November 2011

Tigers reportedly close to re-signing Laird

The Tigers’ search for a catcher to back up All-Star Alex Avila is apparently leading them back to the catcher who mentored Avila when he first reached the big leagues.

When Gerald Laird and the Tigers parted ways a year ago, Laird was looking for playing time. He ended up as a little-used backup to Yadier Molina in St. Louis this year, but now appears headed back to Detroit. Foxsports.com reports that Laird is close to a deal that would reunite him with the Tigers.

Laird fits the profile of what the Tigers are looking for in a backup. He’s a right-handed hitter with a good amount of experience, good defense and calls a good game. He brings the added bonus of experience working with Tigers pitchers, including Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello for two years.

Laird was the Tigers’ primary catcher in 2009, having been acquired from Texas in a trade for prospects that included Guillermo Moscoso. He batted .225 with four homers and 33 RBIs in 135 games that year for a team that came within a tiebreaker of the AL Central title and had Avila as a late-season call-up. Laird and Avila split time catching in 2010, but Avila got the bulk of the starts down the stretch.

A reunion at this point makes sense. The Tigers went through last year with Victor Martinez backing up Avila, but now don’t want the wear and tear on their designated hitter as he approaches his 33rd birthday next month. Laird hit the market looking for playing time last year, but is now at the stage of his career where he’ll find better opportunities as a No. 2.

– Jason Beck

Cherington, Ortiz’s agents have ‘good dialogue’

Though it doesn’t appear Ben Cherington will complete any transactions before the end of the General Mangers Meetings, he did make some headway in several areas, including negotiations with free-agent slugger David Ortiz.

“I talked to David’s agents since I’ve been here at the GM meetings,” Cherington said. “I think there’s a pretty good understanding of where both sides are. We’re just not at the same point yet, but there’s a pretty good understanding of where everyone is.”

While Jonathan Papelbon, Boston’s other marquee free agent, swiftly moved on to Philadelphia, there seems to be motivation from both sides to keep Ortiz in a Red Sox uniform.

Rollins up next in Brewers’ shortstop search

If you’re a free-agent shortstop, then the Brewers are interested.

While sitting in a holding pattern at first base that’s likely to continue until Prince Fielder picks a new team, the Brewers have been among the most active clubs on the shortstop market, meeting or otherwise touching base with the agents for all of the available prominent players. General manager Doug Melvin spoke via telephone in recent weeks with the representative for Jose Reyes, who the Brewers conceded is almost certainly out of their price range, and for Yuniesky Betancourt, who was made a free agent when the Brewers declined his option. The door remains open to Betancourt returning.

Melvin then met personally at the Pfister Hotel during the General Managers Meetings with the agent for Rafael Furcal on Monday and the agent for Clint Barmes on Wednesday.

Cardinals GM says reported Pujols deal untrue

Right on schedule, things are picking up in the saga of Albert Pujols.

Pujols’ representatives reportedly met with the Cardinals on Tuesday night during baseball’s annual General Managers Meetings in Milwaukee, a few days after Pujols’ camp visited the Miami Marlins. Meanwhile, one St. Louis media member tweeted that an announcement of a deal between Pujols and the Cardinals was imminent, but the club immediately shot that down.

Kuroda Undecided; Dodgers Talk Harang

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said not only must Hiroki Kuroda decide if he wants to pitch another year for the Dodgers, but the Dodgers must decide if they can fit him into their reduced payroll. Kuroda earned $12 million in 2011 and had his best season as a Dodger. Free agent Aaron Harang is one obvious Plan B for Colletti, who met with the right-hander’s agent Wednesday. Colletti nearly traded for Harang two years ago. — Ken Gurnick

Multiyear deals for Lincecum, Cain?

Wednesday, Nov. 16

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants are well aware that they have something special in Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, who are essentially co-aces of their pitching staff.

So reports that the Giants are trying to sign both right-handers to multiyear deals, thus buying them out of their first few years of free agency, make perfect sense.

Cain will earn $15 million next year in the final season of a three-year $27.25 million contract and would then become eligible for free agency. Lincecum, who can expect a huge increase through salary arbitration from the $14 million he earned last year, will vault into free agency after the 2013 campaign.

Unless the Giants lock him up first.

Jon Heyman of SI.com reported that the Giants are considering four-year deals for Cain and Lincecum. Most teams consider such longterm contracts risky. But Cain and Lincecum aren’t most pitchers. Both are 27, have combined to make six National League All-Star teams and have not endured a serious arm injury.

“We have to keep our pitching together,” Giants vice president of baseball operations Bobby Evans said this week at the General Managers Meetings. Retaining Cain and Lincecum through the first half of this decade would accomplish that.

– Chris Haft

Agent: Cespedes is ready for bigs

Once he declares residency in the Domnican Republic and becomes eligible for Major League free agency, Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes figures to be one of the most sought-out position players on the market.

Agent Adam Katz is confident that his client is ready to play in the Major Leagues this season.

“I’m not an evaluator, but I’m told by people who evaluate, he is [big league ready],” said Katz from baseball’s General Managers meetings.

Even Katz admitted it’s hard to know quite what the value will be for Cespedes.

“It’s really touchy feely,” Katz said. “He’s an unusual guy. He’s 26. He’s major league ready. People are going to be evaluate. A value will be established. People will bid competitively, and it will be what it will be.”

While Katz sees his client as a center fielder, he would be willing to play the corner positions, something that would help a team like the Boston Red Sox, who have a vacancy in right field.

The Red Sox will look at Cespedes later this week in the Dominican Republic. The Cubs are also scouting him this week. Several other teams have also expressed interest in Cespedes, who has become a bit of a sensation since the posting of a highlight video on Youtube.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like it since ‘Spinal Tap,’” Katz said. “At the end of the day, it was compelling. As quirky as it was, it ended up being very compelling.”

Ian Browne

Mozeliak denies Pujols report

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak denied a report Wednesday afternoon that Albert Pujols is set to announce his return to the Cardinals.

J.C. Corcoran, a St. Louis radio personality, wrote on his personal Twitter account Wednesday:

“Albert to announce on Friday he’s re-signing with the Cardinals.”

ESPN’s Chris Singleton tweeted something similar a few minutes later, though it was unclear whether he was referring to Corcoran’s tweet or going off of other information. Singleton wrote:

“I’m hearing that Albert is going to resign in St. Louis. Stay tuned…”

Either way, though, Mozeliak poured cold water on any notion of a quick resolution to the Pujols talks. Reached by MLB.com to comment on Corcoran’s claim, Mozeliak had a three-word email response:

“No truth, zero.”

–Matthew Leach

Twins sign SS Jamey Carroll

The Twins signed free agent shortstop Jamey Carroll to a two-year, $6.75 million contract in a deal that was formally announced on Wednesday. The contract carries a mutual option for 2014. Carroll was in Minneapolis on Tuesday to take his physical, which he passed.

This past season for the Dodgers Carroll batted .290 with a .359 on-base percentage and .347 slugging percentage in 146 games. He also stole 10 bases without getting caught.

Carroll, who can also play second base, third base and both corner outfield positions, is known for providing steady defense. It appears likely that he will be installed as Minnesota’s everyday shortstop.

– Mark Sheldon

Keep an eye on Rockies pitching, Barmes discussions could occur today

As MLB.com reported last week and as the Denver Post reported last night, the Rockies’ wide-ranging search for an innings-eating starting pitcher, or two, includes standout free-agent right-hander Roy Oswalt (4-0, 2.25 ERA in five career starts at Coors Field).

The Post reported that the Rockies won’t trade for the Astros’ Wandy Rodriguez, who want quite a bit in return. But just about any young, accomplished starter is on the radar — the Marlins’ Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez, and the Rays’ Jeff Neimann and Wade Davis. All have been Rockies targets before. The Rockies are interested in their one-time No. 1 pitcher Jeff Francis and Kevin Millwood, who finished last season in purple pinstripes, as well as, according to the Post, Paul Maholm.

The Rockies are dangling left fielder Seth Smith in trade talks for either a pitcher or a second baseman, or both. That helps explain the pursuit of Grady Sizemore, who is recovering from right knee surgery but, according to his agent, will be ready to start Spring Training and to start the season.

If they don’t make a trade at the keystone position, they could look to the past and pursue Clint Barmes, who played for the Astros last season but had spent all is previous seasons with the Rockies. Barry Meister, Barmes’ agent, will arrive at the MLB General Managers meetings in Milwaukee today. Although there have been internal discussions about Barmes — who is attractive to the Rockies because he can move to shortstop if Troy Tulowitzki needs a break or is banged up — there had not been negotiations as of yesterday. Barmes is receiving interest at a shortstop and a second baseman, and is open to playing each spot.

Potential trade targets are the Braves’ Martin Prado and the Padres’ Orlando Hudson, with the Rockies already having had discussions with the Braves.

In the coming weeks, watch for the Rockies to seriously explore dealing right-handed reliever Huston Street, who is guaranteed $8 million next year. Rafael Betancourt ended up supplanting Street as closer late in the regular season.

– Thomas Harding

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