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Tag:NL Central
Posted on: February 14, 2012 9:37 pm
 

Report: Astros broadcaster to retire after 2012

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Astros radio broadcaster Milo Hamilton will announce his intent to retire following the 2012 season, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports.

The team will have a press conference for Hamilton, 84, on Wednesday.

Hamilton has announced Major League games for 59 years and won the Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award in 1992.

Hamilton's started broadcasting big-league baseball in 1953 with the St. Louis Browns. When the Browns moved to Baltimore, he stayed in St. Louis, where he worked with Harry Caray and Jack Buck in 1954. After just one season with the Cardinals, he caught on with the Cubs, working with Jack Brickhouse and Vince Lloyd. He served three years with the Cubs and after four-years out of baseball, moved to the White Sox in 1961.

Hamilton was the first voice of the Braves, getting the job when the team moved from Milwaukee in 1966. He worked in Atlanta until after the 1975 season, calling Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th career homer.



From Atlanta, Hamilton had stints with the Pirates and Cubs before joining the Astros in 1985.

Since 2006, he's mostly called only home games for the Astros. He will, however, make the trip to Miami in April to broadcast in the new Marlins ballpark, marking his 60th different ballpark in which he's called a game.

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Posted on: February 14, 2012 2:48 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 3:05 pm
 

Indians interested in Hafner-Burnett swap



By C. Trent Rosecrans

While CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman reports the Yankees and Pirates are still hoping to get a deal done that would send A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh, he also notes the Angels and Indians have tried to get in on the talks for Burnett.

While the Angels are on Burnett's no-trade clause, the Indians deal could make some sense. The two teams are discussing sending Travis Hafner to New York in exchange for the much maligned right-hander.

So does it make sense for the Indians? Perhaps.

Let's not make any mistake, Burnett's not been good as a Yankee and he's certainly not been $82.5 million good. But it's also a mistake to dismiss Burnett as a someone who doesn't belong in the big leagues or in a rotation. The right-hander has enough stuff to tempt a team to give him big money -- in fact before the Yankees splurged on Burnett, the Blue Jays spent a lot of money on him.

Let's get the first part out of the way, Burnett, despite early concerns in his career, has been durable, starting 32 or more games in each of the last four seasons. In 2008, he led the American League with 34 starts and threw 221 1/3 innings. Last season, for all the complaints and even some early hooks, he threw 190 1/3 innings, averaging nearly six innings a start. He still struck out 173 batters -- he can miss bats. He also misses the glove too much, throwing a big-league most 25 wild pitches, hitting nine batters and walking 83.

While Burnett's road ERA was actually worse than his home ERA, he did give up homers at a slightly lower rate away from Yankee Stadium.

Burnett's ERA last season 5.15 -- not exactly a number you want to see in the probables -- but his xFIP (Fielding Independent Pitching -- a measure of things pitchers are directly responsible for, while taking away the ability of his fielders and normalized for his ballpark) was a respectable 3.86. To put that in perspective, that was better than the likes of Mark Buehrle (4.14), Ervin Santana (3.93) and Trevor Cahill (3.90), and not much worse than the likes of Ryan Vogelsong (3.85), Jered Weaver (3.80) and Matt Cain (3.78). His career xFIP is 3.78 -- better than his career ERA of 4.10.

Burnett can add 10 teams to his no-trade list each season, with word that most of those teams are on the West Coast.

It still seems like the Pirates are the team that will get Burnett -- and he should help them -- picking up as little as $13 million of the $33 million owed to Burnett for the final two years of his contract.

The Indians still owe Hafner $13 million for this season and have an option for $13 million next season with a $2.75 million buyout, meaning they owe less than half of what they'd be on the line to pay Burnett. To make the deal, the Indians would likely need some money sent back to Cleveland, if not the $20 million they're willing to eat in a deal with the Pirates.

For the Yankees, Hafner is an upgrade of Russell Branyan or Andruw Jones, the two best candidates currently on the roster. Pronk's not the same hitter the Indians signed to a six-year, $66.1 million deal before the 2007 season, but he's still dangerous when at the plate, despite his injury concerns.

Hafner's home run rate has dropped from one per every 10.8 at-bats in 2006 to one every 25 at-bats last season (and a best of one every 21.1 at-bats in 2009 since 2006). But if he's healthy, his left-handed stroke would work well in new Yankee Stadium. While his power numbers have dropped, he still got on-base at a .361 rate, good for a 126 OPS+.

As for the Indians, a rotation with Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson, Derek Lowe, Burnett and Josh Tomlin should help in their chase with the Tigers.

In the end, it all comes down to money and just how much the Yankees would take off of Burnett's salary for 2013, but New York may not want to give much if they're taking Hafner's $13 million this season and the buy-out.

The Pirates have some good, young prospects and could offer more future talent while the Yankees could add one of the veteran free agent DHs still left on the market like Vladimir Guerrero or Johnny Damon at little financial hit.

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Posted on: February 14, 2012 12:14 pm
 

White Sox add Kosuke Fukudome

Kosuke FukudomeBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Kosuke Fukudome is headed back to Chicago -- but this time the Japanese outfielder will be playing for the White Sox.

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The team announced it signed Fukudome to a one-year deal worth $1 million with an option for 2013. He will earn $500,000 in 2012, but the total package is worth at least $1 million because of the $500,000 buyout for 2013's $3.5 million option.

Fukudome, 34, hit .262/.342/.370 for the Indians and Cubs last season, his fourth season in the big leagues. Fukudome was a disappointment for Chicago after signing a four-year, $48 million deal before the 2008 season. Fukudome has a career .361 on-base percentage, but his .260 batting average and average of just more than 10 homers a year was hardly sexy -- or what anyone would expect for $48 million.

Fukudome gives the White Sox a little more depth in the outfield, which has Alex Rios in center, with young, promising players Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza on either side of him. Rios and Viciedo are both right-handed hitters, so Fukudome gives the team some more flexibility and De Aza can also play center.

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Posted on: February 14, 2012 10:55 am
 

Kate Upton sells video games -- SOLD!

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Matt may have fallen in love with Justin Verlander because of his commercials for the video game MLB2K12, but me, I'll take his co-star in this commercial -- and I don't mean C.J. Wilson.



I do give Verlander, Wilson, David Price and Jay Bruce some props for their acting. It must take some serious Thespian chops to pretend to be excited by Kate Upton.

H/T: Big League Stew

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Posted on: February 13, 2012 1:52 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2012 1:53 pm
 

Epstein compensation decision expected this week

Theo Epstein

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Major League Baseball is inching closer to a conclusion in the Theo Epstein compensation talks, with a decision expected as soon as this week, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman reports.

Both teams have already submitted briefs, and the commissioner's office has had time to look them over.

For Red Sox fans with images of Brett Jackson dancing in your head, well, you can stop. Word is the fact the Epstein had just one year left on his contract, and his deteriorating relationship with John Henry and Larry Lucchino, could affect what kind of return the Red Sox get.

Epstein was named the Cubs' president of baseball operations on Oct. 21. The two sides originally had 30 days to settle on compensation, but that deadline was then pushed back and ultimately sent to the commissioner's office last month.

The only precedent for a GM leaving his post and then taking another gig came in 1994 when the Twins' Andy MacPhail left Minnesota for the top job with the Cubs. The Twins received right-hander Hector Trinidad as compensation. Trinidad was ranked the team's No. 30 prospect at the time and never made it past Double-A. According to Baseball America, the Cubs' No. 30 prospect this year is outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr., the team's 11th-round pick in 2001 and son of former Cubs shortstop (and top overall pick) Shawon Dunston.

The Marlins gave up two players, utility infielder Ozzie Martinez and reliever Jhan Marinez, to the White Sox for compensation in return for manager Ozzie Guillen. Baseball America ranked Marinez, a right-hander, the No. 6 prospect in the White Sox system, although it should be noted he'd be ranked much lower than that in any other system. The White Sox minor-league system is almost universally considered the worst in baseball by a wide margin. Martinez was not ranked by Baseball America.

Epstein should be worth more than a manager, and probably more than what the Cubs gave up 18 years ago -- but how much more will be what makes it interesting.

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Posted on: February 12, 2012 11:46 am
Edited on: February 12, 2012 3:45 pm
 

Update on Burnett-to-Pirates trade talks

By Matt Snyder

This past week, trade talk connecting maligned Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett to the Pirates picked up. Here's the latest, via CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman.

The Yankees and Pirates are still talking and there's been "progress and continuing optimism" on getting a deal done. One obvious snag to this point has been money, as Burnett is due a whopping $33 million for the next two seasons. The Pirates are willing to take on more than $10 million while the Yankees would prefer a 50/50 split, but there are indications of a compromise on the horizon. Next, the Yankees are seeking "at least a reasonably decent prospect" in return, but the Pirates are actually more willing to compromise on the money issue than prospects.

Pirates, Yankees talk trade
Burnett, 35, was 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 173 strikeouts in 190 1/3 innings last season for the Yankees. He led the majors in wild pitches, one season after leading the majors in hit batsmen. He's currently ticketed to be the Yankees' fifth starter, but shedding his salary would help free up some extra money to sign a left-handed designated hitter like Raul Ibanez, Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui.

If the proposed trade comes to fruition, Burnett would probably bump Jeff Karstens from the Pirates' rotation, joining Erik Bedard, James McDonald, Kevin Correia and Charlie Morton. Of course, Morton's health is in question to start the season and Bedard's health is pretty much always in question, so there would be a great bet that all six of the pitchers would get a good amount of starts.

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Posted on: February 11, 2012 4:55 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2012 5:02 pm
 

Report: Marlins offer Cespedes $40 million

Yoenis Cespedes

By C. Trent Rosecrans


The starting point, it appears, for Cuban center fielder Yoenis Cespedes is $40 million.

A report on Cafe Fuerte, a Spanish-language blog based in South Florida, quotes a source as saying the Marlins offered Cespedes a six-year, $40 million contract. It also said he has no immediate plans to meet any other teams. However, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald tweeted that he's heard the Marlins' offer was less than the $40 million reported by Cafe Fuerte.

Cespedes visited Miami earlier this week and then returned to the Dominican Republic on Thursday. During his visit, Cespedes told reporters he'd like to play for the Marlins.

The 26-year-old outfielder has drawn the interest of not only the Marlins, but also the Cubs, White Sox, Tigers, Orioles and Indians.

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Posted on: February 9, 2012 4:51 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 10:47 am
 

Spring position battles: National League Central



By C. Trent Rosecrans


The National League Central is often looked down upon, but it produced both teams in the National League Championship Series last year, as well as the World Series. Both the Cardinals and Brewers have large voids in their lineup due to free agency, but all the teams have some questions when pitchers and catchers report to camp. Here's the NL Central spring position battles:

Chicago Cubs
Old vs. Young: Bryan LaHair and Marlon Byrd vs. Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson

For so long the Cubs' motto has been "wait 'til next year" -- that may have been changed to "wait 'til a couple of years" as Theo Epstein has fully embraced the rebuilding effort. The question is whether the braintrust thinks it's better for some of their younger players to learn at the big-league level or continue in the minors. The two biggest choices will be Rizzo and Jackson. Rizzo, 22, struggled in his call-up last season, hitting .141/.281/.242 with a homer in 153 plate appearances, but that was as a 21-year-old in San Diego. LaHair may only have 65 games in the big leagues, but that doesn't make him young -- just inexperienced. LaHair turned 29 in November and spent eight years in the minors. He hit .288/.377/.508 in his 20 games with the Cubs last season, but he's hardly anyone's idea of a long-term solution. Epstein drafted Rizzo while with the Red Sox and then traded for him when he took over the Cubs. It's Rizzo's job to lose. Meanwhile, Byrd is in the last season of his three-year, $15 million contract, so he's more likely to get traded than to be unseated in spring. The 23-year-old Jackson put up a .297/.388/.551 line at Triple-A Iowa with 10 homers in just 48 games after being called up from Double-A. The team's first-round pick in the 2009 draft will have a chance to show he's big-league ready. If the team does go with Rizzo and Jackson, it could be a sign of the team's future and the patience that Chicago will show going forward.

Cincinnati Reds
Left field: Chris Heisey vs. Ryan Ludwick

The Reds signed Ludwick to a bargain deal, hoping he can find the stroke he left in St. Louis. The 33-year-old has always hit well at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, putting up a .276/.321/.600 stat line with nine homers in 30 games and 112 plate appearances in his new home park. Both Ludwick and Heisey are right-handed batters who fare better against right-handed pitchers. Ludwick is a career .272/.339/.464 hitter against righties and .237/.316/.435 against lefties. Heisey's split is more extreme -- .288/.346/.539 against right-handers and .180/.248/.300 against lefties. One thing that helps Ludwick's case may be Heisey's strength as a pinch-hitter. Last year the 27-year-old Heisey hit .324/.333/.529 with two homers as a pinch-hitter. There's another option here, as well. If Drew Stubbs struggles at the plate, Hesiey could be an option to play center alongside Ludwick in left. That's a remote possibility, though. The Reds are high on Stubbs' power/speed combination and he is an excellent defender in center.

Houston Astros
Third base: Brett Wallace vs. Chris Johnson vs. Jimmy Paredes

The fact that the Astros are looking to move Wallace to third base may tell you what they think of Johnson and Paredes. If Wallace shows he can play third, he's the likely favorite. Johnson struggled in 2011 after showing promise in 2010. Paredes hit .286/.320/.393 after taking over the position for the last two months of the season, but he's not seen as a long-term solution. Wallace could be.

Milwaukee Brewers
First base: Mat Gamel vs. himself

With Ryan Braun's status resolved, the Brewers don't really have many question marks. All five starters return, as do its closer and top set-up man. The lineup, with a platoon of Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan and newcomer Aramis Ramirez at third base seems pretty much set -- barring injury. The only hole is a big one -- the one left by first baseman Prince Fielder. The position is Mat Gamel's to lose. The 26-year-old played in just 10 games last season, getting 27 plate appearances. His only extensive big-league experience came in 2009 when he hit .242/.338/.422 with five homers, primarily playing third base. However, he's never been able to establish himself and after playing both third base and the outfield, he played primarily first base at Triple-A Nashville last season, while making six errors in 20 games at third base. He's a first baseman now and a first baseman only. He's hit  well at Triple-A, hitting .301/.374/.512 in parts of four seasons at the top level of the minors, hitting 28 home runs for Nashville last season. Gamel will probably start at first on opening day even if he struggles in spring, but right fielder Corey Hart could be used at first if Gamel struggles even more. The team did sign Japanese outfield Norichika Aoki, who could play right if Hart moves to first.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Third base: Pedro Alvarez vs. Casey McGehee

Acquiring the veteran McGehee from Milwaukee could be seen as a kick in the pants for the second-overall pick of the 2008 draft. Alvarez hit just .191/.272/.289 in 74 games last season and the team may be getting worried about whether he'll ever develop into the star as expected. McGehee is coming off a rough season of his own, hitting just .223/.280/.346 with 13 homers after hitting 23 homers and 104 RBI in 2010. McGehee was replaced by Jerry Hairston Jr. at third base during the playoffs and by former Pirate Aramis Ramirez after the season.

St. Louis Cardinals
Second base: Skip Schumaker vs. Daniel Descalso vs. Tyler Greene

General manager John Mozeliak has insinuated he'd like to see Greene win the job. The 28-year-old has yet to produce at the level expected of him, hitting just .218/.307/.313 in 150 games and 359 plate appearances. Descalso filled in for the injured David Freese last season and responded with a .264/.334/.353 line, while Schumaker is the incumbent having hit .283/.333/.351 while starting 89 games at second, but none in the World Series. All three have some positional versatility.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com