Tag:AL East
Posted on: January 25, 2012 8:04 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 10:40 pm
 

Keppinger close to signing with Rays

By Matt Snyder

The Rays are close to an agreement with free agent infielder Jeff Keppinger, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman has confirmed. The news was first reported Wednesday night by the Tampa Bay Times, which reported that we should expect the signing by the end of the week.

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Keppinger, 31, split last season between the Astros and the Giants. He only appeared defensively at second base, which was a departure from his utility infielder role in the previous five seasons. He hit .277/.300/.377 with 20 doubles. He is a career .281 hitter with a .332 OBP.

Keppinger won't be counted on as an everyday starter with the Rays. They already have Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez to play up the middle. Reid Brignac can backup shortstop, so Keppinger looks likely to be the backup at second base. That also means he's an available fill-in if Ben Zobrist plays in the outfield, where he started 33 games in 2011. But, again, this won't be happening regularly as the Rays have Desmond Jennings, B.J. Upton and Matt Joyce in the outfield.

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Posted on: January 24, 2012 10:03 pm
 

Report: Uehara blocks potential trade to Toronto

By Matt Snyder

Evidently relief pitcher Koji Uehara isn't a fan of Toronto. The Rangers had agreed to trade the right-hander to the Blue Jays, but Uehara invoked his no-trade clause and rejected the deal, according to ESPN Dallas. This wasn't a full no-trade clause, either. Uehara reportedly has a list of just six teams with which he could reject a trade, and the Blue Jays happened to be one of those six.

This means, at least for now, Uehara will remain in the Rangers' bullpen. For what it's worth, a report from Japan said that Uehara didn't want to move his family from Baltimore to Toronto. Of course, he plays in Arlington, Texas, now, so that doesn't seem to make a ton of sense. But it's certainly his right to reject the trade.

Uehara, 36, was having a great season in Baltimore before being traded to Texas last season. He had a 1.72 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and 62 strikeouts in 47 innings for the Orioles. For the Rangers, though, he had a 4.00 ERA and ended up pitching his way off the World Series roster. Much of his decline could be traced to him stranding an absurd 97.6 percent of baserunners with the Orioles, so it was only natural more of those runners would start crossing the plate. Still, he did pitch worse for the Rangers.

Uehara remains in a crowded bullpen. The Rangers have Joe Nathan as closer and Mike Adams as the setup man. Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman also figure to have more prominent roles than Uehara.

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Posted on: January 24, 2012 2:17 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 6:46 pm
 

Posada retires: What they're saying



By Matt Snyder

Long-time Yankees catcher Jorge Posada announced his retirement Tuesday at Yankee Stadium with a live press conference. Here's what some of his colleagues from over the years are saying, via a Yankees press release:

Bernie Williams: “I want to congratulate ‘Jorgito’ on an outstanding career. He was one of the greatest catchers of his era, and one of the best Puerto Rican players to ever play the game. He was a great teammate, is a great friend and human being, and will always be a great Yankee. I was honored to take the field with him every day for so many years, and I cherish all the memories we have together, topped off by those World Series championships. Frankly, I can’t believe that ‘Jorgito’ is actually announcing his retirement before I do. Seriously, I wish him, Laura, and the kids happiness and success in their future. He will be missed by the Yankees family, all of his teammates, coaches, and most of all, the great Yankee fans.”

Hall of Fame?
Andy Pettitte: “Jorge was obviously one of the heart and soul pieces of all those championships with us. Everyone brings their own style to the table but Jorge played with so much fire and intensity, and you have to have all the different mixes of personalities on a team to be able to win the way we did. The intensity that he brought on a daily basis to the field was just amazing to watch. He was a wonderful teammate — one of the greatest teammates I’ve ever played with — and a great friend and a great person.

“The fans loved Jorge because of the passion he played with. He didn’t try to hide it, and he didn’t make up excuses. He’s a stand-up guy, and if he wasn’t able to get it done, he would say ‘I didn’t get it done.’ He handled all the victories and all the success with class and never made excuses for anything. Fans love that. They love to see you be real and passionate. When you’re like that in New York, you’re going to be loved, that’s for sure.”

Paul O'Neill: “Jorge was one of my most favorite teammates of all time. He was into winning. He was mentally tough, physically tough, and he was never scared. It means a lot that he is retiring as a Yankee. As the seasons go on, I think people will realize how important he was to the team, and how big a role he played in the Yankees’ success over the years. He was a great teammate and a fun guy off the field. I had a lot of fun with Jorge. I have all the respect in the world for him. He is going to be considered for the Hall of Fame, and any time people talk about you that way, it tells you what type of player you are.”

David Wells: “Jorge was exceptional behind the plate. He gave you so much in terms of his target, working the umpires, and with the level of communication that he had. To me, the pitcher has to be comfortable and in-sync with the catcher. He fought with me, worked with me, and knew the counts. If I didn't see something that he did, I would shake off his sign, and he would just put down the same sign again. Whenever that happened, I realized that he knew something I didn’t. It speaks to the trust I had in him. He always wanted the pitcher to feel as comfortable as he could. That's why in my mind, he was the greatest catcher.”

Jason Varitek: “After hundreds of head-to-head games during the regular season and the postseason, I can't say I respect and admire anyone at our position more than I do Jorge. The hard work and preparation he put into catching is a huge reason he has five championships on his resume. He is a true grinder.”

Tino Martinez: “Jorge was one of the cornerstones of all those championship teams, handling the pitching staff all those years. The way he prepared every single day assured that he became the best player he could possibly be. He’s going to go down as one of the greatest all-time Yankees. It’s very rare that somebody comes up through the minor league system with the Yankees and plays 17 years with the club. He did it the right way as a true professional, a great teammate and a great baseball player.”

Alex Rodriguez: “Jorge has bled the pinstripes for a long, long time, and he played with a passion that certainly rubbed off on his teammates. To play the number of games that he did, at the level he did, year in and year out, at the toughest position on the field, is a credit to his commitment to his craft. He left everything out on the field, and that’s what made him special."



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Posted on: January 24, 2012 1:21 pm
 

J.D. Drew likely to retire from baseball



By Matt Snyder


After 14 seasons and truckloads of cash, J.D. Drew is likely going to retire, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman has learned. Heyman notes Drew was only going to play if he found the "perfect" spot, and that evidently isn't going to happen.

Drew, 36, did have a very good offensive career. He hit .278/.384/.489, good for a 125 OPS-plus, with 242 homers, 944 runs scored and 273 doubles. He finished sixth in MVP voting in 2004 -- his lone season with the Braves -- and was an All-Star in 2008. His career 45.9 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is really good as well. He also won a World Series ring with the 2007 Red Sox.

On the other hand, many seem to scoff when hearing Drew's name and immediately think "overrated." That's because, in some ways, Drew's career could be considered disappointing. He entered the league as the top prospect in baseball, one of the most heavily hyped in the past 20 years. His agent, Scott Boras, continually got him paid like a megastar as well, as Drew accumulated $108,091,688 (Baseball-Reference.com) in his 14-year career. That's an average of roughly $7.72 million per season, which is pretty tough to do in the MLB system.

In addition to the hefty salary, Drew's inability to stay completely healthy contributed to the stigma that he was overrated. He never appeared in more than 146 games in a season and averaged just 470 plate appearances per campaign from 1999-2011.

This all led to Drew being one of the most polarizing players in baseball. He could have been one of the greats, but instead he's largely viewed as an overpaid, injury-prone slugger with great rate stats.

I would expect Drew to be on the Hall of Fame ballot five years from now -- I mean, Bill Mueller, Brad Radke, Phil Nevin and Tony Womack were on the ballot this year -- but just that one time, as he'll surely get less than five percent of the vote.

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Posted on: January 24, 2012 9:39 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 9:44 am
 

Blue Jays sign Morrow to three-year extension

By Matt Snyder

Blue Jays starting pitcher Brandon Morrow has been signed to a three-year contract extension worth $20 million, the club announced Tuesday (hat-tip MLB Trade Rumors). The deal is also said to include a $10 million option for the 2015 season -- meaning this deal buys out the last two years of arbitration and could eat up the first two years of possible free agency. The average annual value of the contract represents quite a raise for Morrow, who earned $2.3 million last season.

Morrow, 27, went 11-11 with a 4.72 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 203 strikeouts in 179 1/3 innings last season. He has great stuff, seemingly capable of flirting with a no-hitter or hitting double digits in strikeouts on any given night. On the other hand, he's been unable to harness all that talent consistently, as he's just as capable of getting knocked around the yard. Witness a four-start stretch in September: Morrow gave up eight runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings to the Red Sox and followed up that effort by giving up seven hits and five earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Red Sox again. But in the next two starts -- against the Yankees and Rays, respectively -- Morrow went 15 combined shutout innings, only giving up six hits while striking out 17.

If the Jays can find a way to coax some consistency out of Morrow, this contract would be an absolute bargain. He figures to be the Blue Jays No. 2 starter this season behind Ricky Romero, so the Jays need Morrow to step up if they intend to compete in the tough AL East.

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Posted on: January 23, 2012 10:33 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 6:53 pm
 

Orioles sign Wilson Betemit

By Matt Snyder

The Baltimore Orioles have signed free agent infielder Wilson Betemit to a two-year contract worth $2.75 million, according to CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman. There's also a $500,000 signing bonus and a $3.25 million vesting option for the 2014 season.

Betemit began 2011 with the Royals and was then traded to the Tigers, where he hit the ball well as their most frequently started third baseman the last two months of the season. He's a journeyman, no doubt, as the Orioles will mark his seventh team in 10 seasons.

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Betemit, 30, hit .285/.343/.452 with eight homers, 46 RBI and 40 runs in 359 plate appearances last season. He was terrible in the playoffs, however, and the Tigers let him walk.

Betemit can fill many different potential needs for the Orioles. Mark Reynolds is an absolute butcher at third, so the O's could use Betemit at third and DH Reynolds. Betemit could also DH himself. And if Brian Roberts doesn't recover from his concussion symptoms, Betemit is an option there, too, along with Robert Andino. Then there's strikeout machine Chris Davis at first base, who has still yet to prove he can hit major-league pitching for large samples at a time.

Simply put: Betemit will have plenty of chances to earn playing time these next two seasons in Baltimore. The only question is where he slots.

Hat-tip: MLB Trade Rumors

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Posted on: January 23, 2012 9:08 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 10:04 pm
 

Free agent Cody Ross agrees to sign with Red Sox

By Matt Snyder

Free agent outfielder Cody Ross will sign with the Red Sox, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman has confirmed. Heyman has learned the contract is for one year and $3 million.

Ross provides necessary insurance in the outfield for the Red Sox now that Carl Crawford had to undergo surgery on his wrist and is questionable for opening day. Plus, it's possible Ross ends up being the starter over Ryan Sweeney in right field anyway.

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Ross, 31, hit .240/.325/.405 with 14 homers and 25 doubles last season. It marked a disappointment, as this was coming on the heels of him playing postseason hero for the 2010 World Series champion Giants.

So, yeah, not exactly impressive numbers from Ross in 2011, but Sweeney's triple slash line was .265/.346/.341 and he only hit one home run. And if Crawford isn't ready to start the season, these are the starting corner outfielders. The other alternatives at this point are Mike Aviles -- who may be splitting time at shortstop with Nick Punto -- and Darnell McDonald.

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Posted on: January 23, 2012 7:44 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 8:09 pm
 

Blue Jays sign Omar Vizquel

By Matt Snyder

Omar Vizquel's career will be extended yet another season. The now-utility infielder has signed a one-year contract with the Blue Jays. He confirmed the news himself on Twitter Tuesday night. Assuming Vizquel makes it to opening day with the Jays, it will be his 24th season in the majors.

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Vizquel, 44, used to be an All-Star shortstop and routinely took home the Gold Glove while providing good offensive production, but those days are far in the rearview mirror. Now he's simply a bench player. Last season, he appeared in just 58 games for the White Sox, hitting .251/.287/.305 with 18 runs scored. He played all four infield positions at some point.

The Blue Jays will be Vizquel's sixth team.

Amazingly, Vizquel is not likely to be the oldest player in baseball -- even though he'll turn 45 in late April. Tim Wakefield has him beat and 49-year-old Jamie Moyer just signed a minor-league deal with the Rockies.

Vizquel is just 159 hits away from the coveted 3,000, but he only had 137 hits combined in the past two seasons. Still, he could very well make it there if he keeps finding work.

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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