Posted on: February 6, 2012 1:01 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2012 1:02 pm

Guthrie could help Rockies, but how much?

The Rockies watched their promising 2011 season collapse because the rotation fell apart.

Not enough starters. Not enough dependable starters.

Jeremy Guthrie, acquired Monday from the Orioles for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom, should be an improvement. But is he enough, and is he the right guy for the job?

The Rockies rotation is deeper and more dependable, with the addition of Guthrie, as well as Guillermo Moscoso, Josh Outman and Tyler Chatwood, acquired earlier in the winter. It's still shaky enough, however, that Guthrie could well end up as the opening day starter (Jhoulys Chacin is the other likely option).

That's Guthrie, whose main strength is that he can be depended on for 200 innings a season. It's Guthrie, who the Orioles dealt precisely because they didn't see him as the leader of a staff, someone for their talented younger starters to emulate and take after.

Guthrie is a better fit in Colorado than he was in Baltimore, though, for several reasons:

-- Moving from the American League East to the National League West should help, and even though he'll make half his starts in Coors Field, starting regularly in Petco Park, Dodger Stadium and AT&T Park should help a fly-ball pitcher. Guthrie made 15 career starts in New York and Boston, winning just three of the games.

-- Guthrie, who signed a one-year, $8.2 million contract as part of the trade, should be motivated in his final year before free agency. Also, he's pitching for the team closest to his Utah home. Guthrie already posted a picture of himself in a Tim Tebow Broncos uniform.

-- The Rockies should be a contending team. Guthrie went 30-48 in his last three years with the Orioles, with two 17-loss seasons. He should be excited to be with a team that actually has a chance.

It's a low-cost acquisition for the Rockies, who tried but failed earlier this winter on some free-agent starters (most notably Hiroki Kuroda). Hammel was so inconsistent last summer that the Rockies at one point removed him from the rotation, and while Lindstrom has a good arm, it hasn't translated into great success.

Between them, Hammel and Lindstrom were set to make even more money than Guthrie this year, so the trade fits the Rockies budget-wise, as well.

What do the Orioles get out of it?

That's harder to see, since neither Hammel nor Lindstrom figures to be part of the long-term plan in Baltimore (and the Orioles hardly have a short-term plan for contending).

One way to look at it: As long as Guthrie was there, he was going to be the veteran starter that Orioles kids like Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton would watch. As long as Guthrie was there, he was going to be the focal point of the rotation.

When Pat Gillick took over the Phillies, he traded away veteran outfielder Bobby Abreu, in a move that allowed guys like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins to become the dominant personalities in the clubhouse. The Orioles want Arrieta and Britton to lead their rotation, and that may not happen as quickly when there's a guy who has been there as long as Guthrie had.

Should the Orioles have gotten more for a 200-inning pitcher with a good arm? That's easy to say, but when they put Guthrie on the market last July, there were no takers. There was little trade interest in him this winter, either.

The Rockies had followed him since late last season, though, and they saw him as an upgrade.

He should be an upgrade. The question is whether it will make enough of a difference.

Posted on: February 4, 2012 3:03 pm

Orioles, A's show interest in Manny Ramirez

When Manny Ramirez said in December that he wanted to return to baseball, it was fair to ask if any team would -- or should -- care.

Two months later, Ramirez hasn't yet signed but there is interest. According to sources, Ramirez has been talking to both the A's and Orioles about a deal to play in 2012, and indications are both teams have significant interest in signing him.

Ramirez still needs to serve the drug suspension that pushed him into "retirement" last April, and he would miss the first 50 games of the season.

The A's and Orioles both make sense for Ramirez, as both had designated hitters are gone via free agency (Hideki Matsui for the A's, Vladimir Guerrero for the O's). And both teams take a chance, because neither is expected to contend this year.

The Orioles also have a connection, as new Orioles general manager Dan Duquette signed Ramirez to a six-year, $120 million contract 11 years ago with the Red Sox. As for the A's, owner Lew Wolff said last week that he wasn't opposed to adding Ramirez.

It's hard to know how effective Ramirez can be now, at age 39 (and he'll be nearly 40 by the time the 50-game suspension is up). Ramirez was 1-for-17 in his five games last April with the Rays, and he drove in just two runs in 24 games for the White Sox after they picked him up at midseason in 2010.

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 3, 2012 4:26 pm

More kids to watch: Moore, Montero, Arenado

Heading to spring training 2010, Stephen Strasburg was the big new name, the guy everyone had to see . . .

Until people started talking about Jason Heyward, too. And Aroldis Chapman.

It was still the spring of Strasburg, but it really became the spring of the phenom.

This spring could be the same.

The early focus is again on the Nationals, who seem determined to give Bryce Harper a real shot at making the opening day roster (which they didn't do with Strasburg in 2010).

But there are tons of other names, tons of other young players with some shot at opening the year in the big leagues, and an even better shot at opening eyes this spring.

An early look at a few names to watch, besides Harper, who colleague Jon Heyman wrote about separately:

Matt Moore, 22, Rays. The situation has changed only a little bit since Moore got everyone so excited last September and October. Moore signed a long-term contract in December, which seemingly lessens the financial incentive for the small-budget Rays to have him begin 2012 in the minor leagues. But the Rays haven't yet traded any of their other starting pitchers, so there's not yet an open spot in the rotation. The decision on what to do with Moore will be closely watched.

Jesus Montero, 22, Mariners. He can hit, but can he catch? And can he hit enough to make a difference for the Mariners? Those questions will get better answers during the season than during the spring, but as the key player going to Seattle in the big Michael Pineda trade, Montero will be watched and discussed.

Jacob Turner, 20, Tigers. The Tigers tried for Gio Gonzalez and they tried for Roy Oswalt, but they still don't have a fifth starter. Turner is the most exciting name among many candidates. He's probably less likely to end up with the job than some of the others, but on a team that has no problem with promoting young talent (Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya, Rick Porcello), he will get a chance.

Trevor Bauer, 21, Diamondbacks; Danny Hultzen, 22, Mariners; Sonny Gray, 22, A's. Who will be the first pitcher from the 2011 draft to make it to the big leagues? Bauer, Hultzen and Gray all go to spring training with some chance, and whether they make it or not, all three will likely excite people every time they're scheduled to pitch.

Nolan Arenado, 20, Rockies. Arenado won a lot of fans among scouts who covered the Arizona Fall League, with one saying: "He's Edgar Martinez at the plate, with the best hitting approach I've ever seen from a young player." The signing of Casey Blake no doubt lessens Arenado's chance to make the team this spring (for now, he's ticketed for Double-A), but if he hits in spring training the way he did in the fall, the Rockies will at least begin talking about it.

Julio Teheran, 21, Braves; Randall Delgado, 21, Braves. The Braves got a look at Teheran and Delgado last year, but with health concerns about Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, the look this spring may be more significant.

Posted on: February 3, 2012 1:58 pm

Harper would join short list of 19-year-olds

As colleague Jon Heyman wrote, the Nationals plan to give 19-year-old Bryce Harper a real chance to make their team out of spring training.

In fact, one Nationals official told me he believes that Harper should make it, and that even though he is still learning, "he can help you win while he learns."

Besides, it's not unheard of for a 19-year-old to play in the big leagues. Mike Trout did it for 14 games with the Angels last summer. Both Uptons (B.J. and Justin) did it.

Alex Rodriguez played in the big leagues when he was still 18 years old.

But according to research through, Harper would be the first 19-year-old to break camp with a team since Felix Hernandez with the 2006 Mariners, and the first position player to do it since Andruw Jones with the 1997 Braves.

Harper will be 19 years, 172 days old when the Nationals open their season on April 5 in Chicago. King Felix (19.118 when he debuted in August 2005) was the last big leaguer that young, and Adrian Beltre (19.078 when he debuted in June 1998) was the last position player that young.

A look the 19-year-olds who have played in the big leagues since 2000:

-- Trout played 14 games with the Angels last July, hitting just .163 with a .492 OPS.

-- Justin Upton was 23 days shy of his 20th birthday when the Diamondbacks called him up in 2007.

-- Hernandez came to the big leagues to stay at age 19.

-- B.J. Upton was 18 days shy of his 20th birthday when he debuted with the Rays in August 2004.

-- Jose Reyes debuted with the Mets the day before he turned 20 in June 2003.

-- Wilson Betemit came up with the Braves as a 19-year-old in September 2001.
Posted on: February 3, 2012 10:37 am
Edited on: February 3, 2012 10:58 am

Garza gets $9.5 million, from the Cubs or . . .

Matt Garza and the Cubs avoided arbitration Friday morning by settling on a contract that will pay him $9.5 million and also includes performance bonuses.

Next question: Who will pay him that $9.5 million?

Garza has been the subject of trade talks for much of the winter, and some people who speak regularly with Cubs management believe that the team will continue shopping him in spring training. There could be a lively market for starting pitching in March, with the Yankees, Nationals and Rays all going into spring with more than five starters, and with the White Sox still believed to be open to moving Gavin Floyd, as well.

Garza's settlement wouldn't figure to hurt the Cubs' chances of moving him. The pitcher had asked for $12.5 million, while the Cubs filed at $7.95 million. The settlement is below the $10.225 million midpoint, but the bonuses could raise it above that.

The Red Sox have been one of the teams most interested in adding a starting pitcher, but they've also been insisting that they don't have much money in their budget. They reportedly offered Edwin Jackson only $5-6 million, and he signed with the Nationals for twice that.

The 28-year-old Garza had a good first year with the Cubs, with 198 innings pitched and a 3.32 ERA. He had a 10-10 record that can be attributed more to the team's ineptitude than to how he pitched.

Former Cubs general manager Jim Hendry gave up a lot of talent to get Garza from the Rays last winter, but Epstein's clear plan has been to completely rebuild, and Garza may fit in best by bringing a nice return on the trade market.

Category: MLB
Tags: Cubs, Matt Garza
Posted on: February 2, 2012 2:37 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 10:57 am

With Jackson, Nationals are trying to win now

The Nationals were already going to be one of the more interesting teams to watch this year.

Now it's time to wonder if they could actually win.

They think so, and it's why they committed money to sign Edwin Jackson to a one-year, $11 million contract, as colleague Jon Heyman first reported Thursday afternoon.

Jackson joins a Nationals rotation that already featured young stars Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, and already added Gio Gonzalez this winter. The Nationals also have John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler, although they could now look to trade one of them this spring.

It's not Halladay-Lee-Hamels, but it is huge progress for a team that as recently as 2009 had the fourth highest rotation ERA in baseball.

But is it good enough, especially in a division that could be the most competitive in baseball?

The Phillies are still the National League's elite team, even though they haven't been to the World Series the last two years. The Braves are still very strong, even though they collapsed last September.

And the Marlins are still the team that dominated the first part of this offseason, adding Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell.

Still, Nationals people are quietly -- and sometimes not so quietly -- optimistic, to the point of believing that they could make a charge for the playoffs this year.

"If the two middle infielders (Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa) get better, and if the catcher (Wilson Ramos) gets better, we could have a heck of a team," one Nats person said to me this week.

And if Bryce Harper is ready?

Obviously, the Nationals think Harper could be a difference-maker, if he's ready for the big leagues at age 19. Even if he isn't completely ready, one Nationals person said, "He can help you win even while he's still learning."

If Harper does make it to the opening day roster, the Nationals would move Jayson Werth to center field, a position he played some in Philadelphia and also for 19 games last year in Washington. The long-term plan, then, would be to add a true center fielder next winter, move Werth to left field and move Mike Morse to first base (where Adam LaRoche will play this year).

The Nationals didn't get everything they wanted this winter. Their top pitching target was Buehrle, who chose the Marlins instead. They were in on the Prince Fielder bidding, although it appears now that they were behind the Tigers, Dodgers and perhaps another team.

But they beat out a crowded field to get Gonzalez from the A's, and now they have Jackson, a hard-throwing 28-year-old who has made an All-Star team and pitched in a World Series.

When Werth signed with the Nationals 14 months ago, there was a thought he was going from the best team in the league to a team with little chance to win. Now, just a year later, the Phillies may still be the best team, but the Nationals could well have a chance to win, too.

They certainly believe they could.

Another way to think of the Jackson signing: The Red Sox arguably needed a starting pitcher more than the Nationals did, but the Nationals were apparently willing to commit more money to get one. The Boston Globe reported that the Sox offered Jackson just $5-6 million on a one-year deal; his deal with the Nationals is for twice that.

The Red Sox rotation is very strong at the top, with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz, but very questionable at the end, with converted reliever Daniel Bard, swing man Alfredo Aceves and the questionable Vicente Padilla, Carlos Silva and Aaron Cook as the other options.

Boston badly wanted to sign another starter, but Jackson is now out of the picture, and it appears that Roy Oswalt will hold out for a chance to go to one of his two favored teams, the Cardinals or the Rangers.

Posted on: January 31, 2012 5:22 pm

Sparky in Japan? It almost happened

Sparky Anderson won in Cincinnati, and he won in Detroit.

Probably would have won in Japan, too.

We'll never know, but what we do know now is that he thought about giving it a try. In a soon-to-be-published book about his 32-year friendship with Anderson, Dan Ewald reveals that the Hanshin Tigers offered to make Sparky their manager soon after he left the Detroit Tigers at the end of the 1995 season.

Ewald, the former Tigers PR man, writes that he and Sparky discussed the offer for three full days before Anderson decided to turn it down.

Or rather, as Ewald writes, Anderson decided to have Ewald turn it down.

"You're gonna tell 'em how deeply I appreciate their offer," Ewald quotes Anderson as saying. "You're gonna tell 'em how much of an honor it is. But at this time, I just can't make such a commitment. Tell 'em I'll always be grateful for the consideration they gave me."

Ewald said he then asked Sparky why he had to be the one to call Japan.

"You gotta tell 'em," Sparky told him. "I don't speak no Japanese."

Not that Ewald spoke Japanese, either. But that was Sparky.

Anderson died in November 2010, but his voice comes through clearly in Ewald's book (due out May 8, from St. Martin's Press). It's not a biography, and it's not about baseball.

It's more a story of a friendship, with one of the friends just happening to be one of the best-known managers in baseball history.

The near-move to Japan is probably the biggest new piece of information about Anderson, but Ewald also details the reasons behind Anderson's 1989 leave of absence from the Tigers (his daughter was pregnant, and her husband had left her), and details Anderson's conversations with the Angels about becoming their manager in 1997.

The Angels nearly hired Anderson that fall, and Ewald writes that the plan was for Anderson to manage for two years with Joe Maddon as his bench coach, and for Maddon to then take over. Angels president Tony Taveras nixed the move, and the Angels hired Terry Collins instead.

I covered Anderson for the last six years of his Tigers career, and there was plenty in the book that made me smile. There are great nuggets, like the one about Sparky celebrating his election to the Hall of Fame with burgers and fries from In-N-Out.

Ewald builds the book around three days he spent at Anderson's California home just 10 days before Sparky died. They look back at their time together, from Detroit to the Hall of Fame.

And, almost, to Japan.
Posted on: January 30, 2012 12:57 pm

Victor Martinez has surgery, out for all 2012

The Tigers already expected Victor Martinez to miss the 2012 season.

Now it's definite.

Martinez underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee on Friday, the team announced Monday. And that was simply preparation for an ACL reconstruction surgery that he will undergo sometime in the next 6-8 weeks.

At one point, the Tigers thought there was some chance Martinez could return in time for the playoffs, if they make it there. But the decision to have the microfracture surgery before the ACL surgery rules that out.

Martinez should still be able to return without trouble in 2013. In fact, the extra surgery could repair some wear-and-tear damage to the knee, and even make him stronger when he comes back.

The Tigers have insurance on Martinez's contract, which means they will recoup much of the $13 million Martinez is due this year. Of course, Martinez's injury spurred the Tigers to spend that money and more to sign Prince Fielder last week.

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