Posted on: February 17, 2012 2:09 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:47 pm
The Pirates, spurned by free agents Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt this winter, need pitching. The Yankees, bastion for tabloid headlines run amok, need less chaos and fewer knuckleheads.
Call the deal sending A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh a win-win for both clubs.
Talks for this trade have been so interminable that they've made Best Picture Oscar nominee Tree of Life seem rapid-fire. But the deal finally is moving from the on-deck circle to completion: Colleague Jon Heyman reports that the Pirates have agreed to pay $13 million of the remaining $33 million on Burnett's deal, and that two low-level minor-leaguers will move from Pittsburgh to New York: right-hander Diego Moreno, 25, and outfielder Exicardo Cayones, 20.
Only losers in this trade are the New York tabloids ("After Yankees ace flops, here comes joker" read one classic headline as Burnett followed CC Sabathia in the playoffs against the Tigers last October).
It wasn't official, but Burnett's departure papers from the Yanks' rotation were punched on that dramatic Friday evening last month when general manager Brian Cashman deftly moved to acquire Michael Pineda from Seattle and sign free agent Hiroki Kuroda. The moves were stellar and stealth, immediately adding depth and talent that has been lacking from Joe Girardi's rotation for at least the past couple of years.
That wasn't supposed to be the case with Burnett, who donated his arm to the Bronx cause (and, apparently, his brain to science) when he signed the six-year $82.5 million deal before the 2009 season. For that, the Yankees got 34 victories from him over three seasons, and a clutch (and pivotal) Game 2 win in the 2009 World Series against Philadelphia.
But more often than not, it was the Land of 1,000 Headaches with A.J. as the Yankees spend inordinate amounts of time over the past two seasons trying to fix him like a broken-down sports car on the side of the road. Who knows how many man-hours pitching coach Larry Rothschild invested in him alone last season? And just think how much quality time Rothschild now will have available for Sabathia, Kuroda, Pineda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and others.
And for his part there's a good chance that, away from the New York spotlight and howling masses, Burnett can put some of the pieces back together again and help the Pirates. For one thing, he won't be freaking out about whether yet another potent AL East lineup will bash his brains in every fifth day. Facing St. Louis without Albert Pujols, Milwaukee without Prince Fielder and the Astros without anybody in the NL Central might be just what the shrink, er, doctor ordered.
Look, Burnett is a nice guy, a well-meaning guy and a hard-worker. But there historically has been a disconnect between his million-dollar arm and his brain. He was great at times, but always inconsistent, in Florida. He was at his best in Toronto when he was trying to emulate Roy Halladay and Doc's incredible work habits. He's a classic second-fiddle guy, needing to play Robin to someone else's Batman, even he's had the arm of Superman.
Pittsburgh, which has now suffered losing seasons dating back to Pie Traynor (or something like that), happily showed some signs of bounceback last year, especially early. At the All-Star break, the Bucs were in the thick of the NL Central race. But a pitching staff that owned a 3.17 ERA on July 25 fell apart thereafter. Not enough stamina or talent to last. No staying power.
Manager Clint Hurdle has some pieces in James McDonald, Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton. GM Neal Huntington acquired Erik Bedard over the winter, which is worth a shot. Problem for the Pirates is, in their current state, their most folks' 10th or 11th choice on the free agent market. Jackson signed with the Nationals. Oswalt remains unsigned, scouring high and low for another landing spot.
Which is why focusing on a trade, and Burnett specifically, maybe isn't the first choice for the contenders out there but is the perfect move right now for Huntington. As maddeningly inconsistent as he's been, Burnett did throw 190 1/3 innings for the Yanks last summer, 186 2/3 before that and 207 innings in 2009.
Pittsburgh can use that. And Burnett can use a low-key place -- at least, a place lower key than Yankee Stadium -- as he reaches out to recapture lost glory for a team doing the same.
Here's hoping he does. Pittsburgh can really use it. And, from Burnett, the Yankees no longer need it.
Posted on: January 13, 2012 9:40 pm
Their winter hibernation just ended. And just like that, the New York Yankees made themselves into AL East favorites.
Adding Michael Pineda from Seattle has all the earmarks of acquiring a young CC Sabathia or, ahem, Felix Hernandez -- the ace the Mariners wouldn't trade.
Adding Hiroki Kuroda on a one-year, $10 million deal adds the kind of rotation depth they could only dream of last summer -- and, presumably, a right-hander with more staying power than Bartolo Colon had.
"Wow," one scout said Friday night. "They've been laying in the weeds. They hadn't done anything."
Though the Yankees gave up a consensus future star in young slugger-to-be Jesus Montero, exactly the kind of young bat the Mariners need and a great move for them, Pineda and Kuroda join CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and maybe even Freddy Garcia in giving the Yankees the talent, depth and clout their rotation needs to take them deep into October.
Just a few days after meeting with the representatives for free agent Edwin Jackson, the Yankees became the talk of the industry on what had been a slow Friday night with their stealth move for Pineda, who, at 22, already is within sight of becoming an ace.
"He's got that kind of stuff," a scout who spent part of last summer focusing on AL West clubs said Friday night. "If you wanted to be conservative, he's a No. 2. He's got velocity, he came up with a slider that got better and better last year and he throws strikes. When he gives up a home run or a hard-hit ball, it does not chase him out of the strike zone.
"He's got that rare combination of stuff and control. He's young, he's not afraid, he's big, he's still growing and he's got makeup. He's a prize.
"And the Yankees will have, what, five years of control over him? He's the kind of guy you build around. Holy cow."
The Mariners were worried about rushing him too quickly last summer when they installed him into their rotation coming out of spring training. He pretty much immediately showed them, no sweat.
By season's end, over 28 starts, he struck out 173 hitters while walking just 55 over 171 innings. His average fastball was clocked at 94.7 m.p.h., according to FanGraphs.
What's notable about that? The fastballs of only three other AL starters checked in higher: Texas' Alexi Ogando, Detroit's Justin Verlander and Tampa Bay's David Price.
Kuroda? He turns 37 next month. But he gave the Dodgers 202 innings in 2011, going 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA. He's a competitor with fierce pride.
"Solid No. 3," the scout said. "He throws strikes, he's got good stuff, a crisp fastball that's deceptive and he throws harder than people think. He's at 90 to 94 with sink down in the zone, a crisp breaking ball and a good split.
"He's got out pitches. I'd love to have Kuroda."
Now the Yankees do. And Pineda. And Sabathia and Nova and Hughes and Burnett. ...
And as they search for a hitter, for now, they've still got 6-8 right-hander Dellin Betances and lefty Manny Banuelos, who opened many eyes last spring.
"Hanging onto Betances and Banuelos [and with Pineda on board], they've got three young-gun studs who should pitch for them for a long time," the scout said. "And Nova's not that old and Hughes isn't that old.
"They've got the makings of a young, under-control staff."
Yeah, sure, why not? On a night on which the Yankees proved they're not sleeping through the winter, why not add to their opponents' misery just a little bit more?
Posted on: July 30, 2011 3:31 pm
Edited on: July 30, 2011 3:31 pm
Maybe Rafael Furcal will be the only Dodgers player asked to waive a no-trade clause, maybe not.
Little more than 24 hours before Sunday's 4 p.m. EDT non-waivers trade deadline, three clubs continue to seriously engage the Dodgers in conversations regarding starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, according to CBSSports.com sources: The Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers.
It is not known if Kuroda will consent to a deal if traded. A source close to him told CBSSports.com earlier in the week that he still seems a "little apprehensive" about leaving Los Angeles, the only major-league organization he's known since leaving Japan following the 2007 season.
Kuroda is just one of the starters available in a fairly weak starting pitching market at the 2011 trade deadline. The biggest target remains Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez, who will make what could be his final start for the Rockies tonight in San Diego. However, it remains unclear whether Colorado will deal him. The Yankees and Red Sox both are interested.
Detroit acquired Doug Fister from Seattle earlier Saturday, taking him off the board. Other starting pitchers who could go include Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie and Koji Uehara, San Diego's Aaron Harang, Tampa Bay's Jeff Niemann and Seattle's Erik Bedard.
Kuroda this season is 6-13 with a 3.11 ERA in 21 starts for the Dodgers.
Posted on: July 29, 2011 1:28 pm
Five clubs continue to engage the Dodgers in talks for right-hander Hiroki Kuroda in trade discussions that probably present the biggest wild card between now and Sunday's non-waiver trade deadline.
The Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Indians and Tigers all continue to push the Kuroda talks as the weekend nears, sources with knowledge of the discussions tell CBSSports.com.
As they do, there is still no indication as to whether Kuroda will waive his blanket no-trade clause. One source close to Kuroda says he continues to "seem apprehensive" about doing so, which is where the wild-card part of it comes in this weekend.
Several industry sources believe Kuroda will only accept a deal to the Yankees or Red Sox, but that has not stopped the Tigers, Rangers and Indians from positioning themselves to attempt to swing a deal.
As colleague Danny Knobler wrote Thursday, in a summer in which no clear ace is available at the July 31 deadline -- unlike, say, Cliff Lee last year or CC Sabathia in '08 -- the handful of mediocre starters has only muddled the trade market picture.
The Tigers have been tied to every pitcher this side of Walter "Big Train" Johnson, and the Red Sox and Yankees are expected to have a scout in Seattle on Friday night when Erik Bedard makes his long-awaited exit from another disabled list trip to start for the Mariners.
Jeff Niemann? Jeremy Guthrie? Jason Marquis? Aaron Harang?
You can see why Kuroda, who is just 34-43 with a 3.50 ERA in four big league seasons, is being hawked like a field mouse as contenders scramble to pick up any scrap of starting pitching they can.
Because of the glut of mediocrity combined with the high prices being asked, guys like Kuroda, Bedard, Harang and Co. probably will be last minute deals on Saturday or Sunday.
But one thing to remember about Kuroda: Because of his no-trade clause and the fact that he appears reluctant to leave Los Angeles, this one will take longer than others to put together. The process will involve the Dodgers putting a deal together (if they decide to pull the trigger), then taking it to Kuroda, then Kuroda taking time to decide on the no-trade clause.
In other words, this process for the Dodgers is going to have to begin with more lead time than, say, an hour before Sunday's 4 p.m. EDT deadline.
Posted on: July 27, 2011 8:38 pm
Edited on: July 27, 2011 8:49 pm
Aaron Harang does not want to be traded.
No. I mean, the Padres' starter REALLY does not want to be traded.
"You hear the rumors and hope it doesn't happen," says the native San Diegan, who signed with his hometown Padres as a free agent last winter.
His wife just gave birth to a twin son and daughter seven months ago. Three uncles, two aunts, both of his grandmothers and six cousins all live in San Diego. Two of the cousins have children the same age as Harang's oldest daughter, who will turn 5 in October. Not only do Harang's parents live in the area, so, too, do his wife's parents.
No, this guy wants nothing to do with a deal.
Yet ... with the Padres out of the race, Detroit is interested in Harang. Boston is watching. So, too, are several other clubs.
Somebody is not going to land Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez. Somebody is going to miss on the Dodgers' Hiroki Kuroda. After that ... well, there's just not a lot out there this summer in the starting pitcher department.
"I'd like to stay here," says Harang, who has bounced back from back, appendix and forearm issues over the past three seasons to go 9-2 with a 3.45 ERA over 17 starts this season. "I want to stay here.
"It's been nice for me. My family is here. It's a comfortable fit. I like the guys in the clubhouse.
"I feel like this is where I'm meant to be."
Over the next four days, we'll see whether the Padres feel the same way.
In his favor to stay: He and the Padres have a mutual $5 million option for 2012. That's very affordable, even for the Padres, for a starting pitcher.
Working against him: The Padres need a major influx of talent and are not exactly overloaded with trade chips. And there is no reason why they can't trade Harang while at the same time telling him they'd like to re-sign him as a free agent this winter.
Amid the uncertainty in the Padres' clubhouse, Harang has plenty of company with whom to discuss things. Closer Heath Bell, set-up man Mike Adams, reliever Chad Qualls and outfielder Ryan Ludwick all are in play at the trade deadline.
"We talk about it a little bit," Harang says. "We're all in the same boat. We don't know what's going on. Until we get told something ... we hear all the rumors. We get family and friends texting us telling us, 'We hear this' or 'We hear that.'
"There's nothing we can do to control it."
The bright side for Harang is, hey, at least he's healthy and productive. That's the whole reason he's in this fix.
"Obviously, people who are seeing me know I've been throwing well," Harang says. "I had a little fluke setback with my foot, but that had nothing to do with my arm or my back."
Posted on: December 2, 2010 10:21 pm
The Oakland Athletics are all over the place this winter, from Lance Berkman to Adrian Beltre to Adam Dunn (before the White Sox closed the deal Thursday). But the one target with an increasingly urgent deadline is Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma.
The A's won exclusive bidding rights to Iwakuma, but that window closes Tuesday. Negotiations between Oakland and the right-hander stalled a couple of weeks ago, and if the two sides don't reach an agreement, then Iwakuma's only choice is to return to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan.
The A's have been library-quiet about the talks. With the clock ticking, one director of international scouting for a rival club expects the two sides to hammer out an agreement in the end.
"It's hard for me to see how Japan saves face if he goes back to Japan," said the scout, who has spent significant time in that country. "If he goes back to Japan, it will be an embarrassment to the team."
Iwakuma, 29, is not eligible for free agency in Japan until after the 2011 season, but Rakuten allowed him to be put up for bid to United States teams this winter.
The Athletics won exclusive negotiating rights with a $19.1 million bid. If Iwakuma signs, Rakuten receives the posting fee.
Iwakuma is said to be looking for $12 to $13 million annually in salary. Japanese media reported last month that the Athletics offered $15.25 million over four years. That's roughly the equivalent to what Iwakuma earned in salary with the Golden Eagles.
To play in the majors with Oakland, Iwakuma most likely is going to have to accept that his base salary will be lower than he wants because the A's will average the posting bid over the length of the contract as well, much like Boston did in signing Daisuke Matsuzaka to an overall deal of $103.1 million in 2006.
Then, the Red Sox paid a $51.1 posting fee and then agreed to a six-year, $52 million deal.
Spread over six years, the total of $103.1 million cost the Red Sox an average of just over $17 million annually, including the posting fee.
"He's good," the scout said of Iwakuma, who went 10-9 with a 2.82 ERA in 28 games in 2010 and is 101-62 with a 3.32 ERA over 10 professional seasons in Japan, with 46 complete games in 209 appearances. "I think he'll pitch a lot better than some guys who recently have come over.
Iwakuma does not compare to Matsuzaka because their syles are so different.
"Daisuke wants to throw all of his pitches," the scout said. "Iwakuma is a sinker-slider guy. Daisuke is a high-count guy. Iwakuma is a lower-count guy.
"I think it will get done with Oakland in the end, but who knows?"
Posted on: November 30, 2010 2:56 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2010 12:07 pm
Come on now, the week's most intriguing issue isn't what the scales said when new Dodger Juan Uribe stepped on them during his physical examination Tuesday.
It's what the scale says when the Dodgers plop their 2011 payroll on top of it.
Maybe Uribe's new three-year, $21 million deal in Los Angeles will be looking a little ragged in 2013. Who knows, it might not look so great by the end of 2011. He's 31, seems like 36, and do you really think he can pop 24 homers in a summer again as he did in 2010?
But while the addition of Uribe provides plenty of cordwood for Hot Stove League debate, the fact that the Dodgers now have signed four significant free agents and we're not even to the Winter Meetings yet is the strongest signal yet that perhaps the worst of the Great McCourt Divorce Trial is starting to move through.
In handing left-hander Ted Lilly $33 million, right-hander Hiroki Kuroda $12 million, right-hander Jon Garland $5 million and now Uribe $21 million, the Dodgers have shelled out some $71 million during the offseason's first month.
You can argue that there is nary an impact player like a Cliff Lee or a Carl Crawford among them.
But neither, now, is there a Charlie Haeger in the projected mix for 2011.
The Dodgers are back in the game. Nobody's predicting a division title here but, already, the rotation is improved over that wing and a prayer they trotted out in 2010. Vicente Padilla as opening day starter was the organization's most embarrassing moment since the 1986 club filmed The Baseball Boogie music video.
In Garland and Lilly, general manager Ned Colletti is taking a smart, calculated gamble with veterans who are reliable and will handle a heavy innings-pitched workload. No, they don't completely close the gap with the world champion Giants of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. But more threadbare clubs like the Padres shouldn't run circles around them again.
Meanwhile, Uribe at second base at least has a better chance for a happy ending than Uribe at shortstop. No, that pear-shaped body isn't prototypical for a middle infield position. But a couple of things about Uribe:
-- He's a winner. He played pivotal roles on two World Series champion teams, the '05 White Sox and last year's Giants. When the stakes are high, he's come up big. He had nine RBIs in 14 post-season games last month.
-- He's beloved in the clubhouse. The Giants thought the world of him. On a Dodgers club that had clubhouse issues before Colletti arrived (Milton Bradley) and with a roster of younger players that still don't all get it (Matt Kemp), Uribe will add more than, say Manny Ramirez (no matter how the Dodgers spun his influence in the early days).
Again, this isn't to make Uribe out to be more than he is, which also is a man who batted .248 last season, owns a career on-base percentage of .300 and rarely works the count.
Truth be told, given where the Giants are and where the Dodgers are, this move is excellent for San Francisco, too. The Giants, who already specialize in ancient middle infielders (Omar Vizquel, Edgar Renteria), were smart not to over-extend with Uribe.
But for a Dodgers team that many figured would be drowning in the McCourt divorce saga for the next several years, the four moves so far at least represent hope that the clouds will part sooner rather than later.
And those don't even count what could be Colletti's best stroke of the winter, bringing back Dodgers legend Davey Lopes to coach first base. Lopes, a free agent after a dispute with the Phillies over his value, is the sharpest baserunning coach in the game.
That, and the possibility that maybe he can reach the still-maturing Kemp, make this way more than your average coach hire.
The Dodgers still have plenty to do and will be in the market for a catcher if they non-tender Russell Martin on Thursday (and the catching market is weaker than month-old iced tea).
But at the very least, a fourth-place club that finished 80-82 in 2010 has sprung out of the blocks quickly toward 2011. It's a start.
Posted on: October 14, 2009 7:23 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2009 7:36 pm
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are coming strong out of the gate with a left-hander against Philadelphia in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series on Thursday, opting to hand the ball to rookie Clayton Kershaw, 21.
The decision not only emphasizes the Dodgers' growing confidence in Kershaw, who started Game 2 against St. Louis last round after defeating Colorado on the final Saturday of the season to clinch the NL West, but also allows them to position a lefty right away to face Philadelphia's big left-handed bats: Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez. Kershaw was 0-2 with a 5.23 ERA against the Phillies in two 2009 regular-season starts.
The rotation also is notable on a couple of other levels, from going with the kid in Game 1 to starting August acquisition Vicente Padilla in Game 2 to leaving All-Star Chad Billingsley out completely. Hiroki Kuroda will start Game 3 and Randy Wolf Game 4.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel named lefty Cole Hamels as his Game 1 starter, as expected. Manuel declined to go beyond that until the Phillies finalize their roster, probably either later tonight or Thursday morning.
Billingsley's absence is particularly noteworthy not only because he was an All-Star in July, but because he was the starting pitcher against Philadelphia last year in Game 2 when the Phillies' Brett Myers knocked Manny Ramirez off the plate and the Dodgers failed to respond.
Billingsley was the losing pitcher that day, and he lost more than the game. He also lost face in his own clubhouse as several Dodgers were angry that he did not respond and protect their best player. His fortitude has been questioned ever since and, though he seemed close to leaving that behind while pitching like an All-Star the first half of the season, those questions came back to dog him as he slumped down the stretch.
Kuroda, who wasn't even on the active roster last round because of a bulging disk in his neck, has been working at the Dodgers' facility in Arizona. Manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt journeyed there to watch him Tuesday and came away impressed enough to pick him to start Game 3.
"I wasn't hopeful that he would be ready for this round with the way things started with him," Torre said.
But the manager said he was "comfortable" watching Kuroda pitch Tuesday.
"He may not be as good as we want him to be, but still, off of what he did for us last year, it's something that we felt we wanted to give a shot to," Torre said of Kuroda, who won two postseason games for the Dodgers last year, holding the Cubs and Phillies to a combined two runs in 12 1/3 innings in the process.
Meantime, Wolf, a second lefty in the starting quartet, is bumped down to Game 4 after pitching Game 1 against St. Louis.
While he seemed disappointed, Wolf chose not to complain.
"I feel like I have an opportunity in Game 4 to help the team win," he said.