Tag:NL East
Posted on: January 24, 2012 3:02 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 7:04 pm
 

Prince Fielder signs with the Tigers



By Matt Snyder


Chalk up one more for the so-called mystery team. First it was Cliff Lee going to the Phillies, then Albert Pujols heading to the Angels. Now Prince Fielder has shocked the baseball world by signing with the Detroit Tigers, a team that hadn't even been remotely connected to him in rumors the entire offseason. The robust first baseman has signed a nine-year contract worth $214 million, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman has learned.

The Tigers were recently dealt what appeared to be a pretty severe blow, as Victor Martinez tore his ACL and could miss the entire 2012 season. So there went Miguel Cabrera's lineup protection, right? Think again. Owner Mike Ilitch really wants to win a World Series championship and this signing indicates one of the strongest reactions one can even imagine to news like that.

Prince to Tigers
Heyman also notes that the finalists to land Fielder were the Nationals, Tigers and one other "mystery team." So it's entirely possible the Nationals would have come away with Fielder had Martinez not torn his ACL. It's funny how things work sometimes.

A Fielder-Cabrera combo in the middle of that order will dominate AL Central pitching. Throw Justin Verlander into the mix, and the Tigers have three of baseball's biggest stars.

Fielder, 27, hit .299/.415/.566 with 38 homers, 120 RBI, 95 runs and 36 doubles last season for the NL Central champion Brewers. He finished third in MVP voting and also took home the All-Star Game MVP. Though Fielder is a large man, he is as durable as they come. He hasn't played in less than 157 games in a season since becoming a regular. He played in all 162 last season, following up seasons where he appeared in 161 and 162 games, respectively.

The smart money with Fielder and Cabrera is a split at first base, with the other serving as the designated hitter. Then again, what if the Tigers got nuts and tried to shove Cabrera back across the diamond to play third base again -- where he began his career? That would mean the infield defense would be awful, but would also leave room for a better hitting DH than Brandon Inge (who, at this point, looks like the third baseman). And if Victor Martinez comes back healthy? It works even better.

The Tigers won the AL Central by 15 games last season. Even if Martinez misses all of the 2012 season, Fielder is a pretty sizeable upgrade to the offense. So it would appear the division is the Tigers' to lose.

For now, though, the only details that really matter are that Prince Fielder is heading to Detroit -- where his father once held down the middle of the order -- and he's going to make a whole lot of money.



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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 23, 2012 7:09 pm
 

Report: Cordero narrows field to four teams

By Matt Snyder

With Andrew Bailey traded and Ryan Madson's signing out of the way, the market for free agent closer Francisco Cordero has finally surfaced. The latest report comes from MLB.com and says that Cordero expects to sign by the end of this week. He is reportedly choosing from four suitors, including the Angels. The other three teams are not mentioned in the report.

If Cordero does land with the Angels, it wouldn't be surprising at all. They currently have Jordan Walden, Scott Downs and LaTroy Hawkins at the back-end of the 'pen and don't seem comfortable with any of the three closing. Walden did so last year and even made the All-Star team, but he blew 10 of his 42 save chances.

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It wouldn't be surprising if the 24-year-old Walden ended up being the Angels' closer of the future, as he has great stuff, but adding a veteran like Cordero would be preferable for manager Mike Scioscia.

Cordero, 36, had 37 saves in 43 chances with a 2.45 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 42 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings last season for the Reds. With 327 career saves, only the great Mariano Rivera has more among active pitchers.

As for who the other three interested teams are, your guess is as good as mine. The short list of teams who are in need of a closer (Astros, White Sox, Orioles) doesn't seem to include teams willing to spend. The Angels really seem like the most logical fit.

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Posted on: January 23, 2012 10:30 am
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?



By Matt Snyder


For the latest installement of this offseason series, let's match up two left-handers who used to be teammates. It's CC Sabathia of the Yankees against Cliff Lee of the Phillies. Both are north of 30 years of age yet still elite pitchers. And both are very handsomely compensated for their skills.

Each player has won one Cy Young ... for the Indians. They were together in Cleveland from 2002 until about midway through the 2007 season. The Indians ended up with the following players after trading these two aces (yes, I know Roy Halladay is technically the Phillies' ace, but Lee is ace-caliber): Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson, Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson.

As an aside, I'll admit that I had a hearty chuckle in putting this one together. There aren't many things better to observe than New York and Philadelphia fans hurling insults at one another.

That being said, this is an obviously tough and very legitimate question. Let's dive in.

The case for Lee

At the age of 29, Cliff Lee turned his entire career around. He's now an elite pitcher. He was 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 2008, en route to a Cy Young award. The next two seasons he had four different zip codes, but was still far above average. In 2011, however, he finally found a home and was back as a Cy Young contender.

Would You Rather Have
For the Phillies in 2011, Lee went 17-8 with a 2.40 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 238 strikeouts in 232 2/3 innings. Perhaps more impressive, however, were his six complete games -- all of which were shutouts, a figure that led the majors. Amazingly, his 42 walks actually marked a regression from the 18 in 2010, but it just goes to show how good Lee's control is.

And then we have the postseason. Lee is 7-3 with a 2.52 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 89 strikeouts in 82 career playoff innings. He has owned the mighty Yankees in three career playoff starts against them. Sabathia, meanwhile, has a 4.81 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in 86 career postseason innings.

Finally, we cannot discount size here. I think the people who go after Sabathia for being "fat" or "out of shape" are misguided -- he's not small, but he's as durable as anyone -- but as the two pitchers get into their mid-30s, I think it would be naive to ignore the possibility that Lee will age much better.

The case for Sabathia

Carsten Charles Sabathia has proven himself one of the biggest workhorses in baseball for the past five seasons. It would be unheard of to expect 240 innings in a season from most pitchers in the majors, but that is Sabathia's average from 2007-2011. There is no pitcher in baseball who better places the burden of carrying the entire pitching staff than Sabathia.

He gets the job done in numbers, too. He has five straight top five finishes in Cy Young voting. Last season, the big man went 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 230 strikeouts in 237 1/3 innings. He was also tasked with facing the rugged AL East in one of the best hitters' parks in the majors (Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia is also a hitters' park, but not near as drastic as Yankee Stadium).

The salaries -- which are gigantic -- are a wash.

Sabathia is 31 while Lee is 33, so the age tips the scale slightly in Sabathia's favor.

Our call

This is one of my toughest selections -- they had an indentical 6.9 bWAR last season -- but it's going to be Lee. While Sabathia is younger and has a longer track record of success, Lee has been a bigger shut-down pitcher, especially in the postseason. Now that he's found a long-term home, I expect that to continue.

Fan Vote:



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Posted on: January 22, 2012 11:51 am
Edited on: January 22, 2012 9:42 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Trout or Harper?



By Matt Snyder

Pop quiz: Heading into the 2011 season, who were the top two prospects in all of baseball?

Hint: You're looking at them (above).

On the left we have Mike Trout of the Angels, a 20-year-old outfielder with all the potential in the world.

On the right we have Bryce Harper of the Nationals, a 19-year-old outfielder with even more potential, per most scouts.

We're living in a baseball world where some people freaked out about how much the Nationals gave up -- in prospects, mind you -- for Gio Gonzalez, a known quantity. Over 55 percent of our fans voted that they'd rather have six years of Eric Hosmer than two of Joey Votto. So, yeah, people make a habit of judging prospects they've never seen before. Why not do so here?

Let's take a look at the respective first rounders.

The case for Trout

He's a phenom. Trout hit .338/.422/.508 in his minor-league career. He hits with some power (18 doubles, 13 triples and 11 homers in 91 Triple-A games last season) and has great speed (33 steals in Triple-A). He has only scratched the surface of what he can do at the big-league level, as Trout got 135 plate appearances in the majors last season -- being promoted at the tender young age of 19. He showed flashes of being ready to perform at a star-like level already, like on August 30th when he hit two homers, drove home five runs and scored three times.

The Angels could head into the 2012 season with Trout slated as a starter. This isn't some small-market club either, as they just shelled out a king's ransom for Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. And, again, Trout is only 20. This should show how good he is. 

Would You Rather Have
Also, for now -- and what we have is an admittedly small amount of data due to lack of defensive metrics in the minors -- Trout appears to be the superior defender. He has lots of range, especially if he's used on the corners, and doesn't commit errors. In 527 minor-league chances, Trout has just three errors, good for a .994 fielding percentage. He also has 15 outfield assists. Harper, meanwhile, has a pretty poor, for a corner outfielder, .961 fielding percentage.

The case for Harper

When I spoke to a few baseball people about this entry into our series, I was told that Marlins slugger Mike Stanton would be a better "comparison" for Harper because Trout just can't measure up. Yeah, that's how highly regarded Harper is. Last season was his first in professional baseball, and he was only 18.

Harper hit .297/.392/.501 between Class A and Double-A with 17 homers, 24 doubles and 26 stolen bases. He had rough starts at both levels before figuring things out. Remember this when he's promoted to the bigs, in case he suffers a bad first two weeks.

In terms of defense, it should be noted Harper grew up a catcher, so he's still learning the outfield. Thus, improvement -- especially when you consider how good Harper is at doing everything else -- should be expected. He already has a cannon for an arm that passes the eye test and has yielded 13 outfield assists in just 108 minor-league games.

But the bottom line here is that Harper is said to be a Hall of Fame talent, especially in terms of power. It says a lot that the Nationals are thinking of playing Jayson Werth in center field, simply so they have a corner spot open for Harper before his 20th birthday.

Our call

I'm going Harper. Trout is going to be a stud who visits the All-Star Game perennially while gathering MVP votes, but Harper is going to be better.

Fan Vote:



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Posted on: January 21, 2012 11:02 am
Edited on: January 21, 2012 1:46 pm
 

Ryan: Rangers unsure of Fielder's demands

Prince Fielder

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Prince Fielder is still a free agent, but it may be because Fielder and agent Scott Boras haven't told anyone exactly what they're looking to get in a new contract.

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Rangers president Nolan Ryan said he doesn't know what it would take to sign Fielder, despite having meetings with the slugger and the superagent. Speaking to ESPN Dallas 103.3 (via the Washington Times), Ryan said he didn't know what it'd take to sign Fielder.

"Hard to say," Ryan said. "Because they've never made a firm proposal to us. They talk in generalities and numbers and other people's contracts, and so you can speculate what it is. One time they're talking eight years, one time they're talking 10 years, one time they're talking about a contract bigger than Ryan Howard's in Philadelphia."

Howard signed a five-year, $135 million extension in 2010 that begins in the 2012 season. Howard's contract will pay him $20 million in the next two seasons and $25 million in the last three with a $23 million club option  for 2017 with a $10 million buyout. Fielder, though, is five years younger than Howard.

There's also Albert Pujols' megadeal out there as well for comparison. Pujols signed a 10-year deal worth $240 million.

Another member of the Rangers' brass, co-chairman of the board Bob Simpson, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the Rangers aren't necessarily out of the bidding for Fielder, but would need Fielder's price to come down and accept a backloaded deal.

"If they come around to something we can do, we'll take a look at it," Simpson told the newspaper.

However, Simpson told reporters (via the Star-Telegram) that the team would rather re-sign Josh Hamilton than Fielder. Hamilton is a free agent after the season. Simpson said it's unlikely the team could afford both.

"My personal preference, at this moment, would be to re-sign him instead of having Fielder. But we could all debate that," Simpson said. "The organization has its feelings. Everybody dreams about having both. Sometimes you can’t have both at some level. If they came around to something we’d do, we’d look at him. But we don’t think it’s likely."

The Nationals and Rangers are the teams most often linked to Fielder, but don't be surprised if a "mystery team" gets involved -- and remember the "mystery team" has a pretty good track record the last two seasons, signing both Cliff Lee and Pujols.

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Posted on: January 20, 2012 9:47 pm
 

Guillen tweets: 'When I talk going to be fun'

Ozzie Guillen

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Last week White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy fired a shot at former manager Ozzie Guillen on a Chicago sports talk radio show, saying it wasn't the pitcher who "quit" on the White Sox, but the manager.

"At the end of the day, Ozzie didn't finish the season with us the last few games, so I don't know who quit on who," Peavy told Chris Rongey on White Sox Weekly on WSCR 670-AM in Chicago. "It is what it is and we're all looking forward to 2012."

That didn't sit well with Guillen, who lashed out on Twitter Friday:



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Posted on: January 20, 2012 10:05 am
 

Failed imports may replace Darvish in Japan

Kei Igawa Kenshin Kawakami

By C. Trent Rosecrans


If you're a Japanese team and you lose your best player to the big leagues, what do you do to replace him? Well, besides cashing a check for more than $51.7 million, you turn to former big-league pitchers.

The Nippon Ham Fighters (and once again, let me stress that it's the Nippon Ham… Fighters, not the Ham Fighters) are looking at former Japanese big leaguers Kei Igawa and Kenshin Kawakami, according to Daily Sports in Japan (via YakyuBaka.com). The Rangers hope it's not an even trade, as neither Igawa nor Kawakami lived up to expectations in the United States.

Igawa, 32, was posted after the 2006 season and the Yankees paid a posting fee of more than $26 million before signing to a five-year, $20 million contract with New York. For all that money, the Yankees got 13 starts and three relief appearances out of the left-hander, and he hasn't appeared in a big-league game since 2008. In MLB, he went 2-4 with a 6.66 ERA. Last year he was 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA at Double-A and Triple-A. With the Hanshin Tigers of Japan's Central League, he led the league in strikeouts three times and won the 2003 Eiji Sawamura Award, Japan's Cy Young equivalent.

Kawakami, 36, signed with the Braves as an international free agent in 2009, meaning the Braves didn't have to pay a posting fee. He won the Sawamura Award and Central League MVP in 2004. With the Braves, Kawakami was 8-22 with a 4.32 ERA in 41 starts and nine relief appearances in 2009 and 2010 before being outrighted to Double-A after the 2010 season. He struggled in Double-A in 2011, going 2-4 with an 8.41 ERA in 16 appearances (six starts) for Double-A Mississippi.

As Matt Snyder already pointed out, the fact that other Japanese pitchers have failed, doesn't mean Darvish will. Of course, that didn't stop our Taiwanese friends to make the comparison in one of their infamous videos, where Walker "Tex-xas" Ranger is handing over the checks to Darvish to face off Albert Pujols.



The Rangers will have a press conference with Darvish to make the signing official Friday night at 7 p.m. Texas time at Rangers Ballpark.

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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