Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Risk/Reward of the Jason Bay Signing

It looks like Queens was more appealing than Beirut after all for Jason Bay:

Free-agent outfielder Jason Bay has reached agreement on a four-year, guaranteed $66 million contract with the New York Mets, a baseball source confirmed to ESPN.com Tuesday.

The agreement will become official once Bay passes a physical exam sometime next week, the source said. The deal includes a vesting option year that could increase Bay's overall payout to slightly more than $80 million over five years.

WFAN was the first to report the agreement had been reached.

Bay, a three-time All-Star, hit .267 with 36 home runs and 119 RBIs for the Boston Red Sox in 2009.

While there is obviously a large amount of risk associated with this deal, I think this was move that the Mets had to make, given how badly they needed a power hitter. And it sure helps that the Mets only had to give Bay, who is one of the best free agents on the market, a four year deal.


  • How much better does Jason Bay make the Mets?
  • Poor defensive player
  • Did they overpay?
  • Backloaded contract
  • Does he want to play in New York
  • Do the Mets have enough money to fill other needs?
  • strikes out a lot
  • Impact bat
  • Only 4 years guaranteed
  • Adds much needed power
  • Improves the Mets' lineup
  • Good will with fanbase
  • Finally, a big move.
Conclusion: For all the talk that Bay did not want to play on the Mets, this was a fit that made total sense for both sides. The Mets offense needed a legitimate power hitter and Bay is one of the best power hitters in baseball. From that perspective alone, it's easy to like this deal for the Mets. The thought of Bay hitting fifth behind David Wright and Carlos Beltran sure is appealing.

However, there are some important questions to ask with regards to this deal. Will Jason Bay be an adequate defensive player for the Mets? How will Jason Bay's power numbers react to Citi Field? How will the Mets' future be impacted by this backloaded deal?

This deal is a sure sign that the Mets are going for it now. Because the deal is backloaded, the Mets should have money remaining to spend on other needs. Bay is an important piece for the Mets moving forward, but signing him alone is not enough. The Mets have not done a good enough job over the years finding adequate role players to surround their core group and they need to do everything possible to surround the core with quality players, who can help this team win now. The Mets have one of the best cores in baseball, especially with Bay on board, but the fact remains that a team cannot win with six great players and a bunch of stiffs. The Mets need talent and depth if they are going to have a chance in 2010.

Forgotten Free Agent: Ronnie Belliard

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, Ronnie Belliard.

What a difference a month makes.

On August 30th, Ronnie Belliard was traded from the Nationals to the Dodgers, who were in the middle of a pennant race and were looking to shore up their middle infield. In the five months prior, Belliard was only getting sporadic playing time with the Nationals and when he was playing, he wasn't producing. His .246/5 HR/22 RBI/.296 clip in 187 at bats with the Nationals made it very clear that Belliard was no longer in the Nationals' long term plans.

But once Belliard arrived in Los Angeles, he began to hit like crazy and never stopped. In September, Belliard hit a ridiculous .351 with 5 HR, 17 RBI, and a silly .398 OBP. By the middle of the month, Belliard was stealing at bats and starts away from all-star Orlando Hudson and by the time the playoffs rolled around, Belliard was the Dodgers primary second baseman.

However, it appears that Belliard's scorching hot September has not translated into lots of interest on the free agent market. There's a gluttony of second basemen on the free agent market and unfortunately for Belliard, it looks like he is one of the least desirable options out there despite his hot September. Guys like Orlando Hudson and Felipe Lopez are struggling to find interested suitors, so it's likely that Belliard will have to wait until those guys find homes before he will have any real interest on the market.

You have to wonder if Belliard will be forced to take a minor league deal given how weak the market for second baseman is. I'm sure that would be the worst case scenario for Belliard and his agent, but unless something drastically changes, I'd say the chances of Belliard landing a major league deal are a coin toss at best.

Risk/Reward of the Mark DeRosa Signing

The Giants have finally made a move to improve their horrific offense. Welcome aboard, Mark DeRosa:

As ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reported last week, DeRosa, who turns 35 in February, has been on the verge of accepting a two-year contract offer from the Giants since before Christmas. That offer, according to SI.com, is for a total of $12 million over the two seasons.

DeRosa can play on either corner in the infield or outfield, giving San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy greater flexibility with his lineup. He likely will play third, moving slugger Pablo Sandoval to first and giving the Giants more power and offensive punch at that position.

DeRosa underwent left wrist surgery after the 2009 season, when he batted .250 with a career-best 23 homers to go along with 78 RBIs for Cleveland and St. Louis. He was traded from the Indians to the Cardinals on June 27 but was in the St. Louis lineup for three games before hurting his wrist against San Francisco. He spent a stint on the disabled list for an injury that was later diagnosed as a partially torn tendon sheath.

Keeping the deal to a two year commitment is a major plus, but as you'll see, there's a large amount of risk associated with this deal:

  • 35 years old
  • how will he perform after wrist surgery?
  • DeRosa is not a strong defensive third baseman (-8.7 UZR last season)
  • Only two years committed
  • Reasonable amount of money ($6 million annually)
  • Very versatile
Conclusion: There are a number of different layers to this deal that we need to pull apart. I think the Giants signed DeRosa to a very team friendly contract that mitigates risk from their perspective and does not hamstring their payroll flexibility. But on the field, there are some issues with this deal. There's no doubt that the Giants will benefit from DeRosa's ability to play all over the field, but the fact remains that DeRosa is a below average defensive third baseman, which is a problem if the Giants do intend to play him there. I would like this deal more for the Giants if they intended to play DeRosa in the outfield where he is stronger defensively.

Also, DeRosa is 35 years old, so you have to wonder how many more good years DeRosa has left. The risk of a statistical decline is strong in this case not only because of DeRosa's age, but because he is coming off wrist surgery.

In addition, the Giants will be looking to DeRosa to add some thump to the heart of their batting order. The Giants offense was anemic last season and finished last in OBP, 2nd to last in home runs, and 13th in runs. While DeRosa is a nice offensive player to have on board, by no means should Giants be counting on him to be the offensive difference maker they need. The Giants should expect a .270-20-80-.350 line from DeRosa; anything more is gravy.

On a positive note, DeRosa is an upgrade offensively from Benjie Molina.

Off Season Winner: JD Drew

Way back in 2006, JD Drew made the controversial decision to opt out of his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the hopes of landing a more lucrative contract on the free agent market. Drew was due to make $33 million over the next three years with the Dodgers, but thanks to an opt out clause in his contract, he was allowed to leave the Dodgers for the almighty dollar.

Not surprisingly, Drew, who was coming off a fantastic 2006 season with the Dodgers, landed a huge 5 year/$70 million dollar contract with the Boston Red Sox. Drew became the Red Sox' highest paid player and his decision to opt out of his contract netted him a cool $37 million dollars. Not too shabby.

So why did I put JD Drew in the "offseason winners" column this year? Well, because if JD Drew had not opted out of his contract with the Dodgers, then he would have been a free agent after this season. Considering how much Matt Holliday and Jason Bay are struggling to land big contracts on the open market this winter, there is little to no chance that Drew would have landed as lucrative a contract this winter no matter how good his production was.

In a sense, by taking himself off the 2009 free agent market, JD Drew avoided being a free agent in a weak market and maximized his earning potential more than he probably should have been able too.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Forgotten Free Agent: Todd Wellemeyer

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. First up, Todd Wellemeyer.

For most of his career, Todd Wellemeyer was a average relief pitcher with great stuff and limited success in the major leagues. But in 2007, the Cardinals experimented with Wellemeyer in the starting rotation and by 2008, Wellemeyer was a full time member of the Cardinals starting rotation. Over the course of the 2008 regular season, Wellemeyer was one of the Cardinals best starting pitchers as he produced 13 wins, a 3.71 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP, and an impressive (considering his past history) 2.9 BB/9. All in all, it was a career season for Wellemeyer and it really put him on the map.

However, Wellemeyer's 2009 season was a disaster. Wellemeyer was much more hittable in 2009 and even though he only pitched 122 innings, he gave up nearly as many hits in 2009 as he did in 2008 when he thre 191 innings. His BB rate shot up, his K rate declined, and his WHIP skyrocketed to a destitute 1.77. By the end of the season, Wellemeyer had pitched himself out of the rotation and all the progress that he made in 2008 seemed to be lost.

So where does that leave Wellemeyer now? Well, he is just 31 years old, but aside from his 2008 season, Wellemeyer has never put together a consistently productive season. Nevertheless, I would anticipate that interest in Wellemeyer will heat up after the New Year and that there will be teams going after him hoping that he recaptures his 2008 magic on a low cost one year deal. A team like the Pirates, Mariners, Tigers, Nationals, and Padres all would seem to be logical fits. If Wellemeyer can put together another 2008esque season, then he will be in position to land a more lucrative contract next winter.

Revisiting the Castillo for Byrnes Hypothetical Trade

A few weeks back, I profiled why a swap of Eric Byrnes for Luis Castillo would make sense for both the Diamondbacks and the Mets. The Mets would finally complete their never ending quest to get rid of Luis Castillo while the Diamondbacks would fill their need at second base, make their offense better, and save money in 2010. This deal would be a classic salary dump for both sides just like the Milton Bradley-Carlos Silva swap was for the Cubs and Mariners, just minus the crazy aspect.

As we sit here on December 28th, this deal still makes far too much sense from both perspectives not to happen.

As Nick Cafardo wrote in yesterday's Boston Globe:
6. Orlando Hudson, 2B, free agent - Seems he was the hot name for a long time, but that has quieted. The Mets remain the most interested, but until they are able to move Luis Castillo - a big if - the Mets may only be able to dream about a Jose Reyes-Hudson DP combo.
Seems like a fair enough point given how little interest the league has in Castillo. But it's clear that for whatever reason, the Mets' love for Orlando Hudson is still strong.

How can the Mets finally satisfy their urge for Orlando Hudson?

Answer: Trade Eric Brynes for Luis Castillo

I know taking on Byrnes' contract (or at least most of it) is not something the Mets should be fond of doing, but if they want to get rid of Luis Castillo that badly, then this is one of the only ways how they can do it. And sure, there is a chance that Byrnes can be a useful player on the Mets, but I don't think he has quite the upside that Castillo has at this stage in his career.

On the plus side, if/when the Mets go after Hudson, they would not have to give up a draft pick for his services and they might even be Hudson's only serious suitor at this point, which means his price is destined to come down.

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

As for the Diamondbacks, the most interesting new development of their offseason is their interest in Jose Valverde, whose market has crashed around him despite his tremendous ability. As Nick Piecoro writes:

But that's not a given. The club had been monitoring closer Jose Valverde's availability, and though Howry's signing makes a Valverde reunion somewhat less likely, team sources say they will continue to track Valverde and theoretically could stretch their budget for him if the cost makes sense.

The Diamondbacks would have to give up a second-round draft pick to sign him, but the savings on signing the pick (about $750,000) could help off-set the cost of Valverde. The number of teams looking for closers and able to afford a big-ticket acquisition seems to be limited.

Bringing Valverde on board would give the Diamondbacks one of the best bullpens in the National League and could spring board them towards contention in 2010. If they have the chance to sign Valverde to a one year contract, that's a move they have to make because the deal offers them virtually no risk and greatly improves their team in 2009.

But given the Diamondbacks payroll restrictions, how can they safely fit Valverde in their budget?

Answer: Trade Eric Brynes for Luis Castillo

Byrnes is making $11 million in 2010, which is a enormous amount of money for a player who won't be starting and for a team that only has a $70-$80 million dollar payroll. By unloading Byrnes' salary (or even most of it), the Diamondbacks would be giving themselves more payroll flexibility for 2010, which should allow them to go after Jose Valverde.

At the same time, the Diamondbacks would be acquiring a potentially valuable asset, who would start at second base and offer a consistent presence in their lineup.

What's not to like?

Off Season Winner: Trevor Hoffman

Shortly after the season ended, Trevor Hoffman and the Brewers came to terms on a one year/$8 million dollar contract that kept Hoffman in Milwaukee through 2010 and potentially even 2011 thanks to a mutual option. Hoffman, 41, put together a stellar season with the Brewers in 2009 by finishing with 37 saves and an incredible 1.83 ERA.

Given the year Hoffman had with the Brewers in 2009 and his name recognition, it's not hard to see why the Brewers decided to re-sign Hoffman. But what is up for debate is why the Brewers decided to commit 10% of their payroll (roughly $80 million) to a closer when there was such a glut of free agent closers on the market.

As it turns out, the market for closers has been horrible this winter. The top closers on the market are not coming close to making what they anticipated and not one closer has topped $7 million in salary in 2010. Additionally, the best closer on the free agent market, Jose Valverde, is still a free agent with minimal interest from teams around the league because no one wants to give him a multi year contract worth $8-$10 million annually.

So why is Hoffman a offseason winner? Because he did the smart thing by signing early before the market for closers could develop and in turn, getting more guaranteed money in 2010 than any other free agent closer to date. It's hard to say how much Hoffman would have made on the free agent market, but given how things played out this winter, it's hard to imagine that he could have done much better than he did.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

How the Athletics Can Sign Adrian Beltre

One of the most fascinating rumors to come to life over the past few weeks has been the Adrian Beltre to the A's rumor. The normally frugal Athletics are taking a "serious look" at signing Beltre, who at just 30 years old, is one of the best free agents left on the market and by far the best free agent third baseman. As Buster Olney writes:
They are taking a serious look at third baseman Adrian Beltre, who would fit the trend for the defensive-minded metrics crowd this winter: Seattle, Boston and, yes, the Athletics, who have already added Coco Crisp.
In theory, signing Beltre makes tons of sense for the Athletics. The A's need to find a power hitter in the middle of the lineup, who can drive in runs and they need to find a dependable third baseman in place of Eric Chavez, who can play top notch defense and solidify the A's as one of the best defensive teams in baseball. Beltre, who is only 30 years old, fits both of those needs.

But the problem for the Athletics lies in the cost. Even though Beltre had a down season in 2009 and missed plenty of time with injuries, he is thought to be seeking a multi year deal that exceeds $10 million annually. I seriously doubt that the A's would be willing to pay Beltre that much money let alone commit to him for so many seasons given his injury plagued 2010. The Athletics payroll will probably sit somewhere in the $60-$70 million dollar range, which makes it foolish to think that they would commit such a large portion of their payroll to one player.

Luckily for the A's, the market for Beltre has not really developed as he or agent Scott Boras would have hoped. Teams like the Giants, Cardinals, Red Sox, and Mariners have expressed interest in Beltre, but only in the right scenario and only if the price is right. None of those teams seem to have identified Beltre as a top target even though they have far more payroll flexibility than the A's to sign Beltre.

The best and most logical chance that the Athletics have at signing Beltre is by offering him an incentive laden one year contract with a mutual option for 2011. If the Athletics guarantee Beltre something like $6 million in 2010 and offer him another $4-$6 million in incentives, then Beltre could wind up making a substantial amount of money as a free agent next season as long as he stays healthy and productive. In addition, a mutual option of $12 million dollars or so would be sufficient because if Beltre becomes a fit in Oakland, then the A's can keep him as a replacement for Eric Chavez. More likely than not however, if Beltre has a stellar 2010 season, there's no way he would pick up this option.

In short, if Beltre really wants to maximize his earning potential, a one year contract is his best bet. There's no reason to think that if Beltre is healthy and productive in 2010 that he cannot land a lucrative multi year contract next winter given how weak the class of free agent third basemen is.

The Athletics would benefit from this deal because Beltre would be a substantial upgrade in the short term, while offering no long term commitment. For a small market club like the A's, this type of contract is the only one that really makes sense for them financially and gives them the opportunity to put an improved product on the field in 2010.

I know that Beltre specifically declined the Mariners arbitration offer a few weeks back because he was hoping to land a multi year contract. Well, Beltre still might be able to do that, but the years and dollars will be far less than what he expected. The only reason that Beltre should accept a multi year deal is if he thinks that contract is maximizing his earning potential as a healthy and productive player. Given the fact that Beltre is coming off an injury plagued season and is struggling to find teams willing to meet his price on the market, I think it's safe to say that he has virtually no chance to maximizing his earning potential with a multi year deal this winter.

If Beltre comes to this conclusion, then he will become more open to accepting a one year deal.

Risk/Reward of the Kelvin Escobar Signing

Met fans have been clamoring for Omar Minaya to make a splash and sign a big name free agent. I'm not sure that this signing counts, but Kelvim Escobar is on his way to becoming a New York Met:
I can confirm other reports that the #Mets are on the brink of signing Kelvim Escobar to a one-year, major league contract
By giving Escobar a major league contract, the Mets are certainly adding a level of risk to the deal, but the bigger picture suggests that there is plenty of reward here for the Mets to justify this deal:


  • Escobar has not pitched in nearly two seasons
  • Escobar has not been a full time relief pitcher since 2002-how good will he be?
  • Injury history
  • Major league contract guarantees him spot on the 40 man roster
  • If he is healthy, Escobar has fantastic stuff
  • Potentially electric set up man
  • Minimal commitment in both years (1) and dollars
  • If Escobar is hurt in 2010, there are no future implications of this deal
Conclusion: Given how uneventful the Mets offseason has been so far, I think fans of the team will take any potentially beneficial signing at this point. Even though Escobar has made just one start in two years, if he's healthy, he will have lots of bring to the Mets. Not only will Escobar make their bullpen deeper, but he will give them yet another power arm in addition to Brian Stokes and Bobby Parnell. There is a lot of upside in this deal for the Mets given how much Escobar can bring to the table and how little the Mets are investing in this deal. With that said, the Mets still have plenty of work to do this offseason and hopefully the signings of Escobar and Igarashi, GM Omar Minaya will now shift away from the bullpen and address some of the team's other primary needs (i.e: starting pitching, power hitters, etc.)

As for Kelvim Escobar, the Mets will give him a great opportunity to get his career back on track in the bullpen. I'm sure one of the primary reasons that Escobar signed with the Mets is because they gave him a major league contract. While there were plenty of teams out there interested in Escobar, I'm not sure how many of them were willing to hand Escobar anything more than a minor league deal. Considering that he's only thrown 5 innings in the majors since 2007, the Mets' willingness to give him a major league deal demonstrates how strongly they wanted him and how much they believe in Escobar's stuff.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

From Jorge Says No! to you and yours, Merry Christmas. No matter what you celebrate this time of year, enjoy yourself and most importantly, be safe.

Thanks once again for reading and being apart of the Jorge Says No! experience. There will be no more posts here for the rest of the day, but we will be back on the 27th for all of you who did not get the right presents or perhaps drank too much egg nog.

And by the way, only 100 days until opening day. We can all be thankful for that.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Risk/Reward of the Justin Duchscherer Signing

And in a classic Billy Beane signing, it looks like the Athletics have found their ace:

As I reported in this morning's Chronicle, the A's were optimistic about re-signing Justin Duchscherer, and though the team might not announce the agreement until after Christmas, word from multiple sources is that a one-year deal is done pending a physical.

The base salary is $2 million, but Duchscherer could earn as much as $5.5 million with incentives, should he reach benchmarks of 30 starts and 200 innings.

Duchscherer's agent, Damon Lapa, said at the start of the free-agent period that the two-time All-Star was clear with teams that he wanted to be a starter, and considering the incentives package,it is safe to assume that the A's have agreed that that will be the right-hander's role. Duchscherer missed all of last season, first with an elbow problem and then during treatment for clinical depression.

That means, barring other moves, that Duchscherer is likely to be the team's No. 1 starter, as he had been projected to be last year, and he'll be followed by left-handers Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson and right-hander Travor Cahill. The fifth spot will be up for grabs between righty Vin Mazzaro and lefty Gio Gonzalez, with Josh Outman a possibility when he returns from elbow surgery after the All-Star break.

Even though Duchscherer missed all of the 2009 season with various injuries and depression, there is plenty of upside in this deal for the Athletics:

  • Can he stay healthy?
  • Will Duchscherer throw more than 150 innings (which is a feat he has never accomplished before)
  • Potential ace
  • Potential trade bait later in the season if he stays healthy
  • Veteran leadership
  • High upside
  • Dominant pitcher when healthy
  • Limited money ($2 million) and years (one) invested
Conclusion: There's a lot to like about this deal from the Athletics' perspective because Duchscherer is a guy that they are familiar with, has great stuff, will probably be their ace, and cost them very little. The Athletics lack the resources to go after the top free agent starting pitchers, but they must've been elated to sign Duchscherer to a contract with so little money guaranteed. From Duchscherer's perspective, this deal makes sense because it gives him the opportunity to start in a place that he's familiar with. If Duchscherer has a dynamite 2010 season, then there's no reason to think that he won't be able to land a lucrative contract next winter.

With that said, I don't think the Athletics are a playoff team even with Duchscherer on board, but this signing makes the Athletics' rotation deeper and more potent, should Duchscherer remain healthy.

Risk/Reward of the Fernando Rodney Signing

The Angels made their second big free agent signing by coming to terms with Fernando Rodney on a two year/$11 million dollar contract:
Angels General Manager Tony Reagins did a little last-minute Christmas shopping today. And while he didn't get exactly what he wanted to put under the tree, he's pretty happy with what he did get -- hard-throwing reliever Fernando Rodney, who set a franchise record by converting 37 of 38 save opportunities for the Detroit Tigers last season.

Rodney, a 32-year-old free agent, agreed in principle to a two-year, $11-million contract to provide depth at the back of an already-deep bullpen that will return major league saves leader Brian Fuentes.

It wasn't, however, the perfect gift. That's because Rodney's 4.40 earned-run average last season was the highest among American League relievers with at least 20 saves. Plus, he is 4-17 with a 4.48 ERA over the past three seasons. And in 2007 and 2008, he missed 20 weeks with tendinitis in his pitching arm.
I am normally a huge fan of Angels GM Tony Reagins, but I'm not a fan of this deal at all. As I've outlined, there is far too much risk involved with this deal even though Rodney does bring some skills to the table.


  • Two years for Fernando Rodney. Really?
  • Almost $6 million annually is a lot to pay for a set up man, let alone a mediocre one like Rodney
  • ERA has not been lower than 4 since 2006
  • Injury history
  • Career WHIP of 1.42
  • Lacks control (41 walks last season)
  • Sure Rodney has closing experience, but that doesn't mean he was a quality closer.
  • Closing experience
  • Great arm
  • Gives the Angels another option to close should Fuentes struggle again
  • Can Fuentes and Rodney become a productive 1-2 punch late in games?
Conclusion: Given how much the Angels bullpen and Brian Fuentes struggled last season, it does not surprise me to see the Angels shore up their bullpen. However, is Rodney really the guy the Angels want? He's far from reliable, walks too many hitters, gives up too many hits, and has never been a dominant pitcher at any point during his seven year career. And in my opinion, giving Rodney two years was a foolish move because it increases the risk associated with this deal. Given how poorly the market for relief pitchers has panned out (besides Brandon Lyon) and how many relief options (Dotel, Gregg, Howry, Park, etc.) remain on the free agent market, there was no reason to commit so heavily to Rodney.

Jose Valverde to the Diamondbacks?

We're all over the Jose Valverde situation today as Nick Piecoro adds in this note about the Diamondbacks and Valverde:
*Still curious to see what becomes of the situation with RHP Jose Valverde. The Diamondbacks remain interested in bringing him back -- at their price, of course. A scenario the Diamondbacks would consider: Offering him a one-year deal at a lower base salary than what he’s seeking -- say, $5 million -- along with a promise not to offer him arbitration after 2010. That way, he could have another go at the free-agent market next year, unencumbered by draft pick compensation. No idea if Valverde would go for that.
I honestly did not think that the Diamondbacks had the funds to seriously go after Valverde, but this situation actually makes a whole lot of sense. Sure the Diamondbacks already have Chad Qualls, but this move would make their bullpen significantly better. The Diamondbacks would not have to surrender their first round pick and Valverde would have the chance to put up big numbers in Arizona and become an attractive free agent on the market next winter. This scenario would be similar to what happened to Juan Cruz last winter, except that he signed with the Royals on a two year deal, not just one.

Seems like a win-win deal all around to me, that is of course, if the Diamondbacks can afford to sign him.

Jose Valverde to the Tigers?

On Monday, I pondered if Jose Valverde was going to be this year's Orlando Hudson. Just three days later, the number of teams, who could potentially be interested in Valverde continues to wane: Two teams that I thought could have interest in Valverde seem to have moved in different directions:
At this stage in the game, there does not seem to be a team out there willing to give him the contract he wants, let alone give up a first round pick for his services.

One of the only teams left with a realistic chance to go after Valverde is the Tigers, who have now lost both Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon. But given the Tigers financial state, does anyone actually think they would pay Valverde more than $5-$6 million dollars in 2010? And would they be willing to surrender their first round pick?

At some point though, I think Valverde's price will fall into the range where the Tigers have to make a play for him, despite his type A status (a la Orlando Hudson last season). This process will take time for Valverde, but if the Tigers actually have money to spend, then they should be the team that Valverde should look to sign with (albeit for a cheap price).

Risk/Reward of the Troy Glaus Signing

It looks like the Braves have found their right handed power hitter. Despite playing only six games in his career at first base, the Braves signed Troy Glaus to a one year/$2 million dollar contract yesterday:

Free agent corner infielder Troy Glaus and the Atlanta Braves have reached a tentative agreement on a contract, a baseball source told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

Glaus must undergo a physical exam before the deal can be completed. The physical is more than a formality because of his injury history, and is not expected to take place until after Christmas and possibly New Year's, so no announcement is imminent.

Glaus, 33, is a four-time All-Star with 304 home runs and a .497 career slugging percentage. He is expected to play first base in Atlanta and give the Braves some middle-of-the-order power to complement Chipper Jones and Brian McCann.

FoxSports.com, which was first to report the pending deal, said Glaus will receive a one-year contract with incentives.

As I noted a week ago, Glaus made a lot of sense for the Braves as a low cost/high reward option to play first base. The Braves were in dire need of a right handed power hitter even after trading Javier Vazquez and Glaus stood out because of the low level commitment that the Braves have to make (one year) and the limited dollars that the Braves had to throw his way. By signing Glaus, the Braves still have some financial flexibility left over to make a run at other free agents and make their team deeper.

If Glaus is healthy, then it's not out of the question to put him down for 25-35 home runs. From 2005-2008, Glaus never hit less than 20 home runs in any season and he has hit more than 35 home runs four times in his career.

However, there are a number of risks involved with signing Glaus. The first and most prominent concern has to be his health. Glaus missed nearly all of the 2009 season and one has to wonder how Glaus will bounce back in 2010 and how he will hold up over a full season. Also, Glaus has such limited experience playing first base that it remains to be seen if he will become a defensive liability for the Braves.

There's a reason why it cost so little for the Braves to sign Glaus (health, position, defense), but the potential upside of this deal is tremendous and could make the Braves a legitimate contender in the National League in 2010.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sign With the Nationals, Matt Capps

After sorting through a litany of teams that were interested in his services, Matt Capps has narrowed his choices down to two teams: the Nationals and the Cubs.
Ten days after reliever Matt Capps landed on the free-agent market, he's down to deciding whether he wants to be a closer for the Washington Nationals or a setup man and fallback closer candidate for the Cubs.

Agent Paul Kinzer said Tuesday that Capps plans to confer with his family and decide between competing offers from the Cubs and Nationals by Wednesday night.

"Matt is really comfortable with those two [teams] at this point,'' Kinzer said. "When it comes right down to it, he has to decide whether he's going to a place where he's definitely going to be the closer, or he's a setup man with a chance to maybe close.''

Capps, 26, amassed 66 saves from 2007 through 2009 in Pittsburgh.

Now, even though Capps has a much better chance to win with the Cubs in 2010 (and perhaps 2011), there is no doubt in my mind that he should sign with the Nationals. Here's why: if Capps wants to maximize his earning potential, then he needs to be a closer. Sure right now the market for closers is pretty weak, but historically, closers have made far more money than relief pitchers, no matter how good they are. If Capps can be an effective closer for the Nationals for a year or two, he will be putting himself in a great position to earn big bucks down the road at 27 or 28.

In addition, there are so few closing jobs available this offseason that it would be foolish not to take it when its offered. Right now, there are only a handful of teams other than the Nationals that need a closer, but the market is over saturated with experienced closers. Bottom line: there will be pitchers, who expected to close in 2010, who will not have that opportunity. Capps is one of the lucky ones, who can choose his own fate.

In short, despite the Nationals' past/future struggles, this is a opportunity that Capps needs to jump at because it's what's best for his career and his future earning potential.

Phillies Bullpen Options

Now that the Phillies have added Roy Halladay, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has turned his attention to shoring up their shaky bullpen. With Chan Ho Park and Scott Eyre set to leave Philadelphia, Amaro has identified his two main targets: Fernando Rodney and Mike MacDougal. Both guys have experience closing, which is vital for the Phillies given how bad Brad Lidge performed last season.

The going rate for Rodney at this point seems to be somewhere in the 2 years/$12 million dollar range, which seems rather excessive when you consider that Mike Gonzalez, who is a superior pitcher, landed the exact same deal. And even though Rodney has great stuff and was a decent closer for the Phillies this season, is he a guy that the Phillies should feel confident calling on in a big spot? Lemme put it to you this way, between Rodney and Brad Lidge, it could be a roller coaster season for the Phillies.

As for MacDougal, he had a nice couple months with the Nationals last season, but when it comes down to it, MacDougal is just a guy with great stuff and very poor control. There's a reason why the Nationals non-tendered him: even though MacDougal put together a nice season as the Nationals' closer, his control makes him too much of a risk for the Nationals to pay him $3 million or so that he would have earned via arbitration. MacDougal should be a cheap option on the free agent market, but that doesn't necessarily make him a good option for the Phillies given his control issues.

Before the Phillies make a final choice on MacDougal or Rodney, I'd suggest that they take a look into Jose Valverde. As I wrote a few days back, the market for Valverde stinks and it's highly doubtful that he will come close to the 3 year/$30 million dollar contract he wanted this winter. Valverde is the best closer on the market, but because of his type A status, teams a shying away from offering him a contract.

That's where the Phillis come in. With $118 million in payroll commitments already for 2010, the Phillies have roughly $22 million left to spend ($140 million dollar payroll), but a majority of that will be spent on arbitration raises. If I'm Ruben Amaro, I would offer Valverde something like a one year deal worth $7.5 million dollars and a decent level of incentives. Because the Phillies would have to surrender their first round pick to sign Valverde, I doubt they would be willing to pay more than that for a relief pitcher, no matter how good he may be. Valverde would give the Phillies a potentially dominant closer should Brad Lidge fail to return to his 2008 form and has far more upside than either Rodney or MacDougal.

If Valverde declines the offer, which I would expect, then Amaro can move on to options B and C. But there are plenty of reasons for Valverde to accept the deal. He would be placed in a great situation to play on a winning team where he might be able to close on a regular basis. And let's face it, teams aren't exactly clamoring to sign him, no matter how good of a closer he may be.

And the Phillies would be significantly upgrading their bullpen for 2010, which in my opinion is worth their first round pick given how minimal the commitment would be to Valverde. If Valverde joins the Phillies, then they would have to be the favorites in the National League.

Will the Yankees Go After Aroldis Chapman?

Lost in the shuffle of the Yankees tremendous offseason has been their relative inactivity on the Aroldis Chapman front. At the beginning of the offseason, the Yankees were heavily linked to the Cuban left hander because of their vast financial resources and experience signing international prospects. But now that the Yankees have acquired Curtis Granderson, Javier Vazquez, and Nick Johnson already (and pushed their 2010 payroll to $204 million in the process!), do they have enough resources remaining to make a push for Chapman? Maybe not, if you believe Yankees GM Brian Cashman:
“I will continue to look at any remaining piece,” Cashman said during today’s conference call. “But it won’t be a big piece. Any speculation about some high-end player who has big ability and dollars attached on a large scale would be inappropriate.”
Now whether or not Chapman would be considered a "big piece" by Yankees brass is certainly up for debate, but that doesn't sound like a guy, who is too willing to commit $20-$30 million over five seasons to a relative unknown.

Then again, if the Yankees truly believe that Chapman has the makings of an ace in the majors, then I'm sure they could find room in their budget to sign him. Paying Chapman $5-$6 million dollars annually might be a lot for most teams, but for the Yankees, that's chump change as long as there is tremendous upside in the deal and the pitcher's name is not Kei Igawa. Remember that the Yankees view Chapman as a piece in 2011 at the earliest, so if they do sign him, the implications of the contract would primarily be in the long term.

And finally, remember that the Yankees could jump right into the Chapman sweepstakes if they see the Red Sox make a strong push. Baseball's cold war knows no financial limits and if the Yankees can do anything to improve their club in the future while damaging the Red Sox in the process, then I'm sure that's a move Cashman would be eager to make.

Are the Mets and Joel Pineiro a Match?

The Mets badly need a starting pitcher. Joel Pineiro is the best starter left on the free agent market. So shouldn't Pineiro to the Mets be a logical fit? Maybe not:
With Marquis, John Lackey and Randy Wolf now unavailable, the Mets could be down to the last of the preferred free-agent starting pitchers -- Joel Pineiro. But there has been no indication that they have any great interest in him. The $29.75 million contract Wolf signed with the Brewers appeared to spook the Mets. They hadn't expected Wolf to command such a figure and were prompted to look past the other starters they considered mid-range and less accomplished than Lackey. They did develop a belated interest in Lackey based in part of Wolf's deal, though not one comparable to the Red Sox's interest -- $85 million.
Like so many free agents this winter, what Pineiro expected to receive on the market likely will not come close to the deal he actually signs. Why? Because there are so few teams out there looking to spend big money on a starting pitcher and there are even fewer teams out there with money to spend. The Mets are one of the few teams on the market left that have a definite need for a starting pitcher and have money to spend as well.

If Pineiro is going to come close to Randy Wolf money, then he's going to need to have a number of teams interested in his services. But right now, the market for Pineiro simply is not there. Outside of the Mets, what other teams would have interest in Pineiro at $7-$10 million annually?
  • Yankees: Nope. Not after the Vazquez trade
  • Red Sox: Nope. Not after the Lackey signing
  • Cubs: Doubtful. Do they have the money to spend?
  • Dodgers: Doubtful. Do they have the money to spend?
  • Nationals: Doubtful, especially after committing $15 million to Jason Marquis
  • Orioles: Doubtful given their payroll and recent acquisition of Kevin Millwood
  • Mariners: Probably not given their recent acquisition of Cliff Lee
  • Cardinals: Unlikely at this point because they signed Brad Penny
Besides the Mets, the only other team that sticks out in my mind is the Angels. After losing John Lackey, the Angels need a front line starting pitcher and if they cannot acquire one on the trade market, then they might look to Pineiro to fill the void.

The best case scenario for Pineiro and his agent is if the Mets and Angels both become desperate for a front line starting pitcher and decide to go hard after Pineiro.

But is that scenario likely? I doubt it. Even though there is tremendous pressure on the Mets to get a deal done with any top free agent, their lack of interest in Pineiro so far suggests that while they need a starting pitcher, maybe Pineiro is not the guy they want to go after strongly. As for the Angels, they have less money to spend than the Mets do and they are making a strong run at Fernando Rodney. In addition, the Angels have a very good fallback option should Pineiro sign elsewhere-Matt Palmer. Under no circumstances should the Angels panic after Lackey's loss given their wealth of resources, prospects, and options.

If both the Mets and Angels remain patient and refuse to panic, than the price tag for Pineiro will inevitably drop. I doubt he'll achieve the salary of Randy Wolf, but he should earn more than Jason Marquis. Given how the market has played out, Pineiro at 3 years/$24 million seems about right.

At that price, I would expect the Mets to be very much interested in Pineiro.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thinking Out Loud: The Nationals, $22 Million, and Aroldis Chapman

As the great Buster Olney pointed out this morning, the Nationals have now spent $22 million dollars this winter on the following free agents:
  • Jason Marquis (2 years/$15 million)
  • Ivan Rodriguez (2 years/$6 million)
  • Scott Olson (1 year/$1 million)
With that figure in mind, who would you rather have: those three players (Marquis, Rodriguez, Olson) or Aroldis Chapman, should he command the expected total of $15-$20 million dollars to sign?

If Chapman would sign for somewhere in the $15-$20 million dollar range, I'd have to choose him over those three based on Chapman's high upside and potential.

Your thoughts?

Analysis of the Javier Vazquez Trade

By acquiring Javier Vazquez, the Yankees are addressing one of their more pressing needs this winter: more starting pitching. And by acquiring Vazquez, they sure picked up a good one. Vazquez is coming off the best season of his career with the Braves and was one of the top starting pitchers in the National League last season. On paper, the Yankees now have a starting rotation comparable to that of the Red Sox.

But you have to wonder how Vazquez will fare with the Yankees. Vazquez was a bust for the Yankees back in 2004 and now he will be moving out of the cozy NL East and into the potent AL East. In many ways, it's like moving from junior varsity to varsity. And in that respect, I would expect Vazquez's numbers to go up from last season.

Make no mistake about it though, if Vazquez can give the Yankees 200 IP with 190+ K's, and a 3.75 ERA, then there is no reason why he won't be able to win 15+ games with the Yankees the way this team is constructed.

While this trade does not give the Braves the power bat they were looking for, it does free them of the $11 million owed to Vazquez this season and allows them to become players on the free agent market should they choose too. It remains to be seen if they will be able to pursue Holliday or Bay, but given how poorly both of their markets have developed, the Braves would seem to have a good chance to land either player, especially Bay. At the very least, the Braves should have the funds to re-sign Adam LaRoche or go after Dan Uggla.

And it's important to note that the Braves did not just get rid of Vazquez's contract, but they also got more in return that I thought. Melky Cabrera should be a very useful fourth outfielder/platoon partner for the Braves who can hit for some power and play solid defense. In addition, Cabrera is not projected to be a free agent until after the 2012 season, which is yet another plus for the Braves. Also, Mike Dunn could be a realistic option for the Braves bullpen this season and lemme tell you this, I watched Aroyds Vizcaino pitch several times for the Staten Island Yankees last season, and that dude has phenomenal stuff. Sure he is still a ways away from the majors, but the raw talent is certainly there.

The Benefit of Signing Jason Marquis

The market for starting pitchers is beginning to take shape as Jason Marquis and the Washington Nationals agreed to a 2 year/$15 million dollar contract.

Free-agent pitcher Jason Marquis has agreed to a two-year, $15 million contract with the Washington Nationals, sources confirmed to ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney on Monday.

The deal is pending a physical.

The Nationals issued a "media alert," saying that they would hold a news conference at their stadium on Tuesday to announce a free-agent signing. The team did not identify the player in the release.

The 31-year-old Marquis is a right-hander who went 15-13 with a 4.04 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 216 innings for the Colorado Rockies in 2009. He made the NL All-Star team last season, thanks to an 11-6 record and 3.65 ERA at that point. But Marquis fizzled down the stretch and wasn't part of the Rockies' postseason starting rotation.

Now, I'll be honest with you: I'm torn on this deal. I don't think it's a bad contract for the Nationals economically and a two year deal seems to be about right for both sides. The Nationals needed to add a proven starter to the mix, who could eat a boatload of innings, take some pressure off the bullpen, provide some leadership, and give the rebuilding Nationals a legitimate chance to win every time he takes the ball. There's no doubt Marquis fits the bill.

While we question this deal for the Nationals, we have to take into account just how difficult it has been for the Nationals to lure free agents to DC in previous seasons. Sure the Nationals signed Dunn and Beimel last season, but that was after those two guys were basically shunned by the rest of the baseball world. The only way the Nationals are going to get better and become relevant in Washington DC is if they add talented players to the mix that allows them to compete and offer hope for the future. Even though Jason Marquis is no ace, he is a substantial upgrade over some of the Nationals other options.

But on the other side, where's the upside for the Nationals, here? At best, Marquis is a middle of the rotation starter, who was great during stretches last season, but struggled mightily towards the end of the season. In addition, committing $15 million to Marquis over two years would seem to be a logical move for a team that is looking to compete and is aiming for a playoff birth, but realistically, the Nationals are years away from contending. By the time Marquis' contract runs out, the Nationals should be in a much better position to compete for a playoff spot. I would have loved to see the Nationals make a strong push at a long term option like Aroldis Chapman, who has far more upside than Marquis and might be an ace long term.

To me, this deal will be a success for the Nationals if Marquis can provide some stability and consistency to the Nationals starting rotation. Wins and losses will not be the ultimate judge of this deal, but if the Nationals continue to lose 100+ games a year, then it will be difficult to call this deal a success no matter how good Marquis is.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Jose Valverde: This Winter's Orlando Hudson?

Am I alone in thinking that Jose Valverde, considered to be one of the best closers on the open market, might wind up signing a contract for less than what Brandon Lyon recieved? We'll see. But for now, Ken Rosenthal outlines the problems facing Valverde's free agency:

No, Valverde’s problem is that he is a Type A free agent who rejected his team’s offer of salary arbitration. His decision, in part, was fueled by emotion; Valverde, one friend said, was upset with the Astros for declining to sign him long-term.

Thus, he made a personal decision, if not -- perhaps -- the best business move.

Valverde, a right-hander coming off an $8 million salary, would have shot past $10 million in arbitration, though on a non-guaranteed, one-year deal. Now, any team that signs him faces an additional cost -- the loss of a high draft pick to the Astros.

Teams are interested. They have to be interested. The question is at what price.
The non-existent market for Jose Valverde is the under reported story of the offseason. Here's a guy, who came into the winter with sky high expectations after a great 2009 season, but so far in free agency, the interest in Valverde has been reduced to crickets and tumbleweeds.

And I can't say that I blame teams for this. As Rosenthal noted, Valverde made a terrible decision to reject the Astros' arbitration offer and there are simply no teams on the market this winter that are prepared to give Valverde the contract with both the dollars and years he's looking for.

It will be fascinating to see what happens with Valverde in the coming weeks. I'm sure his price tag is set to drop well into bargain basement territory, but Valverde will be further hindered by baseball's version of the scarlet letter: type A status. The limited number of teams interested in closers combined with the overall reluctance to part with draft picks makes Valverde's situation a nightmare.

The most logical scenario for Valverde would have been for a team with a pick in the top 16 of the MLB draft to sign him because their first round pick is protected. Any team inside the top 16 would only have to surrender their second round pick to the Astros. However, it's doubtful that any of the teams inside the top 16 have the cash or the desire to sign Valverde. The Nationals and Pirates need closers, but does anyone honestly think either of those two teams will spend on a top flight closer? Neither did I.

So it's pretty obvious to me that Valverde will wind up with a team in the bottom half of the draft, which means they will have to surrender a first round pick. This situation is similar to what Orlando Hudson went through last year with the Dodgers, when Hudson settled on a one year deal with a low base ($4 mil) and plenty of incentives because so many teams shied away from his type A status. Sure the Dodgers had to surrender their first round pick, but in return, they got Hudson at a very cheap price and minimal commitment.

And unfortunately for Valverde, that's exactly the kind of deal I can see him taking. A team like the Phillies or Angels would be perfect for Valverde because they could offer the chance to close if need be and Valverde would be put in a winning situation that could give him plenty of exposure and attention. It remains to be seen if either of those two teams has the money to spend on Valverde, but given their playoff expectations this season, it might make sense to add another experienced closer to the mix at a low cost.

Darren Oliver's Impact

Talk about coming full circle: 17 years after Darren Oliver began his career with the Texas Rangers, it looks as though Oliver will be returning to the Rangers.

The Texas Rangers are nearing completion of a one-year deal to add LHP Darren Oliver to the bullpen, two sources said Sunday night.

Oliver, 39, has been used as a reliever for the last four years and has found significant success in that role. Over the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, he is 12-2 with a 2.79 ERA. He has held left-handed hitters to a .247 batting average with a .286 on-base percentage during that time.

Oliver still lives in the area and his agents met with the Rangers during the winter meeting. At the time, Oliver was seeking at least the same salary as he made with the Angels in 2009 ($3.65 million). The Rangers were believed to be in the $3 million range, but were waiting on a deal for Mike Lowell to be completed.
While $3 million in this marketplace might be a tad bit steep for Oliver given how many options are out there, I love this move from the Rangers' perspective. The Rangers add a quality left handed reliever to their improving bullpen and as we saw last season with the Rangers, if the Rangers' pitching staff can achieve mediocrity, then the Rangers have a very good chance at winning lots of baseball games. Darren Oliver has proven to be one of the best left handed set up men in baseball over the last three seasons with the Angels and bringing him to Texas is a coup for GM Jon Daniels.
In addition, the future impact of this deal is next to nothing for the Rangers. By signing Oliver to a one year contract, the Rangers mitigate the risk involved with signing a 39 year old pitcher. It's also important to note that the Rangers did not have to surrender a draft pick to sign Oliver, even though he was a type A free agent, because the Angels did not offer him arbitration.

But the real benefit of adding Darren Oliver is that it could potentially move CJ Wilson into the starting rotation. The Rangers were skeptical of moving Wilson out of the bullpen because he was so valuable as their primary left handed set up man, but now with Oliver on board, the Rangers have more flexibility to give Wilson a chance to start.

Either way this move is a win-win for the Rangers. If Wilson stays in the bullpen, then the Rangers will have a deep and reliable bullpen to fall back on, but if Wilson moves into the starting rotation, then the Rangers rotation could improve even more.

Does the Coco Crisp Signing Make Sense?

Late Saturday night, the Athletics and Coco Crisp came to terms on a one year pact worth $4.5-$5 million dollars. The deal set off some heated discussion in the blogosphere, namely, what in the world is Billy Beane doing? For one, ESPN's Rob Neyer is not a fan of the signing:

With that out of the way ... I don't get it. Unless someone is traded, this makes no sense at all for the A's. Sweeney has to play, because he's an outstanding outfielder and a decent enough hitter who's young enough to get better. Rajai Davis isn't as young, and it's far from obvious that he'll ever hit as well again as he did in 2009. But he does seem to be an excellent defensive center fielder. And Scott Hairston is decent enough to play, to say nothing of giant prospect Michael Taylor, just acquired from the Blue Jays.
The logical reason why Beane would choose to invest his limited resources in an outfielder when he already has a number of good outfield options centers around defense. As ESPN's Buster Olney noted yesterday, the Athletics seem to focusing their attention around pitching and defense. And with so many young pitchers on staff, it would make sense for Beane to surround them with the best outfield defense possible.

And now with Crisp on board, the Athletics outfield defense should be one of the best in baseball. Between Coco Crisp (19.6 UZR in 2009), Rajai Davis (16.2 UZR in 2009), and Ryan Sweeney (27.6 UZR in 2009), the Athletics outfield defense will be loaded with speed and should cover tons of ground.

The problem that I have with this deal is purely based on economics. Beane has limited resources to begin with and even though $5 million for Crisp might be a good deal if he's healthy, is that really a good deal for the A's? Assuming that the Athletics payroll remains in the $50-$60 million dollar range for 2010, was it really smart for Beane to commit 8%-10% of their payroll to a guy who likely will not help the A's make it to the playoffs and will probably only be around for one season. And as Neyer mentioned in his piece, the A's already have Scott Hairston, who could play a sufficient left field for the A's in 2010 for a few million dollars less than Crisp. So ask yourself this, was Coco Crisp really necessary for the rebuilding Athletics?

And how's this for a strange nugget: if Coco Crisp signs with the Athletics, he will become their 3rd highest paid player.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Market for Adrian Beltre Takes Another Hit

While Scott Boras patiently waits for some team to offer Adrian Beltre a four year deal worth around $10 million annually, the market for Beltre is simply not developing at this point. And to make matters worse, the Red Sox, who were one of the few teams interested in Beltre that could come close to giving him the contract he wanted, might not be in the market for a third baseman anymore. The reason? The Mike Lowell to Texas trade is was cancelled yesterday:

The trade sending Mike Lowell to Texas has been quashed, a baseball source said Saturday night, after a physical exam by the Rangers revealed that the third baseman requires surgery on his right thumb, which he injured on the last weekend of the 2009 season.

A Red Sox source confirmed that Lowell will require surgery to repair the radial collateral ligament in his right thumb, which the source termed as "minor" surgery that will take six to eight weeks to heal. Lowell, who is expected to undergo the surgery after Christmas, should be ready by the first week or two of spring training, the source said.
With Lowell now back in the fold for the Red Sox, it's hard to envision a scenario where the Red Sox can afford to take on Beltre. At this point, Lowell is virtually untradeable thanks to his thumb injury and the only way the Red Sox will be able to get him off their roster would be to flat out release him, which does not make too much sense.

So with the Red Sox off the board, what's next for Beltre? Even though Beltre was considered to be one of the top free agent third basemen, there are only two teams right now that have definite interest in his services: the Mariners and the Giants. However, both of those teams can be patient with Beltre because there are so many corner infielders available on the free agent market. If Beltre continues to price himself too highly, then the Giants and Mariners will simply move on and go after the some of the lower level free agents (DeRosa, Branyan, LaRoche, etc.).
At this point, Beltre has three options:
  1. Continue to push for a 4 year/$40 million dollar deal
  2. Ask for a multi year contract with less years and dollars than option 1
  3. Sign a one year contract

If I was Beltre's agent (Scott Boras), I'd have to seriously think about pursuing a one year contract. Teams are hesitant to give Beltre the deal he wants for numerous reasons (injuries, lack of money, too much competition), but I think teams would love to sign Beltre to a one year deal worth $8 million or so. Sure it's less than he would have gotten if he had accepted the Mariners' arbitration offer, but there is a lot of upside in a one year deal for Beltre:

  1. The 2010 free agent class of third basemen looks weak (outside of Jorge Cantu)
  2. Beltre will be only 31 years old
  3. If he has a big 2010 season, then he could cash in on a lucrative multi year contract next winter

Sure there are risks involved in signing a one year deal, but it might be Beltre's best chance of maximizing his earning potential instead of settling for something like a 3 year/$21 million dollar contract this winter.

Risk/Reward of Scott Rolen's Restructured Deal

You see plenty of moves like this in football, but contract restructuring is not nearly as common in baseball. But yesterday, the Reds and Scott Rolen agreed to a restructured deal that will keep him in Cincinnati for the next three seasons:

The Cincinnati Reds and Scott Rolen have agreed to restructure the third baseman's contract to give the club more payroll flexibility for next season, ESPN.com has learned.

Rolen had been scheduled to make $11 million in 2010, the final season of the eight-year, $90 million extension he signed after being traded by the Phillies to the Cardinals in 2002.

Instead, under the terms of the new contract, Rolen will earn $6 million in 2010, plus a $5 million signing bonus that the sides agreed would be deferred without interest, according to a source who has seen the details of the agreement.

The club, in return, extended Rolen's contract two years, through 2012. He will earn $6.5 million in each of those two seasons.
On the surface, this looks like a wise deal for both the Reds and Scott Rolen. The Reds were looking to acquire payroll flexibility this winter and by restructuring Rolen's deal, the Reds will save $5 million dollars in 2010. In addition, because of these savings, perhaps the Reds don't have to aggressively shop guys like Harang and Arroyo solely for payroll relief. Hopefully, the Reds will hold onto their high priced players at least through the first few months of the season to give this team a chance to show it can win in 2010.

As for Rolen, he guarantees himself another two years and $12 million dollars simply by restructuring his deal, which could be a smart move given how players tend to decline once they reach his age (35 in April). Even if Rolen had a big season for the Reds in 2010, I don't think he would have gotten significantly more than 2 years/$12.5 million so it's not like he's leaving a boatload of money on the table here.

But on the field, this move has upside for the Reds. While Rolen is not the potent hitter he was at the beginning of his career, he can still hit some home runs, lots of doubles, and gets on base. But most importantly for the Reds, Rolen is still one of the best defensive third basemen around and even though his UZR is on the decline, Rolen still produced a fantastic 7.6 last season and 8.5 the year prior.

At the same time, was it smart for the Reds to commit to Rolen through 2012 instead of just letting his contract expire at the end of the year? While the deal will help the Reds in the short term, the long term implications of this deal make it a somewhat of a risk. As I mentioned before, Rolen is an aging player with declining numbers as a hitter and a fielder, so one has to wonder if that decline will continue and if Rolen will become nothing more than an average third baseman. In addition, Rolen does have a rather lengthy injury history and he has not played in more than 130 games in any season since 2006. That point has to be concerning for the Reds' front office.

It will be interesting to see how (and if) the Reds choose to spend the money the saved from the Rolen restructuring. One would have to think that the Reds would become more active on the free agent market if the Rolen deal is truly going to benefit them in the present. I have a hard time thinking that in 2012 we'll think that this deal was fantastic, but in the short term, it accomplished an important goal for the Reds and now gives them the opportunity (albeit a small one) to spend money on some players.

Thinking Out Loud: Orlando Hudson to the Cubs?

A few days ago, I talked about the limited interest Orlando Hudson was receiving thus far on the free agent market (which included some great comments about possible landing spots for Hudson!). That same day, the Cubs traded away Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva, in a swap of horrible contracts that frees up some money for the Cubs to spend. The Mariners threw in $9 million dollars in the deal, and around $5 million of that will be applied this season, which means the Cubs now have some limited payroll flexibility to work with.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Cubs are now set to go after Marlon Byrd to replace Bradley in the outfield and potentially pursue a relief pitcher with closing experience (Matt Capps?) out of the bullpen. The Cubs are in the market for a centerfielder and a relief pitcher (at least) and Byrd is the best centerfielder left on the market and there are plenty of relief options out there for the Cubs to explore.

But, should the Cubs, now armed with their new found savings, opt against the conventional wisdom and try to sign Orlando Hudson instead of Byrd to fill their need at second base? As of right now, the Cubs have Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker as their primary options at second, which is not a duo that Cubs fans should be too optimistic about. In the best case scenario, both of those guys should be platoon/bench players that can give the Cubs the depth they crave.

If the Cubs could sign Hudson to a short term deal at a team friendly price, then I think Hudson can be a bigger asset to the Cubs given his offensive ability, defensive ability (overrated to a certain degree), and strong leadership characteristics. Sure Marlon Byrd might give the Cubs a power hitting center fielder, but he will be awfully expensive and should require a multi year contract. If the Cubs choose against signing Byrd, they could go after a cheaper option on the free agent/trade market to fill their need in the outfield that will not require the money/years of Marlon Byrd.

Should the Cubs go after Orlando Hudson? Discuss and debate in the comments section.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Analysis of the Milton Bradley-Carlos Silva Trade

And with that, the Chicago Cubs just got less crazy and the Seattle Mariners have found a middle of the order hitter

Cubs acquire: Carlos Silva, $9 million

Mariners acquire: Milton Bradley

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

Cubs Perspective
  • Finally get rid of Milton Bradley!
  • Very little upside on return
  • Carlos Silva stinks
  • Save $9 million!
  • Where does he fit on the Cubs roster?
Conclusion: It has come to this. The Cubs were forced to take on one of the worst contracts in baseball just to get Milton Bradley off their hands. On one hand they should be celebrating that Milton is gone and they got some savings in return, but Carlos Silva has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball over the past two years. I guess the Cubs will give him a look and if they don't like what they see, they will simply release him and eat the remaining cost. The Cubs can now use the Bradley savings to spend on a center fielder and hope that this deal is addition by subtraction at its finest. n

Mariners Perspective:
  • Acquire a potential impact bat
  • No more Carlos Silva!
  • Bradley can DH or play left field
  • High risk because of his terrible attitude
  • Can they keep Milton Bradley sane?
  • In addition to taking on Bradley's contract, the Mariners also sent the Cubs $9 million
  • In the end, the Mariners take on an additional $5 million over the next two seasons
Conclusion: There's no doubt that this move is a risk for the Mariners, but GM Jack Zduriencik must believe that Bradley can give them the middle of the order production they need at very little cost. Taking on $5 million over the next two seasons is not much for the Mariners and Carlos Silva was dead weight on the Mariners anyway. The real question remains if the Mariners can keep Bradley sane, because if they can, then this deal has lots of upside for them and the potential to be a steal.

What Does the Nick Johnson Contract Mean for Adam LaRoche?

Coming into the offseason, the two top free agent first basemen on the market were Adam LaRoche and Nick Johnson. Besides the fact that they are both left handed first basemen, LaRoche and Johnson have little in common as far as their careers and playing styles are concerned. LaRoche is a steady power hitter, who has hit at least 20 home runs in each of the past five seasons and has played in at least 135 games in every season since 2005. Johnson, on the other hand, is strongly regarded for his ability to get on base instead of his power and is notorious for always being injured.

Not surprisingly, when the offseason started, LaRoche and Johnson had completely different expectations of their next contract should look like. LaRoche was in the market (reportedly) for a 3 year/$31.5 million dollar deal while Johnson was simply looking for a two year deal even though many teams highly regard him.

However, late last night, the Yankees inched closer to signing Johnson to a one year deal worth $5.5 million dollars. This deal would seem to suggest that even though Johnson had demand for his services, that teams were reluctant to give him more than a one year deal, presumably because of his injury history. There is always the chance that Johnson took less to play for the Yankees, but one has to wonder what Johnson's contract will do to LaRoche's contractual expectations.
On one hand, LaRoche seems to be in a decent position on the free agent market:
So like Johnson, it appears as though demand is quite high for his services.

But on the other hand, there are so many options out there that LaRoche needs to be careful not to price himself too high.
  • If the Giants are not satisfied with what LaRoche is asking for, then they can move on and make a strong run at Adrian Beltre, Mark DeRosa, or Dan Uggla.
  • If the Mariners aren't willing to give LaRoche the money he is looking for, then they could simply re-sign Russell Branyan to play first base
  • If the Braves cannot afford LaRoche, then they can opt for a low cost signing (Huff, Delgado, Blalock, Glaus), play Martin Prado at first, or even give Mitch Jones a chance!
The high number of options on the market makes it difficult for LaRoche to command a contract that guarantees him three years at an average annual salary of more than $7 million annually. If Johnson could only get $5.5 million, then why would any team pay LaRoche $9 million, especially when there are so many options out there?

Nick Johnson's deal should signal to LaRoche that he needs to expect less, hope for more, and if he can, sign quickly. With so many options out there, it's only a matter of time before money becomes scarce and the number of teams looking to sign first basemen starts to dwindle.