<span class="vcard">Matthew Pouliot</span>

Mayor Bloomberg Makes Announcement With MLB Commissioner Bud Selig And Mets Owner CEO Fred Wilpon

Report: The Mets truly are flat broke this time

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That’s what Michael Salfino, a writer for the Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports has to say:

As Salfino admits, he’s a writer, not a news-breaker. Still, while it’s entirely possible his source is incorrect, this isn’t a case of a writer making something up for publicity.

That said, I still wouldn’t buy the idea that a David Wright extension can’t happen because the Mets have no money. An extension wouldn’t up Wright’s 2013 salary, and having Wright in the fold would likely make the team more attractive to a buyer should the Wilpons be forced to sell.

But let’s assume the report is true. How stubborn must the Wilpons be? The fans want them gone and they could pretty much solve their personal financial problems by selling, yet they’ve been entirely content to drag the team down with them.

Update: Salfino has since deleted the above tweets, though he didn’t disavow the contents of them. Judging by his followup tweets, he put his status as a Wall Street Journal freelancer in jeopardy with his attempt to break some news.

Rays should trade James Shields to fill holes

James Shields
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That the Rays will trade a starter this winter seems like a given. With David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Jeff Niemann and Chris Archer all under contract, the Rays possess both quality and quantity in the rotation.

What they don’t have are bats and a lot of money, so with holes at first base, catcher, one middle infield spot and one outfield spot, dealing a starter for a hitter or two makes all of the sense in the world.

In terms of return, Moore and Price undoubtedly have the most trade value in the group, with Hellickson not too far behind. That’s why it might be tempting to deal from that trio.

Shields, though, has plenty of value himself. His two club options call for him about $24 million the next two years. That’s pretty expensive for the Rays — in fact, his $10.25 million salary in 2013 will be the highest in club history — but it’s palatable compared to what inferior free agents will command this winter. If Shields were a free agent, he’d probably be in line for $16 million-$18 million per year in a five-year deal.

And I just don’t trust Shields to keep this up. He’s been one of baseball’s best starters the last two years, but he’s also thrown 477 innings between those two seasons. He’s reached 215 innings five of the last six years, missing only when he finished at 203 in 2010.

That durability has given him a ton of value in Tampa Bay, but he’s on the wrong side of 30 now. Dan Haren had a very similar streak to Shields from ages 25-30 before suddenly taking a dive last season. It was probably different back in the 1970s, but in the last 30 years, the list of the pitchers who have been most durable before age 30 doesn’t match up very well with the list of pitchers durable after age 30.

There’s talk about the Rays perhaps dealing Hellickson to Arizona for Justin Upton, and I don’t think that’d be a bad idea at all. But if they’re looking at lesser names to fill the gaps, they might as well save as much money as they can in the process. They still have Price for three more years, and while he’s going to get expensive in a hurry — he could command more than Shields in 2014 — he’ll still have plenty of trade value in a year or two if they want to go that route. Hellickson is four years away from free agency.

If the Rays trade Shields for a young regular, they’ll suddenly free up $10 million they can spend on one of the other holes. It’d be like trading for an extra player. Shields might bring back a Josh Reddick from Oakland, a Travis d’Arnaud from Toronto or a Wil Myers from Kansas City.  Then the Rays could use the salary to sign Mike Napoli to play first and catch or Stephen Drew to start at short. They’d have plenty of options.

David Ross addition gives Red Sox plenty of flexibility

Jarrod Saltalamacchia
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The Red Sox are likely keeping an open mind about trading Jarrod Saltalamacchia, their strikeout-prone starting catcher, after adding David Ross on a two-year, $6.2 million contract Saturday.

Ross was briefly a member of the Red Sox back in 2008, going 1-for-8 for the club. He finished that season with Boston after the Reds cut him — Dusty Baker preferred Paul Bako. Paul Bako! — and then opened his four-year tenure with the Braves in 2009.

Ross, who has never started more than 98 games in his career, isn’t likely to become a starting catcher at age 36, but he’ll be a productive part of a job-sharing situation, perhaps in tandem with Saltalamacchia.

And Salty, for what it’s worth, does pair up better with Ross than Boston’s other catching option, Ryan Lavarnway. Saltalamacchia, a switch-hitter, has a career .591 OPS against lefties, compared to a .774 mark against righties. A platoon could work swimmingly for Boston.

Still, if the Red Sox have doubts about Saltalamacchia’s long-term role, it’d be a good idea to trade him and get something in return before he becomes a free agent next winter.  At 27 and still potentially on the upswing of his career, Salty could be considered more attractive to catcher-needy teams than free agents Russell Martin and A.J. Pierzynski. Mike Napoli is out there, too, but it doesn’t look like he’s being viewed as a full-time catcher.

So, the Red Sox have three ways they could play this:

1. Commit to Salty, perhaps signing him to a three-year extension in the $20 million range, and go with a Salty-Ross platoon. Lavarnway would become trade bait in that scenario, though it’s unlikely that he’d fetch as much as Salty.

2. Trade Salty and have Ross and Lavarnway split time. It’d likely be a step back for 2013. Lavarnway is never going to be a great defensive catcher, and he also failed to impress offensively last season, hitting .157/.211/.248 in 153 at-bats. On the other hand, he’s 25 and worthy of a shot, given the way that he has improved defensively.

3. Trade Salty and sign Napoli to create a three-headed, catching-first base monster. The Red Sox need a first baseman anyway. Sign Napoli with the idea that he’ll catch once a week initially and then enhance his role back there if Lavarnway doesn’t work out. Having a flexible first base situation would be nice anyway, since it’d allow David Ortiz to play there in interleague games in NL parks.

I imagine they’ll at least investigate possibility No. 3. It’s too early to make any sort of definitive call, but it doesn’t look like the market for Napoli will be all that strong, and since the Rangers didn’t tender him a $13.3 million offer, he wouldn’t cost the Red Sox a draft pick.

Dodgers considering adding Kevin Youkilis for third base

Kevin Youkilis
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The Dodgers indicated at season’s end that they’d likely go into 2013 with Hanley Ramirez at shortstop and Luis Cruz at third. They’d also have the option of going back to former top prospect Dee Gordon at short and shifting Ramirez to third.

As it turns out, though, baseball’s new richest team may go in an entirely different direction at third base. FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reports that they’re considering making a bid for free agent Kevin Youkilis.

The Dodgers would be making another addition even though they currently have eight players on their 40-man roster able to play short and/or third base:

Ramirez: $15.5 million
Juan Uribe: $7 million
Jerry Hairston Jr.: $3.75 million
Nick Punto: $1.5 million

And then Cruz, Gordon, Justin Sellers and Elian Herrera all making close to the minimum.

Obviously, not all of those guys will be around next year. Gordon, Sellers and Herrera figure to head to Triple-A if they’re still in the organization. Uribe will likely be released or traded for another bad contract. Hairston can play the outfield, too, so he’ll stick around. If Cruz starts, then Punto can stick as a reserve. If Cruz is pushed into a utility role, then Punto might be released or traded.

Youkilis is also being looked at by the White Sox and Phillies, sources tell Rosenthal. Still, one imagines that if the Dodgers decide they want him, they won’t be outbid.

My thought is that they’re better off making defense the priority and putting Hanley at third. Cruz is a better shortstop than Ramirez anyway, and he and Gordon can battle it out for a starting job.

Red Sox owner John Henry’s investment firm to shut down

John W. Henry, Tom Werner
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The asset management firm that helped one of the Red Sox’s principal owners to amass his fortune is no more. John W. Henry & Company will shut down at year’s end, the company announced Friday.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Henry’s company managed more than $2.5 billion in 2006, but today oversees less than $100 million. Not all that money was necessarily lost, but it seems safe to suggest that Henry hadn’t been attracting new investors since taking a big hit in the market downturn.

The news figures to touch off a new round of “will the Red Sox be sold” stories, but the fact is that Henry’s company has been weak for four or five years now and shuttering it probably won’t affect his fortunes much.