- Shifting cash; shifting priorities:
Yesterday, with a scalpel and other several medieval torture devices (AKA the sharp talons inherent in my manipulation of the English language), I diagnosed and dissected what three big money teams----$120 million payroll and above----needed to do to improve their fortunes. Now, here are the other three.
What they need: Bullpen help; a solid back-end starter; a veteran fourth outfielder who can play regularly if necessary.
Players to pursue via free agency: Brian Bannister; Erik Bedard; Jeremy Bonderman; Kevin Correia; Jorge de la Rosa; Justin Duchscherer; Jon Garland; Hiroki Kuroda; Brad Penny; Jake Westbrook; Grant Balfour; Miguel Batista; Joaquin Benoit; Randy Choate; Joe Beimel; Jesse Crain; Scott Downs; Jason Frasor; Brian Fuentes; Pedro Feliciano; Dan Meyer; Dennys Reyes; Jeff Francoeur; Eric Hinske; Austin Kearns; Magglio Ordonez; Hisanori Takahashi; Willie Harris.
As they're currently constructed, the Phillies will be a contender without doing anything for next year aside from finding a lefty reliever amongst the journeymen----Beimel, Reyes, Feliciano, etc.----currently available. But if they want to position themselves as World Series favorites, it might take a couple of bold moves to make it assured.
Lidge is a free agent after next year and his up-and-down mental and physical states make him a massive risk as the closer for a championship-hungry team. Could the Phillies come to some kind of determination that they'd like to get rid of Lidge, possibly go after another battle-tested closer like Papelbon and take Mike Cameron to function as insurance in case Domonic Brown falters?
It's something to think about especially if the Red Sox sign Jayson Werth. (Speaking of whom, there's no chance the Phillies keep him. None.)
Apart from a trade, there are plenty of competent fourth outfielders out there who'd be inexpensive and able to play semi-regularly. There's been talk of the Phillies having interest in reuniting with Aaron Rowand----why, I'm not sure. He's pricey ($24 million remaining through 2012) and hasn't played well for the Giants.
Rollins's game has been declining for three years now and it's not going to get any better. He's a free agent after 2011 and, knowing him, he'll start squawking about his contract status by mid-April if he gets off to a good start; he's not expensive next year ($8.5 million) and does not have a no-trade clause. For all the talk of J-Roll's "swagger" and "leadership", the team played amazingly well without him; and his confidence appears to be diminishing with his game.
I'd try to move him if I could swing a deal for Drew.
For a player perceived to have had a "bad" year, Raul Ibanez still had 58 extra base hits; his contract is coming off the books after 2011; presumably, they could trade him if they were motivated enough, but it's unclear what they'd get for him aside from someone else's headache.
There are many durable starting pitchers who would slide in behind the big three of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. The idea that the Phillies will make a play for Cliff Lee and get him is ludicrous. Forget it.
New York Mets
Free agents: Henry Blanco; Elmer Dessens; Jesus Feliciano; Pedro Feliciano; Mike Hessman; Fernando Nieve; Hisanori Takahashi; Fernando Tatis; Raul Valdes.
What they need: a manager; starting pitching; bullpen help; a second baseman; a veteran catcher; a stronger, more versatile bench.
Players to pursue via free agency: Hiroki Kuroda; Kevin Correia; Doug Davis; Jon Garland; Rich Harden; Kevin Millwood; Jeff Francis; Aaron Harang; Grant Balfour; Miguel Batista; Randy Choate; Joe Beimel; Jason Frasor; Matt Guerrier; Jesse Crain; Ron Mahay; Micah Owings; Dan Wheeler; Scot Shields; Dan Meyer; David Eckstein; Orlando Hudson; Felipe Lopez; John Buck; Gerald Laird; Victor Martinez; Miguel Olivo; Yorvit Torrealba; Jason Varitek; Eric Hinske.
Before anything else, the Mets need to find a manager; I've gone into the subject before and they've interviewed numerous quality candidates. Instead of saying who I would hire, I'll say who I wouldn't hire among the vast array of characters who've come and gone----I am against Clint Hurdle and Wally Backman.
Aside from one magical month, Hurdle doesn't even deserve to be classified as mediocre while managing the Rockies. Every year it was 75 wins or less; and the team had some talent to work with.
With Backman, it's a simple matter of cohesiveness. Backman is aggressive and on-the-edge professionally and personally. His style would be the antithesis of that which Sandy Alderson espouses. It wouldn't work.
The Mets are being refurbished with the new front office of Alderson, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi. Perez's contract is immovable; they might be able to deal Castillo and Beltran; no one's taking K-Rod. They'll listen to offers on any and all players including Wright and Reyes.
With the foundation they have in place, they're not that far off from being pretty good and with a little luck they could contend for a playoff spot as early as next year. Johan Santana's status is uncertain after shoulder surgery and they need starting pitching. I'd go hard after Kuroda; roll the dice (within reason) on Harden; and look seriously at veterans like Garland.
There are productive and presumably affordable bullpen arms like Wheeler; and there are pitchers who are coming off down years after solid careers who are worth a shot. Shields was terrific for the Angels as the man who did the heavy lifting in front of K-Rod; Meyer is a lefty who pitched well for the Marlins in 2009.
The Rays are slashing payroll and perhaps Zobrist could be had. I'd check in on Aaron Hill with the Blue Jays.
If the Mets are intent on giving Josh Thole a shot to catch every day, they need a veteran who can play semi-regularly. I'm a fan of Doumit; but there are veterans like Laird and Buck out there.
I'd check in on Victor Martinez and consider using Thole as a trade chip, though Martinez is an unlikely solution for the Mets.
Players available via trade: Rick Porcello; Armando Galarraga; Carlos Guillen.
What they need: a catcher who can hit; a productive DH; starting pitching.
Players to pursue via free agency: Cliff Lee; Jayson Werth; Victor Martinez; Miguel Olivo; Yorvit Torrealba; Jason Varitek; A.J. Pierzynski; Carl Pavano; Doug Davis; Jon Garland; Aaron Harang; Javier Vazquez; Jake Westbrook; Hiroki Kuroda; Jim Thome; Adam Dunn; Vladmiir Guerrero.
Players to pursue via trade: Joe Blanton; Ben Zobrist; Aaron Hill; Zack Greinke; Dan Uggla; Prince Fielder; Adrian Gonzalez; Hunter Pence; Wandy Rodriguez; Ryan Doumit; Casey Blake; Russell Martin; Jorge Posada.
The Tigers have money to spend and owner Mike Ilich is willing to spend it. Linked with Victor Martinez, the Tigers have the hole behind the plate; the willingness to pay him and deal with his defensive lapses and the Red Sox won't want to get into a bidding war to keep Martinez; I believe Martinez will end up in Detroit.
Absent of that, there are some viable trade/free agent options behind the plate. They can ask about Posada, but he won't waive his no-trade clause. Doumit can hit and the Pirates have a catcher in Chris Snyder; they've been playing Doumit in the outfield, but they're better served trading him. Olivo and Torrealba are serviceable at the plate and defensively.
Would the tension that Pierzynski carries around in his equipment bag transfer from the White Sox to the rival Tigers? Could and would manager Jim Leyland want to deal with Pierzynski? I doubt it.
The Tigers aren't actively trying to trade Porcello, but there were rumors that he might've been in play last season and perhaps he could center a trade for Greinke.
Would the Tigers jump in on Lee? It's a pretty expensive proposition, but they have money coming off the books and, as I said earlier, are going to spend. I doubt the Tigers wind up with Cliff Lee.
There are viable options to bolster the starting rotation; the Tigers big ballpark would suit homer-happy types who wouldn't be expensive along the lines of Harang, Pavano and Garland.
DH bats available like Dunn, Thome and Guerrero would be reasonably priced and are good clubhouse men. It's worth it to check in with the Dodgers and see what the asking price for Martin is; and presumably the Dodgers would like to trade Blake.
- A note about Gold Gloves:
The American League and National League Gold Glove Awards were presented in the past two days. You can see the list of winners here on the front page of Baseball-Reference.com.
I'm not getting into agreement or disagreement here; I don't follow each and every team that closely to be able to determine one way or the other as to which awards were deserved and which weren't; but the stats for fielding are still evolving.
I got a lot of mileage over the ravaging Jason Bay took for his "substandard" defense when the Red Sox let him go and he looked fine while playing for the Mets. Stat zombies, who'd pointed to his poor UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) as a justification for the belief that his defense was poor, looked foolish during the season when the calculations changed and----guess what?----Bay wasn't that bad!!!
Many times the award is based on word-of-mouth or a few sterling plays rather than consistency and overall worthiness. It is what it is and it's hard to quantify.
One thing that's always bothered me though is the practice of having more than one center fielder winning the Gold Glove for outfielders. The American League didn't do that this year, but the National League did with two center fielders----Michael Bourn and Shane Victorino----both winning. To me, that's the same as having two shortstops win the award.
I used to get angry----literally angry----when Mets left fielder Kevin McReynolds got snubbed every year because he lost out to center fielders while McReynolds was the best defensive left fielder in baseball.
Before they find a way to measure defense accurately and fairly, they need to fix the problems that have existed for years and the practice of more than one center fielder getting the awards for outfielders is first on the list.
- Viewer Mail 11.11.2010:
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE lefty relievers:
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!
Choate's been up-and-down; he never got a truly fair chance with the Yankees and Joe Torre's short leash for non-stars or players who weren't "Joe's guys"; but he's lefty; and he's breathing. He'll have a job forever if he wants one. See Tony Fossas.
Mike Fierman writes RE the rotating DH:
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.
I don't think the idea itself is bad, but I haven't seen it work.
You're right to be concerned about Posada. He's very temperamental and hard-headed; he won't ever admit that the issues with the pitchers have been his fault and I would tend to agree with him that he only bears a portion of the responsibility for the contentiousness; I don't blame him at all for Joba Chamberlain or A.J. Burnett.
I get the feeling Dunn's going where the money is highest. Period.
But Mike, Twitter's funnier in the off-season!!
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.
I think Wood ends up staying with the Yankees.
I was referring to Burnett of course, but also Joba Chamberlain----the fist pumping and paranoia after the way the Yankees have jerked him around has only made an emotional player worse. I wouldn't besurprised if Posada had to be kept from giving him a beating several times----and it might've been the best thing for him.
Gabriel (Acting Underboss) writes RE Jonathan Papelbon:
I think Papelbon has a realistic chance of playing in Toronto next year. John Farrell was his coach, and the Jays need a closer.
Joe writes in response to Gabriel:
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, unfortunately. Just for the record, for less money, I would be fine having him again.
I agree with Joe. I don't see the Blue Jays spending big on a closer especially with the organization packed with pitching as it currently is. They survived with Kevin Gregg and I'd expect them to make a similar short-term move on someone inexpensive or available like Bobby Jenks or simply move forward with someone they already have. Casey Janssen might be a good closer.
Plus, as much as the Red Sox want to get rid of Papelbon, I doubt they'd trade him within the division; he wasn't that bad last year----at least not bad enough where they'd trade him to a divisional opponent so they get a few whacks at him.
You're better off with the Blue Jays continuing down the road they're currently on and building organically rather than run before they can walk. They're on the right track.
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.