Tag:MLB Hot Stove
Posted on: November 7, 2011 2:51 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2011 4:01 pm
 

Trade will help Giants, Royals in free agency

Reyes

By Evan Brunell


Both the Giants and Royals addressed areas of need in a swap that sent Melky Cabrera to San Francisco in exchange for Jonathan Sanchez. And, on the surface, the deal will also allow both sides to strengthen their ability to sign high-ticket free agents. Though inside sources say the Giants may not have as much financial clout as it appears.

Now that San Francisco has brought in Cabrera, the club has crossed off one item on their to-do list and cleared up a logjam in the rotation. While the Giants may still yet pursue additional outfield help, it has more money to work with to address the club's most glaring need: shortstop. The position was a black hole last season, and with no semblance of help arriving soon from the minors, the club has to play in free agency for a shortstop. It's uncertain, though, as to whether they could pick up the price tag of a Jose Reyes (pictured), Jimmy Rollins or even a Rafael Furcal.

It's simple economics. The Giants' three top priorities this offseason was to find two outfielders and a shortstop. Now they've found one outfielder without bumping their payroll up. Instead of having a certain amount of dollars to spread among three areas of need, now it's between two areas of need. And, on the bright side, the Giants will be freed from the expiring contracts of Aubrey Huff (free agent after 2012), Aaron Rowand (who has already been released, but is still due $13.6 million in 2012) and Barry Zito (done after 2013 with a $7 million buyout in 2014).


Hot Stove Season
The Royals also benefit from this deal, but in a different way. If Kansas City wants to be taken seriously by free agents, it has to show a commitment to improving the club. While the club did delete Cabrera from the team, they opened up center field for prospect Lorenzo Cain, who was part of the Zack Greinke trade prior to the 2011 season. Where the major improvement comes is in the rotation, which had the fourth-worst rotation in baseball last season with zero upside. When Luke Hochevar starts on Opening Day, there's a problem.

Sanchez's arrival will deepen the rotation, which you can bet free agents will notice. C.J. Wilson may be one such person, who will attract attention from many teams as one of the top starters on the market. Kansas City is expected to be involved, and the acquisition of Sanchez should help Wilson be more confident in the direction the Royals are taking. Wilson can look ahead at the incoming crop of elite pitching prospects and see the potential for a deep, devastating rotation. The Royals can also entice Wilson or another pitcher to town by contending that the acquisitions of two starters will allow the team to trade some of its minor-league pitching talent to further bolster the club, which GM Dayton Moore has alluded to be working toward.

Incidentially, my free-agency predictions had Reyes to the Giants and Wilson to the Royals. After this trade, these predictions are looking more and more realistic.

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Posted on: November 7, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2011 3:09 pm
 

Giants, Royals exchange risky players in deal

Sanchez

By Evan Brunell


The Royals have acquired starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez and a minor-league prospect from the Giants in exchange for Melky Cabrera, the first trade of baseball's hot stove season.

This deal is a major risk for the Giants that could either pay off beautifully or crash and burn, while the Royals capitalize on a player's high-water value and land a coveted mid-rotation starter who could one day suddenly figure things out and morph into an ace. Put simply: San Francisco is buying high on Cabrera and selling low on Sanchez. (Read more on how this trade affects free agency.)

San Francisco has made no secret of the fact they covet a center fielder who can lead off for the club, and Cabrera certainly fits that mold. He enjoyed a career season for Kansas City, playing much of the year at age 26 and hitting .305/.339/.470 with 67 extra-base hits, also swiping 20 bases. But is Cabrera's season really as good as it appears?

Hot Stove Season
While those 20 stolen bases look nice, he was also caught stealing 10 times. For stolen bases to provide overall net value to a team, Cabrera needs to swipe bags at a rate of at least 75 percent. He hasn't shown that ability yet, as this is the first season he's been let loose on the bases. In addition, the Melk Man has never had a discerning eye at the plate, but he was far more aggressive in 2011 than years past. One could argue that it paid off, and it did to an extent, but much of his newfound impatience has come in swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone. Unless you're Vladimir Guerrero, swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone is a good way to get yourself out. Pitchers will pitch further and further off the plate to Cabrera until eventually Cabrera will be get himself out for hacking at pitches that aren't meant to be hittable.

Cabrera made just $1.25 million in 2011 and is due a sizable raise in his last season before free agency, projected to earn about $4.4 million (per MLB Trade Rumors). That makes the deal essentially a financial wash, as Sanchez made $4.8 million last season and is due a raise of his own, but not a significant one. Cabrera is best used in right field, but could play center if San Francisco is confident in his defense, freeing up more money for San Francisco to spend for a shortstop and possibly another outfielder. The Giants could also elect to bring in another starting pitcher, but Sanchez actually clears up a logjam in the rotation. S.F. can now move forward with a quintet of Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Matt Cain and Barry Zito.

Only time will tell just how good Cabrera is, but it was an inspired choice by GM Brian Sabean to deal someone the club had soured on and address a glaring need in the outfield. But it's still a risk, and Kansas City's risk is much less because while Cabrera's at his high-water mark, Sanchez is being dealt at perhaps his lowest value.

Sanchez is a fireballer who can stand toe to toe with the best in striking out batters, but he also has erratic command. He served up walks in 14.9 percent of all plate appearances this past season, up from 2010's 11.8 percent. Sanchez is never going to be considered a control wizard, but injury may have been to blame for the spike in walks instead of a simple regression. In June he walked an eye-popping 20.5 percent of batters in June that skewed his season numbers, then promptly spent six weeks on the DL with biceps tendinitis.

These two things appear related, especially since Sanchez's control in the other months were within career norms. Unfortunately, even if Sanchez bounces back to career norms in walks, he still issues too many free passes to be an innings eater, but the Royals will gladly take a 28-year-old fireballing lefty in the middle of the rotation and take 190 innings over 32 starts.

The Royals have been seeking veteran starters to slot in the rotation as they attempt to gain relevancy. It's the right time for the club to start making a push, and the rotation was an obvious need. Sanchez is best used as a No. 3 or 4 starter, but the club's rotation is so poor that right now, Sanchez has to be considered the favorite to start Opening Day. Kansas City did very, very well here to get a legitimate starter in exchange for someone who hightailed it out of Atlanta as one of the more despised players in recent Braves history. The deal also opens up center field for Lorenzo Cain, who came over from Milwaukee prior to 2011 in the Zack Greinke deal.

Sanchez is coming to K.C. with 24-year-old Ryan Verdugo, who posted a 4.35 ERA in 25 starts for Double-A. It was Verdugo's first season as a starter in the minors, and put up remarkably similar numbers to Sanchez. He's someone who can punch out batters, but who also offers up a bit too many free passes. He figures to serve as rotation depth in Triple-A, although his future may be in the bullpen as a setup man. GM Dayton Moore said that the club views the lefty as an eventual reliever.

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Posted on: November 7, 2011 11:31 am
Edited on: December 17, 2011 8:24 am
 

Cuban star Cespedes hoping to make jump to majors

By Evan Brunell

Is baseball ready for "A New Hope"?

That's what Yoenis Cespedes is hoping after releasing a bizarre promotional workout video. Cespedes, 26, defected from Cuba in the summer and is nearing approval to sign with an MLB team as a free agent, Yahoo Sports writes.

As part of that attempt, Cespedes participated in a promotional video that pays homage to his accomplishments on the field and impressive physical attributes in a glitzy way, ending with a closeup of a hog being roasted on a spit because ... well, who knows. In the video, he performs various athletic activities designed to impress -- and he succeeds. One particularly interesting moment was when Cespedes made two consecutive behind-the-back basket catches in the outfield, which takes an enormous amount of proprioception (Princeton definition: "The ability to sense the position and location and orientation and movement of the body and its parts.") and ability to track the ball.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that a source who attended an open workout on Friday in the Dominican Republic, where Cespedes is basing his new home in order to be declared an international free agent, compared the righty to top Angels prospect Mike Trout, who is currently the best five-tool prospect and made his major-league debut at age 19 for the Angels in 2011. Unsurprisingly, the Yankees have significant interest in Cespedes and are expected to pursue him heavily, but there will be no shortage of other suitors for Cespedes to pick from as many clubs could use a center fielder dripping with talent.

The Marlins, who are based in Miami, which boasts a large Cuban population, are currently considered the favorites to land Cespedes, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel writes.

“This may be the big one for the Miami Marlins,” a source told the paper. “He fits all their needs [on and off the field].”

Cespedes is looking for a contract similar to Aroldis Chapman's deal with the Reds, which was worth $30 million when the fireballing lefty signed in January 2010. Cespedes may even be able to outdo Chapman's contract when all is said and done, especially in a weak free-agent class that will leave many teams with money burning a hole in their pocket and no one to spend it on.

Cespedes is the owner of the home run record in Cuba, having slammed 33 in 90 games over the 2010-11 season, hitting .333/.424/.667. A deal that hands him $30 million is very possible, as a source says. Cespedes “is a legitimate center fielder with power, so I understand why they think they can get $30 million," the source told Yahoo!. "They might get more.”

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Posted on: November 7, 2011 10:34 am
Edited on: November 7, 2011 10:52 am
 

Guillen, Ordonez hope to play in 2012

GuillenBy Evan Brunell

Two Tigers who have made headlines the last two seasons for injury problems instead of production on the field are hoping to play again in 2012, MLB.com reports.

Carlos Guillen, a two-time All Star, has played in just 177 of a possible 486 games over the last three years, including just 28 this year, where he contributed a meager .232/.265/.368 line and finished the season on the shelf yet again. It's no surprise the 36-year-old wants to continue a career that has been beset by left shoulder and knee issues, but no team will hand him significant dollars. Guillen (pictured, left, with Ordonez) will likely have to accept a make-good one year deal somewhere and hope to win a bench position.

His teammate in Detroit, Magglio Ordonez, also plans to return, Guillen says, despite Ordonez considering retirement. The two have been in touch since the season ended. Ordonez has his own injury problems as well, as he broke his right foot in mid-2010 that required surgery. Ordonez was slow to get going in 2011 but heated up in late August and reported that his ankle was finally starting to feel normal... then promptly broke it again in the ALCS.

Any Ordonez return would have to be on a similar deal to what Guillen will sign -- low base salary on a make-good deal and no guarantee of a starting job. Those deals will have to come elsewhere, as it doesn't appear as if GM Dave Dombrowski is interested in bringing either one back. That's not too surprising -- after all, Dombrowski has had to deal with two high-salaried players expected to be major assets to the team miss significant playing time in recent seasons -- and not produce too well even when on the field.

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Posted on: November 5, 2011 11:26 am
 

Yankees plan to talk to C.J. Wilson

By Matt Snyder

In a very thin crop of free agent pitchers, C.J. Wilson is the best of the bunch. And while the high-spending Yankees did have the best record in the American League, the last few spots of their rotation would appear to be a weakness moving forward (yes, the offense is aging and will likely regress a bit, but those guys are all locked in contractually). So it's not much of a surprise that the Yankees have Wilson on their radar.

“We haven’t talked to him yet, but we will,” said general manager Brian Cashman (New York Post). “[The Rangers] have won a lot and he’s been a big part of that, so we’ll certainly talk to him.”

And here's the thing worth noting: If the Yankees decide they definitely want Wilson, they'll surely get him. They can outpay anyone (unless the Nationals really wanna get crazy) and Wilson doesn't seem married to any particular destination. Being left-handed also makes him a great fit in Yankee Stadium.

Wilson, 30, was 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 206 strikeouts in 223 1/3 innings during the 2011 regular season, making his first All-Star team. He did have a poor postseason showing, but Cashman told the Post he's not worried about that.

Hat-tip: MLB Trade Rumors

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Posted on: November 4, 2011 11:30 pm
 

Phillies 'in serious pursuit' of Michael Cuddyer

By Matt Snyder

Earlier Friday evening, reports surfaced that Jim Thome had agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Phillies. On the heels of that, Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly is now reporting that the Phillies are "in serious pursuit" of utility player Michael Cuddyer.

Cuddyer, 32, has played his entire 11-year career for the Twins. He's played everywhere except shortstop and catcher in a major-league game before (yes, he even has one inning on the hill under his belt), but he's best used at the corner outfield spots or first base. Team that with the fact that Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and left fielder Raul Ibanez is a free agent, and Cuddyer appears to be a perfect fit. He could fill in at first base while Howard recovers, if Thome can't handle the position defensively (which is a decent bet), or serve as the everyday left fielder throughout the season.

Cuddyer made the All-Star team for the first time in 2011. He hit .284 with 20 home runs, 70 RBI, 70 runs, 11 stolen bases and an .805 OPS. He has the reputation as a high-character player and would absolutely be a fit for the Phillies. Oh, and if it matters, word is that Cuddyer and Thome are good friends.

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Posted on: November 4, 2011 7:03 pm
Edited on: November 5, 2011 4:33 pm
 

Jim Thome signs with Phillies

By Matt Snyder

Jim Thome spent three seasons in Philadelphia and now he's headed back for one more. He has agreed to a one-year contract with the Phillies, the team announced Saturday. The contract is worth $1.25 million.

One would expect Thome's role to simply be a left-handed power bat off the bench, as he hasn't played more than a three games in the field in a season since 2005. General manager Ruben Amaro said as much after the signing:

“We’re very happy to be able to bring Jim back to Philadelphia at this point in his career,” said Amaro in a statement.  “He will be an option for Charlie to use off the bench each night and brings a great attitude to the ballpark every day.”

Other than a symbolic appearance at third base to end the 2011 season, he's been either a designated hitter or pinch hitter since 2007.

The interesting thing here is that Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is recovering from surgery that repaired his torn Achilles tendon shortly after the Phillies lost to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS (Howard suffered the injury on the final out). Reports have indicated Howard could make it back by opening day but he's going to have to avoid any setbacks and that the timetable still seems pretty aggressive. So perhaps the Phillies try to use Thome at first in the early weeks of the season? It all depends on how much they want his bat in the lineup in comparison with how much defense they're willing to sacrifice. Thome has said that he's going to come prepared to play defense when he reports to camp this spring.

Thome, 41, became just the eighth man in baseball history to slug at least 600 career home runs when he hit No. 600 this past season as a member of the Twins. He was then traded to the Indians -- where he began his career -- in late August. Thome was with the Phillies from 2003-05, but he was only the full-time starter for the first two years. By the third year, Howard had taken over as the starter at first base as Thome battled injuries -- clearing the way for the Phillies to trade Thome to the White Sox after the season. Still, Thome definitely likes the organization.

"Every player sees the way the Phillies have done things," Thome said. "They've set the bar very, very high."

And his relationship with Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is really solid.

"Everyone knows my relationship with Jimmy," Manuel said. "But he's not here because of that. He's here to contribute to our team in a positive way, both on and off the field."

The 2012 season will be the 22nd of Thome's illustrious career. He played in the World Series in 1995 and 1997, but still doesn't have a ring. Winning the World Series would seem to fill the only void left in Thome's career.

RELATED: Phillies reportedly "in serious pursuit" of Cuddyer

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Posted on: November 4, 2011 6:05 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 6:09 pm
 

Mets not confident in retaining Jose Reyes

By Matt Snyder

Considering free agency just began and we aren't likely to see any big names sign contracts with new teams any time soon, we have to fill the void with rumor talk. So here we are with the latest word from New York on dynamic Mets shortstop Jose Reyes. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote Friday morning about the Mets' current situation with Reyes. Basically, the Mets are showing their hand. They want Reyes back, but don't want to pay what other teams are likely to pay. The most telling quote was from a Mets "official:"

“My instinct is no shot. I think if [GM] Sandy [Alderson] asked for it, ownership would follow his recommendations. But where the money is going to go it is not going to be the best way to spend the money, not on one player and not one player with this hamstring thing.”

Hot Stove Season
Ah, yes, the hamstring "thing." Reyes was one of the most durable players in baseball from 2005-08, when he averaged 158 games per season. Since then, however, his highest number of games in a season was 133 in 2010 and he just can't seem to shake his hamstring issues, even if it's just nagging 15-day-at-a-time stints on the DL. With a guy who relies on speed, that's a problem, especially as he gets closer to 30 years old (Reyes turned 28 this past June).

Are the Mets trying to keep his value down? Or simply bracing the fan base for a Reyes departure? Or merely just telling the truth, that they'd like Reyes back but fear someone else is going to knock him over with a colossal offer?

Whatever it is, it sounds like -- as of Nov. 4, that is, as things can easily change in a matter of minutes -- that Reyes is headed to a new employer.

Hat-tip: Hardball Talk

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