Winter meetings preview: AL teams

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bay fielding.jpgJust a couple of quick sentences on what each team may be looking to do this week.
Baltimore – The Orioles are on the lookout for a couple of corner infielders, a starting pitcher and a closer, but with youngsters on the way, they’re more after veteran stopgaps than building blocks. Felix Pie is on the block and could bring bullpen help.
Boston – Upgrading from Jason Bay to Matt Holliday makes even more sense now that the Red Sox have surrendered their first-round pick with the Marco Scutaro signing*. Roy Halladay’s name will also come up frequently, and the Red Sox will explore a Mike Lowell trade. If Lowell goes, it’d open the door for an Adrian Beltre signing.
*The Cards would still get Boston’s first-round pick in such a scenario, but for the Red Sox, the draft-pick cost for Holliday is merely a second-round pick.
Chicago – Ken Williams is full of surprises, but the White Sox don’t have a lot to work with after doing their shopping during the season and landing Jake Peavy and Alex Rios. A Bobby Jenks deal doesn’t appear to be on the agenda, but it can’t be ruled out. The White Sox still need an outfielder and a designated hitter, but they could wait and bargain hunt to fill both spots.
Cleveland – The Indians will be thrifty this winter, so while they need some veteran bats to provide protection at first base, second base and in left field, they’ll probably wait for price tags to fall. If they can find a way to turn some of their exceptional minor league depth into a young starting pitcher, they could pull the trigger.
Detroit – Likely to be one of the most active teams at the meetings, the Tigers still have Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson up for grabs. They’ll also be talking to relievers and shortstops, though it looks like they hope to re-sign Fernando Rodney and Adam Everett. Don’t expect to see anything happen with Miguel Cabrera.
Kansas City – Excepting Zack Greinke, the Royals’ most expensive players –Jose Guillen, Gil Meche, David DeJesus and Kyle Farnsworth — are all available. So are Mike Jacobs and John Buck, though they’re expected to be non-tendered. Cheaper options like Alberto Callaspo and Brian Bannister are out there as well. The Royals are going to need a starter, an outfielder or two and maybe a DH.
Los Angeles – Having lost Chone Figgins, the Angels might now make a push to get a John Lackey deal done. Halladay and Bay are other potential targets with the team having room for one big contract. GM Tony Reagins will also continue his attempts to find a new home for Gary Matthews Jr., though it’s proving to be an extremely difficult task.
Minnesota – The Twins still have a need at second or third or both, and there simply isn’t a better fit for Beltre if Minnesota could just come up with the money. GM Bill Smith will also likely be charged with getting rid of Glen Perkins, who is at odds with management.
New York – GM Brian Cashman is playing things close to the vest so far. The Yankees are in on Halladay, but perhaps not on any of the big three free agents: Holliday, Lackey and Bay. The Yankees will be in touch with their own top three free agents: Andy Pettitte, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. They may be the top candidates to ink Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman, but there’s nothing to indicate he’s close to signing.
Oakland – The A’s are going to be in on some free agents after all, as they made clear with their bid for Scutaro. Troy Glaus is one who makes sense for their lineup. They have a bigger need when it comes to starting pitching, though. To free up some cash, they may trade or later non-tender Jack Cust. They also have relief depth to use in the hunt for help.
Seattle – The first order of business will be to announce the Figgins signing, but the Mariners won’t stop there. They’re still capable of putting together strong bids for Lackey and Bay, and they’ll be on the lookout for a first baseman, perhaps Nick Johnson.
Tampa Bay – The Rays remain at the center of the Milton Bradley talks, with Pat Burrell likely to move on if a deal is struck. They could also trade Dioner Navarro, who is a non-tender candidate following the Kelly Shoppach acquisition. Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton do not appear to be available.
Texas – It remains unclear just how much financial flexibility the Rangers possess. They’re reportedly discussed Kevin Millwood with the Orioles, and if they could dump his salary, they’d have a better chance of upgrading their lineup. Jermaine Dye is believed to be a top target. However, with ownership still up in the air, they may be forced to remain quiet.
Toronto – A Halladay deal is very unlikely to get done at the meetings, but there will surely be talks. The Jays also have other business to worry about. They’re looking to move Lyle Overbay (to Seattle?) and pick up a catcher and an outfielder. They can afford to part with a reliever or two to fill one of the holes.

Marlins still searching for starting pitching depth

Aaron Harang
AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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The Marlins would like to add “another pitcher or two” before pitchers and catchers report to Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes. Among starting pitchers available, Kyle Lohse, Aaron Harang, and Alfredo Simon are candidates for the Marlins, but they may hold out for the possibility of inking a major league contract. Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee are other potential candidates, per Frisaro.

This offseason, the Marlins signed Wei-Yin Chen to a five-year, $80 million deal and Edwin Jackson for the major league minimum. The back of the rotation, though, is still a question mark as Jarred Cosart, Adam Conley, and Justin Nicolino will compete with Jackson for two spots. David Phelps is dealing with an elbow injury and may or not be ready by Opening Day, but he could function in a swingman capacity as well.

Shocker: Bruce Bochy tabs Madison Bumgarner to start Opening Day

Madison Bumgarner
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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You might want to sit down for this news. Giants manager Bruce Bochy has tabbed ace Madison Bumgarner to start on Opening Day in Milwaukee against the Brewers, CSN Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic reports. Shocking, I know.

The Giants had a busy offseason, adding Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to the starting rotation, but neither had a shot at getting the Opening Day nod considering what Bumgarner has done for the Giants over the last five seasons.

Since the start of the 2011 season, the 26-year-old lefty compiled a 3.05 ERA with 1,034 strikeouts and 239 walks across 1,050 innings. Among starters who logged at least 800 innings in that span of time, only Clayton Kershaw, Cueto, Zack Greinke, David Price, and Felix Hernandez have posted lower ERAs.  And Bumgarner is the only one among them with a championship ring. In fact, he has three.

Tony Clark is not happy so many players remain unsigned

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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We’re almost halfway through February. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training soon. And yet, there are more than a handful of solid free agents that remain unsigned. Among them: Yovani Gallardo, Ian Desmond, and Dexter Fowler. All three have draft pick compensation tied to them, as each rejected a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from his respective former team. That, undoubtedly, is a reason why they haven’t inked a contract yet.

MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark is unhappy about this reality and expects to discuss potential changes when the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated. The current CBA expires after the 2016 season. Per the Associated Press, Clark said last week, “I think it’s disappointing when there are as many talented players still without a home. I don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest to be in a world where very talented players are at home for whatever reason they are there. It will likely be a part of the conversation in bargaining.”

Clark also mentioned, among other things, the possibility of a draft lottery, which would take away the incentive for teams to “tank”, or lose on purpose. The Astros and Phillies have notably done this in recent years, finishing with baseball’s worst record and thus netting the #1 overall draft pick.

These are, however, simply two items of many that will be discussed during the upcoming offseason. It will be interesting to see what solutions are eventually put in place.

Michael Pineda hopes to reach 200-inning mark for first time

New York Yankees' Michael Pineda delivers a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP Photo/Adam Hunger
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It was reported on Friday that Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for Opening Day as he makes his way back from arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. His health will be crucial to the Yankees’ chances this season, but the same goes for rotation-mate Michael Pineda, who hopes that this is the year he’ll be able to take on the workload of a frontline starter.

Pineda was on pace for a career-high in innings last season, but he landed on the disabled list in late July with a right flexor forearm muscle strain and missed a month. He struggled upon his return and ended up with 160 2/3 innings, so he fell short of his career-high of 171 innings as a rookie with the Mariners way back in 2011. Now going into his age-27 season, Pineda told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that his goal for 2016 is to reach 200 innings for the first time in his career.

“For me, this year, I’m coming here early to be strong and working hard to pitch 200 innings this year,” Pineda said at the club’s Minor League complex. “I want to throw 200 innings this year. This is my goal, and help my team.”

Pineda had a mediocre 4.37 ERA (90 ERA+) last season despite impressive peripherals with 8.7 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9. Among pitchers with at least 160 innings pitched, only Bartolo Colon of the Mets had a lower walk percentage. Pineda managed to increase his ground ball rate to 48.2 percent and also saw an uptick in velocity from 2014, so there’s reason to believe in improvement if he can stay healthy.