Interview with Jay Bruce

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of talking to Reds prospect Jay Bruce. Bruce is currently playing in Triple-A and doing well. With new management up in Cincinnati, he will probably be up patrolling the outfield very soon. I have been trying to get an interview with Jay Bruce since last June, but thanks to the help of Megan Dimond of the Louisville Bats, we were finally able to get it done. I want to thank her, along with Jay Bruce for doing this for me, I really appreciate it.

ELI: Being in such a deep draft, what did it mean to you to go so high? Were you thinking about it all as it got closer?

JAY: It means a lot. The guys in our draft are starting to reach their potential. We are all getting pretty close to the big leagues, so it just shows how deep our draft was.

ELI: Playing baseball in a state where some of the best baseball players have come from, did you play with or against anyone that is in the MLB now?


JAY: Yeah, Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox grew up about ten minutes from me in Nederland. But in Beaumont, Chip Ambres went to my high school. So did Ben Broussard, but he is a lot older than me.

ELI: You played 37 games after you were drafted, what was that like going from high school to Low-A. Was there an adjustment period for you?


JAY: I think the biggest adjustment was living on my own. Back home, my mom did everything. Now, I had to be responsible and accountable -- I was a professional now.

ELI: You had a really good 2006, was there anything you worked on over the off season that you think helped with your improvement?

JAY: No, not really. I did the same thing, got strong. I did a lot of lifting, because I knew I needed to be physically prepared to endure a long season.

ELI: Playing in high school, you play about two and half months. Was it hard to make the adjustment?


JAY: It was tough at first, but I needed to get in a routine. You know what it takes to get yourself ready, and that was what I did.

ELI: You played at three different levels in 2007, did you have any trouble getting comfortable or finding a groove?

JAY: No, I knew guys at all three levels from Spring Training, so in terms of fitting in, I was fine. I was living in hotels and apartments, but other than that, I was fine.

ELI: What was the futures game like for you? Can you take me through the at-bat where you hit your triple?

JAY: It was awesome, a great experience. I was facing Carlos Carrasco, a great pitcher with the Phillies. I have always seen him well though, I think I have two homeruns off him. Everyone though is trying to showcase their stuff so when I got in a good count, I swung at a good pitch and took it out to deep center.

ELI: Do you follow baseball during the off season? Who is the top hitter to break the big leagues this season?

JAY: Yes I do. The top hitter, well Justin Upton is off to a good start, he has made good adjustments. My boy Joey Votto has been overlooked, but he will hurt you if you forget about him. Evan Longoria of the Rays too. I am going to go with Joey though, he will turn some heads if he hasn't already.

ELI: Since you follow baseball so closely, what do you think is wrong with Barry Zito?

JAY: Oh man, who knows? Everyone has down years, I guess. He's struggling though.

ELI: I have heard you talk about how important the agent is, what does he do for you that the average fan does not know?

JAY: He is just there for me. We have a relationship that goes beyond being my agent, he is my friend. He keeps up with my family. He's awesome. He takes pride in getting you the best deals, but wants you to go out there and prove yourself.

ELI: What was Spring Training like in big league camp? Was there anyone that offered you good advice?


JAY: Spring Training was great. I got advice from everyone, the old guys and the young guys.

ELI: If you could rob someone of a homerun, from the past or present, who would it be?

JAY: Ooh, that is a tough one. Um....Probably [Ken] Griffey.

ELI: He is the king of robbing homeruns.

JAY: Yeah definitely. He would be it.

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Castro Likely Heading To San Diego

Ex-Red infielder has two offers on the table: one guaranteed deal from the Padres and one non-guaranteed deal from the Dodgers. You would think the obvious choice would be the Padres, but Castro is a former Dodger and is reportedly being told that he would only go to Triple-A for a couple days before his call up. The Dodgers are very deep in the middle infield so Castro going to San Diego makes more sense. Not only that, but the Padres are definitely in a better position for the playoffs. The Diamondbacks look like the likely choice for the division, unless some team wins twenty of their final twenty-one games, but the Padres look like they could compete for the wild card. Castro is a career .230 hitter with 33 HR, so he will probably be a non-issue for the Padres or Dodgers chances this season.

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Interview with Frank Wren

Last week, I had the pleasure to interview Braves GM Frank Wren. Wren, who got his career started in Montreal, was a key part in the Marlins front office to get them their first World Series. He has been working in Atlanta for nearly eight years, and is now the GM of the best teams in baseball. I want to thank him for doing this interview for me, I really appreciate it.

ELI: When did you get started in baseball and what would you say was your area of expertise?


FRANK: I started out in the fall of 1985, so my first season was 1986. I had been in player development, but it wasn't new to me. Scouting reports, watching players, making evaluations -- I had been familiar.

ELI: So, who was the first guy you signed?

FRANK: The first guy I signed was named Gene Harris, a pitcher.

ELI: Would you say people learn quick when working in a Front Office?


FRANK: Yeah, but it depends on the role. If you are going to be evaluating players, you have to have knowledge of the game -- how to play the game at the high levels. You need to have the eye for talent. But, this is a slow process. You do not become a star over night like you can playing baseball. You have to build up a library, and go from there.

ELI: What were your main reasons for leaving the Expos with Dave Dombrowski and joining the new expansion team, the Marlins?

FRANK: I would say there were three reasons. One, my relationship with Dave [Dombrowski]. I had been working with him for three or four years. Two, I was living in South Florida. I was thirty miles north of the stadium, so it was easy family wise. Third, it was an expansion team, and I thought it would be cool to be a part of that. I had an option to go to the Rockies as well, but I chose to join the Marlins.

ELI: Looking back at the 1997 Marlins, were they more deep in pitching or hitting?


FRANK: That was an outstanding team, probably one of the best teams of the last twenty years. But the team wasn't together long enough. Some of the players on that team are good players today. The pitching was just unbelievable.

ELI: Having seen Edgar Renteria with the 1997 Marlins, how has he grown as a player after watching him with the Braves?

FRANK: I have known him from the beginning. Me and Dave [Dombrowski] signed him when he was sixteen years old out of Colombia. He was just a rookie with the '97 Marlins -- now he is a seasoned vet who knows how to be a leader on the field.

ELI: Was it hard to trade him to the Tigers last offseason?


FRANK: No. It was easier to make that phone call because I knew him for so long and knew that he was going to be with Dave [Dombrowski] and his former manger Jim Leyland with the Marlins.

ELI: Who was the best player you got in return from the fire sale of the 1998 Marlins?

FRANK: Probably Derek Lee, he has tremendous amounts of talent.

ELI: Joining the Braves in 2000, was it hard to figure out their philosophy and where they wanted to take the team?

FRANK: It was somewhat similar. It probably takes a year though to understand what's going on. You have to figure out their off season rhythm, how they like to operate -- it probably took a full season.

ELI: What was it like to be able to work with John Schuerholz after not really having someone to work with in Baltimore?

FRANK: No question, there was a leadership void in Baltimore. That was definitely difficult. It was clear to me that John [Schuerholz] thought that was important. Baseball in Atlanta is baseball the way it should be, from top to bottom.

ELI: Who makes the decision on who gets called up and who doesn't?

FRANK: It is a combined effort. The front office guys might have a stronger opinion if we have heard from scouts about a guy. But if there was a guy in Spring Training that Bobby [Cox] was around and liked, we will let him make the call.

ELI: What was it like to see John Smoltz get his 3,000 strikeout, having known him for long?

FRANK: Being in the same division [Marlins], I have been able to watch him his whole career. It is great for John, obviously a special moment. It was a fun night, for everyone.

ELI: What advice would you give to an aspiring Front Office executive?

FRANK: You have to have love for the game, and the work ethic that separates you. Right now, there are so many great universities that have courses involved in Sports Business, so this career is drawing lots of interest. This is a great profession, but exclusive. You have to industrious, not aggressive.

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Griffey Drawing Interest In Chicago?

According to the Daily Herald, the Cubs and White Sox are interested in Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. Griffey is hitting .248 with 4 HR this season, and is reportedly tired of losing. He is making nine million dollars this season, so any trade would force the Reds to pick up a portion of his salary. Griffey can easily hit 30 homeruns this season, assuming he can stay healthy, and would definitely help both teams. With the Cubs, a trade would probably force them to move Fukudome to center and keep Griffey in right. Fukudome doesn't seem to have much of a problem running down the ball in the outfield, so that works. The only problem then is what to do with Reed Johnson and Felix Pie? As for the White Sox, there outfield is pretty deep so it might take some mixing and matching in the DH and two corner outfield spots for that to work. Either way, it is looking more and more obvious that Griffey will be traded.

One possibility is sending him to the Red Sox and dumping J.D. Drew elsewhere. However, with only one year left on his contract and no one in the minor league system to take his place, that idea seems unlikely. The Mariners recently designated Brad Wilkerson for assignment and could possibly make a trade to bring Griffey back for to end his career there.

Griffey is a career .289 hitter with 597 homeruns.

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Interview with Jim Bowden

For over the past couple of months, I have been trying to set up an interview with Nationals GM Jim Bowden. His career in the Front Office is really interesting, and I wanted to know about it first hand. I put in a call to him last week, but because of phone problems, we were not able to get it done. However, working with several Nationals executives, we were able to get it done through email. I want to thank Jim Bowden and everyone in the Nationals Front Office who helped me get this done, I really appreciate it.

ELI: When you entered baseball in 1984, did you set any goals for yourself?


JIM: When I first began working in baseball, I had aspirations of winning a World Series, being the youngest GM in baseball history and winning Executive of the Year. I was fortunate to accomplish all three: 1990 [World Series], 1992 [GM] and 1999 [Executive of the Year]. I think it's very important for anyone who is entering their career, whether it be in baseball or another field, to set the bar high and work hard to surpass even their most-ambitious expectations. My goal now is to be the GM when the Nationals win their first World Championship.


ELI: What did it mean to you to be asked to be the GM of the Reds?


JIM: I was named General Manager of the Reds in 1992, at the age of 31. I was obviously honored and very excited about the opportunity. I was very fortunate during my early years in baseball to have a great group of mentors.

ELI: When in scouting, you must be able to compare players potential to a past player. What is something you look for in a pitcher before you really get serious about signing, drafting, or trading for him?

JIM: There are a lot of factors we look at, when scouting a pitcher: delivery, arm action, command in and out of the strike zone, quality of pitches, makeup, character and intelligence. We have some of the best talent evaluators in the game, led by Mike Rizzo, Bob Boone and Dana
Brown. I have a lot of confidence in our scouting department, and it has done a great job recently in beginning the process of stocking our farm system.

ELI: How much time goes in to an arbitration case or a free agent contract on your end?

JIM: We put a lot of time in to every personnel and signing decision we make. We examine all the numbers and every possible angle. Our baseball ops team here with that Nationals does a great job of making sure we are always prepared. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week is not an exaggeration.

ELI: Looking at your trade history, you are a very active GM. Do you think that is how you build a team with a smaller payroll compared to teams like the Yankees or Red Sox?

JIM: I think one of the great nuances of this game is that each GM can build their organization whichever way they see best within their respective financial parameters. Teams have different resources and philosophies, and they have the opportunity to find their 'winning
formula.' The best way is to scout, sign and develop your own players, either through the draft or international signings. Trades are the next-best method to improve, while free agent signings should be a last resort. All three are needed to succeed.

ELI: Having known Ken Griffey Jr. for such a long time, can you describe how you are feeling now that he is closing in on 600 homeruns?

JIM: I'm happy for Ken, he's a special person and a tremendous talent. My trade for him will always be a highlight of my trading career.

ELI: You made a couple key trades this past off season acquiring Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes, to start. How have they jelled with the team and in a new environment?

JIM: Both Lastings and Elijah are getting acclimated to our club. We look forward to watching their opportunities to develop into successful Major League players.

ELI: The new stadium looks great. What are the players and fans saying about it?


JIM: We are getting rave reviews.

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Botts Wants Out

The Texas Rangers designated Jason Botts for assignment after his fourth unsuccessful stint in the majors. Botts, who was hitting .158 with 2 HR in 38 at-bats, will likely clear waivers. He has great power, but has never been given the opportunity to play everyday. He reminds me a lot of Ben Broussard, currently the Rangers first baseman, who has great power as well. With the Rangers organization in a rebuilding mode, it makes sense that a struggling player would want out: "I think I've been here for a pretty long time and I deserve a fresh start somewhere else," Botts said. "I think there's plenty of examples of people leaving the Texas Rangers and going on to really great things. There could be something huge in my future."

The Rangers will shop him around, but will not release him, according to Rangers GM Jon Daniels.

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Smoltz Back As Closer?

John Smoltz landed on the DL and said that he would be willing to go back to the bullpen when he returns. That is a smart move by a smart pitcher, who is saving his arm from falling off in the rotation to helping his team from the bullpen. Smoltz is an experienced closer, having logged 154 saves in four seasons. Manny Acosta is doing a pretty good right now for the Braves, but would probably be moved to a set up role if Smoltz was serious about being a closer again. His velocity is still good, and he still has good movement on his pitches. The only problem with the move is who will be the fifth starter? Jo-Jo Reyes? Reyes has been fairly inconsistent in the majors but has a 1.16 ERA in Triple-A right now. Maybe giving him the opportunity to pitch every five days will improve his numbers.

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Rockies Interested In Morris?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Rockies are reportedly talking internally about signing pitcher Matt Morris, who got off to an 0-4 start with the Pirates. He has a 9.67 ERA, and from what is sounded like, he was not ready to walk away the way he did. The Rockies and Cardinals have expressed interest before, but it really does not make sense for either team to add him right now. The Pirates, however, are interested in bringing him back in a Front Office role: "Whether it's coaching or whether it's [in the] front office, he would be outstanding," Russell said. "At some point in his life, I think Matt Morris would be an outstanding general manager. He has that knowledge. He has that passion. I see him being able to help in a lot of areas and to be an influence in baseball." Morris was always a smart pitcher, and would probably be very good as a minor league roving instructor. Right now, though, he is spending time with his family.

UPDATE: MORRIS HAS OPTED TO RETIRE.

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Greene to Cubs?

The Cubs have reportedly been scouting Khalil Greene of the Padres, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. Greene is hitting .222 with 0 HR in the first 26 games, so if the Cubs were to pull off a trade, they probably would not have to give up much. The Padres have interest in Felix Pie, but no way the Cubs are giving up on him after spending last six years developing him. The Padres continue to search for an outfielder to replace Jim Edmonds, but are having trouble. Making a trade for Reggie Willits seems like a good move, but the Angels are not ready to give up on him. They could go after Ryan Freel of the Reds. He is hitting .292 with 0 HR and is very versatile and above average defensively. The Padres are currently nine games out of first, not so great considering we are still in April, but acquiring a solid outfielder could really help the top of the lineup.

Kenny Lofton was brought up last week by Jake Peavy, and that seems like the best move at this point.

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Is Uggla Next To Go?

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Marlins refuse to raise their payroll, and with several players becoming arbitration eligible, another minor fire sale could be coming. Dan Uggla looks like the person most likely to be traded, mostly because the Marlins have two prospects that will be ready in 2009 or 2010. Prospect Chris Coghlan and Robert Andino both have a lot of upside and could see time in the MLB in September if the Marlins fall in the standings. Uggla can hit for power, but if he cannot bring his average up, he probably won't bring back much meaning the Marlins might be able to retain him.

As for possible options, the Rockies seem like a perfect fit. Although they have Jayson Nix, he certainly didn't show the Rockies much. The Rockies could ship blocked prospect Ian Stewart along with two or three more and bring in someone who could possibly hit thirty-five to forty homeruns. He would be perfect for their offense. The Dodgers seem like a good fit, but they seem more set on giving their prospects a shot.

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Hatteberg Wants Out?

Reds backup first baseman Scott Hatteberg told reporters recently that he would welcome a trade, saying it is difficult to be a a pinch hitter: "It's difficult," he said. "I've never been a very good pinch-hitter. I'm trying to figure it out. I'm trying." Back on March 1st, I brought up the idea of the Mets trading for Hatteberg to platoon with the then injured Carlos Delgado. Although Delgado had two homeruns last night, he is still hitting .205. Hatteberg is a .273 hitting and has averaged 10-13 homeruns over the past several seasons. Getting time as a regular starter, he could probably help out the Mets or another team in need of help. The Pirates need some help with LaRoche hitting under .200. Reds GM Walt Jocketty said there isn't much interest right now, but he would be open to discussing a trade.

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Rating MLB Stadiums

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Chris De Luca of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote an interesting piece this morning about the thirty-best stadiums to watch a baseball game in. What do you think:

1. Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox

2. SAFECO, Seattle Mariners

3. Yankee Stadium, New York Yankees

4. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City Royals

5. PNC Park, Pittsburgh Pirates

6. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles Dodgers

7. AT&T Park, San Francisco Giants

8. Camden Yards, Baltimore Orioles

9. Progressive Field, Cleveland Indians

10. PETCO Park, San Diego Padres

11. Nationals Park, Washington Nationals

12. Coors Field, Colorado Rockies

13. Comerica Park, Detroit Tigers

14. U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago White Sox

15. Angel Stadium, Los Angeles Angels

16. Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs

17. Minute Maid Park, Houston Astros

18. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati Reds

19. Busch Stadium, St. Louis Cardinals

20. Chase Field, Arizona Diamondbacks

21. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia Phillies

22. Turner Field, Atlanta Braves

23. Rangers Ball Park in Arlington, Texas Rangers

24. Rogers Centre, Toronto Blue Jays

25. Miller Park, Milwaukee Brewers

26. Dolphin Stadium, Florida Marlins

27. Shea Stadium, New York Mets

28. McAfee Stadium, Oakland Athletics

29. Metrodome, Minnesota Twins

30. Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay Rays

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Diamondbacks To Call Up Scherzer

Diamondbacks top prospect Max Scherzer is no longer in Triple-A. According to Nick Piecoro, the Diamondbacks have optioned Yusmeiro Petit and called up the hard throwing Max Scherzer. He had a 1.17 ERA in four starts, striking out 38 and walking three in 23 innings. Scherzer appears casted as a closer for the Diamondbacks, but if Micah Owings cannot pitch Friday, they will use him. The bullpen hasn't been taxed much, but why not get him a couple of innings while the team is hitting well.

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Pirates Release Morris

The Pirates announced today that they will release pitcher Matt Morris. Morris, who is set to earn eleven million this year, was off to an 0-4 start with a 9.67 ERA, but couldn't find a way to win: "He's had a great career. He wanted to help us win, and it just wasn't happening." It is unclear whether or not he will retire, but we will know more within the next couple of weeks. Morris is 121-92 with a 3.98 ERA in 307 games with the Cardinals, Giants, and Pirates.

During Spring Training, there was some speculation that the Mets were interested. I doubt they are now, but a team like the Marlins could maybe jump in. He is just thirty-four, so teams could use his services if needed. Other teams that could jump are the Rangers, who look lost on the field, according to scouts. He probably won't be snatched up as fast as Thomas was, but likely within the next month.

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Rockies Designate Nix, Giles Back?

The Rockies designated Jayson Nix for assignment yesterday calling up traveled pitcher Jose Capellan; however, it is possible that they will bring back Marcus Giles if Clint Barmes continues to struggle. Barmes is 2-19 in his last six games, so the Rockies might move him back to a reduced role where he was thriving. Nix was hitting .111 with 0 HR in seventeen games this season, but will likely return to Triple-A to find his swing. The Rockies would have been smart to start him in Triple-A so he could find his swing and get his confidence up and then call him up. That worked with Ryan Braun and Evan Longoria, so far. Rockies pitching had a good year this year and if Aaron Cook can step into a big role and balance out Morales and Jimenez, they will be in good shape.

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Fantasy Update!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

If you are interested in hearing a Fantasy Update on the newest addition to MLB Rumors, MLB Today, it is up and ready for you.

Eli

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Interview with Michael Bowden

This afternoon, I had the pleasure to talk with Red Sox pitching prospect Michael Bowden. Bowden is currently in Double-A, but is very advanced for his age. It looks like the Red Sox are taking him level by level, but his stuff will definitely get him to the majors soon. His attitude is a 'live and die for baseball,' something that should allow him to the succeed at the highest level. I want to thank him for doing this interview for me and I also want to thank the Portland Sea Dogs, I really appreciate it.

ELI: So what was the draft experience like for you?

MICHAEL: It was unforgettable. I was meeting with professional teams everyday, it was great. On draft day, I had friends and family over for a little draft-graduation party, because it was close to graduation.

ELI: Did you think the Red Sox were going to draft you?

MICHAEL: Yeah, they showed a lot of interest. They ran me through some exams, I had a pretty good feeling. One of my friends got me a Red Sox painting with my name on it, so we were pretty confident that they were going to take me.

ELI: After being drafted, you signed and went to Florida to start playing. Was there any adjustment period that took place?

MICHAEL: I think it was three weeks after I drafted that I signed, and then I reported to the Gulf Coast League. It was the middle of the summer, twelve o'clock games, one-hundred percent humidity, it was rough. We were put up in a hotel, I had no car. I was like, 'this is going to be hard.'

ELI: I see you grew up in Illinois, were you a Cubs fan?

MICHAEL: Yeah, Cubs fan.

ELI: Did you have a favorite player?

MICHAEL: Nah. I just like watching.

ELI: In 2006, you reported to Greenville and put together a solid season. What did that do for your confidence?

MICHAEL: It did a lot. It was the first time pitching in front of 5,000 people, this was my job now. I'd say it did a lot.

ELI: You really do not go over scouting reports too much in high school. What do you look for when reviewing or watching them?

MICHAEL: We mainly discuss weaknesses.

ELI: At the low levels and high school, pitchers do not have much of an approach. How did that change in Double-A?

MICHAEL: I always felt I was pretty smart about it in high school. I would get ahead with my fastball, then put them away with some sort of off speed pitch. I think you get better with more experience.

ELI: Your name came up in the Santana talks, did that bother you at all?

MICHAEL: No, there is nothing you can do about. The only thing I really heard about it was when one of my friends sent me a text message saying 'So I hear your pitching for the Twins.'

ELI: Does it flatter you at all being mentioned in a trade for a player like that?

MICHAEL: Yeah definitely.

ELI: Is there anything you hope to improve on from last season?

MICHAEL: Yeah. When I got to Double-A, I was not trusting myself. So, I would like to have more trust in my stuff this season and I do this season so far.

ELI: What was Spring Training like in big league camp?

MICHAEL: It was an awesome experience.

ELI: Did you get a chance to talk with any of the veterans?

MICHAEL: I talked with Josh Beckett and Kyle Snyder a lot. Both guys have a lot of experience up in the MLB.

ELI: What is the biggest difference between Double-A and Single-A?

MICHAEL: Up here, you have to have an approach. The batters will be much more disciplined, you can't be free swinging or throwing fastball-fastball every time.

ELI: Who was the toughest guy you faced in Spring Training?

MICHAEL: Toughest guy? I don't know, I was just going out there and throwing. I just listened to my catcher, I don't look to see who the batter is.

ELI: What was the Red Sox clubhouse like? Terry Francona?

MICHAEL: It was very laid back. [Terry] Francona was very personable-he didn't make you feel weird around him.

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Chamberlain In Bullpen, For Good?

It looks as if Joba Chamberlain will be in the bullpen for the foreseeable future. Although several Front Office executives would prefer to see Joba Chamberlain in the rotation, with Brian Bruney out for the season they will keep Chamberlain as a late inning reliever. According to Buster Olney, the Yankees were looking at in-house candidates to replace Chamberlain as a late inning reliever so they could move him into the rotation. I think it is a great idea for the Yankees, but Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy are notoriously slow starters. The Yankees have several late inning relievers, and if they are determined to move Chamberlain, I would give Jon Abaladejo a shot. He is 6-5, he has got a hard fastball, and he is off to a good start. Other than that, they could alternate between LaTroy Hawkins, Edwar Ramirez, and Kyle Farnsworth.

It's too bad that Bruney had to go down. He was off to another good start, but he is 26, so he has time to come back and help the Yankees in the future.

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Pirates Mentality Need To Change

The Pirates organization is determined to winning in 2008, but the Pirates are 9-14, and just do not have what it takes to beat out the Cardinals, Brewers, Cubs, or even Astros right now. The Reds are off to a poor start, but they will likely turn it around next month. The Pirates have several players they could trade for boatloads of prospects. Let's start with Xavier Nady, who is currently hitting .344 with 4 HR. He has drawn interest from the Mets, Padres, and Indians, but the Indians are reportedly showing the most interest right now. The Indians are struggling, and with the Tigers heating up, they need an improvement who can help them get in a rhythm. They nearly traded for Jason Bay last off season, but that deal fell through.

However, Bay continues to draw interest from the Padres. Their outfield is hitting .227 and adding Bay would give them a solid left fielder who would provide protection for Adrian Jackson in the lineup. Bay is on the outs with Pirates executives, but is hitting .269 with 5 HR. The Padres outfield is aging, so there is no need to worry that an outfield prospect would be blocked. Bay has struggled at PETCO, but hits very well at all the other NL West stadiums. He is an investment the Padres should seriously consider taking.

The Pirates need the prospects if they want to seriously contend in the division. The Reds, Cubs, and Brewers all have young players ready to step into big roles while the Astros have the hitting, but don't have any pitchers. The Cardinals, although they do not look great on paper, always seem to find a way to compete.

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Padres Peavy Likes Lofton

Padres ave Jake Peavy made his pitch for outfielder Kenny Lofton yesterday calling him the spark the team needs. Peavy is 3-0 this season with a 2.00 ERA, but I do not think he is at a point in his career where he can say, "I want this guy," and it will happen. There are not too many guys out there that can do that, not even managers. However, it is possible that the Padres will actually go after Lofton for their outfield. The three outfielders are hitting a combined .227 and adding Lofton, a contact hitter, to play left and center would really spark the offense.

It is possible the Padres would dump Jim Edmonds if he doesn't find his swing. He is patrolling a big outfield and with the Diamondbacks playing well, adding someone at the top of the order who can play defense would really help their chances of making the playoffs. There are no replacements in Triple-A with their two top prospects struggling, so Lofton seems likes the answer, at least till the trade deadline.

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Minor League Report

Friday, April 25, 2008

If you are interested in hearing a minor league report on the the newest addition to MLB Rumors, MLB Today, it is up and ready for you. Take a look around the site, I plan to be very active on it.

Eli

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A's Sweeney To Twins?

According to a well placed source, one of the teams in on the Frank Thomas sweepstakes was the Twins. Thomas instead decided to sign with the A's, making Jack Cust and Mike Sweeney expendable. But because Cust can also play positions on the field, it would make sense that they would dump Sweeney to make room for someone else on the roster. In 18 games this season, Sweeney is hitting .322 with 1 HR and 7 RBI, so it looks like he has the potential to still hit for a respectable average. The Twins will likely demote Carlos Gomez and could use an extra bat on the bench who can also play three to five days a week. With Frank Thomas in Oakland, it would make sense for the A's to release or trade Sweeney. I have talked with several A's executives and both seem to have a grasp of what is going on. In the end, they will make the right decision.

A couple of the teams in on Thomas, the Twins and Rangers, could go after Mike Piazza, who is still working out looking for a job. He probably isn't the best option, but playing in their stadiums would allow him to put up good numbers. Other than that, Barry Bonds is still available.

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Astros Oswalt To Be Traded?

It is becoming more and more clear that the Astros will likely unload Roy Oswalt at the trade deadline. Oswalt, who has a no-trade clause, said the only three teams he would go to are the Braves, Cardinals and Red Sox. Oswalt, who is 2-3 this season with a 6.00 ERA, is on the decline if you take a close look at his stats. However, pitching for a winning team would probably help his numbers, as could a change of scenery. I doubt the Astros would trade within the division to the St. Louis Cardinals, but the Braves and Red Sox are solid options. Both teams have solid prospects that they could give up with little damage being done to the team.

In a trade with the Red Sox, which seems more likely, someone like Justin Masterson would have to be a key part of the deal. Beyond him, maybe they could pry Michael Bowden, along with a couple other low level prospects, but Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz are definitely out of the question.

For what it is worth, Oswalt said he wouldn't be opposed to waiving his no trade clause.

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Mariners to Extend Johjima

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Mariners and Kenji Johjima have agreed to a three year extension. This is an interesting move by the Mariners who have Jeff Clement in Triple-A ready to take over. Not only that, but Johjima will be 32 in June, and is starting to show signs that he is slowing down. Despite starting the year batting .200, he is a career .283 hitter who hits his share of homeruns. Jeff Clement, one of the prizes of the 2005 draft, has incredible power will likely take over at first base or DH.

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Interview with Nick Green

A couple of weeks ago, I placed a call to the Salt Lake Bees about possibly interviewing Nick Green and Nick Adenhart. After being sent to a couple different people, we were finally able to get it done. Both Green and Adenhart are off to good starts this season, and I, like many Angels fans, look forward to seeing them in the MLB. The interview had to be cut down because of time, but they seem like good guys nonetheless. I want to thank them for doing this for me and I also want to thank Hannah Lee of the Salt Lake Bees for getting this done, I really appreciate it.

ELI: You were first drafted by the Astros, what were your main reasons for not signing?


NICK: Going from high school to college without being drafted, I was told I could go further if I waited. Also, our junior college team did great the year before I went there and I wanted to see if we could take the championship.

ELI: You were in big league camp this spring, what was that like?


NICK: It was a fun experience. It was great to see how the MLB guys performed on and off the field.

ELI: Were there any pitchers offering good advice that you took away from camp?


NICK: I learned that it's important not to give the hitters too much credit; as a pitcher, you've got to trust your stuff.

ELI: Who was the toughest hitter you faced all Spring?

NICK: Probably Troy Tulowitzki, he is a good hitter.

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Interview with Nick Adenhart

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A couple of weeks ago, I placed a call to the Salt Lake Bees about possibly interviewing Nick Green and Nick Adenhart. After being sent to a couple different people, we were finally able to get it done. Both Green and Adenhart are off to good starts this season, and I, like many Angels fans, look forward to seeing them in the MLB. The interview had to be cut down because of time, but they seem like good guys nonetheless. I want to thank them for doing this for me and I also want to thank Hannah Lee of the Salt Lake Bees for getting this done, I really appreciate it.

ELI: Your senior year in high school you suffered an injury to your elbow. Did you consider stop playing baseball after that?

NICK: No. I love baseball and I never considered stop playing.

ELI: You were in Spring Training with the Angels this season, was there any pitcher in particular that helped you out a lot?


NICK: No one in particular. It was a great experience and I learned a lot from everyone there.

ELI: If you could be another athlete for a day, who would it be, and under what circumstance?


NICK: That's a tough one. I don't know that I'd be anyone else, but if there was another sport I'd play it would be basketball.

ELI: Best feeling you've ever had since your baseball career starter and under what circumstance? Being called up? Good game?


NICK: Being invited to major league camp was the best feeling, that was very exciting.

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Check out MLB Today!

I am very excited to announce the MLB Rumors is expanding! We are adding a new site, MLB Today, which will have video updates for you readers. If you are interested in hosting your own show, send me an email at eli.mlbtoday@gmail.com.

Let me know what you think!

Eli

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Brewers, Braun Closing In On Deal?

According to sources close to Nez Balelo, Ryan Braun's agent, Balelo is in Milwaukee working on a deal for his client. This is a good sign for Brewers fans because Balelo was in Milwaukee two weeks ago talking about a deal, so this is a good indication that a deal could be close. Braun is hitting .247 with 3 HR, but the Brewers are not worried just yet. Braun has repeatedly told reporters that he is trying to find his comfort zone, and it is obvious that he is starting to heat up having hit .529 over the last four games. Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki broke the bank on a rookie contract, but I expect Braun to bring in a deal closer to forty million dollars buying out at least one year of free agency.

You hate to fill out a depth chart with the idea that a top prospect will come up and shine, but it is likely that Ryan Braun will move back to third in a couple years to make room for Matt LaPorta. The Brewers are very high on Corey Hart and have options in center, so moving Braun back to third and keeping LaPorta in his natural position seems likely. Nevertheless, getting a deal done now should help in negotiations with Prince Fielder.

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Interview with Travis Snider

This afternoon, I had the opportunity to talk with Blue Jays top prospect Travis Snider. Snider, who is currently at Double-A, was taken fourteenth overall in the 2006 MLB draft. Since then, he has climbed the ranks of the Blue Jays minor league system and could see time at the MLB level this season. I was overwhelmed by his willingness to answer all my questions thoroughly, and I wish him all the best. I want to thank him, along with Mike Murphy of the Fisher Cats for setting this interview up for me, I really appreciate it.

ELI: You played for the Seattle Stars. What was that like playing at the national level at such an early age?

TRAVIS: First of all, it was a great experience. It was a very competitive league, I got to play with my best friends, and play for a winning team most of my childhood. To be able to compete against the best in the nation, it showed us where we stood. It definitely helped my game. Playing in front of large crowds is not overwhelming, learning how to play for something instead of just playing to play-all those things were important in molding me into a good player.

ELI: You played football in high school as well. What were your main reasons for choosing baseball?

TRAVIS: Injury. I broke my leg during a scrimmage and that caused me to miss my whole sophomore season and my whole season with the Stars. I loved football, but baseball is my number one sport. I was talking to colleges, professional teams-I had to make a decision. There was a lot of risk involved to, but I had to give up the dream of being a two sport athlete.

ELI: When did you realize you had to turn the page and take your game to the next level?

TRAVIS: I had a great showing in spring league and a solid high school season and started to realize that this was becoming more than something fun. It has always been a dream of mine, but it finally started to come a reality.

ELI: What was the draft experience like for you, being taken in the first round in 2006?

TRAVIS: The experience was great. It was like having twenty-six interviews with twenty-six different companies. I was talking with college recruiters, professional scouts, everyone. But they did not just want to know about what kind of player I was, they wanted to know what kind of person I was. Being taken fourteenth overall was exciting for me and my teammates. We finished the season undefeated, won the State Championship. Even though 'the Circus was in town,' I wasn't distracted, it was a great experience. I was very fortunate. It was a positive note to end my amateur career on.

ELI: You signed quickly and did fairly well down in the minors. What did that mean to you to get down there and see success?

TRAVIS: Well, I wasn't playing baseball for about a month between high school and professional ball, so there was an adjustment period. I was not comfortable, I was striking out a lot, but it started to turn around. I was playing in Pulaski, Virgina, which is a pretty desolate town, so that was an experience in itself, but I had great teammate and coaches who helped me a long the way. My hard work got me comfortable up there and got me to the place I wanted to be by seasons end.

ELI: What was Spring Training like at the big league camp this past March?

TRAVIS: It was the ultimate experience. I went in with the right attitude, I knew that I didn't have much of a chance of making the team. I tried to take in as much as possible. Guys like Vernon Wells, Frank Thomas, Alex Rios are actually really approachable guys once you earn their respect. I came in and tried not to get labeled as the stereotypical cocky first rounder who thinks he is better than everyone. I kept my mouth shut, ears open. It was the ultimate, ultimate experience and I will remember it for the rest of my life.

ELI: Getting to the higher levels when teams rely heavily on game tape to gather there scouting report, what do you look for when watching it?

TRAVIS: When looking at opposing pitchers, you see if they are a sinker-slider pitcher or a power-power pitcher. You find what their go to pitch is, how they pitch lefty batters, how they pitch righty batters, in what counts do they go to their fastball. One thing you have to adjust to at Double-A is when you are at the lower levels some guys will rear back and just throw their fastball in almost every count-they don't do that here.

ELI: Have you set any goals for yourself for this season?

TRAVIS: It is hard to say, I am just twenty years old down in Double-A. I just want to put together a good year, see positive results.

ELI: Going back to March, how did your college bracket do?

TRAVIS: [Laughs] Not so good. It was bust. I relied heavily on Clemson. I wasn't taking it too seriously, but I watched ESPN a couple times before my bracket was due so I had some idea. It is really a crap shoot though. The best team never wins. It was all number one seeds in the final four, I lost it by trying to find the right upset.

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Twins Won't Send Gomez Down

Carlos Gomez is struggling at the MLB level, batting .230 with 0 HR, 5 RBI, and 9 SB. He is frustrated with how he is playing leading to reckless swings and more strikeouts: "We have to get back to contact. It's not a bad thing for a young fella to take a breather. This is a good time. The other young man needs to get in there." Gomez was a key part of the deal for Johan Santana because Gomez was the only one that was major league ready. He doesn't seem major league ready though, and sending him down to Triple-A to find his swing and get his confidence up would do him well.

They have Denard Span who could play in his place, or they could make a move for Kenny Lofton, who could fill the void till the trade deadline before they pull off a trade. The Twins are not going to be much of contenders in the AL Central for the next couple of years, but in order to become one again, they should preserve whatever young players they have. That would mean sending Gomez down so he can return a successful player like the scouts believe he can be.

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Giants Won't Skip Zito

The Giants have failed to add depth via minor trades and the draft and it is starting to catch up to them. Barry Zito is 0-5 with a 5.61 ERA with only 10 strikeouts this season, and many are saying they should move him to the bullpen. Zito was never on a team with solid run support, so he always racked up in decisions leading to high loss totals. However, now that he is in San Francisco where offensive support is worse than ever, he is struggling to get wins. The six straight years of two hundred innings or more is starting to catch up to him too, and you would think they would consider moving him to the bullpen for a couple tune up stints. "No," pitching coach Dave Righetti said, "because who the hell is going to pitch? We're not that deep in starting pitching. Noah Lowry is hurting now and we're not that deep in Triple-A. We need (Zito) to pitch."

The Giants should consider adding free agent pitcher David Wells. He had a pretty good season last year and adding him would allow the Giants to send one of their struggling pitchers to the pen. GM Brian Sabean appears lost in the Front Office, and a change up there appears imminent.

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A's Add Davis, Drop Saarloos

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Oakland A's claimed outfielder Rajai Davis off waivers today from the San Francisco Giants. In order to make room for Davis, the A's designated Kirk Saarloos for assignment. This is a great pick up on the A's part, who add a speedy outfielder who has the potential to hit for a modest average: "He plays left, center and right," A's manager Bob Geren said. "He's a good runner. Having a speed guy is something that's a nice addition." The A's have several outfield prospects though, so if Davis proves to not have much impact, they could trade him for a low level prospect.

Saarloos, had a rough year last season but was pretty good in previous years. Geren would like to keep him in the system if needed, and I think that is a smart choice. Saarloos will go out and give you a solid inning, it is when he gets stretched into two or three that he struggles. I think the A's will be able to hold on to him without much problems.

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Interview with Peter Kozma

This afternoon, I had the opportunity to talk with Cardinals prospect Peter Kozma. Kozma was taken 19th overall in the 2007 draft, and it surprised almost everyone, including Kozma. However, everyone who scouted Kozma said there was something about him that makes him a first rounder: "The one thing that stuck out in my mind about Pete is you look in his eyes and you see a kid that you really feel is going to play in the big leagues," said Steve Gossett, who scouted Kozma. "He's got a look that you don't see in many guys." Kozma was pretty soft spoken, but there was no doubt he knows how to play the game right. I want to thank him again for doing this interview for me, I really appreciate it. I also want to thank Ben Chiswick, the Director of Media Relations for Quad City River Bandits for setting this interview up for me, I really appreciate it.

ELI: When did you realize you had the opportunity to play major league baseball?


PETER: I have been playing baseball since I was a kid. In high school though, I was motivated to turn the page and take my game to the next level.

ELI: What did you try to work on most in high school?

PETER: In high school, coaches stress fundamentals. I just went out there and made the easy plays-went back to the basics.

ELI: What was the draft experience like for you?

PETER: Interesting. I wasn't talking to too many teams so I was not sure what to expect.

ELI: You talked to the Cardinals, I assume.

PETER: No, not even them. I was really surprised to hear they took me.

ELI: What was your first year like at the professional level?


PETER: There was a lot to take in. I just went out, tried to make every play. You just have to concentrate, go out and make every play you can.

ELI: Most of the guys down there are new to the game. Who would you say is the leader in the clubhouse?


PETER: Probably are hitting coach, Joe Kruzel. He talks us up a lot. He is always the first one at the field.

ELI: Would do you do to shake off a bad game?

PETER: You just gotta' say, 'tomorrow is another day.' You just have to go out and play baseball, you cant hang on to a bad game, you just have to move on.

ELI: What advice would you give to young baseball players hoping to make it to the major leagues?

PETER: Work hard. [Pause] Work hard. A lot of kids stop working in high school, I would say working hard is the most important thing.

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Teams Smart To Walk Pujols

Albert Pujols is the best hitter in the National League, if not all of baseball. Pujols has had at least thirty-two homeruns in each of the past seven seasons and has never hit below .314. For awhile, he had solid protection in the lineup, which kept his walk totals pretty low for a power hitter. But now, teams are starting to realize that he does not have any protection and walking him will likely not come back to haunt them. He has already walked twenty-times this season and admitted yesterday that he is so frustrated that he struck out to avoid a walk: "I felt I didn't want to walk, and I took myself out of the strike zone to swing at that pitch," Pujols said. "The 3-0 pitch was a little low. But I tried to push too much. I should've taken my walk. It's something you learn. You press. It's the way the game goes."

Not all his walks are intentional though. Most pitchers are trying to 'kiss' the corner to limit the damage he can do. Now Orioles pitcher Rocky Cherry told me about his experience facing Pujols when he was with the Cubs: "I felt like there was no weakness to exploit. So I just hoped to throw a good pitch that he would hit at somebody." If you go back to my post, Two Reasons Not To Draft Pujols, you can see that I already talked about this. Pujols is currently on pace for 154 walks, and if the Cardinals do not find a big hitter to put behind him, it looks like he will reach that easily.

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Report: A's Sign Thomas

According to sources and confirmed by Yahoo! Sports, the A's are set to sign Frank Thomas. Thomas, who has 516 home runs, was released by the Blue Jays three days ago after being benched. Thomas believed that the Blue Jays were trying to save money, and that is why they released him. Thomas would have made 10 million dollars if he made 304 plate appearances, so benching him would have prevented that. Thomas, like several other A's, are known for being slow starters. Bringing him in and giving him the spot he hit 39 homeruns in should help the A's as they continue to play well. This signing may show that there was some interest in Barry Bonds, but probably not anymore. This signing might also lead to Jack Cust being traded, maybe to San Francisco.

UPDATE: Thomas is deciding between the A's and a mystery team.

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Corners Switch: Cabrera, Guillen Swap

Tigers manager Jim Leyland decided to move Carlos Guillen to third base and send Miguel Cabrera to first base. This is a surprising move because the Tigers initial intention when they went out to get Edgar Renteria was to move Guillen to first to take some stress of his knees. Cabrera has no experience at first base besides the seven games this season, while Guillen's experience at third is minimal. Both Guillen and Cabrera are heating up, but you would hate to lose Guillen because of knee problems. Yes, you have Brandon Inge, but you traded two solid prospects to basically protect Guillen's knees after locking him up four more years.

Still, moving Cabrera to first might cause a jump in power numbers. When Nomar Garciaparra played first, he hit twenty homeruns. That was a jump in numbers for him, especially after hitting just seven playing a combined third and first. Leyland was unclear whether or not he thought that Cabrera could no longer play third, but he did say both players were okay with the move: “We think we’re making a move that makes our ballclub better at this time,” Leyland said. “When you see things as a staff and as a manager and as a general manager and you see things that believe are the right thing to make your club better, you make the move.

Cabrera is locked up till 2015 while Guillen is locked up till 2011. The Tigers don't really have a first baseman that will come up soon that would force Cabrera to move back, so this move might be a permanent one.

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Reds Fire Krivsky

The Reds announced today that they are firing Wayne Kirvsky and are naming Walt Jocketty as their new General Manager. I would say most saw this deal coming after the Reds decided to hire Jocketty this past offseason.

Krivsky did not do a terrible job, though. He has built this team around a solid offense, but has failed to land pitchers that would make a significant impact. In a couple years, it is very possible that many will be saying Krivsky built this team to success.

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News and Notes: A's Interested In Thomas

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Just two seasons ago, Frank Thomas was the most popular guy in Oakland. He hit .270 with 39 HR and 114 RBI, finishing fourth in the MVP voting before bolting for the Blue Jays. However, now that he is available again, the Athletics are considering bringing him back. Jack Cust is looking more and more like a one hit wonder, so bringing in Thomas to probably platoon with Mike Sweeney makes a lot of sense. Thomas represents a greater homerun threat that either Cust or Sweeney, and will have a bigger presence in the young clubhouse. The one problem I see with this signing is you are potentially blocking Carlos Gonzalez, the A's top prospect, from coming up and getting some at bats. However, if Gonzalez continues to hit well, they will find him some at-bats. If the A's do sign Thomas, they will have to pay him the prorated minimum salary.

Cubs called about Santana: Sorry Cubs fans, but the Cubs did call about Johan Santana but were not called back. It appears that Santana would have been open to it to, making the Cubs the team to beat in the NL. The way they are playing right now though may make people say the Cubs are actually the team to beat.

Hank Steinbrenner, Shhh!: Hank Steinbrenner opened him mouth again and GM Brian Cashman quietly shut him down. He is probably a good business man, but he needs to keep out of the baseball decisions.

Pirates sticking by Morris, for now: The Pirates are sticking by Matt Morris, but if one team is looking for a veteran pitcher for the end of the season, they will probably trade him. The Mets seem like an obvious choice, especially if Martinez stays out and Perez continues to struggle.

Is Ned Colletti On His Way Out?: Andruw Jones has turned out to be a bust, and it is possible they could cut their losses and release or trade him next off season. They will likely trade Juan Pierre before Jones, but it looking more and more clear that Pierre is the more valuable outfielder.

Gagne Out As Closer?: One scout told me that Brewers executives are pushing for Gagne to be moved to a lesser role in the bullpen. This move would likely give the spot to Salomon Torres or David Riske.

A's and Rays Like Gross: The A's and Rays are interested in outfield Gabe Gross now that he appears to be the odd man out in Milwaukee. He will be for sure when Mike Cameron comes back, but the Brewers are already looking to trade him to make room.

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Mulder Hoping To Return By June

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cardinals pitcher Mark Mulder is set to return to St. Louis for a couple of days and then make somewhere between five and ten minor league starts before the Cardinals consider pulling him off the disabled list: "He's got a long way to go," La Russa said. Mulder, who has gone 6-10 with a 9.71 ERA over the past two seasons, but has had two successful outings in the minors this season. The Cardinals are off to a good start this season and if the can hold on until Mulder, Carpenter, and Clement return, they should be in good shape come August or September. Mulder's cutter and changeup are working really well for him this season, and was throwing the ball consistently in the high 80s. The Cardinals on paper look like an easy team to cross off, but a healthy Mulder behind Adam Wainwright is a scary thought.

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From the Papers: Bonds and Thomas

  • The San Francisco Chronicle is speculating that the Athletics would add either Bonds or Thomas (or both!), to continue their run to the playoffs. Despite Frank Thomas walking out the A's last season, David Frost said their will probably be a discussion about him. Both would put even more people in the crowd.
  • The Dallas Morning News is reporting that the Rangers have little interest in bringing in Frank Thomas. The Rangers were interested in Thomas before 2007, but they are not showing any interest now.
  • The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is reporting that the Mariners will take a look at Thomas now that he is available. You know they have some interest in Bonds, but now that Thomas is available, it makes sense to bring him in because he is less of a distraction.
  • The Arlington Heights Daily Herald suggests that the Rays, A's, and Twins will all be in on the Thomas hunt. With Floyd out for the Rays, they make a lot of sense.

We'll probably find a new team for Thomas before the end of the month, if not a week into May. Otherwise, they might give him a game or two to find his swing in Triple-A.

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Did The Cubs Throw The 1918 World Series?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A newly found affidavit from the 1920 Grand Jury hearings has claims that the Cubs may have thrown the 1918 World Series against the Red Sox. White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte told 1920 Cook Country Grand Jury that the Cubs influenced the Sox. The idea came up on a train ride from New York, when they said the previous years Series was fixed, according to players. Well it is not certain that gamblers fixed the Series, Charles Comiskey's right hand man, Harry Grabiner, supposedly indicated in his lost diaries that the 1918 series was fixed. Taking a look at the box scores, they definitely support the claim:

"The Cubs were picked off three times, including twice in the decisive Game 6. That game was lost, 2-1, on a 2-run error by Cubs right fielder Max Flack. Game 4 had been tied, 2-2, in the eighth inning, when Cubs pitcher Shufflin' Phil Douglas gave up a single, followed by a passed ball, followed by an errant throw on a bunt attempt that allowed the winning run to score."

This is some pretty serious information, and I wonder if anything will be made of it. Maybe it is karma from the 1918 series that the Cubs haven't won since 1908. It is too bad though that the Cubs are hitting the century mark instead of the 90-year mark. Either way, it is still a long time.

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Will The Rangers Fire Washington?

Although the Rangers gave Ron Washington an extension through 2009 in August, Washington has been told that if the team doesn't turn it around, he could be gone. Ron Washington has been a failure as a manager, but I wouldn't say it is all his fault. The Rangers have been so focused on building their minor league system for the future, that they have failed to sign valuable pitching. Their lineup does not really have a power bat in it, so it is easy to pitch around guys like Josh Hamilton or Hank Blalock. Rangers fans are growing tired and are looking for someone to blame- that blame will probably come down on Ron Washington within the next month or so- assuming they cannot turn it around. As for possible replacements, I doubt they would want to take Rudy Jaramilo out of the hitting coach spot, but he is a possibility.

The Rangers are currently banking on their low-level guys to come up and perform within the next three or four years. It is rare that five or six prospects come up together and all perform in starting roles; however, the Rangers believe that is what will happen: "It's been very flattering, some of the recognition we've received from Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus and some of the other experts in the industry. The most reassuring thing and the thing that confirms our own feeling is that other clubs are asking for our young players, and other scouts are talking to our scouts and opposing managers and coaches are talking to our guys on the field, saying: 'I like this guy, I like that guy.' That's when you know, these guys are real."

One problem with taking the patient approach is that at some point you will get impatient and start rushing these guys to the big leagues. The Angels are a team that is adding players to win now while adding minor league depth. The Athletics too, recently restocked their minor league system and will probably continue by means of the draft and other trades. But, the Rangers remain quiet and firm on their prospect development idea: "We're going to try to stay focused on our little niche here in Texas and try to keep plugging in as many of our quality young players, once they show they're ready," the general manager said. The Rangers have seen this work before, and I think they have a good idea, but they might want to add a short term bat to compete somewhat in the division.

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Report: Blue Jays Release Thomas

According to ESPNews, the Blue Jays are set to released DH Frank Thomas. This comes just days after being bench for hitting .167 with 3 HR. This is very surprising because historically, Thomas is not very good in April or May, but starts to heat up in June. He hit .277 with 26 homeruns last season, but coming into June 1st was hitting .221 with 8 HR. From that point on he hit .301 with 18 HR, so he can definitely still hit, he is just off to a slow start.

The Tigers and Mariners are the two best destinations. The Mariners really need a right handed power hitter to complement hot hitting lefty Raul Ibanez. Gary Sheffield of the Tigers could be out for an extended amount of time, so Thomas is an option there. Don't be surprised if a team like the Yankees comes in and makes a play. Jason Giambi is not playing well right now and he could platoon with Johnny Damon at first. This would give Hideki Matsui, who is off to a good start, more at-bats. Maybe it is a stretch, but if Thomas is going to put up similar numbers, he could be the X-factor that gives them the division.

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Interview with Josh Byrnes

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to conduct my second interview with Arizona Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes. I talked with him before the start of Spring Training and he was happy to do another interview. The Diamondbacks are off to a hot start this season, lead mostly by rookie outfielder Justin Upton and pitcher Brandon Webb, but they are getting solid support from just about everyone on the team right now. I want to thank Mr. Byrnes for donating his time to me with this interview, especially around draft time, I really appreciate it.

ELI: When did you realize you wanted to get into baseball?

JOSH: I always liked baseball, but I didn't know what it entailed. Probably around high school though.

ELI: When you got into baseball in 1994, what would you say was your area of expertise?

JOSH: Probably a willingness to work hard. I knew I had a lot to learn, and was lucky to be in a open organization. I had a lot of meaningful stuff passed on to me: market analysis, arbitration, multi-year contracts, interacting with players, etc.

ELI: Staying in the year 1994, did you have an ultimate goal when you started working for the Indians?

JOSH: I had aspirations to be a GM, but I was not sure what it entailed. Guys in the Indians organization like Dan O'Dowd were very inclusive though, and I learned a lot from him.

ELI: What is the Front Office environment like? Do people learn fast, or are GMs typically the guys that naturally understand the game?

JOSH: Yeah, but there is usually a group of people in on each discussion. Each decision is framed by some level of debate.

ELI: You told me in our last interview that you were going to focus on pitching in the off season, do you feel any personal satisfaction knowing you accomplished that goal in acquiring Dan Haren?

JOSH: I think it is more organizational satisfaction. We had a good 2007, thanks mostly to pitching. Thinking about our division, we needed to add another pitcher to compete in 2008-and he was our number one goal.

ELI: Jarrod Parker is off to a good start this season, where do you envision him fitting in with the Diamondbacks?

JOSH: We view him as a starter, and will continue to develop him as one. He is a great kid though, great athlete, and has a sound delivery with good secondary pitches. Right now, the biggest thing is trying to get him used to the work load.

ELI: Numbers wise, Justin Upton struggled last season. What did you see from him last season that show that his fast start this season isn't just a fluke?

JOSH: He has tremendous talent. He came up last year at nineteen years old, just tremendous. He's got good tools too, we wouldn't have been so aggressive with Justin if he didn't.

ELI: This team has a little bit of everything. Is there anything you would like to improve over the course of this season or for next season?

JOSH: You hate to worry, but you have to. It has to be pitching. Any attempt we have to bolster are pitching, we'll take a look.

ELI: The draft pool is as deep as last years, have you started meeting with your staff about players you will look at?

JOSH: Yeah, our guys are working hard. We are having more daily discussions. It is a pretty deep draft, I'm looking forward to seeing who we take.

ELI: Is there a Diamondbacks academy in the Dominican Republic? If so, what types of things do you try to develop and instill in those players?

JOSH: It is organization philosophy just to get the guys used to professional ball environment-teaching them the rigors of the game.

ELI: What advice would you give to an aspiring front office executive?

JOSH: There is no substitute to fun, passion, and hardwork. With the Internet era, theories are discussed. But it is a learning process, you work hard.

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Johnson Could Be Hot Commodity

Friday, April 18, 2008

New Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson has turned many heads at Wrigley Field and is starting to build a fan base. He is hitting .375 with 7 RBI and an OBP of .422 in thirteen games this season. He is taking a lot of time away from Felix Pie, who is struggling to make solid contact at the plate. Pie is currently working with Piniella and other coaches to shorten his swing, hoping that is the change that would send him to stardom. Pie was a career .300 hitter with 51 homeruns in 546 career minor league games, but has experience in the playoffs at each level. One problem scouts believe is slowing his development is that he had a natural power hitter swing when they signed him and tried to convert him to an on base guy because of his speed. If Pie can develop a short, consistent swing and start making solid contact with the ball, the Cubs might give him the regular job in center and shop Reed Johnson to a different contender around the deadline.

Johnson is very versatile though, and could easily slot in at left field if Alfonso Soriano is still out. I see Johnson as a Kenny Lofton like player if he can stay hot-someone who will be traded at the deadline for more than he is worth. However, he makes for a great fourth outfielder if Pie and Soriano continue to struggle.

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Furcal Hopes To Remain A Dodger

Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, who is a free agent after this season, hopes the Dodgers are interested in signing him long term. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said: "We want him to be a Dodger, so at some point in time, we'll sit down and sort it out." But, Chin-Lung Hu appears ready to take over at shortstop everyday and prospect Ivan DeJesus Jr. will be up soon as well. The Dodgers have made some costly signings recently, and you would think they would take a chance on their young players instead. However, Furcal was not at full strength last season as he is this season and it is showing. He is hitting .407 with 2 HR and 7 RBI in 15 games this season, but he has made four errors.

Bottom line, he is an All-Star shortstop with playoff experience. The Dodgers need to keep his experience with the team. They could always trade him if Hu really does become that top shortstop he has been projected to be.

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Rays Longoria Signs Extension

The Rays and rookie third baseman Evan Longoria have agreed to a six year contract worth 17.5 million dollars. Tamp Bay holds options that take the deal through 2016, netting him a possible 44 million dollars. Longoria, 22, is hitting .300 with 1 HR in six games this season.

Although he is still young and unproven, this deal allows the Rays to pay him a set price, and hold onto him for two years into free agency. This is obviously a good deal if he can stay healthy, but even if he struggles and doesn't live up to the All-Star hype, they still are not paying him that much. A solid deal for both sides.

With Cliff Floyd on the DL, the Rays claimed first baseman Dan Johnson off waivers from the Athletics.

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MLB Prospect Report

Thursday, April 17, 2008

-- BATTERS --
TEAM CLASS PLAYER, POS AB R H BI AVG
ARI AAA Bonifacio, Emiliano SS 4 0 1 0 .263
ATL HiA Hernandez, Gorkys DH 5 0 2 2 .327
ATL LoA Johnson, Cody LF 3 0 0 0 .220
ATL LoA Heyward, Jason RF 4 1 1 0 .269
BOS HiA Still, Jon C 2 1 2 3 .353
BOS AAA Moss, Brandon 1B 5 1 2 0 .306
CHC LoA Burke, Kyler RF 4 0 0 0 .237
CHC LoA Donaldson, Josh C 4 0 0 0 .176
CHC AA Colvin, Tyler DH 4 1 2 2 .235
CIN LoA Waring, Brandon DH 5 3 3 5 .373
CIN LoA Frazier, Todd SS 4 2 1 0 .333
CIN AAA Bruce, Jay RF 3 2 3 2 .333
CLE HiA Goedert, Jared2B 4 1 2 1 .359
CLE AA Hodges, Wes 3B 4 1 1 1 .360
COL LoA Rike, Brian RF 3 2 1 1 .302
COL AAA Herrera, Jonathan 2B 4 0 2 0 .326
CWS LoA Martinez, Jose RF 4 0 2 2 .180
DET HiA Iorg, Cale SS 3 3 2 1 .333
FLA AA Maybin, Cameron CF 4 1 2 0 .317
HOU LoA DeLome, Collin C 4 1 1 2 .216
KC LoA Moustakas, Mike SS 3 3 1 0 .194
LAA AAA Rodriguez, Sean 2B 3 1 2 1 .366
LAD AA De Jesus, Ivan SS 2 1 1 0 .349
MIL AA Escobar, Alcides SS 4 2 2 1 .204
MIN AAA Pridie, Jason CF 4 0 2 3 .255
NYM AA Martinez, Fernando CF 5 0 0 0 .214
NYM AA Evans, Nick 1B 5 2 3 2 .420
NYY LoA Romine, Austin C 5 0 2 0 .303
NYY LoA Montero, Jesus DH 4 0 2 1 .364
NYY AA Tabata, Jose RF 5 1 2 3 .250
NYY AA Jackson, Austin CF 4 2 2 0 .308
NYY AAA Miranda, Juan 1B 4 1 2 2 .224
OAK LoA Brown, Corey CF 5 4 3 2 .296
PHI AA Golson, Greg CF 5 1 2 1 .346
PIT AA Corley, Brad DH 5 1 2 0 .269
PIT AAA McCutchen, Andrew CF 5 1 1 1 .240
SD AAA Headley, Chase LF 4 0 1 0 .245
SEA AA Saunders, Mike CF 5 0 2 0 .289
SF LoA Villalona, Angel 1B 3 0 0 0 .231
SF LoA Noonan, Nick 2B 5 1 3 1 .339
SF LoA Culberson, Charlie SS 4 0 1 0 .057
SF AAA Schierholtz, Nate RF 4 1 3 2 .345
STL AAA Freese, David 3B 4 2 2 3 .280
STL AAA Rasmus, Colby CF 4 1 0 0 .179
TB AAA Brignac, Reid SS 4 0 2 0 .229
TEX HiA Tracy, Chad LF 2 0 2 1 .245
TOR LoA Jackson, Justin SS 5 1 4 0 .311
TOR LoA Ahrens, Kevin 3B 5 0 0 0 .261
TOR AAA Diaz, Robinzon C 4 1 1 1 .387
-- PITCHERS --
TEAM CLASS PITCHER IP H R ER BB K ERA
BAL LoA Britton, Zach 5.1 6 1 1 1 2 2.35
BAL HiA Erbe, Brandon 5.1 9 7 6 1 5 3.78
BAL AAA Liz, Radhames 5.0 8 6 5 1 5 7.98
BOS LoA Hagadone, Nick 2.1 1 0 0 2 3 0.00
BOS AA Bowden, Michael 4.2 4 2 2 4 4 3.29
CHC AA Veal, Donald 5.2 8 1 1 0 3 4.50
CIN AAA Maloney, Matt 5.1 6 3 3 1 6 6.75
CLE AA Huff, David 5.0 3 0 0 2 8 4.61
CWS AAA Broadway, Lance 8.0 6 4 1 3 3 0.82
FLA AA Thompson, Aaron 5.1 9 2 2 3 1 2.35
KC AAA Davies, Kyle 5.0 5 6 0 2 3 1.38
LAA LoA Walden, Jordan 5.2 5 6 1 1 2 1.02
LAD AAA Meloan, Jon 6.0 1 0 0 4 4 1.69
MIN HiA Guerra, Deolis 5.0 4 0 0 1 4 0.60
MIN AA Swarzak, Anthony 6.0 3 0 0 0 10 0.56
MIN AAA Perkins, Glen 4.1 8 4 3 3 5 5.14
OAK HiA Cahill, Trevor 6.0 2 0 0 1 9 0.50
OAK AAA Meyer, Dan 6.0 0 0 0 2 4 5.00
SD AAA Ramos, Cesar 5.2 3 0 0 1 7 4.50
SEA AAA Thomas, Justin 5.0 6 5 5 4 4 9.00
SF HiA Alderson, Tim 6.0 4 1 1 1 4 1.69
TB AA Houser, James 5.0 2 0 0 0 4 0.60
TB AAA Mason, Chris 5.2 4 4 2 2 7 4.11
TEX LoA Feliz, Neftali 5.0 4 2 2 2 7 5.11
WAS AAA Balester, Collin 4.0 3 0 0 3 5 1.88

Courtesy of Baseball America

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