Posted on: January 2, 2012 9:42 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:56 pm

Crisp signing soon; could it possibly be Orioles?

The news of Coco Crisp's imminent signing with some unknown mystery team added intrigue to the baseball interest Monday night. Nobody seems to know for sure what team it is, but here's one guess out of left field: the Baltimore Orioles.

It hasn't been confirmed that it is the Orioles. But sources suggest that Crisp has been talking to the Orioles in recent days, and they are very much interested.

The Blue Jays are another team that could be a possibility, but they are said to be optimistic about Eric Thames and Travis Snider.

The guessing game began when Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Crisp's agent Steve Comte said his client had picked a team. However, Comte didn't identify the team.

The Orioles don't seem like the obvious fit as they already have a fine young center fielder in Adam Jones. But they could move Jones to left field and form an outfield with three players capable of playing center. The Braves have been asking about Jones' availability, but the asking price has been understandably high. Baltimore wouldn't do it straight-up for young righthander Jair Jurrjens.

The Cubs and Cardinals were two teams that have been known to show interest in Crisp, but this may wind up being a surprise signing.

Category: MLB
Posted on: January 2, 2012 8:05 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:57 pm

Yankees choice could be Garza vs. E-Jax

The Yankees desperately seek a No. 2 starter, and fortunately for them, there are still many viable alternatives available on the trade and free agent markets.

But ultimately, the choice could come down to Matt Garza or Edwin Jackson.

The Yankees' like Hiroki Kuroda, but there is no certainty he wants to pitch in New York. They do not appear to be in on the Jair Jurrjens trade discussions, nor even the Wandy Rodriguez or Gavin Floyd talks. And they haven't seemed anxious to go for Roy Oswalt.

That could leave Garza vs. E-Jax.

They like both pitchers. But so far the Yankees don't like the cost for Garza in terms of prospects, and they don't love the price tag for Jackson, either. The Cubs surely would like some combination of Jesus Montero, Manuel Banuelos and Dellin Betances for Garza. Jackson's asking price is said by sources to be about $60 million for five years.

The Yankees so far would like to keep new contracts to one or two years, as they are hopeful of getting below the $189-million luxury tax treshhold in 2014. If they stuck to that, that would make signing Jackson very difficult.

The Yankees like Jackson's arm, his potential and his durability. But they wonder about his consistency. He is one of only three active pitchers 27 or younger with more than 30 games started each of the past five years, the other two being Matt Cain and Felix Hernandez. He is also one of only three age 27 or younger to have thrown 950 innings with no D.L. time the last five years. The others? Cain and Tim Lincecum.

Posted on: January 2, 2012 7:06 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:57 pm

Red Sox thinking about Tek return

Jason Varitek was presumed to be an ex-Red Sox when the team signed catcher Kelly Shoppach a few weeks ago. But club decisionmakers are still considering yet another return to Boston for Varitek, sources familiar with their thinking said.

It's possible Boston people are just being polite to a longtime Red Sox loyalist. But it seems like more than that.

Boston certainly has plenty of catching options already, what with a revamped Jarrod Saltalamacchia, young up and comer Ryan Lavarnway and Shoppach already in the fold. And there wouldn't appear to be much room for Varitek. But Red Sox people value his presence and have taken note of the team's vast successes, even last year, with Varitek behind the plate and are still weighing a return for him for that reason.

Varitek has eschewed more lucrative options elsewhere in recent year. So you have to think if the Red Sox can make it work, he'll jump at the chance to come back. Varitek, 39, didn't have his worst season offensively last year, hitting 11 home runs with 36 RBIs and a .221 batting average. And while his arm isn't nearly what it was, the Red Sox do seem to continue to value him as a possible presence.

Category: MLB
Posted on: January 1, 2012 10:06 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 9:00 pm

'No real favorite'' in 5-team Garza derby

There is "no real favorite'' in the five-team Matt Garza sweepstakes, according to someone familiar with the talks.

The teams involved the derby for the 28-year-old Cubs righthander at this point are the Yankees, Blue Jays, Tigers, Red Sox and Marlins. With the Cubs seeking young pitchers, it would seem that the Yankees, Blue Jays and Tigers could hold an edge ultimately. The Yankees have Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, the Tigers Jacob Turner and the Blue Jays several well-regarded prospects at the lower levels. The Cubs are hoping to improve their young pitching stock, and Garza is the most marketable player they're willing to deal.

The Red Sox earlier named Garza, who went 10-10 with a 3.31 ERA in 2011, his only one with the Cubs, as a target in Theo Epstein compensation talks, but it's unclear wether the Cubs would even consider trying to solve the compensation issue while making a bigger Garza deal with Boston. They wouldn't surrender Garza straight-up for Epstein, and it's possible the Cubs would want to keep Garza and the compensation issues totally separate. The Red Sox don't have pitching prospects to match the Yankees or Blue Jays but do have hard-throwing righthander Anthony Ranaudo, who was drafted by Epstein, the new Cubs president.

The Cubs are obviously rebuilding but have been nonetheless tied to the Prince Fielder derby. A Cubs person suggested that while Fielder is the type of player they need, they aren't willing to pursue Fielder at all costs, a not unfamiliar refain for teams pursuing big-name free agents. 

Posted on: December 30, 2011 4:59 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 9:01 pm

Here's Pujols $240M deal, year by year

Albert Pujols' deal with the Angels, which is heavily backloaded, will be for $250 million if one counts the $10-million personal services rider, team and union sources said. If not, it's actually a $240-million contract.

The backloaded nature of the deal was first reported by, which correctly reported the first two years of the deal at $12 million and $16 million. The remaining eight years, as the agreement stands now, will be for $23 million, $24, million, $25 million, $26 million, $27 million, $28 million, $29 million and $30 million, the sources said.

That adds up to $240 million for 10 years, or if the post-retirement monies are counted, $250 million, not the $254 million widely reported previously.

That extra $10 million for "personal services'' could possibly not count toward the luxury tax since it is for "post retirement'' work, so a case could be made it shouldn't be counted toward the baseball deal, making it $240 million. But it may still be seen as a $250-million deal.  ESPN said the deal is taking so long to be finalized because of the personal services arrangement.

In any case, the backloaded nature of the deal means it is worth somewhat less than $250 million. If they want to bring it up to $254 million, they'd have to backload it even more. But these are the numbers as they stand now. according to sources.

There is also a $3 million bonus if Pujols reaches 3,000 hits and $7 million if he breaks Barry Bonds' alltime home run record, as Yahoo! first reported. so that could bring it up to $260 million. ESPN reported the deal could be worth $265 million, so there may be additional incentives.

New Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson also signed a backloaded deal. He will get $10.5 million in 2012, followed by $11.5 million, $16.5 million, $18.5 million and $20.5 million in the final four years. 

Category: MLB
Posted on: December 29, 2011 12:07 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:59 pm

Nats player: We are "shooting for" Prince

There's been a lot of discussion and debate lately about whether the improving Washington Nationals are one of the teams trying to sign free agent slugger Prince Fielder.

And while there's still nothing definitive on the subject, one Nats player told me Thursday, "We're in the market. We're still shooting for him.''

People can scoff at the validity of a player as a source, but this player did not hesitate and sure seemed to know what he was talking about. But who can be sure?

This has surely been a fairly mysterious market to this point. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, who just bolstered the rotation with the addition of young lefthader Gio Gonzalez, downplayed the Fielder chances in an interview Wednesday on MLB Network Radio, saying Adam LaRoche would be their first baseman barring something "extrordinary.''

To be precise, Rizzo said, "We've more or less decided Adam is going to be out first baseman unless something extraordinary, out of the ordinary, happens.'' LaRoche is to make $8 million in 2012 (plus he has a $1 million buyout on his 2013 salary).

If Rizzo is merely downplaying their genuine interest in Fielder as a way not to get fans' hopes up, he wouldn't be the first GM to do that. The Nationals have been considered among about eight teams -- the Rangers, Orioles, Mariners, Marlins, Cubs, Blue Jays and Brewers being the others -- to have some level of interest in the 27-year-old first baseman.

Fielder recently went on a tour of some of the interested teams, flying to a few points around the country. But it isn't known what teams, including the Nationals, were on the tour. Or whether a team that wasn't on the tour might jump into the mix.

Posted on: December 28, 2011 5:34 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2012 12:59 am

Bailey a big score for Bosox & Ben

The Red Sox filled their obvious need for a closer by acquiring Andrew Bailey from Oakland in a five-player trade, and at first blush this looks like a steal for Boston. At second and third blush, too.

Oakland's issue was a market filled with available viable closers both via trade and free agency. They acquired outfielder Josh Reddick, third-base prospect Miles Head and righthanded pitching prospect Raul Alcantara in the deal for Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney.

Someone with the A's opined a few weeks ago that they may be able to get more for Bailey in July because teams may be more desperate for closers in a pennant race. But the A's decided to pull the trigger on a deal that won't overwhelm anyone, anyway. Reddick is a "young controllable'' outfielder, which are both important attributes. But he doesn't figure as a future star. Head and Alcantara, while promising, are too far away to know.

Meanwhile, Bailey is just what Boston needed. While 2011 wasn't his best season (0-4, 37 saves, 3.24 ERA), he has been a very effective closer in his three years in Oakland. He has a 0.95 lifetime WHIP and he was Roookie of the Year. As a bonus, he's out of tiny Wagner College in New York, and he seems like a tough Northeasterner who should fit a very tough role very well. A's manager Bob Melvin seemed to be a huge fan of Bailey's. Mark Melancon, acquired a couple weeks earlier by Boston, should fit better as a set-up man in Boston.

All in all, this was new Red Sox GM Ben Cherington's finest moment as GM (not counting being nudged to hire Bobby Valentine, as manager since Larry Lucchino gets half credit for that one). 

Category: MLB
Posted on: December 28, 2011 2:43 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:58 pm

Gap still exists in Giants/Lincecum talks

After some more negotiating this winter, indications are that there's still a sizable gap in long-term contract talks between the San Francisco Giants and their ace pitcher Tim Lincecum.

Neither side would speak directly about the specifics of the negotiations that have been kept remarkably quiet this winter, but it is thought the sides are still at least a couple years and tens of millions of dollars apart. The Giants had made locking up Lincecum and his rotation mate Matt Cain their top priorities this winter, priorities 1 and 1A if you will.

The Giants are believed to have raised an offer they made this summer that was said to have been for four years and presumably about $80 million sometime in the past few weeks, but Lincecum, a two-time Cy Young winner and the 2010 World Series hero, is thought to be seeking an eight-year deal. Neither side has suggested exactly where the Giants stand now, but people familiar with the talks suggest the sides are also weighing one- and two-year options now, a clear signal that they aren't yet close to agreeing on a contract of substantial length.

Both sides have suggested all along that they are amenable to working out a deal of one or two years if they can't agree now on a long-term arrangement. However, the Giants' ultimate goal has been to do a deal that would cover some of Lincecum's free agent years. Lincecum is eligible for free agency after the 2013 season. A case could be made that there is even more urgency to the talks involving Cain; while he is clearly the No. 2 man in the rotation, he is eligible for free agency after the 2012 season.

While a longterm deal for Lincecum would almost surely run the Giants well more than $100 million, the arbitration process isn't going to be cheap, either. He made $14 million in 2011 (including a $1 million bonus) and could approach a record $18-20 million via an arbitration settlement, with the possibility of $25 million or more in '13 looming. A case could be made that Lincecum has been baseball's best pitcher over the past four years. He certainly has been its most decorated, with three strikeout titles to go with all the other hardware.
Lincecum, a Seattle native, has thrived since te Giants made him one of the best No. 10 overall picks ever a few years back. San Francisco has embraced his quirky delivery and nature. Likewise, all indications are that he loves the city and wants to stay a long while. The rival Dodgers gave star outfielder Matt Kemp a $160-million, eight-year extension this winter.

Lincecum, 27, is 69-41 with a 2.98 ERA, but that doesn't tell the story of the brilliance he has displayed. He was only 13-14 in 2011 when a incredible lack of offensive support undermined his efforts.

Category: MLB
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