Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Orioles Need to Stay Patient

Can the Orioles afford to sign a big name free agent? Andy McPhail says yes:
MacPhail insists any media or fan skeptics that question whether the club is willing to offer a big contract under the right circumstances, are off base.

"We offered over 140 million dollars to Teixeria, who could have just as easily accepted it and I wish he had. To think we wouldn't go out there or that offer somehow is not genuine is absurd. It's over twice what was offered in the history of the franchise before.

"People should see now why we thought that was a legitimate get. If we could have had a switch-hitting, good defensive first baseman in the middle of a lineup that already had Roberts and Jones with Markakis, Reimold and Wieters, we would have had something special going forward for a while.

"We have to be careful about who those (big dollar) players are. And I have to be responsible. Contracts of that magnitude, unless you are an extroadinarily wealthy club, can sink a franchise. You have to be judicious when you go out there. But we were out there a year ago."

So the Orioles, under the right circumstances, are not against offering a free agent a big-dollar contract?

"We've already done it. Did it last year."
While $140 million is a pretty impressive offer, unless Mark Teixiera really (and when I say really, I mean really) wanted to play in Baltimore, there was no way the Orioles were going to land Teixeira last season. The Yankees offer blew the Orioles out of the water and nearly every other tram that was involved topped the Orioles best offer.

And there lies the problem for McPhail: how do the Orioles get big name free agents to sign big contracts that will keep them in Baltimore for the next 6-8 years? Right now, that task is not easy. In fact, it's next to impossible.

Sure the Orioles have some great young pieces (Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters, Brian Matusz, etc), but right now those guys are just that: pieces. Markakis and Jones are the Orioles only proven young commodities (Brian Roberts is a stud as well), which means that the Orioles still have a long ways to go before they can be considered contenders. That's a problem because most free agents will go to the place that offers them the best deal in terms of money and winning. The only way for the Orioles to attract top free agent talent right now is to vastly overpay them, which obviously is not a sound strategy.

So what McPhail should do is sit back and wait. Let the 2010 season play out and let the Orioles young kids develop. Hopefully, if everything goes according to plan, the Orioles young kids show the baseball world how talented they are and all of a sudden, Baltimore becomes a team with lots of money to spend, great young pieces, and a desirable place for free agents to play. It can't be fun to play in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox, but if Matt Wieters and the rest of the young Orioles progress as expected, then that team could be great and tons of fun to play for.

And right now, the 2010 free agent class looks pretty intriguing from the Orioles point of view: Josh Beckett, Cliff Lee, Brandon Webb, and Javier Vazquez are all set to become free agents. Is it out of the realm of possibility to think that if the Orioles put together a good show in 2010 that they can be players for a big name free agent? I don't think so.

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Two Reasons why the Tigers Should Not Trade Miguel Cabrera

With all the Miguel Cabrera trade talk swirling around, it's hard to figure out how serious these discussions are. The Tigers money situation is bad, but is it really bad enough where the Tigers have to trade their best position player? I find that hard to believe. I'm a strong believer that the Tigers need to build around Cabrera, not trade him, and here are my two main reasons why:

1. Franchise Player

-Miguel Cabrera is one of the few true franchise players in baseball right now. Cabrera is not in the same category as Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer, or Alex Rodriguez; but sure is one of the ten best hitters in baseball and is a consistent force in the middle of the Tigers' lineup. If the Tigers trade Cabrera, they would have a ton of payroll and some nice prospects to show for it, but how would they replace Cabrera's production? Young players with Cabrera's hitting ability are almost impossible to come by, so it would make sense for the Tigers to hold onto their best short term and long term asset.

Yes, the incident at the end of the season looked very ugly for Cabrera and really embarrassed the Tigers, but we have to remember how young Cabrera is. Mistakes happen. The Tigers have to hope that Cabrera will grow from the incident and that a situation like that will never happen again because he is far too talented for the Tigers to move because of one mistake.

2. 2011

-Sure the Tigers payroll situation looks crappy right now, but after the season ends, the Tigers will have an enormous amount of salary coming off the books (Bonderman, Willis, Robertson, Magglio). With that in mind, there is no reason for the Tigers to make a major move now that would send Cabrera elsewhere. The salary relief that the Tigers crave will be present next winter and the Tigers will be able to build around Cabrera and hopefully extend Justin Verlander.

It'd be wise for the Tigers to hold onto Cabrera and instead move around some smaller contracts this winter that will help ease their financial burden in the short term.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hypothetically Speaking: The Joe Mauer Contract Extension

Now that Joe Mauer has been named the 2009 AL MVP, the focus shifts to the real drama now: will the Twins sign Mauer to a contract extension?

For those Twins fans fearful that this year's MVP award will make it more difficult to keep Joe Mauer past 2010, General Manager Bill Smith tried offering some soothing words Monday.

"Do you think if he finished second, the price was going to come down?" Smith said, cracking a smile. "So no, Joe said it perfectly: 'Today, let's celebrate the MVP Award, and we've got time to work on the other stuff.' "

To be sure, it didn't take validation from the writers to establish Mauer's soaring value. He's a two-time Gold Glove catcher, a three-time American League batting champ and now, an MVP. All this at age 26, with a four-year, $33 million contract set to expire after next season, just when the Yankees and Red Sox figure to be shopping for new catchers.

No wonder it took the national media fewer than five minutes to begin peppering Mauer with contract questions during a teleconference.

"I knew I'd probably run into a question like that," Mauer said. "I've always said it will take care of itself when it needs to."

So, let's take care of some of that contract stuff for Mr. Mauer. There is no better time than now to get the contract extension done!

Here are the goals for each side:

The Twins

1. Lock up Joe Mauer long term

2. Don't eat up too much payroll

3. Hometown discount!!!!!

The Joe Mauer Camp

1. Big money contract

2. Stay in Minnesota

So how about this deal for Mauer and the Twins?

(6 years/$120 million)
with a $24 million dollar option for 2016 (7 years/$144 million)

Here is the contractual breakdown:

2010: $15 million
2011: $18 million
2012: $19 million
2013: $21 million
2014: $23 million
2015: $24 million
2016: $24 million (club option)

Why it works for the Twins:

1. Keep Mauer in Minnesota

2. Prevent him from hitting the open market

Why it works for Mauer

1. Stays in Minnesota

2. Becomes highest paid catcher in baseball

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For Joe Mauer, this deal represents his strong desire to stay in Minnesota long term and help put together a winning product there. Sure, he could have gotten a bigger and longer contract on the open market (7 years/$150 mil, 8 years/$160 mil), but given the Twins payroll flexibility, this deal would represent a massive commitment for them. It does help that the Twins are moving into a new stadium in 2010 because without the added revenue, there's virtually no way that a deal like this could have been offered. $20 million annually is not too shabby for the former frugal spending Twins.

If the Twins payroll stays around the $90 million mark, then they will be committing a large portion of their payroll to a catcher. I don't think any baseball fan out there is too fond of this idea, but quite simply, Mauer is worth it. He is one of the best players in baseball and represents so much to the Twins organization.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Joe Mauer Will Be Very Expensive

In his latest must read column, ESPN's Buster Olney outlines what the future holds for the soon to be AL MVP Joe Mauer:
"And I'd say that my best guess is yes, the Twins will open the checkbook and spend big dollars to keep the superstar catcher, who will be told today, officially, that he is the winner of the AL Most Valuable Player Award. He and Albert Pujols are baseball's best hitters now, and in time, he might be regarded as the greatest catcher ever. He is, of course, a hometown guy for the Twins, and the last thing that the team wants, as it begins play in a publicly-funded park, is to have the imminent departure of its most marketable player hang over the franchise throughout the 2010 season.

The Twins would never give Mauer an A-Rod kind of deal, but they know that he and agent Ron Shapiro aren't going to give them a blue-light special, either (and neither will the leadership of the Players Association, which has been aggressively leaning on the agents to muster good contracts and essentially is making it clear that it will scour any deal it considers to be less than worthy.)

The team will undoubtedly offer him a record-setting deal for his position, and if he signs, there would appear to be a pretty good chance that he will make a larger percentage of his team's payroll than any player in the majors by the 2012 season. Mauer will want to take advantage of his place in the market, but at the same time, I don't think he'll try to scrape loose every nickel that is available to him (and let's face it -- in order to do that, he'd probably have to go to Boston or the Yankees."
Hold up.

I have no doubts that Mauer will become the highest paid catcher in baseball and I'm sure he will become the highest paid player on the Twins as soon as he signs his massive contract extension. I'm assuming the numbers will be staggering, well exceeding 6 years and well north of $100 million dollars. I don't care how good Joe Mauer is; that's some serious cash for a catcher.

But I have my doubts that Joe Mauer will make a larger percentage of his team's payroll than any player in the majors by the 2012 season. I'm not saying that Mauer won't get handsomely paid because we all know that he will. But what I am saying is that there are a number of reasons why Mauer will narrowly miss out on the title.

Here's why:

1. The Twins payroll is set to increase.

-With the new building opening in 2010, the Twins payroll is expected to jump from about $70 million to $90 million. A recent estimate puts the Twins 2010 payroll at $93 million. If the Twins maintained their $70 million dollar payroll, then I'm sure that Mauer would have been the "highest percentage" if he signed with Minnesota considering that he's a virtual lock to make roughly $20 million annually.

2. Felix Hernandez

-King Felix is set to become a free agent after 2011 and there's a chance, albeit an outside chance, that he could become the highest paid pitcher in baseball and become the "highest percentage" player.

3. Albert Pujols

-Now we're talking. Phat Albert is set to become a free agent after the 2011 season and I'm sure the Cardinals will do everything in their power to lock him up long term. However, if Pujols hits the market, who knows how much money he could get? $25 million? $30 million? No matter, Pujols is sure to become one of the highest paid players in baseball whenever he signs his next deal. If Pujols signs with the Cardinals, who have roughly $80-$95 million to spend, then there's no reason to think that Pujols annual salary won't take up 25-33% of the team's total payroll.

4. Prince, Carl Crawford, etc.

-If Prince Fielder re-signs with the Brewers he could come close to being the "highest percentage"

-If Carl Crawford signs a extension with the Rays similar to this one, then he could come close to being the "highest percentage" in 2012.

-If the Rangers ownership situation completely blows up and they are forced to cut payroll, then Michael Young could the choice.

-If the Blue Jays cut costs in 2012, then Vernon Wells could be the answer.

-And if the Marlins' payroll fails to increase, then Hanley Ramirez could very well become the "highest percentage" player in 2012.

Well see how close Mauer comes to the title, but as you can see, the competition will be stiff. As you can see here, there are numerous options and it is simply too early to tell how the entire market will play out by 2012.

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Hypothetically Speaking: The Carl Crawford Contract Extension

Can the Rays keep Carl Crawford long term? Maybe. A discussion could be looming:
TRADE WINDS: According to an industry source, the Rangers and White Sox have shown interest in CF B.J. Upton, and the Mets and Braves have inquired about All-Star LF Carl Crawford. The Rays have said they're interested in discussing a long-term deal with Crawford, who is eligible to be a free agent after the 2010 season.
Carl Crawford wants to be a Ray long term. The Rays want to sign Carl Crawford long term. So what's the problem here?


The Rays have one of the smallest payrolls in baseball and Crawford, 28, is one of the best left fielders in baseball and is sure to command a huge salary on the free agent market next winter.

But like I said before, the good news is that both sides seem interested in getting a deal done. Can a deal actually happen? That's another story.

Let's take a look at the goals for each side:

The Rays

1. Lock up Carl Crawford long term

2. Don't eat up too much payroll

3. Discount...please?

The Carl Crawford Camp

1. Big money contract

2. Attempt to maximize Crawford's value in Tampa

3. Increased salary in 2010

4. Stay in Tampa (if that's really what he wants)

So how about this deal for Crawford and the Rays?

(3 years/$45 million)

Here is the contractual breakdown:

2010: $13 million
2011: $14 million
2012: $18 million

Why it works for the Rays:

1. Buyout two free agent years

2. Keep Crawford in Tampa

3. Prevent him from hitting the open market

4. Affordable contract and possible trade chip in the future

Why it works for Crawford

1. Stays in Tampa

2. Makes more money in 2010

3. Crawford can be a free agent when he is 30 years old

4. Guaranteed money

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I dunno about this one. I imagine that this is what it will take for the Rays to sign Crawford, but can anyone actually see this type of deal happening? Are the Rays really ready to commit so much of their payroll to one guy? Assuming they have a $60 million dollar payroll, signing Crawford to this extension would take up at least 25% of the total payroll every year. Not good. But then again, the Rays are set to lose Carlos Pena, Pat Burrell and Dan Wheeler next winter so maybe the Rays will actually have some funds to play with.

The Rays would be able to hold onto one of their most valuable assets for a few seasons and hope to the baseball Gods that they get a new stadium, which means increased revenue in the future, which means a higher payroll for the Rays.

One can dream, right?

Do the Rays have any chance to sign Crawford to a long term deal this winter?

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Did the Marlins Make a Mistake with Josh Johnson?

A few weeks back, we suggested a 4 year/$40 million dollar extension for Josh Johnson. However, it looks like talks of a contract extension are dead:
There will be no long-term contract for pitcher Josh Johnson with the Florida Marlins this winter, his agent said Friday.

Agent Matt Sosnick told that negotiations between the Marlins and Johnson have reached an "impasse," and Johnson expects to play under a one-year deal in 2010. Johnson will be eligible for free agency after the 2011 season, and a failure to reach agreement on a multiyear contract would probably force the Marlins to explore a trade before then.

"Based on our conversations, there's no chance of doing a long-term deal with the Marlins," Sosnick said. "We made it clear that it was going to be this year or it wasn't going to happen. It was now or never. And the Marlins agreed."

------- ----------

"Josh made it clear that his first choice was to sign a deal and stay with the Marlins," Sosnick said. "He loves the Marlins and he loves Florida. We were willing to give the Marlins what we thought was a significant break, but they just weren't comfortable going to the fourth year."
Hmmmmm, interesting call. Why on earth would the Marlins not give Johnson a fourth year? Here are my top three reasons why:

1. Injury risk

-Johnson is only a year and a half removed from Tommy John surgery so in theory, there is risk in giving him a long term deal.

2. Being cheap

-The Marlins are a notoriously frugal franchise and they rarely sign their homegrown talent to long term contracts.

3. Philosophy

-I honestly cannot remember the last time the Marlins signed a pitcher to a long term deal.

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No matter what the reason is, the Marlins come off looking awfully cheap here. With a new stadium set to open in the near future, most people assumed that the Marlins would be more aggressive with signing players and spending. No one expected them to ever spend like the Yankees, but anything is an improvement over a $30 million dollar payroll.

This has to be a hard pill for Marlins fans to swallow. Johnson is only 25 years old and could have been under team control at a reasonable price for the next four years, instead of two years. Hell, the opportunity was perfect for the Marlins. Johnson has the ability to be one of the top 10 pitchers in all of baseball, but he was willing to take a contract extension now because:

a. he loved Florida
b. he pitched only 1 full season after Tommy John surgery
c. he was under team control for the next two seasons and would have accepted buying out two free agent years in return for a pay raise in 2010 and 2011.

Now the question turns to this: will the Marlins look to trade Johnson this winter? Considering how high Johnson's value is combined with the limited number of impact free agent starting pitchers on the market, I would say that now is the optimal time to trade Johnson. The team that trades for him will control his rights for two full seasons, which should bring back a large package for the Marlins.

Did the Marlins make a mistake here? Should they have guaranteed Johnson a fourth year?

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Hypothetically Speaking: The Prince Fielder Contract Extension

Can the Brewers keep Prince Fielder long term? Well, according to this tweet from Jon Heyman, the Brewers are going to give it a go.
#brewers plan to try to lock up prince fielder this winter. dont put it past milwaukee (1 of 9 teams to draw 3 mil fans)
But the question remains: can this extension actually happen? With the Brewers payroll remaining around $80 million and Fielder likely to command $15-$20 million annually, the prospects of a contract extension seem bleak, at best.

But in the name of optimism, let's try to make this extension happen. Let's start off with the goals of each side:

The Brewers

1. Lock up Prince Fielder long term

2. Maintain as much payroll flexibility as possible in the process

3. Hometown discount?

The Prince Fielder Camp

1. Big money contract

2. Become one of the highest paid players in baseball

3. Increased salaries in 2010, and 2011

4. Sign a deal that shows how highly the Brewers value Prince

So how about this deal for Fielder and the Brewers?

(4 years/$72 million) with a fifth year vesting option at $23 million

Here is the contractual breakdown:

2010: $14 million
2011: $18 million
2012: $19 million
2013: $21 million
2014: $23 million (vesting option)

Why it works for the Brewers:

1. Buyout two free agent years

2. Keep Fielder in Milwaukee

3. Prevent him from hitting the open market

4. Brewers only guarantee Fielder on season where he will make $20 million+

Why it works for Fielder

1. Long term security

2. Makes more money in 2010 and probably a little more in 2011

3. Fielder can become a free agent after 2013 (29 years old) or 2014 (30 years old)

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It's very difficult for the Brewers to commit 25% of their total payroll to one player, which is exactly what they would be doing if they sign Fielder to a contract extension that averages out $20 million annually. The advantage of this deal for the Brewers is that they retain their star in the near future at $18 million annually, which is a little bit of a discount considering what Prince would/could make on the open market. This extension would be a risk for the Brewers because of the exorbitant amount of money they would owe Prince, but if they truly feel like this is a player who they cannot afford to lose right now, a contract extension like this would be the way to go.

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Ten Burning Free Agent Questions (Part III)

With free agency beginning at midnight, Jorge Says No! will examine ten burning free agent questions. We will break down the 10 questions into 3 parts because quite frankly, my extended responses became far more extended then I initially intended them to be.

See part I here
See part II here

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7. How poor will the closers market be?

-This is going to be a fascinating winter for closers. There are a number of factors at play here:

a. There are plenty of closers on the market

(Rodney, Soriano, Gonzalez, Gregg, Putz, Valverde, Wagner, Lyon)

b. There are not too many teams that need closers/will pay big bucks for a closer

As strange as that seems, it appears to be true this winter. Here is the preliminary list of teams that might need a closer this winter:


And ask yourself, out of those six teams, how many of them are willing to spend big bucks on a closer? Not the Astros. Not the Tigers. Definitely not the Phillies or Cubs. Maybe the Braves? How about the Nationals? They could be one of the only teams willing to toss around the idea of a long term contract for a closer.

The options are limited. What does this mean for the closers' market? It's could be a rough year for free agent closers. I expect some of these guys (probably half) to resign with their former clubs or simply accept arbitration because they better deals that they thought would be out there are looking ominously absent this winter.

c. Closers available via trade

There are a number of closers, who could become trade bait this winter, which would further cut into the market. Guys like Heath Bell, Bobby Jenks, and Kerry Wood could be on the move to teams willing to pay their salaries and a few prospects.

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8. How will the "injury risks" starting pitchers fare?

-the free agent market for starting pitchers can be broken down by categories:

1. the ace (Lackey)
2. solid yet unspectacular starters (Wolf, Pettitte, Marquis)
3. one year wonder? (Pineiro)
4. Middle of the rotation (Davis, Garland, Padilla, Pavano, Penny)
5. "injury risks"

That last category will be absolutely fascinating to see how it plays out. Even though the market for starting pitchers is weak, there is a strong crop of high upside pitchers with injury concerns/coming off injury plagued 2009 seasons. I'm eager to see the reception these guys get on the open market in a bad economy. How many teams will be willing to take that risk?

Let's take a look at the crop of "injury risks":
  • Rich Harden: did not miss much time in 2009, but can he actually be counted on to throw more than 150 IP in a season or make more than 25 starts? I wouldn't hold my breath considering Harden's injury plagued past.
  • Justin Duchscherer: Put up fantastic numbers for the A's in 2008, but missed all of 2009 because of injuries and depression. If he comes back healthy, then he could be a major coup for the team that signs him.
  • Kelvim Escobar: Has not pitched since 2007, but could be worth a minor league deal. If he's healthy, Escobar has electric stuff.
  • Erik Bedard: This was supposed to be the year where Bedard cashed in on the free agent riches, but because of injuries, he will have to wait. Bedard has only made 30 starts over the past two seasons, but when he's healthy, his stuff is dominant.
  • Brett Myers: Has not been an effective starting pitcher since 2006, but he could be worth the risk for a team looking for a #5 starter. Myers has very good stuff and is still young enough (29) to suggest that the best years of his career could still be ahead of him.
  • Ben Sheets: Missed all of 2009 because of a shoulder injury, but he should be healthy around spring training. Sheets was one of the best starting pitchers in the NL in 2008 and it'll be fascinating to see how many teams take a chance on him based on his 2008 performance alone
So which one of these guys gets the biggest contract? I say Sheets does, followed by Bedard and Harden.

How will the Aroldis Chapman bidding play out?

- Aroldis Chapman, the young fireballer from Cuba, is considered to be one of the best young pitching prospects in the world, even though he is quite raw. However, that won't stop teams from bidding for his services with the hope that sometime soon (hopefully this year) Chapman will be an impact starting pitcher at the major league level.

This is one of those scenarios where everybody knows who the main players will be: the Yankees and Red Sox. Those are the two teams that have extensive histories of signing international players and have the money to spend on a risk like Aroldis Chapman.

So if it comes down to the Yankees and Red Sox, then how high will the bidding go for Chapman? The answer: it depends how much these two teams want Chapman. If both teams are seriously interested, then Chapman could receive an offer north of $40 million; but if one of those teams drops out of the bidding, then perhaps Chapman will have to settle for something in the $25-$30 million dollar range.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't at least consider some long shots in the race for Chapman, but at this stage, I don't think there are any teams out there with the financial backing to take on such a risk. Maybe the Mariners get involved if the price is right, but even that scenario seems far fetched.

10. Who will be the first free agent to sign with a new team?

Random guess: Kiko Calero, Giants

Post your guesses in the comments.

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Ten Burning Free Agent Questions (Part II)

With free agency beginning at midnight, Jorge Says No! will examine ten burning free agent questions. We will break down the 10 questions into 3 parts because quite frankly, my extended responses became far more extended then I initially intended them to be.

See part I here

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4. Ownership Turmoil: How much will the Dodgers and Rangers be able to spend?

-Consider this question the great unknown. No one knows how this will play out and no one expects a final outcome anytime soon.

Over the past few years, the Dodgers have been one of the biggest spenders on the free agent market, splurging in years past to sign (and re-sign) guys like: Jason Schmidt, Rafael Furcal, Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre, Manny Ramirez, and Orlando Hudson. But it does not look like the Dodgers will be able to throw their money around this winter. The divorce of Jaime and Frank McCourt is sure to prevent GM Ned Colletti from making too many costly moves because no one honestly knows how the ownership situation will player out or who actually owns the team right now.

On the other hand, the Rangers have been fairly quiet in the free agent market in the past couple of years. Don't expect much to change this year. With the Rangers ownership situation in flux, it's doubtful that the Rangers can afford to make a big splash on the market and sign one of the top free agents. It will be interesting to see if the Rangers are able to make a play for someone in the Rich Harden, Ben Sheets, Erik Bedard group.

5. How close will Matt Holliday come to "Mark Teixeira" money?

-We're only a few weeks removed from game 6 of the World Series, but super agent Scott Boras has already made a big push for his client, Matt Holliday. Boras has stated over and over again that Matt Holliday is a franchise player and he expects to land a contract similar to the one that Mark Teixiera signed with the Yankees last winter.

Will that happen? Probably not. As I wrote a few weeks back, there is simply not enough competition on the market or enough teams that can spend the big bucks right now for Holliday to get such a large contract.

This could become a four team race between the Mets, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Yankees for Holliday's services. If that's the case, Holliday's best chance at landing a big deal is if the Yankees and Red Sox decide to go hard after him and wind up bidding against each other. That scenario isn't likely, but Scott Boras can dream, right?

I still say Holliday winds up with a deal north of $100 million total, but well shy of the $180 million dollar benchmark that Boras has in mind.

6. How close will John Lackey come to "AJ Burnett" money?

-5 years/$82 milllion. Seems like a daunting contract in this economy, right? Especially for a 31 year old pitcher, who has missed time in each of the past two seasons because of injuries.

But nevertheless, I'm confident that Lackey will get his big payday. Lackey is far and away the best pitcher on the free agent market and unlike Matt Holliday, he has no real competition or cheap second options, who provide the ability, stability, and leadership that Lackey brings. While he is not in the same category as Johan Santana, CC Sabathia, or Roy Halladay; Lackey is a pretty damn good pitcher in his own right and in this market, he is the only "ace" out there.

There will be a handful of teams, who could be interested in Lackey: Angels, Mets, Yankees, Mariners, Brewers, and Red Sox all could/should have varying levels of interest in Lackey. My guess: Lackey exceeds a $80 million dollar contract this winter.

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Ten Burning Free Agent Questions (Part I)

With free agency beginning at midnight, Jorge Says No! will examine ten burning free agent questions. We will break down the 10 questions into 3 parts because quite frankly, my extended responses became far more extended then I initially intended them to be.

1. Where will the money come from?

-As you sit back and wonder where some of the big name free agents are going to end up, here is a sobering thought for you: many of the notoriously aggressive spending teams cannot do that this year. Caution is in the air. Case in point, take a look at the free agent expectations for the teams with the top 11 payrolls in 2009:
1. Yankees: They're the Yankees. Of course they can spend. But will they? See Question 2

2. Mets:
Could be active on the free agent market, but to what extent? How badly were the Mets hurt by the Bernie Madoff scandal? Can they afford to spend big money on one free agent?

3. Cubs: Looking to cut payroll. Minor moves possible, but I doubt they spend much.

4. Tigers:
Looking to cut payroll. Not expected to be major players in free agency unless they can trade some high salaried players.

5. Phillies: Tons of money tied up in player salary already; likely have $15 million to spend.

6. Red Sox:
Lots of money coming off the books this winter. They could be aggressive players on the free agent market.

7. Angels:
Tons of money tied up in player salary already; likely have $12 million to spend.

8. Dodgers:
Plenty of turmoil because their owners are getting divorced, which could (and is) get ugly. Not sure how much the Dodgers will be able to spend this winter.

9. Astros:
Cutting payroll; have too much money committed to Berkman, Lee and Oswalt.

10. Mariners:
Lots of money coming off the books this winter. They could be aggressive players on the free agent market.

11. White Sox:
Tons of money tied up in player salary already; not likely to be major players in free agency

12. Braves:
Lots of money coming off the books this winter, but I don't see the Braves as major players on the free agent market unless they can move Derek Lowe.

13. Cardinals:
They only have $50 million locked up right now, but they have to think about signing Albert Pujols to a extension before 2011, which will be very expensive. Can they afford to take on another big contract?
Here's the final tally:

Tons to spend: Red Sox, Yankees, Mariners

Likely to spend: Mets

Some to spend: Angels, Phillies, Cardinals, Braves

Very little to spend: Cubs, White Sox

Cutting Payroll: Astros, Tigers

Question Mark: Dodgers

Now ask yourself this, out of the teams that were not in the top 13, how many of those teams are looking to add payroll? I can think of two: the Diamondbacks with roughly $15 million to spend and the Twins, who are opening up a new ballpark and new to extend Joe Mauer.

Yup, it's going to be a cold winter for many free agents.

2. How active will the Yankees be?

-Heading into last offseason, the Yankees were clearing roughly $80 million in payroll and it became clear that they were going to make a major push for free agent CC Sabathia. Not surprisingly, the Yankees signed Sabathia to the largest contract ever handed out to a pitcher. And the Yankees didn't stop there; they went out and signed AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira to huge contracts that capped off the Yankees' spending spree. The final damage: $423 million dollars spent and one World Series won.

As the Yankees move forward into 2010, it'll be interesting to see how the Yankees choose to spend (or not) their riches. The Yankees have more than $30 million coming off the books and yes, they can afford to make yet another big splash on the free agent market. With a payroll that exceeds $200 million, the Yankees could (and should) always be players in the free agent market to some degree.

However, this winter could prove to be different for the Yankees. Instead of going after a big name free agent OF, the Yankees could opt to simply re-sign Johnny Damon and/or Hideki Matsui. Instead of going after a big time starting pitcher, the Yankees could opt to resign Andy Pettitte and let Phil Hughes and co. develop in the back end of the rotation.

At the same time, these are the Yankees. Never count them out. Ever. It would not surprise me to see the Yankees take advantage of the down economy and sign a big name free agent. With so many teams unable and unwilling to spend the big bucks, this winter actually sets up nicely for the Yankees, who made a massive profit in 2009, to make a big splash in free agency.

3. Who will be the type A casualties?

-Last offseason, a number of players, namely Orlando Hudson, Juan Cruz, and Orlando Hudson, were forced to endure long waits before signing with teams because teams refused to part with a draft pick to sign them. Because Hudson, Cabrera, and Cruz were offered arbitration, their former team was guaranteed a draft pick (and potentially two) once another team signed team.

This winter, a number of guys could be hurt by their type A status. Relief pitchers like Rafael Betancourt, LaTroy Hawkins, Octavio Dotel, and Darren Oliver are candidates; second baseman Orlando Hudson is another viable option; and shortstop Marco Scutaro is coming off a career season, but teams might shy away from him because he is a type A.

There are two options for these guys to prevent becoming type A casualties:

1. former team declines to offer them arbitration
2. re-sign with former team

The fact remains that in such a horrid financial market, teams are going to be reluctant to give up draft picks in addition to paying a boatload of money for a free agent unless he is a premium talent.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

How about Kawakami for Hart?

Not surprisingly, the Brewers turned down the Braves offer of Derek Lowe for Corey Hart. I'm sure the Brewers cannot afford to take on the $45 million owed to Lowe. Hell, even half of that might be too much for the Brewers right now.

But once again I have to ask, doesn't Kenshin Kawakami for Corey Hart make more sense for both sides?


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Hypothetically Speaking: The Tim Lincecum Contract Extension

*I'm reposting this piece from early October in honor of Tim Lincecum winning the 2009 NL CY Young award. Now let the debate begin: what kind of extension will/should the Giants offer Lincecum? Comment away.*

Now that the Giants are officially eliminated from playoff contention, they can finally focus a long term deal for The Freak, Tim Lincecum. Under ordinary circumstances, the Giants would be in no rush to negotiate with Lincecum. Lincecum will not become a free agent until after the 2013 season and he will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter.

But make no mistake about it, Tim Lincecum is no ordinary player.

In just under three full seasons in the major leagues, Lincecum has established himself as the premier right handed pitcher in the National League. Last season, Lincecum was awarded the NL CY Young award after winning 18 games on a terrible Giants team. Lincecum did not just win games, he dominated them. In 227 innings pitched, Lincecum struck out 265 hitters and finished the year with a phenomenal 2.62 ERA.

And incredibly, Lincecum has followed up his stellar 2008 season with an even better 2009 season. Lincecum is one of the front runners for the CY Young award again this season and currently has a 14-7 record with a 2.47 ERA and 254 strikeouts in 218 IP.

At 25 years old, it's scary just how good Lincecum has become. He has become the face of the Giants in just three seasons, which is a miracle for the Giants in the post Barry Bonds era.

But Lincecum's dominance is going to come at a price for the Giants. A hefty price. Because of Lincecum's amazing performance, he's set to demolish all kinds of records this offseason when/if he reaches arbitration. Is it unrealistic to think that Lincecum's salary could escalate this offseason from $650,000 to around $10 million in arbitration? Probably not.

From my point of view, it would make sense for the Giants to try and sign Lincecum to a long term contract now. If Lincecum is able to keep up this high level of performance and the Giants fail to lock him up, then Lincecum's salary is bound to skyrocket in the next couple of years.

For the Giants, the goal of a contract extension with Lincecum would be to at least buy out a majority of Lincecum's arbitration years. If possible, I'm sure the Giants would love to buy out one of Lincecum's arbitration years, but that might be asking too much at this point.

And for the Lincecum camp, the goal of a contract extension with the Giants would be to guarantee that Lincecum would be paid like one of the top starting pitchers in baseball. There's no doubt in my mind that if Lincecum goes year to year with arbitration, then he could potentially earn more, but having millions of dollars guaranteed has to be quite alluring. And the only way I'd consider giving up a year of free agency is if the deal is massive and groundbreaking.

Now, I've heard the Zack Greinke extensions as a possible starting point for the Lincecum extension because Greinke is the best pitcher in the American League. However, I'd argue that Greinke's extension has nothing to do with Lincecum's. Greinke signed his extension (4 years/$38 million) last season after having one very good season. At this point, Lincecum has had one very good season and two ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC seasons as he looks towards his contract extension. The Greinke extension pales in comparison to what Lincecum should get.

So how about either of these deals for Lincecum?

(3 years/$45 million)

2010: $9 million
2011: $16 million
2012: $20 million

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

(5 years/$77 million)

2010: $9 million
2011: $12 million
2012: $15 million
2013: $19 million
2014: $22 million

This deal would make Lincecum one of the highest paid pitchers in baseball by 2012 (per year) and would buy out all of Lincecum's arbitration years and one year of free agency. The total package would exceed $75 million through 2014 and give Lincecum the opportunity to become a free agent again when he's just 30 years old.

Thoughts? Is this contract realistic? Does it make sense?

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Should the Mets Trade for Roy Halladay?

I say no; but Dayn Perry says yes. His reasoning:
"There's making personnel decisions, and then there's performing triage. In the Mets' case, it's the latter. The Mets fell to pieces in 2009, but they still return an enviable core (Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Francisco Rodriguez). The challenge, then, is surrounding that enviable core with something other than dreck. Enter Halladay. When he's healthy (and once you adjust for strength of opposition), Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball. He's also bound for free agency, and that's why the Jays are willing to trade him. The Mets can send Fernando Martinez and Wilmer Flores to Toronto, and — just as critically — they can take Vernon Wells' contract off the Jays' hands (wings?). That's a hefty cost for the Mets, but for their troubles they'll trot out one of the best one-two punches ever."
Perry's argument is a simple one: Roy Halladay is one of the best pitchers in baseball and having both him and Johan Santana in the same rotation would be dynamic. No one is denying that. Any Mets fan would kill to see that.

But the reason why Perry's suggestion will never happen is because of Vernon Wells. If the Mets agree to take on Wells and the $105 million owed to him over the next five years, then we can all declare GM Omar Minaya to be psychologically insane. There is no way that the burden of Wells's contract right now is worth one year of Roy Halladay. the suggestion that the Mets would even consider taking on Wells is laughable.

Think about the cost of this deal for the Mets: for one year of Roy Halladay, the Mets would have to take on a declining player, who owns the worst contract in baseball; give up a substantial amount of prospects, and potentially pony up $40-$60 million to Halladay for a contract extension.

Honestly, if the Mets are that set on paying a starting pitcher a boatload of money this winter, then it would make more sense to go after John Lackey, who would cost roughly the same as Halladay this season ($15 million or so), but not require that the Mets give up prospects or have to take on a terrible contract.

But on top of all the Vernon Wells nonsense that Perry brings up is this reality: the Mets have many holes. Over the past few seasons, the Mets have struggled to assemble the right complementary pieces to surround their fantastic core group of players. Given the Mets unstable financial situation (thanks, Bernie Madoff), the Mets simply cannot throw all their money at one guy and neglect to address all their other needs. Under Perry's scenario, the Mets would certainly be throwing whatever financial flexibility they had this winter away by committing themselves to more than $35 million in payroll in 2010. There's no way the Mets would be able to take on that much salary and fill the rest of their needs.

Bottom line: if the Mets are economically able to make a run at a expensive, big time pitcher, then by all means, they should do it. But it would be a huge mistake to just add one player to the core and forget about all the other complementary players that the Mets need to add this winter if 2010 is going to be a success. The Mets need more than Roy Halladay, John Lackey, or any other top flight pitcher can offer.

And the Mets need to stay as far away from Vernon Wells as possible. Far, far, far away.

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Right Now, Signing John Lackey Makes Little Sense for the Nationals

I was surprised when I heard that the Brewers had interest in John Lackey, but I was completely shocked to see that the Nationals are throwing around the idea of signing Lackey:

"The Nationals are one of several teams who have expressed interest in free agent right-hander John Lackey, according to a baseball source.

The team is reportedly in competition with the Angels, Red Sox, Yankees and Mets for his services.

The Nationals are looking for an ace who can tutor pitchers such as John Lannan, Ross Detwiler and Stephen Strasburg. Washington has been looking for this type of pitcher since after the Trade Deadline. It ended up signing right-hander Livan Hernandez in late August. While he did a good job for the Nationals, it's less than 50-50 that he will return to the club.

Lackey, who is 31 years old, has played his entire eight-year career with the Angels. He has won 102 games and has averaged 187 innings per season. His best season was in 2007, when he went 19-9 with a 3.01 ERA with Los Angeles."

Look, I can understand why a team like the Nationals would want to go out and sign John Lackey. He would be the immediate ace of the staff and give the Nationals a presence at the top of the rotation that they have never had before. In addition, Lackey would be a great mentor to Stephen Strasburg, John Lannan, and all the other young pitchers the Nationals have in their system. It might take years for the Nationals to put all the pieces together, but adding Lackey would certainly jump start the process.

However, adding John Lackey right now is the wrong move for the Nationals. Last season, the Nationals' payroll was a diminutive $60 million dollars, which was one of the lowest in baseball. After arbitration, the Nationals should have roughly $30-$40 million committed to player salaries next season, which should give them some payroll flexibility (around $15-$20 million at least) if their payroll is to remain at or around $60 million.

In that sense, the Nationals can afford to sign John Lackey. If the Nationals have $15-$20 million to spend, then conceivably, the team would be able to throw the big bucks Lackey's way. Lackey is expected to command a deal around $15 million annually for 5-6 seasons.

But just because the Nationals might be able to afford John Lackey, doesn't mean that the team should necessarily go out and do it. If the payroll stays at (or below) $60 million next season, then the Nationals would have to spend roughly 1/4th of their total payroll to sign John Lackey. Outside of Albert Pujols, there is no one player in baseball, who we can honestly say would be worth that much of his team's total payroll. Teams simply cannot sustain success over a period of time with that economic model.

And when you take into account that Lackey is 31 years old and coming off two consecutive seasons where he missed time because of arm injuries, that hefty commitment seems like a horrible risk for the rebuilding Nationals to take.

Don't get me wrong here: I would love to see the Nationals take a shot and go out and sign John Lackey. The Lerners have a reputation of being cheap owners and I would love nothing more than to see them make a big splash, help bring a better product to DC, and finally begin to infuse some life into Nationals' baseball. But right now is not the time. Unless the Nationals have plans to increase payroll in the very near future to at least $80 million, then this deal should be nothing more than a dream.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hypothetically Speaking: The Billy Butler Contract Extension

The Royals have very few building blocks to build around. Outside of Zack Greinke, Joakim Soria, and Billy Butler, the Royals still have tons to figure out before they become a contending team agin.

However, both Greinke and Soria are signed to long term contracts, so is it time for the Royals to look into giving Butler an extension? Butler is under team control for the next four years, but now seems like a good time for the Royals and their young slugger to look into a contract extension.

However, it remains to be seen if both sides will be able to get an extension done. A blurb in MLBTR yesterday seemed to suggest that extension talks for Billy Butler had not started yet:
"Newly minted Royals Player of the Year Billy Butler has not held long-term extension talks with the team, MLBTR learned on a conference call today. Butler will not be arbitration-eligible until after the 2010 season."

Even though there have been no talks between the two sides, can the Royals and Butler come to terms on a contract extension this winter? Maybe. Hopefully. Let's take a look at the respective goals for each side:

The Royals

1. Buyout arbitration years

2. Buyout Butler's first year of free agency

3. Butler's extension would save the team money over time

The Billy Butler Camp

1. Guaranteed money

2. More money in 2010

So how about this deal for Butler and the Royals?

(5 years/$30 million) with a $15 million dollar option for 2014

Here is the contractual breakdown:

2010: $1 million
2011: $4 million
2012: $6 million
2013: $8 million
2014: $11 million
2015: $15 million (vesting option)

Why it works for the Royals:

1. Buyout all of Butler's arbitration years

2. Buyout one year of free agency (at least)

3. Very reasonable price

Why it works for Butler:

1. Long term security

2. Can become a free agent at 28 (or 29)

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

The only incentive for the Royals to get something done now is if they can lock up Butler to a very team friendly long term deal. With this contract, I think that goal is accomplished. There is a good amount of risk in signing a young player, who is a liability in the field and has only put together one good season at the plate; but I think this is a great opportunity for the Royals to lock up a young, middle of the order hitter at a great price. Then again, the Royals might want to hold off on a contract extension until the middle of the season just to make sure that Butler's 2009 season was no fluke.

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Demand for Mike Gonzalez?'s Jon Heyman notes that free agent LHP Mike Gonzalez has received a high level of interest on the free agent market:
Reliever Mike Gonzalez appears very popular in the free-agent market. There are loads of bullpen options, but he can set up, he can close and he's left-handed, making him about the most desirable of the lot.
When Gonzalez is healthy, he has electric stuff and can be one of the best left handed relief pitchers in baseball. Not only can Gonzalez get out both lefties and righties, but he has a very high strikeout rate, which makes him even more valuable in the late innings.

But moving forward, it will be interesting to see how the market for Gonzalez plays out. Because he made only $3.45 million last season, Gonzalez is a good bet to be offered arbitration by the Braves. That means that whatever team signs Gonzalez would have to give up draft picks in addition to signing Gonzalez to a multi year contract.

How mant teams out there would be willing to do that for a 31 year old left handed pitcher, who is just two years removed from Tommy John Surgery?

The best fit for Gonzalez in the free agent market might be to sign with a team that owns a first round pick somewhere in the range of 1-15. Because of the ridiculous Elias rankings system for free agent compensation, these teams only have to give up a second round pick for signing a Type A free agent.

Once Gonzalez is offered arbitration, that stable of teams will dwindle as teams ponder whether to actually give up a first round pick for Gonzalez. Even though there are lots of teams interested now, I think if Gonzalez wants to land the best deal possible and potential opportunity to close, then he should really consider signing with one of 2009's worst.
Your Thoughts?

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What the Hell Were You Thinking? Francisco Cordero Edition

*Over the next couple of weeks, Jorge Says No! will take an in depth look at some of the worst contracts in baseball. We'll evaluate why the player was signed, what went wrong, and future implications of the contract. Behind every bone head decision, there has to be a reason for it...right?*

Why Sign Cordero: Coming into the 2007 offseason, the Reds knew that they needed to address their bullpen. In 2007, the Reds bullpen finished with only 34 saves in 61 chances and a league worst 5.13 ERA. The Reds bullpen was a mess and Reds management decided to go after the best free agent closer available, Francisco Cordero. The Reds figured that if they signed Cordero, the rest of their bullpen would improve because guys like David Weathers and Jared Burton could be used in set up roles instead of closing situations.

The Reds thought so highly of Cordero that they made him one of the highest paid closers in baseball history despite the fact that the Reds payroll was only a meager $74 million.

As then GM Wayne Krivsky noted at the time:
"Francisco is a guy we identified at our organizational meeting back in October as one of the, if not the most, coveted free agents from our standpoint that we would go after aggressively and try to sign," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "And that's exactly what we did."
What Went Wrong: During his first season with the Reds, Cordero struggled at times and was not the lights out closer the Reds paid so handsomely for. But to be fair, in his two seasons with the Reds, Francisco Cordero's performance has not been the problem. Sure his BB/K ratio is declining and his WHIP has gone up, but the real problem remains the Reds inability to accumulate talent, especially pitching. The Reds have so few resources that it makes no sense that they allocated such a high percentage of their resources to a closer, who will only pitch 65-70 innings each year.

If the Reds were contending for a championship, then this contract would make a lot more sense. However, it makes no sense to have a expensive closer on a team that is struggling, rebuilding, and has a limited payroll of which to work with.

Future Implications:
Well, the Reds are in a tough predicament right now. They have a number of high priced veteran players, who they would love to move, but in this economy, that's easier said than done. The Reds would love to move Cordero to give them some payroll flexibility, but that's not likely to happen at this point. Look for the Reds to aggressively pursue trades for Cordero throughout the year, but for right now, I'd expect the Reds to be quite stagnant this offseason (unless they decide to move Brandon Phillips).

Lesson Learned: Only sign a expensive closer to a long term contract if your team has a realistic chance to compete or you have the financial ability to pay a closer top dollar.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Gary Matthews Jr. and Doing the "Right Thing"

This tweet comes from ESPN's Chris Singleton makes me a little nauseous:
"Gary Matthews Jr. wants out of LA bad. He's hoping the Angels will do the right thing."
Now what exactly is the right thing for the Angels to do in this situation? The market for Gary Matthews Jr sucks, no one wants to take on the $23 million owed to Matthews, and the Angels might have a need for Matthews Jr. this season if the team does not re-sign Vladimir Guerrero.

Should the Angels explore a deal for Matthews? Sure. It would probably be beneficial for them to get rid of Gary Matthews Jr given how poorly he has played during his tenure with the Angels. But should the Angels make a move just for the sake of making a move? Absolutely not. It will be a challenge for the Angels to find a taker for Matthews Jr, who at this stage in his career is not an asset at the plate and is even more of a liability in the field.

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The Market for Ben Sheets

Sure, Ben Sheets is injury prone. Very injury prone at that. But even though Sheets missed all of 2009, his phenomenal stuff and upside have his agent believing that the market will be very active for Ben Sheets:

"Agent Casey Close said that Sheets is doing "very well" in his rehab from flexor tendon surgery and plans to be 100 percent by the start of spring training. Close also anticipates no shortage of interest from clubs in the coming weeks.

"We have already heard from a number of teams inquiring about Ben's health and availability for 2010," Close said in an e-mail Friday to "I will tell you that he has a very good chance to be one of the most impactful free agents, without question."

Sheets, 31, made four All-Star teams in Milwaukee and established a reputation as one of baseball's most formidable "stuff" pitchers despite a career record of 86-83. His best season came in 2004, when he posted a 12-14 record with a 2.70 ERA and 264 strikeouts in 237 innings."

Even though the economy is terrible and many teams are cutting costs, I agree with Close here. i think teams will view Sheets as one of the few guys on the market, who has ace stuff and can dominate a lineup. In addition, Sheets will likely be forced to take a one year deal with a low base salary and lots of incentives because of his injury history.

So what teams will should have interest in Sheets? Let's take a look:

Rangers: Sheets nearly signed with the Rangers last winter so it would not be surprising to see talks rekindled between these two sides. However, given all the turmoil with the Rangers ownership situation, it remains to be seen what kind of money the Rangers will have to offer free agents.

Astros: I know the Astros are trying to cut payroll, but if Sheets is willing to take a low base salary with plenty of incentives, then the Astros would be an intriguing option. Outside of Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez, the rest of the Astros starting rotation is a bunch of unknowns and question marks. In the end though, it will come down to money, which probably makes the Astros somewhat of a long shot here.

Mets: The Mets need a solid and consistent #2 starter behind Johan Santana and when Ben Sheets is healthy, he fits the bill. Sure his injury history is very concerning, but Sheets could be a risk worth taking for the Mets if they strike out on John Lackey

Yankees: The Yankees have the payroll to take a risk on Sheets and given their lack of rotation depth at the moment (sort of), the Yankees could take a chance on Sheets to be their fifth starter.

Red Sox: We've seen the Red Sox take chances on injured players with high ceilings before (Smoltz, Saito, Penny, and Baldelli come to mind) and signing Sheets would make a lot of sense from the Red Sox perspective. Like the Yankees, they have the payroll to take a chance on Sheets, but the Sox have a more pressing need for upper level starting pitching. If Sheets is healthy, then he might be able to give the Red Sox exactly what they need: another hard throwing, quality starting pitcher.

Tigers: Another long shot, but if they can find the funds, then Sheets would be a great fit here. The Tigers rotation is thin outside of Verlander and Jackson, so a healthy Ben Sheets could be a major boon for the Tigers. We'll see if the Tigers are willing to spend money on Sheets with Bonderman, Willis, and Nate Robertson all on the books for big money in 2010.

Dodgers: The Dodgers are in dire need of a top of the rotation starter to pair alongside Clayton Kershaw. However, with the Dodgers owners currently engaged in a nasty divorce battle, I doubt the Dodgers will be able to spend heavily on a starting pitcher. This could lead them to Sheets, who will be a far cheaper option because of his health, but offers the upside that the Dodgers crave. Sheets to the Dodgers makes a lot of sense.

Angels: With John Lackey potentially bolting this winter, the Angels could sign Sheets to replace Lackey. The Angels 2010 rotation is very deep and offers four solid starters already, so Sheets would slot in nicely as the team's fifth starter. If the Angels opt for Sheets instead of Lackey, then perhaps they could make a stronger run at a big name free agent OF like Matt Holliday or Jason Bay.

There's eight teams right there, which is a pretty healthy market in my eyes. Sheets should go to the team that offers him the best opportunity to show that he can be a healthy and productive starting pitcher for the entire baseball season.

Where do you think Sheets will end up?

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Miguel Cabrera to the Red Sox? Nonsense.

Does it make sense for the Tigers to trade Miguel Cabrera? Ken Rosenthal thinks so:
"If the Red Sox were willing to offer first baseman Mark Teixeira $170 million for eight years last off-season, why wouldn't they be willing to absorb most or all of the $126 million that Cabrera is guaranteed over the next six years?

I've even got a possible trade in mind — Cabrera for Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, third baseman Mike Lowell and a prospect, either first baseman Lars Anderson or right-hander Stolmy Pimentel.

Lowell, who would need to move to first or become a DH, is not an ideal fit. But his salary would be part of the price of doing business, just as it was when the Red Sox acquired him along with pitcher Josh Beckett from the Marlins in Nov. 2005.

If one year of Lowell at $12 million didn't help the Tigers, two of Papelbon for $20-plus million in arbitration at least would give them one of the game's best closers short-term. Anderson could be the long-term answer at first if he rebounds from a disappointing 2009, while Pimentel is one of the Sox's top pitching prospects. And the financial relief — oh boy."
Oh boy is right.

Where do we begin with this one? I'm a huge fan of Ken Rosenthal, but I think this trade has far too many holes to ever be considered realistic and lacks practical economic logic.

For starters, yes, the Tigers are having issues with their payroll right now. the economy sucks. But next season, the Tigers will have more than $40 million coming off the books and they will be in a much better position financially. Just because the Tigers are strapped for economic flexibility this winter, that doesn't mean that the Tigers should go out and trade their franchise cornerstone.

Also, this trade DOES NOT increase the Tigers' payroll flexibility this offseason. In fact, the Tigers might actually be ADDING payroll in 2010 if Papelbon's arbitration number exceeds $8 million. Between Lowell and Papelbon, the Tigers would be paying around $20 million (and probably more!) in 2010, while Cabrera will be earning $20 million. And as I mentioned before, the Tigers will be getting a massive amount of payroll of their books next season, so why should they sacrifice their best player for a minuscule (in baseball terms) amount of salary relief in 2010?

So in short, Rosenthal suggests that the Tigers trade their best player to the Red Sox because of short term salary problems, but the deal will only help the Tigers payroll situation in 2010, when the Tigers will already be removing lots of money from their payroll.

Yup, totally logical.

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