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Hot Stove roundup, noon: Rangers send reps to Arkansas as last-ditch effort to persuade Cliff Lee

12.09.10 at 12:22 pm ET
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted on Thursday that the Rangers are putting up a last-ditch effort to try to sign free agent pitcher Cliff Lee by sending representatives to Little Rock, Ark., to meet with Lee and his agent, Darek Braunecker. NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra writes that there isn’t a whole lot of context to the reports about the Rangers meeting with Lee, and that it may just as well be an effort to play head games with the Yankees, who are the favorites in the Lee sweepstakes.

Calcaterra said that with the $300 million the Red Sox have spent in the past few days, it’s hard to imagine that the Yankees won’t counter with an expensive signee of their own. We’ll know more about the meeting between the Rangers, Lee and Braunecker later on Thursday.

Quick hits:

‘™¦ The Astros have agreed to a one-year deal with former Rice pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith, the Houston Chronicle’s Zachary Levine reports. Rowland-Smith was taken with the No. 5 pick in the Rule 5 draft, and is pending a physical. The Australian lefty was non-tendered by the Mariners after going 1-10 with a 6.75 ERA in 2010. He played three seasons before 2010, including one and a half as a starter, with ERAs under 4.00 for the Mariners.

‘™¦ The Orioles continue to make news this week, announcing that the team and free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche have mutual interest in each other, but have not yet had any formal talks, and no formal offer has been made, the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly tweeted on Thursday. LaRoche has garnered a lot of interest this offseason, with teams such as the Nationals, Rays and Orioles all showing significant interest.

‘™¦ The Dodgers have shown interest in signing former Red Sox utility man Bill Hall as a left fielder, the L.A. Times reports. The Dodgers are reportedly among several teams that have shown interest in the former Red Sox, who hit 18 home runs in 2010, but struck out 104 times in 119 games played with Boston.

‘™¦ MLB.com reports that Cleveland legend Bob Feller has been transferred from the Cleveland Clinic to hospice care for the terminally ill, according to Bob DiBiaso, the Indians’ vice president of public relations. The 92-year-old Feller is battling leukemia, and was recently admitted to the clinic after suffering from pneumonia. Feller was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in August, which is a form of cancer in which the white blood cells interfere with the production of normal blood cells.

‘™¦ Rob Biertempfel, columnist for Trib Live Sports, tweeted on Thursday that the Pirates seem to be close to reaching a deal with the Braves for starting pitcher Kenshin Kawakami, but money is still an issue. The deal will continue to develop over the course of the day.

Read More: bill Hall, Cliff Lee, Hot Stove,

Red Sox lose a pair of pitchers in Rule 5 draft

12.09.10 at 11:11 am ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Red Sox saw a pair of division rivals snap up pitchers from their minor league system on Thursday, as the Tampa Bay Rays snagged 21-year-old left-hander Cesar Cabral, while the Yankees grabbed right-hander Daniel Turpen.

Cabral, 21, is a big, physical left-handed reliever whom the Sox signed out of the Dominican in 2005. In 2010, he had a dominant performance to start the year with Single-A Greenville, producing a 0.29 ERA in 17 appearances (31 1/3 innings) while striking out 35 and walking just seven. After a mid-year promotion, however, he struggled to remain consistent. He started well, but finished at High-A Salem with a 5.81 ERA, though he continued to have a solid strikeout-to-walk rate (45-to-14 in 48 innings). He features a solid fastball that is typically in the 93-94 mph vicinity, as well as a slider that produces swings and misses. He has been working on a changeup that is viewed as a work in progress. With the Rays’ bullpen having been pillaged by free agency (the team could lose as many as five big league relievers), Cabral will certainly have an interesting opportunity with Tampa Bay.

Turpen, 24, was the pitcher whom the Sox acquired from the Giants at the July 31 trade deadline in exchange for Ramon Ramirez. He spent all of 2010 in the Eastern League, first with San Francisco’s affiliate in Richmond, then with the Portland Sea Dogs. Between the two teams, he had a 4.30 ERA, 60 strikeouts and 28 walks in 69 innings. He only allowed four homers.

The big, 6-foot-4 right-hander has a power sinker that has produced strong groundball rates throughout his minor league career. He also features a cutter and slider, though the two pitches can sometimes blend together, and his stuff can flatten out at times. While his ability to induce grounders could make for an interesting bullpen weapon, it is difficult to imagine him sticking for a full year with a Yankees team for whom success is defined by championships.

The Red Sox had identified both pitchers as candidates to be selected in the Rule 5 draft, in which a team may take a player who — after a certain amount of service time, depending on how old he was at the time he entered the system — is not protected on the 40-man roster. But the team felt that there was a good chance that if either pitcher was selected, it was unlikely that he would stick on his selecting team’s major league roster for a full season. The Sox receive $50,000 for both players; if they do not stay on the big league roster of their new clubs, both players will be exposed to waivers and then, assuming they clear, offered back to Boston for $25,000.

“We lost, at least for the time being, two players in the Rule 5, and we wish them well with the new organizations,” said Sox GM Theo Epstein. “But hopefully they soon will be their old organizations and we get them back. We’ll see.”

The Sox have not lost a player to the Rule 5 process since the Tigers kept left-hander Wilfredo Ledezma in 2002.

Read More: cesar cabral, daniel turpen, Hot Stove, rule 5

Hot Stove roundup, 11 a.m.: Luke Scott making waves with comments about President Obama

12.09.10 at 10:49 am ET
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Orioles designated hitter Luke Scott made a name for himself more this week with his comments than his career hitting. The 32-year-old, .268 career hitter said in an interview that President Barack Obama is “hiding something” the way he dodges questions. He also is siding with “birthers” ‘€” people who believe that President Obama was not born in the United States, plainly stating his opinion that Obama was not born in the country he now leads.

The Los Angeles Times, among several other news outlets, covered what Scott had to say. The Orioles organization shortly after released a statement, saying that Scott’s opinions were not the views of the team.

Quick hits:

‘™¦ ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted on Thursday morning that the Red Sox are still interested in Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, who was tendered for arbitration by the team. ESPN reported on Wednesday that the Dodgers were interested in former Rays catcher Dioner Navarro. The team also signed Rod Barajas several weeks ago.

‘™¦ In light of Carlos Pena‘s signing with the Cubs, the Rays are searching for a replacement first baseman, and are targeting former Blue Jay Lyle Overbay and former Brave Derrek Lee, the St. Petersburg Times reports. The team also has interest in Adam LaRoche, but the Nationals are considered to be the front runners to sign LaRoche. The Times reports that all of the free agent options may be too expensive for the Rays.

‘™¦ According to a tweet by a Pirates insider, the team has acquired relief pitcher Cesar Valdez from the Diamondbacks as the player to be named in the Zach Duke trade. The D-Backs acquired Duke on Nov. 24 from the Pirates for the player to be named. Duke, a 27-year-old starting pitcher, finished the 2010 season with an 8-15 record with a 5.72 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 29 starts.

‘™¦ The Pirates weren’t done creating news on Thursday morning, signing free agent pitcher Scott Olsen to a one-year, $500,000 deal for 2011, with incentives of up to $3 million, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted. The incentives the Pirates are offering will be performance-based.

Read More: Hot Stove, Luke Scott, Scott Olsen, Zach Duke

Hot Stove roundup, 9 a.m.: Orioles acquire shortstop J.J. Hardy from Twins

12.09.10 at 9:28 am ET
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The Orioles, although undermined by the Red Sox‘ signing of free agent outfielder Carl Crawford, became the second team in the AL East to acquire a player they had been targeting for several days. The Orioles completed a trade early Thursday morning that sends Twins shortstop J.J. Hardy to Baltimore, CBS Sports’ Scott Miller reports. Infielder Brendan Harris was included in the deal to the Orioles.

The Twins received minor league pitchers Brett Jacobson and Jim Hoey, according to the report. Hardy batted .268 with six home runs and 38 RBIs in 101 games for the Twins in 2010. Hardy, according to Miller, became available when the Twins began negotiating with Japanese free agent shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka. They are expected to sign Nishioka for three years for between $9 million and $12 million.

Quick hits:

‘™¦ Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman tweeted early on Thursday that the Yankees have offered free agent pitcher Cliff Lee a seven-year deal after both Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth were signed to seven-year deals. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal wrote that the Red Sox had submitted to Lee a low-ball, seven-year offer so that his camp could use that as leverage with the Yankees for a seventh year. The Yankees had reportedly offered Lee a six-year deal worth between $138 million and $150 million.

‘™¦ Free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera has agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the Royals, ESPN Deportes’ Enrique Rojas tweeted Thursday morning. The deal was first reported by Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi when both sides were reaching an agreement, and was confirmed by Rojas when the deal was made official. Cabrera, who was released by the Braves after the 2010 season, hit a disappointing .255/.317/.354 in 509 plate appearances. The 26-year-old will receive $250,000 in incentives, pending a physical.

‘™¦ Scott Boras, agent for Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran, said on Thursday that Beltran plans on being a Met next season, mlb.com reports. Boras said that Beltran has a no-trade clause with the Mets, so ultimately the decision comes down to the outfielder and his wife, and what they want. But Boras made it clear that to date, Beltran’s plan is to be a Met next season.

‘™¦ The Brewers are continuing their push to sign free agent pitcher Carl Pavano, meeting with the pitcher on Wednesday face-to-face for a 45-minute session, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports. The team has yet to decide whether it will make an offer to Pavano, but Pavano’s agent, Tom O’Connell, said that he considers the Brewers a serious suitor, along with the Twins and the Nationals. A fourth undisclosed club is said to have interest in Pavano.

‘™¦ The Los Angeles Times reports that Angels center fielder Torii Hunter was “crushed” to hear that free agent outfielder Carl Crawford signed with the Red Sox. Hunter had been courting Crawford to sign with the Angels since the All-Star break last season, the Times reported. Hunter spoke with the Times from his home in Texas, where he received the news.

Read More: carl crawford, Hot Stove, J.J. Hardy,

Hot stove roundup, 8 a.m.: Marlins in play for Zack Greinke?

12.09.10 at 8:19 am ET
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The Marlins made an attempt to land Royals’ ace Zack Greinke via a three-team trade with the Rangers on Wednesday night, according to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com. The deal never gained any serious momentum, according to a source in the Rosenthal story. The Rangers, Blue Jays, Nationals and Dodgers have all showed interest in Greinke, who was the Cy Young winner in 2009 but slipped to a 10-14 record with an ERA of 4.17 in 2010.

Read More: Hot Stove, zack greinke,

How Carl Crawford could transform the Red Sox

12.09.10 at 1:14 am ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — As soon as an executive of another team heard about the Red Sox‘ deal with outfielder Carl Crawford (reportedly a seven-year, $142 million pact), the reaction was immediate.

“Holy [expletive],” he said. “Think about that lineup.”

It’s all hypothetical now, of course, and it is still more than 100 days until Opening Day. But the acquisition of Crawford to join fellow newcomer Adrian Gonzalez has astonishing potential. The team will feature a pair of dynamic jackrabbits with sneaky pop in Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury. The two could combine for 100 steals. Crawford has averaged 50 steals a season over the last eight years; Ellsbury averaged 60 steals in 2008-09. The Sox now feature six of the last eight AL stolen base champions, and a pair of players with the potential for a speed element unlike any other in the game.

‘€œI don’€™t know another player who looks so much like myself. It’€™s crazy sometimes,’€ Crawford said of Ellsbury before the season. ‘€œI think he’€™s almost exactly like me. When I see him, I see myself.”

Dustin Pedroia is among the best offensive and all-around second basemen in the game, a player who was on pace for a 20-homer/20-steal season in 2010 before breaking his foot with a foul ball.

The team also features tremendous middle-of-the-order pop. Gonzalez and David Ortiz both launched more than 30 homers last year. With a return to health, Kevin Youkilis is a threat to hit 25-30 homers, and he ranks perennially among the AL leaders in slugging and OPS. J.D. Drew has averaged 22 homers a year for the Sox over the last three years.

The Sox scored 818 runs last year, second in the American League. With the additions of Crawford and Gonzalez to replace the departed Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre, as well as returns to health for the likes of Ellsbury, Youkilis and Pedroia, 900 or more runs would appear to be in reach.

The Sox can round out their lineup with a shortstop who had an above-average OPS for the position last year in Marco Scutaro and a catcher who represents an upside gamble in Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Meanwhile, the team also has the potential to offer a superb defensive unit. Crawford is one of four Gold Glovers who would project to be a part of the team’s Opening Day roster, joining Youkilis (whose Gold Glove was at first base rather than third), Gonzalez and Pedroia.

With the acquisition of Crawford, the team could address one of its foremost deficiencies of 2010, namely its poor outfield production and poor outfield defense.

The Sox ranked last in the American League in outfield batting average (.245), second-to-last in OBP (.317) and third to last in OPS (.729). Crawford, meanwhile, hit .307/.356/.495/.851 with 19 homers, 90 RBI and 47 steals. At 29, he is in his prime.

Meanwhile, with Ellsbury and Mike Cameron both limited by injuries, the Sox’ outfield defense suffered while being patched together. According to FanGraphs.com, the Red Sox had the third-worst outfield defense in the majors, as rated by UZR, having cost the Sox 23.4 runs more than a group of league-average outfielders. Crawford, meanwhile, rated as the third best defensive outfielder in the majors, having saved 18.5 more runs than an average defensive outfielder.

And so, the Sox have managed to build in the course of the past two offseasons a potential juggernaut, a rotation anchored by a pair of developing young aces (Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz), a ferocious lineup and a strong defense. It is not a team without holes ‘€” the Sox still have yet to overhaul their bullpen ‘€” but in the span of a few days, a team that finished last year with 89 wins has sent shock waves throughout the division and the baseball industry.

‘€œGood move. … Boston has the money, and they had a need,’€ Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said when asked about rival Theo Epstein‘€™s big move. ‘€œGood player. Great player.’€

Read More: carl crawford, Hot Stove, lineup,

Yankees never made offer to Crawford

12.09.10 at 12:32 am ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — According to a source familiar with the discussions, the Yankees never made an offer to free agent outfielder Carl Crawford before he reached his stunning seven-year, $142 million deal with the Red Sox. The Angels were viewed by the industry as the front-runner for Crawford’s services, but one source suggested that the Halos had only gone to $108 million, though it was not clear what the term of that offer was.

Read More: carl crawford, Hot Stove, New York Yankees,
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