November 2011

Braves expect to be busy talking trades in Dallas

Things have been rather quiet for Braves general manager Frank Wren and his staff over the past couple weeks. But they are expecting to be busy during next week’s Winter Meetings in Dallas.

The Braves are still willing to listen to offers for Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens and there are teams still showing definite interest in both players.  But interested clubs have come to realize Wren is only interested in trading Prado or Jurrjens if he gains a significant return.

Wren has said he is not looking to move a particular player or reduce his payroll.  But if he sees an opportunity to significantly improve his club with a trade, he will make a deal.  Most likely, that deal would involve either Jurrjens or Prado.

The demand for Jurrjens will likely increase once C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle, this year’s top free-agent starting pitchers, decide where they will be pitching next year.

The Rangers, Yankees, Marlins are among the teams that are expected to talk to the Braves about Jurrjens.

The Braves are evaluating options to acquire an outfielder with power potential and also still discussing potential replacements for free agent shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who is expected to sign a multi-year deal elsewhere.

It seems like the Braves will be content to go to Spring Training with Tyler Pastornicky as their projected starting shortstop.  They are currently looking to sign a free agent like Jack Wilson or possibly Edgar Renteria to serve as a backup and insurance in the event that Pastornicky is not ready.

With Pastornicky and Andrelton Simmons in their system, the Braves are not looking to make a long-term commitment to a veteran shortstop.  Simmons, who is considered one of the game’s top defensive shortstop prospects, might be ready to make the jump to the Majors after the All-Star break.

The Braves are not currently showing much interest to outfielders on the free agent market. If they end up acquiring an impact bat in the form of outfielder this winter, they believe they could do so via a trade involving either Jurrjens or Prado.  -  Mark Bowman

11/29 Report says Cubs pursuing Pujols, Fielder

FOX Sports cites “Major League sources” saying the Cubs are showing interest in free agents Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. The report says the Cubs are inquiring about both because there is a small amount of sluggers available in future free agent markets and because of the new restrictions on spending in the Draft under the new CBA.

New Cubs execs Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are trying to rebuild the team, but the reality is that Pujols and Fielder don’t seem to fit their goal to build “a foundation of sustained success.” When Epstein took over the Red Sox prior to the 2003 season, he did sign David Ortiz, but got him for $1.25 million. Pujols and Fielder are looking for long-term mega deals. Those are the kind of deals (ex. Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano) the Cubs are trying to avoid. Plus, Epstein’s philosophy is to pay for future performance, not past.

– Carrie Muskat

11/28 Matt Garza’s availability

Both FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi and ESPN’s Buster Olney reported on Monday that the Cubs are letting teams know that Matt Garza is available. However, moving Garza doesn’t make much sense. One of the reasons the Cubs were willing to part with five players, including four highly touted prospects, for the right-hander was that Garza, 28, is under team control for two more years, and won’t be a free agent until 2014. He was the Cubs’ best pitcher in 2011, despite a 10-10 record. He didn’t get much run support and left with the lead and did not factor in the decision in seven of his starts. If the Cubs had more pitching depth in the farm system, Garza would be expendable.

– Carrie Muskat

11/28 Ramirez, Pena looking for multi-year deals

According to SI.com’s Jon Heyman, Carlos Pena is likely to decline arbitration from the Cubs because the first baseman is seeking a multi-year deal. Also, the Tigers are reportedly inquiring about third baseman Aramis Ramirez, another free agent whom the Cubs offered arbitration to. Both Pena and Ramirez are Type B free agents, and if they sign with another team, the Cubs would receive supplemental draft picks as compensation next June.

– Carrie Muskat

Tigers inquire about Aramis Ramirez

The Tigers have been in contact with the agent for free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez, a source confirmed to MLB.com Sunday night. At this point, though, there are no negotiations going on to bring the former Cubs slugger to Detroit.

SI.com senior writer Jon Heyman first reported the Tigers’ inquiry, which took place earlier this month. The two sides supposedly haven’t talked since, but that isn’t unusual given the Thanksgiving holiday. Whether talks progress into serious discussions remains to be seen. Free-agent negotiations and trade talks traditionally pick up in the days leading into baseball’s Winter Meetings, and that’s expected to be the case here, too, at least to see if there’s a fit.

For the Tigers, who have been looking for at least one more piece to their offense, it’s an interesting fit. The Tigers’ biggest need has supposedly been for a hitter to place near the top of the order, in front of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Delmon Young. Ramirez is a classic middle-of-the-order power hitter, with six 100-RBI seasons to his credit. After two injury-shortened seasons, he rebounded for 93 RBIs to go with a .306 average and 26 home runs in 149 games this year.

The Tigers return Brandon Inge for 2012, the back half of the two-year contract he signed last fall, and team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski has mentioned Inge in a possible platoon with superutilityman Don Kelly. All the while, though, the Tigers have remained open to an offensive upgrade.

– Jason Beck

Marlins acquire LeBlanc for Baker

The Marlins announced on Tuesday that they’ve acquired left-handed pitcher Wade LeBlanc from the Padres for catcher John Baker.

Joe Frisaro

11/21 Cubs to watch Cespedes

The Cubs are expected to get a first-hand look at Cuban defector Yoennis Cespedes on Tuesday in the Dominican Republic. Jason McLeod, senior vice president of scouting and player development, was part of the Cubs contingent in the Dominican. Cespedes, a  26-year-old right-handed hitting outfielder, has worked out for the Red Sox, Marlins and Yankees, among other teams. However, his asking price, believed to be around $50 million, may be a little steep for the Cubs. McLeod also had a chance to scout 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler in the Dominican.

– Carrie Muskat

Orioles make it official w. Antonelli, closing in on Chong?

First, I wanted to note that the Orioles made it official in signing free agent infielder Matt Antonelli today. He is expected to compete for a job in Spring Training and will be used at second and third base.

And there could be more news on the way. Multiple reports on Monday had the Orioles in talks with Koren submariner Chong Tae-hyon. A free agent, Tae-hyon wouldn’t have to be posted and he would presumably be added to an Orioles’ bullpen that figures to undergo some vast changes this offseason.

As of early Monday evening, no deal has been reached with Chong, although word out of Korea is it’s a done deal pending medicals. New executive vice president of baseball Dan Duquette said in his initial press conference he was going to be aggressive internationally, and this would certainly be a step in the right direction.

Duquette didn’t comment on the reports that internationally that a deal with Chong is done but he did confirm that the club has a high level of interest in him, noting his pinpoint control and success on the world stage (most recently at the World Baseball Classic) as very intriguing.

“He has a lifetime ERA under 2,” Duquette said of Chong. “[A] unqiue delivery. He has gotten results on the world stage when its counted.”

Chong has started earlier in his career, but Duquette said the Orioles interest would be in using him as a late-inning arm.

–Brittany Ghiroli

Marlins’ interest in Gio

The Marlins clearly would like to add a left-hander the caliber of Oakland’s Gio Gonzalez.

The team has expressed interest in Gonzalez, but the Marlins aren’t convinced the A’s are willing to part with an All-Star who will not be eligible to become a free agent until 2016.

Oakland is looking for a large return for Gonzalez.

Miami is willing to part with top prospects and big league experience talent to upgrade their rotation.

The general feeling around the team is they will try to add two experienced starters to their rotation. Gonzalez and Tampa Bay’s James Shields are on the Marlins’ radar.

The club also has interest in free agent Mark Buehrle.

While there hasn’t been much publicity on C.J. Wilson and the Marlins, don’t discount Miami making a push for the lefty if they don’t sign Buehrle.

Joe Frisaro

Reds talking A. Bailey?

This morning, Buster Olney of ESPN noted with a Tweet the following:

“Reds are talking about possible Andrew Bailey deal.”

There is no mention of where this information is coming from.

Former Reds GM and current baseball analyst for SiriusXM and ESPN, Jim Bowden, tweeted his info from an A’s source:

“A’s source confirms their interest in Alonso.”

Of course, that is Reds 1B/LF Yonder Alonso, who is viewed as the club’s top trading chip or part of the long term future depending on who you ask. I would have no doubt that the A’s (or any club) might have interest in getting Alonso.

My view: This is not a match. Giving up Alonso for Bailey is way too much. The Reds have other more pressing needs than for a closer at the moment, namely a starting pitcher. There are a lot of closers available on the open market that might be had for cheap and the door is certainly not closed on Francisco Cordero returning. Bailey is a two-time All-Star and former AL Rookie of the Year but injuries got in the way in late 2010 and early 2011.

But if you want more info on Bailey (no relation to Homer Bailey), click here.

– Mark Sheldon

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