November 2011

Padres waiting on Bell decision

On Tuesday, news broke that the Padres were close to agreeing on a one-year deal for outfielder Mark Kotsay worth$1.25 million, a move they hope will help fortify the bench in 2012.

That move (when it becomes official, pending a physical) will be the first acquisition by new general manager Josh Byrnes.

When his next move will come is anyone’s guess — especially since Byrnes and the Padres are waiting to hear from free agent closer Heath Bell on if he’ll accept arbitration or decline it.

“Obviously, the Heath Bell situation will affect us a lot. If he doesn’t accept [arbitration], we’ll have more money,” Byrnes said recently. “… Right now, things are moving a little slower until we know what happens with Heath.”

The Padres plan to offer him arbitration, thinking he’ll decline it and chase a bigger contract elsewhere. That way, the Padres will collect to supplemental round Draft picks.

However, Bell said he won’t decide until the deadline to do so, 8:59 p.m. PT on Dec. 7.  That could make it tough for the Padres — who will have a payroll of around $54 million — to acquire more prolific free agents until that decision is made.

– Corey Brock

11/16 Cubs consider pitching options

Could Mark Buehrle switch to the North Side of Chicago? According to FOX Sports, the Cubs have had multiple discussions with Buehrle’s agent, Jeff Berry. The other teams interested in the left-hander include the White Sox, Marlins, Blue Jays, Royals, Angels, Nationals and Diamondbacks. Buehrle is 24-6 in 40 games (39 starts) his career against National League teams with a 3.32 ERA. And, against the NL Central, he’s 13-4 with a 3.28 ERA. Last season, he won 13 games for the fourth straight year, going 13-9 with a 3.59 ERA.

The Cubs do need pitching — a lack of depth was a problem last year. SI.com’s Jon Heyman reports the Cubs and Royals are talking to Scott Boras about pitcher Bruce Chen. The 34-year-old has never had a multi-year deal in his career. The left-hander was 12-8 with a 3.77 ERA last season with the Royals, and has pitched for the Braves, Phillies, Mets, Expos, Reds, Astros, Red Sox, Orioles and Rangers besides the Royals.

– Carrie Muskat

Braves still willing to listen to offers for Prado and Jurrjens

With it known that Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado could be had with the right offer,  the Braves have understandably received some attention during this week’s General Managers Meetings in Milwaukee.  But as this month has past it has become even more apparent that Atlanta GM Frank Wren will need to receive a rather attractive offer before seriously thinking about trading either of these two players.

Because this year’s free agent market is weak in the starting pitching department, it makes sense for the Braves to at least listen to offers for Jurrjens.  But it will take a substantial offer to land the 25-year-old right-handed pitcher.

There’s no doubt the Braves have an abundance of impressive young pitching prospects who are ready to join a rotation that is already projected to include both Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy.  But questions still surrounding Tommy Hanson’s shoulder, it might be in the Braves’ best interest to keep Jurrjens.

Prado has also drawn attention from the Rockies, Royals and a number of other clubs who like the versatility he could provide.  But with Chipper Jones approaching his 40th birthday and needing regular rest during the season, it might also be in the Braves’ best interest to keep Prado, who is very capable of handling third base whenever necessary.

Because Jurrjens and Prado are set to make somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million via arbitration this year, the Braves could certainly gain some financial flexibility by moving either of these players.  But Wren has said he has the financial resources available to satisfy all of his offseason needs without having to make a trade.

As the GM meetings opened this week, there was a rumor that the Braves might be willing to trade Prado to the Tigers for Delmon Young and possibly another prospect.   This was quickly debunked.   The Braves have shown little interest in Young in the past and they are seemingly looking for much more in return for Prado.

- Mark Bowman

Asking price high for Gio Gonzalez

In so many ways, A’s lefty Gio Gonzalez is a fit for the Miami Marlins.

The team is in the market for left-handed starting pitching, and the 26-year-old Gonzalez is coming off an All-Star season where he won 16 games.

Being from Hialeah, Gonzalez has a hometown connection to the Marlins. The former Miami Monsignor Pace High School standout also is affordable, as he projects to make about $3.6 million in 2012, his first year eligible for arbitration. In ’11, the lefty earned $420,000.

What is tricky for the Marlins is actually acquiring Gonzalez.

A’s general manager Billy Beane understands he has a viable trade commodity, and the asking price is steep for Gonzalez.

Rumblings from those connected to the Marlins is Miami had at least one inquiry conversation with the A’s regarding Gonzalez. It took place before this week’s General Managers Meetings in Milwaukee.

The belief is the Marlins said no when the A’s were asking for Logan Morrison, Ricky Nolasco and two top prospects for Gonzalez. The Minor Leaguers the A’s were said to be coveting were outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, two promising talents who were part of low Class A Greensboro’s championship team.

Trading for established starting pitcher certainly is costly in terms of parting with talent.

That’s one reason why the Marlins are aggressively pursuing free agent Mark Buehrle, who visited Miami last week.

According to reports from the GM Meetings, the Marlins met again with Buehrle’s agent, Jeff Berry, on Tuesday in Milwaukee.

Joe Frisaro

Yankees, Wilson head toward meeting in NY

The Yankees pursuit of starting pitching appears to be gaining momentum. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman reportedly reached out to Bob Garber, who represents both C.J. Wilson and Roy Oswalt, according to Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger.

Carig reports that Cashman and Garber spoke at the GM Meetings in Milwaukee, and that a sit down with Hal Steinbrenner and director of pro personnel Billy Eppler in New York may be in the works.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post later added that a meeting could occur before next month’s Winter Meetings.

“I told him where we were at, they understood, and want us to come out,” Garber told the Star-Ledger. “I think it’s a good fit. We have a lot of teams we have to narrow down. I think the Yankees are a team that we’ve narrowed down as a team we want to spend a little time with.”

Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York indicated that Cashman is not rushing negotiations, but that Garber was receptive to the GM’s outreach.

- Jon Star 

Hanley might move positions, but not teams

With the Marlins aggressively in pursuit of Jose Reyes — a FoxSports.com report had their initial offer at six years, $90 million — the obvious question is what would happen to Hanley Ramirez if Reyes comes aboard.

The most likely option, obviously, would be to move Reyes to third base, though there has been some speculation that Ramirez wouldn’t be all that receptive to the idea.

“I’m the shortstop,” he told the Miami Herald. “I’ve always been a shortstop.”

Would the Marlins consider moving Ramirez not to another position but another team? That seems doubtful.

“Hanley is a very important part of this thing,” president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest told reporters at the General Managers Meetings on Tuesday. “He is a unique talent. It’s hard to find. What happened last year is last year. He had a slow start and got injured. For us to be successful, he needs to be Hanley.”

–Anthony Castrovince

11/15 Cubs in meet & greet phase

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, the Cubs brain trust, are meeting with agents re: free agents and talking to teams about possible trades during the General Manager Meetings at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee this week. Right now, it’s the initial phase of conversations.

“We’re still very much in the information gathering mode on all of that stuff [re: free agents],” Hoyer said Tuesday. “We’re not really in a position to rule out much at this point. We’re going to listen on a lot of things and think about a lot of things. I’d be misleading if I started to dice up the free agent pool too much.”

Hoyer wouldn’t specify how much he has to work with as far as the team payroll is concerned, and would not comment on specific players. But they are meeting with lots of agents to lay the ground work as they try to fill some spots on the Cubs roster.

“Coming in late sometimes, a player looks at it like, ‘Where’s this team been? Maybe I was a second choice, third choice,'” Hoyer said. “I think expressing an interest is important. Coming out of the gate strong with an offer, a lot of times at this time of year, people are wary to accept anything because they want to see how the market develops. I think expressing interest early is very important.”

– Carrie Muskat

Angels Seek Starter, Reliever

After meeting with the agent for free-agent pitcher C.J. Wilson, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said he continues to pursue the best starting pitchers on the market, as well as a right-handed reliever to share the late-inning load with Jordan Walden. Mark Buehrle and Hiroki Kuroda also are reportedly on the Angels’ list, along with relievers Francisco Cordero, Matt Capps, Octavio Dotel and Todd Coffey. — Ken Gurnick

D-Backs Like Kuroda

Arizona general manager Kevin Towers said the club has serious interest in free agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who considered signing with the Diamondbacks four years ago before opting for the Dodgers. Towers also said the club will be more aggressive scouting the Latin America market, but not aggressive enough to be in the bidding for Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. — Ken Gurnick

Dodgers Sign Ellis, Treanor; Payroll to Drop

The Dodgers continued their aggressive roster makeover Tuesday by signing free agent second baseman Mark Ellis and veteran catcher Matt Treanor to back up starter A.J. Ellis, but general manager Ned Colletti said the 2012 payroll will be reduced from the $110 million in 2011 and there’s no room in it for a big bat like Prince Fielder. He said he’s not even sure he’ll be able to re-sign pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who earned $12 million this year. Other free agent starters on the club radar are Chris Capuano, Jeff Francis and Aaron Harang. — Ken Gurnick

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