Posted on: February 19, 2012 4:10 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 4:18 pm
 

Ibanez and Chavez on deck for Yankees


The Yankees are expected to try to sign both Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez once A.J. Burnett passes his physical and commissioner Bud Selig approves the Burnett deal to the Pirates.

There have been a couple suggestions that the Yankees might not be able to afford both accomplished players for their bench, but the belief is that they are still likely to reel in both, for about $1 million apiece as a base salary. Ibanez is the team's top lefthanded DH choice, and Chavez, who did a nice job in New York last year, fills the bill as a nice complemenet for aging star Alex Rodriguez, who will likely need more time off than in the past.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is said to have had a nice chat with Johnny Damon recently, but the Yankees prefer Ibanez for what they believe is slightly better defense and a little more punch against righthanded pitching. The Mariners are a team that is believed to have had a bit of interest in both Ibanez and Damon, and the Orioles are seen as another possible Damon option.

Burnett is expected to pass his Pirates physical by Monday, and Selig will have to approve the deal because the Yankees will be sending the Pirates $18 million to complete the trade with Pittsburgh.

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 18, 2012 7:42 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2012 8:57 pm
 

Best deals from team, player perspectives

As with every year, there were the deals. And then there were the steals. With camps opening it is time to assess the best and worst of the winter's free-agent signings. With just a few dozen players remaining, here are my lists of the best signings for the team and the best ones for the player ...

Best signings (for team)


1. Francisco Cordero. Blue Jays RP, $4.5M, 1 yr. In a closer market filled with talent, he was the last good one to sign, and he seemed to have gotten squeezed. The Reds turned down a $12-million option for him, but based on 194 saves over the past five years, that seems closer to his true value.
  
 2. Brad Lidge. Nationals RP, $1M, 1 yr. Worries of injury probably kept him down. A great signing for a young team if he has anything left.

3. Carlos Beltran. Cardinals OF, $26M, 2 yrs. Concerns about his knee probably hurt him. But he did not have one knee issue all last year, when he was one of the more productive hitting outfielders in the league. Won't replicate Albert Pujols, but gives them a chance.


4. Ryan Madson. Reds RP, $8.5M, 1 yr. The biggest money spent early on closers when Madson thought he had a $44-million, four-year deal with his old team, the Phillies, before they pulled the offer. The Reds are the beneficiaries when the Angels and Red Sox didn't make their move. Only one year as a closer, but dynamic changeup gives him a chance to be excellent for years.

 5. Alex Gonzalez. Brewers SS, $4.25M, 1 yr. He's had a much better shortstop career than Clint Barmes or Jamey Carroll. Chronically low on-base percentage finally catching up with him.

  6. Joel Pineiro. Phillies SP, $1.5M, 1 yr. The $1.5-million salary on his minor-league deal wasn't even on Cot's Baseball Contracts (the usual reference spot for salaries), but the hunch is the switch back to the National League will make the difference for him. Despite their ballpark, the Phillies seem to do well with pitchers. Has never allowed a run in Citizens Bank Ballpark.

 7. Chris Capuano. Dodgers SP, $10M, 2 yrs. Some might look at this as a fair figure (or perhaps even a little high), but he showed last year he knows how to pitch and win with what he has left. Solid NL starter.

 8. Paul Maholm, Cubs, SP, $4.5M, 1 yr. Nice starter has been adversely affected by Pirates offensive woes.

 9. Lyle Overbay. Diamondbacks, $1M, 1 yr. Usually a member of the overpays, he went to the other list this year. Very good defender.

 10. Jon Garland. Indians SP, 1 yr. undisclosed contract. Whatever he got, the Indians got a solid pitcher who's been an innings eater throughout his career.

 11. Ryan Spilborghs. Indians OF, $1M, 1 yr. He got $1 million base for one year on a minor-league deal, and should see a lot ot action with the Indians considering their all lefty starting outfield and the injury history of Grady Sizemore. Solid, good team man.

 12. Mike MacDougal. Dodgers RP, $1M, 1 yr. Very talented pitcher. One of these years someone's going to get a steal.

 13. Kosuke Fukudome. White Sox OF, $1M, 1 yr. Smart insurance for a team that has a starting trio with some questions, even from the well-paid Alex Rios.

 14. Micah Owings. Padres RP, $1M, 1 yr. Multitalented player went 8-0 with the rival Diamondbacks last year. Can also hit.

 15. Jonny Gomes. A's OF-DH. $1M, 1 yr. A plus for any team or clubhouse.

 16. Francisco Rodriguez. Brewers RP. $8M, 1 yr. That's pretty steep for a set-up man, but K-Rod is really a second closer, a nice luxury for Milwaukee to have.


Best Signings (for player)


   1. C.J. Wilson. Angels SP, $77.5M, 5 yrs. Yes, I realize he could have gotten another $22 million from the Marlins. But he's had only two years as a starter, is surprisingly wild and bombed in the playoffs.

   2. Laynce Nix. Phillies OF, $2.5M, 2 yrs. Two years? Don't get it.

   3. Wilson Betemit. Orioles INF, $3.25M, 2 yrs. And I use the word "infielder'' loosely. The guy can hit a bit. but again, what's the reason for two years?

   4. Coco Crisp. A's OF, $14M, 2 yrs. He had the option of going to the Rays after saying he most wanted to play for a winner. So what does he do, but sign for two years (likely two dead years) with the A's. Can't really blame him considering.

   5. Rod Barajas. Pirates C, $4M, 1 yr. Pull hitter will yank a few out, even in Pittsburgh. But the market for the so-so catchers generally wasn't this good.

   6. Heath Bell. Marlins RP, $27M, 3 yrs. That's what folks figured he'd get. But it was quite good in this closer market for a pitcher in his mid 30s who's been thriving at PETCO. One advantage for the Marlins: He really is Heath Bell, and he's a good guy.

   7. Frank Francisco. Mets RP, $12M, 2 yrs. He did well by signing early, getting a multiyear in a rough market for closers.

   8. Yoenis Cespedes. A's OF, $36M, 4 yrs. Looked like superman on his video. but can he hit the major-league curveball? Curious choice in that Oakland isn't going to win at least this year, and maybe next. But it's understandable in that they'd missed out on Adrian Beltre and Lance Berkman, two guys who had monster years elsewhere after spurning Oakland's offers. Another plus for the player: if he can hit the curve, he's a free agent again at 30.

   9. Prince Fielder. Tigers 1B, $214M, 9 yrs. He could have gotten at least eight years elsewhere (surely from the Orioles and maybe the Dodgers, who had offered seven), but Victor Martinez's injury helped him join the $200-million club with a great team. Credit owner Mike Ilitch for doing whatever it took, but it took a lot.

   10. Mark Ellis. Dodgers 2B, $8.75M, 2 yrs. Very nice addition to any team, but he looked like he was on the verge of a release at one point early last year. The whole middle infield market did very well early, including Clint Barmes, Jamey Carroll and others. Dodgers appear a lot on these list, but that's because they signed more free agents than anyone.

   11. Mark Buehrle. Marlins, $58M, 4 yrs. Very good, consistent pitcher who may thrive in the NL. Steep price, though, so he better.

   12. Willie Bloomquist. Diamondbacks $3.8M, 2 yrs. Another one of the journeyman middle infielders who cashed in big. Funny thing is, he turned down close to $5 million with the Giants.

   13. Jerry Hairston, Jr. Dodgers INF, $6M, 2 yrs. Spunky, versatile player cashed in after mostly helping the Brewers late last year.

   14. Luke Scott. Rays DH, $5M, 1 yr. Hard to criticize the Rays, but the price seems steep considering the DH glut. He's younger and has more power than those left, however.

   15. Greg Dobbs. Marlins INF, $3M, 2 yrs. Again, not sure why a utilityman gets a multiyear deal. But good for him.

   16. Casey Blake. Rockies 3B. $2M, 2 yrs. Good guy who's an injury risk at this point. Time to start the Nolan Arenado era.


One more that will be good for the team: Roy Oswalt. His geographic desires have hurt him as he turned down close to $10 million with the Tigers and has let a Red Sox offer sit forever. Still waiting for the Rangers or Cardinals (we think).

    
One that will be better than you think: Albert Pujols. The $240 million over 10 years the Angels gave Pujols may seem a bit high toward the end of that deal, but the excitement and marketability the alltime great brings is immeasurable, though their new TV partner which dished out $2 billion probably has a pretty good idea of his value.

One that wasn;t a free-agent deal but was still great for the team: Matt Kemp. Can't blame the player for taking $160 million) over eight years), but you have to know the new owner loves the fact that the awesomely great Kemp is locked up through his prime years.

Posted on: February 16, 2012 2:13 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 2:28 pm
 

Damon doesn't get why his phone is silent

Johnny Damon doesn't get it, doesn't get why he's not getting offers after the year he had. Damon didn't get why he didn't receive an offer from the incumbent Rays after he was a leader for them in the clubhouse and on the field, and now he doesn't get why he seemingly is running second as a candidate to be the Yankees' left-handed DH.

"I think it's a perfect fit,'' Damon said of the Yankees by phone. "But for some reason you have the year I had, especially with a team that has trouble scoring, and you can't even get a call to continue playing."

It is hard to blame Damon for feeling left out. The whole thing does seem very odd, indeed.

Damon said he never got an offer from the Rays even though he had a very nice year, hitting 16 home runs with 73 RBIs with 19 stolen bases and a .261 batting average while playing home games in the ballpark that was the best pitchers' park American League last year. He also put together an improbable streak of five consecutive games with game-winning hits and became a leader with the young team that had a magical finish. Now he is concerned that the Yankees are leaning toward someone else (namely Raul Ibanez), and indeed the team's baseball people do seem to be favoring Ibanez for the DH role even though it seems no final decision will be made until the Yankees complete the long-discussed deal with Pittsburgh to send A.J. Burnett out of town and save themselves about $13 million of the $33 million owed Burnett.

Meanwhile, different reasons have been heard why the Yankees favor Ibanez, one sillier than the next.

One reason heard is that Ibanez hit better against right-handed pitchers last year, and if you count .256 as better than .255, then yes, that is the case. But it seems like that would be far from a driving force in a decision.

Another is that Ibanez is a better defender at this stage, and while he might well be, Damon is faster and the reality is that they are probably pretty close to comparable at this point. Damon didn't play much defense last year when the Rays had better defensive alternatives such as Brandon Jennings, B.J. Upton and Sam Fuld. "When you have Jennings and Upton, of course I'm going to DH," Damon said. "When I played out there, I held my own."

But even if Ibanez is slightly better with the glove now, having played it regularly in Philly, defense seems like a funny way to pick a DH.

Yet another reason heard recently is that Damon's .326 on-base percentage last year is a sign he's thinking too much about 3,000 hits and not getting on like before. This is the winner for sheer ridiculousness of course, as Ibanez's 2011 on-base percentage of .289 (with 33 walks all year) would be the statistic of concern, not Damon's .326. Speaking of 3,000 and the suggestion he's too focused on it, Damon said, "It makes for good talk. ... Everyone wants to get to the mark. But I never started playing the game for that. I never had any intention of getting to 3,000 hits -- it's never been a driving force for me. I always had the intention of being a good teammate."

Damon is more than a fine teammate, he's been a key man on two World Series winners, the historic 2004 Boston Red Sox and the 2009 Yankees. Damon is a winner, always has been. Ibanez is by all accounts a very nice fellow, but Damon is a big clubhouse presence who always has been the one to stand up and answer the tough questions when things aren't going well.

Damon, who at 38 is also a year younger than Ibanez, may not be the defender he once was, but the job is for a DH, and Damon has all the experience at that. Damon also has a superb history in the American League East, having thrived for all three of the big teams in that division.

Damon and the Yankees had a very public breakup a couple winters ago when he was expected to wind up back in pinstripes. The sides never got together when a deal had once seemed like a foregone conclusion. But Yankees people say there are no lingering bad feelings.

It can't be about the money, either, because Damon hasn't gotten an offer. He said he didn't get one from Tampa, which gave Luke Scott a $5 million deal off an injury year, and he hasn't gotten one from the Yankees yet. So Tampa took Scott off a year of injuries, and Damon sees that Ibanez may get the job he wants after Ibanez's season of outs.

Damon is in Hawaii enjoying a planned vacation. But he has one eye on the phone.

"Hopefully it rings soon," he said, "and whether it rings in a few minutes or a few weeks, I'll be ready with the bat."

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 15, 2012 10:46 am
 

Maddon deal: Rays top trio together forever?

The Rays did the right thing locking up manager Joe Maddon for three more years through 2015, and also by getting it done before spring training to avoid even any spectre of a lame-duck situation. Of course, the Rays did the right thing. They always seem to.

Maddon's new three-year extension will be announced by the team today, and while the amount won't be divulged and may not be known for quite awhile, you have to know it's a good deal for Tampa. It's a good deal because Maddon may be the best manager in the game, but also because you know the Rays didn't set any new salary standard for the man who's done as good a job as anyone over the past four years. Maddon had a year to go at about $1.4 million, and industry speculation is that Maddon's new deal will pay him in the range of $2-3 million per year. (Rays GM Andrew Friedman declined to discuss the price, or the deal in any way before today's announcement, and they may in fact never divulge the money part).

The sides started talking about a new contract for Maddon way back in December, which was the safe thing to do it because even in cases where both sides want to get a deal done, you never know. They wanted to avoid a situation where Maddon's contract would be a story heading into spring. But mostly, of course, they wanted to ensure that Maddon would be their manager for many years. It's amazing they have made the playoffs three of the past four years in baseball's best division, and even more amazing they have won that division two of those years. It's uncanny how players seem to play better for Tampa under Maddon, and worse when they leave Tampa. The interesting, erudite Maddon sets the exact perfect tone. Rays people understand this.

Maddon and his bosses knew they had a good thing going. While Maddon splits winters between Tampa, California and his Pennsylvania hometown, he bought a house in South Tampa in the artsy part of town, perfect for him. He obviously appreciates the terrific job Friedman and Co. do of providing talent on a shoestring and has what's seen as the perfect owner-manager relationship with the low-key New Yorker Stu Sternberg.

The Rays do things their way, and it is turning out to be exactly the right way. Friedman operates without a contract and still turns down chances for bigger jobs in bigger markets (i.e. the Angels this winter). And Maddon gives up the chance to be the greatest free agent manager ever by signing a new deal with a year to go. It all works there to the point where you could see Maddon, Friedman and Sternberg staying together forever.
Posted on: February 14, 2012 4:12 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 4:17 pm
 

Indians call, but best hope for AJ is Pittsburgh


The Yankees and Pirates continue to talk about a deal involving A.J. Burnett, and there seems to be continuing optimism a deal could get done between those teams by the end of the week. The best guess is that the Pirates will wind up paying about $13 million of the $33 million owed Burnett while surrendering one or two non-roster minor-league players. The Pirates seem more willing to bend on the money than the quality of the minor leaguers, and that is a testament to them.

The Indians, Angels and a fourth team are also believed to have checked in on Burnett, but the focus remains on a potential Pirates deal. There was some brief discussion of a Burnett-for-Travis Hafner swap, but there's no evidence the Indians would be willing to do that, as they are reluctant to hurt their offense. The Angels are on Burnett's no-trade list, and he has said he would not waive his no-trade to go there. The Burnetts live in Baltimore and want to stay in the East, which is why he put the West Coast teams on his no-trade list in the first place.

The Pirates at some point offered to to pay at least $10 million of the $33 million remaining on Burnett, and once they compromise a bit more on the cash, the sense is there's every reason to believe a deal could happen within the next several days.




Category: MLB
Posted on: February 10, 2012 7:35 am
Edited on: February 10, 2012 12:33 pm
 

Yanks, Pirates talking Burnett trade


The Yankees and Pirates are continuing to talk about a possible A.J. Burnett trade that could lead to more activity in the form of a couple free-agent signings by the Yankees. As of Thursday night, the teams were thought to be a few million apart in the Burnett negotiations, but they were still talking and there is some hope for a deal.

The Yankees, in a twist, want to clear some money to sign their preferred positional candidates. They are considering Raul Ibanez and Johnny Damon as possible DH candidates and Eric Chavez as a reserve. They appear to be leaning toward Ibanez for the DH role, though Damon and Hideki Matsui, two former Yankees stars, also have been under consideration. In another twist, some say it's because they perceive Ibanez as the more adept outfielder than Damon at this point (the lefty DH could be employed in the outfield in rare circumstances). The Yankees loved the way Chavez fit into the clubhouse last year and wouldn't mind using Alex Rodriguez as a DH on occasion.

The Pirates tried for Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt and seek a proven veteran starter such as Burnett, but so far have not acceded to the Yankees' monetary request. The Yankees have offered to pay a substantial portion of the $33 million remaining on Burnett's deal over the final two years--though, not quite enough money in the Pirates' estimation. The Pirates also have rejected a Yankees request for Garrett Jones in trade talks.  Word is, the Yankees at least initially asked the Pirates to pay well more than one-third of the $33 million, something closer to a 50-50 split of the financial obligation to Burnett. The Pirates are believed to ha ve countered by offering to pay less  than $10 million of the $33 million to go.

The Yankees have seven viable starting pitching candidates and have been looking for a trade partner for Burnett, who generally has been a disappointment in New York. No other teams have surfaced publicly as potential suitors for Burnett as of yet. He has a limited no-trade clause which curtails the number of places he can be traded.








Posted on: February 9, 2012 12:04 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2012 2:05 pm
 

Lots of holes in cost-conscious Red Sox

Bobby Valentine was thrilled to get the job as Red Sox manager. But did he know he might be going to spring training without a starting shortstop and only three set-in-stone starting pitchers?

Young, bright Ben Cherington had to be excited to ascend to the Red Sox GM job. But did anyone tell him he'd have to operate like a small-market club?

With little more than a week to go before things start getting under way in the spring camp of the historic team, their starting shortstop is Nick Punto. If it isn't Mike Aviles. And their rotation is one big puzzle. At least 40 percent of it is.

Red Sox management has found a novel way to change the story from the chicken-and-beer parties to something else. Of course, the Valentine hiring helps, because there is no better manager at getting his team positive and interesting publicity. But how to cover the fact that they have major questions in three key spots and their owner has apparently decided to spend his resources on soccer instead?

The hiring of Valentine was a brilliant stroke, even if it did take a nudge from team president Larry Lucchino and upper management. And the wise trades for Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon satisfy the question of how they'll replace Jonathan Papelbon in the bullpen. But now, what are they going to do for a starting shortstop and two starting pitchers? (They have made an offer to Roy Oswalt, but it appears he will sign elsewhere.)

It's obvious poor Cherington was given pennies to try to compete with the Yankees and Rays, perhaps the two best teams in baseball, following the departure of his legendary mentor Theo Epstein. Epstein got $18.5 million from the Cubs and Papelbon got $50 million from the Phillies. But the biggest free agent signing Red Sox owner John Henry authorized was that of Valentine, whose contract isn't known. But we'll assume over his two years, he beat Cody Ross' $3 million (though that's on a one-year deal) and the eminently scrappy Punto's $3 million (two years). The other free agents, Vicente Padilla and Kelly Shoppach, were even less money.

Cherington showed some ingenuity in landing both Bailey and Melancon for the pen, reinforcements that will be sorely needed with a rotation that appears highly questionable. Beyond Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz, who incidentally is returning from a back injury, the Red Sox will hope reliever-turned-starter Daniel Bard can fill one of the remaining rotation spots and that someone from Padilla, Carlos Silva and a host of similar possibilities can be the No. 5 man. Cherington was also made to save money to allow him to make even the cheapie moves he did execute, leading him to trade starting shortstop Marco Scutaro at a $6 million savings.

Boston's total outlay of cash was less than $10 million (not counting Valentine). Henry hasn't explained the sudden frugality. But here's one guess: He overspent on soccer.

Henry's outlay of loot for his Liverpool soccer team was $179 million this year, or about 20 times what he spent on the Red Sox. Forward Andy Carroll got 35 million pounds ($54.7 million), forward Luis Suarez got 23 million pounds ($35.9 million), midfielder Stewart Downing 20 million pounds ($31.2 million), midfielder Jordan Henderson 16 million pounds ($25 million), midfielder Charlie Adam 7.5 million pounds ($11.7 million), defenseman Sebastian Coates seven million pounds ($10.9 million) and defenseman Jose Enrique got 6.3 million pounds ($9.8 million).

That's all great for Liverpoool.

Now, can any of them pitch or play shortstop?





Posted on: February 8, 2012 12:44 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 1:10 pm
 

Here's an idea how Hamilton can repay Rangers


Josh Hamilton is said to have been seeking a contract befitting a superstar before he went on his recent bender. Whether that means eight years, or $200 million, or something a bit south of that, he should put that idea out of his head right now.

Hamilton and the Rangers both said aloud that contract talks, which were expected to get going soon, will be tabled indefinitely while he and they try to figure out where he went wrong and how it happened. And that's perfectly appropriate. But even after he thinks he has it all figured out, Hamilton owes it to the team to offer to do a one-year deal with the Rangers. It can have team options if he likes, but only one year should be guaranteed under the circumstances.

Hamilton surely understands that if the Rangers don't give him a contract rewarding his incredible talent while ignoring the obvious major negative that someone else probably will. But Hamilton should also understand now he belongs in Texas and with the Rangers, who have guided him and backed him, and really, saved him. He owes them big. It is time he defers the dollars for some common sense.

The reality, of course, is that Hamilton or any other ballplaying millionaire making such a one-year proposal is probably about as likely as Texas seceding from the union. Still, it would be refreshing under the circumstances. It would also be the right thing to do.

Hamilton acknowledged he owed his wife and his team for what he has put them through, and here's his chance to show at least the team that that wasn't merely lip service. The Rangers saved him by trading for him and watching over him these past few years. They assigned Johnny Narron, a professional baseball man, to be his "accountability coach,'' and now, after Hamilton's own father-in-law Michael Dean Chadwick turned down the job, they have brought in Shayne Kelley, a former team chaplain and baseball coach with the Univeristy of Alabama, to handles duties that are far more difficult than most of us realize.

Hamilton performed masterfully at his press conference beyond his hat being on backwards, his failure to answer questions and his rather casual jog off stage. But one must ask themselves whether it is all or mostly an act. He looks like he's gotten off scot free, except for the delayed talks. What exactly are the repercussions? Rangers GM Jon Daniels has acknowledged that Hamilton is unlikely to face punishment from MLB for his episode, which included by his own admission "three or four''' alcoholic drinks before a return trip to the bar after promising concerned teammate Ian Kinsler he'd stay in the rest of the evening.

Hamilton acknoweldged that he, as an addict, is adept at fooling people about what's really going on. The whole back story of that night isn't known, nor is very much else known about his recovery. He is mandated, as a player who regained admission to MLB after being banned for continuing drug test failures, to take at least three drug tests a week. So at the very least, he has been staying off drugs. But this is the second alcoholic episode that's been documented.

It is time for him to give back to the team. Rangers officials say they passed on eight years for Fielder not to concentrate on Hamilton, that they just saw the price as too high and the length too long for Fielder. But Rangers owner Bob Simpson suggested it was unlikely they'd sign both longterm when he expressed his preference for Hamilton. That was merely one recent act of kindness the Rangers have shown Hamilton over the years. They have saved his career. Now, as he suggested in his press conference, it is time for him to repay.



Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
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