January 2011

Roundup: Market for veterans heating up

With Spring Training fast approaching, many elite free agents have found their home for 2011, but there are more than a few impact players still on the market. Two such players, Andruw Jones and Jim Thome, headline a group of veteran role players aiming to prove they can still be difference-makers. 
Jones has reportedly drawn interest from the Yankees in recent weeks. At this point, the Bombers see Jones as their best option, SI.com’s Jon Heyman tweeted on Monday, but the two sides are still apart on the money. Jones would seemingly be a strong fit for New York, serving as a fourth outfielder with significant pop off the bench. Jones, 33, would also fit the bill of a right-handed hitting outfielder, which the Yanks have been seeking this offseason.
Thome, another aging yet still productive slugger, is drawing interest from the Rangers, according to a tweet from ESPN’s Buster Olney. Olney reported that the team is “actively trying to lure” the slugger to Texas. After the Rangers signed Adrian Beltre, it began to look unlikely that they’d try to keep Vladimir Guerrero around as the designated hitter. After hitting 25 homers last season, it seems likely that Thome could help fill the power void left by Guerrero. 
Here’s a look at other news and notes from around the league on Monday: 
Jose Bautista could be facing a position switch this season, moving from the outfield to third base, Fox Sports reported on Monday, citing an unnamed team official. Unless the Jays add another starting infielder, Bautista figures to be moving to third to start the season. Bautista, who lead the Majors with 54 home runs in 2010, is scheduled to be a free agent after this season, so it’ll be a key year for the 30-year old, the report noted. 
– Catcher Max Ramirez was claimed off waivers for the second time in less than a week, this time by the Cubs from the Red Sox. Boston claimed Ramirez from the Rangers on Jan. 5. Ramirez, 26, gives the Cubs some additional depth behind the plate. Ramirez, who is out of Minor League options at this point, hit .217 in 28 games with Texas last season.
– The Padres completed a two-year deal with shortstop Jason Bartlett on Monday, which will pay the infielder $11 million over the life of the deal. There is also a vesting option for 2013, which could bring the total of the deal to $15 million according to MLB.com’s Corey Brock. 
– The Red Sox made their one-year deal with left-hander Hideki Okajima official on Monday. After non-tendering him earlier this offseason, the Sox have re-signed Okajima for $1.75 million. Okajima, 35, could increase that figure to the neighborhood of $2.3 million with incentives, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick.
– The Astros and Phillies completed a minor trade, swapping two Minor League players on Monday. Houston sent second baseman Albert Cartwright to Philly in exchange for left-hander Sergio Escalona. Escalona was recently designed for assignment after the Phils re-signed J.C. Romero.
- Bailey Stephens

Roundup: Garza too pricey for Yanks

The free agent market may be thinning, but some teams are still very much in the hunt for pitching as Spring Training looms in the not-too-distant future.
The Yankees are one such team that remains in the market for quality pitching at this stage of the game, especially with the growing uncertainty surrounding Andy Pettitte’s status. The Yanks did have interest in the recently-traded Matt Garza, but that quickly became unlikely after general manager Brian Cashman learned how much the Rays wanted for Garza, the New York Daily News reported on an otherwise quiet Saturday. 
“We never got off the dime, but strong impressions were that it would be something that would cost us more because we are in the division, kind of like Roy Halladay,” Cashman told the Daily News. “We like Matt Garza and I had a conversation early in the winter and it was clear that what it would take would be more significant than I wanted to do.
Their desire for pitching won’t drive the Yanks to sign a Type-A free agent and give up their 2011 first round Draft pick, as reported by multiple media outlets over the weekend. While there have been conflicting reports about what that means for their pursuit of reliever Rafael Soriano, Cashman seemed firm in his decision.
“I would’ve given up the draft pick for Cliff Lee,” Cashman said to the Daily News. “But I’m going to retain our No. 1 pick for ourselves. Once Cliff Lee came off the board, I called Damon [Oppenheimer, the Yanks’ vice president for amateur scouting] and said, ‘You’re going to have your No. 1 pick, you’re in the hunt for a first-round pick.” 
Here’s a look at other news and notes from around the league on Sunday: 
- Left-hander Scott Schoeneweis still feels he can be successful in the Majors, the Boston Globe reported. Schoeneweis saw his performance on the field dip after the tragic death of his wife in 2009. The veteran, who was released by the Red Sox in May, believes he would be a fit somewhere as a situational lefty.
- The White Sox added some pitching depth on Sunday, agreeing to Minor League deals with Josh Kinney and Shane Lindsay, according to ESPN Chicago.com. Kinney, 32, has appeared in parts of three Major League seasons with the Cardinals, compiling a 4.56 ERA. Lindsay, an Australian-born hurler, has struggled with his control over the years.
- Last month, several teams were mentioned as having interest in reliever Brian Fuentes, including the Pirates. While the Bucs could be interested in adding another veteran reliever, Fuentes’s cost would likely be prohibitive at this point, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Sunday. 
– Bailey Stephens

Roundup: Torre makes a comeback, sort of

Joe Torre‘s name re-emerged on Saturday, not in candidacy for a position as manager but executive, leading a day of otherwise smaller moves on the hot stove.

MLB.com’s Barry Bloom reported that Torre, who retired as the Dodgers manager after last season, is seriously considering joining Major League Baseball as executive vice president of baseball operations.

The 70-year-old Torre speculated during the 2010 season that he might spend the coming years in an advisory position with the Dodgers, return to broadcasting or focus on his family and charitable foundation. After three-decades worth of managing in the big leagues — and four World Series titles with the Yankees — he was adamant that he was not actively looking for a new on-field managing opportunity.

Torre has never held an executive role before, but he is a part of a committee convened by Commissioner Bud Selig to consider on-field changes.

On-the-field news Saturday carried no names as esteemed as Torre’s, but saw a few American League clubs improve:

  • MLB.com’s Scott Merkin confirmed that the White Sox signed left-hander Will Ohman to a two-year, $4 million deal, bringing the 33-year-old back to the town he began his career with on the Cubs. Ohman split last season between Baltimore and Florida, going 0-2 with a 3.21 ERA in 42 innings over 68 appearances. Left-handed hitters have a career .208 mark against him.
  • The A’s swung a deal that brought over right-hander Guillermo Moscoso from Texas and sent Minor League right-hander Ryan Kelly to the Rangers. According to MLB.com’s Jane Lee, the A’s waived a former third overall draft pick Phil Humber to make room on their 40-man roster. Humber’s tenure with Oakland lasted only a few weeks after he was claimed off waivers in December.
  • MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reported a similar space-clearing move Saturday: the Phillies designated one southpaw, Sergio Escalona, for assignment to make way for another, J.C. Romero. Romero re-signed Thursday.
  • There are some conflicting reports about whether the Yankees are still going after Rafael Soriano. Soriano said this week he’s open to a non-closing role, but general manager Brian Cashman has told the Journal News that the Yankees won’t surrender their first-round draft pick — as is necessary to sign a Type-A free agent like Soriano — for any remaining free agents this offseason. SportsIllustrated’s Jon Heyman, however, reported on Twitter Saturday that the Yankees are still in the mix for the Rays closer.
  • The eight-player Matt Garza deal, Friday’s headliner, became official Saturday afternoon. The Cubs get Garza, outfielder Fernando Perez and left-hander Zachary Rosscup from the Rays for right-handed pitcher Chris Archer, catcher Robinson Chirinos, infielder Hak-Ju Lee and outfielders Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer. MLB.com’s Peter Gammons reported Friday night that the Rangers were in talks to land Garza as well.

Roundup: Trade winds blow Garza to Windy City

Now the starting-pitching market is really dry.

Teams still looking for quality, front-line starters (i.e., the Yankees) now have to get much more creative, because Matt Garza — seemingly the last big-name arm for the taking, if you buy into recent reports — appears headed to Chicago. The Rays dealt Garza, who was in his second year of arbitration and would receive a raise from his $3.35 million salary, to the Cubs in exchange for five Minor Leaguers on Friday.

Club officials haven’t confirmed the deal, but sources told MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat that the framework is in place for the Cubs to send 2010 Minor League Pitcher of the Year Chris Archer, 2010 Player of the Year Brandon Guyer (an outfielder), shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, catcher Robinson Chirinos and outfielder Sam Fuld.

The Cubs would also get two Minor Leaguers from the Rays, and according to the Daily Herald, one of those is outfielder Fernando Perez, who played in 107 Minor League games this past season.

The Rays had a surplus of starting pitchers — with David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann and James Shields also in the fold — and could afford to deal one, though trading a guy like Garza always hurts. With Garza, the Cubs appear to be premier contenders in a stacked National League Central. He’ll be added to a rotation that includes Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells, Tom Gorzelanny and Carlos Silva.

Here’s more from around the league …

* When Adrian Beltre signed with the Rangers, closer Rafael Soriano instantly became the best free agent left in the open market. The question is: Where does he fit? FOXSports.com speculated that the Angels are the ideal fit, but added that the Rangers and White Sox — unless the price goes way down — are not going after the American League leader in saves. Other than that, not much seems to have materialized yet. 

* The Yankees, meanwhile, have been rumored to be interested in Soriano as a setup man, but ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reported via his Twitter account that as of Thursday night, the Yanks weren’t interested. The fact general manager Brian Cashman told the Journal News he isn’t willing to surrender any first-round Draft picks makes the signing of Soriano (a Type A free agent) seem even more unlikely. 

* Speaking of the Yankees, Andy Pettitte told The New York Post from his home that he’s still not sure whether he’ll retire or come back. “I’m just chilling out, hanging,” he told the newspaper. “I’m relaxing. If I had something, y’all would know. If I knew exactly what I was doing, y’all would know.” Pettitte continues to stress that the Yankees should move on and not worry about him, and the organization has said just that. But it sure does seem like they need him.

* All-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman is “leaning towards retiring,” Jon Heyman of SI.com and MLB Network reported via Twitter. The 43-year-old right-hander had a 5.89 ERA and 10 saves with the Brewers in 2010, giving him 601 saves for his probable Hall of Fame career.

* In other news, former Royals starter Brian Bannister will pitch in Japan this season; the Rangers designated right-hander Guillermo Moscoso for assignment; and longtime Twins executive Jerry Bell retired

– Alden Gonzalez

1/7 Cubs to get Garza in 8-player deal

Sources have confirmed the Cubs are close to acquiring Rays pitcher Matt Garza for
five Minor League players, including 2010 Pitcher of the Year Chris
Archer and 2010 Player of the Year Brandon Guyer. The deal will be
finalized once the players undergo physicals.

The framework is in place for the multi-player swap in which Chicago
would get Garza in exchange for Archer, Guyer, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee,
catcher Robinson Chirinos and outfielder Sam Fuld. The Cubs also would
get two Minor League players from the Rays. According to the Arlington
Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald, one of the players is outfielder Fernando
Perez, 27, who batted .234 in 107 big league
appearances. He hit .223 at Triple-A last year.

Team officials
would not confirm the trade. Earlier this week, the Chicago Sun-Times
reported the Cubs were close to acquiring Garza but both teams denied
anything was imminent. The Daily Herald reported Friday that a deal was
in the works and had the names.

– Carrie Muskat

Reports Say Garza to Cubs

Multiple media outlets are reporting that the Rays are close to making a deal to send right-hander Matt Garza to the Cubs for four prospects.

The four prospects are right-hander Chris Archer, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, outfielder Brandon Guyer and infielder Robinson Chirinos.

Garza, who is arbitration eligible,  made $3.35 million in 2010 and will likely make considerably more in 2011.

–Bill Chastain

Roundup: Uggla, Lee signings official

The Reds on Thursday reportedly signed the reigning World Series MVP, while Dan Uggla‘s five-year extension with the Braves and first baseman Derrek Lee‘s one-year deal with the Orioles were officially announced.

 

According to an ESPN report, shortstop Edgar Renteria is joining the Reds after leading the charge for the Giants in the 2010 World Series. The one-year deal is reportedly worth $3 million.

Uggla, 31 next season, was introduced in a 2:30 p.m. ET press conference. He agreed to the $62 million deal with Atlanta after the Braves acquired him from the Marlins in November. With Florida last season, Uggla set career highs in batting average (.287), home runs (33) and RBIs (105).

Lee, 35, can make as much as $10 million with incentives as part of the deal, which has a $7.5 million base salary. He hit .260 with 19 homers and 80 RBIs between the Cubs and Braves last season.

Other news from Thursday:

? The Phillies invited seven non-roster players to Spring Training, the biggest name of the bunch being Delwyn Young. Also invited were infielder Robb Quinlan, catchers Tuffy Gosewisch and Joel Naughton and right-handers Brian Bass, Michael Schwimer and Michael Stutes. Young, 28, hit .236 with seven home runs and 28 RBI in 110 games for the Pirates last season.

? Left-hander J.C. Romero re-signed with the Phillies on a one-year, $1.35 million deal. He’s passed his physical.

? In addition to bringing in Renteria, the Reds are also on the verge of re-signing reliever Jared Burton on a one-year contract to avoid arbitration, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reported.

? The Nationals are not pursuing Carl Pavano, according to a report from MASN, while Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported on Twitter that the Pirates have interest in the free agent right-hander.

? The Orioles, Rays, and yes, the Angels, have shown varying amounts of interest in Vladimir Guerrero, according to ESPNDeportes. But Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register said on Twitter that he thinks Anaheim is an unlikely destination for the free-agent designated hitter.

? FOXSports.com reported via Twitter that Rafael Soriano is unlikely to end up in Texas now that the Rangers have signed Adrian Beltre. An ESPN report quoted Soriano’s agent Scott Boras as saying Soriano is open to non-closing roles, which is what he would have to take behind Mariano Rivera.

? The Indians officially added Austin Kearns to their 40-man roster, designating Jordan Brown to make room. Kearns signed with Cleveland in December.

? Free-agent left-hander Brian Fuentes wants to close in 2011, according to FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi.

Renteria, Burton signed by Reds?

It’s possible that the Reds have found their backup shortstop. On Thursday, ESPN Chicago reported that the club is poised to announce the signing of veteran Edgar Renteria to a one-year deal that could be worth up to $3 million.

Renteria, the World Series Most Valuable Player with the champion Giants in 2010, would offer veteran depth behind expected starter Paul Janish.

Also — a baseball source told MLB.com that RHP and reliever Jared Burton should be signed today to a one-year contract. Terms were unknown but it will avoid arbitration. Burton earned $810,000 last season but spent most of the year in the Minors and battling injuries including a hypothyroid condition.

– Mark Sheldon

Chavez Still on Dodgers Radar

Eric Chavez has been on the Dodgers radar since the Winter Meetings and the club is contemplating working him out. Chavez told the San Francisco Chronicle that he feels healthy enough to hold a workout and show scouts that his chronic back and shoulder problems are healed.

Chavez, a 33-year-old six-time Gold Glove third baseman, said he will work out for the Dodgers Jan. 20, although industry sources have indicated that is not a certainty. Chavez hasn’t played more than 90 games in a season since 2006.

If healthy, he could provide an alternative at third base to Casey Blake, be a right-handed pinch-hitter or a back-up corner infielder, although he’s played only two games at first base.

The Chronicle reported that Chavez has two other private workouts lined up with American League clubs. The AL teams aren’t named.

 — Ken Gurnick 

Roundup: Rays looking to deal?

The Hot Stove took a bit of a backseat on Wednesday, with the announcement that Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this July dominating the baseball headlines.

With Adrian Beltre‘s signing with the Rangers now official, the rumor mill did ramp up on the trade market — namely, on Tampa Bay starter Matt Garza and a possible deal to the Cubs, reported on Tuesday night by the Chicago Sun-Times. That story was news to the Cubs, according to MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat, who also reported that the Rays are more likely to wait until the summer to move Garza.

Here’s the rundown of the rest of the news from Wednesday:

- Staying in the NL Central, the Cardinals have resumed extension talks with their own potential Hall of Famer, first baseman Albert Pujols. Pujols could hit the free-agent market following the 2011 season.

- The latest out of Southern California is that the Angels have interest in signing Vladimir Guerrero.

On MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM, Angels manager Mike Scioscia told co-hots Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy that the Angels are not closing the door on the possibility of Guerrero returning to his former home after one season in Texas.

After hitting .300 with 29 homers and 115 RBIs in 2009, the Angels’ American League Most Valuable Player in 2004, accepted a one-year contract with the Rangers and helped the AL West rivals reach the World Series.

Guerrero, whose career began with nine games in Montreal in 1996, is a .320 career hitter with a .383 on-base percentage and .563 slugging mark.

- The Mariners are working on a potential two-year deal with recently acquired shortstop Brendan Ryan, according to MLB.com’s Greg Johns. Ryan, who came over from St. Louis in a December trade, is eligible for arbitration for the first time in his career.

- The Red Sox claimed catcher Max Ramirez off waivers from the Rangers, tweeted MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. Ramirez, you may remember, was close to going to Boston last off-season in exchange for Mike Lowell. Ramirez hit .217 in 28 games for the Rangers in 2010.

- The Blue Jays announced that they claimed left-handed reliever Wil Ledezma on waivers from the Pirates. Ledezma was 0-3 with a 6.86 ERA for Pittsburgh in 2010.

- The Diamondbacks resigned lefty reliever Clay Zavada to a Minor League deal, as reported by Baseball America. Zavada pitched in five games for Triple-A Reno in 2010 before undergoing Tommy John surgery. Zavada posted a 3.35 ERA in 49 games for Arizona in 2009.

- The Rangers and Beltre made it official on Wednesday, with the club announcing the addition of the third baseman in an afternoon press conference. The signing of Beltre means that the Rangers are no longer interested in their former DH Vladimir Guerrero, according to a tweet from the Dallas Star-Telegram’s Anthony Andro.

- Likewise, the Brewers finalized their deal with Takashi Saito. As reported by MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, the right-hander’s base salary will be under $2 million, but he can make more than $3 million in incentives.

- The Rockies have signed utilityman Hernan Iribarren to a Minor League contract. Iribarren, 26, last played in the Majors with Milwaukee in 2009, spending last season with Texas’ Triple-A affiliate.  The deal includes an invitation to Colorado’s Major League Spring Training camp.

-  The Padres signed versatile Kevin Frandsen and catcher Guillermo Quiroz Minor League contracts.  The deal will pay Frandsen $575,000 if he makes San Diego’s Major League roster, according to ESPN.

Frandsen, 28, has played several positions during his MLB career with the Giants and Angels, playing primarily third base last season for the Angels, who did not tender him a contract for 2011.

Quiroz, 29, has played parts of the last seven seasons in the Major Leagues with the Blue Jays, Mariners, Rangers and Orioles. He is a career .208 hitter in 255 at-bats.

–Tim Britton

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