November 2012

11/30 Cubs reportedly ask about Bourn

ESPN.com Chicago reported Friday that the Cubs have inquired about free agent center fielder Michael Bourn. He rejected the Braves’ qualifying offer earlier this month, and by doing so, the Braves would receive Draft pick compensation if he signs with another club. That signing club would lose a first-round pick unless it was one of the Draft’s first 10 selections. In that event, the team would lose its second-round selection. The Cubs do have the second pick overall in the Draft, so they would hang onto that, but lose their second-round selection in this case.

Bourn batted .274 with nine home runs, 42 stolen bases and a .739 OPS last season. However, he also batted .225 with a .335 on-base percentage after the All-Star break and struck out 155 times as a leadoff hitter. Bourn did lead the National League in stolen bases in 2009, ’10 and ’11 but he will turn 30 on Dec. 27.

The Cubs are in the market for another outfielder. But if Bourn, who is represented by agent Scott Boras, is looking for a monster long-term deal, the Cubs would not appear to be a good match. They are high on prospects Albert Almora  and Brett Jackson, and Bourn’s numbers are not as consistent as they were earlier in his career.

– Carrie Muskat

Angels reportedly front-runners for Fujikawa

Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa is nearing a decision and the Angels are believed to be the front-runners, Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reported via Twitter on Friday afternoon. Fujikawa’s agent, Don Nomura, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Fujikawa, 32, is one of the top relievers in the Far East, racking up 202 saves to go along with a 1.36 ERA, a 0.86 WHIP and a rate of 12.4 strikeouts and 2.3 walks per nine innings in 369 2/3 frames while pitching for the Hanshin Tigers.

Fujikawa met with Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto in Anaheim last week, a source confirmed to MLB.com, as part of a five-team tour that also saw him make stops in the Dodgers’, Orioles’, Cubs’ and D-backs’ facilities. At least 10 teams are believed to have made him an offer, according to Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker, who said Fujikawa is seeking a multi-year deal.

The Angels signed Ryan Madson to potentially be their closer on Wednesday, adding him to a back end of the bullpen that also includes Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen and Scott Downs. On Friday, they freed up a spot in the ‘pen by trading Jordan Walden to the Braves for starter Tommy Hanson.

If the Angels sign Fujikawa, they’d probably be out of the Zack Greinke sweepstakes, instead going with a cheaper alternative to fill their final rotation spot.

Alden Gonzalez

Haren’s market leaning East

Former Angels starter Dan Haren, who was bought out of his 2013 option for $3.5 million, is drawing heavy interest from several teams, most of them residing in the East coast.

Haren’s most aggressive suitor thus far, according to a person with knowledge of his free agency: The Red Sox. The Nationals, Orioles, White Sox, Padres and Blue Jays are among other clubs that have expressed interest. Haren, however, is said to be in no hurry to sign, preferring to let a lot of the smoke clear before making his decision.

The Angels recently checked in on Haren, but nothing had changed from a negotiating standpoint. After trading for Tommy Hanson, only one spot is left in their rotation — and their desire to resign Zack Greinke remains. If Greinke’s price tag reaches $150 million, as has been reported, the Angels will go with a much cheaper free-agent starter and sign at least one more upper-tier reliever, joining Ryan Madson.

Haren, who wants to keep pitching in Southern California, could make sense given his price tag, track record and familiarity. For now, however, a return remains unlikely.

Haren is coming off his first rough season in quite a while, going 12-13 with a 4.33 ERA, a stint on the disabled list with lower back problems and a drop in velocity. From 2005-11, though, he was one of baseball’s most consistent starters, winning 101 games, posting a 3.49 ERA and averaging 226 innings per season.

The Angels also had the framework of a deal in place with the Cubs in early November, sending Haren to Chicago for closer Carlos Marmol. In it, an industry source said, the Cubs were slated to take on most of Haren’s salary and Marmol’s. But according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, the Cubs backed out due to concerns over Haren’s hip — not his back.

– Alden Gonzalez 

Angels swap Walden for Hanson

The Angels are on the verge of acquiring starting pitcher Tommy Hanson from the Braves, an industry source confirmed to MLB.com on Friday.

Hanson, 26, has gone 45-32 with a 3.61 ERA in 108 starts while pitching the last four seasons with the Braves. Last year, the right-hander went 13-10 with a 4.48 ERA in 174 2/3 innings.

In exchange, the Braves will be acquiring hard-throwing reliever Jordan Walden, who notched 32 saves in 2011 and posted a 3.46 ERA in 45 appearances this past season.

– Alden Gonzalez 

Royals’ interest in R.A. Dickey reported

Could the Royals be in the hunt for the National League Cy Young Award winner?

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes that the Royals have discussed knuckleballer R.A. Dickey with the Mets as they continue efforts to upgrade the rotation. They’ve already traded for Ervin Santana from the Angels and re-signed Jeremy Guthrie.

Dickey is 38 but has a 2013 contract for $5 million that would be affordable for the Royals. But it’d loom as a one-year deal because Dickey would be a free agent in 2014.

There’s that 20-6 record, that 2.73 ERA and those 230 strikeouts to consider, however. For his part, Dickey has said he wants to remain with the Mets.

Earlier, the Royals have been reported interested in James Shields of the Rays and Jon Lester of the Red Sox.

– Dick Kaegel.

A’s sign Scott Moore

Scott Moore, who hit .259 with nine homers and 26 RBIs in a part-time role with the Astros last season, has signed  a Minor League deal with the A’s with an invitation to Spring Training.

Moore, who was outrighted by the Astros earlier this month, played in 72 games last season for Houston, starting games at five different positions – third base, first base, right field, second base and left field.

“I had quite a few offers and Oakland called me and talked to me and basically there, guys in my situation have been known to get pretty good opportunities to play,” he said. “Also, I’m going into my 12th season and I’ve never really anywhere remotely close to home (southern California) and that was pretty exciting, too.”

– Brian McTaggart

Astros-Phillies deal hits a roadblock

The Astros proposed trade to send relief pitcher Wilton Lopez to the Phillies appears to have hit a stumbling block.

Lopez, who was in Philadelphia on Wednesday for a physical, remains with the Astros on Thursday. The two teams were working on a deal to send Lopez to Philadelphia in exchange for a pair of Minor League prospects, but the Astros are exploring other options.

Lopez, 29, would have been a nice addition to the Phillies bullpen. He went 6-3 with a 2.17 ERA last season in 64 games with 10 saves. He posted the lowest walks-per-innings ratio among all NL relievers (1.09) last season after setting the franchise record in 2010 by issuing only five walks in 67 innings pitched.

He missed 26 games in the middle of last season with a sprained right elbow.

Brian McTaggart

Pavano has interest in Marlins

MIAMI — Some old faces have already returned to the Marlins. Could a former starting pitcher be next?

Carl Pavano, part of the Marlins’ 2003 World Series title team, has made it clear that he would welcome a return to the organization.

The 36-year-old right-hander told the Palm Beach Post that he wants to pitch again for the Marlins. And next week, his agent, Dave Pepe, plans on reaching out to Miami management at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn.

Miami management has a long-standing relationship with Pavano, stemming from his days in Montreal and Florida. In 2004, Pavano won 18 games for the Marlins, and the following season he signed as a free agent with the Yankees.

Pavano certainly has connections with the current Miami staff. He was a teammate of new manager Mike Redmond with the Marlins, and also in Minnesota.

Pavano also was a teammate of Miami manager Mike Redmond

There is a health risk with Pavano, who was hampered by a right shoulder injury last year. His fastball velocity dipped to 86 mph last season.

Pavano, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, told the Post that his shoulder is now fine.

“Obviously I had some issues last year, but I’ve been able to put those behind me. I’m looking forward to continuing my workouts and seeing what this off-season brings me,’’ Pavano said.

The Marlins have signed one major free agent this offseason, bringing back outfielder Juan Pierre.

Joe Frisaro

 

Astros-Phillies talking Lopez

The Astros are working on a deal that would send relief pitcher Wilton Lopez to the Phillies in exchange for Minor League prospects, a baseball source confirmed to MLB.com

Lopez has been a workhorse member of the Astros’ bullpen the past three years, going 6-3 with a 2.17 ERA last season in 64 games. He also had a career-high 10 saves after assuming the club’s closer role following the trade of Brett Myers and ineffectiveness of Francisco Cordero.

He posted the lowest walks-per-nine-innings ratio among all NL relievers (1.09) last season after setting the franchise record in 2010 by issuing only five walks in 67 innings pitched. He began last season by facing 78 batters without issuing a walk.

Brian McTaggart

Pirates finalists for Russell Martin?

The Pirates are shopping for catching in a thin market that leaves them few high-end choices and, according to one published report, aren’t shying away from the heat.

Jon Heyman reports on CBSsports.com that the Bucs have stepped up as finalists with the Yankees for Russell Martin’s services. At 29 — he will turn 30 during Spring Training — Martin is the youngest, by far, of 13 free-agent catchers.

Martin has also drawn interest from Texas and Seattle, after hitting the market seeking a long-term deal for about $10 million per. He has slightly backed off that figure, and the Pirates are portrayed as being will to go three years at $8 mil per.

One thing Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington has to be wary of: Not being used as leverage to get the Yankees to improve their offer. Martin is known to favor a return to New York, but the Yankees haven’t budged from offering a two-year deal, also in the $8 million-a-year range.

Martin’s age would be a plus for the Pirates, As would his weaponry behind the plate: He threw out 20 of 63 baserunners, a 24 percent rate that would be a vast improvement over the Pirates’ performance in 2012, with Rod Barajas as their lead guy.

Not so encouraging: Martin hit .211, merely five points higher than Barajas, with 10 more homers (21) and 22 more RBIs (53) in 101 more at-bats than Barajas, himself a free agent.

Tom Singer

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