Tag:Heath Bell
Posted on: June 28, 2011 9:54 pm
 

Cardinals interested in Bell, Bartlett

By Evan Brunell

BellThe Cardinals are attempting to trade for both Heath Bell and Jason Bartlett from San Diego, the New York Post reports.

St. Louis has mixed and matched at closer the entire season, and Bell would immediately slot in as a proven closer. While Fernando Salas, a rookie, has locked down the ninth inning as of late by converting 10 straight saves and 12 overall, he's still an unproven rookie. Although the Cardinals have had success with unproven rookies becoming closers, as Adam Wainwright was a major reason the Cardinals walked away with the 2006 championship.

However, St. Louis' bullpen as a whole has struggled, registering a 4.19 ERA, good for 23rd in baseball. Adding Bell would allow the Cardinals to lengthen the bullpen by putting Salas in a setup role and pushing everyone down a spot, which can't help but dramatically improve the bullpen. Bell has saved 55 of his last 56 chances and boasts a 2.53 ERA on the season, although his strikeout rate has declined to seven per nine innings after registering in the double-digits over the last two seasons.

Bartlett, meanwhile, would solve the Cardinals' gaping hole at shortstop. While Ryan Theriot has surprised with the stick and raised St. Louis' level of grittiness, he's been porous in the field and could use a shift to second. Bartlett, who was acquired in the offseason, boasts a slick glove and hit .320 in 2009, although he's down to .249 with San Diego. Acquiring both Bell and Bartlett would dramatically improve the Cards' chances of hanging tough with the Brewers and Reds, while San Diego is 10 1/2 games out of first and needs to look to next season as they continue their post-Adrian Gonzalez era.

The Post also notes that the Yankees want Mike Adams from the Padres, but the righty's price tag will be large given he is San Diego's closer of the future.

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Posted on: June 22, 2011 9:57 am
Edited on: June 22, 2011 11:34 am
 

Pepper: No rule change needed at 1B

By C. Trent Rosecrans

BASEBALL TODAY: There may not be a more interesting division in baseball than the American League Central. While the surprising Indians lead the Tigers by a game, the White Sox and Twins linger. Can the Twins, now just 6 1/2 games out, continue to get themselves in contention? Will Jake Peavy be able to stay in the White Sox's rotation? NESN.com's Tony Lee joins our own Lauren Shehadi to discuss.

RULE CHANGE NEEDED?: And just yesterday, I was going to make a sarcastic joke that I was surprised I hadn't heard Giants fans complain about safety at first base after the Albert Pujols injury.

For weeks after Buster Posey's injury we heard long discussions about changing the rules for plays at the plate and how the catcher had to be protected. Scott Cousins was vilified and scapegoated. Well, Wilson Betemit was taken off the hook when Cardinals manager Tony La Russa put all the blame on the shoulders of rookie Pete Kozma, even though in both cases the injured player deserves much of the blame for being in a  poor position (and I'm not saying either deserved to be hurt, just that they put themselves in a bad spot and got hurt -- it happens).

Anyway, the New York Times is the first (and only that I've seen) to start up the change-the-rules-at-first-base bandwagon. My response? In a word: no.

LUDWICK ON THE MOVE?: Ryan Ludwick was moved last July from one contender to another -- from St. Louis to San Diego (in a three-team trade that brought Jake Westbrook to St. Louis); he could be on the move again.

The Phillies, Marlins and Reds have all reportedly asked about Ludwick's availability. Ludwick is hitting .255/.322/.393 with a team-high nine home runs this season, but is hitting .279/.324/.419 away from Petco Park.

The Padres could also move some of their relievers, with the Phillies and Cardinals having already checked in on the availability of Chad Qualls and Heath Bell.[FoxSports.com]

SHIPPING HANLEY?: Are the Marlins better off without Hanley Ramirez? Ramirez is in the third year of a six-year, $70 million contract that pays him $46.5 million over the next three years and does not include a no-trade clause. [Palm Beach Post]

MADDON APOLOGIZES: Joe Maddon didn't intentionally pull the wool over the eyes of umpires Monday by not having Sam Fuld face a batter after warming up in the eighth inning, it's just that Bob Davidson was behind the plate, and he didn't know the rule any better than Maddon did. Maddon apologized to the umpires and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. [Tampa Tribune]

FAUSTO FLOUNDERING: One Ohio team has already demoted its opening-day starter to the minors, and the other team may soon be sending its opening-day starter to the bullpen if he doesn't get it together. Cleveland's Fausto Carmona is 4-9 with a 6.17 ERA in 16 starts this season and is 1-6 with a 9.73 ERA over his last seven starts. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

ESCOBAR IMPROVING: Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar has seen his batting average rise nearly 50 points in the last two weeks, and his glove was already playing at a high level. Is the one big-league player the Royals got from the Zack Greinke trade beginning to show why the Royals thought he could be part of their next wave of talent? [Kansas City Star]

HEADED HOME?: The Hanshin Tigers are scouting Hideki Matsui and Kosuke Fukudome if either Japanese player decides to return to Japan after the season. Fukudome would be a better fit for the Tigers, who play in Japan's Central League. Like in MLB, NPB has one league with the DH (the Pacific League) and one without (the Central League). [YakyuBaka.com]

GREEN LIGHT: The Rangers' Craig Gentry is pretty fast. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

RESPECT: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen sometimes goes out of his way to tweak the Cubs and Cubs fans, but not when he's talking about the other Chicago team's shortstop, Starlin Castro. Guillen calls Castro "amazing." Guillen gave some encouraging words to Castro after Monday's game, and that meant a lot to the young Cub. [Chicago Sun-Times]

TURNING 20: Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez celebrated the 20th anniversary of his big-league debut Monday. The 39-year-old Rodriguez has 13 Gold Gloves and an MVP since he came up as a 19-year-old with the Rangers. [MLB.com]

NICE PICK: With the Yankees in town, the Cincinnati Enquirer caught up with former Reds first-round pick Chad Mottola, who was taken with the pick before the Yankees took Derek Jeter. Mo Egger of ESPN 1530 in Cincinnati breaks down why Mottola wouldn't have played for the Reds even if they picked him. Hint, his name is Barry Larkin.

ARMS SALE: Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times looks at what the Mariners could get for Jason Vargas or Doug Fister, two guys who are having pretty decent years.

COMPELLING CAMPANA: A great story in The Tennessean about Cubs outfielder Tony Campana. As a kid in Franklin, Tenn., Campana battled Hodgkin's disease and couldn't play baseball, but was still in the dugout with his teammates, cheering them on. His coaches at the time didn't think he'd survive, much less be in the big leagues.

WORTHY CAUSE: There's a petition online to have Vin Scully call one more World Series. Scully hasn't called a World Series on TV since 1988 and is still one of the best. [Yahoo!'s Big League Stew]

CUTTER CUT: The Jays have told recently demoted Kyle Drabek to shelve his cutter for now. The team wanted him concentrating more on his fastball, but he kept going back to the cutter more than the team liked. The Jays hope he gains confidence in his fastball and lessens his reliance on the cutter. [National Post]

NO CHANGE IN POSTING: The posting system for Japanese players coming to the United States won't change, NPB Tracker passes along (since I can't read the original Sanspo report).

GOLDEN GROOMING: You may have missed the Golden Groomer Award, a monthly award given to the baseball player with the best facial hair. The last winner was Reds minor league catcher Corky Miller. [OMGReds.com]

LOGO FUN: Check out this really cool graphic of all the team's cap insignias since 1950 (including batting practice). Hat tip to the fine folks at the UniWatchBlog, which had a cool thing worth reading about spotting baseball fields from the sky.

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Posted on: June 6, 2011 5:58 pm
Edited on: June 6, 2011 6:24 pm
 

Rangers interested in Coffey, could deal Borbon

CoffeyBy Evan Brunell

In Ken Rosenthal's latest column for Fox Sports, he writes about the trade market as it relates to the Rangers, saying the team could deal Julio Borbon, Taylor Teagarden or Chris Davis.

Texas has been hunting for relievers, and Nationals righty Todd Coffey (pictured) has grabbed its attention. In his first year with the club, he punched out 23 batters in 22 1/3 innings, walked a manageable eight and allowed just one home run. Given Coffey's run of being with the Reds, Brewers and now the Nationals, he's not a well-known name but has quietly emerged as one of the game's best middle relievers.

The Rangers have also been heavily linked to the Padres' Heath Bell, although that appears to be more of a function of people thinking he would be a good fit. Bell would allow the Rangers to move Neftali Feliz into the rotation, but for now Feliz is the closer and that's not changing. And why would Texas pay a premium for Bell when they can turn to what will be a robust free-agent market that could include Bell?

That aside, Rosenthal names Chris Davis as a potential fit for the Padres, a fit that doesn't quite make sense. Yes, San Diego could use Davis's punch, but the Pads will not block Anthony Rizzo at first base. The 21-year-old is tearing Triple-A apart and is already pressuring incumbent Brad Hawpe to hit the majors. Nor would Davis be a fit at third, as Chase Headley has that position on lockdown. GM Jed Hoyer could ask Davis to learn left or even move Headley back to that spot, but it's tough to see that coming about.

The Rangers have their own outfield conundrum. Rosenthal thinks the Nationals could be interested in center fielder Julio Borbon and could possibly send Coffey and another piece to Texas for the speedster. Borbon has attempted to claim the center field job in Texas for the last two seasons, but he still hasn't run away with the job and just earned a demotion to Triple-A. Meanwhile, Texas also has Cuban defector Leonys Martin, who signed a big deal and is currently laying waste to pitchers in Double-A. Martin could earn a promotion to Triple-A shortly and fully supplant Borbon as the team's center fielder of the future by the end of the season.

If Coffey isn't viable, Rosenthal wonders if the Giants could trade for catcher Taylor Teagarden -- another player who has struggled to produce in Texas and has fallen out of favor -- and offer up one of their right-handed relievers as bait.

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Posted on: May 20, 2011 12:02 am
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Posted on: April 26, 2011 10:21 pm
 

Which closers are succeeding?

StreetBy Evan Brunell

What position in baseball has the worst job security?

Has to be closers, right? Tuesday, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said that Jonathan Broxton had lost his grip on the job. While manager Don Mattingly later disputed that, it's clear that Broxton is on extremely thin ice. Joe Nathan, Matt Thornton, Fernando Rodney and Ryan Franklin have already lost their jobs while John Axford, Brian Fuentes, Joakim Soria and Brian Wilson have their hands full trying to reduce their ERA.

But enough about flailing closers, how about acknowledging the ones off to tremendous starts so far?

Entering Wednesday's games, Huston Street led all of baseball with eight saves against a scant 1.88 ERA for the surging Rockies. Street has 157 career saves already, although he hasn't been a full-time closer the entirety of his seven-season career. The 27-year-old has been a bit lucky to start the year, but his talent is for real.

Meanwhile, the ageless Mariano Rivera tops the AL leaderboard with seven saves, although his ERA currently would mark his highest since 2007. This is a 2.53 ERA we're talking about here. 

In Atlanta, Craig Kimbrel has ran away with the job after opening up in a presumed platoon with Johnny Venters. Kimbrel's ERA is a spotless 0.96, and he's also struck out 13.5 batters per nine. Surprisingly that isn't even the highest for a closer as New York's Francisco Rodriguez has struck out a staggering 13 in 7.2 innings. Joining Kimbrel with ERA's under 1.00 is San Diego's Heath Bell with a 0.90 mark and five saves. Bell figures to be a hot commodity on the trade market this summer, although it's no guarantee San Diego will move him.

Tied with Kimbrel for six saves include Pittsburgh's Joel Hanrahan, Cleveland's Chris Perez, Florida's Leo Nunez and Oakland's Brian Fuentes. Of those, only Fuentes doesn't have a firm hold on the job, as his history indicates he's not an elite closer. That's reflected in his 4.06 ERA on the year thus far and should lose his job once Andrew Bailey returns and proves ready to assume his role.

Two other closers in Jose Contreras and Neftali Feliz with strong starts to the season only recently hit the disabled list. Of the other strong starters, Kyle Farnsworth for Tampa Bay jumps out. Here's a pitcher who's always had tremendous stuff but has been a basketcase. He seems to have become a new pitcher over the last couple years, though, and he's certainly enjoying life as a Ray with five saves and a 1.23 ERA. Still, it feels as if he's due for a blowup any time now.

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Posted on: April 20, 2011 1:05 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 1:43 pm
 

Closer watch: Franklin, Nathan, Thornton out

By C. Trent Rosecrans

John AxfordAs we're getting deeper into the first month of the season, some of the "small sample size" arguments are losing their luster and managers are getting itchy. There's no position in baseball that causes more consternation than the closer's spot -- and few are easier to change. 

On Tuesday, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Ryan Franklin was out as his closer, joining Ozzie Guillen and Ron Gardenhire in making changes in closers already this season, a common April occurance.

Here's a look at where all the closers in baseball stand at this moment:

Out -- Ryan Franklin (Cardinals), Joe Nathan (Twins), Matt Thornton (White Sox).

We won't know who the replacement for Franklin is until it comes to a save situation (Matt Snyder took a look at who may get the call -- and I'll agree that Mitchell Boggs gets the first shot) and even then, we'll have to have a few save situations until we get there.

Matt Capps has taken over for Nathan, who is not back 100 percent from Tommy John surgery, in Minnesota.

Thornton may get the call if the White Sox get in a save situation, but Ozzie Guillen has no confidence in anybody in his bullpen and has said he just doesn't have a closer.

Hanging by a thread -- John Axford (Brewers), Sean Burnett (Nationals), Kevin Gregg (Orioles).

Axford (pictured) started his season off by blowing a save in Cincinnati and added another Monday night. He's struggled with his command this season, but the Brewers don't have too many better options.

The Nationals have gone from no closer, to Burnett back to no set closer. After Burnett blew a save on Friday, Drew Storen closed with two innings on Sunday against the Brewers. The two are expected to share the job, but Burnett's not "out" because he's still half in.

Hand wringing -- Jonathan Broxton (Dodgers), Joakim Soria (Royals), Francisco Rodriguez (Mets).

These are three marquee names, but there's plenty of worry surrounding the trio.

Soria has struggled and has a 5.59 ERA, blowing one save, while Broxton hasn't blown a save, but has given up plenty of runs. He has an ERA of 6.14 and his manager's vote of confidence.

K-Rod, well, he's got plenty of issues, including a contract with a vesting option that the Mets aren't really interested in seeing him meet. That said, it's not like he's getting a lot of chances to close out Met victories for the team with the National League's worst record.

Nobody's perfect --  Brian Fuentes (Athletics), Carlos Marmol (Cubs), Jon Rauch (Blue Jays).

Rauch has been good, converting all three of his saves this season, but the return of Frank Francisco complicates things for him in Toronto.

Solid -- Mariano Rivera (Yankees), Heath Bell (Padres), Neftali Feliz (Rangers), Huston Street (Rockies), Joel Hanrahan (Pirates), Leo Nunez (Marlins), Chris Perez (Indians), Brian Wilson (Giants), Craig Kimbrel (Braves), J.J. Putz (Diamondbacks), Jose Contreras (Phillies), Jose Valverde (Tigers).

Sure, Rivera blew a save last night. I think Joe Girardi may give him another shot.

If a save falls in a forrest -- Francisco Cordero (Reds), Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox), Brandon Lyon (Astros), Brandon League (Marienrs), Kyle Farnsworth (Rays), Jordan Walden (Angels).

If the rest of the closers are in a "small sample size" argument right now, these guys have a "tiny sample size."

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Posted on: March 29, 2011 4:43 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 10:02 pm
 

Possible 2011 trade candidates, obvious and not

By Matt Snyder

One of the big reasons preseason predictions are often blown to bits is the number of games played by certain players for certain teams. Major injuries, for example, but also because players end up being traded. Underachieving and overachieving teams end up becoming sellers and buyers, respectively, by the deadline.

There are going to be names already being thrown around in rumors and on fan message boards from the get-go. We'll give you five obvious names sure to appear in trade talks. Then, because it's so much more fun to throw stuff at the wall, we'll dig deeper and find 10 not-so-obvious names that could end up being traded or at least discussed. In those cases, certain things have to happen in order to clear the way for a deal, but those things can't be absolutely outlandish.

Remember, many players have no-trade clauses or are 10-and-5 guys, so every possible deal is contingent upon that. We're just making a list and enjoying it as a fun discussion point.

Let's get it on.

FIVE OBVIOUS TRADE NAMES

Michael Young, Rangers. No explanation needed, really.

Heath Bell, Padres. He wants to stay in San Diego and the Padres might want to try and keep him (without having to pay much long term, of course), but when the market for late-inning relievers gets strong in July and the Padres are well out of the race, he'll be one of the most mentioned names.

Felix Hernandez, Mariners. For now, the Mariners have sworn up and down he's never going anywhere. Even if the team is brutal again this season, it's reasonable to believe the Mariners will immediately hang up the phone any time someone like Brian Cashman says the name Felix. But if they start listening and someone is desperate enough to absolutely bowl them over, it very well might happen. He's in the obvious category because I'm sure people will not stop talking about the possibility. My initial feeling is he ends the season in Seattle, however.

Fausto Carmona, Indians. Remember CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee? Carmona is a big step down, but he's still a starting pitcher on the Indians who is not going to re-sign. He only has a club option left on his contract after 2011. When (not if) teams become desperate to add starting pitching in the race -- Yankees and Cardinals come to mind as candidates, but it could be anyone if unforeseen injuries or ineffectiveness pops up -- teams will come calling for Carmona. That is, of course, assuming he's been productive and the Indians are out of it. And you know the Indians will listen. My prediction is he's the most sure bet on here to be traded.

Grady Sizemore, Indians. Same as Carmona, except Sizemore has tons more upside and tons more downside -- due to injury woes. If he shows he's healthy and the Tribe don't inexplicably stay in the AL Central race, he's gone. Only a 2012 club option remains on his contract after this season.

10 NOT-SO-OBVIOUS NAMES


Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers. He's a free agent at the end of the year and we know about the Dodgers' money woes. As long as they aren't in the midst of the race, some team is going to want to bolster its bullpen. This one is pretty feasible, actually.

Chris Carpenter, Cardinals. As with every player's present team on this list, the Cardinals would have to fall out of contention pretty early. If they did, Carpenter has already said he's not averse to a deal. Plus, he's a free agent after the season and there's some big-name soon-to-be free agent the Cards desperately want to keep.

Francisco Cordero, Reds. Only a '12 club option remains on his contract. What if Cordero loses his closing job to Aroldis Chapman early a la Frank Francisco yielding to Neftali Feliz last year? What if the Reds fall out of contention? Easy to see a chain of events here.

Prince Fielder, Brewers. Least likely candidate on here. The Brewers would have to fall really, really far out of the race. If that did happen, yet he was having a big season, another team might pay enough for him that the Brewers couldn't refuse, especially considering he's a free agent after the season and almost certainly leaving.

Travis Hafner, Indians. He's not obvious like Sizemore and Carmona because Pronk has that pesky $13 million due to him in 2012. Of course, let's give an example of someone that might pay: Say the Yankees are five games behind the Red Sox, Jorge Posada is hurt, Jesus Montero either gets traded for pitching or isn't hitting well in the minors and none of the other spare parts (like Eric Chavez) are working. On the flip-side, Pronk is raking. Would the Yankees make that move? I think they might. His pull power from the left-side would fit well in Yankee Stadium.

Aaron Hill, Blue Jays. The Jays are building a good foundation and a Hill deal would give them some flexibility both financially and defensively. They could move top prospect Brett Lawrie back to second base -- the only position he ever played professionally prior to this spring -- and then use Jose Bautista at third or keep him in the outfield, whatever worked best moving forward with the makeup of the roster. If Hill gets off to a hot start and the Jays don't, I like this move.

Francisco Liriano, Twins. He's here because it's already been rumored and the Twins have the option -- at least for now -- to move Kevin Slowey back into the rotation. As long as the Twins are in the thick of the AL Central, though, which should be all season, I don't see it happening.

Brandon Phillips, Reds. Not as far-fetched as you might think. OK, well, the Reds have to fall far out of the race in the NL Central (which seems incredibly unlikely), but if they do, Phillips is a big candidate to be shipped. He has a club option after the season and will be 30 by the deadline. Plus, his power has declined rather significantly since his breakout 2007 campaign.

Aramis Ramirez, Cubs. It's hard to see a scenario where the Cubs would pick up Ramirez's 2012 option, so this could easily be his last season in Chicago. If he stays healthy, hits like he can and the Cubs are not in the race by mid-July, he'll definitely be available.

Jose Reyes, Mets. A free agent at the end of the year, if Reyes proves he's healthy and produces numbers while the Mets fall behind in the NL East, he's certain to be dealt.

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Posted on: March 23, 2011 2:57 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2011 5:39 pm
 

Bell would take discount to stay in San Diego

BellBy Evan Brunell

If Heath Bell has his way, he'll be in San Diego for at least the next three years. 

Bell told MLB.com that his agents, Seth and Sam Levinson, spoke with Padres GM Jed Hoyer last week about a contract extension to keep the dominant closer in town. The 33-year-old saw his career take off four years ago when he landed in San Diego and has since saved 89 games over the last two years as Trevor Hoffman's heir.

An upcoming free agent, Bell has no interest in testing the market and is willing to take a discount to stay in town -- but there's one catch.

"My biggest thing is that I'd like three years," said Bell. "That's my biggest thing. If it means taking less money, then that's something I'll do to make sure I'm here for the next three years or more."

While Bell wants three years, he understands the business side of negotiations. The Padres operate on a very limited budget and the difference between bringing Bell back could hinge on how successful the team is both in the wins ledger and stadium attendance.

"I know from the business part that makes the most sense for this team," Bell said. "I know that Jed's doing the right thing for this organization. We knew that he wasn't going to keep Adrian [Gonzalez], but I think he's got a good plan for this organization. What it boils down to is that if we do well and the fans show up we'll be fine. But we could do well and if the fans don't show up there's no money to sign guys long term."

For San Diego's part, payroll is expected to be over $40 million even with Gonzalez no longer with the team. With both Bell and Ryan Ludwick impending free agents, the Padres will free up the two most expensive players on its roster which could further improve the club. As good as Bell has been, the money can probably be better allocated to other areas given the presence of Mike Adams and Luke Gregersen on the roster, both of whom could close. That said, it appears the work Bell has put in to remain in town could pay off.

"We certainly appreciate the way he feels about the city of San Diego and wanting to stay with the Padres," Hoyer noted. "We certainly appreciate that he hasn't put any limit on things. It hasn't gone unnoticed how much he likes it and how much he's done for the community. I'm not going to talk about negotiations, but I really appreciate the way he's described the city and the organization. I'm glad he's done that."

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