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Fresh batch o' rumors from MLB.com


Rumors swirl concerning free agents

Piazza, Lofton are the latest to file as Hot Stove talk percolates

By Jim Street / MLB.com

 

? Let bidding for Matsuzaka begin

? Piazza files for free agency

 

Here's a roundup of the Hot Stove League for Thursday:

 

National League

 

Giants: San Francisco has expressed interest in Texas Rangers free-agent center fielder Gary Matthews Jr., who hit a career high .313 with 19 homers and 44 doubles last season. His father was the National League Rookie of the Year for the Giants in 1973.

 

A MediaNews report said that Giants officials have twice contacted the younger Matthews' agent. The 32-year-old outfielder is an eight-year veteran and would likely replace Moises Alou in the outfield.

 

San Francisco is also interested in San Diego backup center fielder Dave Roberts, who has said that he would like to rejoin manager Bruce Bochy, the Giants' new skipper.

 

First baseman Shea Hillenbrand is expected to return next season, but the club has contacted Nomar Garciaparra's agent, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, which also reported that another possible target could be Geoff Blum, an ex-Cal player and backup infielder for the Padres the past two seasons.

 

Cubs: Club officials are talking to the agent representing third baseman Aramis Ramirez, hoping to get the potential free agent to sign a new contract before other teams get a chance to bid on his services. Ramirez exercised the opt-out clause of his contract, but the Cubs have exclusive negotiating rights with him until Nov. 11.

 

The Cubs are expected to submit a bid for Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was "posted" by the Seibu Lions on Thursday. Teams have until Wednesday to submit a bid, and if the highest offer is accepted by Seibu, a contract agreement with Matsuzaka, who will be represented by agent Scott Boras, must be reached within 30 days.

 

Astros: The Astros continue to negotiate with Craig Biggio, and although the two sides disagree on the second baseman's value, they are confident that something will be worked out before the end of the free-agent filing period on Nov. 11. The Astros are committed to giving Biggio a raise, but how big that raise will be is a sticking point. Biggio, who will attempt to reach 3,000 hits in 2007, made $4 million last season.

 

Houston is hoping pitchers Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens will decide to pitch for the Astros again in '07. But most of all, management is hoping for a relatively prompt decision, especially from Pettitte, who is considering retirement. They'll need to factor Pettitte into the payroll, whereas Clemens, who may want to re-sign during the season as he did in '06, will just be a supplemental salary to be added to whatever payroll the Astros set this winter. The payroll, without Clemens, is expected to be around $85-90 million.

 

Phillies: Alfonso Soriano remains Philadelphia's top target, according to several published reports and baseball sources. Though the Phillies can't talk dollars until Nov. 12, general manager Pat Gillick told the Philadelphia Daily News on Thursday that the Phillies have contacted "a dozen or so" free agents. In addition to Soriano, the Phillies are thinking about Carlos Lee and Ramirez. On the pitching side, relievers Joe Borowski and Danys Baez are among those who have drawn interest.

 

In lieu of Soriano, the Phillies' top fallback plan is to trade for Gary Sheffield. New York is expected to pick up Sheffield's $13 million option -- $4.5 million of which is deferred -- and then deal him. Though Sheffield has no leverage, he said he'd like a contract extension, and the Phillies might be willing to add another season.

 

The Phillies could dangle Gavin Floyd or Jon Lieber in a potential deal for Sheffield, the Daily News reported.

 

Also, published reports indicate that the Phillies have varying interest in Japanese third baseman Akinori Iwamura. The 27-year-old left-handed hitter spent the past three years with the Yakult Swallows.

 

Brewers: Assistant general manager Gord Ash said the team would work to bring back infielders Jeff Cirillo and Tony Graffanino. Cirillo would be considered for a bench role, but Graffanino's situation is a bit more complicated.

 

He was a better-than-expected offensive player after being acquired from Kansas City last July to fill in for injured second baseman Rickie Weeks, and he may have played himself into consideration for an everyday role with another team, something the Brewers likely cannot offer.

 

Other free agents -- David Bell, Dan Kolb, Rick Helling and Tomo Ohka -- are not expected back.

 

Mets: The agent for left-handed pitcher Tom Glavine, Gregg Clifton, maintains that no discussions have started between the Mets and his client. Glavine has a $7.5 million buyout option with a Nov. 10 expiration date, and the Mets could exercise a $14 million club option -- though an extension is possible.

 

A two-year deal between Glavine and the Mets was mentioned in a New York Daily News report on Wednesday, although Clifton said such negotiations have not begun.

 

Rockies: Right-handed starter Byung-Hyun Kim on Thursday had his contract picked up for the 2007 season for $2.5 million. Kim, 27, was 8-12 with a 5.57 ERA, 61 walks and 129 strikeouts in 27 starts for Colorado in 2006. He established career highs in starts, innings pitched and strikeouts. Kim joined the rotation in late April and was the Rockies' fifth starter for the remainder of the season -- the first time in his career that he was used exclusively as a starter.

 

The Denver Post pegs Darin Erstad, Matthews Jr. and Roberts as possible free-agent targets for the team's center-field opening, while the Rocky Mountain News reported that right-hander Josh Fogg, who is eligible for arbitration, will have surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow.

 

Pirates: According to various media outlets, the Pirates are close to signing Cuban defector Yuslan Herrera. The 25-year-old right-hander was 18-7 with a 3.72 ERA in Cuba before fleeing in 2005.

 

Nationals: The Nationals have talked to Trent Jewett about their managerial vacancy, according to the Washington Post. The interview reportedly took place last week. Jewett managed the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate last season.

 

Dodgers: The Dodgers are considering making a bid on Matsuzaka and have contacted the agent representing Matthews Jr.

 

American League

 

Angels: The Angels will pursue Matthews Jr. and left-hander Barry Zito, according to the Los Angeles Times. Signing Matthews would solve a number of issues. He would likely take over the leadoff spot while providing the team with an everyday center fielder. It would also allow the club to shop Chone Figgins.

 

Zito would add a frontline starting pitcher to a staff that is waiting for Bartolo Colon to recover from a shoulder tear, while also making it easier to part with some of their young pitching talent, such as Ervin Santana or Joe Saunders, as they target further offensive help.

 

Mariners: Club officials have yet to speak with the Mariners' lone free agent, right-handed starting pitcher Gil Meche. Teams are allowed to negotiate only with their own free agents until Nov. 11, when they can talk specifics about contracts with all free agents.

 

It's not known how interested, if at all, the Mariners are in bringing back Meche, who won 11 games last season. The Mariners have three openings in their starting rotation to fill and, on Wednesday, confirmed a report that first appeared in the Everett Herald that they would not be a part of the bidding process to obtain Matsuzaka.

 

Red Sox: As of Thursday, six Red Sox players had filed for free agency. Of particular note are three middle infielders: Alex Gonzalez, Alex Cora and Mark Loretta.

 

General manager Theo Epstein said earlier this week that new rules in the new collective bargaining agreement concerning clubs negotiating with their own free agents should allow some teams to keep players who would otherwise leave.

 

This includes backup catcher Doug Mirabelli, whom Epstein said this week would be among several players the Red Sox will pursue and try to keep in Boston. Right fielder Trot Nixon, who filed on Sunday along with outfielder Gabe Kapler, could also fall into that category.

 

Indians: According to the Philadelphia Daily News, the Indians are one of four teams that have shown interest in signing Iwamura. The Newark Star-Ledger is reporting that the Indians, Giants and Astros are among the teams interested in trading for Sheffield.

 

Athletics: GM Billy Beane recently spoke with Arn Tellem, the agent for DH Frank Thomas, and remains confident that the A's will be able to resign Thomas to a two-year deal.

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Where do Hardy and Hall go endaround?

 

And why are we rumored to want to retain both Cirillo and Graffanino? Toss in Weeks, Hall, Hardy, and Koskie and I don't see how we have room to keep all of them, even wit Hall in the OF.

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Brian, with a few good moves, I see the Brewers having a legit shot at the playoffs next year. If the Cards win the division with 83, we should be able to improve at least 8 games next season.

 

Were you trying to be funny there or something (just because I think Graff is avg)?

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Baseball America predicted Graffy as a type A free agent, and then Helling and Ohka is type B. If Graffy is going to net us an extra first rounder and a supplemental pick, let him go. We dont have room for him anyway
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Graffanino isn't a world beater but chances are fairly good he'd outhit Hardy.

 

I object and I move to stike!

 

I think there is a chance Graffy would outhit Hardy, but I think there is a better chance it will be the other way around. Graffy did alright last year, but it was just a .747 OPS. He's also only started 12 games at SS since 2003.

 

Hardy is the better option at SS.

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Quote:
Note: "my tesm" is one that has a legit shot at making the playoffs.

 

Well the Cardinals seemed to do OK with Eckstein and he wasn't as good as Graffanino.

"Dustin Pedroia doesn't have the strength or bat speed to hit major-league pitching consistently, and he has no power......He probably has a future as a backup infielder if he can stop rolling over to third base and shortstop." Keith Law, 2006
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Homer!! What are you on!? Eckstein batted .292 in a season where he battled injury (123 games).

 

Graffanino only hit .274 total, and .280 with the Brewers. Eckstein won the WS MVP and ring, not Graffanino. Additionally, he's solid defensively at a tough, tough position, and he does the little things so well.

 

Tony LaRussa called him the team's MVP -- that's coming from a manager with 2 WS titles, and 3d place on the all-time wins list!

 

I can't believe you called Graffanino better. I'm not mad, I'm just shocked!

Stearns Brewing Co.: Sustainability from farm to plate
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Graffanino isn't a world beater but chances are fairly good he'd outhit Hardy

 

Man, Hardy is going to prove a lot of people wrong over the course of his career, starting next year.

 

Remember when a lot of people questioned Corey Hart as a prospect because he did everything but draw walks?

 

Hardy will out-hit Graffanino, and then some. If Graffy returns, its as a super-utility player, not as a starter.

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Nice colbyjack. I am with you. Graffanino is Italian for "Not going to be a Brewer in 2007." Hardy is an overlooked player -- let's not forget Rickie Weeks has played 96 & 95 games, respectively, his first two "full" seasons. Hardy is just the kind of bat we lacked last year -- good with RISP, not a strikeout problem, solid pop.

 

He's solid in the field, and his arm is nice & strong. He turns the DP very fluidly, quickly, and well with Rickie. He's a smart, focused ballplayer that doesn't need the extra work of a Rickie Weeks. Although Weeks's ceiling is undeniably higher, there's something to be said for a man who doesn't need to be babysat. I love Rickie, but look forward to a full season of the defensive prowess he displayed in his second half (note he only played 95 games), and a guy that doesn't put himself on pace for 150 Ks each year.

Stearns Brewing Co.: Sustainability from farm to plate
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Man, Hardy is going to prove a lot of people wrong over the course of his career, starting next year.

 

I don't think anyone's challenging Hardy's talent, but when you miss the majority of two of the last three seasons, especially at a crucial time for development, it's fair to expect him to prove himself again.

 

I hope that all that missed time won't affect him permanently, but I don't think we can assume that he'll bounce right back. Same goes for Weeks, even moreso because hand/wrist injuries can suck the power right out of a swing.

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frog, in reading this forum and the MLB forum, I do think there are quite a few people questioning Hardy's talent, especially when they're mocking previous prospect rankings wondering what in the world happened for him to be rated the organization's #1 prospect at one point in time. Clearly you think higher of him than some, but my comments weren't directed at you.

 

I'm not assuming he'll bounce right back, but it wouldn't surprise if he did just that, and then some, next year.

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I'm not assuming he'll bounce right back, but it wouldn't surprise if he did just that, and then some, next year.

 

I sure hope he does bounce right back, Hardy and Weeks both. IF those two guys can play 150 games and both start to step forward the way they were projected to, that will do as much good as any trade the Brewers may make this winter.

 

Unless the Phillies want to give us Utley and Rollins for them straight up, that I'd do.

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Amen to that splitter! We NEED those two to step up and become the performers we all know they can be. They certainly are better than any trade we could plausibly make -- they've played together in the minors & majors, and watching them turn the dp is a thing of beauty
Stearns Brewing Co.: Sustainability from farm to plate
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