On Wednesday, I will be releasing a preview of the ’09 Atlanta Braves. Normally I write the previews a few days in advance so if something comes up (like, say, crippling food poisoning) I have material to post. I am going to wait to write the Braves preview, however, because there are two possible free agent acquisitions that could drastically alter how that team looks.
Last week, a story surfaced that linked Ken Griffey Jr. to the team he started his career with (and played his best years with), the Seattle Mariners. Griffey stated in his return to Seattle in ’07 while playing for the Reds that he would like to finish his career with the Mariners. He thought he owed it to the fans that treated him so well.
Personally, I have always been a massive Griffey fan. With all the steroids floating around the majors, Griffey’s name has never been mentioned. Never. Having said that, there is little doubt that Griffey is the best home run hitter of our generation and if it weren’t for injuries, we wouldn’t be talking about Barry Bonds or Alex Rodiguez breaking Hank Aaron’s home run record because Griffey probably would have destroyed it long ago. People have criticized Griffey for having thin skin and getting injured too easily, but the fact is, he has always been one of the classiest players on the field; loved by teammates and fans alike since the day he broke into the league as the 18-year-old son of Ken Griffey Sr. He has the most beautiful swing I’ve ever seen…it’s mesmerizing. I would love to see Griffey suit up with the M’s again, but I also want to see him win a world series before he retires and the Mariners simply don’t have a Popsicle’s chance in hell of doing that.
So, where will Griffey sign? He’s been linked to the Mariners, yes, but he has also been in talks with the Atlanta Braves. The sentimental pick is obviously Seattle, but let’s look at this realistically. Atlanta is an hour flight from his home in Orlando; the Braves have a better chance at winning than the Mariners…a much better chance; and Griffey has always wanted to play for Braves manager Bobby Cox. Yes, the Mariners need a middle-of-the-lineup presence, but they should be spending their time developing guys like Wladimir Balentin, not dolling out playing time to a 39-year-old when you’re team is not likely going to contend. The deal doesn’t seem to make sense for the Mariners. I think Griffey signs with the Braves in the next few days.
Then there’s Tom Glavine. Glavine is 43-years-old and is coming off of major shoulder and elbow surgery. Yes, he will be in the hall-of-fame someday, as will Griffey, but I’m not sure this guy has much left. The Braves could use a fifth starter but would likely have more success from a younger option…and they have lots of those. Tommy Hanson, for instance, is thought of so highly that the Braves flat-out refused to talk to the Padres about acquiring Jake Peavy because they wanted Hanson in return. Hanson is only 22 and hasn’t played higher than AA, but what better time than now to give him a shot at making the Braves. If Glavine is there, he has no shot; and neither do Jorge Campillo, Jo-Jo Reyes or Charlie Morton, three other pitchers who many think could be solid starters.
The Braves have already offered Glavine a contract, but I don’t think that was a wise move. I think they did it mostly for sentimental reasons, but they let John Smoltz go…why do they feel the need to suddenly get sentimental over Glavine?
In summary, I think Griffey signs with Atlanta and plays a left-field platoon with Matt Diaz and I think Glavine also signs in Atlanta despite the fact that it seems like a bad idea.
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…
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.
It’s no secret. I’m not the biggest fan of Blue Jays GM J.P. Riccardi. Sure, I went through the normal honeymoon phase when he first got here in ’02. He traded for Eric Hinske who went on to win AL Rookie of the Year, he made deals for Lyle Overbay and Troy Glaus seemingly out of nothing. Unfortunately, none of these things panned out in the long-run and although the Jays are perennially mentioned as a team “on the cusp,” the season always ends in the same way. MEDIOCRITY.
The fact of the matter is, J.P. has run his course with me and I’m no longer a fan. We need fresh management with fresh ideas. I applaud ownership for giving J.P. a real chance and having patience as he tried to execute his plan (something that has all but disappeared from sports these days), but enough is enough. How many more years of mediocre teams will ownership take before they decide Mr. Riccardi is blowing smoke up their ***** and has run out of ideas. No, the Jays aren’t a bad team, they haven’t been in a long time, but I’m sick of middle ground…I’m sick of 3rd place (or now 4th with the emergence of the Rays). It isn’t good enough anymore and it’s time to move on.
One last thing before I get to the point (and there is a point): J.P.’s smooth-talking. I’m tired of it. We know you’re plan with the Jays has failed…just admit it already. If you listen to Mr. Riccardi it sounds like waiting until 2010 has been the plan all along…the jig is up, sir.
That isn’t to say that J.P. is all bad. He has done some good things and has managed to build a team that has some of the pieces it needs to be a true contender, but the fact is: it isn’t one. J.P., I appreciate you’re services, but we need to move in a new direction. That’s right, I just fired him…I can do that…’cause no one cares what I think…nor should they.
ANYWAY…the point is: J.P.’s first draft pick as Jays GM was a middle infielder by the name of Russ Adams (14th overall in 2002). It appears as though the Jays have finally given up on him after they designated him for assignment today to make room for 28-year-old minor-league pitcher T.J. Beam who was claimed off waivers from the Pirates. Although Adams did enjoy a 63-RBI output in his rookie season in ’05 he is a terrible defensive player and has apparently forgotten how to hit. By the way, players taken in the first round after Adams?
- Scott Kazmir
- Cole Hamels
- Nick Swisher
- James Loney
- Jeff Francoeur
- Joe Blanton
- Matt Cain
Knowing the Jays, they’ll likely take this opportunity to ink Adams to a 6-year, $100-million contract extension.
I will say this though, if Riccardi can pull off signing Kevin Millar, I’ll give him a little temporary love. I refuse to cuddle afterwards though.
One more thing: The Yankees ’09 Preview is done and will be up tomorrow.
The Jays acquired lefty Brian Burres last night off waivers from the Orioles. Burres was designated for assignment by the O’s after they acquired Rich Hill from the Cubs.
Burres was 7-10 with a 6.04 ERA in 31 appearances last year with the Orioles including 22 starts. He figures to be in the mix for a starting job this spring but will likely start the year at AAA Las Vegas…man it still feels weird saying Las Vegas and not Syracuse, that’ll take some getting used to.
This acquisition is another pickup by J.P. Riccardi in an effort to find inexpensive ways to improve the Jays already decimated pitching staff. The fact of the matter is, Burres is 28 and has never been consistent enough to stay at the major league level very long, so he’s not the answer to any problem, unless by some divine miracle (and I don’t believe in god…that’s right, small “g”) he puts up good number with the Jays.
To make room for Burres on the roster, the Jays designated catcher Curtis Thigpen for assignment. If Thigpen gets picked up by another team it will open the door further for impressive minor-league catcher J.P. Arencibia to snag the backup job behind Rod Barajas. Although that would likely only occur if Arencibia was to get enough playing time to make it worthwhile; look for him to start in AAA and Michael Barrett or Raul Chavez to backup Barajas.