Hot Stove MLBlog: News, notes and analysis
MLB.com | 01/20/12 11:44 PM EST
The offseason maneuvering is in full swing. Stay up on all the trades, signings, rumors and analysis with the Hot Stove MLBlog.
Lincecum, Giants moving toward deal
Tim Lincecum and the Giants are edging closer to a contract agreement that would enable the parties to avoid a potentially divisive salary arbitration hearing.
Industry sources confirmed Friday that negotiations between the club and Lincecum have progressed since Tuesday, when they exchanged proposed figures for one-year contracts. Lincecum requested $21.5 million, $500,000 short of the record amount Houston's Roger Clemens sought in 2005. The Giants countered with $17 million, the largest arbitration offer a team ever has made.
It was not known whether the sides were discussing a one-year contract, which Lincecum said last season he'd prefer, or a multiyear deal, such as the two-year, $23 million pact he agreed to minutes before he and the Giants were scheduled to launch an arbitration hearing last year.
Lincecum, winner of two National League Cy Young Awards and a four-time All-Star, is likely to become the highest-paid Giant for 2012. Teams and arbitration-eligible players tend to split the difference between the figures they respectively submit. Lincecum's midpoint of $19.25 million would exceed the $19 million that left-hander Barry Zito is slated to earn this year.
Lincecum became the only unsigned arbitration-eligible Giant when right-hander Sergio Romo agreed to a one-year, $1.575 million deal. That represented a 250 percent increase from Romo's 2011 wage of $450,000. Since Romo filed for $1.75 million and the Giants offered $1.3 million, he received slightly more than the midpoint figure of $1.525 million.
After beginning the offseason with 13 arbitration-eligible players, San Francisco has come to terms with six of them since Monday: Romo, fellow right-hander Santiago Casilla, third baseman Pablo Sandoval and outfielders Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan and Nate Schierholtz.
-- Chris Haft
More moves coming for Reds?
The Reds have added a closer, a left fielder, a starting pitcher and a lefty setup man. What's next?
Infielder ... maybe.
The free-agent market for infielders who can play shortstop and back up rookie Zack Cozart is rather thin. It's thin enough that Reds general manager Walt Jocketty is thinking trade rather signing someone from the open market.
"We're still talking to a couple of clubs," Jocketty said late Friday. "We'll know something by next week, hopefully. I don't think there's a lot of guys out there free agent wise."
Jocketty did not divulge which clubs he was chatting with.
Of the free-agent shortstops, there's only Ryan Theriot, Miguel Tejada and former Red Edgar Renteria. In recent days, ex-Red Orlando Cabrera retired and Jack Wilson signed with the Braves.
Jocketty said that there has been some interest shown to Theriot.
"We've talked to him, had some conversations," Jocketty said.
Asked if he was optimistic something could get done, Jocketty responded "not today."
• If the Reds sign nobody and don't pull off a trade, Jocketty said he'd be comfortable going with what is already in house. That would mean Cozart and Paul Janish would be the team's shortstops, with Cozart on the inside track to start.
• The Reds are continuing to look at adding to their depth with possible Minor League contract offers. One player they're taking a look at, Jocketty confirmed, is pitcher Jeff Francis. The left-handed Francis, 30, was 6-16 with a 4.82 ERA in 31 starts last season with the Royals. He was with the Rockies from 2004-10 and was a 17-game winner in 2007.
-- Mark Sheldon
A's reportedly have strong interest in Manny
Manny Ramirez is turning the heads of at least a few teams as the outfielder looks to return to Major League Baseball, but no club is more interested in the 12-time All-Star than the A's, according to a report by ESPN.
The 39-year-old Ramirez, who retired last season after violating the league's banned substances policy for the second time, has been working out in Miami and plans to have open workout sessions for interested teams later this month.
The Orioles and Blue Jays already have watched Ramirez hit, according to the report, but a source told ESPN that Oakland is "very interested" in Ramirez.
"The Orioles and Blue Jays saw Manny work and Baltimore liked what it saw, but Oakland has been the team that has expressed the most interest, even before having him work out," the source told ESPN.
Ramirez, a 19-year veteran, has hit .312 with 555 home runs during his career with the Indians, Red Sox, Dodgers, White Sox and Rays.
If Ramirez were to sign with a team, he would serve a 50-game suspension stemming from his positive test last season. Ramirez and MLB had previously agreed on lowering the suspension from 100 games, which is the typical punishment for a second positive test.
-- Cash Kruth
Pena returns to Rays
Carlos Pena is returning to the Rays after spending a year away, a source confirmed on Friday.
The 33-year-old first baseman's one-year contract is worth $7.25 million. Pena spent the 2007-10 seasons with Tampa Bay before joining the Cubs as a free agent last offseason, and his two best seasons came with the Rays (46 home runs in '07, 39 in '09).
Pena's home run total for the Cubs last year (28) matched his output with the Rays in 2010. He hit .225 with a .357 on-base percentage in 2011, marks that are in line with his respective .239 and .352 clips lifetime.
Pena will take a pay cut from his $10 million salary a year ago.
-- Evan Drellich
Dombrowski: Prince 'probably not a good fit'
Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski finally mentioned Prince Fielder by name during the Winter Caravan stop Thursday afternoon at the Michigan state capitol in Lansing. He normally doesn't do that with free agents.
Dombrowski's answer on the subject went about as expected.
"Of course we'd consider Prince Fielder," Dombrowski is quoted by MLive.com as saying. "But realistically, it's probably not a good fit."
Agent Scott Boras, Dombrowski reportedly said, probably wouldn't agree to a one-year contract, and that's the kind of deal the Tigers are seeking to replace Martinez.
"We anticipate Victor Martinez coming back in 2013 and playing at the level he was at last season," Dombrowski said.
As witnessed from the Johnny Damon saga two years ago, Boras has a talent for negotiating directly with owners. But given that experience, it's hard to imagine Dombrowski making his remarks without feeling highly confident that's not going to change.
"I would just say the fit is really not there at this point," Dombrowski said.
Realistically, if Fielder can get a long-term deal somewhere else, it's hard to envision him passing it up. And if Boras can take the Tigers' desire for a one-year fix and tie it to another of his many free-agent hitters, Boras could be in better shape.
-- Jason Beck
Rockies reportedly agree to extension with Betancourt
The Rockies have reportedly agreed to a contract extension with reliever Rafael Betancourt, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes.
The deal reportedly guarantees the right-hander a $4.25 million mutual option for 2013 and adds an option in 2014 for the same salary. He will earn $4 million in 2012, a part of his current contract.
As one of baseball's best relievers, Betancourt, who will turn 37 in April, posted an ERA of 2.89 in 2011 and saved eight games while then-Rockies closer Huston Street was on the disabled list.
With Street being traded to the Padres this off season, Betancourt will likely take over as Colorado's closer this year.
-- Quinn Roberts
Cubs sign Rodrigo Lopez
The Cubs have signed Rodrigo Lopez to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training. A Mexican baseball magazine first reported the signing.
Last January, Lopez, 36, signed with the Braves but did not make the roster out of Spring Training. He was traded to the Cubs in May, and pitched in long relief and made 16 starts. He was 6-6 with a 4.42 ERA in 26 games. In a four-game stretch June 28-July 18, Lopez was 2-1 with a 1.85 ERA, posting three quality starts.
The Cubs are expected to announce all the non-roster invitees next week.
-- Carrie Muskat
Yanks have heard from Vlad, Ibanez
The Yankees have heard from the representatives for free agents Vladimir Guerrero and Raul Ibanez about their opening at designated hitter, Newsday's Ken Davidoff reports.
Guerrero and Ibanez could join a crowd of candidates vying for the Yankees' attention in the wake of last week's Jesus Montero trade to the Mariners. New York is known to have reached out to the representatives for Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Carlos Pena, but it is believed that the Yankees have only between $1 million and $2 million to spend on a DH.
Internally, the Yankees are touting a tandem of Andruw Jones and Minor League slugger Jorge Vazquez to tackle DH duties, while also using the spot to help rest players like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira. Davidoff's report also noted that Jack Cust's representatives talked to the Yankees, but Cust agreed to a contract with the Astros on Tuesday.
-- Bryan Hoch
Astros reach one-year deal with Cust
Jack Cust, who has hit 105 home runs in a 10-year Major League career that has spanned six teams, has agreed to a one-year deal with the Astros that includes an option for 2013, according to a baseball source.
The deal is pending a physical and could be announced as soon as Wednesday. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow declined to comment.
Cust, 33, appeared in 67 games before being cut loose last July by the Mariners, for whom he batted .213 with three homers and 23 RBIs. He spent the previous four seasons with the Oakland A's, hitting 97 homers and driving in 281 runs in that span. He's played primarily left field, right field and designated hitter in his career.
-- Brian McTaggart
Rockies make offer to veteran Moyer
For now, the Rockies' 2012 potential Opening Day starting rotation can be called the "under-30 club." But that could change, considerably, with one potential signing.
Looking for a veteran to help guide the young rotation, the Rockies could be bringing in 49-year-old left-hander Jamie Moyer. The Rockies have made an offer of a Minor League contract, and a club official told MLB.com on Tuesday morning that "it's in his court."
Moyer had Tommy John ligament transfer surgery in his throwing elbow in December 2010 and worked for ESPN as an analyst last year, but stated all along he oped to pitch again in 2012. He went 9-9 with a 4.84 ERA for the Phillies in 2010.
By making the offer, the Rockies are signaling that they believe Moyer can be a help to them, not merely a novelty, although his potential signing sparks folks to go digging for trivia. For example, when Moyer made his Major League debut for the Cubs on June 16, 1986, the following competitors for the Rockies' 2012 rotation had not been born: Jhoulys Chacin (Jan. 7, 1988), Tyler Chatwood (Dec. 16, 1989), Juan Nicasio (Aug. 31, 1986), Drew Pomeranz (Nov. 22, 1988) and Alex White (Aug. 29, 1988).
One of Moyer's teammates on the 1986 Cubs was Rockies television color commentator George Frazier, then a relief pitcher.
The Denver Post, which reported the offer to Moyer on Monday night, also reported that the Rockies are looking at trading for a second baseman, with the Red Sox's Marco Scutaro and the Mets' Justin Turner as possibilities.
-- Thomas Harding
Reds get Ludwick
MLB.com has learned via a source Monday night that outfielder Ryan Ludwick has agreed to a one-year contract with a mutual option for 2013. The dollar figure remains unclear, but the Reds weren't expected to spend a lot to fill their opening for a fourth outfielder.
Ken Rosenthal at FOX Sports and MLB Network was first with the story.
Ludwick, 33, batted .237 with 13 home runs last season in a combined 139 games with the Padres and Pirates. He has a history with Reds general manager Walt Jocketty, having played for him with the Cardinals. Ludwick spent the 2007-09 seasons in St. Louis and hit a career best 37 homers with 113 RBIs in 2008.
This fills the Reds need for a fourth outfielder that can mainly play left field in a quasi-platoon with Chris Heisey.
-- Mark Sheldon
Angels avoid arbitration with Callaspo; only Aybar left
The Angels agreed to a one-year, arbitration-avoiding contract with infielder Alberto Callaspo on Monday. The deal is worth $3.15 million, which is slightly higher than the reported figure Kendrys Morales agreed to - $2.975 million - and right around what Callaspo was projected to garner via arbitration.
Callaspo, two seasons away from free agency, hit .288 with a .366 on-base percentage, six home runs and 46 RBIs while playing mostly third base in his first full season with the Angels in 2011.
The only arbitration-eligible player remaining now is shortstop Erick Aybar, who's eligible for free agency after this season and who general manager Jerry Dipoto previously said is open to negotiating an extension with.
-- Alden Gonzalez
Zumaya agrees to deal with Twins
The Tigers could end up seeing a lot of Joel Zumaya this year, after all. It'll just be in a different uniform, albeit an awfully familiar one.
After throwing for teams in December and holding out for a roster spot and the right situation, Zumaya has agreed to terms with the Minnesota Twins, the reliever told MLB.com. The two sides spent Saturday putting together a deal that could pay the right-handed reliever anywhere from $800,000 to $1.7 million if he reaches incentives.
A Twins official would neither confirm nor deny the deal to MLB.com but said they've been in negotiations since December.
Zumaya weighed what he called "good offers" from three other clubs, but the Twins included guaranteed money rather than a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite. If he's healthy, they'll bring him to the same mound at Target Field where he last threw a Major League pitch. Zumaya fractured his elbow throwing for the Tigers against the Twins on June 28, 2010.
As it turns out, that was Zumaya's last appearance as a Tiger. Though the Tigers had an offer out to the righty for a Minor League contract with a non-roster invitation to Spring Training, they made it clear they weren't going to guarantee him a spot. Zumaya told MLB.com in November he was most likely moving on, and in the end, the Tigers were not on his short list.
Zumaya joins a Twins bullpen in transition after Joe Nathan left for the Rangers earlier in the offseason. Minnesota re-signed Matt Capps to close and returns Glen Perkins off an impressive season of middle- and late-inning work, but while Perkins blossomed into a high-strikeout lefty last year, the Twins haven't had a truly overpowering reliever in a while.
If Zumaya's healthy, he has that potential. Though he hasn't topped 32 games or 40 innings in a season since his impressive rookie season of 2006, Zumaya has been an effective reliever when he hasn't been hurt. He was showing flashes of his old form in 2010 before getting injured, striking out 34 batters over 38 1/3 innings while allowing 32 hits and posting a 2.58 ERA.
Zumaya underwent surgery after that July injury to repair a fractured bone at the tip of his elbow, a procedure that included inserting a screw to hold the elbow together. He had to undergo a follow-up surgery to replace the screw after complaining of elbow pain last Spring Training.
The surgery cost Zumaya the entire 2011 season. He threw for reportedly up to 20 interested teams last month and reportedly hit the mid-90s on the radar gun. Since then, Zumaya and his agents, Randy and Alan Hendricks, have been negotiating with clubs, trying to land a Major League contract in a situation where he could fit into a steady bullpen role. The Red Sox made a hard push early on.
The Twins will play a Spring Training game against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., on March 21 before the two meet for 18 regular-season matchups, beginning with a two-game series at Comerica Park May 16-17.
-- Jason Beck
Yankees begin work of rebuilding rotation
The Yankees may have solved the lingering questions of their starting rotation in just one night, nearing completion on deals that will fit right-handers Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda for pinstripes in 2012.
In Pineda's case, the price proved to be a steep one, as New York agreed to part with power-hitting catcher Jesus Montero, shipping their top prospect to the Mariners in a four-player trade.
Though the teams have not made an official announcement, a source confirmed that Seattle is set to send Pineda and Minor League pitcher Jose Campos to the Yankees for Montero and 24-year-old right-hander Hector Noesi.
-- Jesse Sanchez
Rangers, Fielder meet in Dallas
The Rangers met on Friday with free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder at a Dallas-area hotel, according to multiple media reports.
Fielder is the highest-profile free agent remaining on the market. The Nationals also are believed to be heavily involved with Fielder, who, according to reports, is seeking a long-term deal with a no-trade clause. The Mariners have also been connected with Fielder.
-- Jesse Sanchez
Marlins among six clubs interested in Cespedes
The Yoenis Cespedes sweepstakes appears to be down to six teams.
The center fielder from Cuba told a reporter from The Associated Press in the Dominican Republic that the Marlins, Cubs, White Sox, Orioles, Tigers and Indians have expressed the most interest.
Cespedes, 26, made his debut on Thursday for Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Republic Winter League.
-- Jesse Sanchez
D-backs talking to Bartolo Colon
Could Bartolo Colon be the fifth starter the D-backs have been looking for?
The D-backs seem to believe so as a baseball source said they were in talks to sign the right-hander.
Colon was 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA in 29 games (26 starts) for the Yankees last season. The 38-year-old did not pitch in 2010 and signed a Minor League deal with the Yankees after undergoing stem-cell treatment for elbow and rotator cuff injuries.
Thanks to a strong performance in the spring, Colon made the Yankees roster and was an effective starter before seeming to tire down the stretch. In September, Colon posted a 5.96 ERA and was not on the team's postseason roster.
The D-backs' rotation currently consists of Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Trevor Cahill and Josh Collmenter with the fifth spot to come from a group of young pitchers that includes, among others, Wade Miley, Barry Enright, Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Bauer and Charles Brewer.
Given the youth and inexperience of that group, the D-backs had hoped to add a veteran fifth starter as added depth in case none of the young starters are able to make the jump to the big leagues.
-- Steve Gilbert
Indians interested in Pena, Kotchman
It has been well-documented throughout this winter that the Indians have checked in on just about every available first baseman not named Prince Fielder. As spring approaches, two names high on Cleveland's list are Carlos Pena and Casey Kotchman.
On Thursday, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Indians GM Chris Antonetti has approached ownership about potentially providing the necessary funds to afford the likes of Pena. The Scott Boras client is a coming off a season in which he slugged 28 homers and it is believed that he is seeking a multi-year deal.
The more realistic option might be Kotchman, who could improve the Tribe's average, on-base percentage and strikeout rate. A year ago, the Indians whiffed 1,269 times, marking the most in team history and the fourth-highest total in American League history. Kotchman hit .306 with 66 strikeouts in 500 at-bats last season, while Pena hit .225 with 161 strikeouts in 493 ABs.
With only 10 homers a year ago, though, Kotchman obviously does not boast Pena's power potential.
Pena netted a one-year, $10 million contract with the Cubs last offseason after hitting .196/.325/.407 with 28 homers and 84 RBIs in 2010 with Tampa Bay. This past season with Chicago, he improved in batting average, OBP (.357) and SLG (.462), while offering his typically sound defense.
Another consideration is Cleveland's current situation at first base. Regular catcher Carlos Santana (a switch hitter) figures to see some playing time at first -- most likely against left-handed pitching. While the general thought has been that the Indians could benefit from a power-hitting, right-handed first baseman (to replace a struggling Matt LaPorta), Cleveland's decision-makers believe a lefty-hitting first baseman such as Pena or Kotchman might make more sense.
On days when Santana does not start behind the plate, the Indians project to feature catcher Lou Marson, who hit .297 against left-handed pitching last year. So having Santana (1B) and Marson (C) in against a left-hander and a lefty-hitting first baseman paired with Santana (C) against right-handers is something the Tribe is evaluating.
One unanswered question is whether Pena or Kotchman would be willing to accept that kind of playing time situation. It seems more likely that Kotchman -- coming off a year in which he earned $750,000 after signing a Minor League contract with the Rays -- would be open to a platoon-like scenario. Kotchman is also more affordable for an Indians team that does not have much financial flexibility.
If the Indians do not add a first baseman before Opening Day, the team's top internal candidates currently consist of LaPorta (who has a Minor League option remaining) and Shelley Duncan (who is out of options).
Marlins not strongly interested in Fielder
MIAMI -- Prince Fielder, the highest-profile free agent remaining on the market, is once again being linked to the Marlins.
According to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post, Miami owner Jeffrey Loria had a discussion with Scott Boras, Fielder's agent, Wednesday night at the owner's meetings in Arizona.
The Nationals, the Post reports, are "patiently and aggressively" pursuing Fielder.
As for the Marlins, the fact that Loria and Boras spoke is not that unusual considering they are both in Arizona. Because the team never says never, it's natural for them to get a feel for what Fielder is seeking. But that doesn't mean the club is making a strong push for the power hitting first baseman.
In fact, there are strong indications from within the organization that they are not aggressively pursuing Fielder.
Their more realistic free agent target remains Yoenis Cespedes, who is expected to gain his temporary residency in the Dominican Republic within the next few days. Once that happens, the outfielder should be granted free agent status.
-- Joe Frisaro
Wood close to deal with Cubs?
FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi tweeted Wednesday that the Cubs were close to a one-year deal with Kerry Wood, which could include a club option for 2013.
During a stop on the Cubs Caravan on Wednesday, Cubs president Theo Epstein said he was hopeful the two sides could come to an agreement.
"If we can't figure this out, something's wrong," Epstein said.
Wood, 34, posted a 3.35 ERA in 51 innings for the Cubs last season. He did miss time because of a blister and ended his season in September because of a torn meniscus in his left knee. The right-hander gave the Cubs a hometown discount in 2011, signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal to come back. He has said he wants to stay in Chicago, and last year, started the Wood Family Foundation, which is hosting a fundraiser Friday prior to the Cubs Convention.
-- Carrie Muskat
Bucs to sign Slaten to Minor League deal
Though terms of the agreement have not all been finalized, left-hander Doug Slaten has chosen to sign a Minor League deal with the Pirates, a source confirmed on Wednesday. The addition of Slaten will give the club another reliever to consider for its bullpen.
Slaten became a free agent in December when the Nationals decided not to tender a contract to the arbitration-eligible pitcher. His contract with the Pirates will include an invitation to participate in Spring Training.
Slaten, 31, spent close to three months on the disabled list in 2011 due to a left elbow injury. As a result, he made just 31 appearances and logged only 16 1/3 innings. His season ERA finished at 4.41. Slaten struck out 16 and walked three.
Now healthy, Slaten had multiple offers this winter before ultimately deciding that the Pirates provided him with the best fit and opportunity. Though the Pirates haven't prioritized including a left-handed specialist in the 'pen in several years, Slaten profiles as an option for that type of role.
-- Jenifer Langosch
Angels, Kendrys avoid arbitration
The Angels avoided arbitration with recovering first baseman Kendrys Morales by agreeing on a one-year contract Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Morales was expected to get about $3 million via arbitration.
Since batting .306 with 34 homers and 108 RBIs in '09, Morales has missed the last 1 1/2 seasons with a broken left ankle, which he suffered while stomping on home plate after a game-winning home run in May 2010 and has since had two procedures on.
Morales' signing leaves infielders Erick Aybar, who general manager Jerry Dipoto has begun extension talks with, and Alberto Callaspo as their lone remaining arbitration-eligible players. Aybar is one season away from free agency, while Callaspo -- like Morales -- has two years left before hitting the open market.
-- Alden Gonzalez
Nothing has changed for Tigers with Garza
Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told the Detroit News "nothing has changed" in regards to his remarks from last week on the Tigers' approach to starting pitching and their prospects, despite recent rumors. Another source indicated to MLB.com Tuesday that there's nothing going on with the Tigers in regards to Cubs right-hander Matt Garza.
MLB Network and MLB.com's Peter Gammons had similar sentiments Tuesday night on Hot Stove.
"I'm told it's not going to happen," Gammons said of a potential Garza deal to Detroit.
Gammons cited sources saying the Tigers are more likely to open the season with top prospect Jacob Turner in the rotation, and that they wouldn't trade Turner for Garza, let alone package him.
Former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, now a host on MLB Network Radio, suggested on ESPN.com that the Tigers could get a deal done for Garza if they included top positional prospect Nick Castellanos with Turner, their top pitching prospect. The Tigers were not willing to include them both in a package to the A's for Gio Gonzalez, on whom they had serious discussions and seemingly valued more.
Gonzalez, whom Oakland traded to Washington last month, is four years away from free agency, as well as left-handed. Garza, a right-hander, has just two years left before he can hit the open market. Detroit's rotation currently has four right-handers: Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello.
-- Jason Beck