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Archive for January, 2009

Former Phillies’ Outfielder Burrell Signs with Tampa Bay

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

              Pat Burrell      Pat Burrell

Six days ago, former Phillies righthanded hitting leftfielder and free agent Pat ‘the Bat’ Burrell inked a a $16 million, two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.

AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall reports background on the deal and Burrell’s sentiments for Yahoo sports;

The 32-year-old slugger spent the past nine seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, who defeated the Rays in the World Series a little more than two months ago.

“At the end of last year, obviously I got a chance to know the team pretty well,” said Burrell, who hit .250 with 33 homers, 33 doubles, 86 RBIs and 102 walks in a career-high 157 games in 2008.

“Coming into free agency, the thing that was most important to me was to go somewhere I thought had as good a chance or better to repeat and go back to the World Series, or at least get into the playoffs.”

A .257 career hitter with 251 homers and 827 RBIs, Burrell has averaged 31 homers, 99 RBIs and 103 walks over the past four seasons. He was the everyday left fielder in Philadelphia, but Tampa Bay plans to use him mostly at designated hitter.

One of the Rays’ top priorities was to add a power hitter to a lineup that also features Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford.

The club looked at some left-handed hitters, including Jason Giambi, but Burrell appeared a better fit from the start, especially considering Tampa Bay struggled against left-handed pitching last season.

“He solidifies the middle of our already potent lineup,” vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.

“We weren’t just singularly focused on a right-handed hitter, but it certainly is an advantage for us in terms of the way our lineup stacks up currently. We feel like any time you can add a hitter like Pat to the middle of the lineup, we’re a much-improved team today than we were at the end of last season.”

As previously stated on this blog, “Thanks for the memories…”, particularly his important winning hits in the 2008 post-season, particularly in World Series game 5.  Pat ‘the Bat’ will be missed.

While speaking of the Phils, 4 days ago veteran 2nd baseman Marcus Giles was signed to a one-year minor league contract which would be worth $600,000 if he makes the Phillies’ 40 man roster.

The AP report notes;

Giles, who was out of the majors last year after being released by Colorado in spring training, provides another option for the World Series champions with second baseman  Chase Utley and third baseman Pedro Feliz recovering from offseason operations.

The 30-year-old Giles is a career .277 hitter with 76 homers and 333 RBIs in seven seasons, the first six spent with  Atlanta and one with San Diego.  Giles’ best season was in 2003 when he hit .316 with 49 doubles, 21 homers and 69 RBIs. He batted .311 and .291 the following two seasons. Giles only hit .229 in ‘07 with the Padres.

In other Phillies news, Inquirer staff writer Jim Salisbury as well as MLB -Sports Rumors both posed the possibility that the Phils could sign veteran infielder Nomar Garciaparra as a righthanded hitter off of the bench.

MLB - Sports Rumors cites;

A team source Saturday… that said the Phillies had interest in the 35-year-old former two-time American League batting champion. The Phils have not made an offer, but may if Garciaparra tells them that he wants to play in 2009.

Salisbury notes;

Garciaparra, a 13-year veteran, hit .264 with eight home runs in 55 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.

Phillies in Running for SP Derek Lowe?

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

An MLB rumor notes that Dodger veteran free agent Derek Lowe is still being courted by several teams including the the Mets and the Phillies.

Yahoo’s sports rumors cites a SI.com report;

The Phillies have shown interest in the 35-year-old right-hander, along with the Braves, Red Sox, Brewers and Angels. The Mets made an offer at about three years, $36 million, which Jon Heyman said Lowe “isn’t seriously considering,” leaving the door open for other suitors.

Lowe, 14-11 with a 3.24 ERA in 34 starts for the Dodgers in 2008, is said to be seeking $16 million per year — which makes the Mets’ offer a bit too low. The fact Philadelphia would come up in rumors to acquire a pricy starting pitcher is quite surprising, considering it has already absorbed most of its payroll for 2009 — expected to be slightly higher than 2008’s club-record $104 million — with current player contracts and potential arbitration cases.

But the acquisition of Lowe would give the Phillies a very potent top of the rotation, along with left-hander and World Series MVP Cole Hamels. The other three spots in the rotation will be filled by Brett Myers, Joe Blanton and Jamie Moyer.

One thing is sure, an acquisition of Derek Lowe makes the Phillies starting rotation one of the most potent in all of MLB.  The Phils are already THE TEAM TO BEAT and an acquisition like Lowe would make them even more imposing.

Granted, the team will be without its prime lefthanded set-up man in April and May with JC Romero serving a 50 game suspension for use of a banned substance (which will be dealt with in a separate post), but the Phils still have veteran lefthanded reliever Scott Eyre, who was not-too-shabby in 19 2nd half games and in the post-season and young lefthander JA Happ who can relieve in a pinch in lefthanded situational relief roles until Romero’s return.

Getting Back Up to Speed: Free Agency Deals

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Happy New Year Baseball fans, particularly World Champion Phillies fans.

I’ve had a bit of a break from blogging baseball.  There’s been a lot of other stuff going on here in Israel, particularly the War in Gaza over the past almost 2 weeks.   And I’ve been doing double-duty handling two blogs dealing with the war. The war action’s been hot and heavy and you can check out it out here and here.  

But now, back to baseball.

Five major free agent deals have come to fruition over the past few weeks,  Four of them will be dealt with in this post.  The fifth one, since it relates to former Phillie outfielder Pat Burrell’s acquisition by the Tampa Bay Rays, will be discussed in a separate post.

First on the docket is 1st baseman Mark Teixeira’s 8 year, $180 million deal with the Yankees.

Teixeira, whose name congures up taste-buds longing for Tex-Mex cuisine is a 6 year veteran who has consistently been above 30 homers and 100 RBIS and lifetime .290 BA and who has struck out over 100 times in 5 of 6 seasons.

AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum notes for Yahoo sports that Teixeira and his wife discussed the deal prospects for weeks before the deal was struck.

Blum writes;

“I’d been asking her for weeks and weeks, Where do you want to go? Where do you want me to play?” he related. “And she said, `I want you to be happy. I just want you to be happy.’ And finally, she said, `I want you to be a Yankee.’ So that’s when it was done. And once we got the contract figured out, it was a no-brainer.”

“The Yankees hadn’t made their decision yet, but that’s when we made our decision,” he said with a laugh.

“He was pushing me for an answer. I gave it,” Leigh said, giggling. “I always loved New York, and I thought it would be really special for him to be a Yankee.”

But is Mark Teixeira worth A-Rod rarified air money, $22 million plus per season?  It will be interesting to watch and judge in 2009.
45-year-old veteran lefthander
Randy ‘Big Unit’ Johnson, having recovered and been rehabbed after two recent back surgeries, agreed to an $8 million, one-year contract with the San Francisco Giants just before New Years.

Johnson, a veteran of 20 seasons, is a 3 time 20 game winner, 5 wins shy of 300 career wins and is high-up on the list for career strikeouts.  He sports a career 3.26 ERA.

Johnson, a 5 time Cy Young award winner, joins a Giants pitching staff, one of the deepest staffs in baseball — boasting 3 Cy Young winners, including last season’s winner, 2nd year star Tim Lincecum. 

AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley reports;

“I’m well ahead of schedule than I was the last two offseasons,” Johnson said Saturday during a conference call, noting he plans to be on the 2009 opening day roster. “It will be really nice to be in that position this year. … To some degree I have silenced the critics and shown that I’m healthy.”

The Giants are counting on that.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean believes his club could become a contender again in the NL West with the addition of Johnson. San Francisco expressed an interest in him from the start of free agency and had several productive conversations with his representatives to make it happen.

“I’m excited to come back to where I started my baseball career,” said Johnson, who still has a brother and a sister in the area. “As a visiting player with the Diamondbacks, a couple of the reporters would ask me, ‘Toward the end of your career, do you see yourself playing in the Bay Area?’ It’s always nice to come back and play there.”

He has 4,789 strikeouts, second on the career list to Nolan Ryan (5,714). The 6-foot-10 lefty made $16 million last season, when he struck out 173 and walked 44 after beginning the season on the disabled list.
Johnson, who can earn an additional $5 million in performance bonuses, went 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 30 starts last season.

In another pre-New Years deal, 9 year veteran Brad Penny, off of 2 brilliant 16 win seasons with the LA Dodgers followed by a 2008 season plagued by right shoulder soreness where he slumped to 6-9 and a 6.24 ERA in 94 2/3 innings, has agreed to a 1 year $5 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. 
 
Sporting News’ Ryan Fagan writes of Penny and his deal with the Sox for Yahoo sports;

Like Johnson, Penny seems like a perfect fit in his new home. Well, at least he’s a high-reward, low-risk option for his new team. Penny was injured for much of the season and largely ineffective when he was on the mound, to which his 6-9 record, 6.27 ERA and 1.63 WHIP attest. But, he’ll only be 30 this spring, and won 16 games in back-to-back seasons before his clunker in 2008.

If he has a huge bounce-back season, he stands to earn a hearty multiyear deal next offseason, which won’t have any  Sabathias or Burnetts in the mix. And it’s not like the Red Sox are counting on big things from Penny. Their rotation, with or without him, is one of the best in the bigs, and his contract is only $5 million. If he’s a bust, the team will be just fine.

The Yahoo report on the Penny deal notes;

According to the reports, Penny could earn an additional $3 million in performance bonuses with the Red Sox. He is 94-75 with a 4.06 ERA in nine big league seasons.

Finally, having lost MLB record-setting 62 save closer Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez to the Mets, the Los Angeles Angels inked a 2 year, $17.5 million deal with free-agent reliever Brian Fuentes.

The Angels are hoping that they don’t skip a beat in the closer’s spot with the acquisition of Fuentes.

AP sports writer John Nadel reports on the deal for Yahoo sports;

Fuentes gets $8.5 million next season and $9 million in 2010. There’s a club option for $9 million in 2011.

“He should solidify the back part of our bullpen,” Angels general manager Tony Reagins said on a conference call. “We pitched well last year, we expect to pitch well again.”

Fuentes, a 33-year-old lefty, was a three-time NL All-Star who went 1-5 with 30 saves in 34 chances and a 2.73 ERA for Colorado this season. He had a 1.75 ERA after the All-Star break, when he saved 16 games in as many chances.

“I’m definitely happy to have the opportunity to play for a team that I’ve watched for a long time,” said Fuentes, who grew up in Merced, Calif., and still lives there. “My 2-year-old’s excited. He can’t wait to go to Disneyland.”

Regarding Angels manager Mike Scioscia, Fuentes said: “From what I hear from other guys, he’s a player’s manager.”

Reagins said plans call for Fuentes to close, with Scot Shields or Jose Arredondo serving as the Angels’ setup man. The Angels have several other experienced relievers including  Darren Oliver and Justin Speier, who were both teammates of Fuentes in Colorado.