Posted on: April 16, 2010 10:05 am

3 to watch: The 'In trouble already?' edition

The headline in the New York Daily News reads, "Mets may have to call Bobby," as in Valentine. The Baltimore Sun says, "Listless Orioles lose 7th straight" and "Too early to panic?"

The season isn't even two weeks old. On this day a year ago, the Angels were in last place (as they are today). And the Blue Jays were in first place (as they are today).

With those thoughts in mind, here's the weekend edition of 3 to watch, focusing on teams with trouble (and maybe teams in trouble):

1. When Johan Santana lost to Livan Hernandez last Sunday, Jerry Manuel called his Mets "unprepared," setting off the latest frenzy about his future as manager. So imagine what happens if Santana loses to 23-year-old Jaime Garcia, in Mets at Cardinals, Saturday afternoon (3:10 EDT) at Busch Stadium.  One thing to watch: While Santana is undoubtedly the Mets ace and sole dependable starter, scouts say he isn't the pitcher he once was. The velocity on the fastball just hasn't been there. "If you took away the [uniform] number, he looks like just another pitcher," one scout said after watching Santana last week.

2. The Orioles had signs of trouble in spring training, when Brian Roberts got hurt, closer Mike Gonzalez looked terrible and observers complained that too few of the Oriole players approached the game with a professional attitude. Now both Roberts and Gonzalez are on the disabled list, the O's have one win, and general manager Andy MacPhail is answering questions about manager Dave Trembley's future. One scout who spent last week in Baltimore came away convinced that this team is certain to finish in last place. The one bright spot? Young starter Brian Matusz, and in Orioles at Athletics, Sunday afternoon (4:05 EDT) at the Coliseum , Matusz meets up with Brett Anderson in a matchup of two of the most exciting young lefties in the game. As we told you this spring, A's people believe that Anderson is going to throw a no-hitter some day. The way the O's are going, is this the day?

3. We're cheating here, because the Rays and Red Sox aren't in trouble. But the Yankees have looked good enough out of the gate that it's fair to wonder if Tampa Bay and Boston will eventually be fighting over one playoff spot. The Rays and Red Sox meet for the first four of 18 times this weekend, and we'll pick Rays at Red Sox, Sunday afternoon (1:35 EDT) at Fenway Park , because of the matchup of Jon Lester and Matt Garza. They met twice in the 2008 ALCS, with Garza besting Lester both times. But Garza had an advantage then, with David Price available out of the bullpen to close Game 7. Now Price is in the rotation, Rafael Soriano is Tampa Bay's closer, and one scout who watched Soriano last week said, "Terrible. I'd love to hit against him. He's fastball-slider, and he's guaranteed to make a mistake with the slider."
Posted on: February 8, 2010 5:45 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2010 5:46 pm

Thinking about Selig -- and Gillick

Whatever you think of Bud Selig the commissioner, it's hard to fault the Brewers for paying tribute to Selig the owner. He did bring baseball back to Milwaukee and eventually got Miller Park built. And even if for many of those years the Brewers were awful -- they finally made it back to the postseason a few years after the Selig family sold the team to Mark Attanasio -- without Selig, there are no Brewers and likely no Milwaukee baseball.

But while Selig and his statue-to-be are in the news today , I'm more fascinated by another longtime baseball executive.

It's not that there's any real news on Pat Gillick today. But in a column over the weekend in the Toronto Sun, Bob Elliott pointed out something about Gillick that is truly amazing.

We already know that Gillick was perhaps the best general manager of our generation, building playoff teams in Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia, winning back-to-back World Series with the Blue Jays and then winning it all again with the 2008 Phillies.

But here's the real kicker: Not one of the three teams Gillick left has made it to the playoffs even once since he's been gone. That's 15 years and counting since he stepped down as Jays GM after the 1994 season, 11 years and counting since he left the Orioles after 1998 and six years and counting with the Mariners.

Yes, the Phillies did make it back to the World Series under Ruben Amaro in 2009, but Gillick was still with the team as an influential advisor. And, as Elliott also pointed out, Gillick has committed to stay with the Phillies.

They want to keep him because of all that he adds.

I'm thinking they need to keep him because of what happens to teams when he leaves.

Posted on: December 9, 2009 2:04 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2009 2:45 pm

Orioles have serious talks about Millwood

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Orioles and Rangers are talking seriously about a trade for right-hander Kevin Millwood, and there is some optimism that a deal could be completed before the end of the week.

It's not clear what the Orioles would give up, but they would pick up most or all of Millwood's $12 million salary, enabling the Rangers to use the money to improve other parts of their roster (possibly to sign free-agent outfielder Jermaine Dye). The Rangers have no payroll flexibility this winter, because they are in the process of being sold and no sale will be complete before spring training.

The Orioles do have money to spend, and are also seeking a closer (Fernando Rodney is a possibility) and a third baseman (they could sign free agent Pedro Feliz or trade for Kevin Kouzmanoff). But a veteran starting pitcher, to team with their many talented young pitchers, was their most important winter target.

Millwood, who turns 35 this month, was 13-10 with a 3.67 ERA for the Rangers in 2009.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 17, 2009 3:40 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2009 3:49 pm

Tigers get Aubrey Huff from Orioles

The Tigers, who tried but failed to address their offensive woes before the July 31 deadline, have acquired Aubrey Huff from the Orioles in exchange for minor-league pitcher Brett Jacobson.

Huff was hitting .253 with 13 home runs and 72 RBIs for the Orioles. Huff has slumped in the second half, but his RBI total is still more than any Tiger player has this year.

The Tigers were one of several teams that talked to the Orioles about Huff before the non-waiver deadline. The Giants also showed interest.

Huff has been strictly a first baseman this year with Baltimore, but the Tigers are set with Miguel Cabrera at first. Huff has also played third base (33 games last year) and outfield (last in 2006).

The Tigers are 11th in the American League in runs, ahead of only the A's, Royals and Mariners.
Category: MLB
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 10, 2008 4:07 pm

Angels thinking about Plan B (or is it Plan C)

LAS VEGAS -- The Angels already lost out on one of their big-ticket winter targets, when CC Sabathia agreed to his huge contract with the Yankees.

And while owner Arte Moreno said that he always considered Mark Teixeira the top target -- ahead of Sabathia -- the question now is what the Angels do if Teixeira also goes elsewhere.

According to sources, the Angels have not had serious discussions about making a run at Manny Ramirez. They have discussed pursuing Raul Ibanez, or possibly Adam Dunn or Pat Burrell, if they lose out on Teixeira.

The other possibility would be to trade for a hitter, but the Angels would prefer not to do that.

The Angels face serious competition for Teixeira from the Red Sox, who have also made the first baseman their top free-agent target. Both the Nationals and the Orioles are interested in Teixeira, too. Both have the advantage of playing close to Teixeira's Maryland home.

Teixeira is said by some to favor the East Coast, but several executives said they expect it simply to come down to the most money and the most years.

The Red Sox are in a slightly different position from the Angels. While the Angels have let Garret Anderson and Juan Rivera leave as free agents, and thus have an outfield opening, the Red Sox wouldn't need to go to Plan B if they lose out on Teixeira. Even if they sign him, in fact, they would then have to trade Mike Lowell.

The Red Sox met with Sabathia earlier this week, and they also met with A.J. Burnett. But officials familiar with their plans say the Sox were never seriously interested in either pitcher.

Posted on: December 9, 2008 6:45 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2008 9:20 pm

Orioles make room for Wieters

LAS VEGAS -- The Orioles traded catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Reds in exchange for Ryan Freel, clearing the way for Matt Wieters to take over as the O's catcher.

The Orioles love the 22-year-old Wieters, who manager Dave Trembley has compared to Joe Mauer. While they're not committed to breaking camp with Wieters as their starting catcher, they believe he'll be ready at some point in 2009.

"This trade was more about Matt Wieters," Orioles general manager Andy MacPhail said in announcing the trade.

The Orioles included $3 million to pay part of Hernandez's $8 million contract, sources told CBSSports.com's Scott Miller.

In addition to Freel, the Orioles received a pair of minor leaguers, third baseman Brandon Waring and second baseman Justin Turner.

Wieters was Baltimore's first-round pick in 2007, and he has drawn raves reviews from scouts inside and outside the organization.

The Orioles will look to add a veteran catcher to work with Wieters and also be ready to begin the year as the starter if they determine that Wieters isn't ready. It could benefit the Orioles financially if they start the year with Wieters in the minor leagues, because it would put off free agency for the Scott Boras client.

One other note on Wieters: A scouting director said today that out of the 2007 draft, he had Wieters ranked second only to David Price, the left-handed pitcher who was so impressive for the Rays in the playoffs.

"I also had (Wieters) ranked fifth as a pitcher," the scouting director said. "He had a 95-96 (mph) fastball, with an 84-87 slider."

Category: MLB
Posted on: November 18, 2008 11:02 am

Orioles to bid on Teixeira and Burnett

The Orioles desperately need a shortstop, but they're not expected to make a play for any of the free agents available this winter (Rafael Furcal, Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria). Instead, the O's will focus on pursuing the two big-name free agents with Maryland ties -- first baseman Mark Teixeira and right-hander A.J. Burnett.

Teixeira was born in Maryland and attended high school in Baltimore. Burnett is an Arkansas native, but he makes his home in Monkton, just outside Baltimore.

The Orioles desperately need starting pitching. Their rotation combined for a 5.51 ERA in 2008, tied with Texas for the worst in the majors.

Finding a shortstop remains a priority, but the O's will likely try to address that need through the trade market. Khalil Greene of the Padres, Jack Wilson of the Pirates and Bobby Crosby of the A's are all possibilities.

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