Author: Matthew Pouliot

Phil Niekro, R.A. Dickey

Maybe the Mets should just keep R.A. Dickey


In making it clear just how much he wanted his Royals to trade for R.A. Dickey, Grantland’s Rany Jazayerli put forth a great case for just how valuable Dickey is, especially in light of his willingness to sign a pretty reasonable two- or three-year extension on top of his $5 million contract for 2013.

Just as Jazayerli says, who cares that Dickey is 38? He’s a knuckleballer who just won a Cy Young Award at 37. Until age 36, he had never topped 175 innings in a season as a pro. He certainly hasn’t racked up the pitch counts of the typical 38-year-old hurler. Anyway, he was anything but typical in the first place, given that he’s missing his UCL (a.k.a. the Tommy John ligament) in his elbow.

If Dickey were the typical 38-year-old, then yeah, the Mets probably should trade him, working under the theory that he probably wouldn’t be part of the next good Mets team anyway. But he’s not. There’s good reason to think he has three, four or maybe even five or six years left of quality pitching in him. In my opinion, he’s a better bet to stay healthy than the typical free agent pitcher five or six years younger than he is.

If the Mets could get Wil Myers and a quality pitching prospect from the Royals for Dickey, that would probably be worth doing. Maybe it’s worth doing for Myers alone; I don’t think he’s any sort of lock to develop into an All-Star, but he definitely has the potential. However, the Mets would be much smarter to give him the extension than to trade him for anything less than a top-10 prospect. He’ll still be a top-of-the-rotation starter if the Mets can come up with enough talent around him to make a run in 2014 or ’15.

Yankees weighing Jeff Keppinger, Kevin Youkilis for third base

Jeff Keppinger

While the Yankees have at least touched base with free agent Kevin Youkilis, Jeff Keppinger appears to be their primary target at the moment. Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that the two sides met yesterday and that the Bombers’ interest in Keppinger is “very strong.”

Keppinger is the more realistic target, given that Youkilis is the top third baseman on the market and is drawing interest from wealthy Dodgers and Phillies teams that have full-time jobs open for him. Keppinger would likely be more open to serving as the stopgap at third base while Alex Rodriguez rehabs from hip surgery and then moving into more of a utility role. Keppinger, though, could command a two-year contract from another team, while the Yankees would much prefer to hand out a one-year deal.

The 32-year-old Keppinger is coming off a great season in which he hit .325/.367/.439 with nine homers and 40 RBI in 385 at-bats for the Rays. He’s a lifetime .288/.337/.396 hitter in 2,459 at-bats. He is much better against left-handers than right-handers, but that’s not such a bad thing in the lefty-heavy Yankee lineup.

Youkilis hit .235/.336/.409 with 19 homers and 60 RBI in 438 at-bats for the Red Sox and White Sox last season.

Update:’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the price for Keppinger is now $8 million for two years. That will give the Yankees pause, considering that their aim is to reduce payroll for 2014.

Yankees could receive insurance funds if Alex Rodriguez can’t play

Alex Rodriguez

So, the best thing A-Rod can do for the Yankees now is not play?’s Jon Heyman reports that the Yankees have insurance on Alex Rodriguez’s contract that would cover 75-80 percent of his salary if he proves unable to play due to injuries.

Rodriguez is currently expected to miss 4-6 months following hip surgery in January, potentially leaving him sidelined until June or July.

The way insurance on baseball contracts typically works is that it doesn’t kick in unless a player misses the entire season. Whether that’s the case here is unknown, but it’s a pretty good case there won’t be any immediate windfall for the team.

Rodriguez is signed for five more seasons at a total of $114 million. If his body continues to break down, then perhaps the Yankees will recover big portions of his salary in future years. It might also have luxury-tax ramifications. Technically, A-Rod’s salary would still count against the tax even if he were injured and insurance was covering it, but if the Yankees dropped him from the 40-man roster, it no longer would.

That’s what happened with disappointing import Kei Igawa before his contract expired. Since he was no longer on the 40-man, his salary didn’t figure in for tax purposes. However, the Yankees also couldn’t pay someone to take him — which would have had luxury tax ramifications — and they essentially held him hostage in the minors until his contract was up.

Red Sox looking at Ryan Dempster, Kyle Lohse

Ryan Dempster

The Red Sox are sitting out the Zack Greinke chase and they don’t seem very interested in spending what it would take to land Anibal Sanchez, but they are kicking the tires on Ryan Dempster and Kyle Lohse, according to reports.

WEEI’s Alex Speier writes about the interest in Dempster, who is seeking a three-year deal. Dempster, 35, had a 2.25 ERA in 16 starts for the Cubs and then a 5.09 ERA in 12 starts for the Rangers last year. His stint with the Rangers was his first in the AL after 15 seasons in the NL.’s Jon Heyman has the Red Sox and Angels among the suitors for Lohse, who wants a four- or five-year deal. Lohse, 34, went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA for the Cardinals last season. He was also 2-1 with a 3.98 ERA in four postseason starts. Lohse has pitched in the NL each of the last six years after opening his career 51-57 with a 4.88 ERA in six years with the Twins.

The Red Sox are also looking at Brandon McCarthy and could well be in the running for Edwin Jackson and Shaun Marcum before all is said and done. They were among the teams that considered Dan Haren, both before he officially became a free agent and afterwards, but according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, they were scared off by his medicals.

The National League is poised to have some excellent rotations

Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez

Even with Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez still up for grabs, the National League already seems set to sport some excellent rotations in 2013. How about this for the top four:

Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren, Ross Detwiler
Giants: Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito
Phillies: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Vance Worley, Kyle Kendrick
Reds: Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Aroldis Chapman, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey

The Haren addition gives the Nationals an edge over the Giants, in my opinion. There seemed to be league-wide concern about his back and hip, but he should be another above average starter to go along with the three potential aces already in the rotation.

The second four doesn’t look too bad, either:

Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett, Ted Lilly, Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano
Cardinals: Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Jake Westbrook
Braves: Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Paul Maholm, Mike Minor, Randall Delgado
Mets: R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana, Jonathan Niese, Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee

The Dodgers may very well add Greinke and join the top tier. They also have Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu pending, and while there’s been some skepticism of late about getting him signed, there’s certainly nothing stopping the Dodgers from coming up with the money.

The Cardinals have question marks in their top five, most notably with Garcia’s shoulder. But they have Shelby Miller and maybe Trevor Rosenthal, if they choose to use him as a starter, ready to step in.

Likewise, the Braves’ group isn’t quite so impressive at the moment, but their best pitcher, Brandon Beachy, is planning a midseason return from Tommy John surgery.

And then there’s the Mets, if they don’t trade their Cy Young Award winner.

Honorable mention to the Diamondbacks, who have Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill and some excellent prospects behind them, as well as Daniel Hudson perhaps returning from Tommy John in June or July.