It has been well-documented throughout this winter that the Indians have checked in on just about every available first baseman not named Prince Fielder. As spring approaches, two names high on Cleveland’s list are Carlos Pena and Casey Kotchman.
On Thursday, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Indians GM Chris Antonetti has approached ownership about potentially providing the necessary funds to afford the likes of Pena. The Scott Boras client is a coming off a season in which he slugged 28 homers and it is believed that he is seeking a multi-year deal.
The more realistic option might be Kotchman, who could improve the Tribe’s average, on-base percentage and strikeout rate. A year ago, the Indians whiffed 1,269 times, marking the most in team history and the fourth-highest total in American League history. Kotchman hit .306 with 66 strikeouts in 500 at-bats last season, while Pena hit .225 with 161 strikeouts in 493 ABs.
With only 10 homers a year ago, though, Kotchman obviously does not boast Pena’s power potential.
Pena netted a one-year, $10 million contract with the Cubs last offseason after hitting .196/.325/.407 with 28 homers and 84 RBIs in 2010 with Tampa Bay. This past season with Chicago, he improved in batting average, OBP (.357) and SLG (.462), while offering his typically sound defense.
Another consideration is Cleveland’s current situation at first base. Regular catcher Carlos Santana (a switch hitter) figures to see some playing time at first — most likely against left-handed pitching. While the general thought has been that the Indians could benefit from a power-hitting, right-handed first baseman (to replace a struggling Matt LaPorta), Cleveland’s decision-makers believe a lefty-hitting first baseman such as Pena or Kotchman might make more sense.
On days when Santana does not start behind the plate, the Indians project to feature catcher Lou Marson, who hit .297 against left-handed pitching last year. So having Santana (1B) and Marson (C) in against a left-hander and a lefty-hitting first baseman paired with Santana (C) against right-handers is something the Tribe is evaluating.
One unanswered question is whether Pena or Kotchman would be willing to accept that kind of playing time situation. It seems more likely that Kotchman — coming off a year in which he earned $750,000 after signing a Minor League contract with the Rays — would be open to a platoon-like scenario. Kotchman is also more affordable for an Indians team that does not have much financial flexibility.
If the Indians do not add a first baseman before Opening Day, the team’s top internal candidates currently consist of LaPorta (who has a Minor League option remaining) and Shelley Duncan (who is out of options).
MIAMI — Prince Fielder, the highest-profile free agent remaining on the market, is once again being linked to the Marlins.
According to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post, Miami owner Jeffrey Loria had a discussion with Scott Boras, Fielder’s agent, Wednesday night at the owner’s meetings in Arizona.
The Nationals, the Post reports, are “patiently and aggressively” pursuing Fielder.
As for the Marlins, the fact that Loria and Boras spoke is not that unusual considering they are both in Arizona. Because the team never says never, it’s natural for them to get a feel for what Fielder is seeking. But that doesn’t mean the club is making a strong push for the power hitting first baseman.
In fact, there are strong indications from within the organization that they are not aggressively pursuing Fielder.
Their more realistic free agent target remains Yoenis Cespedes, who is expected to gain his temporary residency in the Dominican Republic within the next few days. Once that happens, the outfielder should be granted free agent status.
— Joe Frisaro
FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweeted Wednesday that the Cubs were close to a one-year deal with Kerry Wood, which could include a club option for 2013.
During a stop on the Cubs Caravan on Wednesday, Cubs president Theo Epstein said he was hopeful the two sides could come to an agreement.
“If we can’t figure this out, something’s wrong,” Epstein said.
Wood, 34, posted a 3.35 ERA in 51 innings for the Cubs last season. He did miss time because of a blister and ended his season in September because of a torn meniscus in his left knee. The right-hander gave the Cubs a hometown discount in 2011, signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal to come back. He has said he wants to stay in Chicago, and last year, started the Wood Family Foundation, which is hosting a fundraiser Friday prior to the Cubs Convention.
— Carrie Muskat
Though terms of the agreement have not all been finalized, left-hander Doug Slaten has chosen to sign a Minor League deal with the Pirates, a source confirmed on Wednesday. The addition of Slaten will give the club another reliever to consider for its bullpen.
Slaten became a free agent in December, when the Nationals decided not to tender a contract to the arbitration-eligible pitcher. His contract with the Pirates will include an invitation to participate in Spring Training.
Slaten, 31, spent close to three months on the disabled list in 2011 due to a left elbow injury. As a result, he made just 31 appearances and logged only 16 1/3 innings. His season ERA finished at 4.41. Slaten struck out 16 and walked three.
Now healthy, Slaten had multiple offers this winter before ultimately deciding that the Pirates provided him with the best fit and opportunity. Though the Pirates haven’t prioritized including a left-handed specialist in the ‘pen in several years, Slaten profiles as an option for that type of role.
— Jenifer Langosch
The Angels avoided arbitration with recovering first baseman Kendrys Morales by agreeing on a one-year contract Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Morales was expected to get about $3 million via arbitration.
Since batting .306 with 34 homers and 108 RBIs in ’09, Morales has missed the last 1 1/2 seasons with a broken left ankle, which he suffered while stomping on home plate after a game-winning home run in May 2010 and has since had two procedures on.
Morales’ signing leaves infielders Erick Aybar, who general manager Jerry Dipoto has begun extension talks with, and Alberto Callaspo as their lone remaining arbitration-eligible players. Aybar is one season away from free agency, while Callaspo – like Morales was – has two years left before hitting the open market.
— Alden Gonzalez
UPDATE — A baseball source confirmed to MLB.com that the Reds and Ryan Madson agreed to a one-year, $10 million contract.
According to several reports, the Reds have agreed to terms late Tuesday on a one-year contract with free agent closer Ryan Madson. CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reported it first. I am still trying to confirm this myself and have several calls out.
Citing sources, Heyman earlier in the evening that talks between the two sides were heating up and in the serious stages. However, a source familiar with the situation had downplayed the report to MLB.com, saying it was unlikely the Reds would get Madson unless his agent — Scott Boras — came well off the demand of a four-year, $44 million contract he had been reportedly been wanting.
And with this seeming to be a one-year deal for Madson, that certainly appears to be the case. USA Today reports the deal is worth in excess of$10 million.
The Reds have not announced any agreement. A message was left with general manager Walt Jocketty.
— Mark Sheldon
There is a CBSSports.com report that the Reds are in the serious stage of talks with free agent closer Ryan Madson, even saying that things were “heating up.”
A source told MLB.com on Tuesday night that the club has contacted almost every player on the market at one time or another. The source downplayed the report on Madson, saying it was unlikely unless Madson’s agent — Scott Boras — came well off the demand of a four-year, $44 million contract he had been reportedly wanted.
The Reds have maintained talks with the other free agent closer on the market — Francisco Cordero. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said last week that the offer for Cordero would be for no more than one guaranteed year.
— Mark Sheldon
Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told the Detroit News “nothing has changed” in regards to his remarks from last week on the Tigers’ approach to starting pitching and their prospects, despite recent rumors. Another source told MLB.com Tuesday that there’s nothing going on with the Tigers in regards to Cubs right-hander Matt Garza.
MLB Network and MLB.com’s Peter Gammons had similar sentiments Tuesday night on Hot Stove.
“I’m told it’s not going to happen,” Gammons said of a potential Garza deal to Detroit. “I mean, the Cubs are interested in talking with the Tigers. I’m told the Tigers have said, ‘We’re not going to do it.'”
Former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, now a host on MLB Network Radio, suggested on ESPN.com that the Tigers could get a deal done for Garza if they included top positional prospect Nick Castellanos with Turner, their top pitching prospect. The Tigers were not willing to include them both in a package to the A’s for Gio Gonzalez, on whom they had serious discussions and seemingly valued more.
“Now, they won’t even do Turner for Garza,” Gammons continued. “In fact, the Tigers staff is saying to the front office, you know what, we can open the season with Turner as the fifth starter and see what happens.”
Gonzalez, whom Oakland traded to Washington last month, is four years away from free agency, as well as left-handed. Garza, a right-hander, has just two years left before he can hit the open market. Detroit’s rotation currently has four right-handers: Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello.
— Jason Beck
A lot has been made about the logjam at first base and designated hitter the Angels’ signing of Albert Pujols created. General manager Jerry Dipoto, however, doesn’t see it that way.
With previous first basemen Mark Trumbo (stress fracture in his right foot) and Kendrys Morales (broken left ankle) still slowly recovering from injuries, Dipoto appears to prefer to go into Spring Training with the comfort of having Trumbo, Morales, Bobby Abreu and Alberto Callaspo — each of whom was at one point perceived as trade bait now that Pujols is the Angels’ first baseman — all on the roster.
Here’s what Dipoto said when asked about it on Tuesday, during an informal luncheon to announce Howie Kendrick’s four-year extension …
“A lot of times, the perception from outside is a little different than the perception from within. There’s different elements to each player. Albert Pujols right now is our everyday first baseman, and we have, if you view the position as first base in a combination with DH, and a combination with what you would consider the bat that fills the void in extra outfield, corner infield, utility-type role, you can conceivably turn what appears to the naked eye to be two positions into closer to four. As we sit here right now, we’re very uncertain about where Kendrys is with regards to his time on the calendar, and we go into the season for potentially four spots worth of plate appearances with right now three players. And when you can be in a situation, or when you find yourself in a situation where the upside of Kendrys Morales’ return is just that to your roster, I think you’re in a very good position.”
More coming soon on Angels.com.
— Alden Gonzalez
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer says free agent Paul Maholm wanted to pitch for the Cubs, partly because he wanted to stay in the NL Central. The lefty is a guy who “takes the ball, eats a lot of innings and really has kept his team in games his whole career,” Hoyer said. Maholm was shutdown in August because of shoulder soreness but passed the physical on Monday and says he’ll begin throwing off the mound soon.
Are the Cubs done now as far as their rotation?
“We’re very comfortable with the names that we have,” Hoyer said. “You never know what will happen over the course of the winter, what’s going to be available to us. A huge priority was building depth and we feel we’ve done that. You can never have enough pitching; the minute you think you have enough pitching, you don’t. We’re happy with the depth we’ve built up over the course of the winter. It’s a dangerous thing to say you’re ever done.”
That said, what about reports that the Cubs are talking to the Tigers about dealing Matt Garza? Hoyer would not comment specifically on the rumors. But he did say just because they’ve added Maholm does not mean they are automatically dealing Garza.
“This Maholm contract, and the fact you can look and say we have six starters now, this deal is not a precursor to anything,” Hoyer said.
* As for negotiations with free agent Kerry Wood, Hoyer said the two sides are still talking.
“We continue to want Kerry back in Chicago and we’ve offered him a substantial raise and we certainly hope it gets done,” Hoyer said.
With the addition of Maholm, the Cubs starting candidates now include Garza, Ryan Dempster, Maholm, Chris Volstad, Randy Wells, Casey Coleman and Travis Wood.
— Carrie Muskat