Two Lukewarm Stoves in one weekend? Insanity!
- Yesterday, the Rangers took out the big guns to sign the Big Puma (or Fat Elvis, if you prefer … which I do), Lance Berkman, to a one-year, $10 million contract. The deal comes with the possibility of an option worth probably another $10 million, which vests if he reaches 550 plate appearances in 2013 (with a $1 million buyout, so it’s almost like a $1 million incentive). If it seems like a lot of money for a soon-to-be-37-year-old who missed most of 2012 with serious injuries … it is. It has the faint smell of desperation, which I hate to ascribe to an organization as well run as the Rangers, but after they repeatedly missed out on targets this offseason, and were set to enter 2013 considerably worse on paper than in 2012, maybe they felt like they absolutely had to land a bat. Berkman was set to retire, so maybe he would have continued to play only for a healthy payday. In any event, the signing has a number of possible implications: (1) it leaves even fewer at bats for third base prospect Mike Olt, who was already going to have a hard time finding regular playing time (unless they trade Mitch Moreland, which I suppose is possible); (2) hard to see the Rangers having any interest in Alfonso Soriano anymore, if they ever did; and (3) maybe they look to really solidify the team for 2013 now, and become more interested in adding a pitcher like Matt Garza.
- Ken Rosenthal suggests that the Rangers are still trying to pick up Justin Upton from the Diamondbacks, and are pushing that Olt be one of the primary pieces in the deal. If Rangers want to build Upton package around Olt, it means they’re looking to move Olt, but it also means they probably won’t move him until they know Upton can’t be had for a package featuring Olt. In other words, if the Rangers don’t land Upton in a deal involving Olt, a Spring Training trade involving Garza and Olt becomes slightly more possible.
- The Orioles and Diamondbacks have discussed a Jason Kubel swap, but the Diamondbacks are looking for young pitching, which the Orioles don’t want to give up. If the Diamondbacks are looking to pick up young pitching in a deal for Jason Kubel or, presumably, Justin Upton, the Cubs probably aren’t going to be a good fit. They do have some nice pitching prospects, but most are quite young, and fraught with risk.
- If the Orioles are looking at Kubel, though, it could be a sign that they’d consider Alfonso Soriano, who could offer similar production and better defense at a lesser price (depending on how much of the $36 million left on his deal that the Cubs eat). The Orioles have long seemed a plausible trade partner in a Soriano deal, but we don’t know whether Soriano would consider waiving his no-trade rights to accept a deal to Baltimore. In general, they fit his stated requirements – East Coast team, competitive in the near term, would probably let him play some outfield.
- Speaking of Soriano, the Phillies are getting pretty open in their desire to pick up a corner outfielder. From GM Ruben Amaro: “We’ve had several talks with free agents, although they’re limited now. We’ve also talked about some possible trades. We’re staying active as far as that is concerned. We’re still trying to improve, depth-wise, in our outfield, if we can. We don’t have proven everyday Major League players on our corners right now. If we can create some depth there, if we can create some competition, I would like to do that.” That’s about as plain as you’ll ever hear a GM make things. He may as well have just said, “Dear MLB, we want a starting corner outfielder badly. Kthxbye.” The Phillies must be strongly interested in both Kubel and Soriano at this point.
- Theo Epstein spoke to Nick Cafardo, and identified Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Jeff Samardzija, and Darwin Barney as part of the team’s current “core.” Cafardo also speculated that the Cubs are willing to move Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano, the former if he shows he’s healthy in Spring Training, and the latter if the Cubs can get a “quality” return.
- Braves GM Frank Wren says the team has not ruled out the possibility of re-signing Michael Bourn. Although re-signing him wouldn’t cause them to give up a draft pick, they would then not receive the compensatory pick they would have received if he’d signed elsewhere. In other words: re-signing Bourn essentially costs the Braves a pick.