Author: Matthew Pouliot

Chris Volstad

Report: Rockies sign Chris Volstad to minor league contract


The Denver Post’s Troy Renck reports that the Rockies have signed former first-round pick Chris Volstad to a minor league deal that will net him $1.5 million if he makes the team.

It has to be a disappointing outcome for the 26-year-old Volstad, who was originally acquired by the Royals this winter, only to be let go after the team found superior options elsewhere. While he does have a better chance of getting a rotation spot in Colorado than he would anywhere else, he doesn’t even land a major league contract here and he faces an uphill climb trying to rebuild his value in Coors Field.

Volstad debuted with the 2.88 ERA in 84 1/3 innings with the Marlins as a 21-year-old in 2008, but he’s been a disappointment ever since. Only in 2010, when he went 12-9 with a 4.58 ERA, was he close to being an average big-league starter. He went 5-13 with a 4.89 ERA in his last year with the Marlins in 2011 and 3-12 with a 6.31 ERA for the Cubs last season.

The Rockies are currently planning to go with Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, Juan Nicasio and Jeff Francis as their top four starters, leaving Volstad, Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich and Tyler Chatwood to battle for the fifth spot. According to Renck, the Rockies are still hoping to add one more veteran to the mix.

Michael Bourn is still waiting for some love

Michael Bourn

Considered by many as the No. 2 free agent hitter available this winter, Michael Bourn has now gone three months with seemingly no market developing for his services. The Braves struck early to sign B.J. Upton to replace him. The Phillies also targeted Upton and then traded for Ben Revere after coming up short. The Nationals traded for Denard Span. The Giants re-signed Angel Pagan. And it’s unclear if Bourn has even one offer on the table at this point.

Let’s explore all of the possible suitors as of Jan. 20, going from most likely to least likely.

Rangers – The most obvious destination; the Rangers have no clear starting center fielder and they possess as much payroll flexibility as any AL team. Still, one gets the idea that if they were truly high on Bourn, something would have gotten done already. Perhaps they’ll be more interested if he proves willing to accept a three-year deal.

Mariners – Management knows changes are on the horizon if the Mariners fail to take a clear step forward in 2013. Bringing in Bourn to play center fielder over the injury-prone Franklin Gutierrez would likely result in at least a couple of more wins. However, the team has been focused on adding power at the expense of speed and defense this winter.

Braves – Bourn is open to returning, even after the Braves initially shoved him aside to bring in Upton, and Atlanta still needs an outfielder and a leadoff hitter. If the Braves could come up with the cash to make it happen, they’d have a much better chance of hanging with the Nationals all season.

Cubs – The Cubs had no plans to splurge on a hitter this winter, but if Bourn’s price tag falls, they could find room in their plans for him. They’ve already upgraded their pitching staff enough to entertain dreams of sneaking up on teams in the NL Central.

Rays – He’d be a terrific fit if they could come up with the money. The Rays seem to prefer keeping Desmond Jennings in left field, and Bourn would be an upgrade in the leadoff spot, with Jennings hitting sixth or lower. Still, it’s hard to see them making the salary work.

Dodgers – They’re here simply because they do have the budget room for Bourn. However, any chance of them trading Andre Ethier and signing an outfielder seems to have passed.

Astros – If the Astros thought bringing back Bourn would excite the fans, then maybe they’d make a run. They certainly have room for him in their outfield. Unfortunately, they’re so far from contention that it makes little on-field sense to sign him.

White Sox – What would the winter be without a big surprise move from Ken Williams and Rick Hahn? Center field isn’t a need, but Bourn would be an upgrade over Alejandro De Aza in the leadoff spot.

Tigers – The team signed Prince Fielder last winter despite already having Miguel Cabrera at first base. However, with Austin Jackson in center, the upgrade from Andy Dirks to Bourn isn’t nearly worth Bourn’s asking price.

Yankees – There’s been some talk about a Curtis Granderson trade, but since he’s a free agent after 2013 and the Yankees are trying to cut payroll for 2014, Granderson is still a really good fit in New York. Plus, a Brett Gardner-Bourn-Ichiro Suzuki outfield, while ridiculously awesome defensively, just wouldn’t be very practical.

Blue Jays – They’re capped out as is, so they’d have to beg ownership for the money. Besides, they’re not too badly off with Colby Rasmus in center and Jose Reyes batting leadoff.

Red Sox – Would have to trade Jacoby Ellsbury and still might not be interested then.

Mets – Bourn would be a huge upgrade for the game’s second worst outfield (ahead of only Houston’s), but the Mets don’t have the money right now.

In my estimation, that’s three realistic possibilities (Rangers, Mariners and Braves) with maybe the Cubs as a sleeper if this drags on a few more weeks. My guess is that we’ll finally see some real Bourn talk this week, and he’s still going to get his $15 million per year in the end, even if some of that ends up being deferred (see Soriano, Rafael).

Former Red Sox infielder Milt Bolling dies at 82

Milt Bolling - 1956 Topps

Milt Bolling, who spent seven years in the big leagues in the 1950s and afterwards worked for the Red Sox for 30 years, passed away Saturday in Alabama at the age of 82.

Frank Bolling, Milt’s brother and a former MLB All-Star, told’s Mark Inabinett that Milt’s health had been in decline following open-heart surgery three months ago.

Milt Bolling came up with the Red Sox in 1952 and became the team’s primary shortstop a year later. He had his best season in 1954, hitting .249/.337/.358 with six homers in 370 at-bats. However, he suffered a broken elbow the following spring and missed most of the 1955 season. Primarily a part-timer after that, he was traded to the Senators in 1957. In 1958, he briefly played with little brother Frank in Detroit, appearing in 24 games for the Tigers.

“We played against each other in the big leagues, and then he came over to Detroit in 1958, and we played together as a double-play combination,” Frank said, “with me at second base and him at shortstop. We have some great tales. We had a lot of good times.”

According to Wikipedia, Bolling later served with the Red Sox as an executive assistant to owner Tom Yawkey and as an area scout based in Alabama.

Milt Bolling is survived by his wife of 60 years, Joanne, as well as four children and nine grandchildren.

Stan Musial’s greatness undiminished by time

Stan Musial

Stan Musial’s name doesn’t dot the record books anywhere near as frequently as those of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. Still, for consistent greatness, perhaps no one matched Stan the Man, who passed away Saturday at age 92.

– Excluding his one-year absence due to military service in 1945, Musial, who spent his entire career with the Cardinals, hit .310 or better every year from 1942 to 1958. That’s age 21 to age 37. He qualified for the NL batting title all 16 of those seasons, finishing first seven times, second twice, third four times, fourth twice and fifth once. He also finished third in 1962 at age 41.

– In addition to his seven batting titles, he led the NL in OBP six times, in slugging six times and in OPS seven times.

– He led the league in runs scored five times, hits six times, doubles eight times, triples five times, RBI twice, walks once and games played five times.

– He did all this while never striking out more than 46 times in a season. He finished his career with 1,599 walks and just 696 strikeouts.

– Musial played in 24 All-Star Games (in 20 seasons), tying Willie Mays for the most of all-time.

– Even 50 years after his retirement, Musial ranks 2nd all-time in total bases (6,134), 4th all-time in hits (3.630), 30th in average (.331), 22nd in OBP (.417), 19th in slugging (.559), 13th in OPS (.976), ninth in runs (1,959), sixth in RBI (1,951), third in doubles (725), 19th in triples (177), 28th in homers (475) and 13th in walks.

– Advanced stats: Musial ranks 12th all-time in Baseball-Reference’s WAR, ninth among position players. He’s third in runs created (2,562) and his OPS+ of 159 ranks 15th.

– Only Barry Bonds, with seven MVPs, has been more successful in the MVP balloting. Musial is one of eight players with three MVPs, and he has four second-place finishes to go along with them.

– Musial wasn’t particularly productive in the World Series, but his Cardinals teams won three of the four in which he played. He hit .256/.347/.395 with one homers and eight RBI in his 23 postseason games.

Musial ended up playing 21 full seasons, plus his 12 games as a 20-year-old in 1941. Never once did he finish with an OPS+ under 100. He ranked among the NL’s best hitters at both 21 and 41. He hit .300 18 times. Only Aaron, with 15, had more seasons with 300 total bases than Musial’s 13. Only Bonds, Ruth and Ted Williams, with 18 each, had more seasons with .900 OPSs than Musial’s 17.

Musial may have missed some milestones in finishing with 475 homers and 1,951 RBI, but his status as one of baseball’s very best hitters is cemented. The awesome nickname probably doesn’t hurt.

Bargain-hunting Rays still have some holes

Joe Maddon, Andrew Friedman

The Rays have spent some money this winter, adding Yunel Escobar for shortstop, James Loney for first base and Roberto Hernandez to the pitching staff. Their rotation is fine even with James Shields gone and the infield might be set, if Ben Zobrist plays second base, but the team still has some needs as is.

Outfield: Desmond Jennings is the only sure starter in the Tampa Bay outfield, and it’s still unclear if he’ll be playing left or center. Matt Joyce will start somewhere against righties, probably in right field but perhaps at designated hitter. A career .201/.288/.325 hitter in 234 at-bats against lefties,  he’s more useful being platooned.

Beyond those two, the Rays have the option of playing Zobrist in right, but they seem more likely to use him at second initially. Brandon Guyer was looking like a nice sleeper entering last season, but he opened up in Triple-A and then suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in May. Sam Fuld is also back healthy after missing much of the season, but he should be viewed as a reserve. Top prospect Wil Myers will almost certainly spend the first month in Triple-A to push back his free agency clock, and he might be held back until mid-June, depending on how he’s performing and the Rays’ needs in right field.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark today mentioned Michael Bourn as a possibility for the Rays, as unlikely as that would seem to be. Not only would he blow up their budget, but he’d also cost them their first-round pick. Scott Hairston would seem to be a nice fit as a starter early who can be eased into a reserve role when Myers comes up, but the Rays haven’t been mentioned in connection with him. Perhaps they think Guyer is his equal. Still, even if the the Rays do opt to go with a Guyer-Jennings-Joyce outfield, they’re going to need a…

Designated hitter: In recently posting a Rays depth chart, I put Ryan Roberts at DH for lack of any better alternatives. It shouldn’t be difficult to do better there, though. Tampa Bay could re-sign Luke Scott to DH against right-handers after he hit .229/.285/.439 for them last season. Travis Hafner and Jim Thome are alternatives there, but they’re pure DHs incapable of playing elsewhere. Scott can at least play a passable first base and perhaps still left field when healthy.

One alternative here would be to sign Kelly Johnson, put Zobrist in right field and use Joyce primarily at DH.

Bullpen: The Rays have only three sure things for the pen right now: Fernando Rodney, Jake McGee and Joel Peralta. They’ll probably stick Hernandez there initially, and they do have some adequate holdovers in Cesar Ramos and Brandon Gomes, plus guys with upside like Josh Lueke, Dane De La Rosa and Frank De Los Santos. Still, one imagines they have their eyes on a couple of cheap veterans who might be candidates for turnarounds. No teams are beating down the doors of Francisco Rodriguez,  Matt Capps and Ramon Ramirez at the moment. And then there’s Hideki Okajima, who wants to return to the U.S. after a terrific season in Japan. The Rays could also consider trading Jeff Niemann for bullpen help.