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Archive for December, 2009

Johnson Still Open to Signing Extension with Marlins

Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports that Josh Johnson’s agent Scott Sosnick hasn’t ruled his client eventually signing an extension with the Marlins. Talks reached an impasse last month, but after getting a one-year deal done with Ricky Nolasco on Thursday, Sosnick sounded optimistic about Johnson’s future in Florida. “We’re doing everything we can to try to bridge the gap, and get a deal done,” said Sosnick. “And we’re wanting to do something that will keep J.J. in Florida for the long term.” Johnson desires a four-year contract worth at least $42 million, while so far the Marlins are only willing to do three years and $23 million. (Rotoworld)

HT’s Waiver Wire – Spotlight on Madison Bumgarner

With all of two seasons of professional baseball under his belt, Giants starter Madison Bumgarner certainly gives prospects fans someone to pin their hopes on for 2010. However, the short-term outlook may not be all that rosy, as the Hardball Times points out in their latest Wavier Wired article:

Before you get too freaky over those freshman MLB stats, realize that they represent just 10 IP of work—but the fact is, Bumgarner is this good and more. The mini-browser shows you his minor-league stats in 2009; he started his career as the Sally League Pitcher of the Year in 2008, with a 10.4 K/9, 7.8 K/BB, and a 1.46 ERA in 141.2 IP.

That’s right: he’s put up those numbers in only his second year in the league—the kid’s just 19, and he’s got tools. He’s a tall lefty who chucks a fastball in the mid-90s with late movement, complementing it with a sweet changeup in the low 80s and a still-developing slider. I have yet to read a scouting report that says anything bad about him: He’s got a great attitude, he’s eager to learn, and shows tons of poise on the mound.

The tangibles and intangibles all line up for Bumgarner, but let’s not forget that what may be his greatest upside is definitely his greatest downside. The kid’s just 19, and has less than 300 professional innings under his belt. The Giants don’t want to rush him, and have two guys named Lincecum and Cain who are happily installed at the top of their rotation. If they need anything next year, it’s more offense, not young pitching.

That doesn’t mean Bumgarner won’t be in the bigs, and maybe in the rotation, by the end of 2010. With a great spring training and injuries to guys ahead of him, he might even start the season with the club. I’m betting, however, that he starts the season in the minors so he can work on his craft a bit more. Giants fans would like to see him ASAP, but discretion should prove to be the better part of valor here.

All these explain the pessimistic mini-browser numbers you see for 2010. He’s going to rack up Ks at a good rate, but should be expected to struggle and adjust, and shouldn’t be pitching a full season with the big boys. He’s unlikely to return much value as a result—one of the great things about GP’s mini-browser is the reality check it delivers on future talent like Bumgarner: He should be really, really good. Just not yet.

Redraft leagues will want to monitor Bumgarner through spring training and into the season, depending on where he starts the year. Keeper leagues better have him on their radars (if not their rosters) already; depending on your league’s depth and keeper rules, as well as your own strategy, however, he might not even be worth a spot in 2010.

This is the guy that should supplant Cain, if not Lincecum, atop the pitching rotation, but that won’t happen until 2011 at the earliest. He’s an incredible talent, but there’s lots that can still go wrong in a guy this young.

Gonzalez Signs Two-Year Deal with Baltimore

According to Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman, Mike Gonzalez is signing a two-year deal worth $12 million, with an additional $4 million in incentives. Gonzalez immediately becomes Baltimore’s best bet to open the season as closer. The Type-A free agent will not cost Baltimore its’ first-rounder, so Atlanta ends up with no first rounders out of their departed relievers in Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano. This hurts the fantasy value of Jim Johnson, although he might be used in some strategic matchups and vulture saves. (Rotoworld)

Talks Continue, but Johnson-Marlins Agreement Distant

According to Josh Johnson’s agent, Matt Sosnick, the Marlins and his client are not close on long-term contract negotiations. The Marlins offered a three-year, $23 million contract, while Johnson wants a four-year deal for at least $42 million. Johnson and Sosnick are using the four-year, $38 million deal the Royals gave Greinke in January as a yardstick. “Greinke signed his deal coming off a worse year than Josh had,” Sosnick said. “We’re not going to do a deal that does not far exceed Greinke’s deal for four years.” Sosnick believes Johnson will pitch for the Marlins in 2010 before getting traded next offseason. “My hope is that he signs a long-term deal and stays in Florida,” Sosnick said. “But I would say it’s much more likely that we’ll do a one-year deal this year and he’s playing for somebody else in 2011.” (Rotoworld)

Gonzalez Nearing Agreement with Orioles

The Orioles are nearing a two-year agreement with LHP Mike Gonzalez, reports the Baltimore Sun. This news comes as a bit of a surprise, but Gonzalez was seeking a closing job and should get plenty of save opportunities in Baltimore. The left-hander had a 2.42 ERA this past season for Atlanta, which will receive a compensatory pick plus the Orioles’ second-rounder (their first round pick is protected). The salary numbers aren’t known yet. (Rotoworld)

HT’s Waiver Wire – Spotlight on Josh Johnson

The Hardball Times feature fantasy article “Wavier Wire” by Michael Street today features Carlos Lee, David Wright, and our very own Josh Johnson:

As a result [of his Tommy John surgery], 2009 wasn’t terribly steady, though Johnson turned in a career year in virtually every significant category. He had flashes of dominance along with rough starts, including a scare in May when he was pulled from a start for shoulder weakness. All of them the kinds of things you expect from a young pitcher who’s the ace of his staff.

Looking back at his GP graph, the downward trend on his K/9 rates highlights the big worry about Johnson: As Marc Hulet points out in his GP writeup, logging 200+ IP is a leap of more than 120 IP from 2008 and a scary workload for a young arm just one year away from TJS. Fredi Gonzalez is proving to be a real arm-shredder, and he’s signed up as the Marlins skipper through at least 2011.

As 2009 progressed, Johnson clearly lost some of his control, perhaps because of this workload. Even though his strikeouts rose, so did his walks; except for a stellar August (43 Ks and 8 BBs in 37.1 IP, including taking a no-no into the seventh inning) he put more runners on base after the break than before. His BABIP rose every month in the second half, too, either a measure of bad luck, diminishing defense or him losing giddyup on the ball.

And giddyup is what he’s got. Johnson’s amazingly talented, with a fastball in the 94-96 range and a hard slider, and both have great movement. Because he can throw a two- and four-seamer and change the tilt on his slider, he gets away with a lesser change-up. If he could develop that change of pace, he’d be even more devastating.

Like many other young pitchers, however, the question with Johnson is not the skills, but his health, durability and makeup. He’s never had big problems in the mental department, but those injury questions will linger until he can put together consecutive injury-free seasons, something he has yet to do in the majors. Last year’s 209 IP was not only a big step up from his 87.1 IP in 2008, it was the most he’s ever thrown as a pro.

This makes 2010 a make-or-break year for Johnson, and just in time, too. He’s headed for free agency after the 2011 season, and putting together another solid season or two would drive his price into the stratosphere. Another injury setback might make him tainted goods.

Ranked on pure talent alone, Johnson’s a very valuable pitcher. The question marks in his future, particularly his health, will drive down his value, and rightfully so. Other owners in your league might forget about this, but you shouldn’t. TJS recovery is as ordinary these days as the surgery, but Johnson still needs to prove that he can pump fastballs into a mitt over and over without breaking down. The history of baseball and its promising pitchers shows that this is no easy task, particularly with a surgically rebuilt elbow.

This all makes him a good gamble, depending on your strategy and the outlook of your fellow owners. I tend to stick with more established talent in the volatile pitching area, so I’d avoid Johnson unless he’s a bargain. But if he stays healthy, the return on that gamble could be huge.

BP’s Kevin Goldstein Touts Two RoadRunner Youngsters

In today’s BP Chat, Kevin Goldstein had the following to say about current RoadRunner youngsters Mat Latos and Drew Stubbs:

Chachi (Chicago): Who is your favorite pitcher from 2009 to exhaust their rookie status, without generating any serious ROY noise, to have an impact next year?

Kevin Goldstein: Mat Latos.

Jeff (Pittsburgh): Is the power that Drew Stubbs showed in his brief MLB stint legitimate?

Kevin Goldstein: If not, it’s awfully damn close. I could see him doing 15-20 home runs annually, maybe even a bit more.

Rockies Extend Iannetta for Three Years

Troy C. Renck of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies have signed catcher Chris Iannetta to a three-year contract “in excess” of $8 million dollars. It’s a pretty fair deal. The contract carries Iannetta through his arbitration years, while the Rockies hold an option for his first year of free agency. Iannetta, 26, batted .228/.344/.460 with 16 home runs and 52 RBI in 289 at-bats in ’09. The new deal shouldn’t preclude the Rockies from keeping free agent Yorvit Torrealba, as well. (Rotoworld)

Johnson Extension Talks To Resume

According to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro, the Marlins are expected to re-open long-term contract negotiations with Josh Johnson at some point. Johnson, 25, went 15-5 in 2009 with a 3.23 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. He’s under team control through 2011 so the Marlins don’t have to budge just yet, but they clearly want him to be a part of their organization for a long time to come. The stud right-hander turns 26 in January. (Rotoworld)

Update: The Rangers must be confident in their chances next year. Both T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com and Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com are reporting that the team offered Justin Smoak and Neftali Feliz to the Marlins for Josh Johnson.

Scherzer Traded to Tigers, RoadRunners Front Office Pissed

As per multiple sources, the Arizona Diamondbacks have traded RoadRunner Max Scherzer, along with reliever Daniel Schlereth (the D-Backs No. 1 draft pick in 2008) to the Detroit Tigers in a three-team trade. Here’s the breakdown:

Arizona Receives:

  • Tigers P Edwin Jackson
  • Yankees P Ian Kennedy

Detroit Receives:

  • Arizona SP Max Scherzer
  • Arizona RP Daniel Schlereth
  • Yankees OF Austin Jackson
  • Yankees P Phil Coke

New York Yankees Receive:

  • Detroit CF Curtis Granderson

This is all per Sports Illustrated’s John Heyman. Nothing will be official until all teams involved are finished reviewing medical records.

Update: Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that the Yankees have acquired OF Curtis Granderson as part of a three-team deal with the Tigers and Diamondbacks. The Yanks did really well here, snagging Granderson for Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson, Phil Coke. As part of the three-way deal, Detroit will receive Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth from Arizona and Coke and Jackson from the Yanks. The D’Backs, meanwhile, got a questionable return in Edwin Jackson from the Tigers and Kennedy from the Yanks. Granderson can be used in either left or center field, giving Brian Cashman some flexibility in negotiations with free agent outfielder Johnny Damon. It’s safe to say the Tigers now have the payroll flexibility they wanted. (Rotoworld)

Update 2: Here’s the financial and contractual breakdown:

  • The Yankees receive center fielder Curtis Granderson, who turns 29 in March.  Granderson is owed $5.5MM in 2010, $8.25MM in ’11, and $10MM in ’12, with a $13MM club option/$2MM buyout for ’13.  That’s $25.75MM guaranteed over the next three years.  Melky Cabrera could now be expendable for the Yankees, and the Cubs are one possible suitor.
  • The Diamondbacks receive a pair of starting pitchers: Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy. Jackson, 26, is under team control for ’10 and ’11 and is owed an arbitration raise on this year’s $2.2MM salary.  Kennedy, 25 this month, missed most of the ’09 season due to surgery to remove an aneurysm near his shoulder.  As far as I can tell he is under team control for another six seasons.  This is the second year in a row Jackson has been traded at the Winter Meetings.
  • The Tigers receive four players: starter Max Scherzer, relievers Daniel Schlereth and Phil Coke, and center fielder Austin Jackson.  The Tigers get five years of Scherzer, six of Schlereth, five of Coke, and six of Jackson, potentially 22 years of control in total.  Scherzer, 25, and Jackson, 23 in February, are probably considered the prizes of the haul.

Anatomy: As listed on MLBTradeRumors.com:

12:48pm: Heyman tweets that an agreement has been reached, with only medicals pending.  We’ll do a fresh post once this trade is official.  To reiterate: the Yankees get Curtis Granderson, the D’Backs get Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy, and the Tigers get Max Scherzer, Daniel Schlereth, Austin Jackson, and Phil Coke.

Sherman notes that the Yankees managed to pull off the Granderson acquisition without giving up Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, or Mike Dunn.

12:35pm: Olney now says this deal is close.  Sherman says medical records are being exchanged on Granderson.  In another tweet Sherman says there’s no deadline on the deal, but one source says it’s “on the goal line.”  He adds that removing Dunn from the deal was key for the Yanks.

Tyler Kepner of the New York Times says the deal is “very close,” and would be Austin Jackson, Coke, Scherzer, and Schlereth to the Tigers, Edwin Jackson and Kennedy to the D’Backs, and Granderson to the Yankees.

12:19pm: Rosenthal says the revised deal has the Tigers getting two players from the Yanks rather than three, with Coke or Dunn out.  AOL FanHouse’s Ed Price tweets that the D’Backs and Tigers are awaiting signoff from the Yankees, and expect an answer within 40 minutes.

11:51am: Morosi sees progress being made, while MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert thinks this thing is close; the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro agrees.

11:24am: More from Olney – the D’Backs are aiming to get Edwin Jackson and Kennedy in the deal.  Olney speaks of “growing confidence on at least two of the sides” involved, and his sources have the odds of a deal in the 20-30% range.  One Heyman source said 50%.

11:15am: Rosenthal and Morosi note that the Yankees and Tigers are open to making a Granderson deal and leaving the D’Backs out of the discussion.  Still, the three-team talks are ongoing and fluid, with the Tigers requiring a “high-ceiling, close-to-the-majors center fielder” as part of the Granderson package.  Austin Jackson could be that player.

ESPN’s Buster Olney says it’s the Tigers that re-ignited the three-way talks, and they’ve lowered their asking price.

10:33am: Heyman tweets that this deal is “back with a chance.” Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News agrees, noting that the Tigers “may be caving” on the price for Granderson.  He says the Yanks would likely downgrade one of the pitchers, most likely Dunn.  Wouldn’t be the Winter Meetings without three-team trade scenarios and the constant back-and-forth.