Sunday, November 30, 2008

King James and the MLB

As some of you probably know, on Tuesday night, the New York Knicks played LeBron James and the Cleveland Caviliers at Madison Square Garden. The game was a blowout by the second quarter, but most of the fans in the stands did not come to watch the Knicks win. They came to see LeBron, who is far and away the best player in the game. LeBron can do anything he wishes on the court and will have hundreds of millions of dollars thrown at him when he becomes a free agent in 2010. James is that good, a once in a lifetime basketball talent. He is unquestionably the face of the NBA.

So what the hell does this have to do with baseball? Well, it's simple. Even though baseball has boomed since the lockout and continues to swim in massive revenues and profit, I don't think that there is a LeBron in baseball. There is not one player who completely takes over the game with his ridiculous skills and has crossover appeal into pop culture. There is no mid nineties Ken Griffey Jr., a guy who could completely captivate an audience and transcend the minds of young children. Griffey was by far the most popular player in the majors and easily had the most hype attached to his name.
You can certainly make the case that Alex Rodriguez is the "face" of the MLB. Here is a guy who can do it all, looks like a million bucks, will probably hit over 800 homers, and plays for the Yankees! And did I mention that he is probably dating Madonna! What more could a marketer want?

Well, here's the problem with A-Rod. Even if he is the best player in baseball, he is far from being the most popular guy on his own team. Ask any Yankee fan who the leader of the Yankees is and the answer will be Derek Jeter. Jeter was in NY long before A-Rod and there is no chance that A-Rod will ever surpass Jeter in popularity no matter how many MVPs A-Rod wins. Furthermore, A-Rod's struggles in clutch situations have prevented Yankee fans from fully accepting Rodriguez as a "Yankee." And c'mon, he's dating Madonna...doesn't that make him sorta weird?

So then why isn't Jeter the LeBron James of baseball? He's good looking, talented, plays for the New York Yankees, and has won four world championships. Strangely enough, this probably hurts Jeter more than it helps. His best days are well behind him and he has not won a championship with the Yankees in eight seasons. There will always be a lure around Derek Jeter, but the luster is clearly fading away.

So how about some non-Yankees. There is no doubt that MVP Albert Pujols is a fantastic hitter and a remarkable person, but for some reason, I don't think of Pujols as the face of baseball. Pujols has won a championship, two MVPs, and even had his "Oh my goodness" moment when he hit a monstrous home run off Brad Lidge during the 2005 why isn't he the LeBron of baseball? Pujols plays in a somewhat constrictive market. It's difficult for people in New York and California to fully embrace a guy who plays all the way in Missouri.

And I'm sure many of you will think, "wait, Lebron James plays basketball in Ohio and he's the face of the NBA! What gives!" Well, even though LeBron James is only entering his sixth season in the NBA, most of America already knew who he was well before he entered the NBA. Anyone remember ESPN broadcasting LeBron's high school basetball games? Or how about the LeBron beign featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated during High School? Hype has sold and will continue to sell LeBron James no matter where he goes or where he plays.

So how can major league baseball recreate the hype that brought us Junior and developed LeBron James into an icon? For MLB, the ingredients are simple: he must be a minor leaguer with an absurd amount of talent sprinkled with some good looks and charm. Oh yeah, playing in a big market helps alot! Take for example, Joba Chamberlain. During 2007, there was a hype about Joba before he even entered the big leagues because of his amazing stats in the minors and 100 MPH fastball. Once Joba reached the majors, every time he pitched became a showcase, an event of some sort, as every fan wanted to take a glance at the amazing Joba. Even into 2008, as Joba began to pitch out of the rotation, his starts became a spectacle in New York, oozing with hype and enthusiasm.

Chamberlain might have been the Griffey of this generation. However, there is no comparison between the two because Griffey played every day while fans have to wait and anticipate when Joba will pitch. Furthermore, Joba is way to unknown to even be in the conversation for face of the MLB even with the enormous hype he entered the league with. He may be the best thing since sliced bread...who knows? Too early to tell.

Maybe finding a LeBron James type is more difficult for the MLB than the NBA. Even if basketball is a team sport, one player can certainly dominate a team and more importantly, take over a game at any given point. That's impossible for baseball players, who either have to wait their turn to hit or can only pitch when the manager gives them the ball. That's a huge difference between the two sports.

I'm sure that the next Ken Griffey Jr. will come. Maybe this year, maybe in ten years...or maybe we already missed him. Just make sure to appreciate greatness while it's there, because as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa proved, legends don't last forever.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

One Less Headache for Mike Maddux (Part II)

Looks like the Rangers are beginning to purge their roster of fringe pitchers. Two day after granting Kameron Loe his unconditional release, the Rangers today traded away RP Wes Littleton to the Boston Red Sox for the always entertaining, future considerations. Seriously, what the hell are future considerations anyway?

After impressing Rangers brass during his first stint with the Rangers, Littleton has failed to impress largely because of his low strikeout rate and inability to pitch in Arlington (surprise, surprise!). Littleton is known for his drop down motion, which induces his fair share of ground balls. This could potentially make him useful to the Red Sox, but Littleton needs to prove that he can strike people out.

As for the Rangers, chalk this one up to "needs a change of scenery." I think that Rangers need to be aggressive in changing the mindset of the entire pitching staff and cleaning house is actually a good thing for the entire organization. Sorta like riding the Wonka Factory of all those bad eggs. Next up, CJ Wilson, Scott Feldman, Luis Mendoza, Kevin Millwood, Vincente Padilla, and the list goes on and on....That's alot of bad eggs.

Once again, have fun with this group, Mike Maddux.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, Mike Maddux

One less struggling career to miraculously revive!

The Rangers released Kameron Loe, who intends to play in Japan in 2009. Loe always had good stuff, but was never able to put it all together on the big league level (like many Rangers pitchers).

Is there any way the Rangers can get rid of Scott Feldman and Luis Mendoza while they're at it? I'm just not sure if the Japanese League will want either one of them....

Once again, good luck Mr. Maddux!

(Note: I am strangely obsessed with the Rangers pitching staff. I love watching the Rangers offense, but just watching the Rangers pitch gives me a sinking feeling. It's kinda like watching the 2008 Mets bullpen pitch all the time. I don't know how Rangers fans put up with watching horrible pitchers year after year without getting severe ulcers. It's sad...the Rangers have a competitive/winning offense, but their pitching staff crushes any chance they have to compete...year after year. If they could ever get some quality arms, the Rangers would be a fun team to watch)

Jorge Says...Happy Thanksgiving! (with an awesome coupon!)

First off, lemme just thank everyone here who has read or visited the blog over the past four months. The site is relatively new and it is still a huge thrill to me every time someone comments on an article or reads the site.I love to hear any and all feedback about anything related to the site or baseball so please, feel free to leave a comment or email me.

My goal for the website is clear: to provide the best baseball content and insight that I possibly can. I am thankful to have a platform that gives me the opportunity to express my views, whether you agree with me or not. And I really believe that the best is yet to come.

So thanks again everybody!

Also, I am proud to offer all of my readers 5% off your next time you purchase tickets from! This is a quality website that offers great ticket deals for fans and I hope all of you will check it out. Simply enter the coupon code ABC106 at the end of your order to get the 5% off!

Have a great Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Smart Cubbies

I think that Jake Peavy is one of the best pitchers in baseball. The numbers speak for them self. In three of the last four seasons, Peavy has produced an ERA under three while striking out over 200 hitters. That's flat out domination. Almost any team in baseball craves to get their hands on a pitcher like Peavy.

With that said, I think that the Cubs are smartly staying away from Peavy. As Manager Lou Piniella stated,
"Starting we don't need. We're set. We've got six good starters, and they're all experienced. Getting [Ryan] Dempster back was the key. We're in good shape with our starting pitching."
Piniella hit the nail on the head. Even though Peavy would certainly upgrade the Cubs pitching, the price the Cubs would have to pay for Peavy is certain to be astronomical. The Padres appear to be looking for at least one or two prime talents. Unfortunately for the Cubs, their minor league system is not stacked like the Braves and they would probably have to include Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot, Sean Marshall, Josh Vitters or Felix Pie. The inclusion of any of these players would mitigate the Cubs little organizational depth.

If the Cubs are going to win this season, their depth is going to play a big role. Rich Harden is perennially injured while Carlos Zambrano struggled with shoulder injuries throughout the second half of 2008. Furthermore, Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano have each dealt with their fair share of injuries during their Cub tenures. I have a feeling that the Cubs will need all the quality talent they need if they are to succeed in 2009.

Trading for Peavy would have been a classic panic move after the Cubs got swept by the Dodgers. The Cubs are a great baseball team that only needs some minor tweaking to be a serious contender in 2009. The only way the Cubs should make move on Peavy is if they can acquire him at a heavily discounted rate.

(Note: I would love to see the Reds made a strong play for Peavy. Between Daryl Thompson, Homer Bailey, Brandon Phillips, the Reds might have enough to make this thing interesting. They should have no problem generating offense in that ballpark and Peavy would give them a dynamic 1-2 with Edinson Volquez. Would Reds ownership would raise payroll? That's another story)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Orioles Need Some Noise

Last offseason, the Baltimore Orioles traded away SP Erik Bedard and SS Miguel Tejada in a attempt to rebuild the once proud franchise back into respectability. After years of aging players and foolish contracts, it appeared as though the Orioles turned a corner last offseason towards youth and rebuilding.

In order to compete in the AL East, this is exactly what the Orioles needed to do. Even though the Orioles did not play very well in 2008, I thought that the rebuilding process was actually right on track. Aside from the continued growth of OF Nick Markakis and OF Adam Jones, the Orioles lucked out by getting great seasons out of veterans Melvin Mora, Aubrey Huff, and Ramon Hernandez. Three players who have no future with the Orioles because of their age and expiring contracts (after 2009) trade pieces!!!!

Or so I thought. As of today, I have heard next to nothing on the trade front from the Orioles, which concerns me. The value for all three of these guys will never be higher and this is the Orioles last chance to get some return on their investment. The odds are high that these aging veterans will not be able to repeat their 2008 performance, which makes holding onto them even more foolish. Even if Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora hit 30+ HRs each next season, the Orioles will probably still remain in the AL East cellar.

Maybe the Orioles are holding off on the rebuilding process until later on in the season because they want to sign local favorite 1b Mark Teixeira. Tex is exactly the kind of player the Orioles need-a young, marketable, power hitter. But, with or without Tex, the Orioles are still years away from competing in the AL East and they need to cut ties with these three veterans now. Getting younger should be the Orioles top priority right now, even if they struggle in 2009 and 2010.

Last offseason was a great start for the Orioles rebuilding project. But that was just the start. They need to finish the job by moving (or trying to move) Huff, Mora, and Hernandez. Activity is the only way for the Orioles to dramatically improve, while doing nothing would leave the Orioles in the gutter.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

All That for Roger Clemens?

Ok, scenario time.

Your neighbor's house is burning down, the firefighters are on the scene already, and everyone is safe. So why in the world would you run back into the burning house?

For a Roger Clemens signed baseball.

Seriously folks, I can't make this up. That's exactly the scenario the Pete Ringo of Montgomery, Texas found himself in. Upon realizing that the ball signed by their beloved Clemens was still inside the Carnahan's burning home, Ringo sprinted in to save the ball from the fire, smoke, and water damage.
“He even ran inside because he knew we had a baseball signed by Roger Clemens,” Tracy Carnahan said. “I never would’ve thought of that.”
As an autograph enthusiast myself, I can certainly understand having a valuable keepsake, in both monetary and sentimental value. But risking your own life to save a signed baseball is a bit much, don't ya think? And it's so ironic that the ball in question was signed by none other than "Mr. Steroid" Roger Clemens. I'm sure Roger would be thrilled to hear that even after the steroid allegations, people are willing to risk their lives for his signature. Now that's loyalty.

(Side Note: Whose more popular in Texas, Clemens or Nolan Ryan? And why do Texans love flame throwing right handers? There has to be a reason!)

Also, Clemens signature on a ball is currently raking in $20-$40 on eBay. I know the economy is terrible, but I'm going to have to go with sentimental value on this story. Who woulda thought that a Roger Clemens signed ball would be worth the same as a Steve Yeager signed ball. Talk about depreciation!

Worth a Shot: Val Pascucci

It's amazing to me that this will be my second post about Pascucci. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why the Mets did not give him a shot this season. Even with Moises Alou and Ryan Church missing significant time during the season, the Mets never even bothered to give Pascucci a look. Instead, they gave at bats to stiffs like Endy Chavez (weak hitter), Trot Nixon, and Marlon Anderson. It's obvious that the Mets have no confidence in Pascucci, but there are plenty of reasons why other teams should be interested in the 30 year old.

For starters, Pascucci can flat out hit. Since returning from a stint in Japan, Pascucci statistics have been remarkably consistent.

2007: .284 BA 34 HR 98 RBI .389 OBP
2008: .290 BA 27 HR 81 RBI .410 OBP

Simply put, those numbers are fantastic. Not only can Pascucci hit for power, but he has a great eye at the plate and gets on base frequently. Furthermore, Pascucci absolutely crushes left handed pitching. He hit .373 against lefties this season with 10 HR and a .476 OBP, which is absolutely absurd. His talents are not easy to find and I think whoever gives Pascucci a shot will get a potential diamond in the rough.

I'm sure there will be many GMs who will shutter at the thought of giving a 30 year old retread a realistic shot at the 25 man roster. But Valentino Pascucci is not a AAAA player. His statistics are too good to ignore and his talents are too rare to simply shun. At worst, Pascucci is a pinch hitter with power against lefties and who knows, Pascucci could be a great fit in a platoon.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Free Heilman!

Over the past four seasons, Aaron Heilman has gone through more ups and downs than the Dow Jones. After failing to establish himself as a starting pitcher, the Mets moved Heilman to the bullpen during the 2005 season, even though Heilman wanted to be a starter. Since then, Heilman has been a stalwart in the Mets bullpen for the better and for worse. (and has maintained his desire to pitch in the starting rotation)

For better:
Heilman was fantastic from 2005-2007 during the regular season by establishing himself as a reliable set up man who could pitch multiple innings. His ability to get both lefties and righties out made him a favorite of ex-Mets Manager Willie Randolph.

For worse:
Yadier Molina. Just typing that name brings back bad images in my head. Molina crushed a hanging change-up from Heilman to give the Cardinals a 3-1 lead in game 7 of the NLCS. The Mets ultimately lost the game and propelled the Cardinals to the World Series.

2008. Heilman bounced back in 2007 after the Yadier Molina homer to have his best statistical season to date. But for some reason, Heilman struggled mightily in 2008. Heilman seemed to have established himself as a reliable set up man, but this season, he fell off the map. Lefties hit .308 against Heilman, which was shocking because Heilman performed well throughout his career against both lefties and righties. By the end of the season, Heilman was relegated to the back of the Mets bullpen, often the focal point of the many boo birds at Shea Stadium.

So it should come as no surprise that Heilman has asked once again to be moved to the rotation or to be traded. As much as Heilman frustrated Mets fans this season, moving Heilman to the rotation, or at least giving him a shot to start, makes all the sense in the world.

For starters, the Mets only have three guys penciled into the starting rotation right now, so perhaps Heilman could fill one of those spots (or at least compete with Jonathan Niese). If this happens, the Mets would have no need to bring in competition (i.e Pedro) to battle with Niese during Spring Training and they could focus their efforts on rebuilding the bullpen and adding depth to the roster.

The knack against Heilman over the years is that he could only throw two pitches. Heilman has a great change up and a pretty good (sometimes explosive) fastball, but has lacked consistency with his slider. To me, this is a prime example of knit picking. One of the Mets best starting pitchers is Mike Pelfrey, a guy who has one plus pitch (fastball) and a decent slider, but is successful because he continually pounds the strike zone and has excellent command. Obviously Heilman is a completely different pitcher than Pelfrey, but the Mets can impose the same philosophy with Heilman that they did with Pelfrey, then I think Heilman can be successful. Remember folks, Heilman has great stuff.

Also, the Mets love to bring up Heilman's previous struggles as a starting pitcher. To that, I say hogwash. Most of those numbers are from 2003 and 2004, a time in which Heilman was struggling to find himself on the major league stage. Since then, Heilman has experienced success as a pro and changed his arm slot. Heilman is a completely different pitcher now than he was five years ago.

Furthermore, if the Mets trade Heilman, Omar Minaya would be selling Heilman at his lowest point. At no point over the last four years has Heilman's value been lower. Since the Mets still control Heilman's rights for the next two seasons, it makes sense to see what he can do as a starter to see if his value will increase.

For Mets fans, the obvious benefit here is that Heilman would be out of the rotation, now unable to blow anymore leads in the excruciating fashion that has become his trademark. Fewer sleepless nights and ulcers are definitely a good thing for the panicky fan base (I know this all too well).
(Photo: Daylife)


Surprisingly, I have not written too much about the Jake Peavy trade talks. I wrote earlier that the Padres should NOT trade Peavy, but apparently the divorce of Padres owner John Moores is more important that fielding a competitive baseball team. Go crazy Padres fans, go crazy. Boycott anyone?

But the real story here is why the Peavy deal has not been completed yet. The Padres have negotiated extensively with the Braves and Cubs, both of whom would love to add Peavy. It would have benefited both sides to have completed this deal by now, but because of the gird lock, Jake Peavy remains a Padre, for now. So what's the holdup?

1. The Contract
After the 2007 season, Peavy signed a team friendly extension (3 years/$52 mil) with the Padres through the 2012 season. Even though Peavy could have probably tripled that contract on the open market, he gave the Padres the "San Diego discount" thinking that this deal would keep him in the sunshine for the foreseeable future. Not if John Moores' divorce has anything to do with it! So now, as the Padres look to move Peavy, they are asking for a premium package in return because whoever acquires Peavy will get an ace pitcher at a bargain price.

So that conceivable should put the Padres in a power position to get a fantastic return on a Peavy trade. Right?

2. No Trade Clause
Ooops. When the Padres gave Peavy an extension last winter, they also included a full no trade clause for the ace right hander. My bad.The full trade clause has come back to bite the Padres in the butt because Peavy can eliminate any team that he does not want to be traded too.

And all indications are that Peavy wants to stay in the NL, which eliminates bidders like the Yankees and Angels. I suspect that if Peavy were to be traded to an AL team, he would want to be handsomely compensated ($$$) for going against his original wishes. In turn, AL teams would not offer the Padres as much for Peavy because they know that they probably would have to sign him to a huge contract.

Also, the no trade clause adds significant leverage to National League teams, who will be hesitant to offer a premium package to the Padres because they know that the number of Peavy suitors has been diluted. When less teams are involved in trade talks, it becomes more difficult to start a bidding war between two teams and in turn, receive the desired package of players. I suspect this is where the Braves are playing hardball. They know that the market for Peavy is small, so they are refusing to give up their top prospects (Schafer, Hanson, Heyward) and are refusing to part with more than one premium talent (Yunel Escobar).

By having a say in where he winds up, Jake Peavy is undercutting the trade market. The buyers in the Jake Peavy market need to be patient. If the Padres are really set on dealing Peavy, then their price will come down in time. Just look at what happened with Johan Santana last year. And if I'm a Padres fan, I pray that Peavy stays a Padre. If that cannot be done, pray that Peavy has a change of heart and will accept a trade to the AL. It is not a fun time to be Padres GM Kevin Towers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


It appears that the Mariners have settled on their man and his name is Don Wakamatsu, former bench coach of the Oakland Athletics.

First off, how amazing of a name is Wakamatsu...say it ten times fast...I dare you. I love this choice already!

But for all the talk of how great the Seattle job is, Wakamatsu has his work cut out for him. The Mariners are coming off a 100 loss season, but perhaps most importantly, they lack building blocks for the future. Sure they have Ichiro, Jeff Clement, Brandon Morrow, and Felix Hernandez; but outside of those three, it's pretty barren.

Wladimir Balentien is been a good prospect, but has never proven it on the major league level. Jose Lopez is coming off a career season, but can the guy take a walk? Is he even aware of on base percentage? I think not.

And wow is there alot of waste on this team. Carlos Silva, Kenji Johjima, Miguel Batista, and Jarrod Washburn are all being paid much more than they deserve and are simply taking up roster spaces at this point. Oh yeah, Silva and Johjima are each signed for another three years. Nice moves, Bill Bavasi.

And how about Erik Bedard? How will the new manager handle this diva if he is still around? Or will the Mariners non tender Bedard after he underwent shoulder surgery over the summer? Hmmm, so many questions and so few answers when it comes to the "Mariners ace." Nice trade, Bill Bavasi.

So I don't care how much money the Mariner's owners are willing to put into the team or how great the fan base is, because the reality of this situation is that Wakamatsu is inheriting a mess. This is a team with no direction that lacks the talent needed to compete. Unfortunately for Mariners fans, I think this will get worse before it gets better. The best thing the Mariners could do is to trade JJ Putz, Adrian Beltre, and Jose Lopez and start all over from scratch. At least the Mariners will then have a direction. Yay for rebuilding!

Hopefully Wakamatsu packed a lot of Peptobismol for those painful losses and extra Asprin for all those Erik Bedard related headaches in the near future.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Great Moment in Gloating

Ladies and Gentleman, I was damned close.

Only $4 million dollars off! (Should I be proud of this....?)

Ryan Dempster Contract (Jorge Says No! Projection)

Actual Ryan Dempster Contract (According to

(Pats self on the back...)

Overall, I like this move for both parties. If Dempster continues to pitch like he did in 2008, then the Cubs will be very happy with this deal. If he regresses, then it's only a three year commitment because the fourth year is an option.

And how many people before the 2008 season would have guessed that Ryan Dempster would command a $52 million dollar contract on the open market? This marks an incredible turnaround for Dempster, who only a season ago was the Cubs struggling closer.

This contract confirms what all of us already know: starting pitching is going to be mighty expensive this offseason. It's a good time to be CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Oliver Perez, and Derek Lowe. Ch-Ching.
(Photo: LA Times)

If the Mets re-sign Pedro Martinez...

Then I will officially declare Omar Minaya insane. I'm sure some Met fans will clamor for GM Omar Minaya to bring back Pedro. Because Pedro, even in his diminished state, is still Pedro. Fans still love Pedro for his history and charisma while holding onto this fantastic dream that Pedro may one day return to the Pedro of old.

I know this dream folks because I have lived it. But the old Pedro is longggggg gone.

I'm sure the critic say something along the lines of, "even if Pedro is well past his prime, he can still give you six or seven good innings because of his guts and guile." And part of that statement is true. Pedro is a good enough pitcher to sometimes go out there and perform well because he can still locate and is one smart guy. But those "sometimes" are few and far between. According to, in 20 starts for the Mets, Pedro only threw six quality starts. So basically, Pedro pitched "well" roughly 1/3 of the time that he started.

And for all of you who are interested, Pedro Martinez had the exact same quality start percentage as Darrell Rasner. Yes, the same guy who the Yankees sold to Japan last week because his performance was so terrible. Yikes.

And honestly, if I'm going to throw a guy out there every fifth who only has a 30% chance of giving me a quality start, it's going to be a young guy. Not an aging 38 year old who is two years removed from major shoulder surgery. So forget the name recognition and focus on the performance. While I love Pedro's energy and charisma (and hair), he is washed up and should not be brought back under any circumstances.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Setting the Market

In case you missed it, the Giants signed Jeremy Affeldt to a 2 year/$8 million dollar contract today in an attempt to shore up their horrific middle relief. Affeldt is the first domino to fall this offseason, and this contract will ultimately set the bar for the other free agent middle relievers on the market.

My initial reaction is that this a fair deal for both sides involved. It is tough to project consistency amongst middle relievers and Affleldt is a perfect example how quickly middle relievers can fluctuate. Before 2007, Affleldt was a struggling spot starter/middle reliever who walked far too many hitters while striking out way too few. Before 2007, Affeldt only had one good season and seemed to be at a crossroads with his career.

But luckily for Affeldt, he is a lefty. Left handed pitchers, especially those who throw hard, will always find opportunities. That's just the way it is and the way it will be. Affeldt took advantage of his opportunities by pitching well for the Rockies in 2007 and pitching even better for the Reds in 2008. All of a sudden, Affleldt's control dramatically improved as his strikeout rate improved.

This contract works because the Giants are only committing 2 years and a small amount of money to a guy who really could stabilize the back end of their bullpen. Good to see that Brian Sabean has learned from the horrific 3 year deals given out to Rich Aurilia and Dave Roberts. For Affeldt, $4 mil per year is a good get as is the two years because hey, if he has two good seasons with Giants, he will be in line for an even bigger pay day. And who knows, Affeldt might even close a few times for the Giants...

For my money, I would have rather signed Affeldt instead of Damaso Marte. Younger, less money, fewer years. How will this deal effect Will Ohman and Joe Beimel? The $4 mil is a good starting point for each of their agents, but look for each to try for a contract longer than two years. It's a good time to be a competent left handed middle reliever.

Buy, Buy, Buy!

There is no doubt in my mind that the 2008 offseason will be defined by what the Yankees do. After making the playoffs for the last 13 seasons, the Yankees finally missed the playoffs this season and seem poised to make some big changes. The Yankees have roughly $80 million dollars coming off the books thanks to the expiring contracts of Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Bobby Abreu, Carl Pavano, and Ivan Rodriguez. So it should come as no surprise that the Yankees have been linked to just about every major free agent (Sabathia, Teixeira, Burnett, Lowe, etc.) and they should be able to flex their financial muscle to acquire at least two of the biggest free agents.

Signing the big names will no doubt increase the buzz at the new Yankee Stadium. The talent that potentially could be on the field for opening day 2009 is scary. GM Brian Cashman has no restraints this many other GMs can say that? None. Life is good when you have deep pockets. Or at least it should be.

But I question whether the Yankees will actually be able to win simply by buying the best players on the market. The best teams have been built through the farm system and trades, using free agency as a complimentary piece to the Championship puzzle. Just look at the 2008 Phillies and the 2008 Rays. Each team built the foundation through the farm system while using free agency to selectively upgrade certain weaknesses. While the Yankees have a great farm system, I wonder how any of these guys will actually get playing time because the Yankees have (and will have) so many long term contracts.

In contrast, let’s look at the post 2000 Yankees. Sure they have had Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera; but the post dynasty Yankees are defined by big names and splashy free agent signings. While the Yankees made the playoffs for every season prior to 2008, they never won any championships despite Steinbrenner’s best efforts at giving the Yankees the best players and whatever resources they need. There is no doubt that the Yankees had tons of talent, but I think every Yankee fan can agree with me when I say that something was missing from these Yankees. Maybe it’s that most of their players are aging veterans, who not what they used to be, even if they are very good. Or maybe it’s the pressure of the Steinbrenner Doctrine, which declares that anything short of a World Championship is a failure. How could any team perform well with such unrealistic expectations? Or maybe the Yankees lack a certain cohesiveness that binds together players who have a collective chip on their shoulder and the personal goal of a lucrative contract.

The Yankees will undoubtedly be a hot pick to win the World Series in 2009. They will have stars at every position, each serving as a brand name for the powerful Yankee Corporation. I for one will not be picking the Yankees to win it all in 2009 if they spend absurd amounts of money on multiple players. They can solve every weakness on their team by outspending everyone else, but there is no doubt in my mind that something will still be missing. Baseball is about TEAM and I don't think the Yankees will win until they move away from the mindset that they need to build through signing the most expensive free agents.

Silent Giant

Its become expected that the Yankees and the Red Sox will compete for talent in every offseason. The trend has been continuous and for the most part, the Yankees have come out on top.

2002: Jose Contreras (Yankees)
2003: Alex Rodriguez (Yankees)
2004: Carl Pavano (Yankees)
2006 Daisuke Matsuzaka (Red Sox)
2007: Johan Santana (Mets)
(Note: I had to throw Santana in here because without the Yankees and Red Sox backing away from Johan, the Mets never would have signed him. I still have no idea how Omar Minaya pulled that trade off.)

These two franchises were like the USSR and US throughout the Cold War, the baseball world seems to revolve around the Yankees and Red Sox at all times, especially the offseason. Who needs Reagan and Gorbachev when you got George Steinbrenner and Larry Lucchino?

However, this offseason is a different story. The Yankees are in their typical buy mode because of new found financial flexibility from expiring contracts and the new Yankee Stadium. In all likelihood, the Yankees will go after most of the big name free agents to compete at the top of the AL East with the Sox and Rays. At this point, the Yankees are an after thought to both of those teams, who are vastly superior to the Yankees. However, alot can change during the winter.

On the other hand, the Red Sox probably won't be major players on the free agent market because they do not have any glaring holes on their roster. If anything, the Red Sox will focus on signing Kevin Youkilis, Jonathan Papelbon, and Dustin Pedroia to extensions while trading whatever is left of Julio Lugo. Even when the Yankees make their big moves, the Red Sox have such a good roster and farm system in place that they will not have to make a big move to match the Yankees.

So this offseason should shape up differently. With the Red Sox out of the picture, the Yankees could wind up bidding against themselves for free agents because no other team is likely to spend in their stratosphere. It should be interesting to see if the Red Sox get involved in certain free agents solely with the intention of raising the price/years. Then again, I don't think it would matter to the Yankees if they paid an extra $10 mil as long as they sign the guy they want.

So we probably won't see any crazy Yankee/Red Sox bidding wars this offseason, but hey, that doesn't mean this won't be interesting. This is still the Yankees and Red Sox. And these two clubs still hate each other.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sad Day for the AL....

This actually happened yesterday, but Darrell Rasner and his 5.40 ERA have been sold to Japan.


Rasner is a classic AAAA player, who stunk up the joint during his brief tenure with the Yankees. With that said, Rasner absolutely killed the Yankees this season and as a Met fan, it was a joy to watch him pitch. Rasner could not strike anyone out and gave up way too many longballs. Just not a good pitcher. I'm sure Yankee fans are jumping for joy at this move because nothing kills a winning streak like a Darrell Rasner start. I'm sure Rasner will have much more success facing George Arias and Alex Cabrera instead of David Ortiz and Vladimir Guerrero.

Sayonara Darrell!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Worth a Shot: Victor Diaz

Way back in 2005, the Mets thought they had the second coming of Manny Ramirez on their hands. His name was Victor Diaz and he possessed light tower power that left Mets fans salivating. Diaz was built like Ramirez, seemed to hit like Ramirez, but unfortunately, Diaz also fielded like Manny Ramirez. The Mets grew frustrated with Diaz's inability to play defense and his free swinging approach at the plate. By 2006, the Mets had traded Diaz to the Rangers and before I knew it, our Manny Ramirez was gone. Yet another flame out.

With that said, I still think that Diaz is worth a shot for an AL team. Diaz is only 27 years old and showed some improvements this season in AAA. In only 107 games for the Tacoma Rainiers this season, Diaz hit 24 homers with a .280 batting average. Perhaps most importantly, Diaz posted a .362 OBP, which should be good enough for Diaz to garner some attention from big league teams. This was by far Diaz's best season in the minors in terms of putting it all together: power, batting average, and OBP.

Diaz will always be a flawed player and is VERY far from "the next Manny Ramirez", but the reward is potentially very high with Diaz. At worst, Diaz is a right handed pinch hitter off the bench, who can tie up a game with one swing of the bat. Power hitters like Diaz are hard to find and as we saw with Nelson Cruz this season, for some guys, it takes time. Just keep preaching OBP, OBP, OBP! Hopefully, a team will reap the rewards with Victor Diaz.

Friday, November 14, 2008

And They're Off!

As the clock strikes 12, you know what that means.....


The exclusive negotiating period is now over and teams are able to talk with whatever free agent they want. Let the fun begin.

Here are my free agent picks so far...I have linked them all. Please take a look and enjoy!

-Mark Teixeira
-CC Sabathia
-Manny Ramirez
-Ben Sheets (keep in mind, I did this before he got hurt)
-Adam Dunn (Note: I'm now thinking Dunn will wind up with something like a 1 year/$14 mil or a 2 year/$26 mil type of deal)
-Francisco Rodriguez
-Pat Burrell
-Oliver Perez
-Ryan Dempster
-Derek Lowe
-Orlando Hudson
-Raul Ibanez

Thursday, November 13, 2008

RIP: Nick Swisher's Facial Hair

On paper, the Yankees trade for Nick Swisher looks fantastic. Not only can Swisher get on base, switch hit, and hit for power, but he is only 28 years old, entering the prime of his career. Swisher will either be the replacement at first base for Jason Giambi or the new starting center fielder for the Yankees. He offers the Yankees lots of flexibility, at a great price. Swisher signed a team friendly extensions with the Athletics in 2007 and luckily for the Yankees, Swisher is signed until 2011 for a total of only $21 million bucks. Swisher's contract is much better than anything the Yankees would have been able to find on the free agent market and will undoubtedly allow the Yankees to devote even more time and resources to CC Sabathia.

Sure Swisher is coming off a terrible season in which he only hit .219, but this guy has way too much talent and way too good of a contract to be dealt away this quickly. For God's sake, the Yankees only gave up Wilson Betemit and two minor leaguers This was a classic buy low trade by Brian Cashman and I would not be surprised if Swisher comes through big for the Yankees in 2009.

The Yankees have to be concerned about Swisher's horrific 2008 campaign, but as a fan, I am concerned that Swisher will no longer be able to sport his trademark beard/sideburns. As we all know, the Yankees require that their players maintain a clean-cut, trim look; so all the beard enthusiasts like myself have to be disappointed. We'll see how fun loving and charismatic Swisher will adapt to the strict and rigid rules of the Yankee clubhouse. We'll see if he is able to establish himself as a leader for the younger Yanks or if his enthusiasm and energy will be silenced the Yankee brand.

For right now, this trade brings the Yankees everything they are looking for: a young, energetic player who is in the prime of his career. We'll see if Swisher is able to produce in pinstripes, but you have to give credit to Cashman for pulling the trigger on this one.

This is NOT Rebuilding

The Marlins continued to "remodel" their team today by trading arbitration eligible RP Kevin Gregg to the Cubs for relief prospect Jose Ceda. The move will save the Marlins about $4 million bucks next season to go along with the roughly $10 million bucks the Marlins have saved already by trading away Josh Willingham, Scott Olson, and Mike Jacobs. As I have said before, I understand why fans would be upset that the Marlins are trading away guys only because of payroll concerns, but again, they are NOT rebuilding. And this trade further expresses why.

Kevin Gregg is a good player. He was a very productive closer for the Marlins in both 2007 and 2008 and probably saved his career in the process. With that said, Gregg is far from dominant and was injured and ineffective for most of the second half of the season. In the process, the Marlins watched other guys step up like Matt Lindstrom, Joe Nelson, and Logan Kensing. In addition, the Marlins recently acquired RP Leo Nunez, who had a 2.98 ERA last season for the Royals. There are multiple guys who can fill Gregg's role, which made him very expendable.

So in conclusion, it would be foolish for the Marlins, who will probably have only a $30 million dollar payroll next season, to spend $4 million of it on a mediocre relief pitcher. the Marlins are not having a fire sale because while each of their trades so far has been payroll based, each one of the trades can actually make the Marlins better next season: faster, younger, quicker, and more athletic. The Marlins are NOT starting from scratch; in contrast, I think that Marlins are merely building a group of cheap, quality, young players around a solid core group of guys (Hanley Ramirez, Chris Volstad, Jorge Cantu, Cameron Maybin, Josh Johnson, and Andrew Miller). I fully expect the Marlins to shock the baseball world next season by competing for the NL East crown. As a Met fan, these guys scare the daylights out of me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mets=Joan Rivers

So yeah, my New York Mets have collapsed in each of the last two seasons. Each time, we lost out on a playoff birth on the last day of the season. The acquisition of Johan Santana could not stop it. The firing of Willie Randolph could not stop it. And even the gangsta-ness of Jerry Manuel could not stop it. As a fan, this has been torture to watch. For the players, the pain has to be excruciating.

So how can the Mets ensure that the collapses of the last two seasons are a thing of the past? With a facelift of course! Or at least that's what David Wright thinks (
"You go through two seasons that we've been through the last couple years and you're going to need a little bit of a facelift," Wright said Wednesday. "There's 30 teams out there that can use pitching, and obviously we're one of them."
Hmmm...a face lift you say? Not a bad idea, David. I loved the acquisition of Johan Santana last off season, but I think that move was more botox than facelift. Yeah sure Santana is phenomenal and an absolute ace, but he did not solve the fundamental issue with this ball club: the supporting cast, who dramatically failed the Mets in 2008. It can't be that hard to build a team around David Wright, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, Carlos Delgado, and Carlos Beltran right?

Wrong. Over the past two seasons, Omar Minaya has littered the Mets with a combination of under performing players, injured players, and players who simply are not that good. Take a look:

-The entire bullpen failed to step up this season after Billy Wagner went down. (This means you: Aaron Heilman, Scott Schoeneweis, Duaner Sanchez, Joe Smith, and Pedro Feliciano)
-Ryan Church
, John Maine, Ramon Castro, and Pedro Martinez all missed significant amounts of playing time
-Too many meaningful at bats to Endy Chavez, Luis Castillo, Argenis Reyes, Nick Evans, Trot Nixon, Marlon Anderson, and Brian Schnieder
-And by the end of the season, our closer was Luis Ayala and our starting second baseman was Ramon Martinez.

So yeah, I think David hit it head on here. Change is needed for the Mets to succeed. And it's not just adding one big player (i.e K-Rod) either. Omar Minaya needs to go out and surround the core of this team with consistent and productive players who will not make me have an ulcer by August. That's the real face lift that this team needs...because in the end it's about 25 guys, not 5 guys, who get the job done and win ballgames. You cannot win when half of you team is terrible and's a fact.

So go ahead, shake up the Mets Omar, but do not touch the core. In the end, no Met fan is going to care if we look like Joan Rivers from all the stress...all we want is a title!

Free Agent at the End of the Season: Raul Ibanez

In a season of many negatives for the Mariners in 2008, Ibanez was one of the lone bright spots. Hitting in the middle of a terrible lineup, Ibanez still managed to hit 23 homers with 110 RBI while hitting .293. If it wasn't for Ibanez, who knows how bad the Mariners season would have been. Luckily for Ibanez, he gets to escape the hell hole of the Mariners (and especially Seattle sports) thanks to free agency.

The Case for Ibanez
-Mr. Consistency
In each of the past seven seasons, Ibanez has hit over 15 homers while continually producing an OBP around .345-.360 and a batting average near .290. Those numbers might seem unspectacular, but with Ibanez, you know the kind of production you are going to get. And in this day in age, teams will pay big money for consistent production (see: Derek Lowe).

-Jaime Moyer Syndrome
It's common knowledge in baseball that as guys get older, their play is supposed to decline. for most guys, this is true. However, every once in a while, a guy like Jaime Moyer comes along, and produces much better as he ages than he ever did as a young guy. For hitter, I think that Raul Ibanez is that kind of guy. Over the past three seasons, when Ibanez was supposed to be past his prime, his numbers have dramatically improved. Ibanez has shown no signs of slowing down, which is very encouraging for any team who wants to sign the 36 year old Ibanez.

-His age.
Yes, you read it right. The fact that Ibanez is 36 could actually help him on the free agent market. Here's why: there is no chance that Ibanez will get a five or six year deal from a club. He knows that, which means that he won't try for it. On the other hand, we have OF Adam Dunn, who is younger, left handed, and presumably, more expensive. So as teams shy away from Dunn's price tag and excessive demands, GMs will have no choice but to take a serious look at signing Raul Ibanez. His demand for a shorter contract really should help him.

-He actually hits lefties
It's refreshing to see a power hitting lefty hitter who can actually hit left handed pitching well. h wait, Ibanez hit left handed pitching better than he hit right handed pitching in 2008 (.305 v. .288). How impressive is that? Any team who signs Ibanez will have confidence knowing that this guy can hit against anyone.

The Case Against Ibanez
-His age
Yes, you read it right. Ibanez is still 36 years old and still could decline like so many 36 year olds before him have. Teams still need to be aware of his age and I'm sure for some clubs this will be a factor.

This should be an especially important point for any NL teams that are interested in Ibanez (cough...Mets). Ibanez is not a great outfielder and has very limited range. He would be an ideal DH, but a team could be okay with Ibanez in the outfield as long as you have a great center fielder (cough...Carlos Beltran). Ibanez will never be confused with Endy Chavez and I'm sure that every team that looks into Ibanez wants his bat, not his glove.

Unfortunately for Ibanez, the free agent OF class is very top heavy this season. Between Manny Ramirez, Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell, and perhaps Bobby Abreu, teams will have a pretty good variety of quality outfielders. Ibanez's agent cannot argue that Ibanez is the best free agent OF in this class, but he can argue that Ibanez will deliver the same production as any of these guys.

And despite the amount of quality outfielders, there is no doubt that there will be many teams looking to sign Ibanez. I look for the Mets, Yankees, Blue Jays, Nationals, Dodgers, and Cubs all could have interest depending how the off season plays out. Ibanez wants to play for a contender and it seems as though the Mariners are a few years away, which would take them out of contention.

(3 years/$33 million)

There is no doubt in my mind that Ibanez is going to get paid. Unfortunately for him, he may lose a few million bucks because of the economy, but I think $11 mil is about right for him anyway. Ibanez is a consistent force who will provide power and stability to the middle of any lineup. Teams will pay top dollar for that, which is why it is a good time to be Raul Ibanez right now. If any team gives Ibanez more than three years, then they are crazy. Three years for a 36 year old might be tough to swallow, but this contract will not hamstring the franchise for years to come.

Ibanez offers far more to teams than any of these guys:

-Gary Matthews Jr (5 years/$50 mil)
-Juan Pierre (5 years/$45 mil)
-Kosuke Fukudome (4 years/$48 mil)

Ibanez's agent has to point out these contracts when talking contracts with teams. Can any GM really say that Juan Pierre offers more to a team than Raul Ibanez? No GM could back up that statement. I think that's where the market will set for Ibanez, and if so, that'd be a great contract for a great guy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


In the past ten days, the Marlins have traded away their starting first baseman, left fielder, and best left handed pitcher all because of money. Each guy was eligible for salary arbitration, which will give each guy a substantial increase in 2009. The decision to trade these three guys should not be a surprise given the Marlins history (1998 fire sale!) and payroll constraints ($21 million dollar payroll in 2008). I can understand why fans would be discouraged after watching the Marlins trade away three of their best players, but by no means does this mean that the Marlins are rebuilding.

Instead, the Fish are merely deciding which guys are expendable based on depth, potential, and salary. Think about it. The Marlins can replace OF Josh Willingham with OF Cameron Maybin, who is one of the best prospects in baseball and looks like a dynamic player. They can replace 1b Mike Jacobs with minor league 1b Gaby Sanchez, who was the MVP of the Southern League (AA) or with Dallas McPherson, who hit 42 homers in AAA this season. And finally, the Marlins can replace Scott Olsen with stud RHP Chris Volstad, who looked phenomenal down the stretch for the Marlins.

The three guys the Marlins gave up are flawed players. Jacobs cannot get on base or play defense, Willingham was hurt and can't play defense, and Olsen is no better than a third starter and a potential headcase. Good players? Yes, but irreplaceable? No. Each one of those guys has a capable replacement, who can probably offer the same production (or better?) at half the cost. That's why I commend the Marlins for the two trades they have made so far.

I look for 2b Dan Uggla to be the next one to go. The fact that the Marlins acquired 2b Emiliano Bonifacio from the Nationals yesterday is not a good sign for Uggla's Ugglies. Think about it this way: Uggla is a good player...a great power hitting second baseman, but simply put, he cannot play defense. Like the Willingham, Jacobs, and Olsen before him; Uggla is a very flawed player, who is eligible for arbitration and is due for a raise. Those factors should lead to Uggla's exit. I would love to see the Giants or Dodgers make a run at Uggla...he'd be a good fit there.

As a Met fan I am very scared of the Marlins in 2009. They still have a ton of talent and I really believe as long as they stay healthy and pitch well, they will compete for the division crown. As a baseball fan, I envy GM Larry Beinfest for continually working within his budget constraints to put a quality product on the field. These trades are not a part of some major rebuilding effort. Instead, the Marlins are building for something bigger and better than they achieved in 2008: a division title.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Give Jim Bowden a Pat on the Back

It's been awhile since I said anything nice about Jim Bowden. I hated the Dmitri Young and Ronnie Belliard extensions. I was not a fan of the Lastings Milledge trade. I absolutely hated the Jon Rauch trade. And did anyone mention the Aaron Crow debacle? Doesn't look too good for Bowden.

But I think he did good today. If you haven't heard, the Nationals acquired SP Scott Olsen and OF Josh Willingham for 2b Emiliano Bonfacio, OF Jake Smolinski, and PJ Dean. On talent alone, the Nationals scored a big victory here. Olsen and Willingham add some much needed talent to the floundering Nationals, who have a noticeable absence of impact players. But Olsen and Willingham are impact players. Olsen, 24, is a potential stud lefty, who is coming off the best season of his career in 2008. Olsen delivered a 4.20 ERA in just over 200 IP this season and looked fantastic in September against my Mets. Needless to say, I'm disappointed he's not out of the division. While Olsen may never develop to be more than a #4 starter, he's much better than most of the pitchers the Nationals were throwing out there last season. And hey, he's a young starter! There aren't too many of those who come cheap!

(Note: I cannot believe that the Nationals gave up on Bonifacio so quickly. Wasn't this the guy that they traded Rauch for straight up? What gives? The trade today really makes me scratch my head even more at the Rauch deal and makes me wonder what Jim Bowden was smoking during when he consummated that deal. Bravo!)

As for Willingham, no one will ever confuse him for a gold glove defender, but the guy shure can hit and get on base. Injuries limited Willingham this season, but Willingham should produce a .270 batting average with 20 homers, 85 RBI, and a .350-.360 OBP. Those numbers, while unspectacular, are an upgrade for the Nationals who have had to suffer through Wily Mo Pena, Austin Kearns, and Willie Harris for too long. All of a sudden, an outfield of Lastings Milledge, Elijah Dukes, and Willingham doesn't look too bad. If nothing else, Willingham gives the Nationals some protection for Ryan Zimmerman and a power threat that they lacked in 2008.

Neither guy is bound for stardom, but this trade works well for the Nationals. Yes, they will be adding some salary, especially after arbitration, but the benefits significantly outweigh the costs in this situation. So kudos to you Mr. Bowden, lets hope for your sake the Nationals play better in 2009.

More on the Marlins tomorrow.
(Photo: Deadspin)

Why the Matt Holliday Trade Works

So it appears that the inevitable trade of Matt Holliday has finally happened. But shockingly, Holliday was not traded to Cardinals, Yankees, or any other "big market" club. Instead, it was the small market Athletics that shocked the baseball world by acquiring Holliday. It's easy to see the negatives here: Holliday's home/away splits, the contract, giving up lots of talent; but I like this trade. And I love what Billy Beane is doing. Here's why:

1. the contract
-While so many look at Holliday's contract and think rental, I look at it as an opportunity. Holliday is not only a great player, but a great asset to have. As we saw with CC Sabathia, teams can still get a premium package for a guy if they move him in the middle of the season. Given the desperation of teams in the middle of the season, Beane should have no problem moving Holliday...if that's what he chooses. In the current market, it would be much easier to start a bidding war for Holliday's services in the middle of the season rather than at the start of free agency. The market is more likely to be barren and Holliday could be the final piece to any championship puzzle.

2. He makes the team better
-The Athletics offense sucked big time last season. They were last in batting average, total bases, slugging percentage, and most surprisingly, OBP. Holliday hit .321 last season with 25 homers and 88 RBI with an impressive .409 he would obviously be a great fit here, especially with his high OBP. The A's become instantly better with Holliday in their lineup and who knows, maybe they can actually compete in 2009, especially if they add another hitter or two.

And if anyone wants to scream at me about Holliday's stats away from Coors Field, I will immediately point you in the direction of Holliday's 2008 road stats.

BA: .308
HR: 10
OBP: .405

While those numbers aren't ridiculous, they are still great stats, especially for an Athletics team that needs all the help they can get. This guy can hit, plain and simple.

3. Maybe they can sign him
-Depending on who you read/listen to, the Athletics could be pretty serious about signing Holliday long term. If this is the case, then this trade would make even more sense and would give the Athletics the bonafide star they are missing thanks to the demise of Eric Chavez. By acquiring him early, the A's are giving themselves are better chance to make a run at Holliday should they decide that they do indeed want to sign him long term.

Is it a shock that this story came out today? I think not. A potential new stadium would go a long way into giving the Athletics the loot to go after Holliday. Get it done Mr. Wolff.

(Note: This would be a tremendous change of pace from the fiscally conservative Athletics. I would love to see them sign Holliday, but at the same time, I would be saddened. Giving Billy Beane more resources to work with would be a travesty. MONEYBALL!)

4. What are they really giving up here?
-First off, I love Carlos Gonzalez. He has more tools than most guys will ever dream of and has stardom written all over him. There is a reason why he was the centerpiece in the Dan Haren deal. He's that good. But if there was ever a position where the Athletics had both depth and a need to upgrade, it was in the outfield. On top of Gonzalez, the Athletics have Aaron Cunningham, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson, Ryan Sweeney, Travis Buck, Rajai Davis, and Chris Denorfia. What do those guys all have in common? They are all young and somewhat unproven. The Athletics could not afford another season of Russian Roulette in the outfield and Holliday gives them a power bat who is well established in the league. If there was a position where the Athletics could afford to deal and needed to upgrade at the same time, its in the outfield.

-And if people are gonna cry about losing Greg Smith then there is something wrong. Smith was alright in his first major league season, but will he be able to sustain that in the future? I doubt it. Smith walks too many hitters and declined rapidly after May. Keep in mind that the Athletics also have Josh Outman, Sean Gallagher, Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, and Gio Gonzalez, all of whom have potential and can replace Smith. Depth, depth, depth, depth, depth. Greg Smith is a good pitcher, but he is replaceable.

-And I'm not sure if Hutson Street is the third player included, but if he is, this would be another loss that would be mitigated by the Athletics depth. Between Brad Ziegler, Santiago Castilla, Andrew Brown, Jeremy Blevins, and Joey Devine, the Athletics have more than enough arms to replace the inconsistent Street.

So yes, the Athletics are giving up several talented players to get Holliday, but the their depth, which has been accumulated from past trades of Rich Harden, Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, and Joe Blanton allowed Billy Beane to pull the trigger on this deal. Once again, nicely done Billy.
(Photo: Forbes)

Friday, November 7, 2008

My Mediocre Organization: Toronto Blue Jays

I feel sorry for Blue Jays fans, really I do. It seems as though every year we believe that the Blue Jays are going to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox for the division crown, but the Jays have yet to come close. The problem certainly has not been money: the Blue Jays have a $97 million dollar payroll and have invested big bucks into Vernon Wells, BJ Ryan, Alex Rios, and AJ Burnett. While $97 million dollars is nothing close to the Yankees, that money is certainly good enough to build a winning baseball team. The AL East is a definite barrier to success for the Blue Jays, but what has held this franchise back from reaching the promise land? Let's take a look.

Free Agents
It wasn't too long ago that the Blue Jays spent very little on free agents, but at the end of 2005, the Blue Jays new ownership group agreed to expand the payroll some $30-$40 million dollars. The Blue Jays landed the guys they coveted, but the results have been very mixed. The Blue Jays signed SP AJ Burnett to a very controversial 5 year/$55 million dollar contract in the hopes that he would develop into a solid #2 to complement Roy Halladay. Burnett has looked very good at times (2008 season), but has struggled to stay healthy as evident by his four stints to the DL in three seasons with the Blue Jays. Not having Burnett on the mound every fifth day on a consistent basis has undoubtedly hurt the Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays also signed BJ Ryan to a 5 year/$47 million dollar contract to solidify the back end of their bullpen. This move was the most controversial of the winter because of amount of years and dollars that GM JP Riccardi was willing to give a closer. Riccardi got his moneys worth in 2006 as Ryan posted a 1.37 ERA and was named to the all star team. However, the good vibes quickly ended when Ryan missed the entire 2007 season because of Tommy John Surgery. Who knows if the Jays could have seriously competed in 2007 with a healthy Ryan, but without him, the Jays struggled to make noise and faded back into mediocrity.

The final big name free agent pickup actually occurred in 2007. In signing DH Frank Thomas, Riccardi believed that he finally had a big bat in the middle of the order that could protect Vernon Wells and Alex Rios. Thomas actually had a pretty good season in 2007 with 26 HRs and 95 RBI, which made the deal look pretty good. But by May 2008, the deal looked terrible. Thomas could no longer get around on a fastball and the Blue Jays were sick of waiting for him to come around. Frustrated and fading in the standings, the Blue Jays released Thomas after he refused to accept a diminished role. The inconsistency of Thomas from 2007 to 2008 was a major reason why the Blue Jays struggled in the first half of 2008.

So what do all these free agent pickups have in common? Good players? Absolutely. Have they been on the field consistently? Hell no. Houston, I think we have found a problem....

Over the past few seasons, the Blue Jays have made few impact trades, instead choosing to build their team through the draft and free agency. The lone exceptions have been the acquisitions of Troy Glaus, Lyle Overbay, and Scott Rolen. What do all three have in common? Injuries and inconsistent play.

Riccardi acquired Glaus in 2006 for Orlando Hudson and Miguel Batista to be the middle of the order bat that he felt the Blue Jays were lacking. And in 2006, Glaus delivered the power with 38 HR, but only hit .252 for the season. Unfortunately, Glaus's second season was plagued by a heel injury, which limited him to only 115 games. It is hard for a team to succeed when one of their best hitters misses significant amounts of time.

After the 2007 season, Riccardi traded Glaus for 3b Scott Rolen, who they hoped would provide solid production from the plate to compliment his stellar defensive ability. Unfortunately for the Jays, Rolen was limited to only 115 games this season because of a fractured middle finger. Even more concerning is the reality that Rolen appears to be well past his prime, only a shell of his former all-star self. If the Jays are going to succeed, they need Rolen to be healthy and productive.

The trend of injury and inconsistency continues with Lyle Overbay, who was acquired from the Brewers for Dave Bush. In his three seasons with the Jays, Overbay has produced solid seasons in both 2006 and 2008, but failed to stay healthy in 2007 after breaking several bones in his hand. Overbay is a good player...just needs to stay healthy. Same ole' song and dance.

And one final trade, one of Riccardi's best moves seemed to be moving headcase Shea Hillenbrand to the Giants for Jeremy Accardo. Accardo was wonderful in 2007, filling in for the injured BJ Ryan, but by 2008, Accardo was hurt (does this surprise anyone!). He missed most of the 2008 season with right forearm tightness. Yikes. Can anyone in this organization stay healthy?

*I don't think I can really criticize Riccardi here because I don't think that any of these trades were atrocious, but the Jays simply had horrible luck as none of these guys can consistently stay healthy. The talent is there, but for some reason, the baseball Gods obviously don't like Toronto. Weird.*

You have to give credit to the Blue Jays for building competitive teams primarily through the draft. Just take a look at some of these names:
Roy Halladay, Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan, Aaron Hill, Alexis Rios, Adam Lind, Travis Snider, and Jesse Litsch.

Anytime you can find eight quality players from previous drafts, you know your doing something right. You would figure that the Blue Jays would have a solid foundation with all of these guys for the next few years, but we have already seen the injury bug strike. Take a look:

-Dustin McGowan: Labrum Surgery (missed most of 2008)
-Shaun Marcum: Tommy John Surgery (done for 2009)
-Aaron Hill: Concussion (missed most of 2008)
(nice burns McGowan....)

Seriously, how does one franchise have this many injuries to key players? It is a testament to the depth in the organization that the Blue Jays did not totally fall apart this season after losing Hill and McGowan, while Marcum pitched with obvious discomfort. The baseball Gods really do hate the Blue Jays.

Look out for Travis Snider in the years to come: he is an absolute stud. No young hitter impressed me more this season in limited time than Snider. This guy can flat out seems like every ball that comes off his bat is a line drive. He's going to be special so long as he avoids the Blue Jays injury bug. I also like Brett Cecil, Kevin Aherns, and JP Arencibia; but none of those guys compares to Snider. The Blue Jays system is very middle heavy...lots of average to above average prospects, but no real studs besides Snider.

*The Blue Jays are still a few pieces away from competing with the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees in the AL East. Even if they can stay healthy, I don't think they have the starting pitching at the moment to stay competitive for a long period of time.

Unfortunately, it could be awhile before the Jays can seriously compete for an AL East title. Like years past, there is just too much depth there.

Nothing is worse than being mediocre. The Jays are strong enough where they should be able to compete, but unfortunately, their best opportunities might already be behind them. This must be torture for Jays fans. Too many injuries. Too much inconsistency. Too much bad luck. So what's there to do now? I say start fresh. JP Riccardi should see what he can get for Alex Rios, Vernon Wells, BJ Ryan or even Roy Halladay. Being average is no fun and sometimes you have to take a few steps back before you can move forward. Or GM JP Riccardi can simply pray to the baseball Gods that some of his players actually stay healthy for once...jeez.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Worth a Penny

In the wake of AJ Burnett opting out, another flame throwing right handed pitcher has been granted free agency. Today the Dodgers declined the $9 million dollar option on Brad Penny, who never really got going in 2008. Totally understand this move from the Dodgers perspective... how could you commit $9 mil to a injury prone starter when you need to spend every dime available for Manny Ramirez.

Penny dealt with a array of arm and shoulder problems this season, which prevented him from successfully locating his pitches. I vividly recall Penny pitching against the Mets this season, still throwing in the high 90s, but Penny seemed to miss on his location more often than not. Throwing 98+ can only get you so far when you can't locate pitches. Ultimately, this season was a waste for Penny.

With that said, I would happily sign Penny to a contract. There is no way that Penny will garner the amount of attention or dollars that AJ Burnett will because of Penny's injuries and poor performance. But I ask, who would you rather sign?

-Burnett: 5 year deal/$12-$15 mil per season/injury prone/flame thrower/31 years old/lots of K's
-Penny: 1-3 year deal/$6-$10 mil per season/injury prone/flame thrower/30 years old

So as you can see, the differences between these two are slim. The main difference is that Penny was hurt last season, while Burnett was not. Good timing of AJ's he can get the long term deal, while Penny, in all likelihood, settles for a shorter contract. But you know what, Penny's willingness to sign a short deal is a positive. How many top flight starters can you sign to a 1-3 year deal when he's still in his prime? Not many. Furthermore, since Penny will have a tough time commanding top dollar on this market, so he will be motivated to show teams that he is worth the big bucks in the years to come. Simply put, Penny has alot to prove. I'll take my chances on any pitcher who throws 98+ with a point to prove.

So while some view Penny as damaged goods, I see him as a fantastic opportunity. And I would take Penny and his contract any day over AJ Burnett. Hope your not listening, Brian Cashman. Look for Penny to have a huge long as he's healthy.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Connecting the Dots

Hmmm...coincidence anyone? On the same day that the Yankees free up $35 million dollars by not picking up the options of Jason Giambi and Carl Pavano, Blue Jays SP AJ Burnett announced that he will opt out of his contract and become a free agent. This seems to be a match made in heaven...the Yankees want to add two front line starters while Burnett wants to make more money than God. Match made in heaven!

Burnett has everything that the Yankees are looking for in a pitcher: he's young, he throws 98+, and is a Yankee killer. Oh yeah, Burnett has a long history of injuries, is frequently inconsistent, and will cost a boatload of money. Injuries? Who cares about injuries? It's not like the Yankees had Carl Pavano for the last four years. And money? Please. The Yankees are absolutely flushed with cash...what will it hurt to offer Burnett ace money when in reality, he is no better than a #2 or #3? Only Hank can answer that.

Mark my words, if AJ Burnett winds up in pinstripes, Yankee fans from coast to coast will be disappointed in his performance. Burnett has all the potential in the world, but he has never sustained that potential over a long period of time. You can understand why a team like the Yankees would want Burnett: he reeks of potential. But at what point does that vast potential simply turn into massive frustration? That's the story of AJ Burnett and that is exactly why the large amounts of money the Yankees could throw at Burnett will only lead to frustration.
(Photo: AP)