David Price

Mariners, Rays discussing David Price, Ben Zobrist trade

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In the interests of maximizing their return, the Rays probably aren’t looking to package David Price and Ben Zobrist in the same deal. The Mariners, though, have enough talent to make it worth their while.

According to FOXSports.com’s Jon Morosi, the two teams are discussing the pair of All-Stars. They’ll be expensive, as both are under control through 2015. Price is looking at making $17 million-$20 million in arbitration next year, while Zobrist’s contract includes a bargain $7.5 million option for 2015.

Any Price deal between the Rays and Mariners seems likely to include right-hander Taijuan Walker, who first reached the majors last September and is 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA in five major league starts. The 21-year-old is healthy again now after missing the first two months with shoulder inflammation.

The Rays will also be interested in the Mariners’ crop of young infielders, a group that includes current starting shortstop Brad Miller, shortstop prospect Chris Taylor and former first-round picks Nick Franklin and D.J. Peterson. Catcher Mike Zunino would be another obvious target, but the Mariners would have a difficult time trading him with no fallback available.

For Price alone, a deal bringing back Walker, Franklin and a lesser talent might be sufficient for the Rays. Adding Zobrist to the mix, though, would increase the price substantially. Miller’s inclusion makes some sense for both teams. The Rays would love to bring in a long-term shortstop with their own former top prospect, Hak-Ju Lee, having stalled out. Plus, the Mariners could afford to part with Miller if they get Zobrist. For one thing, Zobrist can still play shortstop adequately. Plus, they’d still have the option of giving Taylor a shot and putting Zobrist in the outfield. Taylor has hit .315/.391/.493 in 270 at-bats for Triple-A Tacoma this season.

Alternatively, if the Mariners want to do a deal without giving up a big chunk of this year’s team, Peterson would be a nice piece for the Rays. Nominally a third baseman, Peterson projects as a first baseman in the majors. He’s hit .314/.371/.578 with 34 homers in 547 at-bats since being selected 12th overall out of the University of New Mexico last year. He’s currently in Double-A, and he could be ready to replace James Loney by mid-2015.

Angels’ Pujols has foot surgery, could be sidelined 4 months

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols had surgery on his right foot Friday, possibly sidelining him past opening day.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Pujols had the procedure Friday in North Carolina to release his plantar fascia, the ligament connecting the heel to the toes. The three-time NL MVP was bothered by plantar fasciitis repeatedly during the season, but played through the pain in arguably the strongest year of his half-decade with the Angels.

Eppler said the surgery typically prevents players from participating in baseball activities for three months, along with another month before they’re ready to resume playing in games. Opening day for Los Angeles is April 3, and the Angels hope Pujols can be ready.

“He’s at that point in his career where he’s keenly aware of what’s happening with his body,” Eppler said in a phone interview. “I don’t put the timetable on Albert like you would with your younger players. We’ll just see in Albert’s case, as he progresses, what his timetable is.”

Pujols, who turns 37 next month, batted .268 last year with 31 homers and 119 RBIs, the fourth-most in the majors – although his .780 OPS was among the worst of his career. He largely served as a designated hitter instead of playing first base due to problems with his hamstrings and feet.

Pujols heads into 2017 with 591 career homers, ranking him ninth in major league history. He is 18 homers behind Sammy Sosa for eighth place.

After playing in pain until the final week of the Angels’ disappointing season, Pujols began shock wave therapy on his foot early in the offseason, believing he wouldn’t need surgery.

But Pujols’ foot became more painful in recent weeks despite the therapy, and he huddled with the Angels’ top brass to decide on surgery after his most recent trip to see Dr. Robert Anderson in North Carolina. Continuing with conservative care would have required 10 more weeks, forcing Pujols to miss the first half of the 2017 season if he still required surgery.

“He just felt that the pain had gotten to a point where he was comfortable” having surgery, Eppler said. “If we did delay it, you’re just looking at 2 1/2 more months into the season.”

Pujols had a different type of surgery on his right foot last winter, but recovered in time for opening day. He also had plantar fasciitis in his left foot during the 2013 season, eventually forcing him out for the year when his fascia snapped.

Pujols has five years and $140 million remaining on the 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract that pried him out of St. Louis, where he won two World Series and became a nine-time NL All-Star.

The Angels haven’t won a playoff game since Pujols’ arrival and Mike Trout‘s concurrent emergence as one of baseball’s best players. They went 74-88 last season, the injury-plagued club’s worst record since 1999.

Diamondbacks hire Mike Fitzgerald to head Research and Development department

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Mike Hazen, new Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Red Sox, addresses the media during a press conference to announce his promotion before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on September 24, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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According to an official announcement, the Diamondbacks have acquired former Pirates quantitative analyst Mike Fitzgerald as their new Director of Research and Development.

Fitzgerald joined the Pirates’ front office in 2012, where he frequently accompanied the team on the road to help breach the divide between analytics and the clubhouse. According to a profile written by Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh in 2014, Fitzgerald’s multifaceted approach brought balance and perspective to the organization, whether he was assisting coaches in making statistically sound decisions, optimizing the batting order, weighing in on scouting and personnel decisions, developing more effective defensive positioning, or keeping players and personnel appraised of the latest developments in sabermetrics.

In the wake of Fitzgerald’s departure, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington praised the Diamondbacks for a smart acquisition and said that the club has every intention of finding a replacement analyst, albeit one who will have some big shoes to fill.