Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is Johnny Damon A Fit With the Rays?

With almost no suitors to speak of, could the Rays make a move for Johnny Damon? According to Joel Sherman, it could happen:

A darkhorse has emerged in pursuit of Johnny Damon, and it is an AL East rival of the Yankees.

The Tampa Bay Rays have been in regular contact with Scott Boras about adding Damon to be their primary DH, The Post has learned.

With the signing of Randy Winn, the Yankees are no longer hedging on Damon, but instead are saying there is zero chance of his return to New York.

You have to wonder just how much more payroll the Rays can actually add this season. I thought they were stretching their limited resources by signing Rafael Soriano, but adding Damon would surely bring the Rays payroll over the $70 million mark. I'm skeptical that the Rays are willing to add another $5-$7 million to their payroll.

But then again, 2010 might be the Rays best chance to win. Remember, after the season, Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena will be free agents and the chances are high that the Rays will lose both players. There is a significant argument to be made that if the Rays are going to win, that now is the time. If that's the case, then bringing a guy like Damon on board for a year would boost the Rays' chances of winning and give them one of the best lineups on paper in baseball.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A's Sign Ben Sheets; What Should the Mets Do Next?

With Ben Sheets now officially off the board thanks to a one year/$8 million dollar contract with the Athletics, the team that is left out in the dust one more time is the New York Mets. The Mets were pursuing Sheets, who they hoped would be their #2 starter behind Johan Santana, but ultimately lost out to the Athletics.

The Mets rotation right now currently consists of a whole bunch of question marks:

1. Johan Santana: surgery last September to remove bone chips
2. Mike Pelfrey: Pitched terribly last season (5.03 ERA)
3. John Maine: Can he stay healthy?
4. Oliver Perez: Missed a large portion of the 2009 season; when he did pitch, he pitched terribly (6.82 ERA)
5. Jon Niese/Fernando Nieve/??????

As you can see, the Mets rotation is painfully thin and filled with many unknowns. Is there anyone in that rotation right now that can give the Mets 200 IP? Outside of a healthy Santana, I have serious doubts about spots 2-5. And if Santana isn't healthy, then 2010 could turn out to be just as bad as 2009.

So what should GM Omar Minaya do with Sheets off the board?

1. Scour Free Agent Market
-Erik Bedard, Jon Garland, Jarrod Washburn, John Smoltz, and Chien Ming Wang are the most appealing names left. Bleh. Garland, Washburn, and Wang need to be supplemented by a great defense, which the Mets do not have. No one seems to know the status of Erik Bedard at this point.

2. Trade Market
-Not too many great names left on the market. Maybe Aaron Harang.

3. Stand Pat
-I don't know how Minaya can do this, but if he doesn't find any of the names on the market appealing, then maybe he takes a shot with this group and sees what he's got.

The guy who I think would fit nicely on the Mets is Washburn, who is a fly ball pitcher and might thrive in the spacious Citi Field. Then again, defense is a problem considering that the Mets will be without Beltran for at least the first month, Jason Bay is in left, and Luis Castillo is terrible defensively.

If Bedard can show the Mets that he's healthy and willing to pitch in New York, he'd be a great choice for the Mets considering his high upside. But no one knows if Bedard is healthy and no one knows if he can actually pitch 150 IP+ in a season.

What do you think Minaya should do?

Would the A's Compete For a Playoff Spot If Ben Sheets Signs?

Billy Beane's aggressive offseason continues with Ben Sheets. Maybe Beane will actually sign a free agent this time:
Confirmed by ML source: #athletics have made "competitive" offer to Ben Sheets and hope to have answer today or Wednesday
Even though the Athletics will have one of the smallest payrolls in baseball this year, GM Billy Beane has been aggressive so far this offseason by making strong offers to both Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro. Sure the Athletics failed to land both guys, but it's clear that the Athletics have money to spend. From an economic perspective, Ben Sheets does not appear to be out of the Athletics price range.

But if the Athletics are going to spend $8-$10 million dollars on Sheets, which could be more than 20% of the Athletics' payroll this year, then there has to be a good reason why Billy Beane would want Sheets. Sheets is viewed as a tremendous talent with lots of upside, but as we all know, Sheets is very injury prone and a near lock to spend some time on the DL in 2010.

The upside for Athletics here is that they would add a potential ace to their rotation, who could lead their stable of young pitchers and probably force one or two of them back to AAA for more seasoning. But even if Sheets is healthy for the Athletics, how much better would the A's be? With Sheets on board, does anyone think that the Athletics are now contenders in the American League?

In my opinion, the Athletics, even with a fully healthy Ben Sheets, would not be serious contenders in 2010. The Athletics starting rotation would be awesome, but I'm not confident that the Athletics would have enough offensive firepower to compete with the Rangers, Angels, and Mariners.

However, given the money the Athletics have burning in their pocket and the limited number of players who fit their offensive needs on the market, going after Sheets is probably the best thing Beane can do right now to improve his team's chances of winning in 2010. Signing Sheets would be a risk for the Athletics, but if he pans out, then the Athletics could have a surprisingly competitive team or at the very least, a valuable commodity to trade.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Just Say No, BJ

A long term deal for BJ Upton? Doesn't seem out of the question:
#Rays CF B.J. Upton says arbitration won't be a problem and he is "all for" discussing long-term deal
I'm all for long term security and I think it's great that Upton wants to commit to the Rays long term. However, from his economic perspective, now is not the right time to discuss an extension. The reason? Upton is coming off a down season offensively in which he only hit .241 with 11 home runs. The general perception around baseball is that Upton has far more talent than that, but he has yet to truly put it all together (even though his 2007 season was very, very good).

A long term contract for Upton would be in the Rays best interests because it would keep Upton's salary under control for the foreseeable future and lock up one of their most promising talents. Even though Upton is under team control through the 2013 season, the reality is that Upton is one big season away from a huge pay raise thanks to arbitration. It would be beneficial for the Rays to sign Upton long term now because his value at its lowest point, which means that Upton's price will be lower now than it was in 2008 and probably lower than it will be after the 2010 season.

If Upton is only concerned about long term security, then it would make sense for him to sign a deal now. But if he is interested in maximizing his earning potential, then it's in his best interests not to sign a deal now, play the market out year to year, and put together a big season that puts him back on the map as one of the game's most exciting young players.

Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena Are Destined to Leave the Rays

Nothing shocking here:
5. Carl Crawford, LF, Rays - The feeling is that if the Rays’ financial picture gets any gloomier, Crawford will be trade bait by the trading deadline or even earlier. In fact, both he and Carlos Pena could have new addresses at some point in the season.
Both Crawford and Pena will be free agents at the end of the season and there is little chance that the Rays will be able to keep one of them, let alone both. Pena and Crawford combined will earn just over $20 million this season, which will be about 30% of the Rays payroll. For a small market team like the Rays, it's tough to justify committing such a high percentage of your resources to just two players, even if both players are peak performers.

The reality for the Rays is that if Crawford and Pena produce this season, then each of them should be in line for a nice raise next season. Even though the Rays have plenty of money coming off the books after 2010 ($36 million from Pena, Crawford, Soriano, and Burrell), there is very little chance that they will be able to compete on the open market with the big market clubs for either player.

Even though Pena and Crawford are near locks to leave after the season, I still think the Rays are in a good position right now. If the team competes in 2010, then the Rays can hold Pena and Crawford , play the season out, hope for the best, collect draft picks when they leave, and then re-distribute their resources. If the team struggles, then Crawford and Pena become prime trade bait if the return for either player is high enough.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Doug Davis vs. Randy Wolf

Pitcher A

2009 Season: 9-14, 4.12 ERA, 34 starts, 203 IP, 146 K, 6.4 K/9, 4.56 BB/9, .294 BABIP, 4.84 FIP

Career: 90-97, 4.31 ERA, 6.67 K/9, 4.06 BB/9, .310 BABIP, 4.41 FIP

Pitcher B

2009 Season: 11-7, 3.23 ERA, 34 starts, 214 IP, 160 K, 6.72 K/9, 2.44 BB/9, .257 BABIP, 3.96 FIP

Career: 101-85, 4.13 ERA, 7.42 K/9, 3.24 BB/9, .294 BABIP, 4.28 FIP

************ **********

Both pitchers signed with the Milwaukee Brewers this offseason. Both pitchers are left handed.

Player A will be 35 this year. Player B will be 34.

Pitcher A landed a 1 year/$4.25 million dollar contract with a mutual option for 2011.

Pitcher B landed a 3 year/$29 million dollar contract.

Pitcher A is Doug Davis. Pitcher B is Randy Wolf.

Based on their career stats, these two pitchers are very similar. They have similar career ERAs, BABIPs, and FIPs. The biggest difference between the two guys is that Wolf strikes out more hitters and Davis walks many more hitters. In fact, before the 2009 season, Wolf and Davis had very similar careers. Both guys were thought of as solid middle of the rotation left handed starters, who could eat innings.

But all that changed in 2009. While Davis produced another solid yet unspectacular season, Wolf became the Dodgers ace and put together the best season of his career. Wolf's success was in large part because of his low BABIP (.257), which was the best in the league according to fangraphs. Whether you attribute Wolf's low BABIP to luck, Dodger Stadium, hitters making bad contact, or some combination of the three; the result was that Randy Wolf became one of the most attractive pitchers on the free agent market and the only starting pitcher other than Lackey and Chapman to land a contract that guaranteed him at least three years.

It would not surprise me in the slightest bit if Wolf and Davis put up statistically similar seasons in 2010. Wolf is the better pitcher at this point, but the difference between these two pitchers is not as big as their contracts this winter would suggest. Only time will tell if Randy Wolf's 2009 season was an aberration, but it's clear that Wolf's success in 2009 was the main difference why Wolf landed almost $30 million guaranteed while Doug Davis had to settle for only $4.25 guaranteed.

Risk/Reward of the Doug Davis Signing

1 year/$4.25 million (with a mutual option for 2011):

Free agent starter Doug Davis has reached preliminary agreement with the Milwaukee Brewers on a one-year, guaranteed $5.25 million contract, a baseball source told

The deal is contingent on Davis passing a physical exam.

Davis joins Randy Wolf as the second lefty free agent to sign with Milwaukee this offseason. He pitched previously for the Brewers from 2004 through 2006, posting records of 12-12, 11-11 and 11-11 in his three seasons with Milwaukee.

Davis will make a base salary of $4.25 million in 2010. The contract includes a $1 million buyout and an additional $1 million in incentives based on starts and innings pitched.

The Brewers entered the offseason with the goal of improving their starting pitching and this deal helps them achieve that goal at a minimal risk:


  • Is the Brewers rotation too left handed?
  • walks too many hitters
  • not great against left handed hitters


  • Adds depth and consistency to the Brewers rotation
  • Only a one year commitment
  • Innings eater
Conclusion: This deal is yet another signal that the Brewers are going for it in 2010 and 2011. And I, for one, love that attitude. With Prince Fielder under team control for only another two years, this is the Brewers best chance to win a championship and GM Doug Melvin is working within his resources to give the Brewers the best chance to win. Sure Doug Davis is not a big name or a sexy signing, but Davis can bring a lot to the table for the Brewers. For a reasonable price, Davis should give the Brewers around 180-200 IP this season and produce an ERA somewhere in the 4s. Given how unstable and unreliable the Brewers starting pitchers were last season, Davis's consistency is exactly what the Brewers need.

Risk/Reward of the Joel Pineiro Signing

2 years/$16 million:

The Angels reached an agreement with free agent right-hander Joel Pineiro on a two-year deal worth $16 million, two sources told on Wednesday night.

The move comes somewhat as a surprise, as earlier reports had the Mets and Dodgers as the front-runners for the Pineiro's services. But news of the Angels' interest heightened on Wednesday when Newsday reported the Angels were the veteran's top choice. Additionally, reported that the deal is pending a physical, which will be held Thursday. An Angels spokesperson, however, said the club "had nothing to announce at this time."

Pineiro, who went 15-12 with a 3.49 ERA in 32 starts with the Cardinals in 2009, will help solidify an Angels rotation that already has four quality starters in Jered Weaver, Scott Kazmir, Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana.

With the addition of Pineiro, the Angels now have a strong starting rotation on paper, but this deal is risky from the Angels' perspective:

  • Was Pineiro's 2009 season a fluke?
  • Is Pineiro worth $8 million dollars a year?
  • How will he fare in the American League?
  • Only a two year commitment
  • Adds SP depth
  • Angels now have a very deep rotation
  • Very effective when he keeps the ball down in the zone
Conclusion: The bottom line is this: if Joel Pineiro comes close to matching his 2009 performance for the Angels, then this contract will work out swimmingly for the Angels. Pineiro was fantastic last season for the Cardinals and not only turned his career around, but he showed the baseball world what he could do with his sinker when he kept the ball down. However, there are a number of questions about Pineiro that makes this deal a risk for the Angels. Can he pitch in the AL? Was Pineiro's 2009 season a fluke? The Angels are certainly hoping that Pineiro's career has turned a corner and that the 2009 Pineiro is the guy that they signed.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why Did the Giants Re-Sign Bengie Molina?

Reasons why the Giants signed Bengie Molina:

1. He calls a good game
2. The Giants felt that Buster Posey was not ready
3. Offensive production

No longer must the Giants worry about replacing the 20 home runs and 80 RBIs Molina provided last year, though they have attempted to bolster the offense this offseason by signing free agents Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff. After spending most of the previous two seasons batting fourth -- a role for which even he admitted he was miscast -- Molina is now likely to bat fifth or sixth, which should increase his comfort level and could deepen the Giants' lineup.
To me, this move represents everything that is wrong with the Giants right now. Instead of pursuing a player who could dramatically make the Giants lineup better, Sabean opted to spend his money in multiple places hoping to make the Giants lineup deeper and more potent. But even after adding Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa to the fold, Sabean realized that he still need a middle of the order hitter, who could give the Giants the punch they needed.

In addition, the catching market was so poor that Molina, who was considered to be the top catcher on the free agent market, was not likely to land anything more than a one year deal with an option. Once Molina decided to take a one year deal, he fell into the Giants lap. The Giants have gone after veteran players over the past few seasons with short contracts and the one they gave Molina is no exception.

Because of his limited resources and strange affinity for aging players with low OBPs, Sabean went after Molina. Ultimately, I think the Giants could have allocated their resources better because I don't think Huff, DeRosa, and Molina will improve their offense that much. But it's clear to me that the Giants value Bengie Molina a lot more than most teams do.

Why Orlando Cabrera Is Still Unsigned

Last winter, free agent SS Orlando Cabrera struggled badly to find suitors for his services. The reason? Cabrera was a Type A free agent and no team wanted to surrender a first round pick for his services. Cabrera eventually signed a one year/$4 million dollar contract with the Athletics in March that ensured that if Cabrera was a type A free agent again next winter, that the team could not offer him arbitration. The reasoning behind this move was obvious: Cabrera and his agent figured that if teams did not have to surrender a draft pick for Cabrera that he would have a better chance to land a multi year deal.

Despite putting up solid offensive numbers with the Athletics and Twins in 2009, the market for Orlando Cabrera this winter has been very quiet. Why? Maybe Cabrera's demands are excessive. Maybe not enough teams are looking for a shortstop. Maybe teams are shying away from Cabrera because of his low OBP. All of those could very well be the reason why.

But I think the main reason why Orlando Cabrera remains unsigned right now is because of his defense. Teams have begun to emphasize defense and the importance of defensive statistics this winter, and Cabrera's 2009 defensive stats were horrific. According to fangraphs, Cabrera's UZR last season was a staggeringly bad -13.7, which represents a sharp decline in Cabrera's defense from 2008 (13.1). Because of his terrible defense, it's easy to see why teams would shy away from Cabrera despite his production at the dish.

Even though Orlando Cabrera is no longer hamstrung by his Type A status like he was last winter, his struggles defensively have hindered his free agency this winter.

Eight Costly Decisions This Winter

In no particular order:

1. Jarrod Washburn turns down 1 year/$5 million dollar offer from the Twins

-Given how many starting pitchers are on the market right now and how poorly Washburn ended the 2009 season, why in the world did he turn this down?

2. Russell Branyan turns down 1 year deal from the Mariners

-Branyan wanted a multi year contract and some long term security, but concerns about his back have shied teams away and he remains on the market. Branyan will probably wind up with a one year deal, but I imagine that the base salary will be less than what the Mariners initially offered.

3. Adam LaRoche turns down 2 year/$17 million dollar offer from the Giants

-Sure, this offer was not the 3 year/$31 million dollar deal LaRoche wanted, but this was the best offer LaRoche received. However, LaRoche opted to sign a one year deal with the Diamondbacks because he felt uncomfortable playing in the Giants' spacious ballpark.

4. Jose Valverde declines the Astros' arbitration offer

-A baffling move based on emotion that probably will cost Valverde millions this winter.

5. Johnny Damon turns down the Yankees' 2 year/$14 million dollar offer

-Damon clearly overestimated his value on the market and by rejecting this offer, Damon might have turned down his best chance at a multi year deal.

6. Adrian Beltre declines the Mariners' arbitration offer

-Beltre declined the Mariners' offer, which would have been around $12 million, in the hopes of landing a multi year contract. However, the multi year deal never came and Beltre signed a 1 year/$7 million dollar contract with the Red Sox. Economically, it was a costly move, but from a baseball perspective, Beltre should flourish.

7. Bengie Molina turns down the Mets 1 year offer w/player option; signs a 1 year/$4.5 million dollar deal with the Giants instead.

-More on this deal later today, but like so many others, I'm dumbfounded by this deal.

8. Yorvit Torrealba comes thisclose to signing a 2 year/$6 million dollar contract with the Rockies; remains unsigned

-Torrealba might be able to land a contract similar to this on the open market (still), but with options dwindling, I imagine that he will be stuck taking a one year deal with a low base salary.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Did the Rockies Overpay Huston Street?

3 years/$22.5 million:

The Rockies agreed to multiyear contracts with relief pitchers Huston Street and Rafael Betancourt, has learned, giving the Rockies 11 players signed to contracts that tie them to the Rockies through at least 2011.

And that doesn’t include manager Jim Tracy, who earlier in the offseason signed a three-year deal that has learned has a $4.4 million guarantee.

Street, who is arbitration eligible and would have been able to become a free agent after the season, has agreed to a three-year deal with an option on a fourth year that guarantees him $22.5 million. The finalizing of the deal is pending Street undergoing a physical when he is in Denver this weekend for the Rockies fanfest. As a result of the delay both the Rockies and the Hendricks brothers, who represent Street, will file arbitration figures.

To me, this deal is a double edge sword for the Rockies.

On one hand, Street was likely to earn around $7 million this season through arbitration, so it's not like the Rockies are giving Street a massive raise this season. And $22.5 million over three years for a young, quality closer like Street does not seem outlandish when compared to what other closers make.

But once again, it comes back to this: should a small market team like the Rockies invest so heavily in a closer? If the Rockies 2010 payroll is somewhere in the $75 million dollar range, then does it make sense for them to commit almost 10% of their payroll to a pitcher, who likely will throw no more than 70 innings this season. In addition, given the unpredictability of relief pitchers, does it make sense for the Rockies to throw so much money at a closer when they have a limited budget to work with?

What do you think?

The Mets and Bengie Molina Just Cannot Come to Terms

From ESPN's Buster Olney:
Heard this: Bengie Molina has turned down the Mets' most recent offer, and the Mets are beginning to focus on Joel Pineiro...
I find it hard to believe that Molina is playing hardball with the Mets at this point. There are very few teams out there looking for a starting catcher at this point and even fewer that are willing to pay $6 million annually over two seasons.
Outside of the Mets and maybe the Mariners, what other teams need a starting catcher? The Mets offer, either a two year deal or a one year deal with an option, would seem to be the best offer Molina will see this winter.

It must be difficult for Molina to only get one year guaranteed when far inferior catchers like Jason Kendall, Ivan Rodriguez, and Brian Schneider all landed two years earlier this winter. Who knows? Maybe Molina really doesn't want to play for the Mets, but right now, it doesn't look like he has too many other/better options.

The Mets are still in a position of strength when it comes to catchers. Besides the four they currently have on the roster, the Mets can opt to go after free agent catchers Rod Barajas or Yorvit Torrealba, both of whom should command far less than what Molina is looking for.

Mariners Sign Felix Hernandez

The Seattle Mariners have made some stellar moves already this winter, but this one is probably the most important:

The Seattle Mariners have been shuffling the deck, but it looks like they'll keep their ace.

On the eve of exchanging salary figures for arbitration, right-hander Felix Hernandez has agreed to a multiyear contract with the team, pending a physical, a source with direct knowledge of the talks told's Keith Law on Monday.

The amount or length of the deal were not immediately available.

Huge move for the Mariners. There's no denying how important it was for the Mariners to lock up Hernandez long term and getting it done this winter is just another notch on GM Jack Zduriencik's belt.

The length of the contract will ultimately determine just how beneficial this contract is to the Mariners.
  • A three year deal only buys out one year of free agency
  • A four year deal buys out two years of free agency
  • A five year deal buys out three years of free agency
  • A six year deal buys out four years of free agency

From the Mariners' perspective, I'm sure they'd like to buy out as many of Felix's free agent seasons as possible given his performance and age. A six year contract would be ideal.

You can make the case that Hernandez certainly left money on the table by signing with the Mariners now as opposed to waiting two years for free agency, but the Mariners strong offseason must've shown Hernandez that the Mariners are serious about winning. From Hernandez's perspective, there's no reason to bolt from Seattle to the Yankees or Red Sox when the Mariners are surrounding him with a great community, beautiful ballpark, great players, fantastic defense, lots of money, and most importantly, a great chance to win.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Should the Mets Have Tried to Sign Adam LaRoche?

When news came down last night that Carlos Beltran was going to be sidelined for the next 8-12 weeks and probably miss the beginning of the season, my immediate concern was the Mets offense. Defensively, the Mets have at least two average options to replace Beltran in Fernando Martinez and Angel Pagan. But offensively, there is neither guy will come close to replacing Beltran's production or impact at the plate. And even though the Mets had already signed Jason Bay, the reality is that their offense will take a big hit without Beltran.

What made the Beltran news even worse for the Mets is that the number of free agent options to replace Beltran are dwindling. Marlon Byrd is off the market. Mike Cameron is off the market. Coco Crisp is off the market. So unless the Mets want to take a chance on Rick Ankiel, there really is no free agent option out there that is significantly better than Pagan or Martinez.

So if the Mets were going to stick with Pagan/Martinez in center, then where would the offense come from? As I scrolled through the free agent market last night, the one segment of the market that I felt the Mets could take advantage of was first base. With Adam LaRoche and even Russell Branyan still out there, the Mets could have signed a power hitter to a low cost contract, who hopefully would have picked up the offensive slack with Beltran out of the lineup and would not have blocked Ike Davis. With Beltran fully healthy and productive, the Mets can afford to live with Daniel Murphy at first base, but without Beltran, it's much tougher to depend on Murphy as their everyday first baseman. Murphy is a nice player, who could develop into something special, but if the Mets are serious about winning in 2010 with or without Carlos Beltran, then they will need more offensively out of first base.

But this morning, LaRoche signed with the Diamondbacks. It's tough to fault the Mets for not signing LaRoche only 12 hours or so after losing Beltran, but somewhere in his mind, Omar Minaya should be pissed that a player of LaRoche's caliber, who would have been a great fit for the "pre Beltran 2010 Mets", signed for such a reasonable amount of money and such a short period of time.

We'll see how the Mets choose to move forward. Obviously, they think that Benjie Molina will help pick up the slack offensively, but his bat alone will not be enough. It would not surprise me to see the Mets not make any major moves and simply survive until Beltran comes back, but as we saw last year, that plan is shaky.

Risk/Reward of the Adam LaRoche Signing

Adam LaRoche turned down a 2 year/$17 million dollar offer from the Giants a few weeks back. Today, LaRoche signed a one year deal with the Diamondbacks worth roughly $4-$6 million dollars.

Talk about a costly decision:

The signing -- still pending a physical -- would mean LaRoche becomes the team's everyday first baseman. That moves Conor Jackson to left field and makes Gerardo Parra the club's fourth outfielder.

LaRoche batted .277 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs in 150 games for the Pirates, Red Sox and Braves in 2009. The 30-year-old lefty hitter has notched 20-plus homers in each of his past five seasons -- including 32 with the Braves in '06 -- and sports a career .274 batting average with 136 homers in six seasons in the big leagues.

From the Diamondbacks' perspective, it's easy to like this deal because it offers lots of reward and very little risk.

  • potentially blocks Brandon Allen for a year (which might not be a bad thing)
  • Conor Jackson in left field-how will he fare?
  • No longer interested in Jose Valverde?
  • short term commitment
  • Makes lineup deeper and more potent
  • Adds some much needed power from the left side
  • Quality defensive first baseman (should help other infielders)
Conclusion: Aside from the fact that LaRoche made a huge mistake turning down the Giants' contract offer, playing in Arizona should be a nice fit for him. This is a team that is loaded with lots of young and talented offensive players and has a realistic chance at making the playoffs. LaRoche has put up consistently good power numbers throughout his career (20+ HR in every season since 2005), but LaRoche is a streaky hitter and his struggles and the beginning of the season have been well documented.

But this move signals to me that the Diamondbacks are serious about competing in 2010, which is not a surprise given the contract status of ace Brandon Webb. I imagine that by signing LaRoche the Diamondbacks have moved past their payroll threshold for the season, but I would love to see them remain aggressive on the free agent market (Jose Valverde!)

And if by chance the Diamondbacks are not competitive in 2010, then LaRoche could be a useful trade chip at the deadline. Bottom line: if LaRoche is healthy, then I'm confident that this deal will turn out well for the Diamondbacks.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Weak Market for Orlando Hudson

Orlando Hudson is asking for $9 million in 2010: No, that's not a joke:
It is believed Hudson is asking for $9 million for 2010, which is too much for the Nationals. And don't look for them to offer Hudson a two-year deal either. In fact, the source believes the Giants set the market for infielders like Hudson when they re-signed Juan Uribe to a one-year, $3.25 million contract on Jan. 5.
If Hudson is seriously looking for $9 million dollars, then he needs a dose of reality. Hudson will not get $9 million in 2010. In fact, he might not come close. Hudson might be the best second baseman on the free agent market, but there are very few teams out there actually looking for a second baseman.
  • Tigers: ONLY IF the price is right (back up option: Scott Sizemore)
  • Nationals: ONLY IF the price is right (back up option: Ian Desmond (at SS)
  • Mets: ONLY IF they are able to trade Luis Castillo
See, none of those teams NEED Hudson. That's the problem. If Hudson was able to develop a market where various teams were competing for his services, then maybe he could come closer to getting the $9 million dollars he seeks. Hudson's case is further hindered because Felipe Lopez, who is the other top second baseman on the market, is still available and is struggling to find interested suitors-just like Hudson. And beyond Hudson and Lopez, there are plenty of cheaper free agent 2Bs still out there: Adam Kennedy, Ronnie Belliard, etc.

Given how terribly Hudson's free agency went last winter, it's easy to understand why he is shooting high this winter. Hudson is now 32 years old and the stats are showing that Hudson is declining (especially defensively) and his chances of landing a lucrative multi year contract are diminishing.

Furthermore, the money is simply not there this winter. Only three free agent position players landed contracts that exceeded $9 million annually: Jason Bay, Matt Holliday, and Chone Figgins. That fact alone makes it unfathomable to think that Hudson will land anything close $9 million guaranteed.

It's clear to me that the Nationals are the best fit for Hudson at this point, but we'll see if Hudson's price comes down to their level. A incentive laden one year deal would make lots of sense for both sides and at this point, I think Hudson would be giddy if the Nationals offered him a multi year contract.

Two Years for Jose Valverde?

According to Lynn Henning of the Detroit News, the Tigers are going after Jose Valverde. The potential contract? Two years/$12 million.

Valverde will cost the Tigers plenty if he ends up signing with Detroit. The Tigers must forfeit their first-round draft pick in 2010 (19th overall), just as they likely will be on the hook for a two-year deal, probably in the neighborhood of $12-$13 million.
A two year contract makes all the sense in the world for the Tigers. In exchange for surrendering their first round pick, the Tigers would be acquiring an all-star caliber closer at a bargain basement price. When you consider that almost all of the top closers are paid around $10 million annually, signing Valverde for two years at roughly $6 million annually is certainly a steal.

But for Jose Valverde, a guaranteed two year contract with the Tigers makes little sense. Valverde has little leverage in negotiations because of his type A status and the limited number of teams that are looking for a closer, but unless Valverde insists on taking a multi year contract that is far below what he expected to make this winter, then Valverde and his agent should do everything possible to keep the contract to only a one year guarantee. The hope should be that Valverde can hit the open market again after the 2010 season and come closer to landing the multi year contract worth around $10 million annually.

If the Tigers refuse to give Valverde a straight one year deal, then a mutual option would suffice, but a player option for 2011 would be better. In addition, Valverde's agent needs to insist that if the Tigers sign Valverde, that they cannot offer him arbitration (a la Orlando Cabrera this winter) so that Valverde is not hamstrung by his type A status next winter.

There's no denying that Jose Valverde is in a tough spot right now. But the best thing that Valverde and his agent can do this winter is to get everything in place for Valverde to maximize his earning potential next winter (one year deal, cannot offer arbitration). And look, if the Tigers need Valverde to accept a two year deal to justify losing their first round draft pick, then Valverde should simply move on and look elsewhere...namely Arizona or Houston.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Apologies

I'd like to apologize for the lack of content over the last couple of days. I have been dealing with a serious family matter that has put baseball on the back burner for now. I have a few pieces brewing and I expect to have something up tomorrow, but there will be nothing new today.

Thanks for your understanding.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Was Matt Holliday Worth $60 Million More Than Jason Bay?

Since free agency began in November, Matt Holliday and Jason Bay have been the consensus two best hitters on the free agent market. The general thought seems to be that while Bay is a great hitter, Holliday was the more desirable free agent for several reasons:

-age (almost 30 years old...should be entering prime years)

  • By contrast, Jason Bay will be 32 years old this season

-defensive ability (6.9 UZR for career...only one season with negative UZR)

  • By contrast, Jason Bay's career UZR is -7.9 and he has routinely put up statistically terrible defensive seasons

And yes, Holliday is generally thought of as the superior offensive player, even though Bay is a pretty darn good hitter in his own right. Admittedly, it seems that there are roughly a gazillion angles that you could take to examine the offensive ability and production of Jason Bay and Matt Holliday throughout their respective careers.

Matt Holliday:

  • Matt Holliday played a majority of his career at the very hitter friendly Coors Field. How much did that help him?
  • Matt Holliday struggled during his brief tenure with the Oakland Athletics. How should that performance be taken into account?
  • Matt Holliday's offensive numbers exploded once he was traded to the Cardinals. Was his statistical spike simple because of hitting behind Albert Pujols or did Holliday finally find his stroke?

Jason Bay:

  • For years, Jason Bay performed very well offensively for the Pirates (with the exception of 2007) even though the Pirates offense routinely stunk and Bay was surrounded with sub-par talent. How would Bay's stats be different if he played in a hitter's ballpark with great talent around him?
  • Over the past year and a half, Jason Bay has been of the Red Sox best hitters and consistently put up big numbers when he was surrounded by great offensive talent. How much did that effect his stats? Does this prove that Bay can hit in both the National and American League?

No matter how you slice it, the point is this: both Jason Bay and Matt Holliday are excellent hitters. In fact, over the past two seasons, Hollday's wRAA (which judges the number of runs over replacement) was 46 and 33.9 (average 39.9) while Bay's wRAA was 32.4 and 36 (average 34.2). So while it's clear that Holliday has been the superior offensive talent, the numbers suggest that Jason Bay is not that far behind Matt Holliday and there is a good chance that Holliday's numbers will decline now that he is away from Coors Field (as evidenced by the drop from 46 (2008 with the Rockies) to 33.9 (2009 with A's/Cardinals).

So I think it's safe to say that Matt Holliday was the more attractive free agent because he was younger than Jason Bay and the superior hitter and defensive player of the two.

But does that justify why Jason Bay only landed a 4 year/$66 million dollar contract with the Mets and why Matt Holliday got a 7 year/$120 million dollar contract with the Cardinals? Is there anyway to justify that Holliday should have landed a contract that is almost $60 million dollars richer than that signed by the second best hitter on the free agent market? I don't think so.

Here's what I think happened: Holliday and Bay both struggled to find teams that were willing to meet their asking price. Bay wanted five years at $16 million annually; Holliday wanted at least seven years at $18 million annually and hoped for a Teixeira-like contract. Why did Holliday come so much closer to his desired contract? Blame it on Boras.

The main suitor for Bay-the Mets-were willing to go four years maximum with Bay and refused to go any higher given how little competition there was for Bay and the risk involved with giving a 32 year old a five year contract. Sure Bay still has the possibility of landing a five year deal, but only four seasons are actually guaranteed with the Mets.

The main suitor for Holliday-the Cardinals-strangely gave into Holliday's contract demands even though there was no other real competition for his services. Hell, Holliday's contract even includes an option for an eighth season! Was that really necessary? The only offer that we know of for Holliday was the five year/$82.5 million dollar offer from the Red Sox (a few weeks back) and the Cardinals simply blew that offer away even though the Red Sox were no longer in the picture. It sure looks like the Cardinals wound up bidding against themselves, even though they eventually landed their guy.

I think the Cardinals could have landed Holliday without guaranteeing a seventh season and including anything about an eighth. Something in the six year/$96 million dollar range would have worked. Maybe the Cardinals got anxious and wanted to have Holliday in the fold ASAP. Maybe the Cardinals wanted to act quickly, fearing that a big market club would swoop in and sign Holliday. Or maybe the Cardinals just really, really like Holliday and they feel comfortable giving him such a large contract.

For my money, I'd take Jason Bay at $66 million over Matt Holliday at $120 anyday.

Risk/Reward of the Matt Holliday Signing

Almost by default, Matt Holliday and the Cardinals came to terms on a 7 year/$120 million dollar contract. So much for the Yankees:
The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to a seven-year, $120 million deal with Matt Holliday, has learned. Holliday will also get a full no-trade clause.

Holliday batted .353 with 13 home runs and 55 RBIs in 63 games with the Cardinals after being acquired in a July trade from the Oakland Athletics. He helped stabilize their batting order by providing a consistent power threat in the cleanup spot behind NL MVP Albert Pujols. When they added Holliday on July 24, the Cardinals led the NL Central by just 1½ games, but by the end of August their lead had swelled to 10 games and they cruised to the division title.


The Cardinals are hoping to use this deal to show Albert Pujols how committed they are to winning. Pujols' contract expires after the 2011 season.

While there is a high level of risk involved with this deal, the Cardinals ultimately decided to pull the trigger because there was no competition and Holliday represents a rare opportunity for the Cardinals to dramatically improve their team:

  • Severely limits payroll flexibility in the future
  • Will Matt Holliday be on the decline by the end of the contract?
  • Did the Cardinals need to give Holliday seven years given how little competition was out there?
  • Full no trade!
  • dynamic 1-2 punch with Pujols; deep and potent lineup
  • teams can no longer pitch around Pujols like they used to
  • increases the Cardinals' chances of retaining Pujols after 2011
  • Are the Cardinals the team to beat in the National League?

Conclusion: The reality of this deal is simple: if the Cardinals win a championship with Holliday and re-sign Pujols, then this deal is a win for the Cardinals. The Cardinals now feature one of the best lineups in the National League and have given the best hitter in the world some much needed protection. From that angle, it's very easy to like this deal. And from Albert Pujols' perspective, it has be great to see the Cardinals spend the big bucks to surround him with impact talent. If you believe that somehow the Holliday signing is linked to Pujols eventually re-signing, then it's very easy to like this deal.

But I have to honest, I'm worried about the future impact of this deal for the Cardinals. If the Cardinals payroll remains around $100 million, then with Holliday on board for $17 million and Pujols on board for roughly $20-$30 million, that would not leave the Cardinals with much room to spend on other players. Can a team with a $100 million dollar payroll win with 40%+ of its payroll committed to two great players? That's the question that Cardinals fans have to be thinking about.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Should Adrian Beltre Have Accepted the Mariners' Arbitration Offer?

Shortly after Adrian Beltre signed a one year contract with the Red Sox, it became apparent that Beltre left a nice chunk of change on the table. Beltre only got $9 million guaranteed from the Red Sox, a far cry from the 5 year/$65 million dollar deal that agent Scott Boras was looking for.

But there is another interesting sub-plot to the Adrian Beltre signing. Back in December, Beltre declined the Mariners' arbitration offer because he was seeking a multi year contract that exceeded $10 million dollars annually. If Beltre had accepted the Mariners' offer, then he would have been in line to make roughly $12 million in 2010, which is $3 million more than he wound up taking with the Red Sox.

One could say that Beltre and Boras took a calculated risk by declining arbitration in the hopes that a huge contract would be out there for Beltre. Even if that contract was not there, Boras and Beltre obviously felt confident enough in the market that Beltre could land a similar one year contract (around $12 million). Sure Beltre would be leaving money on the table, but the chance to explore the market was a risk worth taking.

Also, the decision to decline arbitration goes right back to earning potential. With what team does Beltre have the best opportunity to land a huge contract? That answer, obviously, was not with the Mariners. Ask yourself this-where does Beltre have the best chance to put up big numbers in 2010-with the Mariners at the spacious SAFECO Field or elsewhere? I'd have to put my money on elsewhere.

So even though Beltre left money on the table just by declining arbitration, in the end I think that was the right move.

Smart Move, Adrian Beltre

Adrian Beltre signed with the Red Sox yesterday on a one year contract. This deal was somewhat surprising given how focused Beltre and agent Scott Boras were on getting Beltre a multi year deal.

Take it away, John Tomase:

The Red Sox have always liked Adrian Beltre. For much of free agency, they just didn’t like his price.

But that changed when Beltre decided one year in Boston was worth more in the long run than three or four somewhere else. So today he officially agreed to a one-year, $9 million deal with a $5 million player option for 2011, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions. Beltre can also earn a $1 million buyout if he reaches a plate appearances total commensurate with that of a regular, and the contract contains an escalator on the option that’s only triggered if he makes a significant number of plate appearances.

Far from Beltre’s original asking price of five years and $65 million, the one-year deal looks like a bargain for the Red Sox, who are guaranteed a season of Gold Glove defense at third, while leaving fellow Gold Glover Kevin Youkilis at first.

The deal was agreed to in principle on New Year’s Eve and finalized on Sunday night. Beltre turned down more money from at least two teams – he had a four-year offer early in free agency and then a three-year deal for roughly the same annual value as the deal the Red Sox offered – but he chose Boston with an eye on having a big year for a contender and then hitting the market again next year.

Very good decision by Beltre. As I mentioned before, if Beltre wanted to maximize his earning potential in the future, then taking a one year deal now was his best bet. Why? Because the money and years Beltre thought he'd be in line for this winter simply were not there. So by taking a one year deal with Boston, Beltre is putting himself in a fantastic position to have a big year both offensively and defensively should he stay healthy. The Red Sox lineup is deep and talented and playing in Fenway Park will be a plus for Beltre, who I'm sure is thrilled to be away from SAFECO Park.

Also, the inclusion of the $5 million dollar player option for 2011 is interesting because if Beltre stays healthy, then there is almost no chance that he would pick up the option. There are three scenarios in which I can actually see Beltre picking up that option:
  • he has a terrible season in 2010
  • misses a significant amount of playing time
  • the economy completely implodes

With none of those scenarios likely, this deal is likely to just be a one year deal, which should be fine for both sides. The Red Sox retain the ability to make a move for Adrian Gonzalez next winter should he be available and Beltre instantly becomes the best third baseman on the 2010 free agent market (with Cantu, Feliz, Atkins, and Inge right behind).

Monday, January 4, 2010

Jayson Werth=Jason Bay?

Jayson Werth will become a free agent after this season and's Todd Zolecki ponders what kind of deal Werth might command. His guess: 4 years/$64 million (or something similar):
3. Can the Phillies sign Jayson Werth to a contract extension?

Jason Bay could sign a four-year, $64 million contract with the Mets. You've got to think Werth will be able to command a similar contract once he becomes a free agent after next season. And I'm not sure if the Phillies can match that. They've got a ton of free agents coming after the 2011 season, so they will have to determine who they can keep and for how much. The Phillies also have top prospect Domonic Brown coming through the system, but it is unclear if he will he be ready to play every day at the big league level by 2011. But Werth is a rare talent: he can hit for power, he can run, he plays good defense. He would be tough to replace, which is why it would be good to have him around for a while longer.
To date, Werth has only had one above average season (2008) and one stellar season (2009), but that doesn't necessarily mean that Werth won't be able to land a Jason Bay-esque contract. Sure, Bay has far more extensive resume than Werth right now, but as it stands right now, there are plenty of reasons why Werth should be thinking and dreaming big next winter:

1. age
-When Werth becomes a free agent, he will only be 31 years old, which is the age Jason Bay was this winter.

2. Skill set
-As Zolecki noted, Werth is a phenomenal talent and can do just about everything well on the baseball field. While Bay got stuck with the "defensive liability" label this winter, it's nearly impossible to think that Werth will be stuck with the same label next winter because he's been a fantastic defensive player throughout his career. At the dish, Werth can do just about everything: hit for power, get on base, steal bases, score runs, etc. In short, there is plenty to like about Werth's game and ability.

3. Market
-This offseason, there were two prominent free agent hitters on the free agent market: Matt Holliday and Jason Bay. Holliday was generally thought of as the better all around player of the two, but their similar offensive ability certainly undercut the market for both players.

The market next winter looks very promising for Werth because there are no other outfielders with his skill set that are still in their prime. Case in point:
  • Carl Crawford is a fantastic talent and is still in the prime of his career, but his skill set is totally different than Werth
  • Maggilo Ordonez is a right handed power hitter, but he is past his prime and could be declining
  • Pat Burrell cannot play defense and might be on the decline offensively
  • Other options: Adam Dunn (cannot play defense, 1b?, left handed), Jose Guillen (headcase), Eric Byrnes (is he even a starter at this point?)

4. Economy
-The wild card in this equation. Hopefully for Werth, the economy has picked up by next winter and more teams have money to spend on free agents.

So if Werth is able to put together another monster season for the Phils (.275, 30 HR, 95 RBI, 20 SB, .370 OBP), then I would expect him to command a contract that not only matches the 4 year/$64 million that Jason Bay got from the Mets, but it's possible that he could get a larger deal (both money and years).

Forgotten Free Agent: Aubrey Huff

Over the next couple of days, Jorge Says No! will be highlighting some of the forgotten free agents. You know, the guys that aren't getting much publicity or action on the open market even though they could have a lot to bring to the table. Next up, Aubrey Huff.
.304/32 HR/108 RBI/96 R/.360 OBP/.912 OPS

That line is from Aubrey Huff's 2008 season. Pretty impressive stuff, right? During the 2008 season, Huff was one of the top hitters in the American League and finally put together the strong offensive season that so many expected from him.

If Huff was a free agent after the 2008 season, is there any doubt that he would've been in line for a multi-year contract?

But unfortunately for Huff, he became a free agent after the 2009 season, which meant that if Huff wanted to put himself in a good position for free agent riches, then he would have to duplicate his 2008 offensive statistics. Not surprisingly, Huff's offensive stats fell dramatically in 2009, largely because of his struggles against right handed pitching:

.241/15 HR/85 RBI/59 R/.310/.694 OPS

Because of his poor 2009 season, the free agent market for Aubrey Huff has been non existent and through the first six weeks of free agency, Huff's name has rarely been brought up in discussions. The biggest problem facing Huff at the moment is that if he cannot perform at the dish, then he offers little value elsewhere because his defense is so poor. Huff seems destined to land somewhere in the American League where he can DH, but there do not seem to be many teams out there looking for a DH and there are plenty of other free agents out there who bring similar qualities to the table as Huff (Delgado, Branyan, Blalock, LaRoche, Thome, etc.).

So what does this all mean for Huff? In a nutshell, if he is offered the opportunity to DH everyday on a incentive laden one year contract, then he should absolutely take it. It's very doubtful that Huff will land anything more than a one year contract at this point, so Huff should simply be looking for the best opportunity he can find.