Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On The High End, Part I

  • Cash to spend:

It's that time of year after the World Series ends and before the wheeling and dealing (such as it is) begins that I like to give my assessments of what each team needs to improve for the next season.

This has nothing to do with rumor, innuendo, making a big splash or what others (even the teams themselves) think they need to get better; nor does it have anything to do with the "experts" at ESPN, Mike Francesa, Michael Kay, Joel Sherman or whomever; it's what I see as their weaknesses and strengths and what they can and should do (practically on and off the field) to take the next step or maintain.

The next step might not mean becoming an immediate World Series contender; for certain teams who are talented (like the Blue Jays for example), that might be 2-3 years away; no, it means looking at their finances, their roster, their on-field product, and what's available via trade or free agency and making a determination of what they should do.

I'm dividing it up into different categories than simple divisions or leagues. Today, I'll deal with teams who had a high-end payroll in 2010; by"high-end", I mean over $120 million.

I'll handle three teams per day. Therefore, rudimentary math indicates I should be done by May 16th. (Check with a stat zombie to make sure my calculations are correct.)

Let's take a look.

New York Yankees

Free agents: Lance Berkman; Chad Gaudin; Derek Jeter; Nick Johnson; Austin Kearns; Chad Moeller; Andy Pettitte; Royce Ring; Mariano Rivera; Marcus Thames; Javier Vazquez; Kerry Wood.

Players available via trade: Jorge Posada; A.J. Burnett; Joba Chamberlain.

What they need: a defensive minded catcher; starting pitching; bullpen help; a reliable DH bat; a stronger bench.

Players to pursue via free agency: Cliff Lee; Adam Dunn; Gerald Laird; Grant Balfour; Rod Barajas; Miguel Batista; Erik Bedard; Brandon Webb; Randy Choate; Craig Counsell; Pedro Feliciano; Eric Hinske; Felipe Lopez; Melvin Mora; Miguel Olivo; Micah Owings; Dennys Reyes; Joe Beimel; J.C. Romero; Jim Thome; Hisanori Takahashi; Yorvit Torrealba; Hiroki Kuroda.

Players to pursue via trade: Ben Zobrist; Leo Nunez; Andrew Miller; Tim Byrdak; Wandy Rodriguez; Casey Blake.

Some of the names are obvious as to whom the Yankees are going to keep or let go. Jeter and Rivera will be back in pinstripes; Pettitte seems legitimately undecided as to what he's going to do----personally, I feel he'll return for another year. Wood might come back as a set-up man.

The Yankees would love to be rid of Posada and they'd be able to move him to a club who needs a catcher who can hit and DH occasionally (the Mariners for example), but the hard-headed Posada is not going to waive his no-trade clause to Seattle; maybe he'd okay a trade to the Angels. Realistically, Posada's going nowhere.

Chamberlain can be had, but they're not giving him away.

Unless the Yankees took Barry Zito's contract back, they're not going to be able to trade Burnett.

Dunn would be a less-expensive fit for the lineup as a DH than signing Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth. He wouldn't be the focal point of the lineup; they could bat him second and his penchant for homering, striking out or walking would be perfect. He'd drive in Brett Gardner (presumably batting leadoff) with homers; he'd get on base in front of the bashers; he's hit 40-50 homers; and score 130 runs.

The idea of the rotating DH is like the bullpen-by-committee----it makes sense in theory, but never works in practice. I've advocated using a group of DHs with veterans and finding a solid utility player to play the position of the DH of the day, but am coming to believe that it doesn't work. The White Sox tried it last year and wound up DH-ing Mark Kotsay much of the time; you can't win with Mark Kotsay as your primary DH unless you have a power-laden lineup; and even then, it doesn't make sense. The Yankees need to get a legit DH along the lines of Dunn or Thome.

There's no reason to go into the benefits of signing Lee and I'm getting the impression the Yankees are not going to be denied in their pursuit.

I'm not sold on Jesus Montero being ready to take over as a semi-regular catcher. He'd hit in the big leagues immediately, but handling the pitching staff rife with stars and lunatics? I'm not sure; and I don't think Posada is the mentoring type to anyone who's a perceived threat. They need a veteran, defensive-minded catcher along the lines of Laird (whose younger brother is a top Yankees prospect), Torrealba or Olivo.

Another lefty out of the bullpen is a necessity. Choate, Byrdak, Reyes and Romero could serve as an inexpensive lefty specialist to go with Boone Logan. Takahashi would be a big asset for a title-contending team with his versatility and fearlessness.

Boston Red Sox

Free agents: Adrian Beltre; Kevin Cash; Bill Hall; Felipe Lopez; Victor Martinez; Jason Varitek.

Players available via trade: Jonathan Papelbon; J.D. Drew; Daisuke Matsuzaka; Mike Cameron; Jacoby Ellsbury.

What they need: a catcher; a bat who can play first or third base; bullpen help; a veteran closer; a big-name starting pitcher(?).

Players to pursue via free agency: Grant Balfour; Rod Barajas; Jayson Werth; Cliff Lee; Carl Crawford; Jason Frasor; Jeff Francis; Brandon Webb; Matt Guerrier; J.J. Putz; Lance Berkman; Gerald Laird.

Players to pursue via trade: David Wright; Jose Reyes; Adrian Gonzalez; Heath Bell; Joakim Soria; Leo Nunez; Prince Fielder.

I don't see the Red Sox going the same route with Beltre that they took with Mike Lowell after his 2007 World Series MVP performance and they had little choice but to keep him. Beltre's looking for big money and a long term deal on the market and will get it. Martinez is an interesting case in that the Red Sox can afford to keep him, but have their eyes on Gonzalez and want to keep any deal with Martinez on the short-term side. Plus he's not a particularly good defensive catcher. He might stay if no one matches what the Red Sox are willing to provide.

Can they trust Jarrod Saltalamacchia to stay healthy? I doubt it. They'll need a veteran who can handle the pitching staff and their lineup can carry a weak bat if they bring in a Gonzalez or a Fielder.

Because Kevin Youkilis is so versatile and can play third base as well as first, they can be open-minded in looking for another bat. Trading for Gonzalez or Fielder; or signing Berkman are options.

Werth has already been contacted by the Red Sox, but they have a glut of outfielders; presumably, they'd trade among the group of Drew, Cameron and Ellsbury; Werth will be expensive, but David Ortiz's contract comes off the books after next year.

They'd love to be rid of Matsuzaka and an incentive-laden deal on a starter coming back from injury makes sense; Webb and Francis fall into this category.

Papelbon and the Red Sox haven't come to agreement on a long-term contract; they're going to have to pay him a lot of money in arbitration after he made nearly $10 million in 2010; he's a free agent after 2011; he's worn out his welcome; and they have Daniel Bard ready to take over. I think they're looking to deal Papelbon and will need to sign someone who can handle the duties if Bard falters. Putz is out there and Bell can be had in a trade.

The Red Sox have not been linked with Lee in any way, but I don't count them out for numerous reasons. One, they could fit him into the budget if they're creative; two, they love pitching and Lee along with what they already have would be devastating; three, worst case scenario, they'll run the amount of money the Yankees have to pay to get him higher than would be normal in the form of a collateral attack against their rivals; and four, they'd like a little payback after the way the Yankees swiped Mark Teixeira out from under them.

Never discount the aggressiveness, guts and intelligence of the Red Sox.

Chicago Cubs

Free agents: Bob Howry; Xavier Nady; Bobby Scales.

Players available via trade: Alfonso Soriano; Kosuke Fukudome; Carlos Zambrano; Carlos Silva.

What they need: a bat at first base; solid starting pitching; a set-up man.

Players to pursue via free agency: Grant Balfour; Adam Dunn; Lance Berkman; Hiroki Kuroda; Carl Pavano; Jake Westbrook; Jon Garland; Kevin Correia; Hisanori Takahashi; Brandon Webb; Jeff Francis; Aubrey Huff; Adam LaRoche; Nick Johnson; Paul Konerko; Lyle Overbay; Scott Downs; Jason Frasor; Jon Rauch; Arthur Rhodes; Scot Shields; Dan Wheeler; Kerry Wood.

Players to pursue via trade: Adrian Gonzalez; Prince Fielder; Jonathan Broxton; Joba Chamberlain.

With certain teams, a dearth of free agents would be a good thing; with the Cubs, it's not a good thing.

Saddled with prohibitive contracts like those of Soriano, Zambrano and Fukudome, there's little room for movement with these players. I'm understandably hesitant to believe in Zambrano's excellent final month after a mostly awful year; Fukudome has some attributes like getting on base and a flair for the dramatic that make him an intriguing trade possibility. Soriano's going nowhere.

The Cubs foundation isn't as bad as some believe and they can get better fast. Mike Quade did an admirable job after taking over for Lou Piniella. With money to spend and chips to trade, the Cubs can make a move on a short-term option like Gonzalez or Fielder; they need a first baseman and have been linked with Dunn; it's unlikely Konerko would move across town.

They need a veteran, durable starting pitcher and Garland, Westbrook or Kuroda would fill this need. They could use a veteran bullpen arm as a set-up man and Balfour racks up the strikeouts. Broxton might be available from the Dodgers and a combination of Broxton and Marmol in the late innings would be something to see.

  • Viewer Mail 11.10.2010:

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE broadcasters and the Mets:

Oh, the agony in having to choose Miller/Morgan over Buck/McCarver!!!

As for the Mets' front office, I feel like this was all done to make your life miserable, Prince... or at least, more interesting. With all those zombies wandering CITI Field's offices, it'll be a big challenge to see them succeed.

Honestly, I'm fine with it; as I said yesterday, I believe they've learned the hard lesson of trying and failing to live up to expectations crafted by a tale steeped in fantasy.

Here's the relevant issue: considering how things have degenerated for the Mets from the near-miss in 2006 (don't say it!!!) to the collapse in 2007; to the loss in 2008; to the devastation of 2009; and the embarrassing off-field stuff in 2010, how much worse can they be?

They've got a structure now and that could be construed a a "broken window" campaign in fixing the little things to filter into the big things. Everyone appears to be on the same page.

Joe writes RE Joe Buck:

I am one of the few that doesn't mind Buck, I guess. But Miller is actually good. Buck reminds me of great things in 2004, so maybe that is why. But Morgan is actually good. Hmmm...

I see that I received a comment from Joe and expect some kind of something about the praise I lavished on the Red Sox yesterday, and get something about Joe Buck.

Morgan is good?!? Entertaining, maybe; good, no.

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

I thought the same thing about Buck and McCarver - THEY'RE the ones I want dumped. Joe Morgan was annoying but benign, as far as I was concerned, and he gave off a nice guy vibe. And I've always liked Jon Miller despite the pronunciation thing. He's a HOF broadcaster who does a great job for the Giants and on the national radio broadcasts. I'll miss him.

I can't get past Miller's pre-planned shticky metaphors; they're lame.

Morgan is annoying, but gave us pleasure by annoying us.

Mike Fierman writes RE the Mets and Moneyball:

I've been wondering how you would handle this and then when DePodesta's name came out as the last in the unholy trinity I really thought you'd flip out. and maybe you have. but what you write makes me think you are actually pleased with this team, despite your obsession about that book- maybe this will signal you moving on...
good work!

The rare and welcome comment from loyal soldier, YanktheMike.

I want Sandy Alderson to hire people with whom he's comfortable and he clearly prefers the likes of J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta surrounding him; Wayne Krivsky----who I respect----is still there too.

I'm waiting until they start doing things before judging, but Alderson's passion, confidence and refusal to back down to the media has me enthusiastic. Unlike the heady days following Moneyball, I get the idea that the focus is on building the team rather than promulgating a myth.

It's not an obsession as much as it's a voice doing battle with twisted assumptions that the book was factual; and with the movie coming out, I can't walk away until what I'm saying is heard.

I was on with Sal at the Sportsfan Buzz last Wednesday talking about the World Series; Cliff Lee; Derek Jeter; and other stuff. You can listen directly here; or download it from I-Tunes on Sal's site here.


Joe said...

I meant Miller again. It was for emphasis. That is the 2nd time I put Morgan instead of Miller in the past two days.

She-Fan said...

Randy Choate? The Yankees already went that route and it didn't work out. I know that doesn't rule him out (Nick Johnson, Javy Vazquez), but I can't imagine the Yankees would bring him back. That said, they do need another lefty in the pen!

mike fierman said...

I couldn't agree more about that having a revolving door at DH is a terrible idea. I'm also worried that Jorge is going to make a bad DH. it's never suited him up until now and the truth is only certain players can excel at it. I wish they would sign Dunn more than anyone else other than Lee this year, but he does seem determined to play the OF in the NL.

and yeah i'll start commenting here since I won't be living on twitter as much now during the off season.

Gabriel said...

I think Papelbon has a realistic chance of playing in Toronto next year. John Farrell was his coach, and the Jays need a closer.

Jeff said...

If you wanna see grown men cry, find a way for Kerry Wood to get back to the Northside.

In reference to your "lunatics" remark on the Yankees pitching staff, I can only think of one: Burnett. Are there others I'm missing? Expound as you see fit. I enjoy calling out lunatics.

Joe said...

Gabriel, Papelbon will make roughly $12 million. I can't see the Jays investing that kind of money into a closer. Heck, I can't see the Red Sox investing that kind of money into one (nor do I want them to). And if they did, then I'd want one more reliable than Papelbon. But it looks like he will stick around, unfortuantely. Just for the record, for less money, I would be fine having him again.