Let there be news - Volume 10by Brad Johnson
February 27, 2012
Nationals extend Ryan Zimmerman
The Nationals and Zimmerman agreed to a six-year, $100 million contract extension that includes a seventh year option for $24 million. The extension, which includes a full no-trade clause, guarantees the 2014-2019 seasons and could keep Zimmerman in the nation's capital through the 2020 season.
Zimmerman has quietly been one of the best players in baseball since his debut. He possesses a well-rounded skill set that is similar to Evan Longoria. He should start to receive more credit now that the Nationals are beginning to turn the corner as a franchise.
With Zimmerman locked up, the Nationals won't have to make many major personnel decisions for the next few years. As MLBTR noted, Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Danny Espinosa, Gio Gonzalez, Wilson Ramos, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, and Anthony Rendon are all under club control for at least four seasons.
Speaking of Rendon, the extension likely means the club will have to eventually move him to another location like second base or left field. They could also entertain the notion of moving Zimmerman to first base down the road, but both players are strong defenders at third. It seems more likely that the youngster would move to accommodate the $100 million man. The popular scenario among Nats fans is to have Rendon shift to second base and Espinosa to shortstop.
Roy Oswalt to sign midseason
Oswalt wanted two things this offseason, a "fair" paycheck and a new team close to his Mississippi home. He was unable to find a team matching both criteria.
Several teams reportedly had interest in signing Oswalt to the roughly one-year, $10 million contract he was seeking, but none was close to his home. Teams like the Cardinals and Rangers also had an apparent interest but wanted to sign him to a sweetheart deal. The Cardinals reportedly had a $3 million offer on the table that they increased to $5 million shortly before Oswalt's decision to sign midseason.
Oswalt now follows in the footsteps of Pedro Martinez, the last high profile pitcher to decide to sign midseason. Several potentially playoff-bound teams feature thin rotations, so an opportunity will likely arise for Oswalt.
Ryan Braun wins appeal
The most overwrought story of the week is Braun's successful appeal. Two main narratives have emerged from the process.
First and foremost is the failure of MLB and the MLBPA to ensure confidentiality for Braun. A central pillar of the testing program is confidentiality. Put simply, if the process ran correctly, the public never would have learned of Braun's positive test. A Google search of "Braun confidentiality" will return a dozen quality articles. If you're looking for just one, try Larry Granillo's.
The second narrative revolves around technicalities. As it was reported, Braun's appeal was successful because a courier delayed forwarding the sample for two days. That was enough to call the chain of custody into question. There are conflicting stories that the sample was either kept in a cool, safe place in the courier's basement or was left out on his desk.
The Brewers have to be pleased with the result, as they'll face stiff competition from the Cardinals and Reds in the NL Central. A full season of Braun could be the difference between baseball and golf in October.
It will be interesting to see if Braun picks up where he left off. It's not hard to imagine a process like this disrupting a player's offseason and preseason routines, which could lead to a lower level of performance. And if that were to happen, there's a large crowd waiting to point their fingers and shout about Braun being off the juice.
Theo Epstein compensation resolved
Following the most overwrought story of the week is the most overwrought story of the offseason. The Red Sox will receive Cubs prospect Chris Carpenter and a player to be named later in exchange for a PTBNL.
Epstein was previously the Red Sox general manager, but he was allowed to sign on as the Cubs' president early in the offseason. For months, the Red Sox and Cubs were unable to agree to compensation for Epstein.
The dispute ended up on the Commissioner's table after the two sides failed to come to terms. It's questionable whether an executive, regardless of his skill, is worth a borderline major league player, but that is what the commissioner's office decided.
From a baseball perspective, the Red Sox got a potential major leaguer with a limited ceiling. Carpenter is a typical, hard-throwing, right-handed reliever. He can hit the upper 90s with his fastball but also struggles mightily with his command and control. Unless he can improve his control significantly, his future is in middle relief.
The PTBNLs were included in the deal because clubs cannot explicitly trade executives. The Red Sox had to include something in order for the deal to be a legal trade.
Yankees sign Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez and David Aardsma
Once the smoke cleared from the A.J. Burnett deal, the Yankees thrust pen and paper into Ibanez's hands. The one-year contract is expected to be worth a $1.1 million base salary and up to $4 million in incentives.
Ibanez likely will platoon at designated hitter with Andruw Jones. They will also need to share time with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira. In the event of injury to one of the corner outfielders, the pair could move to an on-field platoon.
Because Ibanez was a Type B free agent and declined arbitration with the Phillies, Philadelphia will receive a supplemental-round pick. Given that Ibanez could have earned upwards of $14 million via arbitration, it seems fairly obvious that a handshake agreement was reached before the arbitration offer was made.
The Yankees also re-signed Chavez to serve as a backup to Rodriguez and Teixeira. The deal is for one year and $900K plus incentives.
Chavez was barely serviceable in 175 plate appearances last season, slashing .263/.320/.356. Those 175 plate appearances also represent his largest total since 2007, which also happens to be the last time he posted an OPS above .700. Still, the Yankees are paying very little for veteran glory days.
Third on the list of signings was Aardsma, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery. He won't be ready to contribute until midway through the season. The Yankees hold an option for 2013.
Joel Zumaya has torn his UCL and will miss the 2012. It's uncertain whether he will undergo Tommy John surgery or even consider retirement.
The Indians are dealing with a couple of injuries. Grady Sizemore strained his back during fielding drills, and his availability for Opening Day is doubtful. Closer Chris Perez's Opening Day status is also up in the air after straining an oblique muscle. He's expected to return in four to six weeks. In the meantime, fantasy owners may get a chance to learn what Manny Acta's plan B is at closer.
Tsuyoshi Wada of the Orioles experienced soreness in his elbow. X-rays were negative, but the club will be cautious.
Ryan Howard may have experienced a minor setback in his rehab from Achilles surgery. Specific details are murky, but manager Charlie Manuel announced that Howard had an infection. It's unclear if this will affect Howard's timetable.
Ryan Vogelsong is battling a minor back injury. The club is making sure that Eric Surkamp, Ramon Ortiz and Brian Burres will be ready to battle for a rotation spot, just in case.
The Athletics signed Manny Ramirez to a minor-league contract thought to be worth roughly $500K. The contract will be pro-rated, since Ramirez will have to sit out the first 50 games as part of a PED suspension. That should give the Athletics plenty of time to evaluate some of their younger designated hitter options like Brandon Allen, Kila Ka'aihue, and Chris Carter. Ramirez is likely to be rusty upon his return from suspension, and there's no guarantee the A's will even activate him when the time comes.
The Rockies and manager Jim Tracy have reached an agreement on a perpetual contract. They will re-evaluate their agreement after every season. The plan, as expressed by Tracy, is to manage until he is ready for retirement.
Jon Garland's minor deal with the Indians was not finalized. It seems the two sides decided he was not ready to compete for a spot in the rotation. Garland will continue rehabbing.
The Angels signed Jason Isringhausen to a minor-league contract. He is expected to opt out of the deal if he does not make the big-league club.
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