Mets Trying to Fleece A’s

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Courtesy of Ken Rosenthal, we learn that the New York Mets are desperately trying to acquire a top notch starting pitcher but are falling short because they simply don’t have the chips to acquire one.

Sensing that they have little shot at Twins ace Johan Santana unless they include star shortstop Jose Reyes in a deal, Rosenthal reports the Mets are taking a “preemptive” strike at Oakland A’s starters Dan Haren and Joe Blanton by offering falling prospects Lastings Milledge (OF) and Aaaron Heilman (SP), among others.  (By the way, can we stop calling Heilman a prospect?  He’s almost 30.  He’s a setup guy, plain and simple).

A’s general manager Billy Beane appears to be scoffing at such a blatant fleece attempt, even though he tried to acquire both players for Barry Zito in the summer of 2006.   Both of the prospects mentioned – as well as other Met prospects like Mike Pelfrey and Philip Humber – have seen their trade value plummet in the last few years.  At the same time, the A’s have seen their need for outfield help like Milledge diminish with the emergence of Nick Swisher and Travis Buck.

Rosenthal even reports that’s one A’s source mentioned the Mets made an offer for Dan Haren that “seemed more suitable for Blanton,” suggesting the Mets are out to fleece. 

It looks like the Mets will have to include their top prospect, outfielder Carlos Gomez, in any deal.  But even then, their offers may be more “lamb” than lion.  Happy Fleecing, Omar.

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Royals Start Shopping

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Courtesy of Bob Dutton at The Kansas City Star, the Royals have signed Japanese relief pitcher Yasuhiko Yabuta to a $6 million, two-year pact.  The contract includes a club option for a 3rd season.

Yabuta, 34, has pitched in Japan’s Pacific League for the last 12 years.  Last season, he posted a 4-6 record with a 2.73 ERA in 58 appearances.  He did also have a career-high 38 holds, a trendy stat nowadays for middle relievers.  Hey, the need something to hang their hat on during contract negotiations too (closers have saves). 

The Royals will now seek a power-hitting OF and a SP with the remainder of the offseason.  As noted here earlier at Fleece Factor, FA outfielder Jose Guillen became a top target once Torii Hunter signed with the Angels.  In the starting pitching department, the Royals preference seems to be signing Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who is 103-89 with a 3.69 ERA in 11 seasons.

Tigers After Hawkins

l-hawkins.jpgAccording to the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit Tigers are after right handed reliever Latroy Hawkins and “there were indications” the team has offered him a multi-year contract.

The Tigers, of course, are in need of relief help due to the freak injury to Joel Zumaya who will miss at least the first half of the season.  But Hawkins? Sure, he did post a respectable 3.42 ERA in Colorado last season, but the 34 year old is not what he once was back in the day for Minnesota.  He has lost his ability to miss bats, striking out only 56 batters in the 116 innings he has pitched the last two years.  (Compare that to his best years – 2002 and 2003 with the Twins – when he struck out 138 batters in 157 innings).  Plus, his last stint in the American League was a disaster, as he posted a 4.48 ERA in 2006 for the Orioles.   A multi-year deal for Hawkins has “fleece” written all over it.

Rockies Close to Re-signing Torrealba and Herges

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According to Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post, the Rockies could announce the signings of catcher Yorvit Torrealba and relief pitcher Matt Herges as soon as Thursday.  Both players played solid roles in getting the Rockies to their 1st World Series apperance in franchise history, where they were ultimately swept by the Boston Red Sox. 

Torrealba hit .255 last season, with 8 HR’s and 47 RBI in 113 games for the Rox.  He was however battling a shoulder injury, and his defensive numbers also suffered because of it.  Matt Herges was a wonderful surprise for the Rockies, posting a 5-1 record with a 2.96 ERA in 35 appearances.  He also boasted a sensational .198 BAA for the season and a remarkable 0.89 WHIP after the All-Star break! 

Yorvit Torrealba has had quite an odd offseason so far.  He was all but signed to a multi-year deal with the New York Mets about a week ago, when it seems that Omar Minaya had a change of heart in the final hours.  The logical move for Torrealba after that was to return back to the Rockies.  Assuming he gets a 3-4 year deal from the Rox, it all turned out alllllriiight for him in the end.  The rumor is however that the Rockies will give him a 2-year deal at around $7M, with a 3rd year option.  Herges may call for a 2-year deal to get it done. 

Also mentioned in the article, the Rox are interested in bringing back RP LaTroy Hawkins as well.  2B is still a postion of need this offseason.  Maybe they play star prospect Ian Stewart there?

Percival to the Devil Rays?

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This one comes courtesy of Buster Olney. Troy Percival, who had a nice year last season with St.Louis (1.80 ERA in 40 IP), is working on a deal with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. As Buster Olney reports, one should expect the D-Rays would be promising Percival the closer’s role next season. Terms to a possible deal are not yet available.

Percival has 324 career saves, and will be 39 years old in August of 2008.

The Devil Rays have been active today, as they have also been rumored to be on the verge of acquiring SP Matt Garza (among others) for OF Delmon Young.

Update: According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees are offering Percival the setup role in front of Mariano Rivera, and the Brewers are looking to possibly put Percival in the closer’s role, on a short-term deal. 

Update: Percival and the Devil Rays have inched closer on a multi-year contract (expected to be a 2 year deal).

D-Train to the D-Backs?

Nick Piecoro of azcentral.com reports that the Arizona Diamondbacks may look to acquire Dontrelle Willis later this offseason.

Piecoro points out that a primary D’Backs need is a starter to slot in behind ace Brandon Webb.   And although the club has plenty of young stars to acquire Johan Santana, Erik Bedard or Dan Haren, they most likely will not trade away Justin Upton, Chris Young, Mark Reynolds or Stephen Drew as they continue to build up a solid foundation that can compete in the present.

Enter a Dontrelle Willis – a second tier pitcher available via trade this winter.   Piecoro speculates the D’Backs could eventually engage the Marlins by using outfielders Carlos Quentin and/or Carlos Gonzalez.  It seems a logical fit to me, although given the trade demands for pitchers this year, I’d imagine it would take more to land Willis even though he is coming off a down year.

The Diamondbacks have also been rumored to be in on a possible Haren or Blanton trade as well.

Mets Get a Pitcher – No Big Deal

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According to WFAN 660 AM, the Mets have acquired Brian Stokes from the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations.

Last year, Stokes was 2-7 in 59 appearances with a 7.07 ERA.