PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Perpetually easygoing Mets manager Jerry Manuel may one day lose his job -- maybe even sooner than later -- but he will never lose his sense of humor.
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A steady rain fell as the manager and the GM stood side-by-side, arms crossed, watching the home bullpen. It was a Saturday at the Reds spring training home and in front of them a quartet of young Reds hurlers were unleashing fastballs through the cold morning air. Dusty Baker turned to Walt Jocketty. "You got to like our young pitching," the manager said.
I spied Guastavo in Kissimmee. The sighting was, given the clarity of a Florida morn, a glimpse out of the blue, like a Golden-crowned Warbler in the states. The proper name of this rare bird is Gustavo Adolpho Chacin, a left-handed pitcher last seen in parts around major league baseball in 2007, best known for winning 13 games at age 24 for the 2005 Blue Jays.
The Diamondbacks have offered a variety of contracts at various lengths to Mark Reynolds in hopes of locking up their star third baseman, who is eligible for arbitration starting next year. The sides have agreed to negotiate up until Opening Day, when talks will be called off if there's no multiyear deal.
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels relies on deception when he pitches. But his pitching coach Rich Dubee apparently is the opposite type. Dubee didn't hide a thing Thursday while discussing Hamels, and what Hamels needs to do better to get back to the form of his heroic 2008 season. Dubee was as direct as Hamels is deceptive.
Free-agent reliever Eric Gagne and the Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed on a minor league contract, SI.com has confirmed.
One of the most hopeful sights of the year takes place this week: Pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Those in the northeast, still digging out from more than two feet of snow, are especially looking forward to seeing major leaguers don their caps and gloves and start tossing the ball around. And in a couple weeks they'll even begin playing games. But pretty soon the novelty will wear off. Exhibition games are boring, and of course the results don't have any impact on the regular season. Aside from the odd roster battle, spring training quickly gets old and the season can't come fast enough.
Free-agent catcher Rod Barajas is likely to join the Mets on a minor-league deal. Barajas is leaning toward taking New York's offer of a spring training invite for close to $1 million.
The Dodgers are probably the most likely landing spot for free-agent relief pitcher Eric Gagne, with the Rockies also a possibility. Gagne won a Cy Young award as the dominant closer for the Dodgers in 2003 with 55 saves and a 1.20 ERA.
So, I have been playing around with a new baseball prediction system. I would like to tell you that it's complicated... and it is extremely complicated. But I don't want to confuse the word "complicated" with "stupid." I suspect my system is both.* It's versatile that way.
The Washington Nationals have signed former New York Yankees right-hander Chien-Ming Wang to a contract, SI.com confirms.
With players beginning to report to spring camps and all pitchers and catchers on their way within days, the wild winter is just about a wrap. Here are some snapshots of an offseason full of surprises.
Willy Taveras has signed a minor-league contract with the Washington Nationals, SI.com has confirmed. According to the AP, the deal is worth $400,000.
Here we sit in the great gray middle of February, the dead zone on the annual professional sports calendar. The Super Bowl is in the rear view mirror, the NHL has taken a break for the Olympics, and all the big gyms are dark during the interminable NBA All-Star break.
Edwin Jackson signed a $13.35-million, two-year deal with the Diamondbacks, avoiding arbitration, SI.com has learned.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants reached a preliminary agreement on a $23 million, two-year contract ahead of the scheduled start of an arbitration hearing.
The arb-pocalypse has been averted: Tim Lincecum has settled with the Giants. Lincecum, the two-time defending National League Cy Young award winner who stood to set a first-arbitration-year record had he been awarded his $13 million filing amount, has signed a two-year deal worth $23 million. The deal is an unexpected victory, albeit a minor one, for the San Francisco Giants, who countered Lincecum's filing amount with a low-ball offer of $8 million.
Johnny Damon, with the matinee-idol looks and obvious love of the big stage, is starring in his very own soap opera this winter.
NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Mets agreed Thursday to minor league contracts with first baseman Mike Jacobs and left-hander Hisanori Takahashi after missing out on several free agents with higher profiles.
There are times when the pace of activity in the NFL's long offseason actually seems busier than in the six months in which the games are being played. That's why I always laugh when people ask me what I cover once the Super Bowl is over. My answer? More football. Just no games.
Thursday is the first day for arbitration hearings, when eligible players with fewer than six years of major league experience can have their salary decided by an independent party. The player and the team submit their salary demands to an arbitrator, who decides the case. In some years there are few big names that actually go to a hearing -- often the two sides settle on a contract in advance -- but this year there is, of course, a major high-profile case that may get that far. Tim Lincecum, winner of the past two NL Cy Young Awards, is asking for $13 million, while the Giants are offering $8 million.
The Braves appear to be moving aggressively to try to sign free agent outfielder Johnny Damon and are believed to be willing to make an offer comparable to the $6 million deal the Yankees floated to Damon, or perhaps even more than that, according to someone familiar with that team's situation. The Braves have made an offer for a one-year deal, but the exact amount of that initial bid isn't know.
Heading into the 2009-10 free-agent market, the conventional wisdom was that the three big stars in their prime would get big bucks, and that the vast majority of players in the middle and lower ranks would mostly struggle to land a decent contract. And while it has been as rough as predicted for many players -- several good ones are still looking for work (see below) -- the market also yielded some surprising success stories.
Mike Jacobs signed a minor league contract with the Mets on Wednesday, SI.com has confirmed. The deal pays $900,000 base if he's in the majors plus $1.15 million in incentives for possible total of $2.05 million.
The center fielder says he's focused on spring training and getting to the World Series
Free agent first baseman Mike Jacobs is close to signing a minor-league deal with the Mets, SI.com has confirmed.
With the Super Bowl behind us and pitchers and catchers due to report to camp two weeks from Thursday, now seems like a good time to look back at some of the biggest moves of this past offseason to figure out whether or not they actually represent meaningful upgrades for their teams. How much a player cost (be it by trade or free agency), his long-term impact, or how the player(s) he's replacing are likely to perform in the coming season are not factors. This is simply a comparison of the 2009 production each player is replacing to the 2010 production he's likely to contribute. Also, note that the statistics used below (VORP, SNLVAR, UZR) are all adjusted for context, rendering park and league effects largely moot for our purposes here.
Three makes a trend, so if you haven't yet you're surely going to soon read articles going on at length about the glory that is teams in small or poor cities keeping young ace pitchers. Be skeptical -- you may see Justin Verlander whipping curves in pinstripes yet.
King Felix's reign didn't even last one month.
Stop me if you've heard this one before: The Thrashers have traded away their star player for a handful of beans.
The Washington Nationals have reached agreement on a deal with free-agent second baseman Adam Kennedy, sources confirm.
Making a big starting pitching acquisition is always a risky proposition. Starting pitchers are tough to predict. Oftentimes they get hurt, they break down, they lose their stuff, or they just plain stink. At other times they'll surprise you with a great year or a great performance. Given the unpredictable nature of hurlers, especially a few years down the road, making a big splash to acquire a pitcher is a risk. For every successful Greg Maddux or Andy Pettitte signing, there are several Mike Hamptons, Jason Schmidts, Chan Ho Parks, or Barry Zitos that have the potential to hamper a franchise long-term. The impossible trick is figuring out which will be which. Here I'll attempt to present the best and worst starting pitching gambles in the 2010 offseason.
Not every team can be a winner in winter. These eight clubs have been losers, at least for the months of November through February, and while a couple of them may have had a slight problem or two with execution, the real common denominator is that they didn't spend enough money to fill their holes. Some of them are still very good teams (Cubs, Dodgers and Giants for instance), but they should all be better.
Starting pitcher Jeff Weaver has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Dodgers, sources confirm.
Kevin Gregg, who had 84 saves over the last three seasons but ran into trouble pitching or the Cubs last year, has an agreement to sign with the Blue Jays.
CINCINNATI (AP) -- A trade that saved some money made the Cincinnati Reds' next shortstop affordable.
How can a club compete when it has the misfortune of playing in a division that also includes the two highest-revenue clubs in Major League Baseball? The answer for the Baltimore Orioles, for the past dozen seasons anyway, has been: It can't. Since 1997, when the Orioles won the American League East before losing a six game ALCS to the Cleveland Indians, they have endured 12 consecutive sub-.500 seasons, and have just once finished better than fourth in the division -- never once winning more games in a year than did the Yankees or the Red Sox.
Here are some random facts about Ben Sheets: He's 31 years old. His fastball runs like it's hung on a clothesline. He's pitched enough innings to qualify for the ERA title once in the last five years. He just signed with the A's for $10 million plus incentives. If the last of these seems a bit off to you given the first three, you may think you're missing something. You aren't.
Free agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera is close to a deal with the Cincinnati Reds, sources confirm.
Free agent Fernando Tatis is close to a deal with the New York Mets, which would likely close the door on Carlos Delgado returning to the team.
One week after Mark McGwire clumsily asked for unofficial reinstatement to Major League Baseball, under far less controversy, the New York Mets granted absolution to two prodigal sons of another drug culture. The Mets' naming of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry to their Hall of Fame caused barely a ripple of attention, in part because the McGwire fallout kept its momentum but also because the announcement was, if anything, too long coming.
The A's, Rangers and Mets are among teams considering free agent pitcher Ben Sheets, who raised his value with what was described by several scouts as an excellent showcase last week in Monroe, La.
It had been a good day for Ricky Stone.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Unable to find regular playing time for Gary Matthews Jr., the Los Angeles Angels traded the outfielder to the New York Mets on Friday and agreed to pay $21.5 million as part of the deal.
If you can find someone to take a bet on who the most popular man in baseball is right now, lay your money on Brian Sabean, general manager of the Giants. There can't be one person working in a front office or for central baseball who wants them to take 25-year-old ace Tim Lincecum to arbitration. One can only imagine the pretexts people are working up to call Sabean.
Jose Contreras has reached agreement on a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, sources confirm. The deal is believed to be for just over $1 million.
Are you ready for the 2014 World Series between the Pirates and Royals? It could happen. I'll admit that it sounds insane. Aren't the Pirates and Royals two small-market teams that just spent the last decade or two in the cellar? Can I really be talking about the same two inept franchises who don't spend much money and whose farm systems are just so-so? Aren't these two teams the same clubs that just lost 99 and 97 games respectively? Even the most optimistic fans in Pittsburgh or Kansas City might concede that there's little hope for contention any time soon. So why on earth would I be predicting a World Series involving these two clubs in just five short years?
MIAMI (AP) -- Florida Marlins president David Samson says the team won't trade second baseman Dan Uggla this winter.
The Dodgers have reached agreement with Vicente Padilla on a one-year deal, SI.com has confirmed. The deal is for $5 million, SI.com has learned.
Mark McGwire made his choice. So did Alex Rodriguez. And Barry Bonds. And Manny Ramirez. And David Ortiz. And Rafael Palmeiro. And Sammy Sosa. And so on and so on. The list of baseball players who have been linked to performance-enhancing substances seems to stretch on like a tape-measure blast into the summer night.
ST. LOUIS -- Don Denkinger is a nice man. Only a nice man would come to the St. Louis Baseball Writers dinner to be the resident villain at a night that honors the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals. You will note that the 1985 Cardinals did not win the World Series. Many people in St. Louis will tell you that Don Denkinger is the reason they did not.
Left-hander Doug Davis has agreed to a one-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers for a guaranteed $5.25 million, SI.com has confirmed. The contract, pending a physical, includes a mutual option for 2011.
The whopping $5-million gap in arbitration filing figures between double-Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and the Giants is, yes, nothing less than giant. Enormous gaps are obviously difficult to bridge, and this one -- $13 million requested by Lincecum vs. the $8 million offered by his team -- will take something akin to the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Yankees left little doubt that they were the team of the last decade, but what team was the most efficient from 2000 through 2009? Did the Yankees get the most bang for their 1.6 billion bucks or did someone else win more efficiently? And which team wasted enough money to claim the title of the least efficient team of the decade? The answers might surprise you -- and that means you at the players association, too -- especially because the most and least efficient teams are not determined solely by market size.
Carl Pavano avoided arbitration on Tuesday by reaching agreement with the Twins on a guaranteed one-year, $7 million deal for 2010. It is the first time the Twins have ever guaranteed an arbitation-eligible one-year deal.
Tim Lincecum is asking for a record $13 million in arbitration from the San Francisco Giants while the team is countering with an $8 million offer, SI.com has learned.
Clark County District Court Judge Darvin Zimmerman either has a highly tuned sense of irony or an obliviousness that borders on cosmic.
On the eve of the exchange of arbitration figures, a dozen players came to terms with their major league teams on Monday, including Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla.
While nearly 100 free agents remain available, it's probably too late for any team to transform its team or winter with what's left. So it's time to assess the winters of the 30 teams -- or at least the top 10 of them.
Mark McGwire speaks Sunday in his first public appearance in St. Louis, Missouri, since admitting steroid use.
Former St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire said Sunday he's glad he admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs, but faced ongoing questions about why and which drugs he took.
The Oakland A's reached an agreement Friday to acquire third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff from the San Diego Padres in a four-player trade, SI.com has confirmed.
New York Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran, who is entering the sixth season of a $119 million contract, had knee surgery on Wednesday morning. The surgery, which will likely sideline Beltran for the early part of the season, was performed by Dr. Richard Steadman, a prominent orthopedic surgeon not employed by the Mets. The Mets claim that they only gave permission for Beltran to be examined by Steadman and that they asked Beltran to wait on the surgery; Beltran asserts that the Mets granted permission for surgery and then, while the procedure was taking place, changed their mind and asked that he wait. SI.com legal expert Michael McCann discusses the potential fallout.
Locked out of the U.S. by a war that ended two decades ago, best seen abroad at tournaments watched by few Americans who aren't paid to take in games, Cuban ballplayers are men about whom we know nothing in an age when we know more than we'd like to about nearly everyone else. This makes them mysterious and attractive. So the surprise isn't that Aroldis Chapman signed a six-year contract worth at least $30 million this week, but that he didn't sign for more.
Jose Valverde is close to an agreement on a two-year, $14 miillion contract with the Detroit Tigers, SI.com has confirmed.
Forty years ago this Saturday, Curt Flood set in motion events which would alter the landscape of professional sports forever, filing a lawsuit against commissioner Bowie Kuhn and Major League Baseball over violations of anti-trust law. At the crux of the lawsuit was MLB's long-standing reserve clause, which allowed teams to perpetually keep players under contract.
The Diamondbacks and Adam LaRoche have an agreement on a one-year deal that will be finalized as soon as he takes a physical, SI.com has confirmed. The deal will pay LaRoche between $4 million and $5 million, sources say. News of the deal was first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran underwent arthroscopic surgery on his troublesome right knee Wednesday, SI.com has learned.
Mark McGwire deserves a ban from baseball more than any sympathy.
1. Doug Glanville, New York Times op-ed columnist: The most illuminating piece of writing on Tiger Woods last month came from a man once traded for Mickey Morandini:
Now that I have become the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, I have the chance to do something that I wish I was able to do five years ago.
Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman, one of the most coveted free-agents on this year's market, is expected to sign a five-year, $30 million deal with the Cincinnati Reds, sources confirmed to SI.com.
There appears to be little to see yet in what promises to be two of the most widely watched player negotiations in recent memory. Talks involving Albert Pujols, who is signed through 2010 with a club option for 2011, and the Cardinals early this winter appear to have been extremely brief, and indications are that discussions between Joe Mauer, a free agent after the 2010 season, and the Twins have been even briefer.
The Blue Jays are showing keen interest in Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman, and sources indicate their offer of about $20 million could make them the leader in about a six-team scramble for the left-handed pitcher with a decision possibly only a few days away. The Nationals, Marlins, Red Sox, A's and Angels are among other teams with some level of interest, though it isn't known whether any of them can top the Jays' bid, which was actually pegged at $23 million Friday by El Nuevo Herald and could even grow to $25 million.
Matt Holliday is a big, line drive hitter with a sweet, even swing, a good batting eye and deceptive speed that shows in the outfield and on the bases, the kind of player who isn't great at any one thing but does everything well. Dwight Evans and Paul O'Neill in his Yankees days come to mind. So does Billy Williams, maybe the best of this class.
NEW YORK -- Standing in a Waldorf-Astoria ballroom, Andre Dawson gripped the podium in front of him and spoke how overwhelming it was to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Matt Kemp makes millions with the Dodgers, likes good teeth in women and has his own Bobblehead doll
Funny free-agent market. At its top, it's very good.
She may be extremely busy with her career, but Rihanna is finding quality time to hang with her new beau, Los Angeles Dodger Matt Kemp.
After weeks of seemingly bidding against themselves for his services, the Cardinals have finally reached an agreement to keep Matt Holliday in St. Louis. The contract, which according to Jon Heyman is worth $120 million over seven years, will lock up Holliday until he's 36, with an average annual salary of just over $17 million. Though the money involved is well short of the $180 over eight years fellow Scott Boras client Mark Teixeira received from the Yankees a year ago, it is a much larger portion of the Cardinals' payroll, which has averaged just over $90 million a year over the last five seasons, and the largest contract ever handed out by the team.
The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to a seven-year, $120 million deal with Matt Holliday, SI.com has learned. Holliday will also get a full no-trade clause.
Baseball rarely disappoints. Every season brings its share of milestones, rare feats, dominating performances, and thrilling finishes and this year was no different. Gary Sheffield hit his 500th home run, Randy Johnson earned his 300th win and Mariano Rivera recorded his 500th save. Jonathan Sanchez pitched a no-hitter and was one error away from having a perfect game. Eight players hit for the cycle (the most in a single season since 1933). And Eric Bruntlett turned just the second game-ending unassisted triple play in major league history, which appropriately came against the Mets, thereby condensing their disastrous season into a single, historic play. Yet none of them were as noteworthy as the stories below. Here, in chronological order, are the ten biggest baseball stories of 2009.
The Chicago Cubs have reached an agreement with free agent outfielder Marlon Byrd on a three-year, $15 million contract, SI.com has confirmed. The signing allows the Cubs to move Kosuke Fukudome from centerfield to rightfield, which is his preferred position.
The Phillies are in serious talks with veteran reliever Danys Baez, SI.com has learned, and appear to be closing in on a deal.
The St. Louis Cardinals have offered free agent outfielder Matt Holliday a contract for at least six years and presumably $100 million or more in hopes of retaining the 29-year-old outfielder.
Stop right there. Before we allow you to read any further, we'll need to see some ID. A review of the year in sleaze -- oops, we mean sports -- in 2009 is a tale for mature audiences only. Some of the randy goings-on were mildly amusing: NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley got a traffic ticket last New Year's Eve in his haste to find a place for a little one-on-one time with a female friend. Others were deeply disturbing: retired NFL quarterback Steve McNair, a husband and father, was shot dead by a paramour in a murder-suicide.
The statement came 28 years ago.
Free-agent second baseman Kelly Johnson has agreed on a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks, SI.com has learned. Johnson, who is taking a physical on Wednesday, will be paid about $2 million on a one-year deal. He was non-tendered by the Braves but fills a second base hole for Arizona.
The Mets have two geographical rivals: One is in their city, one is in their division, and both were in the 2009 World Series. For all the challenging seasons the Mets have endured through their history -- 120 losses in 1962, worst team money could buy in '93, September swoons in '07 and '08 -- there was something unique about the agony they experienced in '09.
The Mets have reached a deal to bring All-Star outfielder Jason Bay to New York pending a physical, SI.com confirmed.
The San Francisco Giants and free-agent Mark DeRosa have agreed on a two-year deal, for $12 million, SI.com has learned.
Bobby Howry's one-year, deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks will be completed today once he passes a physical, SI.com has learned.
It has been a quiet holiday week in baseball. Of course, sometimes nothing happening is almost as significant as something happening. Take the Mets, a rich, lousy team that has made an ostentatious show of being willing to spend a lot to improve. With more than $90 million committed for next year before figuring arbitration awards for several young players, the team lacks a catcher, a first baseman, two outfielders and the semblance of dignity. Every one of their starters is inexperienced, terrible, coming off an injury or some combination of the three. They might be able to get better by signing the owners of Shea Stadium, the Brooklyn recording studio named after their erstwhile, much-mourned ballpark.
Economics is known as the dismal science, but not every economist is a pessimist.
NEW YORK (SI.com) --The New York Mets and right-hander Kelvim Escobar have agreed to a one-year, major league contract.
Jason Bay reportedly has a mystery team bidding on him. But beyond the Mets, who remain keenly interested and in touch with his agent Joe Urbon, nearly all of Bay's market remains mystery at this point.
Baseball America's Prospect Handbook is going to press, and it's hard to describe the book to my non-baseball friends (a short list, but I have had a few such discussions). It's a book of 900 scouting reports on the game's top minor league players: 30 for each of the 30 major league organizations. To give you a taste of the Handbook, I presented my own ranking of the farm systems earlier this month, and that proved prescient, as the Phillies showed their system's strength by using it (and Cliff Lee) to deal for Roy Halladay. The Phils won't be in our top five when the book comes out, not after dealing one of the game's top 20 prospects. In another example of what you'll find in the Handbook, here are my personal top 20 prospects in baseball.
As major league GM's awake on Christmas morning, they'll anxiously check their stockings to see what Santa has brought them. If they've been nice, maybe they'll get a new flat-screen TV; if they've been naughty, perhaps a lump of coal awaits them. However, no lump of coal is more burdensome than these: The 10 biggest franchise-killing contracts in baseball.
NEW YORK (AP) -- When Javier Vazquez last threw a pitch for the New York Yankees, it was a nadir in the team's storied history. He gave up two homers to Johnny Damon, including a key grand slam, as the Yankees lost Game 7 of the 2004 AL championship series to Boston.
If you took just the players that the Yankees have acquired this winter more because they could than because they needed them, you would have the beginnings of a pretty good team. In Nick Johnson, they've added one of baseball's great on-base threats; in Curtis Granderson, they've added one of the game's best center fielders and now, with Javier Vazquez, they've added one of baseball's better pitchers. This is fair enough -- the sport has rules and the Yankees play within them. Still, you can understand the groans rising in 27 other cities right now.