Hot Stove League: Lots of little movement

You know it’s a slow week in MLB again when the big news is that Jeff Kent has announced his retirement. And just like Kent does with ease himself, the news stirred up controversy. This volatile player has never quite been a media darling, and has often gotten into it with teammates. But there is now debate about the guy’s Hall of Fame credentials. Okay, he may have the most homers for a second baseman in history, but you can’t tell me this guy is in the same class as a guy like Joe Morgan. He’s just not. And while a .290 career batting average is nothing to sneeze at, 377 homers over 20 years is not exactly Babe Ruth-esque.

Anyway, as Manny Ramirez remains unemployed, there were a few other smaller signings and moves this past week….

Okay, this isn’t small but just announced on Friday, Prince Fielder has agreed to a 2-year, $18 million deal with the Brewers that will keep him firmly entrenched (and who could move the guy?) on first base in Milwaukee through 2010. I’m glad for the Brew Crew since they lost out to the mighty Yankees in the CC sweepstakes.

Catcher Gregg Zaun re-signed with the Orioles, the team that drafted him back in 1989. The journeyman player signed a deal worth $1.5 million with a $2 million option for 2010.

The Phillies signed outfielder Jayson Werth to a two-year, $10 million contract and also inked reliever Chad Durbin to a one-year deal worth $1.635 million.

Young right fielder Nick Markakis of the Orioles came to terms on a six-year, $66.1 million deal, covering his first three arbitration-eligible years as well as his first three free agency eligible seasons. Clearly the O’s believe in this kid and want to keep him away from the Yankees and Red Sox.

Two other catchers signed this week—Brad Ausmus reached agreement with the Dodgers on a 1-year, $1 million deal; and Henry Blanco signed a $750,000 deal for one year to back up Padres’ catcher Nick Hundley.

Shortstop Omar Vizquel, who at 41 still looks like he’s 25, has been invited to spring training by the Texas Rangers. Vizquel signed a minor league deal that will allow him to mentor 20-year old Elvis Andrus, and to possibly become the team’s utility infielder. In order to make room for Andrus on the field, the Rangers are planning to move all-star shortstop Michael Young to third base. In addition, the Rangers are said to be casually wooing free agent pitcher Ben Sheets, who lives in Dallas.

Meanwhile, Tom Covill of Yahoo Sports posted this great summary of the remaining big name free agents still looking for work. It’s really kind of mind-boggling, but looking at these tiny deals being signed this past week, it’s clearly about economics and nothing more.

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Top 20 Remaining MLB Free Agents

John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus takes a look at the top 20 remaining MLB free agents.

Bobby Abreu· Manny Ramirez – Dodgers
· Orlando Cabrera – Athletics
· Derek Lowe – Braves/Mets/Cubs
· Adam Dunn – Nationals
· Bobby Abreu – Reds
· Ben Sheets – Rangers
· Orlando Hudson – Nationals
· Andy Pettitte – Astros (at less than $10MM)
· Jason Varitek – Red Sox (at less than $10MM)
· Ty Wigginton – Astros
· Ivan Rodriguez – Not much of a market, may have to take a minor-league deal with an invite to Spring Training if he’s not signed soon. Could he end up involuntarily retired, a la Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mike Piazza?
· Kevin Millar – Orioles
· Mark Grudzielanek – Padres
· Braden Looper – Brewers
· Garret Anderson, Eric Hinske, Ray Durham, Jim Edmonds, Paul Byrd, Odalis Perez – All of them (with the exception of Byrd, who may retire) are drawing little to no interest and may be without a club on Opening Day.
I’m shocked both Ramirez and Abreu are still on the market, although it’s more understandable why Manny is still available – his demands (or is it Scott Boras’s demands?) are way too high.

Abreu isn’t the youngest outfielder available, but you’re telling me that no team wants to jump at the chance to acquire his bat? And if Ben Sheets could ever stay healthy he’s a 20-game winner, so it’s a little surprising his name is still out there, too.

Hot Stove League: It’s getting hot in here!

I know that I’ve been clamoring for some action in the MLB Hot Stove League for weeks, even months. But please, I can’t keep up with the floodgates these last few days. Well, here are the highlights (i.e., the bigger names), and you can bet much more will happen in the coming weeks as we get closer to spring training:

First off, two long-time players for a single team will have new addresses in 2009: Trevor Hoffman and John Smoltz. Hoffman, who has been with the Padres since 1993 when he came over as part of a trade with the Marlins for Gary Sheffield, has not only been a great closer for San Diego for 16 seasons—he has become the all-time MLB leader in saves with 554. But when San Diego no longer put the welcome mat out, Hoffman sought to sign elsewhere, and settled on a one year, $6 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers that can also pay him $1.5 million in performance bonuses.

As for Smoltz, he came to the Braves in 1987 from Detroit in the Doyle Alexander trade, and has been with Atlanta, his only major league team, for 21 years. But the Braves, who are trying to inject more youth into their roster, did not offer Smoltz the money he was looking for and so he signed with the Boston Red Sox. Granted, Smoltz still is injured and probably won’t be available to the Sox until a few months into the season, but you’d rather have him in September and beyond anyway.

The Sox also finalized their deal with free agent RHP Brad Penny on Friday, so both he and Smoltz will join a rotation that includes Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Whoa. I gotta be honest, I think I like their rotation better than the CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett-led Yankees’. Not to sit tight after losing out on the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes to the Yankees, Boston also signed utility outfielder Rocco Baldelli, formerly of the Rays, who grew up in New England.

The Cubs signed outfielder Milton Bradley to a 3-year, $30 million deal, a year after he had one of his most productive seasons with the Texas Rangers (22 homers, .321 batting average). The Rays, who nearly won a title with all that youth in 2008, signed veteran OF Pat Burrell away from Philly, the team that beat them for said title.

Also, Jason Giambi has returned to his roots, signing a one-year. $5.25 million deal with Oakland, the team he began his career with before taking his big bat (and his tubes of stuff, allegedly) for big bucks.

Oh, and as if the Mets and Braves didn’t have enough to battle about on the field (I bet New York is thrilled not to have to face Smoltz anymore), the two teams are reportedly fighting hard over the services of one Derek Lowe. Then, whoever loses out on Lowe can turn their attention to the likes of Ben Sheets, Freddy Garcia or Andy Pettitte.

I know the economy still sucks, but at least we have some signings and movement.

If you hated the Yankees before, you’ll hate them even more after this offseason

Despise the New York Yankees, do ya? Well get ready to hate them even more because they’re about to become every Yankee-hater’s worst nightmare this offseason. By the time they’re done making moves, the head of every non-Yankee fan across this great nation will be long blown off.

Mark TeixeiraThink the Bronx Bombers were done after they signed CC Sabathia to a 30-year, $1 Gazillion contract last week? They’re not done – not even close. They’ve also got A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez on their radar and if it were possible to raise Ty Cobb, Cy Young and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson from their death beds, the Yankees would have already made bids on their services, too.

Here’s the thing, the Yankees missed the playoffs last year. They also haven’t won the American League East since 2006, a pennant since 2003 or a World Series since 2000. Simply put, that is unacceptable in the Bronx and with a new stadium ready to be opened next year, the new boss Hank Steinnbrenner wouldn’t dare fielding a loser in 2009.

Read the rest after the jump...

Yankees after Manny Ramirez and Mark Teixeira

The New York Post is reporting that the New York Yankees will pursue free agent outfielder Manny Ramirez and first basemen Mark Teixeira.

“If they can’t get Teixeira, they are right there on Manny,” an official with knowledge of the Yankees’ plan said yesterday.

The attention being paid to bolster the lineup that lost Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi doesn’t mean the Yankees are out of the pitching business. They remain engaged with Andy Pettitte, Derek Lowe and Ben Sheets. Eventually, the Yankees believe Pettitte will take their $10 million offer.

Only fools count out the Yankees when it comes to free agents. Nevertheless, Teixeira has eight-year offers for $160 million from the Angels and Nationals. The Red Sox are wary of eight years but aren’t shy of six for $150. Having already spent $243.5 million for CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, the Yankees may not want to go that high (or for that many years) for Teixeira.

If they pass on Teixeira, the Yankees will try and bolster a sagging lineup with Ramirez, one of the greatest run producers in baseball history. And to clear some money, they might entertain offers for outfielder Xavier Nady, who made $3.35 million last year, is arbitration eligible and a free agent after the 2009 season.

I wouldn’t doubt the Yankees landing any top free agent, but I don’t think Teixeira will be playing in pinstripes next year. I think they entered the Teixeira-talks to drive up the price for Boston.

Manny, on the other hand, is a different story. I think he’s pissed that he wasn’t offered a contract yet and will jump at the chance to join the Evil Empire so he can stick it to teams – especially the Red Sox.

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