Posted on: February 3, 2012 12:12 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 1:53 pm
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 11:07 am
Edited on: February 1, 2012 12:34 am
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 11, 2012 9:54 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 10:51 am
Edwin Jackson's agent Scott Boras spent Wednesday in Phoenix, site of the baseball owners meeting, and met with Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner to discuss a potential deal for the free agent righthander.
Yankees people seem to like Jackson but want to keep deals short because one of their greatest goals is to somehow get their payroll below the luxury tax threshold of $189 million by 2014. That isn't going to be easy for a team that's had a payroll in the $200-million range for years and is committed to $125 million for 10 players in '14, but the reward is that their tax would go from 50 percent on dollars above the cap to a much more manageable 17 percent.
The Yankees are also in contact with Hiroki Kuroda and Roy Oswalt, two more free agents, but they seem concerned about Kuroda's appetite to pitch in New York and Oswalt's soundness following an injury-plagued year. Jackson has the advantages of youth (he's 28) and durability on his side. While Jackson is 47-41 over the past four years, the Yankees may envision an improvement pitching for them. Jackson is a hard thrower who's had success pitching against the other A.L. East teams (he's 7-1 with a 3.10 ERA vs. the other four AL East teams over the past three years).
Jackson has drawn interest elsewhere (the Orioles and Blue Jays are others thought to have interest) but seems to have a particular interest in playing for the Yankees.
Posted on: January 7, 2012 4:26 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:47 pm
The Yankees and Orioles are among teams considering free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson, who's still looking for a home despite having youth and durability on his side.
The Yankees are telling folks they don't want to do more than a one- or two-year deal for free agents, as they seem to be serious about their intention to push their payroll down below the luxury tax threshhold in 2014, thereby reducing their tax from 50 percent to 17 percent and allowing them to resume their free-spending ways after '14. They seem pretty serious about that stance, so unless Jackson would continue a shorter deal, he would seem to have to look elsewhere. The Yankees could look at Hiroki Kuroda ad Roy Oswalt, but there's a question about whther Kuroda wants to play aywhere but Los Angeles in the states and the Yankees don't seem as interested in Oswalt at the moment.
New Orioles GM Dan Duquette seems to save saved some money for late i the winter and is talking to several pitchers and some outfield and leadoff candidates. Jackson, 27, is the best young free agent starter remaining. He fits the Orioles better than Oswalt or Kuroda because those two pitchers are considerably older.
Jackson is said to be seeking $15-to-17 million annually while Kuroda and Oswalt are thought to be looking for $13-to-14 million.
Jackson's selling point is his age (28 now) and ability to take the ball. He is one of only three pitchers 27 or younger who's started more tha 30 games each of the past five years, with the others being Matt Cain and Felix Hernandez. Even if you push it to pitchers under 30 who've done that, James Shields and Justin Verlander are the only two added to that short list. What works against Jackson is a career 60-60 record and 4.46 ERA, though a rookie year in Tampa when he was 5-15 with a 5.76 ERA skews those lifetime marks.
Posted on: January 3, 2012 3:46 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:53 pm
With the Yankees unconvinced the Cubs will consent to trade Matt Garza for less than their very best prospects, the Yankees will continue their dialogue with free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson.
The Yankees and Jackson aren't in any way close to a deal. But there seems reason to think they might find middle ground, as the Yankees like his arm and see him as a solid pitcher who could fill their need for a durable middle-of-the-rotation presence. They also like Garza but don't want to consider trading two top prospects (the Cubs like Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances and want more than one of them) and aren't sure the Cubs are committed to trading him in the winter.
Jackson is believed to be looking for a deal that pays him in the $15-to-17-million range annually. Agent Scott Boras has compared Jackson to C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle, John Lackey, A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe in his book touting Jackson; all those pitchers received $14-to-17-million a year. For instance, in the three previous years, Jackson has won 25 games, struck out 490 batters and posted a 3.96 ERA, comparable numbers to the three years Burnett had before he signed with the Yankees for $82.5 million over five years; in those three years Burnett won 38 games, had a 3.94 ERA and struck out 535 batters. As we know now, the Burnett deal didn't work out so great for the Yankees, however.
More remarkable, Jackson is one of only three active pitchers age 27 or younger who has thrown 950 innings with no D.L. time, with the others being Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. Jackson is also one of three pitchers 27 or younger who's started more than 30 games each of the past five years. The other two are Cain and Felix Hernandez.
There are other starting pitching alternatives on the trade and free agent market, including Gavin Floyd, Wady Rodriguez, Hiroki Kuroda and Roy Oswalt. There's no proof they are heavily involved with Floyd, Rodriguez or Oswalt, and there are uncertain whether Kuroda would go to New York.
The Yankees made only a modest efort at Yu Darvish, submitting a posting bid of $15 million, which was well below the Rangers' winning $51.703,411 bid.
Posted on: January 2, 2012 8:05 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:57 pm
The Yankees desperately seek a No. 2 starter, and fortunately for them, there are still many viable alternatives available on the trade and free agent markets.
But ultimately, the choice could come down to Matt Garza or Edwin Jackson.
The Yankees' like Hiroki Kuroda, but there is no certainty he wants to pitch in New York. They do not appear to be in on the Jair Jurrjens trade discussions, nor even the Wandy Rodriguez or Gavin Floyd talks. And they haven't seemed anxious to go for Roy Oswalt.
That could leave Garza vs. E-Jax.
They like both pitchers. But so far the Yankees don't like the cost for Garza in terms of prospects, and they don't love the price tag for Jackson, either. The Cubs surely would like some combination of Jesus Montero, Manuel Banuelos and Dellin Betances for Garza. Jackson's asking price is said by sources to be about $60 million for five years.
The Yankees so far would like to keep new contracts to one or two years, as they are hopeful of getting below the $189-million luxury tax treshhold in 2014. If they stuck to that, that would make signing Jackson very difficult.
The Yankees like Jackson's arm, his potential and his durability. But they wonder about his consistency. He is one of only three active pitchers 27 or younger with more than 30 games started each of the past five years, the other two being Matt Cain and Felix Hernandez. He is also one of only three age 27 or younger to have thrown 950 innings with no D.L. time the last five years. The others? Cain and Tim Lincecum.