Results tagged ‘ Grant Balfour ’
The Rockies’ pursuit of veteran right-hander LaTroy Hawkins, which resulted in a one-year, $2.5 million guarantee that will become official once Hawkins passes a physical, can be seen in an odd way as a compliment to young lefty Rex Brothers, who served capably as closer when veteran Rafael Betancourt was injured.
Brothers, who turns 26 on Dec. 18, went 19-of-21 on save chances and finished with a 1.74 ERA last season. At times he struggled putting away hitters early in innings but he still struck out 76 (against 36 walks) in 67 1/3 innings. It certainly is a signal that he could become even more effective.
But before Betancourt went through a right groin strain, an appendectomy and finally a season-ending elbow injury, many of Betancourt’s save opportunities came partly because of Brothers’ effectiveness as a setup man. Brothers’ club-record 30-inning scoreless streak, which covered 32 games, ran from April 10 to June 27. Only the final nine games of the streak came while he was in the closer role.
As the season progressed, several games ended with Brothers not even taking the mound, because the middle relief and setup men pitched away the lead. It’s the old sabermetric argument: Why have the best option sitting in the bullpen while lesser pitchers blow it?
Hawkins ended up an effective closer for the Mets late last season. He earned all 12 of his saves and blew just one from Aug. 6 to season’s end. He struck out 18 against one walk and held opponents to a .222 batting average in those 23 appearances. At 41, he still throws hard enough and deceptively enough to be trusted with the final inning. The Rockies believe if he holds the closer job, it frees them to use Brothers when the game is tight before the ninth. And if plans change and Brothers at some point ends up the closer — which has been his plan his entire career — Hawkins gives them an attractive option in a setup role.
The Rockies still want to shore up the setup roles through free agency. Signing Hawkins as closer likely takes them out of the chase for Brian Wilson and Grant Balfour, who could be invited to pitch the ninth inning by another club. But a hard throwers such as Jesse Crain, Joe Smith or Jose Veras could further fill the Rockies’ needs.
The attempt to load up the back of the bullpen makes for intriguing competition and decisions when it comes to holdovers from last season. The club likes the 96 mph-plus fastball that righty Chad Bettis brought last season when used in relief, and will keep him there rather than revisit him in the rotation. They tested righty Adam Ottavino in late innings and there were some encouraging numbers, such as a 2.00 ERA at Coors Field. Righty Mitchell Boggs finished up with the Rockies after struggling mightily with the Cardinals when forced into the closer role, and the club is having internal discussions about returning him to a starter role. Boggs started 15 of his first 24 big-league appearances when breaking in with the Cards in 2008 and 2009.
The Rockies also continue to be in the market for starting pitching, although it’s unclear exactly where they’ll look. They’re often leery of accomplishment elsewhere because of the Mike Hampton-Denny Neagle experiment a few years back, but Tim Hudson profiled well. However, Hudson decided to take his passion and intensity to the NL West with the Giants.
Left-handed hitting outfielder-first baseman James Loney continues to be a prime candidate for the corner bat the Rockies seek. Corey Hart, coming off a knee injury, told a satellite radio audience on Tuesday that the Rockies, Red Sox and his former team, the Brewers, have checked in with him. Not much will be known until next month, when he is cleared for full activity. What isn’t clear is how strongly the Rockies are pursuing first baseman Mike Napoli, whose ability to make a pitcher work would fit nicely at first base. However, with his 2013 team, the World Series champion Red Sox, and others in the mix, the Rockies may drop out of the bidding the way they did with catcher Carlos Ruiz, who re-signed with the Phillies on Monday.
– Thomas Harding
How would Carlos Beltran look in right field for the Rockies?
The club is weighing various options in free agency, with a big bat being one of the priorities. While trads are an option, the Rockies are more likely to go the free agency route. That’s what they did two years ago when they signed Michael Cuddyer, who paid off for them by winning the National League batting title this year.
Don’t be surprised if the Rockies don’t at least seriously consider making a run at Beltran, who made his first World Series appearance this year while with the Cardinals. He’ll be 37 to start next season, but was quite productive in 2013 — .296, .339 OPB, .491 SLG. Those aren’t far from the numbers over his career. With a team that includes Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Cuddyer, it could be a fit. He could come in at two years and $30 million, as the MLB Trade Rumors Web site predicts. The Rockies had interest in him in the past.
Of course, there are many was for the Rockies to spend their money on a slugger, who can fit in at either first base or right field with Cuddyer playing the other position. Nelson Cruz, who is expected to turn down the Rangers’ qualifying offer and test the market, Justin Morneau, Marlon Byrd, James Loney (.338, nine home runs, 54 RBIs, .957 OPS in 55 games at Coors Field) and Corey Hart also could fit the bill. Brian McCann can catch and play first base, but at the top of his earning value in terms of money and years it’s doubtful the Rockies will be a serious competitor for his services.
The Rockies will attempt to bring in a pitching leader, and are expected to inquire about Tim Hudson — despite the fact the Braves, Royals, Indians and and Red Sox have already identified themselves as contenders — and Josh Johnson. The price figures to be high for Ricky Nolasco or Ervin Santana, as SI.com and others report, but the Rockies need a stalwart and can’t be counted out in those sweepstakes. Matt Garza, who could score big in free agency, and Jason Vargas also could be possibilities.
Also, add the name of righty reliever Jesse Crain to the list of publicly identified free-agency targets. The Denver Post has identified Brian Wilson, Grant Balfour, Joe Smith and Jose Veras as bullpen possibilities. ESPNNewYork.com reported the club is looking at LaTroy Hawkins.
The Rockies are also pursuing free-agent catcher Carlos Ruiz, although the Phillies are making a push to keep him. If the Rockies sign him, the intriguing situation is what becomes of catcher Wilin Rosario, a slugger who doesn’t have Ruiz’s experience or ability defensively.
– Thomas Harding
The early reports on the Hot Stove have the Rockies seeking power and experience in the bullpen and skill behind the plate.
The Denver Post has reported the Rockies have expressed interest in Brian Wilson, Grant Balfour, Joe Smith and Jose Veras. In addition, ESPNNewYork.com reported Thursday that the Rockies are courting veteran LaTroy Hawkins, who was a leader and effective pitcher on the 2007 World Series team and is still going strong at age 41.
The Denver Post also mentions Carlos Ruiz as a catching target. To sign Ruiz, the Rockies are going to have to be creative to get Wilin Rosario’s power bat into the lineup with regularity. The team used Rosario at first base last season and right field has been mentioned. Still, there are forces in the organization who see Rosario as an asset because of his power. However, Ruiz is considered strong defensively and in working with a pitching staff, while Rosario is a work in progress. Another possibility behind the plate is Brian McCann, although the price tag may be higher than the Rockies are willing to pay. McCann also can play first base.
– Thomas Harding
Still, the team is looking for improvement offensively, with first base and right field as the positions to target. Look for the Rockies to evaluate Justin Morneau, Marlon Byrd, James Loney, Corey Hart and Nelson Cruz among others.
One of the relievers on the Mets’ Trade Deadline wish list, according to a report Tuesday in the New York Post, is former closer Francisco Rodriguez.
From a purely baseball perspective, that makes plenty of sense. Because of Rodriguez’s 4.00 ERA and $8-million salary as Milwaukee’s setup man, the Brewers cannot rightfully ask for a significant haul of prospects in return. But Rodriguez does have a long track record of excellence in late-game situations and holds a 2.66 ERA in 25 outings since May 4, striking out nearly a batter per inning and walking one-third as many.
Rodriguez, for what it’s worth, also has experience pitching in New York. He was mellower last season after taking anger management classes following his 2010 arrest at Citi Field for assault, so that New York experience could make him more valuable than other late-inning options.
Other relievers available include Brett Myers of the Astros, Huston Street of the Padres and Grant Balfour of the A’s.
Though the Mets are still feeling out their own roster before deciding what to do at the Trade Deadline, it’s clear that the top priority here is bullpen help. Despite the offseason acquisitions of Frank Francisco (who is injured), Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez, the bullpen still ranks last in baseball by a significant margin.
Buster Olney indicated Thursday on Twitter that the Mets could be a match for A’s reliever Grant Balfour, which would make sense. The Mets are not going to pay enormous sums of money or prospects to acquire a reliever, but someone such as Balfour could potentially provide a decent return without the Mets having to give up any of their top prospects or take on significant salary.
But with many teams still in legitimate playoff contention and the market for relievers consequently developing slowly, the Mets are not likely to swing a trade until after the All-Star break.
We are now exactly one month away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training, but there is offseason work to be done. And several teams were busy on Friday.
The Twins made the most noise with one move, signing Jim Thome to a one-year, $3 million contract that includes performance incentives based on plate appearances. Now, not only do they have a productive, veteran lefty slugger — one who was critical for them while Justin Morneau went down for the final three months of the season — but they may have a nice recruiting chip.
Thome is back, but the Twins still want to resign right-handed starter Carl Pavano, who was big for the Twins rotation behind staff ace Francisco Liriano. Thome, of course, feels the same way. So on Friday, while addressing his own new contract, he said: “Trust me, when I get off the phone with you [reporters], I will definitely be recruiting him and be sending him some text messages.”
General manager Paul Smith said the Twins are continuing in their negotiations with Pavano’s representation and hope to get a decision one way or another next week. Bringing back Thome certaintly can’t hurt their chances.
Here’s more from around the league Friday…
* The Athletics beefed up a bullpen that was already brimming with talented young arms, signing righty Grant Balfour to a two-year deal
with a third-year club option. According to The Associated Press,
Balfour is guaranteed $3.75 million in 2011 and $4 million in 2012.
* The Royals helped their thin rotation, signing left-hander Jeff Francis to a one-year contract that’s worth $2 million and includes performance bonuses.
* The Nationals introduced first baseman Adam LaRoche at a Friday afternoon
to terms a two-year deal worth about $16 million last week.
* The Mets and Cardinals dished out a few interesting Minor League contracts. New York inked Willie Harris, who’s all but guaranteed to be the backup outfielder and get somewhere between 250 and 400 plate appearances. St. Louis, meanwhile, brought in right-handers Miguel Batista and Ian Snell.
– Alden Gonzalez