Posted on: December 24, 2008 10:26 am

Top of the heap

A post-Teixeira, pre-Christmas look at the winter's winners and losers:

The Winners

1. Yankees. Who else? They got the best pitcher. Maybe the two best pitchers. They got the big-prize hitter, too. They ruined Boston's winter. Yes, they have more money than anyone else. But this winter, the Yankees also seem to have had the best strategy. Their huge early bid for Sabathia seemed to work just as intended, scaring off any potential competition. The decision to offer an opt-out clause helped eliminate any anxiety Sabathia and his wife felt about moving to New York. Then, after going public with their desire to sign Sabathia, the Yankees hid in the background in the Teixeira talks, seeming to know that they could always get their man in the end.

2. Mets. The Wilpon family may not feel like winners, after reportedly losing hundreds of millions in Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. But their team is a winner, for getting Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz in the bullpen. Not only that, but the Mets could be seeing the Derek Lowe market come back to them, once again allowing them to make a play for the starting pitcher they identified as their top choice. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that their old rival in Atlanta is having a horrid winter.

3. Phillies. It wasn't flashy, but the world champs did pretty much what they needed to. They re-signed Jamie Moyer, and they replaced Pat Burrell with Raul Ibanez. The negative is that Chase Utley needed surgery and will miss the start of the season, and the Phils tried but failed to get Mark DeRosa from the Cubs to fill in for him.

4. Dodgers. They got the left side of their infield back, by re-signing Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal. They proved to all the doubters that owner Frank McCourt does have a little bit of money. And if McCourt truly wants to bring back Manny Ramirez (and if he can afford it), Ramirez now seems more available to them than ever. One more thing: in star-crazy Southern California, it doesn't hurt the Dodgers that their neighbors in Anaheim failed to sign a free-agent star.

5. Scott Boras. He still has a slew of clients left needing jobs, but when Boras got Mark Teixeira the eight-year, $180 million contract with the Yankees, he also proved a point. The Red Sox may have thought they were calling his bluff with owner John Henry's dramatic late-night e-mail last week, but Boras proved it was no bluff.

The Losers

1. Red Sox. They can moan all they want about how hard it is to compete with the big-dollar Yanks, but as Tony Massarotti astutely pointed out on his Boston Globe blog, the Sox lost out on Teixeira for less than $2 million a year, or roughly 1-2 percent of their 2008 payroll. They simply miscalculated, thinking the Yankees weren't getting involved. It's not a fatal mistake. The Red Sox still have a fine team, and they have plenty of money available to make it even finer. But Teixeira was the one player that the Sox themselves identified as the key to their winter. They didn't get him, and the Yankees did. For Boston, it doesn't get much worse.

2. Braves. Let's see, they didn't get Jake Peavy, and they didn't get A.J. Burnett, and they didn't get Furcal. Oh, and you might have noticed that two of their division rivals are listed among the winners. Worse yet for an organization that has prided itself on professionalism, the Peavy and Furcal negotiations ended angrily, and in public.

3. Angels. It hardly matters now whether they preferred Teixeira or Sabathia, because they didn't get either one. While they're still overwhelming favorites in the American League West, the Angels want to be a team that can compete with the Yankees and the Red Sox when it matters. They traded for Teixeira last July because they thought he could deliver a World Series. He didn't, and now he's gone.

4. Orioles. Teixeira grew up in Maryland. Burnett lives there. The Orioles never became a serious contender for either one. They'll see both on Opening Day at Camden Yards, but only because the Yankees will be the opponents that day.

5. The WBC. The problem isn't that Alex Rodriguez has changed his mind and now wants to play for the Dominican Republic. The problem is that when the richest player in the game spurned Team USA, no one here cared. The second edition of the world tourney is still three months away, and already far too many players are bowing out. I love the concept of a baseball world cup. In practice, it's not working out too well.

Posted on: December 17, 2008 12:18 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2008 7:14 pm

Agent: Furcal 'swings toward' LA

Rafael Furcal's agent said today that his client could now end up with the Dodgers rather than the Braves.

"Right now, things are swinging back towards the Dodgers probably," Paul Kinzer said.

This time, it seems Kinzer meant what he said.

By late afternoon, Braves officials were conceding that they won't be signing Furcal, despite what they thought was an agreement reached late Monday night. Kinzer insists that he never agreed to a deal with the Braves.

Tuesday, he went back to the Dodgers, asking them to match the Braves deal: three guaranteed years, with a vesting option, with a chance to make about $40 million.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti was open to matching it, according to sources, but he needed a final OK from owner Frank McCourt.

The Braves were so certain that they had a deal that they told some people that Furcal would be in Atlanta today for a physical.

Asked how the Braves could have become convinced they had a deal, Kinzer responded: "You'll have to ask them. They never received any signed documents, or anything. . . . I'm sorry if they were embarrassed. They know we didn't have a signed contract, and we didn't have a verbal agreement."

Kinzer, who was in New York for the Mets' Francisco Rodriguez press conference, said that Furcal was still home in the Dominican Republic.

Kinzer said that Furcal liked both the Braves and Dodgers, but that he preferred to play shortstop rather than second base. The Dodgers wanted him as a shortstop; the Braves planned to play him at second, with Yunel Escobar remaining at shortstop, and Kelly Johnson moving from second base to left field.

"There's nobody else (other than the Braves) that he would have even considered switching positions for," Kinzer said.

One person who knows Furcal said he believes Furcal preferred all along to remain with the Dodgers, and also agreed that Furcal would like to remain at shortstop. But Furcal would apparently sign with the Braves if the Dodgers aren't willing to guarantee the third year of the deal.

Kinzer, interestingly enough, makes his home in the Atlanta area. He said that after news of Furcal's apparent signing with the Braves broke on Tuesday morning, he received 50 phone calls from Braves fans. He said he told them that there was still no deal.

Category: MLB
Posted on: December 11, 2008 7:07 pm

Leaving Las Vegas (with a few loose ends)

LAS VEGAS -- The winter meetings were a blur, and it's not fair to say that nothing got done as scouts and executives paused between games of blackjack and let it ride. The Mets came looking for one closer and found two, the Yankees got CC Sabathia, and the Tigers, a year after stunning the baseball world by trading for Miguel Cabrera, traded for Edwin Jackson in a deal that barely anyone even noticed.

But as the baseball world moved on Thursday, leaving Las Vegas to the usual collection of tourists and hard-core gamblers, the deals still to be done were far more plentiful than the deals that got done.

A look at what's left:

-- Mark Teixeira. Five teams are involved, and the Yankees have somewhat surprisingly reemerged as one of them. The Angels would like to keep Teixeira, but have begun to doubt that they will. The Nationals and Orioles can offer location and money, but not an immediate chance to compete. The Red Sox are still seen as the favorite, but as general manager Theo Epstein left the Bellagio Hotel on Thursday, no deal was done.

Are the Red Sox optimistic?

"Not too many people leave Vegas optimistic about anything," Epstein said, as he headed for the parking garage.

-- A.J. Burnett. What remains for Burnett is a decision that seems pretty straightforward. He can follow the money to the Yankees, who have a five-year, $80 million offer on the table. Or he can take less guaranteed cash and sign with the Braves, for four guaranteed years and about $60 million, with a very attainable vesting option for the fifth year. It's a fairly big gap, but Braves people remain hopeful, in part because they think Burnett favors Atlanta over New York, and in part because tax difference make the gap a little less than it seems.

-- Manny Ramirez. There really wasn't much talk about Ramirez this week, and the feeling among many baseball executives is that he'll eventually end up signing some sort of deal to return to the Dodgers.

"They have to sign him," one National League executive said. "He's the most popular player the Dodgers have had in years."

The Manny negotiations, or non-negotiations, haven't held up the Dodger plans, in large part because general manager Ned Colletti and his aides are barely involved in any Manny talks. Owner Frank McCourt is handling things. No one knows for sure how much money he'll spend, but some people in the organization believe it will eventually be enough to get a deal done.

-- Scott Boras. Teixeira is his. Manny is his. So are Derek Lowe, Oliver Perez, Garret Anderson, Jason Varitek and Pudge Rodriguez. All of them are free agents. None of them signed during the meetings. Needless to say, Boras isn't ready to start his Christmas vacation just yet.

-- The Mets. They got K-Rod. They got J.J. Putz. They also know they're not done, because right now their rotation consists of Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, John Maine and rookie Jon Niese. They need one more starter and maybe two, but their remaining funds are limited, so previous targets like Derek Lowe are basically out. They'll talk to the Cubs about Jason Marquis (as first reported by SI.com), and at some point (if the price drops) they could have more talks about bringing Oliver Perez back. It may not happen soon, but eventually they'll get someone.

-- The Yankees. They're in on Burnett. They're in on Teixeira. They're in on Lowe. They're in on Ben Sheets. And the New York Post reported Thursday that general manager Brian Cashman flew to Texas in an attempt to re-sign Andy Pettitte. They still want two more starting pitchers, and they wouldn't mind adding a center fielder or a first baseman, as well. They've got plenty on their plate, but they always do.

-- The Brewers. They put most of their offseason work on hold, while they waited and hoped that somehow Sabathia would choose to stay with them. He didn't, and Ben Sheets won't be staying, either. They're left with holes in their rotation, and with no money to fill them. They have to dump some salary to afford a mid-level starter, but their first attempt to trade Mike Cameron failed when the Yankees asked them for money. As one Brewers official said, the next couple of weeks could be interesting.

-- The Angels. They went into the winter with money to spend, and twin targets to spend it on. But Sabathia wouldn't take their money, and there's a real chance Teixeira won't, either. The backup plan is Raul Ibanez, perhaps combined with Brian Fuentes and/or a longshot run at Jake Peavy. Everyone says Peavy won't waive his no-trade clause to go to the American League, but the Angels may have no choice but to try.

-- The Cubs. They called off the Peavy trade talks, becoming the second team this winter to become frustrated after dealing with the Padres' dysfunctional front office. They already re-signed Ryan Dempster, so adding another starter wasn't a necessity, but the Cubs have plenty of work to do. Mark DeRosa, who would have gone to the Phillies as part of a three-way Peavy deal, is now being shopped as a third baseman. And the Cubs still have to get an outfielder.

-- The White Sox. They say they don't have to do anything more, but everyone fully expects that they will. The best guess is that Jermaine Dye will eventually be traded somewhere, and also that the Sox will add a short-term starting pitcher. Oh, and maybe a center fielder, too.

That's a lot of loose ends, and that's not even the full list. The Rays still need another bat, the Dodgers still need a shortstop and the Cardinals still need a closer. There are still a slew of unsigned outfielders, from Ramirez and Ibanez to Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell. Rafael Furcal, Orlando Hudson and Orlando Cabrera haven't yet found new homes, either.

So more will happen next week, and even into January. As general manager after general manager said this week, spring training doesn't start tomorrow.


Posted on: December 8, 2008 10:20 pm

Manny remains in the background for Dodgers

LAS VEGAS -- As they promised last month, the Dodgers have so far ignored the big-name free agents and focused instead on their multiple other needs.

As Scott Miller wrote earlier today, it appears that they'll re-sign third baseman Casey Blake. That means that Blake DeWitt can play second base, but it still leaves the Dodgers without a shortstop. Also, the Dodgers remain in the market for a setup man.

And where does that leave Manny Ramirez?

Nowhere yet, and people familiar with the Dodgers say they don't expect general manager Ned Colletti to focus on Ramirez anytime soon. Colletti may not focus on Ramirez at all, because it's believed that any Ramirez negotiations will be handled directly by owner Frank McCourt. McCourt was also heavily involved in the deal with the Red Sox that made Manny a Dodger in the first place.

As for CC Sabathia, the Dodgers seem to know that they'd have a real chance for him if they would only seriously enter the bidding. But it still seems very unlikely that they'll do that.

Posted on: December 8, 2008 10:00 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2008 4:18 pm

K-Rod agrees to deal with Mets

LAS VEGAS -- The Mets always seemed destined to end up with Francisco Rodriguez, and now they will.

Rodriguez has agreed to a three-year, $37 million contract, uniting the record-setting closer with the team most in need of bullpen help. The Mets had initially offered Rodriguez two guaranteed years with an option, but they guaranteed the third year late on Monday and that got the deal done.

The Mets still aren't acknowledging the agreement and may not announce it for a few days, but sources told CBSSports.com that the deal is done.

The Mets, whose awful bullpen basically kept them from holding off the Phillies in the National League East (and the Brewers in the wild card), naturally prioritized adding a top closer this winter. Rodriguez, who set a major-league record with 62 saves for the Angels, was always their top choice.

The Mets always had to be Rodriguez's top option, too, at least after the Angels made it clear that they had little interest in re-signing him. The Mets were the only big-money team in need of a closer, and while they weren't willing to provide Rodriguez with the five-year, $75 million deal he originally sought, they had much more to offer than anyone else in the market for bullpen help.

With Rodriguez now off the market, and with the Mets no longer needing a closer, it will be interesting to see what happens to the pitchers and the teams that are left.

The Tigers and Indians are both looking for closers, but neither team has much money to spend. The Indians probably have a little more than the Tigers, but the Indians also have more remaining needs, and aren't anxious to spend all their available money on the bullpen.

The Indians have some interest in Trevor Hoffman, and may want to see if Brian Fuentes falls into their price range. The Tigers have shown some interest in either signing Kerry Wood or trading for Seattle's J.J. Putz, but they too may want to see what happens with Fuentes. The Tigers may try to free up a little bit of money by trading outfielder Marcus Thames.

The Brewers also need a closer, but they've been waiting to see if there's any chance they can retain CC Sabathia. The Cardinals also could be looking.

Some people have wondered whether the Dodgers would look for a closer, but sources familiar with their plans say they're more focused on acquiring a setup man.

Posted on: November 24, 2008 12:55 pm

Furcal says A's offered four years

Rafael Furcal's agent was telling teams last week that he had a four-year offer, but Paul Kinzer wouldn't say from which team.

Sunday, Furcal told the Dominican newspaper El Caribe that the team was the A's and that the offer was for $48 million.

The Dodgers are interested in keeping Furcal, but haven't been willing to offer him four years. With many young players on the verge of qualifying for arbitration, the Dodgers have been trying to limit their long-term commitments.

The Giants have also shown interest in Furcal. The Braves would be interested, but only if they trade Yunel Escobar as part of a package for Jake Peavy, something that's unlikely to happen quickly. Furcal told the newspaper that the Mets are also interested, but that's very unlikely.

Category: MLB
Posted on: November 17, 2008 4:46 pm

Cubs focused on Dempster

The Cubs were in on the Jake Peavy trade talks, and last week they were reported to have interest in Randy Johnson. This week, though, it seems more likely that they'll re-sign Ryan Dempster, their own free-agent pitcher.

There has been some progress in the Dempster talks, according to sources, to the point where some believe a deal could be coming soon.

Dempster went 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA for the Cubs in 2008, and the thinking all along was that he wanted to stay in Chicago. Negotiations hit a little bit of a snag last week, leading the Cubs to explore other options, but now they once again seem focused on keeping him.

Even if they get Dempster signed, the Cubs won't be done for the winter. They still need a left-handed hitting outfielder.

Free agents Bobby Abreu and Raul Ibanez are possibilities, and the Cubs have also shown some interest in trading for Jeremy Hermida of the Marlins.

While manager Lou Piniella has said he'd like to get a right fielder, and then use Kosuke Fukudome in a center-field platoon with Reed Johnson, others in the Cubs organization would rather keep Fukudome in right and acquire another left-handed hitter who could be matched up with Johnson in center field.


The Marlins have already traded four of their arbitration-eligible players, and some rival teams believe that Hermida will be the next to go. In addition to the Cubs, the Rays are a team said to have interest.

Florida nearly dealt Hermida away in July, when he was part of the three-way trade that would have sent Manny Ramirez to the Marlins. That deal fell apart, and so did Hermida, who hit .192 in August and hit just two home runs in the final two months of the season.

"Up to this point, he's an underperformer," said one scout who sees the Marlins often. "That's why they're willing to move him. It seems like he'd rather hit singles than home runs, and that's not good for a corner outfielder."


The Dodgers offered Ramirez $45 million over two years, which works out to $22.5 million a season. Now that they've withdrawn that offer, why couldn't they simply offer CC Sabathia $22.5 million a year, which would work out to $135 million over six years?

Sure, the Yankees have offered even more than that, a reported $140 million, but the Dodgers could satisfy Sabathia's preference to play close to home and stay in the National League.

One potential problem with that scenario: The Dodgers have a ton of talented young players (Russell Martin, Jonathan Broxton, Andre Ethier, James Loney) who will be due large raises in the coming years. So the Dodgers might be hesitant to tie up so much money for so many years to come.

The Dodgers seem content to let the Ramirez and Sabathia situations play out while they take care of their other winter business, including trying to re-sign shortstop Rafael Furcal and third baseman Casey Blake. Dodgers manager Joe Torre is said to be especially fond of Blake, and he has told people that the Dodgers turnaround began not when they traded for Ramirez, but several days earlier when they acquired Blake from the Indians.

What about the Angels, who had Sabathia on their radar even before they traded for Mark Teixeira in July?

Well, according to sources, owner Arte Moreno has told his baseball people that signing Teixeira is the top priority, ahead of Sabathia.

"He told them to make sure they get Teixeira signed," said one executive who has spoken with the Angels. "He said start with him, and then move on from that."


There has been some debate on how interested the Yankees have been in Peavy, but the Padres did have two scouts watching Phil Hughes' start last Friday in the Arizona Fall League. Hughes has been impressive in Arizona, to the point where one (non-Padres) scout suggested Monday that he'll be ready to help the Yankees in 2009.

The problem for the Yankees is that a Peavy trade would require both prospects and money, because agent Barry Axelrod would require them to redo Peavy's contract as a condition of waiving his no-trade clause. The Yankees weren't willing to make a prospects-and-money deal for Johan Santana last winter (when there were fewer free-agent options available), so it's hard to imagine why they would be anxious to do one now.


Posted on: October 23, 2008 9:24 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2008 10:00 pm

0-for-19 ... and then an infield hit

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The last team to go through the first two games of a World Series without a hit with a runner in scoring position was the 2001 Yankees.

And they were just 0-for-4 total, for the two games.

The Phillies didn't make it through two full games, but they were 0-for-19 with runners in scoring position for the series before Shane Victorino's one-out infield hit in Game 2. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the second-longest 0-for with runners in scoring position to start a World Series. The Dodgers finished the 1966 World Series 0-for-22 with RISP.

The Phillies went 0-for-13 in Game 1, becoming the first team to ever do that in a World Series game. Four teams had gone 0-for-12, most recently the 1980 Royals, in Game 5 against the Phillies.

Category: MLB
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