Tag:Matt Snyder
Posted on: February 19, 2012 11:46 am
Edited on: February 19, 2012 12:37 pm
 

Mike Cameron retires from baseball

By Matt Snyder

Exactly two months after signing a minor-league deal with the Washington Nationals, Mike Cameron has decided to call it a career, according to the club.

Cameron appeared to be a possibility as a center-field platoon partner with either Roger Bernadina or Rick Ankiel -- both of whom are left-handed -- but now the Nats are without a righty option. Of course, if Bryce Harper makes the team out of spring, the plan is to play Jayson Werth in center every day.

Cameron, 39, closes with a good career resume. In 17 seasons, he hit .249/.338/.444 with 278 home runs, 968 RBI, 1,064 runs and 297 stolen bases. He won three Gold Gloves, made one All-Star Game and received MVP votes two times. He has a shot at getting on the Hall of Fame ballot (Bill Mueller and Tony Womack were on this year's, for example), but no shot of getting in.

He never spent more than four years with the same ballclub, playing for eight different franchises: The Mariners, White Sox, Mets, Red Sox, Padres, Brewers, Reds and Marlins. Amazingly, as you can see, he played in every single division.

He was also involved in two pretty big transactions as part of trades in exchange for both Ken Griffey Jr. and Paul Konerko.

The highlight of Cameron's career had to be on May 2, 2002, when he hit four home runs in one game -- becoming the 13th player in big-league history to accomplish the feat.

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Posted on: February 18, 2012 6:28 pm
 

Report: Yankees close to signing Clay Rapada

By Matt Snyder

Friday, the Yankees lost some left-handed relief pitching depth when Hideki Okajima failed his physical and was released. Saturday, they appear to have zeroed in on his replacement. The Yankees are near an agreement with Clay Rapada on a minor-league contract and invitation to spring training, MLB.com reports.

Rapada is a 30-year-old left-hander. In parts of five big-league seasons, he's appeared in 78 games and compiled a 5.13 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. Last season, for the Orioles, he had a 6.06 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 18 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings. He was designated for assignment from the Orioles as a corresponding move to their trading Jeremy Guthrie to the Rockies for Matt Lindstrom and Jason Hammel.

Rapada would likely spend most of his time in the minors as a backup option in case Boone Logan gets hurt. Most ballclubs -- especially in the AL -- really only need one lefty in the 'pen, so Logan will serve as the primary option.

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Posted on: February 18, 2012 1:33 pm
 

Spring Training: A time for optimism



By Matt Snyder


Come Monday, just two days from now, every single team will have pitchers and catchers in big-league camp. Ten clubs -- Orioles, Twins, Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals, Angels, Cubs, Reds, A's and Giants -- have their pitchers and catchers report Sunday.

Soak it in, fans. The far-too-long wait is over. No more do we have to yearn for the season while chasing Yu Darvish or Yoenis Cespedes or Prince Fielder rumors. Instead, the actual season is closer than the horizon.

When spring training opens for baseball teams, it's the fan version of New Year's Day. Feel free to make baseball fan versions of resolutions, and don't you dare let anyone tell you it's not possible. After all, what would opposing fans have said to a Diamondbacks fan last year at this time if he dared to have the audacity to predict an NL West title?

It's the time for optimism, no matter which team you love. So let's fan the flames. Here's an optimistic -- overly optimistic in some cases -- one-liner on every team that fans of said team can eat up with a spoon. And don't forget to bookmark our spring training landing page while we're at it.

This is the year for the (insert team) because ...

Diamondbacks: Last year was just the beginning. This is a young nucleus just beginning to come into its own. The sky is the limit. 

Braves: Jason Heyward will come into form, giving a gigantic offensive boost and the Kimbrel-Venters duo in the bullpen won't wear down this time around. And the starting pitching depth and talent is insane.

Cubs: There's new management, a new attitude, a new culture and the locker room is finally freed from the Carlos Zambrano albatross.

Orioles: They have pitching depth and catcher Matt Wieters is poised for a huge breakout season to spur the sneaky-talented offense.

White Sox: Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy will all have huge bounce-back seasons while Matt Thornton finally settles in as closer.

Red Sox: Last September was a fluke, but also a wakeup call. And Daniel Bard proves a solid starting pitcher, as opposed to the man he's replacing (John Lackey).

Reds: No Pujols, no Prince, no Braun (for 50 games)? No problem in the Central for the Reds, who have a pair of aces -- Mat Latos and Johnny Cueto -- with a solid, young offense and good defense.

Tigers: Prince. Cabrera. Verlander. Enough said.

Indians: Ubaldo Jimenez returns to ace form, just as Grady Sizemore plays like he did five years ago. Shin-Soo Choo gets back to his old ways while the youngsters (Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, etc.) come into their own.

Marlins: They had the best offseason of any NL club, so why not the best regular season?

Rockies: Michael Cuddyer and Marco Scutaro moving to Coors Field will be huge, just as the continued growth of Dexter Fowler will be. And Ramon Hernandez working with that young pitching staff -- bolstered by the great Ubaldo trade, which landed Alex White and Drew Pomeranz -- is even better.

Astros: It's the last year in the National League, so they have a going away present -- courtesy of their new owner and GM. And they're keeping the name Astros!

Royals: No need to wait until 2013. The young lineup (Alex Gordon, Johnny Giavotella, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, Lorenzo Cain, etc.) is ready to take over the AL Central while starter Jonathan Sanchez thrives with his change of scenery.

Twins: Injury-free this season and they're home-free. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau party like it's 2009.

Angels: Albert Pujols makes the offense as dangerous as any, and who wants to face that playoff rotation (Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, Ervin Santana) in October?

Mets: Ike Davis and Johan Santana return healthy while the likes of Jason Bay and David Wright thrive with the new dimensions of Citi Field.

Dodgers: There are plenty of supporting pieces (Dee Gordon, Andre Ethier, James Loney, Ted Lilly, Aaron Harang, etc.) to superstars Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and a studly 1-2 punch at the back-end of the bullpen in Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra.

Yankees: Enough talk. Time for No. 28.

Brewers: Ryan Braun's appeal will be upheld and the club won't miss a beat without Prince Fielder chasing the dollars, as Aramis Ramirez and Mat Gamel step up.

Phillies: One fluky playoff series doesn't change the fact that the Phillies were the best team last season. This year they don't fall short.

Athletics: Billy Beane's makeover pays off early, as the likes of Brad Peacock, Tom Milone and Jarrod Parker thrive while Yoenis Cespedes does his Bo Jackson impression all summer, jumpstarting the formerly stagnant offense.

Pirates: The division is much weaker and the Pirates are ready to strike, with A.J. Burnett's change of scenery and Erik Bedard's health. The young offense is as exciting as ever, too, with Jose Tabata and Alex Presley setting up for Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker.

Padres: Carlos Quentin and Yonder Alonso bring punch to a once-punchless offense while the pitching staff enjoys the fruits of Petco Park.

Cardinals: Albert who? The Cardinals are bigger than one man. The offense will be just fine with Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday in the middle while the pitching staff gets back Adam Wainwright (ever heard of him?).

Giants: Buster Posey is back, Brandon Belt is ready and the outfield has a new Melky Cabrera/Angel Pagan combo -- all of which boost the offense. And you know the pitching is fine. Two titles in three years?

Rays: Compare last year's roster to this year's. The latter is much better already, so they won't need a miracle comeback in September.

Mariners: They finally have some offense, with young Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero leading the way.

Blue Jays: The bullpen is fixed -- you know, the one that allowed 25 blown saves last year on an 81-81 team.

Rangers: Third time is the charm. Yuuuuuuuuu!

Nationals: You think anyone wants to face Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez in a three-game series? Plus, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman are due huge bounce-backs and we're about to see the debut of Bryce Harper.

So run with these and expand upon them, fans of every team. If someone tells you otherwise, who cares? Again, no one other than D-Backs fans -- and maybe not even them -- saw Arizona coming last year. Every season has examples like that. As far as baseball fans are concerned, it's the first day of spring. Anything is possible, so bring the optimism.

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 2:37 pm
 

A's close to trading for Koji Uehara



By Matt Snyder


The Oakland A's are close to acquiring Rangers relief pitcher Koji Uehara from the Rangers, CBSSports.com Danny Knobler has confirmed. The news was first reported by Bay Area News Group.

Earlier this offseason, Rangers reliever Koji Uehara nixed a trade to the Blue Jays by exercising his no-trade clause. We learned that there were six teams on his no-trade list and that the Jays were one of them. Still, this didn't mean the Rangers intended to keep Uehara.

With closer Joe Nathan, setup man Mike Adams and Alexi Ogando, Scott Feldman, Mark Lowe, Yoshinori Tateyama, Mark Hamburger and more, the Rangers hardly need Uehara. Dealing him for pretty much anything would provide salary relief, as Uehara's set to make around $5 million in 2012.

The A's, on the other hand, have lots of questions in the bullpen. It appears Brian Fuentes is set to be the closer, though he'll have to deal with Grant Balfour, Fautino De Los Santos and Joey Devine (as we pointed out in the AL West position battles). And the rest of the bullpen is an unknown.

Uehara, 36, was excellent for the first part of the 2011 season. He had a 1.72 ERA and 0.70 WHIP in 47 innings for the Orioles. For the Rangers, though, he had a 4.00 ERA and gave up five home runs in just 18 innings (he only allowed six homers for Baltimore). He was awful in the postseason, too, giving up five hits, five earned runs, three home runs and two walks while recording only four outs.

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:49 pm
 

Kimbrel, Venters to dial it down this spring



By Matt Snyder


We all know the narrative by now. The Atlanta Braves blew a double-digit lead in the NL wild-card race to the eventual World Series champion Cardinals. Chief among the reasons for the September swoon were a lack of offense and the once-untouchable back-end of the bullpen duo Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters running out of gas. This spring, they'll look to avoid such a disaster.

Kimbrel was just 3-of-6 in save chances with a 7.36 ERA and six walks in his last eight outings (7 1/3 innings). Before that stretch, Kimbrel was one of the most dominant closers in baseball, closing 43 saves in 48 chances with a 1.55 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings. All told, Kimbrel appeared in 79 games. The only pitcher who appeared in more was his setup man, Venters, who appeared in 85.

Venters had a 5.65 ERA and 1.81 WHIP in his last 15 outings. Before that, he had a 1.10 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.

So it's pretty evident if the Venters-Kimbrel duo was able to remain as deadly in September as they were April through August, the Braves would have found a way to hold off the Cardinals. It's easy to point to the regular season workload -- and that was a major issue -- but David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out the two youngsters also dialed it up in the spring.
At 2011 spring training, no major league reliever had more appearances (13) or strikeouts (15) than Kimbrel. As for Venters, the lefty with the 95-mph sinkers appeared in midseason form from the outset of camp, then reeled off whopping 51 appearances (in 92 team games) before the All-Star break.
This time around, they are slowing things down considerably in the spring, with hopes of going strong into October.

“I definitely slowed it down, started throwing a little later,” Venters said of his offseason throwing program (AJC.com). “Last year I came into camp guns blazing, ready to go 100 percent. This year I’m going to use spring training as more of a tool for trying to get ready for the season, as opposed to … really two years ago I was trying to make the team, and last year there was a new manager and it was my second year in the big leagues.”

Kimbrel is in a very similar situation.

“Yeah, I definitely started to throw a little later, because I understand there’s no reason for me to have myself ready to go right now,” Kimbrel said (AJC.com). “As long as I’m good to go with two weeks left before the season starts, that’s good enough. You don’t have to be 100 percent ready to go at the very start of spring training."

This is a good start. The next step is the Braves' offense providing bigger leads in victories and manager Fredi Gonzalez realizing he doesn't have to use both of them every single time they have a three-run lead. Just because the rulebook says it's a save doesn't mean you must have your best two pitchers out there. After all, it's not that hard for a major-league pitcher to get three outs before allowing three runs.

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 12:21 pm
 

Report: Okajima fails physical with Yankees

By Matt Snyder

The Yankees had signed relief pitcher Hideki Okajima to a minor-league contract, likely to provide left-handed depth. As things currently stand, Boone Logan is the only lefty in the Yankees 'pen. And it appears that's how things will be moving forward, as Okajima has failed his physical and will not be in Yankees camp, reports Sweeny Murti of WFAN.

There is no word just yet as to why Okajima failed the physical, just that he failed it.

Okajima, 36, pitched for the Red Sox last season, sporting a 4.32 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in just 8 1/3 innings -- he spent most of his time in the minors. He has spent his entire five-year MLB career with the Red Sox. He was an All-Star in 2007, but his numbers have gotten progressively worse pretty much each season since then.

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 11:44 am
 

Hanley Ramirez: '3B with Marlins forever baby'

By Matt Snyder

Thankfully, we're getting very close to putting this Hanley Ramirez-moving-to-third drama to bed. Earlier this week, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said Ramirez wasn't "100 percent" OK with the move, which is being made to accomodate Jose Reyes at shortstop. Guillen did say he felt Ramirez would be fine by opening day and that he thought any star wouldn't immediately be happy with changing positions.

It would appear Guillen was correct, as Ramirez now sounds completely on board with a move, seemingly in reaction to an opinion piece from a newspaper.

Responding to a column from a Dominican newspaper ("Hoy") where the writer said Ramirez's friendship with Reyes will inevitably be damaged -- in addition to claiming the Marlins signed Reyes to give them an excuse to rid themselves of an "immature" Ramirez -- Ramirez took to Twitter.

”Folks, via this medium I want to let everyone know that what came out in the newspaper Hoy about me, the team and Guillen is a lie,” Ramirez tweeted (in spanish, but translated by SunSentinel.com).

More: “And now what are you going to talk about if the whole world knows I’m going to play third base with the Marlins.” (in spanish, but translated by SunSentinel.com)

More: “Trying to soil my image with lies. Third base with the Marlins forever baby.” (in spanish, but translated by SunSentinel.com)

Finally, Ramirez tweeted a picture of himself sitting next to Reyes with both men smiling. I'm kind of surprised they weren't hugging.

It's good that Ramirez is embracing his move to third base, as well he should. It's the professional thing to do, and frankly, it will benefit him defensively. But in regards to him being angry people are talking about it, he needs to realize his manager is the one who fanned the flames earlier this week.

But now we know: Hanley Ramirez is happy and ready to play. So we can all move on.

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 8:26 am
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:45 pm
 

A.J. Burnett-to-Pirates trade agreed upon



By Matt Snyder


The reported A.J. Burnett-to-Pittsburgh deal is nearing completion, as CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman has learned the two sides have agreed to make the trade. Burnett will need to pass a physical slated for Sunday, while Major League Baseball will need to approve the deal before it becomes official.

Money has been an issue from the start, obviously, as Burnett is owed $33 million for the next two seasons. Heyman reports the Yankees will pick up $20 million of that. Because the Yankees pay their players year-round, they've already paid him $2,062,500 this year and will pay him $9,437,500 more with the Pirates picking up another $5 million. In 2013, the Yankees will pay Burnett $8.5 million and Pittsburgh will pay him $8 million. With the saved money, the Yankees will now turn their focus to two bats. One target is left-handed hitting Raul Ibanez, presumably to fill the open DH slot -- or at the very least share time with right-handed hitting Andruw Jones. The Yankees' second target will be Eric Chavez, who spent 2011 with the club.

Burnett to Pirates
The return for the Yankees will be two lower-level minor-league players, 25-year-old right-handed reliever Diego Moreno and 20-year-old outfielder Exicardo Cayones.

Burnett, 35, was 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 173 strikeouts in 190 1/3 innings last season for the Yankees. He led the majors in wild pitches, one season after leading the majors in hit batsmen. Advanced stats, such as FIP, show Burnett hasn't been near as bad as his traditional stats indicate, however. He will also benefit moving from the mighty AL East -- in a hitters' park -- to the NL Central and the much more pitcher-friendly PNC Park.

Burnett will probably bump either Jeff Karstens or Kevin Correia from the Pirates' rotation, joining Erik Bedard, James McDonald and Charlie Morton. Keep in mind, though, that Morton's health is in question to start the season and Bedard's health is pretty much always in question, so I'd expect all six starters to get in their work this season.

As for the players going to the Yankees, neither are impact-type players. Moreno, a Venezuelan native, was 2-4 with a 3.63 ERA and 5 saves in 41 games in Class A and Double-A. He struck out 45 batters in 44 2/3 innings, while walking 18. He can hit 98, but has suspect command. Only seven of his appearances were in Double-A. Also from Venezuela, Cayones hit .228/.333/.325 between rookie-level and short-season Class A, with no homers in 38 games and 135 plate appearances. He stole three bases and was thrown out three times, as well. Make no mistake, these players weren't an important part of the deal. For the Yankees, it was about addition by subtraction.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com