Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:49 pm

$69.5 million for 1 win? Yankees will take it

Is $69.5 million too much to pay for one win?

Not necessarily.

What if without that one win, you don't win the World Series? And with it, you do?

I asked basically that question, boiled down to 140 characters, on Twitter Friday morning. And Yankee fans overwhelmingly answered that yes, the ridiculous amount of money they spent on A.J. Burnett was worth it.

And I agree.

The maddeningly inconsistent Burnett was more bad than good in his three years in the Bronx. His ERA for the three years (4.79) is the highest in Yankee history for anyone allowed to make 80 or more career starts.

And while I'll agree that win-loss records don't tell the entire story about starting pitchers, Burnett's 34-35 Yankee record (for a team that was 104 games over .500 during that span) tells a lot.

His postseason numbers (2-2, 5.08 in seven starts) are really no better, and the Yankees' reluctance to allow him to start in the playoffs is more telling than anything else.

But about that one win . . .

It came in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series, against the defending champ Phillies. Without it, the Yankees go down two games to none, heading to Citizens Bank Park for Games 3, 4 and 5.

Without it, you could easily argue that the Yankees don't win in 2009, and that they go into spring training this year still having won no World Series since 2000.

Burnett pitched well that night, and he had to. He allowed just one run on four hits in seven innings, with nine strikeouts, and handed the ball directly to Mariano Rivera, which is the formula for success for any Yankee starter. Here's the column I wrote on Burnett that night.

It was a shock to many, including the Phillies.

"He never got outside of himself," Jimmy Rollins said that night. "That's very untypical of A.J."

Burnett had other good games as a Yankee, but you could argue for the rest of his New York career, he was no better (and often worse) than any pitcher the Yankees could have signed for a lot less than $82.5 million for five years.

Or $69.5 million for three years, since the Pirates have agreed to pay Burnett $13 million in exchange for taking him off the Yankees' hands.

The Pirates originally hoped to do the deal for just $10 million, leaving the Yankees on the hook to Burnett for $72.5 million.

Apparently, they decided that was too much for one win. But $69.5 million wasn't.
Posted on: February 17, 2012 11:51 am
Edited on: February 17, 2012 12:14 pm

Wakefield to announce retirement

Tim Wakefield's knuckleball got him 17 years with the Red Sox and two World Series rings.

He decided not to try for one more.

The 45-year-old Wakefield will announce his retirement Friday afternoon, the team announced. He'll leave with 200 career wins, 186 of them with Boston.

The Red Sox had offered Wakefield a chance to come to spring training to win a job, but the right-hander decided against it. He leaves just six wins shy of the franchise record, which is shared by Cy Young and Roger Clemens. Wakefield does hold the Red Sox record for most games started with 430, 48 ahead of Clemens, who is second. He is also the first Red Sox to pitch 3,000 innings for the team.

And the only three players to play more seasons for the Red Sox than Wakefield? Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams and Dwight Evans.

Wakefield's Red Sox career is quite a success story. Signed originally by the Pirates as a first baseman, he turned to pitching when his career stalled, and learned the knuckleball. He made it to the big leagues with the Pirates, but they released him in spring training 1995. He signed with the Red Sox, won 16 games that year, and has been a big part of their team ever since.

Wakefield leaves with the most career wins of any active pitcher (Roy Halladay is the new leader, with 188).

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 15, 2012 5:50 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2012 5:58 pm

Is this it for Magglio Ordonez?

Is this the end of the line for Magglio Ordonez?

Ordonez, who turned 38 last month, told Deportes Union Radio in his native Venezuela Wednesday that he hopes to play one more season in the major leagues. But Ordonez also admitted that the free-agent market hasn't yet provided him with an opportunity, and said that he's not interested in a minor-league contract with only an invitation to major-league spring training.

"A few teams have been interested, including Oakland, but there's been nothing concrete," Ordonez said. "The market has been tough for me, but I'm working towards continuing my career."

Ordonez drove in just 32 runs in 92 games last year for the Tigers, after signing a one-year, $10 million contract. He had trouble coming back from a broken right ankle suffered in 2010, and then refractured the same ankle during the American League Championship Series against the Rangers.

Earlier last October, Ordonez said that he had nearly retired last year -- "I almost hung it up," he said -- because of the difficulty of coming back from the first ankle injury.

Ordonez has 294 career home runs and 1,236 RBI in 14-plus big-league seasons. He made six All-Star teams, and won the American League batting crown in 2007. His .363 batting average that year was the highest by a Tiger since Charlie Gehringer in 1937.

According to, Ordonez has made more than $133 million in his career, and people who know him say he has also done very well in business in Venezuela. But while money may not be an issue to him, his pride is. If he never gets anything more than an offer of a minor-league contract (and that's very possible), Ordonez could well retire.

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 14, 2012 11:38 am

If Jurrjens is healthy, Braves could trade him

One more name to watch in trade talks this spring: Jair Jurrjens.

He was a popular name on the market when the winter began. The Braves didn't trade him, in part because they couldn't convince potential trade partners that he's healthy and can stay healthy.

Perhaps he can prove that this spring. If so, the Braves could well try to move him again, according to sources.

As I pointed out in this column, big spring training trades have become a rarity in modern baseball. But Jurrjens isn't terribly expensive ($5.5 million this year), and when he's been healthy, he's been very good. His ERA in the first half of the 2011 season was 1.87, second to Jered Weaver among major-league starters.

Why would the Braves trade him? Skeptics would say that they don't believe he can stay healthy, but they would counter that they have a crowded rotation, even with Tim Hudson likely to miss the first few starts of the year after offseason back surgery. The Braves are convinced that Tommy Hanson's shoulder is fine (and say that Hanson is in much better shape), and they're excited about youngsters Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran.

And Jurrjens is due to be a free agent after the 2013 season, always a consideration for the cost-conscious Braves.

Even if Jurrjens looks healthy this spring -- and the Braves say he does -- it may be hard to convince teams that he is worth the risk. While the Red Sox could use a starter (and Jurrjens would fit into their price range), they're known to have had serious doubts about the right-hander's health.

Jurrjens missed the end of the 2011 season with a knee injury. The Braves say he recovered so well that he would have started a playoff game if not for their September collapse. But after making 65 starts in his first two years with the Braves, Jurrjens has been able to make just 43 starts over the last two seasons.

Is he healthy now? Again, the Braves say yes.

If he can prove it this spring, maybe another team will believe it enough to deal for him.

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 13, 2012 1:34 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2012 4:54 pm

A's shock us with not-so-crazy Cespedes signing

Yes, it's a shock.

"Oakland?" one baseball executive repeated to me after I told him the A's were the team signing Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.

Yes, Oakland.

Yes, it's a shock. But that doesn't necessarily make it a crazy idea for the A's, and here's why:

When Cespedes' agents approached the A's recently after finding a softer-than-expected market elsewhere, the A's saw opportunity. They know that signing Cespedes for $36 million over four years is a risk -- an expensive risk for a team that doesn't have any other player signed for more than $6 million this year.

But they also know that the upside is great. The scouts who like Cespedes compare his combination of power and speed to Bo Jackson.

You just don't find players like that. The A's don't find them, anyway, not in their price range.

The A's know they're not going to win this year, and probably not next year, either. That's why they spent this winter trading Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey for young prospects.

But the plan has been to build a team that can win in 2014-15. If the A's are right about Cespedes, that's when he will be emerging as a true star.

As one A's person said Monday, "We're not trying to finish in last place."

They're trying to build a team in a challenging environment, one that won't get much less challenging until a new stadium is on the way. For now, the A's are operating with a low budget, but also with a difficult image.

When they've tried to spend, they haven't been able to. A year ago, they tried to sign both Adrian Beltre and Lance Berkman. They chose the right players; the players didn't want to come.

They have to take chances, which is why they're one of the few teams willing to consider signing Manny Ramirez.

The A's were also one of the higher bidders on Aroldis Chapman, who until Monday held the record for most money given to a Cuban free agent.

"The problem is no one wants our money," the A's person said.

So when Cespedes' people approached them and said that the outfielder was interested in coming to the A's, the A's were willing to consider it. They were even willing to make a deal that will allow Cespedes to become a free agent again after four years (a condition that Cespedes demanded of every bidder, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski told the Detroit Free Press).

They weren't one of the many teams involved in the Cespedes bidding from the start, but the A's have liked the player since watching him several years back in the World Baseball Classic.

In the end, Cespedes got a better deal from the A's than the one the Marlins offered ($36 million over six years, according to sources). But Cespedes had also told officials from other teams that he preferred not to go to Miami, because of the potential circus playing in a city with a huge Cuban exile population.

That won't be an issue in Oakland, unless Cespedes turns into an instant star and leads the A's into contention this year.

Now that would really be a shock.

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 10, 2012 1:29 pm

Even if he's cheap, scouts don't want A.J.

In three years with the Yankees, A.J. Burnett has made $49.5 million and has put up the highest ERA (4.79) for any pitcher in franchise history with 80 or more starts.

Of the 41 big-league pitchers who have made 90 starts over the last three seasons, Burnett has the highest ERA.

It's not hard to figure out why the Yankees are desperate to dump him, especially after adding Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda to their rotation.

A.J. Burnett also had four starts last year where he went at least seven innings and allowed no more than three hits. The entire Pirates rotation had three, two of them by the since-departed Paul Maholm.

It's not crazy to think that Burnett could help them, is it, especially if the Yankees are paying most of the $33 million remaining on his contract?

That's what I thought, after reading colleague Jon Heyman's Friday morning assessment of the Yankees-Pirates trade talks.

Then I talked to three scouts who follow the American League East closely.

Not one of the three was enthusiastic about getting Burnett, even at low cost.

"If this guy goes to a club that doesn't contend, he might really go in the tank," one said. "The Yankees might even be getting more out of him than another team would."

"No way," said another. "That personality does not fit in the [Pirates] organization. The stuff is good enough to take a chance on, but he is what he is."

I tried all the usual arguments, that Burnett would be going from the American League East to the National League Central, that he would be going from the high-pressure Yankees to the low-pressure Pirates, that the Pirates' current rotation doesn't exactly include world-beaters, and that you have to take Burnett's $16.5 million a year salary out of the equation, because the Pirates would only be paying a fraction of it.

The consensus was still no, don't want him.

Would you?

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 9, 2012 1:09 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2012 1:24 pm

Orioles scouts banned in Korea after signing

The Orioles usually upset their own fans by not being aggressive enough, or not spending money.

Now they've found their way into something of an international incident with a very aggressive signing.

According to Korea's Yonhap News Agency, the Korean Baseball Association announced Thursday that it will ban Orioles scouts from attending games, after the team signed 17-year-old pitcher Kim Seong-min for a reported $550,000. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball is looking into the signing, after a request from the Korean Baseball Organization, which runs professional baseball in that country.

The KBA objected to the signing, because Kim was not yet in his final year of high school. The association also said that any other teams signing players that young would also be banned from scouting in the country.

The KBO was upset enough that secretary general Yang Hae-Young referred to "hegemonic rookie signings" in an interview with Yonhap.

The Kim signing has stirred emotions in Korea, where some people feel that even if the Orioles didn't break any rules -- it appears that they didn't -- they may have broken with accepted procedure and/or offended some sensibilities.

Unlike in Japan, where most players have come to American baseball through the Japanese professional system, quite a few Koreans have signed with major-league teams direct from the amateur ranks. Neither Hee-Seop Choi and Byung-Hyun Kim, for example, played professional baseball in Korea before coming to MLB, although both played in Korea after their major-league careers ended.

Choi and Byung-Hyun Kim, though, were both older than the pitcher the Orioles signed. According to reports from Korea, Kim Seong-Min is just the second player signed by an MLB at such a young age (the first was a player the Braves signed in 1997).

The influx of players from Asia has always been complicated, because of concerns in the home countries about the effect on their local leagues. The issue is whether taking the top players to major-league organizations would harm the leagues and development systems left behind, and whether fans in those countries would simply watch major-league games on television rather than support the local game.

It's no surprise that the Orioles are in the middle of it, because new Orioles general manager Dan Duquette hired longtime scout Ray Poitevint, who is known for his aggressive style in signing Asian players.

The Orioles expect Kim Seong-Min to report to their minor-league camp this spring in Florida.

Posted on: February 8, 2012 12:39 pm

Stay away from steroids -- but vote how you want

This summer, the Hall of Fame will ask kids to pledge to stay away from steroids.

Next winter, the Hall of Fame will send out a ballot that includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro.

A contradiction? A message to voters?

Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson insists that it's neither one. Idelson said Wednesday that the Hall has always been an education center, in addition to being a baseball museum and a Hall of Fame, and that the new BASE (Be a Superior Example) program fits in with that.

He also said that the Hall isn't -- and won't -- tell anyone how to vote, and that the new education program should not be read as a directive to eliminate steroid users.

"We believe in allowing voters to use their own value judgment," he said. "We're very comfortable with the rules for election as they stand."

In other words, it's my problem. Mine, and the other 500-some Hall of Fame voters.


Actually, I'm fine with that. Deciding how to treat proven, almost proven and suspected steroid users is the hardest thing I've had to do in all the years I've had a ballot, but I'd rather the Hall leave the decision to us, rather than make it for us. I'd rather they put Pete Rose on the ballot, too, rather than take that decision away from us.

Based on the voting so far, there's no danger that Bonds or Clemens or McGwire will be standing on stage in July 2013, accepting a plaque that glorifies a steroid-aided career, at the same time that the Hall is trying to educate youngsters about the evils of drugs.

McGwire has never even received 24 percent of the vote in his five years on the ballot, with 75 percent required for election. Bonds will likely get more than that, since some voters will see him as having a Hall of Fame career before he likely began using, but I can't imagine him coming close to 75 percent, because many voters won't support anyone connected at all with steroids.

That's been my position for the last two Hall elections (after I voted for McGwire in his first three years on the ballot). It's a position I reexamine every year, and one I'm still not completely comfortable with. I'm just more comfortable with it, for now, than I would be with playing a part in electing someone who likely (or in some cases definitely) cheated the game.

The Hall of Fame shouldn't run away from the issue, because it is a big part of what happened in baseball. And education about steroids (and other performance-enhancing drugs) is more effective than simply announcing that proven steroid cheats will be banned (and if you just ban the proven cheats, you'll be letting quite a few unproven but strongly suspected cheats in).

Maybe the debate over whether Bonds, Clemens et al should be Hall of Famers can even be part of the education program, which is designed to teach about the negative effects and consequences of using performance-enhancing substances.

Idelson hasn't helped me with my vote -- and I don't want him to. But if the BASE program works, maybe fewer kids turn to steroids, and maybe some future votes will be easier.

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