November 2010

Roundup: The Tigers have arrived to the GM Meetings

It was the Marlins who staked their claim in Orlando on Tuesday, when they traded Dan Uggla to the Braves and agreed on a three-year contract with John Buck. Wednesday is the day of the Tigers, apparently. The club agreed on a three-year, $16.5 million contract with setup man Joaquin Benoit, according to reports. Also, Detroit is said to be going after power-hitting lefty outfielder/first baseman/potential designated hitter Adam Dunn.
SI.com first reported the two sides were quickly coming together on a
deal, but ESPN.com followed up by saying nothing is imminent just yet.

Here’s more from the second full day of the General Managers Meetings …

* Diamondbacks new general manager Kevin Towers is apparently kicking the tires on a potential trade of franchise player Justin Upton.
The Red Sox, according to USA Today, are said to be the ideal
candidate, but the New York Post wrote that the Marlins and Rays — and
perhaps the Yankees — are prime candidates.

* White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times that he would’ve let manager Ozzie Guillen go
to the Marlins if they would’ve given up the specific high-level player
he sought. Reinsdorf didn’t say who, but he denied it was Mike Stanton.

* In need of a lefty bat, the White Sox have engaged in talks with Hideki Matsui,
according to SI.com. Matsui expressed interest in a return to the
Angels, but they’d like to keep DH a revolving door with so many
veterans in their lineup. 

* Six to eight teams have spoken to free-agent starter Carl Pavano, according to The Washington Post, which names the Nationals as one of them. The Marlins, a source told MLB.com, are another.

* The Athletics traded speedy outfielder Rajai Davis to the Blue Jays in exchange for Minor Leaguers Trystan Magnuson and Daniel Farquhar, the club announced. Toronto also released right-hander Shawn Hill.

* The Rockies have expressed interest in A’s third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, according to The Denver Post, which added that Jose Lopez, Jorge Cantu and Ty Wigginton are also on the club’s radar.

* Brandon Webb is also reportedly drawing interest. According to
ESPN.com, the Dodgers, Pirates, Twins and Rangers have shown interest in
the right-hander.

* Seven to eight teams are reportedly interested in Jorge de la Rosa,
who is one of the top free-agent starters once you get past Cliff Lee.
The Rockies are a team that would like to keep him, but not if he gets an offer eclipsing four years.

– Alden Gonzalez

Dunn pops back up on Tigers’ radar

Just when everybody was focusing on the Tigers’ search for a bat, they added an arm for the bullpen, which some felt was just as pressing of a need. But the bat might not be far behind, and it might not be the guy everyone has come to expect.

SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported Wednesday from baseball’s GM meetings that the Tigers have picked up talks on free-agent slugger Adam Dunn, and have a serious interest. ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick cautions that Dunn isn’t close to a deal with Detroit or any club at this point, which goes along with indications in Detroit that nothing is imminent on that front. Still, on the heels of the three-year deal with Joaquin Benoit, it reinforces the point that the Tigers are moving early and moving aggressively.

The Tigers have long coveted Dunn’s intimidating power bat, and some thought they had a chance at getting him this summer before the trade deadline. The main reason there didn’t seem to be a fit for him to sign with Detroit this winter was his supposed preference to play first base. The Tigers aren’t moving Miguel Cabrera off that spot. If Wednesday is any indication that Dunn is backing off that notion, that changes the market in Detroit’s favor. It could also mean that he isn’t going to get as good of a deal to play first base in the National League as he would as a DH in the American League.

Even if the Tigers were willing to play Dunn in the field on occasion, it’s unlikely they could fit him and Victor Martinez into the same roster. Martinez could catch, indeed, but the Tigers continue to consider Alex Avila as their main man behind the plate, with any signing meant to supplement him.

– Jason Beck

Marlins one of the teams interested in Pavano

The Marlins are one of several teams that have reached out to the agent for Carl Pavano about a possible return to South Florida, a baseball source told MLB.com.

The Washington Post wrote Wednesday that six to eight teams have had preliminary discussions with Pavano’s representative, adding that the Nationals were one of them.

Pavano may end up being over the Marlins’ price range, though. The club
said it would allocate the payroll money it didn’t use to resign Dan
Uggla, but they’ve already agreed on a three-year contract reportedly
worth $18 million with John Buck. And according to FOXSports.com, they
only have about $3-4 million left to spend after that, with bullpen help
still being a primary area of need.

Pavano made $7 million last season. 

Pavano pitched for the Marlins for two-plus seasons, winning a World Series with them in 2003 and then going 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA in 2004, setting him up to land a four-year, $39.95 million contract with the Yankees. After four rough years in the Bronx and an inconsistent 2009 with the Indians and Twins, the 34-year-old right-hander bounced back in Minnesota this past season, going 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA in 32 starts.

– Joe Frisaro and Alden Gonzalez

White Sox considering Matsui

With an eye toward left-handed power production, the White Sox have engaged free agent Hideki Matsui in conversation, according to Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated. Matsui, 36, is coming off a solid season as the Angels’ primary designated hitter and would be an excellent fit in Chicago’s lineup. The cozy dimensions of U.S. Cellular Field also would have appeal to the legendary slugger from Japan.

Matsui expressed an interest in returning to the Angels, but they prefer to keep the DH open to a revolving cast of weapons. Matsui handled his occasional assignments in left field capably in ’10 and was running better than he has in several years. He could handle a start a week, maybe two, in left without a problem. — Lyle Spencer 

Webb reportedly on Dodgers’ radar

The Dodgers are among a handful of clubs who have expressed interest in free agent right-hander Brandon Webb. According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the Pirates, Twins and Rangers also have checked in on Webb, and the Nationals, Reds and Cardinals are considered possibilities to join in the pursuit.

Webb, 31, was a 22-game winner in 2008 for Arizona before shoulder surgery cost him the past two sesons. He did not miss a start from 2004 through ’08, delivering 226 or more innings in four straight seasons. — Lyle Spencer

 

Pirates, Chan Ho Park considering reunion

There remains mutual interest between the Pirates and Chan Ho Park to have the veteran right-handed reliever return to Pittsburgh in 2011. General manager Neal Huntington has spoken with Park’s agent, and both sides have made it known that they would like to continue the dialogue throughout the offseason.  

“We’ve expressed some interest and he has expressed some interest,” Huntington said. “But again, it’s got to be the right fit for him, and it has to be the right fit for us. We’re working through what that might be or may not be.”

It’s unlikely that the Pirates would offer Park a guaranteed Major League contract. But the club would have little to lose to bring the 37-year-old pitcher to Spring Training under a Minor League deal with the chance to win an Opening Day roster spot.

Park joined the Pirates in early August after being claimed off waivers from the Yankees. He allowed 11 earned runs on 25 hits in 28 1/3 innings of relief. His stay with the Pirates ended better than it began, though, as Park allowed only five earned runs in his final 23 1/3 innings.

Jenifer Langosch

Rockies, De La Rosa in holding pattern

The general managers meetings in Florida offer a good time for teams to survey the free-agent landscape. And according to the Denver Post, things are about as expected with left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, a player the Rockies want to keep. Interest is strong: former Rockies manager Clint Hurdle has taken over the Pirates and identified De La Rosa as his top target, according to the newspaper, and the Nationals, as reported by MLB.com’s Bill Ladson last week, and Orioles are already in the mix. The Yankees and Rangers could jump in, depending on what happens with lefty Cliff Lee. The paper says the key, as has been the case all along, is if the offers are at three years, the Rockies will compete — and they offer an environment in which De La Rosa has been successful. If it goes beyond three years, De La Rosa is likely gone, and the Rockies could look for a free agent such as Carl Pavano or Javier Vazquez, or seek a trade.

The paper also reported that the Rockies are unlikely to re-sign right-handed hitting utility man Melvin Mora, who wants a contract quicker than the Rockies want to move on him. With the Athletics not looking to trade Conor Jackson, the Rockies could take a look at the Nationals’ Josh Willingham or the Angels’ Mike Napoli for right-handed hitting help.

Thomas Harding

Upton a potential fit with the Marlins?

Though Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers cautioned that “he would be a tough guy to move,” he is at least looking into the possibility of trading young outfielder Justin Upton. With that regard, the Marlins could be a fit, writes The New York Post’s Joel Sherman.

Sherman said he heard from a few executives that the early favorites for Upton are the Marlins and Rays. The D-backs want to add to their bullpen, get some rotation arms and upgrade at first base. The Marlins, Sherman wrote, could offer up youngster Logan Morrison and No. 2 starter Ricky Nolasco. One executive told him that may be enough to get a deal done.

A source told MLB.com owner Jeffrey Loria had not heard anything regarding talks between the Marlins and D-backs about Upton. 

The Red Sox and Yankees may also get into the mix, Sherman added.

Upton, 23, is coming off batting .273 with 17 homers, 69 RBIs and 18 stolen bases. He is locked up through 2015 in an escalating contract that will have him make $4.25 million in 2011 and $6.75 million in 2012.

“You always seek out the information on what teams will do because you never know if, to get one player, a team will grossly overpay,” Towers was quoted as saying. 

– Alden Gonzalez

A Torrealba reunion? Interesting possibility

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors predicts that catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who has cut ties with the Padres and disagrees with the direction of the team, could end up with the Dodgers and take over as No. 1 catcher. But Dierkes also sees a reunion with the Rockies, where he could team with Chris Iannetta as co-catchers the way the two did in 2008 and 2009. With the Rockies still hoping Iannetta, who signed a three-year deal last winter, takes the reins, Torrealba’s best bet may be elsewhere. But Rockies fans can dream. In 2007 and 2009, seasons in which Torrealba was healthy, his clutch hitting was a key to playoff runs. … Free agent pitcher Bartolo Colon is on the Rockies’ radar. He said as much in October to  ESPN Deportes and the Denver Post mentioned it, as well. 

Tigers reportedly near deal with Benoit

The Tigers had interest in Joaquin Benoit last year coming off surgery before he emerged as one of baseball’s best comeback stories. Now that he has proven himself healthy, he could soon be setting up in Detroit.

Benoit and the Tigers are nearing an agreement on a multi-year deal, according to FOXSports.com. Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reported the terms as three years and $16.5 million. A source confirmed interest between the two, but the Tigers would not comment on any contract.

While Detroit’s interest in upgrading its offense has been long-reported, some in the organization pegged relief help as just as big of a need. Among those was manager Jim Leyland, who juggled arms last year in a bullpen depleted by injuries and inexperience as the season wore on.

Phil Coke ended up handling setup duties for the majority of the season, but the Tigers plan to move him into the rotation for next year. That left a gaping hole for eighth-inning setup work behind closer Jose Valverde, who had his share of high-pitch outings when having to enter in the eighth for a four- or five-out save.

Enter Benoit, whose fastball regained much of its old life following rotator cuff surgery two years ago. He missed the entire 2009 season in rehab, then lingered on the free-agent market before agreeing to a minor-league contract with the Rays as Spring Training began.

The deal turned out to be one of baseball’s best bargains. Benoit had a career year in the Tampa Bay bullpen, allowing just 30 hits over 60 1/3 innings with 11 walks and 75 strikeouts. Opponents batted just .194 against him, and he allowed just 2 out of 23 inherited runners to score.

– Jason Beck

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