Posted on: December 6, 2011 9:23 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 1:56 am
DALLAS -- The Marlins spent an extraordinary amount of time Tuesday afternoon and evening wooing free agent slugger Albert Pujols and appeared to be thundering toward their finish line as darkness enveloped Dallas on a cold Tuesday night.
Whether it is also Pujols' finish line remains to be seen.
The Marlins pushed very, very hard through the night Tuesday to finish a Pujols deal with a 10-year offer, according to sources, worth in excess of $200 million. Closing in on 1 a.m. CDT, sources said the Marlins reached a point where there would be no immediate answer, and they would resume discussions with the Pujols Camp on Wednesday.
Earlier Tuesday, St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak said that the Cardinals presented the slugger with a new offer, their first since last February when Pujols rejected a reported nine-year offer worth a reported $195 million.
Meantime, USAToday's Bob Nightengale reported an unidentified team made a third offer of at least 10 years in what is becoming the most expensive bidding war in baseball history.
Sources with knowledge of the talks said that they expected the Pujols camp to let things play out a little longer.
That strategy did not mesh with what the Fish wanted Tuesday, and they may have to make a decision as a result. As owner Jeffrey Loria canceled dinner plans Tuesday to remain in the Hilton Anatole and try to knock off a deal for the iconic slugger, the Marlins remained players on free agent pitchers Mark Buehrle and C.J. Wilson.
Marlins officials emerged from an elevator after what appeared to have been a long meeting with Dan Lozano, Pujols' agent, shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday. But club president David Samson repeatedly told reporters, "Nothing to report."
The Marlins want an answer from Pujols sooner rather than later -- they pushed for an answer Tuesday night -- so they can move on to one of those other options if they can't get him. They also want an answer from Pujols soon because of growing concern that they are being used as leverage to jack up the Cardinals' bid.
Bottom line: The Marlins badly want Pujols, but they do now want to lose out on other free agent options if Pujols is a rigged game and it's a fait accompli that he's returning to St. Louis. Whether or not the Marlins sign Pujols, they still want to improve their starting pitching. Without Pujols, they'll look to the free agent market. If they add Pujols, they will look to trade current first baseman Gaby Sanchez for pitching.
Mozeliak did not specify the Cards' new offer to Pujols either in years or dollars. When asked by St. Louis reporters in whose court the ball is in, Mozeliak replied, "Theirs."
"I suspect [a response] is going to come quickly," Mozeliak told St. Louis reporters. "That would have to come from that camp. ... In this situation, we're participants. I don't think we're dictating anything."
The Marlins believed that their offer had to be higher than that of the Cardinals to combat what one source termed the "statue effect." Meaning, if Pujols finished his career in St. Louis, the next step will be that the club and city will erect a statue of him next to the one of Hall of Famer Stan Musial outside of Busch Stadium.
Consequently, the Marlins have put together what sources call a "creative" offer, one that is so complicated that Loria and other Marlins executives met with Dan Haslem of the Commissioner's Office late Tuesday afternoon to review parts of it and, apparently, make sure it is in line with baseball rules and the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
"Jeffrey is an art dealer. He's accustomed to obtaining special works of art," one National League executive said Tuesday night. "Maybe this is another special work of art."
Surely, they would tell you that Pujols is exactly that in St. Louis.
Whether he'll be on permanent loan anytime soon at the Marlins' posh new baseball museum in Miami is the subject that continues to dominate these meetings.
Posted on: December 6, 2011 1:18 pm
DALLAS -- The Diamondbacks are discussing a contract extension with Joe Saunders in talks that could either tie the left-hander to the Arizona rotation for a couple of more seasons ... or land him squarely on the trade block.
With young starters such as Tyler Skaggs and Jarrod Parker close to ready, and young lefties David Holmberg and Patrick Corbin on the way, the Diamondbacks are internally discussing the merits of a two- or three-year extension to Saunders.
He's worked 200 or more innings in each of the past three seasons and, as such, provides shelter for a young staff growing into its future. But he's also arbitration-eligible and due a big raise from the $5.5 million he earned in 2011. Saunders went 12-13 with a 3.69 ERA for the NL West champion Diamondbacks last summer.
If the Diamondbacks decide to go with their young pitching, the Diamondbacks could seize on a weak free agent market and perhaps deal Saunders as early as this week. The slow dance continues on the free agent market with Mark Buehrle (who is being pursued by more than a dozen clubs) and C.J. Wilson.
Beyond them and maybe Edwin Jackson, the best alternatives for clubs looking to acquire starting pitching this winter appears to be on the trade market, where Oakland is receiving hits on Gio Gonzalez, the White Sox are fielding inquiries on John Danks and Houston is shopping Wandy Rodriguez.
Posted on: December 5, 2011 8:18 pm
DALLAS -- The Astros may have an interim general manager (Dave Gottfried) as they work toward under new owner Jim Crane, but the mandate remains the same: Cut and chop as major rebuilding continues.
The Astros are looking to trade pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers along with outfielder Carlos Lee, and to get that task done, they're telling teams here that they'll pay half of the salaries of Myers and Lee.
Rodriguez? With pitching scarce on the free agent market, the Astros are holding out hope that they can make him their biggest score. Rodriguez is due $10 million in 2011 and $13 million in 2012, and the Astros as of now do not intend to pick up any portion of that.
Sources say the Astros will field inquiries while waiting for free agent lefty Mark Buehrle to sign. That will help establish the market and then the Astros feel like they'll have a better idea of what they can get for Rodriguez, who went 11-11 with a 3.49 ERA in 30 starts for Houston last summer.
Myers (7-14, 4.46) is due $11 million in 2012 with a club option for $10 million in 2013 with a $3 million buyout. Lee (.275/.342/.446 with 18 homers and 94 RBI in 155 games) is due $18.5 million in 2012, the final year of his contract.
Posted on: December 5, 2011 1:57 am
Edited on: December 5, 2011 2:19 am
DALLAS -- Heath Bell opened some eyes. Jose Reyes opened some jaws.
But even with that, Miami isn't done in what is shaping up as the Winter of the Marlin.
Albert Pujols? Are they serious?
Indications late Sunday evening were yes, they're dead serious about pursuing Pujols even with Reyes bagged at six years and $106 million and Bell signed for three years and $27 million with a vesting option for a fourth year at another $9 million.
Question is, is adding Pujols a good idea? Or, at this point, is it simply the Marlins being silly?
Answer: Unless there's enough money to sign Mark Buerhle or C.J. Wilson after Bell, Reyes and Pujols -- and in a sentence I never, ever expected to type, even the Marlins must have a limit -- the noveau riche Fish are just being silly.
Adding Reyes to a dynamic lineup that includes Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison, Mike Stanton and All-Star first baseman Gaby Sanchez makes the Marlins an instant contender ... if they can pitch.
Adding Bell as their first legitimate closer in years solidifies their contending status ... if they have enough starting pitching to get the ball to him for 40 or 50 saves in 2012.
With Josh Johnson having crossed the 200 innings threshold only once in seven big-league seasons, and with Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad underperforming in 2012, what the Marlins need most is to back a much-improved lineup with pitching.
With the Reyes agreement, sources here Sunday night said the club absolutely has enough money to sign Bell, Reyes and a free agent starter such as Buehrle or Wilson. That is absolutely the way they should go.
Sure, Pujols, 31, is sexy and the Marlins right now are looking to throw their weight around. But now is the time to use brains, not testosterone.
No matter how the contracts are structured, if they commit in the neighborhood of $275 million or more to just two players -- Reyes and Pujols -- that is insane. Especially when their pitching would remain questionable.
Look for the Marlins to investigate the trade market this week because, assuming Reyes is not their last free-agent haul, they're going to have excess somewhere. They bag Pujols, Sanchez will be available. They add a starter, Nolasco could find himself on the trade block.
It's going to be a wild week here with the Marlins, perhaps a week unlike any other in their history. But what they don't need is to leave Dallas with a lasting hangover.
Tempting as Pujols is, pitching is where they should focus.
Posted on: November 9, 2011 7:15 pm
Edited on: November 9, 2011 7:38 pm
Talk about moving and shaking.
The Miami Marlins have a new manager with a Q rating off the charts in Ozzie Guillen. They've squired free agents Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes around their new ballpark this week on recruiting visits. They've been in touch with free agent Prince Fielder, and sources say they're very active in the relief pitching market as well (Heath Bell?).
Thursday, a Marlins contingent is due in the Dominican Republic to watch Yoennis Cespedes, the flashy Cuban defector who is expected to be declared a free agent within the next few weeks.
Now, poised to unveil new uniforms on Friday, the question is: Will the Fish be able to hook a marquee free agent or two to wear those new threads?
Perhaps a better -- and certainly more direct -- question: Are the Fish really and truly serious about changing their gills and writing jumbo-sized checks? Or is this an early winter blitz to sell tickets that will end with ticket-holders looking around a new ballpark next summer wondering where all those big plans went?
Sorry, two questions there, not one.
But with the Marlins, things are rarely as they seem.
Unquestionably, their early-winter actions have the attention of an industry that has long been accustomed to watching owner Jeffrey Loria do what Mike Ditka once accused Bears owner George Halas of doing: Throw nickels around like manhole covers.
But the Marlins finally have a new stadium and they know they need to fill it. In fact, club president David Samson, during an interview on SiriusXM radio Wednesday, predicted that the club will be "drawing, I'd say, 30,000 to 35,000 every single game."
Last year, the Marlins averaged 19,007 per game, last in the National League and 28th in the majors.
"They're trying to sell tickets," one industry source said Wednesday of the Marlins' aggressive early movement. "They're trying to get people excited about the ballpark. If they can do that, good for them."
If they can lure Reyes, All-Star Hanley Ramirez, who underwent left shoulder surgery after playing in only 92 games last season, would slide over to third base.
Buehrle, who has logged 200 or more innings pitched for 11 consecutive seasons, would provide a nice veteran anchor to the rotation -- and his workload undoubtedly would help pick up the slack the next time ace Josh Johnson goes back onto the disabled list.
Certainly, if the Marlins can sign Reyes or Buehrle, that would preclude them from adding Fielder. And despite the early push, one veteran agent said Wednesday he can't see the Marlins adding more than one marquee free agent.
Still, it's the time of the winter for dreaming, and the Marlins right now are dreaming big. Just a year ago, they traded slugger Dan Uggla to Atlanta because they couldn't agree to terms on a contract extension. Just two Januarys ago, the players' union nicked them for violating revenue-sharing rules and not spending enough money on player payroll.
We know the Marlins are moving into a brand new ballpark in 2012.
But are they really moving into a new world as well?
As Samson and Guillen pulled out all the stops with Reyes at the iconic Joe's Stone Crab for lunch Wednesday, they would have us believe they are. They've indicated that they intend to crank up their payroll in 2012 to $80 million or so, from $57 million in 2011.
Fine. But until they finally dress one (or more) of these guys in those new uniforms, it's all sizzle and no steak -- or, as they'd say at Joe's, all shell and no crab.
Until they finally dress one (or more) of these guys in those new threads, the Marlins remain as they always have: Buyer beware.
Posted on: May 9, 2011 9:14 pm
Edited on: May 9, 2011 9:23 pm
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Ready to welcome right-hander Jake Peavy back into the bigs on Wednesday, the White Sox are kicking around going with a six-man rotation until they can write Peavy's comeback in ink rather than pencil.
"Hopefully, he stays there for good," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said before Monday night's game against the Angels here.
Just 10 months past extensive shoulder surgery and into uncharted waters, Peavy's comeback this spring has been highly impressive, albeit a bit uneven. The Sox had to put the brakes on when he developed shoulder tenidinitis in late March, and one of his minor-league rehabilitation starts for Double-A Birmingham was cut short because of muscle tenderness three weeks ago.
Consequently, even while re-inserting him into their rotation, the Sox are being cautious. But part of the issue is, they need him to pitch, because they need to win games. His return can't be an experiment just to see if he's ready. They can't baby him.
"You always worry," Guillen said. "I always worry about anybody who goes on the field [to play].
"He's worked so hard. He's put in a lot of hours of rehab. I love to see him pitch. Last year, it was rehab, bullpen [sessions], the minor leagues ... he can't wait to pitch here and stay in the big leagues every five days.
"Nobody wants to be out there more than him."
While Guillen said a six-man rotation is a possibility, he emphasized that it's just something the Sox are considering.
"I don't know," Guillen said.
As of now, Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Edwin Jackson and Gavin Floyd are locked into the rotation. Phil Humber is the man who was viewed by some as keeping a spot warm for Peavy's return, but Humber has been excellent so far in 2011. Though just 2-3, the right-hander has a 2.97 ERA.
Guillen said Humber definitely will start on schedule Friday in Oakland.
"It's not fair for him [to say], 'OK, you pitched good, thank you for coming, goodbye,'" Guillen said. "I'm not that type of person. I'm not that type of manager.
"You throw well, you earn it. And after that. ..."
After that, we'll see. By spotting in a sixth starter, Guillen said, it could take some of the stress off of others in the rotation. Floyd, for example, did not pitch after September 20 last summer because of tightness in the back of his right shoulder.
Peavy is slotted for Wednesday night against Angels rookie Tyler Chatwood. He said Monday he's feeling great after his final rehab outing, pitching for Triple-A Charlotte against the Mud Hens in Toledo last week.
Posted on: May 28, 2010 6:34 pm
Baseball has ruled in the Joe West/Chicago White Sox balk flap, and the ruling is clear: Umpire Joe West, yer out ... of line.
He was. And is. Beyond reason. And without a shadow of doubt.
Now, this isn't exactly what baseball said. No. Fines were levied to White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, pitcher Mark Buehrle and West, according to the Associated Press, and no suspensions were dished out.
How is that blaming West?
Easy: Guillen was not suspended.
Given Guillen's profanity-laced tirade following the game, including telling the media that West is a f------ a--hole, a suspension for him was a given. Wasn't it? No way managers are ever allowed to take off on an umpire like that.
Unless the umpire is dead wrong.
Bottom line here is, Country Joe West must be stopped. He is a bad umpire, he's arrogant and he has his own publicist. Seriously. The only thing missing when he blows into town are the trumpets heralding his arrival.
His publicist has sent out multiple mass e-mailings already this summer offering up Country Joe for interviews, mostly touting his country music CD that he's recorded. The e-mails usually land in the in-boxes of local media a few days before West's crew arrives in town to umpire a game.
Best case, it is crass and in poor taste for an umpire to be drumming up publicity for himself.
Worst case, it's sending a blatant signal that he's as big -- or bigger -- than the game.
The old cliché is true, that an umpire is at his best when you don't notice he's on the field. That's as it should be. Fans don't buy tickets -- or tune in on television -- to see the umpires.
That's all bad enough. But West's behavior in the White Sox game the other day was beyond reprehensible. He's making himself look like a buffoon and, worse, he's damaging the integrity of his profession.
Posted on: May 11, 2010 12:52 am
Perfect games follow the Tampa Bay Rays around the way stray dogs hang near the meat market.
Rays' outfielder Gabe Kapler on Sunday became the only man in baseball history to bat in the ninth inning twice with his team facing a perfect game.
Kapler bounced to shortstop to end Dallas Braden's grab at history in Oakland on Sunday.
And in Chicago last July, he was Mark Buehrle's first out in the ninth inning.
You might recall that one: Kapler was the guy who smoked the fly ball to the wall that Chicago outfielder DeWayne Wise majestically chased down in a highlight reel play for the ages.
"And if you want to take it one step further. ..." Kapler said Monday in Anaheim as the Rays prepared to open a series with the Angels.
Yes, if you want to do that, Kapler now has had three brushes with perfect games in three years: In 2008, San Diego's Chris Young spun a perfect game for 7 2/3 innings on Sept. 7 in Milwaukee when Kapler, then a Brewers outfielder, broke it up by smashing a home run.
Understandably so, Kapler says he felt "very connected to" Buehrle's moment, given how close he came to breaking up and Wise's spectacular play.
As for Braden's perfecto on Sunday, Kapler said, "I think in the order of the universe, there are reasons why it would have been nice for us to break it up. But after the game, I read about how Braden's mom had died of cancer, and it was poetic [to have it happen on Mother's Day]. It was his day. He needed to make pitches, and he made them."
Meantime, Kapler's wild perfect game history isn't all in this crazy Tampa Bay connection.
Manager Joe Maddon?
He's now been involved with three perfect games (plus another no-hitter) -- all on the wrong side.
While his Rays now have been victimized by two perfect games in their past 96 (Braden on Sunday, the White Sox's Mark Buehrle last July 23), Maddon also was the Angels' bullpen coach when Texas' Kenny Rogers was perfect against them back in 1994.
He also was the Angels' interim manager when Minnesota's Eric Milton no-hit them in 1999.
"I'm your guy for a perfect game," Maddon joked. "I'm on the bad side of history once again. Kind of amazing, but it happened."
Wait, there's more: Including the Braden and Buehrle games, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and third-base coach Tom Foley each have been involved with three perfect games.
Unlike with Maddon and Kapler, though, the Rays finally have a winner with Foley and Martinez: Each was on the 1991 Montreal club when Pedro Martinez tossed a perfect game against the Dodgers on July 28, 1991.
The Rays join the Dodgers and Twins as the only three teams to have two perfect games thrown against them.
Likes: Do yourself a favor and watch this absolutely hilarious recent rant by a disgusted Cleveland television guy doing a postgame show. And it was on the Indians' flagship station, no less. ... Terrific analysis encapsulating the mess that is the Kansas City Royals here. ... Classy tribute to the late Ernie Harwell before Monday's Tigers game in Detroit. A sad, sad thing, but the Tigers really deserve credit for the first-class manner in which they've handled everything. ... Really superb Drive-By Truckers show last Thursday at the House of Blues in San Diego. Those guys can play and, boy, do they rock. The new disc, The Big To-Do, is very good. Of course, it's no Decoration Day -- the Truckers set the bar with that (or maybe with Southern Rock Opera) -- but it's good. Love Birthday Boy, Daddy Learned to Fly, Santa Fe and (It's Gonna Be) I Told You So. ...
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"There was that whole weird thing with the horses
-- The Hold Steady, The Weekenders