November 2012

Report: Castro could be trump card in Stanton bidding

Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is drawing interest in a lot of places, as any 23-year-old with 37 home runs should. The Chicago Tribune reported Sunday that the Cubs are in on those talks. The Boston Globe mentioned the Cubbies as well as the Red Sox, Orioles, Phillies and Yankees.

If the Marlins do ship Stanton out as they rebuild, the Cubs could be a fit because they have a rare commodity in shortstop Starlin Castro, the Tribune reported.

But there are reasons that could make such any deal for Stanton unlikely: the Marlins probably don’t want to take on Castro’s $60 million, they already have a shortstop in Adeiny Hechavarria and they may well intend to keep Stanton after unloading most of their other top talent.

Castro, who’s owed $60 million through 2019 and has a $16 million club option for 2020, does not have no-trade protection. There are few other young, established players with club-friendly contracts out there that other teams could dangle.

Chicago has Junior Lake, and in a couple seasons, Javier Baez to step in at short were Castro to be dealt.

— Evan Drellich

Dice-K wants to be down San Diego way

Daisuke Matsuzaka needs a fresh start after injuries held him back through most of his six years with the Red Sox. Whether coincidentally or not, the 32-year-old righty and free agent wants to go about as far from Boston as possible.

Dice-K told Japanese media that he’s fond of the Padres and Petco Park, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. A Scott Boras client, Dice-K also reportedly said that money is not chief among his priorities.

The Red Sox paid Dice-K $51 million in his time with the Sox, and he reached 200 innings as a Major League rookie in 2007, when the Sox won the World Series. He got past 100 innings just twice after that, and went for Tommy John surgery in 2011. But if healthy, he’s shown ability in a tough division: Matsuzaka is 50-37 with a 4.52 ERA in 117 games, all but one of them starts.

“At his age, he’s in good shape and working hard, so he’s really a candidate for a team that wants a guy to come in that may give you a ceiling that you may not expect,” Boras said this offseason. “For a club that’s going to need an arm with potential, he’s a good fit for a lot of teams.”

– Evan Drellich

Figgins probably not a fit for Angels

Former Angels speedster Chone Figgins was just designated for assignment by the Mariners after a rough stint in the Northwest, but don’t anticipate a return to Anaheim. A source with knowledge of the team’s thinking said Tuesday night that Figgins is “not likely to be a fit” for the Angels in 2013.

By designating Figgins for assignment, the Mariners have 10 days to trade, release or outright him before he becomes a free agent. If he clears waivers and is not traded, he will be released, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said. Figgins will most likely slip through waivers, which means the Mariners will simply pay the $8 million owed to him in 2013 and set him off into free agency.

The Angels, who are prioritizing pitching, have Alberto Callaspo slated as their starting third baseman for 2013 and have several options for the utility infield spot — Andrew Romine, Angel Sanchez and Brendan Harris.

Figgins, who can also play all three outfield spots, excelled with the Angels from 2004-09 but struggled mightily in his three years with the Mariners, compiling a .227/.302/.283 slash line. In 2012, he appeared in just 66 games and finished with a .181 batting average.

“He just became an expendable piece and that’s it,” Zduriencik told MLB.com’s Greg Johns. “That’s the end of the story.”

– Alden Gonzalez 

D-backs interested in Keppinger

According to the Arizona Republic, the Diamondbacks are interested in Jeff Keppinger, who was one of the Rays’ best offensive performers in 2012.

Keppinger hit .325 this past season and he has a career .864 OPS against left-handers. The report speculates that the veteran infielder would play third base for the D-backs.

–Bill Chastain

Orioles send Andino to Mariners for young outfielder

The Mariners and Orioles pulled off a trade Tuesday as Baltimore sent infielder Robert Andino to Seattle for outfielder Trayvon Robinson.

This one makes sense from both sides. Andino, 28, is a career .235 hitter who has started 233 games for the Orioles over the past two years, primarily at second base in place of the oft-injured Brian Roberts. But Roberts is expected back and Baltimore recently added infielder Alexi Casilla from the Twins to their infield group.

The Mariners recently released Munenori Kawasaki, who was their utility infielder last season. Andino figures to fill that role, or challenge shortstop Brendan Ryan, an excellent defender who hit just .194 last season.

Robinson, 25, has played the last two months in the Majors both the past two seasons, but figured to be in a battle for a roster spot this coming spring if Seattle adds a veteran corner outfielder either by trade or the free agency market, as expected.

Robinson is out of Minor League options, so he would have either had to make the 25-man roster or be exposed to waivers. So the deal was done and now both players will get new starts in new cities.

The Orioles lost outfielders Nate McLouth and Endy Chavez in free agency this offseason. Robinson hit .215 with five home runs and 26 RBIs in 90 games over the past two years for Seattle afer arriving as a well-regarded prospect from the Dodgers organization.

– Greg Johns

Report: Mets only “50-50″ to re-sign Wright

Despite public optimism from COO Jeff Wilpon, the New York Post quoted an anonymous source Tuesday in saying that the Mets are only a “50-50″ bet to ink third baseman David Wright to a long-term contract extension this winter.

The source told the Post that Wright “is less than thrilled with the length of contract and amount of guaranteed money the Mets have offered,” which “could set up a game of chicken between Mets brass and Wright’s agents.”

“Part of it is [COO] Jeff Wilpon tries to win every negotiation, he doesn’t go for the middle ground,” an anonymous source told the paper.

Later Tuesday, Wilpon appeared publicly in Far Rockaway, Queens, and said he is more optimistic than he was two months ago that the Mets will be able to re-sign Wright and pitcher R.A. Dickey.

“Certainly it’s gotten better because there’s conversations going back and forth,” Wilpon said. “So when you look at it from the end of the season when you didn’t really know how they were going to accept, or look at how we were positioning things and they were positioning things, there’s more optimism.”

Both Wright and Dickey are under team control for one more season.

–Anthony DiComo

Raburn could be a fit in Miami

MIAMI — The Marlins are scanning the market for low-risk, high-reward players with some power.

A potential candidate is now available. The Tigers released Ryan Raburn on Tuesday, and the Marlins are a realistic option, according to a source.

The 31-year-old from Tampa has been a versatile, all-purpose player for the Tigers, seeing action at second base, left field and right field in 2012. He’s also played some third base in his seven seasons in Detroit.

Raburn made $2.1 million in 2012.

Last season, the right-handed hitter was hindered by a slow start, and a couple of injuries. He went on the disabled list with a sprained right thumb, and a strained right quadriceps. In 66 games, he batted .171.

But from 2009-11, Raburn batted .274 with 45 homers and 156 RBIs.

The Marlins are looking for depth at second base, third base and outfield.

Joe Frisaro

Fujikawa meets with Angels, among others

UPDATE, MONDAY, 1:30 P.M. PT: Fujikawa did indeed meet with Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto this weekend, a source confirmed to MLB.com, with Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times specifying that it took place Saturday and Mike Scioscia was also in attendance.

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Right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa, the top closer in Japan for nearly a decade, is a free agent now, has begun meeting with Major League clubs and is slated to stop by the Angels’ facility, according to a recent report in The Dallas Morning News, which added that the 32-year-old had already visited with the D-backs and Cubs and was also slated to meet with the Dodgers. The Rangers are also believed to have interest.

Since he’s a free agent, Fujikawa won’t have to go through the expensive posting system, where teams bid on the rights to simply negotiate with a player. Fujikawa, who mixes a mid-90s fastball with a split-finger and slider, has gone 42-25 with a 1.77 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, 914 strikeouts and 220 saves in 692 1/3 career innings for the Hanshin Tigers. In 2012, he posted a 1.24 ERA and 41 saves in 56 games.

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto likes him, but he’s among several free agents the club is looking at in hopes of improving the bullpen.

“I have seen Fujikawa; we have up-to-date scouting reports on him,” Dipoto said. “We have scouted him, as have the 29 other Major League clubs. He’s no secret in the industry. Everyone has seen him. He’s been a premier closer in Japan for the last half-dozen, seven years, and it remains to be seen where he winds up. But he’s one of the available free agents, and therefore he’s a name that we, like everybody else, have considered.”

Alden Gonzalez

Grilli a hot commodity

Jason Grilli, a first-time free agent at 36 after an eye-popping comeback season that solidified the Pirates’ bullpen, is turning into a hot commodity on the reliever market.

His agent, Gary Sheffield — yes, that Gary Sheffield, who retired as a player three years ago with 509 homers, tells the Boston Globe there are eight teams interested in the veteran right-hander.

If those eight include teams not turned off by Grilli’s understandable wish for a multi-year deal, the Bucs would not be one of them. The Pirates would very much like to retain Grilli, who struck out 90 in 58 2/3 innings and even served as Joel Hanrahan’s back-up closer. But they subscribe to the popular belief that the bullpen is a team’s most transient area, relatively easy to overhaul  with young arms, and are very unlikely to offer a multi-year deal to any reliever.

“We have three offers right now.” Sheffield, based in Tampa, told the Boston newspaper. “We’re not in a hurry. There are some things we want to look at a little further. We’re not sure the market has fully developed for Jason.”

All things being the same, Grilli would want to return to Pittsburgh, which salvaged his career by signing him the day after the Phillies had released him in the middle of the 2011 season. But a one-year deal versus a longer-term contract is not the same.

Grilli has been in the Majors on-and-off since 2000, and has earned less than $5 million all that time. His Pirates contract in 2012 — for $1.1 million — was the largest of his career. Thus far.

Tom Singer

Zduriencik says Mariners not in Hamilton chase

While there has been speculation that the Mariners would be a potential pursuer of free agent slugger Josh Hamilton, Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik indicated Friday night that his club isn’t targeting the five-time All-Star outfielder.

The Mariners looked into Hamilton’s situation and have had conversations with agent Mike Moye, but Zduriencik doesn’t see a likely match in terms of the years and dollars the 2010 AL MVP will be seeking.

“At the end of the day, when you gauge the market, you have to be realistic about where it will end up,” Zduriencik told MLB.com. “And there’s a strong possibility that one will exceed where we’re at.”

So rather than wait and watch Hamilton’s market play out over what could be a drawn-out process this winter, Zduriencik said the Mariners will look elsewhere to beef up their offense. Seattle has some payroll room and a corner outfield spot open after trading Ichiro Suzuki last year. Ichiro was making $18 million of the Mariners’ approximate $85 million payroll in 2012.

The Mariners have already announced their intention to move in the outfield fences at Safeco Field next year, which should help bolster an offense that was last in the American League in runs and home runs despite ranking fifth in the league in both those categories on the road.

Seattle is building around a young nucleus, but would like to add a couple veterans to the mix. Zduriencik said he expects to be able to do that, either through trades or free agency. But Hamilton doesn’t figure to be part of that equation.

“You have to be realistic about how you’re going to allocate your dollars,” Zduriencik said. “Some of these things drag out and if you’re sitting there waiting on one chip, other chips in front of you might go away and you end up with nothing.”

Here’s my full story after talking with Zduriencik.

– Greg Johns

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