MLB: Finally, Some Action

The rumor mill is spinning out of control and it looks like a few deals are about to fall into place.  We’ve even seen a trade (according to ESPN sources).

  • The Boston Red Sox have given American League MVP, and the closest thing to a hobbit that baseball has seen since Frank Menechino, Dustin Pedroia a $40.5 M extension.  Pedroia’s new deal will top out at $10,000,000 in 2013 and 2014, but the club holds an option for 2015 worth $11,000,000.
  • The San Francisco Giants are reportedly close to acquiring free-agent SS Edgar Renteria, signaling that they have fallen out of the race for Rafael Furcal. Edgar “I don’t practice” Renteria is coming off a lousy season with a lousy Detroit Tigers team.
  • Three-true-outcome slugger Russell Branyan has signed with the Seattle Mariners.
  • Javier Vazquez has reportedly been shipped to the Atlanta Braves with Jo-Jo Reyes apparently being the centerpiece heading to the Chicago White Sox.  The deal has not been finalized, and may involve several other players.  Vazquez clearly had fallen out of favor with the mercurial Ozzie Guillen in Chicago, the Braves have also emerged as a strong contender for A.J. Burnett after rumors surfaced of a possible 5-year offer for the pitcher.

SL


MLB News and Notes

There is still no major player movement to report, and aside from the same rumors regarding Jake Peavy, there has been very little to even speculate about.  Here is the latest news from around baseball:

  • The Boston Red Sox have finalized a deal with 22 year-old Japanese pitcher Junichi Tazawa.  Unlike their pursuit of Daisuke Matsuzaka a couple of years back, the Red Sox did not have to pay for the rights to talk to Tazawa as he has never played professional baseball.
  • Free agent and often injured left handed pitcher Mike Hampton has inked a deal to pitch for the Houston Astros, pending a physical.  In all likelihood the deal is for one year, hell, he’d be lucky to pass the physical.
  • The Astros also came to terms with middle reliever Doug Brocail on a one year deal with a club option for a second.
  • According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Atlanta Braves are nearing a deal for Chicago White Sox pitcher Javier Vazquez.
  • Toronto Blue Jays owner and Rogers Communications Inc founder Ted Rogers passed away today at the age of 75.  Rogers had been hospitalized in recent weeks with a heart condition.

SL


Rickey Henderson is the Greatest

 

This year’s Hall of Fame ballot will include Rickey Henderson.  “Rickey”, as he refers to himself should be a first ballot selection, and the numbers have no problem backing that up.  The persona he portrayed around and away from the game could just as easily influence his chance of being selected as it could deter it.  Henderson was as well-known around the league for talking to himself and spouting quotes as he was for his unparalleled base stealing ability and great bat speed.  If I had a vote, and I don’t, I would select “The Man of Steal” without hesitation.

Rickey was the 1990 American League MVP, a 10-time All-Star, he ranks first in career runs scored, second in walks… and oh yeah, he stole 1406 bases during his career to rank first, and led the league in that category a remarkable 12-times.  Even Rickey referred to himself as “the greatest of all time”.

We loved Rickey, because Rickey was f’n crazy. Want to know how out of this world Rickey Henderson really (is) was?  Check this small sample of Rickey stories and quotes:

* Supposedly, during Rickey’s first stint with the Oakland Athletics, he asked a teammate how long he thought it would take him (Rickey) to drive to the Dominican Republic.
* Henderson was notoriously heard talking to himself.  When a reporter asked him if he spoke to himself, he responded with the following:  “Do I talk to myself? No, I just remind myself of what I’m trying to do. You know, I never answer myself so how can I be talking to myself?”
* Another one from his days with the Athletics in the 80’s:  The Oakland accounting department noticed that their books were off by $1,000,000.  It was later determined that Rickey Henderson had not cashed a million dollar check he received as a bonus; he had framed it and hung it on his wall.
* Remember when Ken Caminiti estimated that at least 50% of Major League Baseball players were using steroids?  When Rickey was asked what his thoughts were on the comment, he replied with; “Well, Rickey’s not one of them, so that’s 49 percent right there.”
* Following the 2001 season with the San Diego Padres, where Rickey at age 42 hit only .226 but still swiped 25 bases, General Manager Kevin Towers claimed he received the following voice mail message from Rickey; “This is Rickey calling on behalf of Rickey. Rickey wants to play baseball.”

Reporters with a minimum 10 years of consecutive service to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America are eligible to vote on the Hall of Fame ballot, the results will be announced on January 12th.  Run Rickey run.

SL


Hiding the Truth on Amphetamines

According to a report from ESPN.com, Major League Baseball will not release the results of their newly implemented amphetamine testing program.  While it was widely believed that MLB would be releasing the names of violators, they will not disclose the offenders or the number of positive tests that were encountered.

This is another disappointing development in the never-ending saga in the use of performance enhancing substances  by baseball players.  The league referenced their drug testing program as the reason why they would not release the data, stating; “under our program, first-time positive tests for amphetamines are treated as confidential, and because of that, those numbers will be kept private.”  Come on, really?  The only reason that baseball has seen a reduction in the use of steroids is because the Mitchell Report named names.  Amphetamines, which were at one time used openly and shared among teammates, are believed by some to be of more widespread use in the game than steroids.

Maybe players will be less likely to use banned substances when the league decides to take a tougher stance on the matter.

-SL


Finding Value Among The Second Tier

After the C.C. Sabathias and the Mark Teixeiras sign their multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts there will undoubtedly be points during the duration of their deals where they don’t perform like they’re being paid.  Maybe not at a Carl Pavano (26 starts over 4 seasons at some $40,000,000) type fiasco, but you can never predict prolonged slumps, nagging injuries, and the ol’ off field issues.  The small market teams and the true contenders will be looking to fill their rosters out with added value without spending like the terror threat level has reached Orange.

Take the Philadelphia Phillies for instance.  They are coming off a World Series victory, and it appears that they will be without all-star 2B Chase Utley for the first couple months of the season.  While it would be near impossible to replace what he does offensively, the Phillies will need a stop-gap capable of keeping their infield defense intact and providing some bottom of the order spark.

Below I have listed several free agents that will not command long-term deals, and could provide a relatively discounted service to prospective teams:

Felipe Lopez 2B/SS:  Whatever happened to the speedy kid in Cincinnati that hit .291 with 23HR 85RBI and a blazing set of wheels?  His motivation was questioned and he was shipped to Washington where he had to learn how to play another position.  Lopez re-emerged last season with St. Louis Cardinals and showed a new found patience while batting .385 in 156AB.  He may never develop into the heir apparent of Barry Larkin, but Lopez may be a good candidate for a 1 year deal loaded with incentives and an option.

Juan Rivera OF/DH:  Rivera is only 30 years old, and his at-bats were severely limited the last couple seasons.  He made $2,025,000 in 2008 and could provide just about any team with an above average 4th outfielder or DH.  His seasonal averages per 162 games played are .284/21/81.  Not bad at all.

Brad Penny RHP:  Penny is a serial second-half disappointment.  Last season was his worst as a big leaguer after having a career year in 2007.  He had shoulder problems and was probably never healthy last season; a blessing in disguise for potential suitors of his services.  Big Brad is a classic high risk/high reward free agent pitcher.  He would probably be better off staying in the National League with a 1 year deal, but could venture into the American League if anyone is willing to offer him a longer deal.  Watch for the losers of the A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe sweepstakes to make a run at Penny.

Garret Anderson LF/DH:  Anderson is heading towards the end of his career and seems highly unlikely that a return to the crowded Anaheim outfield is an option.  He has been fairly consistent over the last 3 seasons, but by no means spectacular.  He is still a productive left handed hitter that could be a good fit for a team short on lefties (i.e. Toronto).  At this point in his career he is best suited as a DH.

Carl Pavano RHP:  I can’t believe I just wrote that.  Seriously though, Pavano could be the biggest bargain of the lot.  He obviously couldn’t get it together in the media mecca of New York, but Pavano could provide an experienced arm to a city that would allow him to fly under the radar.  If he can stay healthy, he’ll have to earn his money; no way he gets another long term deal with millions attached.

Orlando Hudson 2B:   Where Hudson goes, Cy Youngs are won.  He was personal vacuum cleaner for Roy Halladay in 2003 and Brandon Webb in 2006.  He is coming off of back-to-back injury shortened seasons, but averages .282BA 13HR 70RBI per 162 games and shows an ability to get on base.  Possibly the best defensive 2B in all of baseball.

-SL


Roid Rage, Probably Growth Hormone Too

Let me state a couple things; I truly believe that Roger Clemens is a cheater, and I also believe that Brian McNamee is a huge creep.  According to a report, Brian McNamee gave federal investigators Roger Clemens’ DNA in the form of cotton balls, gauze pads, and syringes that he had horded between 1998-2001.  McNamee claims that the evidence was used to inject “The Rocket” with steroids and HGH.  I’m sorry, that’s really disgusting, and, at the same time, maybe the smartest thing Mr. McNamee has ever done (the collecting, not the injecting).

Baseball wants steroids to go away, I’m sure Roger wants steroids to go away as well; I’m from the school of thought that wants those involved in the scandal to be accountable for their actions.  The Clemens vs. McNamee fiasco was looking as though it may never play out in the court of law.  Now, thanks to Brian McNamee’s sick little science kit of steroid paraphernalia, we may soon see Roger Clemens meet his fate on the count of perjury.

Clemens’ lawyer, Rusty Hard-on… er Hardin stated via telephone to the New York Times that they were willing to cooperate with the investigation.  Of course they will because Clemens is the only person crazy enough to believe that he didn’t take the drugs.  His best friend and training partner Andy Pettitte even admitted that he and Roger did it, and spoke about it.  I think we all (mis)remember (yeah, cheesy joke) Roger’s reaction to Pettitte’s testimony.

The odds are stacked against Clemens in this case.  Hopefully his defamation case against McNamee gets tossed, and Roger is made to pay the ultimate price for his actions, that would be the dismissal of his “legacy”.  All that would be left is the constant re-running of him throwing a broken bat at Mike Piazza on some Best Damn Sports compilation show.

-SL


Is There Any Direction in San Diego?

It’s hard to be optimistic about the current direction of the San Diego Padres.  On the one hand they seem to be moving in the right direction by cutting ties with closer Trevor Hoffman.  On the other hand you have to wonder what the purpose of bringing back the aging Brian Giles has to do with a looming rebuilding process.  Lost somewhere between General Manager Kevin Towers’ poor execution of allowing Hoffman to walk, and the manic decision to pick up the option on Giles’ contract is the mess of Jake Peavy trade rumors.

Hoffman is baseball’s all-time saves leader and undisputed face of the Padres.  He recently turned 41 (109 in closer years) and his fastball was looking anything but fast by the end of the season.  Letting him go was the right move by Towers, but the divorce turned nasty when the Padres rescinded their offer to Hoffman and the two sides battled through the media.  Heath Bell is the leading candidate to takeover the closer’s role next season; one would have thought that the team was moving towards a youth movement… think again.

The club picked up a $9,000,000 option on Brian Giles and his increasingly disappearing power.  Here is a guy that seems to have very little interest in winning; he turned down a proposed trade to the playoff bound Boston Red Sox at last season’s trade deadline.  Most baseball players work their whole career to have a shot at the World Series, Giles was handed the opportunity and chose to stay in San Diego.  Giles will be 38 years old on opening day and his homerun totals have dropped for the past 5 seasons.  He still draws a lot of walks, but his once mighty swing is behind him.

Don’t discount the flurry of Jake Peavy trade rumors.  Peavy is apparently seeking a trade to a contender (don’t ask why the Atlanta Braves came up in discussions).  The other team whose name keeps coming up is the Chicago Cubs.  Their inclusion in the Peavy trade discussions was thought to be a roadblock in their ability to re-sign Ryan Dempster but Dempster was locked up last week.  According to SI.com’s Jon Heyman, the Cubs face a couple of complications in their quest to acquire Peavy.

Peavy is among the best arms in baseball, and could fetch a number of solid prospects in a trade.  The Padres’ outfield is a buffet of underachievers (Jody Gerut, Scott Hairston) and the gimpy Giles.  Chase Headley showed some promise last season, and may be best suited for the outfield.  Adrian Gonzalez emerged as a legitimate run producer (.279/36/119) and an excellent first baseman, and Kevin Kouzmanoff could be a solid complimentary bat if he improves his patience at the plate (he had a lacklustre .299 OBP).

Kevin Towers has his work cut out over the next few months of the offseason, some pieces are there including a great bullpen, but the impending departure of Peavy will be the telltale sign of this team’s true direction.

-SL

Photo courtesy of SI.com.


Yankees Set to Pass on Burnett

According to the New York Daily News, the Yankees are refusing to go so far as to offer free agent hurler A.J. Burnett the 5-year deal he is seeking.  Burnett’s agent, Darek Braunecker, is determined to fetch his client a long term deal and the Yankees and Red Sox were believed to be the most likely destination considering the lofty contract demand.  Given Burnett’s injury history, and the fact that his only two healthy seasons were contract years; it is likely that the services of Derek Lowe would be more appealing to both New York and Boston.  The Yankees still have their offer on the table for C.C. Sabathia as well.

Toronto is looking more and more like the most logical destination for A.J. Burnett.  There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Blue Jays’ starting rotation for next season as Shaun Marcum is already lost for the season with Tommy John surgery, and Dustin McGowan will be coming back from shoulder surgery.  That leaves just Roy Halladay, who works as hard as 3 men anyway, Jesse Litsch, and the unreliable David Purcey as their returning starters.  Burnett had the best year of his career last season with the Blue Jays, and while it may be ludicrous to think he would be healthy for the duration of a 5-year deal, he does provide some stability to a team with a window of opportunity that is becoming foggy.

General Manager J.P. Ricciardi’s job will be on the line if this team fails to improve.

-SL


Slow Going Free Agency

Its been two weeks since Major League Baseball said hello to its annual free agent frenzy, and with only two signings thus far it is safe to say it has been slow.  There is no shortage of big names to sign the dotted lines, but with only Ryan Dempster (re-signing with the Cubs for 4 years and a boatload of money), and Jeremy Affeldt heading to San Francisco for 2 years and $8,000,000; the most coveted players are still available.

The only official offer on anyone’s table at this point is the New York Yankees’ inflated offer to C.C. Sabathia.  Considering Sabathia’s desire to pitch on the West Coast, and his love of hitting, it is likely that he is awaiting an offer from the Dodgers or Giants.  Apparently Hal Steinbrenner is short on patience as he stated; “We’ve made him an offer. It’s not going to be there forever,”.  The deal is reportedly worth $140,000,000 over 6 years.  As of today, everything else is just rumors and rumblings;

  • The Toronto Blue Jays appear to be the only team willing to offer A.J. Burnett the 5-year deal that he desires according to the Toronto Sun.
  • Jon Heyman reports that if the Angels are serious about Mark Teixeira then they will have to pony up a deal very similar to the one Miguel Cabrera signed with Detroit last season.  Hell, maybe Teixeira can then gain weight, lose his position, gain more weight, and the team will be the biggest disappointment of the season.
  • The Kansas City Royals seem determined to cause a log-jam in their outfield as well as first base/DH.  Coco Crisp gives them an average CF, and bottom of the order at best bat.  The good news is they are shopping Jose Guillen, although there likely won’t be many takers on the $24,000,000 he is owed over the next two years.

Nothing at all has been mentioned in recent days regarding Manny Ramirez, only that the Blue Jays are not interested.  Toronto would have provided a shield from the media for Manny, but it never seemed likely that the conservative ownership group (Rogers Communications) were willing to back up the money truck.  I’ve had a few ideas of Manny scenarios;

  1. Manny to the Yankees:  Manny cuts his hair, sports a Jeter cut, and wears the number 2007 to remind Red Sox fans of their last World Series title.
  2. Manny to the Pirates:  Manny keeps the hair and in fact, is encouraged to grow it.  He begins to wear an eye-patch by mid-season.
  3. Manny resigns with the Dodgers:  The Dodgers fold their cards and pay Manny for 6 years.  They just had to have his star power.  They did sign Jason Schmidt ($30,000,000 plus so far; 6 starts and a 6.31 ERA).

Come on Pirates!

-SL


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