2008 Blue Jays Projections

Thursday, January 31, 2008

DH Frank Thomas
.262 AVG, 21 HR, 84 RBI
C Gregg Zaun
.238 AVG, 8 HR, 43 RBI
1B Lyle Overbay
.278 AVG, 18 HR, 66 RBI
2B Aaron Hill
.295 AVG, 14 HR, 72 RBI
3B Scott Rolen
.261 AVG, 16 HR, 74 RBI
SS David Eckstein
.277 AVG, 2 HR, 39 RBI
LF Shannon Stewart
.283 AVG, 8 HR, 58 RBI
CF Vernon Wells
.282 AVG, 22 HR, 91 RBI
RF Alexis Rios
.286 AVG, 29 HR, 97 RBI

SP Roy Halladay
13-9 W-L, 3.40 ERA, 132 K
SP A.J. Burnett
15-9 W-L, 3.72 ERA, 202 K
SP Dustin McGowan
14-7 W-L, 3.82 ERA, 127 K
SP Shaun Marcum
10-6 W-L, 4.34 ERA, 119 K
SP Jesse Litsch
14-10 W-L, 4.29 ERA, 95 K

NOTE: THIS IS A PROJECTION, SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

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Crasnick: Yankees Sign Ensberg

According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, the Yankees and Morgan Ensberg have agreed to a one year deal. This signing makes sense because the Yankees are looking for some pop at first base, and Ensberg has the potential to really hit for power. "I'm extremely excited about it,'' Ensberg said Thursday. "It's a great team and a great lineup. Most importantly, it's a team that's consistently playing for a World Series. After you've been in the league for a few years, you really start valuing that pursuit.'' Ensberg was on pace to hit nearly 40 homeruns just two years ago, but injury ended his season. I think this shows what the Yankees are thinking for their future at first base. They have seen what Juan Miranda is capable of and are not signing anyone long term to fill that position. It is obvious that they believe Miranda is the future at first base.

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Marlins Land Gonzalez

The Marlins and outfielder Luis Gonzalez have agreed to a one year deal worth 2 million dollars. Gonzalez did pretty well last year but it was obvious that his numbers are dropping. He batted .278 with 15 HR in 139 games last season for the Dodgers, but can play both corner outfield spots and first base. Not only that, but he will serve as a solid mentor to the young players. The Marlins continue to look for another pitcher, but have yet to find one. They were in talks with Mike Maroth early on, and might consider bringing him in on an incentive type deal. Other than that, I think they will just hope that their young pitchers can return to 2006 form.

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Orioles Offer Bedard Extension

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I feel like I have only talked about Erik Bedard and Johan Santana over the past couple of weeks, but here is the latest in the Bedard saga. The reason the trade is held up is because the Orioles are making one last push to sign Bedard. It is believed that he is looking for a seven year deal worth 100 million dollars, but might have to settle for a five year deal worth 75 million dollars. Still not bad, and I think if they do offer that he will take it. The Orioles are not known for signing pitchers to mega deals, so I think they are hoping he will sign to a hometown discount. However, I think they will trade him. They have the chance to acquire a proven pitcher, who is still young, and a very good outfielder with All-Star potential. To lock up Bedard and risk injury would only hurt the Orioles for the future. Although Angelos would love to keep his core guys together, my prediction is that he will be traded by the end of the week after serious talks fail to get anything done.

More on this as it develops.

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News and Notes: Santana Forced Trade

With news coming out that Johan Santana demanded a trade before Tuesday makes me think that he will get a deal done with the Mets and complete the trade. For those of you that have not heard, Santana said that if a trade was not done by Tuesday, he would refuse to waive his no-trade clause and would hit the free agent market after the season. So in the Twins defense, the Mets were the only team willing to make an offer under the circumstances and to get four top prospects instead of two, unproven draft picks makes the trade look better. Still, there seems to be a lot of disgust among Twins fans and rejoicing among Mets fans. Omar Minaya has always been operating under the win-now mentality, and this is a fine example of him doing so. Back when he first took over, he quickly acquired big name players Carlos Delgado, Paul Lo Duca, Carlos Beltran, and Pedro Martinez, among others. Now, he unloads several prospects for another big name in hopes of winning the World Series. I think this is a way to run a ball club, but I prefer more of the building the minor league system style better. But, by unloading your minor league system it means you must draft better players looking for bigger bonuses. I think it will work for the Mets at least the next couple of the years, before they trade for another big name player.

In other news...

Red Sox Shopping Crisp:
The Red Sox are shopping Coco Crisp hoping they can trade him by the end of next week. As for teams interested, there are not many, but we could see several teams jump in looking for a stop gap outfielder.

Jays May Trade Rios?: The Blue Jays have tried to trade Alex Rios all off season and might continue to do so this off season. Rios could probably land a lot more at the trade deadline, especially if he is hitting well, and it would allow the Blue Jays to avoid giving him big money. The Blue Jays have pretty good pitching and if they are able to trade Rios to a team like the Padres midseason, they could probably get several prospects that could help towards the future.

Reds back in Bedard hunt?: According to one Reds executive, the Reds might look to get back in on the Bedard race now that things have turned sour with the Mariners. I believe they would offer Joey Votto as the center piece, along with pitching prospect Johnny Cueto and at least one other prospect.

Podsednik in Colorado?:
Scott Podsednik is closing in on a minor league deal with Colorado. The deal includes an invitation to Spring Training, but I think Podsednik will do very well in Colorado.

Crede to Giants: The Giants and White Sox reportedly have a deal in place that would send Joe Crede to the Giants for at least two prospects. If Crede can get to Spring Training and prove that he can do well then they will go through with the trade. Otherwise, they will play with what they got.

Pirates like Bako?:
The Pirates are going after Paul Bako as their back up catcher. I think Paulino is in for a very good year, but Bako would be a very solid back up. Not only does he have experience in the NL Central, but he is very good with handling his pitchers, something that is hard to come by.

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Bedard, Roberts Trade Update

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The trade for Erik Bedard is not official, and probably won't be until the end of the week. It appears the Orioles brought Jones into Baltimore to check out his hip, and assuming that goes well, Bedard should be in Seattle by Monday. What happened earlier this week was probably just miscommunication by Jones and the reporters in Venezuela. Still, it seems like a deal will get done. Yes Orioles owner and "co-GM" Peter Angelos has to sign off on the trade but I think the Orioles realize that if they do not make a trade soon, the offers will only get worse. By trading Bedard, they clear up money to make a splash in the upcoming off seasons that feature better talent.

According to one MLB executive, the Brian Roberts trade to the Cubs hinges on the Erik Bedard trade. He believes that the trade would send Felix Pie, Sean Gallagher, and one minor league prospect to the Orioles for Roberts. Another good move for the Orioles, who would then have a solid lineup that has the potential to be very good in the future. Not only that, but they would clear up even more money, and ship out a possible distraction because Roberts' name was featured in the Mitchell Report. Here is what their lineup would like that after the two trades:

DH Aubrey Huff
C Ramon Hernandez
1B Kevin Millar
2B Eider Torres/Minor Leaguer
3B Melvin Mora
SS Luis Hernandez
LF Adam Jones/Luke Scott
CF Adam Jones/Felix Pie
RF Nick Markakis

SP Daniel Cabrera
SP Sean Gallagher
SP Adam Loewen
SP Troy Patton
SP Jeremy Guthrie/Matt Albers

I don't think they will be surprising anyone in the division in 2008, but they might be able to compete with the Blue Jays for third if some of the guys live up to their potential. Trading Roberts puts a hole at second base, and it is possible that prospect Eider Torres would take over, but probably unlikely. Don't read to much into this, it is still a long way from being over.

More later...

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2008 Astros Projections

C J.R. Towles
.284 AVG, 14 HR, 55 RBI
1B Lance Berkman
.286 AVG, 29 HR, 101 RBI
2B Kaz Matsui
.254 AVG, 2 HR, 33 RBI
3B Ty Wiggington
.274 AVG, 20 HR, 66 RBI
SS Miguel Tejada
.299 AVG, 23 HR, 86 RBI
LF Carlos Lee
.292 AVG, 36 HR, 119 RBI
CF Michael Bourn
.266 AVG, 5 HR, 35 RBI
RF Hunter Pence
.288 AVG, 28 HR, 88 RBI

SP Roy Oswalt
17-7 W-L, 3.33 ERA, 162 K
SP Wandy Rodriguez
10-11 W-L, 4.55 ERA, 158 K
SP Brandon Backe
8-11 W-L, 4.76 ERA, 77 K
SP Woody Williams
10-13 W-L, 4.93 ERA, 78 K
SP Felipe Paulino
6-14 W-L, 5.44 ERA, 68 K

NOTE: THIS IS A PROJECTION, SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

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Nationals Sign Estrada

Since Paul Lo Duca went down with a knee injury, the Nationals and catcher Johnny Estrada have agreed to a one year deal worth 1.25 million dollars. Estrada was acquired by the Mets earlier this off season but was released after they acquired Brian Schneider from the Mets. Estrada is a switch hitter, and this signing gives Jesus Flores more time to develop in the minors. Estrada hit .278 with 10 HR and 54 RBI last season for the Brewers, and should split time with Jesus Flores and Paul Lo Duca throughout the season.

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BREAKING NEWS: Mets Acquire Santana

The Mets have acquired pitcher Johan Santana for pitchers Kevin Mulvey, Delois Guerra, Phil Humber, and outfielder Carlos Gomez. The Mets have been given a 72-hour window to get a contract extension signed, and Santana is expected to be asking for twenty million dollars annually over five to seven years. What I expect to happen is the Mets give Santana a five year deal worth 20 million dollars annually, with incentive based options added on. Because the Mets won Santana, it makes me think that the Red Sox and Yankees pulled out of the running. Their offers were much better even if they were for less players. The Twins acquired four highly unproven players in this deal and probably won't be ready until 2009 or 2010. Although this is rebuilding for the Twins, I do not see this really helping like it has for the Athletics and Marlins. Santana was 15-13 with a 3.33 ERA last season for the Twins, but a switch to a run producing NL team with a solid bullpen should do wonders for his numbers. He is entering his prime, and although it is always a risk to lock up pitchers long term, this trade puts the Mets back on top in the NL East.

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Interview with Jack Egbert

Monday, January 28, 2008

This afternoon, I placed a call to Jack Egbert's former agent and not two hours later did I get a call back from Egbert himself. He was rather quiet, but I could tell from all his answers how confident he was with his game. Egbert is currently on the White Sox 40-man roster, and is number six on the depth chart for the starting rotation. Egbert has been very impressive over the past five seasons in the minors, and if he continues to play well, there is no doubt in my mind that he will be in the rotation for the White Sox. I want to thank him again for doing this for me, I really appreciate it.

ELI: What part of your game would you say was most improved while at Rutgers?

JACK: I think I grew as a whole. I learned the little things that you do not picked up at the lower levels and learned things in each game I pitched in. But, I really think I grew in just about every aspect of the game while at Rutgers.

ELI: What did it do for your confidence after doing so well in your first year after being drafted?

JACK: Oh it was great. I felt like I belonged. Going in as a low draft pick, I was not sure what to expect. It is easy to get caught up in that too, but I had a good approach. I wasn't cocky, I just went in and got the job done.

ELI: In 2006 you played in Single-A and Double-A. What sort of adjustments did you have to make to do well?

JACK: At the time, I was throwing well so I didn't have to do too much. I was on a roll. I was feeling good, so I kept doing what I was doing.

ELI: What are the biggest differences in Single-A and Double-A?

JACK: In Double-A, the hitters are much more patient. They have no problem sitting on a pitch. They wait for you to make a mistake while in Single-A, they are much more free swinging.

ELI: What did it mean to you to get put on the 40-man roster this off season?

JACK: It was great when I heard. You know, it is my fifth year in the minors. I have been working hard, taking it level by level. I am just excited that I get to go to big league camp and show them what I can do.

ELI: I always hear big league camps and minor league camps. Big league camps are invitations only. Are minor league ones as well?

JACK: No, at least not for the White Sox. For the Sox, everyone not invited to the big league camp reports to this big complex down in Arizona.

ELI: What have you been doing this off season to prepare for 2008?

JACK: I have been working out, throwing. Trying to build up my innings, it's been good.

ELI: You are listed at number 62 on the major league roster, what number would you change to if you make the major league roster?

JACK: Whatever they'll give me. I'll take any number to be on the White Sox. [Laughs]

ELI: How was the AFL this year?

JACK: It was cool. It was a great experience for my team because we won. But I was able to get some more innings in-

ELI: What would you say is the biggest thing a pitcher needs to get to level you are at now?

JACK: They need to be consistent, be able to throw strikes. You don't want to hurt yourself with mistakes. Or make it easy for the hitter.

ELI: Some say that players get worn down adding an extra month to their schedule. Did you feel that way in the AFL?

JACK: Actually no. We ended in early September and had the whole month off before the AFL starter. So to go from nearly shutting down to back in full swing was hard. It took some time to get back in the mode.

ELI: What stat are you most proud of looking back on your 2007 stats?

JACK: It is always good to keep your ERA down, and I was happy about that. But I don't like to walk anyone so to have low walks was nice.

ELI: Do you follow baseball during the offseason? What do you think of some of the moves the White Sox have made?

JACK: I follow it, but not as crazy as some. They seem like strong moves though. I don't really know much about them, but they look good on paper.

ELI: If you had one chance to strikeout one hitter, from the past or present, who would it be?

JACK: I am going to have to go old school on this one and go with Mickey Mantle.

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News and Notes: Tigers Talking Long Term

The Tigers are still in discussions about long term deals with both Miguel Cabrera and Curtis Granderson, but talks with Granderson appear to be going better. However, talks with Granderson did not even get to length or money, which would suggest they are just getting a feel for what each other might be thinking. Granderson made 410,000 last season, and it isn't eligible for free agency until 2011. He has put together two pretty good seasons. Last season he set several records but the year before was just average, so a deal similar to what Grady Sizemore got seems likely, maybe a little less. I think if Granderson puts off contract talks till next off season he has a better chance of getting a bigger deal, assuming he gets better.

Twins still have offer for Santana: The Twins still have an offer on the table for Johan Santana, and it is believed to a be a four year deal worth 20 million dollars annually. I doubt he will take the deal, but it is possible because he has said he wants to stay. Personally, I believe no trade will get done because teams are becoming impatient with the Twins and by the end of 2008, Johan Santana will sign a record breaking deal with the Red Sox, Yankees, or Mets.

Phillips likes Reds style: After Brandon Phillips broke out in for the Reds last season, he is hoping they plan to keep him for the rest of his career. Phillips is in a very good spot right now with the Reds. They are on the verge of becoming very good, and he has a guaranteed spot. It makes sense that he would want to be there for a long time.

Orioles deny trade report: Typical. The Mariners must have jumped the gun on this one but it has to be going down. I think the Orioles are just not ready to make it official because money and the final prospect is still up in the air. We'll see.

Luis Gonzalez turns down Marlins: The Marlins offered Luis Gonzalez two million dollars for one year and he turned it down. He is going to be lucky to find a job if he is turning down those kinds of offers.

Red Sox might trade pitcher anyways?: The Red Sox do not like the idea of going with six men in the rotation and might shop one in hopes of landing a big time outfielder. I see this coming at the deadline if Manny Ramirez is not producing. Personally, I do not think numbers this year will warrant 20 million dollars next year, even if he hits 40 homeruns. Could trading Clay Buchholz land Matt Kemp, one for one? Maybe. My prediction is that Wakefield or Schilling will go down and Buchholz will substitute in after spending time at Triple-A and at the MLB level.

Upcoming interviews: I interviewed business guru and sports agent Adam Bierman, along with Director of Player Development Jerry Merz of XTS sports, but have yet to write it up. I talked with Jack Egbert of the White Sox today, and will type that up tonight or tomorrow. In the next couple of weeks, I will be talking with Yankees pitcher LaTroy Hawkins, Cubs GM Jim Hendry, Sports agent Scott Shapiro, Athletics prospect Aaron Cunningham, Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb, and Hall of Fame Oriole Cal Ripken Jr! That is not all though, stay tuned!!

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White Sox Make Trade, Eye Another

The White Sox today traded David Aardsma to the Red Sox for pitchers Wily Mota and Miguel Socolovich. This trade gives the Red Sox the hard throwing right hander they need while it gives the White Sox some more bullpen depth. The pitchers they got are still in the low minors, but show potential to make it. I hear the Mota has a higher ceiling than Socolovich, but we'll see what happens. Also, the White Sox are on the verge of trading Brian Anderson to an unknown NL club. Of the clubs mentioned, it would not surprise me if he went to the Padres or Cubs. The Padres are looking for an outfielder who can platoon with Hairston and the Cubs need a right handed outfielder to platoon with Felix Pie. I expect a deal to be done by the end of the week.

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Stark: Phillies Sign Feliz

The Phillies and Pedro Feliz have agreed to a two year deal, according to ESPN.com writer Jayson Stark. With this signing, it is possible we see the Phillies trade Wes Helms, maybe to the Marlins. I think this signing is pretty good, but it definitely gives the Phillies one of the, if not, the best infield in baseball. Feliz had twenty homeruns with a .253 average last season, and should be slotted in the seventh spot behind Geoff Jenkins.

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Mariners Sign Wilkerson

The Mariners and Brad Wilkerson have agreed to a one year deal, suggesting that a deal for Erik Bedard is very close. Wilkerson did have some power last year, but this average was down. I do not think the Mariners stadium is the best for him as he tries to bounce back, but playing in the same division should help. Although the Orioles deny that a trade has gone through, this signing definitely means it is all but done.

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Bedard to Mariners for Jones, Others

Sunday, January 27, 2008

According to the Seattle Times, Mariners outfielder Adam Jones is leaving Venezuela to fly to Baltimore to take a physical. Obviously this means a deal is near completion, but for who?: "(Bill Bavasi) called me yesterday and told me the news. I've got to go to Baltimore tomorrow morning and handle things there. I'm the centerpiece of the deal on the Mariners side. It's an honor to get traded for such a highly talented pitcher as Bedard is. He's one of the best. Last year he finished up as arguably one of the top candidates for the Cy Young. He's that good, so for me it's an honor. You know, I like Seattle, but if I am in Baltimore, as I think now I am, I'm going to embrace it and have the best time of my life in Major League Baseball." Since George Sherill has not been told anything, I doubt he is involved. Last season, Bedard went 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA and 221 K before his season was ended short by injury. Yes there is risk bringing him in because scouts think his arm is just about ready to explode, but adding him to the rotation puts them back in contention with the Angels in the AL West. Jones, 22, has hit .230 in 73 major league games for the Mariners, but this track record suggests that he will be a superstar. I can't say I do not disagree with that, but I think we will see what Jones truly has to offer in 2009. 2008 will merely be a transition year for Jones, who should see some success, but I expect to see him really shine by 2009.

UPDATE: ACCORDING TO EXECUTIVES IN BOTH THE ORIOLES AND MARINERS FRONT OFFICE, THE DEAL FOR ERIK BEDARD IS NOT DONE. WHAT THIS MEANS IS THAT SOMEONE JUMPED THE GUN. MY GUESS IS THAT THE DEAL IS VERY CLOSE TO BEING DONE, BUT THEY ARE STILL WORKING ON THE FINAL PLAYERS AND CASH THAT WILL BE GOING TO THE MARINERS AND ORIOLES.

UPDATE 2: ACCORDING TO MLB.com, THE MARINERS WILL SEND ADAM JONES, GEORGE SHERILL, CHRIS TILLMAN, AND A PLAYER TO BE NAMED LATER FOR ERIK BEDARD.

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Sounding Off: Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribiune

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune is sounding off some needs around the league and I thought I should share them with you:

Yankees, First Base: I agree that the Yankees need a first baseman but they do not need a long lasting one. GM Brian Cashman has been impressed by Juan Miranda and probably expects him to take over by 2009. I think a successful platoon of Shelly Duncan and Jason Giambi will do, but a possible option is Ryan Klesko.

Cardinals, Pitching: This is the one thing that holds the Cardinals back from being a force in the division again. Yes there are other things, but if there pitching was not held together by Adam Wainwright, they would be a lot better. I think going after Kyle Lohse would be an option, especially because his price is down. Trading Chris Duncan for a pitcher like Jake Westbrook or Cliff Lee is a possibility also. They have several prospects that can be traded, but I do not see them being anything like they were for the next couple of seasons.

Dodgers, Power hitter: Acquiring Andruw Jones was a start, and I think they will be pleasantly surprised by Matt Kemp and James Loney numbers. I think they should try and trade Juan Pierre for a pitcher and go with Andre Ethier out in left. Ethier has better power and more potential than Pierre.

Red Sox, Right handed set up man: I think the Red Sox have a great bullpen but are lacking that power arm in the late innings. They went after Kerry Wood early on, but he will likely be a career Cub. A possible option would be bringing back fan favorite Keith Foulke for a minor league deal. Or they could take a chance on pitcher Antonio Alfonseca; however, he has struggled to keep a low ERA.

Phillies, Third base: Pat Gillick has struggled to find a long term third baseman since Scott Rolen but I think he has a successful platoon in Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs. Signing a third baseman would only clog the matter over there and I think they are better off going with that for the time being. Both of them did well, and there are several solid third baseman available next year.

Indians, Corner Outfield: The Indians are looking for a corner outfielder, but I think they will be okay with Franklin Gutierrez. As for left field, Jason Bay was an option that fell through. Other options include Chris Duncan, Shannon Stewart, and Luis Gonzalez.

Twins, Center Field: The Twins losing Torii Hunter hurt, and they are banking on acquiring one in the Johan Santana trade. For now, Craig Monroe and Jason Pridie will battle it out. If they found a way to acquire someone like Marlon Byrd, I think they would be better. Best case scenario, although unlikely, would be Juan Pierre.

Obviously there are more team needs, but I think Rogers hits some big ones in his piece.

More tomorrow.

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White Sox Struggle To Trade Uribe

The White Sox are starting to understand that the trade for Orlando Cabrera really does not make sense. It put Juan Uribe out of the lineup and with him making about five million dollars, they do not want to keep him on the bench. They began shopping him a little over a month ago but found no takers because all teams that may be interested are also interested in Nationals shortstop Felipe Lopez, who also lost his starting job. The only teams I see interested are the Orioles, Cardinals, and maybe the Red Sox. However, the Orioles have had interest in Felipe Lopez for awhile and are caught up in big trades involving Erik Bedard and Brian Roberts, so pursuing a trade for Juan Uribe might distract them. The Cardinals recently signed Cesar Izturis but there is no guarantee he will be starting. By adding someone like Uribe, they would have a successful platoon, but doubt that will happen. The best possibility, although still very unlikely, seems to be a swap of Juan Uribe for Coco Crisp. Crisp has always been a favorite among White Sox executives, and acquiring him would give them an experienced center fielder. I think the White Sox are stuck with Uribe for the 2008 season which is unfortunate because it will only lead to more frusteration in the Front Office, clubhouse, and stands.

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Sean Casey To Boston?

According to the Chicago Tribune, they believe that Sean Casey would be the next best fit in Boston. According to sources who asked to remain anonymous, Tony Clark is closing in on a deal with the Giants, meaning the Red Sox will look for a different backup. Although they would like to have someone who can serve as a back up for Mike Lowell, Sean Casey has a bat that would definitely improve the Red Sox bench. In 143 games last season with the Tigers, Casey batted .296 with 4 HR and 54 RBI. Not very impressive for someone of his size, but the Red Sox should be able to sign him to a rather small contract.

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Interview with Carlos Silva

When I was at the Winter Meetings, I ran into sports agent Scott Shapiro and asked him if he would be up for doing an interview in the weeks following the meetings. He was more than happy to do it and was even willing to set me up with Carlos Silva once he signed his contract. Friday afternoon, after Carlos had settled in and prepared for this weekends Mariners Fan Fest, he gave me 15 minutes of his time to answer my questions. Silva has been in the league since 2002, spending time with the Phillies, Twins, and will now be apart of the Mariners for at least the next four years. I want to thank him again for doing this interview for me, I really appreciate it.

ELI: Congrats on the contract with the Mariners. What was the free agent process like for you?


CARLOS: It was fun, something new to me. We felt like we were in a good position and that teams had made solid offers, so it was great.

ELI: What kind of role did you play in negotiations?


CARLOS: A good amount. We were in Minnesota during the beginning of the off season, mostly talking with the Mariners.

ELI: What were your main reasons for signing with the Mariners?

CARLOS: You know, I don't really have a favorite team. I was looking to play for a winning team, and I liked the Mariners stadium. It is a pitchers park, and I like that. They also gave us what we wanted, which was important.

ELI: What is baseball like back home in Venezuela?

CARLOS: Very, very different. Here in the United States, it is at the largest stage. There is a lot of passion among the fans. They are excited, which makes it very exciting.

ELI: Can you tell me how you were signed back in 1996? What was that like for you and your family?

CARLOS: It was hard. But it was an exciting moment, a dream come true. But for my family, it was hard for them to see me come and go. But they were proud to see me be able to play baseball, so it was a great moment.

ELI: When you first came up with the Phillies, you were a reliever. Was it hard to make the switch to starting?

CARLOS: Actually it wasn't. I was a starter my whole career in the minors, about five or six years. When I got called up the Phillies put me in the bullpen because the rotation was full. It was a great experience though. They had a lot of veteran pitchers, some old guys, who really taught me a lot.

ELI: What was it like to be traded from the Phillies during the 2003 off season? Did you see it coming?

CARLOS: It was good, but I wasn't expecting it. After the season, they wanted me to pitch in Winter Ball. I was in Venezuela when I got the call that I was traded to the Twins. I was sad, very sad. It hit me hard, like 'wow.' But once I walked in to the Twins clubhouse and met everyone and learned that I had an opportunity to start, I started to feel comfortable. Now that I am with the Mariners, I want to thank the Twins for the opportunity they first gave me to start, because that is all I wanted to do.

ELI: During the 2007 season, which game that you pitched in sticks out as your favorite?


CARLOS: A lot of games do, but the day after my son was born, I pitched a nine-inning shutout. You know, I hadn't been getting much sleep in the nights leading up to it, and the day of the game I went from the hospital to the stadium. It was something special, it was the first gift for my son.

ELI: When you are starting, what time will you arrive at the stadium and what will you do?


CARLOS: Well the night before, I go to bed early. I like to rest a lot before I start. I'll eat light, and try not leave my house. [Assuming it is a 7:10 game CT], I will arrive at about 4:00 p.m. I'll read the scouting reports, think about the game. Then when it gets closer, I'll start doing the typical stuff: throwing, stretching, running, right up until game time.

ELI: You have played in Winter Ball leagues throughout your career. What adjustments do you make in those leagues?


CARLOS: As a player, you always have to make adjustments. Your whole career is adjustments. I went to Winter Ball to work on something specific. This time, I went to work on my breaking ball, to get more command of it.

ELI: Did you notice any change when you switched from NL to AL? Was it hard to adjust?


CARLOS: I try to keep that stuff out of my mind. Yes, you do have to face nine batters, but when it is all said and done, it is the same baseball. If you think it is harder, it is going to be harder.

ELI: Did you enjoy pitching in the Dome? Did you need to make nay changes when switching to play outside?

CARLOS: Only if it was cold. I loved the Metrodome though, and I was really glad to be apart of the Twins.

ELI: Who would you say was the biggest joker in the Twins clubhouse?


CARLOS: Carlos Silva. [Laughs] I like to play around, keep the team loose. If there is trouble coming, I like to yell, talk it out. I keep it clear for the team.

ELI: I like that, when it is all said and done, you still need to have fun, right?

CARLOS: Exactly. There has to be jokes, you have to be loose.

ELI: Do you have a favorite stadium to pitch in on the road?

CARLOS: Actually before now, it was Safeco. I love Seattle, it is a nice, big stadium. But besides that, I like Detroit.

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2008 Angels Projections

DH Gary Matthews Jr.
.270 AVG, 14 HR, 64 RBI
C Mike Napoli
.262 AVG, 18 HR, 49 RBI
1B Casey Kotchman
.281 AVG, 18 HR, 72 RBI
2B Howie Kendrick
.313 AVG, 11 HR, 54 RBI
3B Chone Figgins
.306 AVG, 8 HR, 58 RBI
SS Erick Aybar
.252 AVG, 4 HR, 36 RBI
LF Garrett Anderson
.286 AVG, 17 HR, 83 RBI
CF Torii Hunter
.269 AVG, 24 HR, 94 RBI
RF Vladimir Guerrero
.315 AVG, 34 HR, 112 RBI

SS Brandon Wood
.266 AVG, 13 HR, 52 RBI

*UPDATE INCLUDES INJURIES OF LACKEY AND ESCOBAR AND POSSIBLE REPLACEMENTS*

SP John Lackey
11-7 W-L, 3.85 ERA, 118 K
SP Kelvim Escobar
8-9 W-L, 4.12 ERA, 113 K
SP Jon Garland
12-9 W-L, 4.40 ERA, 107 K
SP Jered Weaver
15-6 W-L, 3.32 ERA, 144 K
SP Joe Saunders
9-12 W-L, 4.79 ERA, 113 K

SP Ervin Santana
14-8 W-L, 4.54 ERA, 152 K
SP Nick Adenhart
7-10 W-L, 4.77 ERA, 87 K
SP Nick Green
4-6 W-L, 5.36 ERA, 62 K

NOTE: THIS IS A PROJECTION, SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

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Orioles Should Trade Bedard, Now

The Orioles have been trying to trade Erik Bedard for over a month now, and it appears that Bedard is feeling unwanted. Bedard has been shopped to the Cubs and Mariners aggressively over the past couple of weeks, and I think Bedard was hoping they would try to lock him long term rather than try and trade him. So what does this mean for the Orioles this season? Personally, I think this will cause tension in the Orioles clubhouse and may lead to poor performance from Bedard. If I was Andy McPhail, I would take the deal the Mariners are offering for Bedard because not only will they be getting several top prospects, but they might clear some tension in the clubhouse. We'll see what happens, but the Orioles should be looking to make a trade.

In other news...

- The Red Sox and Yankees appear to be out of Johan Santana trade talks.

- The White Sox are working on a contract extension for Bobby Jenks.

- Marlon Byrd talks with the Cubs are still alive.

- Jason Bay is upset with Pirates lack of moves.

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White Sox Might Bring Back Familiar Face

Friday, January 25, 2008

The White Sox are hosting their annual Winter Warm up, aka "Sox Fest," and might be looking to make a move to fight off their aggressive fans. According to the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, the White Sox are looking into signing pitchers Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. Both pitchers are coming off surgeries, but could make the squad nonetheless. I heard last week that the White Sox were losing interest in Colon because of his shady medical records, but that might not be so. As for Garcia, he was very good with the White Sox and I know he is a fan of Ozzie Guillen, so he might be willing to return. I know the Mets were interested, but with the signing of Hernandez, it seems less likely. Calls put in to Kenny Williams were not immediately returned, but I expect something to happen sooner rather than later to pump up the fans and players for the 2008 season.

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Twins Lock Up Morneau, Cuddyer

The Twins announced today that they have extended the contracts of first baseman Justin Morneau and outfield Michael Cuddyer. Morneau, who won the American League MVP in 2006, received a six year deal worth 80 million dollars, a deal that should look like a bargain in a couple years as free agent prices spike. Morneau is still improving, and according to one AL scout, has his best years ahead of him. By having Morneau, Cuddyer, and Mauer all locked up gives the Twins a solid negotiation angle when trying to lure a big name player long term. Knowing that this locker room is stable and will be for a long time could lure a player, along with there brand new stadium coming in a couple seasons.

Cuddyer, who batted .276 with 16 HR, signed a three year deal worth 23 million dollars. Cuddyer has been an everyday player since 2004, and has put up pretty consistent numbers since then. I think this is a good deal for the Twins although he may lose his spot if several solid outfielders come over from the Mets, Red Sox, or Yankees through trade. Nonetheless, it gives them a familiar face in the clubhouse, and a versatile position player.

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Mets, Hernandez Close

According to MLB.com, the Mets and Livan Hernandez are closing in on a believed three year deal. Well, I can't say I haven't called this. I have been saying this since the very beginning of the offseason. This is a good move for the Mets, who have not done anything to improve their squad since September. Hernandez should look pretty good with the Mets considering his brother is also there. Also, it should push Mike Pelfrey from the rotation for the time being, which should allow him to ease in to the MLB in a less stressful role.

With this signing though, does it mean that they are out of the Santana race? No, I don't think so. The Mets rotation has a lot of question marks in it. El Duque has some health problems, Martinez might have some health problems. By acquiring Johan Santana, it would give them a number one starter for the next several seasons. Personally, I think they should go through with the trade, but the Mets just are not ready to give up on Fernando Martinez.

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Padres' Young Someone to Watch

Padres pitcher Chris Young has always been a good pitcher, but has done something different with his workout to put him over the top. Young was 9-8 last year with a 3.12 ERA in 30 games, but is 35-22 with a 3.68 ERA in four major league seasons. This offseason, he added pilates to his work outs to increase core strength, and has been working consistently in hopes of having a solid, healthy season. Young has always had the 'stuff' to be a successful pitcher, but has not put up numbers that get him noticed like other pitchers. If he can increase his arm strength and push later into games, he will be quite a 1-2 punch with Jake Peavy. Peavy's style is much more side-to-side while Young, who happens to be 6-10, is much more up-and-down. As you prepare your fantasy teams, star Young's name as someone to snag in the later rounds.

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Pirates Hope To Sign Chacon

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Free agent Shawn Chacon is still in talks with the Pirates about a long term deal. Chacon, who was 5-4 with a 3.94 ERA in 64 games, has been a key asset for the Pirates over the past two seasons. Not only is he just 30, but he was the Pirates 'utility pitcher' last season having pitched in the rotation and bullpen. Some of the Pirates young pitchers are not progressing as fast as some had hoped, so having Chacon available allows them to use their money towards better upgrades. However, do not assume that he is going to the Pirates. His agent, Danny Horwits, said that they are still talking to several teams pursuing his services. I'm not sure what Chacon is looking at right now, but expect it to be in between Octavio Dotel and J.C. Romero's contracts.

Mike Matheny looking to make comeback?: The Cardinals and Mike Matheny are talking about a potential comeback for the catcher, who ended his career early after several concussions. However, he has been working out and has reported no discomfort after them. Although I think he is a long shot to make the team, he was a pretty good catcher for the Cardinals at the time. His numbers don't look that way, but he worked very well with his pitchers

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Foulke Prepares For Comeback

Keith Foulke threw for over twenty teams last week in attempt to make a comeback, and many teams were impressed by the workout. Among them, the Diamondbacks appear to be the most aggressive. Foulke did not pitch last season but was arguably one of the best closers in the game in the early 2000s. I think this is a solid move for the Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks surprised many when they traded Jose Valverde to the Astros and although they have potential closer Brandon Lyon, signing Foulke would allow them to play Lyon where he pitched successfully all last season. I'm sure this will be a one year contract loaded with incentives, but it should be good nonetheless.

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Pirates Sign Wright

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Pirates and free agent pitcher Jaret Wright have agreed to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. Wright has been hampered by injuries after signing a three year deal worth 21 million dollars with the Yankees in 2004. However, he is just 32, and is 68-60 in his career, so there is still a chance he can comeback to help the Pirates. I think there is little to no downside with this signing, and it could actually come back to help their young, unproven rotation. The Nationals and Mets were reportedly showing some degrees of interest.

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News and Notes: Clark to Beantown?

The Red Sox have engaged in talks with free agent Tony Clark and according to Boston.com, he is very interested in playing for Boston. Clark will be a great bench player in Boston, assuming he signs. I think he will be an upgrade over Eric Hinske, despite his age. Clark brings his experience and still solid play to the stadium everyday and should be able to help young players Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz ease into playing everyday at the MLB. Now that it is so late in the off season, the Red Sox might be able to get him accept a one year deal.

Yankees Cano wants long term:
Robinson Cano is interested in signing a long-term deal with the Yankees, but probably won't get one until he gets closer to free agency. The Yankees are known for waiting until their players are closer to free agency before locking them up.

Hinske likely heading to Arizona?: Free agent Eric Hinske is reportedly talking with the Diamondbacks, and announcement is expected by the end of the week. Although Hinske struggled in Boston, I think he would be a good player for the Diamondbacks bench.

White Sox like Lowry?: The White Sox might pursue a trade for pitcher Noah Lowry. Lowry is being shopped by the Giants, and could definitely land Joe Crede from the White Sox. Stay tuned.

Red Sox bring in Kolb, Miceli: The Red Sox have agreed to deals with Dan Kolb and Dan Miceli. This deal is a solid move by the Red Sox because it gives them two solid veteran pitchers in case one on their major league roster goes down.

Indians lock up Betancourt: The Indians signed Rafael Betancourt to a two year deal with a club option for 2010. Considering the year he had and the demand for a solid bullpen, this is a great move for the Indians.

Rays banking on Shields: James Shields signed a four year contract today worth 11.25 million dollars, but the deal holds three club options that that make the deal worth a possible 38 million dollars. Shields was 12-8 with a 3.85 ERA in his first full season in the majors last year, and pitched over 200 innings. A little risky locking him up before Spring Training to see how the arm is, but still, it shows the Rays desire to win.

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Cubs, Orioles Trade Update

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Several outlets are reporting the Cubs are only pursuing Brian Roberts. However, the fact that rumors have been coming out everyday with a different story probably means that talks are not very far at all. We'll see, but I doubt anything gets done. The Cubs are not ones to give up too much and the Orioles are really looking for a lot in return. The Mariners seem more willing to make a trade for Bedard and it is possible they would approach them about Roberts and Bedard, although that is probably unlikely. The Cubs are reportedly looking for a right-handed hitter, and I have been hearing that Marlon Byrd and Khalil Greene are on their radar.

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Mets In Talks With Perez

The Mets plan to meet with free agent pitcher Odalis Perez. This is a typical move by Omar Minaya, who is known for picking up struggling pitchers hoping they can turn it around. Perez, 30, went 8-11 with a 5.57 ERA in 137 innings last season, but has seen success in the National League. Not only that, but in eight games, Perez is 2-2 with a 2.81 ERA in 32 innings at Shea Stadium. I think this is a good move for the Mets, but only if Perez is used in a spot-starter role. I think Perez should be allowed to compete with Pelfrey and Humber for the fifth spot, but would probably help the team more from the bullpen.

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Twins After Miller?

According to one MLB GM, since the Twins missed out on Jeremy Affeldt, they have set their sights on free agent Trever Miller. Miller, who went 0-0 with a 4.86 ERA in 76 games, is looking for a multi-year deal. The Rays were showing some interest, but might back out since he is looking for at least two guaranteed years. Miller is just 34, and would probably take a deal like Octavio Dotel's of two years at eleven million. It is still very possible that Miller will return to Houston, but it does not look like talks have progressed far, or at all. I do not expect their to be too much interest beyond those teams, but we could see the Braves come in looking for a veteran for a year or two. I expect a deal to get done by the end of the month, so stay tuned.

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Greene to Angels?

The Padres have reportedly been shopping shortstop Khalil Greene to several teams. One team is the Angels, who may be willing to part with Reggie Willits in a trade. Acquiring Willits would give them the long term outfielder they need. Many think the Padres could also land Erik Aybar, who could definitely help the Padres as well. In 136 games, Willits hit .293 with 0 HR, 34 RBI, 27 SB, and an OBP of .391. He would make for a great leadoff guy for the Padres, and a solid center fielder when Jim Edmonds leaves. Greene, who batted .254 with 27 HR and 97 RBI, is also drawing interest from the Cubs, Cardinals, Red Sox, and Orioles.

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Padres After Murton?

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Padres continue to look for a long-term outfielder and have set their sights on Matt Murton. Personally, I do not blame them. Murton has the potential to be a very good outfielder in the near future. He hits for power, but can put up a good average as well. He is blocked in Chicago by Soriano and Fukudome, so has no future there. It is possible that he will be in a trade for Brian Roberts, but if the Padres come back offering a pair of pitching prospects, I am sure the Cubs would be all for it, especially if they unload their system to Baltimore. Murton, 26, hit .281 with 8 HR in 94 games for the Cubs. But in 289 career games, he has hit .296 with 28 HR and a .365 OBP. Other teams that might be eying him include the Rangers and Indians.

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Tony Clark Race Heating Up

The race for Tony Clark is heating up, with the Giants, Red Sox, and Mariners showing interest. I have said it all along that I think the Giants are going to take him. Not only do they need a first baseman, but Clark is a leader in the clubhouse, and should do well there. However, the Giants have a lot of veterans and might not be interested in adding another one, but that hasn't stopped them this off season. The Mariners have a good fight because they probably have more at-bats to offer Clark. He will play a lot of first and some DH, assuming Richie Sexson doesn't 'breakout.' In 113 games last season, Clark batted .247 with 17 HR and 51 RBI. Playing in Seattle might bring down his numbers a bit, but we can only wait and see.

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Reaction Time

Cardinals Extend Molina: The Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina have agreed to a four year deal worth 15.5 million dollars.

REACTION: Not bad, money wise. But Molina only hit .275 with 6 HR and 40 RBI in 111 games last season. However, he is just 25 and is very solid behind the plate. A close friend and major league scout told me that Molina can call a very good game, which is always important with a catcher. There are not many good catchers available right now, so to lock up an average one could turn out to be good in the long run.

White Sox Sign Dotel: The White Sox and Octavio Dotel have agreed to a two year deal worth 11 million dollars.

REACTION: Dotel did very well for the Royals last season and should help the White Sox out in the 'pen. The money isn't as extreme as Linebrink, which is good.

Cubs, Orioles talks back on?: The Cubs and Orioles have reportedly been given the go ahead to get a deal done. According to Phil Rogers, the deal would send Erik Bedard and Brian Roberts to the Cubs for at least seven prospects, including both Sean Gallagher and Felix Pie.

REACTION: Do it. This is a good trade for both sides. It gives the Cubs the upper hand in the division and allows them to pursue a Marlon Byrd trade, or sign someone like Kenny Lofton. Unloading your system is not always a bad thing, it just means that you must go out and draft players that will ask for more money. The Cubs will be able to keep Jeff Samardzija, along with Tyler Colvin, and have other prospects that will not be included in the deal. Although they acquire someone at the top of the order, Bedard has had some durability problems, which you'd hate to see happen if you unload seven prospects.

Colon stock falling: The three top teams in the Colon race appear to be losing interest.

REACTION: This definitely means that something is still not right which means he will probably have to take a minor league deal. I don't consider them out yet because they might be willing to give a minor league deal, but we'll see. Teams that had interest in Colon included the Mets, White Sox, Indians, and Royals.

More coming soon...

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Royals Sign Tomko

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Royals and Brett Tomko have agreed to a one year deal worth three million dollars, a sign that talks with Bartolo Colon went south. Tomko was 4-12 with a 5.55 ERA and 105 K with the Dodgers and Padres last season, and probably has spot at the bottom of the Royals rotation. I like this signing by the Royals. Although Tomko has never been an All-Star type pitcher, he could help the Royals with his experience, and might get a boost being in a younger clubhouse. The Royals need depth, and that is exactly why he was brought in.

Attention Cubs!: I have been getting some emails over the weekend about the Marlon Byrd rumor. I have heard it is just speculation, but why not sign Kenny Lofton? Lofton is a good one year option and can be traded at the deadline for more than he is worth. Lofton was a favorite of Cubs fans and would probably welcome a return to outfield knowing he would be spending time between right and center.

Hinske to Diamondbacks?: Eric Hinske is closing in on a deal with an unknown team, according to the Boston Herald. They think it might be the Diamondbacks, but their bench is pretty good. It might be the Giants, who are looking for a corner infielder.

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Rockies Extend Tulowitzki

The Rockies and Troy Tulowitzki have agreed to a six year extension worth 30 million dollars. The deal, which is pending a physical, is the largest deal for any major leaguer under two years experience. This is a great deal for the Rockies who now can focus in on other young players to lock up like Brade Hawpe or Garrett Atkins. Tulowitzki batted .291 with 24 HR and 99 RBI and led all shortstops in fielding percentage, assists, and double plays turned. I think the future of the Rockies is not Matt Holliday, mostly because his agent is already pushing him towards the market. And although I think it is best for Matt Holliday to stay in Colorado where he will excel in power, the money might pull him elsewhere. If they can lock up Ubaldo Jimenez, Brad Hawpe, and Garrett Atkins, I think they will have a solid group to take into the future. They have Jayson Nix, who is already showing potential, and in the rotation they have Francis, Morales, Jimenez, and Hirsh, along with Aaron Cook. The Rockies are in a tough division, but there is no doubt in my mind that they will compete the whole way through.

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Red Sox Like Wilkerson?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Red Sox are expressing interest in outfielder Brad Wilkerson, a sign that talks with Bobby Kielty are dead. Wilkerson struggled with the Rangers last season hitting .234 with 20 HR and 62 RBI in 119 games, but could make for a solid bench player. His agent, Scott Boras, hasn't lowered his asking price from three years at seven million dollars annually, so I don't expect anything to get done until he backs off those. The Red Sox already have too many outfielders, and should probably look to trade Coco Crisp before they add one more. Wilkerson is being pursued by several teams, but it is believed that the Red Sox are the front-runners because of Wilkerson's love for Boston.

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Mets Remain Interested In Hernandez

The Mets, Yankees, and Red Sox are still waiting on the Twins to make a deal, but no deal seems close at the moment. The Red Sox would love to have Johan Santana but have a six man rotation right now, so he is just a luxury, not a necessity. Who knows where Hank Steinbrenner stands anymore, but if they are interested, he would probably push Joba Chamberlain back to the bullpen to make room. The Mets appeared close to a deal just a week or so ago, but since the Twins asked for Fernando Martinez, their desire to get a trade done wearing off.

The Mets have had interest in free agent pitcher Livan Hernandez this whole off season. Talks never progressed very far, but they are believed to be picking up again now that the Twins are asking for Fernando Martinez. Hernandez was 11-11 with a 4.93 ERA in 33 games for the Diamondbacks last season, but his playoff performance and ability to rack up innings makes him more desirable. According to major league sources, Hernandez has backed off his demands some, which makes him even more desirable. Not only that, but he might be willing to take a discount to play his half-brother, Orlando Hernandez, also a pitcher on the Mets. Other teams that are interested are believed to be the Marlins, Cubs, Royals, and Astros.

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Reds Sign Affeldt

The Reds and pitcher Jeremy Affeldt have agreed to a one year deal worth 3 million dollars, according to Ken Rosenthal. Although some call Affeldt's last season numbers a fluke, this is a great move by the Reds. Affeldt went 4-3 last season with a 3.51 ERA and 46 K. However, he is 25-27 in his career with a 4.74 ERA. The Reds were the fifth worst team in ERA and have address that issue this off season by not only signed Affeldt, but adding closer Francisco Cordero and Edinson Volquez. Affeldt was supposedly being pursued by the Astros, Cubs, Mets, and Mariners, but the Reds come up on top. The deal is believed to be loaded with incentives.

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Interview with Cliff Floyd

On Thursday, I called the agent of Cliff Floyd to set up an interview. Not two hours later did I get a call from Floyd saying he would love to do an interview. Earlier this morning, I gave him a call and we got it done. Not only that, but we shared ideas about the Sale of the Cubs, and other pressing issues around the game. Floyd recently signed a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, and seems really excited about the 2008 season. I want to thank him again for doing this interview for me. I also I want to thank his agent, Sam Levinson, for setting this up for me on such short notice, I really appreciate it.

ELI: Your high school stats were very impressive in the final two years. With that said, what was going through your mind as the draft approached?

CLIFF: I thought that if I went in the first round, I'd take another look at it. My mother really wanted me to go to school and further my education so I definitely kept that in mind. I think that was on my mind more than anything, pleasing my mother. But when I was taken in the first round, I decided to sign.

ELI: Do you remember which teams you had talked with, if any?


CLIFF: Yeah I talked to Cleveland, who I think were before the Expos, and the Cubs. I was told the Cubs were a stone possibility, but they thought I might be distracted playing for my hometown. I think they ended up taking Doug Glanville and the Indians took Manny Ramirez.

ELI: You were first traded in 1997, what was that like?

CLIFF: You hear about trades all the time and when they finally happen, it is like a reality check. You never know how it feels until it happens. You have established a home, friends, family, so it is not as easy as it seems.

ELI: Can you describe your feelings with two outs in the bottom of the eleventh when Edgar Renteria got the base hit to win?

CLIFF: Now that it was so late in the game, we didn't have too many feelings. It was like we were running on empty. You know your stomach doesn't have the butterflies anymore, it was just who is going to get the big hit. There was a huge rush when the bases were loaded, but at that point, we knew we were going to win. It was just who was going to get the hit.

ELI: In 2002, you spent the season with three teams, was it hard to adjust to a new clubhouse and your role with the team?

CLIFF: Yeah definitely. Like I said, it is hard to pick up and move. You establish yourself in one area, then you have to move and you have to do it quickly. You have to find a place for your family and the team that acquired you doesn't want you as a fill in player, they need you to produce. So there is pressure. But once you get settled, it's all good.

ELI: People have said that you were loved by the New York Met fans, can you tell me what makes them different than everybody else?

CLIFF: Yeah they are great fans. They are very dedicated. Not only that, but they understand the game, they have passion, they don't disrespect the stadium. You know at the end of the day, if you can play in New York City, the highest market for sports, you can play anywhere.

ELI: How exciting was it for you to return home and play with the Cubs?

CLIFF: It was beautiful. I got to come home, see my dad. I had more day games so I could see him more because he was sick. And I got to play at Wrigley Field, where so many great players have played. Players like Rick Sutcliffe, Lee Smith, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks. He is Mr. Cub, all Cubs fans know him. Also, they've got the greatest fans in baseball, which was great to be surrounded by all the time.

ELI: You made some pretty good catches up against the wall at Wrigley, did it leave you with any bruises or scratches?


CLIFF: Man I'll tell you, that is not a good place to catch a ball, it is not fun. You have to know the elements, the wind, the sun. The sun in right field might be the worst in baseball. During the day, that might be the toughest position around. And the field conditions were not great last year, but I wouldn't give up playing at Wrigley for nothing.

ELI: Have you had a chance to talk with any of your new teammates? What can we expect from you guys this year?


CLIFF: I haven't yet. You know, unless you sign a long term deal you really don't get a chance to talk with anyone until Spring Training. That is when everything falls into place. You know we are in a tough division, but this is an exciting team. It is going to be fun. Our GM, Andrew Friedman, has done a great job putting this team together. Also, you cannot go to Spring Training feeling any doubt. You have to look forward, come in healthy, and eliminate some of the off the field things.

ELI: Out of all the stadiums you have played at, which is your favorite? Which has the best clubhouse?


CLIFF: My favorite has to be Dodger Stadium. It is a beautiful park, great announcer, the fans are really close. You know, you can't beat Vin Scully when it comes to announcing. As for a clubhouse, probably Arizona. It is nice and wide, clean, good food, good lounge chairs. You know, you give me a clubhouse with good food and I'm fine.

ELI: I bet Arizona is nice after spending a season in the narrow Wrigley Field clubhouse.

CLIFF: To be honest, I think they should renovate Wrigley Field. I know some of the fans might not be for it, but it would definitely help the team.

ELI: Yeah, as a fan, I rather them renovate then change the name. If they rebuilt a stadium and kept some of the things like the name, scoreboard, and ivy, that would be great.

CLIFF: Yeah exactly. But, business is money. Still, anyone that buys the Cubs would never mess with the name.

ELI: If you could face one pitcher from the past, who would it be?


CLIFF: Probably Lee Smith. Just how he went about his business. And he is not in the Hall, but he played the game right, he was soft spoken. That's who I would want to face.

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Arbitration and More!

Almost every team in the league is working on arbitration deals for their players and here is how that is going:

Tigers sign Cabrera: The Tigers avoided arbitration with Miguel Cabrera, but are hoping that they can work out a long term deal. Cabrera is young, he lost some weight, and is gearing up for another big year. If he isn't resigned soon, he could be looking at a nine to ten year deal worth 200 million dollars.

Phillies, Howard not close: It is believed that Howard is looking for ten million dollars while the Phillies are offering just about seven. If this were to head to arbitration, I think that Howard would win.

Nationals not finished yet: The Nationals still have two cases to workout: One with John Rauch, who lead the majors with 88 appearances, and Felipe Lopez, who is coming off a poor season.

Yankees likely heading to arbitration: The Yankees are likely heading to arbitration with Chien-Ming Wang and Robinson Cano. No worries here if you are a Yankees fan. The Yankees are known to dish out long term deals only when they need to.

Youkilis wants to go long term: The Red Sox and Kevin Youkilis are still working on a one year deal. Youkilis would love to work out a long term deal though.

In other news....

- The White Sox have not yet finished a deal with Octavio Dotel, but I am hearing they are close.

- According to the Chicago Sun Times, Orioles owner Peter Angelos called off a deal that would have sent seven prospects, one of them Rich Hill, to the Orioles for Erik Bedard and Brian Roberts. One Cubs source I talked to late last night said that they were hoping to get a deal done so they could announce it at this weekends convention.

Orioles President Andy McPhail calls the report pure-fiction and says talks with both the Cubs and Mariners are not dead.

- One unknown team has pulled out of the running for Bartolo Colon, another sign that he is not healthy yet. However, the White Sox and Royals are still interested.

- Sammy Sosa will not be back with the Rangers, and is looking for a job where he can have at least 450 at bats. I wonder where he will end up, if anywhere.

- Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz has been doing a lot of work this off season to strengthen his shoulder, and according to a close source, all is well.

Executives favor Andy LaRoche: According to one major league source, Dodgers executives favor Andy LaRoche at third base over Nomar Garciaparra. Maybe this means Garciaparra will be used as a utility infielder.

Rays make room for Longoria: The Rays are hoping that Evan Longoria will be ready to play everyday at third base next season. Hoping that this will happen, they have told Aki Iwamura that he will be playing second base next season.

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News and Notes: Braves Talking With Teixeira

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Braves and Mark Teixeira agreed to a one year deal today worth 12.5 million dollars, but talks of a long-term deal continue. Both sides confirm that they are moving towards a deal, but no deal appears imminent just yet. I think Teixeira could earn 20 million on the open market if he puts up similar numbers to last year and I think the Braves are hoping he will take a discount. In 132 games last season, Teixeira batted .306 with 30 HR and 105 RBI. Personally, I think Teixeira will stay in Atlanta. Interest will definitely be high for Teixeira, especially from teams like the Mets, Giants, and Orioles, all of whom are looking for first baseman.

Dodgers May Trade Pierre: The Dodgers have four outfielders capable of starting and may look to trade Juan Pierre. Pierre signed a huge deal in 2006 but with the acquisition of Andruw Jones, he is the odd man out. I think the Dodgers will have trouble trading him, mostly because of his high salary.

Cubs Eying Marlon Byrd: The Cubs Convention started this weekend with the big suprise being the signing of former White Sox closer Shingo Takatsu. However, rumors are flying that they are looking to bring in a right handed outfielder to platoon with Felix Pie. A trade for Marlon Byrd might cost them something like Kevin Hart, but that at the most.

Phillies Begin Talks with Howard: The Phillies have begun preliminary talks with Ryan Howard about a long term deal. However, they are expected to table discussions before Spring Training and wait till next offseason.

Rockies Talking with Tulowitski: The Rockies and Troy Tulowitski are working to complete a long term deal that could lock him up through 2013.

Coco Crisp Still On Block: The Red Sox have yet to trade outfielder Coco Crisp but plan to do so before Spring Training. A lot have teams have already filled the void in center so it might be hard to trade him, but I think it will get done. If the Rangers trade Marlon Byrd to the Cubs, there will be an opening for Coco Crisp. Also, the Padres are a possibility if they can get a good deal.

Orioles trades dead?: Despite reports from ESPN 1000 that said a Brian Roberts trade would be done this weekend, it appears that talks have stopped. Once source said both trades are slowing down because of the Orioles 'unwillingness' to make these deals happen. However, Roch from the Baltimore Sun believes there is still a 50-50 chance a deal gets done.

Nationals Remain Interested In Benson: A source close to Kris Benson confirmed that the Nationals have remained interested in Kris Benson since his workout down in Arizona.

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MLB Transactions

A lot has been going on over the past 24 hours so lets get you updated:

- The Orioles have signed Jeremy Guthrie and Adam Loewen.

- The White Sox have signed Joe Crede.

- The Rockies have signed Matt Holliday and Willy Taveras.

- The Tigers have signed Miguel Cabrera and Bobby Seay

- The Marlins have signed Alfredo Almezaga, Kevin Gregg, and Sergio Mitre.

- The Brewers signed Chris Capuano.

- The Twins agreed to terms with Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, and Juan Rincon.

- The Mets have signed Jose Valentin.

- The A's have signed Joe Blanton.

- The Pirates have signed Xavier Nady and John Grabow.

- The Mariners signed Horacio Ramirez.

- The Cardinals signed Rick Ankiel

- The Rays signed Carlos Pena and Scott Kazmir.

- The Rangers signed Gerald Laird.

- The Blue Jays signed Scott Downs, Marco Scutaro, Jason Frasor, Gustavo Chacin, and Brian Tallet.

- The Nationals sign Tim Redding.

- The Cubs have reportedly come to terms with for White Sox closer Shingo Takatsu.

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Rays Acquire Aybar

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Rays today acquired infielders Willy Aybar and Chase Fontaine from the Braves in exchange for left hander Jeff Ridgway. What a great trade for the Rays. In 95 games for the Rome Braves, Fontaine, 22 hit .288 with 3 HR and an OBP OF .402. Aybar, who did not play in 2007, has a career average of .292 with a .387 OBP. Both players have the chance to help the club if they continue to play like they have while Ridgway, who pitched in 0.1 innings in three games, has an ERA of 189.00. Yes he is a lefty, but an average one at best. I do not see how the Braves thought this trade would help. I assume because of off field problems with Aybar, that they just wanted him gone.

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Dodgers Struggle To Close Deals

The Dodgers have had discussions about re-signing free agents Rudy Seanez and Mark Sweeney, but talks have stalled recently. They can't seem to come to terms on money, and it is possible that they are not willing to give them major league deals because they have several young players who could break the roster next season. Sweeney hit .260 with 2 HR and 13 RBI in 106 games last year, numbers that certainly do not warrant a major league deal. Yet, Sweeney is a above average bench player who the Dodgers might benefit from. If Sweeney wants to be back with the Dodgers, he might need to prove it during Spring Training. As for Seanez, he put up pretty good numbers from the 'pen and probably could do it again, but he might be asking for a lot of money. He went 6-3 with a 3.79 ERA in 73 games last season, and has showed no signs of slowing down. I think the Dodgers will be contenders for the division or wild card next season, whether it is with these guys or not.

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Baseball Tonight or San Diego?

Free agent outfielder Reggie Sanders will be trying out for a gig on Baseball Tonight, according to his agent Michael Powers. I didn't know there was an opening, but either way, it doesn't change my view of the show. I think it is great to have player commentary on Baseball Tonight, and I hope you guys enjoy that here through the interviews. Anyways, Reggie Sanders has been in talks with the Dodgers and Padres about a reserve role and it seems the Padres are the most likely fit. Although Kevin Towers has said he plans to explore the market for a young player who they can have control over for awhile, it is likely he will add a veteran like Sanders to a minor league pact. In 24 games last season, he batted .315 with 2 HR and 11 RBI. Sanders played with the Padres back in 1999 and had a fairly good year, so I think fans would embrace a return, even if it is in a minor role. He said he will make a decision by the end of the month on whether or not he will continue playing so stay tuned.

Several Players Signed: Jose Bautista of the Pirates, Brad Lidge of the Phillies, Ryan Madson of the Phillies, Jonny Gomes of the Rays, Matt Treanor of the Marlins, Marcus Thames of the Tigers, Huston Street of the A's, and more avoided arbitration today. However, it appears Chien-Ming Wang will be heading to arbitration.

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Interview with Matthew Williams

Nearly two months ago, I emailed Twins prospect Matthew Williams about doing an interview. Although I prefer to do my interviews by phone or in person, he is one of few professional ball players who live in Australia during the off season giving us a narrow window to do it because of the time change. But, even with his off season work outs and games, he set some time aside to do an interview for me, and I really appreciate it. Williams is currently in Class-A, but is just 20. In 18 games with the Snappers, he went 1-1 with a 2.64 ERA and 17 K. He is someone to keep an eye on as he climbs up the Twins system, and I just want to thank him again for doing this for me.

ELI: How long have you played baseball?


MATT: I started playing tee-ball when I was 4 years old, and began playing baseball when I was 9 years old.

ELI:
You were signed in 2004, can you take me through the process of your signing?

MATT: I signed as a non-drafted free agent in February 2004. I was playing in a National Tournament and was made an offer by the Twins. I was unaware of the offer as my agent and parents had decided to let me concentrate on baseball and inform me at the conclusion of the tournament.

ELI:
Who is the most exciting player to watch on the team?

MATT: The most exciting player on the team would have to be Joe Benson. He has amazing speed, both in the outfield and on the basepaths, and can turn the game in an instant.

ELI:
How did Steve Mintz help your game this year?

MATT: Steve Mintz was my coach in my first year of professional baseball in the GCL, so he understood my mechanics and how I pitch. Steve suggested I add a sinker to my repertoire in order to induce more ground balls, and helped tremendously in teaching how to throw in effectively. His pitching philosophy is to attack the hitters, which has helped me throw more strikes and challenge the hitters.

ELI:
You live in Australia in the off season. When will you come back to the states to prepare for next season?

MATT: The past few years I have stayed in Australia until the week before Spring Training in March. As it is summer in Australia, most of my work for the upcoming season is done at home, with the final week in Ft Myers trying to overcome jet lag and adjust to the weather. I usually start off season workouts at the beginning of October and begin work on the field in November. After the holidays I try and get around 15-20 innings in games so I am ready for Spring Training.

ELI:
Will you train with other Australian players to get ready for next season?

MATT: I train with several of the Australian based professionals, from both the Twins and other organizations. Everyone is trying to get ready for the upcoming season, and is looking to get as much practice in as they can, so its quite easy to find someone to work out with.

ELI:
Do you have a favorite player?

MATT: Favorite player would have to be Roger Clemens, the way that he goes after hitters and still manages to dominate after so many years in the Majors.

ELI: What do you plan to work on this off season?

MATT: My main goals for the offseason are adding velocity, improving changeup and refining mechanics to be more efficient.

ELI: What would you say is your go-to pitch?

MATT: My go-to pitch has always been my fastball, I like to challenge the hitter. If I need to get a pitch over, I am most comfortable throwing the fastball.

ELI: If you could strike out one major leaguer today, who would it be?

MATT: If I had the chance to strike out one Major League hitter, I would choose Alex Rodriguez. Apart from the ridiculous numbers he put together this year, he is a future Hall of Famer. It would be great one day to be able to say that I struck him out.

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