Category:MLB
Posted on: February 7, 2012 5:31 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2012 6:21 pm
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Yankees eye Ibanez; Damon the better choice


The Yankees have a little spending money to add a position player or two, and at least at the moment seem to be focused on Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez.

Chavez is a terrific choice. He performed well when healthy his first year in the Bronx, fit perfectly into the clubhouse and plays third base, which is needed now that Alex Rodriguez appears to be moving rapidly into middle age.

But Ibanez? Nothing against Ibanez personally, but he is at best the third best choice on the board to fill the DH spot. Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, two more proven New York players, are still available and better options than Ibanez, who had a .289 on-base percentage last year. While Ibanez hit 20 home runs last year, he has the added issue of never having been a regular DH. Which is what they need.

A bunch of nice stories have been written on Ibanez, all pointing out what a nice fellow he is, and that is true. But Damon and Matsui already played for the Yankees, and both of those players thrived in New York, both on the field and in the clubhouse. Damon is a leader who was willing to do the tough interviews when many hide, and Matsui was beloved by everyone.

Even if it is stipulated that Ibanez is a sweetheart (and by all accounts he is), more to the point, Damon put together a much better year than Ibanez in 2011. Damon posted a .743 OPS, better than Ibanez''s .707 or Matsui's .696 (Matsui has the excuse of playing in Oakland last year but Ibanez was in hitter friendly Citizens Bank Park). Ibanez bring a bit more power (he had 20 home runs to Damon's 16), but Damon also has the added dimension of speed (19 steals last year), and at 38 he's a year younger than Ibanez, who'll turn 40 this summer.

The Yankees did a salary dance two years ago with Damon, who wound up going to the Tigers that year before moving to the Rays last year. And it's also very probable he has better other options than Ibanez and more leverage, as he's been connected to the Mariners, A's and Orioless, so he may cost a few dollars more. Ibanez has only been connected to the Tigers, who have no need for him since signing Prince Fielder, plus the Mets, who are trying to start a fire with their two nickels.

Regardless, with all the players having an interest in coming to New York to play for a contender, the Yankees are in excellent position here to get who they want at a reasonable price. They could get Damon on a good deal. No reason for baseball's richest team to try to save a few pennies and sign the sweet fellow who made outs at an alarming rate last year.

 



Posted on: February 7, 2012 12:29 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2012 2:10 pm
 

Making sense of a non-sensical Orioles trade


There's been a lot of wonderment about why the Orioles would trade their perennial Opening Day starter, Jeremy Guthrie, for two lesser veteran pitchers who together make more money. It is perplexing, no question about that.

But here's my guess as to what caused them to do this seemingly nonsensical move ...

The Orioles just didin't love Guthrie.

It is, of course, possible that they just messed up and made a dumb deal. They've done it before. But in this case, I don't think so. I just don't think they had any great desire to have Guthrie lead their staff again.

Guthrie seems like a pleasant fellow, and he certainly is a smart guy (Stanford man). But there were whispers that the Orioles saw him as being slightly satisfied (one Orioles person remarked to me last spring that you could never tell from the way he carried himself that he only had 38 career victories) and perhaps not as tough a fellow as they'd like for their staff ace, either. Perhaps that is why they were so intent on trading him. And considering the take (Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom), I have to assume they were pretty intent.

Orioles GM Dan Duquette went on the airwaves Monday and said the Rockies' package was "by far'' the best offer they had for Guthrie. And I believe that. Even taking less than the midpoint to go to contender nor far from where he lives in Utah, as Guthrie did in going to Colorado, $8.2 million is still a big salary for someone with now 47 career victories.

Duquette pointed out that they could keep Hammel and Lindstrom for two years, not one, as if this was a big selling point. But I think Orioles people just felt it was time to move on. And if they thought that was the case, it probably was.


Posted on: February 3, 2012 3:02 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 9:23 pm
 

Josh is a great guy but an even greater risk

The Rangers have hired a new "accountability coach'' for Josh Hamilton, who will try to make sure what happened Monday never happens again. Their heart is in the right place. And so is his.

Hamilton certainly did not soft sell his second drinking incident since becoming a Ranger today at his press conference, and that's a great sign. "I have a lot of soul searching to do,'' he admitted, among other things. Hamilton conceded to having "three or four'' drinks with dinner Monday at a Dallas-area bar before returning for more. He poured his heart out, too.

Hamilton, who's beloved by the Rangers for his almost superhuman level of transparency, admitted he can be tricky when he drinks. He said he fooled teammate Ian Kinsler Monday night, reassuring him he'd stay in after Kinsler dropped him at home, only to return to the scene of the drinking. But Hamilton showed his unvarnished self at his press conference, saying, "I feel terrible about this.''

It's hard not to root for this guy He certainly seemed sincere. He certainly seemed to be taking this transgression seriously. His recent past suggest he is. He had one previous "relapse'' since the Rangers acquired him, and he got through that to this point. His reaction today suggest he can get through this, too. But Hamilton understands how powerful his addiction is.

"I feel terrible about this,'' he said. "I am hurt by it tremendously.''

The Rangers love Hamilton, who became a superstar after a ban from baseball for multiple failed drug tests and a cocaine additcion, because of his otherworldy talent. But they also love that he wears his heart on his sleeve. He understands the seriousness of slips, even slips that may seem relatively minor to outsiders. He said his wife has been the strong one in their relationship and it's time for him to "take responsibility'' and to "step up.''

He also mentioned he understands now how his contract situation has to be on the "back burner'' now. That is assuredly true. The Rangers are a very loyal lot, and that loyalty seems to have paid off with manager Ron Washington, who they kept and supported after he failed a drug test in July, 2010, and recently gave a two-year contract extension, too, through 2014. But they are not crazy.

That organizational loyalty was at work when the Rangers held the line in contract discussions with Prince Fielder, deciding against going to eight years for Fielder, very likely in part because they had their own lefthanded middle-of-the-lineup superstar in Hamilton. Even before Fielder signed with the Tigers, Rangers co-owner Bob Simpson even said aloud that keeping Hamilton rather than signing Fielder was his "preference.'' It was clear what he meant. Hamilton is their guy.

The Rangers make more good decisions than almost anyone (for instance, they lowered their payroll $10 million in the first of two straight years they made the World Series, 2010). But one has to wonder whether their loyalty got the better of them in this case with their decision to pass on Prince (well, not go to eight years, anyway) and try to make a deal for Hamilton instead. Now those talks have to be on hold (as Hamilton admitted).

The Rangers made a great decision to acquire Hamilton in trade from the Reds for Edinson Volquez. Reds doctors worried that Hamilton would never be fully healthy, and they practically ordered a trade. It was a strict business decision on their part. And the Rangers made a business call to acquire Hamilton, calculating that his talent was worth the risk. But seeing his obvious charm, you have to wonder whether their decision to try to sign him instead of Fielder was based at least in part on his charms or their emotions. He is 31 with a long history of injury. He is to admired for coming this far. But you have to wonder whether all the abuse has taken a toll.

Hamilton is a great guy, and a great story. And he scored big with his terrific press conference. But let's face it, the Rangers took a real risk sticking with their guy.





Category: MLB
Posted on: February 3, 2012 12:12 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 1:53 pm
 

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure


Nationals manager Davey Johnson has been telling anyone who'll listen he wants slugging teen-aged phenom Bryce Harper to start the season with the big-league team. And while most folks around baseball think that's a reach, Johnson may getting through to some people -- in fact, the very people making the call.

"We're take a look at him and see where he's at developmentally. If we feel he's ready to play at the major-league level, we're not going to restrict him,'' Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said by phone. "We'll be cautious yet open-minded. If he gives us the best chance to win, we'll keep an open mind and see where it takes us.''

While Harper is universally viewed as one of the best prospects in baseball, he is only 19, and skeptics outside the organization don't view Harper's immediate ascension as very likely. One said, half jokingly, "It just gives Davey something to talk about.'' Others pointed to Harper's .256 batting average at Double-A Harrisburg (Pa.) last year as evidence he needs another year of seasoning. Harper also slugged just .395 at Harrisburg after tearing up Class-A to the tune of a .318 batting average and .977 OPS to start his pro career.


Putting all that aside, everyone wonders whether the Nats would want to start Harper's arbitration and free-agent clocks so early. Angels phenom Mike Trout played in the big leagues at 19 last year, and the research of Danny Knobler of CBSSports revealed several other players to play in the bigs at 19 in recent years, including Jose Reyes, Adrian Beltre, Karim Garcia, Wilson Betemit and the Upton Brothers, but Andruw Jones as the last position player to break camp with a major-league team at 19 when he did it for the Braves in 1997 (Felix Hernandez is the last 19-year-old pitcher to break camp with a big-league team.).


There is also a suggestion that the Nats are willing to say that he may make the team because they want to provide extra incentive for Harper to show his best during spring training. Though by saying publicly he can play his way onto the team, that also, puts pressure on them to make good on the promise. Regardless, that isn't deterring Rizzo.

"If he gives us the best chance to win, and (we) feel he's fully prepared to play in the big leagues, he'll make the team,'' Rizzo said.

There is a lot of excitement around the Nats after their additions of Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, Brad Lidge and others. While the Phillies remain the favorite in a strong National League East division, the Nats look like a bona fide contender. Washington looked hard at Prince Fielder but ultimately spent on pitching, which fits Rizzo's defense-and-pitching plan. (While they were in on Fielder almost until the end, they are believed to have held the line on years and are believed to have been outbid by at least three others, including the winning Tigers.)

"We feel good about where we're at,'' Rizzo said. "We feel we've strengthened two parts of the team. We have a better, deeper more well-rounded rotation and we've improved a strength in the bullpen by adding a veteran presence.''

The key to Jackson are the innings he brings. Rizzo said that's because pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg is on a pitch limit, Jordan Zimmermann has never thrown 200 innings and Chien-Ming Wang is a couple years removed from shoulder surgery. Jackson will receive $11 million for one year, with $9 million of it actually paid in 2012 and the other $2 million next year.

Though Rizzo is a pitching-first guy, the lineup, which is anchored by Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse and Jayson Werth, still looks still looks strong. It will look that much stronger if, as Johnson envisions, Harper can tap his potential immediately and play his way into the Opening day lineup.



Posted on: January 31, 2012 6:07 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2012 5:52 am
 

Magic, with secret weapon, may be Dodger favorite


At least eight groups advanced to the second round of the big Frank McCourt Dodgers sweepstakes. Several of them look like powerhouses. But one of them looks like a winner of the Dodgers from here.

That would be the Magic Johnson-Stan Kasten group.

For one, that group has Magic Johnson. For another, that group very likely will have Patrick Soon-Shiong.

Soon-Shiong isn't Magic in terms of jump shots, fame or even local cache. But in terms of moolah, Soon-Shiong blows everyone in L.A. away.

Soon-Shiong is reported to have $7.2 billion, and sources suggest to me he will very likely join the Magic-Kasten group. I mentioned this on twitter recently, and the Los Angeles Times, which has been all over this story, wrote soon after that Soon-Shoing is mulling over which group to join. That's very likely the way Soon-Shiong or someone close to him wants it played. But he is a close friend of Magic's, bought Magic's 4.5 percent stake in the Lakers (and is believed to be pleased with that purchase) and is a basketball junkie. It's possible he's holding out like Bill Clinton's buddy Ron Burkle, who appears to be waiting to see who's leading before committing. But if the Magic-Kasten group is in it to the end, and they should be, expect Soon-Shiong to join them.

The L.A. Times identified eight of the finalists as the Joe Torre-Rick Caruso group, Connecticut hedge fund magnate Stevie Cohen, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, ex-Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley, Stanley Gold and the family of Roy Disney, L.A. real estate mogul Alan Casden and the Leo Hindery-Marc Utay-Tom Barrach group, and I can confirm all of those but the last one. There may also be another one or two groups.

Great list, but even better for McCourt, I have heard the bidding is already in the $1.5-1.6 billion range. That's some serious loot, and means that McCourt, unfortunately and undeservedly, stands to make at least a $1 billion profit. He has run up a lot of debts living like a rich man before he actually was one but will walk away with a couple hundred million. No justice here.

The bidding could get to $2 billion, which is probably more than the storied franchise is worth. But consider all the cash still in the running, and all the competition. This looks like a vanity buy. But these guys are no dummies, so maybe they know better.

If it gets to $2 billion, Cohen would have to be considered a major threat. He is by far the richest guy in the field and reputed to have as much as $15 billion. It doesn't hurt that he has recruited a big baseball name Steve Greenberg, son of Hank, former deputy commissioner and current baseball investment banker, plus respected longtime baseball-basketball agent Arn Tellem. Those were smart adds by Cohen, as MLB likes those guys. Greeneberg has done a lot of business with baseball, including arranging the Astros sale to Jim Crane (though that took a lot longer than most sales). But of course, the big key is the reputed $15 billion. That's a lot of cake Cohen has.

The one issue with Cohen is Cohen himself. He has never been caught in scandal but some of the high-ranking guys at his firm SAC Capital have been picked up for insider trading charges. There's no word he's involved, but it doesn't look good for the firm. I have a friend who knows Cohen and says he's OK. He recalls him as the quirky genius at the University of Pennsylvania sitting in his fraternity in his pajamas and reading the Wall Street Journal. Weird, yes, But disqualifying? Probably not.

MLB is used to having a big say in who gets to own the teams, and in this case they have approval rights over the final eight to 10. You can bet MLB's going to take a close look at Cohen's dealings. There are a lot of rich guys in the bidding, and MLB doesn't want any future issues cropping up. McCourt could try to challenge MLB if it nixes Cohen (or anyone else). But MLB has been given that right. And the clock is ticking. the team is changing hands April 30, so there's little time for legal challenges.

That's one reason I think Magic-Kasten is going to win. They have the money (or they will once Soon-Shiong joins), and no issues. It's all positive with that group. Magic is not only an alltime great athlete, he is beloved. He is also local. And he is a minority, yet another plus. MLB also likes Kasten, who they hooked up with the Nationals after he did a terrific job running the Braves for a long time. They also have Mark Walter from Guggenheim Partners, yet another local rich guy. Then there's Soon-Shiong. He's a wealthy guy who's a genius, like Cohen. But he isn't a hedge-fund guy. He's a biotech genius. That's probably better in baseball's eyes. (And everyone else's, too.)

Mark Cuban and Dennis Gilbert headed groups that didn't quite make the first cut, and there's speculation that it's because Gilbert is close to MLB commissioner Bud Selig. That's not a good reason. Nor was it likely determinative. If anyone's really close to Selig, it's Torre, then maybe Kasten. In any case, while McCourt may be a fool, he isn't foolish enough to eliminate the highest bidders over petty disagreements, or even dislikes.

The Gilbert group, which also contained L.A. money men Jason Reese and Randy Wooster plus talk show icon Larry King, would have made a great choice. But they didn't bid high enough to make the final cut. It didn't help that King publicly ripped McCourt. But again, this is about the loot, not likes and dislikes. Torre was McCourt's manager, and he knows better than anyone bidding what McCourt's about, but Torre is no fool. He isn't about to say what he thinks of McCourt, at least not publicly.

Let's just assume they all think McCourt is somewhere between a goofball and scoundrel, and let's forget about that.

Then know that this guy is about to become one very rich goofball.
 


Category: MLB
Posted on: January 31, 2012 11:07 am
Edited on: February 1, 2012 12:34 am
 

Oswalt, E-Jax, Damon top remaining FA list


It's less than three weeks until spring camps open, and an unusual number of very viable -- and in some cases, even accomplished -- players remain free agents. Here are 20 still available on the market who could still help someone:


1. Roy Oswalt, SP. His apparent geographic requirements have dragged this to the edge of February. Looks like it's down to the Cardinals and Rangers after he rejected the Tigers and so far resisted the Red Sox. Terrific career, but hinted at retirement during a season in which he had career high 1.34 WHIP.


2. Edwin Jackson, SP. He reportedly has two three-year offers, and the Red Sox, who are in on many players, are there with a bid, as well. Has remarkable record of durability for a young (still only 28) pitcher, but one bad early year in Tampa skews his career stats. A clubhouse plus who always answers the bell, but hurt himself with an uneven postseason. One of three active pitchers 28 or younger with less than a 4.50 ERA, at least 199 innings and more than 140 strikeouts in each of the last three seasons. The other three are Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Felix Hernandez.


3. Johnny Damon, DH-OF. Didn't appear to be slowing down last year when he hit 16 home runs and stole 19 bases, but perhaps he's caught in a difficult DH market. Yankees, Tigers, Orioles and Mariners make sense, but the A's would be the most interesting spot after his negative Moneyball mention.


4. Casey Kotchman, 1B. Hit .306 last year after a vision correction. Indians and Orioles have been mentioned.


5. Mike Gonzalez, RP. Strikeout artist has 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings over career and 1.24 career WHIP. Lefty could help several teams, including Rangers and Yankees.


FULL FREE AGENT TRACKER


6. Todd Coffey, RP. Durable reliever, and he isn't just the guy with the funny sprint from the pen. A rare reliever who pitched in more than 200 innings over the last three years (with a respectable WHIP of 1.26). A's and Cubs among those with interest.


7. Hideki Matsui, DH-OF. His .252 batting average from a year ago hurts him, but Oakland is a death trap for hitters. Wouldn't bet against this guy.


8. Eric Chavez, INF. Former star had his most at-bats since 2007. Still only 34, and is a terrific guy. Yankees, Nats, Padres and Rays have shown interest.


9. Juan Cruz, RP. Dependable seventh-inning man. Has more than a strikeout an inning over his career.


10. Rick Ankiel, OF. Added something to his repertoire with 10 stolen bases last year. Fascinating career. Also, the best outfield arm in baseball.


11. Micah Owings, SP-RP. Another guy with two-way talent, and some teams have wondered about utilizing him as more than a pitcher. Has .507 career slugging percentage. Also, made nice comeback to go 8-0 for Arizona in 2011.

12. Mark Teahen, INF-OF. Versatile player underperformed last year but is a .264 career hitter.


13. Chad Durbin, RP. Yet another durable, useful reliever still out there.


14. Aaron Miles, INF. He's a .281 career hitter who's outperformed expectations everywhere except with the Cubs.


15. Kosuke Fukudome, OF. Speaking of being a disappointing Cub, Fukudome wasn't looked upon kindly as an overpaid North Sider. But as an outfield extra who plays defense and gets on base (.361 career OBP), he'd be a solid pickup.


16. Magglio Ordonez, OF-DH. Sure, he's had ankle problems the past couple years. But the man can still hit. Batted .294 after the break last year.


17. Edgar Renteria, INF. Twice a World Series hero, he's obviously hoping to outlast longtime nemesis Orlando Cabrera. Giants, Red Sox and Rays are among teams that have shown interest.


18. Raul Ibanez, OF_DH. He hit 20 home runs in a down year. That .289 on-base percentage may be scaring a few teams. Yankees and Mets both would fit. Good guy in the clubhouse.


19, Jason Isringhausen, RP. Should have something left after his surprise comeback season in which he allowed only 36 hits in 46 2/3 innings.


20. Livan Hernandez, SP. Yes, I know, he throws slow. And it's possible he isn't exactly 36 (as listed). But he's won at least eight games 16 straight years, and did have 16 quality starts last year.


For more MLB news and rumors from Jon Heyman, follow @JonHeymanCBS

Posted on: January 30, 2012 2:50 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 4:45 pm
 

Retiring Burrell stacks up well vs. other No. 1s






























Pat Burrell had a better career than you think. In fact, "Pat the Bat" had a better career than the vast majority of the other No. 1 overall draft picks, maybe 75 percent of the overall No. 1s, or maybe even more than that.

Of the first 34 overall No. 1s, from Rick Monday in 1965 by the A's to Burrell in 1998 by the Phillies, only five clearly had a better career than Burrell. That would be Ken Griffey Jr. (1987, Mariners), Alex Rodriguez (1993, Mariners), Chipper Jones (1990, Braves), Harold Baines (1977, White Sox) and Darryl Strawberry (1980, Mets). That's three out of 34 with Hall of Fame resumes, one with an extremely long and productive career and a fifth who probably should have been going to Cooperstown. Burrell falls into the next group of nine who had very nice careers but far short of great. But he's probably at or near the top of that group, so while he never became a superstar or even made an All-Star team, he was a solid first selection, certainly a lot more solid than most top picks.

The other eight No. 1 overalls I'd put into that good-but-not-great category would be Jeff Burroughs (1969, Senators), Bob Horner (1978, Braves), B.J. Surhoff (1985, Brewers), Andy Benes (1988, Padres), Phil Nevin (1992, Astros), Tim Belcher (1983, Twins), Shawon Dunston (1982, Cubs) and Mike Moore (1981, Mariners). I'd rank Burrell seventh overall, just behind Monday at No. 6 but ahead of the others in this group -- though, if someone wants to reorder the players within that group I wouldn't necessarily quibble. Burrell could be eighth, ninth or 10th, but he's clearly in the top third, at the very worst.

Shawon Dunston has a pretty good case to be at or near the top of this second group, too, with 150 home runs and an all-time shortstop arm in a 20-year career, but I'd put him just below Burrell. Benes has really solid stats, with a 155-139 record and 3.97 ERA, but he didn't have as much impact as Burrell. Burroughs and Horner has similar careers to each other, with some high highs (an MVP in Burroughs' case) but either not quite as much length or consistency. Surhoff was versatile and a high average hitter (.282) but he's more famous for having been picked ahead of Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin and Will Clark in that stellar '85 draft.

Burrell, who CBSSports.com has confirmed will retire (Tim Dierkes of @mlbtraderumors first reported the news), hit 292 home runs, twice finished in the top 14 in MVP voting and was a key contributor on two World Series winning teams, the 2008 Phillies and 2010 Giants (although the '10 World Series wasn't his finest hour). Burrell was a prodigious and consistent power hitter for the Phillies, and he had a very respectable .834 OPS for his career.

It's amazing how many of the overall No. 1 picks, especially the early ones, simply did not deliver. Danny Goodwin, a marginal major leaguer, was twice a No. 1 pick overall pick. David Clyde was the biggest-hyped high school pitcher maybe ever. Mike Ivie never became the big slugger some figured he might be. Tim Foli was a notable scrapper, but at some point , big-league scouts figured it wasn't worth taking a scrapper No. 1 overall.

Only two of the 34 No. 1s overall never played in the big leagues, Steve Chilcott (1966, Mets) and Brien Taylor (1991, Yankees). Chilcott was an incredible miscalculation, and was a mistake that is illuminated by the man picked right behind him, Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. Taylor never regained his 99-mph fastball or any of his early promise after injuring his left shoulder defending his brother in a bar fight after he signed a record $1.55-million contract after a negotiation depicted by "60 Minutes'' and a couple impressive minor-league seasons. Shawn Abner, Matt Anderson and Al Chambers were busts in their own right.

Counting the ignominious New York picks Chilcott and Taylor, 19 No. 1 overall picks from '65 to '98 clearly had inferior careers to Burrell's (at least in my mind). And while that may say something about the crapshoot aspect of the amateur draft, some bad early picks before scouting improved or something else entirely, Burrell can't be considered any sort of disappointment, no matter how you measure it.
Category: MLB
Posted on: January 28, 2012 1:01 am
Edited on: January 28, 2012 1:31 am
 

Oswalt may be headed south in locale & dollars


Longtime pitching star Roy Oswalt, who seems to have very strong geographic leanings, turned down a very large one-year offer of about $10 million from the Detroit Tigers, sources told CBSSports.com, and Oswalt is instead eyeing several other teams, most of them much closer to his southern roots, including the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals.

Oswalt's main criteria seems to be proximity to his home in Mississippi. Other teams said to be in the running include the Red Sox and Nationals, but indications are that he prefers the Rangers and Cardinals. Above all else, the locale seems to be the key to him as his decision nears. Otherwise, how to explain the out-and-out rejection of the powerhouse Tigers?

The issue seems to be that the two teams he seems to most prefer -- the Rangers and Cardinals -- aren't perfect fits. Neither currently has an opening for a starting pitcher, though it's possible either team might try to make one for him. One report, from @Jim_Duquette, suggested the Cardinals are the frontrunner.

One thing is certain, and that is that he won't be a Tiger. Detroit's offer, which was made well before they came out of nowhere to sign Prince Fielder to a $214-million, nine-year deal, is no longer on the table.

Though Oswalt's agent Bob Garber denied it, one other person familiar with the Tigers' discussions with regarding said Oswalt declined to accept Detroit's offer of about $10-million after it met Garber's asking price. That person said Garber requested $10 million, but after Tigers owner Mike Ilitch signed off on the $10 million, Garber later informed Detroit that Oswalt was not prepared to take the offer. Garber denied by text that he had asked for $10 million, saying, "I never gave the Tigers a number.''

Garber added that Oswalt has "his top three (teams) he's still focused on.''

He didn't name the three teams. But it's hard to bet on the Red Sox, who like Detroit is in the north, and what's more, are believed to have offered nothing close to the $10 million Tigers bid (the belief is that Boston's offer is closer to $5 million).

Texas and St. Louis seem more likely at this point. The Rangers, who already have six viable starters, would insist he take their price, which would presumably be less than even Boston's price. Nolan Ryan and pitching coach Mike Maddux are both Oswalt fans (Ryan like Oswalt was an Astros star and knows him well) so they may do it if he'd take a fraction of the $10 million he turned down.

The Cardinals don't have an overwhelming need for another starter, either. But St. Louis has talked to both him and another free agent, Edwin Jackson.

The Astros, his former team, were mentioned as a possibility in one report. And they certainly would fit his geographic preferences. But that report was denied by someone close to Oswalt.

Oswalt has such strong ties to his home area that he left the Phillies last year for eight days after his hometown was wracked by a hurricane even though his own home didn't suffer significant damage. Oswalt, who also battled back trouble last year, at one point last year ruminated about retirement last year.

Had he done so, he would have missed one of the most interesting free-agent plays in recent memory.



 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com