Friday, December 31, 2010

Brewers agree to one-year deal with Saito

The Brewers have agreed to terms with veteran reliever Takashi Saito on a one-year contract, adding yet another new arm to a pitching staff that has undergone a complete overhaul since the calendar turned to December.
Saito's base salary will be less than $2 million, but he can earn bonuses to push his earnings close to the $3.2 million Saito pocketed from the Braves in 2010, when the right-hander posted a 2.83 ERA in 56 games. He will be 41 by Opening Day.
The Brewers' offices are closed this week for the holiday, so the club will not make an official announcement about Saito until next week. But a baseball source with knowledge of the deal confirmed it Monday, after the news started breaking in Japan.
"He pitched a lot of eighth innings for the Braves, setting up Billy Wagner, and [the Brewers] liked that about him," the source said. "He's almost a Solomon Torres-type, the kind of guy with experience in the late innings who could step in and save a game when you have three or four save opportunities in a row. Solomon was probably a little more of a workhorse, but [Saito] has the same experience."
Torres pitched for the Brewers in 2008 and eventually took over closer duties from Eric Gagne, helping the Brewers win the National League Wild Card.
Saito has pitched the past five years in the Major Leagues after beginning his career in Japan and has a 2.19 ERA, 84 saves and a 1.02 WHIP in 292 appearances since the move. He's pitched for the Dodgers, Red Sox and Braves.
In Milwaukee, Saito will join a late-inning bullpen mix that includes fellow right-handed veteran LaTroy Hawkins and two young pitchers, second-year closer John Axford and left-hander Zach Braddock. Assuming Saito stays healthy, the Brewers could bump right-hander Kameron Loe to more of a seventh-inning role along with recently-added right-hander Sean Green. Left-hander Manny Parra is expected to fill another bullpen slot.
If any of those pitchers experiences a setback before Opening Day, the Brewers will have right-handers Brandon Kintzler, Mike McClendon, Justin James and Rule 5 Draft pick Pat Egan all vying for big league bullpen jobs in Spring Training, plus left-hander Mitch Stetter and non-roster invitee Mark DiFelice, a righty working his way back from a 2010 season lost to shoulder surgery.
"There will be some competition," the source said.
When Saito's contract is finalized, the Brewers' 40-man roster will be full. His signing capped a busy December that began with the team trading for Blue Jays right-hander Shaun Marcum, a blockbuster trade for Royals righty and 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke and the much less-heralded addition of former Mets reliever Green.
Saito is represented by CAA Sports, the same agency that has Greinke and Brewers All-Star outfielders Ryan Braun and Corey Hart.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Royals deal Greinke to Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers made a stunning and bold move by agreeing to acquire ace Zack Greinke in a six-player trade with the Royals, has confirmed.
The Royals will receive speedy outfielder Lorenzo Cain, young shortstop Alcides Escobar, right-handed pitching prospect Jake Odirizzi and a player to be named later for Greinke and veteran shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, who presumably will take Escobar's place in the Brewers' infield. Kansas City will also send $2 million in the deal to Milwaukee to cover part of the salary of Betancourt, who is to make $4 million this year and has a $2-million buyout on 2012.
The deal is pending physicals and the commissioner's approval.
The Royals felt they had little choice but to trade Greinke, who has occasionally expressed displeasure about the team's progress toward contention and is reported to have requested a trade within the last week. An announcement regarding this trade is expected sometime today.
There is no reason to expect any holdup in the trade because the Royals and Brewers have agreed on contingency plans should one of the prospects be found to have a medical issue.
The Brewers were not on Greinke's list of 15 teams to which he would be traded to without approval, but Milwaukee was on previous lists of teams he'd accept. Locale was potentially an issue in some cases because of Greinke's past battle with social anxiety disorder but he is said to like Milwaukee.
Greinke, 27, was 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA last season. He won the AL Cy Young in 2009 after going 16-8 with 2.16 ERA and 242 strikeouts and in six seasons with the Royals, was 60-67 with a 3.82 ERA. He was drafted No. 6 overall in 2002.
The Royals were looking for middle infield help and very much like the talented Escobar, who many believe underachieved as a rookie last year in Milwaukee. The Royals were also seeking pitching help and would have preferred to get a pitcher closer to the big leagues than Odirizzi, but he is said to have huge upside. Cain is highly-touted and was sought by several teams.
In all, Kansas City added to one of the more impressive lists of prospects in baseball. The Royals' top prospects include third baseman Mike Moustakas, first baseman Eric Hosmer, infielder Cristian Colon and catcher Wil Myers. Colon is seen as a possible shortstops but the importing of Escobar could force a move to second base for Colon, who should be ready in the near future. Most of the Royals' best prospects are a year away, though, which hastened Greinke's departure since he's only under contract for two more years.
The Royals came close to a trade with the Nationals earlier this winter, according to sources, but Greinke told the Royals he wouldn't go to Washington, halting those talks. The trade discussions with the Nats revolved around young right-hander Drew Storen, shortstop Daniel Espinosa and others, sources say. Greinke, who is to make $13.5 million in each of the next two seasons, has expressed a desire to pitch for a winner and people familiar with his rejection of the Nats say he was not convinced they'd contend soon.
The Brewers, which earlier added pitcher Shaun Marcum, look like a contender in the NL Central now. Star first baseman Prince Fielder, previously thought to be a potential trade candidate this winter, looks certain to stay now. Milwaukee had been talking to Carl Pavano, who will now consider the Twins and perhaps the Nationals, Rangers or others.
The Blue Jays were another team that tried this winter to land Greinke, while the Rangers were among many other teams that talked to the Royals about the ace, who won the American League Cy Young award in 2009.
Greinke within the past several days told the Royals he's consider a trade to the Yankees even though they also were not on his list, but some family members were skeptical as to whether New York would be the right place for him, as were the Yankees. The reason Greinke was open to New York is that he wants to win. The teams talked a couple times in the past week but never came close to a trade.
The player to be named in the deal could change, depending on medicals. However, all sides are confident a deal will not be jeopardized.
The deal was first mentioned by Bernie's Crew Blog, a fan site on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel web site and then by