Category:MLB
Posted on: December 15, 2011 7:47 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 9:21 pm
 

Darvish: Fighters expected to accept Tuesday

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters are expected to accept the posting price on star pitcher Yu Darvish, but not until just before the Tuesday 5 p.m. ET deadline.

That means another five days of waiting to find out which team has won the right to negotiate with Darvish, the 25-year-old right-hander who wants to come to the major leagues after a brilliant career in Japan. Once the Fighters formally accept the bid, the commissioner's office will reveal the name of the winning team (even the Fighters don't know which team it is), and a 30-day negotiating window will open.

Ever since the bidding period ended at 5 p.m. Wednesday, rumors about which team won and how high that team bid have been flying around baseball. Talk in the game is that the winning bid was above $40 million, and possibly even above the $51 million that the Red Sox paid for the rights to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka.

As for which team won the bid, speculation continues that it was the Blue Jays, although it is also thought that the Rangers put in a strong bid. The Yankees were said to have put in a "modest" bid, and thus it's considered unlikely that they were the team that won the rights.

Waiting until near the deadline before accepting a posting bid is not unusual. The Seibu Lions did the same thing five years ago, after posting Matsuzaka. And while there was much speculation then about which team made the highest bid, the winner wasn't known for sure until after the Lions officially signaled their acceptance.
Category: MLB
Posted on: December 15, 2011 12:20 pm
 

How to fix international rules? Form a committee

Almost everyone agrees baseball could use a better system for signing international players.

So what system would be better?

Ah, that's much tougher, and that's why the new basic agreement included a provision for a committee to study possible changes. The commissioner's office and the union announced that committee on Thursday, and said that it will meet for the first time sometime before Jan. 15.

An international draft for amateur players, long a goal of commissioner Bud Selig, is the biggest topic on the table. Currently, only players who attend school in the U.S. (including Puerto Rico) and Canada are subject to a draft; all other players are treated as free agents.

That's why players defecting from Cuba (such as Yoenis Cespedes) establish residency in countries such as the Dominican Republic, rather than in the U.S. Cespedes will get much more money as a free agent who can deal with all 30 teams than he would as a drafted player who can deal with just one.

Baseball can't easily add all international players into the current draft system, because the rules for eligibility are so different. Most international players are eligible to sign once they turn 16, while players covered under the draft become eligible when their high school class graduates, and again after a third year at a four-year college.

The committee will be asked to determine whether there's a way to add international players into the current draft, or whether there should be a separate international draft.

The committee is also expected to look at ways to modify the posting system currently used to add players from the Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese professional leagues. That system, currently being used by star Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, has drawn heavy criticism on all sides.

Also, the committee plans to look at rules for signing Cuban players, and at how baseball develops international players.

General managers Sandy Alderson of the Mets and Andrew Friedman of the Rays will be joined on the committee by Kim Ng of the commissioner's office, and by union representatives Tony Clark, Rick Shapiro and Stan Javier. The committee will be co-chaired by MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred and union executive director Michael Weiner, who worked together to complete the CBA.


Posted on: December 15, 2011 11:47 am
 

Rangers talk long-term deal with Holland

The Rangers have begun discussions on a long-term contract with left-hander Derek Holland, who won 16 games in 2011 and shut out the Cardinals for 8 1/3 innings in Game 4 of the World Series.

The talks appear to be in the preliminary stages. Holland has a little more than two years' big-league service time, so he won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season. He will be eligible for arbitration beginning after next season. A new deal would most likely be for five years, which would buy out one year of free agency.

The Holland talks were first reported by the Dallas Morning News, and were confirmed to CBSSports.com by a source.



Category: MLB
Posted on: December 13, 2011 8:28 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 5:40 pm
 

Tigers, Red Sox among teams in on Gio Gonzalez

When the bidding window for Yu Darvish closes at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday, one team will come away with the chance to sign one of the best remaining pitchers available on the winter shopping market.

The others can turn their attention back to Gio Gonzalez.

The 26-year-old A's left-hander remains the hottest name on the trade market, with the Tigers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rangers and Reds among the teams chasing him. Gonzalez will be arbitration-eligible in 2012, but a team acquiring him would have him under control for four years before free agency, which adds to his value.

For now, though, the A's are asking a sky-high price.

How high? Well, when the Marlins asked about Gonzalez at last week's winter meetings, sources said that the A's asked for budding star Mike Stanton in return. Understandably, that conversation was brief.

The Tigers could have something of an edge in the Gonzalez hunt, because A's general manager Billy Beane is said to be enamored with young Tiger right-hander Jacob Turner. The Tigers would be willing to deal Turner for Gonzalez, according to sources, but they balked at the A's request that they also include top prospects Nick Castellanos and Drew Smyly, as well.

The A's don't see much depth in the Tiger system, and may not agree to a deal that doesn't include both Turner and Castellanos, at the very least.

The Red Sox have been mentioned more often as interested in A's closer Andrew Bailey, but sources said they have shown just as much interest in Gonzalez. Adding Gonzalez to a rotation that already includes Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz would give Boston a very strong top four.

Similarly, the Tigers like the idea of adding Gonzalez to a group that includes Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello.

The Rangers and Blue Jays are two teams whose interest could be affected by the Darvish decision, as both have been mentioned as heavily interested in the Japanese star. The Darvish market is tough to call, because in a system that relies on blind bids, teams have even less reason than usual to signal their intentions publicly, and even more incentive to send out misinformation.

The Reds are searching for a top starting pitcher, too, and have been in contact with the A's, as well as the Rays (James Shields and others) and Braves (Jair Jurrjens). But the A's asked the Reds for a huge package headed by Yonder Alonso.

The Phillies also talked to the A's about Gonzalez, but the A's weren't overly excited in a package that would have included Domonic Brown and some younger, lesser pitching prospects.

The A's have told teams that they want only young, inexpensive players back for Gonzalez and Bailey, preferably players with less than one year of big-league experience.

They have also said that they don't plan to trade Gonzalez and Bailey as a package, because they don't believe that any interested team has enough available players to get both of them.

Posted on: December 12, 2011 5:09 pm
 

As Brewers move on, Cubs, Mariners look at Prince

With Monday's signing of Aramis Ramirez, the Brewers seem to have moved on from Prince Fielder.

But where will Fielder move on to?

The Cubs and Mariners are both in on the Fielder market, new CBSSports.com colleague Jon Heyman reported Monday. The Rangers, Blue Jays, Marlins, Orioles and Nationals, among others, could also be interested.

Fielder could be a particularly good fit in Chicago, especially with Dale Sveum as the new Cubs manager. Sveum was the Brewers hitting coach, and has a very good relationship with Fielder.

When Theo Epstein came over from the Red Sox to run the Cubs baseball operations, the thought was that he would stay away from high-priced free agents this winter, because the rebuilding process at Wrigley Field is expected to take several years.

But Fielder is just 27, young enough to fit into a long-term plan. Also, new rules that limit spending on draft and international signings leave the Cubs unable to speed up the process by outspending other teams on those markets.

The Mariners desperately need offense, and Fielder has long been considered a possibility. Like Sveum, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik has ties to Fielder. Zduriencik was the scouting director who drafted Fielder for the Brewers.

The thought among many in baseball, though, has been that Seattle won't be Fielder's preferred landing spot. It's as far as possible from his Florida home, the Mariners are unlikely to contend, and Safeco Field isn't friendly to power hitters.

The Rangers, with a team that has gone to the World Series two straight years and a ballpark that favors hitters, would no doubt be an attractive destination. But club president Nolan Ryan has played down any interest, insisting that he likes first baseman Mitch Moreland and that Fielder would be a difficult fit in the Rangers' budget.

The Blue Jays will eventually need to play on free agents like Fielder if they're as serious about being a big-market team as they say they are. But Toronto people have also suggested that they don't want to give out the type of long-term contract that Fielder will command.

The Marlins have given conflicting signals about their possible interest in Fielder, but at this point it seems safe to say they're not as excited about him as they were about the possibility of signing Albert Pujols.

The Orioles have long liked Fielder, but it's unclear how much money owner Peter Angelos is willing to spend this winter, and also uncertain how interested Fielder would be in going to a team that has shown little sign of being competitive in the American League East.

Nationals officials repeatedly insist that they won't pursue Fielder, but others in the game look at the team's strong working relationship with agent Scott Boras and wonder if that could change. The Nationals have Adam LaRoche signed to be their first baseman in 2012, and the long-term plan is to move Mike Morse from left fielder to first base.


Posted on: December 12, 2011 4:15 pm
 

Aramis isn't Prince, but he should help Brewers

Aramis Ramirez isn't Prince Fielder.

No one's saying he is.

But if you begin with the assumption that keeping Prince Fielder was always going to be a huge longshot, then Aramis Ramirez isn't bad.

The Brewers completed the rebuilding of the left side of their infield Monday, signing Ramirez to a three-year contract that will pay him about $36 mill, according to sources. With Ramirez at third and Alex Gonzalez (signed last week) at shortstop, they should be improved defensively.

And with Ramirez sliding into Fielder's spot in the middle of the batting order, they should be competitive offensively, too.

Ramirez becomes even more important to the Brewers with Ryan Braun's status in doubt. Braun faces a 50-game suspension for a failed drug test, with his appeal scheduled to go before an arbitrator sometime next month.

But Braun will be back. Fielder, barring what would now be an incredible turn of events, will not. The Brewers were faced with replacing 38 home runs, 120 RBI and a .981 OPS out of the cleanup spot.

Ramirez has a career .842 OPS. He has six career 100-RBI seasons, and he drove in 93 runs for a bad Cubs team last year.

He's not Prince, but he is a solid middle-of-the order bat.

With the Ramirez signing, the Brewers could be done with their major winter shopping. The plan has been to try young (and cheap) Mat Gamel at first base, and with Francisco Rodriguez accepting salary arbitration, the Brewers wouldn't have much money to spend on another first baseman, anyway.

They could still trade K-Rod to a team looking for a closer. They could consider dealing starting pitcher Randy Wolf or even Shaun Marcum if they wanted to use the money elsewhere.

But other than adding some depth, the Brewers now don't need to do anything else. Without Prince, and likely without Braun for the first 50 games, they still have a team that should compete again in the National League Central.

The Brewers won the division in 2011. The Cardinals, their closest contender, lost a manager (Tony La Russa) and a superstar (Albert Pujols). The Reds, who won in 2010, have yet to find a deal for the top starting pitcher they have long sought.

The Cubs, even if they sign Fielder, are likely a year or two away from true contention. The Pirates are improving, but not scary. The Astros are just starting on a long rebuilding process.

The Brewers may not be as good without Fielder. But with Ramirez, in this division, they could be good enough.


Posted on: December 11, 2011 6:09 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2011 6:12 pm
 

Braun needs to convince an arbitrator -- and you

Ryan Braun hopes to convince an arbitrator that he doesn't deserve a 50-game suspension for his failed drug test.

He also hopes to convince you that he's not just another baseball drug cheat.

History is against him on both counts. And it doesn't help him at all that he is faced with fighting both battles at the same time.

Braun isn't the first player to fail a drug test, and he's not the first player to proclaim his innocence after testing positive.

He is, however, the first player whose failed test became public knowledge before his appeal was heard. Baseball's policy is to hold off on any announcements until an appeal is denied and a suspension is certain, precisely because news of a failed test can be extremely damaging to a player's image, even if he is later exonerated.

Of course, no player has ever been exonerated through the arbitration system.

Could Braun be the first?

His people say he could be. The suggestion is that they have evidence that they believe will play well in front of the arbitrator. And while it might help them in the court of public opinion to make that evidence public immediately, lawyers tend to want to hold on to it until it is presented in court (or in this case, in arbitration).

The two pieces of information that came out Sunday, both told to CBSSports.com by a source familiar with the case, are that Braun's test was not for a performance-enhancing drug (he didn't fail a steroid test), and that Braun asked for and passed a second test after the first, failed test.

While either of those things may help Braun in the public's eye, neither is of great significance.

Whatever drug Braun tested positive for, there's no dispute on either side that it was a banned substance under baseball's drug rules. Drugs make that list because they are associated or otherwise linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Also, while Braun's request for a second test is nice, it's hardly definitive. Many of the drugs tested for by baseball pass through your system quickly.

Ultimately, the best way for Braun to defend his image would be to succeed before the arbitrator, but chance isn't expected to come until sometime next month.

The problem Braun faces now is to keep public opinion from turning completely against him before an arbitrator even hears the case. The problem he'll face later is that whether or not he succeeds before the arbitrator, he has a hard time not being remembered as a guy who failed a test.



Category: MLB
Posted on: December 7, 2011 3:47 am
 

Latest on Rangers, and other meetings notes

DALLAS -- More baseball talk from the second full day at the winter meetings:

-- The hometown Rangers have watched the Marlins dominate the first two days of the meetings, and they spent Tuesday night meeting with the representative for pitcher C.J. Wilson, who they very likely will not re-sign. But the Rangers have been active on many other fronts, according to sources. They're in on free-agent pitcher Mark Buehrle, and potentially in on free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder. Also, despite already signing closer Joe Nathan, the Rangers have considered a run at A's closer Andrew Bailey, who is available in trade.

-- The Phillies have decided against pursuing free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez, and will instead keep Placido Polanco at third and fully concentrate their efforts on retaining shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Ramirez still has interest from the Brewers and Angels, and the Brewers could be the best fit (assuming they don't re-sign Fielder).

-- While much of the day Tuesday was dominated by the Albert Pujols chase, agent Scott Boras has decided to let the Fielder market develop more slowly. Interested teams include the Cubs, Rangers, Mariners, Orioles and possibly the Nationals, plus the Brewers.

-- The Reds have continued to pursue starting pitching. They've been probably the most aggressive team after Jair Jurrjens of the Braves, and have also continued a dialogue with the Rays that began last July.

-- While the Marlins pursued Pujols, they also continued to look at starting pitching. The Marlins have tried for both of the top two free-agent starters (Wilson and Buehrle), and have also made trade inquiries on Gio Gonzalez of the A's and Wandy Rodriguez of the Astros, among others.

-- The Cardinals have been so focused on trying to retain Pujols that they have yet to have a full-group meeting on what path they would pursue if he leaves. Some think they could pursue Rollins or Ryan Madson, and others believe that they could jump in on Buehrle.


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com