November 2012

Interest piling up for Torii Hunter

As the offseason ensues, and the chances of Torii Hunter returning to the Angels continues to look awfully bleak, the list of potential suitors for the veteran right fielder continues to grow.

On Monday, CBSSports.com reported that as many as 13-14 teams have checked in on Hunter, with the Tigers, Rangers and Braves being the most aggressive. The Dodgers are out on Hunter, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com, which said Hunter will make a decision on his 2013 destination within the next couple weeks.

As for the Angels? They haven’t offered Hunter anything more than a one-year, $5 million contract since mid-September, a source said, because they have plenty of depth in their outfield and need to allocate funds to shore up their pitching — specifically a rotation that has only two 2012 members guaranteed to return and a bullpen that blew 22 saves.

General manager Jerry Dipoto previously admitted that it’s “not likely” Hunter returns, and Hunter’s agent, Larry Reynolds, echoed those same thoughts. They could free up more money for Hunter if they get something back on the $42 million owed to Vernon Wells over the next two seasons, but that doesn’t seem favorable right now, either.

Hunter, 37, batted a career-high .313 with 16 homers and 92 RBIs in 2012. His production, health and athleticism at this stage in his career, coupled with his leadership and character, make him an appealing, affordable free agent. So does not having to give up a Draft pick to sign him, since the Angels didn’t tender a $13.3 million qualifying offer to Hunter.

“My plan is to win no matter what, and of course I’m going to try to get with a ballclub that’s trying to win,” Hunter recently told MLB.com. “That’s the plan.”

 — Alden Gonzalez

Tigers emerge as suitor (front-runner?) for Torii Hunter

Torii Hunter’s play as a Minnesota Twins outfielder early in his career earned him the title as a Tiger killer around these parts. After all these years, it’s now realistic for Detroit fans to consider the possibility of Hunter becoming a Tiger.

It might not take long to figure out, one way or the other.

The Tigers are interested in Hunter, as reported earlier Monday by CBSSports.com’s Danny Knobler, and as has been expected since team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski laid out their needs for a corner outfielder two weeks ago. Between Detroit’s season-long struggles against left-handed pitching, its desire to become more athletic, its lack of a proven second hitter between Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera, and Delmon Young’s departure as a free agent taking away one of Detroit’s key right-handed hitters, the Tigers’ needs fit Hunter’s strengths.

Just as encouraging, there are signs the interest is mutual, and strong. Whether the Tigers should be considered the front-runners for Hunter, as MLB Network Radio’s Jim Bowden and others put it, is a matter of perception, one that could change if another of his suitors (Knobler mentioned Texas, while the Rays, Phillies and Red Sox have also been mentioned in reports for possible one-year offers) steps up in the coming days. But signs point towards a logical match between Hunter and Detroit.

Hunter sounded Monday morning like he already has a team or teams in mind, and could sign soon, maybe by Thanksgiving — the day he signed his five-year deal with the Angels in 2007.

“It’s going to be quick,” Hunter told MLB Network’s Hot Stove morning show with Harold Reynolds. “I’m not going to wait it out. I know who I want to play for.”

Hunter didn’t mention which teams, but he said he’s looking to win, not simply get paid.

“Everybody knows I want to win,” Hunter told MLB Network, “so whatever team’s out there that wants to win and can use me and let me be a part of it, that’s who I want to be playing with.”

Hunter’s five-year deal with the Angels earned him $90 million. He has plenty of money, and he has a son who just committed to a football scholarship at Notre Dame.

That said, it’s expected to take a multi-year deal to sign Hunter, a fact which impacts his market at age 37. If he were to settle on a one-year deal, his field expands.

It leaves the Tigers with an intriguing decision. Detroit has two highly regarded, right-handed hitting outfield prospects with postseason hero Avisail Garcia and Futures Game MVP Nick Castellanos. Both are expected to have a chance to compete for a job in Spring Training, possibly a timeshare with Andy Dirks or Brennan Boesch in one corner outfield spot.

The other corner spot is open, and that’s where Hunter fits in. Add in Hunter’s clubhouse presence and track record of working with young outfielders — Mike Trout credited Hunter’s help as an impact on him during his Rookie of the Year interview Monday night on MLB Network — and he’s one potential signing that could improve two spots, not to mention his potential impact on center fielder Austin Jackson.

However, a two-year deal for Hunter likely would mean a longer wait for Castellanos or Garcia. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, an extra year or two of development, but it’s something the win-now Tigers have to weigh.

– Jason Beck

Are the Marlins willing to trade starting pitching?

MIAMI — There has been plenty of speculation, but little evidence that the Marlins are ready to trade any of the veteran starting pitchers.

Unless the club is presented with an offer too attractive to pass up, chances are Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Ricky Nolasco will remain in Miami.

Johnson and Nolasco are each signed through 2013. Barring them signing extensions, both would be free agents next year.

Johnson is set to make $13.75 million, the highest base salary of any Miami player in 2013. Nolasco is due to earn $11.5 million.

Buehrle’s salary for 2013 is $11 million, and the veteran left-hander is owed $48 million through 2015.

After finishing last in the National League East for the second straight season, the Marlins are certainly open to making moves that will benefit them in 2013 and beyond.

To make immediate strides next season, the Marlins will be relying heavily on strong starting pitching. Johnson, Buehrle and Nolasco each have track records of success, and all three threw more than 190 innings in ’12.

There is a feeling that if any of them is seriously discussed in trade talks, it would be closer to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline than before the start of Spring Training.

Joe Frisaro

Overnight Rumor Mill Roundup – 11/10

* Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told Daily Sports in Japan that the team has discussed signing free agent Hideki Matsui. Signing a minor league deal with the Rays in April, Matsui was later designated for assignment and then released over the summer.

* The Reds are looking into relievers Joakim Soria and Ryan Madson, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Both pitchers are coming off Tommy John surgery, with Soria expected to be out until May and Madson likely ready at the start of the regular season.

* According to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick, free agent Shane Victorino is gaining interest from a handful of teams. The Reds and Indians are in the mix, along with the Rangers and Red Sox, who are both looking to improve their outfield.

* Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports that Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro is aggressively pursing a center fielder and has zoned in on Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton.

Quinn Roberts

Nov. 10 Roundup: Boston backstops

The Red Sox signed David Ross to a two-year, $6.2 million deal on Saturday, putting the futures of Ryan Lavarnway and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in question. One of them figures to be kept around to work in tandem with Ross, the other likely could be used as a trade bait. Unless the Sox decided to try Lavarnway at first base, carrying all three into Spring Training seems untenable.

  • CBS Sports reported the Red Sox showed interest in Mike Napoli, who would further crowd their catching scene — although the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo tweeted Thursday that Napoli and Adam LaRoche are first-base options for the Red Sox.
  • The Dodgers won the bidding for Korean left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin. The signing of Ryu, which has a 30-day window, would allow the Dodgers to make a subsequent trade: most likely of Aaron Harang or Chris Capuano.
  • Free agent Torii Hunter told the Los Angeles Times that the Dodgers did not approach him about a two-year deal. Other reports suggested the Dodgers were aggressively pursuing him. Hunter confirmed to the Times that he wants a multi-year deal as a starting outfielder.
  • Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said this week he hasn’t talked about trading Andre Ethier, and a FOX Sports report on Saturday backed that notion up.
  • Melky Cabrera has drawn interest from five teams, the New York Post reported. The Mets and Yankees reportedly aren’t in that group.
  • FOX Sports and USA Today reported that the Rangers do not want to trade either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar to go after Arizona’s Justin Upton.

– Evan Drellich

11/10 Cubs miss in bid for Ryu

The Cubs apparently fell short in their bid for South Korean left-handed pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu. According to reports Friday night, the winning bid was $25,737,737.33. The numbers three and seven are considered lucky in Korea, which explains the bid. The Cubs did bid aggressively, according to CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman, but they did not win Ryu’s rights. The Dodgers and Rangers also bid for Ryu.

Ryu, 25, is believed to be ready to be inserted into a big league rotation but could begin in a team’s bullpen. Ryu’s team, the Hanwha Eagles, have four business days to determine if they will accept the highest of the sealed bids. The team they pick would then have to negotiate a contract with Ryu’s agent, Scott Boras.

– Carrie Muskat

Ike Davis not among Mets players on the block

Unprompted this week, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson mentioned Jon Niese and Dillon Gee as trade candidates in addition to R.A. Dickey.

But not everyone is up for grabs. The New York Post reported that Ike Davis is unavailable and Daniel Murphy is “unlikely” to be traded, as the Mets do not know how they would replace the offense of either player. If the Mets strike a significant deal, it will be drawing from their strength — starting pitching — to plug up holes in their lineup.

–Anthony DiComo

Bonderman still watching market for comeback

If the Tigers have offered a formal contract to Jeremy Bonderman, it seems to be a new development to him. He told MLB.com in a phone conversation Friday that he has left contract matters to his agent.

“I’m just seeing what all is out there right now,” Bonderman said. “But I have talked to Detroit.”

FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi cited sources Friday saying the Tigers have offered Bonderman a contract. It wouldn’t be a complete surprise if they did. When Bonderman became a free agent two offseasons ago, president/GM Dave Dombrowski had a standing offer on the table for a Minor League contract with a Spring Training invite. Bonderman was looking for a Major League contract at that time, and ended up simply staying home.

Bonderman admitted this past spring that he blew out his elbow while working out that offseason. He underwent Tommy John surgery this spring and has worked out ever since then in preparation for a comeback attempt. He said Friday he’s on schedule to be ready for full workouts come Spring Training.

He’s willing to accept a minor-league deal with a camp invite now, which could pave the way for a reunion with the Tigers. At this point however, it would make sense for him to watch the market and see what develops. If he can find a team with a rotation opening, it would give him a better shot at making the team than he might have in Detroit, where the Tigers already have enough established starters to fill out a rotation regardless whether they re-sign Anibal Sanchez.

Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said in an email Friday that he can’t comment on specific free agents, citing current Major League rules.

Dombrowski said last week that the Tigers could look for a starter to compete for the fifth spot if they don’t re-sign Sanchez. Most likely, though, that signing would be an insurance option in case Drew Smyly struggles or somebody gets hurt. The Tigers don’t have the same starter depth in the upper levels of their farm system that they had the past couple years, having traded Jacob Turner and watched Andy Oliver struggle mightily this past season. Duane Below and Adam Wilk are among the depth options they have right now.

Bonderman hasn’t pitched anywhere since 2010. Up to this point, he has spent his entire Major League career in Detroit since he crashed the Tigers rotation at age 20 in 2003. He turned 30 years old just two weeks ago.

– Jason Beck

Tribe rumor roundup

The Indians are in the market for help at first base, left field, designated hitter and in the rotation this winter. Coming off a 94-loss season, the club has potential trading chips in Shin-Soo Choo, Chris Perez, Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Masterson, among others.

Here are some recent rumors and reports on the Tribe:

  • The Indians are reportedly one of several teams with interest in South Korean lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu. Teams needed to turn in posting bids for the 25-year-old lefty on Thursday. Other clubs reportedly with interest are the Cubs, Rangers, Phillies and Angels.
  • The Red Sox and Indians have had talks about the potential avaiability of Choo and Masterson, per Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com. Choo is coming off a solid year, but is a Scott Boras client and will be eligible for free agency next winter. Masterson is coming off a down year, but is under control for two more years, and had a strong 2011 showing.
  • The Indians have reported interest in free-agent 1B/3B Kevin Youkilis. Other teams mentioned in rumors have been the Red Sox and Phillies. In Cleveland, Youkilies could be reunited with manager Terry Francona, and fill the Tribe’s need for a first baseman with some pop.
  • According to reports coming out of St. Louis, the Cardinals have interst in Cabrera. Cleveland traded for infielder Mike Aviles last week, fueling speculation that Cabrera could be on the block. GM Chris Antonetti has said a few times that the Indians are not shopping Cabrera and expect him to be the club’s Opening Day shortstop.
  • Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reported that free-agent outfielder Nick Swisher has garnered interest from Texas, Seattle and three other teams so far. The Indians might have interest, especially if Choo is on the block.
  • Outfielder Grady Sizemore, coming off a variety of health woes and with zero games logged in 2012, hopes to play in 2013. According to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, the Red Sox have checked in on Sizemore. The Indians have not ruled out bringing Sizemore back, but it would likely need to be on a Minor League contract.

–Jordan Bastian

Could Reds deal a SS?

The Reds have two young shortstops on their 40-man roster in regular Zack Cozart and September call-up Didi Gregorius. With the market relatively bare of shortstops, especially ones so far from free agency, they could be in demand according to FoxSports.com.

Reds GM Walt Jocketty seemed to indicate to the web site he was open to dealing one of his shortstops.

“It depends if we get back what we need,” Jocketty said. “If we don’t, then I won’t mind holding onto them.”

The Reds need a leadoff hitter and a closer so they could potentially move Aroldis Chapman to the rotation. Oakland has surplus of relievers and an extra leadoff-hitting outfielder in Coco Crisp.

The Twins, D-backs and Rays are also in the market for a shortstop, according to FoxSports.com.

– Mark Sheldon

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