Author: Matthew Pouliot

Philip Humber

Astros claim RHP Philip Humber off waivers from White Sox

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Update: And the Astros have already signed Humber to a one-year deal with a club option for 2014. No word on the terms yet, but a guarantee around $2 million seems likely.

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The White Sox were planning to non-tender Philip Humber before Friday’s deadline, but they went ahead and placed him on waivers beforehand, thinking they might pick up a few bucks in process. The Astros took advantage, grabbing Humber with their No. 1 waiver priority.

Humber threw a perfect game against the Mariners in April, yet he finished the season 5-5 with a 6.44 ERA in 16 starts and 10 relief appearances for the Pale Hose. It was quite a comedown after a fine 2011 season in which he went 9-9 with a 3.75 ERA in 163 innings.

Assuming that the Astros work out a contract with Humber, he’ll join a rotation set to include Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell (another guy who was claimed off waivers from the White Sox) and Jordan Lyles. Humber is eligible for arbitration for the first time, so he wouldn’t stand to make more than $1.5 million-$2 million in 2013.

The White Sox also today announced that first baseman Dan Johnson and minor league right-hander Anthony Carter have been non-tendered. Those two could be offered minor league contracts to stick around.

Francisco Rodriguez has domestic violence charges dismissed

Francisco Rodriguez
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With seemingly no one interested in testifying against him, Francisco Rodriguez had the domestic violence charges brought against him in Wisconsin dropped on Thursday.

K-Rod was accused of striking and injuring his 23-year-old girlfriend in September, but the woman later recanted and said that Rodriguez didn’t cause her injuries.

Both the woman and a member of the household staff in Rodriguez’s home that night who witnessed the argument have returned to Venezuela and haven’t responded to the prosecutor attempting to bring the case to trial.

“At this point, I can’t drag her back kicking and screaming,” district attorney Brad Schimel told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Regardless of how the dismissal unfolded, not having the case hanging over his head will make Rodriguez a more attractive free agent this winter. Still, this being his second domestic violence arrest, some teams are certain to stay away. At 31, it’s unlikely that he’s finished as a quality reliever. However, he’s no longer so good that teams will overlook his baggage.

Twins’ overhaul can’t stop with Denard Span trade

Josh Willingham, Denard Span, Ben Revere
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After consecutive seasons of 99 and 96 losses, the obvious answer for the Twins is to tear it all down. True change, though, hasn’t come to Minnesota in a long time.

These Twins have employed two managers in 25 years, with Ron Gardenhire replacing Tom Kelly in 2002. General manager Terry Ryan spent 14 years on the job, stepped down in favor of his longtime assistant, Bill Smith, in 2007 and then came back a year ago only after Smith proved totally inadequate.

When the Twins decided to make some coaching changes at season’s end, it was mostly a reshuffling. The new hitting coach simply moved up from Triple-A. The old hitting coach became the third base coach. The old bench coach became the first base coach.

The Twins finally made a real move for the future Thursday when they traded center fielder Denard Span to the Nationals for a top pitching prospect in righty Alex Meyer. Even that was a compromise move, though. Trading Span isn’t starting over. It only clears $4.75 million from the 2013 payroll. And his replacement, Ben Revere, is a very similar player who probably won’t ever be as good as Span is.

That’s why this can only be the first domino to fall. Trading Span and keeping Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham would be crazy. With their unexceptional farm system, the Twins aren’t going to contend the next two years. There’s a case for holding on to Mauer as the face of the franchise, but Morneau and Willingham aren’t great bets for 2015, which is the year the Twins need to be thinking about now.

Phillies lose out on B.J. Upton; will they turn to Michael Bourn?

Michael Bourn
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Michael Bourn was undoubtedly a stronger player than B.J. Upton in 2012, yet something surprising happened when free agency opened earlier this month; Bourn’s most recent team, the Braves, and his original team, the Phillies, both made Upton the priority in talks.

Did it have to do with the price tag? Bourn was seeking more money, but the figures were so astronomical with both that it hardly seemed likely to make all of the difference. Upton just got $15.05 million per year for five years from the Braves. Bourn was asking for a sixth year, but he never figured to do much better than the $75 million that Upton got.

It’s all really curious to me. I see Upton as the significantly better bet going forward, but I wasn’t really expecting the Braves or especially the Phillies to view it the same way. Upton is two years younger, which makes a real difference. Bourn, though, is the better fielder and the better leadoff candidate. Upton also has a reputation for not always hustling. No one seems to view him as a bad guy overall, but his head doesn’t always seem to be in the game. Bourn has no such reputation.

Anyway, most suspect the Phillies will now turn to Bourn. And maybe they will. Still, I don’t think they would have been all over Upton like they were if they were eager to pay Bourn’s price. They might mix in a changeup and target the less pricey Angel Pagan instead. They also haven’t ruled out bringing back Shane Victorino, though Victorino needs to get a whole lot more realistic about his salary demands first.

Bourn will still get his big payday, but now I suspect he may have to settle for a bit less than Upton got, whether it’s four years and $60 million or five years and $70 million.

Even at $75 million, B.J. Upton a smart signing for Braves

B.J. Upton
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Some will raise their eyebrows. After all, the Braves just gave $75.25 million to a center fielder who has hit under .250 four years running.

And it’s not a move without risk. Still, Atlanta’s signing of B.J. Upton to a five-year deal should prove fine in time. He’ll strike out a lot and frustrate fans while slumping, but he’ll hit for power, run down a bunch of balls in center and steal some bases.

Let’s face it, $15 million doesn’t buy what it used to. In this market, it’d barely buy Jeremy Guthrie and Jonny Gomes. Getting a potential star at that price seems like a much better idea than loading up with mediocrities.

Upton is just 28 and he’s had a couple of years of terrific play (.300/.386/.508 in 2007 and .272/.383/.401 in 2008), followed by four years in which he hit .240 and relied on more on his glove and legs to provide his value. Because Upton is durable and possesses those skills that aren’t so prone to variation, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be anything less than an $8 million-$10 million per year player at any point during the deal. If he breaks out in the easier league in the NL and a friendlier offensive ballpark in Turner Field, then he could be a $20 million-$25 million guy a couple of those years.

Still, the real bummer here is that the huge outlay doesn’t actually make the Braves any better right away; Michael Bourn was better last year than Upton is likely to be next year. Bourn, though, is two years older than Upton, he has all kinds of red flags as far as his offensive staying power and he’s seeking even more money than Upton was. The Braves definitely set themselves up better for the future by signing Upton than they would have by keeping Bourn. However, if they want to give their lineup a real boost, they’ll need to bring in a quality left fielder to play alongside Upton and Jason Heyward.