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Cody Ross and the pursuit of a Josh Willingham deal 10.29.12 at 2:51 pm ET
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Cody Ross counts outfielder Josh Willingham as one of his closest friends in baseball. Both achieved status as big league regulars with the Marlins in 2006, when Willingham made a splash as a 27-year-old rookie who swatted 26 homers and Ross finally getting a big league opportunity with a Marlins team that acquired him for $1 from the Reds, hitting 11 homers in 91 games with Florida while showing the ability to play all three outfield positions.

The two outfielders spent three years together with the Marlins, but after the 2008 season, he was dealt to the Nationals, spending a couple years in Washington before going to Oakland in 2011. Ross, meanwhile, remained with the Marlins until 2010 before he was sent on a waiver claim to the Giants for the stretch run that yielded an unforgettable October. He remained in San Francisco for 2011, living near his former Marlins teammate.

But after the 2011 season, both Ross and Willingham found themselves on the same team — which is to say, none at all. The two were free agents, albeit ones in strikingly different boats.

Willingham had a strong walk year with the A’s, smashing 29 homers and driving in 98 while hitting .246/.332/.477/.810 in 136 games as a 32-year-old. Ross, as a 30-year-old, put up far more modest totals, hitting .240/.325/.405/.730 with 14 homers in 121 games for the Giants in 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Cody Ross, josh willingham,
Trade Deadline: Twins said to be unlikely to trade LF Josh Willingham 07.23.12 at 11:30 am ET
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Despite being 15 games under .500, the Twins appear unlikely to be willing to deal their most valuable trade chip.

According to Phil Mackey and Darren Wolfson of ESPN1500.com, the Twins are not actively shopping left fielder Josh Willingham.

The 33-year-old slugger is hitting .275, with a .389 on-base percentage, 23 home runs and 68 RBIs. Only six players in the AL have more home runs than Willingham, only seven have more walks, and only Miguel Cabrera and Josh Hamilton have more RBIs. Minnesota signed Willingham to a three-year, $21 million contract in the offseason.

According to Mackey and Wolfson’€™s sources, given Willingham’s outstanding production and team-friendly contract, it would take a lopsided offer to motivate the Twins to part ways with the slugger.

Read More: 2012 Trade Deadline, josh willingham, Minnesota Twins,
Hot Stove: Twins reportedly offer Michael Cuddyer three years, $25 million 12.06.11 at 11:56 am ET
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The Twins have reportedly offered free agent outfielder Michael Cuddyer a three-year, $25 million contract to re-sign with Minnesota, according to a tweet from Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman.

A right-handed hitting outfielder, Cuddyer hit 20 home runs and 70 RBIs in 139 games last season for the Twins. Cuddyer has spent his entire 10-year career with Minnesota. The 32-year-old Cuddyer eclipsed 30 home runs just once in his career, in 2009, and has hit over 100 RBIs just once as well, in 2006. He made $10.5 million last season in the final year of a four-year, $33.5 million contract.

Heyman also reported that the Twins are talking to free agent Josh Willingham as another option if Cuddyer does not work out. Willingham has reportedly received interest from the Red Sox and the Rays, among other teams.

Read More: Hot Stove 2011, josh willingham, Michael Cuddyer,
Hot Stove: Rays reportedly interested in OF Josh Willingham at 11:43 am ET
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The Rays are reportedly interested in making free agent outfielder Josh Willingham their designated hitter in 2012. Willingham had a career season last year, hitting 29 home runs and 98 RBIs for the Athletics, both seasonal highs.

Willingham spent the first five years of his career with the Marlins. He was traded to the Nationals following the 2008 season. At the end of 2010, Willingham was dealt to the Athletics. The 32-year-old has hit at least 20 home runs in every season in which he has played 133 games or more.

The right-handed hitting Willingham has also reportedly received interest from the Red Sox.

The Rays also will likely retain Andrew Friedman as their GM and executive vice president of baseball operations, as Friedman withdrew his name from the Astros general manager search.

Read More: Andrew Friedman, Hot Stove 2011, josh willingham,
Hot Stove: Red Sox reportedly among nine teams to have called on Josh Willingham 12.05.11 at 12:01 pm ET
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According to a Monday morning tweet from ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the Red Sox are one of nine teams to have contacted right-handed-hitting outfielder Josh Willingham. Crasnick also mentions the Twins, Indians and Reds among the group pursuing the 32-year-old free agent.

Willingham spent last season with the A’s, hitting .246 with a .332 on-base percentage and .477 slugging mark. He had 26 home runs and 98 RBIs.

Prior to that, he spent two seasons with the Nationals, after three full seasons with the Marlins. His career averages are .262./.361/.475.

Read More: Hot Stove 2011, josh willingham,
Darnell McDonald: ‘I’ll be ready [to pitch] for the playoffs’ 08.27.11 at 12:53 am ET
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It was the most lighthearted moment from an otherwise dreary and dreadful night at Fenway for Red Sox fans and players alike.

Darnell McDonald coming in from right field to start and finish the ninth inning for the Red Sox, saving the bullpen an inning of work on a night where they were force to come in early and relieve an ineffective Tim Wakefield in a 15-5 loss to the A’s.

McDonald is not just any position player filling in for an inning. This was a player in high school in Colorado who impressed scouts with his ability to throw 95 off the mound as a pitcher. But that was also the last time he actually pitched in a game.

That is, before Terry Francona asked him coming off the field in the eighth inning if he could save the Red Sox pen an inning with the prospects of a split doubleheader just over 12 hours away.

‘€œI just came in [from right field after the eighth] and Tito just asked me if I could throw an inning and I said I was more than happy to do it.’€

His first pitch – from the stretch – to Scott Sizemore sailed all the way back to the screen.

‘€œI haven’€™t pitched since high school. It’€™s been a few years and obviously, you can see the rust on me. Really, it was a lot tougher than it looks,” McDonald said. “Was trying to throw strikes. I was a little wild early on and couldn’€™t find my release point but a couple more bullpen sessions with [pitching coach] Curt [Young], I’€™ll be ready for the playoffs.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: bill Hall, Boston Red Sox, curt young, darnell mcdonald
Trade Deadline: Red Sox, A’s reportedly discussed deal for Rich Harden and Josh Willingham 07.30.11 at 12:35 pm ET
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According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com (via twitter), the Red Sox and Athletics had conversations about a deal that would send both pitcher Rich Harden and outfielder Josh Willingham to Boston. It was not clear what prospects the A’s were seeking in such a deal, and Olney noted that it was “unclear whether [the deal] has a pulse now.”

Harden has made five starts this year, all in July, going 2-1 with a 4.30 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 10 walks in 29 1/3 innings. He has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, but when he is healthy, he has consistently produced excellent results, striking out more than a batter an inning. He worked for a number of years with current Sox pitching coach Curt Young while both were with Oakland.

Willingham is hitting .248 with a .334 OBP, .455 slugging mark and .790 OPS along with 15 homers while playing left field and DH-ing for the A’s. He has put up significant power numbers in 106 plate appearances against lefties this year, hitting .239/.340/.511/.850 with seven homers.

Both Harden and Willingham would be eligible for free agency after the season.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, josh willingham, Rich Harden,
Trade Deadline: Indians looking for outfield help 07.19.11 at 12:05 pm ET
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Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore (bruised right knee) was put on the disabled list on Monday night for the third time this season, and neither the team nor the player know exactly how much time he will miss. Put that together with Shin-Soo Choo‘s current stint on the DL, and the Indians appear to be lacking firepower in the outfield. (Austin Kearns and rookie Ezequiel Carrera are Sizemore and Choo’s current replacements in right and centerfield respectively.)

That has led the AL Central-leading Indians to begin looking at cheap options like San Diego’s Ryan Ludwick (.238/.306/.376) and Oakland’s Josh Willingham (.244/.321/.434), according to a tweet from Sports Illustrated baseball writer Jon Heyman. Carlos Beltran was thought to be an option, but his no-trade clause seems to be the burden in any trade involving Cleveland.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Cleveland Indians, josh willingham, Ryan Ludwick
Trade Deadline: Pirates reportedly interested in Athletics’ Conor Jackson, Josh Willingham 07.18.11 at 9:39 am ET
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Just a half-game behind the Brewers, the Pirates are looking to add offense to a pitching rotation that already leads the NL Central in lowest ERA. The Pirates may try to find that offense in Oakland, ESPN’€™s Jerry Crasnick tweeted Sunday. Specifically, they’€™ve asked about first baseman Conor Jackson and left fielder Josh Willingham.

Jackson is batting .249 with just 3 home runs and 27 RBIs, but the Pirates’€™ Lyle Overbay, their only healthy first baseman, is only performing slightly better, batting .240 with seven home runs and 35 RBIs. Jackson is tied for seventh among AL first basemen with 23 walks, with a .323 OBP that is better than Overbay’€™s.

Willingham would provide the Pirates with some power, batting .244 with 12 home runs, and 46 RBIs. He ranks second among AL left fielders in home runs with a minimum of 250 plate appearances, is third in RBIs and third in slugging at .434.

Left field is another position where the Pirates only have one healthy player: Alex Presley. While Presley is an on-base machine, batting .343 with a .400 OBP in 16 games, he’€™s hit just one home run this season and driven in nine.

Read More: 2011 Trade Deadline, Alex Presley, Conor Jackson, josh willingham
A look at the Red Sox’ offseason interest in Jose Bautista 01.26.11 at 1:58 am ET
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“Due diligence.”

That is how one source familiar with the talks between the Red Sox and Blue Jays characterized the conversations that the two teams had about Jose Bautista, the slugger who emerged improbably to launch a major-league leading 54 homers.

On Tuesday, Fox Sports reported that the Sox made multiple trade offers to the Blue Jays about the slugger during the Winter Meetings in December, but “never got the sense that the Jays were serious about a deal,” with Toronto feeling that it would be served best to retain the slugger. On the Sox’ side, it seems that they were largely interested in gauging the full realm of market possibilities to identify alternatives should they fail to land free agent Carl Crawford, rather than having built a strategy around Bautista.

Over the course of the winter meetings — whose activity began with the Sox’ successful conclusion of a deal for Adrian Gonzalez and the stunning announcement of Jayson Werth‘s seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals, and ended with the Sox’ similarly startling conclusion of a seven-year, $142 million deal with Crawford — the Sox conducted an exploration of a broad range of market options.

That examination included free-agent options such as Magglio Ordonez as well as trade candidates such as Josh Willingham, Carlos Beltran and, yes, Bautista, among others. The Sox’ interest in Bautista preceded his breakout season, dating to his time in Pittsburgh, when at least one Red Sox talent evaluator thought that he represented a buy-low candidate with at least a chance of reaching 30 homers if the stars aligned, while another considered him at least a solid role player who could play solid defense at several positions while doing damage against left-handed pitchers.

But once the Jays acquired Bautista, the Sox felt that the opportunities to acquire him had diminished significantly. They were one of multiple clubs to place an August waiver claim for him in  2009, but were not awarded the claim, according to a major league source. Apparently, as the Sox explored the outfield market during the Winter Meetings — and with Bautista coming off of his landmark season — that remained the case.

Moreover, team officials viewed Crawford as the prize of the class all along for multiple reasons. Not only was the team enamored of Crawford’s across-the-board talents and ability to impact the club’s run scoring and run prevention, but the Sox’ interest in an outfielder this offseason was motivated in no small part by their recognition that they would need to add an outfielder in 2012, after J.D. Drew‘s contract expires.

A long-term deal with Crawford would give the Sox such an outfielder. Bautista, on the other hand, is eligible for free agency after the 2011 season, and so the Sox might have been put back in a position where they had to return to the market next offseason by trading him.

So, Crawford was the player whom the Sox were trying to land, and whom the ultimately did land. But the team wanted to make sure that their offseason strategy motto was not “Crawford or Bust.”

“If you’€™re counting on signing Carl Crawford and not ready to take another path, you’€™re probably going to sign him but risk a deal you’€™re not comfortable with,” Assistant GM Ben Cherington said last week. “It just happened that we were able to get deals done for the two guys [Gonzalez and Crawford] at the top of our list, not just for the two guys who could make the biggest impact, but who also best addressed the long-term needs.”

Read More: carl crawford, Jose Bautista, josh willingham, magglio ordonez
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