Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Mets Off-Season Gets Better And Better (Seriously)

  • If the Mets do something, it'll be a bigger win:
Is it possible to have a productive off-season while watching sitting around and watching rivals make tragic blunders and simultaneously biding one's time to get quality on the cheap?

We're in the process of finding out as the Mets have done next-to-nothing this winter while both the Phillies and Braves have made bizarre maneuvers to weaken themselves and open a chasm big enough for an elephant to walk through for the Mets to jump right back into contention.

I went into great detail last week of the various missteps taken by the Phillies as they've traded one ace (Cliff Lee) for another (Roy Halladay); brought in a second baseman to play third base (Placido Polanco); short-sightedly exercised Jimmy Rollins's 2011 contract option out of fear more than anything else; and have yet to address glaring issues in the bullpen and back of their rotation.

Now, in the space of 24 hours, the Braves have taken a team that was well-positioned to reclaim their throne from the 1991-2005 and dragged themselves back to the pack with two deals that make absolutely no sense at all. The trade of Javier Vazquez to the Yankees for Melky Cabrera and two minor leaguers was a salary dump, plain and simple. What was worse though, was GM Frank Wren's insistence that he was going to bring in an impact bat to bolster the Braves lineup. A basher is exactly what the Braves needed even without Vazquez; and Wren's solution was to sign....Troy Glaus.


Troy Glaus?

If I were a Braves fan, I'd be livid.

Melky Cabrera has a flair for the dramatic and is useful, but he's not an impact player. Then the clear decision to jettison Adam LaRoche in favor of Glaus isn't just bewildering, it's absurd. When healthy, Glaus has been a productive player----but that's the key, when he's healthy. At age 33 and having missed almost the entire 2009 season with shoulder surgery, Glaus is a player who's signed to roll the dice in an attempt to bolster an already strong lineup. In fact, it would've made more sense for the Phillies to sign Glaus instead of Polanco to play third; but for the Braves? No way.

It's not just the injuries that would concern me with Glaus; it's that he was outed as having failed a PED test in the Mitchell Report. Steroid and HGH users tend to start having injury problems to areas such as the shoulders, ankles and wrists that are more difficult from which to recover than a simple hamstring pull. It could be that Glaus's body is breaking down; the days of players being able to perform into their middle-30s are long gone. Is this really Wren's idea of an "impact" bat?

The Braves are a team that was one power bat away from being the best team in the National League----and by power bat, I'm talking about Miguel Cabrera; Adrian Gonzalez; or even a flawed player like Adam Dunn, from whom an interested club would know what they're getting. Instead, to inhabit the opposite infield corner from the injury-prone Chipper Jones, the Braves sign Glaus. The returning from surgery Carlos Delgado would've been a better option than Glaus for probably the same money ($2 million guaranteed plus incentives). This is a big mistake for the Braves.

What's worse is that they're providing hollow excuses for the bizarre machinations of the past several days. It's obvious that there are very serious financial restraints hampering the Braves from doing the drastic things that need to be done to import that power bat. They're mentioning young Freddie Freeman as their first baseman of the future who might be ready by 2011 and that they didn't want to block his path by going long-term with LaRoche; well, Freeman is 19 and struggled in a brief trial at Double A last season. Are they expecting him to be ready to take over in a year's time?

The "centerpiece" to the Vazquez trade is supposedly Arodys Vizcaino, who just turned 20. Are the Braves trying to win now or in 2013?

All of this is emanating from the same organization that just signed Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner for their bullpen at a combined $10 million; are on the hook with Jones for $39 million through 2012; gave Tim Hudson a $28 million extension after he pitched in seven games returning from Tommy John-surgery and, objectively, pitched okay, not great and not bad; and have a guaranteed $58 million going to Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami.

These are not examples of dollars well-spent since they haven't got any money left to make that one addition they needed to launch themselves into title contention.

Who's to blame for this?

Ownership will bear the brunt of public ridicule, but the same ownership okayed the above deals; are they to blame for the misallocation of money on players in their late 30s? I said at the time the Jones contract----based on loyalty and severance----would come back to haunt them, and so it is. Is GM Frank Wren responsible? Team president John Schuerholz? Who?

Like the Phillies with their incomprehensible decision to trade one ace for another rather than address issues, the Braves have weakened themselves from what they could've been. A few weeks ago, I said the Braves were an underrated championship contender, now they're still one of the better teams in the National League, but rather than other teams having to catch up to them, they've come crawling back to the pack through their own faulty judgements. They've done this to themselves.

If I were advising the Mets, Giants, Cardinals, Rockies, Dodgers and other teams that were watching with concern as to what the Phillies and Braves were doing, I'd tell them to simply shrug and let them continue to step on one landmine after another. Take the gifts bestowed upon you, because they just keep on coming.

Note: Yesterday I said it was GM Frank Wren who made the decision to trade for Mark Teixeira from the Rangers in 2007 when it was in fact John Schuerholz who made that trade in the waning days of his tenure as GM.

  • Angels sign Fernando Rodney:

The Angels strategy has always been to spend their money on pitching----starting and relieving----before anything else. While they need a power bat, they've bolstered their bullpen by signing former Tigers closer Fernando Rodney to a 2-year, $11 million deal. Rodney throws very, very hard and is a viable replacement for Brian Fuentes as closer if Fuentes again struggles.

I'm not the biggest fan of Rodney despite his high-90s fastball. He gives up a lot of home runs and sometimes loses the strike zone, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia has been able to coax good performances from veteran bullpen pickups, so Rodney will be of use.

What I'm wondering about is where this leaves Scot Shields. Shields was the unheralded hero of the Angels bullpen for years and is recovering from knee surgery. Once the best and most durable set-up man in baseball, Shields's absence cost the Angels dearly in the playoffs against the Yankees. It was Shields who was the key for the Angels as he did the bulk of the heavy lifting in the late innings allowing Francisco Rodriguez to rack up the saves. He's expected to be ready for 2010, but obviously, the addition of Rodney moves Shields up to the seventh inning instead of the eighth.

I'd trust Shields more than both Rodney and Fuentes any day of the week.

  • Viewer Mail 12.24.2009:

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE the Blue Jays trade of Brandon League for Brandon Morrow:

I like League. He would work as a great setup man, provided he finds his 2008 control. I don't know about Morrow, but I'm preparing for a long, long season with the Blue Jays' rotation filled with youngsters.

I love League's fastball, but I've been waiting for years for him to become more than what he's been----an occasionally useful reliever with a power fastball of nearly 100 mph----and he hasn't. Trust me when I tell you, you've got a winner in Morrow. Out from under the Tim Lincecum albatross and the way the Mariners jerked him around, he's going to be a big winner if the Blue Jays do what's right and make him a starter. He could be a solid number 2 easily.

On another note, after rumors had the minor leaguer the Blue Jays were sending the newly acquired Brett Wallace to Seattle as the minor leaguer, it's actually minor league outfielder Yohermyn Chavez , a 20-year old, 6'3", 200 pounder with good numbers.

I wouldn't get too down about the Blue Jays future. Alex Anthopolous is starting to look like he knows what he's doing and they're loaded with pitching. The division's hell, but they'll be respectable with a couple more smart moves.

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Ryan Church, Jeff Francoeur and the Braves:

"Melky not Miguel" -- Funny stuff!

I look forward to seeing the "bag-of-balls-off" competition between Francoeur and Church through a whole season. So far, Francoeur is way ahead. The dude actually has a job.

Church doesn't, nor did he ever, have Francoeur's physcial gifts. No matter what happens, making that move was brilliant on the part of the Mets. Someone will sign Church and they'll get what any team gets from Ryan Church, good defense; a homer here and there; brainlock; and frustration. Trust me on that.

Phillies Outsider writes RE the Javier Vazquez trade:

I think this trade is just does nothing to stop the Phillies repeating as NL East champs again...
Merry Christmas to you and your family, hope you have fun and enjoy...:-)

What about the Metropolitans?!?


Gabriel said...

I know the Blue Jays someday will be good. They have a pretty good young team, and we are always praying for Vernon Wells.

Merry Xmas to all your dearest from the Gutierrez family.

She-Fan said...

The Angels will have their hands full with the Mariners this year. Matsui will be a great addition to their lineup but after losing Lackey, I wonder about their pitching.

Joe said...

The Glaus signing is a good move. I know that he may get hurt or be ineffective, but it is only $2 million. If they don't make another move, then I question what they are doing, as Vazquez probably should have landed them a solid hitter. But Glaus, for cheap, who can play two positions--and that means fill in for Chipper when he misses time, if of course Glaus isn't missing time as well--is a good move to me.