What’s Next: Leo Nunez, Manny Ramirez, James Shields, and More Bobby V


In 2003, the Detroit Tigers lost an American League record 119 games. As the World Series begins tonight, the San Francisco Giants are starting a lineup that features two members of that historically bad baseball team in centerfielder Andres Torres and right fielder Cody Ross. While Ross, who made his major league debut that season, played in only six games in 2003, Torres saw action in 59 contests. Perhaps those two should’ve seen more playing time.  Let’s see what’s happening around the majors.

Nunez to be non-tendered?

MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro, in answering fan questions during a “mailbag” piece recently said that there were no guarantees that right hander Leo Nunez would be back with the Marlins next year. Nunez, who lost his closer’s job during a rough stretch in August, complied 56 saves over the past two season with Florida. Speculation is that the second-time arbitration eligible Nunez could fetch as much as $4 million through an arbiter, which would double his 2010 salary.

The Marlins won’t like to stomach those numbers, as they typically build bullpens with players making far less. Should Nunez hit the open market, he’ll become one of the most highly-sought after relievers. Having just turned 27, Nunez has appeared in 143 games over the past two season, posting a 2.7-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio including a 3.3-to-1 this past season. He has fanned nearly a batter per inning over the past two years.

The list of teams that would be interested in obtaining Nunez would be vast, as any team needing a reliable veteran arm would have an eye on him. If Nunez prefers to close, he could find a home with a handful of teams, possibly including the Angels, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Pirates, Rays, and Blue Jays.

Manny being a Blue Jay?

Manny Ramirez spoke with ESPN.com’s Enrique Rojas recently and apparently gave his thoughts about his long-time love of the Toronto Blue Jays. I say apparently because the Rojas piece in in Spanish, so I have to rely on the word of Mat Germain at Jays Journal.

Ramirez also said, according to MLBTR, that he had surgery two weeks ago to correct a hernia and that he never at full strength during the 2009 season. As Germain points out, Ramirez played in Boston while new Jays skipper John Farrell was the team’s pitching coach, so certainly there will be some familiarity there.

If the Jays were to add Ramirez, it would be as a strictly-DH option. In order to make that happen, Adam Lind, who has been DH-ing in Toronto would move to first base, replacing the outgoing Lyle Overbay.

Given his recent injury problems and his advancing age, Ramirez, 38, will never see the huge paychecks he saw even last year. But at a one-year deal for $5-7 million, Ramirez could be a force in an already power-laden Jays lineup that features Jose Bautista, Lind, Vernon Wells, and Aaron Hill, each of whom clubbed at least 20 home runs last season.

Who are these guys?

If you attend a Tampa Bay Rays game next year, and there should be plenty of good seats available, you’ll probably have a hard time recognizing many of the players on the field. As Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tells us, the Rays could be seeing a mass exodus of talent this winter.

Beyond Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, and Carlos Pena, all of who were expected to leave, Cafardo says that most of the talented bullpen will be jettisoned as well. Chad Qualls, Grant Balfour, Lance Cormier, and Randy Choate are all expected to hit the market and Dan Wheeler‘s $4 million option could be declined as well.

Cafardo also mentions that the Rays will look to cut costs by entertaining offers for at least one of their starting pitchers, he mentions James Shields. Moving Shields would free up a rotation spot for Jeremy Hellickson and free up a minimum of $6.25 million in payroll. Shields will make $4.25 million in 2011 and is owed at least a $2 million buyout on his $7 million club option for 2012. (Cot’s Contracts)

Shields is coming off a disappointing campaign that saw him lead the American league in most hits allowed, most earned runs allowed, and most home runs allowed, along with a 13-15 record and 5.18 ERA. Any team that acquires him could be in line for a nice bounce-back season, however. Shields posted a very solid K:BB ratio  of 3.67-to-1 and the highest strikeout rate of his career in 2010, but was victimized by an insanely-high BABiP of .354, despite posting a line drive rate just slightly higher than his career numbers.

De la Rosa to test the market

One of the possibilities to land Shields is the Colorado Rockies, where Troy Renck of the Denver Post suggested that very scenario via twitter.

Left hander Jorge de la Rosa is expected to decline Colorado’s arbitration offer, when it happens, and see what kind of deal the market will bear for him. De la Rosa will be just ahead of the Type-A cutoff, so if he signs elsewhere, Colorado will bank two draft picks. Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd maintains that signing the southpaw remains a top priority and the Rockies are preparing an aggressive offer to keep him. It is expected that Ted Lilly‘s 3-year, $33 million deal he signed with the Dodgers recently will be a model after which de la Rosa’s deal will be patterned.

In that same tweet, Renck mentioned Angels catcher Mike Napoli as another trade target. The Rockies are believed to have interest in Victor Martinez as a part-time catcher, part-time first baseman, but with Martinez’s price expected to be prohibitive, the Rockies will look to the Angels to find that player.

Will Valentine Manage in 2011?

When Bobby valentine returned to the United States before the 2010 season, after another successful stint as a manager in Japan, it was assumed it wouldn’t take long for him to find work State-side. Although he has been connected to several openings, Valentine has yet to land a job doing anything other than analyst work.

Though he has been rumored to have been offered the job in Florida, perhaps twice, he has turned down that chance and was beaten out for the Mariners job by Eric Wedge, despite being labeled as the front-runner by the national media.

Now Valentine is rumored to be among the four finalists for the vacant job in Milwaukee, where Ken Macha was let go after the season. Ken Rosenthal tweeted that he’s hearing Valentine is at least in the mix, but wonders in the Brewers would be willing to pay for Valentine, and wonders if Valentine would go anyway.

Tim Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Monday that two of the four finalists were White Sox bench coach Joey Cora and former D-backs manager Bob Melvin. Haudricourt also named Angels’ coach Ron Roenicke as a possible finalist and guessed that Valentine could be the fourth candidate.

If Valentine fails to land the Brewers gig, he could be looking at another season manning the sets of ESPN, as available positions are drying up quickly. It is unlikely that Valentine would agree to manage the Pirates and he’s already turned down the Marlins, so it could be Mets-or-bust for Bobby V in 2011.

New York hired Sandy Alderson as their new GM today. Alderson worked successfully with Tony La Russa for more than a decade in Oakland, so he has shown the ability to co-exist with a strong personality as his manager in the past. While I still doubt a Valentine-Mets reunion is in the works, the possibility is there and that could be exactly what Valentine has been waiting for since he came back to the US.