What the hell?
Update: In case anyone didn’t notice, the Mets traded for Francoeur. This is just as bad as me hooking up with a 300 lb. girl with six kids.
Keep in mind that I’ve been drinking tonight, and I joked about Jeff Francoeur being traded earlier in the day, after that strange Betancourt deal went down. But still. Wow.
What the fuck is Omar Minaya thinking? Either that or I need some more Blue Moon.
Livan the Good Life
A small bit of news from yesterday, the Mets signed Livan Hernandez (formerly with the Rockies and Twins) to a minor league deal worth about 1MM (not sure about all the stipulations.) Hernandez surprisingly won 13 games last year, however the 6.05 ERA was bad and the 1.67 WHIP was worse. He gave up 257 hits last year in only 180 innings! On the plus side, Hernandez is a true innings eater, and he has won at least ten games in nine seasons straight.
I don’t view Hernandez as a viable option, however the Mets did the right thing which is add more depth to the back end of their rotation. He’s also united with his brother Orlando Hernandez, who is planning on restarting his career as a reliever. Still Livan should be buried under the team’s depth chart. Jon Niese pitched well in his late season debut last season, and they gave a good chunk of incentive coin to Freddy Garcia. However the team would be best letting Tim Redding handle the bulk of the end of the rotation starts.
Recent Signings Roundup
A number of small deals were done these past weeks, and obviously I’m not able to comment on them as they each come in. Any ways I’ll address the pros and cons of these moves, and give each signing a grade as well, for kicks.
If there was a pitcher that I wished Baltimore would have signed, I was hoping it was him. Redding is a little better than a fourth starter, and as I brought up a few days ago, there was a great post up on Beyond the Box Score which goes into great detail explaining that. Any ways Redding is now part of the Mets’ property, and if you’re a Mets fan you shouldn’t be any happier about this signing.
Redding should be counted on for 180 innings in 2008, however a 4.30 ERA and 1.40 WHIP are a likelihood. Any ways this is a one year deal, and at 2.25MM they got a bargain. This move gives the Mets some more leverage against the Philies, and also weakens their divisional opponents the Washington Nationals (if that’s even possible.) Hopefully Redding can be used as the fourth starter, pushing Mike Pelfrey back to the fifth spot to cut down his workload from last season. If the Mets sign Oliver Perez or Derek Lowe, that would also help.
If you do a search, Theo Epstein also inked outfielders Mark Kotsay and Rocco Badelli to contracts this week (I’ll leave this as homework.) He also signed pitcher Brad Penny to a 5MM contract back in December as well. In either case with all of these deals, Boston got themselves quality outfield and pitching depth, and they didn’t over-pay for any of it. Smoltz and Penny are intriguing options themselves. If they revert back to their 2007 form this season, the Red Sox could be a dangerous team for an already difficult AL East. I know it’s a good problem to have, but Clay Buchholz is currently seventh on the team’s depth chart now. However I don’t see any reason why the team should trade him for catching.
The Brewers snagged themselves a solid ninth inning option, however they’ll be paying Hoffman 6MM in 2009; they had to give up an extra 2MM to convince him not to sign with the Dodgers.
Even in midst of the Padres’ abysmal season last year, Hoffman still managed to save 30 games, or roughly half of their team’s wins. Keep in mind that he’ll be moving out of the “cavernous” Petco, but that shouldn’t be a problem. 2008 was just a bad year in general for the Padres, Hoffman and everyone else included. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hoffman rebound nicely in 2009. There’s clearly some upside here.
He’ll get 2MM in 2009. It’s not a bad contract by any means (I expected Hairston to pick up more money), however he’ll be back for the Reds and is a good threat for 30 steals, 80 runs, double digit home runs and a .290 average. Hairston’s versatility is key here, as is can play any of the outfield positions as well (especially given that the team lost Ryan Freel back in December to the Orioles.) Hairston can also serve as a corner infielder if need be.
The irony about this deal is that the Padres signed his brother Scott Hairston to a 1.25 deal yesterday as well. Still, Hariston is a much better option than Willy Tavares.
Mets Acquire J.J. Putz in 12 Player Deal
Obviously I’m not sleeping either… I touched on this earlier, but the Mets officially acquired J.J. Putz from the Mariners as part of a three team deal. They signed free agent Francisco Rodriguez a day earlier for 37MM over three years. Per Rosenthal:
Under terms of the deal, the Mets get Putz, outfielder Jeremy Reed and reliever Sean Green from Seattle. The Mariners receive reliever Aaron Heilman, outfielder Endy Chavez, first baseman Mike Carp, and minor leaguers Maikel Cleto, Jason Vargas and Ezequiel Carrera from the Mets. They also get Franklin Gutierrez from the Indians and minor leaguers. The Indians get reliever Joe Smith from the Mets and infielder Luis Valbuena from Seattle.
I wonder if this counts as Jack Zduriencik’s first trade, but in either case I like it for the Mariners. I’ll wait for more info on the prospects (BA does a good roundup of this), but I’ve always been fond of Gutierrez. The Mariners also get a slew of pieces in this deal which can be plugged anywhere. From the Mets’ prospective, this deal plays out good for them as well. The last two innings are going to be solid for them next season, and they can still bridge the gap by picking up another arm on the market (e.g. Juan Cruz.) I’ve always been fond of Reed as well, and I think last year he finally started to live up to the high prospect tag that he had years ago. The Indians most-likely made this move to shed some salary, though Gutierrez isn’t arbitration eligible yet. They also get solid bullpen depth with Smith, who should be setting up for Kerry Wood (about to sign a two year, 20MM deal.)
In either case, a solid move on all fronts. Give Zduriencik some credit for selling high on Putz, especially with the market for closers being as saturated as it is.
Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon is best known for wanting to go year-to-year during his three arbitration years, which start in 2009. He’s also made it known that he wants to set the salary “standard” for closers. If going by today’s numbers, the highest total years for a closer went to B.J. Ryan (five years.) Total compensation? Both Ryan and Joe Nathan received 47MM in their deals. Highest average salary? That’s held by Mariano Rivera, who makes on average of 15MM per year on his contract signed before last season.
Papelbon presumably wants to exceed the numbers given above on all fronts, however the one thing to note: the demand for closers fell from last summer just as sharply as the demand for oil did. Tell this to Francisco Rodriguez, the Angels free agent closer who saved 62 games last year. He wanted 75MM over five years, and he’ll now get 37MM over three from the Mets. That’s less than the 37.5MM that Brad Lidge got from the Phillies earlier this year.
Kerry Wood is also expected to sign a modest deal with the Indians as well, only for two years. So it’s clear that the market is down for closers now, and if you were Jonathan Papelbon, what would you do? If Theo Epstein came to you with a four year deal for 28MM, would you accept? Keep in mind a four year deal would buy out his three arbitration years…
Salomon Torres to Retire
He considered it last year, however he made the decision to come back and save 28 games for the Brewers in 2008. As of now, Salomon Torres has finally decided to hang it up and retire after a career year.
The Brewers, like many teams, need a closer. Huston Street and J.J. Putz are apparently available via trade, and of course the free agency market features Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Fuentes. I’d prefer Fuentes, however I personally feel that K-Rod will end up in Milwaukee. I didn’t hear any rumors about this, it’s just my gut feeling. Besides, with the money off the roster now with Torres, Brian Shouse, Guillermo Mota and Eric Gagne leaving, they could handily take on a record contract for a closer. It’s not that I’d recommend that move by the way.
In regards to Shouse and Torres, it’s interesting to note that both of them played as far back as 1993, both of them had an extended hiatus after 1997 (on average of six years), and both of them were incredibly effective relievers for the Brewers last year. I actually remember Torres back when he was pitching on the near-playoff team that the Giants had in 1993 as a starter (they won 103 games.)
The Post-season Awards
Some of the individual awards are starting to come out this week as well. On Monday we saw the rookies, that is Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria and Chicago’s Geovany Soto, take home the Rookie of the Year trophies. Longoria won the award easily, though I think other rookies should have been placed higher over Jacoby Ellsbury. Soto was the clear choice since he played the ever-valuable catching position, however Joey Votto’s stats can’t be ignored.
Tim Lincecum took home the NL Cy Young today as well, though again you could easily make the case that Johan Santana could have got the award as well. Lincecum won two more games than Santana did, however that could have been attributed to the fact that his bullpen let him down more than Santana’s did. Then again, Lincecum’s offense let him down more than Santana’s did, so check mate. Still, I don’t quite understand how Brandon Webb got second place… wins at times tell very little about a pitcher’s season.
We get the manager awards tomorrow (yawn), then on Thursday get to see who will be crowned the AL Cy Young. Again this award should be Cliff Lee’s unanimously.
White Hot Posey
After yesterday’s 4-6 tear, Giants’ catching prospect Buster Posey is “en fuego” in the AFL. He’s currently hitting .515. He was the Giants’ first round pick (#5 overall) in the Amateur Draft this year, and would have been #1 overall by the Rays, had it not been for his supposed demands of a 12MM contract.
In regards to other hot prospects in the AFL, Orioles hurler Brian Matusz (drafted #4 overall) is also dominant. Still if either of these two players make it to the majors next season, I expect it to be Posey. I doubt that Baltimore would rush Matusz to the majors, though if he makes the strong case that might change. Still for Posey to reach the majors, the Giants will need to move Bengie Molina. Molina and his 95 RBI from last year might be a good match for the Mets.
Breaking: Tatis Re-signed
The Mets just re-signed Fernando Tatis for 1.7MM in 2009. Good move, and this all but for the most part eliminates the idea of them signing free agent Raul Ibanez. Tatis hit 11 homers last year, and either projects as a full-time outfielder, or will be featured against lefties. Still he won’t hit 34 homers again, and I thought he wasn’t arbitration eligible until 2010… (Correction, Tatis was a free agent and filed today. I thought he was still under team control.)
Jayson Nix and the White Sox
The White Sox signed Jayson Nix to a major league deal for 2009. He was supposedly an option for the Rockies at second base entering last year, however remained stuck in Triple-A and only hit .303/17/51 with a .964 OPS. Like Alexi Ramirez and Carlos Quinten, this is another excellent, under-the-radar move by Kenny Williams. I’ve always been high on both the Nix brothers (him and outfielder Lance Nix.)
The Nation At Loss, and the Mailbag
I watched the game last night (and had to listen to Buck Martinez, ugh), and in the end smiled. I’m proud of the Rays, proud of the fact that the American League team came from my favorite division, the AL East. I know that by not having the Nation and the Dodgers in the series, it’ll be a “ratings disaster” (to quote ESPN.) But I could care less, this will be a great series.
I wanted to comment on David Price. I think the sky’s the limit for him, and he’ll be to the American League next year what Tim Lincecum was to the National League this year. For a player who was drafted #1 overall last year to not be given an MLB contract, he progressed fairly quickly through the Rays’ system. Watching him save out the Rays’ ALCS made me think back to the 2006 series, when Adam Wainright was thrust into closing duties for the Cardinals against the Tigers. I also heard comparisons to how Francisco Rodriguez took the bull by the horns as well the last time the Angels were in the World Series.
Nonetheless, some fun facts about Price, there was a “what if” post on BP this weekend, asking what would have happened between one game in 2006 between the Tigers and the Royals, who essentially helped guarantee that Tampa Bay would get the #1 overall pick in 2007 (and choose Price.) Had the Royals gotten this pick, they would have presumably picked Price as well; pitchers like him are rare. Nothing against Mike Moustakas, whom I think will be fine (Sickels only gave him a A-), the Rays got the upper hand here. And to pour more salt in the wound between these two teams, Evan Longoria is looking like a better pick from the 2006 draft (drafted #3) than Luke Hovechar (overall #1, not that he won’t be a useful starter.) Now if only Tampa would have drafted better from the talented crop of players available in the 2005 draft (Mike Pelfrey, Cameron Maybin, Jay Bruce, Chris Volstad, Matt Garza, Joey Devine, Colby Rasmus and Jacoby Ellsbury were all drafted after Wade Townsend in the first round, a pitcher who probably won’t ever see the light of day. Then again, Chuck LaMar was running the franchise in 2005, and we all know what happened then.)
The Hendry Contract
The Cubs finally got things done today, even with sale of the organization looming, by giving Jim Hendry a four year extension today. Great move at it couldn’t have come any sooner. Now he can focus on resigning Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood, which hopefully he can do soon.
Hendry assembled the best team in the National League last year (winning percentage-wise, sorry Phillies fans.) The team’s three-and-out postseason wasn’t his fault, though he should have gave in a little to Andy MacPhail’s demands for Brian Roberts. He would have gotten two years from Roberts (who doesn’t hit free agency until ‘09), and would have got a hitter who could have brought life into the lineup in October, something Alfonso Soriano fails to do each and every time out.
The Late Innings Mail Bag Segment
I’m not sure what was said on MASN this past week, but I got three seperate emails asking me about the Orioles and their chances for signing free agent Oliver Perez. I honestly haven’t heard any rumors about this, and wouldn’t be too mum about the O’s signing this pitcher. Granted he’s a Scott Boras client, but he’s coming off a down year. Could he get 16MM a year like many were speculating this past Spring? I doubt it.
Back in August, I speculated that Perez would get 11MM-12MM this winter from the clubs. Of course now that Jake Peavy is available on the market, this changes everything (look what Erik Bedard, Johan Santana and Dan Haren did to the free agent starters, notably Kyle Lohse.) I could see Perez getting something more than the 41MM that Lohse got last month, but Boras would probably consider that selling low on his client. He might opt Perez to take a low term deal (two years or so) at 10MM a year to reestablish his value.
Personally I wouldn’t mind having a short-term deal on Perez, mainly since Baltimore has so much pitching coming up in the minors. Four years is too much, especially since Perez’s ERA would go up by a half run moving to the AL East. Four years of Jon Garland would be worse, much worse. And I think four years at 15MM per season for A.J. Burnett would be foolish. I know that Baltimore needs to bring in an arm to back Jeremy Guthrie in the rotation, but an innings-eater like Braden Looper would be more ideal. According to Buster Olney, the O’s are prepared to go on a spending binge this Winter, and Burnett and Mark Teixeira (MD natives) are in their crosshairs. I would love to have Teixeira, and given his track record and health he would make sense. However at 20MM a year, that’s too large of a percentage of the budget to allocate to one player, even if he would place fans in the seats at Camden Yards.
More on the Mets and Royals
To close, there was a rumor which came up about a possible swap between these two clubs for Luis Castillo and Jose Guillen. Actually these two teams have been talking. Guillen has 24MM owed over the next two, Castillo 18MM over the next three. Both would address holes on each team as well, with the Mets needing outfield help, and the Royals looking to sign a middle infielder (they’re interested in Rafeal Furcal.)
If that trade occurred, I would like it on both sides. I know that everyone is considering each signing a “bad contract” (you might want to lump Juan Pierre into this discussion), but it’s not the player’s fault that they received the money they did (point the fingers at the clubs here), especially given the fact that their 2008 numbers were indicative of their career norms.
My Thoughts on Brian Cashman (and NY GMs)
I can’t remember how many times in the past two years where we’ve heard interjections between the Steinbrenners and either Joe Torre or Brian Cashman. I can recall the 2007 playoffs, where George Steinbrenner came out and essentially said Torre’s ass was grass unless they advance past Cleveland. That obviously didn’t happen, they were gone in the first round in 2007, and Torre ultimately took an offer to manage the Dodgers.
Yes it is ironic that Torre is now in the playoffs, and the Yankees failed to make it (for the first time since 1996 nonetheless.) The reasons why they didn’t make it in 2008 were NOT Brian Cashman’s fault.
I’m obviously writing this because the Steinbrenner brothers inked Cashman to a three year deal this evening. Cashman simply put is an outstanding GM, one of the best. I’ve always respected the work he’s done, and assembling a team with an essentially infinite budget is not as easy as it seems.
Earlier this year, Hank Steinbrenner gave the word that they’ll be spending money this offseason, and return to the true Yankee way. There’s no reason to believe that they won’t. They have over 80MM in “toxic” assets coming off the books in November. Players such as Carl Pavano, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettite, Mike Mussina and Ivan Rodriguez are free agents. Some will return, though not at the salaries they were paid in 2007 (Mussina is a close bet to be paid the same as what he was.)
What the Yankees need to do is evaluate the free agents and see who would be the best fits. I made my suggestions, and I feel as though they should sign C.C. Sabathia (especially since they lost out on Johan Santana.) They should offer salary arbitration to all of their Type A free agents as well, and collect the supplemental draft picks that are offered to them after (and if) they leave. The team has been drafting poorly of late. This is one way to address that problem. The other way, improve international scouting.
Back in July, I honestly thought that the Yankees would be a playoff team in 2008. The reason why, it’s simple: Joba Chamberlain. It seems that once he went down, all the energy and momentum that this team had seemed to evaporate. Having young pitching is a good thing, relying on it too heavily is not. I have no doubt that Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes (who pitched very well in his last start of the season) will be solid parts of the Yankees’ rotation in the future, however Cashman should bring in a veteran starter or two to stabilize the rotation and provide competition. Chein Mein Wang is back, and Mussina and Pettite should hopefully be back as well. Pitching is crucial, and bringing in someone like Sabathia would be clearly huge here.
I honestly expect the Yankees to be back in the playoff picture in 2009. What happened to them this year was a fluke. They were be riddled with injuries, including Wang, Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez. Still they still are a solid core. A few more parts and they could be deadly. In closing I like the Cashman signing. I also like what Boston did with Theo Epstein and what the Mets did with Omar Minaya, that is by locking up each long term. It’s an interesting strategy. These GMs are under constant pressure all season long simply due to the markets that they play in. By doing these moves, hopefully some of the pressure is alleviated.
The NL Wild Card is for Chokers
Wow, thanks to the Orioles and their shitty September play, I’m now an alcoholic. I actually came up with a new drink which I’ve called “The Jamie Walker“. Ironically it has no Johnnie Walker, but it has a strong shot of whiskey in it. When watching the Orioles play, if you ever want to make a “Jamie Walker” do the following:
- Take a bottle of Miller Lite.
- Pour in a shot of Chivas Regal.
Bam motherfucker! Before you know it, after a few of these you’ll be watching good baseball, regardless of whether you’re watching the Cubs or the Nationals. And on the good side, you’ll be going through fewer cases of beer. Speaking of good baseball… I’m watching the Brewers and the Pirates play right now. At any other point of the season, this game would be a yawn-fest, however it’s a good one tonight.
So the Brewers made the oddball move and decided to start Yovani Gallardo. I honestly thought he’d be in the bullpen, but then again these are the Brewers. They’re tied at 1 with the Pirates in the eighth. Meanwhile, the Cubs are tied with the Mets in extra innings. The Astros are also winning, but after tonight should have zero chance of making the playoffs whatsoever. The Philies are off.
On an aside Gallardo looked rock solid. He struck out six of his first seven, and pitched four innings of one-run ball. That’s exactly what the Brewers were expecting. So now they can put Ben Sheets and his crutches on the mound on Friday, C.C. Sabathia pitching on two days rest on Saturday, and have Cal Eldred come out of retirement to pitch the finale on Sunday in that final crucial series against the Cubs. Yes these are the Brewers. They do good, choke, then do good again. And for some reason I still see none of these teams making the playoffs.
I wish I had a healthy Gallardo on my fantasy team, at least one of them (I think my best team will finish fifth this season in the one CBS Sportsline league I’m in.) My strategy year in and year out is draft starters early and often. Good hitting can be found on the waiver wire as the season progresses. I’m partially right. On average my teams were hitting .280 (good), but we were pitching to an ERA of 4.20 (bad) with a WHIP of 1.40 (worse.) I’ll try to get a new strategy for next year, however I’m a huge fan of Gallardo.
Earlier on this season, I said that Gallardo would post similar numbers to Tim Lincecum. Does that mean that Gallardo’d have 17 wins, a 2.60 ERA, chance at Cy Young, dead arm and case to file a claim of abuse on his manager like Lincecum does? Not exactly. However if healthy, he’s good. He’s very good.
A healthy Gallardo will mitigate the blow of Sabathia and Sheets leaving as free agents this offseason. He’s got ace potential. Seriously. If you’d take his 2008 numbers (over 4 starts) and pattern them across a full-season’s worth of starts (35 starts), you’d have the following line: 0-0 record, 1.88 ERA, 175 strikeouts in 210 innings, with a solid 1.25 WHIP.
(Note to Late Innings readers: the author is currently wasted.)
Sucks to be the Mets' Bullpen
It’s funny watching SportsCenter each night and they show the highlights of the Mets games. They take a 2-0 lead into the eighth inning, walk away with a 5-2 loss (like against the Pirates on Monday.) Every night it seems like it’s a different goat, whether it be Heilman, or Feliciano, or Sanchez, or Smith, the Mets’ pen is a disaster. Coming from an Orioles fan myself, I can feel their pain, especially after watching Baltimore relievers pitch last year:
I’m not sure what Omar Minaya can really do to improve the bullpen. He just acquired Luis Ayala from the Nationals on Sunday, and also signed free agent Al Reyes today. Still more needs to be done. I’m confused as to why they didn’t make a claim on David Weathers, or even work out a deal with some of the other available arms which passed through waivers, like Jamie Walker. I know the Rockies have been exposing their relievers like Brian Fuentes and Manny Corpas, but the odds of the Mets acquiring either is slim (especially with each being highly-overvalued at the non-waiver trading deadline back in July.) Minaya needs to do do something, especially with Billy Wagner unlikely to pitch again in 2008. The only other option is to have each of his starters throw a complete game, kind of what Milwaukee is doing with C.C. Sabathia. If Johan Santana was doing that himself, he’d be a 20 game winner currently, and would be the front-runner for the NL Cy Young award (not Brandon Webb.) Given the amount of games that the pen blew for Johan so far, I’m sure he’d approve this idea.
Haren Extension, other MLB blurbs
A few things built up since the last time I wrote here. I’ll iterate through these “unordered list” style, of course giving my inexpert analysis of each move.
The Diamondbacks locked up co-ace Dan Haren this evening with a five-year contract extension. I’m not exactly sure what Josh Byrnes and co. did in Arizona, but they for the most part pulled a “Johan Santana” and tore up Haren’s existing contract. His new deal will pay him roughly 58MM over the length of the contract, assuming the Diamondbacks suck up that 15.5MM club option for 2013. If Haren continues to pitch as well as he has, this will probably be exercised.
Haren’s good, and he’s finally getting paid market value. Billy Beane extended him for very cheaply, then he broke out last year (starting an All-Star game) and was sold high to the Diamondbacks for a cache of players. He’ll be 33 when his contract is over, so this is a great move for the Diamondbacks, considering the fact that the risk is lower here, and that Haren is currently 12-5 with a 2.75 ERA.
I’ve been a fan of Haren for years now. I remember when he was with the Cardinals and Baseball Weekly named him their minor league pitcher of the year. Maybe that was Bud Smith, I’m not sure, but it seems just right after that he was immediately shipped to the A’s for Mark Mulder. Any ways Haren didn’t come as cheaply as other recent young pitcher signings, however for an ace this is albeit a good deal. Now the real question is how in the world are they going to lock up Brandon Webb?
- Joba Chamberlain is hurt now (was watching it last night on ESPN), as is Billy Wagner. Any ways Ian Kennedy gets the starts, and I expect him to stick this time around. He hasn’t been in the minors too long, but he’s one of the better young finesse pitchers that I’ve seen. He’s bound to succeed as a #3 starter.
- Jamie Moyer impresses me. The same thing goes for Fernando Tatis. He’s now a regular, and after two more bombs he’s up to nine. He probably won’t hit 34 again, but it’s nice to see his resurgence. By the way, Rich Harden got hit hard in five plus tonight. He still struck out eight in the effort.
- In Baltimore, Adam “no relation to Pacman” Jones goes on the DL. After fouling that ball off his foot on Sunday, he apparently has some sort of fracture. He should finish the season on the DL with a .279/7/50 line. Not a bad chip to come for Erik Bedard. Speaking of the lopsided trade, George Sherrill should be shut down or used sparingly now. After his three walk effort last night (and that he’s at his seasonal innings total now), “Full Pack” is out of gas.
- The Rockies finally acquired a front line starter, picking up Livan Hernandez who was dumped by the Twins earlier this week. They’ll swallow the remaining 1.5MM that he’s owed on his one year, 5MM deal he signed in the spring. By the way there’s a little sarcasm here, he’ll be ineffective.
- By the way, Gio Gonzalez gets a start for the A’s this week. I’ve been hyping him since last year, and am curious to see how he’ll fare in his debut.
The Santana Debate, and the Mailbag
I wanted to put up some thoughts about Johan Santana tonight, as well as addresss the mailbag.
The Unheralded Ace
I’m currently watching ESPN right now, and as surprising as ever the Red Sox are on. Seriously, out of all the major league teams, why can’t they show some other teams? The Cubs and upstart Orioles are playing now, but I’m relegated to watch the Nation. They were on over the weekend on FOX for me, and they were on Monday night as well (preempting a great Brewers game where Ben Sheets was pitching a gem.)
I’m not sure why ESPN has so much love for the Red Sox, however there are other teams equally worthy of attention. For instance, there are FOUR TEAMS IN THE AL EAST OVER .500. Any ways, enough of that rant. I was watching the unofficial flagship station for the Red Sox on Monday, and they brought up the grand slam that Mets’ ace Johan Santana served up, albeit to Felix Hernandez, the first hit by an AL pitcher in 37 years.
Of course the Mets fans are worrying about their ace. They coughed up four players for him in February, and then signed him to the seven year deal for 150MM. His stats through 16 starts, 7-6 with a 2.93 ERA. He has 95K and only 28BB in 107.2 innings, a terrific 4:1 K/BB ratio. He also went over seven innings in ten of his starts. However Mets fans are for some reason disgusted. Now if he had three more wins or so, they’d be quiet, but this isn’t the case.
My opinion for Mets fans, sit down and be quiet. You have the best pitcher in the world, and he’s doing everything that they expected. However the team is under .500, but only four games out of first in the NL East. For Santana to be effective, he needs more run support (even Jeremy Guthrie would be disgusted with the support he’s getting.) He also needs more help from his bullpen, who like to blow his leads. And his defense clearly let him down (NOTE: he only gave up one earned run on Monday, and yes he coughed up the granny to King Felix.) When the rest of the pitching wears down in the NL East in September, and the Mets begin their push for the pennant, Mets fans will be as glad as hell they have the ace come playoff time.
The Late Innings Mailbag
I get mail from time to time, and if it’s baseball-related I’ll respond. I got a great email today from Forest T. in Minneapolis this afternoon (oddly enough, he’s a Brewers fan.) He sent me a great video today on (Marlins’ first round pick) Kyle Skipworth, minutes after he signed with the club today over lunch (it might have been the one posted on MLBTR today, I’m not sure.)
As I responded to him, his email only confirmed my belief in Skipworth. I think the Marlins made an outstanding move in the draft. Granted they could have took a big bat like Justin Smoak (the Rangers did), Skipworth was the best hitting catcher in the draft. Granted he’s raw, but he could be big and advance quickly. I said that he could be the best catcher that the Marlins had since Charles Johnson during their initial World Series run. It never hurts to draft an offensive-minded catcher (see Baltimore and Matt Weiters), who could easily become a great MLB regular, switching positions as his career goes on. Skipworth was a clear sleeper in the draft, and was one of the many outstanding top 15 picks that I’m excited to see in a few years.
By the way, email me any thoughts or comments about baseball. If it’s a good email, I’ll comment about it next time I do a mailbag.
Bad Week for Managers
In all fairness, there were three managers canned this week, so far. I was going to write up a piece about Willie Randolph and the Mets on Tuesday (along with his other three coaches), however the new-regime of the Mariners then ousted John McLaren a few days later. And to put the icing on the cake, the last place Blue Jays gave John Gibbons the pink slip on Friday.
Oddly enough, these were the first three managers to be fired this season. Looking back at our “Front Office Canning” scorecard, this makes three managers and two GMs. Still I can understand why all three managers lost their jobs. Gibbons’ team has been sputtering all season, even with the solid pitching staff the team possesses. McLaren’s ship was doomed the minute it left port in March. Randolph is another story however. There was a fair amount of backlash to this firing, especially from Ken Rosenthal.
I can understand that the manager goes whenever the team is struggling. The front office does this moreover as a service to the fans if anything. Back in April, when the Rangers were struggling, Ron Washington’s job was in jeopardy. However the team turned it around and is now a .500 ball club. His job should be safe, but if I had to postulate the next managers to leave the nest, it would probably be a couple of NL Central managers, Cecil Cooper of the Astros and Ned Yost of the Brewers. Both teams spent heavily last winter, and are seeing mediocre results from each team. Speaking of Cooper, here’s an interesting article I grabbed out of the Baltimore Sun, after his team got swept in Baltimore against the Orioles.
Some last minute notes about the managers, Joe Torre’s job being safe in Los Angeles? I say yes, however if anyone takes the hit from the club’s underachievement it would be general manager Ned Colletti. Joe Girardi in New York as a Yankee? The Yankees are playing better baseball of late, and Hank finally shut the fuck up (thank god.) His job should also be safe.
Picking the front runners for the manager of the year wouldn’t be too hard. The National League would be an easy pick, since I’d easily take Tony LaRusa. I had no idea that the Cardinals would be where they are now (Buster Olney agrees.) The American League is a different story. Yes, Mike Scioscia is doing a top-notch job with the Angels, the same thing goes with Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox. Terry Francona is also doing a solid job, as is Joe Maddon with the Rays. Coming from an Orioles fan however, I’d give it to Dave Trembley. He’s starting to get some respect from the media, and his team is four games over .500 (wow!) Not bad for a manger whose team was expected to barely win 55 games this year. And with Cito Gaston back in Toronto (I still won’t forgive him), the AL East is clearly the most exciting and competitive division in all of baseball right now.
Notes from Today's Roster Tune Ups
For the most part, every team has been finalizing their rosters this weekend before tomorrow’s official Opening Day start. Most teams have their lineups and 25-man rosters set now. In looking at the notable moves from this afternoon:
Los Angeles (NL): The Dodgers (and Joe Torre) finally did the right thing by benching Juan Pierre (who had a poor Spring) in favor of Andre Either. Either makes much more sense than Pierre, who though hit .293 and stole 63 bases in 2007, doesn’t have much else to offer at the plate. The logical step now is to attempt to move Pierre, who though is owed over 36MM the next four years by the Dodgers.
Yesterday’s starter Esteban Loaiza, though getting shelled by Boston in yesterday’s high-attendance exhibition game, has the fifth starter job for at least a few months. Clayton Kershaw, though dominant in the Spring, will open the season in Double-A. He should be called up and in their rotation by July.
Baltimore: The Orioles finally released outfielder Jay Gibbons this afternoon, allowing Scott Moore to have a spot on the team as a utility man. The team will eat 11MM of Gibbons’ contract which runs through 2009.
In other team news, they assigned outfielder Tike Redman to Triple-A Ottawa. He’ll most likely be up as soon as they can, pending on whether the team can move Jay Payton and his 5MM salary for 2008.
Also in case anyone is interested, Luis Hernandez is their Opening Day shortstop. He made six errors this Spring, however he’s out of options. It’s a shame that Baltimore doesn’t have any better options at this position.
- New York (NL): The Mets named Mike Pelfrey their fifth starter. He beat out Orlando Hernandez for the spot, though Hernandez had more velocity with a changed delivery in his last start. The team could still acquire a starter (like a Claudio Vargas) since many feel that the Mets don’t believe Pelfrey is the best option now. Still, it doesn’t hurt to see him in the rotation.
- Cincinnati: Manager Dusty Baker finally came out and made the statement that Scott Hatteberg will be the team’s first baseman out of camp instead of rookie Joey Votto. This means that their two top challengers for the Rookie of the Year (Votto and outfielder Jay Bruce) will get to see playing time come middle of the season. At least we’ll get to see what Jonny Cueto will do in their rotation.
- Chicago (AL): The White Sox named Alexi Ramirez as their Opening Day center fielder. He had the best bat in Spring Training, and if he hits as well as he did to open the season, the team will need to find a way to keep him in the lineup once Jerry Ownens returns. It’s a shame that the team didn’t take this same approach with the Joe Crede/Josh Fields situation.
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