Posted on: January 6, 2012 5:48 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 6:36 am

Duncan, an alltime great, may not return

No timetable has been set for longtime Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan's return, and the feeling among Cardinals people is that it's possible he might not be back at all.

The Cardinals announced a leave of absence for Duncan, so they are keeping the seat warm. And they have hope to see him back at some point. But Duncan, probably the greatest pitching coach over the past quarter centurey and maybe ever, has understadably left to be with his wife Jeanine, and it is clear what his priority is now. Jeanine had surgery for a brain tumor in August. The team hasn't talk about her prognosis, but they understand Duncan's priority.

Duncan's replacement is Derek Lilliquist. They are calling Lilliquist is the interim replacement, and that is only appropriate. Duncan can come back is he desires. Unfortunately, it won't be soon.

Lilliquist is the right choice. He is known as a great communicator and a great competitor. Besides that, he has been in the organization since 2002 and knows all the pitchers. He was the point man in Jupiter who tended to all their rehabs before he joined the mjaor-league staff last year, in time for the World Championship, and he was the pitching coach for six weeks when Duncan left to be with Jeanine last summer.

Duncan will be missed. The 67-year-old coach was Tony La Russa's righthand man since the beginning, and he always seemed to get the most out of whatever he had. He leaves a void in experience, too. Jose Oquendo is the one very experienced coach left on rookie manager Mike Matheny's staff. Matheny is fortuate he has a very mature team, full of leaders like Chris Carpenter, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina. But tere's only one Dave Duncan.

Category: MLB
Posted on: January 5, 2012 1:59 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:50 pm

Nats, as many as 7 others, shooting for Prince

The Washington Nationals, despite their early suggestions to the contrary, do appear to be deep in the mix for star free agent slugger Prince Fielder. They may even justifiably be seen as a favorite at this point. But with several other teams showing strong interest and as many as seven or eight others showing some level of interest, it may be a bit too early to declare them as “the’’ favorite.’’

Reading all the hints, suggestions and tea leaves (not to mention deciphering the requisite downplaying of many), here’s the way I see things as we head into what might be the final several days (in order of most likely to least).

  1. Nationals. One Nationals player told me last week they were “shooting for’ Fielder, and team officials have seemed to stop downplaying their involvement, as more snippets of interest have gotten out. The Nationals have done a lot of deals with agent Scott Boras and certainly aren’t about to let the $8 million left on Adam La Roche’s contract stand in the way.
  2. Mariners. GM Jack Zduriencik, who picked Fielder No. 1 when Zduriencik was scouting director in Milwaukee, loves Fielder. The feeling apparently is mutual. The one question is whether Fielder wants to play 3,000 miles from his Orlando, Fla. home and in a ballpark that isn’t conducive to home runs (though it’s better for lefthanded hitters than righties).
  3. Brewers. Milwaukee all but publicly wrote it off around the time they signed Aramis Ramirez. But owner Mark Attanasio has built the Brewers into a phenomenon in Milwaukee, and it’s also possible Ryan Braun’s surprise banned substance issue could intensify the interest in keeping Prince. It doesn’t appear Attanasio has dived in yet, but he’s a guy who hasn’t let the small market stop him in the past.
  4. Mystery team. I have no idea even if there is a mystery team. But let’s not overlook recent history. Cliff Lee and Albert Pujols wound up going to the mystery team after weeks of talks and speculation about anyone but the Phillies and Angels, respectively.
  5. Marlins. Some Marlins execs have said they are not going for Fielder. But others have suggested that at least some of their people are quite intrigued. One possible issue: they have a team policy not to give out no-trade clauses.
  6. Rangers. The Yu Darvish pickup (and everyone believes Darvish will be signed, for something just above Daisuke Matsuzaka’s $52-million deal) likely has lessened the possibility of Prince. The Rangers clearly are now focused on Darvish, and while they could possibly afford both thanks to their new TV deal, it might be seen as something of a stretch.
  7. Orioles. They have some interest and seem to have the spending money, but their recent history and prospects for the near future could make this one a tough sell.
  8. Cubs. Cubs people love the idea of adding a young slugger like Fielder to their needy lineup. But club officials have suggested they plan to limit offers to five years. That won’t get it done.
  9. Blue Jays. Like the Cubs, their people are hinting strongly that five years is their limit for anyone, even Prince.  Opinions can change, but they’d have to go a lot longer than five (at least eight) to get into the game.


Posted on: January 4, 2012 7:30 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:51 pm

Zambrano-Volstad trade works for Cubs, Marlins

The agreed-upon trade between the Cubs and Marlins of volatile former star Carlos Zambrano for talented former phenom Chris Volstad works for everyone.

The Cubs get rid of the volatile Zambrano, who had lost his friends in the clubhouse after losing is way on the mound last year.

The Marlins give up Volstad, whose great promise has seemed to dissipate the past few years to the point where he was an unacceptable 5-13 with a 4.89 ERA for the Marlins in 2011.

This trade represents a fresh start for both right-handers. It is expected to be announced Thursday.

The Cubs will have to send the bulk of Zambrano's $18-million 2012 salary to Florida, as well. But Zambrano was lost for them anyway. No matter what Cubs people said about how Zambrano could come back for them, the reality was that he needs a new beginning. He gets that with his old friend Ozzie Guillen, who has the best chance of almost anyone of finding the old Zambrano. Guillen had been begging his new Marlins bosses to acquire Zambrano, and this was one (of many) wishes they could fulfill; the Cubs were even more desperate to be rid of him.

Volstad needs to find his way, too. The 6-foot-8 right-hander from South Florida may do better away from home. He showed tremendous promise his first year in Florida but only flashes since. It shouldn't be too late for him, either. He's only 25. 

Posted on: January 4, 2012 11:11 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:51 pm

Torre job switch a gamble; Donnie cheers him on

Assuming Joe Torre liked the job at MLB he just left, he is taking quite a gamble quitting it to join a partnership in hopes of buying the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although, if Torre's group does win, it would be quite the victory for him, as he'd be the one to run the team.

Current Dodgers owner Frank McCourt looks like he's in for a victory himself. McCourt ran down the stories franchise. But somewhow, the value hasn't been hurt. He paid $400 million or so for the Dodgers seven years ago, and baseball people say there will be bids in excess of $1 billion this time around.

And it's no wonder with the great lineup of potential buyers McCourt has. Besides Torre's group, which also includes Los Ageles real estate magnate Rick Caruso, also seeking the Dodgers are former superagent Dennis Gilbert, a group with basketball superstar Magic Jonson and longtime sports executive Stan Kasten, supermarket tycoon Ron Burkle, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley, a group with ex-Dodgers stars Orel Hershiser and Steve Garvey, Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano and Connecticuty hedge fund guy Stevie Cohen.

Since the way the new owner will be picked is through an auction with McCourt making the call, presumably the highest bidder will win, provided it has approval from MLB. While Torre's group is sure to receive MLB's approval, that's probably also true of the Gilbert group, the Johnson)Kasten group and some other groups.

Torre was well-liked in his 10-month tenure as MLB's exeutive vice president for baseball opertaions, but it's only right that he abandon the job as he seeks to run the Dodgers. He did the expected superb job serving as an MLB spokesman, and also hired well, with execs Joe Garagiola Jr., Kim Ng ad Peter Woodfork serving as his able assistants. Andy MacPhail, the longtime baseball executive, is one logical candidate to replace Torrre. MLB said a permament replacement for Torre will be announced at a later date.

While Torre is no sure thing to win the Dodgers, one thing's certain: he has a fan in Don Mattingly, his longtime protege managing the team who'd be sure to keep his job if Torre became the Dodgers next managing partner.

Posted on: January 3, 2012 5:32 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:52 pm

Darvish's visit to Dallas a sign he'll sign

Yu Darvish just visited the Dallas-Fort Worth area, as the Rangers acknowledged. Nobody is saying yet that Darvish and the Rangers are close to a deal yet. But everyone knows he will eventually have one.

And Darvish's visit can only be seen as another positive sign in a negotiation that is sure to end with Darvish signing with the Rangers and taking over C.J. Wilson's role as Rangers ace. Negotiations are ongoing, and indications are that there's progress being made. They are about halfway through the 30-day negotiating window, but this may be one negotiation that doesn't go the limit.

"There's no reason to think this won't get done. There's no reason to think this has to go to the deadline, either,'' one high-ranking baseball person said.

The parameters were already set by Daisuke Matsuzaka, who signed with the Red Sox for $52-million over six years after Boston won the bidding for Dice-K with a bid of $51.111111 million. Figure Darvish will get a bit more than Dice-K's haul, as he is viewed as the better pitcher. Darvish, only 25, went 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters and led the Pacific League with 276 strikeouts. The Rangers won the auction for him with a similar $51.703,411 winning bid. (The 34 and 11 at the end were, cleverly, borrowed from the uniform numbers of Rangers president Nolan Ryan and Darvish, respectively.)

The Yankees were learned Tuesday to have bid $15 million for Darvish, while the bid of the Jays, seen as the main competitors for Darvish, still isn't known but said to have been well below Texas' winning bid.

Sources have suggested Darvish would seek at least $65 million for five years. So figure he'll get $10-to-13 million on a deal for five years or so.

Category: MLB
Posted on: January 3, 2012 3:46 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:53 pm

After hearing Garza price, Yankees eye E-Jax

With the Yankees unconvinced the Cubs will consent to trade Matt Garza for less than their very best prospects, the Yankees will continue their dialogue with free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson.

The Yankees and Jackson aren't in any way close to a deal. But there seems reason to think they might find middle ground, as the Yankees like his arm and see him as a solid pitcher who could fill their need for a durable middle-of-the-rotation presence. They also like Garza but don't want to consider trading two top prospects (the Cubs like Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances and want more than one of them) and aren't sure the Cubs are committed to trading him in the winter.

Jackson is believed to be looking for a deal that pays him in the $15-to-17-million range annually. Agent Scott Boras has compared Jackson to C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle, John Lackey, A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe in his book touting Jackson; all those pitchers received $14-to-17-million a year. For instance, in the three previous years, Jackson has won 25 games, struck out 490 batters and posted a 3.96 ERA, comparable numbers to the three years Burnett had before he signed with the Yankees for $82.5 million over five years; in those three years Burnett won 38 games, had a 3.94 ERA and struck out 535 batters. As we know now, the Burnett deal didn't work out so great for the Yankees, however.
More remarkable, Jackson is one of only three active pitchers age 27 or younger who has thrown 950 innings with no D.L. time, with the others being Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. Jackson is also one of three pitchers 27 or younger who's started more than 30 games each of the past five years. The other two are Cain and Felix Hernandez.

There are other starting pitching alternatives on the trade and free agent market, including Gavin Floyd, Wady Rodriguez, Hiroki Kuroda and Roy Oswalt. There's no proof they are heavily involved with Floyd, Rodriguez or Oswalt, and there are uncertain whether Kuroda would go to New York.

The Yankees made only a modest efort at Yu Darvish, submitting a posting bid of $15 million, which was well below the Rangers' winning $51.703,411 bid.

Category: MLB
Posted on: January 3, 2012 9:10 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:54 pm

Crisp mystery: It's not O's, could it be A's?

The Coco Crisp mystery isn't quite solved. But we are making progress (a little, anyway).

Crisps's agent Steve Comte got the ball rolling when he told the San Francisco Chronicle that Crisp had settled on a team. So far, that team remains a mystery. Many teams have shown interest in Crisp, making this a tough one.

One possibility is that Crisp simply remains in Oakland. But that is thus far unconfirmed, as well.

As far as the Orioles go, I may need a new crystal ball. While the Orioles did talk to Comte in their pursuit of a leadoff hitter, it appears Crisp is likely heading elsewhere. Someone with the Orioles said his name didn't even come up in a recent meeting, a indication they certainly aren't expecting to get him.

But who is? Just about every A.L. East team was speculated at one point in recent days, but one by one they appear to have been shot down as the likely landing spot. The Cubs, Cardinals and Dodgers are among other teams that have been linked to Crisp. But there's no evidence it's any of them, either. 
Word has been that Crisp prefers to remain on the West Coast, and that he wants to play for a winner. Well, if it is Oakland, I am confident they will be a big winner. But maybe not for a couple more years.

Category: MLB
Posted on: January 3, 2012 7:04 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:55 pm

Mariners, 2 other AL teams vie for Iwakuma

Veteran Japanese League pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma is deciding where to sign between the Mariners and two other American League teams, a source familiar with the situation said. Tim Dierkes of @mlbtraderumors identified one of the two unknown teams as the Orioles.

Iwakuma is the fellow who couldn't quite work out a deal with the A's last winter after they won the right to negotiate with him with a $19.1-million bid. Reportedly, they then offered him $15.25 million over four years, but he didn't accept. So now he is a free agent. No word on whether the A's could be the other unknown team in the mix this time.

Iwakuma, a righthander, has had a lot of success in Japan. But this time around, the pursuits may be slightly muted due to word he had some shoulder trouble in Japan this year. He went 6-7 with a 2.42 ERA for Rakuten.

Category: MLB
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