Blue Jays Trade Shaun Marcum to Brewers, Sets Up Deal for Zack Greinke?

Shaun Marcum is a very good American League pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays who reportedly was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers Sunday night. There were no indications that the Blue Jays were looking to deal the right hander who has just over three years of major league service time and made just under $1 million last season.

Marcum emerged in 2008 going 9-7 with a 3.39 ERA in 25 starts before hurting his arm. He had Tommy John surgery and missed all of the 2009 season, but he bounced back with a 13-8 record and 3.64 ERA this past year. Marcum is turning 29 years old and seems to be an asset and centerpiece of Toronto’s pitching rotation, begging the question: why would they want to trade him?

The only answer that makes sense is that the Blue Jays are preparing to make a deal for Zack Greinke. Greinke is sick of playing for the non-competitive Kansas City Royals and wants out. Though he has a no-trade clause, he reportedly is willing to accept a trade to any team. Rotoworld has been all over the Greinke trade rumors and pointed out that the Blue Jays have been making a push for the Cy Young winner.

It’s quite likely that trading Marcum for minor league prospects is a precursor to a Zack Greinke trade. Whether the Blue Jays intend on flipping some of the players to KC or keeping them to re-stock their system we don’t know, but one of the two must be the case. Why else would they trade a valuable player like Shawn Marcum?

UPDATE: The Brewers likely gave up second baseman prospect Brett Lawrie in the trade.

Washington Nationals Sign Jayson Werth for 7 years, $126 Million

On a day where the Red Sox may have become the biggest losers of the MLB off-season by missing out on San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez, Jayson Werth worth became the clear-cut winner.  The Winter Meetings are a day away, but the former Phillies outfielder is going to go down as baseball’s luckiest man of the year after signing with the Washington Nationals on Sunday afternoon.

Washington signed Werth to a seven-year, $126 million deal.  It’s a big splash for the Nationals, who are trying to add some established stars to their crop of young talent, but the length of the deal is outrageous.  Werth will be 32 years old in May.  He’s hit over 80 RBI and surpassed 25 home runs only twice in his career.  Werth also struck out more than 140 times during those two seasons, which were his last two with the Phillies.

I guess that’s why Scott Boras is the best in the business.  Ryan Howard is the same age as Werth and a perennial 40-plus homer 125-plus RBI guy, yet the Phillies caught a ton of flack for signing him to a five-year, $125 million extension.  Somehow Boras convinced Washington to sign Werth through age 39 at top dollar.  Come to think of it, I may even assume someone from the Nationals’ front office was drunk when this entire thing went down.

Window Closes for Red Sox to Negotiate Extension With Adrian Gonzalez

Christmas has not come early for Boston Red Sox fans — yet.  Boston reportedly could not reach a long-term extension with Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez during the allotted negotiating period, and as a result the trade has not been finalized.   Sound familiar?  Sox fans were convinced their team had reached a deal with Mark Teixeira two years ago, only to have the Yankees swoop in at the last second.  Earlier in the decade, it looked as though Boston had a deal in place to acquire Alex Rodriguez until the MLB supposedly wouldn’t allow the restructuring of A-Rod’s contract that would have had to take place.

The deal is not completely done, however.  The fact that a trade was in place means the Padres and Red Sox agreed on some sort of exchange, but Gonzalez and his agent could not agree with Boston management on the financial terms of an extension.  A deal could still be hammered out down the road, but the Sox are dangerously close to a public relations disaster.

Having recently purchased a European soccer team, John Henry and the Red Sox ownership can not afford to give fans the impression that they are afraid to open the checkbook an opportunity presents itself.  Red Sox players have even chimed in on the deal and there has been an obvious level of excitement surrounding the team since the trade was revealed.

My gut feeling is that this thing will get done at some point, but the Red Sox are definitely playing with fire.  Gonzalez is reportedly seeking an eight-year deal, but considering he’s only 28 years old that should not come as a surprise to the Sox brass.  If the deal falls through completely, Henry and company will be dealing with an extremely disgruntled fan base.

Cardinals Sign Lance Berkman, May Move Matt Holliday to Right Field

The St. Louis Cardinals were always mentioned as a team interested in free agent Lance Berkman, but I never thought that would happen. St. Louis has Albert Pujols at first base and being a National League team eliminates the DH option (unless they’re paying $8 mil for strictly a World Series DH). Berkman did sign a one-year $8 million deal with the Cardinals on Saturday making it a virtual certainty that he will be moved to the outfield.

Berkman has played first base exclusively the past three years. He played right field for 31 games in 2007 and center field for one game. The last time he played the outfield predominatly in a season was 2004, and it was 2003 where he played left field almost exclusively. Jon Heyman says the Cardinals will have Berkman play left field and move Matt Holliday, who has played left field exclusively his entire career, to right field.

Holliday has offered to move to right field which should not be too difficult of a transition, so long as he’s not trying to catch balls with his cup. $8 million is a lot for a guy who only hit .248 with 14 home runs last season, making it an expensive gamble for a team that has a limited payroll. The true value of the contract depends on Berkman’s ability to have a bounceback year; if he knocks in 90 runs and hits 25 homers with his typical .900 OPS, he’ll be worth the money. Hitting in the same lineup with Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday should bring out the best in Berkman.

Dumb Story Alert: Red Sox Would Have Let Papelbon Go if they Got Rivera

I saw this story Friday night on ESPN.com but did not get a chance to address it until now. One of the main headlines on the site’s front page was that the Red Sox were prepared to let closer Jonathan Papelbon go if they were able to sign Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. The headline and story was one of the dumbest I’ve seen, and it had no business being promoted as a relevant, much less newsworth story.

The story is pointless for obvious reasons: Mariano Rivera had already re-signed with the Yankees when the piece was published. Moreover, there is a better chance of the 1-10 Carolina Panthers making the playoffs than there was of Rivera signing with the Red Sox, so the thinking was irrelevant. What difference does it make what the Red Sox would have done had they signed Rivera?

With this line of thinking, expect the following headlines and stories to appear on LBS in the near future:

+ Larry Brown would purchase NFL team if he had $900 million
+ Steve DelVecchio would date Scarlett Johansson if she showed interest
+ Mississippi State would not have complained if Cam Newton went there

Hopefully their editors are reading this so we can avoid such idiocy in the future.

Red Sox Finally Make a Splash, Trade for Padres’ Adrian Gonzalez

This has gone on too long.  For about two years now, the Boston Red Sox have been “close” to trading for San Diego Padres’ slugger Adrian Gonzalez.  Every winter, every trade deadline, every moment of desperation.  The chess match is over.  Christmas has come early for the Red Sox faithful.  It only took two years and probably about a thousand phone calls, but according to ESPN’s Buster Olney Theo Epstein finally got his man — and all before the Winter Meetings.

Having lost Victor Martinez in free agency over what was reported to be about $4 million, the Red Sox brass had to do something to silence the groans and grumbles down on Yawkey Way.  What better way to have done it than to trade for the best all-around player available on the trade market?

According to the report, Boston will send pitcher Casey Kelly and first baseman Anthony Rizzo — two top prospects in their farm system — along with minor league outfielder Raymond Fuentes to the Padres.  If Olney’s sources are correct, that means Epstein was able to work out a deal while keeping flame thrower Daniel Bard and holding on to Jose Iglesias, another top prospect in Boston’s system that is believed to be a potential solution to their revolving door at shortstop.

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Chicago White Sox Reportedly Closing in on Deals with Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko

What could possibly be better than adding one big free agent bat? How about retaining another. The Chicago White Sox, who finished seven games over .500 and six games behind the Twins in the AL Central last season, reportedly are close to announcing the signing of Adam Dunn. According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Dunn is taking a physical and then the Sox can announce a four-year deal with him reported to be worth $56 million. As if that wasn’t enough, Cowley reports that White Sox players think free agent Paul Konerko will return to the team.

A four-year $56 million deal is slightly less than what Dunn reportedly was hoping for ($60 million), but that is the type of deal he deserves. The big slugger took a huge paycut signing with the Nats for just $20 million over two years in 2009. He had the misfortune of becoming a free agent for the first time when the economy entered the recession and signed a short-term deal with the hope of cashing in on another deal. That opportunity has come and it looks like Dunn will finally be paid.

Dunn has earned a reputation as Mr. Consistency. He hit exactly 40 home runs four straight seasons with the Reds (and part of 2008 after being traded to Arizona) and then he hit 38 home runs in both seasons with the Nats. He’s driven in at least 100 runs six times and has a career OPS of .902. He has clubbed 282 home runs since 2004, more than any baseball player except Albert Pujols. Dunn is a premier slugger in the game and will be an excellent addition to Chicago’s lineup.

Paul Konerko is 34 years old and coming off his finest season as a pro. He’s been with the White Sox since 1999 and driven in at least 90 runs eight times for them, clubbing at least 30 home runs six times. Bringing Konerko back gives the White Sox a slugger at first base to hold down the middle of the lineup as he has been for over a decade. The Adam Dunn signing keeps Chicago as a contender in the AL Central race, retaining Konerko makes them a legitimate threat to win the division and be a playoff force.