Posted on: January 26, 2012 12:56 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2012 7:10 pm

Dodgers secretly bid big for Prince

Although they managed to stay under the radar all the while, the bankrupt big-market Los Angeles Dodgers pushed hard behind the scenes for weeks to try to sign Prince Fielder and thought for a while that they might have a legitimate shot at their own secret signing. The swashbuckling, secret-keeping Dodgers surely were a surprise entrant in the sweepstakes, making a major push to sign the star slugger with an initial offer that guaranteed him seven years and provided a sweet four-year opt-out. And for a couple weeks, the Dodgers looked like a real possibility for Prince.

The Dodgers surely gave a spirited effort to secure Fielder, even flying to meet with him at an undisclosed neutral location a few weeks ago, but somehow they managed to keep the entire undertaking under wraps, save for a few internet rumblings from fans speculating that they may have been a mystery team in the mix. It certainly is highly unusual for a team in backruptcy court to make a huge, nine-figure offer, but Dodgers people view Fielder as an extraordinary player who would have thrived in their large market.

But as it turned out, the Dodgers were merely the first mystery team. The second one, the Tigers, jumped in to win Fielder on a $214-million, nine-year deal several days after star hitter Victor Martinez suffered a knee injury that's expected to keep him out for the 2012 season. The one entity that was aware of the Dodgers' clandestine pursuit was the Tigers, who believed at some point that their strongest competition was coming from Los Angeles. The Nationals, Rangers and as many as four others also were showing strong interest in the 27-year-old slugger, though L.A. was definitely a prime player and one of the one or two main contenders to decisive Detroit in the end.

The Dodgers' first attempt at Fielder, with a high annual salary on the four years Fielder was guaranteed to be a Dodger and the always favorable player opt out, is believed to have put them among the final three teams in on Fielder, who agreed to the Tigers deal on Tuesday that was first reported by and announced today. The Nationals have said they were in on Fielder until the end, and the Dodgers were calling in the final couple days, too, though they started to lose hope the final weekend when the Tigers' big bid materialized, people familiar with the negotiations told Danny Knobler of Boras said, "I was only dealing with teams offering eight years or more'' by the end. One other interested GM said Boras told them their seven-year offer didn't even qualify for submission.

The Dodgers' first offer was said to have called for an average salary of about $26 million for the first four years and something in the low $20-million-range in the next three years. That bid was designed not to discourage Fielder from opting out and possibly moving to the American League where he could DH afterbeing the Dodgers'; forst baseman for four years. That total Dodgers deal was believed to have been worth a guarantee in the low $160 millions. It isn't known whether it included options or vesting options.

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, who is about to auction the team that's in bankruptcy, is not disallowed by the bankruptcy court from making such major baseball calls even though the team is slated to change hands April 30. The Los Angeles Times reported there are 20 wealthy bidders for the storied franchise that is expected to sell for at least $1.5 billion, and perhaps more. McCourt was fully on board with the offer extended to Fielder.

At least one prospective Dodgers bidder said he had heard about the team's involvement with Fielder but declined to comment on how such a mega contract might affect the purchase price. The expected record price for the Dodgers is being driven in large part by an ultra-competitive TV market, and having a third superstar to go with Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw may have been seen as a positive. The homegrown superstar Kemp was signed to a $160-million, eight-year Dodgers deal earlier this offseason in a move that was applauded by everyone.

The Dodgers have reduced their payroll to $90 million for the coming season, very small for the big-market team -- though for Fielder, who they saw as a special case, they were willing to push the payroll to close to $120 million.

The Dodgers tendered their longtime first baseman James Loney a contract and expect him to be their first baseman. They are not unhappy with him at all but merely saw Fielder as a rare opportunity to land one of the game's best hitters. There has been speculation the new owner, whoever that may be, will be in position to take a shot out at Reds superstar first baseman Joey Votto when he becomes a free agent in two years. However, Dodgers baseball people saw Fielder as an immediate chance at someone they believe is well-suited for a big market environment.

Category: MLB
Posted on: January 24, 2012 8:38 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2012 2:25 pm

Now comes the hard part for Tim and the Giants

Giants superstar Tim Lincecum's just-agreed-upon $40.5-million, two-year deal with the Giants means he and the team avoid arbitration right into free agency, which is a great thing. No team wants to go to arbitration with its biggest star. And Lincecum wasn't especially fond of the idea, either. He went right into the hearing room in Tampa two years ago, but when it became clear he wanted no part of the sometimes bitter system, he and his agent Rick Thurman cut a fair and quick two-year deal.

Once again, they've worked out a two-year arragement, right up to the day Lincecum can become a free agent. The problem is: what happens then?

Before polishing off the latest two-year deal, the Giants offered Lincecum at least $100-million on five years while Lincecum has countered with a deal of eight years, or at least seven years plus an eighth year option. It's early, but the sides are about $75 million apart, maybe more than that. They have two years to bridge that gap. But let's not kid ourselves. That's a whopper of a gap.

The team will likely have an easier time with Matt Cain, who's shown a willingness to take a hometown discount in the past. Thanks to Cain taking a $27.25-million, three-year deal, he will have made almost exactly half of Lincecum over their final three arbitration years. Some folks are risk averse. Cain is one of those folks, apparently. The word going around is that he will take a deal for less than $20 million a year. He could beat that as a free agent assuming he posts his usual year, but word is out, he will probably play it safe.

Meantime, Lincecum is the gambler. He's the swashbuckler. This should come as no surprise to those who have watched Lincecum compete. He seems to want to bet on himself, and if he puts together two more typical years, he may cash in big. Some could even see him as the game's first $200-million pitcher.
Category: MLB
Posted on: January 24, 2012 4:44 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 4:57 pm

No mystery, Tigers Ilitch is one terrific owner

Well, the mystery team won again. I guess we shouldn't be surprised. That makes it three mysteries solved, with Cliff Lee's $120-million Philly deal and Albert Pujols' $240-million Angels deal coming before Prince Fielder's shocker of a $214-million, nine-year Tigers deal.

We also shouldn't be surprised it was the Tigers. No owner wants to win more than Detroit's Mike Ilitch. I saw how crestfallen the Casear's pizza king was following the Tigers' defeat to the Rangers in the ALCS last year. Injuries to Magglio Ordonez and Delmon Young stripped them of their lineup power, rendering them a patsy for the stacked Texas Rangers when they looked like an equal opponent to start the series.

Yet another injury, this one to Victor Martinez, spurred this move. The fine-hitting Martinez is expected to miss the 2012 season after tearing up a knee while working out, and Ilitch didn't want to waste the 2012 season. Ilitch wants to win as badly as anyone in the game. He's the new Steinbrenner, a quieter, calmer Steinbrenner.

Word was out that the Tigers were looking at picking up Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez, Vladimir Guerrero or Hideki Matsui, Four accomplished players winding down their careers. Instead, they got a superstar, a coreerstone player that gives them the appearance of a shoo-in for another AL Central title and another crack at the World Series title that has eluded Ilitch, despite his incredible efforts and extraordinary tolerance for spending.

The $214-million contract, which was first reported by, shouldn't shock folks. After all, Fielder is a 27-year-old slugger, a cleaup hitter and leader to build around. There is no opt-out but the salaries are said to be spread evely over the deal, making it worth exactly what it purports to be worth.

They're celebrating in Detroit. Miguel Cabrera, who will vacate first base for Fielder, is said to be thrilled to welcome Fielder, according to Danny Knobler of What surprises everyone is that Fielder didn't go to the Nationals, Orioles, Rangers or any one of the other five or six teams that was mentioned prominently for weeks, if not months.

As it turns out, the Nationals were the only one of those teams in the mix at the very end. They saw Fielder as their answer to the need for lefthanded power until Bryce Harper arrives. There is believed to have been a third team in the mix. Yes, yet another mystery team.

At this point, the only mystery is that even now no one believes the call of the mystery team. 

Category: MLB
Posted on: January 24, 2012 10:44 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 11:22 am

Prince field 4 or 5 teams; Nats, O's, Rangers in

Indications are Prince Fielder has narrowed the field of teams in his derby to four or five, and the Nationals, Orioles and Rangers are believed to be among those teams. So he's down to a "final four'' (or so), if you will.

The other involved team or two aren't known, but an unpublicized team can't be ruled out. Under-the-radar pursuers, often dubbed the "mystery'' teams, have become prominent the past couple years, as both Cliff Lee and Albert Pujols wound up signing with such a team. The other teams connected to Fielder at one time or other have included the Mariners, Marlins, Blue Jays, Cubs and incumbent Brewers, but none of those teams has been seen as a favorite in recent days.

The Nationals have been seen as a favorite for weeks, though some people connected to the team say they are reluctant to give out an ultra long deal again, after signing Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126-million last winter. The Orioles, like their local rival, have seemed to downplay their interest. But their biggest issue may be luring Fielder with little immediate prospect of winning.

The Rangers, a team that came out of the woodwork to sign Adrian Beltre last winter, have suggested that they are "unlikely'' to sign Fielder based mostly on requests for a deal of eight to 10 years. They are clearly still involved after signing Yu Darvish. Though they don't seem likely to be the high bidder, they remain hopeful that a chance to be part of one of the game's great lineups will enhance their chances.

Category: MLB
Posted on: January 22, 2012 6:31 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 10:46 am

SF offers Tim $100M-plus but more able on Cain

The Giants are talking to franchise pitchers Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain about multiyear deals, but while there are early indications they'll have a decent or better chance to lock up Cain into his free-agent years, the team seems to be focusing on deals of two years or one with Lincecum after he rebuffed an offer of at least $100 million for five years.

Giants people are saying only that talks are "ongoing'' with Cain, but there is said to be a fair amount of optimism they can keep Cain on a longterm deal for under $20 million a year. Cain already took one long team-friendly deal, but Lincecum, who has so far gone year to year, seems more likely to wind up with a two-year deal now rather than sign a contract into his free-agent years.

Cain along with Cole Hamels has been seen as one of the two pitching gems of the 2012-13 free agent class, and while teams are salivating at the thought of having a shot at Cain, people familiar with the talks see him staying in San Francisco. Meanwhile, the Giants appear to be tens of millions apart on a long deal with Lincecum after he rebuffed their offer for five years and nine figures and he countered much higher than that. It is thought Lincecum seeks a deal for seven or eight years but would be content to do a one- or two-year contract if no megadeal can be accomplished now. The Giants offered Lincecum $40 million on a two-year deal, and the sides logically could wind up in the low 40s after Lincecum requested an arbitration record $21.5 million for a non free agent and the Giants countered at $17 million for 2012.

Baseball people believe Cain might be able to match Cliff Lee's $120-million as a free agent if he tested the market after the year, but word is that he badly wants to stay in San Francisco. Additionally, industry experts suggest that if Lincecum could put together two more years like his first four that two years from now as a free agent he could possibly become the game's first $200-million pitcher.

Category: MLB
Posted on: January 21, 2012 11:36 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 10:47 am

Indians should cut older-but-not-wiser Fausto

One thing you can say on Kevin Slowey's behalf is that he definitely is Kevin Slowey. One hundred percent, he is Slowey. (I haven't actually checked his birth records, but I am assuming.)

If you're the Indians, Slowey being Slowey is something these days.

The Indians acted quickly to obtain Slowey within 24 hours of learning Fausto Carmona isn't really Fausto Carmona. Sure, Slowey doesn't look like much, with his 0-8 record and 6.67 ERA last year for the Twins. But then again, Carmona (or actually Roberto Hernandez Heredia in real life) wasn't all that much, either; he was 7-15 with a 5.25 ERA.

And now Carmona apparently isn't even Carmona. He was detained a couple days ago for using that cool but fake name of Fausto Carmona. He is really Roberto Hernandez Heredia, say the authorities in his homeland. And by the way, he is 31, not really 28. Indians GM Chris Antonetti said by text, "I am going to refrain from commenting on all on Fausto until we have more information.''

The Indians' front office is an erudite, kind and forgiving bunch. But if Fausto is a liar who perpetrated a career-long fraud on the Indians, they should just cut him. He was always two different people as a pitcher, anyway. And that's even before he became a second person. One year, he'd go 19-8, another he'd have a 6 ERA.

He wasn't and isn't worth the $7-million option the Indians exercised early this winter, even when they believed he was Carmona. But now that he's actually Heredia, and he's 31 and perhaps even distracted, he certainly isn't worth that contract. Roy Oswalt, Edwin Jackson and Livan Hernandez (*all their real names) and others are still free agents. All of them have better tracks records than Carmona/Heredia, anyway, and Jackson is even younger (now he is, anyway).

As soon as they confirm Fausto isn't really Fausto, they should cut him. Assuming there's no mistake here, the contract he signed can not possibly be enforceable (assuming he signed as Fausto Carmona). If he's really Heredia, he has perpetrated a fraud. And that does't even count as pathetic pitching.

Posted on: January 17, 2012 10:11 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 10:48 am

Rangers big week: 1 superstar or 2 coming?

The Texas Rangers, the two-time defending American League champions, are at the center of the action this week, with the Yu Darvish deadline looming Wednesday and the continuing Prince Fielder intrigue, which began to boil over when Fielder was discovered to be meeting with top Texas brass in Dallas last Friday -- not to mention a couple other smaller talks ongoing thrown in for good measure.

The great likelihood is that the Darvish deal gets done for slightly more than "Dice-K money,'' say people familiar with the talks who are referring to the $52-million, six-year contract Daisuke Matsuzaka signed with the Boston Red Sox. That's logical because while Darvish is considered the better pitcher (18-6 with a 1.44 ERA and a Pacific League-leading 276 strikeouts in 2011), the posting fee of $51,703,411 for him was just barely above the $51,111,111 fee the Red Sox paid for Matsuzaka, and Darvish's agent Arn Tellem has no other alternative but to take him back to Japan, in what is seen as a generally unpalatable alternative for star Japanese stars who go to the trouble of posting.

While there was still said to be a difference on the years, with Darvish wanting five so he could become a free agent at 30, and Texas wanting to repeat Matsuzaka's six-year contract, everyone surrounding the negotiation suggested the deal is likely to get done before the deadline Wednesday if the range of $55 million. (side note: Boston's first offer to Matsuzaka had been half that, $28 million.)

If the Darvish deal does somehow fall through (unlikely), the Rangers would suddenly become the overwhelming favorite to land Fielder. But the bigger question is whether the Rangers would be willing to pay the freight for Fielder if more than $100 million is committed to Darvish.

Rangers people have consistently characterized that possibility of a Texas superstar two-step as "unlikely,'' and a $300-million week would indeed be extraordinary for a team that isn't in New York, Boston, Philadelphia or Los Angeles (or even Los Angeles of Anaheim). However, Texas, a team that recently had been receiving luxury tax payouts, is committed to winning and on the rise financially with its rapdily increasing TV and attendance revenues and relatively new oil baron owners.

Rangers people also are full of surprises, like last winter when they stole Adrian Beltre late, after the rival Angels and A's had bid earlier. This time, Texas may have even more incentive to make a big play, what with the Angels earlier having their own $317.5-million week between their pricey new imports Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the former Ranger.

Rangers people like to keep things secret, and their clandestine meeting last week with Fielder at the Four Seasons in Dallas only leaked because the wedding of Pirates star reliever Joel Hanrahan (yet another star player the Rangers have tried for this winter) happened to be at the same hotel at the same time, so the players and agents at the wedding started telling people they had seen Fielder and/or agent Scott Boras with Rangers brass Nolan Ryan, Texas' icon and managing partner, and GM Jon Daniels. Rangers people also knows it doesn't do anything positive for the psyche of incumbent first baseman Mitch Moreland or even incumbent positional superstar Josh Hamilton if Fielder speculation keeps mushrooming.

It's possible Ryan and Daniels were just covering their bases on the off chance Darvish doesn't get done. But the Rangers do seem to love the idea of signing Fielder, which while prohibitive could make sense if they allow Hamilton to leave as a free agent after this season. Hamilton has been a tremendous asset since Daniels acquired him in a deal for Edinson Volquez and a minor-league pitcher after Reds medical people forced the deal, but Fielder is younger, less injury prone and generally a safer bet (Hamilton's father-in-law Michael Dean just bowed out as his accountability partner).

Beyond the simultaneous dances with the two huge stars, the Rangers are looking to add a lefty reliever and bench player, and have considered Mike Gonzalez and Ryan Spilborghs. But of course, the first thing to do is figure out whether they will add one superstar or two.

Category: MLB
Posted on: January 13, 2012 8:41 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 10:49 am

Yanks upgrade rotation twice, seek hitter (Pena?)

The Yankees revamped their rotation by acquiring Michael Pineda in a big trade of fine young talents for Jesus Montero and seemingly seconds later coming to terms with Hiroki Kuroda on a one-year deal for about $10 million. And they don't appear to be done yet.

The Yankees turned a weakness into a strength with those two big moves but now are in need of a hitter. With Montero going to Seattle, and they are calling around for offense. One player now on their radar is the power hitter Carlos Pena, but there may be others, as well.

The Mariners needed to upgrade their offense and they did that by getting Montero, in a trade first reported by Seattle nearly traded for Montero in the summer of 2010 in a Cliff Lee deal before eventually opting to acquire Justin Smoak instead. In this trade, the Mariners also received righthanded pitcher Hector Noesi, while sending righty Jose Campos to New York with Pineda.

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