The Friday Night Rumor Mill–January 27, 2006
The Rumor Mill
The acquisition of Frank Thomas by the remodeled A’s could lead to another trade sometime between now and Opening Day. If Thomas can remain healthy, he’ll handle the everyday DH chores, thereby restricting Milton Bradley and Nick Swisher to outfield duty. That could ultimately lead to a trade of Jay Payton, who had a remarkable second half in Oakland, lifting his trade value to an all-time high. Payton would be a great fit for the Indians–assuming the Coco Crisp deal ever becomes finalized–and a better alternative than Jason Michaels, who is unproven as an everyday player. Of course, the Indians would have to give up something other than Arthur Rhodes, who’s been rumored to be the player that would be sent to Philadelphia for Michaels. (It’s amazing that the Phillies would settle for Rhodes in return for Michaels, after having demanded Chien-Ming Wang from the Yankees earlier this winter.) The A’s have already gone down the Rhodes road before and have no interest in bringing the aging left-hander back to the Bay Area bullpen… If the A’s decide to hold onto Payton and platoon him with Swisher in left field, they may end up dealing Bobby Kielty, who has been a disappointment since being acquired from the Blue Jays but seems wasted as a fifth outfielder. As with Payton, the A’s would look for bullpen help and/or a minor league prospect in return… After initially having no interest in Mike Piazza, Yankee GM Brian Cashman has been doing some backtracking and giving some second thoughts to signing the former Met receiver as a part-time DH and backup catcher. While Piazza would certainly be an upgrade over Kelly Stinnett (signed earlier this winter as John Flaherty’s replacement), he’s really not a good fit for the Yankees because he’s too much like Posada (a declining hitter who can’t be trusted to catch everyday). A catching combination of Posada and Piazza might be the game’s worst since Cliff Johnson and Ed Herrmann split catching duties for the ’76 Astros… Don’t believe the talk that has Piazza signing with the Cubs or Phillies. Cubs GM Jim Hendry has already said that the only role available in Chicago would be as a pinch-hitter, which Piazza wouldn’t be able to tolerate. The Phillies won’t likely make a heavy investment in Piazza unless they can shed the contract of Mike Lieberthal, which is easier said than done… Piazza could end up signing with the Padres, who are offering a one-year contract worth $2 million. It would be a strange move for the Padres after giving up starting second baseman Mark Loretta to acquire Doug Mirabelli, who was originally slated to be their No. 1 catcher. So much for the Padres placing more of a premium on defense behind the plate… In reality, it wouldn’t make sense for any National League team to sign Piazza, who simply doesn’t catch well enough to play everyday anymore and has shown little interest in learning the subtleties of playing first base. Without the DH as an option, any National League team would be boxing itself in by adding Piazza…
One of the best bargains on the current free agent market is Russell Branyan, who was released by Milwaukee earlier this offseason despite his productivity as a power hitter against right-handed pitching. Branyan, who can play first base or third base, could be headed to the Devil Rays–a move that might finally lead to the departure of Aubrey Huff. Another underrated player remaining on the free market is former Twin Matthew LeCroy. It’s just a question of finding the right role for LeCroy, who would be ideally suited to work as a platoon DH, backup first baseman, and third-string catcher. (LeCroy’s skills behind the plate simply aren’t good enough to merit regular duty.) If there’s anyone playing today that reminds me of Cliff Johnson, it’s LeCroy…
The Redsâ recent change in ownership and general managers is likely to lead to some fairly heavy trade activity from now till Opening Day. The first order of business could involve the scuttling of Austin Kearns, whom former Reds GM Dan O’ Brien treated as the second coming of Frank Robinson in trade talks. The Reds would like pitching in return for the disappointing Kearns; one recently rumored deal involved the Indians and Jake Westbrook, but was turned down by O’ Brien. Even though Kearns spent a sizeable part of the 2005 season in the minor leagues, he remains the object of several teams’ affections, including the Royals and the Nationals… The Reds are less anxious to deal Adam Dunn, whom they’ve penciled in as Sean Casey’s successor at first base, but will consider a deal that can net them a premier pitcher. One of the teams mentioned is the Dodgers, who have either Derek Lowe or Brad Penny to offer, but neither of those pitchers would be sufficient for the Reds to cut ties with Dunn.
Carlos Martinez (Died on January 25 in Caracas, Venezuela; age 40; undisclosed disease): At one time a highly regarded teenaged shortstop prospect with the New York Yankees, Martinez spent seven seasons as a first baseman and third basemen with the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, and California Angels. (He never actually played a single game at shortstop in the major leagues.) According to his wife, he was forced to retire from playing in 1998 because of the onset of the disease that eventually claimed his life. Nicknamed "Cafe" because of his love of Venezuelan coffee, Martinez batted .258 with 25 home runs, with one of his home runs gaining national notoriety because of rather unusual circumstances. Playing for the Indians at the time, Martinez lofted a fly ball to right field that bounced off of the head of Texas Rangers outfielder Jose Canseco for a home run.