Posted on: February 24, 2012 12:14 pm
 

Nats, Zimmerman divided on no-trade clause

Ryan Zimmerman

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Ryan Zimmerman would like to have his contract settled by Saturday morning, giving the Nationals a deadline, he told reporters, including CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman.

The last stick point is a no-trade clause -- something the Nationals gave Jayson Werth and it's believed they offered to free-agents Mark Buehrle and Prince Fielder this offseason.

Zimmerman, 27, will make $12 million this season and $14 million in 2013. According to Heyman, the money involved in the extension isn't the issue. If the sides can agree to a deal, it's expected to be for about $18 million per season, according to Heyman.

That, to the Zimmerman camp, is seen as a team-friendly deal, which is why he'd want the no-trade clause. If Zimmerman, a Virginia native, is taking less money to stay with the Nationals, he wants to be assured he will be able to stay with the Nationals.

"The important part of me signing this deal is to be here, not to sign a deal that's team-friendly to have it with another team," Zimmerman said (via the Washington Post). "That's the whole point of doing it. … I wouldn't sign a deal like this for the Red Sox or the Yankees or the Dodogers or any other team."

Zimmerman has said he set the deadline so that it doesn't become a distraction as the team prepares for the season. Because Zimmerman is signed through the 2013 season, he said it's not crucial that he gets an extension now.

"If it happens, I'm thrilled," Zimmerman said (via the Washington Post). "If not, I've got two years left here still. I'm excited for this year. We've got a great team. We've got a chance to do something special, something we've not done with this organization. I think all of us are kind of ready to get to work and get going.

"It's not like this is the last year. It's not make-or-break. Getting this done would obviously make them not have to worry about it this year or next year or next offseason."

Any no-trade clause would need to be only for the first three seasons. By the third season, he would gain no-trade rights by being a 10-year veteran with five years with his current team.

If the Nationals don't sign Zimmerman and allow him to leave after the 2013 season, that could be just the time needed for 2011 first-round Anthony Rendon to be ready to take over at third base. If Zimmerman does stay, he could move to first base at some point to make room for Rendon. Of course, there's also no guarantee Rendon pans out, either.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:38 am
 

Don Zimmer meets the Zim Bear

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Perhaps the most anticipated day of the 2012 season is June 29, when the Tampa Bay Rays will be giving the first 10,000 fans at the game with the Tigers the Zim Bear. A teddy bear with the face of Don Zimmer. Yep.

Anwyay, how does the bear compare with the real thing? Luckily Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune has a camera and can put our imaginations at ease. Here it is:

Don Zimmer

So what does Zimmer think of the bear?

"I don't know what to think," Zimmer told Mooney. Zimmer did note that Tigers manager Jim Leyland has called him several times to give him a heard time about the bear.

Aug. 5 is also going to be pretty awesome, with the DJ Kitty bobblehead.



I haven't done my usual preseason look at all the best giveaways for the season ahead, but it looks like the Rays may be the leader in the clubhouse, or at least until the Brewers do the Ryan Braun specimen bottle giveaway.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:18 am
 

Morneau doesn't sound positive about his future

Justin Morneau

By C. Trent Rosecrans

It's tough to take tone from transcribed quotes, but reading what Twins first baseman Justin Morneau doesn't take much of a leap to assume he's not all sunshine and puppies in regard to his future.

Morneau hasn't been the same player since suffering a concussion in July of 2010 and even though he said he's been symptom-free for about a month, his meeting with Minnesota reporters on Friday didn't sound like someone very positive about his future.

Here's what he had to say (via La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune) when asked about his concerns about concussions in the future:
"Well, I don’t think there will be a career if it’s something I’m dealing with,'' he said. "That’s the reality of the whole thing. I’m obviously not going to continue to mess around with this if it continues to be a problem. There comes a point where you can only torture yourself for so long. It’s something I love to do but you keep preparing and you keep being left out, that’s something that nobody wants to go through.

"Obviously it’s been a tough winter that way. I try not to think about that kind of stuff. Obviously it’s crossed my mind and it’s something I’ve had to think about but when that stuff comes into my mind I continue to look for something positive, and look how far I’ve come in the last week or in the last month and just hope it continues to go well.''
Morneau has two years left on the six-year deal he signed before the 2008 season. He will make $14 million this season and next. The 2006 American League MVP played in just 69 games last season, hitting .227/.285/.333 with four home runs.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 9:16 am
Edited on: February 24, 2012 10:24 am
 

Torre's group out of bidding for Dodgers

Joe TorreBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Joe Torre is no longer the Dodgers' manager and it appears he won't own the team, either.

Torre and Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso have withdrawn their bid to buy the Dodgers, Bill Shaikin of the Los Agneles Times reports.

Caruso and Torre cited current owner Frank McCourt's refusal to include the Dodger Stadium parking lots in the deal as the reason they were pulling out of the bidding. The report notes the pair could reenter the bidding if McCourt agrees to include the parking lots.

With the Torre-Caruso pairing out of the bidding, there are still thought to be nine groups bidding for the team, including one led by Magic Johnson and former Braves and Nationals executive Stan Kasten.

The agreement between Major League Baseball and McCourt allows him to retain ownership of the parking lots and even build parking structures on the land if he wants. The new owners of the team would inherit the lease for the parking lots at $14 million per season, with increases starting in 2015.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 8:58 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 4:44 pm
 

Spring primer: Detroit Tigers



By Matt Snyder


The 2011 Detroit Tigers won the AL Central in a laugher, ending with a 15-game edge over the second-place Indians. The offseason was rather uneventful in Detroit for a while, but then the Tigers lost DH Victor Martinez to a torn ACL. And then they swooped in and landed slugger Prince Fielder with a 9-year, $214 deal. They'll enter 2012 as the heaviest divisional favorite in baseball and some will surely pick them to win it all.

Danny Knobler's Camp Report: Verlander's workload, expectations won't change | Likes, Dislikes

Major additions: 1B Prince Fielder, RHP Octavio Dotel, C Gerald Laird
Major departures: RF Magglio Ordonez, 3B Wilson Betemit, IF Carlos Guillen, SP Brad Penny

Probable lineup
1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Brennan Boesch, RF
3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
4. Prince Fielder, 1B
5. Delmon Young, DH
6. Alex Avila, C
7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
8. Andy Dirks, LF
9. Ryan Raburn, 2B

Probable rotation
1. Justin Verlander
2. Doug Fister
3. Max Scherzer
4. Rick Porcello
5. Jacob Turner

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Jose Valverde
Set-up: Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel

Important bench players
C Gerald Laird, IF Brandon Inge, IF Ramon Santiago, IF/OF Don Kelly

Prospect to watch
It would have been Turner here regardless, but there's extra emphasis on him now that the Tigers were unable to sign Roy Oswalt or trade for someone like Gio Gonzalez or Matt Garza. Thus, the path is clear for Turner to join the rotation out of spring at age 20, much like Porcello did before him. Entering 2011, Turner had never even pitched above High-A ball. But last season he appeared in Double-A, Triple-A and the majors. In 20 minor-league appearances, Turner was 4-5 with a 3.44 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 110 strikeouts in 131 innings. He struggled mightily in his three major-league starts, but it's a new year.

Fantasy sleeper: Delmon Young
"Owners should look for improved power numbers from Young this year, and with him hitting behind Cabrera and Fielder, his RBI total should get a jolt as well." - Al Melchior [Full Tigers team fantasy preview]

Fantasy bust: Doug Fister
"Part of Fister's 2011 success was based upon holding batters to a .188 batting average on ground balls. The Tigers' infield defense overall should leave something to be desired, so Fister's WHIP will rise upward, even without a significant increase in walks. Owners may look to Fister as a No. 4 starter in mixed leagues, but in reality he may perform more like a low-end No. 5 SP or waiver wire option." - Al Melchior [Full Tigers team fantasy preview]

Optimistic outlook
Very simple: The Tigers win the World Series for the first time since 1984.

Pessimistic outlook
The infield defense is dreadful, which stunts the development of Porcello and Turner in addition to hampering Fister and Scherzer. With Jackson's strikeouts piling up, Boesch never really becoming what the Tigers desired and players like Avila and Peralta taking steps backward, the offense is basically a two-man show. With these issues, at least one AL Central team (Indians? Royals?) vaults past Detroit in a shocker.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 7:10 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 11:34 am
 

Brewers back in NL Central mix ... on paper

By Matt Snyder

Every baseball fan has surely heard by now, considering our 24-hour Twitterverse of a news cycle, that Brewers' left fielder Ryan Braun won his appeal and will not face a 50-game suspension. There's plenty of discussion to be had on the matter from many different angles, but in this particular entry we'll focus on the 2012 NL Central race.

Had Braun been suspended, the Brewers could probably have been counted out in the NL Central. Replacing Prince Fielder and 50 games of Ryan Braun with Aramis Ramirez wasn't gonna cut it for a team that was largely dependent upon offense last season, en route to the Central division title. Replacing Fielder's production with some Ramirez and hoping for improvements in several other areas? Well, that actually sounds doable.

Then you look around the Central. On paper, we can count out the Pirates, Cubs and Astros. Obviously games aren't won on paper, otherwise the Diamondbacks would have finished last in the NL West as most expected last season. It's just that this is all we have to go on right now, and the Pirates, Cubs and Astros appear very overmatched by the Cardinals, Reds and now Brewers (again).

And right now, the Brewers have just as good a shot as any of the three. They went 96-66 last year and lost a major piece, for sure, in Fielder. But they did sign Ramirez to fill a gaping hole at third base. He can hit cleanup to protect Braun. There are other areas that can improve as well. All-Star second baseman Rickie Weeks only played 118 games last season, while Corey Hart was held to 130. If those guys can stay on the field a bit more, there's an offensive uptick. Alex Gonzalez represents a strong upgrade at shortstop over Yuniesky Betancourt (really, who wouldn't?).

Pitching-wise, the Brewers have the ability to be better as well. Improvements should be expected from Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in their second Milwaukee season. Yovani Gallardo has become a legitimate ace. The eighth and ninth innings should be dominant, with John Axford now having established himself as a lock-down closer and Francisco Rodriguez along for the full season as the eighth-inning guy.

Braun wins appeal
If the Brewers are looking outside and hoping for the optimistic spin, it's possible. Let's try it:

• The Cardinals lost the presence of Albert Pujols from the lineup. Can Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman stay healthy while also fighting off age regression? Speaking of age, how much longer does Chris Carpenter hold up? And Adam Wainwright is coming off Tommy John surgery.

• The Reds are stronger, for sure, but they're hardly a cinch to be a great team. You could make the argument there are question marks at catcher, shortstop, third base, center field and left field. Mat Latos was a good get, but how does he deal with a hitters' park instead of spacious Petco Park as his home field?

Obviously, we could spin things in favor of the Cardinals or Reds in a similar exercise, but it's the Brewers day with the Braun announcement.

The bottom line is I'm not sure who I'll be predicting in the NL Central, but it's between the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers. A few hours ago, it was just the Cardinals and Reds in the mix. In the time it takes to snap your fingers, the Brewers were thrust into the mix. Braun is that important.

We now wait for the actual games to see if everything plays out as expected, because what the "paper" says means nothing. Still, one cannot dispute that the Brewers already have their first big victory of the 2012 season.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 5:47 pm
 

Ryan Braun's statement about winning appeal

By Matt Snyder

Brewers star left fielder and reining NL MVP Ryan Braun won his appeal against a failed drug test Thursday. In the aftermath of the decision, Braun released a statement.

Here is the entire statement, in full (again, everything that follows is from Braun himself):

"I am very pleased and relieved by today’s decision.

It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.

We provided complete cooperation throughout, despite the highly unusual circumstances.

I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide. I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year.

I would like to thank my family and friends, my teammates, the Brewers organization led by Mark Attanasio, Doug Melvin, Gord Ash and Ron Roenicke, and other players around the league who have expressed their support and our great fans in Milwaukee and around the country who stuck by me and did not rush to judgment.

I'd also like to offer special thanks to Michael Weiner and the Players Association for believing in me since day one and to my attorneys.

I'd like to thank my agent Nez Balelo and Terry Prince of CAA Sports and Matthew Hiltzik of Hiltzik Strategies for all of their help and counsel through the process.

This is not just about one person, but about all current and future players, and thankfully, today the process worked.

Despite the challenges of this adversarial process, I do appreciate the professionalism demonstrated by the Panel Chair and the Office of the Commissioner. 

As I said before, I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball.

Everything I’ve done in my career has been with that respect and appreciation in mind.

I look forward to finally being able to speak to the fans and the media on Friday and then returning the focus to baseball and working with my Brewers teammates on defending our National League Central title."

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 5:12 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 9:44 pm
 

Braun wins appeal, won't be suspended



By Matt Snyder


Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun has won his appeal and will not serve a suspension for a positive drug test late last season, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman has confirmed. The news was first reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. This means arbitrator Shyam Das ruled Braun was not guilty in his failed test -- which showed elevated testosterone levels.

The appeal was held in front of Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and Das, a third-party arbitrator. The chain of custody of the sample is where Braun won the appeal. His side argued it was improperly handled and there must have been enough evidence to convince Das.

The sample in question was collected on Oct. 1, a Saturday and the day the Brewers opened the NL playoffs. The collector did not send the sample to the laboratory until Monday, thinking it would be more secure at home than at a Federal Express office during the weekend. Baseball's drug agreement states that "absent unusual circumstances, the specimens should be sent by FedEx to the laboratory on the same day they are collected."

Major League Baseball, for one, is not happy. Here's the statement released by MLB executive vice president for labor relations Rob Manfred:

Braun wins appeal
“Major League Baseball considers the obligations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program essential to the integrity of our game, our Clubs and all of the players who take the field. It has always been Major League Baseball’s position that no matter who tests positive, we will exhaust all avenues in pursuit of the appropriate discipline. We have been true to that position in every instance, because baseball fans deserve nothing less.

“As a part of our drug testing program, the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute. While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.”

Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, called the decision "a real gut-kick to clean athletes."

Das has been baseball's independent arbitrator since 2000 and this is the first successful drug test-related appeal.

Positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs have been relatively rare under the major league testing program, with just two others in 2011: Tampa Bay outfielder Manny Ramirez and Colorado Rockies catcher Eliezer Alfonzo. Ramirez at first retired rather than face a 100-game suspension for a second positive test. Now that he wants to play again and since he missed most of last year, he will only need to serve a 50-game penalty.

Braun has maintained his innocence since word of his positive test leaked after the Winter Meetings. Sources told CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler that when Braun found out he had tested positive for a banned substance he requested a second test, which came up negative. Braun then appealed the first failed test, and the results were supposed to stay confidential, but an ESPN report outed Braun's test on December 10 and the story has been lingering since then.

Braun, 28, won the NL MVP in 2011 when he hit .332/.397/.597 with 33 homers, 111 RBI and 109 runs for the NL Central-winning Brewers. He will join his teammates in Brewers camp Friday, as scheduled.

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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