Author: Matthew Pouliot

Dexter Fowler

Report: Blue Jays, Astros discuss Dexter Fowler


According to’s Jon Morosi, the Blue Jays and Astros have had discussions regarding center fielder Dexter Fowler, who is a year away from free agency.

One year after acquiring him from the Rockies, the Astros see Fowler as expendable with both George Springer and Jake Marisnick capable of playing center field. Fowler was the team’s second-highest paid player last year, receiving $7.35 million in the second year of a two-year deal he signed with Colorado. He’s due about $9 million in arbitration this winter.

Fowler hit well in his first year outside of Colorado, coming in at .276/.375/.399 in 434 at-bats. However, he was limited to 116 games by an intercostal strain. He’s yet to play more than 143 games as a major leaguer, and the numbers have his defense getting worse each year. If he were to stay in Houston, it’d probably be for the best if he were moved to a corner.

The Jays need both a left fielder and a center fielder with Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus having become free agents. They do have prospect Dalton Pompey as a center field option and a potentially adequate and cheap left-field platoon in Andy Dirks and John Mayberry Jr. Still, ideally, they would upgrade one of those spots, and the Astros probably wouldn’t need a whole lot in return to move on from Fowler.

12:20 a.m. EST update: The Jays non-tendered both Dirks and Mayberry prior to Tuesday’s midnight deadline, which would certainly suggest they’re confident in their ability to bring in a left-field upgrade.

Remembering those left off the Hall of Fame ballot

Kevin Millar

I’d say the 17 new players added to this year’s Hall of Fame ballot were 10 too many. With so many worthy candidates already backlogged, adding such a large crowd serves no real purpose and might actually damage the process when someone such as Eddie Guardado gets a token vote, as Jacque Jones did last year (obviously, the Minnesota nominating committee is very strong). Once upon a time, the token votes were harmless. These days, they might get the 10th spot on someone’s ballot over a much more worthy player.

This year’s ballot has seven newcomers worthy of actual Hall of Fame debate: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra, Carlos Delgado and Brian Giles. The last four are never getting in, but they all have Hall of Fame-like qualities. Guardado and Aaron Boone do not, yet they were included on the ballot anyway, along with Rich Aurilia, Tony Clark, Jermaine Dye, Darin Erstad, Cliff Floyd, Tom Gordon, Troy Percival and Jason Schmidt.

But enough about them. Let’s mention some of the others who played their final seasons in 2009 but were left off the ballot, even though they were just as worthy as others included. First, though, a nod to Brandon Webb. I’m writing this for the purposes of mentioning those left off the ballot, whereas Webb was completely ineligible, having played only seven years (10 years is required). He is, however, one of the finest players ever to be ineligible for the Hall of Fame. He won a Cy Young and finished second twice before shoulder problems wrecked his career, leaving him with an 87-62 record and a 3.27 ERA.

So, who got left off?

Jarrod Washburn: The lefty had his best season during the Angels’ championship campaign in 2002, going 18-6 with a 3.15 ERA and finishing fourth in the AL Cy Young balloting. Capped his career with a 107-109 record and a 4.10 ERA that doesn’t sound all that impressive, but actually comes out to a 108 ERA+ in an offense-heavy era. That’s good for 28 WAR, the highest mark of those left off the ballot (the lows to be included on the ballot were Clark at 12.5, Guardado at 13.3 and Boone at 13.5).

Mark Loretta: Loretta played 15 years, mostly as a second baseman and shortstop, and finished with a higher OPS than Boone, who played 12 years as a third baseman. He also went to two All-Star Games to Boone’s one. But he didn’t have a backer in the room when it came to putting together the ballot. Loretta had his best season in 2004, hitting .335/.391/.495 with 16 HR and 76 RBI to finish ninth in the NL MVP balloting. Overall, he hit .295/.360/.395 in 5,812 at-bats.

Kelvim Escobar: That Escobar has been attempting comebacks every year probably didn’t help his chances of getting included. He was a fine pitcher in his 11 seasons, though, winning as many as 18 games and once saving 38. He had his best season in 2007, going 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA for the Angels, then made just one more major league appearance in his career, that coming in 2009. Overall, he was 101-91 with a 4.15 ERA and a 112 ERA+.

Kevin Millar: Unfortunately, Millar’s best years came in obscurity in Florida, and he was more famous than good during the second half of his career (he was also probably good enough to play in the majors at least a year before the Marlins called him up; he had two at-bats prior to his age-27 season). Still, as visible as he’s been, it was surprising to see him left off, especially when he’s at least as qualified as Boone or Clark. Millar hit .274/.358/.452 with 170 homers in 4,688 career at-bats. Clark hit .262/.339/.485 with 251 homers in 4,532 at-bats. Boone hit .263/.326/.425 with 126 homers in 3,871 at-bats.

Paul Byrd: The leading winner left off the ballot, Byrd finished his career 109-96 with a 4.41 ERA and a 103 ERA+. He made an All-Star team with the Phillies in 2009 and won 17 games for a horrible Royals team in 2002, leading the league with seven complete games that year. He then missed all of 2003. In the latter half of his career, he was among the game’s stingiest when it came to issuing walks, finishing in the top five in the AL in walk rates four times.

Braves release reliever Cory Gearrin post-Tommy John surgery

Cory Gearrin

Overwork ’em and let ’em go. That what the Braves decided to do to reliever Cory Gearrin on Tuesday, releasing him seven months after he underwent Tommy John surgery.

Gearrin, 28, had a 4.28 ERA in 77 relief appearances for the Braves from 2013, striking out 68 in 69 1/3 innings.

In 2013, Gearrin made the Braves out of spring training for the first time and got off to a great start. Too great for his own good, in fact. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez used him eight times in a 10-day span in late April. By the end of May, he had appeared in 30 of Atlanta’s 54 games. He started struggling, got sent down and then finished the season on the shelf with shoulder tendinitis. He came down with the sore elbow last spring and had Tommy John surgery a week into the regular season.

Gearrin might not  be the only rehabbing pitching the Braves cut loose this winter. Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy are similarly coming back from Tommy John surgery, only they’re arbitration eligible and are set to make a lot more money than Gearrin, who was earning the major league minimum. Medlen received $5.8 million last year, while Beachy earned $1.45 million. One or both could be non-tendered in December.

Report: Cubs trying to acquire Jordan Zimmermann from Nationals

Jordan Zimmermann

10:30 p.m. EST update: CSNChicago’s Patrick Mooney is among the chorus shooting down the Zimmerman-to-the-Cubs rumor, reporting that there’s nothing going on between the two teams.


Multiple sources told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer that the Cubs are actively engaged in talks to acquire Jordan Zimmermann from the Nationals, though without any mention of whom the Cubs might be giving up.

From the report:

One source said the teams have enough mutual interest that names have been discussed. Another said he expected the Cubs to complete the deal – along with Cardinals free agent Justin Masterson, who blamed minor injuries for season-long struggles in 2014 after a 2013 All-Star season.

Zimmermann is due $16.5 million next year in his final year before free agency. He signed a backloaded two-year, $24 million deal a year ago that covered his last two seasons of arbitration.

The 28-year-old right-hander was one of the NL’s top five pitchers last season, going 14-5 with a 2.66 ERA and 182 strikeouts in 199 2/3 innings. Over the last three years, he’s 45-22 with a 2.96 ERA and more than four strikeouts for each walk he’s allowed (496/112 K/BB in 608 2/3 IP).

The Nationals have the pitching depth to be able to afford to trade Zimmermann, though they certainly wouldn’t part with him lightly. The Cubs would be an ideal suitor, with several possible long-term options to fill the Nationals’ hole at second base. Those options include Starlin Castro, Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara. Russell for Zimmermann straight up might make the most sense. The Nationals would probably want more than Alcantara alone, and it’s unclear whether the Cubs would part with Baez in a one-for-one; he was a disappointment after being called up last season, but he has the bat speed to become a superstar if he learns to lay off bad pitches.


Examining the DH market

Victor Martinez

In light of the surprising and quite likely erroneous report that free agent Billy Butler is sitting on a three-year, $30 million offer, let’s take a quick look at who is actually searching for a DH this winter. There would seem to be plenty of options, with Victor Martinez, Butler and Kendrys Morales essentially locked in as a designated hitters and Nelson Cruz more valuable there than he is in the outfield. Fellow free agents Adam LaRoche, Mike Morse, Jonny Gomes, Josh Willingham, Delmon Young, Corey Hart and Ryan Ludwick could also be viewed as at least part-time designated hitters.

So, who needs a DH?

Baltimore: The Orioles will address the spot somehow, whether it’s re-signing Cruz or bringing in a part-time option to mix in with Steve Pearce.

Boston: This is the one team we can be certain won’t be signing any DH types.

New York: The Yankees will almost certainly need to rotate Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira in as designated hitters at times, making it highly unlikely that they’ll sign a regular for the position. They could add another role player who would DH on occasion.

Tampa Bay: The Rays are trying to reduce payroll. Ideally, they’d probably trade Matt Joyce or David DeJesus and then find a cheap part-time DH to help out, probably one of the guys who slips through the cracks.

Toronto: The Jays dealt Adam Lind in part because they wanted to increase their flexibility in the DH role. One angle that’s gotten some play is signing Russell Martin and putting Dioner Navarro into the DH mix, though that’s a long shot. It’s hard to imagine they’ll sign a Butler or a Morales, but they will want some help here.

Chicago: If Dayan Viciedo is back, it should be as a designated hitter. The White Sox, though, would be better off trading him and bringing in a mid-priced veteran.

Cleveland: Between Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana, the Indians are settled at DH and first base.

Detroit: The Tigers will certainly sign a designated hitter, though all they really want to do is retain Martinez.

Kansas City: The Royals will re-sign or replace Butler, but they’d probably prefer it wasn’t a full-time DH. They’re more worried about the pitching market right now, and it seems they’re rightfully figuring someone will fall into their laps laterr.

Minnesota: Between Kennys Vargas, Oswaldo Arcia and Josmyl Pinto, the Twins have more young designated hitter options than they know what to do with.

Houston: Jonathan Singleton looked bad enough last season that the Astros could consider adding a first baseman-DH to pair with Chris Carter. It’d likely be a cheap one, though.

Los Angeles: Since Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols both will likely need to spend some time DHing next year, the Angels won’t spend here. They’ll probably stick with C.J. Cron.

Oakland: Between their three-headed catching monster (Derek Norris, Stephen Vogt and John Jaso) and first base options like Brandon Moss, Kyle Blanks and Nate Freiman, the A’s should be covered here.

Seattle: The Mariners are the Tigers’ chief rival for Martinez, with Butler looming as a fallback. It’d be a surprise if they didn’t sign one of them or maybe Cruz.

Texas: The Rangers are saying they’ll tender Mitch Moreland, suggesting that he’ll be the primary DH with Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo also logging time there.


So, to wrap it up, that’s Detroit and Seattle almost surely signing starting DHs, with Kansas City and Baltimore in the probable camp and Chicago, Toronto and Tampa Bay as the maybes.

That’d seem to make it a buyer’s market. My guess is that the Tigers bring back Martinez and the Mariners sign Butler. If Cruz signs as a DH or one or two other teams decide on trades to plug the hole, that could leave Morales scrambling for work and potentially facing more competition from a field of non-tenders that could include Viciedo, Ike Davis and Juan Francisco.

In other words, if you’re a player not named Victor Martinez and you get a solid offer early, you should probably take it.