Best winter moves (so far)
16. Rays put together a bullpen on a shoestring again. Closer Kyle Farsnworth ($3.25 million) was the one high-priced pickup, and he has a 0.73 ERA thus far. Also doing well are Juan Cruz ($850,000, 2.57 ERA), Joel Peralta ($925,000, 3.00) and Adam Russell ($420,800, 2.84).
17. Rangers sign Adrian Beltre for $80 million over five years (the deal could hit $96 million for six years). Sure, that's steep. But Beltre has been as advertised, with eight homers, 28 RBIs and incredible defense.
18. Pirates sign Kevin Correia. At 5-3 with a 3.25 ERA, Correia seems to be returning to his 2009 success after a rough 2010 season in San Diego. "Our scouts saw very similar stuff in 2009 and 2010,'' Pirates GM Neal Huntington said. "Our analysis indicated he was a strong bounce-back candidate.''
19. Rays sign Johnny Damon. The other half of the tandem of veteran hitters the Rays signed, Manny Ramirez, didn't work out as well. Damon, meanwhile, had five walkoff hits in a row at one point, and has also hit five home runs.
20. Mets take Pedro Beato in the Rule V draft. The Brooklyn product has been perfect in relief, going 17 innings without allowing a run. But even this bright spot isn't immune from the Mets' recent bad luck; Beato is currently on the disabled list with elbow tendinitis.
21. A's acquire outfielder Josh Willingham from the Nationals for pitcher Henry Rodriguez and outfielder Corey Brown. By midway through spring training, A's coach Mike Gallego told me, "Willingham is our best player.'' He's provided veteran leadership and desperately needed offense (6 home runs and 22 RBIs) to a team built around its superb starting rotation.
22. Marlins add several key bargain pieces, especially to their bullpen. Mike Dunn, Randy Choate and Edward Mujica all have aided a revamped pen. Greg Dobbs (.332) has helped an iffy third-base situation. Catcher John Buck was the one big expense, at $18 million, and he's doing a nice job with a very successful staff.
Other moves that look good early (and again, it's very early):
Red Sox: Matt Albers, Alfredo Aceves
Orioles: Kevin Gregg, Koji Uehara
Blue Jays: Jon Rauch
Tigers: Jhonny Peralta
White Sox: Phil Humber, Jesse Crain
Angels: Scott Downs
A's: Grant Balfour, Brandon McCarthy
Rangers: Darren Oliver
Mariners: Aaron Laffey
Phillies: Jose Contreras
Braves: Eric Hinske, George Sherrill
Nationals: Livan Hernandez
Mets: Chris Capuano, Taylor Buchholz
Cubs: Reed Johnson
Pirates: Joe Beimel
Rockies: Matt Lindstrom
Giants: Pat Burrell, Ryan Vogelsong
Dodgers: Jon Garland, Rod Barajas, Vicente Padilla
Diamondbacks: Willie Bloomquist, David Hernandez, J.J. Putz, Melvin Mora
Padres: Chad Qualls, Dustin Moseley, Chris Denorfia
Five major league executives suggested at least strong doubt as to whether Milton Bradley could find another job after the Mariners designated him for assignment. The reasons listed were poor offense, declining defense and the usual hellacious temper. "He has no upside,'' one exec said. "I think his career is over.'' Two others were equally emphatic that Bradley was done, but two execs left open a small possibility he'd find one more taker on the theory that there's one in every crowd.
The Pirates want to bring back Andrew McCutchen on a deal for at least five years. The team will not do a deal that is for four years or fewer, which wouldn't buy out any free-agent years. They want to keep McCutchen (who's hitting .227 so far with seven homers and five stolen bases) long-term, but he has to decide whether he wants to commit to an organization which hasn't had a winning season since 1992. The policy to only do deals to buy out free-agent years is a wise one for Pittsburgh.
The Mets' Carlos Beltran is helping his trade value with a .526 slugging percentage and an NL high 12 doubles. He recently "looked great going from first to third'' on a single, one AL scout said, and he's done pretty well in rightfield too, opening up the possibility he could interest a National League club as well as AL clubs. It's early, but the White Sox, A's and Tigers look like they could be possibilities, and if the Red Sox suffer any attrition, they'd make sense, too. Beltran is thought willing to waive his no-trade clause for the right team.
Greenwich, Conn., hedge fund manager Stevie Cohen, a longtime friend of the Wilpons, had previously been seen as a favorite to buy the Mets minority stake that's for sale, but word is Cohen doesn't currently have the high bid. There's been more interest than first predicted, and the sale is expected to keep the Wilpons afloat, at least for the foreseeable future (until they resolve their Madoff issue). There is no hard deadline to find the minority buyer, though financial pressures means they need to do it in coming weeks. Still, there seems to be more optimism they might hold onto the team now than there was a few months ago.
Meanwhile, Dodgers owners Frank McCourt is thought by one person familiar with his financial situation to be in jeopardy of running out of funds before the All-Star break. The Los Angeles Times said it could be by the end of the month, but others think he could go a few weeks beyond that. McCourt already has borrowed $55 million from his TV partner, Fox, but MLB seems determined to prevent future borrowing by McCourt, who's already in debt up to his eyeballs. McCourt recently went out to rightfield at Dodger Stadium, where he didn't receive a bad greeting from fans before repairing to his box by the dugout, where he was booed so lustily he took refuge inside. McCourt has publicly questioned why commissioner Bud Selig has turned against him, but he hasn't questioned why nearly the entire Dodgers fan base has.
Angels star Kendrys Morales visited a foot specialist in Vail, Colo.,. on Tuesday in hopes of avoiding a second surgery a year after injuring himself in a home-plate celebration following his walkoff grand slam home run. He is still having issues running.
There seems to be reasonable expectation among people in the know that Phillies' injured star Chase Utley will be back in June.
The poor Twins seem to be snakebit. Jim Thome, Delmon Young, Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka all are on the disabled list while Justin Morneau is batting his way back from a concussion and also has been hampered in recent days by a virus. There is no timetable for Mauer, who has leg weakness after offseason knee surgery. Both Mauer and the club are said to be committed to keeping the superstar at catcher.
One high school player moving up some draft boards is catcher Jordan Weems, from Columbus, Ga. The Red Sox and Blue Jays could be interested.
Two prospects omitted from Monday's column on baseball's best prospects are the Giants' Brandon Belt and the Indians' Drew Pomeranz. Belt started the season with the Giants, hitting .192 in a cameo, and isn't believed far off from returning. Pomeranz has been likened to former Indians star Cliff Lee.
Top Red Sox shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias is only up while Marco Scutaro is on the disabled list, and the expectation is Iglesias will be sent back to Triple-A Pawtucket once Scutaro or another reinforcement is ready. The Red Sox want Iglesias to show he's ready as a hitter before bringing him back for good. One major league source said he thought it was "highly unlikely'' the Red Sox would trade the prospects it would be needed to acquire Jose Reyes as a rental.
Royals rookie first baseman Eric Hosmer is impressing folks already. He slammed a liner of the wall in right-center field against Oakland over the weekend that opened more eyes. Royals GM Moore, who doesn't like to overstate things, said, "He's a good looking player.''
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