If what I’ve heard here is accurate, the Mariners reported interest in Jacoby Ellsbury has been overblown. They are ambitious: Heard they’d like to find a way to add both Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltran. Hey, they’re trying. —Jerry Crasnick at ESPN
So much for defense and building for the future.
“Sounds like the plan for Japanese posting is that the final bid will be the average of the top two bids. Announcement likely very soon.” —Ken Davidoff of the New York Post
Hisashi Iwakuma and Masahiro Tanaka both pitched for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan’s Pacific League, and each won the Eiji Sawamura Award, his country’s equivalent of the Cy Young. However, Tanaka has won it twice. Iwakuma won in a 21-4 season with a 1.87 ERA in 2008.Tanaka’s ERA for the past three years was 1.27-1.87-1.27, and his record this year for the Rakuten Eagles was 24-0, with a .0943 WHIP in 212 innings. A rotation of Felix, Kuma, Tanaka, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton would not need any more runs scored than this past season to win 10-20 more games, considering what Aaron Harang, Joe Saunders, Jeremy Bonderman and Brandon Maurer gave up. They would be the equivalent of the San Francisco and St Louis team’s rotations that won World Series three times in the last five years. Given the decrease in runs scored since the PED tests started in 2004, pitching has become even more of a determining factor in team performance, along with defense, base running skills, and Safeco’s run suppression factor.
Kevin Towers says the Diamondbacks hope to be in the mix for Masahiro Tanaka. They’ve scouted him extensively. —Jerry Crasnick at ESPN
AL West Commentary
Texas will be a major player this offseason as consecutive late-season collapses and the failure to make it past a one-game playoff in either of the last two seasons have served notice that it has slipped from its recent heights. The lineup needs a significant overhaul, and the Rangers are expected to show at least some level of interest in many of the top free agent hitters on the market. They also own the majors’ top trade chip in Jurickson Profar. Having been spurned by Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke last offseason, the team will likely be more aggressive this winter in an effort to take advantage of a window of opportunity that won’t stay open forever. —Cliff Corcoran at Sports Illustrated
Pitchers Matt Garza and Masahiro Tanaka are not Texas Rangers’ targets. Rangers’ GM Jon Daniels says, “We’re not right now looking to give out a big multi-year deal for a starter.” —Jeff Wilson at Ft Worth Star-Telegram
A reader asked why are the Angels interested in trading Mark Trumbo when he is the first baseman of the future. Can we realistically expect Albert Pujols to be at first base for the next eight years? It’s a legitimate concern, but you don’t even know if Trumbo will be here in three years (he’s eligible for free agency by then). Losing Trumbo would really, really hurt, first and foremost because of his run production in the middle of the lineup, but also because his presence frees up designated hitter for Pujols and Josh Hamilton. But, as they say, you have to give up something to get something. The Angels need starting pitching, their best bet to acquire it is via trade, they can’t offer much in the way of prospects, and the player who can bring back the best pitching — minus Mike Trout, of course — is Trumbo. I don’t expect the Angels to trade Trumbo unless it means packaging him in a deal that can bring back a cost-controlled, top-of-the-rotation-caliber starter. —Alden Gonzalez at MLB.com
So they said
“As for stability, European satellites provide more of it than [Joe Blanton]. He became the first MLB pitcher in five years and the second in [Angels] franchise history to lose 14 games (2-14) with an ERA worse than 6.00 (6.04), joining Jim Abbott in 1996 (2-18, 7.48).” —Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated
Mariner’s potential off-season targets
“As it turns out, the Red Sox have not extended a multi-year offer to first baseman Mike Napoli. It’s was widely reported the Red Sox had extended him a multi-year deal, but multiple industry sources have confirmed the only offer the Red Sox have made to Napoli was the $14.1 million qualifying offer he refused on Monday. The Red Sox, however, do want to keep Napoli and Napoli wants to stay, but they’ll have some competition from several teams who could use Napoli as a first baseman and DH. The Orioles, Yankees, Giants, Marlins, Rangers, Blue Jays, White Sox, Rockies, and Mariners are all potential suitors.” Nick Cafardo at the Boston Globe
Ken Gurnick at MLB.com sheds some light on the possibility of the Mariners trading for an outfielder from the Dodgers.
He writes that GM Ned Colletti compares the Dodgers‘ apparent surplus of outfielders to last winter’s apparent surplus of starting pitchers. “Until we know they’re healthy, it’s hard to move anybody,” Colletti said at the General Managers Meetings, addressing rumors that the club is shopping outfielders. “We went to Spring Training with eight starting pitchers and everybody said we needed to trade some of them. Pretty soon [after injuries to Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano], we didn’t have enough. We’ll see what happens. We have to have big league coverage. We need to have players that will be productive for us. When they’re healthy, we have four really good ones.”
But that’s not now. The big unknown is Matt Kemp, who just finished his second consecutive injury-marred season with a pair of operations — a cleanup of an arthritic shoulder overshadowed by involved surgery to repair a broken talus bone in his left ankle that could be career threatening. It will be months before the Dodgers know Kemp’s prognosis. Kemp has six years and $128 million remaining on his contract. Andre Ethier has four years and $71.5 million remaining. Carl Crawford has four years and $82.5 million and Yasiel Puig has five years and $26 million.
Free agent Chris Young stands out as an intriguing possibility. He endured a dismal season with the A’s last year, batting .200 with a .280 on-base percentage. But his .837 career OPS against left-handed pitchers makes him a potential fit as a right-handed-batting platoon option. —Chris Haft at MLB.com
Andy Martino at the NY Daily News writes that the Brewers prefer to explore the free agent market rather than talk trades at this stage of the offseason, a source tells Martino. The source also notes that the Brewers aren’t likely to trade outfielder Norichika Aoki, which isn’t surprising given that Aoki is playing on a bargain $2MM contract for 2014.
About a dozen teams showing interest in Corey Hart – and the Mets are among them. —Mike Puma at the NY Post
Antony DiComo at MLB.com, the Mets beat writer, responding to a readers question stating, “The Mets desperately need outfield help, just like last year. How realistic is it to think they will sign Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo?” His response was, “Not very. Speaking this month with a number of people both inside and outside the Mets organization, I came away with the impression that no one really expects general manager Sandy Alderson to commit a $100 million contract to any one player — and both Scott Boras clients you mentioned should command something in the nine-figure neighborhood.”
Obviously Mets fans are a breed apart from Mariners fans.
After five seasons of Ricky Nolasco under performing his peripherals, frequently by drastic amounts, it would be a mistake to think that success is right around the corner for him. Even his 3.70 ERA in 2013, his best since 2008, is only slightly better than average for a pitcher in Dodger Stadium. The nature of the free-agent market means that if you’re going to get one of the better starters, you’re probably going to end up overpaying. If you’re doomed to overpay for a quality starter, overpay for one with tantalizing upside, such as Masahiro Tanaka or Ubaldo Jimenez. Nolasco may actually get in the neighborhood of his $80 million, but make sure it’s not from your team. —Dan Szymborski at ESPN [Insider needed and recommended]
Scott Feldman, 30, made 30 starts with a WHIP of 1.183 last year. Do you know how many pitchers in all of baseball did that? Just 25 — and Feldman was one of only 11 who pitched in the AL. (He split his 30 starts equally between the Cubs and Orioles.) Hey, now that I think about it, and considering his age, maybe Feldman should get more than two guaranteed years. —Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated
It is becoming more and more apparent the key name for Jacoby Ellsbury this winter is his old Red Sox teammate Carl Crawford. Ellsbury’s agent Scott Boras has named an asking price, one interested team said. And it seems clear now that Crawford’s $142 million, seven-year deal is a benchmark in discussions. While recently discussing Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo, Boras’ other top free-agent outfielder, Boras said, “Carl Crawford [who signed for $142 million over seven years in 2010] lives. And Jayson Werth signed for seven years (and $126 million) at age 32.” Boras also has mentioned in the past that Ellsbury’s value is actually higher than Crawford’s was when he was a free agent since Ellsbury is a center fielder who bats leadoff while Crawford played left field and batted second (at least at the time). —Jon Heyman at CBS Sports
Baseball Best Practice
Official says sentiment in the room was “100 percent” for eliminating catcher collisions. Now it’s a race against clock to re-write rules/penalties. —Buster Olney at ESPN
By The Numbers
Fifteen starting pitchers who were at least 30 years old signed free agent contracts of one or two years last winter. Only three of them qualified for the ERA title with an adjusted ERA above average, and none of them changed teams: Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda of the Yankees and Bartolo Colon of the Athletics. —Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated
Shin-Soo Choo was hit by 26 pitches, four times when he had three balls on him. Shane Victorino was hit by 18 pitches, but only twice with three balls on him. —From The Bill Chuck Files
Pitcher Randy Messenger has agreed to a three-year deal to remain with Japan’s Hanshin Tigers. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports Messenger has pitched in Japan for the last four seasons, and he posted a 2.89 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 196 1/3 innings in 2013. He last pitched in the big leagues with the Mariners in 2009. —Charlie Wilmoth at MLB Trade Rumors