December 2011

Mets looking at Gio Gonzalez?

In a Twitter post early Friday morning, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Mets and Mariners have joined the Marlins, Reds, Red Sox and Rangers as clubs checking up on Oakland’s Gio Gonzalez.

From a New York perspective, that one is tough to figure. This is the first time all winter the Mets have been rumored to be looking into acquiring an established Major League player, as opposed to trading one away. As recently as last week, the Mets had discussed dealing their own young left-handed starter, Jon Niese, with a list of teams including the Angels and Yankees.

General manager Sandy Alderson has been adamant in saying that he is looking at trades to improve the Mets both for the future and for 2012. Gonzalez would certainly represent more of the latter than the former; though just 26 years old, he is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, meaning his salary is poised to skyrocket.

What’s more, Alderson stated publicly last week that the top-tier prospects in New York’s farm system — Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey et al — are the only untouchables in the organization outside of David Wright. Given that such prospects are presumably what Oakland would be seeking in a deal for Gonzalez, it is unclear what the Mets could offer in a swap.

–Anthony DiComo

Update on Darvish

The New York Post reported late Thursday night that the Blue Jays were the perceived front runners to land Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish. The report speculated that Toronto submitted a bid to the Nippon Ham Fighters between $40-50 million but also mentioned the Cubs submitted a large bid of their own at an unknown value.

Toronto’s Alex Anthopoulos and Texas’ Jon Daniels were the only two general managers to watch Darvish pitch in Japan. The Blue Jays also had multiple scouts watch Darvish throughout his season in the Nippon Professional Baseball League where he posted a 1.44 ERA in 232 innings this season.

The 25-year-old would be a big coup for Anthopoulos, who has made it his offseason priority to upgrade the starting rotation.

– Gregor Chisholm

The latest: What’s up with Yu

It’s been a full day since the deadline for teams to submit their posting-fee bids for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish has passed, and it’s the Blue Jays, Rangers and Cubs who are generating the most buzz.

Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos had no comment for MLB.com when asked about Darvish, citing club policy, but multiple reports pinned his club, GM Jon Daniels’ Rangers and Theo Epstein’s Cubs as the teams with heavy interest. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported a rumor that at least one Darvish bid is supposed to be very high, north of $50 million, but he said that was not confirmed.

Very few teams have commented publicly on Darvish in any way — never mind officially confirming a bid.

12/15 Prince & the Cubs

New Cubs manager Dale Sveum has made it no secret about how much he likes Prince Fielder. Could the free agent slugger call Wrigley Field his home? Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com both think the Cubs are in the mix in the bidding for Fielder. However, Fielder, 27, and his agent, Scott Boras, are reportedly looking for a 10-year deal close to the $254 million that Albert Pujols received from the Angels. That kind of contract does not appear to fit what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have said they want to do in Chicago. The Blue Jays and Mariners also are reportedly interested in Fielder, who is a career .282 hitter, and has averaged 38 homers over the last six years. Fielder has a .298 average at Wrigley Field with 11 home runs and 15 doubles.

The Cubs’ obligations payroll-wise beyond 2012 include $38 million for two more years to Alfonso Soriano and $9.8 million owed Carlos Marmol in 2013. If the Cubs could get Fielder to defer money the way in the first year of his deal the Brewers did with Aramis Ramirez’s contract, it would might be possible.

– Carrie Muskat

Rox talk to Cuddyer; Twins back in the mix

Negotiations continued Thursday between the Rockies and free-agent outfielder Michael Cuddyer. The Mariners, Phillies and a somewhat unexpected suitor, the Twins, are also in the mix. It’s not clear how quickly the Rockies or anyone else can come to an agreement.

Cuddyer has spent his entire Major League career with the Twins, who made him a three-year offer. It was believed that the Twins were no longer a possibility when outfielder Josh Willingham signed for three years and $21 million. But multiple reports said the Twins had not dropped out of the running.

The Rockies’ prime focus is Cuddyer. The team has expressed interest in six-time All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran, but he is considered a longshot for the Rockies, mainly because of health concerns. Beltran has dealt with serious knee issues, including arthroscopic surgeries on both of them before the 2007 season and a further surgery on the right knee in 2010. The Mets had to be careful with his playing time early last season. Beltran put up strong numbers after being traded to the Giants for their lat-season run. However, the Giants have not signed him even though they have a need in the outfield.

Cody Ross remains a possibility to be signed to work in a tandem in left field with Seth Smith. If Cuddyer is signed, expect the Rockies to attempt to trade Smith to fill other holes.

– Thomas Harding

Dobbs remains option for Miami

MIAMI — Greg Dobbs is attracking interest from several teams, one of them being the Nationals. But a return to the Marlins still remains a possibility for the veteran infielder.

Miami remains in the mix to sign Dobbs as a free agent. In 2011, he was a bargain, signing a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training.

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

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

As a pinch-hitter, he made big impact, hitting .370 (10-for-27) with a home run and eight RBIs.

Joe Frisaro  

Rosenthal: Romero close to one-year deal with Cardinals

The Cardinals and left-handed reliever J.C. Romero are close to agreeing on a one-year deal, according to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com.

The 35-year-old Romero, who has spent parts of 13 seasons in the Majors, combined to go 1-0 with a 4.01 ERA last season with the Phillies and Rockies.

After appearing in 31 games as a reliever and starter with the Twins from 1999-2001, Romero broke in with the club in 2002 as a reliever, the only role he has pitched in since. He pitched three full seasons for the Phillies from 2008-10, posting a 3.04 ERA in 162 games in that span.

Cash Kruth

Red Sox ink Punto to two-year deal

Veteran infielder Nick Punto signed a two-year deal worth $3 million plus $500,000 in incentives with the Red Sox on Wednesday, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network and CBS Sports.

Punto, a member of the 2011 World Series Champion Cardinals, instantly fills an infield void created earlier Wednesday afternoon when Boston sent infielder Jed Lowrie to Houston along with right-hander Kyle Weiland in exchange for reliever Mark Melancon.

Punto returns to the American League after spending one year in the Senior Circuit with the Cardinals. The 34-year-old enters his 12th season in the big leagues. He hit .278 with one home and 20 RBIs in 63 games with the Cardinals last season.

Punto is a career .249 hitter with 14 home runs and 218 RBI in 887 career games.

- Jon Star 

Cuddyer, Rox continue to talk

The Twitter universe says Michael Cuddyer will reach an agreement with the Rockies by the end of today. From what I’ve been told, the sides continue to negotiate but the end of today may not be feasible. Terms aren’t known, but it could be lucrative: Cuddyer was reported to have a three-year deal for around $25 million from the Twins on the table. I’m reading the Mariners and Reds also have approached Cuddyer.

If or when it does happen, don’t be surprised if left-handed hitting Seth Smith is dealt quickly. Such a deal would clear a crowded outfield, and it would be the best way for the Rockies to fill other holes, especially pitching. Whatever the Rockies cleared in trading pitcher Huston Street to the Padres and infielder Ian Stewart to the Cubs will be spent on Cuddyer, or another outfielder if the Rockies go in that direction (such as Carlos Beltran).

Smith ranks as the best hope for acquiring a pitcher capable of 200 innings to help the rotation along until Jorge De La Rosa completes his comeback from Tommy John left elbow surgery, which should be sometime around June. Lower-cost options such as Kevin Millwood, Jeff Francis or recently non-tendered Joe Saunders will come into play, also.

As for free-agent right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, the chances of such a signing are doubtful considering what the Rockies will spend on the outfielder.

– Thomas Harding

Red Sox acquire Melancon from Astros in exchange for Lowrie, Weiland

The Astros have acquired infielder Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland from the Red Sox in exchange for reliever Mark Melancon, according a Major League Baseball source.

The Astros wouldn’t confirm the deal.

The Astros acquired Melancon from the Yankees at the Trade Deadline in 2010 as part of the Lance Berkman deal.

Lowrie, a 27-year-old switch-hitter, would satisfy the Astros’ need for a shortstop following the departure of Clint Barmes in free agency. He’s a career .252 hitter with 19 homers and 117 RBIs in 256 games with the Red Sox since 2008, and he batted .252 with six homers and 36 RBIs last season.

Weiland, 25, is a right-hander who made his Major League debut last season and was 0-3 with a 7.66 ERA in seven games (five starts). A third-round pick of the 2008 Draft, he went 23-31 with a 3.51 ERA in 90 career games in the Minor Leagues, including 85 starts.

Melancon, 26, could fill the Red Sox’s need for a closer. He pitched in a career-high 71 games for the Astros last season and was 8-4 with a 2.78 ERA and saved 20 games. He took over as closer in the first half of the season after Brandon Lyon went down with an arm injury.

– Brian McTaggart

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