John Buck signs with Toronto Blue Jays

Major League Baseball

John Buck; Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Lexington Legends Hall of Fame catcher John Buck wasn’t unemployed for long. One day after being non-tendered by the Kansas City Royals, Buck signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. Jayson Stark of ESPN.com first reported the signing. Buck hit .247 with eight home runs and 36 RBI in 59 games for the Royals in 2009. In six years, Buck has hit .235 with 70 home runs and 259 RBI.

During the inaugural 2001 Lexington Legends season, Buck led the team to the South Atlantic League championship after batting .275 with 22 home runs and 73 RBI.

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Buck, Anderson become free agents; Uggla stays for now

Major League Baseball

Josh Anderson; Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The arbitration deadline has come and gone and several new free agents are now available to major league teams, including two Kentucky alumni. Find out which former Bluegrass players are looking for new teams and what others will be sticking around in there previous homes below:

  • Dick Kaegel of MLB.com reports the Kansas City Royals non-tendered a couple of former Lexington Legends in catcher John Buck and outfielder Josh Anderson. Anderson is a Somerset-native and played collegiately at Eastern Kentucky University.
  • The Marlins offered a contract to Louisville-native Dan Uggla. All indications still point toward the Marlins moving Uggla before Spring Training.
  • UK-alum Joe Blanton was tendered a contract by the Phillies.
  • The Astros did offer contracts to Legends Hall of Famers Hunter Pence and Wandy Rodriguez.

Non-Tender Day: Buck likely out in Kansas City

Major League Baseball

John Buck; Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The deadline for Major League Baseball teams to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players is tonight at midnight. Many of the eligible players will be tendered a contract, but those who don’t will become free agents. One player with Kentucky connections who is virtually guaranteed to be non-tendered today is Lexington Legends Hall of Famer John Buck. Buck was the catcher on the inaugural Legends team and has spent his first six professional seasons with the Kansas City Royals. The Royals signed veteran catcher Jason Kendall Friday to take Buck’s starting spot.

You can see the arbitration-elgible Kentucky alumni here.

Blanton may be key to Halladay trade; Uggla remains a Marlin

College Baseball, Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Joe Blanton; Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Winter Meetings are over and not a lot of BluGrass Baseball players have moved teams. Dan Uggla remains a Marlin, Corey Hart a Brewer and Scott Downs a Blue Jay. Todd Wellemeyer, Austin Kearns and Paul Byrd all remain unemployed. Each of the those players and several other Kentucky alumni could still end up elsewhere to start 2010 so keep checking back to BluGrass Baseball for the latest news.

  • Jordan Bastian of MLB.com writes the Philadelphia Phillies will likely have to move UK alum Joe Blanton before making a serious run at Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay.
  • Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports that even after the Winter Meetings, trading Louisville-native Dan Uggla remains high on the Marlins’ agenda.
  • Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post writes while Uggla remains a Marlin for now, Florida will still likely have a new second baseman to start 2010.
  • Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reports the San Francisco Giants are looking to add some power to the lineup, but Uggla is not the Giants’ first choice.
  • Aaron Fitt of Baseball America doesn’t under stand the James Paxton camp’s strategy of prolonging its lawsuit against the University of Kentucky. He thinks if Paxton has any chance to play in 2010 he might be best served by meeting with investigators and proceeding from there.
  • The Louisville Bats named Matt Andrews their new director of broadcasting. Andrews also serves as the Morehead State men’s basketball lead radio broadcaster.

Burke signs with hometown team; Green released

Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Chris Burke; Photo by grovesa16 via Flickr

Two quick transactions from Kentucky minor leaguers to pass along; first the good news then the bad. C. Trent Rosecrans of CNATI.com reports Louisville-native Chris Burke has signed a minor-league contract with the Cincinnati Reds. Burke will compete for a major league utility spot with the Reds in Spring Training, and if he doesn’t make the team he’ll begin 2009 with his hometown Louisville Bats. “I think we see him as a potential candidate for the utility role on the major league club and if nothing else, he’ll play at Louisville, he’s from Louisville, it’s his hometown and he’s very excited about the possibility to play for either club,” Reds GM Walt Jocketty told Rosecrans. “He’s an experienced guy that might be able to help us.” (Read more)

In less positive news for Bluegrass fans, Lexington-native and University of Kentucky alum Andy Green was released by the New York Mets Thursday. The Mets made the procedural move to free up space on their 40-man roster. Green now becomes a free agent.

BluGrass Baseball Rule 5 Recap

Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Ben Jukich; Photo by mwlguide via Flickr

We told you earlier about one Kentucky minor league team member that was selected in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft, but he wasn’t the only player with Bluegrass ties taken. The St. Louis Cardinals selected 2009 Louisville Bats starting pitcher Ben Jukich with the 16th pick in the first round of the major league portion of the draft. “The idea is that he could be anything, really,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak told Matthew Leach of MLB.com. “He’s someone who can pitch more than an inning. He has been used in the past as a starter. He gives us some flexibility.” For now Jukich looks to be a long-reliever for the team. (Read more)

Two former Lexington Legends were selected in the AAA portion of the draft. Right-handed pitcher Jose Duran, who was 2-1 with a 1.66 ERA in eight games with the Legends in 2008, was selected by the Norfolk Tides in the Baltimore Orioles organization. Duran spent 2009 at high A Lancaster where he was 2-5 with an 8.06 ERA. Outfielder Nick Moresi, who spent parts of 2007 and 2008 in Lexington, was selected by the Syracuse Chiefs of the Washington Nationals organization. Moresi batted .223 in 101 games between high A Lancaster and AA Corpus Christi in 2009.

You can see every Rule 5 pick here.

BluGrass Baseball Rule Five Preview

Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

John Shelby; Photo: UK Athletics

UPDATE: In further proof of why I’m a graduate student/freelance journalist, the major-league portion of the Rule 5 draft is over and Shelby wasn’t selected. However, 2009 Louisville Bats starting pitcher Ben Jukich was nabbed by the St. Louis Cardinals. LHP Jukich was 9-6 with a 4.10 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 123 IP. He probably doesn’t fit in the Cardinals rotation so he’ll need to stick with the team as a lefty reliever or be returned to the Reds.

It’s Thursday of the Winter Meetings, so that means we are just minutes away from the always exciting Rule 5 draft. In all seriousness, the rule 5 is generally one of the most talked about baseball events with the littlest action. Of course we’ve all heard the success stories (e.g. Louisville-native Dan Uggla and Cy Young winner Johan Santana) but the vast majority of rule five picks will not finish the season with the teams that select them, and will probably have very little impact. With that said, here’s a brief rundown of the Rule 5 eligibility rules and a look at one Kentucky alum that might be selected.

Players who are not protected on their organization’s major-league 40-man roster and signed at age 19 or older in 2006 or 18 and younger in 2005 are eligible for this year’s draft. Or a more understandable definition: most college players from the 2006 draft and 2005 high school draftees and international signees are eligible. Rule 5 selections must stay on the major league active roster for the entire season or be returned For Kentucky fans, it’s safe to say most of the upper-minor league players are eligible with the exception of the few on a 40-man roster.

The Kentucky alum most likely to be selected might be former UK star John Shelby. I confirmed that Shelby was eligible for the draft with Ben Badler of Baseball America, and he could fit with a MLB team as a fifth outfielder with speed this season. Shelby struggled to the tune of a .243 batting average with 10 home runs and 49 RBI in AA in 2009, but was ranked on the White Sox top prospect list as recently as 2008. If I’m a team looking high reward player in the draft who could actually contribute to a major league team as a defensive replacement or pinch runner I look Shelby’s way.

Here’s Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com’s Rule 5 preview, and the latest buzz from Baseball America.

Astros trade Lexington Legend pitcher for Lindstrom

Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post is reporting the Houston Astros today traded 2009 Lexington Legend Robert Bono and two other minor leaguers to the Tampa Bay Rays for relief pitcher Matt Lindstrom. Bono was 10-8 with a 3.20 ERA in 25 games for the Legends this season. The right-hander had 66 strikeouts in 143.1 innings pitched and completed three games for Lexington. (Read more)

BA: Collin Cowgill is D’Backs ninth best prospect

Minor League Baseball

Colling Cowgill; Photo: UK Athletics

Baseball America has stepped away from the Winter Meetings madness long enough to release its top ten Arizona Diamondbacks prospects, and UK alum Collin Cowgill checks in at number nine on the list. Cowgill originally was slotted at ten, but he moved up a spot after the D’Backs shipped Daniel Schlereth to the Yankees in the Curtis Granderson blockbuster.  Arizona, who’s best pitcher and offensive player were both born in the Bluegrass state, is positioned to become Kentucky west with Cowgill and former UK teammate Sean Coughlin moving through the system. (Full List)

Here’s a look at Cowgill’s injury-shortened 2009 season and a snippet of BA analysis:

#9 — OF Collin Cowgill — High A Visalia — UK

  • .277, 6 HR, 36 RBI, 61 games
  • .277/.373/.445
  • BA: “Cowgill earned the right to open 2010 in Double-A after hitting well in his two months at Visalia. On a contender, he profiles as a fourth outfielder who can provide righthanded pop and constant energy.”

Paxton camp responds to UK’s legal move

College Baseball

James Paxton; Photo: UK Athletics

The James Paxton camp has filed its reply to the University of Kentucky‘s response to Paxton’s lawsuit. Paxton’s attorneys argue “their client’s rights as a student were violated under the Student Code of Conduct, and that he is not a member of the NCAA. According to the reply, colleges, universities and athletic conferences are members,” B. W. Jones reports for the Kentucky Kernel. In an interview with the Kernel, Richard Johnson, one of Paxton’s attorneys, said neither Paxton nor Scott Boras could be compelled to reveal if Boras negotiated on Paxton’s behalf with the Toronto Blue Jays because that would constitute a violation of attorney-client privilege. (Read more)