- Winter Preview----Arizona Diamondbacks:
Amid similar expectations over the past two years, the Diamondbacks have been about as unlucky and underachieving as the Mets.
In a way, it's worse because GM Josh Byrnes was supposed to be one of "them" with his pedigree of having worked under Theo Epstein with the Red Sox and being well-versed in stat-based analysis. While the Mets are being ravaged for extending GM Omar Minaya's contract through 2012, Byrnes had his contract extended through 2015 while being far less-effective in practice than Minaya.
What they need: A veteran first baseman; veteran bullpen help; a utility bat who can play every day if necessary; a back-end starting pitcher.
Free agents: LHP Doug Davis; LHP Scott Schoeneweis; 1B Chad Tracy; 1B Josh Whitesell
Davis is a veteran innings-eater who guts his way through games with stuff that can't even be accurately described as mediocre and somehow finds a way to get big league hitters out and win as many games as he loses. He's affordable as back-of-the-rotation help and will be signed by a contender for more money than the Diamondbacks would offer.
I don't think Davis was all that thrilled with manager A.J. Hinch either. He's gone.
No one seems to know the state of mind of Schoeneweis after his wife's death in early 2009. If he pitches, one would expect the Diamondbacks to bring him back.
Tracy looked like he was heading for a borderline All Star caliber career in 2005-2006 when he hit 47 homers and put up solid numbers across the board, but injuries derailed him and his power disappeared. Someone will sign Tracy on a low-cost flier and might get a solid backup if nothing else.
Whitesell put up good power/on-base numbers in the minors, but he wasn't going to get a chance to play in Arizona, so they non-tendered him. Whitesell will be 28 in April, but didn't hit in his brief trial with the Diamondbacks in 2009. There's something salvageable there in a Jack Cust sort of way, so someone will sign Whitesell and might get production from him. He's worth a shot.
Players available via trade: OF Eric Byrnes; 1B/OF Conor Jackson; C Miguel Montero; C Chris Snyder; 3B Mark Reynolds; OF Chris Young
Byrnes is due $11 million in 2010 and has missed chunks of the past two season with numerous injuries. That said, he's a free agent after 2010 and if he shows he's healthy in spring training, he's movable for another bad contract. The Diamondbacks might be better off hanging onto Byrnes to see if they can get something from him rather than take another club's headache. He's been useful on and off the field in the past. In fact, it was Byrnes who led the Diamondbacks charge into the playoffs in 2006 with his kamikaze style and positive rage that lit a fire under the whole team.
Like Tracy, Jackson looked to be well on the way to a productive career when injuries and illness derailed him. He's hitting well in the Dominican Winter League and probably won't be moved.
The Diamondbacks are willing to trade one of their youngish catchers and would prefer to deal Snyder, but they'd get more for Montero. Snyder's back is an issue and he's guaranteed over $10 million through 2011. Until he proves he's healthy, he's hard to trade.
Montero has star potential and isn't going anywhere unless the Diamondbacks are bowled over by an offer.
Reynolds's inclusion on this list might be something of a surprise given his career-year with 44 homers and feisty clubhouse demeanor, but he's due a huge raise as he's Super Two arbitration eligible and has holes in his game large enough to drive a caravan of Mack trucks through.
Reynolds struck out a whopping 223 times last year and is a rotten fielder at third base. If some interested party called about Reynolds, the Diamondbacks would listen. He might actually be an option for the Mets as a basher at the bottom of the lineup if they shifted him to first base. He murdered the ball at Citi Field to the tune of 4 homers and a .417 average in 16 plate appearances, so the cavernous dimensions didn't bother him at all. I'd check it out.
Young is due around $24 million through 2013 and was horrific last year. The only way they move him is if they take an Oliver Perez/Jose Guillen-type contract back in return.
Players to pursue:
Via free agency: 1B Adam LaRoche (Braves); INF/OF Kelly Johnson (Braves); RHP Danys Baez (Orioles); INF/OF Melvin Mora (Orioles); OF Rocco Baldelli (Red Sox); LHP Joe Beimel (Rockies); 1B Jason Giambi (Rockies); RHP Jason Marquis (Rockies); RHP Kiko Calero (Marlins); 2B Ronnie Belliard (Dodgers); INF Orlando Cabrera (Twins); OF Johnny Damon (Yankees); OF/1B Xavier Nady (Yankees); RHP Justin Duchscherer (Athletics); RHP Pedro Martinez (Phillies); RHP Brett Myers (Phillies); OF Randy Winn (Giants); RHP Miguel Batista (Mariners); 1B Russell Branyan (Mariners); LHP Erik Bedard (Mariners); RHP Ben Sheets; INF Khalil Greene (Cardinals); INF/OF Mark DeRosa (Cardinals); RHP John Smoltz (Cardinals); RHP Jon Garland (Dodgers); OF Gabe Gross (Rays); RHP Chien-Ming Wang (Yankees); RHP Matt Capps (Pirates); OF Ryan Church (Braves); RHP D.J. Carrasco (White Sox)
There are bargains to be had even for a club with a limited payroll like the Diamondbacks. With their trades for Edwin Jackson and Aaron Heilman, the starting rotation is relatively deep. Heilman will finally get his wish and receive a chance to start; and Jackson is a perfect number 3 behind Bradnon Webb and Dan Haren.
The trade Josh Byrnes made for Jackson was ridiculed because he sent Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth away in the same deal and only got Jackson and Ian Kennedy back. I'm no fan of Kennedy in any way shape or form, but he could be a useful bullpen arm or back-end starter if he learns to keep his mouth shut.*
*Paging Mr. Gibson; Mr. Kirk Gibson to educate Mr. Kennedy----one way or the other.
As great an arm as Scherzer has, he's a closer, not a starter; and I was never all that enamored of Schlereth, who's gotten more attention than his talent warrants because his dad is the possible NFL Hall of Famer Mark Schlereth. Jackson will be more valuable than both. Mark my words.
LaRoche's current market is non-existent, but he's underrated at the plate and in the field.
The bullpen help out there is plentiful. Beimel fills the need for a lefty out of the pen; Baez is worth a roll of the dice; Batista and Smoltz can both start or relieve.
For veteran rotation help, they could try Bedard or Sheets. Marquis could find himself shut out of the big money he wants if he's still insisting on a multi-year contract. Pedro Martinez still wants to pitch and could be a neat fit in Arizona.
DeRosa is lowering his financial demands, but it's unlikely that he'll lower them enough for the Diamondbacks; it's still something to check on. He adds to any club on and off the field.
Via trade: OF Melky Cabrera (Yankees); OF Brett Gardner (Yankees); OF J.D. Drew (Red Sox); LF Carl Crawford (Rays); OF/1B Luke Scott (Orioles); 1B/3B Ty Wigginton (Orioles); 1B Lyle Overbay (Blue Jays); 2B Alexi Casilla (Twins); INF/OF/C Brandon Inge (Tigers); OF/3B/1B Miguel Cabrera (Tigers); 1B Paul Konerko (White Sox); OF Nelson Cruz (Rangers); RHP Brandon McCarthy (Rangers); RHP Brandon Morrow (Mariners); RHP Joe Blanton (Phillies); OF Cody Ross (Marlins); 3B/1B Jorge Cantu (Marlins); 2B Dan Uggla (Marlins); OF Jordan Schafer (Braves); 1B Daniel Murphy (Mets); RHP Mike Pelfrey (Mets); RHP Bobby Parnell (Mets); OF Fernando Martinez (Mets); RHP Heath Bell (Padres); 1B Adrian Gonzalez (Padres)
If the Diamondbacks put Reynolds on the market, who knows what they could get back?
The Rays can deny his availability all they want, but they're not going to get anywhere in the talks for a contract extension with Crawford, so they'll chat about him. It may not happen until into the season, but Crawford is going to get traded and Byrnes is an aggressive and ballsy GM.
The Marlins have said they're not trading Cantu, but he can be had. Uggla would be a great addition for the Diamondbacks, as would Ross.
There were discussions between the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks for Overbay, who was drafted by Arizona; now that Roy Halladay's been traded, the Blue Jays will be able to get down to business in moving Overbay as well.
The Diamondbacks may have gutted their farm system to the point that they don't have enough to get Gonzalez, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
- An Amber Alert for Billy Beane's missing genius:
Is that an acquisition befitting a "genius"?
As much as I always knew that Moneyball was a farce, I still thought Athletics GM Billy Beane was a smart guy and one of the top tier club architects in baseball; but as the days pass and his maneuvers look more like those made of an increasingly unhinged man caving into the pressure and unrealistic expectations crafted by a cleverly articulated and twisted bit of creative non-fiction by an agenda-driven reporter----Michael Lewis, who literally knows nothing about baseball----Beane is spiraling downward faster than Tiger Woods.
For what possible reason do the A's need Coco Crisp?
And this is after Beane traded for journeyman Jake Fox; non-tendered Jack Cust two years after he should've traded him at peak value; and tried to sign Marco Scutaro to a 3-year contract for more money than he received from the Red Sox and was rebuffed because Scutaro wanted a chance to win. (Ouch.)
The number of people backing me up in the sentiment regarding Beane is rising; strangely, some are from schools-of-thought that should make us natural enemies. We've reached some common ground----ground in which we're wondering what Beane's doing and if even he knows.
Has the playing field leveled to such a point that Beane is catering to the anarchy generally reserved for the Dayton Moores of the world? Has Beane resorted to just "doing stuff" for no reason and trying to use the tag of brilliance and protective cloak of numbers to shield him from criticism? If so, it's no longer working.
The appellation of genius is being stripped away in layers as the heady days of Moneyball and the so frequently cited stat-based "revolution"is dying a slow and painful death. So tired has become the floating and faulty statement of "well, he must know what he's doing" that even the hardest of the hard core stat zombies are looking at Beane with a jaundiced eye and askance gaze; and that, if nothing else, is the first sign of a long-awaited and expected crash.
Like Jor-EL in Superman, I warned the masses of this coming catastrophe.
I was ignored and ridiculed.
Now the Moneyball apocalypse is coming and the failure to heed my warning is contributing to the inevitable downfall.
Go elsewhere for pity and sympathy because you won't find it here. The house of cards is crumbling and nothing can prevent the foreseen end. The only question that remains is whether Beane----his seat growing hotter and hotter----will be fired or allowed to save face by resigning. We'll know ten months from now after another year of carnage for the Athletics.
There's no one left to blame; no stats to be referenced as an explanation for these ridiculous decisions; no financial constraints blocking the Athletics success; no more Art Howes or Ken Machas to fire; no more slick talk to distract from the truth; not alibi artists to protect the prophet and implementer of sabermetrics who, along with Michael Lewis, created this out-of-control Frankenstein monster.
Beane set himself up for this fall. He contributed to it. He helped create it. And in most circles not a tear will be shed at the speed of his plummet. In an ironic morality tale on a level reserved for Shakespeare or Rod Serling, the Moneyball saga won't end any other way because it can't end any other way. It never could.
The Moneyball movie is on life support as is Beane's "genius" and nothing can save either of them now.
It's the only logical conclusion for such a fairy tale when the lightning strike of reality hits.
I think not.
The rats are abandoning the sinking ship.
They were warned.