December 2011

Garza reportedly on Marlins’ wish list

MIAMI — Toss Matt Garza’s name into the mix of possible Miami trade targets.

Acquiring another frontline starting pitcher remains a priority, and reportedly Garza fits the mold.

Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com claims the Marlins have “serious interest” in Garza. No deal is close, but the interest makes sense.

To seriously compete in the NL East, the Marlins are looking for as much starting pitching depth as possible. They’ve already signed free agent Mark Buehrle, and they made a strong push for C.J. Wilson, who eventually signed with the Angels.

Miami also pushed hard for Gio Gonzalez, who ended up being traded from the A’s to the Nationals.

Garza, 28, is projected to make between $9-10 million in arbitration in 2012, and he isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2013 season.

The Cubs reportedly are seeking a trade package similiar to the deals that sent Mat Latos from the Padres to the Reds and Gonzalez to Washington.

There is stiff competition for Garza, who also is being coveted by the Yankees and Blue Jays.

The Cubs are looking for top prospects, and the Marlins are willing to part with some of their high-end young talent for an established starter.

Outfielder Christian Yelich, part of low Class A Greensboro’s championship team, is highly coveted.

The Marlins have made it clear that Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton are off limits, but they would be willing to move other young players, if the deal made sense.

Joe Frisaro  

Blue Jays ink Laffey to Minor League deal

The Blue Jays have signed left-hander Aaron Laffey to a Minor League contract, the club announced Saturday.

The 26-year-old has spent five seasons in the big leagues, most recently with the Yankees after starting the 2011 campaign in Seattle. He was drafted by, and spent the first four years of his career with, the Indians.

Last season, Laffey was 3-2 with a 3.88 ERA in 47 relief appearances. He held left-handed hitters to a .242 average. He has made 49 starts in his career and owns a lifetime 4.34 ERA.

The Blue Jays also announced they have signed the following four Minor League free agents with invitations to Spring Training: right-hander Jerry Gil, right-hander Garrett Mock, right-hander Robert Coello and shortstop Brian Bocock.

– Joey Nowak

Quentin dealt to Padres for two hurlers

The White Sox and Padres pulled off a trade Saturday afternoon that sends outfielder Carlos Quentin to San Diego in exchange for two Minor League pitchers.

The White Sox will receive 23-year-old right-hander Simon Castro and 22-year-old lefty Pedro Hernandez from the Padres.

Quentin, 29, is a two-time All-Star who has hit at least 21 homers in each of the last four seasons with Chicago. He was drafted by the D-backs in the first round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft and spent two seasons with Arizona.

His first year with the White Sox, in 2008, was his best so far, as he hit .288 with 100 RBIs and 36 homers. He has played either left or right field his entire career.

“Improving our offense is a priority this offseason,” Padres general manager Josh Byrnes said. “And the acquisition of Carlos gives us a proven middle-of-the-order bat. We specifically targeted Carlos because of his production and his hard-nosed style of play.”

Castro, the Padres’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009, split time between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tucson in 2011, posting a 7-8 record with a 5.63 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 22 starts overall. He began the season with San Antonio, where he was 5-6, before moving up to Tucson, where he was 2-2 with a 10.17 ERA.

He has been in the Padres’ Minor League system for six seasons, and he was named to the Texas League mid- and postseason All-Star teams in 2010, while also pitching for the World Team in the All-Star Futures Game in Anaheim.

Hernandez spent time at Class A Lake Elsinore this season, along with Tucson and San Antonio, posting a 10-3 record with a 3.49 ERA in 28 games (18 starts) overall. He recorded 94 strikeouts in 116 innings of work.

The southpaw is 25-11 over five seasons in the San Diego Minor League system.

– Joey Nowak

Blue Jays close to deal with Oliver

Toronto is close to signing veteran reliever Darren Oliver to a one-year contract with a possible option for 2013, MLB.com’s TR Sullivan has reported.

Oliver has spent at least a part of 18 seasons in the big leagues, the most of which (10 seasons) were with the Rangers. He was with Texas from 1993-98, then again from 2000-01 and for the last two seasons.

In 2011, the 41-year-old right-hander was 5-5 with 16 holds and a 2.29 ERA through 51 innings of work. He allowed six hits and four runs in 6 1/3 innings of postseason ball.

The Blue Jays would be the ninth Major League club that Oliver has suited up for.

– Joey Nowak

12/29 Matt Garza hot topic

Could the Cubs deal Matt Garza? They are apparently still listening to teams interested in the right-hander. The Cubs are most likely looking for a package similar to what the Padres received from the Reds for Mat Latos and what the Athletics received from the Nationals for Gio Gonzalez, which means a lot of talented prospects. According to reports, the Blue Jays and Yankees may be the front-runners. What makes Garza attractive to the Jays and Yankees is his 23-15 record, 3.34 ERA in 56 career games vs. the AL East. Plus, he’s 7-4 with a 3.83 ERA in 19 games against the Red Sox.

Chicago helped its system by dealing Sean Marshall to Cincinnati for Travis Wood and two other players. Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, has said Garza is “exactly the type of pitcher we want to build around” but is willing to listen as the team re-tools. They’d have to be overwhelmed to move Garza, who is under team control through 2013. Gonzalez, 26, and Latos, 24, will be under team control for at least four years.

– Carrie Muskat

Madson to Anaheim possible?

That still remains to be seen. But on Wednesday afternoon — after the Red Sox acquired Andrew Bailey from the Athletics in exchange for three young players — it became more possible than ever.

With the Red Sox, a team with money to spend, filling a huge need in the back end of its bullpen by acquiring the young Bailey, the market for Madson has reached a new low. It’s now pretty clear that the 31-year-old right-hander won’t get anything close to what the Phillies reportedly offered him before turning their attention to Jonathan Papelbon (a four-year, $44 million contract).

But just how much of a pay cut he takes is the big question.

It’d have to be a pretty sizeable one for the Angels to be a fit, now that the team has committed more than $330 million to Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. But it’s interesting to note that Wilson turned down a larger contract from the Marlins in order to sign with the Angels and return to Orange County, Calif. — where Madson was also born.

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said during the Winter Meetings that his mission was to “complement [closer] Jordan Walden, not replace Jordan Walden.” In tune with that, he signed veteran right-hander LaTroy Hawkins to potentially help lefty Scott Downs in a setup role. But getting Madson would be a far bigger step towards improving a bullpen that was tied for first in the American League in blown saves last season.

So far, it appears the Rays and Reds are the two main teams that still need a closer. But the Reds and Francisco Cordero reportedly want a reunion, and the Rays don’t have the financial wherewithal to allocate a lot of money to the ninth inning.

Time for Scott Boras to get creative with Madson.

– Alden Gonzalez

Signing Dobbs Marlins’ top priority

MIAMI — Exploring the market for a frontline starting pitcher is high on the Marlins’ shopping list.

But it’s not the club’s most immediate priority.

Right now, bringing back free agent Greg Dobbs is a main objective, and the team is hoping to finalize a deal done soon.

In 2011, Dobbs provided veteran leadership as well as some timely hits. Of late, the Marlins have been working on getting a deal done.

If they can lock up Dobbs before New Years, it would cap a highly productive month of December for the Marlins.

The Marlins made a big splash early in the month by signing free agents Heath Bell, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle.

Dobbs, a non-roster invitee with an invitation to Spring Training last year, enjoyed a highly productive 2011.

Initially, the 33-year-old was used as a left-handed bat off the bench, but he ended up getting regular playing time, mainly at third base.

He batted .275 with eight home runs and 49 RBIs in 411 at-bats.

As a pinch-hitter, Dobbs made a big impact, posting a .370 (10-for-27) batting average with a home run and eight RBIs.

If Dobbs comes back, he will fill the important role of left-handed bat off the bench.

The Marlins are not expected to sign any more big ticket free agents.

Miami is looking at trade possibilities for a starting pitcher, primarily a front of the rotation-caliber starter. The team isn’t seeking competition for the back end of the rotation.

A major trade is more likely to find a starter than signing a free agent.

From an organizational standpoint, the Marlins have hired Bobby Ramos as their Latin American player development coordinator.

Ramos, formerly the Rays bullpen coach, is taking on a new position in the organization.

Joe Frisaro 

Stanton, Morrison off limits

MIAMI — With Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison regarded as “off limits,” the Marlins are finding it difficult to trade for frontline starting pitching.

Miami pursued Gio Gonzalez for more than a month, but Oakland’s asking price always included either Stanton or Morrison.

Becauses the Marlins are not willing to part with either, they are finding it difficult to lure in a legitimate All-Star pitcher.

If the Marlins had more high-end prospects, perhaps they would have been able to swing a deal for Gonzalez. They don’t, and the A’s on Thursday dealt their All-Star left-hander to the Nationals.

Miami’s search for a frontline starter continues.

For Gonzalez, the Marlins were willing to part with any number of their top Minor Leaguers. They just weren’t willing to do it at the expense of their every day lineup.

So what’s next?

Javier Vazquez, who had a remarkable second half, maintains he is retiring. The Marlins aren’t expecting him back, and they’re looking in other directions.

Left-hander Joe Saunders has been mentioned, but don’t count on it.

The Marlins already signed Mark Buehrle, who is not overpowering. They aren’t looking to have two soft-tossing southpaws, especially for the $7 million that Saunders commands.

Keep in mind, Miami seeks a top of the rotation pitcher, not just an innings eater.

James Shields is in the mix, but not at the price of Stanton or Morrison.

Wandy Rodriguez and Roy Oswalt may be more realistic options.

As of now, the Marlins’ rotation is Josh Johnson, Buehrle, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco and Chris Volstad. Lefty Wade LeBlanc was obtained by the Padres to add experienced depth.

Clearly, the Marlins would like to add another established arm, but they won’t force the issue. If need be, they may continue their search into Spring Training, ideally finding someone before Opening  Day.

Joe Frisaro

 

Cubs sign Corpas to one-year deal

The Cubs have agreed to a one-year Major League deal with reliever Manuel Corpas, an industry source confirmed to MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. Corpas was in Chicago on Thursday for a physical.

The 29-year-old right-hander last pitched in the Majors in 2010 with the Rockies. He underwent Tommy John surgery later that year, and the Rangers signed him to a Minor League contract in April. He pitched in the instructional league and played winter ball in Panama.

Corpas has a 12-16 record with a 3.93 ERA for his career, striking out 206 batters and walking 80 in 286 innings. He was never a strikeout artist, averaging 6.5 Ks per nine innings in five Major League seasons. But he limited his walks (2.5 per nine innings for his career) and induced ground balls at a respectable rate.

He is best known for his work during the Rockies’ run to the World Series in 2007, when he saved 19 games with a 2.08 ERA in 78 innings of work. He finished the 2007 postseason with five saves and a 0.87 ERA.

-Adam Berry

Beltran deal done

The Cardinals have officially announced that they’ve agreed to a two-year deal with free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran, pending a physical.

 

The deal is reportedly worth $25-26 million. That would be the largest outlay by the Cardinals to a free agent not already in the organization since Jason Isringhausen received a guaranteed $27 million before the 2002 season.

 

A switch-hitting outfielder, Beltran has one of baseball’s most well-rounded offensive games. He is a lifetime .283 hitter with both on-base ability (a career .361 average) and power (.496 slugging percentage). He’s one of the most efficient base-stealers in Major League history, with 293 steals in 334 attempts for an 87.7 percent success rate. In 2011, he put up a combined .300/.385/.525 line in 142 games with the Mets and Giants.

 

Beltran, a three-time Gold Glove winner in center field, moved to right field in 2011 as he made his way back to full strength from knee surgery. He will likely start the 2011 season in right field, with Lance Berkman moving to first base in place of Albert Pujols, while Allen Craig is out due to his own offseason knee operation.
Once Craig comes back, Beltran would probably still play plenty of right field. But he also could get more time in center field, spelling Jon Jay against left-handed pitchers and allowing new manager Mike Matheny a great deal of flexibility in making out his lineup.

 

–Matthew Leach

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