Money Worries Could Force Reds to Move All-Star Phillips, Others
CHICAGO -- The Reds' need to slash payroll, according to a major league source, could lead them to explore trading second baseman Brandon Phillips as well as right-handers Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang.
Cincinnati's 2009 payroll was about $71 million. General manager Walt Jocketty said during a break Tuesday at the GM Meetings that he "might" have to move some high-salaried players to meet the 2010 goal.
"We're going to probably have less to spend this year than we have in the past," Jocketty told FanHouse. "It just depends on how [ticket] sales go this offseason."
Cincinnati's total attendance fell from 2.06 million in 2008 to 1.75 million this year, a drop of more than 15 percent.
The source above said the Reds plan to cut back to $65-70 million, which is a challenge in part because of raises due Harang ($11 million to $12.5 million), Arroyo (from $9.5 million to $11 million) and Phillips (from $4.75 million to $5 million).
With their salaries and so-so 2009 seasons, the pitchers would be hard to trade without the Reds taking on some of their pay. So Cincinnati's best bet could be finding a taker for Phillips, who last season hit .276 with 30 doubles, 20 homers, 98 RBI and 25 stolen bases.
The source said the Reds would prefer to keep closer Francisco Cordero, who has two years and $25 million left on his deal. They also need a shortstop and a catcher and have a decision to make at first base, where Joey Votto hit .322 but prospect Yonder Alonso (.838 OPS in the minors last season) seems close to being ready.
• In a 180-degree turn from predecessor J.P. Ricciardi, new Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos declined any comment on whether he will trade ace Roy Halladay. But baseball sources expect that to happen this winter, with one GM predicting the Dodgers as a landing spot.
• Detroit is probably content to let second baseman Placido Polanco sign elsewhere as a free agent and replace him with prospect Scott Sizemore, who by spring training is expected to be recovered by from a broken ankle suffered in the Arizona Fall League. It would seem to make sense for the Tigers to re-sign shortstop Adam Everett, a defensive specialist who could help a rookie double-play partner.
• Washington should name its manager by the end of the week. A source confirmed the FOXSports.com report that Jim Riggleman, who finished out the 2009 season as interim manager, and Bobby Valentine are the finalists. One major league source said the decision will be based on who can help the team develop -- rather than public personality -- which seems to point to Riggleman.
Once that is settled, the Nats may target a veteran starting pitcher to top off and mentor their young rotation. Jon Garland and Randy Wolf are free agents who fit the profile.
Washington seems committed to Adam Dunn at first base with an outfield of Josh Willingham, Nyjer Morgan and Elijah Dukes. And Ian Desmond (.280 as a September call-up) will get a chance to be the everyday shortstop.
• One official from another team expects the Red Sox to trade for a left fielder to replace Jason Bay, in part because they see Bay's rough two-month stretch from late June to late August -- .214 average with 59 strikeouts in 168 at-bats -- as a red flag. But another major league source said Boston is still engaged with Bay, a free agent. The Giants, in dire need of offense, could also get involved with the slugger.
San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean said his team won't be used as a pawn in a bidding war.
"You've got to be realistic," Sabean said. "Do they really want to come to San Francisco versus the people they are going to be talking to, including their own teams? We'll gauge in that way. People who are interested in San Francisco sincerely, we'll be interested in. Are we going to chase people we have no chance of signing?"
The Giants may have a tough time convincing a slugger to play in San Francisco because AT&T Park is so pitcher-friendly.
"If you can hit, you can hit," Sabean said. "The ballpark shouldn't bother you."
• Johnny Damon just turned 36, but, as you'd expect, that's not going to deter Scott Boras from seeking as long a contract as he can get.
"The thing I'll say about Johnny is his durability is off the charts," Boras said. "It's like when I had Maddux on the market at age 37 and he got a four-year deal. Johnny Damon is at the point he's played 12 years and played 140-plus games and put up this remarkable career. Then you are talking about Pete Rose and all those players who went on to play till they were 40 at very high levels. Chronological age does not have anything to do with a player of his genetics."
Boras also said that Damon would not necessarily want to wait until he goes on the open market to re-sign with the Yankees, even though he conceded that it is customary for Boras clients to test the waters.
"If there is a deal that comes across the table that Johnny is happy with, I'm sure he'd sign quickly," Boras said.
• The Angels have started a dialogue with all of their free agents, including the two big ones, John Lackey and Chone Figgins. General manager Tony Reagins said it's too early to tell how those negotations will go.
He said neither player has closed the door on re-signing with the Angels before the end of the 15-day exclusive negotiating window.
• After the main portion of the GM Meetings on Tuesday morning, there was a second meeting just for the assistant GMs. Essentially, that's the meeting where they discuss topics so mundane that MLB officials know that the GMs would leave if they were invited.
"We spent 20 minutes talking about urine samples," one assistant GM said.