Friday, December 30, 2005


Off-Season Transaction Analysis - NL East

Before we begin, I want to comment on a couple of things that have happened in the AL over the last week or two. First, the Jays went out and got a BIG bat in Troy Glaus. However, I wonder whether the price was a bit steep. Orlando Hudson has steadily improved each of the last three years and Miguel Batista is a better pitcher than last year's numbers indicate. Also, the signing of Glaus increases the corner infielder glut as he joins Lyle Overbay, Eric Hinske, Shea Hillenbrand and Corey Koskie. With the DH, that leaves two of the above ffive out of the lineup every day. Sure, it's an impressive bench, but I can't see any of those five being really happy in any sort of reserve-type role. Hinske and Koskie seem to be the odd men out and hopefully Ricciardi can get something decent in return. Having said all that, a batting order of Aaron Hill, Alex Rios, Vernon Wells, Glaus, Overbay, Hillenbrand, Reed Johnson, Russ Adams and Greg Zaun is certainly something to get excited about.

Second...don't look now, but Texas is assembling some pretty impressive starting pitching. With the announcement of the signing of Kevin Millwood to a 5-year deal, the Rangers now have a top 3 of Millwood, Vicente Padilla and Adam Eaton. That's pretty darn good. If Juan Dominguez and Joaquin Benoit turn up good in the 4 and 5, the Rangers will be there come September.

On to the NL East.

It was the most competitive division in 2005, with all 5 teams finishing over .500 and in the playoff hunt until the last two weeks of the season. It's a division where the moves made in the offseason will be critical to the success/failure of 2006. Let's review:

Atlanta: This has been a brutal offseason for the division champs. Not only have they lost Rafael Furcal and Kyle Farnsworth to free agency, but ace pitching coach Leo Mazzone will be working with Baltimore's staff this year. Looks like 2006 will be a kind of rebuilding year for the Braves, as they have committed to Brian McCann behind the plate by dealing Johnny Estrada to Arizona for two relievers. The hole left by Furcal's departure is only partly filled with the arrival of Edgar Renteria. However, Renteria cost them Andy Marte, leaving them at the mercy of Chipper Jones' aging body. The Braves sent Dan Kolb back to Milwaukee and received Wes Obermuller in return. He will probably get a shot, along with Jorge Sosa and Horacio Ramirez at joining Tim Hudson, John Smoltz and John Thomson, in the rotation in the spring. However, the Braves are now without a true closer (although Chris Reitsma will get first shot) and the pitching staff will have to learn to deal with a new coach. Direction: Should be neutral, but in this division, gotta say Down.

Florida: Think Atlanta had a rough go? That's nothing compared to the disaster we're likely to see this year in Florida. This year's fire sale has seen the exodus of the team's starting 1st, 2nd and 3rd basemen, their starting catcher, their starting centerfielder, a key bench guy, two of their top three starters and their top two relievers. In place of Carlos Delgado, Luis Castillo, Mike Lowell, Paul LoDuca, Juan Pierre, Jeff Conine, A.J. Burnett, Josh Beckett, Guillermo Mota and Todd Jones Florida fans will be treated to Mike Jacobs, Josh Wilson, Hanley Ramirez (Miguel Cabrera moves to third base), Jeremy Hermida, Eric Reed, Chris Aguila and Josh Willingham on offense and Jose Vargas, Brian Moehler and Sergio Mitre behind Dontrelle Willis and Travis Bowyer at closer set up by Joe Borowski. Not quite as imposing, no? Direction: Down, Down, Down.

New York: From the outhouse to the penthouse. The Mets have had a brilliant offseason, building a team that, on paper, should be the best of the NL East. The Mets started with the acquisition of Xavier Nady from the Padres in exchange for Mike Cameron. Nady will be more comfortable in a corner outfield spot and will allow Carlos Beltran to patrol centre field, where he is happiest. They then proceeded to fleece the Marlins for Carlos Delgado and Paul LoDuca in separate deals. Both are significant upgrades and the Mets can now cut ties with Mike Piazza. The Mets went on to solve their closer problem by signing free agent Billy Wagner away from division rival Philadelphia. Factor in the acquisitions of Tike Redman, Jose Valentin, Julio Franco and Endy Chavez and the Mets have built a bench with a mix of power, speed and experience. They've also added some relatively cheap pitching (Chad Bradford, Darren Oliver, Matt Perisho) and, combined with the talent already in place, this team is primed for a Series run this year. Direction: Up, Up, Up.

Philadelphia: I think I understand what this team is doing, but I'm not sure. They are loaded with young talent (Ryan Howard, Brett Myers, Jason Michaels, etc.) and some very expensive veterans. So, they cut bait, letting Jim Thome go to the White Sox and Billy Wagner walk to the Mets. The Phils are still paying a huge chunk of Thome's salary, but they can afford it. The lineup is still sound, as is the rotation. The bullpen's an issue, as it's iffy whether or not Tom Gordon can cut it and the next best option is Ryan Madson, who flamed out last year. Direction: Neutral.

Washington: The Nationals have made a couple of significant deals this offsesason, the biggest of which was landing Alfonso Soriano from Texas. Sure, they gave up two top outfielders (Terrmel Sledge and Brad Wilkerson) to get him, but he should have a huge presence in the lineup. The hope is that Soriano will accept a spot in the outfield, but he still wants to play second, which could cause havoc with team leader Jose Vidro. Brian Lawrence was a good acquisition as well and should fit nicely into the middle of the Nats' rotation behind Livan Hernandez and John Patterson. Ramon Ortiz could also turn out to be a decent, back-of-the-rotation acquisition. The Nats are going to be competitive this year. Direction: Up.

Coming soon....the NL Central!

Friday, December 23, 2005


Off-Season Transaction Analysis - AL West

Let's see what's happening in the AL West, shall we?

Los Angeles: The Steve Finley era ends as he is shipped to San Francisco for Edgardo Alfonzo. The question is whether Alfonzo is insurance in case Dallas MacPherson can't go or have the Angels soured on McPherson? Otherwise, not much is happening out L.A. way, as they have yet to find a bat to protect Vladimir Guerrero (who was horribly exposed in the playoffs). Direction - Neutral.

Oakland: Signing Esteban Loaiza to such an outlandish deal (3 years, 14+ million) was so un-Billy Beane-like that one has to wonder what else is in the offing. There are constant rumours of a deal involving Barry Zito, but all we've seen is a deal for Milton Bradley, which I think Beane did as a favour to the Dodgers. Direction - Neutral.

Seattle: I covered Kenji Johjima earlier. The M's have been somewhat busy, signing Jarrod Washburn to a 4-year deal, Carl Everett to a 1-year deal and re-upping for another year with ageless wonder Jamie Moyer. They must be hoping that Adrian Beltre will pay off this year. Direction - Neutral in either the AL East or Central, but this much activity qualifies as Up in the West.

Texas: Very nearly gave away Hank Blalock to Florida in an effort to land Josh Beckett, but they've done well otherwise. Picked up Vicente Padilla for spare parts, dealt Alfonso Soriano to Washington for two plus outfielders (Brad Wilkerson and Terrmel Sledge) and a pitcher. Sledge was then packaged, along with Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young, to the Padres for Adam Eaton, Akinori Otsuka and a prospect. Let Kenny Rogers walk, but that's OK. Eaton and Padilla solidify the rotation and Otsuka will be huge setting Francisco Cordero. Direction - Up.

Well, that's the AL. See you after Christmas to do the NL. Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Off-Season Transaction Analysis - AL Central

Before we begin, a large BOO-YAH to my Yankees, signing my favourite leadoff guy Johnny Damon to a 4-year deal. The idea of a lineup that reads Damon, Jeter, A-Rod, Sheffield, Giambi, Matsui, Posada, Williams and Cano makes my heart sing. Of course, it would be nice if the Yanks could land a good defensive first baseman and move Giambi to DH, but that's a small issue. Now shore up the bench, Mr. Cashman.

Let's see what's happening in the AL Central, shall we?

Chicago: I have already made mention of the Jim Thome signing, Frank Thomas' release and the re-signing of Paul Konerko. Yes, Thome cost Aaron Rowand, leaving a hole in centre field, but that can be fixed. Removing Thomas from the mix was key. In December, the White Sox suckered the D-Backs into taking Orlando Hernandez and spare parts for Javier Vazquez, who I still consider to be a plus starter. Plus, the White Sox re-upped another player integral to their World Series run, signing AJ Pierzynski to a 3-year deal. Factor in the acquisition of utility guy Rob Mackowiak from Pittsburgh and ridding themselves of Carl Everett and it looks like a good offseason for the champs. Direction - Up.

Cleveland: Danny Graves, Steve Karsay and Lou Merloni have all signed minor league deals with an invite to spring training. All three could have real value to an Indians team that needs to shore up the supporting roles on the bench and in the bullpen. Paul Byrd also helps out the rotation. They really need to get moving and re-sign Kevin Millwood. Direction - Neutral, up if they sign Millwood.

Detroit: Adding Kenny Rogers to the rotation and Todd Jones to the bullpen are both sound moves. However, that's about all the Tigers have done. In this division, that's not nearly enough. Plus, Ivan Rodriguez is rumoured to be unhappy. Not good. Direction - Down.

Kansas City: The lowest payroll in baseball will lead to another season of Mike Sweeney and good luck. KC is doing the best they can, signing Scott Elarton, Mark Grudzielanek, Doug Mientkiewicz and Paul Bako and trading for Mark Redman. Mientkiewicz and Grudzielanek are solid defensively, but their signings just seem so much like throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what strands stick. Last place again. Direction - Down.

Minnesota: Decent offseason so far. The acquisition of Luis Castillo is a big help defensively and, if Castillo rediscovers his legs, at the top of the order too. If Tony Batista can plug in 25-30 HR and 80-100 RBI at third base and Rondell White can kick in 15-20 HR, the Twins will quickly forget Jacque Jones, who left to sign with the Cubs. Torii Hunter has to stay. Direction - Up.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Looks like I posted a day early

So here's me, Mr. Expert, thinking we're all done with the big flurries of baseball business. Turns out I needed to wait one more day. The complete list of activities can be found here and here.

To recap the impact of all this activity, starting with the AL East:

Boston: A significant trading cycle ends with the departure of Edgar Renteria, swapped to Atlanta for Andy Marte. Marte moves right in at third, and Bill Mueller will move on. Still much to do, including finding a home for Manny Ramirez and deciding what to do with Johnny Damon. Safe bet, though, that any deal involving Ramirez has a ML-ready shortstop coming back. Direction - Up.

New York: Signed Kyle Farnsworth to set up for Mariano Rivera after Tom Gordon walked. This is a good move, as Farnsworth is much younger with a rocket arm that should be enough of a change-in-pace from Rivera that Rivera might get a little of the old mystique back. Still need to find a centre fielder and I am stunned that they offered arbitration to Bernie Williams. Thought they might have tried harder with Juan Pierre. Cut ties with Tony Womack, which should end any of this Robinson Cano for Torii Hunter talk. Direction - Neutral.

Baltimore: Heading in reverse, despite the signing of Ramon Hernandez. They could not get A.J. Burnett and lost B.J. Ryan, in both cases to division rival Toronto. Now Miguel Tejada wants out. Could a Ramirez for Tejada deal be in the offing with Boston? Direction - Down.

Toronto: Everybody says they're so improved, but it still seems to only be on paper. The Jays paid a lot for Lyle Overbay, but the Burnett signing made Dave Bush expendable and there wasn't a place in the Jays outfield for Gabe Gross. I guess the Eric Hinske era is officially over, unless they intend to package Hillenbrand with an outfielder for another big bat. Hearing whispers, too, that they're in the running to land Garciaparra. Direction - I want to say neutral, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and go with up.

Tampa Bay: The Sean Burroughs for Dewon Brazelton deal looks intriguing. Burroughs and Aubrey Huff will share 3B/DH duties, which spells trouble in the Rays outfield, as there just won't be enough at-bats to satisfy Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, Jonny Gomes and Delmon Young who, according to reports, is definitely ready to go. I really like the idea of the Yanks shipping a veteran starter (say, Mike Mussina) to the Rays for an outfielder. Direction - Neutral.

I'll do the rest of the AL and all the NL over the next few days.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Baseball's Silly Season continued

Tomorrow marks the end of the annual winter meetings, but there's certainly some stuff to cover. Let's recap shall we? Picking up where we left off.....

The Blue Jays went ahead and broke the bank on A.J. Burnett, signing him to a 5-year, $55 million deal. This on the heels of giving The Nose That Ate The Skydome (GM J.P. Ricciardi) a 3-year extension. Hmmm, $102 million on a pitcher yet to post a winning season and a closer with one good year under his belt. J.P. better be right or things will get ugly in T.O.

San Diego did the right thing and re-upped Brian Giles to the tune of 3 years and $30 million. Ditto the White Sox, who re-signed Paul Konerko to a 5-year, $50 million deal, ensuring that Frank Thomas will never darken their door again. The Padres really couldn't let the heart of their order walk and $10 million a season for a hitter of Giles' caliber is a steal. Sure the homer totals aren't as glossy as they were in Pittsburgh, but playing 81 games in Petco Death Valley will do that.

The Mets are a whole new team in 2006, fleecing the Marlins for both Carlos Delgado and Paul LoDuca. Factor in their free agent signing of closer Billy Wagner, now the highest per year salary closer at $10.75 million (his 4-year, $43 million deal is just shy of Ryan's), and the Mets are grabbing all the headlines in New York this offseason and, more importantly, are looking like the team to beat in the NL.

The Mets' division rivals, however, are not looking so good. Atlanta suffered two significant blows, as new closer Kyle Farnsworth bolted to the Yankees (3 years, $17 million) to set up Mariano Rivera and provide Rivera insurance in case something happens. The Braves also lost slick shortstop Rafael Furcal to L.A. (3 years, $39 million). The Phillies have replaced Billy Wagner with 38-year old Tom Gordon, inexplicably signing him to a 3-year, $18 million deal. That signing, 3 years for an old reliever with a history of elbow problems, is a real head-scratcher. Washington hasn't done much of anything, so they fall behind just because.

Then there's the Florida Marlins. The Marlins have dealt away, or let walk, two of their top three starters, their starting catcher, first baseman, second baseman and third baseman and their starting center fielder (Juan Pierre) may be next. They also traded away their closer. Not much left at all.

My last post listed winners and losers. The White Sox move from undecided to winners with the Konerko signing, the Indians move to undecided as I think signing Paul Byrd to a 2-year, $14.25 million deal is highly risky and they need to get to it and re-sign Kevin Millwood, and the Mets are now BIG winners.