Friday, January 06, 2006

Kaplan: Cubs "Trying Hard" For Tejada

Late last night I talked to Dave Kaplan, co-host of WGN's Sports Central. Dave gave me a different take on the Miguel Tejada situation than what my source told me.
He said his sources indicate the White Sox are out of the Tejada sweepstakes and that the Red Sox are also backing away now that Manny said he'll stay. According to Kaplan, the Cubs are "trying hard." He also mentioned that there's "still a long way to go to get a deal done, but if the Cubs will include Felix Pie they could get it done."
FoxSports's Ken Rosenthal threw his hat into the ring last night, indicating that the Phillies have offered Bobby Abreu for Tejada and would play Tejada at third base. Of course, Abreu has the power to veto such a trade.
At any rate, more than one source has indicated that the Tejada situation will get resolved today, whether he stays or goes. I guess we'll see.
In other news, Dan Connolly of the Chicago Tribune quotes an industry source saying the Cubs are "closing in" on a trade to send Corey Patterson to Baltimore for an unknown minor leaguer. The minor leaguer is said to not be one of the Orioles' top five. Based on Will Lingo's top ten list for Baseball America, perhaps numbers 6-10 are possible. I'm just speculating, but the Cubs could really use a guy like Val Majewski if the Orioles would part with him.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Cubs/Red Sox/Mariners Trade Possible

A reliable source told me today about a three-way deal that is "imminent." It's always risky to throw around "imminent," but I'm just quoting him here.
Here's the scenario:
BOS gives: Bronson Arroyo, Tony Graffanino, PTBNL
BOS gets: Jeremy Reed, Will Ohman
CHC gives: Corey Patterson, Ohman
CHC gets: Raul Ibanez, Graffanino, cash
SEA gives: Reed, Ibanez, cash
SEA gets: Arroyo, Patterson, PTBNL
Let's evaluate. There's no doubt the Cubs would be making out like bandits in this trade. Corey Patterson is useless to them, even as a fourth outfielder. 28 year-old lefty Ohman tossed a solid 43 innings this year, and seems recovered from his January 2002 Tommy John surgery.
But Chicago's bounty seems to outweigh the former phenom and useful southpaw. Ibanez is on the hook for just $4.25MM in 2006, and the 33 year-old is probably good for a .290/.350/.460 line in 2006. He played 55 games in left field for the Mariners in 2005. I've projected him at .288 with 21 HR, 84 RBI, 89 runs, and 8 steals for 2006. Graffanino could probably chip in with some decent on-base skills from 2B or a utility role.
My Arroyo projection has him leading the Red Sox in wins with 16. Arroyo does a good job limiting his baserunners and should have an ERA under 4. I don't think Safeco would have a major effect on his numbers. Reed should continue to improve all facets of his game in '06, and would be a nice pickup for the Red Sox.
There may be a holdup in the deal because the Red Sox want to trade before Graffanino and Arroyo hit arbitration, and the Cubs want to wait. The word is that Mariners GM Bill Bavasi is strangely infatuated with Corey Patterson. If that's the case, Hendry should strike while the iron is hot. I don't have any information on where Matt Murton would find himself if the proposed trade takes place, but he wouldn't have a starting gig for the Cubs.

Monday, December 26, 2005

No shortage of interest in Baltimore’s Tejada


The Orioles continue to discuss possible trades for disgruntled shortstop Miguel Tejada and no less than seven teams are interested.The Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, New York Mets, Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels are among teams that would love to have the talented Tejada.But are they willing to pay Baltimore’s price?
According to team and media sources, the most serious discussions are with the Cubs, who are dangling a package that includes standout right-handed pitcher Mark Prior.According to two industry sources, there were preliminary discussions between the Orioles, Cubs and Oakland Athletics on a three-way deal that included Tejada, Orioles lefthander Erik Bedard, Prior and Oakland ace Barry Zito heading to new homes. The Birds would get Zito and Prior, the Cubs would get Tejada and the A’s would add Bedard. But that type of complex trade takes time and is at best a longshot.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox are looking for something positive after losing centerfielder Johnny Damon to the Yanks. So Boston is still talking about a Tejada-for-Manny Ramirez trade. The issue there is that Baltimore does not want to trade Tejada inside the AL East.The O’s will continue to look for the right deal but are in no rush. Getting get equal value for Tejada will be difficult.Nationals enter arms race
Washington General Manager Jim Bowden has offers out to pitchers Ryan Franklin, Josh Fogg, Wade Miller and Ramon Ortiz.The most interesting of the bunch could be Fogg, a former Pirates starter. Since 2002, the 29-year-old righthander has started 119 games and logged 697 innings with an ERA of 4.74. He was 6-11 in 2005.Franklin, an innings eater like Fogg, is available after going 8-15 for the Mariners. Miller, let go by Boston, was a top-flight pitcher with Houston when healthy.Keep an eye on Fogg. He was a consistent starter on a bad team and could be worth a look. Let’s see how Bowden adds pieces now that his Christmas shopping is complete.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Peter Angelos, Mark Prior, and Medical History

It's well known that Baltimore Orioles CEO Peter Angelos is very mindful of players' health records, moreso than any other GM. It could have something to do with Angelos's past as a personal injury lawyer. Or it could be two massive free agent blunders made in the past by the Orioles: Scott Erickson and Albert Belle. The Orioles wasted many millions as the two players deteriorated.
The Angelos mindset is center stage at the moment, as the health of Cubs starter Mark Prior is far from spotless. As I mentioned earlier, here's what Buster Olney had to say on the issue:
"Executives with other teams are assuming, by the way, that Baltimore owner Peter Angelos would likely kill any proposal once club doctors review Prior's recent medical history."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Byrnes???

As predicted, Eric Byrnes was non-tendered last night. I can't possibly think of a better way for the Cubs to turn the Jacque Jones signing into a positive. If you sum up Byrnes and Jones' salaries, you'll be getting solid stats from RF for the price. Assuming Dusty Baker understands what a platoon is and how all that works.

Jones cannot hit lefties. Look at Byrnes line against lefties in 04: Eric Byrnes .344/.406/.599

I know Hendry didnt give Jones 5 plus a year to platoon, but it makes since to plug Byrnes in as a 4th outfielder. Mabry could be used at 1st and 3rd. Ramirez will play 150 games at the most if hes lucky.

Cubs after Tejada, could move Prior


The talks are stalled, a source says, over the Cubs' insistence that the Orioles give up left-hander Erik Bedard along with Tejada if they want Prior – and the Cubs' refusal to include top outfield prospect Felix Pie or a top pitching prospect in return.
The Cubs and Orioles also have engaged in three-way discussions with the Red Sox in which Tejada would go to the Cubs and Ramirez to the Orioles, according to another source. The package the Sox would receive is unclear, but conceivably could include Prior, shortstop Ronny Cedeno and center fielder Corey Patterson.
Whatever the details, a three-way deal would appear to be a longshot, and no other deal appears close. The Red Sox would need to give the Orioles pitching along with Ramirez if they wanted Tejada in a straight, two-team trade. The Angels' offers for Tejada have been insufficient, sources say.
The Orioles are concerned that they would be losing too much offense if Prior was their principal acquisition in a Tejada deal. The Red Sox share the same reservation about trading Ramirez for anything other than a hitter of Tejada's caliber.
The Orioles and Cubs have been talking for at least a week. While the teams completed a trade involving outfielder Sammy Sosa last off-season, that deal was essentially a salary dump by the Cubs. A Tejada deal would be more difficult to accomplish.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos is a difficult negotiator who routinely procrastinates on major personnel moves. He also is a stickler for players with clean medical records, and Prior has been injured in each of his three full seasons with the Cubs. Any deal involving Ramirez would require him to waive his no-trade clause, an issue that could further complicate discussions.
The Cubs are believed to be more willing to trade Prior, 25, than right-hander Carlos Zambrano, 24, who has emerged as the team's workhorse and ace. The Orioles likely would not be interested in right-hander Kerry Wood, 28, who is coming off shoulder surgery.
If the Cubs acquired Bedard along with Tejada, they would gain a ready replacement for Prior and keep their rotation at full strength. But the Orioles need to add pitching, not trade it, which is why they would want the Cubs to include a top prospect. Cedeno, Patterson and second baseman Todd Walker are among the other Cubs who could attract the Orioles' interest.
Tejada, 29, said he wanted to be traded in an interview with the Associated Press earlier this month, stating his desire to play for a winning organization and his belief that he would benefit from a "change of scenery."
He later softened his remarks publicly, but did not back off his position in talks with club officials. He has four years and $48 million remaining on the six-year, free-agent contract he signed with the Orioles prior to the 2004 season.
Rather than move Tejada, the Orioles could attempt to improve the team around him. They've signed free-agent catcher Ramon Hernandez, 29, to a four-year, $27.5 million contract and free-agent outfielder Jeff Conine, 39, to a one-year, $1.75 million deal. They also are talking to free-agent outfielder Jeromy Burnitz, 36, and are one of several clubs pursuing free-agent right-hander Kevin Millwood, 31, who seems most likely to sign with the Rangers.
While the Cubs appear to be the team pushing hardest for Tejada, the Orioles have maintained steady dialogue about a possible deal with the Red Sox. If the Orioles could swing a deal for Ramirez and pitching, they then would seek to trade for a shortstop or sign one as a free agent.
The Angels, meanwhile, continue to view the addition of a slugger like Tejada as their top priority. Their talks for Ramirez have not advanced, and like the Cubs, they have numerous young players who would appeal to the Orioles, starting with right-hander Ervin Santana and first baseman Casey Kotchman. The Orioles also could take back high-priced veterans like shortstop Orlando Cabrera and first baseman Darin Erstad in a trade.
The White Sox, willing to move right-hander Jon Garland or right-hander Jose Contreras, appear more of a longshot for Tejada. Both Garland and Contreras, however, are eligible for free agency at the end of the season. Under Angelos, the Orioles have routinely balked at acquiring potential free agents without the assurance of signing them long-term.

It's tough to figure sense of Jones deal

If there's any long-term benefit to signing Jacque Jones to a three-year contract, it's this: Down the road, maybe Felix Pie will have to earn his way onto the Cubs' roster. Corey Patterson had his job handed to him, and look at him now.Sorry, but that's the closest I can come to a half-full glass after the Cubs "locked up" a non-All-Star whose career has been going downhill for at least two years.
This is progress? Please excuse me while I scratch my head.Jones was a good player on three playoff teams in Minnesota. He has crossed the threshold to age 30 without becoming a standout, however, ranking among the American League's top 10 only once in a major offensive category—ninth in strikeouts in 2002. In 2003, one of his best seasons, he hit .304 but blunted that contribution by somehow walking only 21 times while piling up 517 at-bats.His batting average dropped 50 points the next season—equaling the drop that new Cubs center fielder Juan Pierre had from 2004 to '05—and continued dropping last season, though this time only by another five points. All this while playing half his games in the hermetically sealed Metrodome. Wait till he gets a full dose of Wrigley Field in April and May.If Jones had been signed for one year, and maybe if the Cubs hadn't so pledged allegiance to Pierre after trading for him earlier this month, I perhaps would see him as a decent bridge to Pie. But the Cubs now have the homegrown Matt Murton in left field (the only outfield position he can play with confidence) and Pierre in center in addition to Jones, who is signed through 2008 at $5.33 million a year.Pierre can be a free agent after next season, but general manager Jim Hendry went out of his way to express an interest in signing him long term after giving up rising prospect Ricky Nolasco and two other promising pitchers to get him. Assuming Pierre signs an extension, where's the 20-year-old Pie going to play when he's ready?It could be the Cubs will change their mind and let Pierre walk. Or if Murton falters, they could move Jones to left and put Pie in right for the time being. The best-case scenario, if they keep Pierre, is for Pie to come on so strong they can trade Jones—or, more likely, Murton—to fill a need.Or they could trade Pie in a package to land an impact player, hopefully one named Miguel Tejada.I hope Pie isn't traded, in large part because I have seen him flash his five-tool talents and also because I have bought into what I have heard about him from folks in the Cubs' farm system.Hendry talks about him as a Kenny Lofton-style leadoff man who will hit 10 to 20 homers a year. But Bobby Dickerson, who managed Pie at Double-A West Tenn last year, believes he could be a 30-homer man if he adjusted his approach and hit lower in the batting order."He loves to win," Dickerson said during the 2005 season. "That's the biggest thing I've seen. He really enjoys winning ballgames, and he always wins. Every team he has been on has made the playoffs, and three won championships."Dickerson praises Pie's unselfishness."Everybody who plays the game wants to win, but he thrives on it," Dickerson said. "A lot of players go 0-for-4, their team wins and there's not really any jubilation. He's the type of guy that when he goes 0-for-4, [if] the team wins, he's happy."I remember one time this year we had won six in a row. He's walking off the field going, 'My team! My team! My team is great!' He just enjoys being part of something special, and it [becomes contagious] around him."It's easy for me to say the Cubs need to remain patient with Pie, giving him another full year in the minor leagues. That's where a Pierre rental or a one-year contract with a right fielder would have seemed to be the ideal fit.But looking at the Cubs' roster as it stands now, how patient can Hendry be?They figure to make changes at four spots in the lineup from 2005. Pierre will be a major upgrade over Patterson in center field. Murton, who replaces Todd Hollandsworth as the primary left fielder, should be an upgrade but comes with no guarantees.The Ronny Cedeno-Neifi Perez combination at shortstop does seem an improvement from the Nomar Garciaparra-Perez-Cedeno mix in 2004. And—here's the bad news—Jones figures to be about a wash with Jeromy Burnitz in right.They finished with identical on-base-plus-slugging-percentage numbers in 2005: a very ordinary .757. The year before, Burnitz was a lot better, .915 to Jones' .742.Burnitz was an above-average fielder but showed his age late in the season, going through the worst slump of his career.But the Cubs are treating Jones like he's in a different class altogether, giving up their fourth-round draft pick in addition to the three-year commitment. That seems like a stretch.Jones is a complementary player, the kind who can be valuable if he is surrounded by above-average hitters. The Cubs have two in Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. Jones would look better if they had three—and the third was an elite hitter who played shortstop, like Tejada.Think an offer of Carlos Zambrano, Pie and Perez would get the Baltimore Orioles' attention?I do. The Cubs ought to be willing to give up Zambrano to get Tejada, especially if they still can add a free-agent starter (Kevin Millwood, Jeff Weaver or Brett Tomko would do).I would hate to see Pie traded, but if he could help bring Tejada, that could excuse it, especially if the argument next September is which member of a Cubs playoff team most deserves the National League MVP, Lee or Tejada?

Overheard

More than one source has claimed the Cubs dangled pitcher Mark Prior in multiteam trade talks that would land them premier Baltimore shortstop Miguel Tejada and eventually send Prior to a team in the American League West. Hmmm …

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Green Trade?

I don’t usually get excited about trade rumors. In fact, I rarely acknowledge them; so many rumors fly around during the off-season that keeping track of them is a fool’s errand. I try to wait until a player is solidly linked to the Cubs before I consider how that player will help or hurt the team.
But I have to make an exception today. Yes, I know the rumor has only shown up on one site, and that that site’s track record regarding Cubs moves has been spotty at best (though mlbtraderumors.com calling them out for lack of veracity is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a while). And yes, I know that even if talks were in progress, the player’s no-trade clause makes it very difficult to trade him to the Cubs. And yes, I know that even if they Cubs did get him, it would be costly. He’s owed $8M next year, $9.5M in ‘07, $2M remaining on a signing bonus, and has a $10M nututal option on ‘08 against a $2M buyout. Plus, we haven’t even gotten into what the Diamondbacks would want from the Cubs in return. Let’s just say I doubt Corey Patterson would be enough.
But still. Shawn Green in right field would be niiiice. He’s not the guy who hit 40 homers back-to-back for the Dodgers anymore. but he is a legitimate 20+ homer, 30+ doubles threat, a guy who knows how to walk, hits for power and average, plays a solid right field, and doesn’t miss a game. He bats left-handed, too, which would be a nice addition to the Cubs’ righty-heavy middle of the lineup.
OK, that’s enough. I know it isn’t going to happen. But leave an old man to his mid-winter, clearing-ice-off-the-sidewalk, imagining-the-Cubs-with-a-real-rightfielder, hot-stove dreams. At least for a few days.

Patterson in Right???

paul sullivan of the tribune is reporting comments by general manager jim hendry citing the possibility of installing korey the klown in right field for opening day 2006.this page said at the conclusion of 2005 that the continued employment of patterson by the cubs would be the surest indicator that 2006 would be absolutely no different than 2005 -- and further, that the current cub organization simply does not give the slightest shit about winning, instead content to concentrate on the efficient sale of nostalgia.in offering patterson arbitration, hendry would kill what meager value korey still has for this organization in ridding itself of him. one of the biggest reasons the cubs can't trade korey is because he makes $2.4mm -- and who would pay that for a fifth outfielder/pinch runner/likely triple-a player? i'll guess that those teams who would bother to take a flyer on korey were counting on his being declined and going into free agency, where they could sign him for a few hundred thousand dollars plus incentives. by offering him arbitration, hendry has fixed korey's salary at a minimum of $1.9mm -- per the basic agreement, the maximum reduction of player salary in any arbitration year is 20%.now -- who the hell is going to pay the klown $1.9mm to take up the 25th man's seat -- and give up something to do it? this will put most of the potential suitors out of the game. the cubs, had he signed after being declined arbitration, would have at least received draft pick compensation. korey is now only a possible chip to be used in a major salary dump by some other team onto the cubs -- and, realistically, considering the level of interest proffered by clubs to this point, he's not even very valuable as that.those who believe arbitration is a precursor to some trade deal should consider this point carefully. most who would have tried patterson in 2006 thought little enough of him to not risk any salary on him; how many would then make him an object of trade acquisition? i think the offering of arbitration to patterson is a concession by hendry not that he is bargaining for more value out of patterson in trade -- but that his search for a right fielder has been completely fruitless, and that he is forced to now consider patterson a legitimate option.this page warned two weeks ago when brian giles signed that he was the only valid free agent upgrade at the position, and his signing bade ill for the cubs. we then further made the case that abreu should be gotten for the price of mark prior, followed by a free agent signing of jeff weaver -- but hendry has refused to consider that option. as hendry stood still, the league moved on. cincinnati resolved its outfield logjam by sending sean casey and moving adam dunn to first, effectively taking hendry-favorite austin kearns off the market. trade candidate and object of dusty's smooth pitch milton bradley was moved to oakland. jacque jones has apparently received from kansas city the three-year offer he was asking for. cliff floyd is unlikely to leave the mets unless in trade for manny ramirez, reports sullivan. preston wilson remains on the free agent market, but is expensive, will want multiple years and represents a downgrade from burnitz. luis gonzalez might be available, but is set to earn $11.5mm in 2006 and in decline, again representing no real upgrade from burnitz. a rumored deal for texas' kevin mench probably involved todd walker, then leaving hendry with yet another hole to fill -- and mench too is no improvement on burnitz and righthanded as well.the field of viable candidates had narrowed to one real option -- aubrey huff, a left-handed reasonable-obp power bat who could play right servicably. tampa bay, his current employer, is probably not ignorant of the cubs situation, and almost certainly has felt free to raise the asking price as other options faded into obscurity. a high asking price in prospects is a difficult one for hendry to meet, as we have articulated in detail recently. other teams have been in on the bidding.this page now considers that hendry's offer of arbitration to patterson and his further comments probably indicate that the huff talks have stalled or even died. if this is so, the cubs will enter the 2006 season, in all likelihood, a rightfielder that is a downgrade from jeromy burnitz (if it is not again burnitz himself, who remains unsigned).in any case, if patterson if offered arbitration, he will most likely return to the cubs in 2006. putting aside hendry's ridiculous commentary on patterson's "potential", he could only be an end-of-the-bench contributor -- his record shows that he will never be a good player.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Tejada still in sights


The Red Sox, White Sox and Cubs are believed to be the most persistent suitors of disgruntled Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, according to a source close to Tejada yesterday, but other teams have been calling as well.
Tejada wants to be traded to a “winning team,” said the source, and the Red Sox continue to be atop, or near the top, of Tejada’s wish list. In recent days, Tejada has seemed to back away from last week’s statements requesting a change of scenery.
Much like the Red Sox had to initially keep silent or deny Manny Ramirez’ privately expressed desire to be traded, the Orioles have made every effort to have Tejada realize that he does himself and the Orioles no favors in trade discussions with other teams by repeating his disgruntled sentiments.
The Red Sox probably remain a longshot to snare Tejada with a trade offer of Ramirez. The Orioles want at least another pitcher in addition to Ramirez, and the Baltimore Sun reported that the Red Sox balked at giving up a hurler as well as a pitching prospect.
Lucchino in a lather
Feeling it necessary to take swipes at “certain tabloids,” team president and CEO Larry Lucchino resorted to tabloid-like terminology himself — “absurd,” “ridiculous,” and “hogwash” — on the airwaves of Red Sox’ rights-holder WEEI yesterday to deny speculation about his own future with the team, as well as his relationship with former GM and possible future baseball operations member Theo Epstein.
Columnists in both this paper and the Boston Globe, owned by The New York Times — a 17 percent stakeholder in the Sox — have speculated in recent days that Epstein and Lucchino were engaged in a power struggle that could result in Epstein overseeing baseball operations, with Lucchino left out of that equation and possibly bound for a new post with the Washington Nationals.
“That’s absurd, that’s just completely wrong,” Lucchino said. “I and my family have dropped our roots and we’re trying to plant our roots even more deeply in Boston. We love it here. It’s a great city to live in and a great region to live in. It’s the best place I have lived. As much as I have liked the other places, there’s just something exceptional that fits me and our personality here. And this rumor, just like those written in certain tabloids, are just hogwash.”
As for reports of a rift between him and Epstein, Lucchino said, “That’s ridiculous. I’ve known him for 14 years and I’ve talked to him a couple of times since his final departure decision that he made. I’m not going to get into that. I don’t feel the need to respond to that type of provocative inquiry.”
Lucchino used more subdued language to confirm the conventional wisdom that Epstein will be rejoining the Red Sox before too long.
Said Lucchino: “My general feeling is that he will find that there is a role in this organization in which he will feel comfortable and work productively and happily and make a real contribution.
More Marte doubt
A report in the respected Baseballprospectus.com repeated speculation about the right elbow of Andy Marte, the coveted Braves third base prospect the Red Sox received in the Edgar Renteria trade last week. Reports were circulating at the winter meetings that Marte had a tear of his UCL, but his agent, Don Mitchell, emphatically denied any health issue for Marte.
“There have been no doctor visits, no surgeries, no sore elbow, no anything,” Mitchell said. “He’s been playing in the Dominican (Republic’s winter league), he’s been hitting, he’s been throwing and he’s been having no physical problems whatsoever.” . . .
Fenway Park and the Red Sox will host an unusual but intriguing minor league doubleheader on Aug. 26. Both the Pawtucket (Triple-A) Red Sox and Lowell (Single-A) Spinners will play regular-season games in a Futures at Fenway event. The Spinners take on Oneonta at 2 p.m. After an intermission, the PawSox will host Rochester.