Monday, November 30, 2009

Seattle Mariners---Hot Stove Preview

  • Winter Preview----Seattle Mariners:

What they need: A first baseman; a third baseman; a veteran, part-time catcher; a power left field bat; a veteran starting pitcher.

Free agents: RHP Miguel Batista; LHP Erik Bedard; 3B Adrian Beltre; 1B Russell Branyan; OF Endy Chavez; 1B/DH Mike Sweeney

Batista didn't pitch all that badly out of the bullpen last season after a rotten 2008, but he's finishing up a big contract; is about to turn 39; and should get offers as a back-of-the-rotation starter or reliever somewhere. He won't be back.

Bedard was a disaster on and off the field after being acquired as the "final piece" of a contending puzzle for the Mariners before 2008. There's been talk that the Mariners want him back on a mutually advantageous contract, and with another type of person, I'd say that Bedard might feel he owes the Mariners something after his injuries and cantankerous behavior was such a train wreck, but he'll go elsewhere and the Mariners should say good riddance.

Beltre is a fine fielder and is a leader in the clubhouse. His power has "mysteriously" disappeared after a 48 homer year in 2004 with the Dodgers. He's in demand and won't be back.

Branyan had his career-year with the Mariners in 2009, but he's a journeyman with giant holes in his game (he strikes out too much and won't repeat his 31 homer campaign). He wants a 2-year deal, which the Mariners aren't going to give him. I'd advise Branyan to stay in Seattle where he finally had the success that's been predicted for him since his big league arrival 11 years ago. There's a good chance he'll be back.

Chavez blew out his knee in a collision with Yuniesky Betancourt in June. He might be back once he rehabs and proves he's healthy.

Sweeney is a veteran journeyman who's well-liked and can still hit a bit. He might be back.

Players available via trade: RHP David Aardsma; 3B/OF Bill Hall; RHP Felix Hernandez; RHP Brandon Morrow; RHP Carlos Silva

I've always liked Aardsma's arm and he put it all together at age 27, saving 38 games. After bouncing from the Giants to both Chicago teams and the Red Sox, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Don Wakamatsu turned Aardsma into a solid closer. That said, it could've been his career-year and if someone is hypnotized by the prospect of Aardsma having "figured it out" and offers something good for him, they should seriously consider moving him.

Hall is overpaid (almost $9 million guaranteed through next season) and his offensive production fell off the cliff after a 35 homer year with the Brewers in 2006. The only way he's moved is if the Mariners take back another contract like Mike Lowell. It's not out of the realm of possibility because there's a fit there.

Teams----especially the Yankees and Red Sox----are hovering around and trying to pry Hernandez away. He's supposedly not available, but a big enough offer and the willingness to take a rotten contract along with him might put him in play. Zduriencik is willing to do most anything. Hernandez is arbitration-eligible and depending on where the talks for a long-term contract go, he could be moved. I don't expect it, but...

Like the ghost of Jacob Marley floating above the head of Ebenezer Scrooge, Brandon Morrow may never live down the slender, diminutive and quirky hippie following him around. That would be the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner and Washington State native Tim Lincecum.

Through no fault of his own, Morrow has become the object of vitriol of fans and media members who ceaselessly remind the Mariners and Morrow himself that he was drafted five spots ahead of Lincecum in the 2006 draft. I'm on the record as saying that I would've taken Morrow as well. He was more of a prototype, had a cleaner motion and was the safer choice. Obviously, I would've been wrong.

I still believe in Morrow's ability. While the attention paid to the way Joba Chamberlain has been jerked around by the Yankees on the other coast, Morrow has been screwed with just as badly by the Mariners without the national exposure and debate. He's been a starter; he's been a closer; and he's living in the Lincecum shadow. He needs to get out of Seattle and I think both he and Zduriencik know this.

While I think Chamberlain belongs in the bullpen, Morrow can be a big-time starter. Similar to the Bedard fiasco, Zduriencik isn't constrained by having been the one to draft Morrow----it was a done by the previous administration----so he'll be more willing to move him. How would Morrow to the Mets for Mike Pelfrey look? To the Cardinals for Jason Motte?

I think Morrow's going to get traded and it's best for all involved.

You want Silva? He's yours. Owed $13.5 million guaranteed through next season, Silva has pitched about as poorly as a human being can pitch in his two years with the Mariners. I literally could've done just as badly (and probably better) for a fraction of the cost and I haven't picked up a baseball and thrown it with intent in 15 year; plus my elbow's shot. A 5-18 record with a 6.81 ERA and rotten across-the-board stats at that salary isn't just bad, it's embarrassing.

Non-tender candidates: OF Ryan Langerhans; LHP Jason Vargas; INF Josh Wilson

It seems so long ago that Langerhans and Jeff Francoeur were promoted as the Braves outfield cornerstones. Francoeur has since been traded to the Mets; and Langerhans has gone from the Braves to the Athletics, the Nationals and now the Mariners. He'll be non-tendered.

I'm not going into one of my usual rants about Jason Vargas. Suffice it to say that anyone who thinks Vargas has any use whatsoever as a big league pitcher either hasn't seen him pitch or doesn't know what they're talking about----he's not any good. If Zduriencik goes to arbitration with Vargas, he's out of his mind.

Wilson is a useful utility player, but you can find players like him under a rock.

Players to pursue:

Via free agency: 1B Adam LaRoche (Braves); LHP Doug Davis (Diamondbacks); 3B Melvin Mora (Orioles); OF Jason Bay (Red Sox); RHP Rich Harden (Cubs); C Ramon Castro (White Sox); RHP Jason Marquis (Rockies); 1B/3B Aubrey Huff (Orioles); LHP Jarrod Washburn (Tigers); SS/3B Miguel Tejada (Astros); 1B Nick Johnson (Marlins); C Miguel Olivo (Royals); 3B Chone Figgins (Angels); RHP John Lackey (Angels); RHP Jon Garland (Dodgers); LHP Randy Wolf (Dodgers); RHP Carl Pavano (Twins); 1B/DH Carlos Delgado (Mets); C Brian Schneider (Mets); LF Johnny Damon (Yankees); C Jose Molina (Yankees); RHP Justin Duchscherer (Athletics); 3B Pedro Feliz (Phillies); RHP Pedro Martinez (Phillies); RHP Brett Myers (Phillies); 3B Troy Glaus (Cardinals); C Gregg Zaun (Rays); 3B Hank Blalock (Rangers); C Rod Barajas (Blue Jays); RHP Ben Sheets

Depending on what happens with Branyan, there are viable alternatives if the Mariners aren't ready to trust Mike Carp as their everyday guy. Delgado has to prove he's healthy in the winter. LaRoche and Johnson could fall to the Mariners depending on the market; and Huff could play first or third base.

Bay has been linked with the Mariners and would be a perfect fit on and off the field. They're not going to break the bank for him, so I don't see it happening.

Figgins wants a lot of money (which I don't think he's worth) but he'd fill the third base hole left by Beltre. Glaus and Mora are lower-cost stopgaps.

Washburn was happy in Seattle and pitched well before he collapsed when he was traded to the Tigers. They're not getting into a bidding war for him, but his return coud happen. The other starters mentioned----Wolf, Pavano, Davis----wouldn't be super-expensive and, if healthy would fill the back-end of the rotation adequately and relatively cheaply.

The Mariners have been linked with Lackey. There's a chance of that happening.

Via trade: C Jorge Posada (Yankees); RHP Joba Chamberlain (Yankees); RHP Phil Hughes (Yankees); 3B Mike Lowell (Red Sox); RHP Clay Buchholz (Red Sox); RHP Michael Bowden (Red Sox); RHP Daniel Bard (Red Sox); RHP Manny Delcarmen (Red Sox); OF Carl Crawford (Rays); 1B Lyle Overbay (Blue Jays); OF/DH Luke Scott (Orioles); LF Delmon Young (Twins); RHP Edwin Jackson (Tigers); 1B Paul Konerko (White Sox); 3B Jhonny Peralta (Indians); OF David DeJesus (Royals); 3B/1B Jorge Cantu (Marlins); RHP Josh Johnson (Marlins); OF Cody Ross (Marlins); C John Baker (Marlins); RHP Derek Lowe (Braves); LHP Oliver Perez (Mets); RHP Mike Pelfrey (Mets); OF/1B Adam Dunn (Nationals); RHP Jason Motte (Cardinals); OF Milton Bradley (Cubs); RHP Bronson Arroyo (Reds); 3B Garrett Atkins (Rockies); 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff (Padres); RHP Chris Young (Padres); 1B Adrian Gonzalez (Padres)

Some of the names may seem odd and most are completely out of left field, but they make sense in theory and aren't going to happen barring a totally unforeseen set of circumstances.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman would love to be rid of Posada and the Mariners are a fit; but Posada's not okaying a trade in general and he won't okay a trade to Seattle in particular, so forget it.

Oliver Perez is mentioned as a "you take my headache, I'll take yours"; if the Mets would take Silva, the Mariners would probably take Perez.

Yes, I mentioned Milton Bradley. He'd be perfect to get out from under the Silva contract and might fill the need in left field if he behaves himself. (Yah. Right.)

The prospects mentioned----Buchholz, Chamberlain, Hughes, etc----would have to be part of any deal involving Felix Hernandez.

Peralta, Atkins and Kouzmanoff would fill the hole at third base left by Beltre.

Zduriencik let finances and sentiment interfere in his decision-making process as the club kept Ken Griffey Jr for another year when they would've been better served to move on with a more productive veteran DH like Jim Thome. It was a mistake.

  • The difference between "on the block" and "possibly available":

Must I explain everything to the uninitiated and blockheaded to reality?

In recent days, we've seen story after story saying that the Marlins' Josh Johnson and Hanley Ramirez are not "on the trading block". In a similar vein, the Tigers' Edwin Jackson is on the block. There's a subtle difference, but said difference is not as great as is portrayed.

Because a player isn't being thrown out there as a commodity that must be moved doesn't mean he's not up for discussion. Are the Marlins desperately trying to trade Johnson or Ramirez? Are the Rays making similar plans for Carl Crawford? The Mariners with Felix Hernandez? No. But that doesn't mean they won't listen when a team calls and starts exchanging names on what it would take to get such players.

To say they're "not trading Johnson or Ramirez" or that they're "not on the block" is a cloudy subterfuge rife with semantics that is in line with the out-of-context nonsense of Moneyball. These players can be had...if enough is offered for them.

Are they getting traded? Probably not, but it's possible. Find stuff to write about and stop wasting people's time with this non-story please. It ain't that hard.

  • Viewer Mail 11.30.2009:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Tiger Woods:

Apparently, Tiger's wife was angry that he's been spending too much time reading this blog. So she had good reason to come after him with the club.

If ever there was a reason to beat someone with a golf club, it's that.

Michael Fierman writes RE my 20/20 Hindsight postings:

Hey- I just got around to reading all of your 20/20s this morning. Great stuff; you had me -yes actually laughing out loud...I have to say it is refreshing to read an article that isn't filled with numbers stated as dogma that cannot and must not be questioned. Anyway as far as predicting the AL or NL Central. I believe it is beyond man or machine...
I'll get to your Hot stove Previews later-Have a good one

Glad to help.

People are under the mistaken impression that I have a problem with those that use numbers to come to their projections and it's the furthest thing from the truth. Considering the haphazard results from anyone and everyone who tries to predict what's going to happen in a given season, their way isn't any better or worse than anyone else's. My problem is that they don't own it when they're wrong.

When a team like the Diamonbacks collapses, you never see any of them saying, "I screwed up"; you hear, "well, they didn't live up to their statistical projections".

No kidding!!!

I have no tolerance for alibi-artists.

What's even worse is when they don't say anything at all as if silence is going to make it all go away. Well, they ignore me and I'm not going away. I'm their recurring nightmare and it's about to get much, much worse in the next few months.

I'm a man of my word.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Lightning 11.29.2009

  • The free agent slog:

Are the players and their agents beginning to panic yet?

In case anyone hadn't noticed, the only free agents who've signed contracts are those that have little choice but to grab whatever they can as soon as a decent enough offer is on the table. Fallen stars the likes of Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel have signed with the White Sox; useful but limited Alex Gonzalez with the Blue Jays; middling Ramon Hernandez with the Reds; and Freddy Sanchez with the Giants----all signed early before greed, the economy and the saturated market forced them to take far less than what they were guaranteed to get if they held out.

The days of teams panicking and doing something stupid in November appear over. The prevalent attitude of, "here's the offer, it's on the table; and if you don't accept it in a timely fashion, we're moving on"; and certain players like Kyle Lohse and Bengie Molina seeing their big money dreams evaporate before their very eyes in recent years has given the direct advantage to the front offices if they're patient and/or smart.

Since the days of collusion in 1986-87, I can't remember seeing a free agent market so dead when there are plenty of useful players available. Contrary to popular notion, there are many good players to be had, but since so many options, teams----even the notoriously aggressive ones like the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels----are holding their fire.

In years past, the Yankees would already have signed Mark DeRosa and Mike Gonzalez. The Red Sox would have Matt Holliday. The Angels would've made their annual deep strike for whatever player they'd secretly targeted in their war room. Now, everyone's waiting to see what the other guy's going to do and it's costing the players (and their agents) a lot of money.

Don't discount the massive number of players who aren't going to be tendered contracts within the next month; or the trade possibilities. Two aces----Roy Halladay and Josh Johnson----are out there to be had for any team willing to trade a chunk of their farm system. Derek Lowe and Gil Meche----historically good pitchers who are overpaid----will be given away to any team who'll take their contracts. Then there are Erik Bedard; Ben Sheets and Rich Harden----gifted talents whose injury histories and (in Bedard's case) attitude have sent them to the bargain bin. There's no reason for any team to acquiesce to the Blue Jays demands for Halladay and on top of that lavish a lucrative extension on the pitcher himself if they can wait things out and see what else comes up.

The free agent/trade market is flush with players at every position even in the harder to fill spots like starting pitching, center field and catcher. Closers are everywhere which means a team with bullpen holes like the Yankees and Mets might be able to sign a former closer like Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano, Takashi Saito for a far more reasonable amount of money to be a set-up man than they would've in years past.

You need a second baseman? Dan Uggla and Michael Young are out there.

A shortstop? You can sign Marco Scutaro or Miguel Tejada; you might even be able to trade for Yunel Escobar or, wait for it.....Hanley Ramirez.

A center fielder? Curtis Granderson's name is bouncing around.

A closer? Bobby Jenks; Heath Bell; Jose Valverde; Billy Wagner; J.J. Putz to name a few are there for the taking.

A five-tool star in his prime? Carl Crawford will be traded by the Rays.

A two-fisted basher in his mid-20s? How about Miguel Cabrera?

Then there are the big name free agents----Jason Bay and Holliday----who want to get paid and could be seeing their dollars decrease exponentially with each passing day.

Moneyball, the economy and financial sanity are referenced as why teams are treading more carefully in the free agent market. Whether Moneyball existed or not, teams would've been cowed by the way horrendous contracts doled to average players Vernon Wells, Carlos Guillen and Alex Rios; or on disasters like Oliver Perez and Milton Bradley, and held their fire, refusing to dive into the empty pool only to crack their heads open and worse.

Years ago, Charlie Finley's idea regarding free agency was to let every single player be a free agent at the end of every year. It was ignored as the rantings of a crank who was trying to reinvent/ruin the game with his wild ideas. For all the vitriol he attracted, Finley was a smart, savvy businessman and keen judge of talent. Because he was seen as such a prick and so unpopular with his players, employees and fellow owners, it was easy to dismiss him, but he was right. And we're seeing it now.

Even the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and White Sox are waiting to see what the other guy's going to do. The reasonably priced players who can replicate the production of what would normally be a hot ticket is keeping the price of every player down. Because of that, teams that wouldn't be able to improve with a household name can do so because so many quality players are on the clearance rack. It's going to get worse and worse and you'll see more players grabbing whatever they can before they're sitting out in February looking for work and firing their agents because of unfulfilled promises.

It's the new world in baseball.

  • Let the man retire:

Bud Selig has reportedly rejected the idea that he extend his contract as commissioner to 2012 when he'll be 78-years-old.

First of all, the guy's an empty suit. By all accounts, he's a nice man who means well, but as a commissioner, he's been a wishy-washy butt of jokes for his attempts to bring the game into the new millennium with such "innovations" as the bad-infomercial style announcing of the names selected in the June draft. It's not as if he's creating buzz in the game with his personality and style. A mannequin could do his job they way Selig does it.

Second, he's old. I know I wouldn't want to be dealing with suspending Milton Bradley; handling the steroid mess; or functioning as a ridiculed puppet at that age. Does he need the aggravation? It's not going to be hard to find someone to replace him, so why is this even a story?

  • Tiger, Tiger, bleeding profusely:

I have no idea what happened with Tiger Woods and his wife; nor did I believe the story of a simple car accident and injuries when it happened; then it degenerated into disinterest/let me know what really happened when the truth comes out.

I will say this: the embarrassment and trouble for Woods and his image will only get worse as the story spirals out of control. The less he and his representatives say about this, the bigger the explosion will be. Much like Mark McGwire and his cringeworthy bouts public speaking, Woods will learn that it's easier to get whatever happened out there and let the public forget. This is only going to get bigger and bigger the longer he's silent.

As for his wife chasing him with a golf club? I've said this over and over again on Twitter, but I'll repeat it here: those Scandinavian chicks are feisty and he's lucky she was Swedish and not Finnish.

Trust me there. They're smart. Too smart for their own good sometimes.

I speak from vast experience in this area.

  • Viewer Mail 11.29.2009:

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Hideki Matsui and Oliver Perez:

But Prince, don't you remember? Matsui ONLY wants to go where there are other Japanese playing. Haha. I couldn't resist that dig.

I don't know if anyone (Maddux, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver or Cy Young himself) could EVER help Ollie Perez. How is he even in the big leagues anymore? That's what I want to know.

It would probably upset Tim McCarver's world of absurd stereotypes if Matsui went anywhere where there wasn't a compatriot waiting for him (even if McCarver's fantasy of his preferred compatriot---Ichiro----doesn't like Matsui and vice versa). Hopefully, McCarver won't say something about Yao Ming being in Houston without taking into account that the man's Chinese. Then Tim would really have some explaining to do and maybe have to attend a sensitivity class to keep his job.

With Perez? Shhhhhh!!! I'm trying to get him out of here!

All kidding aside, no one's ever questioned his talent. There will be a year in his career where he puts it all together and wins 18 games. In which uniform it'll be is a mystery. Perez will always have a team willing to roll the dice on him in the hopes of hitting the jackpot. Someone will, they'll benefit and then watch him self-destruct again.

James Mason writes RE the Rangers:

A fine article on the Rangers, however, the last thing the Rangers need is a
first baseman. Yes, Chris Davis had a bad sophomore year but he's an MVP
candidate in waiting - aside from that at AAA looms Justin Smoak, probably
the number 3 or 4 top prospect in baseball.

Thanks for the compliment.

The Rangers need a bat to DH or play the outfield. The first basemen I mention----Adam LaRoche, Lyle Overbay, Nick Johnson----are short-term stopgaps who'd fill the need inexpensively. With Adrian Gonzalez, I don't think anyone would question him to replace Davis and in any deal to get hm, Smoak would probably be going the other way.

I haven't seen enough of Davis to know what his problem was last year, but anyone who strikes out that much (238 in 736 big league plate appearances) needs some more seasoning. If the pitchers have figured him out, he's going to have to adjust----and fast. At least with guys like Adam Dunn, Ryan Howard and Mark Reynolds, they're hitting enough homers and getting on base at a high enough clip to swallow the strikeouts. Davis could become that type of hitter, but he's not yet.

I looked at Smoak's numbers and he's not ready.

With the market as it is, the Rangers can get that bat for DH/LF and let Davis find his way; but if a LaRoche or Johnson falls to them, they need to make that move.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Texas Rangers---Hot Stove Preview

  • Winter Preview----Texas Rangers:

I'll work under the assumption that the Rangers ownership/financial problems won't cause a massive sell-off and that they'll be able to bring in some reasonably priced players. I'd hate to see all the progress they've made in the past couple of years sabotaged by the economy.

What they need: A big-time power bat at 1B/OF; an innings-eating horse starting pitcher; a more reliable closer; a part-time catcher.

Free agents: 3B/1B Hank Blalock; OF Marlon Byrd; LHP Eddie Guardado; C Ivan Rodriguez

They have no place to play Blalock and were trying to move him for years. He'll get a chance to be a DH elsewhere, probably with a moderate contender.

Byrd will be in demand for the next tier of teams who either don't have the money to chase Jason Bay/Matt Holliday; or don't have the chips to trade for Carlos Lee/Miguel Cabrera. He had his career power year with 20 homers and 43 doubles; he'll cash in elsewhere.

Guardado has more comebacks in him than Mickey Rourke. Someone always wants to sign "Everyday Eddie"; there's a chance he's back with the Rangers.

Someone will sign Rodriguez and he might even get an opportunity to play relatively regularly----more so than he'll get with the Rangers. That said, considering the struggles of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden, Pudge might want to stay in his original big league home in the hopes of playing in 100 or so games. I think he's shot and the Rangers should move on, but he might be back after testing the market.

Players available via trade: OF Nelson Cruz; RHP Frank Francisco; OF Josh Hamilton; RHP Brandon McCarthy; RHP Kevin Millwood; LHP C.J. Wilson; INF Michael Young

Cruz is arbitration-eligible and in demand after finally busting out after many years of tearing apart Triple A and failing in the big leagues. He'll be 30 at mid-season 2010 and the Rangers might do well to move him now before he reverts back to what he was.

Francisco is arbitration-eligible and due a big raise from his $1.6 million salary in 2009. He's not a very reliable closer and would be very expensive to keep. He has trade value.

Betraying my normal, cold-hearted indifference, I truly hope that Josh Hamilton stays clean and sober and is able to fulfill his ridiculous talent. I mean that. With that, it's a pure blast of realism and money that I say the Rangers should see what the market is for Hamilton.

He had numerous injuries last season that cost him almost half the season; he's arbitration-eligible; and for all the good will and admiration he prematurely received for battling his demons and coming back to be a productive player and person, he's always a risk to fall of the wagon or worse as he did last winter when he got caught drinking and partying.

I don't trust addicts until they've been clean for at least five years. That's just the way it is with me. Even then, I'd tread lightly with them. And under no circumstances would I even consider giving Hamilton a long-term contract and a lot of money in the bank. No way. If I were the Rangers, I'd cut my losses with Hamilton and move him.

It's nothing personal.

It's strictly business.

McCarthy has been injured for chunks of the past two years, but he's still an intriguing talent. Perhaps they could package him in a deal for another similar pitcher who's had injury problems and has shown talent like Joel Zumaya of the Tigers. Both are arbitration-eligible.

Millwood has $12 million due him next year and then he's a free agent. He's effective when he's healthy and has value. I think he gets traded.

Wilson is a lefty who can close; he racks up the strikeouts (84 in 73 innings in 2009); he's also got a very big mouth and is arbitration-eligible. He'd bring back a decent return in a trade.

Young's contract is essentially unmovable unless the Rangers were willing to take back a Vernon Wells, an Oliver Perez, a Carlos Guillen or some other hideous contract. That said, I'd explore such a move if I were the Mets or Tigers to get rid of a player they no longer want and bring in the solid citizen Young. He can play second or third, is one of the most well-respected players in baseball and can still hit. Stat zombies criticize Young, but I like the way he hits and plays the game. He could get dealt.

Non-tender candidates: INF/OF Esteban German; RHP Jason Grilli

German has use as a utility player, but he's a guy you can find much cheaper than the raise he'll get in arbitration from his $1.2 million salary in 2009. Gone.

Grilli's an arbitration-eligible journeyman. He won't be back.

Players to pursue:

Via free agency: 1B Adam LaRoche (Braves); RHP Rafael Soriano (Braves); LHP Doug Davis (Diamondbacks); LHP Billy Wagner (Red Sox); RHP Rich Harden (Cubs); C Ramon Castro (White Sox); OF Jermaine Dye (White Sox); RHP Jason Marquis (Rockies); C Yorvit Torrealba (Rockies); RHP Fernando Rodney (Tigers); RHP Kiko Calero (Marlins); 1B Nick Johnson (Marlins); RHP Jose Valverde (Astros); C Miguel Olivo (Royals); DH Vladimir Guerrero (Angels); RHP John Lackey (Angels); C Brad Ausmus (Dodgers); DH Jim Thome (Dodgers); CF Mike Cameron (Brewers); RHP Braden Looper (Brewers); RHP J.J. Putz (Mets); C Brian Schneider (Mets); DH Hideki Matsui (Yankees); C Jose Molina (Yankees); RHP Justin Duchscherer (Athletics); C Paul Bako (Phillies); RHP Brett Myers (Phillies); LHP Erik Bedard (Mariners); 1B Russell Branyan (Mariners); RHP Joel Piniero (Cardinals); C Gregg Zaun (Rays); C Rod Barajas (Blue Jays)

Depending on what the Rangers intend to do for a closer, there are many viable options for a short-term replacement who'd either like to play in Texas (Wagner) or someone trying to replenish his value (Putz). They can find a replacement for Francisco/Wilson if they really want to.

The starting pitching market will be flush with cheap, useful names like Marquis, Harden and Bedard. Myers is an intriguing possibility as both a starter or reliever. Piniero will probably be too rich for the Rangers blood (I think Piniero's going to the Mets), but he's a contact pitcher who keeps the ball on the ground and would do well in Texas if he remembers the lessons he learned with the Cardinals and under the tutelage of Dave Duncan. Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux is reaching the same guru status after his work with Scott Feldman and Millwood.

Matsui, Guerrero and Thome would put up big numbers in Texas as their DH.

Johnson and LaRoche could fall to the Rangers as the market clears.

There are plenty of viable, part-time veteran catchers available to tutor Teagarden and Saltalamacchia. Barajas is a one-time Ranger; and Schneider would be a good fit.

Via trade: OF Carl Crawford (Rays); 1B Lyle Overbay (Blue Jays); RHP Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox); OF/DH Luke Scott (Orioles); 3B/1B Ty Wigginton (Orioles); OF/1B/DH Miguel Cabrera (Tigers); RHP Joel Zumaya (Tigers); 1B Paul Konerko (White Sox); RHP Bobby Jenks (White Sox); OF David DeJesus (Royals); OF Juan Rivera (Angels); RHP Brandon Morrow (Mariners); DH Jack Cust (Athletics); RHP Michael Wuertz (Athletics); OF Cody Ross (Marlins); 3B/1B Jorge Cantu (Marlins); RHP Matt Lindstrom (Marlins); RHP Josh Johnson (Marlins); RHP Derek Lowe (Braves); LHP Oliver Perez (Mets); OF Milton Bradley (Cubs); OF Kosuke Fukudome (Cubs); C Russell Martin (Dodgers); OF Aaron Rowand (Giants); RHP Chris Young (Padres); 1B Adrian Gonzalez (Padres)

The Rangers farm system is loaded, so they could get pretty much any player they want via trade; and that includes Crawford (he's from Texas); Josh Johnson; Cabrera; Martin; and Morrow.

I know, Bradley's a time bomb; but he also had his best year physically, practically and behaviorally with the Rangers and under Ron Washington in 2008. They'd get him for nothing; could have the Cubs pay a big piece of his salary; or dump some big money of their own if they took him.

No one in their right mind would want to deal with Perez, but if the Mets agreed to take the Young contract, maybe. Plus the Rangers could hope that Maddux would work his magic with the flighty Perez.

GM Jon Daniels's worst trade was the one that sent Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez to the Padres for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka. It's conceivable that they could reboot the deal and get both Young and Gonzalez back for prospects. Gonzalez would be a triple crown threat in Texas.

I'd keep tabs on what the Red Sox are doing with Papelbon. While he's probably not overtly available, I think he's a negotiable commodity because of the way the Red Sox do business in not wanting to overpay for a closer and that his mouth has gotten tiresome. It doesn't hurt to ask.

  • You're a week behind me fellas:

There are now voices from supposedly "credible" people that are putting forth the information that because of Josh Johnson's reps breaking off talks with the Marlins for a long-term contract that the Marlins would be willing to deal Johnson "right now".

No kidding.

I said that six days ago----link.

Here's some advice: formulate some thoughts on your own rather than from some random set of out-of-context numbers and/or stuff swiped from your betters.

And here's some more news that should be obvious if you had a brain: not only would the Marlins move Johnson in the right deal, they'd move Hanley Ramirez too if a team offered enough!!!

Wake up!!!!!!

  • Viewer Mail 11.28.2009:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Hideki Matsui:

Why would the Angels want Damon and/or Matsui if they're ready to discard Figgins and Vlad? Sort of seems like they want to go younger and cheaper.

The Angels aren't looking to get younger and cheaper; but they're always looking to get better. Even with Matsui's physical limitations, he can still hit and he's a fit for the Angels clubhouse. So is Damon, but Matsui would be more willing to do a short-term deal.

Gabriel writes RE Vladimir Guerrero:

I'd like to see Guerrero in a Blue Jays uniform. A man can dream. And not sexually speaking.

The offers for Guerrero aren't likely to be very lucrative or long term, so there's every possibility that he could fall to the Blue Jays. (I think he ends up with the White Sox.)

We need to work on the level of absurdity for your dreams; this one's not that far-fetched.

Now, mine for, never mind.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Los Angeles Angels---Hot Stove Preview

  • Winter Preview----Los Angeles Angels:

The Angels are a machine and proved this year they're as mentally tough as they are smart and ballsy.

What they need: A third baseman; a power DH; a veteran, innings-eating starting pitcher; bullpen help.

Free agents: 3B/OF Chone Figgins; DH Vladimir Guerrero; RHP John Lackey; LHP Darren Oliver; INF/OF Robb Quinlan; RHP Kelvim Escobar

The Angels would like to keep Figgins, but more than any other club save perhaps the Red Sox, the Angels have shown the propensity to letting veteran stars go when they've outlived their usefulness. Figgins is in demand and wants a lot of money----more money than the Angels will be willing to pay for a third baseman with no power and whose speed game will be compromised as he ages. Figgins isn't young (he'll be 32 in January) and while there's a chance he could end up back with the Angels if the offers he receives aren't as lucrative as he expects, I think he's gone.

Guerrero's bat has slowed; his body's breaking down and he doesn't hit for enough power to stay as a full time DH. He's gone.

Lackey is in heavy demand for clubs that will pay far more money than the Angels will. The Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, White Sox and a few others will keep tabs on the gutty righty. It's highly unlikely he returns to the Angels.

Oliver has been an integral part of the Angels bullpen in recent years and while he likes living and playing in Anaheim, he should have some decent offers elsewhere. He's often talked of retirement and changed his mind; as long as he's effective and wanted, he'll continue to pitch. I'd be stunned if he leaves the Angels.

Quinlan's no great shakes as a utility player. Gone.

After fulfilling his massive potential in 2007 and winning 18 games, Escobar has pitched in one game in the past two seasons with shoulder problems. He could be back with the Angels on a minor league deal.

Players available via trade: LHP Brian Fuentes; OF Juan Rivera; C Jeff Mathis; OF Gary Matthews Jr; SS Brandon Wood

Fuentes led the league in saves, but it was a never-ending adventure with him and his frequent gack jobs in blowing one of the ALCS games and nearly blowing another could spur the Angels to strike quickly (one of their specialties) and replace Fuentes with an available closer in a market flush with intriguing alternatives. Fuentes is only guaranteed $9 million next year with a 2011 option, so he's movable.

Rivera had a solid year with 25 homers, but I get the impression the Angels would like an upgrade in the power/threat department. He's got $9.5 million guaranteed through 2011.

Mathis had a rotten year at the plate before turning into George Brett in the playoffs. He doesn't hit enough to play every day and is arbitration-eligible. The hot post-season could spur a team to deal for him and give back something useful.

Matthews Jr wants out of Anaheim so he can play more frequently; the Angels want out from under the $23 million Matthews Jr is still owed through 2011. The only way they move the contract is if they take back someone else's headache. It'd have to be a pretty big headache (Milton Bradley?). Don't count on it.

Wood's stock has fallen to almost nothing. Is he the wrecking machine he was in the minors? Or is he a "4-A" player a la Russ Morman who can demolish Triple A pitching, but can't hit in the majors? Someone will take a chance on Wood if the Angels really want to move him in a deal for a bat or an arm.

Non-tender candidates: OF Reggie Willits

I doubt they'll non-tender Willits, but he's arbitration-eligible.

Players to pursue:

Via free agency: LHP Mike Gonzalez (Braves); RHP Rafael Soriano (Braves); LHP Doug Davis (Diamondbacks); OF Jason Bay (Red Sox); OF Jermaine Dye (White Sox); RHP Octavio Dotel (White Sox); RHP Jason Marquis (Rockies); 1B Nick Johnson (Marlins); SS/3B Miguel Tejada (Astros); DH Jim Thome (Dodgers); 1B/DH Carlos Delgado (Mets); RHP J.J. Putz (Mets); LF Johnny Damon (Yankees); DH Hideki Matsui (Yankees); 3B Pedro Feliz (Phillies); INF/OF Mark DeRosa (Cardinals); OF Matt Holliday (Cardinals); 3B Troy Glaus (Cardinals); RHP Joel Piniero (Cardinals); 3B/1B Hank Blalock (Rangers); RHP Juan Cruz (Royals)

The Angels have historically played their cards close to the vest and made lightning-like quick strikes on what had heretofore been clear days. (They've also made said strikes right around Thanksgiving, so keep your eyes open.)

The way manager Mike Scioscia manages relies on a deep bullpen and Gonzalez or Soriano would function as excellent set-up men. I'd prefer Gonzalez, but Soriano would be cheaper.

Bay and Holliday are the hot free agent names and while the Angels have appeared reluctant and outright denied interest in Holliday (they're not fans of Scott Boras after the Mark Teixeira negotiations when awry), don't be stunned to see a big splash. They're in play for Bay and there's a real good chance he winds up an Angel, and fast.

Thome is still the old-school, two-fisted slugger he's always been and would come on a short-term deal for a chance at a World Series title.

Dye would fit right in with the solid citizens that permeate the Angels clubhouse and he can still hit.

Tejada and Glaus (a former Angel) would be short-term solutions for third base; DeRosa would be an all-too-perfect replacement for Figgins----he'll be cheaper and he's a better hitter.

Davis, Piniero or Marquis would fill the need for a mid-rotation starter who'd benefit from the Angels solid defense.

Via trade: OF Carl Crawford (Rays); RHP Roy Halladay (Blue Jays); 1B Lyle Overbay (Blue Jays); OF/DH Luke Scott (Orioles); RHP Edwin Jackson (Tigers); INF/OF Brandon Inge (Tigers); OF Curtis Granderson (Tigers); 1B Paul Konerko (White Sox); RHP Gil Meche (Royals); RHP Kevin Millwood (Rangers); RHP Brandon Morrow (Mariners); OF Cody Ross (Marlins); RHP Matt Lindstrom (Marlins); RHP Josh Johnson (Marlins); 3B/1B Jorge Cantu (Marlins); 2B Dan Uggla (Marlins); C John Baker (Marlins); RHP Derek Lowe (Braves); RHP Francisco Cordero (Brewers); 3B Garrett Atkins (Rockies); 1B Adrian Gonzalez (Padres); RHP Chris Young (Padres)

Crawford is going to be available; the Angels and Rays have a trading relationship after the Scott Kazmir deal; the Angels have the money to pay for Crawford's extension; and he's a perfect fit.

The Angels are in on Halladay and his acquisition would make them World Series favorites immediately.

The Tigers payroll slash could benefit the Angels in several ways. What if the Angels said to the Tigers they'd give them Brandon Wood, Jose Arredondo and Gary Matthews Jr (salary dump) for Inge, Granderson and Nate Robertson? Granderson could play left and the sheer speed of him and Torii Hunter would make the left side of the Angels outfield defense the place where triples go to die.

Konerko has long been an object of the Angels affections, but the discussed three-way deal that would sent Konerko to Anaheim, Adrian Gonzalez to the White Sox, and prospects to the Padres might be better for the Angels if they just tried to get Gonzalez themselves.

Meche and Millwood are pricey, but would serve the purpose as mid-rotation starters with big upside and they could get them by just agreeing to take the contracts.

The Marlins fire sale would benefit the Angels greatly. Uggla would be a great fit. Cantu fills the third base hole if Figgins leaves.

Trading for Lowe (who the Braves are desperate to move) could get Matthews Jr's contract out of Anaheim; and he'd be an innings-eater for the rotation to replace Lackey. Lowe's post-season pedigree is a big plus.

Atkins is being shopped by the Rockies and he too would fill the third base hole left by Figgins.

  • The comedy that is the Pirates:

Much like two years ago when the Pirates traded Jason Bay, Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte; or when they signed Ramon Vazquez and Eric Hinske as if they were acquiring the last pieces to a championship puzzle; and then turned around at mid-season 2009 and cleaned out the house of their remaining veterans----Nate McLouth; Adam LaRoche; Nyjer Morgan; Jack Wilson----while getting middling return on the 2008 and 2009 trades, they're now making moves that don't even qualify as head-scratching; they qualify as the basis to have someone committed.

After trading a young power arm in Jesse Chavez to the Rays for Akinori Iwamura, they're now said to be interested in Rangers free agent Hank Blalock and Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel.

No. I don't know why.

With each passing moment and bewildering maneuver, it becomes abundantly clear that there's not even a loony plan in place in Pittsburgh----like the Joker (and me), they just do things. The Joker and I have an excuse----we're agents of chaos. What's the Pirates' excuse?

With little more than ineptitude from the puppet GM Neal Huntington and the pomposity of team president Frank Coonelly, the new regime has done the near-impossible. And no, I don't mean make the Pirates into a viable franchise with a chance to compete; I mean they've made the previous regime of Kevin McClatchy and Dave Littlefield look good in comparison.

The Siberia of baseball is far too kind to describe them. Going to the Pirates is more like going to Mars, except the air quality and chance of survival are worse when putting on a Pirates uniform. Far worse.

There's no hope for them.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Kansas City Royals---Hot Stove Preview

  • Winter Preview----Kansas City Royals:

You'd think that the Royals would be a boring subject, but I do so love watching train wrecks----especially ones that are not my own. And those days are over for me anyway. I've been awakened. Four lightning strikes are on the way from me within the next eight months. I'm a man of my word.

What they need: Two starting pitchers; bullpen help; a center fielder; a power bat for right field/DH.

Free agents: LHP Bruce Chen; CF Coco Crisp; C Miguel Olivo; RHP Jamey Wright; RHP Juan Cruz

Chen's a journeyman who's bounced from team-to-team for his whole career. He could be back with the Royals.

Crisp was hurt and didn't hit for the Royals. Trading for him was one of a multitude of stupid things that GM Dayton Moore did in the past year. Someone will pick Crisp up since center fielders are hard to find and he can still play the position defensively; nor will he be as bad as he was at the plate as he was for the Royals. He won't be back.

Olivo has a shotgun arm, is good with the pitchers and has pop. He'll get a better offer elsewhere.

Wright was miscast as a set-up man in the Royals haggard bullpen, but he has use as a low-cost reliever for a team like the Marlins or Rays who find such pitchers and get production out of them.

Cruz didn't have a good year for the Royals, but he's got a great arm and someone will give him a decent contract for a better team.

Players available via trade: RHP Roman Colon; OF David DeJesus; RHP Kyle Farnsworth; OF Jose Guillen; DH/1B Mike Jacobs; RHP Gil Meche; RHP Robinson Tejeda

Colon has a good arm, but he's arbitration-eligible, is a non-tender candidate and could bring back a minor leaguer in a trade.

DeJesus is a valuable commodity; he's no star, but he can hit with some pop; run a bit; and play center field. He's also signed to a reasonable contract through 2011 ($5.2 million guaranteed with a very reasonable $6 million option for 2011). They could get a pretty good package of decent minor leaguers for DeJesus.

You want Kyle Farnsworth? He's yours.

Guillen has some attractiveness because he's only signed through next year even though he's getting $12 million. They'd have to take a similarly expensive contract back for him, but I think he'll get moved to a team hungry for offense like the Giants. He does have power.

You want Jacobs? He's yours. Arbitration-eligible and horrible for the Royals (.228 Avg; .297 OBP; 19 homers; 132 strikeouts), Jacobs was acquired from the Marlins in a deal for Leo Nunez that was one of last winter's dumbest. It was right up there with Moore signing Kyle Farnsworth and trading for Crisp. The Royals GM is consistent in his idiocy.

Meche's signing was criticized when it was made, but he was an innings-eating horse in his first two years with the Royals; his record in those two seasons of 23-24 was no indicator of how well he pitched. He was hurt in 2009 and he's expensive ($24 million guaranteed through 2011), but he could be had for nothing and if he's healthy, and might be a great stealth pickup for someone.

At age 27, Tejeda came into his own and pitched up to his abilities. I always liked his stuff. His strikeout numbers (87 in 73 innings) are fantastic, but he's due a big raise in arbitration and the Royals are playing with fire if they expect him to repeat that performance. I have no idea what Moore's going to do, but I'd explore trade options for Tejeda.

Non-tender candidates: INF Wilson Betemit; RHP Roman Colon; 1B/DH Mike Jacobs; INF Tony Pena Jr.; C Brayan Pena

If the Royals go to arbitration with Betemit, Moore should be fired immediately and they should sue so they don't have to pay him off.

Colon and Jacobs were discussed earlier; I doubt that Moore will non-tender Jacobs, but it would be the right move if he can't trade him.

Tony Pena Jr is apparently being made into a pitcher, so he's not going anywhere.

Brayan Pena can catch and play the corner infield positions; I wouldn't dump him.

Players to pursue:

Via free agency: LHP Doug Davis (Diamondbacks); RHP Rich Harden (Cubs); OF Jermaine Dye (White Sox); RHP Jason Marquis (Rockies); 1B/3B Aubrey Huff (Orioles); RHP Kiko Calero (Marlins); 1B Nick Johnson (Marlins); RHP Kelvim Escobar (Angels); DH Vladimir Guerrero (Angels); RHP Jon Garland (Dodgers); DH Jim Thome (Dodgers); CF Mike Cameron (Brewers); RHP Carl Pavano (Twins); 1B/DH Carlos Delgado (Mets); OF/1B Xavier Nady (Yankees); RHP Justin Duchscherer (Athletics); RHP Brett Myers (Phillies); OF Randy Winn (Giants); 3B/1B/DH Hank Blalock (Rangers); LHP Erik Bedard (Mariners); RHP Ben Sheets

There's a market for some of the cheaper, mutually advantageous signings like Harden, Pavano; Bedard and Sheets. Once everything shakes out and teams fill their holes, one or two could fall to the Royals.

The veteran bats like Guerrero, Dye and Thome could be in a similar situation. Dye played for the Royals before. Delgado will get a good offer on an incentive-laden deal from someone, so he's not going to Kansas City.

Cameron would be perfect for the Royals.

Via trade: OF Melky Cabrera (Yankees); RHP Brandon League (Blue Jays); OF/DH Luke Scott (Orioles); RHP Edwin Jackson (Tigers); SS Brandon Wood (Angels); OF Nelson Cruz (Rangers); RHP Brandon Morrow (Mariners); RHP Chris Young (Padres)

I literally have no idea what Moore's going to do. After the display of overt dunderheadedness in the past twelve months, his bizarre building of the Royals has made them into a total mess whose only saving grace is that they have Zack Greinke and a couple of young pitchers with talent like Luke Hochevar, Kyle Davies and an under-appreciated closer in Joakim Soria. Their offense is a mishmash. Above are a few suggestions which he'll likely ignore to his own detriment.

  • The longer it goes, the worse it's gonna be:

What was the point of Mark McGwire taking the job as Cardinals hitting coach if he's going to steadfastly refuse to meet the press?

What's the holdup?

And the longer he goes without standing up and answering any and all questions truthfully, the worse it's going to be for him and the Cardinals.

Did they not realize that this was going to be an issue when they decided to make the hire? Or did they just make the move to placate manager Tony La Russa to keep him in the fold and decide to worry about the consequences later?

It's becoming increasingly clear that even when McGwire does stand up for the press conference, he's going to continue to produce an embarrassingly cringeworthy display of non-answers, avoidance and awkward facial tics befitting a liar who's uncomfortable with what he's done.

I hate to break it to Mark, but we already know what he did. If he didn't want to come out of seclusion and 'fess up, then why take the job as hitting coach? More importantly, why aren't the Cardinals front office people saying enough's enough for a new employee and telling him he's holding a no-holds barred press conference and answering the questions or they're going to look for another hitting coach? Who's running things over there?

  • White Sox sign Andruw Jones:

Jones is a cheap flier and replacement for DeWayne Wise as a defensively solid center fielder. He's fallen off the planet in his production, but he's cheap ($500,000 base with a chance for another $500,000 in incentives) and he can still play center. Maybe he'll have a career renaissance. It's worth a shot.

  • Viewer Mail 11.26.2009:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Roy Halladay:

I'm not worried about the wear on Halladay's tires. There are many good body shops in the Bronx.

$140 million for a aged (though classic) car, along with a lot of stuff going in the transaction is a big risk.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes:

For some reason, people seem to believe that if you sign a guy to such a big contract he'll be that good for the duration. Big mistake (insert Carl Pavano, Vernon Wells, Milton Bradley here). I'd be weary of just about anyone demanding that amount of money for that long, but that's me and I don't have millions in the bank to throw at... well, anything.

Sometimes teams don't have a choice like the Mets with Johan Santana.

With Pavano, the Yankees get grief for that nightmare, but if they hadn't paid him the Red Sox, Mariners or Tigers would've; they just got unlucky. Wells was a pretty good player who got Albert Pujols money. Think about that.

Halladay is at an age where he wants to get his money; considering some of the contracts guys like Barry Zito have gotten, I can understand why he'd say, "gimme mine" and he's in the position to get it now. I tip my hat to him. At least if he's unable to pitch, you know it's not a Pavano-like reason of wanting to go to the beach instead.

If anyone's earned that ridiculous money, it's Halladay. I think teams should tread lightly before making that commitment and giving up the chunk of their top tier minor leaguers.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cleveland Indians---Hot Stove Preview

  • Winter Preview----Cleveland Indians:

The 2009 Indians screwed up my aesthetic. Totally unacceptable. Totally.

What they need: A solid, veteran starting pitcher; clear some more dead salary; bullpen help; a power bat.

Free agents: Jamey Carroll; Tomo Ohka

Carroll is a versatile utility player who'll get more money in a better venue to win than in Cleveland. He's gone.

Ohka is a journeyman who might stay as a fallback option for the Indians rotation/bullpen.

Players available via trade: RHP Fausto Carmona; DH Travis Hafner; 3B/SS Jhonny Peralta; LHP Rafael Perez; C Kelly Shoppach; RHP Jake Westbrook; RHP Kerry Wood

You want Carmona? He's got $27 million guaranteed coming to him through 2013; he went from being a shell-shocked closer in 2006 to a 19-game winner, a 4th place finisher in the 2007 AL Cy Young voting, to what he is now----a shell-shocked starter who can't throw strikes and is progressively getting worse. If he weren't so well-compensated, someone would absolutely take a chance on rehabilitating him to his 2007 form; with that contract, he's going nowhere aside from to a team like the Mets in an Oliver Perez-type swap.

You want Hafner? He has over $40 million guaranteed through 2012; he can't play the field; and his body's breaking down. They're stuck with him and have to hope for some physical rejuvenation to keep him healthy enough for a team to possibly think he'll be their missing piece as a DH in the next couple of years. Good luck.

Peralta's shift to third base makes him more attractive to teams hungry for a third baseman or someone willing to stick him back at shortstop or move him to second base. The Twins or Orioles would be good landing spots. He's durable, has some pop in his bat and his salary is reasonable ($4.85 million guaranteed through 2010). I think he'll get moved because they can get some pieces back for him.

Perez is arbitration-eligible, was rotten last year and, as a lefty who got torched to the tune of a .412 batting average by lefties (that's not a misprint); I don't see what value he has aside from breathing and being lefty. They won't get anything for him and he might be non-tendered.

Shoppach has pop and handles the pitchers well; the Indians have a couple of catching prospects acquired in trades (Lou Marson) in recent years and they'd do well to keep Shoppach around to tutor them. That said, he's arbitration eligible and is a tradeable commodity. There are a lot of inexpensive, veteran backstops available, so Shoppach will probably be moved.

Westbrook didn't pitch last season recovering from Tommy John surgery; he's making $11 million next year. Westbrook will be with the Indians to start the season, but he could be in heavy demand as the season moves along and bring back a good package if he's healthy and pitching well.

Wood's making $10.5 million for 2010 with a vesting option of $11.5 million in 2011 if he finishes 55 games. As bad as the Indians will be next year, suffice it to say that Wood will not, under any circumstances, finish 55 games to activate the contract kicker. He was rotten in 2009, but if he's pitching well next year, he'll be in the same situation as Westbrook; maybe they'll go in a deal together. I'd approach him about becoming a starter again.

Non-tender candidates: 3B Andy Marte; LHP Rafael Perez; RHP Jose Veras

Marte's gone from being a top prospect to a washout. He's 26, has gotten chance after chance to stake his claim in the big leagues and has failed over and over again.

Perez was discussed earlier. He might not get non-tendered because he's still salvageable and is a lefty.

Veras has a good power fastball, but he's not worth whatever award he wins in arbitration.

Players to pursue:

Via free agency: LHP Doug Davis (Diamondbacks); RHP Danys Baez (Orioles); LHP Mark Hendrickson (Orioles); 3B Melvin Mora (Orioles); RHP Rich Harden (Cubs); C Ramon Castro (White Sox); OF Jermaine Dye (White Sox); C Yorvit Torrealba (Rockies); 1B/3B/DH Aubrey Huff (Tigers); 1B Nick Johnson (Marlins); RHP LaTroy Hawkins (Astros); C Miguel Olivo (Royals); RHP Kelvim Escobar (Angels); DH Vladimir Guerrero (Angels); C Brad Ausmus (Dodgers); RHP Jon Garland (Dodgers); RHP Vicente Padilla (Dodgers); C Brian Schneider (Mets); DH Hideki Matsui (Yankees); C Jose Molina (Yankees); Justin Duchscherer (Athletics); RHP Pedro Martinez (Phillies); RHP Brett Myers (Phillies); LHP Erik Bedard (Mariners); 3B Troy Glaus (Cardinals); 3B/1B/DH Hank Blalock (Rangers); OF Marlon Byrd (Rangers); C Ivan Rodriguez (Rangers); C Rod Barajas (Blue Jays); RHP Ben Sheets

The Indians aren't delving into the big name free agent market, but there are already bargains to be had to fill their holes with more to come after the players who are simply let go by their respective teams start to flood the market.

There are many catchers who would be amenable to playing part-time and mentoring the young Indians catchers. Molina, Schneider, Barajas and Torrealba would be perfect for such purposes.

Starting pitchers like Harden, Sheets and Bedard are going to have to take short-term/incentive-laden deals and could fall to the Indians as the off-season shakes itself out.

Guerrero and Matsui could be productive and relatively inexpensive solutions for the Indians power vacuum.

GM Mark Shapiro has been historically successful with such mutually advantageous deals with the likes of Juan Gonzalez, Kevin Millwood and, to a lesser degree, Carl Pavano.

Via trade: OF/DH Luke Scott (Orioles); 2B Alexei Casilla (Twins); RHP Edwin Jackson (Tigers); SS Brandon Wood (Angels); DH Jack Cust (Athletics); OF Cody Ross (Marlins)

With the Indians contract situations for the likes of Hafner and Carmona, they're not getting anything back for them if they find someone stupid enough to take them. Nor does it make sense to deal Kerry Wood or Westbrook before trying to re-establish their value.

Jackson's on the block for the Tigers and would fill out the Indians rotation nicely. Brandon Wood's stock has fallen drastically with the Angels. Cust is what he is; at least you'll know what you're getting----high on base percentage, power and a load of strikeouts.

  • Albert Pujols wins the NL MVP unanimously:


No kidding.

  • Red Sox should think long and hard before giving up the house for Halladay:

One of the problems for a team with the recent success of the Red Sox is that they can't step back from acquiring glossy names even if it's not the best thing for the club. As accustomed to pain as the Red Sox and their fans became in their championship drought from 1918 to 2004, they've now become spoiled and greedy by their annual success.

Look at what the lost year of 2006 led them to do. After being the dominant team in baseball throughout the first half, the team collapsed completely over the second half of the season and responded by flinging money at each and every one of their problems with the long-term signings of J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo. While the aggressive maneuvers they made in the winter of 2006-2007 resulted in another World Series win in 2007, the club is now somewhat hamstrung by the massive contracts for veterans they're still on the hook for like Mike Lowell, David Ortiz and Drew.

They have a lot of money and revenue, but not on a level with the Yankees; now they're being forced to make drastic deals with the devil of their prospects to try and win right now. The trades for Eric Gagne and Victor Martinez have thinned out the cupboard of top minor leaguers; now they're said to be heavily pursuing Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay. The Red Sox still have enough (easily) to get Halladay, but what's the risk/reward?

As I've said before, Halladay is going to be 33, has a lot of wear on his tires and will cost a load of prospects and money. Josh Beckett's money is coming off the books next year and with each passing day that they don't reach an agreement on an extension (truth be told, the Red Sox don't appear all that anxious to get something done) is a day closer to Beckett's departure. Halladay is going to cost at least $140 million for an extension and the Red Sox would have to sign him.

Is it worth it?

Or would the Red Sox be better off sifting through the next level of free agents and non-tenders while beefing up their offense with the likes of Matt Holliday?

Getting Halladay would be a short-term boost to the Red Sox and their fans; and he'd be a Cy Young Award contender next year; but after that, you're talking about $20 million-a-year for a pitcher entering his mid-to-late 30s who's thrown a lot of innings. If it results in another title next year, it's worth it in the short-term, but long-term? Maybe not.

  • Viewer Mail 11.25.2009:

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE taking short-term command in mid-December:




Being in charge ain't all it's cracked up to be. Trust me. You'll be begging me to take the keys back. Every decision; every move has to be calculated with all conceivable results. It's all on you. It's a burden. My burden. And it cuts a wide swath through everything you do. Some good, some bad. You'll see.