Sunday, February 28, 2010

2010 Preview

While all the recent talk around MLB centers on Mark McGwire and steroids, it’s easy to forget that Spring Training is creeping up.

Cactus League play begins on March 3 and Grapefruit League starts a day before that.

This is a good time to look at the future baseball odds to win World Series that sportsbook currently have posted.

New York Yankees

When we last left MLB, the New York Yankees were hoisting their 27th World Series title.

The “Evil Empire” will enter the 2010 season as defending champions and as a matter of fact, the Yanks are odds-on favorites to repeat at +300.

The Bronx Bombers’ roster will look a little different going into the season as 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui migrated west to the Los Angeles Angels and his place in the lineup, as it stands, will be taken by Nick Johnson, according to an report.

The Pinstripes re-signed southpaw Andy Pettitte to a one-year deal and dealt outfielder Melky Cabrera and pitchers Michael Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino along with some cash to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for righty Javier Vazquez and lefty Boone Logan, who was subsequently signed for one year.

In Vazquez’s last 16 starts last season, the Braves went 12-4.

Philadelphia Phillies

On first glance, the fact that the Phillies traded away pitcher Cliff Lee to Seattle doesn’t make sense, as Lee went 13-4 (including the playoffs) after joining the Phillies from Cleveland in late-July.

In the postseason Lee went 4-0 with an ERA of 1.56 and he was on the mound for both of
Philadelphia’s World Series victories.

But when you factor in that Philadelphia added Roy Halladay to its rotation, there is logic behind the Lee deal.

Doc Halladay started 32 games for the Toronto Blue Jays last year and had a record of 17-10 with an ERA of 2.79 and will be a welcome addition to the Phillies’ pitching staff.

Philly is listed at +600 to win this year’s World Series and if it does, it would be its second title in three years.

New York Mets

The New York Mets fell well short of expectations last season, finishing with a record of 70-92 so there was a need to bolster the roster with the 2010 season approaching.

While the Yankees are the ones that usually make the big splashes in free agency, the Mets one-upped their cross-town rivals this offseason, in terms of big-name signings, when they inked former Boston Red Sox leftfielder Jason Bay to a four-year deal.

The Mets are hoping that Bay will be a big piece of the puzzle in their pursuit of the NL East title and hopefully, a World Series.

The Metropolitans are listed at +1900 to win it all in 2010.

Seattle Mariners

Despite not making the playoffs last year, the Seattle Mariners still had a relatively successful season, going 85-77.

If its offseason is any indication of how its regular season will be, Seattle should make the playoffs or better.

As mentioned, the club traded for Philly’s playoff ace Cliff Lee and it did a number of other things to improve.

The Mariners plucked 3B Chone Figgins away from the division rival Los Angeles Angels; re-signed Ken Griffey Jr. to a one-year deal and extended young ace Felix Hernandez’s deal by five years.

The only move that can be considered something of a head-scratcher is the trade for volatile Chicago Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley.

Seattle is listed at +1600 to win the World Series in MLB futures betting.

Spring Training will be starting up again soon and shortly after that, the start of another MLB season.

Please visit for all your online sports betting needs.

Sports betting online has never been easier. Join now the most secure online sportsbook with best bonuses and promotions.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Josh Beckett and the Red Sox Probably Won't Negotiate During the Season

So says Beckett:
Speaking on CSNNE’s “SportsNet Central” Thursday night, Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett said he would most likely not negotiate a new contract with the Red Sox during the 2010 season, saying “Probably not,” when asked if he would participate in any in-season talks.

Beckett had said during a press conference Sunday at the Red Sox’ minor league training facility that he and the Red Sox had “talked about talking” regarding a new deal. The pitcher’s current contract runs out at the end of the 2010 season.

During the appearance, Beckett also said regarding his contract status, “It’s really not in my control. I don’t really have an answer right now, I don’t really want to think about it. I think for me, my focus is really just being on coming into camp, getting ready for the long season and preparing myself the best I can.”

So this gives the Red Sox roughly a month to get a new deal done with Beckett or risk having Beckett hit the free agent market this winter. Does anyone actually think this deal has a chance to get done before April rolls around? I'm doubtful. If Beckett signs now, he surely will land a lucrative contract, but if he delivers a stellar 2010 season, then he could land a really lucrative contract. Unless Beckett has a strong desire to stay in Boston, I'd gamble on his abilities and play the year out and plan on becoming a free agent after the season.

More Good News for Brandon Webb

Just a few weeks after throwing off a mound for the first time, Brandon Webb threw 45 pitches yesterday in a bullpen session:
It was only a bullpen session, but the 45 pitches Brandon Webb threw on Thursday morning had the D-backs feeling good.

"I feel like every time I'm getting somewhere," Webb said. "So eventually I'm going to get to where I need to be. Today was by far the best day. It's just going to be a process."

The 45 pitches were the most he has thrown off the mound in any of his six bullpen sessions since he began throwing again last month.

For the first time since shoulder surgery in August, Webb threw changeups from the mound. The session also marked the first time Webb worked from the stretch.

While his shoulder has been good for Webb during his bullpen sessions, he has struggled to get his mechanics and release point where he wants them. In that regard, Thursday's session was a big step forward.

This is big news for Webb who missed almost all of the 2009 season because of arm problems. Webb will be a free agent after the season and it will be interesting to see what kind of contract he can command on the open market. This is undoubtedly a positive step but the real test will come when the season starts to see if Webb is still the front line starting pitcher he was previously.

Rays and Carl Crawford Scrap Contract Talks Until the End of the Season

No surprise here given the economics of the situation:
“We had an opportunity to exchange ideas with the club about a contract extension for Carl and it was clear to all of us that an immediate agreement was not going to materialize,’’ agent Brian Peters told the St. Petersburg Times this afternoon. “Thus, we all agreed to table discussions until the end of the year. We’d like to minimize distractions for Carl and the club and keep the focus on baseball, so we don’t plan to comment upon Carl’s contract status again until after the season.”
All signs continue to point towards 2010 being Crawford's final season in Tampa, which means (barring something unforeseen) he's bound for a huge long term contract this winter.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Adam Dunn is Focusing on Defense

The Nationals slugging first baseball has been known as one of the biggest defensive liabilities in baseball throughout this career (mostly as a left fielder), but it appears that Dunn is making a strong effort to make himself a quality first baseman. Take it away, Mark Zuckerman:
Adam Dunn has been doing extensive defensive work at first base the last week with Tim Foli and Pat Listach. Listening to Dunn talk about it today, it's clear he's committed to making serious strides at a position he had only minimal experience at prior to last summer. "This is definitely a fresh start for me," he said. "I'm really having to learn a new position for me. I know I've played it before, but I never learned it. Now, as far as my footwork and things like that, it's learning a new position. That's exciting, and it's been fun so far."
If Dunn can prove himself to be an adequate first baseman this season, then he will make himself much more valuable on the free agent market. Dunn, who is scheduled to be a free agent after the season, will be much less of a liability for interested teams. Right now, the limitations of Adam Dunn (defense, speed, batting average) would make it difficult for teams to commit to Dunn long term despite his immense gifts (power, ability to get on base).

On a side note, there have been murmurs that the Nationals want to extend Dunn, which might be the best option for Adam Dunn given how many quality first baseman are set to hit the market this winter (Lee, Konerko, Pena, Overbay). It's difficult to predict what kind of money will be thrown Dunn's way nine months from now or even before, but Dunn might not be able to do better than a 2 or 3 year deal.

Carlos Pena Loves Tampa Bay

Is Carlos Pena's love for Tampa Bay enough to keep him around long term? If it was up to Pena, it sounds like he'd stay in Tampa:

It was a true reflection, he said, of how excited he was to be back on the field as the Rays went through their first full-squad workout Wednesday. And also, a symbol of how he plans to carry himself through what could be his last season in what he calls "the best place on Earth to play baseball."

Peña is an educated and erudite man, and in his head, he knows he may be done with the Rays. He's making $10.125 million at the end of his three-season deal and realizes he may not fit in their future, payroll-reduced plans.


So he says it's his "desire" to stay, that it's "a no-brainer for me," that even though he is represented by typically hard-nosed agent Scott Boras, the decision ultimately will be his.

"I understand markets. I understand what I could be worth, I'm not blind to that," Peña said. "But I think it would be silly for me to ignore what this team means to me. It would be just absolutely silly. I would be lying to myself and everyone else if I just said I don't care. It's not true. Even though I consider myself an intelligent person, very well-educated about the business of baseball, I think it's going to be a balance."

If Pena is willing to bring his price down to a level where the Rays will be able to keep him, then he would be the antithesis of a Scott Boras client. As much as the Rays love Pena, I know that they cannot (and will not) overpay to keep him simply based on the team's economics alone. Can Pena and the Rays find some middle ground? Potentially. But it depends on two factors:

1. how much the Rays value Pena and consequently what they are willing to offer him

2. how much Pena less money Pena is willing to take to stay in Tampa versus what he could receive on the open market

Either way, this is certainly a situation worth monitoring even with free agency a mere nine months away.

Adrian Gonzalez: Ominous Quote for the Padres

Say goodbye to the hometown discount. Hello, Beantown, Adrian Gonzalez:
On contract talks: “There hasn’t been any talks about anything.”

On his current contract, a four-year deal with a team option for 2011: “At the time you take the security. … The next one is where I look for what I deserve.”
Assuming that Gonzalez stays healthy and productive over the next two seasons, how much do you think he'll command on the open market? Teixeira money?

All I know is that Gonzalez's days with the Padres are surely numbered.

What Does the Future Hold for Lance Berkman?

Would Lance Berkman seriously retire after the 2010 season? says Lance:

Berkman is entering the final season of a six-year, $85 million contract. The Astros have a club option worth $15 million for 2011. If they don't exercise it, there is a $2 million buyout.

When asked about his take on the contract situation Wednesday, Berkman made a few jaws drop, saying if he fails to deliver this season and the Astros don't pick up his option for 2011, he will be looking for work elsewhere.

“I may have to, whether I like it or not,” said Berkman, a veteran of 11 seasons in the majors. “It may come down to a situation where if things don't go well, they don't pick up my option, then I probably won't be back.

“If they don't pick it up, I'll probably take my ball and go home.”

The question here is not what happens if the Astros don't pick up Berkman's option, but what kind of performance will Berkman have to put together in 2010 for the Astros not to pick up the option? I know the Astros' payroll situation is tight and they would love nothing more than to cut some payroll, but Berkman's popularity with the Astros makes it difficult for them to simply let him go, even if his prime is long gone.

This statement by Berkman could be a smart move in the long run because the Astros now know that he will not accept a discount so if they want to keep their franchise player around, they will have to pick up the option or risk losing him to retirement.

Gerry Hunsicker States the Obvious About Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena

To Jim Bowden nonetheless:
Rays SR VP Gerry Hunsicker just told us on XM 175 that it will be very difficult to keep both Carl Crawford & Carlos Pena after this season
As I've stated previously, the writing is one the wall here. Enjoy them while you can, Rays fans.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More on AJ Pierzynski's Future with the White Sox

I mentioned yesterday about the possibility of the White Sox signing Pierzynski to a one or two year deal to serve as a mentor/platoon partner for prospect Tyler Flowers. Well today, Pierzynski address that very question:

General manager Ken Williams said on Sunday that the contract status of catcher A.J. Pierzynski is something that will be talked about in the very near future, and he stated that he wasn't sure how comfortable he would be in handing the reins of a veteran pitching staff to Tyler Flowers next season.

Would Pierzynski -- a free agent after 2010 -- be willing to do a short-term deal and help with the transition?

''We'll cross that bridge when we come to it,'' Pierzynski said. ''I haven't really thought about that, but we'll focus on it if it comes up.

''My mind is on 2010, but if they came to me with something that was fair for both sides, I would definitely take a look at it.''

Interesting. I'm sure this a story that will be monitored all year, but it will be fascinating to see how Pierzynski balances his desire to play in Chicago with the various opportunities he should get to start in 2011.

Is 2010 Jayson Werth's Swan Song with the Phillies?

Like Carl Crawford, the chances of Jayson Werth re-signing with his current club beyond the 2010 season seem to be slim to none:

The Phillies are coming off an offseason in which they signed Shane Victorino, Roy Halladay, Joe Blanton, Danys Baez, Placido Polanco, Brian Schneider, Carlos Ruiz and Ross Gload to multiyear deals, pushing their 2011 payroll to $130.85 million.

Werth, who arrived yesterday sporting a bushy beard and shaggy hair, will be a 31-year-old free agent after this season.

The Phillies will be less than $10 million away from the $140 million threshold that they targeted this season, with 15 open roster spots. What happens next is anybody's guess.

"I haven't really thought about it," said Werth, who will earn $7 million in the last year of the 2-year contract he signed before last season. "I know that how much they are spending is an issue, and I think it's always an issue, no matter what the situation is. I definitely think that will play a part of it going forward. But again, that's something that my agent and the team will work out, and hopefully it will work out and I'll be in Philadelphia for a long time and continue to play with these guys."


The two sides have not engaged in substantive negotiations. Earlier this offseason, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. admitted that money will play a role in the team's decision-making. The status of top prospect Domonic Brown, a corner outfielder, could also factor in.

"Jayson is under contract through this year," Amaro said. "We've had very, very preliminary discussions about what his future might be like here. There will be some difficult decisions down the road. We'll have to weigh where we want to fit in all the dollars and how we want to fit the puzzle together. We can not operate with nothing but $15 to $20 million players. And if there's any indication, how much the Holliday and Bay signings have a direct impact on where Werth may be at the end of this year, we're going to have to sift through it and figure out what's best for the organization."

The writing is on the wall for Werth in Philadelphia. With so much money committed already to players in 2011, there is virtually no chance that the Phillies will be able to re-sign Werth without doing something creative or having him take a well below market deal. And as the article mentioned, if top prospect Domonic Brown is ready to take over the position in 2011, then the Phillies would have a cheap, high upside player who could replace Werth.

And as I mentioned back in January, if Werth puts up big numbers in 2010, then there is plenty of reasons to expect that he will land a huge contract. Sure, maybe the deal won't be in the Matt Holliday territory, but Werth could position himself as one of the top free agents on the market and demand a multi year commitment with a $13-$16 million dollar annual salary.

Carl Crawford: Bronx Bound in 2011?

Did the Yankees the reluctance to give Johnny Damon two years reflect something about their love for free agent to be Carl Crawford? According to Jon Heyman, the answer is yes.
One reason the Yankees were reluctant to go for a two-year deal for Johnny Damon might have had little to do with Damon and been a greater reflection of what they think of Carl Crawford. The Yankees love him. Crawford is almost sure to be too rich for the low-revenue Rays, and the Yankees jump to the head of the class for interested teams. Remember, too, that the Yankees passed on Matt Holliday. It all seems to set up nicely for Crawford.
If this is indeed true, then Yankees GM Brian Cashman deserves praise for his long term vision. Historically when the Yankees are "in love" with a player, they get him. A combination of the money, full court press from Yankee players, and the lure of the pinstripes seems to do the trick almost every time. Just ask CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Mark Teixeira.

Assuming that the Yankees payroll in 2011 remains around $200 million, then they will have roughly $50 million (less after arbitration) to spend on free agents and re-sign Jeter and Rivera. No matter, if the Yankees are truly in love with Crawford, then they will find a way to make it work economically even if it means increasing their budget.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Future of AJ Pierzynski

AJ Pierzynski has been the heart and soul of the White Sox since 2005, but will 2010 be his final season with the club? Perhaps:

''No matter what happens, I will never wish bad on the White Sox organization. They have been nothing but great to me, from [chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] to [general manager] Kenny [Williams] to [manager] Ozzie [Guillen].''

Pierzynski is in the final year of a three-year extension he signed in 2007. He's 33 years old.

Tyler Flowers is Williams' latest golden boy. He's a hit-first, ask-questions-later offensive catcher who was acquired in the trade that sent Javier Vazquez to the Atlanta Braves in 2008.

Flowers just turned 24.

Do the math.


What does Pierzynski want?

''I want to stay, and everyone knows that,'' he said. ''There's no doubt about that.''

If Pierzynski entered the free agent market this winter, he probably would have been the most coveted catcher out there given his experience and production. However, Pierzynski is set to be a free agent after the 2010 season, which means he will be a member of one of the deepest free agent catching classes in history right now (Mauer, Victor Martinez, Gerald Laird, Ramon Hernandez). After Mauer and Martinez, I would rate Pierzynski above Laird and Hernandez because of his experience, leadership, left handed bat, and he's still a very useful player at the plate.

However, Pierzynski's experience will also play against him. Pierzynski will be 34 years old at the end of the 2010 season and I'd be shocked to see a team give him a deal that exceeds two guaranteed years. Even if Pierzynski puts together a career season with the Sox in 2010, the risk is simply too high given how catchers decline with age.

With all that said, I would not be surprised to see the White Sox extend a one or two year offer to Pierzynski, who could act as a mentor to Tyler Flowers as he adjusts to the majors. Pierzynski makes it obvious that he wants to stay on the south side, but would he stay if it meant reduced playing time? We'll see.

Carl Crawford "Hoping for the Best"

Sounds like Carl is about to price himself out of Tampa:

Carl Crawford said his chances of staying with the Rays "could go either way" and he's "hoping for the best like always.''

"Right now I really don't know,'' he said after his first workout of the spring. "I wish something good would come out of it. At this point we really haven't done too much of that (negotiating) right now and I don't know when we will.''

(Just to clarify, he said "hoping for the best" does mean staying with the Rays. "It does to me, I don't know about other people,'' he joked.)

Crawford did say he would prefer to not negotiate during the season, which puts something on a six-week clock on a potential extension with the Rays. If he gets to the end of the season, he is obviously more likely to explore free agency.

And while he wouldn't get into what he might be looking for or whether he would offer the Rays any kind of "hometown" discount, he made it clear he is looking for market value - which you would assume is in excess of the $10-million he is making this year. "That's what you go there for, to free agency,'' he said. "You go there to be paid like the guys playing against you. Pretty much, it speaks for itself.''

As I mentioned this morning, I don't think there is much of a possibility that Crawford stays beyond this year unless he is willing to take a hometown discount. This piece simply confirms that and makes me wonder what exactly is market value for a guy like Crawford? Would it be the 7 year/$120 million dollar deal the Cardinals gave to Matt Holliday?

Give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Jose Reyes Wants to Finish his Career With the Mets

Good news for Mets fans as long as the injury bug stays away from Jose:

The Mets have an $11 million option on his 2011 contract. He needs to produce. Reyes said he wants to remain a Met his entire career.

Reyes said he thinks if he stays healthy, the marriage will continue for many years.

"I don't want to go anywhere," he said. "I want to finish my career here.

"Right now, I'm not thinking about contract stuff," Reyes said. "I just want to get on the field and try to do my job and put up good numbers and try to help this team win. That's my goal right now."

Manny Ramirez States that Manny Ramirez Will Not Be With the Dodgers in 2011

Dodger fans, enjoy your last season of Mannywood:
Manny Ramirez appeared in the Dodgers' clubhouse for the first time on Monday morning and promptly conceded this would be his final spring training with the club.

"I won't be here next year, so I just want to enjoy myself," Ramirez said. "I don't know [if I'll play next year]. I just know I'm not going to be here. When the season is over, I will see where I'm at."

Makes sense. Even though Manny is still a draw and one of the most popular players in baseball, his value at this point is solely at the plate and he remains a liability in the field. It's in Manny's best interests to get out of the National League and into the American League in 2011 where he can be a full time DH and not have to worry about the pounding his body will take from playing defense.

If Manny does decide to play in 2011, it will be interesting to see what kind of salary he will make. Obviously he will not command the $20 million he is receiving from the Dodgers in 2010, but assuming that Manny puts up solid numbers this season and stays healthy, is it unrealistic to think that Manny will command at least $10 million annually.

Even better question is this: would Manny play for anything less than $10 million annually? I don't think so.

Rays Will Do "Everything They Can" To Keep Crawford and Pena

So says owner Stuart Sternberg:
* The team will do everything they can to keep free-agent-to-be Carl Crawford as long as they can, and also Carlos Pena. On Crawford specifically he said: "He's been a face of this organization, he's been a great Ray, he was a great Devil Ray, he's an extraordinary player and teammate, for the community and a face of this team. We're going to do everything we can to make sure he stays here longer.''
That's all well and good to say in public, but realistically, everyone knows that the writing is on the wall. It's extremely doubtful that the Rays will be able to keep both guys. Assuming that both guys perform as expected (30+ HR for Pena, 50+ SB, .300 average for Crawford), then it's very possible that the 2011 salaries for Pena and Crawford combined could be between $20-$30 million dollars (probably closer to $30 million). For the Rays, this presents a problem because their total team payroll will probably be somewhere in the $60 million dollar range next season. Obviously, it's not realistic for the Rays to commit such an enormous amount of their resources to two players.

There's always the chance that Crawford and Pena accept less to stay in Tampa, but that's a scenario that I highly doubt will happen. At best, maybe the Rays will be able to keep one of the two, but given the Rays payroll limitations and arbitration raises to guys like Upton, Garza, and Bartlett; even that possibility is hard to imagine.

Jorge De La Rosa and the 2011 Free Agent Class

A pitcher actually WANTS to stay in Colorado? What a concept!
-- Lefty Jorge De La Rosa, who led the Rockies in wins last season with 16, can become a free agent at season's end. De La Rosa said his ambition is to have a strong year to earn the right to stay with Colorado.
De La Rosa will be a free agent at the end of the season and is one of the more interesting cases out there. De La Rosa had the best season of his career with the Rockies in 2009 by posting a 4.38 ERA and winning an impressive 16 games. The left hander will be 29 in April and would seem to be entering the prime of his career.

The pressing question that surrounds De La Rosa entering the 2010 season is this: can he continue to improve and develop into a top flight starting pitcher? De La Rosa has improved drastically during his two years with the Rockies and if he takes another step forward this season, then the class of free agent starting pitchers could become even deeper.

De La Rosa's biggest advantage entering this winter is his age because he will be just 30 years old in 2011. There are a number of top flight starting pitchers out there this winter (Beckett, Lilly, Lee, Vazquez, Webb) and even though De La Rosa does not have the resume of those pitchers, he is younger than all five of those guys. Despite the large number of quality free agent starting pitcher available this winter, I think De La Rosa has a nice opportunity to land a multi year deal this winter.

Even though Colorado might be able to save a few bucks down the line by locking up De La Rosa now, there is far too much risk involved with offering De La Rosa a long term deal right now considering his limited success at the big league level.

Will Adam Dunn Stay with the Nationals Long Term?

If Mike Rizzo had his way, it sure sounds like Dunn would be a National for a long time to come:

* Rizzo reiterated Saturday that he would like to sign Adam Dunn to a contract extension, but declined to talk about how the negotiations were going between the two parties. Dunn is a free agent after the 2010 season.

Rizzo went so far as to call Dunn one of his favorite players and predicted that he could be a future Hall of Famer if he continued to put up the power numbers.

"I love the guy," Rizzo said about Dunn. "There's not many 40-home run, 100-RBI guys running around out there. He fits in with this club. He's a very unique leader, I call him. He leads in a very quirky way, but leads nonetheless.

"He's always open to helping the younger players and we look at it this way: several years down the road if he continues at the pace he's at, we're going to be talking about Hall of Famer Adam Dunn."

The Nationals have had a tough time attracting big names to Washington, and let's be honest, Dunn is the only true big name free agent the Nationals brought on board in some time. And how's this for more honesty, the only reason Dunn is with the Nationals now is because no one else wanted him or was willing to give him the money the Nationals were.

But I digress. Dunn might not be the best long term answer for the Nationals because he is slow and his defense stinks, but there is no denying that Dunn makes the Nationals lineup deeper and far more potent. If the Nationals can hold off on giving Dunn more than a three (or four) year commitment at somewhere in the $10-$12 million dollar range, then I actually think that's a deal that could benefit the Nationals greatly down the road.

At the same time, Adam Dunn is in a pretty strange situation. He is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, but what kind of interest will there be in his services? Yes, Dunn is one of the premier power hitters in baseball, but now that teams are beginning to strongly emphasize defense and defensive analysis, how many teams will actually view him as just a DH in waiting? Not too many I'd imagine. Given how poorly DHs did on the free agent market the past two winters, my guess is that if Dunn hits the free agent market after this season, he will be disappointed yet again by the level of offers he will receive (even if he hits his annual 40 HR).

Dunn's impending free agency is nearly nine months away, but is it impossible to think that three or four year deal with the Nationals now would be the best contract he'd see all year? I don't think so.

Beckett Silent on Contract Talks with Red Sox

In the words of the great LeRoy Brownlow, "there are times when silence has the loudest voice":

Josh Beckett met with the media in Fort Myers. As he enters the option year of a three-year, $30 million deal (that included a $12 million option for the 2010 season), Beckett said that he’s preferred not to publicly discuss the status of contract talks with the Red Sox about staying in Boston beyond the coming season.

“We talked about talking. That stuff is going to work itself out. I’m really not too concerned with it,” said Beckett. “I don’t really have anything to say about spring training stuff today or probably any time during spring training. … I really don’t have anything to say right now, and I don’t think I’ll have anything to say at all during spring training or after that. I really don’t want to have that be the focus on what we’re trying to do.”

Yeah, sorry LeRoy, but I don't think this is one of those times. As much as the Red Sox fans would love to have some sort of conclusion to the Beckett talks, there is simply too many unknowns on both sides for something to realistically get done this spring. Beckett's silence will surely be interpreted a billion different ways by fans and media alike, but in the end, it's really much ado about nothing.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Do the Red Sox Want to Keep Papelbon Long Term?

After making all kinds of noise this winter about his free agency in 2012, Jonathan Papelbon expressed his desire to stay with the Red Sox long term:

What do you make of the perception that you will seek the biggest contract in free agency and leave the Red Sox after 2011?

I think that’s the perception, that I’m going to go somewhere else, but it’s all a perception. Right now this is the way it’s working out. It’s that simple. It’s one year at a time, it’s working out and both sides are happy. Why would you try to do anything else is my way of thinking. Of course I’d love to be with Boston for a long term.

But this is the way it is right now and I’m happy going one year at a time. This is the organization I started in. This is the organization that gave me the opportunity to play major league baseball. Of course I’d love to stay here for 15 years. Right now one year at a time is the way it’s working and I’m happy and everyone else is happy, so why not.

While Papelbon stating that he wants to stay in Boston is news worthy, what will ultimately decide Papelbon's fate in Boston is if the Red Sox want to keep him around. Yes Papelbon is a tremendous talent and is one of the top closers in baseball, but it's hard to imagine the Red Sox giving Papelbon the huge contract that he is thought to be after.

Even though Papelbon's free agency is two years away, I can tell you right now that Papelbon's contract expectations beyond 2012 will play a major role in figuring out his future with the Red Sox. If Papelbon expects to break records and set a new standard for contracts given to a closer, then I imagine he will have to go elsewhere. But if Papelbon's price comes down, let's say to somewhere in the 3 years/$36 million dollar range (K-Rod money), then does anyone think the Red Sox would pass that up? They might, but given the expected rise of fireballer Daniel Bard, it would not surprise me to see the Sox pass on Papelbon all together after the 2011 season.

Jeff Francis: 2011 Club Option and His Future with the Rockies

Some encouraging news for Rockies fans:

Francis, who won 17 games and helped the Rockies to the 2007 World Series before an injury-filled 2008 (4-10, 5.01 ERA), has completed long rehab process, thrown in instructional ball last fall and went through two sessions of facing hitters at the Rockies' complex in the Dominican Republic earlier this month.

Francis' comeback will be a front-burner issue soon enough. But since he has given everyone reason to believe he's healthy, a day of exercise two days before camp opens isn't front-page news.

"I feel good, strong," Francis said. "Going to the Dominican was a nice warmup, to get outside and get the Spring Training feel, do some drills, throw some bullpens. Here, I'm just continuing what I was doing down there."


As the shoulder issues worsened, Francis lost control of the pinpoint mechanics and location that helped him win 44 games from 2005-07 -- the most for any pitcher in Rockies history during a three-year span. He said he didn't recognize himself when he saw video of his outings when he was fighting the shoulder issues.

Now that he no longer feels pain, or even tightness, he has to find the old Francis.

"My delivery feels a little foreign because I haven't done it for so long," he said. "I'm trying to get on the mound as much as I can. Even if I'm not throwing full-on, I'll bring the guy [catching] up to 50 feet and go through my delivery.

In the short term, if the Rockies can get 25-30 starts from Francis and he performs at his 2006-2007 level, then the Rockies, dare I say it, will have a dynamic top 3 in their starting rotation (along with Aaron Cook and Ubaldo Jimenez). This is a team that on paper should be able to compete with anyone in the National League given their wide array of talent.

But in the long term, Francis return to the Rockies will open up a new series of questions about his future with the Rockies. Francis has a $7 million dollar club option for the 2011 season and right now, it would obviously make zero sense for the Rockies to pick that up. But as we've said before, a lot can change in a year. If Francis stays healthy and demonstrates the same ability that catapulted him onto the national stage in 2007, then would it be worth it for the Rockies to commit a substantial amount of money to him? Remember, to date, Francis has only had two good seasons in the majors and has never produced a season with a sub 4 ERA (which might not be an important stat given where he pitches a majority of his games).

That said, if the Rockies payroll remains in the $70-$75 million dollar range next season, will the Rockies be willing to throw almost 10% of that at Francis? Only time will tell.

Quote of the Day: Mortified About Mauer Leaving

"I tell people that it's possible he could leave as a free agent after the year," former Twins catcher Tim Laudner says, "and they look mortified. It just shows how Minnesotans are so different. They're so protective of their teams. I mean, look at what they did to embrace (Brett Favre).

"People would go crazy here if Mauer ever left, especially with the new stadium."

Lemme ask you this, how many players are there right now who would illicit a "mortified" look from the hometown fans just at the mere discussion of leaving as a free agent? The discussion has to begin with Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, but both of those guys have been around since the mid 90s and have a true legacy with the Yankees. Mauer, on the other hand, only burst onto the scene in 2004 and is just 26 years old. It's remarkable how quickly Twins fans have taken to Mauer, not just because he is a hometown boy, but because he's one of the top players in baseball.

We've seen great baseball towns have their hearts ripped out before by players, but I'm very, very doubtful that Mauer will leave the Twins. Simply put, the love affair is too strong and if the money is good (which it will be), then I see no reason why Mauer would want to leave.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Miguel Tejada: His Future at Third Base

With his days as shortstop behind him, Miguel Tejada is set to begin this season as the Orioles primary third baseman:

Throughout two productive years with the Houston Astros, during which he hit .298 with 27 homers and 152 RBIs, Tejada was twice selected to the National League All-Star team. He never lost his passion for winning or his ability to drive in runs, and when the six-year, $72 million deal he inked with Baltimore in 2003 expired, the Orioles’ need for a right-handed run-producer to man third base and Tejada’s desire to clean up some unfinished business intersected.

“I’m happy to … come back to the Orioles for the second time in my career,” the 35-year-old Tejada said at a press conference held Jan. 27. “It puts a lot of pressure on myself because this is a second chance to be a winner. The last time, I could not be a winner. But I think this time is the time to be a winner and I come back here for a reason.”

Andy MacPhail, Orioles president of baseball operations, patiently waited for the market to re-set itself after December’s free-agent flurry and was intrigued to find Tejada still seeking employment. Once the Orioles had signed free agent Garrett Atkins and inserted him at first base, the hot corner became the next spot needing to be filled. Tejada, who told his agent he was willing to move to third if he could play full-time, jumped at the opportunity.

As the article states, Tejada has continued to be a very productive player at the plate even as he gets older. Even though his power has diminsihed greatly from his MVP days, Tejada can still hold his own at the plate by hitting for a high average with lots of doubles and RBIs.

The move to third base was a good one for Tejada's future. While his production at the plate has remained above average, his defensive ability took a sharp turn for the worse last season and as a result, Tejada was statistically one of the worst defensive third basemen in baseball.

Tejada, who will be a free agent at the end of the 2010 season, does have the opportunity to extend his career by moving to third base assuming that he can play quality defense. The class of free agent third baseman next winter in quite weak (led by Jorge Cantu and Brandon Inge) and there's no doubt in my mind that it was in Tejada's best interests to move to third base and attempt to increase his value and performance this season. At soon to be 36 years old, there's little to no chance that Tejada will land anything more than a 1-2 year deal next winter, but the reality is that a aging shortstop with declining defensive skills and limited offensive power is not exactly what teams are looking for these days.

If Tejada can improve his defense at third base and match his offensive production of the past two seasons, I think we will see far more teams interested in his services next winter.

Is Joe Mauer Worth the Long-Term Risk?

Fascinating read from Joe Christiensen, who tackles the question that everyone has been avoiding so far: Is Joe Mauer worth the long term risk?

You be the judge.

I've said this before, but I think the Twins are in a tough situation. They NEED to keep Mauer around at any price given his importance to the club, but they have to be careful not to give out a contract that will severely hurt the Twins down the road.

What do you think?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Victor Martinez Does Not Want to be a Free Agent

Music to Red Sox fans' ears:

And now, just one season away from his first crack at free agency and the opportunity to choose from what should be a healthy number of teams hopeful of signing the best hitting catcher not named Joe Mauer, Martinez wants no part of it.

He is not looking for a new city to call home.

Now that he is a Red Sox, he wants to stay one.

“A lot of guys like to be free agents, but I’m going to be really honest on this answer,” Martinez said last week.

He then looked away, pausing to gather his thoughts.

“I don’t want to be jumping around, I don’t want to go somewhere else,” Martinez continued. “First, I didn’t want to go out of the Indians organization. Then I’m out, and now I’m here. I came to the place where a lot of players dream to come and a lot of players wish to play here in Boston. So I’m here, I do really want to stay here and hopefully end my career in Boston.”

That's certainly some encouraging news for the Red Sox and GM Theo Epstein. If Martinez hits the free agent market after this season, then he will probably be one of the most coveted free agents on the market. Martinez has established himself as one of the top catchers in baseball and I'm sure the Red Sox would love to have Martinez on board for the foreseeable future.

You have to wonder if statements like this from Martinez will kick start talks about a contract extension for Martinez. Things have been quiet to date between the Red Sox and Martinez and there really has been limited dialogue from the two sides suggesting that either was in a rush to get a deal done. Then again, it makes sense for Martinez and his agent to remain patient and wait things out because if Joe Mauer signs an extension with the Twins before the offseason, then Martinez will become the top catcher on the market and his price will undoubtedly jump given how few all-star level catchers there are. In addition, if the Twins and Mauer come to terms on a extension, it will give the Red Sox and Martinez a better idea of what a reasonable extension would be for both sides.

Preview of the 2011 Free Agent Class

FanHouse previews some of the big names in the 2011 free agent class in this piece. In the spirit of "it's never too early for the hot stove," this article is certainly worth a look or two.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jeremy Bonderman in "Fine Form"

So says Justin Verlander:
Justin Verlander said the throws have life on them, more than he saw last year. He talked about making adjustments, going back to the basics. He's really excited about the progress.

He wasn't talking about himself. He was talking about Jeremy Bonderman.

It's the kind of talk the Tigers need to translate into results if they're going to have a complete rotation, or if Bonderman is going to turn the corner in his contract year.

So far, so good.

"We play catch together most of the time, and he's got a lot of life on the ball," Verlander said last week. "And that's something that I hadn't seen over the last year or so. I'm really excited about where he's headed."

Bonderman will be a free agent at the end of the 2010 season and if he puts together a solid 2010 season, he could become one of the most interesting free agents on the market. Even though Bonderman has missed most of the past two seasons because of injuries, Bonderman will only be 28 years old after this season. Sure, the list of 2011 free agent starting pitchers is deep (Webb, Beckett, etc.), but Bonderman could become a cheaper alternative to those guys given his age and upside.

Twins "Optimistic" About Mauer Extension's Kelly Thesier addresses the question on the mind of every Twins fan:

1. Will the Twins sign Joe Mauer to a contract extension before Opening Day?
Mauer's future has been the biggest topic surrounding the Twins this offseason and certainly all of baseball is paying attention to whether the club can extend the catcher. Mauer is entering the final season of his four-year, $33 million contract and would be eligible to become a free agent in the fall.

There has been a lot of optimism within the organization that a deal will get done. While no one has ruled out the possibility of discussions taking place during the regular season, there is no question that the Twins would like to have a deal in place before Opening Day. So there are bound to be a lot of eyes focused on Fort Myers, Fla., this spring to see if the Twins can lock up the reigning AL MVP before they break camp and open up their new ballpark, Target Field.

It would be disappointing to see the best 2011 free agent off the market simply because it would be fascinating to see what Mauer could earn on the open market, but there is no denying how important this deal is for the Twins. And if the Twins are able to sign Mauer, the deal will be good for baseball in general.

Prince Fielder: 5 Years/ $100 Million?

Buried in this article where Garry D. Howard declares that the Brewers need to sign Prince Fielder now, he predicts that a 5 year/$100 million dollar offer could be the offer that keeps Prince in Milwaukee. You be the judge:

So I figure a sweet, five-year, $100 million offer (even you can't afford seven, like his agent, Scott "Pay Me!" Boras, would prefer) with incentives might, just might, get 'er done. He's not the "I" in team, no; he's just the T, the E, the A and the M.

Mr. Fielder, in case you forgot, Mr. Attanasio, is a grounded, confident soul who shunned an early call to sign long-term for the chance at a more lucrative payday.

He did his part in 2009, ranking first in the NL in RBI (141), second in slugging (.602), Ding Dongs (46) and OPS (1.014), fourth in walks (110) and sixth in runs (103), all for a measly (by today's standards) $7 million.

And now it's time to get paid. And he will.

It's just that - without any inside dope on his intentions - I feel he would take a five-year deal at $20 million per to see what he could do with the Brewers. Every great baseball player wants to be the straw. And by anyone's standards, Prince is just that for this Crew but maybe not for another club, incentive enough to re-sign with Milwaukee.

While 5 years/$100 million is a strong offer especially coming from the Brewers, I'm not sure that's enough to get it done. There's a chance that Fielder, if he keeps producing at this level for the next two seasons, can earn somewhere in the $140-$160 million dollar range. Think about it: when Fielder becomes a free agent after the 2011 season, he will only be 27 years old. The payday for a player with Fielder's production combined with Fielder's age will be massive.

So unless Fielder REALLY REALLY wants to stay with the Brewers, I have my doubts that a 5 year/$100 million dollar offer would work, simply because Fielder probably would be leaving a huge chunk of money on the table.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Brandon Webb Throws Off a Mound

Big news for free agent to be Brandon Webb:
D-backs ace Brandon Webb threw off a mound on Tuesday for the first time since having surgery on his right shoulder in August.

"[It] went good," Webb told "[The] ball came out well, but I was just thinking about arm slot on every throw. That's to be expected, not having thrown on the mound in so long."

Webb made just one start in 2009 because of shoulder discomfort. On Aug. 3 he underwent a minor procedure known as a debridement to clean up some fraying around the labrum.

"It was good to get him into the next phase of his rehabilitation," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. "He looked comfortable. This is a positive sign as we're getting close to Spring Training. I thought he looked good."

Obviously, this is huge for Webb. Even though he missed almost all of the 2009 season, if Webb puts together a big season for the Diamondbacks, then Webb would become one of the most sought after starting pitchers on the free agent market. Webb will only be 31 this season and has a fantastic track record, but he will need to stay healthy and prove that he is still one of the top pitchers in the National League if he is going to land a huge contract. I doubt that any team will feel comfortable committing to Webb for more than 3-4 seasons, but a lot can change over the course of a season.

Ted Lilly is Coming Along Nicely

Since signing a 4 year/$40 million dollar contract with the Cubs after the 2006 season, Ted Lilly has been surprisingly good. Lilly was an all-star in 2009 and has a 3.70 ERA and 44 wins in three seasons with the Cubs.

Lilly will be a free agent after the 2010 season and on paper, Lilly is one of the best free agent starting pitchers out there. Lilly needs to put up big numbers once again in 2010 if he wants to land yet another big contract. But in order for Lilly to get another fat paycheck, he needs to be healthy. And luckily for Lilly, it looks like the Cubs are willing to be cautious with Lilly, who is coming off shoulder surgery:

Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said there is not a clear-cut date for the return for pitcher Ted Lilly, who is coming back from left shoulder surgery cleanup.

Media reports have circulated that Lilly won't return until late April or early May.

"I talked to Mark O'Neil [trainer] last week, and he said he is coming along fine," Hendry said. "If he starts April 15 that will be fine. I don't see it being anything unless there is some kind of setback that happens in camp. It was a real minor procedure. In fairness to Ted, we're not going to rush him either. If he's 95 percent on Opening Day then we will wait until he is 100 percent."

If Lilly misses a few weeks because of the injury, I doubt that will have a major impact on his earning potential. As long as Lilly makes 25-30 starts, shows he's healthy, and performs like he has over the past three seasons, there is no reason to think that Lilly won't be one of the most sought after free agent starting pitcher.

I'm sure interested teams will do a thorough evaluation of Lilly's shoulder, but at 34 years old, it's not out of the realm of possibility to think that Lilly has another 3-4 solid seasons left.

No Contract Negotiations for Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera...Yet

Are contract extensions on the horizon for free agents to be Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera? Not yet, says GM Brian Cashman:
When Brian Cashman looks at Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Joe Girardi, the Yankees’ GM paints his shortstop, closer and manager with the same brush.

And with spring training opening next week in Tampa, Cashman has no plans to stray from his plan of not negotiating with them. All three contracts are in the final year.

“I don’t think you can separate one from the other,” Cashman explained. “I am not saying they are the same, but the questions will come, ‘If you did one, why didn’t you do the other?’ If this was Kansas City, it would be different — but it’s not.”

Manny Ramirez: DH to be in 2011? says Nick Cafardo:
Manny Ramirez, OF, Dodgers - Third base coach Larry Bowa says the team has to watch him closely this year, because last year Ramirez wore down quickly and didn’t have his usual pop. “When he came back to us last year, he looked a bit lost, and it took him a while to get things going,’’ said Bowa. “I know he wants to play another three or four years, so this is an important year for him.’’ Ken Gurnick of reported that Ramirez was considering not picking up his $20 million option and instead returning to the American League to DH. That’s where he may be headed in 2011.
If Manny puts up big numbers in 2010 with the Dodgers, then there is no reason to think that an AL team won't feel comfortable investing at least $10 million+ in Ramirez. But as we saw this winter, the market for free agent DHs was terrible and many had a difficult time drumming up interest for their services. But then again, Manny offers more than just offensive production because he is a brand and one of the few players in baseball who has first name recognition and brings with him a certain buzz factor.

Furthermore, at this stage in his career, Manny offers no value in the field and is statistically one of the worst left fielders in baseball. So in turn, getting Manny off the field and focusing solely on hitting could increase his overall value to the long as his offensive production remains stellar.

Joe Mauer: A Nine or Ten Year Contract IS Possible

So says Twins owner Jim Pohlad:

He also indicated an openness to signing Mauer for nine or 10 years, if that's what it would take. First baseman Justin Morneau's six-year contract signed two years ago is the current Twins record.

"I don't think six is a magic number," Pohlad said, adding: "Total value is what drives it. We do not have a term policy."

I have a difficult time giving such a large guarantee to a catcher, but it seems that the Twins are willing to do it because they love Mauer, they know how important he is, and they will do everything in their power to keep him off the free agent market. Forget about the impact of deferred compensation, giving Mauer such a large extension is what really could hurt the Twins down the road.

If you're Twins GM Bill Smith, would you give Joe Mauer a 10 year extension?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Joe Mauer and the "Legacy Contract"

How will the Twins keep Joe Mauer off the 2011 free agent market? With a "legacy contract" that might, if you listen to yesterday's reports, keep Mauer under contract with the Twins for ten seasons:

In reality, it's complicated, as the Twins are working on something CEO Jim Pohlad calls "a legacy contract." It will recognize what Mauer has done for the franchise until now, and what he will do in the future, and it could be worth at least $20 million per year.

Two people close to the Mauer family suggested the framework of a deal -- the number of years and guaranteed money -- could already be in place, with the sides working on details such as deferred compensation. But people closer to the negotiations would not confirm this.

This type of deal could become dangerous for the Twins. While it would be a home run in short term, the long term implications of a "legacy contract" with Mauer could be devastating. Mauer is obviously a rare and unique talent, who means more to the Twins and to Minnesota than any words will be able to describe, but giving a catcher a ten year contract seems like an awfully risky move. The Twins might not have many other options at this point if they want to keep Mauer, but committing so many years to a player, who plays the most demanding position in baseball is tough for me to feel good about.

I have no problem paying Joe Mauer $18-$20 million dollars annually because that's what he's worth (and probably more) on the open market, but committing to Mauer for 10 years will lock him up until he's 36. The risk of Mauer breaking down or missing significant time because of injury is high as long as he's still catching.

This situation is a catch 22 for the Twins because they need to keep Mauer around long term for the short term and long term future of the franchise, but by committing to him for so many years, they might pay for the deal towards the end of the contract. I still think a 7-8 year guaranteed deal would be ideal for the Twins and if Mauer is set on the deal reaching ten years in length, then give him the opportunity to extend the deal a year or two with options based on his health, performance, game played, at bats, etc.