Monday, December 20, 2010

Brew Crew Lands Greinke

I was a little [read: a lot] surprised to read on Saturday that the Brewers landed Zack Greinke in a 4-for-2 trade that saw Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress, and Jake Odorizzi go to the Royals in exchange for the right-hander, Yuniesky Betancourt, and $2MM cash. Escobar and Cain both played at the Major League level last year while Jeffress and Odorizzi fall solidly into the prospect category. I can't help but feel a little sad for Royals fans, this is the umpteenth good player to leave the organization in the last 10 years, not many people attend Royals games anyway, but they may have even less reason to now.

In examining the trade, it actually looks pretty good, and even has the potential to benefit the Royals more than the Brewers long-term; let's go player-by-player: 

1.) Alcides Escobar - SS
Escobar was considered a 5-Star prospect (their highest rating) by Baseball Prospectus and was also considered the Brewers top prospect by Baseball America prior to last season. He spent the entire year up with the Major League club after a spot opened up following the JJ Hardy trade. Escobar was underwhelming at the plate with a .235/.288/.326 hitting line. However, he was above-average defensively and he is only 24. Not only that, his Minor League track record (.293/.333/.377) suggests he's likely to become a much more consistent hitter at the plate. If that were to happen and his defense was to continue to be above-average, he would quickly become one of the more valuable shortstops in the game. 

2.) Lorenzo Cain - CF/OF
Cain also got Major League experience last year and showed off quite a bat (.306/.348/.415 in 158PAs). Cain was drafted by the Brewers in the 17th round of the 2004 draft and though he spent parts of 6 years in the Minors, he is still only 24 years old and has not only proven he can hit, he has also flashed some excellent speed and base-stealing abilities. Between 2 minor league levels and the Majors last year, he stole 33 bases while only being caught 4 times. Cain figures to be an everyday CFer for the Royals and if he can keep that hitting up, could be a superstar in a short time. 

3.) Jeremy Jeffress - RP/SP (maybe)
Jeffress was selected by the Brewers with the 16th pick in the 2006 Amateur Draft. To say the Royals are taking a major gamble on Jeffress is an understatement. Jeremy has had numerous substance abuse problems and that resulted in a 100-game suspension in 2009 causing him to miss most of 2009 and half of the 2010 season. When Jeffress has been pitching, he's been great at times, highlighted best by this past season which saw him pitch in 24 games and compile a 2.23ERA and 0.92WHIP in 32.1 innings while striking out batters to the tune of 12.0 per 9-innings pitched. Jeffress' best pitch is his fastball which averaged 96-mph this past year. That is some rare-company, only 2 starting pitchers and 6 relievers averaged a faster fastball this past season. If Jeffress can stay away from drugs and stay on a straight-line, he could be incredibly valuable, but again, considering his track record, it's quite a gamble. 

4.) Jake Odorizzi - SP
Odorizzi was taken in the 1st round (32nd pick) of the 2008 Amateur draft and is easily the most unpolished prospect in the deal having only reached Single-A this past year. That said, he probably has the most upside and is an pretty intriguing prospect having compiled a 3.43ERA, 1.15WHIP and 10.1 K/9 in 120.2 innings as a starter last season. As impressive as those stats is the fact that he's just a kid at 20-years-old. More than a few articles have used the words "sensation" and "phenom" when talking about Jake and considering he was drafted in the 1st round right out of high school, there may be something to that. More than likely we will see Odorizzi pitching in the Majors within the next two years and he has the potential to be the Royals next Greinke.

So I couldn't help but compare the Brewers offer to what the Twins could have offered...let's just say, the comparison isn't much of a comparison at all. Even if the Twins had given up their two best prospects which is generally thought of to be some combination of Revere, Hicks and Gibson it wouldn't really approach the potential of Odorizzi and Jeffress, and then you throw two young talents like Cain and Escobar,, the Brewers really "gave away the farm" to get Greinke and that's no understatement. If they don't win a World Series title within the next couple of years (or this year for that matter), they will toil in mediocrity for awhile because unless they raise payroll substantially they will lose Prince Fielder and possibly Ryan Braun as well leaving them with a tattered infield and outfield and no decent prospects to replace them. Good luck Brewers!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I'm a little surprised that there hasn't been more written about Jesse Crain today, considering that he was signed BY THE WHITE SOX yesterday, getting a 3-year deal worth a reported $13M. When I read it I literally said, out loud, "What the F*#%." Crain's deal represents a pretty good raise (he made $2M last year) and it's probably overall a stupid move on the White Sox part, but what really sucks is that he went to a division opponent...

I really don't see the vision of the Twins front-office this's getting to the point of absurdity. First (not in chronological order) you trade a VALUABLE short-stop in JJ Hardy for 2 minor-league also-rans. Then you make a run at a Japanese League player (Nishioka) who is completely unproven and every bit as injury-prone as the shortstop you had. Then you watch two of your bullpen stalwarts from last year walk, one to a team within the division. Then you give pretty much everyone the impression that you're trying to sign a 35-year-old pitcher with a lengthy injury history to a multi-year deal. And on top of all that you're probably going to overpay a reliever you traded ONE OF YOUR TOP PROSPECTS for last year. Man, when I look at all of that together in one paragraph, my blood starts to boil, who is running this team and what have they done???

Here's how my blueprint for the off-season would have gone, unfortunately it's WAY too late for any of this to play out:

1.) Re-sign JJ Hardy to a two-year deal, $12-$14M
Rationale: Hardy's had a mediocre two year stretch and he's still one of the top 10 at his position. His defense alone almost makes it worth re-signing him and if he had been able to play the next two years at a level similar to his 2010 second-half production, he would have made a very valuable, and very affordable SS. Instead the Twins decided to blow $5M on a posting-fee for an unproven Japanese player and then sign the kid to what will likely be a 3-year, $10M deal...where did you save all that much money in that equation??

2.) Trade Danny Valencia, a prospect Kevin Slowey/Nick Blackburn ($3M) to the Indians for Fausto Carmona
Rationale: I'm not sure how the money works out there, but the Indians are clearly in cost-savings mode considering they recently slashed ticket prices and are set to have one of the more meager payrolls in baseball this coming season. Let's all be honest with ourselves, Danny Valencia is never going to duplicate what he did last season and the Twins need pitching. Say the Indians bite on Blackburn, Valencia and Hick/Revere/Somebody. The Twins starting rotation then looks like Liriano, Carmona, Baker, Slowey, Duensing...not bad. For a mere $28M the Twins could keep Carmona through 2014. Total addition to the payroll this year: ~$3M

3.) Let Carl Pavano walk, let Matt Capps walk
Rationale: I don't care what the argument is, re-signing Pavano is not a good idea in ANY situation I can see, unless you're talking about a one-year deal and let's be honest, some other team out there is going to be willing to give him more than one-year, I just don't want it to be the Twins and CERTAINLY not for $10-$15M per. As for Matt Capps, come on Billy, you f-ed up, just admit it and move on and drop Capps, it's not worth keeping him.

4.) Try and sign Adrian Beltre
Rationale: Sometimes you have to go for it and that, for the Twins, means extending that payroll, maybe even a little beyond what's comfortable...or practical...kinda like what the White Sox are doing right now. Anyway, the consensus seems to be that 5-years and $70M would do it...that's about $14M per, it's steep, but you're getting a very solid defensive 3rd basemen with quite a bat. He wouldn't duplicate his home-run binge from last year if he played at Target Field, but he would certainly hit his share of doubles and be a nice addition to the Mauer/Morneau combo.

5.) I suppose there's no way, given the previous scenarios I've laid out, to re-sign either Crain or Guerrier, but if the Twins hadn't idiotically committed to re-signing Capps, they'd have a nice bit of change to make a run at it. Short of that, as Gleeman pointed out today, there should be a number of serviceable arms left after this initial bullpen feeding frenzy to piece something together.

So it's pie-in-the-sky. Unfortunately Hardy is already gone and the Twins have already managed to bungle up this off-season pretty badly. I'm really trying to be optimistic, but this is some pretty poor decision making. Maybe I'll be wrong, maybe Nishioka turns into an infield version of Ichiro, maybe the Twins call up Gibson and he becomes David Price-esque. Maybe, maybe, maybe. I see all that, but to me, "maybes" don't win championships and when you're this close, I'd rather spend the extra money to have the better bets. Until the Twins front-office can focus more on the talent than the bottom-line, I fear we will continue to be stuck where they're at, decent, but not championship material.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Phillies the new Miami Heat (Lee the new LeBron)?

Something is bound to go wrong. Not since the early '90s with the Braves have we seen this kind of talent assembled in one starting rotation. In case you've been staying in a remote village for the last week, or for some ridiculous reason my blog is your homepage, Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies overnight and joins Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels in what is bar-none the best starting 4 in all of baseball. Two thoughts: 

a) How ironic is it that the very blueprint the Yankees used for success in the late '90s and early '00s is coming back to bite them now? By that I mean, the Yankees used to suck up top-talent after top-talent in free-agency year after year which helped them, to some degree, win 5 world series championships in the last 14 years. Now, teams like the Red Sox and Phillies have adopted a somewhat similar strategy (especially the Red Sox) in acquiring expensive talent to build winning ballclubs. In this case, one of the teams following that blue-print gobbled up a prize free-agent in a last-minute deal. Fear not Yankee fans, the Yankees will find somebody else, it may cost them a little bit, but this will only serve to make them more aggressive on the market. 

b) I couldn't help but think about the somewhat obvious similarities to LeBron's big Decision and the mass of talent that the Miami Heat now have. There are some huge differences between baseball and basketball which will make it worlds easier for the Phillies to hold this much talent together, but still, the whole "buying a championship" thing...I don't know, it seems pretty lame. I can't help but think a little less of Lee for doing what he decided to do. For one thing, he turned down an opportunity to pitch on the biggest stage in baseball, He fled to the weaker and easier National League, and he went to the team packed with talent where he won't even be considered the best pitcher on the staff. You could give Lee props for doing what he wanted to do in going back to a team that traded him away, you could give him a pat on the back for giving his wife's wishes some consideration, but the main thing that separates Lee from LeBron is that he didn't make a big spectacle of it, he just let his agent do the work and kept out of the spotlight. I like that he didn't make a big deal out of it. The media did that for him. He just let the cards fall and it turns out, he got as good of a deal from the Phillies as he would have anywhere else and he gets to pitch in the much more pitcher-friendly National League. In the words of Ethel Merman, "everything's coming up roses"...for Lee that is.

Nothing's for sure, injuries happen, pitchers break down, offenses can go cold, etc, etc. That being said, if everything works out for the Phillies, you have to think that they'll be strong contenders for the World Series, check out this rotation: 

1.) Roy Halladay - 2 Cy Young Awards, 7 All-Star Appearances, 169 Career Wins
2.) Cliff Lee - 1 Cy Young Award, 2 All-Star Appearances, 102 Career Wins
3.) Roy Oswalt - 5 Top Five Cy Young Finishes, 3 All-Star Appearances, 150 Career Wins
4.) Cole Hamels - 1 All-Star Appearance, 60 Career Wins
5.) Who knows. Blanton?

Cliff Lee has the highest career ERA of any of those 4 pitchers at 3.85, between them they have 3 Cy Youngs, 16 Top-10 Cy Young finishes, 481 wins and 13 All-Star Appearances. Lee is now locked up for 5 years, Cole Hamels will be arbitration eligible starting in 2012, Oswalt is signed through next year and has a mutual option for 2012 and Halladay is signed through 2014. In other words, this isn't just a one-year, one-shot thing, this group will be in Philly for at least the next 2 years and possibly longer than that. Wow.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hardy Reaction

I've been reading around the Twins blogs and other blogs for the past hour or so soaking up the various opinions on the JJ Hardy trade the Twins executed today with the Baltimore Orioles. Had I any time to write a post earlier today I might have gone by the numbers and tried to make a case one way or the other, but I'm late to the game so I'll skip that and just give straight up opinion.

Back in October I wrote a piece laying out an argument for bringing back Hardy and claiming that he should be the Twins #1 priority to re-sign in the much for that. The bottomline for my argument was that a) Hardy is way more valuable when compared to other shortstops and what's available than he looks to be standing alone and b) $7M is not too much to pay for a proven defensive commodity with offensive upside. As Nick Nelson highlighted in his opinion of the trade, the Twins now find themselves with a very unstable and highly risky setup at SS and 2nd, relying heavily on a very average Alexi Casilla and an unproven Tsuyoshi Nishioka (provided the Twins do actually sign him). Granted, they did save, by all accounts, about $3-$4M in salary between what Hardy would have gotten and Harris' salary, but I'm not sure that savings justifies the trade.

The most irritating thing I'm reading through all of this is that this trade would somehow be justified if the Twins turn around and re-sign Carl Pavano. Um...NO, IT WOULDN'T. First of all, re-signing a 35-year old pitcher to a 3-year deal and then saying that it somehow justifies trading away a semi-valuable 28-year-old shortstop is idiotic logic. For another thing, I'm sick of hearing about how resigning Pavano is a good idea. It's not a good idea. The guy has a track record of injury and locking him in till he's 38 is just asking to get screwed. One and a half seasons of decent baseball does not a 3-year contract merit. What the Twins outta do is pursue a trade for an arm that other people aren't talking Fausto Carmona or Wandy Rodriguez.

Twins Geek suggested that this move means the Twins payroll will only go up by 10-15% instead of 25%, I'm just not following the logic there. I think the Orioles offered the Twins those two also-ran minor league pitchers and the Twins front-office said (wisely), "why don't you take this flour-sack-of-a-player Brendan Harris off our hands too, ya know, to make the deal resemble something fair." And the Orioles said, "OK." I don't think it's any indication of the payroll situation, but it does work nicely either way in opening up another couple million to spend on pitchers.

David Golebiewski from FanGraphs said it best, "I’d be shocked if Casilla comes anywhere close to Hardy’s production level in 2011. Should Casilla get a starting job, it’s possible that he’s a win-and-a-half to two win downgrade at the position." That's a best-case scenario, and if either Casilla or Nishioka gets hurt, you're looking at the likes of Trevor Plouffe in the starting lineup and frankly, that's scary.

Here's to hoping a) Justin Morneau returns next season and resembles his old self, b) Kubel has a year that more closely resembles 2009, and c) the Twins don't have any injuries to their 2nd basemen or Shortstop. That's a lot to hope for.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Top 10 Signs You May Have Overpaid a Free-Agent...

10.) When people talk about the deal they say things like, "hey, if you can get the money!"

9.) The player (and agent) sign right away when you make the offer.

8.) Your deal single-handedly changes the free-agent pay scales.

7.) The player you just let walk was better but was paid less by his new team.

6.) People wonder if you are high on something and ask where they can get stuff as good as you have.

5.) Other free-agents who weren't interested in your team before suddenly start calling you.

4.) Somebody puts a whoopie cushion on your chair at the Winter Meetings.

3.) When asked to comment on the player, your GM says, ""I've been a fan of his lineage and his family," instead of mentioning anything about his on-field skills. [story]

2.) To those close to him, Scott Boras refers to your organization as his "piggybank."

1.) Jon Heyman tweets about how much he likes the deal.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Random Baseball Thoughts

I took a nice long break from baseball and to be honest, I didn't miss much. I've kept up with the other baseball blogs and sites out there in my absence and people have resorted to writing about some pretty off-the-wall stuff in the absence of real news. HardballTalk is going through the worst uniforms of all time, Gleeman is onto another Top 40 List (which I enjoy, but he only does it during the off-season), and FanGraphs is writing articles about Eric Hinske and Jose Lopez. So here's my take on some of the more interesting happenings over the past two weeks.

I want to start off with Derek Jeter. It seems to me that up until the couple of days, the Yankees' organization have handled the situation poorly. There's been too much talking to the media and the whole, "go and try to find a better deal" thing was a bit ridiculous. That said, I feel like $45M over 3 years is WAY more than Jeter is worth, even despite his status as a Yankee Legend. For a team with seemingly unlimited payroll, I know it doesn't make that much of a difference to them what they pay Jeter, but if I'm Jeter, I'm grateful that I'm getting that much and I'm saying, "yes sir, thank you sir." It's not that simple, I understand that, but I can't help but feel off-put by the situation; it seems like yet another example of a greedy athlete. I don't understand the argument that the Yankees "need" to keep Jeter, it seems to me like that would go against their desire to have the best team possible,...not that Jeter hurts them much, but still, I don't get that argument.

The White Sox are scaring me. First they pick up Adam Dunn which was predictable considering the hard-on Kenny Williams has had for him dating back to the trading deadline last year. But then they re-sign Pierzynski and let Jenks go and now they're talking about re-signing Konerko as well. First of all, Dunn adds some serious left-handed power and about as consistent a bat as you can find out there. If they bring back Pauly, you will see Konerko at first and Dunn in the DH spot with the occasional flip-flop here and there to give Konerko some rest. Dunn will be a excellent fit for them at the plate and U.S. Cellular is a hitters park which Dunn will thrive on. Then you think about their potential rotation with Danks, Floyd, Jackson, Peavy, and Buehrle at their disposal. The back-end of their bullpen will probably be Chris Sale setting up Matt Thornton which is quite fearsome. You put all of that together and you are looking at a pretty solid team top to bottom with power, some speed, good pitching and solid bullpen. Anyway you look at, the White Sox look to be contenders next year, no doubt about it.

I was pretty sad to hear about the passing of Ron Santo. My wife is a HUGE Cubs fan and it hit her particularly hard. Santo was as much a Cubs Legend as Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins or any of the other Cubs Legends was and despite a wide variety of physical ailments, Santo kept with the Cubs and was still doing games for WGN even this past season. The thing I'll always remember about Ron Santo is when listening to Cubs games on the radio, you felt like he was a fan sitting right next to you in the stands. He was always right there was a "YEAH!!!" when something good happened and with a "GALL-LEE!" when something didn't go the Cubs way. Ron Santo was as loved as Harry Carey and I expect the Cubs organization will do something very nice to celebrate his life in the near future. Maybe now he'll finally get a well-deserved nod into the Hall of Fame.

The Cliff Lee speculation has gotten wildly out of control. Now it comes out today that Nolan Ryan thinks it will take awhile. Does anybody really know? Let's just wait and see, enough of the speculation already.

The Twins made a curious move by winning the negotiation bid on Tsuyoshi Nishioka. It's a mistake in my mind, but I guess if doesn't work out it won't cost them anything. It makes me think that their budget is not as tight as many have made it seem. I like that they offered arbitration to JJ Hardy and I really hope things don't work out with Nishioka and we have Hardy as the starting SS come next season. I also hope the Twins don't bring back Jim Thome, though I think I may be alone in that opinion. I hope the Twins make a little bigger splash than simply fighting to bring back the old band, but my hopes are not that high.