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February 10, 2014

Rumor Roundup

Plenty of Arms Available

by Daniel Rathman

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Pirates dissatisfied with current first-base situation
If the season started today, the Pirates would have Gaby Sanchez splitting time with a left-handed first baseman, most likely either Andrew Lambo or Chris McGuiness. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, in the eyes of general manager Neal Huntington, that won’t do.

Cafardo wrote on Sunday that there is “mutual interest” between the Pirates and Kendrys Morales, who declined a qualifying offer from the Mariners and hasn’t found many (any?) suitors on the open market. Morales’ agent, Scott Boras, isn’t afraid to drag free agents into March—as he showed last offseason with Kyle Lohse—but the pressure could turn up as Opening Day nears, because the first baseman turned down $14.1 million on his agent’s advice.

The Pirates might want Morales, but as Cafardo noted in the blurb linked above, they would sign him only on their own terms. That probably means Morales can rule out a $14.1 million payday from Pittsburgh, which might also look for upgrades on the trade market to avoid coughing up its first-round pick. Cafardo believes that Ike Davis, Adam Lind, and Mitch Moreland are Huntington’s most likely targets, though he did not rule out a run at Justin Smoak or Mike Carp. Each of those players was mentioned in rumors earlier this offseason, but the stove has cooled off in recent weeks, and it’s possible that all of them will stay put.

Morales, a switch-hitter who compiled a .282 True Average in 657 plate appearances last year, is projected by PECOTA to be worth 2.6 WARP in his age-31 season, even though he hasn’t surpassed 1.6 WARP since 2009. That production level could justify a $14.1 million investment, but the additional draft-pick cost has deadened his market to this point. The Pirates would need to surrender the 25th-overall selection in order to bring Morales in, a move that would leave them with zero picks in the top 60.

Chris Capuano, Joe Saunders on Orioles’ radar
The Orioles were linked to Fernando Rodney. They didn’t get him. They were linked to Bronson Arroyo. They didn’t get him, either. And they have been linked to A.J. Burnett, but as of Friday, that wasn’t looking good.

So, the pitching-hungry Dan Duquette is moving down his wishlist, and a couple of lefties might be the next candidates on it. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweeted on Saturday night that the Orioles are “talking with” Chris Capuano and Joe Saunders, who haven’t drawn much attention this winter but are likely to try to find homes as spring training camps open.

The 32-year-old Saunders finished the 2012 season in Baltimore before departing for Seattle, where he turned in 183 innings of roughly replacement-level work. Saunders’ 5.26 ERA was somewhat unlucky (4.75 FIP, 5.06 FRA), but he is little more than an innings chewer—a significant step down from Arroyo or Burnett, both in value and price. He took home $6.5 million from the Mariners last year and figures to see a pay cut from that career-high salary in 2014.

Capuano, a few years older than Saunders at 35, was equally unremarkable as the Dodgers’ fifth starter. He worked 105 2/3 innings but spent nearly one-third of the season on the disabled list with myriad muscle strains. A two-time Tommy John survivor, Capuano could round out a rotation or serve in a swingman role, but he, too, is far from the mid-rotation pitcher the Orioles previously sought.

Tommy Hunter is poised to take over the ninth-inning job for which the Orioles nearly signed Grant Balfour and pursued Rodney, but the rotation is tougher to peg. Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, Bud Norris, and Wei-Yin Chen are locks. The fifth spot is up for grabs, with Capuano and Saunders representing the newest external options and Kevin Gausman—who was erratic but fanned more than a batter per inning in his major-league debut—the most intriguing internal candidate.

Speaking of Burnett—could the Nationals join the bidding?
Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, and one of Tanner Roark, Ross Detwiler, and Taylor Jordan—that’s a strong rotation with ample depth. But according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, insiders can’t help but wonder if the Nationals will be tempted to make one more move.

Heyman was told that general manager Mike Rizzo would need to find a good “value” to put the spring training battle for the no. 5 gig on hold. But that’s precisely what they might see in Burnett, who seems inclined to join a senior-circuit club and could relish the opportunity to win another World Series ring.

With the Orioles and Phillies fading, the Pirates are the last club standing among those that have been actively tied to the 37-year-old right-hander this winter. If a new bidder does not enter the fold, the arrow would seem to point Burnett back to Pittsburgh. We should find out soon if the Nationals truly have designs on steering him away.

A whole lot of teams watched Ryan Madson throw on Friday
Nineteen, to be exact—per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 33-year-old Madson hasn’t pitched in a game since 2011, but he’ll be two years removed from Tommy John surgery on April 11 and might finally be ready to return to action.

Cotillo’s source said that Friday’s workout was Madson’s fourth of the spring, and relayed a radar-gun reading of 93 mph, just a tick short of the right-hander’s pre-surgery average. The Phillies, still the only club for which Madson has thrown a big-league pitch, are keeping tabs on his progress, and the Red Sox were among the clubs that sent evaluators to Phoenix to watch him throw.

Madson raked in $12 million from the Reds and Angels over the last two years without ever taking the mound.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

1 comment has been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

TeamPineTar

...and Duquette would not confirm that the Orioles are actually yet "in talks" with Sid Finch, only that they are "in touch" with Finch's agent. Rumors are that the telephones in the Orioles' front office do actually connect to all the telephones in this world...and some in other worlds. The trickle of real news is down to drips, and the pipes are broken in Baltimore.

Feb 10, 2014 11:51 AM
rating: 2
 
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