Padres shouldn't declare Gonzalez off limits

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adrian gonzalez running.jpgWe’ve been playing this game for nearly six months now: some team is talking to the Padres about Adrian Gonzalez — usually the Red Sox — and then the report goes on to state, in some similar but perhaps not identical fashion, “yet the Padres have no reason to trade their first baseman.”
But they do. There are two very good reasons for the Padres to trade Gonzalez, even though he’s ridiculously affordable at $10.25 million for the next two years.
Reason No. 1: The Padres aren’t going to the World Series during the next two years.
There’s quite a bit to like about the group the Padres are putting together. The bullpen should be excellent once again, and a rotation comprised of a healthy Chris Young, Kevin Correia, Mat Latos, Clayton Richard, Sean Gallagher could keep the team in a lot of games. The offense, though, is still a huge problem. Besides Gonzalez, there isn’t a position player in the organization sure to be an above average regular, and the Padres will likely be below average at all four up-the-middle spots unless someone new is brought in. I could see the pitching keeping the Padres in the race for a time next year, but they’re not going to be there in the end. The 2011 outlook wouldn’t be much better, barring the addition of a couple of more bats.
Reason No. 2: Kyle Blanks should never play the outfield again.
In need of some offense, the Padres tried shifting the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Blanks to the outfield last season. He came up and delivered 10 homers in just 148 at-bats, but he simply wasn’t adequate in Petco’s spacious corners and he got hurt while trying to cover all of that ground. A torn plantar fascia in his right foot ended his season in late August.
Besides Gonzalez, Blanks is likely the best hitter in the Padres organization. Yet much of what he would provide in the batter’s box would be given away if the Padres continued to use him in the outfield. Worse, the team would be inviting more injuries. He belongs at first base.
Now, I’m not saying the Padres need to trade Gonzalez right away. Blanks just turned 23 in September, and it wouldn’t hurt him to spend another three or four months in Triple-A. Gonzalez, though, probably has as much trade value right now as he’ll ever have, and there’s been nothing to suggest that the Padres have a realistic chance of signing him for the long-term. If the right offer comes along, the Padres can’t be afraid to pull the trigger.

Mariners interested in free agent outfielder Nori Aoki

AP Photo/Ben Margot
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New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.

Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.

The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.

Report: Johnny Cueto is believed to be looking for a $140-160 million deal

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It was reported Sunday that free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto had turned down a six-year, $120 million contract from the Diamondbacks. He’s hoping to land a bigger deal this winter and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has heard some chatter about what he’s looking for.

Jordan Zimmermann finalized a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers today, which works out to $22 million per season. Arizona’s offer to Cueto checked in at $20 million per season. A six-year offer to Cueto at the same AAV (average annual value) as Zimmermann would put him at $132 million, which is still a little shy of the figure stated by Crasnick. Of course, Cueto owns a 2.71 ERA (145 ERA+) over the last five seasons compared to a 3.14 ERA (123 ERA+) by Zimmermann during that same timespan, so there’s a case to be made that he should get more. Still, he’s the clear No. 3 starter on the market behind David Price and Zack Greinke.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the other teams who have interest in Cueto. One variable in his favor is that he is not attached to draft pick compensation, as he was traded from the Reds to the Royals during the 2015 season.

Report: Around 20 teams have contacted the Braves about Shelby Miller

AP Photo/John Bazemore
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The rebuilding Braves have already been active on the trade market and they might not be done, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that right-hander Shelby Miller has been a very popular name. In fact, around 20 teams have checked in.

Nothing is considered close and the Braves have set a very high asking price, mostly centered around offense. They asked for right-hander Luis Severino in talks with the Yankees and would expect outfielder Marcell Ozuna among other pieces from the Marlins. The Diamondbacks and Giants are among the other interested clubs.

Miller is under team control through 2018, so there’s not necessarily a sense of urgency to move him, but anything is possible with the way the Braves are doing things right now. The 25-year-old is coming off a year where he went 6-17, but that was about really rotten luck more than anything else, as he had a fine 3.02 ERA and 171/73 K/BB ratio over 205 1/3 innings. The Braves gave him the worst run support of any starter in the majors.

Mets expected to tender a contract to Jenrry Mejia

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 12:  Jenrry Mejia #58 of the New York Mets reacts as he walks off the field after getting the final out of the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field on July 12, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Jenrry Mejia appeared in just seven games this past season due to a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets are expected to tender him a contract for 2016.

While the Mets were vocal about their disappointment in Mejia’s actions, it makes sense to keep him around as an option. Had he played a full season in 2015, he would have earned $2.595 million. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and figures to receive a contract similar to his 2015 figure, but he’ll only be paid for the games he plays. He still has 100 games to serve on his second PED suspension, which means that he’ll only be paid for 62 games in 2016. This likely puts his salary closer to $1 million, which is a small price to pay for someone who could prove useful during the second half and beyond. He also won’t count toward the team’s 40-man roster until he’s active.

Mejia, who turned 26 in October, owns a 3.68 ERA in the majors and saved 28 games for the Mets in 2014. He’s currently pitching as a starter in the Dominican Winter League.