Tag:Nationals
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 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.


Posted on: December 6, 2011 2:27 am
Edited on: December 6, 2011 2:28 am
 

Phillies' preference is still to keep Rollins

DALLAS -- You may have heard that the Phillies talked to free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez.

It's true.

You may have heard that the Phillies' talks with Jimmy Rollins hit some obstacles.

Also true.

But here's another thing that remains as true as before: The Phillies' overwhelming desire is to have Rollins back as their shortstop.

And their show of interest in Ramirez could well be part of this.

By reaching out to Ramirez, several baseball officials suggested Monday, the Phils could be showing Rollins that they do have a suitable backup plan, and thus trying to prod him to accept a deal.

So far, Rollins has been asking the Phillies for five years, with the team preferring a three-year deal (with some sources suggesting that general manager Ruben Amaro would agree to go to four years).

It's unclear what the market for Rollins is outside Philadelphia. The Brewers have met with Dan Lozano, Rollins' agent, but people familiar with their plans say that even a three-year deal may be beyond what they would do. The Nationals are considered by some to be a possibility, but Rollins does not seem to be their primary (or even secondary) focus at this point. Perhaps the Cardinals could become involved if Albert Pujols signs elsewhere, but it's hard to count on that.

People who know Rollins aren't sure how the talented but also very proud shortstop will react to all this.

Some suggest that he could view the shorter offer from the Phillies as a sign of disrespect, and respond by telling Lozano he wants to go elsewhere. Others say it's hard to believe he would leave the Phillies spotlight to go to a team like the Brewers.

"Jimmy wants to get paid," said one official who knows him. "But Jimmy likes the big stage, too."

In the end, most in baseball seem to believe that Rollins will re-sign with the only team he has known.

If not, perhaps the Phillies will come hard after Ramirez, who they have so far shown just lukewarm interest in, sources say. Ramirez has also drawn interest from the Brewers and Angels, and one person who knows him say his strong desire is to find a team with the best chance to win.

If the Phillies signed Ramirez to replace Rollins, they would go with young Freddy Galvis at shortstop, and trade incumbent third baseman Placido Polanco (which would require eating some of the remaining $7.25 million on his contract).

Would the Phillies do that?

It's possible they would. It's certain that their first choice would be to simply re-sign Jimmy Rollins.



Posted on: December 5, 2011 12:46 am
 

Brewers finally show some optimism about Fielder

DALLAS -- Could Prince be the one who stays?

Remember, the assumption all along was that Albert Pujols was the guy who wasn't going anywhere, the guy who was destined to re-sign with the Cardinals. And perhaps he still will.

Prince Fielder was the guy on his way out the door, the guy who was going to get big offers that the Brewers were not going to match. And perhaps that's still true.

But Sunday, even as Pujols' future was in a little more doubt, with reports that the Marlins plan to strongly pursue him after signing Jose Reyes, there was a hint of optimism from Brewers people about their chances at keeping Fielder.

None of them were out and out predicting that Fielder will stay. They acknowledged that a huge offer elsewhere could be too much for them to match.

But the same guys who have been saying for months that it was the longest of longshots were now insisting it could happen, for two reasons.

One, the early market for Fielder doesn't seem to have exploded. Teams are interested, including the Mariners, the Nationals and possibly the Rangers or Cubs. But the indications so far have been that the market may not go crazy.

Second, Brewers people never discount the competitiveness and aggressiveness of owner Mark Attanasio. And Attanasio seems to be indicating that he wants to make a real effort to keep his star first baseman.

None of that means that Fielder will be back in Milwaukee. But for the first time in quite a while, it actually seems possible.


Posted on: November 23, 2011 2:10 pm
 

New CBA hurts 'balance' more than it helps

They keep talking about "competitive balance."

Then they make it harder for the less competitive teams to get that balance.

They tease them. But it's just a tease.

I didn't like the new rules on draft and international bonuses last week, when they were still sketchy and unannounced.

It's no better now that we know most of the details.

This isn't going to help teams like the Pirates and Royals. It's not going to hurt teams like the Yankees and Red Sox.

It's not going to help Theo Epstein, who came to Wrigley Field preaching the wonders of player development, only to find out that baseball just made player development less costly but more difficult.

It's not going to help baseball, because lower signing bonuses could chase away talented two-sport athletes.

Bud Selig didn't get the hard-slotting system he wanted for the June draft, but what he did get in the new collective bargaining agreement announced Tuesday might well be worse.

Here's why:

The last few years, teams like the Pirates, Nationals and Royals have realized that they can build a farm system quickly by spending big in the draft. The draft and the international market have become the one place where teams like that can realistically compete with the big boys for the best talent.

Now, if they exceed their assigned "signing bonus pool," they'll lose future draft picks, or the right to sign future international stars.

Baseball would remind you that the "signing bonus pool" will be higher for teams that pick higher in the draft (the teams that finished lower in the standings the previous year). That's true, but the cost of losing a future pick is far greater for those teams than for teams like the Yankees.

I'm not advocating a hard-slotting system, which would assign a specific bonus to each draft pick. But it sure would be a lot harder for the Yankees to take advantage of that system than this one.

The Yankees have been more than willing to surrender their first-round pick to sign free agents. They did it last winter to sign middle reliever Rafael Soriano.

So wouldn't they be just as willing to surrender a future pick to overspend on a big-time talent in the draft?

In most cases, the pick they'd be surrendering would be somewhere in the 20s. If the Pirates did the same, the pick they'd be surrendering might well be in the top 10.

And believe me, the new system makes it very easy to lose a pick. You only need to exceed your assigned "bonus pool" by five percent in any one year to lose the following year's first-round pick.

Baseball would explain that teams can choose to divide the "bonus pool" any way they wish, spending more on their first-round pick and going cheap on the second and third rounds, for example. But by the current rules, the Pirates overspent by a ton in both the first and second rounds in 2011.

Baseball would remind you that picks surrendered by teams that overspend will be distributed in a lottery that favors teams that need the most help (i.e. finished lowest in the standings). But to qualify for the lottery, you need to stay within your limit, and potentially allow the best talent to go elsewhere.

There's no way this rule helps "competitive balance," even with provisions that provide extra sandwich picks (between the first and second rounds) to low-revenue teams.

There's a reason that most baseball people don't like this new system, even though many of their owners pushed hard for it.

It should accomplish Selig's goal, which is to severely limit the amount of money teams spend on the draft and on international free agents. Truth be told, he'd love to limit the amount they spend on major-league free agents, too, but that wasn't going to happen.

It will not help "competitive balance."

Other parts of the CBA are big pluses. The fact that the CBA got done without even the smallest threat of a work stoppage is a huge plus.

This new draft and international system? It's a minus.


Category: MLB
Posted on: November 18, 2011 2:31 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 6:25 pm
 

Draft-bonus revamp is the big flaw in new CBA

Baseball does not need a salary cap. The results show it.

The owners no longer push for it, and that's probably the biggest reason labor agreements now get done so smoothly in this sport, and why the newest deal is now on track to be formally announced early next week, according to sources.

Details of the new agreement remain somewhat sketchy, but some of what we know seems positive. The revamping of draft-pick compensation for signing free agents, in particular, looks like a big improvement; the current system had become awkward and unhelpful to either side. Realignment and expansion of the playoffs are good for the game, too.

And then there are the new rules about the draft itself. Not good.

Commissioner Bud Selig and some owners wanted hard slotting for draft bonuses. While they didn't get that, the union eventually agreed to a system that will penalize teams for overspending on draft bonuses, including taking away future picks for teams that "overspend."

Really bad idea, and here are two reasons why:

First, under the current system, the draft is the best way for mid- and low-revenue teams to keep up with the big spenders. The Rays built a contender by smart drafting and smart spending, and the Nationals, Pirates and Royals are now doing the same.

Second, bigger draft bonuses help baseball as an overall business attract the best athletes available. Curbs on bonuses (combined with a lack of full scholarships given out by college baseball) push good athletes towards football and basketball, and that's bad for baseball.

More on that in a bit, but the worst part of the new system is the potential effect on mid- and low-revenue teams that have come to understand that draft spending is more cost-efficient and productive than free-agent spending.

General managers and scouting directors understand that, and it's why they're near-unanimous in behind-the-scenes opposition to the new rules. Owners who say that they want to build teams on scouting and player development (which is most of them) should understand that, but obviously don't.

Maybe they need to go and run teams themselves.

Look at the experience of Frank Coonelly.

When he worked for Selig, he was responsible for screaming at teams that spent more than baseball recommended. When he went to work for the Pirates at club president, he started to ignore the limits himself.

"It only took for him to be in the system to understand," said agent Scott Boras, who represented the Pirates' top two picks last summer, and negotiated above-slot deals for both (for a combined $13 million). "[These new rules] illustrate that those in the commissioner's office are not in the system."

Boras has data to back up a point I've made for a long time, which is that almost all of the biggest draft bonuses turned out to be good deals. The Nationals certainly don't regret the $25 million combined they spent to sign Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.

Imagine how much they'd need to spend to add that kind of talent through free agency.

Imagine if the Pirates (pre-Coonelly) had paid Matt Wieters $6 million out of the draft in 2007, rather than passing on him because he wanted "above-slot" money. If they had Wieters, they wouldn't have had to give Rod Barajas $4 million to be their catcher in 2012, let alone have paid Ryan Doumit almost $9 million for the last two seasons.

Selig's backers would no doubt argue that in a true slotting system, Wieters would have accepted the slot number the Pirates were offering, because he couldn't make more money by slipping to a lower-drafting but higher-paying team.

But this new system doesn't provide for true slots. If the Pirates passed on Wieters because he was too expensive (and they didn't want to risk losing a future draft pick), a team like the Yankees could sign him for big money and say, "Forget the future pick." Their future pick is going to be lower in the first round, anyway, and it's not of nearly as much value to them as the Pirates' pick is to Pittsburgh.

It's a bad system, but there are ways to fix it.

One possibility: Allow each team one exception pick a year, where the bonus wouldn't count against draft-pick penalties. Or even allow an exception every other year.

Or, if you really want to allow the draft to serve the teams that need it most, allow an exception to teams drafting higher.

The point is, the new system already needs fixing -- and it can be fixed.

Baseball needs to allow the draft to benefit the teams that need it most, and it needs to allow the system to benefit the sport, by helping to attract the best talent.

Without significant signing bonuses, Bubba Starling is playing football at Nebraska, instead of playing baseball for the Royals. And Archie Bradley is playing football at Oklahoma, instead of playing baseball for the Diamondbacks.

Baseball is better for having signed them, and two teams that need to develop through scouting and the draft are better for it, too.

The new system isn't a disaster, but it's not good. The bigger news, though, is that baseball once again has labor peace.

And no salary cap.

Some fans, especially fans of small-market teams, remain convinced that a cap would help. But baseball has proven that it doesn't need one.

While it's true that big-spending teams enjoy an advantage, it's also true that smart management is even more important. The low-spending Rays have made the playoffs three of the last four years (same as the Yankees, and one more time than the Red Sox).

With no cap, baseball has had nine different champions in the last 11 years. And the Cardinals, one of the two repeat champs, did it without a super-high payroll.

The Yankees annually spend far more than everyone else, yet the Yankees have won just one of those last 11 World Series.

Good thing, too. Because if the Yankees were winning every year, you can bet that the other owners would have been pushing for a cap.

Instead, the owners pushed through a new deal that has some pluses -- and one significant minus.

Posted on: November 15, 2011 1:16 am
Edited on: November 15, 2011 1:18 am
 

Angels among 8-9 teams interested in C.J. Wilson

MILWAUKEE -- The most popular pitcher at the general managers' meetings is in Japan.

Not from Japan. In Japan, on vacation.

C.J. Wilson is headed home Friday, on his 31st birthday. He won't have a new contract and a 2012 team by then, but based on the early interest, he'll have plenty of choices and a chance to make plenty of money.

In fact, early indications are that Wilson could well command a six-year contract.

Agent Bob Garber, who shuttled from meeting to meeting on Monday, wouldn't comment on that, but did say that there are 8-9 teams interested in Wilson, and that he hopes to narrow the group to the four or five most interested teams before more serious negotiations begin.

Garber had dinner Monday with new Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, who did little to hide his interest in stealing Wilson away from the rival Rangers.

"Obviously, we have interest," Dipoto said. "I hope C.J. feels the same way. We'll find out."

The Angels would seem to be set at the top of their rotation, with Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana. But as Dipoto said, "I don't know that you can ever have enough pitching."

Wilson grew up in Southern California, but Garber said his ultimate decision on where to sign will "really have nothing to do with location."

Wilson hasn't at all ruled out a return to the Rangers, and Garber said the idea of chasing a third straight trip to the World Series has appeal. The Rangers haven't ruled out re-signing Wilson, either, but with the level of interest elsewhere, it seems unlikely that he'll remain in Texas.

Wilson has had two strong seasons as a starter, going past 200 innings each year and finishing with a combined 31-15 record. He had a poor October this year, going 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA in six starts, but that doesn't seem to have hurt his market appeal.

The Washington Post reported Monday that the Nationals have interest in Wilson, as well as in Roy Oswalt, another Garber client. Garber spent some time with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo Monday evening.



Posted on: November 2, 2011 9:07 pm
 

Let the Gerrit Cole hype begin


The Gerrit Cole hype will never match the Stephen Strasburg hype.

Unless . . .

Well, the word out of the Arizona Fall League is that Cole, the top pick in the June draft, is everything the Pirates could have hoped for. The buzz is that Cole has . . .

"As live a fastball as I've ever seen, and I'm going back to Nolan Ryan," one veteran scout (who doesn't work for the Pirates) said after returning from Arizona. "The first time I saw him, he was sitting at 100, 101 [mph]. He had a better fastball than Strasburg.

"They knew it was coming, and they still couldn't start fast enough to crank it up. He could have struck out big-league hitters with his fastball that day."

Cole's numbers in Arizona are good, but not stunning. In four games, he has pitched 12 innings, allowing four earned runs on eight hits, with three walks and 12 strikeouts.

The scout said that Cole's secondary pitches need work, and that even the velocity on his fastball could be inconsistent. The game after he pitched at 100-101 mph, Cole was throwing his fastball at 95 mph.

"But the life on his fastball was so impressive," the scout said.

The same scout also came away impressed with Danny Hultzen, the Mariners prospect who was taken just behind Cole in the June draft.

As for Bryce Harper, the first pick overall in 2010, the scout said the Nationals shouldn't be counting on him as a major-league difference-maker in 2012.

"He's not that bat they're missing, not yet," the scout said. "He's about a year away. He reminds me of a young J.D. Drew, but he loves to play."


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