Projected No. 1 pick Strasburg's $50 million figure and more (cont.)
He's no lackey; Angels ace dislikes team's offer
Before Angels ace John Lackey's negotiations were placed on hold by the need for an MRI and cortisone shot on his right elbow, and also the revelation he won't be ready start the season, the Angels and their ace were off to a slow start in talks.
Lackey, who's making $10 million in his walk year, was very disappointed with the Angels' opening offer, which he said appeared to reflect the team's wish that he take a hometown discount again. According to someone familiar with the talks, the Angels are estimated to have offered Lackey a four-year guarantee for close to $13 million a year, or somewhere around $50 million guaranteed (both Angels GM Tony Reagins and agent Steve Hilliard declined to comment on the specifics). Meanwhile, Lackey was quoted suggesting to Angels writers that his pitching numbers match up pretty closely to CC Sabathia's numbers in the American League (Lackey suggested his Milwaukee numbers be thrown out in the comparison since they are NL numbers).
It's no surprise the Angels' offer wasn't of the bank-breaking variety, as Lackey signed a team-friendly deal last time and is known to want to stay (who wouldn't want to be an Angel?). The Angels may also be slightly spooked by injuries suffered by Kelvim Escobar and Ervin Santana shortly after they signed long-term deals.
The Angels once again look like the safest bet to win their division, and they do a lot of things right, but they've struck out in their biggest negotiations in recent months. Both Teixeira and Sabathia turned down nine-figure offers from them this winter. And now Lackey doesn't appear to be quite the certainty to sign, either.
Jeter will lead off, and Damon will bat behind him
"We like what we see," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of the idea that appears to have spawned from a dugout kibitzing session with hitting coach Kevin Long when Jeter was in the WBC and Damon was batting second a lot to get Jorge Posada and others extra at-bats.
While Girardi added that nothing's official, everyone around the Yankees seems excited by the switch. There are four reasons for this: 1) They like the left-handed Damon batting second when the opposing first baseman is more likely to be holding a runner on first; 2) Jeter usually has a higher on-base percentage than Damon; 3) Damon hits into fewer double plays; and 4) By batting the right-handed-hitting Jeter first, it breaks up the left-handed hitters since lefty-swinging Brett Gardner, who just won the center-field job, will be the No. 9 hitter.
Additionally, neither player minds one bit. Jeter summed up his feelings, saying, "It only means I get up a minute earlier."
Around the camps and the leagues
Pedro Martinez is continuing to be patient, and is hopeful that reputation plus team desperation will be the winning formula to get the contract he seeks, which is $5 million and up. According to a friend of Martinez's, he's "in no hurry" and more than willing to wait well into the season, if that's what it takes. So far, he is said to be receiving "bottom feeding" offers, which probably means about $1 million. The Dodgers, Indians, Pirates, Astros and Mets are seen as possibilities now. The Mets are still a long shot, but with Oliver Perez and John Maine not pitching up to par, they probably can't be counted out entirely -- though Livan Hernandez has looked good all spring and Freddy Garcia began with six scoreless in Triple-A and could move back into the picture. The Dodgers, who fit Martinez's preference of a National League contender, still make the most sense.
Cole Hamels' elbow is feeling better and he's shooting to pitch April 10 in the Phillies' second series at Colorado.
Baseball people are raving about top Orioles catching prospect Matt Wieters, who's being sent to the minors mostly to delay his arbitration and free agency by a year. According to an Orioles person, "Worst case scenario, we believe he'll have Jorge Posada's career ... and that's not too bad." The Orioles are well within their rights to send him down to push back his arbitration and free-agent eligibility by a year and save themselves money (and it's been done before), but for some reason it seems like players get more criticism than teams for making decisions based on monetary reasons.
Sources indicate Jordan Schafer will win the Braves' center-field job.
Reagins said it looks like Escobar is a little ahead of Santana as they endeavor to return, but both could be back by May, if all goes well.
It was a split decision on e-mailers responding to my column saying Curt Schilling should be in the Hall of Fame. But even several of those who agreed that he should be in the Hall say they will be praying for a short speech. One suggested it should be no longer than Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Since Lincoln's masterpiece is 263 words, I don't think that is a realistic goal.
Recommended reading: Ex-Jays executive Bart Given's InsideTheMajors.com brings it. Perhaps Given will be looking to join Keith Law, another executive under GM J.P. Ricciardi in Toronto who's now in the media.
Tom Gordon, one of the few players to have 100 wins, saves and holds, is looking like his old self with the Diamondbacks lately. Bill Chuck noted that Gordon is also one of three pitchers with four shoutouts and 150 saves, the others being Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley (20, 390) and Hoyt Wilhelm (5, 201).
Bill Chuck's note of the week: If Tom Glavine starts 6-2, he duplicates Tom Seaver's 311-205 lifetime mark.
Chuck also credits the New York Times' Jack Curry with this note: In reference to Jeter, 34, Curry notes that the only team to win a pennant with a shortstop at least that age was the 1980 Phillies, who had Larry Bowa at shortstop.
Jeter, incidentally, says he doesn't worry too much about all the critics who are hitting on defensive issues (and they are hitting him hard). Jeter has as thick a skin as anyone around. Jeter said that, like everything else, he has things to work on. But he disagrees with the generally held belief that he's not as good going to his left as he is to his right, coming in or going back.
Something tells me the Yankees don't mind Alex Rodriguez rehabbing out in Colorado, 2,000 miles away, far from tabloid exposure.
Good luck to Dontrelle Willis, a nice kid who went on the disabled list with anxiety disorder Sunday.
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