Mike Napoli is a good Christian.
“The Mariners know they must add offense and can’t be too picky. Still, they strongly prefer to obtain righty heft. The OPS for the Mariners’ righty batters (.615) and against lefty pitching (.657) both were last in the majors. The three righties who batted most often for Seattle were Mike Morse and Brendan Ryan, who were ineffective and were traded during the season, and Jason Bay, who was released. Touted catching prospect Mike Zunino struggled in his first major league try and the regression, demotion and drug suspension for Jesus Montero also was devastating for Seattle.
That doesn’t mean Seattle won’t play for lefty-swinging Jacoby Ellsbury, who has been tied to the team because it needs offense so badly and because he is from nearby Oregon. But the expectation is Seattle also could be aggressive on free agents Jhonny Peralta, Nelson Cruz, Marlon Byrd and Mike Napoli – Peralta and Cruz, in particular, are two players who very much entice the Mets.” —Joel Sherman at the NY Post
AL West Commentary
With Jason Vargas their only pending free agent, the Angels don’t have a lot of flexibility on their roster or with their payroll. In fact, they could come dangerously close to the luxury tax threshold in the coming year with Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson due to make a combined $12 million more than in 2013, and Trumbo and reliever Ernesto Frieri being arbitration-eligible for the first time. A lot of the Halos’ hopes for 2014 will thus have to be pinned on improvement from players who were hurt or otherwise under performed in 2013 (Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Jered Weaver) . That, or general manager Jerry DiPoto will have to pull off some brilliant trades this winter, something his track record doesn’t suggest is a strong possibility. Overall, there’s not much reason for optimism here. —Cliff Corcoran at Sports Illustrated
The Rangers scored 730 runs in 163 games in 2013, their lowest average per game (4.48) since they moved into Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. They scored 78 fewer runs than in 2012. Since Jon Daniels became GM, the Rangers scored at least 784 runs before 2013. So it was quite a drop-off. “More or less we’ve been telling clubs our short-term needs are more on the offensive side,” Daniels said late last week. “We have some depth in a couple of areas organizationally and at the big league level. We’re open to different ideas.” Daniels knows his team needs more production at first base. They need another outfielder, assuming Nelson Cruz declines the club’s qualifying offer as expected Monday afternoon, and they’ve got to figure out what they’re doing at designated hitter. —Richard Durrett at ESPN Dallas/Fort Worth
Farm systems serve a dual purpose: to supplement the major league team by graduation to the big leagues, and to provide trade chips. What Astros GM Jeff Luhnow seeks in a trade is balance, something that maintains the Astros’ overall vision even while sacrificing talent. “We’ve been accumulating talent and the idea is to use that talent to help us win at the major league level,” Luhnow said. “Whether that comes through trades or players naturally getting there and playing for us, we have to consider all of our alternatives. We know we need to improve at the big league level, and it needs to start next year and it needs to be significant. We’re not going to disrupt our strategy. Our strategy’s pretty clear, and it does involve building our own assets from within, and we’ve been doing that. So we’re not going to do anything to block any of our players or disrupt their development. But you can argue that we’re in a position where we have some areas of excess in terms of future talent, and we could potentially use some of that to get something.” —Evan Drellich at the Houston Chronicle
So they said
“Lloyd is one of those special guys,’’ Leyland said. “He’s ready — more ready this time than last time … I think you guys out there are going to fall in love with him. I’d be really, really shocked if this didn’t work out great for the Mariners.” —Jim Leyland to Larry Stone at the Seattle Times
“In our situation, where we have to make every asset count and every dollar count and we don’t want to get in our own way with our development plan …,” he said, “The possibility of trading significant assets so you can then acquire someone and then reward him with a nine-figure contract is not as appealing as keeping your core prospects if they’re guys you really believe in, and then at the right time adding that impact piece from outside the organization. Now that said, we’re going to pursue trades. We’re going to look at trades for some of the very best players in the game. You never know what you might be able to come up with.” —Theo Epstein of the Cubs to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times
Mariner’s potential off-season targets
Richard Durrett at ESPN Dallas/Fort Worth says that their fans should: “Add veteran starting pitcher Josh Johnson to the list of free agents that interest the Texas Rangers.” Johnson’s agent, Matt Sosnick, said he has talked to nearly every team about Johnson, including the Rangers. “He’s always had interest in playing in Texas,” Sosnick said Thursday. “He’s from Oklahoma. It’s a very well run organization. They win all the time. That would lend itself to interest.”
Sosnick has made no secret about the fact that Johnson, who turns 30 in January, is looking for a one-year deal to prove he’s healthy and try to get a multi-year deal after the 2014 season. “He’s looking at some point in his career to prove that he’s worth a huge deal,” Sosnick said. “A season with 33 starts and 200 innings would be a huge help.”
Johnson has dealt with a slew of injuries, including two disabled list stints in 2013. He dealt with triceps tightness after his first four starts, and after returning to the rotation, he had a forearm injury that shortened the rest of his season. Johnson had elbow surgery to remove bone spurs shortly after the season, and Sosnick said Thursday that Johnson will start his throwing program Monday. “He feels great. He’s close to 100 percent right now,” Sosnick said. “He has no pain.”
Johnson ended up making 16 starts with the Toronto Blue Jays last season, posting a 6.20 ERA. He gave up 15 homers in 81 1/3 innings after allowing only 14 in 191 1/3 innings in 2012, so the long ball definitely hurt him last season. The Blue Jays decided not to give Johnson a qualifying offer, so any team that signs him won’t be giving up a draft pick. “He wants a good defense [behind him], and I think he’d prefer to play in at least a pitching-neutral ballpark,” Sosnick said. “We’re not going to rush into anything.” Johnson has a track record as a hard thrower who can miss bats. From 2009 to 2012, he had a 2.99 ERA for the Marlins in 101 starts with almost 600 strikeouts in 644 1/3 innings. What he has to do now is prove he can stay healthy in 2014 to get that big payday he wants.
The White Sox are said to be very high on the attributes Curtis Granderson could offer. But the big salary and the loss of a high draft pick may just outweigh all the positives. One of the keys to this month’s signing of Jose Abreu is that the White Sox didn’t have to forfeit any players in a trade or lose draft picks to acquire the slugger. As general manager Rick Hahn said, the deal was strictly about money and he used that as a selling point with owner Jerry Reinsdorf. “I actually caught myself saying to Jerry, ‘you know it’s just money,’ which I then had to catch myself and quickly expand upon,” Hahn said last week. “By that I meant we aren’t giving up a draft pick. We aren’t giving up players in addition to money. What we’re doing here is reallocating resources we cleared off last summer and devoting them to something we felt was the long-term benefit.”
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer also sounds as if the overall cost for Granderson would be a hindrance, which makes him an unlikely fit for the rebuilding club. The Cubs have the fourth overall pick in next June’s draft and would have to surrender their second-rounder to sign Granderson. “I guess without commenting specifically on our interest in him, he’s got a great reputation, sterling character, really great leader in the clubhouse and obviously everybody knows what kind of player he is,” Hoyer said. “But it is appealing to think about a player that has all those qualities. I have yet to hear someone say a bad word about him. I have no idea his interest level in coming back to Chicago, but I certainly know his roots are pretty deep there and we know he’s done a lot for the city.” —Dan Hayes at CSN Chicago
Baseball Best Practice
Watch the copycatting of the Red Sox. Teams such as the Yankees will go after those “good value” free agents, not only the high-price items but the good-character, good-player types that Boston hit on last offseason. However, most teams will strike out on if they try a similar approach. Why will they strike out? Because what the Red Sox did was a once-in-a-blue-moon success story. They hit on seven free agents. Seven. That won’t happen again. —Nick Cafardo at the Boston Globe
Baseball owners are likely to give the go-ahead this week to spend the money for expanding instant replay next season.
A baseball official familiar with the deliberations, speaking on condition of anonymity Monday, said management probably would approve the additional video review by umpires in phases. The go-ahead to spend the funds probably will occur Thursday. Approval of the rules likely would be put off until the January owners’ meeting.
For expanded replay to start next season, agreements with the World Umpires Association and MLB Players Association would have to be reached. “Both parties are working diligently to iron out every possible scenario that could occur with a replay,” WUA President Joe West said. Under the new system being contemplated, virtually all calls other than balls and strikes potentially would be subject to review by video in New York. It has not been determined whether umpires will be the people reviewing the calls, the baseball official said. —Based on AP and sportsnet.ca reports.
By The Numbers
The record for most home runs allowed in a career is 522 and is held by Jamie Moyer. —Wikipedia
At age 30, Jacoby Ellsbury has a .297 lifetime batting average and 241 steals. At 30, Johnny Damon had a .284 lifetime bating average and 244 steals. In his last nine seasons, Damon hit .284 with 164 steals. —From The Bill Chuck Files
The uniform that Bill Mazeroski wore when he hit a walk-off home run for the Pittsburgh Pirates during the final game of the 1960 World Series has sold for $633,000 at an auction of the Hall of Famer’s memorabilia. Hunt Auctions said Saturday the collection took in a total of $1.7 million. That’s probably more than he was paid during his MLB career.*
With the distribution of television money—as a result of the new collective bargaining agreement—going up from $25.53 million to $51.67 million per team, you can bet your assets that teams will extend themselves a bit more to achieve personnel goals. Don’t believe for a minute that the Tigers won’t re-sign Max Scherzer, who can be a free agent after next season, or that they’re not going to enhance the team, as we’ve read in certain circles. —Nick Cafardo at the Boston Globe
Canadian OF Jason Bay unsure if he’ll come back to play in 2014. —Shi Davidi at sportsnet.ca
Wily Mo Pena expected to re-sign in Japan. Interest on both sides of Pacific but best fits for 31-year-old overseas. —Ben Nicholson-Smith at sportsnet.ca
*According to Baseball Reference, Mazeroski made $50,000 in 1968, while he was still a productive player. If we estimate that Mazeroski made an average of $50,000 per season during his career—likely an overestimation—then that puts him at $850,000. However, in 2013 dollars that’s between $3M and $4M.