December 2010

Roundup: Market evolving post-Lee

Even with free agent lefty Cliff Lee secured, the Phillies now seemingly have another tall task ahead of them in figuring out a way to make room on the payroll.
Unloading the salary of Joe Blanton is one avenue the team has reportedly been exploring as he’s set to earn $8.5 million over the next two years. The Phillies are seemingly also aware that they may have to assume some of that salary in order to move him before Opening Day. 
It’s still fairly early though and the Phillies are in no rush to find an immediate suitor for Blanton, Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reported on Twitter. While his destination isn’t known, his agent Casey Close told SI.com’s Jon Heyman that he’s not staying in Philly.
As of Tuesday, though, there were several teams with reported interest in the versatile veteran. While initial reports indicated the Red Sox had been talking with the Phillies about a swap, others dismissed the potential deal as unlikely.  The Brewers also reportedly have interest, but they would likely need Philly to assume a good amount of his salary.  
Outside of the Lee deal and its aftermath, here’s a look at some of the other news around the league on Tuesday: 
The Yankees did add another catching option in free agent backstop Russell Martin on Tuesday. In Martin, the Yankees get another possibility for behind the plate to compliment touted prospect Jesus Montero, Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine. Martin, who suffered a broken hip last season, does have to undergo a physical before the deal will become official. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. 
The Cardinals have secured Gerald Laird with a one-year deal, to backup starter Yadier Molina, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Tuesday. Laird, who is regarded as a strong defensive catcher, fits the Cardinals mold for catch-and-throw backstops. 
- The Nationals added some more depth to their bench on Tuesday, signing free agent Matt Stairs to a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite. Stairs, who has served as a pinch hitter over the past few seasons, holds the Major League record with 23 career pinch-hit homers. Stairs will be 43 on Opening Day and could compete for the backup first base job as well as pinch hitting duties, according to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson.
- After losing out on Lee, the Rangers have reportedly expressed interest in free agent right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted. They would interested in a low-base, incentive type deal, according to Crasnick. Wang didn’t appear in a game in 2010 after undering shoulder surgery in 2009.
- The Pirates officially announced a one-year deal with veteran first baseman Lyle Overbay on Monday. Overbay, who is expected to compete for the starting first base job, hit 20 home runs in 2010 for the Blue Jays. In addition to some pop, the Bucs also get a first baseman who ranked near the top of the league defensively last season, leading all AL first baseman in double plays (150) and assists (101).
- The Reds made Jay Bruce‘s six-year, $51 million extension official on Tuesday. Bruce will be under contract until 2016, longer than any other current Reds player. 
“I’m a young guy, we have a very young nucleus,” Bruce said at Tuesday’s news conference. “Walt has put the pieces together to keep this thing rolling for a long time, and I’m really, really excited about that.”
- Hideki Matsui will offically be wearing an Athletics uniform next season, the club announced on Tuesday. The move gives the Athletics the right-handed power bat they desired this offseason. Matsui’s one-year deal is reportedly worth $4.25 million, according to a tweet from ESPN’s Buster Olney. Matsui, 36, batted .274 with 21 homers in Los Angeles last season. 
-The Orioles could be heading toward a deal that would add another right-handed arm to their ‘pen as ESPN Boston.com reported Tuesday they are close to signing Kevin Gregg to a two-year deal, worth $12 million. The Red Sox and Nationals are also still in the mix, but Baltimore is at the head of the pack, according to the report. Later in the day, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reported on Twitter that the Orioles do not feel any deal is imminent and have a two-year offer, worth between $8-10 million on the table. 

Orioles still talking with reliever Gregg

In their efforts to add a quality right-handed arm to their bullpen, the Orioles are working to bring Kevin Gregg to Baltimore. 
On Tuesday afternoon, ESPN Boston.com reported the two sides were close on a two-year deal, worth $12 million. 
Gregg, who saved 37 games for the Blue Jays last season,  also gives the Orioles another possible closing option in addition to Koji Uehara.
The Red Sox and Nats are still in the mix for Gregg, but the Orioles are leading the way as of now, according to the report.

Bucs ink 1B Lyle Overbay

The Pirates have signed free agent first baseman Lyle Overbay to a one-year contract, the team announced on Tuesday. Financial terms of the contract were not immediately known.

Overbay, 34, comes to Pittsburgh after spending the last five seasons with Toronto. Overbay, who made $24 million over the past four years, hit .243 with 37 doubles, 20 homers and 67 RBIs in 154 games last season. He is a career .274 hitter since breaking into the Majors with Arizona in 2001.

Overbay’s .996 fielding percentage last year ranked second best in the American League. He led all AL first baseman in double plays (150) and assists (101).

“Lyle Overbay is a solid Major League player, and we expect him to have a positive impact on our club offensively, defensively and in the clubhouse,” general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement.

– Jenifer Langosch

Padilla’s Contract Terms

Because the Dodgers aren’t sure whether Vicente Padilla will be a starter, middle reliever or closer, the contract they gave him last week covers all three roles and is one of the most elaborate, incentive-filled in club history.

It begins with a $2 million guaranteed base. As a reliever, Padilla will receive bonuses of $250,000 each for 40 and 50 relief appearances; $500,000 each for 60, 70 and 80 relief appearances; $750,000 each for 30, 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 games finished; and $150,000 each for 35 and 45 relief appearances which he enters games with the Dodgers leading by three or fewer runs.

As a starter, Padilla will receive $1 million for 12 starts and 70 innings pitched as a starter; $1 million each for 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30 and 33 starts.

All of the bonuses — a total of $14.3 million — are deferred without interest. – Ken Gurnick

Yankees come to terms with Russell Martin

NEW YORK — The Yankees have agreed to terms on a contract with Russell Martin, multiple sources told MLB.com on Monday. Details of the deal, which is contingent on a physical and will not be made official until Martin does so, were not immediately available.

Martin was said to have been deciding between the Red Sox and Blue Jays.

Martin, 27, was deemed among the best catchers in the National League from 2007-08, when he was a back-to-back All-Star while compiling a .286 batting average, .380 on-base percentage and 32 homers for the Dodgers. But after a down year in 2009, Martin played 97 games in 2010 and then missed the rest of the season with a broken hip.

– Alden Gonzalez

Laird-Cards could be in works, but may not quite be done

The Cardinals’ search for a backup catcher may well have come to a conclusion, and if it has, the new guy looks a good bit like his predecessors.
According to SI.com’s Jon Heyman, Gerald Laird has agreed to a one-year pact with the Redbirds, a move which would continue the club’s long-standing fondness for catch-and-throw backstops. Laird is regarded as an exemplary defensive catcher, but his offense has dipped sharply over the past couple of years.
A club official said via email on Monday night that reports of a done deal with Laird are “news to me.” That does not mean, however, that an agreement is not imminent.
Laird, who turned 31 in November, batted .207 with a .263 on-base percentage and a .304 slugging percentage for the Tigers in 2010. For his career, he has a line of .242/.300/.358, highlighted by a 2006 season with the Rangers in which he hit .296 and slugged .473 in 78 games.
While the Cards had said early in the winter that they were interested in a more offensive-minded backup catcher than what they’ve had in recent years, Laird does fit the team’s desired profile in one other way. He has started at least 76 games behind the plate in each of the past four seasons. The Cardinals would like a backup catcher who can play a little more often than Jason LaRue has played in recent years, allowing Yadier Molina more days off as the season goes along.
–Matthew Leach

Lee returns to Philadelphia

Free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee is headed back to Philadelphia.

The Rangers worked as hard as they could to re-sign Lee, but their pursuit came to an end on Monday when he informed the club that he was signing with the Phillies. Lee apparently took less years and less money to re-sign with the Phillies. Lee agreed to a five-year deal with a vesting option for a sixth season that could bring the total to $120 million.

“Cliff called me,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said late Monday night. “He was very classy. He was very appreciative of the time he was here and how he was treated. He and his family enjoyed his time here. He also enjoyed his time in Philadelphia and liked some of the things that opportunity had to offer.”

The Rangers and the Yankees had been considered the front-runners to sign Lee, but the Phillies have pushed hard since the Winter Meetings and won the pursuit. Lee pitched for the Phillies for the final two months of the 2009 season and, as he did with the Rangers this past season, helped them reach the World Series.

The Phillies traded him to the Mariners last winter. The Rangers acquired him from the Mariners on July 9.

Phillies in on Lee

UPDATE, 10:40 p.m. ET: The Phillies might not only be in on Cliff Lee, they seem to be seriously in.
MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki weighed in on the pursuit, while other reports continued to stream out. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted that the Yankees aren’t optimistic. Jack Curry of the YES Network tweeted that there’s a belief Lee will land in Philly.
The one thing to take away: Philly’s come out of nowhere, at least in terms of the public’s understanding of the negotiations, and become a real player.
H20 plus L?
***

Once thought to be a contest that seriously included just the Yankees and the Rangers, Cliff Lee‘s courtship now includes the Phillies, according to a report from FOXSports on Monday night.

Lee made 12 starts for the Phillies in the 2009 regular season before leading them to the World Series, where they lost to the Yankees. Lee is reportedly looking at a seven-year offer from the Yankees and a comparable deal, perhaps for six years, from the Rangers. The Phillies are making a late push, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told FOX.
Signing Lee, who will likely command at least $160 million and could receive a record contract for a pitcher, would seem difficult financially for Philadelphia. According to FOX, the Phillies would need to trade Joe Blanton and the $8.5 million he’s owed each of the next two seasons to make the move viable.
Were the Phillies to pull off the Hail Mary, it would put Roy Halladay and Lee, perhaps the two best pitchers in the game, in the same rotation, and make them the likely favorites to win the National League pennant in 2011.
– Evan Drellich

Roundup: Greinke market heating up?

Everyone’s waiting on Cliff Lee’s decision, but the reality is that one team will miss out on the ace. Regardless, there is still a top of the line starter out there in Royals ace Zack Greinke.
While the Royals haven’t indicated they are overly interested in unloading Greinke, there have been suggestions that an impressive enough trade could convince them. Royals general manager Dayton Moore is at least taking stock of the market for Greinke, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick noted in a report Monday.
The question is, would Greinke be a fit in New York or Texas? If their forced to turn their search for a starter elsewhere, their prospects may not mesh with the Royals’ wish list, baseball sources suggested to the website.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore is reportedly interested in adding Major League-ready up-the-middle position players in return.
While some clubs are still searching for starting pitching, here’s a look at Tuesday’s other rumblings around the league:
- The Athletics agreed to a one-year deal with reliever Joey Devine on Monday. Devine, 27, hasn’t appeared in the Majors since 2008 after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. In 2008, however, Devine went 6-1 with a 0.59 ERA for Oakland.
- Texas solidified their catching situation on Monday, agreeing to a one-year contract with Matt Treanor. Treanor, who will earn $850,000 next season, will serve as a backup to Yorvit Torrealba. 
“It was a no-brainer,” Treanor said. “I wanted to come back to Texas if they would have me back. It’s a winning ballclub and everybody wants to be part of a winner. I want to be part of something special.”
-The Dodgers signed three players to Minor League deals with invites to Spring Training on Monday, including infielder Juan Castro, catcher JD Closser and utilityman Eugenio Velez. Of the three, the veteran Castro is probably the most likely to make the club, according to MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick, due to his strong defensive abilities.
- San Diego made its one-year deal with Dustin Moseley official on Monday. Moseley went 4-4 with a 4.96 ERA in 16 games with the Yankees last season. New York non-tendered Moseley last week. The former first round pick will be 29 on Opening Day.
–Bailey Stephens

Russell Martin close to a deal with the Yankees?

NEW YORK — While the Yankees await on the decision of one Cliff Lee, they have “continued to be aggressive” on free-agent catcher Russell Martin, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported on his Twitter account Monday, adding that it “would not be a surprise if we heard at any time of an agreement” between the two sides. 

Martin’s agent, Matt Colleran, didn’t immediately return a phone call from MLB.com seeking comment.

Non-tendered by the Dodgers, Martin has reportedly garnered the most serious interest from three American League East clubs — the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays. Of the three, the Red Sox appear to be the least interested.

With the aging Jorge Posada serving mostly as a designated hitter next year, New York is expected to go into the season with Jesus Montero, Austin Romine and Francisco Cervelli competing for playing time behind the plate. But general manager Brian Cashman has said he’s open to acquiring outside help. As of now, Montero is deemed by many as the favorite.

Martin, 27, was a back-to-back All-Star and among the National League’s best catchers from 2007-08. But after a down year in 2009, he was limited to 97 games in 2010 because of a broken hip.

– Alden Gonzalez  

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