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Tag:Aramis Ramirez
Posted on: September 28, 2011 3:06 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 10:28 am
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Florida Marlins

MarlinsBy Evan Brunell

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Florida Marlins
Record: 72-89, 29 games back in NL East
Manager: Jack McKeon (replaced Edwin Rodriguez, who resigned on June 19)
Best hitter: Mike Stanton -- .263/.357/.540, 34 HR, 87 RBI, 4.5 WAR
Best pitcher: Anibal Sanchez -- 8-9, 3.67 ERA ,3.35 xFIP, 196 1/3 IP, 64 BB, 202 K

The Marlins haven't been heard from much on the field since 2003, when they took down the Yankees to win their second World Series. Since then, the club has been in the news for their miserly spending, firing two well-regarded managers in Joe Girardi and Fredi Gonzalez and their owner's irrationality. The last few seasons, owner Jeffrey Loria has believed this team can contend, but anyone who actually looks at the club thinks otherwise. However, entering 2011, there was some hope for contention, but it all unraveled.

2011 SEASON RECAP

There's no doubting that the Marlins had a season to forget. The team's prized offseason acquisition that was supposed to give the club a formidable rotation, Javier Vazquez, stumbled to a 5.23 ERA in the first half. Meanwhile, team ace Josh Johnson continued his injury woes by only making nine starts.

And yet, the team got off to a strong start, posting a 16-9 record in April. They kept it up in May with a 15-13 record, and it looked like the Marlins might finally be players for the first time since 2009 (and before that, 2003 when they won the World Series). But Johnson's injury and Vazquez's ineffectiveness caught up with the team along with Hanley Ramirez's bizarre slow start to the year, causing the Fish to collapse in June and cost manager Edwin Rodriguez his job. Rodriguez resigned in the midst of an 11-game losing streak, which Jack McKeon snapped the second game after taking over. The team rebounded in July with a 17-10 mark, but collapsed yet again in August with a 7-20 mark once Hanley Ramirez hit the shelf for the remainder of the year, and it was over. At that point, the Marlins became known more for off-the-field headlines than on, demoting top prospect Logan Morrison to the minors in a thinly-veiled attempt to curtail Morrison's tweeting (@LoMoMarlins) and other off-the-field issues.

2012 AUDIT

The Marlins head into the offseason with heavy expectations on hand and a bit of a front-office restructuring, with Loria and team president David Samson taking on more of a role in baseball operations since the Marlins' moves the last few seasons haven't quite panned out under president Larry Beinfest and GM Michael Hill. Even if Beinfest leaves after being marginalized, it will be business as usual in Florida as the team is going through a facelift, finally abandoning the horrid Sun Life Stadium in favor of their own baseball-only park. In addition, the team is undergoing a name change to the Miami Marlins and has a new (not well-received) logo to boot. The Fish are taking this chance seriously to win over new fans and start a new beginning, hoping that baseball will finally start being viable in the Sunshine State. They're even willing to approach $100 million in payroll, reports say, which is a stark divergence from their penny-pinching ways.

On Wednesday, the last day of the 2011 regular season, the Marlins began their offseason by hiring Ozzie Guillen to manage and handing him a lucrative $10-million deal to manage Miami over the next four seasons. This hiring adds credibility to the team, both for being able to get a well-respected manager with a World Series ring (2005) and showing that the team will open their checks. However, they still have a difficult avenue ahead of them, with the powerhouse Phillies, elite Braves and emerging Nationals. If MIami has any hope of competing, they need to be serious about acquiring assets in the offseason to build out the rotation and add more bats to a team seriously deficient in offense.

FREE AGENTS

Jose Lopez, 2B
Javier Vazquez, SP

OFFSEASON FOCUS

The Marlins, ever since they showed just how serious they were in being players on the free-agent market, have been linked to the three top targets -- Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and C.J. Wilson. However, Pujols and Fielder both play first base and the club already has Gaby Sanchez at that position. While Sanchez is far from quality enough to block Pujols and Fielder, Logan Morrison is also a first baseman masquerading as a left fielder, so it's hard to envision the Marlins grabbing a first-baseman. Not to mention, even with the Marlins reportedly serious about laying out as much as $60 million in free agency, it's still a tremendous risk for the Marlins to get locked in a long-term contract.

For Miami to take the next step, and yet keep their team viable for long-term success, they should look to do the following...
  • Sign Aramis Ramirez to play third base. The Marlins really need to boost their offense, and Ramirez is a logical fit, even before Ozzie Guillen headed to Florida. Ramirez said the Marlins were an attractive team with Guillen, but warm weather and proximity to Ramirez's home of the Dominican Republic is also important. The Marlins are willing to throw money around, but Ramirez would be a better fit than Pujols or Fielder, filling a position of need while coming at a short-term cost, at least compared to Fielder and Pujols. In addition, Ramirez wouldn't break the bank, allowing the Marlins to...
  • Sign Hisashi Iwakuma. The Japanese pitcher was posted last season, but couldn't come to an agreement with the Athletics. Now a free agent, Iwakuma is free to sign with any baseball team. It's difficult to envision the Marlins signing C.J. Wilson, but Iwakuma makes much more sense. At a lower cost, the Marlins can get a viable starting pitcher to plug into the rotation. The failure of Daisuke Matsuzaka will make a lot of teams skittish on Iwakuma, opening the door for the Marlins to sign the lefty. The club also needs to convince Javier Vazquez to come back for another year, giving the club a rotation of Johnson, Sanchez, Vazquez and Iwakuma to start.
  • Additionally, the club could use a closer. Even if Leo Nunez -- er, Juan Carlos Oviedo -- comes back, the team could use an upgrade. There's a ton of closers hitting the free-agent market, and Huston Street will be available from Colorado. Given the team will already have made two commitments in Ramirez and Iwakuma, the better move would be to go after Street, with just $7 million left on his deal running through 2012. But Street isn't a sexy name, and the Marlins will want to make headlines. Ramirez and Iwakuma aren't splashes, but signing Francisco Rodriguez? That's a splash, but it might cost the Marlins a first round pick. Brad Lidge and Jonathan Broxton wouldn't require first-rounders, but are risks. Jonathan Papelbon would be a better target than Rodriguez, unless Milwaukee declines arbitration on K-Rod, which is entirely possible.
  • The Marlins need to show patience with their internal candidates. Logan Morrison hasn't been a force right away as some hoped, but the talent is there for him to break out. Similarly, Chris Coghlan had a lost season to ineffectiveness and injury, but is won the Rookie of the Year award in 2009 for a reason.
These moves all minimize Miami losing draft picks, don't lock the team into any long-term commitments they may become unable to sustain, address clear deficiencies on their team and would put them in position to contend.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: September 27, 2011 6:50 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Chicago Cubs

By Matt Snyder

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Chicago Cubs
Record: 70-90, 24 games back in NL Central
Manager: Mike Quade
Best hitter: Aramis Ramirez -- .306/.360/.506, 25 HR, 92 RBI, 79 R, 35 2B
Best pitcher: Matt Garza -- 9-10, 3.35 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 189 K, 191 IP

After the 2008 season, the Cubs were in the middle of a bit of a golden era in the franchise. They had been division champions three times in a six-year span. That isn't saying much for a lot of teams, but this franchise hadn't had that kind of success since playing in the World Series four out of five seasons from 1906-1910. Alas, they were swept in the NLDS in 2008, despite having the best regular-season record in the National League, so general manager Jim Hendry decided to do some tinkering. The Cubs finished just five games over .500 in 2009 before coming in fifth place in 2010 and are currently in fifth again. And Hendry's out of a job, likely to be followed by Quade and some other coaches.

2011 SEASON RECAP

They were 9-8 and tied for first place after the first game of a doubleheader on April 20, but that was the high point in the standings. The Cubs would go on to lose six of seven games and never be a serious threat the rest of the way. They fell to 10 games back on June 4 and never got closer than nine back in the Central from that point forward. They actually moved up to fourth place September 19 for the first time since May 26, but the overwhelming majority of the season has been spent in fifth place, thanks to the lowly Astros. The biggest positives: Starlin Castro is well on his way to being a major-league star, Darwin Barney appears an adequate option at second base, Matt Garza had a good season, Sean Marshall is still great in middle-to-late inning relief and Jeff Samardzija finally doesn't look like a huge bust. The biggest negative is that this appears to be a badly flawed roster with not near enough help on the way from the minors.

2012 AUDIT

This is the toughest assignment of the R.I.P. series, because there's no way to know the direction of the ballclub until a new general manager is hired. The club is not immediately set up to compete, but there's a stipulation: With more than $50 million in payroll falling off before 2012 and even more off the books before '13, the Cubs could decide to be a major player in free agency. The franchise has enough money to grab, for example, Prince Fielder, C.J. Wilson and still have money left over to bolster the bullpen and find a fill-in at third base. On the other hand, many would argue that still isn't enough to make the Cubs immediate contenders in the National League. If the new GM agrees, he might be more in favor of leaving the payroll low for a season or two while building the system with a youthful foundation before pouncing on big-name free agents to fill holes in 2013 or 2014. One thing that should scare fellow franchises in the NL Central if the Cubs choose to spend big in the near future, is that the Cubs are clear of all big contracts except Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Marmol (and Matt Garza likely has a deal by then, too, I'd guess) prior to 2013 and Marmol's off after '13. They have the resources to be the Red Sox of the NL. It's just a matter of if the Cubs can put the correct plan in place, and that all comes down to who chairman Tom Ricketts hires as his next GM.

FREE AGENTS

Aramis Ramirez, 3B (mutual option)
Carlos Pena, 1B
Reed Johnson, OF
Ryan Dempster, SP (player option for '12)
John Grabow, RP
Jeff Samardzija, RP (club option for '12 and '13)

OFFSEASON FOCUS

Where to even begin? This roster is a mess. First of all, I'd listen to offers for everyone except Starlin Castro. That doesn't mean you have to trade guys like Barney, Marshall or Soto, but you never know if the return might work with the game plan of the new GM. Let's sort through some of this and see what can be done short-term with the eyes on the future. My goal would be to contend in 2013. If it happens in 2012, that's just gravy.
  • Get Prince Fielder. He's 27 and incredibly durable (has never played less than 157 games in a full season). He'd then be the anchor for the Cubs for the foreseeable future, even if it takes a few years to build around him and Castro. Also of importance, if you bat Castro second and Fielder third, Castro's strike zone woes become less an issue (though he has walked more times than he's struck out in September, so it's getting better already).
  • Give Andrew Cashner one last shot to stay healthy in the rotation and also see if Samardzija can be successful as a starter. Having a rotation of Garza, Dempster, Randy Wells, Cashner and Samardzija won't be winning any championships, but Dempster is gone after 2012 and there'd be plenty of money to go after free agents. By then, they Cubs will know if they need just one guy or up to four with Garza. And the list of free agent starters after next season could have some big names -- assuming they aren't granted contract extensions -- like Matt Cain, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Shaun Marcum and James Shields.
  • Read the riot act to Carlos Marmol. Considering the Cubs likely can't contend in 2012 and Marmol is signed through 2013, he has one year to fix himself. Marmol has blown an MLB-high 10 saves (he's tied with Jordan Walden). You can't count on closers to be perfect, but let's say Marmol only blew four saves, which is a very reasonable percentage. The Cubs would be 76-84, which isn't awful at all considering some of the injury issues and poor roster construction.
  • Give Bryan LaHair a shot in right field. LaHair is 28, so he's hardly a prospect, but it's possible he's a late bloomer like Ryan Ludwick or Jayson Werth. LaHair had 38 home runs, 109 RBI and a 1.070 OPS in 129 Triple-A games. He's hitting .309/.391/.545 in 19 games for the Cubs this season. Again, the eyes are on 2013 here, so if he flames out as many expect, you can address the position next offseason. But he's at least earned the chance to get an extended look in the bigs.
  • If the Cubs do fall out of contention in 2012, Marlon Byrd needs to be traded at the deadline and prospect Brett Jackson can then take over in center field. If Jackson is deemed ready earlier in the season and LaHair doesn't pan out, Byrd could be moved to right. 
  • I'd personally bring back Aramis Ramirez for two or three years, assuming the Cubs don't have to break the bank. The last thing they need is another albatross contract, so if he's demanding something like four years and $50 million, it's time to move on. But if it's reasonable, it makes sense to keep him. He's only 33 and has shown has can still swing the bat. He's got to have two to three years left of above-average production at third base. Prospect Josh Vitters had completely fallen off all prospect rankings prior to this season, but rebounded with a decent showing in Double-A this season (.283/.322/.448 with 14 homers, 81 RBI and 28 doubles) and he's still only 21. In two years, the Cubs will have an idea if he is going to be the next third baseman or not. If not, they can look outside the organziation or perhaps someone in the farm system will have emerged. Keeping Ramirez is a natural bridge to when it comes to that.
And there's a lot more, too, but those are the big ones.

The main thing here is the hire a new GM that puts the main focus on building the minor-league system. That way in a few years free agency won't be the only avenue to fill out a winning ballclub. Remember, people complain about the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies in free agency, but lots of players -- Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels and several others were developed from within the respective systems. The Cubs have been terrible at developing their own in recent years and leaned on trades and free agency to bail them out. It needs to be a combination or everything will eventually fall apart like it did this season. From there, they can start to think about breaking a faux-curse and easing the pain of the legions of true fans.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 22, 2011 10:33 am
 

Pepper: Moneyball the talk of baseball

Scott Hatteberg

By C. Trent Rosecrans

With the Moneyball movie, I've gone from skeptical to excited to disappointed to indifferent to cautiously optimistic -- and I still haven't seen it.

It's all anyone's talking about, of course, even though we do have two good races going for the wild card right now, the tale of a team that lost in the first round of the playoffs is apparently more interesting because Brad Pitt is involved. Pitt, who usually graces the cover of supermarket checkout magazines, is even on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week. I don't expect to see him on the front of Baseball America, but I wouldn't be shocked if he were.

Or at least those of us with keyboards. I've heard reviews all over the board -- from those too close who go against the grain and hate everything to those who are indifferent and those who loved it. I've heard people named in the book (and movie) who thought it was awful and a complete work of fiction and others who show up as characters who say it does a great job of showing what it was like. It just goes to show that perception differs much more than reality.

One of those who says good things about it is Scott Hatteberg, who is played by Chris Pratt in the movie (both are pictured above, with the real-life Hatteberg on the right).

"It caused the hair to rise on the back of my neck," Hatteberg told Baseball Prospectus' John Perrotto.

When I covered Hatteberg, he was one of my favorite guys to interview because of his insight to the game -- and his outside interests. I ran into him at a Wilco concert once and we'd often talk music and movies. He's also extremely intelligent and while I used to say I could see him as a manager (and still could), now he's working in the A's front office and I could easily see him as a general manager.

Hatteberg's one of the reasons I want to see the movie, with the portrayal of scouts as simpletons relying on outdated methods to judge players and the oversimplification of saber metric principals as reasons I'm skeptical. 

The scene in the preview with David Justice having to put money in a Pepsi machine is the one that makes me cringe the most -- it's total fiction, as Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News points out in this handy true-false scorecard on the movie -- and makes me wonder if I'll be one of those watching just to point out inaccuracies as opposed to just sitting back and trying to enjoy the movie as a whole. Sometimes that's tough -- any time I see a press conference where reporters start clapping usually make me hate just about the best of movies. A little knowledge on a  subject can help when enjoying a movie, but more info can totally ruin it.

Either way, I guess they'll get my money and isn't that all that matters?

Just a touch: One of the biggest differences between the movie and the book is that Paul DePodesta didn't want his name used, so instead there's a fictionalized character, Peter Brand, who plays the DePodesta part. While Jonah Hill doesn't resemble DePodesta physically, his character hits the nail on the head, the Los Angeles Times' Bill Plaschke writes.

Monty got a raw deal: Even if it appears NotDePodesta was portrayed well in the movie, its main villain, Grady Fuson is not portrayed accurately, according to Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The foil for Billy Beane in the movie, Fuson -- now back with the A's -- is portrayed as a bit of a dope and dinosaur. In the movie, Beane even fires Fuson, when in fact Fuson was hired away by the Rangers, something that Beane was not happy about at the time.

Strange: The Dodgers are a mess, but that may not preclude them from making some big waves in the offseason, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. If the Dodgers are in play, that suddenly makes them a team to watch for either of the two big free agent first basemen, Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols. The team could also look to lock up Matt Kemp.

So fast, so numb: Of the 30 teams that have won at least 100 games from 1980 to 2010, only four have won the World Series -- the Yankees in 1998 and 2009, the 1986 Mets and the 1984 Tigers. Of those 30, only 11 made the World Series.  Since 1986, three teams with fewer than 88 wins have won the Series -- the 2006 Cardinals (83), 2000 Yankees (87) and 1987 Twins (85). The Phillies (98) and the Yankees (95) are the only two teams with a shot at 100 wins this season. [San Francisco Chronicle]

Sitting still: Blue Jays rookie Brett Lawrie won't play again this season after breaking his right middle finger on Wednesday. Lawrie suffered the injury before Wednesday's game, fielding ground balls. [MLB.com]

Binky the doormat: Cubs manager Mike Quade says he thinks he'll be back in 2012. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Departure: Although unlikely to return to the Orioles, Vladimir Guerrero wants to return in 2012, and beyond. Guerrero would like to play "two or three" more years, he told the Baltimore Sun. Guerrero is three hits away from all-time Dominican hit-leader, Julio Franco, who has 2,586 hits. He's also just one homer away from 450.

Finest worksong: Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire says the team's communication has been a key feature to its offense. The team has stressed that players need to be in the dugout talking after at-bats instead of going straight to the video room. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

Endgame: Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez will explore free agency, even if the Cubs pick up their part of the $16-million mutual option, which is unlikely anyway. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Moral kiosk: Marlins president David Samson tried to help the victim of a traffic accident while on his way to the team's new park on Wednesday. Samson was lauded for his attempts to help the victims, but he deflected any praise. [Miami Herald]

Everybody hurts: Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes was scratched from his scheduled start against the Rays on Wednesday and the rest of his season is in doubt. An MRI revealed his back spasms were actually inflammation from a herniated disk he first suffered in 2004. Hughes may be done for the season, but the team hopes he can return as soon as this weekend. [New York Post]

Hairshirt: The new Marlins logo received "mixed" reviews, according to the Miami Herald. That sounds generous. My favorite comment from my twitter feed was that it looked like someone "vomited Skittles." Former Marlin Dan Uggla was asked about his opinion of the new logo and said he wasn't a big fan. When asked more specifically what was wrong with it, he answered "everything."

The one I love: While the Marlins are going in a totally new direction for their new logo, the Blue Jays are apparently going back to the past for their new logo. Don't expect too many complaints (although there will be some, it's the internet, there are always complaints). [The Score]

New test leper: Because of MLB's relation with the Dominican winter league, Manny Ramirez will not be eligible to play in his native land this winter as he'd hoped. [ESPN.com]

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 21, 2011 9:53 am
 

Pepper: Mets might change Citi Field dimensions



By Matt Snyder


A common refrain since the Mets moved into Citi Field is that the outfield dimensions cost the team loads of home runs in each given season. Notably, it's been discussed how many homers have turned into doubles for David Wright by several different New York reporters. Only Kauffman Stadium (Royals) and AT&T Park (Giants) have been worse for home runs this season and Citi Field ranked 27th in homers last season.

Two areas in particular that have drawn malign are the height of the left-field wall (why not have it the same height as the center-field wall?) and the well in right field (where it says "Modell's"). It feels like changing those two things would make it a pretty average ballpark for hitters.

Well, changes could be on the horizon, and not-so-small changes at that.

“If we do something, it won’t be subtle,” general manager Sandy Alderson said (NYTimes.com Bats blog), noting that changes are not definite but the Mets are looking hard at several different options.

“We’re not looking necessarily to gain an advantage with respect to home runs versus visitor’s home runs,” Alderson said (NYTimes.com Bats blog). “But at the same time, I think there is some sense that the park is a little more overwhelming to a team that spends half its time there, as opposed to a team that comes in for three games, doesn’t really have to alter its approach or think about it too much and leaves.”

I tend to agree with him. All things equal, I'd much rather have my team playing in a league-average ballpark instead of an extreme-hitter or extreme-pitcher park. Not that it definitely determines the fate of your ballclub -- it doesn't -- but if either pitchers or hitters collectively believe they're getting screwed for 81 games, it's hard to keep a positive mentality for the whole season.

'Fan' is short for 'fanatic:' A Yankees fan had the task of serving Red Sox starting pitcher Erik Bedard with child support papers Tuesday and relished in it. He wore a Yankees shirt and bragged on Facebook that he intentionally served Bedard on a day of his start (Big League Stew). Bedard went out and gave up five hits and four runs (though only one was earned) in 2 2/3 innings. Let's hope this fan never accuses any player of lacking professionalism, or else we've got a nice case of hypocrisy working.

Lincecum endorses Kershaw: The NL Cy Young vote is going to be quite competitive, with Clayton Kershaw, Ian Kennedy and some Phillies likely garnering most of the votes. Two-time winner Tim Lincecum believes the winner should be Kershaw. “Just with the numbers he has, he’s leading in a lot of categories, to put up a 20-win season is huge, especially with the team he’s got. He’s done a magnificent job with his year," Lincecum said after losing to Kershaw again (Extra Baggs). The two aces have squared off four times. Lincecum has a 1.24 ERA in those outings, but Kershaw has won all four.

Harwell's glasses are back: In Tuesday's Pepper, we passed along the story that a statue of late, great Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell had been stripped of its glasses. Well, the replacement set of frames is back at home (Detroit Free-Press). Let's hope these stay there for a while.

Aramis' swan song: Third baseman Aramis Ramirez was traded to the Cubs in July of 2003. He played on three playoff teams, in two All-Star games and solidified a position that hadn't been locked down since Ron Santo manned the hot corner. The Cubs have a $16 million option for 2012 on Ramirez and he has repeatedly said he wants to stay, but the feeling apparently isn't mutual. When asked if he believes this is his last run with the Cubs, he replied (Chicago Tribune): "Probably. There's a good chance. I'm a free agent and I don't know what's going to happen. But it looks like I'm going to hit the market."

Movie Night! "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" was a huge hit in the 80s, and it includes a scene in Wrigley Field. It's only fitting that Wrigley's first "Movie Night" will be showing the Matthew Broderick film October 1 (Chicago Tribune). Bleacher seats are $10, while lawn seats are $25. That's steep for a movie that hit theaters in 1986, but would the novelty of sitting on Wrigley Field's playing surface be worth it? You make the call.

No ERA title for Cueto: Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto was already suspected to be ruled out for the season, and now he's even admitting as much (MLB.com). With the Reds out of the race, this wouldn't normally matter, but Cueto had a shot at leading the league in ERA. His 2.31 mark currently trails only Kershaw (2.27). The problem is that Cueto has only thrown 156 innings. In order to qualify for an ERA crown, a pitcher must have thrown at least one inning for each game his team has played. So once the Reds play game 157, Cueto falls off the ERA standings.

Rockies love Tracy, kind of: Rockies manager Jim Tracy is signed through 2012 and his job is safe at least through the length of the contract. "Jim is signed through next year, and we'd love to have him be manager here for much longer than that. But I have gone into the last year of my contract here more than you could imagine," general manager Dan O'Dowd told The Denver Post. So that sounds good, right? Well, depends upon the point of view. He's not offering a contract extension, and you'll notice the comment about going into the last year of a contract. So it sounds like O'Dowd likes Tracy for now, but he's giving himself a chance to change his mind by the end of next year. And he has every right to do that.

Watch those Nats: If you relish in the failures of the Nationals, you better enjoy it while you can. I've preached all season that the proverbial corner would be turned soon, with a great young base of talent and lots of money available for free agents. Speaking of which, expect the Nats to be hot after All-Star starting pitcher C.J. Wilson -- who is a free agent after this season -- this coming offseason (MLB.com via Twitter).

Saito can't get healthy: Brewers reliever Takashi Saito has been excellent this season, sporting a 1.90 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Of course, he's only thrown 23 2/3 innings due to a series of injuries. Now he's dealing with a calf injury (MLB.com).

More roadblocks for McCourt: One of the ways embattled Dodgers owner Frank McCourt plans to get out of his financial mess is to sell the TV rights to Dodgers games for future seasons. Well, Fox holds the Dodgers' TV rights through 2013 and has a problem with McCourt trying to negotiate a deal immediately (LATimes.com).

Johan's progress: Mets' ace Johan Santana continues to work his surgically repaired shoulder back into shape. After throwing a three-inning simulated game Saturday, he's now slated for two instructional league games (Oct. 1 and Oct. 7). (ESPN New York)

Happy Anniversary: On this day 15 years ago, Vladimir Guerrero hit his first career home run (Hardball Times). He now has 449.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 12, 2011 11:10 pm
 

A. Ramirez wants more than one year in new deal

RamirezBy Evan Brunell

Aramis Ramirez believes he deserves a contract worth more than the one year, which he may have to play under for 2012.

"If I hit the marketplace I should end up with a two- or three-year deal," Ramirez told ESPNChicago.com. "The reason is, there aren't a lot of third baseman available this offseason. But if [Cubs officials] approach me, I'm sure we can get something done. But probably not for one year."

The team holds an option on the third baseman for 2012 at $16 million with a $2 million buyout if they decline it (so really, Ramirez is valued at $14 million). Ramirez is able to decline the team's option and become a free agent, which he is expected to do so during an offseason where he will be seeking his final big payday at age 33. With a lack of strong offensive third basemen on the free-agent market, Ramirez certainly could earn a three-year deal on the market after hitting .303/.357/.504 with 24 homers in 583 plate appearances during a resurgent season.

"My priority has always been to stay with the Cubs," Ramirez added. "But, right now, we don't even have a GM to make any decisions. So I hope we finish strong the next two weeks and then we'll see what happens.

"A one-year thing is not ideal. Every player wants to be in place for at least two or three years. But the one-year stuff, that's kind of tough to do. But I do want to stay with the Cubs if I can."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: August 13, 2011 3:17 pm
 

Source: Soriano confronted Zambrano

Alfonso SorianoBy C. Trent Rosecrans

After Carlos Zambrano was ejected from Friday's game, Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano went into the team's clubhouse and "went off" on Zambrano, a source told CBSSports.com.

Zambrano was very quiet and didn't really say much after being ejected. Then, as soon as Soriano stopped yelling at him in Spanish, Zambrano packed his bag, took the nameplate from his locker and left, the source said.

Soriano, like Zambrano, is signed to a big-money, long-term deal by the Cubs. However, he's been criticized for not showing emotions at time, in stark contrast to Zambrano who has often let his emotions get the best of him. Soriano is known to be easy-going and generally well-liked. The fact that it was Soriano that had a problem with Zambrano showed just how fed up Zambrano's teammates are with the pitcher.

Following Friday's game, manager Mike Quade told reporters he hadn't talked to Zambrano, but didn't sound too worried about the pitcher's next step.

"I have too much respect for the rest of the guys in this room to worry," Quade said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Aramis Ramirez told the Tribune that he'd never seen anything like what Zambrano did, while Marlon Byrd told the paper he hadn't talked to Zambrano but was planning on calling him. 

"If he doesn't show up [Saturday], we might not see him again," Byrd told the Tribune.

Players usually start showing up four hours or so before the game and the press is allowed in three-and-a-half hours before the game, so expect to hear more soon.

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Posted on: August 2, 2011 4:26 pm
 

Players that could be dealt before August 31

Rodriguez
By Evan Brunell

Although the trade deadline expired on Sunday, it... didn't. At least, not really.

What did expire was the non-waiver trade deadline, in which teams can trade players without restrictions that aren't built into a player's contract such as no-trade clauses and the like. However, trades can still occur for the rest of the season -- players just have to pass through waivers. These waivers are revocable, so if a team claims a player, the original team can revoke waivers. However, it then cannot deal the player, and if he goes on waivers a second time and is claimed, he is lost. That team can also choose not to revoke waivers and give away the player and his contract. This is what happened to Alex Rios when he joined Chicago in 2009 when Toronto no longer felt like paying his deal.

The original team and claiming team can also work out a trade, but a trade can only happen with the team that placed a claim. If the player passes through waivers, he can then be traded to any team. Most teams place the majority of players on waivers, both to hide players the team really wants to deal and to broaden options. Waiver claim priority works in order of worst record to best in the same league, then it moves to the worst record in the other league. These types of trades can happen through September, although August 31st is effectively the cutoff point.

While there have been September trades, they are few and far in-between for two reasons. First is that with the expansion to a 40-man rosters, most teams no longer struggle for depth. Secondly, and more important, is the fact that any player outside of the organization acquired after August 31 is not eligible for the playoffs.

Got all that? Good. Let's take a look at nine players or positions of interest who could be on the move in August (and possibly September).

Heath Bell, Padres
: Heath Bell surprisingly stayed at home at the trade deadline while setup man Mike Adams was sent out. This came as a surprise, as everyone assumed that Bell would be dealt. Clearly, the Padres didn't get an offer that was worth giving up the two compensatory draft picks they would have received once Bell rejected arbitration and signed a lucrative contract with another team, or re-upped with San Diego on a hometown-discount deal.

Except Bell said he plans to accept the Padres' offer of arbitration if they can't come to an accord on a contract. That's how motivated Bell is to stay in town, so the Padres can no longer bank on the compensatory draft picks. Unless traded, Bell is staying a Padre. That could motivate GM Jed Hoyer to kick him out in August, although with a $7.5 million contract on the season, Bell figures to be claimed by many teams who could use a top-flight reliever at little cost.

Randy Choate, Marlins: Not exactly a big name, I know, but Choate is the kind of player that gets dealt every August. He's a left-handed reliever who can plug in a gap for a contender. The Yankees, Red Sox and many other teams would be interested in Choate, who is signed for 2012 at just $1.5 million. He's got peanuts left on his $1 million deal this season and has a sterling 1.66 ERA in 21 1/3 innings. That's not much, but Choate's value is tied up in being able to get left-handed hitters out.

As we see every October, that's incredibly valuable, and Choate has held lefties to a .131/.185/.123 mark on the year, which comes out to a .398 OPS. That's really low. Choate has been linked to the Yankees, but he would have no shortage of suitors if the Marlins made him available.

Ramon Hernandez, Reds: There was plenty of consternation as to why the Reds stood pat at the trade deadline, as well as why Hernandez wasn't moved. With top prospect Devin Mesoraco waiting in the wings in Triple-A, one would think that GM Walt Jocketty would want to capitalize on Hernandez's value, especially to the Giants. Alas, nothing transpired, not even once the Giants and Reds completed their game on Sunday, which some felt might be holding up a deal.

Hernandez is still a good bet to go, even if Cincinnati climbs back into the race thanks to the presence of Mesoraco, as well as help at other spots that the backstop would fetch in a deal. If they begin rebuilding, they have even less need for Hernandez. The only problem is that catching depth is so thin in the majors and Hernandez's salary is so cheap that, like Bell, plenty of teams figure to be interested in placing a claim and blocking a deal.

Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: For some reason, GM Jim Hendry stood pat at the trade deadline and didn't bother to try and convince third-baseman Aramis Ramirez that accepting a deal would be to his benefit. Hendry wants to keep the core of a 90-loss team together for some reason, so even bandying about Ramirez as a possible piece to be moved probably is pointless. But if Hendry has a chance of heart, Ramirez might too.

You see, Ramirez loves Chicago and has his family based there -- except in mid-August, his wife and children pack up and head back to the Dominican Republic. Thus, where he plays to finish off the year becomes less important once his family leaves, which could convince Ramirez to waive his no-trade deal. If that happened, Ramirez could interest the Angels and White Sox, to name two teams. The White Sox would allow the ability to stay in the city, but the roadblock to that is that the Pale Hose are not looking to add payroll.

Athletics outfielder: Oakland really needs to subtract at least one of its outfielders in Coco Crisp, Josh Willingham or David DeJesus, as I mentioned Monday when looking at teams that stood pat at the deadline. Any of these outfielders can help a team, and Willingham and DeJesus may have a pulse in their bat if they can get out of the Coliseum. Free-agent compensation matters here, and Willingham will fetch a price commensurate with two compensatory draft picks, as he's currently set to be a Type-A free agent even if only tenuously. DeJesus is a Type-B free agent and Crisp does not need compensation.

Simply put, Oakland needs to look ahead at 2012 and what it can do to bolster the team. It's one thing if all they're being offered are organizational guys for these players. At that point, GM Billy Beane is probably best suited to just hang onto the players. But Willingham and DeJesus aren't the kind of players that would have scrubs offered. There's real value in these players, and given the unlikelihood of both returning to town, Beane needs to jump on any interest.

Jim Thome, Twins: Here's an interesting name. The Twins, if they fall out of the race, have no need for Thome. In fact, they may be looked upon as doing a favor to Thome in trading him to a contender for a chance to win a World Series in what is likely Thome's final season. Just three home runs away from 600, some have speculated that he will be moved after he reaches the milestone. But given how impressively the Twins draw and the fact Thome doesn't have deep roots with the team makes that hard to believe. He's a candidate to be traded before and after 600 home runs.

The Phillies have been linked to Thome, which would be a fantastic option. Philadelphia is obviously headed toward October, and Thome would be the big bat off the bench that becomes so paramount. Just like left-handed relief specialists, pinch-hitters increase in importance as the amount of games decrease. And if the Phillies somehow make it to the World Series, Thome is a fine DH. Jason Giambi is another player who could fit this mold.

Right-handed hitting platoon outfielder: Might not sound terribly appealing to discuss outfielders that wouldn't start regularly, but as has been mentioned, shoring up depth at the major-league level takes on added importance for the postseason. To be sure, several teams need starting outfielders like any of the A's outfielders or perhaps even the Twins' Jason Kubel, who is also a candidate to be traded in August. But players that can help counteract left-handed pitchers like Choate but don't require a full-time job and don't cost a lot of money are valuable.

Playing time and big bucks aren't necessary for players like Scott Hairston, Jeff Francouer, and Ryan Spilborghs, who can come off the bench and serve as injury replacements, pinch-hitters or platoon outfielders. Hairston and Francouer, especially, have noted success against left-handed pitching and were names to watch at the trade deadline for that very reason. Francouer, in particular, is used to being traded in August, as the Rangers acquired him last season on the 31st to fill the exact role that a team would want him this year for: to hit lefties.

Jeff Francis, Royals: The last two names on this list are both left-handed starters, but that's not why Francis is on the list. No, he's on the list because he's a cheap, back-end option in the rotation. While there might be some better pitchers on the market (see the next name), Francis would work well in the middle of the rotation, perhaps the last starter in a postseason four-man rotation. Injuries will continue to happen between now and the end of the year, and one of those injuries could be a big blow to a contender's rotation -- much like Boston has to deal with the absence of Clay Buchholz.

Francis has soaked up 135 2/3 innings on the year with a 4.38 ERA, which is impressive given he pitches in the AL albeit in a weak division. His peripherals are strong, so that 4.38 ERA isn't a fluke. He can be a real shot in the arm for a contender. While the Royals could really use him in the rotation, which has yet to be anything less than awful, Francis is also a free agent and will certainly parlay his season into a nice contract from a team closer to contending, so K.C. shouldn't be worried about long-term effects of trading Francis, only who they can get in return.

Wandy Rodriguez, Astros: Rodriguez is a step up from Francis, but it's not entirely clear how big of a step up he is. He's working on his fourth straight season of an ERA below 4, but there's serious question among American Leaguers as to whether he could withstand a league switch, which depresses his suitors and the price for the left-hander. His contract is also looking like a pill, as he has $34 million due him from 2011-13 with a club option for 2014 -- but becomes a player option with a trade, and not many teams have interest in Rodriguez choosing to stay with his club for $13 million in a year where he will be 35.

The Astros are willing to eat a good chunk of the contract though, even if they refuse to eat the $17 million that might have made Rodriguez a Yankee before the trade deadline. If the Yankees or another team want Houston to eat that amount of money, it would take a strong prospect surrendered. Rodriguez is a good pitcher, but it seems his stock has dropped just below that tier, so it may be difficult for Houston and other teams to agree to both a return and how much cash the Astros would cover. Still, he's certainly not being claimed on waivers and will be a top-end option for any desperate teams.

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Posted on: July 29, 2011 5:59 pm
 

Ramirez wants to stay with Cubs

Aramis RamirezBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez said he was "misunderstood" on Thursday when it was reported he'd consider waiving his no-trade protectionfor the right deal, and on Friday he told reporters as much.

From the Chicago Tribune:

"I want to stay here and [general manager Jim Hendry] wants me here … If he doesn't want to trade me, he ain't gonna listen to offer."

As for if Ramirez would say no to a trade, well, he backed off the hard stance, "That has to happen first," he said. "After that happens, I'll see what's going on." 

Ramirez said he talked to Hendry on Thursday to make sure the GM knew Ramirez preferred to stay in Chicago.

The Cubs hold a $16 million option on Ramirez for 2012, but are unlikely to pick it up. CBSSports.com senior writer Scott Miller noted the Angels would love to add Ramirez to their lineup.

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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