on the open market if the Tigers nontendered him, one Major League talent evaluator put it this way: “More than some think.”

– Jason Beck

Dodgers Sign Uribe, deal Theriot for Blakesworth

The Dodgers officially announced the signing of Juan Uribe to a three-year, $21 million contract, then cleared second base for him by dealing Ryan Theriot to the Cardinals for swingman reliever Blake Hawksworth. – Ken Gurnick

Clock Ticking on Russell Martin

With two days to go before the contract tender deadline, Russell Martin’s status with the Dodgers remains in the air. Agent Matt Colleran said he spoke briefly with the club Monday night, their first communication in more than a week. Martin is coming off another down offensive season — in which he was paid $5.05 million – cut short by a broken hip. He won’t start running for two weeks or catching for six weeks, so the Dodgers must make a decision without knowing his health. Fox Sports reports the Dodgers are talking to all of the available catchers on the free agent market, and there are several — Miguel Olivo, A.J. Pierzinski, Jason Varitek, Rod Barajas among them — to team with A.J. Ellis. Conceivably, the Dodgers could work a deal with Martin for the maximum allowable pay cut to $4 million plus incentives, but that’s still significant guaranteed money considering the injury. Colleran confirms that Martin has recovered without a setback. – Ken Gurnick

Mets closing in on Chris Young

The Mets are “closing in on a deal” for former Padres pitcher Chris Young, according to ESPN.com. The Padres recently declined Young’s 2011 option after a season in which injuries limited him to only four appearances. After posting three consecutive strong seasons from 2005-07, Young has not made more than 18 starts in any of the past three years.

–Anthony DiComo

Padres continue to stockpile Draft picks

In the last week, the Padres have watched pitcher Jon Garland sign with the Dodgers and, on Monday, catcher Yorvit Torrealba sign with the Rangers.

Big losses? Sure, Garland and Torrealba each played prominent roles on a team that won 90 games and surprised everyone in baseball.

Unexpected losses? Not at all. The Padres offered both players arbitration last week with the expectation they would decline and sign elsewhere. That’s exactly what happened, meaning the Padres have picked up two additional Draft picks as compensation.

For those scoring at home, that’s four Draft picks in the first 60 or so picks — one for Garland, Torrealba, their own first-round pick and a compensatory pick for not signing pitcher Karsten Whitson last year.

If pitcher Kevin Correia signs elsewhere, that will be a that will mean five picks in the first 60 or so overall picks. The Padres, like other teams, want to build from within. The farm system as it stands today is devoid of Major League-ready talent at the top.

But given their payroll constraints — only the Pirates had a lower Opening Day payroll in 2010 — the Padres must get production out of their farm system because, for the near future, they won’t be major players on the free agent market.

 -- Corey Brock, MLB.com

Soriano reportedly on Angels’ radar

The Angels apparently have let bygones be bygones and are meeting with agent Scott Boras, who numbers among his stable of clients Adrian Beltre, Rafael Soriano and Jayson Werth. Boras and the club reportedly had a falling out over the Mark Teixeira negotiations two winters ago, but the agent said he has met with general manager Tony Reagins and other club officials this winter, according to ESPNLos Angeles.com

Reagins confirmed that there have been discussions in the report by Mark Saxon, who suggests that Soriano is the Angels’ top target among the Boras clients to fill the void left by the trade of closer Brian Fuentes to the Twins. The Angels’ primary target continues to be outfielder Carl Crawford, but they could expand their payroll to add Soriano as well. – Lyle Spencer

Roundup: Dodgers swipe Uribe from division rivals

With one week remaining until the start of the usually-hectic Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the busy Dodgers made another move, agreeing to terms with Juan Uribe on a three-year deal reportedly worth about $21 million.

With Uribe, the Dodgers swipe a big piece of the Giants’ World Series championship run away from their division rivals and add a much-needed right-handed power bat to the middle of the lineup. Uribe played 103 games at shortstop, 26 at third base and 24 at second while batting .248 with 24 homers and 85 RBIs in 2010 (not including a postseason run that saw him drive in nine runs in 14 games).

In Los Angeles, he figures to start at second base, which will likely lead to the non-tendering of Trade Deadline acquisition Ryan Theriot. Despite dealing with instability up top, the Dodgers had already locked up their rotation by re-signing Ted Lilly and acquiring Jon Garland

Here’s more from around the league …

* The Rangers signed catcher Yorvit Torrealba to a two-year
contract. Torrealba, a 10-year veteran who played in 95 games for the
Padres in 2010 — batting .271 with seven homers and 37 RBIs while
starting 89 games — fills a void left by Bengie Molina (likely retired) and Matt Treanor (free agent). The deal, according to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, is worth $6.25 million.  

* They also avoided an arbitration hearing with Mark Lowe and agreed on a one-year contract. The deal is worth $1.2 million, plus another $100,000 in incentives.

* A source told ESPNNY.com the Yankees believe Derek Jeter and his agent, Casey Close, need to “drink the reality potion.” The unnamed source told the Web site the Yankees are still not budging from their three-year, $45 million offer, and Jeter still seeks a longer contract between $23 million and $25 million per season. Talks between the two sides did not take place during the holiday weekend and none are currently scheduled, ESPNNY.com added.

* While the Jeter negotiations appear heated, ESPNNY.com added that talks between the Yankees and Mariano Rivera are “progressing much smoother.” Rivera will likely receive a bump from his 2010 salary, probably in the $16-17 million range, but the question remains whether he gets one or two years.

* Free-agent first baseman/outfielder/designated hitter Lance Berkman was originally disappointed the Astros didn’t want him back, but the Texas product told The Houston Chronicle “there’s been a lot of interest” in his services. Berkman specifically named the Cardinals, Cubs, Rockies, Athletics, Pirates and Blue Jays as teams who have been in touch, but added he hasn’t received a formal offer yet. Berkman has said he’d prefer to play in the National League, adding that he’s still capable of serving as an outfielder and first baseman.

* The Astros have talked about the possibility of an extension with right-hander Wandy Rodriguez, general manager Ed Wade told The Houston Chronicle. Rodriguez hits free agency after the 2011 season.    

* The Mets will do their due diligence in shopping shortstop Jose Reyes this winter, but considering his value has never been lower, it would be shocking if they actually went ahead and traded him, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo writes.

* The Twins have until late December to agree on a contract with Japanese middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who sounds like someone excited to play in Minnesota. In quotes passed along by The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Nishioka told the Japanese press he has no preference between shortstop and second base and said, “I don’t think that I will give up the idea of going to the Majors because of the amount of money.”

“Minnesota Twins has been contending to the playoff every year,” he added. “To play for the good team is one of my wishes. I am happy that I could advance one step forward.” The Twins won their exclusive-negotiating for Nishioka on Friday and could use him to fill their middle-infield needs.

– Alden Gonzalez 

Dodgers Target Juan Uribe

The Dodgers have targeted free agent infielder Juan Uribe and his productive clutch bat. After rebuilding the starting rotation with the signings of Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Jon Garland, general manager Ned Colletti is trying to add Uribe, most likely to play second base and trigger the non-tendering of Ryan Theriot. Uribe also could eventually take over third base for Casey Blake, who is entering the final year of his contract, and provide protection at shortstop, where Rafael Furcal has proved injury-prone. – Ken Gurnick

Roundup: Marlins agree to terms with Vazquez

The Marlins dominated Sunday’s relatively quiet Hot Stove, agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with veteran right-hander Javier Vazquez.
The deal, which is pending a physical, will give Florida the quality veteran starting pitcher they desired this offseason. Vazquez, 34, has pitched more than 200 innings nine times in his career evidencing a durability the Marlins were after.
Vazquez is plenty familiar with the National League East, where he nearly won a Cy Young Award with Atlanta in 2009. His 2010 season with the Yankees, however, wasn’t nearly as smooth as he compiled a 10-10 record to go with a 5.32 ERA. 
The Puerto Rico native was offered arbitration by the Yankees last week, meaning that once the deal becomes official the Yankees will earn a sandwich-round pick for the Type B free agent.
Elsewhere in the NL East, the Nats remain “strong candidates” to land free agent pitcher Brandon Webb this offseason, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reported Sunday. 
Talks between the two aren’t supposed to heat up until the Winter Meetings, which are a little over a week away. The Nats have been clear about their desire for an established starter to lead their young staff and Webb has apparently hit their radar.
Over in the American League, the Red Sox are also interested in acquiring some pitching depth of their own, as Boston has shown interest in free agent reliever Matt Guerrier according to WEEI.com. 
Guerrier, 32, registered a 3.17 ERA in 2010 for the Twins. The seven-year veteran would have qualified as a Type A free agent, but the Twins did not offer Guerrier arbitration, meaning that potential suitors would not have to forfeit a Draft pick to sign him. 
Meanwhile, the Yankees are still negotiating with their free agent captain Derek Jeter. While both parties have said they would prefer not to play things out publicly, figures have continued to leak out over the last several days. 
Recently, the Yankees reportedly made an initial offer of three years, $45 million to keep their captain in pinstripes.
Last week, reports indicated that Jeter’s camp had requested a six-year deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 million, a figure which Jeter’s agent Casey Close called “simply inaccurate” in a response on Friday.
The Bombers are prepared to ramp up the first offer to some extent but Jeter will have to take a pay cut, SI.com reported on Sunday. The Yankees reportedly aren’t willing to pay Jeter the yearly equivalent of his just-completed contract that netted him about $21 million last season.
Pursuit of one of the Yankees other coveted free agents, left-hander Cliff Lee, is reportedly expected to ramp up heading into the Winter Meetings. While the Rangers are still expected to join the Yanks as major players for Lee, the Rangers are discussing backup plans internally, according to the Boston Globe. 
One such plan, reportedly discussed by the club, involves moving Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation and signing another closer, like Rafael Soriano.
–Bailey Stephens
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