Tagged: Free Agents

So much for AL East parity

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The bulk of this year’s winter meetings were pretty
uneventful, but it was certainly bookended by some craziness out of Beantown.

After officially acquiring superstar first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego
Padres on Monday in a blockbuster deal, the Boston Red Sox again turn heads by
unexpectedly signing
one of the preeminent five-tool players in the game in outfielder Carl Crawford
.  The deal is worth a staggering $142-million
over the next 7 years and when combined with the expected extension for
Gonzalez, the Red Sox have unofficially committed around $300-million to two
players.  I guess John Henry isn’t
hurting from purchasing Liverpool.

Crawf.jpgThe surprising part of this deal is not that Boston signed
Crawford, nor is it that he was signed to the second richest contract ever to
be awarded to an outfielder.  The
surprising part is the timing.

<– “Look what I caught,  $142-million, BITCH!!”

While most teams interested in Crawford (such as the Angels,
Yankees and Rangers) were waiting for Cliff
Lee
to make his decision before committing funds to Crawford, the Red Sox
stepped in and made the deal happen. 
They were the only team said to have real interest in the athletic
leftfielder who did not have interest
in Lee, allowing them to swoop in a steal Crawford from under their noses.  Something Crawford will be doing a lot of in
Boston.  Oh yes, I made a pun.

But this was supposed to be the year that the AL East evened
out a little.  The Rays were/are expected
to take a giant step back and both the Orioles and Jays were supposed to be
rising teams ready to take the next step toward contention.  Reality has set in quickly.

The Red Sox, at least right now, have to be considered the
favourite while the Yankees will become co-favourites if they’re able to sign
Lee.  If the Yankees don’t sign Lee,
there could be an opening for one of the other three teams to jump into Wildcard
contention (probably not Baltimore), but they still have to be considered at
least the second favourite team even if they lose out on him.

By the way, the Red Sox projected lineup as of right now:

  • ·        
    CF  Jacoby
    Ellsbury
  • ·        
    LF  Carl
    Crawford
  • ·        
    1B  Adrian
    Gonzalez
  • ·        
    3B  Kevin Youkilis
  • ·        
    DH  David
    Ortiz
  • ·        
    2B  Dustin
    Pedroia
  • ·        
    RF  J.D.
    Drew
  • ·        
    C 
    Whothehellcares?
  • ·        
    SS  Marco
    Scutaro

Not to mention that they still have Clay Buchholz, Jon
Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, and Daisuke Matsuzaka as their projected
5-man rotation.

That’s just not fair, dammit!

There’s one more negative aspect of the Crawford deal from
the perspective of the Jays; the Red Sox are still interested in lefty reliever
Scott Downs, who is, like Crawford,
a Type-A free agent.  If he signs in
Boston, the Jays will not get the Red Sox first round pick as compensation as
that now goes to the Rays.  And, oh yeah,
the Jays STILL have to face Crawford 18 times this upcoming season.  Bad day.

This by no means tempers my excitement for the 2011 season,
it just seems to signal another 3rd or worse season for Toronto.

UPDATE:
Apparently the Angels made an offer to Crawford of 7 years and $108-million
according to a Tweet by Mark
Feinsand
of the New York Daily News.  Werth definitely
drove up that market.  Way to go Rizzo.

UPDATE #2:
Apparently Ken Rosenthal
reported
that Lee received a 7 year offer from the Red Sox.  Signing Crawford does make that unlikely, but
apparently I was wrong about their interest in Lee.

Hot Stove log, November 19th: Jays make strong push for Upton

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Isn’t this just
the cat’s *** (not sure what that means; kind of disturbs me).  When new first broke that the Diamondbacks were shopping young
superstar outfielder Justin Upton,
all I kept hearing was Red Sox, Yankees and maybe Marlins, Rockies.  I said to myself, “Self, why aren’t the Jays
dipping their toes in these proverbially bluest of blue waters?”



Turns out, Alex Anthopoulos was way ahead of me. 

Just before
writing my update yesterday, there were rumours that a ‘mystery team’ had
stepped forward with interest in Upton that pushed the Red Sox to the ‘back-burner’.  I thought, “Self, it couldn’t be the Jays,
could it?”

It was the
Jays.  Anthopoulos continues his
aggressive nature this offseason (which I love
by the way, it’s been a long time since the city of Toronto has seen a gutsy
and savvy GM for any of its major
sports teams) and has stepped forward with interest in one of the game’s
brightest young stars that has knocked the financial pantheons of the game off
the trail.  Even if he doesn’t pull off a
deal, well done, sir, well done.



So, let the speculation begin: Who would the Jays have to part with to land
Upton.  Dave Parkes over at thescore.com has a great piece wherein the
comments throw some things back and forth.

For my part,
knowing the D’Backs want the farm in return for Upton, the Jays will likely
have to give up prized young outfielder Travis
Snider
in the deal.  Parkes
speculates that they Jays would also have to include one of their three
prospect catchers in the deal, either J.P.
Arencibia
, Travis D’Arnaud or Carlos Perez and then they would likely
have to round out the deal with pitching; one major-league ready starter and
one prospect.

That is an
awful lot to surrender, but let’s consider just how much Upton would mean to
the Jays.  He’s signed through 2015 at
just under $50-million.  Reasonable for a
guy who most think is about to step up into superstardom and is already
considered one of the better five-tool players around.  23-year-olds with his pedigree, talent, and
resume never become available.

The Jays have
serious depth in pitching and could afford to give up some pieces to get
Upton.  Snider is the piece that would
admittedly be hardest to give up, but really, if you could start Snider or
Upton at one of your corner outfield spots, I think the choice is obvious.

People say
that Arencibia is untouchable, but here’s something to chew on:  The Jays are reportedly still very interested
in signing catcher Miguel Olivo, who
would likely receive a 2 year deal with an option.  The fact that the Jays are considering
signing Olivo shows me that they could consider moving Arencibia.  They would have Olivo and Jose Molina in the fold for next year
with promising prospects Travis D’Arnaud
and Carlos Perez on their way.  Arencibia becomes expendable if Olivo is
attained.

If the Jays
were to offer a deal centered around Snider and Arencibia, they might not have
to give up as much pitching.  Throw in Shaun Marcum (easily the most tradable
of the big four, not that I like saying that) and either Josh Roenicke or Zach
Stewart
and I can see the D’Backs seriously considering a deal.

Having said all that, I still think it’s a very
small possibility that Arizona deals Upton at all and we’re all ignoring that
Upton does have a four-team trade veto list. 
If I was a betting man, I would suggest T.O. is on that list.  American players tend to not want to come
here when they’ve had no real experience in Canada.

Like I said
at the outset, the fact that Anthopoulos is being so aggressive for top-tier
(but still financially-feasible and young) players shows me that this guy knows
what he’s doing.  He rebuilt the Jays
sorry farm system in less than a year and is using it to entice teams to trade
their superstars.  Upton, Uggla, Greinke,
the list goes on and will likely get bigger.

There were
also a couple small trades yesterday and some minor moves today…

 

The New York
Yankees
trade 1B Juan Miranda to
the Arizona Diamondbacks for RHP Scott Allen.

Miranda isn’t
exactly a bonafide everyday player, but there is some talent there.  He was being blocked at first base in New
York by Mark Teixeira and with Jorge Posada moving to DH, there was
literally no room for him in the Bronx. 
In Arizona, he’ll potentially have a spot playing first if the D’Backs
can’t fill the hole.  If not, he could be
a quality bench player.

Allen is a
19-year-old who was drafted by the D’Backs in the 11th Round in 2009
draft and has some upside, but he’s a long way from the majors.


The
Colorado Rockies trade INF Clint Barmes to the Houston Astros for RHP Felipe Paulino.

Barmes was a
long-time Rocky who had earned the respect of his teammates and is considered
one of the “good guys” in baseball.  He
was likely going to be non-tendered by Colorado with their crowded infield
situation so the deal made sense for the Rockies who turn it into a quality
young starter.  Barmes will likely get
the chance to play every day at short for the ‘Stros and shouldn’t see his
number drop off because of leaving Coors Field. 
Houston’s band-box may be more hitter-friendly.

The
27-year-old Paulino owns a career 6-21 record with a 5.83 ERA over parts of
three seasons in Houston, but has always had talent.  His biggest problem could be his conditioning
at 6’2″ and 270lbs.  The Rockies will
wait and see if his talent develops and he’ll likely get a shot at the rotation
in the spring.

 

Odds
& Ends

·        
Upton
is not the only big name potentially on the move away from the desert; The D’Backs
have reportedly receive a lot of interest for slugging 3B Mark Reynolds.  The A’s have
been linked, but Reynolds has the right to reject trades to Oakland.

·        
The
Twins are reportedly interested in retaining Carl Pavano and one of his former teams, the Marlins, are also
interested, as are the Rockies.  Pavano
reportedly wants “Lilly money”, i.e. 3yr/$33-million, which likely prices out
the Fish.  I find it hard to believe he’ll
get that money and if I were a GM, I’d be running away as fast as I could.  Talk to the Yankees if you need confirmation
on that.

·        
Rangers
President Nolan Ryan expects the
Yankees to outbid them on Cliff Lee.  It’s looking more and more like he’ll be
wearing pin-stripes next season.

·        
Both
the Yankees and Phillies are interested in the bevy of left-handed relievers on
the market: Pedro Feliciano, Scott Downs, J.C. Romero, Brian Fuentes,
Hisanori Takahashi, and Arthur Rhodes.

·        
Jayson Werth is pretty certainly not coming back
to Philadelphia.

·        
The
Nationals will likely trade OF Josh
Willingham
before next year.

·        
6
teams are said to be interested in trading with the Red Sox for Marco Scutaro and they are looking for
bullpen help in return.  The teams right
now are the Cardinals, Reds, Padres, and Giants if they can’t bring back Juan Uribe.

 

More tomorrow
on Derek Jeter who is about to
receive a low-ball offer from the Yankees of 3yr/$45-million.  I’m going to wait for this one to develop
more before I comment.

Also tomorrow, I’ll
try to fit in some talk on Zack Greinke
and the trade talks with him.  Do the
Jays have a chance?  Should they want
him?

Winter Meetings — Days 1 and 2

Tomorrow, I send my MLB.com internship application in overnight-mail to Arizona in hopes of securing a spot writing for one of seven teams next spring.  For now, I wait…and write.

I love the Winter Meetings.  As a baseball geek, they help pass the arduously long period of time between the end of the World Series and the beginning of Spring Training.  I also love the fact that there is so much live streaming on MLB.com this offseason.  I get so much baseball, even when the bats have fallen silent in this part of the world.

As usual, this year’s Winter Meetings have not disappointed.  Roy Halladay is still a Blue Jay, but what a surprise it was to hear that the Rays are now interested in his services.  The biggest reason that excites me is that the Rays have probably the best minor league system in baseball.  Grabbing a slice of that delicious pie could make the bitter pill of losing the best pitcher in baseball during his prime taste a tiny bit better.

Even with Halladay still a Jay, there has been a lot of activity in the first few days of the Meetings.  Today, a seven-player, three team blockbuster trade between the Yankees, Tigers and Diamondbacks was executed.  To the Yankees, All-Star centerfielder Curtis Granderson; to the Tigers, four prospects, the juiciest of which is pitcher Max Scherzer.  The Tigers also grabbed pitcher Daniel Schlereth from the D’Backs and outfielder Austin Jackson and lefthander Phil Coke from the Yankees.  Arizona nabbed pitchers Edwin Jackson from the Tigers and Ian Kennedy from the Yankees.

On paper, this deal is a winner for all three teams.  The Yankees get a centerfielder who can do just about anything, the D’Backs get a proven talent to slip in their rotation behind dual-aces Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, and the Tigers dump salary, but get four players in return; two of which have already proven they can succeed at the major-league level.

I think this is a brilliant trade by Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski.  They lose Edwin Jackson who had a great year in 2009, but replaced him with Max Scherzer, who could very well be better already.  They also lose clubhouse presence and fire-starter Curtis Granderson, but gain a bright young outfielder in Austin Jackson who could crack the opening-day roster.  Throw in two other pitchers with tremendous upside, and I really think the Tigers have a winning deal on their hands.

The deal also makes the D’Backs the contenders I thought they would be last year.  If Webb can return to form in 2010, how can they not challenge in the NL West with Webb, Haren and Jackson at the top of their rotation.  They have a great young lineup and I think they’re poised to have a bounce back year in ’10.

As for the Yankees, they get Granderson, but only give up prospects who didn’t look like they were ever going to be given an opportunity in the Bronx.  Jackson, Coke, and Kennedy all have upside and might actually get to prove it with new teams that have fewer obstacles standing between them and the majors.

There were some signings in the first few days of the Meetings as well.  The Red Sox grabbed former Jays shortstop Marco Scutaro just before they commenced.  Even though he only played two season in Toronto, and only one as an everyday player, Scutaro will go down as one of my all-time favourite Jays.  I love the way he plays the game.  Julia and the rest of Red Sox Nation are very lucky to have his services for at least the next two years and he will be an instant fan favourite at Fenway.

The Nationals made waves by signing future Hall-of-Famer Ivan Rodriguez on day one of the Meetings and now have a nice mentor for catcher Jesus Flores and an extremely young pitching staff.  Pudge has a reputation for not being the best game-caller, but his experience will no doubt be an asset to a team with youth across the board. 

The Mariners snagged free agent third-baseman Chone Figgins to a 4-year, $36-million deal with an option for a fifth year.  The team apparently still has interest in re-signing Adrian Beltre to play third as Figgins’ versatility could allow him to play any number of other positions and he is open to switching.  I like this deal for the M’s right now, but I think it’s a little long.  Don’t be surprised if they regret the deal come year three when Figgins’ legs start to break down.

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The
Cardinals upgraded their pitching staff on day two by inking free agent pitcher
Brad Penny to a one-year, $7.5-million deal.  There is also a $9-million
option for 2011.  Penny saw his form return in the second-half with the
Giants after an injury-plagued 2008 and a dismal first half with the Red
Sox.  The Cards are hoping his second-half resurgence is a sign of things
to come.

The Royals are showing interest in free agent catcher and soon to be former Jay
Rod Barajas.  The Royals have made it clear that they would like an
upgrade at the position given the bust that is John Buck.  Barajas would
be a nice fit as an everyday player

Tomorrow’s a busy day, but if anything major happens, I’ll be writing.

Why the Jays should go for Ben Sheets now; in spite of his bad elbow

When healthy, Ben Sheets is one of the better pitchers in baseball, the problem is, obviously, that he is rarely healthy.  Once again he will have to undergo elbow surgery and will miss the first half of ’09.  But the former Brewer is in a unique situation.  He’s a free agent.

The Texas Rangers stepped up with a two-year contract that Sheets and his agent agreed to pending a physical which obviously didn’t go well.  The Rangers withdrew their offer and it is expected now that Sheets will not sign anywhere until he’s healthy.

Here’s why I think the Jays need to go after him now…
ben sheets.jpg

The Jays apparently had no interest in Sheets because they don’t have the finances to pursue him.  Fair enough.  Sheets was reportedly going to sign for 2-years at around $16-million with the Rangers, far out of the price range for the Jays to even consider him.  But now things have changed.

We know that Sheets will be out until late June/early July at the earliest so I think the Jays should try and get Sheets now at a diminished price.  All well and good, but how do you make Sheets want a deal?  Here’s what I suggest:

You give Sheets a contract for 1-year at a guaranteed $750,000 but you lace it with incentives.  If he starts 10 games in ’09, he gets an extra $1-million.  If he starts 15 games in ’09, you give him an extra $1.75-million.  If he starts 20 or more games, give him an extra $3-million.  On top of that, if Sheets wins more than 10 games with the Jays in ’09, you throw on an extra $2-million.  This means that if Sheets comes back around mid-season and starts more than 20 games down the stretch and wins more than 10, the deal could end up being worth $5.75-million.  Not bad for a guy only pitching half the year who was looking for $8-million for a full, healthy season.

To sweeten the deal for both sides, add two option years; options for both 2010 and 2011 worth some guaranteed amount of money.  Let’s say $7.5-million for 2010 and $9-million for 2011.  The options would be for both parties at the end of both years.  SO, if Sheets comes back and performs well, the two could agree to exercise their option for 2010.  If he does well in 2010, they could bring him back for 2011.  If Sheets feels like he could make more by going back on the market at any point, he could do just that.  If Sheets can’t stay healthy and doesn’t end up pitching in ’09, the Jays have only spent $750,000 and will be free of him next fall.  Win-win.

If Sheets made the maximum in incentives in ’09 and decided to come back on both his option years, the deal would end up being 3-years for $22.25-million…nothing to sneeze at in this market.

I’ll be expecting my phone call from Mr. Riccardi any day to thank me for this wonderful idea.