Saturday, January 31, 2009
Juan Pierre will never be confused for Albert Pujols. Pierre, 31, has never hit more than home runs in a season during his nine year career in the majors. However, as any baseball fan will tell you, power is not Pierre's game. Instead Pierre is your classic singles hitter, who gives opposing pitchers fits with his propensity to steal bases. Pierre is a good player even with his various offensive limitations.
With that said, I think everyone can agree that Juan Pierre is not worth $44 million dollars over 5 years that the Dodgers handed him. So what the hell were you thinking, Los Angeles?
Why Sign Pierre: Lemme take everyone back to the off season of 2006. The Dodgers, fresh off an appearance in the NLDS, were looking to upgrade their average offense after losing JD Drew to free agency. However, there was a severe lack of power hitters on the free agent market so the Dodgers elected to do a complete 180 and go after Pierre, who has no power, but tons of speed.
The thought of pairing Pierre and Rafael Furcal made Dodgers GM Ned Colletti salivate. He envisioned a lineup where he would have two guys at the top of the order consistently getting on base and running a muck on the base paths. The speed of Furcal and Pierre was supposed to jump start the Dodgers power-less offense and give the middle of the order lots of opportunities to drive in runs.
What Went Wrong: In his first season with the Dodgers, Pierre gave the Dodgers exactly the kind of production that they paid for when they signed him. He scored over 90 runs, stole 64 bases, and hit a solid .292 for the season. Even with that stellar production, trouble was a brewin'.
That was because the Dodgers, who wanted Pierre for his speed, decided that they needed to add more power to their lineup for the 2008 season. Enter Andruw Jones. We all know how that turned out.
But this move left Pierre as the odd man out for the Dodgers, who already had Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to fill the other two outfield positions. Pierre was relegated to the bench and he instantly became the second most expensive fourth outfielder in baseball (next to Gary Matthews Jr.). Needless to say, Pierre was miserable in his new role.
Future Implications: The Dodgers are now stuck with Pierre for the next three seasons as he will presumably soak up a good amount of time on the bench. He is still owed another $28.5 million bucks over the next three seasons, which is quite a commitment for a guy who is not in line to receive significant playing time. The Dodgers would be better off trading Pierre if they can find a taker for his large contract.
Perhaps the Dodgers will still be able to get some use out of Pierre if they cannot come to terms with Manny Ramirez. However, a more likely scenario is the Dodgers going after someone like Adam Dunn if they fail to sign Ramirez instead of simply handing the reigns over to Pierre. Because once again, the Dodgers need a power hitter.
It's safe to say that if the Dodgers intend to keep Pierre for the next three seasons as a backup, then he will be miserable. That's quite a far cry from the wonderful locker room presence Pierre became in Colorado, Chicago, and Florida.
Lesson Learned: Identify what direction you want to take you ball club and stick to it. If you want to build around power hitters, do it. If you want to build around speed, do it. Whichever way the cookie may crumble, you have to stay committed to the plan and to the players.
Because Colletti opted to go in a different direction after committing to Pierre and his speed, now the Dodgers have a very expensive fourth outfielder, who is probably going to be rather unhappy in his role.
It is still amazing to me that Pierre was able to get five years from Colletti especially when you consider that Colletti has made a name for himself in baseball by giving veterans short term contracts (Rafael Furcal, Jason Schmidt, Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, etc) that would not hurt the long term prospects of the franchise. Yet somehow, Pierre was able to weasel five years out of Colletti...how did that happen?
Once again Ned, stick to the plan.
Friday, January 30, 2009
This rule officially takes the Yankees out of the running for any other type A or B free agents. Yes Yankee fans, that means the pipe dreams of signing Manny Ramirez and Ben Sheets are over.
"The most commonly held misconception of this offseason is that the Yankees could have signed pitcher Ben Sheets or could still sign left-fielder Manny Ramirez if only there were a few million dollars remaining in the Steinbrenner bank.
Both assumptions are incorrect. According to the Basic Agreement, and confirmed by a top Major League Baseball official, once the Yankees signed CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira, they had signed their quota of Type A or Type B free agents under the collectively bargained rules established by management and the Players Association." mlb.com
I guess this rule prevents the Yankees from building a super-duper all star team with their abundance of resources. I severely doubt the Yankees would have seriously pursued either guy, but hey, it's the principle that counts.
Fun side note: maybe this rule is why the Yankees continued to pursue Andy Pettitte even after he rejected their initial offer. Unless the Yankees were willing to settle with Tim Redding or Odalis Perez, then Pettitte was by far their best option. I'm guessing if the Yankees missed out on Pettitte for whatever reason then they simply would have slid Phil Hughes into the 5th spot in the rotation instead of signing a scrub. It all makes sense now.
Update (12:57 PM): Apparently this report is untrue, which is amazing to me considering that MLB labor relations guru Rob Manfred was heavily quoted in the article. Either the reporter did some shotty reporting or Manfred simply does not know the rules.
The great Peter Abraham notes that the Yankees believe that they can sign up to eight type A free agents. The Manny Ramirez to the Yankees rumors will have to live for at least another day.
However, as January comes to a close, Ramirez remains a free agent. If you had told me back in December that Ramirez would still be a free agent this late in the off season, I would have said you're crazy. But hey, I guess that's how the market works sometimes.
It's amazing how quiet the market for Ramirez has been throughout the off season. At times, I found myself forgetting that Manny was actually a free agent simply because there was no buzz or rumors about his potential landing spot. How strange is that?
This off season has been brutal for Ramirez so far. Instead of having multiple teams throwing millions of dollars his way, Ramirez has only received one offer to date (from the Dodgers) and agent Scott Boras has been unable to drum up competition for Ramirez. Despite his fantastic two months with Dodgers, teams have shied away from Ramirez because of his age, inability to play defense, and his reputation as a clubhouse cancer.
But let's be honest, It is about the money, stupid (great blog by the way).
So what teams are still in play for Ramirez at this point? Better question, what teams can afford Ramirez's still exorbinant price tag (likely over $20 mil per season). Let's take a look:
Dodgers: Still the favorite. The Dodgers need Manny. Manny needs the Dodgers. On the surface, this should be the perfect match, but the Dodgers seem reluctant to increase their original offer (2 years/$45 mil) and Ramirez and Boras seem set on waiting for a better offer to come their way.
Giants: To me, they are the wild card in the Manny sweepstakes. The Giants, like the Dodgers, are one big bat away from seriously competing in the National League. Manny would be the ideal fit for the Giants and would instantly jump start their push into the post season. But like many teams, you have to wonder if the Giants have the money to spend on Ramirez at this point (thanks Barry Zito!).
Angels: Now we're talking. This is where I think Manny makes the most sense. He could DH/play some left for the Angels while providing great protection for Vladimir Guerrero. Manny would turn a decent lineup into a scary lineup just by his mere presence. The Angels need to get with the program and make a run at Manny while he is still on the board. Mark my words: Manny could lead the Angels to a title.
Cardinals: Albert Pujols wants Manny, but GM John Mozeliak quickly shot down the idea. Buzzkill!
Nationals: Manny would be a great fit here. The Nationals NEED some buzz. Gimme a reason to care, Jim Bowden!
But like so many other places, there are multiple issues. The Nationals have about ten outfielders (no joke) on their roster and seem content not spending any money this off season unless it's a ridiculous deal for the club.
Mets: Seemingly every blog or writer wants to find a way to link the Mets to Boras and Ramirez, but to date, the Mets have shown no interest in Ramirez. He would be a welcome fit in the middle of the Mets lineup and Jerry Manuel has publically stated that he'd welcome Ramirez, but right now the Mets need to focus on pitching. I would love to see Manny with the Mets, but the realist in me says this ain't happening.
And yes, Mets fans did hold a "Manny Rally." Gotta love Mets fans!
Yankees: After signing Teixeira and acquiring Swisher...fughedaboutit.
The market for Manny has been very slow to develop, but for the sake of the hot stove, I hope it heats up real soon. It's starting to get rather cold in here.
Well, after tense moments of elbowing and shoving, I got the autograph. Woooooooooooo! Satisfied with my conquest, I placed the card into a protective holder thinking that I would hold onto this card forever as a momento to when I met the great Andruw Jones before a game at Shea Stadium.
Anyone think I could get .50 cents for that autograph now?
Because wow, Jones has been terrible over the past two seasons. Jones went from being an MVP candidate and one of the top power hitters in baseball to one of the biggest mysteries seemingly overnight. Jones's swing has become long, ugly, and pull happy while he seems to have lost the ability to go the other way.
In 2007, Jones struggled with the Braves in his final season with the team by hitting only .222 with 26 home runs. Baseball people feared that Jones had lost a step and was now on the decline, but the Dodgers decided to take a chance on the one time wonder boy by giving him a two year contract.
And then in 2008 Jones bottomed out to historic lows. Jones looked lost for the entire season and hit only .158 for the entire season. Let's soak that in for a moment: .158. Can it get any worse than that? On top of that, Jones only hit 3 home runs while driving in a Rey Ordonez-esque 14 RBIs.
By the end of 2008, the Dodgers released Jones after he agreed to defer some money on his contract. Jones apparently thought that he would be able to latch on with another team (BRAVES) and prove to them that he could still be a productive player. Even though he has been around forever, Jones is only 31 years old and should be entering the prime of his career right now.
But to date, Jones has had no real suitors. The Braves reportedly have no interest in bringing Jones back on a major league deal despite his long ties with the club. Even though Jones hit below the Mendoza line last season, he still feels as though he is worthy of a major league deal. Someone please explain to me how this makes sense.
So that brings us to the big question, if Jones will not accept a minor league deal, is he done? I actually think so. I cannot see any team taking a chance on Jones with a major deal this off season considering how terrible the market is right now. Jones on a minor league deal is no risk, but Jones on a major league deal brings along risk because he takes up a valuable roster spot and will undoubtedly lobby hard for playing time based on his previous statistics.
If this is indeed the end for Jones, then his career will go down as one of the strangest in history. The rise and fall of Andruw Jones has gone from a Hollywood script to inexplicable and somewhat sad. Just another stark reminder of how quickly athletes rise and fall in their respective fields.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
For reasons unbeknownst to me, the Angels have played second fiddle to most of the major free agents on the market and have refused to engage in any sort of bidding war with any of the other big market clubs. Even though the Angels have the money and an owner who seems to want to win at all costs, the Angels have not pulled out all the stops this off season to make their team better.
And it's not that I don't like Brian Fuentes or Juan Rivera. I think both guys, especially Fuentes, can be major contributors to the Angels in 2009. Rivera is a solid player will likely play outfield and DH, while Fuentes will assume the closer's role vacated by Francisco Rodriguez. The Angels are a better team with both guys on board then they would be without them.
But here's the deal: Fuentes and Rivera are nice players, but they fail to address the Angels major weakness. After losing Mark Teixeira and Garret Anderson, the Angels have failed to pick up a big bat to hit in the middle of their lineup. For whatever reason, GM Tony Reagins seems content to stick with Juan Rivera, Gary Matthews, and Kendry Morales instead of pursuing a big name free agent.
It's not like Reagins has any shortage of options on the free agent market either. Even with spring training only two weeks away, Manny Ramirez, Adam Dunn, and Bobby Abreu are are stranded on the free agent market looking for a place to play. There is even a chance that Dunn and Abreu would only require one year pacts, which would mitigate most of the risk in the contract.
For a big market team like the Angels, it is unfathomable that they have not taken a chance on signing a big name outfielder. The market is playing so ridiculously in their favor right now that they are probably doing a disservice to these players and the organization by not making a play for any of these guys. What a shame.
The sense of urgency to win needs to be there right now. Star OF Vladimir Guerrero will be a free agent at the end of the season and at this point, who knows where he could wind up after 2009. This might be the Angels last chance to win with their star, who is still a great player, but no longer in the prime of his career. It would be a shame if the Angels did not win a title during Vlad's tenure with the club.
So for Angels fans, consider the 2009 season as a turning point in the club's history. They can either go for broke and try to win it all by signing a big name free agent to what will probably be a very club friendly contract. Or the Angels can continue to sit on the sidelines and hope that they have enough offense in 2009 to supplement their fantastic pitching and defense.
In the end, teams who lose in the first round of playoffs every year are not the ones that are remembered. Teams who win championships cement legacies that last a lifetime with fans. The Angels off season has been frustrating because the Angels right now are missing out on the chance to cement their legacy. They have a great ball club, but they are still a big piece away from competing for a title.
Now it's up to you Tony Reagins. Now is not the time to be frugal, instead now is a time to be aggressive and make the big push the Angels need.
Luckily for you, there is still time.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
The deal gives the Diamondbacks the veteran presence they were lacking after they let Randy Johnson sign with the Giants. The 29 year old Garland has started at least 32 games in every season since 2002 while winning at least 10 games in each of those seasons. Garland will be a consistent #4 starter for the Diamondbacks by pitching deep into ball games and eating lots of innings.
However, this move perplexes me.
At the beginning of free agency, the Diamondbacks decided to only offer Johnson, a future hall of famer, a one year deal worth roughly $3 million. Johnson was willing to stay with the Diamondbacks in 2009 for $5 million, but the Diamondbacks did not increase their offer. Keep in mind that Johnson was coming off a season in which he won 11 games, but produced an impressive 3.91 ERA while striking out 173 hitters in 184 innings. At any age, those are some great numbers.
So now the Diamondbacks, perhaps out of desperation, decided to offer Jon Garland double what they were offering Johnson. How does that make sense?
Even though Garland is 16 years younger than the Big Unit, his ceiling is still not as high as Johnson's. Garland cannot strike out hitters and will never be confused for dominant. Garland will produce an ERA somewhere north of 4 and rely heavily on his control and defense to get hitters out.
Johnson on the other hand, even at age 45 can strike out lots of hitters and make hitters look foolish with his solid fastball and legendary slider. While Johnson will no longer be confused for a dominant pitcher, he can still perform at a very high level and be an effective third starter. If he can stay healthy, then Johnson will probably put up better numbers than Garland in 2009.
Furthermore, Johnson is only five wins away from 300, which means that the Giants, not the Diamondbacks, will be able to profit off this historic moment. For a team that is struggling financially, it defies logic that the Diamondbacks did not consider this historic moment when offering Johnson a contract.
Who knows? Maybe the Diamondbacks were skeptical of offering Johnson more than $3 million because of his injury history. Maybe they believe that finally at age 45 Johnson will begin the gradual decline that all pitchers face. But if the Diamondbacks really think that Jon Garland is a better option in 2009 than Randy Johnson is, then they are truly crazy.
*This is the first of several articles featured on Jorge Says No! written by guest writer Evan Levitt featuring the most obscure, odd, and very different topics. Evan is a senior at Drew University studying behavioral science and like me, has suffered through the highs and lows that come with rooting for the New York Mets. He is an avid baseball fan with a passion for the truly unique (Eric Valent anyone!) so I hope everyone enjoys Evan's take on baseball.
By: Evan Levitt
This first article will feature something that has always been of interest to me…comebacks. We have seen many players retire then un-retire—sometimes multiple times. It has to be difficult to leave the game of baseball, especially when baseball is all you know and engraved as your way of life. For some, coming out of retirement proved to be a great for their careers, while others simply wasted their of time. Now we will take a look at THE GOOD…THE BAD…and THE UGLY
1) ROGER CLEMENS: How could you not put him at #1. While some may argue that this was not a “comeback” since he only retired during the off-season, we are going to cut him some slack and call it a comeback. Essentially, Roger Clemens was able to have a 2nd career with the Houston Astros (and the Yankees…again). In his four year “comeback” Clemens went 44-24 but MUCH more impressive was his ERA over the four year span (2.98, 1.87, 2.30, and 4.18). Clemens was hands down one of the most dominant starting pitchers over that time frame. The fact that he didn’t win the Cy Young with a 1.87 ERA is ridiculous…what other starting pitcher had an ERA that low in the past 10 years?
2) FERNANDO TATIS: This man came out of nowhere last year so that he could raise money to build a church in his home country. As a Mets fan I have one thing to say: Boy am I glad he wanted to build that church. Tatis hit 11 home runs for the Mets while establishing himself as one of the Mets best clutch hitters. Needless to say, in 2008, Tatis was a God send.
3) GABE KAPLER: Not too many guys have gotten to play, manage, and then play again—but Gabe Kapler did. He took 2007 “off” to manage the Red Sox Single-A affiliate. As someone who has worked in minor league ball, I know that life in Single-A can suck…the .417 winning percentage probably didn’t leave him with a good taste in his mouth either. Nevertheless, Gabe hit over .300 and was a key member of the Brewers 2008 success. This year he will be making seven figures in
4) SALOMON TORRES: Could anyone blame him for retiring the first time? Torres lost the final game of the 1993 season, which ultimately cost the Giants a spot in the post season. Torres was mercifully heckled by Giants fans after that and subsequently, his career stalled. After 1997 he coached for a few years and then came back with the Pirates in 2001 and become one of the best middle relievers in baseball. He just retired (again) and left over $3,000,000 on the table to spend time with his family—could we see comeback #2?
5) TODD PRATT: By far my favorite of “the good” guys in baseball. He delivered pizza and worked at Bucky Dent’s baseball school after retiring in 1996, but only a few years later he ended the NLDS between the Mets and Diamondbacks with a solo homerun. Once again…thank you.
1) DAVID CONE: I wish I could have put this one in “the good” category, but the a 1-3 record with a 6.50 ERA definitely DOES NOT qualify as good. He tried to come back but a bad hip (among other things) prevented him from continuing. At least it didn’t prevent him from broadcasting…
2) JOSE RIJO: The only man who got at least one Hall of Fame vote and then pitched in the major leagues afterwards. After having multiple surgeries, Rijo re-entered the MLB after a six year hiatus to have a brief stint with the Reds in 2001 and 2002. By the end of 2002, it was clear he was done. However, it was good to see him end his career on his own terms.
1) JIM PALMER: Who would have thought that I would put a Hall-of-Famer in “the bad” category. Well at the young age of 45 he tried to comeback with the Orioles…this just lasted 1 spring training game in which he compiled an ERA of 9.00 in 2 IP. The biggest credit to him is that he didn’t continue the comeback after 1 game.
2) HOWARD JOHNSON: Hojo tried to comeback with the Mets in 1997. He had a job lined up coaching in the Devil Rays minor league system, but had to try for a comeback. Like Palmer, Hojo’s comeback did not make it out of spring training. Even if he wanted it to continue, who would want someone with a .129 batting average on their team?
3) BRET BOONE (x2): Boone is unique in that he tried a comeback twice and failed both times. In 2006 he tried a comeback with the Mets and in 2008 with the Nats. People were really pulling for Bret in 2008 since his failed 2006 comeback was due to alcoholism (for which he overcame). However, after a brief stint in
THE STRANGELY SUCCESSFUL
POTENTIAL PLAYERS TO ATTEMPT COMEBACKS IN 2009 AND THE ODDS OF IT HAPPENING:
Paul Byrd: 3:2
Salomon Torres: 5:1
Sean Casey: 7:1
Greg Maddux: 10:1
Barry Bonds: 50:1
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
However, the Rangers have only moved one of their catchers so far (Gerald Laird to Detroit). Their pitching still stinks and without a few significant moves to upgrade their pitching staff, the Rangers will likely not come close to competing in the AL West this season.
It should come as no surprise that the Rangers are still actively trying to trade another one of their catchers. Recent reports suggest that the Rangers are trying to move Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who the Rangers acquired from the Braves in the Mark Teixeira trade. Saltalamacchia is highly regarded amongst baseball people even though his performance thus far in the majors has been sub par.
So who are the Rangers looking for in return for Salty? None other than former Red Sox wonder kid Clay Buchholz, who threw a no hitter in 2007 and is one of the Red Sox best prospects. The upside on Buchholz is tremendous because of his great breaking ball and plus fastball, but he is likely to be way down on the depth chart in 2009, and will probably begin the season in AAA.
Is now the time for the Red Sox to move Buchholz for Saltalamacchia? I say no.
This move would make tons of sense for the Rangers because they would be getting a potentially great starting pitcher at a very reasonable price. Acquiring Buchholz could change the face of the Rangers and actually give them a solid young starter to build around.
However, the Red Sox have no reason to make this panic move. the ceiling on Buchholz is way too high to simply give up on and even if he will not help in 2009, I suspect that he will play a major role in the the success of the Red Sox for years to come.
And sure it is difficult to find a quality, young catcher, but it is even harder to find a young, cheap ace who can potentially anchor the starting rotation for the next decade. That price would be too steep for the Red Sox.
The Rangers should continue to try to find a taker for Saltalamacchia. They need the pitching badly and should be able to get a pretty good young pitcher in return for Salty. However, I don't see the Buchholz deal happening. If the Rangers lower their request down to Michael Bowden or Daniel Bard, then I think the Red Sox would have to at least think about it.
Because moving Joba to the bullpen makes sense...especially now.
Don't get me wrong, the Yankees already have a pretty darn good bullpen. Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez established themselves as quality relievers in 2008, Damaso Marte is a good left handed set up man even with his struggles in 2008, and I know Yankee people are excited to see what Phil Coke, Humberto Sanchez, and David Robertson can do. And oh yeah, the Yankees still have that Rivera guy to close games. I hear that he's pretty good.
So as we can see, the Yankees have a deep, young, and potentially very good bullpen. If they can get the ball to Rivera with the lead, the Yankees will win lots and lots of games in 2009.
But here's why Joba makes sense out of the bullpen. He would give the Yankees a dominant set up guy to get the ball to Rivera. Having Joba in the bullpen would essentially make every game a seven inning game because the combination of Chamberlain in the 8th and Rivera in the 9th should be virtually unhittable. The Yankees would go from a very very good team to a potentially scary team that could steamroll the competition if all goes well.
I know this argument has been made before. But here's the difference between now and then: the Yankees have at least three young starters who should be capable of effectively filling the rotation spot (Hughes, Aceves, Coke, etc.). This means that the Yankees have enough rotation depth to place Joba in the bullpen and not expect such a terrible drop off. I would expect former #1 pick Phil Hughes to be the favorite to take Chamberlain's starts, which should be exciting for Yankee fans.
Also, if the young guys are not the route that you prefer, the Yankees could simply go after one of the remaining free agent starters and throw a one year deal his way. SP Ben Sheets makes a ton of sense for the Yankees, who Jason from IITAMS noted, the Yankees would only have to surrender a fourth round pick for Sheets, who is a type A free agent. Basically every other team would have to surrender a 1st round pick for Sheets, but because the Yanks have already signed three Type A free agents, they would only lose the fourth round pick. That's a potentially great deal anyway you slice it.
And you have to keep in mind how much the Yankees rotation has improved this off season. Their ace coming into 2008, Chien Ming Wang, is now their third starter and the Yankees added the two best free agent pitchers on the free agent market: CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. The Yankees now can afford to have a young guy develop in the rotation instead of depending on the young guys like they did in 2008.
And as far as Chamberlain goes, he has the stuff to be an ace. But how Chamberlain performs in the rotation for an entire season is still a mystery. Joba dealt with arm issues in 2008 after moving to the starting rotation and the Yankees have continually babied Chamberlain, fearing that if they pushed him too hard that he could hurt his arm. There is no guarantee that Chamberlain can survive an entire season in the rotation or even give the Yankees 20-30 starts in 2009.
There is no doubt that Joba Chamberlain will be a major part of the Yankees' present and future. However, if the Yankees want to build the best team possible in 2009, Chamberlain in the bullpen gives them a fantastic chance to win the AL East and beyond.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Even though I thought the Yankees should have moved on from Pettitte, I like this move for both the Yankees and Pettitte because of the money. Andy Pettitte at only $5.5 mil guaranteed is a whole lot easier to swallow than Andy Pettitte at $10+ mil guaranteed. Pettitte should be a dynamite fifth starter for the Yankees, who now have one of the deepest starting rotations in baseball.
Even though Pettitte had a down year in 2008, he can still perform well if counted on to be only a fifth starter.
The deal confirms what most of us already know: the 2009 Yankees are absolutely loaded. Just look at this rotation:
1. CC Sabathia
2. AJ Burnett
3. Chien Ming Wang
4. Joba Chamberlain
5. Andy Pettitte
Should this rotation stay healthy, they have the potential to flourish. There is no weakness in this rotation. The Yankees don't just have starters who can win, but they have starters who have the stuff to dominate hitters. That has to be a scary thought for the AL East, especially the Rays and Red Sox. Health will obviously be a focal point for the Yankees, but they now have quality depth (Aceves, Kennedy, Hughes) to survive potential injuries.
I am disappointed that Phil Hughes will not get his opportunity off the bat to show the Yankees what he can do. I really believe that this guy has the stuff to be a front of the rotation starter and that 2009 was going to be his coming out party. Guess not. Instead, he will have to wait in the wings for one of the Yankees dynamic five starting pitchers to suffer an injury.
So what can we expect from Pettitte? I think he'll have a better season in 2009, but expecting anything more than 30 starts, 15 wins with a 4.00 ERA is expecting a bit much at this point. Needless to say, the Yankees would still be able to get by if Pettitte performed at his 2008 level. Even with a 4.54 ERA, Pettitte, should still be able to win at least 12-15 games because the Yankee offense will be so good...especially with Mark Teixeira now on board.
This team could be scary good. On paper, they should be the team to beat. I'm not sure how many more wins Pettitte will bring to the Yankees, but Yankee fans should feel some level of comfort knowing that their beloved Pettitte will be around in 2009 to pitch in the new Yankee Stadium.
But if you want to talk about amazing comebacks, Zack Greinke needs to be in the conversation.
Since being drafted in 2002, Greinke was thought of as the Royals future ace and budding all-star. By 2004, Greinke was in the Royals rotation and performing very well, but in 2005, Greinke struggled mightily and produced a disappointing 5.80 ERA.
By 2006, Greinke bottomed out. He was forced to leave Royals spring training to deal with a social anxiety disorder that ultimately cost him the entire season. The Royals became uncertain about how much they would be able to get out of their former top pick and Greinke slowly slipped into oblivion and uncertainty.
Then came the good part. By 2007, Greinke's psychological issues had been taken care of and he was deemed fit to join the Royals again. By the end of 2007. Greinke had established himself as a pretty darn good reliever, which was a strong symbol to Royals brass that he was ready to take off in the starting rotation.
And luckily for the Royals, Greinke delivered in 2008. In his first full season as a starter since 2005, Greinke went 13-10 with a 3.47 ERA for the fourth place Royals. At times, Greinke looked absolutely dominant and appears to be a legitimate front end starter even though he missed lots of time in 2006.
So this leads us to today when the Royals rewarded Greinke with a 4 year/$38 million dollar extension. The deal signifies just how far Greinke has come since 2006, when so many doubted whether he would actually develop into a front line starting pitcher. Greinke has undoubtedly come a long way.
For the Royals, this deal makes lots of sense unlike some of their moves this off season (I'm looking at both of you...Kyle Farnsworth and Willie Bloomquist). This deal buys out two of Greinke's free agent seasons and give the Royals a legitimate stud pitcher to build around at a great price for the next four seasons. Royals fans should feel very fortunate that GM Dayton Moore showed enough sense (finally) not to trade Greinke for Jeff Francoeur and other spare parts from the Braves.
But don't get me wrong, this move is all about Greinke. It is truly remarkable that Greinke could overcome his vast demons and still achieve his tremendous potential. I always love watching guys overcome the longest of odds to find success. That's what America is all about.
There is no doubt that there were many in 2006 that doubted Greinke and wondered aloud whether or not he would ever make it. But this deal signifies it: Greinke is back in a big way. Hopefully this is just the start of big things to come.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Like so many other free agents, Cabrera is a quality player who can help many teams. He can hit for a high average, score 90+ runs, steal 20+ bases, and play quality defense at shortstop. In 2008, Cabrera hit .281 with 8 home runs, 57 RBIs, 19 stolen bases, and an impressive 93 runs scored. Those numbers are more productive than lots of other shortstops around baseball...(I'm looking at you Cesar Izturis and David Eckstein).
But for some reason, Cabrera has been unable to find a home or any suitors this off season and there seems to be end in sight. So what gives?
1. Type A
Because the White Sox offered Cabrera arbitration, any team that signs Cabrera would have to surrender their first round pick to the White Sox. As we have discussed before, in this terrible economy, there are not too many teams who are willing to do that.
By no stretch of the imagination is Cabrera a spring chicken. He is 34 years old and is no longer in the prime of his career. Teams are going to be very hesitant to offer Cabrera a long term deal out of concerns that he will eventually decline. No one wants to get stuck with a terrible, suffocating contract to a middle infielder (i.e Luis Castillo). So it's very likely that Cabrera will have to settle for a one year deal worth considerably less than what he previously expected.
3. Who needs a shortstop?
By my count, there are only a few teams who are actually in need of a shortstop. This is obviously a gigantic problem for Cabrera. There has been some talk of Cabrera moving to second base, but I'm not too certain how serious those discussions have become. With that said, who should/could make a run at Cabrera?
Athletics: They have a glaring hole at shortstop as it has become apparent that Bobby Crosby is not the answer. Cabrera would be a great stop gap and table setter for the Athletics, who could actually compete this season if they are able to bring Cabrera aboard. We'll see if the normally frugal Athletics are willing to spend to sign Cabrera to a one year deal.
Blue Jays: This would be a wonderful fit for Cabrera. The Jays do not have a starting shortstop who can hit and Cabrera would be a great fit at the top of their lineup. He would instantly make the Jays more competitive and make their lineup much deeper, but I doubt that Jays management wants to spend any money.
Braves: If the Braves were to go after Cabrera, they would be looking for him to play second base. This move would allow them to move Kelly Johnson back to left field, which would help fix their glaring problem in the outfield. Cabrera would provide a stable force and table setter at the top of the order and it would not surprise me if he scored 100 runs in this lineup. I could actually see them going after Cabrera if his price continues to drop and if he agrees to play second base.
Mets: If, and this is a BIG if, the Mets are able to trade Luis Castillo, then I think they would have interest in Cabrera to play second base. However, at this point, I don't see it happening.
Mariners: If, and this is another big if, the Mariners want to move Jose Lopez to first base, then I could see them having interest in Cabrera to play second base. However, at this point, I do not see a match.
As we can see, the market sucks for Cabrera. It's hard to believe that free agents Cesar Izturis, David Eckstein, and Edgar Renteria have starting jobs with new teams while Cabrera, who is arguably the best of the bunch, is on the outside looking in. That's just how the market works sometimes.
On a personal level, I just hope that Orlando Cabrera and Orlando Hudson both sign with the same team. How incredible would an all Orlando middle of the infield be? Would it rival the Mets Jose Reyes-Argenis Reyes infield combination? Absolutely...needs to happen.
Matt Holliday or Jason Bay will be with the Yankees in 2010.
I know, total speculation. There is no unnamed source or friend of either guy that I am basing my guess off of. Instead, I came to this conclusion simply by looking at the Yankees performance during this off season.
Entering this off season, the Yankees were down to only two definite starters (Wang and Chamberlain) and were determined to add the best starting pitchers their money could buy. Luckily for the Yankees, they had more than $80 million coming off the books (including the contracts of SP Mike Mussina, SP Carl Pavano, SP Andy Pettitte), which gave GM Brian Cashman plenty of ammo to go after CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett.
Now let's fast forward to next winter when the Yankees will clear at least $32 million bucks in payroll. The following Yankees will all be free agents after the 2009 season:
OF Johnny Damon ($13 mil)
OF Xavier Nady ($6 mil)
OF Hideki Matsui ($13 mil)
Hmmm...now what do all those guys have in common? Why yes, all three are indeed outfielders, which would leave the Yankees with Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher (assuming he's not traded), and a bunch of minor leaguers (namely Austin Jackson).
So with more than $30 million bucks available and two (maybe three) outfield spots to fill, can we really expect the Yankees to do anything but throw a ton of money ($10-$15 mil per season) at either Jason Bay or Matt Holliday? I cannot think of one reason why not. Both guys are young, productive, and will be in their prime for years to come. The Yanks have a pretty good track record of throwing a boatload of money at the best free agents on the market.
Holliday and Bay will be no different. Once the 2009 season ends, it will come down to which player the Yankees covet more and how much additional money the Yankees are willing to dish out.
Mark my words: it's only a matter of time.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Casey Blake was by far the best and safest option on the free agent market in the beginning of December. With Joe Crede's career in doubt because of constant back issues, the stable Blake became a target of both the Dodgers and the Twins.
However, when it came down to it, the Dodgers were the only team to offer Blake a guaranteed third year, which left them as the winners in the Blake sweepstakes. Even though Blake is already 36 and not a great defensive player, the Dodgers felt the need to give Blake the third year because of the stiff competition from thr Twins and the lack of viable options on the third base market.
But then December 12th, the Astros non-tendered starting third baseman Ty Wigginton. Even though Wigginton, 31, was coming off a season where he hit 23 home runs and 58 RBI in only 385 ABs, the Astros needed to cut payroll, and Wigginton became the unlikely causality. At this point in his career, Wigginton is likely to hit around .270 with 20 or so home runs. Sounds a lot like Casey Blake huh?
Now a free agent, Wigginton, only 31, has struggled to garner up much serious interest. He is of course looking to be a starter, but right now no one is sure that the opportunity will be available to him. The Twins, yes the same Twins who aggressively pursued average at best defender Casey Blake, have apparently shied away from Wigginton because of concerns about his glove.
So how different might it have been for both Blake and Wigginton if both were free agents at the same time? Well, I can tell you this much. There is no way in the world that Casey Blake gets three years from the Dodgers and I have significant reason to believe that Wigginton would have gotten strong interest from the Dodgers as well. With two quality third basemen on the market, the Dodgers could have simply played the waiting game to see which guy would have taken the more "team-friendly" offer.
However, because Wigginton was let go four days after Blake signed, we will never know how this would have played out. But what we do know is that because of the four day gap, Casey Blake has a contract that he probably never would have received while Ty Wigginton is struggling to find a new home in 2009.
Further proof the timing is everything folks. These two guys will put up roughly the same numbers in 2009, but the younger Wigginton (five years) is the one who is struggling to find work. Go figure.
And as for the Dodgers, they were forced to overpay for an aging third baseman, who is likely to decline within the next year or two. Not too many reasons to like this deal if you're a Dodger fan.
There was a point in Todd Helton's career where it seemed as though he could do anything. Helton was a gold glove first baseman and a dynamic hitter who could hit for both power and a very high batting average. He was the face of the franchise for the Rockies, who were very eager to reward Helton for his production and commitment to the Rockies.
Why Sign Helton: Even though this extension did not kick in until 2003, the Rockies gave Helton his extension before the 2001 season. Helton, then 27, was coming off a season in which he hit a staggering .372 with 42 home runs and 147 RBI. These amazing statistics cemented Helton as one of the best hitters in baseball and left the Rockies salivating to lock up their biggest star. The Rockies gave Helton a nine year extension worth a breath taking $141 million bucks.
At only 27 years old, the Rockies thought they were locking up their franchise player for the next decade. This is a quite a feat for the Rockies, who often struggle to spend big money and lure big free agents to the thin air of Colorado.
What Went Wrong: The amazing aspect of this contract is that Helton continued to perform at an optimal level for the first two years of the contract. However, beginning in 2005, Helton began to gradually decline in part because of injuries and age. All of a sudden, Helton seemed to be sapped of his once mighty power and the ridiculously high batting average starting to come back down to earth.
I blame the Rockies for this one. The nine year extension kicked in when Helton was 29 years old, which meant that the Rockies were not likely to get Helton during his prime. Instead, the Rockies would likely watch their franchise player decline with age as they continued to pay him an absurd amount of money, which is exactly what happened.
Helton just became older and frail, which the Rockies should have expected. Instead of preparing for the inevitable, the Rockies made Helton one of the highest paid players in baseball.
Future Implications: Helton is no longer the player he once was, even though he is still quite productive. He can still hit for a high average and get on base with the best of them, even if he can no longer hit more than 20 home runs. If Helton can stay healthy, he can still be a useful player and help the Rockies win games in 2009 and beyond.
However, there is no way to get around how badly this contract has and will turn out for the Rockies. The Rockies only have roughly a $55-$70 million dollar payroll, but Helton takes up roughly 20-25% of that. It will be very difficult for the Rockies to compete if Helton is incapable of performing at a high level.
Also, if Helton was not signed to such a long and consuming contract, then the Rockies probably would have been able to make a stronger run at re-signing Matt Holliday instead of trading him to the Oakland Athletics. Holliday could have been the new face of Rockies and have made the Rockies a much stronger team in 2009 and beyond, but because of payroll constraints, the Rockies were forced to move him.
Furthermore, Helton's contract will prevent the Rockies from adding any substantial pieces that could help them compete in both the long and short term. With Helton signed through at least 2011, the Rockies will probably be forced to remain inactive in the free agent market.
It's unfortunate for the Rockies to be burdened with such a consuming contract because I really think that they could have built something special.
Lesson Learned: Sign players to long term extensions during their PRIME only. The Rockies will likely only get two great seasons from Helton out of the nine year contract, which is not totally surprising considering his age.
Also, nine year deals in general are just a bad idea. Unless the player is only 24 or 25 years old, nine years is a long time for a team to be burdened down by the demands of one player's exorbitant salary.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
On the surface, Kent should be an easy selection into the hall of fame. Over his 17 year career, Kent hit .290 with 377 home runs and 1518 RBI. For a second baseman, those are phenomenal numbers that put Kent in a class by himself. The 2000 MVP award winner hit at least 20 home runs over a 9 year stretch spanning from 1997 to 2005, an impressive feat no doubt.
But should Jeff Kent be in the hall of fame? There is no doubt that he will receive strong consideration, but before we enshrine Kent in Cooperstown, there are some important things to consider.
1. Second Baseman
-Kent will undoubtedly receive a good amount of votes because he hit for power as a second baseman. And to a certain degree, it makes a lot of sense. There are so few power hitting second baseman that when one finally rolls around, people become very age to vote for him.
But I ask, if Jeff Kent played another position besides second base would he be a hall of famer then? I'm not too sure. Kent would probably still get into the hall especially with Jim Rice finally entering, but I doubt that he would gain entry on the first or second ballot.
Then we get to an entirely different issue-should Kent's numbers be judged based on those of other top second basemen in the era he played or based on the numbers of the top players regardless of position? Kent is far and away one of the best second basemen of the generation, but his numbers pale in comparison to those of Ken Griffey Jr or Barry Bonds. However when his stats are compared to Roberto Alomar and Craig Biggio, Kent seems to be a lock to make it in on the first or second ballot.
Should we judge Kent differently based on the position he played? Very debatable.
2. Is Kent a legend?
-There are many who complain that the hall of fame has been diluted. Instead of enshrining only the legends like Babe Ruth and Cy Young, the hall has become a haven for "above average" players as well like Jim Rice and Bruce Sutter.
Jeff Kent is not a legend. He was a very good baseball player, but certainly not at the level of Ken Griffey Jr, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, or Manny Ramirez. Does Jeff Kent belong in the same conversation as those certain first ballot hall of famers? I don't think so. Each of those guys is an icon, who is on a whole different level that Jeff Kent ever will be.
-I know I'm getting a bit picky here, but hey, why not. Kent was not a great defensive second baseman by any stretch of the imagination. He was an average fielder who lacked range, but Kent never won a gold glove at his position and became somewhat of a liability as his career wore on. I'm not too sure how much this will be taken into consideration, but I hope voters judge Kent not only by his bat, but by his offensive and defensive production.
4. The Moron Factor
-I will not miss Jeff Kent. He always came off to me as somewhat of a cancer in the clubhouse and with teammates. Need proof?
-fought with Milton Bradley
-fought with Barry Bonds
-feuded with younger players
-Called out Vince Scully
Ok so it's pretty clear that Kent has had his fair share of transgressions in his big league career. But will that keep him out of the hall? Probably not, but if Jim Rice has taught us anything, relations with the media and the fans can have a significant impact on when your inducted.
With that said, I'd bet my money that Kent eventually winds up in Cooperstown. I don't think Kent should be a first ballot hall of famer, but it would not surprise me to see Kent enter quickly. Despite his deficiencies, Kent's offensive prowess will probably prove to much for voters, who seem ready to enshrine Kent into Cooperstown right now.
And when it comes down to it, Bill Mazeroski made the hall of fame, so there is no reason why Kent shouldn't.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Sheets seemed to be well on his way for the riches of free agency after the season, but Sheets missed important time in September with a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow. Because of the injury, teams have began to shy away from Sheets because of his extensive injury history. Teams view Sheets more as a risk instead of a sure fire ace.
So it comes as no surprise to see that the market has been very slow to develop for Sheets. It's tough to justify taking a significant risk on Sheets when so many teams are struggling to add payroll and deal with a porous economy.
To make matters worse, Sheets is a type A free agent, which means that whatever team signs Sheets will have to give up their first round pick to the Brewers. In this economy, it is tough to justify spending millions of dollars on a veteran player on top of losing a top draft pick. Draft picks have become gold and free agents have been hurt by their "Type A" status.
Where will Sheets end up? Well at this point, it's anyone's guess. But here are some potential landing spots for Sheets:
Rangers: The Rangers pitching woes have been well documented for many years. The Rangers lack significant talent on the pitching front that would enable them to be competitive in the AL West, which is unfortunate because they have a phenomenal offense. Sheets would give the Rangers a true ace that they have been missing for the past decade. A one year deal with lots of incentives would make lots of sense here, but we'll see if the Rangers are willing to spend the big bucks.
Mets: To me, the Mets are the wild card in the Sheets sweepstakes. After missing out on Derek Lowe, the Mets are still at least a quality starter short from being serious competitors in the NL East. Sheets would obviously would add lots of talent to the Mets pitching staff and give them a top flight starter to pair with Johan Santana, but it looks like the Mets prefer Oliver Perez right now. If the Mets get tired of waiting for Perez or decide that his price tag is too high, I could see them making a strong move for Sheets.
Brewers: Sheets would make a lot of sense for the Brewers for a number of reasons. The Brewers do not have to give up a draft pick for Sheets because Sheets pitched for the Brew Crew in 2008. That instantly makes Sheets a very attractive to the Brewers, who are in dire need of a top flight starting pitcher after losing CC Sabathia to the Yankees. Furthermore, Sheets would probably only require a one or two year deal instead of the long term contract many thought he would get during the season.
Astros: Sheets would make so much sense here, but it's probably not happening because the 'Stros don't want to spend money.
Cardinals: Like the Astros, the Cards need a top flight starter to go along with Kyle Lohse and Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals seem unwilling to give any starter a long term deal, but that's no problem for Sheets, who will probably only require a one-two year deal. This would be a great fit for both Sheets and the Cards.
While there might not be much of a market for Sheets right now, I would expect things to pick up in the next week or so. Sheets is a risk no doubt, but this guy can flat out pitch and make whatever team he goes to much better...as long as he's healthy.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
First baseman Ryan Howard and the Philadelphia Phillies are getting set for what looks like yet another ugly arbitration case. Last season, Howard won $10 million from an arbiter, a record for a player with only two years of service time. That arbitration case was ugly, but this year's case could get downright ridiculous.
Ryan Howard is asking for $18 million big ones.
I'll let everyone soak that in for a second...eighteen million dollars.
That's obviously a lot of money and if Howard wins the case, he will set yet another arbitration record (highest salary awarded) and remain, by far, the Phillies highest paid player.
This is a bold move by Howard. The Phillies offered him $14 million, a number that not too many people would shy away from. However, Howard obviously believes that he deserves to be one of the highest paid baseball players in the game based on his performance and probably his age. Remember that Howard is no spring chicken in baseball years, he is already 29 years old and will not be a free agent until he is 32. Now is the time for him to cash in.
So does Howard deserve the $18 million bucks?
Howard is a phenomenal player and a franchise player. He is one of the best power hitters in baseball and has hit over 45 home runs in each of the past three seasons. Howard absolutely crushed the ball in 2008 to the tune of 48 home runs and 146 RBI. The 2006 MVP has put up historic numbers over his first three full seasons in the major leagues and has shown no signs of slowing up...which is bad for the rest of the National League.
However, Howard's deficiencies are evident. Anyone watching the Phillies will tell you that Ryan Howard is a terrible fielding first baseman and makes even the most routine plays look very awkward.
Also, at the plate, Howard notoriously strikes out a lot, which is not surprising considering how many home runs he hits. But at the same token, Howard's on base percentage has been slipped from .425 in 2006 to a pedestrian .339 in 2008. The best power hitters usually produce an OBP of at least .380 and it is rather shocking how quickly Howard's OBP has fallen.
And finally, Howard has batting average has been a major source of criticism from fans and writers alike. For most of 2008, Howard's batting average hovered in the .220-.230 range before he exploded with a .352 batting average in September. Baseball people would love to see Howard's performance become more consistent because without a respectable batting average, Howard is no better than a very very very good version of Dave Kingman.
Harsh criticism I know, but that's the truth. The Phillies will need Howard's production in 2009 to be more consistent and will need their star to produce a batting average near .280 and an OBP near .400. Considering Howard's ability and potential, there is no reason why he should not be able to put up much better numbers in 2009.
So in conclusion, Ryan Howard is confusing. He is a immensely skilled, but flawed player who is a vital cog in the Phillies machine. Based on his 2008 numbers, I do not believe that he will be successful in getting $18 million bucks (perhaps they can settle somewhere in the $16 million dollar range). Even though his statistics are still great, there is no denying that Howard's numbers have declined in certain areas, which will ultimately weigh heavily in the arbiter's decision.