The Friday Night Rumor Mill

Here’s one of the things that’s nice about doing a rumor-based feature like this: there are always a bevy of center fielder-to-the-Yankees stories to fill out a few paragraphs of type space. With that in mind, let’s kick off this weekend’s worth of rumors with a series of speculation that could ultimately produce the successor to Mickey Mantle, Mickey Rivers, Roberto Kelly, and Bernie Williams in Yankee Stadium’s outer pasture… Looking to unload a player who could make $5 million in arbitration, the Marlins have offered Juan Pierre to New York for a package of reliever Scott Proctor and minor league starter Sean Henn. (Don’t believe the talk that the Marlins have demanded either of the Yankees’ top prospects, pitcher Philip Hughes or third baseman Eric Duncan.) The Yankees didn’t reject the asking price of Henn and Proctor; they consider it a fair return package for Pierre, but just aren’t sure if the slumping speedster, whose on-base percentage fell to .326 this year, is the answer to their center field quandaries. Scouting reports on Pierre indicate that he’s declined as both a hitter and fielder, but then again, he’s only 28, and would rate as a major improvement defensively over Bernie Williams, Hideki Matsui, and Tony Womack. In many ways, Pierre looks like a carbon copy of the aforementioned Mickey Rivers; he’s a free-swinging singles hitter who can steal bases, covers lots of ground in center field but takes erratic routes to the ball, and can’t throw much better than Roy White. The Yankees will probably explore other options, but they consider Pierre a fallback possibility… The Yankees would prefer to trade for Philadelphia’s Jason Michaels, but Pat Gillick provided a lesson in why more trades aren’t made in today’s game. In exchange for his part-time outfielder, Gillick asked for Chien Ming-Wang, a proposal that surely tested Brian Cashman’s gag reflex. If Gillick would settle for either Carl Pavano or Aaron Small, then a deal might get done. The Yankees might also be willing to substitute Shawn Chacon for either Small or Pavano, but only if the Phillies throw in another player or two (bullpen help and/or a prospect) to the mix… The Yankees have also talked to the Angels, who are offering the ancient Steve Finley, but the Yankees prefer Darin Erstad, who they feel can make an easy transition back to center field. A onetime Gold Glove outfielder who’s wasted at first base, Erstad’s toughness and hard-nosed approach to the game would make him a good fit in Joe Torre’s clubhouse… In the meantime, the Yankees showed smarts by steadfastly refusing to give in to Tom Gordon’s request for a three-year contract, which he finally received from the bullpen-starved Phillies. Given Gordon’s age (38), history of a tender arm, and his frequent blowups in the postseason, he’s a bad gamble on a three-year deal. The Yankees will gladly take a draft pick as compensation for "Flash."…

With Gordon and Kyle Farnsworth seemingly off the market, several teams have begun to concentrate efforts on Trevor Hoffman. (Hey, if Gordon is worth a three-year deal, does a future Hall of Famer like Hoffman, who’s also 38, merit a four-year deal?) The Orioles, Indians, and Tigers (all of whom liked Gordon) have all shown interest in the changeup specialist. The Braves have not, instead exploring the possibility of signing Todd Jones, who would come much more cheaply than Hoffman…

The Red Sox haven’t shown much interest in any of the available closers, but they’ve quietly done a good job of stockpiling arms for their middle relief corps. The Sox did well in convincing the Marlins to include Guillermo Mota in the Josh Beckett deal and then acquired minor league stalwart Jermaine Van Buren for the always nebulous player to be named later. Though not highly regarded by scouts, Van Buren has done nothing but get people out since the Cubs moved him from starter to reliever at the beginning of the 2004 season…

Though they now insist they won’t be trading Ichiro Suzuki, the Mariners are clearly in the market for some veteran starting pitching. They’ve talked to the Yankees about Carl Pavano, who the Yankees seem strangely reticent to trade. They’re also emerging as one the leading suitors for free agent Matt Morris, a onetime ace who now seems like filler material toward the back-end of a rotation…

The Mets came close to dealing Kris Benson to the Orioles for fallen relief ace Jorge Julio, but now Omar Minaya is having second thoughts. The Mets’ general manager has fielded calls from several other teams for Benson, indicating that the 30-year-old right-hander could fetch more than a struggling middle reliever on the trade market. Ultimately, Minaya would like to clear out the underachieving Benson and the $15 million owed him over the next two season (freeing up some money to take on the salary of a Manny Ramirez or a Barry Zito in the trade market), but he’d be smart to extract as much as he can in a market where mediocre starters are clearly worth more than slumping relievers… Second base remains a high priority for the Mets, who would live to find a middle infielder who can simultaneously fill the role of leadoff man. One player who could be acquired cheaply is free agent D’Angelo Jimenez, who certainly has leadoff skills but is a risky defender who brings baggage of attitude and a poor work ethic. A more expensive solution would be a trade for the Devil Rays’ Julio Lugo, who has the kind of range and speed that the Mets love, but who doesn’t reach base often enough to qualify as a leadoff hitter… The Mets could also expand a Lugo deal to include catcher Toby Hall (which would negate a potential signing of either Bengie Molina or Ramon Hernandez), but they’ve already made it clear they won’t part with Aaron Heilman in such a deal. They’d prefer to deal infield prospect Anderson Hernandez and spare starter Jae Seo, whose production outweighs his reputation… The best solution for the Mets’ second base woes can be found in Florida, where the Marlins are shopping Luis Castillo as heavily as Pierre and catcher Paul LoDuca. Castillo would be a perfect fit for the Mets; though he’s lost much of his speed, he’s an above-average defender, skilled at working the count and drawing walks, and has World Championship experience. The Mets will face competition from the Twins, who are panting at the opportunity to acquire Castillo. The Twins have a deeper farm system, which may enable them to package two good pitching prospects in a deal for the switch-hitting Castillo…

The Padres’ re-signing of Brian Giles indicates that they might not be jumping ship on the 2006 season after all. An outfield of prospect Ben Johnson in left, Mike Cameron in center, and Giles in right could be one of the better trios in the National League. Reduced to a backup role, Dave Roberts becomes trade bait once again—and could be sent back to Boston as part of a package for David Wells. Given their depth in the bullpen, the Padres don’t seem too worried about their ability to replace Trevor Hoffman, but they’d be wise to take a serious run at re-signing Ramon Hernandez, one of the game’s most underrated catchers…

3 Comments

Well, that didn’t take long. The Twins have acquired Luis Castillo from the Marlins for two minor league pitchers, Travis Bowyer and Scott Tyler.

The 2005 list of ex-Marlins now includes Castillo, Josh Beckett, Carlos Delgado, Mike Lowell, and Guillermo Mota–soon to be followed by Paul LoDuca and Juan Pierre.

th yankees should make the trade for juan pierre. he is a speedster and has high career batting average, on base percentage, and runs scored. plus they are getting him for nothing.

they should also trade for erstad or sign travis lee to fill first base position and put giambi at dh were he belongs.

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