Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have spent their second offseason in Chicago stocking up on starting pitchers, and yesterday, Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva joined Scott Baker and Scott Feldman on the Cubs’ list of newcomers. For more on those signings, see R.J. Anderson’s Transaction Analysis post. Today’s Roundup features a few not-too-distant throwbacks and an update on the talks for one of the winter’s hottest remaining trade commodities.
Mets ‘very interested’ in Grady Sizemore
Pop quiz: Name the only team that has yet to sign a major-league free agent this offseason? If you guessed the Mets, or simply figured it out by reading the title of this segment, you’re correct. And, considering the current state of the Mets roster, the player to break general manager Sandy Alderson’s schneid will most likely be either an outfielder or a starting pitcher.
The most pressing need is in center field, where the current options are Mike Baxter, Collin Cowgill, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Jordany Valdespin, a group that does not include a single adequate defender or everyday-caliber hitter. Alderson phoned Athletics GM Billy Beane about Coco Crisp, per a tweet from New York Post columnist Ken Davidoff, but that request was rebuffed. Scott Hairston and Cody Ross have been mentioned as possible fits, but both of them are best utilized in a platoon arrangement and ideally in an outfield corner. Finally, Michael Bourn would settle both the offensive and the defensive issues—and allow Ruben Tejada to move down in the order—but he is out of the Mets’ price range.
Thus, Alderson was forced to think outside the box, and according to SNY’s Kevin Burkhardt, he’s doing just that. Burkhardt reported on Thursday that the Mets are chasing Sizemore, whose career has been derailed by injuries since late May of the 2009 season. A three-win player that year, and a four- to six-win contributor in each of his first four big-league campaigns, Sizemore has since undergone a plethora of surgeries. The laundry list includes a debridement procedure on his elbow, two operations to relieve sports hernias, a microdiscectomy on his lower back, and two microfracture surgeries, one on each knee, the most recent of them on his right knee on Sept. 15. The 30-year-old Sizemore made cameos in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons, but he was predictably rusty and looked like a shadow of his All-Star self, costing the Indians 0.8 combined wins by stepping onto the field.
Sizemore would be little more than a flier for the Mets, and after taking home $5,500,000—the value of a wasted one-year deal for 2012, plus the buyout from the club option in his preexisting extension—since last October, he’ll probably need to settle for a minor-league hitch or an incentive-laden big-league pact this winter. If talks progress, Alderson could try to include a team option for the 2014 season, whereby Sizemore would reward the Mets for taking a chance on his comeback attempt by staying in Queens at a below-market rate the following year.
MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince reported from the Winter Meetings that Sizemore won’t be ready until at least a couple of months into the season, and whether his knees would recover enough for him to roam Citi Field’s pastures is anyone’s guess. Back then, Rob Bradford of WEEI heard that the Red Sox were among the “numerous teams showing interest,” though the present state of the bidding, and whether the Mets were one of the clubs that contacted agent Joe Urbon in Nashville, is uncertain. Bradford noted that the Sizemore market would take time to develop, so it bears watching over the next few days to see if Burkhardt’s report is an indication that he is preparing to sign.
Thursday brings not one, but two blasts from the Athletics’ past
Remember Rich Harden? How about Bobby Crosby? The former Oakland standouts, like Sizemore, have been afflicted by a spate of injuries that have marred what once appeared to be promising careers. Harden has not appeared in a major-league game since 2011, while Crosby has been off the radar since 2010. Recent reports suggest that each could find his way back next year.
Harden’s return might come with the Twins, who have reached far and wide in search of rotation help this offseason, reeling in Kevin Correia, Vance Worley, and Mike Pelfrey to date. The 31-year-old Harden doesn’t exactly fit Minnesota’s finesse prototype—having logged a 24.2 percent strikeout rate over the course of his career, and a 25.1 percent clip during his second stint with the A’s in 2011—but he has piqued general manager Terry Ryan’s interest nonetheless.
La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune believes that Harden is seeking a minor-league deal, but could not ascertain whether he’s hoping to return as a starter or in a bullpen role. An extreme fly-ball pitcher in recent years, Harden served up 17 home runs in 82 2/3 innings in 2011 despite making eight of his 15 starts at the pitcher-friendly Coliseum. From that standpoint, Target Field—which actually bumped home-run totals last season after depressing them in 2011—might not be an ideal place for him to attempt a comeback. On the other hand, beggars can’t be choosers, so if the Padres and Mariners don’t come calling, heading to the Twin Cities might be Harden’s best bet.
Crosby, meanwhile, does not yet have a publicly known suitor. His agent, Paul Cohen, told FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal that the soon-to-be 33-year-old is planning to hold workouts for interested teams in January, in hopes that one of them will invite him to camp. Crosby’s back injuries have sapped some of his once-enticing range and power, rendering him a below-replacement-level player in three of his last four big-league tours. If he is healthy, though, Crosby could still be a useful reserve, with the ability to handle all four infield positions and the pop to serve in a pinch-hitting role against left-handers. Citing Rosenthal’s report, we’ll this one away and check back in next month.
Two more suitors revealed in Rick Porcello trade market
Four days ago, CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler heard that a dozen teams asked about Porcello “within three hours” of the Tigers’ agreement with Anibal Sanchez. The sources of those inquiries have gradually leaked over the past few days, as calls from the Angels, Cubs, Padres, and Pirates were confirmed. The Rockies, per Denver Post beat writer Troy Renck, might be in the mix, too. And, according to FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi, whose background on the Tigers beat makes him an especially trustworthy source for Detroit rumors, we can add the Mariners and Orioles to that list.
There are few glaring openings on the Tigers’ current roster, but general manager Dave Dombrowski could be seeking a late-inning reliever or a versatile reserve as part of the return for Porcello. As I mentioned in yesterday’s Roundup, based on a tweet from Pittsburgh Tribune-Review beat writer Rob Biertempfel, talks with the Pirates about Joel Hanrahan hit a dead end. In addition to those big-league needs, Dombrowski could also look to restock the upper levels of his farm system, which are bare in the wake of recent Type-A free-agent signings and the July trade for Sanchez and Omar Infante. A dearth of high-ceiling prospects, besides Nick Castellanos, reportedly hindered the Tigers’ pursuit of James Shields earlier this month.