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November 27, 2012

Rumor Roundup

Tuesday, November 27

by Daniel Rathman

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Evan Longoria was already locked up through the 2016 season, but the Rays decided on Monday to make sure that the third overall pick in the 2006 draft would stay in the organization for essentially his whole career. You can find R.J. Anderson’s analysis of the six-year, $100 million extension here. For a sampling of yesterday’s other developments, just keep reading:

Brian Wilson likely to be non-tendered
When Giants manager Bruce Bochy learned, two weeks into the regular season, that Wilson would require Tommy John surgery to repair structural damage in his elbow, he expressed sympathy for the bearded closer’s plight, but seemed unconcerned about the team’s ability to withstand the setback. “We’ll figure out a way to get this done,” Bochy said, and—considering that the Giants’ season ended with a division title, a pennant, and a World Series championship—it’s fair to say that they did.

Although Sergio Romo eventually emerged as Bochy’s preferred ninth-inning man for the playoffs, five relievers earned at least three saves for the Giants along the way. Santiago Casilla (25) received most of the opportunities before hitting a wall around the All-Star break, at which point Romo took over, but Javier Lopez (7) and Jeremy Affeldt (3) were used when opponents sent fearsome left-handed sluggers to the plate, and Clay Hensley (3) picked up the crumbs when more trustworthy arms were not available. Bochy’s deft, if occasionally overzealous, handling of the matchup-based bullpen drew praise from April through October, and with nearly all of the pieces back in place for 2013, general manager Brian Sabean is confident that his skipper can tackle a similar assignment next year.

That confidence, combined with a three-year, $18 million hitch with Affeldt, has put Sabean in the driver’s seat in negotiations with Wilson’s agent, Dan Lozano. Wilson, who took home $8.5 million while nursing his elbow, has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining, but the Giants are understandably wary of tendering a lucrative offer to a high-effort pitcher coming off of his second reconstructive surgery. If healthy, the 30-year-old Wilson could turn an already solid bullpen into the senior circuit’s best, but Sabean has other fish to fry—second base and center field, to name a couple, plus a possible bank-breaking extension for Buster Posey—and, according to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Hank Schulman, negotiations are at an impasse.

With the non-tender deadline just three days away, Wilson’s name is likely to be added to a thinning list of free-agent relievers, where he would join, among others, fellow Tommy John victims Ryan Madson and Joakim Soria. And while letting the homegrown righty walk is a defensible baseball move for Sabean and the Giants, some fans are already up in arms:

Schulman believes that if Wilson is non-tendered, Sabean will maintain contact with Lozano in an effort to bring him back on a team-friendly deal. But given the plethora of late-inning openings around the league, Wilson may well find a team willing to take a $7 million gamble and hope that he regains his 2.22 FIP form from 2010. The smart money, especially considering the Giants’ recent success in finding useful players on the scrap heap, is on Wilson landing elsewhere.

Reds on verge of retaining Jonathan Broxton as closer
The Giants aren’t the only National League playoff team with a developing closer situation; the Reds are poised to make a big move, too. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported on Monday morning that Cincinnati is “in serious talks with Broxton,” who was acquired from the Royals at the trade deadline, about a three-year contract that could have a ripple effect on the team’s pitching staff. Broxton served primarily as a set-up man for Aroldis Chapman during his three-month stint with the Reds, but if general manager Walt Jocketty hands him an Affeldt- or Brandon League-like paycheck, it would most likely be with the intention of installing him as a closer, which in turn would clear the way for Chapman to move to the rotation.

The 28-year-old Broxton signed a one-year, $4 million pact with the Royals last winter to rebuild his value after missing most of the 2011 season while recovering from surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow. And, by posting a 2.46 FIP—driven largely by a 20-to-3 K:BB—over 22 1/3 innings with the Reds, he appears to have done just that. If he elects to stay in Cincinnati, Broxton figures to top manager Dusty Baker’s bullpen depth chart, with Sean Marshall, Sam LeCure, and Jose Arredondo competing for high-leverage setup work.

The rotation, which was comprised entirely of right-handed pitchers last season, would once again feature Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, and Bronson Arroyo, but Chapman’s entry would bump Mike Leake into a swingman role, or perhaps make the low-strikeout righty a trade candidate. Chapman has worked as a reliever in each of his 137 career major-league appearances, but despite his emergence as the league’s most dominant late-inning lefty, his Randy Johnson-like rotation ceiling is impossible to overlook.

Considering that the typically frugal Reds agreed to pay Chapman $30.25 million over six years, the question about turning him into a starter was not if, but when. And assuming that the Broxton talks do not fizzle, the answer—after a tease in March—appears to be now.

Mike Napoli down to three teams, awaiting four-year offer
This much is almost certain, per ESPN’s Jim Bowden: Napoli will be a member of the Mariners, Rangers, or Red Sox on Opening Day. Those are the three finalists in the bidding for the 31-year-old catcher/first baseman/designated hitter, and, connecting the dots based on Bowden’s tweet, all three have apparently put three-year offers on the table. The question now, is which one of them will blink?

Bowden believes that whichever team adds a fourth year to its proposal will land Napoli, who missed 36 games with a quad strain during a 2.0 WARP effort last season, but amassed at least 3.1 WARP in each of the previous four years. And, according to Boston Globe beat writer Peter Abraham, the Red Sox, with owner John Henry pulling the strings on general manager Ben Cherington, are a reasonable bet to cave.

If Napoli does end up in Boston, he would add to an existing logjam, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Lavarnway, and the recently-signed David Ross already in-house. Though a vacancy at first base could help to resolve the glut, either Saltalamacchia or Lavarnway would almost certainly be traded to clear a bench spot before Opening Day. 

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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