Cardinals may not offer Pujols an A-Rod deal (cont.)
The Yankees gave Rafael Soriano a $35-million, three-year contract with two opt-out options to be their set-up man. It was a good deal for them, but it wasn't one any other team or even their own general manager, Brian Cashman, would have done.
Cashman is said by people familiar with situation to have made a plea to pass on Soriano. However, those same people say Cashman is a team player who accepted being overruled by managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner. Hal Steinbrenner and club president Randy Levine ultimately decided to go hard for Soriano for a few baseball reasons. Those are:
1. Mariano Rivera, while the greatest closer in baseball history and showing no signs of age last year, is now 41, an age where the Yankees felt insurance was important. "If something happened to Mariano, we were done,'' is how someone familiar with the Yankees' bigwigs relayed their thinking;
2. While David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain are talented, Yankees bosses weren't entirely comfortable with either as the team's main set-up man;
3. The other possible set-up men on the market that they seriously considered, most prominently Brian Fuentes, was going to cost them at least $12 million, meaning Soriano's price tag is only $23 million more (while Fuentes now is headed to the A's for $10.5 million, there is no probability he would have jumped to the Yankees for that figure);
4. Their rotation remains unusually thin with their surprising rejection by top free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee, and to date they've been unable to acquire the top pitcher they sought though trade (most prominently Felix Hernandez);
5. They'd have the option to trade Soriano to a team that needs a closer if another team became apparent at midseason and Robertson or someone else shows he can reliably set up Rivera;
6. The draft choice they'd lose for Soriano is pick No. 31, late enough that the history of that pick is extremely spotty, though the Cubs once found future Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux there.
7. The Yankees' main advantage is money, and while they have faith they can draft well (their scouting director, Damon Oppenheimer, is so well respected they rejected the Diamondbacks' request to interview him for their GM position), they understand their advantage is dollars.
8. Their revenues, while not publicly divulged, support the signing;
9. Their $200-$210 million budget had plenty of room after the Lee rejection.
Cashman told team higher-ups (as well as the media) that he didn't want to surrender the draft choice for a set-up man, even a great set-up man. But just because he was overruled doesn't mean he's lost the faith of his bosses. Cashman, while well-respected, is ultimately like any other GM, which is to say that he doesn't have full autonomy. He has a lot of power and leeway, but not all of it. That's how things will always be, whether the always-involved George Steinbrenner owns the team, or whether it's his less intrusive son Hal.
Carl Pavano and the Twins are expected to have a two-year deal by the middle of this week. It could be delayed a day or two by the team's arbitration distraction (Tuesday is the day figures are exchanged by all teams and players), but baseball people read no negative inference into the fact the talks have taken awhile. The Pirates in particular have made a run at Pavano, but the Twins' advantage is that they are a contending team where Pavano could be the ace and they are also the team that provided a comfortable environment for the pitcher to thrive in the last two seasons.
Folks close to Andy Pettitte believe he hasn't given up the idea of continuing his career. But Pettitte's inability to commit to a return at this point has given rise to theories that he may not want the media distraction for either himself or the team during the months leading up to Roger Clemens' scheduled July trial. Pettitte is expected to be the star witness in the case against his former great friend, workout partner and mentor. But that theory has holes. Pettitte isn't expected to face harsh cross-examination (Clemens' side would gain no benefit by trying to paint Pettitte as more involved in PEDs than he has admitted when he was Clemens' workout partner). Ultimately, it's expected that Clemens' people will try to portray Pettitte as "misremembering,'' though it's tough to predict Clemens' legal strategy, which has thus far been curious at best.
The Yankees among the teams looking at Kevin Millwood as a back-end starter and have also looked at Freddy Garcia. They are also pressing for Andruw Jones to be their fourth outfielder and have their eye on Johnny Damon, too.
The Rays also look like a player for both Jones and Damon, and they may be the best fit for Vladimir Guerrero, who had a superb comeback season in 2010.
The A's' deal with Merced, Calif., native Brian Fuentes is expected to be for $10.5 million plus incentives. Fuentes was also pursued by the Rays and Blue Jays.
The Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation dinner this past weekend at the Century Plaza Hyatt Regency was a huge hit, featuring a mix of stars from baseball (Tom Seaver, Robin Yount, Brooks Robinson, Bobby Valentine, the Lachemann family and many scouts were among the honorees) and Hollywood (Jon Lovitz, Rob Reiner, James Caan and Larry King were among the baseball-crazy speakers). The dinner, run for years by Dennis Gilbert, raises money for scouts in need. Gilbert, who made a failed bid to buy the Rangers, appears to be a very viable candidate now to buy the Dodgers.
The support among other owners for Dodgers co-owner Frank McCourt is at an alltime low, and ultimately his ownership could be doomed, though there's a major question as to whether Jamie would have MLB's support, either. Neither McCourt is believed to have enough money to own the team by themselves, so either is thought to ultimately need to take on a partner and Jamie McCourt is said by sources to have richer friends who could prop her up. This soap opera carries the potential to drag on a little while.