Matthew Pouliot

Joe Maddon, Andrew Friedman

Bargain-hunting Rays still have some holes

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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.

Arbitration filings: Chase Headley’s $10.3 million request leads way

Chase Headley
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Here’s the breakdown of the 36 arbitration cases remaining after Friday’s filings:

American League (player filing amount – team filing amount – 2012 salary)

Baltimore

Jason Hammel – $8.25 million – $5.7 million ($4.75 million in 2012)
Jim Johnson – $7.1 million – $5.7 million ($2.775 million in 2012)
Darren O’Day – $3.2 million – $1.8 million ($1.35 million in 2012)

Boston

Craig Breslow – $2.375 million – $2.325 million ($1.795 million in 2012)

Cleveland

Mike Aviles – $3.4 million – $2.4 million ($1.2 million in 2012)

Detroit

Max Scherzer – $7.4 million – $6.05 million ($3.75 million in 2012)

Los Angeles

Alberto Callaspo – $4.7 million – $3.65 million ($3.15 million in 2012)
Kevin Jepsen – $1.4 million – $975,000 ($501,000 in 2012)

New York

David Robertson – $3.65 million – $2.85 million ($1.625 million in 2012)

Seattle

Shawn Kelley – $1.2 million – $750,000 ($610,000 in 2012)

Texas

David Murphy – $6.5 million – $5.05 million ($3.65 million in 2012)

National League

Arizona

Gerardo Parra – $2.7 million – $2.1 million ($502,000 in 2012)
Cliff Pennington – $2.8 million – $1.8 million ($490,000 in 2012)

Atlanta

Martin Prado – $7.05 million – $6.65 million ($4.75 million in 2012)

Cincinnati

Homer Bailey – $5.8 million – $4.75 million ($2.5 million in 2012)
Shin-Soo Choo – $8 million – $6.75 million ($4.9 million in 2012)
Chris Heisey – $1.65 million – $1.05 million ($495,000 in 2012)
Mat Latos – $4.7 million – $4.15 million ($550,000 in 2012)
Mike Leake – $3.5 million – $2.65 million ($507,500 in 2012)
Alfredo Simon – $1.05 million – $750,000 ($487,500 in 2012)

Colorado

Jhoulys Chacin – $2.6 million – $1.7 million ($482,000 in 2012)
Dexter Fowler – $5.15 million – $4.25 million ($2.35 million in 2012)
Jonathan Herrera – $1 million – $800,000 ($482,000 in 2012)

New York

Ike Davis – $3.7 million – $2.825 million ($506,690 in 2012)
Daniel Murphy – $3.4 million – $2.55 million ($512,196 in 2012)

Pittsburgh

James McDonald – $3.4 million – $2.65 million ($502,500 in 2012)
Neil Walker – $3.6 million – $3 million ($500,000 in 2012)

St. Louis

David Freese – $3.75 million – $2.4 million ($518,000 in 2012)
Jason Motte – $5.5 million – $4.5 million ($2 million in 2012)
Marc Rzepczynski – $1.3 million – $900,000 ($501,000 in 2012)

San Diego

Luke Gregerson – $3.75 million – $2.875 million ($1.55 million in 2012)
Chase Headley – $10.3 million – $7.075 million ($3.475 million in 2012)
Clayton Richard – $5.5 million – $4.905 million ($2.705 million in 2012)

San Francisco

Joaquin Arias – $1.1 million – $750,000 ($525,000 in 2012)
Sergio Romo – $4.5 million – $2.675 million ($1.575 million in 2012)

Washington

Jordan Zimmermann – $5.8 million – $4.6 million ($2.3 million in 2012)

Some thoughts

– Callaspo and the Angels are expected to avoid arbitration by finalizing a two-year deal in the coming days.

– It’s incredibly bizarre that the Red Sox came to terms with seven of their eight remaining arbitration players today, yet couldn’t close the ridiculously tiny $50,000 gap with Breslow. Maybe they just ran out of people capable of negotiating; they were all on the phone with other players.

– Prado’s gap is also really small considering the amounts involved ($7.05 million-$6.65 million). It’s hard to see that one going before a panel.

– Headley’s $3.225 million gap with the Padres is the biggest spread in dollars, but others are bigger proportionately. O’Day is asking for nearly twice what the Orioles are offering ($3.2 million-$1.8 million. Romo’s request is 70 percent higher than the Giants’ offer. Freese’s is nearly 60 percent higher than the Cardinals’ proposal.

Mike Matheny loses court battle, could cost him millions

Mike Matheny
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Not long after he was hired as the Cardinals’ replacement for Tony La Russa in the dugout, it was reported that Mike Matheny was in serious debt due to bad real estate deals that cost him his 17-room home in Missouri.

14 months later, Matheny was still fighting over just how much he owes the Business Bank of St. Louis, but he lost his case today in front of Judge Tom DePriest, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

It was reported last year that Matheny might owe more than $4 million after he stopped making payments on land he and a business partner bought. No financial details came out of today’s judgment, though. That matter will be settled during a March 13 hearing.

Matheny made nearly $20 million in a major league career that came to a close in 2006. He sold his home for $1.9 million in 2010 prior to its foreclosure. $1 million of that went to the Business Bank, which claimed that Matheny owed $10.2 million. While his annual salary from managing the Cardinals was never disclosed, Matheny likely makes somewhere between $1 million-$1.5 million per year.

Old friends in the World Baseball Classic

Chris Snelling - Bowman Chrome
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Instead of complaining about the fact that Heath Bell and Willie Bloomquist are on Team USA’s provisional World Baseball Classic roster, I thought it might be more fun to highlight some ex-major leaguers dotting the rosters of other squads:

Australia

RHP Chris Oxspring (35) – Appeared in five games for Padres in 2005
LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith (30) – Effective Mariner in 2008-09 before getting hurt
1B Justin Huber (30) – Former top prospect hit .224, 2 HR in 161 AB
OF Chris Snelling (31) – Talented but never healthy, hit .244/.360/.400 in 225 AB

Italy

RHP Dan Serafini (39) – 15-16 with a 6.04 ERA from 1996-2007
RHP Brian Sweeney (39) – 3.38 in 73 appearances, the last coming in 2010

Japan

INF Kazuo Matsui (37) – Hit .267/.321/.380 in 7 seasons before returning home

Korea

RHP Jae Weong Seo (35) – 28-40, 4.60 ERA from 2002-2007

Mexico

INF Edgar Gonzalez (34) – Adrian’s older brother, teammate on 2008-09 Padres
OF Karim Garcia (37) – Unknown to Pedro Martinez, hit 66 big-league homers

Puerto Rico

RHP Dicky Gonzalez (34) – Quad-A pitcher has spent last 5 years in Japan
INF Luis Figueroa (39) – 2 AB in 2001, 9 in 2006, 5 in 2007
INF Andy Gonzalez (31) – Hit .185 in 67 games for White Sox in 2008

Chinese Taipei

LHP Hong-Chih Kuo (31) – 3.73 ERA, 345 strikeouts in 292 IP

Unfortunately, Colombia (Edgar Renteria and Jolbert Cabrera) and Panama (Ramiro Mendoza and Ruben Rivera) failed to make the final 16 for the WBC, so we’ll miss out on their vets.

Mets, Bobby Parnell agree at $1.7 million

Bobby Parnell
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The Mets and Bobby Parnell avoided arbitration Thursday by agreeing to a one-year, $1.7 million contract.

The 28-year-old Parnell was eligible for arbitration for the first time after just missing out on Super-Two eligibility last year. He won’t be a free agent until after the 2015 campaign.

Parnell finished last season with a 5-4 record, five saves and a 2.49 ERA in 68 2/3 innings. He struck out 61, walked 20 and allowed four homers.

The plan is for Parnell to open this year as a setup man, with Frank Francisco getting his closing job back despite a 5.53 ERA in 42 1/3 innings last season. Still, Parnell is at least as likely as Francisco to lead the Mets in saves.