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Tag:AL Central
Posted on: November 27, 2011 6:56 pm
 

Report: Tigers 'inquired' about Aramis Ramirez

By Matt Snyder

The Detroit Tigers have "inquired" on free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez, reports Jon Heyman of SI.com. "Inquired" could mean as little as they briefly talked to Ramirez's agent, who passed it along to Heyman in hopes to conjure up more interest from other teams that are weak at third. It's been a slow enough past few days on the rumor front, however, it can't hurt to pass this along as a discussion point -- because Ramirez to Detroit does make a lot of sense.

Free Agency
The Tigers mostly used Brandon Inge and Wilson Betemit at third base last season, so Ramirez would mark a big offensive upgrade. He hit .306 with 26 home runs, 93 RBI, 35 doubles and a .971 OPS last season for the Cubs. He's been in Chicago since being traded there in July of 2003. As a Cub, he's hit .294/.356/.531 with 239 homers and 806 RBI, playing for three division champions.

Ramirez is 33 years old and easily the best third baseman on the free agent market. In fact, he's the only free agent at that position that is a viable everyday starter.

Again, though, we don't know how serious talks can be if the report simply states the Tigers "inquired on" him.

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Posted on: November 26, 2011 6:42 pm
 

Blue Jays acquire Luis Valbuena from Indians

Luis ValbuenaBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally a slow time in the hot stove action, and this year is no different, but Saturday did see one minor (and I do mean minor) deal, as the Blue Jays acquired infielder Luis Valbuena from the Indians in return for cash considerations, according to one of Cleveland's official Twitter accounts.

The Indians had designated Valbuena for assignment on Nov. 18. The 25-year-old infielder hit .209/.227/.279 in just 17 games for the Indians in 2011. He played in 194 games in 2009 and 2010 combined, but hit just .226/.287/.348 in those two seasons combined. He did hit 10 homers in 2009.

This is hardly the Blue Jays' answer at second base where the team lost Kelly Johnson, but he is at least a backup plan in case the team can't find anyone better or just need some depth at Triple-A.

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Posted on: November 25, 2011 3:09 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2011 1:38 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Minnesota Twins



By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no waivers, no minor- or major-league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. 

For years, the Minnesota Twins were the model of how to build a consistent winner in a small market. From 2001-2010, the Twins appeared in the playoffs six times and recorded just one losing season. But the wheels fell off in 2011, with a mixture of bad fortune and bad pitching. The Twins have two former MVPs in their lineup, but it would be tough to find two former MVPs who did less in 2011 than Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. Those two homegrown players were supposed to be cornerstones for the franchise, but their performance last season was more fitting a tombstone. The team's fortunes, for better or worse, will be tied to those two for the next few years.

Lineup

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Michael Cuddyer, 3B
3. Joe Mauer, 1B
4. Justin Morneau, DH
5. Torii Hunter, RF
6. Jason Kubel, LF
7. Wilson Ramos, C
8. Danny Valencia, 2B
9. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS

Starting Rotation

1. Matt Garza
2. Nick Blackburn
3. Kevin Slowey
4. Brian Duensing
5. Anthony Swarzak

Bullpen

Closer - Jesse Crain
Set up - LaTroy Hawkins, J.C. Romero, Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins, Grant Balfour, Peter Moylan

Notable Bench Players

A.J. Pierzynski, Ben Revere, Luke Hughes, Trevor Plouffe.

What's Good?

With Ramos and Pierzynski on the roster, there's zero reason for Mauer to get anywhere near catching gear -- unless it's for another commercial. With Mauer freed of pitching duties, he can concentrate on first base and Justin Morneau doesn't have to worry about playing in the field. Even though Morneau is a very good defensive first baseman, keeping him off the field could keep him on the field. Last year he suffered concussion-like symptoms after merely diving for a ball. Limiting his risks for a recurrence of head injuries should be a top priority for the Twins, and the easiest way to do that solves the team's other big problem, getting the most out of their long-term deal with Mauer. While the Twins don't have anyone on this list with a large number of saves on their resume, there are a ton of good relievers.

What's Not?

It's a good thing the team has good relievers, because they're going to need them -- and even more than the seven listed above. The rotation, after Garza, is shaky. That rotation isn't going to get much help from its defense, either. The roster makeup requires several position shuffles, including Cuddyer to third, a position he's played, but is not too keen on playing. The Twins also have to put Nishioka at shortstop. Although he played there some in 2011, the team signed Jamey Carroll to play shortstop every day in 2012 for a reason.

Comparison to real 2011

Well, if you thought it couldn't get much worse in Minnesota than it did in 2011, it may with this lineup and rotation. Minnesota went 63-99 in 2011, and it probably breaks the 100-loss barrier with this squad, but don't expect them to be historically bad, so it'd probably only cost four-to-eight wins in my unscientific research. Either way, it's an ugly summer in Minneapolis.

Up next: Pittsburgh Pirates

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Posted on: November 23, 2011 5:11 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 8:04 pm
 

Royals re-sign Bruce Chen

By Matt Snyder

The Kansas City Royals have retained free agent starting pitcher Bruce Chen, the team announced Wednesday evening. Chen has signed a two-year deal worth $9 million with a $1 million roster bonus and up to $1 million in incentives, the Associated Press is reporting.

Chen, a 34-year-old left-hander, went 12-8 with a 3.77 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 155 innings last season. The Royals have been seeking starting pitching to go with their up-and-coming offense, as they've already traded for Jonathan Sanchez. Along with Sanchez and Chen, Luke Hochevar certainly figures to remain in the rotation. For the final two spots, the Royals will probably put youngster Danny Duffy back in the fourth slot. Then they could still seek help outside the organization, go with Felipe Paulino or move Aaron Crow in from the bullpen. I'd bet on Crow.

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Posted on: November 23, 2011 11:29 am
Edited on: November 23, 2011 12:07 pm
 

Grady Sizemore re-signs with Indians

By Matt Snyder

The Cleveland Indians have brought back center fielder Grady Sizemore on a one-year contract, the team announced Wednesday. The base salary is $5 million with up to $4 million in incentives. The Indians previously declined a $9 million option for Sizemore, so the deal could amount to the same figure if he returns to form.

"The Indians were aggressive in wanting to keep Grady, and he has said all along he would keep an open mind toward returning," his agent, Joe Urbon, said in an email to the Associated Press. "He appreciates the interest from other clubs, and he just felt that the best place to reassert himself as a great player is in Cleveland."

Sizemore, 29, was well on his way to being a perennial MVP candidate until injuries derailed him the past few seasons. He's had five surgeries and only played 210 games in the past three seasons -- following three All-Star seasons in which he finished in the top 12 of AL MVP voting. Still, he's had surgery on his balky knee and is expected to be fully recovered by spring training. This contract is an absolute bargain for the 2011 season if Sizemore stays healthy and plays to his capability.

Sizemore hit .224/.285/.422 with 10 homers and 21 doubles in 71 games last season -- but, again, he was playing with an injured knee. He has played his entire career for the Indians.

The Indians outfield is now set, with Shin-Soo Choo in right field, Michael Brantley in left and Sizemore remaining in center. There was previous talk that Sizemore was open to moving to a corner, much like Carlos Beltran did this past season, but that's not the current plan.

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Posted on: November 22, 2011 11:30 am
 

Burglar has fun in Kenny Williams' house

By Matt Snyder

If you're going to break into the house of a rich person, you might as well get your money's worth. And that's exactly what a Chicago-area man allegedly did in the home of White Sox general manager Kenny Williams.

Wayne L. Field III, 51, of Chicago has been arrested and charged with residential burglary for his alleged break-in of Williams' home. But the details of the story are pretty funny, via NBC Chicago.

Field allegedly wore Williams' clothes and 2005 World Series ring. Field allegedly drank Williams' beer, defrosted a lobster and ate frozen pizza (I mean, who hasn't had a craving for some pizza and lobster while intoxicated?). He also surfed the Internet and "kicked his shoes off on the bed."

Creepy? Of course. Hilarious? Since no one was harmed, I'd say absolutely.

There was no word on whether or not Field's next planned act was to call Adam Dunn and offer him even more money.

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Posted on: November 21, 2011 8:11 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 11:02 pm
 

Rangers sign Nathan, move Feliz to rotation

By Matt Snyder

The Texas Rangers have signed former Twins closer Joe Nathan, the team announced Monday night. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports the deal is for two years and $14.5 million with a club option for 2014.

The plan all along was to move Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation, and this signing only reinforces those plans -- with Mike Adams and Joe Nathan now forming the back-end of the Texas bullpen. Feliz has been told he's moving to the rotation.

“Jon Daniels and Ron Washington called me a couple of days ago and told me about the team’s decision for me to be a starting pitcher next season," Feliz said in a statement. "I was a starter for my whole career before I came to the major leagues. I am happy to know the team’s decision this early, and I have plenty of time to get ready. I have already started running."

Nathan was one of baseball's premier closers from 2004-09. He was a four-time All-Star who twice finished in the top five of Cy Young voting. His average season in that stretch was 41 saves with a 1.87 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 86 strikeouts in 70 innings. That would be a career year for many, many pitchers, but that was the average season for Nathan.

Closing Time
But then he tore the ulnar-collateral ligament in his right (throwing) elbow prior to the 2010 season and needed to have Tommy John surgery. It caused him to miss all of 2010. In 2011, Nathan wasn't himself in the early going, as he probably just wasn't fully recovered. From his June 25 return to the end of the season, Nathan had 11 saves and six holds against just one blown save with a 3.38 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and nearly a strikeout per inning. Given a full offseason, it's possible Nathan gets closer back to previous form, though at age 37 (it's actually his birthday Tuesday), the odds of him getting all the way back to pre-surgery form aren't great.

If your favorite team is still in need of a closer, don't fret. Heath Bell, Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero and Francisco Rodriguez are still free agents along with cheaper options like Jonathan Broxton, Matt Capps and Brad Lidge. Plus, Huston Street and Andrew Bailey appear to be available via trade.

Finally, with Feliz's official move to the rotation, the odds of the Rangers letting free agent starter C.J. Wilson walk increase. Feliz will likely join the foursome of Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and either Alexi Ogando or Scott Feldman. If the Rangers do choose to re-up with Wilson, both Ogando and Feldman could pitch out of the bullpen.

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Posted on: November 21, 2011 2:01 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 5:04 pm
 

Justin Verlander wins AL MVP



By Matt Snyder


Tigers ace pitcher Justin Verlander had a historic season for several reasons, and you can now add MVP and Cy Young in the same season to the list. He won the American League MVP, the Baseball Writers Association of America announced Monday afternoon. Verlander becomes the first starting pitcher to win MVP since Roger Clemens took home the honors all the way back in 1986. This also marks the first time any pitcher has won since 1992, when A's closer Dennis Eckersley won. This marks the 10th time a pitcher has won both the MVP and Cy Young in the same season.

"Not even in my wildest dreams had I thought of this," Verlander said. "I want to say this is a dream come true. I can't say that because my dream had already had come true ... to win a Cy Young. And the next dream is to win a World Series. This wasn't even on my radar until the talk started. And then all of a sudden it was a this-could-actually-happen type of thing."

Verlander, 28, was clearly the best pitcher in baseball in 2011. He went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 250 strikeouts in 251 innings. He had four complete games, two shutouts and one no-hitter. He led the American League in wins, winning percentage, starts, innings pitched, strikeouts, WHIP, ERA-plus and hits per nine innings.

Verlander racking up awards
The only real question as to whether or not Verlander would win the award was based upon his position. Pitchers only work once every fifth day, so many argued that they shouldn't be allowed to win an award that is traditionally given to players who are seen in the lineup every single game. But Verlander was so good it was tough to ignore. And he tied Jose Bautista with 8.5 wins above replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

"I think that a starting pitcher has to do something special to be as valuable or more so than a position player," Verlander said. "Obviously, having the chance to play in 160-some games in the case of Miguel, they can obviously have a huge impact every day. That's why, I've talked about on my day, on a pitcher's day, the impact we have is tremendous on that game. So you have to have a great impact almost every time out to supersede (position players) and it happens on rare occasions, and I guess this year was one of those years."

This vote was probably the most intriguing of all the BBWAA votes this season because it felt wide open. Should pitchers be allowed to win? Can a player on a fourth-place team be considered valuable? Can a player on a team who had a historic collapse down the stretch win? There were arguments all over the place for the last six weeks of the season. Here's how the final vote stacked up, with the final points in parentheses:

1. Verlander (280)
2. Jacoby Ellsbury (242)
3. Bautista (231)
4. Curtis Granderson (215)
5. Miguel Cabrera (193)
6. Robinson Cano (112)
7. Adrian Gonzalez (105)
8. Michael Young (96)
9. Dustin Pedroia (48)
10. Evan Longoria (27)

In order: Ian Kinsler, Alex Avila, Paul Konerko, CC Sabathia, Adrian Beltre, Ben Zobrist, Victor Martinez, James Shields, Mark Teixeira, Asdrubal Cabrera, Alex Gordon, Josh Hamilton and David Robertson also received votes.

Verlander received 13 of the 28 first-place votes. Bautista got five, Ellsbury, four; Granderson, three; Miguel Cabrera, two and Young got one first-place vote. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News gave Young his lone MVP vote.

One voter, Jim Ingraham of the Lake Herald News (Cleveland) completely left Verlander off the ballot. Via the Associated Press, here was Ingraham's rationale:

"I'd wrestled with this for a long time. If I was ever going to vote for pitcher for MVP, it would be him this year," Ingraham said. "He hasn't appeared in 79 percent of their games, any starting pitcher really doesn't appear in 79 percent of his team's games in a year.

"Would you vote for an NFL quarterback for MVP if he only appeared in three of his team's 16 games, which would 21 percent? So that's part of it. Another part of it is I think they're apples and oranges. The guys that are in there every day, there's a grind to a season that a starting pitcher doesn't, I don't think, experience the way the everyday position players do playing 150, 160 games."

Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal gave Verlander an eighth-place vote while both Chad Jennings of the Journal News (New York) and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle voted him sixth.

Jacoby Ellsbury was hurt by a 10th place vote from Scot Gregor of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald (Chicago).

Other pitchers to win MVP and Cy Young in the same year were Don Newcombe (1956), Sandy Koufax (1963), Bob Gibson, Denny McLain (1968), Vida Blue (1971), Rollie Fingers (1981) and Willie Hernandez (1984).

This is the ninth time a Tigers player has won the MVP. The others: Mickey Cochrane (1934), Hank Greenberg (1935), Charlie Gehringer (1937), Greenberg (1940), Hal Newhouser (1944), Newhouser (1945), McLain (1968) and Hernandez (1984).

The National League MVP will be revealed Tuesday. It's likely to be either Ryan Braun or Matt Kemp, but a few others will factor heavily in the voting.

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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