Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Balance of Power has Shifted...

Day two of the 2007 Winter Meetings were, for the most part, pretty quiet…

Well-traveled outfielder Jose Guillen is a Royal for 3 years at $36 million. The Braves and Cubs swapped spare parts. The Yankees decreed they were pulling out of the Santana sweepstakes, only to find that the Twins called their bluff. The Angels were reportedly in the mix for Santana but Halos-GM Tony Reagins is currently denying any link to the southpaw.

See, nice and quiet...

…then, like the drunk guys who took your seat while you were getting a hot dog, the Marlins and Tigers decide to shake things up in a real big way.

The second-biggest name on the trade market—Miguel Cabrera—and teammate Dontrelle Willis were shipped to the Tigers in exchange for elite prospects outfielder Cameron Maybin, lefty starter Andrew Miller. Also heading to Florida will be catcher Mike Rabello, and pitchers Dallas Trahern, Eulogio De La Cruz and Burke Badenhop.

This trade is huge for both sides and immediately sends shockwaves through the rest of the American League.

THE TIGERS

The Tigers have to be considered neck-and-neck with the Red Sox in terms of who will be the favorite heading into the 2008 season. That could all change if the Sox wrangle Santana away from the Twins—a move that seems increasingly more necessary for anyone looking to tangle with the new-look Tigers.

On paper the Tigers have one of the most explosive lineups in all of baseball. Let’s go ahead and take a look at what the Opening Day lineup could look like:

Curtis Granderson, CF
Placido Polanco, 2B
Miguel Cabrera, 3B
Gary Sheffield, DH
Magglio Ordonez, RF
Carlos Guillen, 1B
Edgar Renteria, SS
Ivan Rodriguez, C
Jacque Jones/Marcus Thames, LF

Call me crazy, but that’s a pretty potent lineup; perhaps even more so than that of the Yankees and Red Sox; and definitely more potent than that of the Indians or the Miguel Cabrera-less Angels.

This move also opens the Tigers up to the option of trading incumbent third-baseman, Brandon Inge. With many teams in the hunt for third-basemen and the top dog now off the market, perhaps the Angels, Dodgers or even the division rival Twins would be willing to talk. Perhaps a trade of Inge and Chad Durbin to the Twins for Joe Nathan, if the Twins do—in fact—intend to trade him as well.

Moving on from the All-Star Game lineup the Tigers will be putting on the field everyday, let’s turn to their rotation. At the helm are the three faces of the future Willis, Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander all of whom are 25 or younger heading into this season. Also in the mix are veteran southpaws Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson.

Assuming Willis is able to turn-around his recent regression—something many believe to be the result of large workloads in recent years—he could return to form as the pitcher who won 22 games as recently as 2005.

The only real weakness the Tigers currently possess is the mystery surrounding the back end of the bullpen. Joel Zumaya is out until mid-season and closer-by-default Todd Jones is, well, Todd Jones. How much magic can that dude really have left? Despite that lone weakness the 2008 Tigers look to be a very talented team which means trouble for the rest of the American League.

THE MARLINS

As much as I don’t want to mention that this move was a salary dump for the Marlins, it was—by all means—a salary dump for the Marlins. With arbitration not treating the Marlins kindly the salaries for Willis and Cabrera were quickly escalating and only figured to continue the trend, as such the move makes a lot of sense.

In adding Maybin the team adds a very young, very athletic five-tool player who can finally take a firm hold on the centerfield job and help cover the ground that fellow outfielders Jeremy Hermidia and Josh Willingham can’t. Maybin has been compared to Ken Griffey Jr on numerous occasions because of his blazing speed, incredible defense and his ability to hammer the ball. His presence alongside Hanley Ramirez at the top of the Marlins lineup will give opposing teams fits on the base-paths all season long.

Miller was taken 6th overall in the 2006 draft by the Tigers and he is widely regarded as the best pitcher from that draft which was laden with quality pitchers. The 6-foot-6 southpaw has only pitched 16 games in the Minors, and it's doubtful he'll spend any more time there now. His pitches include a mid to upper 90s fastball, a late-breaking slider and a change-up. Pitching coach Mark Wiley was recently rehired by the Marlins, due to his reputation for handling young pitchers well; a move that could be a very beneficial for Miller and the Marlins.

The addition of Mike Rabello gives the Marlins a second option at catcher and the addition of three minor league arms only adds to the Marlins seemingly limitless supply of solid, young pitching.

Although the Marlins don’t look to contend any time in the near future, this trade sets the groundwork for the next five plus years. With young pitching and a very dynamic offense, this is a team that may only be a few quality parts away from contention. However, as if seemingly the way in South Florida, that isn’t likely to happen without new ownership, a new stadium or perhaps a move to a new locale. Fiscal elements notwithstanding, the talent factor is there, now it’s all about putting it together.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Winter Meetings--The Santana-less Edition

The 2007 Winter Meetings are here and believe it or not—and based on all my ranting, it may be hard to believe—there are people other than Johan Santana on the trade market. So I’m going to use this bloggity-blog to focus on some teams that are expected to be—or at least should be—very active at the Winter Meetings.

—The Los Angeles Dodgers—

The Dodgers have been sitting on their hands most of this off-season since signing Joe Torre to man the helm. They have numerous weaknesses to address, but as has become status quo, they simply aren’t addressing any of them. They are in talks with the Marlins for third-baseman/left-fielder/future first-baseman/future DH/future pie-eating champion Miguel Cabrera, but all of those trade talks seem to have cooled immensely in recent weeks.

With the team still in need of a serious power threat, all eyes may be on free-agent centerfield Andruw Jones this week. Jones is coming off the worst season of his career -- .222 average, 26 homers, 96 RBIs. Even with those numbers, Jones would immediately become the most potent proven bat in the Dodgers lineup. He could command a very large, long-term deal and given the Dodgers desperate need for not only a defensive upgrade in centerfield, but some serious power in the line-up, he may be worth every penny—to the Dodgers that is.

The Dodgers, initially thought to be involved in the Santana talks, are also keeping an eye on the availability of solid pitching options. Randy Wolf—one of the team’s best starters before injury shut him down in July—recently signed with the rival San Diego Padres, Jason Schmidt is a bit of a question mark after going under the knife last season. Clayton Kershaw—one of the team’s top bargaining chips at the trade table—may or may not be ready for the show next season. That leaves a rotation Derrek Lowe, Brad Penny, Chad Billingsley and Esteban Loaiza. Needless to say, adding another starter might not be such a bad idea.

The free agent class of pitcher is at best, uninspiring, but Livan Hernandez or Carlos Silva, slotted in the five-hole in the rotation could be highly-effective. Also available is a glut of pitchers returning from injury such as Freddy Garcia, Matt Clement and 2005 Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon. All come with the high risk, high reward tag attached.

—The New York Mets—

The Mets are in dire need of a front-line starter. A stopper, if you will. They need someone whose name on the lineup means a day off for the bullpen and the end of a losing streak. Right now they don’t have it. In fact, after losing Tom Glavine back to the division-rival Atlanta Braves they now have even less depth. The opening day rotation right now looks like Pedro Martinez, Orlando Hernandez, Oliver Perez, John Maine and either Philip Humber or Mike Pelfrey. Needless to say, that rotation doesn’t exactly intimidate the rest of the NL East…or most city league softball teams.

General Manager Omar Minaya will clearly be on the prowl to add a starter (or two) at the Winter Meetings and given the poor showings of Pelfrey and Humber in their major league debuts last season, may be willing to dangle both of them in trade talks. He may, however, have lost himself a major bargaining chip when he jettisoned mercurial outfielder and long-time “can’t miss” prospect Lastings Milledge to the Nationals for two-second tier complimentary parts in catcher Brian Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church.

In essence the Mets have lost out in the Santana race, due to a lack of suitable prospects. Although once Santana has been moved names like Erik Bedard, Dan Haren, Joe Blanton and Dontrelle Willis could all become available on the trade market. As well teams such as the Giants, Angels and Dodgers could be willing to move one of their starters for the right price.

Any package the Mets would offer would have to include one of their young outfielder Carlos Gomez or Fernando Martinez and probably one of the top three pitching prospects in either Pelfrey, Humber or Kevin Mulvey. However, one thing the team seems to be overlooking is how badly some of these teams out west are in need of slugger; a need that could be filled by trading Carlos Delgado and a prospect. The Angels could send back Ervin Santana or Joe Saunders. The Giants could be willing to part with Tim Lincecum. The Dodgers, although relatively light on pitching themselves, may be willing to ship out Billingsley and/or Kershaw if given the right return from the Mets.

—The Milwaukee Brewers—

I know, I know…there hasn’t been much talk of movement on the part of the Brew-Crew, but hear me out. The team is in dire need of a makeover for the backend of the bullpen given the exoduses of Francisco Cordero and Scott Linebrink. The thought of giving Derrick Turnbow the reigns as the full-time closer again, is a little scary. However, so is gambling on someone such as free-agent Eric Gagne to return to form following his implosion in Boston.

In addition, the team may want to start thinking about Ben Sheets’ future with the club. He is a free-agent after the 2008 season and given the ridiculous inflation of prices for free-agent pitchers, he might be more valuable in a trade once the Santana/Haren/Bedard-hoopla has died down. If not for the numerous injuries that have hampered the fireballer’s career thus far, he could be the most attractive option on the market.

If the Brewers ever though about trading Sheets, this off-season is the time to act. He could command a solid return from any of a number of clubs who miss out on Santana and he wouldn’t come at nearly as steep a price to re-sign. At the same time, the rotation behind Sheets looks to be pretty solid, albeit quite young in most respects. The Brewers are a team on the cusp of perennial contention and flipping Sheet this offseason, say to the Mets for Heilman and one or two of their prospects could turn out to be a huge return.

My advice, don’t count the Brewers out as players at the Winter Meetings.


—The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim—


The Angels already fired their first salvo of the off-season when they traded away Gold Glover shortstop Orlando Cabrera to the White Sox for start Jon Garland. Then in the wee-hours of the morning on Thanksgiving, the Halos snared Torii Hunter with a 5-year/$90 million deal.

With those moves already done, the Angels next mission is to acquire a slugger to stick behind Vladimir Guerrero in the lineup. The most attractive options to the Angels appear to be a pair of dudes named Miguel; those Miguels being Cabrera and Tejada respectively.

Cabrera—as mentioned in the Dodgers portion—is the slugging third-sacker for the Florida Marlins and will probably require a larger return from whichever club he is moved to than would Tejada, the current shortstop for the Orioles. Reports suggest that the Orioles’ president of baseball operations, Andy McPhail, is so unhappy with the product on the field that he may be willing to ship out his bigger names, such as Tejada, Melvin Mora, Brian Roberts, Ramon Hernandez and even ace Erik Bedard, for a lower cost of big-league talent and more prospects.

If the Angels acquire either Miguel, expect him to be entrenched at the thirdbase and in the four hole, behind Guerrero in the lineup. Rumor currently has the Marlins asking for way too much from the Angels. If that’s the case Tejada becomes the top option and the club can contemplate diving into the market for one of the top pitchers that may be available via trade.

Either way, don’t expect the Angels to sit idly by with the moves they’ve already made. New GM Tony Reagins has proven to be very proactive and is definitely looking to make the Angels a favorite in the 2008…thus far, he’s on the right path.

—The New York Yankees—

After collapsing in the first-round of the playoffs and with the younger Steinbrenners now at the helm, the Yankees appear very, very motivated to improve their club for next season. The team has already been very active bringing back key members of the 2007 squad including: Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte.

On top of that the club has been in hot-pursuit of Twins’ ace Johan Santana and whether they win the Santana Sweepstakes or not, the Yankees still would have to consider the possibility of making a move if Haren or Bedard were to become available.

Depending on the outcome of the Santana-deal, the Yankees may also be in the market to acquire a new centerfielder if Melky Cabrera is traded. Options include free-agents such as Aaron Rowand and Andruw Jones, both of whom would be great additions defensively, but will probably require more money and more of a long-term commitment than the team is willing to give. That makes second-tier free agents such as Mike Cameron and Corey Patterson all the more attractive as short-term solutions. At this point Johnny Damon shouldn’t even be considered as a full-time centerfielder.

Other options on the trade market could include Ken Griffey Jr. from the Reds. He is entering the final season of his contract and has long talked about a desire to win a World Series. The Yankees offer that opportunity year-in-and-year-out and Griffey’s sweet swing would look really nice with that short porch in right field. If the team was merely looking for a short-term replacement, the Red Sox Coco Crisp (again, based on the outcome of the Santana trade) may or may not be available. Although I can’t foresee a trade being worked out between these two clubs.

The Yankees may or may not be ballsy enough to go ahead and inquire about the Braves’ Mark Texeira. Tex is a free agent after the 2008 season and isn’t expected to sign an extension. If the Yankees could pull the right strings, they may be able to trade for and then sign the switch-hitting slugger (who can also play some defense); a move which would substantially bolster the Yanks offense and would set up a pretty solid combo of A-Rod and Tex at the heart of the Yankees lineup.

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All-in-all this year’s Winter Meetings appear to be ripe for trades as opposed to teams simply throwing their money at free-agents as has been the case in recent years. Expect a lot of rumors, a lot of big stories and when it’s all said and done…expect a very exciting season in 2008, with lots of big names in new homes.

Play Ball…Well Figuratively Anyway

Here we are--December 3, 2007. Today the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings open up in Nashville, Tennessee. All eyes—at least initially—will be glued on the Twins. The Twins are dangling perennial Cy Young candidate, team ace and the man who is without question, the best pitcher of this generation—Johan Santana.

As is often the case, standing at the front of the line to obtain Santana’s services are the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Thus far, negotiations have played out fairly well for all parties involved. The Twins have requested a Major League-ready pitcher from both sides and both sides have offered up Phil Hughes and Jon Lester, respectively. The Twins have asked for a Major League-ready centerfielder from both sides and both sides have offered up Melky Cabrera and Coco Crisp, respectively.

It’s there that things get murky. The Twins don’t appear to be all that high on Crisp or Cabrera. The Yankees refuse to throw in another high-level prospect such as AA starter Alan Horne or AAA shortstop Alberto Gonzalez. The Red Sox have told the Twins they will trade wunderkind Jacoby Ellsbury, but only if Lester is taken out of the picture. The Red Sox are also offering highly-touted AAA shortstop Jed Lowrie.

The Yankees-- frustrated that the small-market Twins won’t bend-over and take whatever deal is thrown at them—have established a deadline of today. With Andy Pettitte announcing his return to New York in 2008 early this morning, one has to think that perhaps the Yankees aren’t bluffing. However, who in their right mind will honestly pass up the chance to add the ace of all aces to their rotation?

The Red Sox have set no such deadline and, as such, if the Yankees pull out of negotiations they would be the obvious front-runners to land Santana. However, reports out of Boston suggest that Theo and company are growing frustrated with the Twins consistent demands of future ace in the making Clay Buchholz AND Jacoby Ellsbury. Epstein has repeatedly declared Buchholz as untouchable, but with other teams who are perhaps even more loaded with attractive prospects (ie: Angels and Dodgers) set to enter the fray this week at the Winter Meetings, all bets are off.

Santana may have hurt his own trade value when a report was leaked that he would refuse to accept a trade mid-season. If this happened the Twins would be hand-cuffed to a free-agent they couldn’t afford for the entire season. This would essentially mean that they would lose the greatest pitcher in baseball and have nothing more than two high draft picks to show for it. Needless to say Johan will be on the move—probably this week—so keep your eyes peeled.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Trying Times in Twins Territory...

Okay…so as a Twins fan, these are somewhat trying times.

I knew coming into this postseason that Torii Hunter was as good as gone. You don’t come off a career year and enter a VERY thin free-agent market and actually expect to return to your low-budget, small-market team. Torii knew this. I knew this. All the residents of Twins Territory knew this.

There have been a lot of Torii haters coming out lately, mostly uneducated fans pissing and moaning about how he “took the money and ran” or “turned his back on the Twins” or simply “left.” There are also tons of idiots who are pissed at new General Manager Bill “I have the lamest name, ever” Smith for “letting him go.”

Now I can see where both of these arguments come from, but let’s be honest, everyone (who knows anything about the Twins, that is) knew coming in that they weren’t going to be able to match the offers that Rangers and White Sox would put on the table, heck even the Royals were willing to pony up for 5 years at $75 million. Unfortunately, with Carl Pohlad still alive (and come on…no ill-will intended, honest!) that puts Torii lights years away from anything the Twinkies could offer.

So when the Angels waltzed into town with a five-year pact and $90 million to spend, Torii probably crapped his pants and thought…“Seriously?! Do these guys know that I’m a career .271 hitter with 192 homers?” Honestly, I can’t blame the dude for bailing and I wish him the best.

Then less than a full week later comes the trade rumors. In the last week the Twins realized that they are roughly $40 million apart from Johan Santana’s agent on an extension and—although Alex Rodriguez probably makes $40 million brushing his teeth under his new contract—that’s still a lot of money, especially to the Twins.

As such, the Twins are exploring trade offers for Santana; and low-and-behold who’s first to come knocking at the Twins’ door? Well what do you know; it’s none other than the New York Yankees. The mighty, mighty Yankees; the team that everyone expected to go ahead and scoop Santana up after 2008 when it was apparent the Twins wouldn’t be able to re-sign him. It just so happens that the Twins came to this realization early on and decided that, unlike the Hunter situation, they’re going to be proactive and get more than a compensation draft pick for this big fish. They’re going to rape and pillage anyone who is willing to meet their asking price.

SMART F’n MOVE!!!

As I mentioned in previous blogs, roughly five teams are actually in the hunt for Santana because only those five teams have the coffers to sign him to a long-term deal, a requirement for him to wave his no-trade clause. Personally, I think that’s Johan’s way of doing the Twins a favor. He knows they can’t afford him, so he’s demanding a long-term deal before he accepts a trade. This helps the Twins because they can demand a better return from a big market club and it helps Santana because it—most likely—lands him with a consummate contender. Anywho, the big five who are in the Santana hunt would include the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Angels and Dodgers. Although recent reports state that the Mariners think they have some sort of puncher’s chance of jumping in and wooing the Twins over with both of the prospects they have in their farm system?! Whatever…it’s the big five and no one else.

The only real uprising I’ve heard from any of these cliques has been from the fans of—you guessed it—the Yankees. Apparently, Yankees fans think that by trading for Santana they are doing the Twins some sort of favor. As such, most fans continue to throw out packages that include Mike Mussina, Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, Shelly Duncan, Wilson Betemit and Ian Kennedy. These same fans have labeled Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera untouchable to the Twins.

Let me get this straight Yankee fans. The Twins will give you the best pitcher of this era and in return you think the Twins should take the fat, bloated contracts and washed up players that the Twins clearly can’t afford—thus the mass exodus of home-grown talent—and you offer career minor leaguers and the third-best of the “big three.”

Hmmmmm…now, correct me if I’m wrong, but the Yankees biggest issue the last, oh I don’t know, half-decade or so has been pitching, correct? Wouldn’t it make sense to gamble some prospects (believe it or not Yankee fans—Joba and Hughes are not Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver—they are still unproven rookies) for the single greatest pitcher in baseball?

Honestly, I hope the Yankees own arrogance about their “untouchables” comes back to bite them in the ass and the Red Sox swoop in and offer some sort of three player deal involving Bucholz, Lester, Ellsbury, Crisp, Lowrie, Moss and/or Delcarmen. Then I hope Johan continues his career brilliance (2.66 ERA) against the Yankees and the Red Sox go on to win multiple division championships with the two-headed monster of Santana and Beckett staring down at the oddly-Pulsipher, Isringhausen, Wilson-like trio of Chamberlain, Hughes and Kennedy.

Wow, that was a lot of Johan ranting and Yankee-bashing. Let’s move on to the trade that is almost complete. That involves sending arguably the Twins best young pitching prospect Matt Garza, starting shortstop Jason Bartlett and set-up man Juan Rincon to the Tampa Bay Rays for outfielders Delmon Young, Jason Pridie and middle infielder Brendan Harris.

This one is pretty much a lock right now and I think it benefits both sides. Although I hate to see so much of the Twins core go. I think the return works out pretty well. Clearly the Twins have enough confidence in Pat Neshek and a healthy return of Jesse Crain to assume that Rincon can go. They also must believe that some combination of Alexi Casilla and Harris will work in the middle infield, despite the defensive lapses and obvious offensive short-comings of both men. However, the biggest plus here is the addition of Young.

Young, 22, was second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2007 to the Red Sox’ Dustin Pedroia. As a rookie last season, Young started all 162 games for the Rays, hitting .288 with 13 home runs, 93 RBIs and 10 steals. Young was Tampa Bay's top choice in the 2003 amateur draft, and named “Baseball America's” Minor League Player of the Year in 2005. Adding Young to an outfield that currently includes Michael Cuddyer, Craig Monroe and Jason Kubel is a big coup for the Twins. (Rumor also has the Twins pursuing the likes of Coco Crisp and/or Jacoby Ellsbury in a potential trade with the Red Sox.)

The biggest loss obviously is Garza who is a righty with some nasty stuff and a very high-ceiling. With the expected losses of Santana and Carlos Silva this puts even more pressure on a very young rotation which (barring the return on Santana’s trade) should include Boof Bonser, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, Scott Baker, potentially Nick Blackburn, and—returning from Tommy John surgery—new staff ace…Francisco Liriano.

Finally, the Twins current closer and future trade bait, Joe Nathan. Nathan emerged as a huge presence and one of baseball’s best closers after his trade from the Giants following the 2003 season. With Francisco Cordero and Mariano Rivera recently raising the bar for closers’ salaries, smart money is on the Twins moving Nathan this winter. Nathan is a Houston native and the Astros recently dispatched troubled closer Brad Lidge to the Phillies. The Astros have the money to spend; although so do the rival Texas Rangers who are also in need of a late-inning stopper. In addition, many other teams include the Cubs, Brewers, Red Sox, Mets, Tigers and Yankees could all be interested.

If the Twins do, in fact, dismantle and are left with what they view as the “new core” of the franchise—Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer (and potentially Delmon Young)—expect them to dole out long-term deals quickly to avoid these problems in the foreseeable future and to lock up a solid roster for the Twins’ move to their new ballpark in 2010. At the same time, one can expect a hearty return for the likes of Santana and Nathan. Hopefully, new GM, Bill Smith will be able to build the team for the future without completely alienating the fans who have been here all along.


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Just a heads up to anyone who isn't aware, once the trade became offical the Rays received highly-touted minor league pitching prospect Eduardo Morlan in the trade and not Juan Rincon as was originally rumored.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Santana Swapping

I’ve read some very interesting blogs and theories regarding the Twins potential trade of Johan Santana and some completely ludicrous ones as well. Only five teams–the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Dodgers and Angels--can realistically afford to sign Santana long-term…which is something Santana has made clear would be a necessity for him to agree to a trade.

As such, I’ve taken my stab at determining what it will take for one of the “Big Five” to wrangle arguably the best pitcher in the game. The teams are listed in the order of whom I feel has the best shot of acquiring his services…


RED SOX:

In my mind the Sox probably have the best shot given the depth of their farm system and their desire to keep him from joining the Yankees. Any package with the Red Sox would begin with Clay Bucholz as he is deemed vastly superior to Jon Lester. However, if the Twins prefer Jacoby Ellsbury over Coco Crisp, they’d probably have to settle for Lester; I foresee those four balancing one another out…Ellsbury and Lester or Bucholz and Crisp. That would be the center-piece of the return, but the Twins would probably look to add another bat and/or bullpen help as well. In that regard, I think that a proven spot-start and reliever like Julian Tavarez could be in the mix straight-up middle inning men like Manny Delcarmen or Craig Hansen. As far as bats are concerned I’d expect to see Jed Lowrie or Brandon Moss thrown into the mix.

YANKEES:

The Yankees are probably next in line because they offer a plethora of big-league ready starters to send back in return as well. The Yankees could give up less talent overall by sending Chien-Ming Wang and Melky Cabrera straight up. However, if the team is looking to hang onto Wang, they’ll probably have to send at least one of the young guns with Phillip Hughes being the front-runner with Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy falling in behind. This would still probably cost them Melky Cabrera and/or Robinson Cano and a solid minor league arm such as Humberto Sanchez.

DODGERS:

The Dodgers would probably have to offer roughly the same package they’ve got on the table for Miguel Cabrera if they strike out on acquiring his services. That would include the likes of Matt Kemp, Andy LaRoche or James Loney and either Johnathon Broxton or Chad Billingsley. However, one has to question whether or not the Dodgers are close enough to contend with the squad they have to afford giving up such a large portion of their top prospects.

METS:

The Mets are in an unfortunate place as they are in dire need of pitching and, as such, don’t have much they could afford to send back to the Twins. The best bet to snag Santana would probably cost the Mets Mike Pelfrey and Phil Humber…perhaps even both depending on what set of young outfielders the Mets are willing to give up. Any two of Fernando Martinez, Carlos Gomez or Lastings Milledge would net a solid return. Other names that could be in the mix for the Mets to make this work are Oliver Perez, Aaron Heilman and – if the rumors are true – potentially even Jose Reyes.

ANGELS:

The Angels—currently the front-runners for Miguel Cabrera—are probably not in the mix as much as any of the aforementioned teams due to their depth of young arms and lack of offensive firepower. If the team does acquire Cabrera, one would assume they’ll no longer have the prospects necessary to net Santana. Although if they strike out (pun intended) in pursuit of Cabrera expect them to jump into the mix offering roughly the same set of players which includes as a base outfielder Reggie Willits and second baseman Howie Kendrick. After that the Twins would probably want to acquire another bat such as OF/DH Juan Rivera and/or 3B/SS Brandon Wood…although Wood may be untouchable given the recent trade of Orlando Cabrera. On the pitching front the Twins could command any of the following: Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders or class AA right-hander Nick Adenhart.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanks for Everything Torii

I guess it’s appropriate that today is, in fact, Thanksgiving because I want to use this opportunity to send a shout-out to one of my favorite baseball players, Torii Hunter. It was reported early this morning that Torii has signed a five-year pact with the Angels for roughly $90 million.

I could get into semantics about how the Angels overpaid for a guy who essentially offers a great glove in centerfield and is in the midst of a two-year offensive spike that deviates from his career norms, but I don’t care about all that. Everyone overpays in this market, and Torii would be a great addition to any ball-club that wants someone who is a leader on and off the field and a great ambassador for the game. Torii Hunter is just that.


Torii has been the face of the Twins franchise for years, pretty much ascending to that roll with the retirement of Kirby Puckett. His highlight reel catches and balls-to-the-wall style of play endeared him not only to the residents of Twins Territory, but to fans and players everywhere.

Torii is worth every penny of that contract, skill notwithstanding. He will be an incredible presence in the clubhouse and in the community, much as he was in Minnesota. He’ll lead the team on the field with his passion and desire to succeed and he’ll lead the team off the field with his compassion and caring for the fans and for promoting the game to the youth of America. Torii has long pushed to get more black youths involved in the game and playing in a bigger market will help him in that cause.

I wish nothing but the best for Torii in Los Angeles and I want to thank him for all of the memories and great times in Minnesota.

Thanks Torii…

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Blueprint for the Twins

It’s that time of year folks. The air is crisp. The leaves are nearly all gone. The lights at your local baseball venue have long been dim. Oh yes, it’s that time of year.

No…I’m not talking about Christmas and all that crap. I’ll let all of the major media conglomerates take care of pimping Christmas and cramming it down your throat for the next twenty-odd plus shopping days that remain…no, no…I’m talking about the down-time lull for baseball fans.

The World Series has been over for nearly a month already and the members of Red Sox Nation have already moved on and are planning their Patriots Super Bowl parties. The biggest fish on the free agent market, Alex Rodriguez has returned to the fold and will don pinstripes for the rest of his inevitable march to pass Barry Bonds’ all-time home run record. A few trades have been made and a few options have been exercised. Tom Glavine has completed his homecoming and will be a Brave once more and all the while the aforementioned Bonds appears to have no home, no suitors and potentially no shot at staying out of jail?!

With all of these storylines running amok its time for me to exercise my right as a fan who thinks he knows it all—and by golly, I am a fan who thinks he knows it all—and rant my ass off about what my team could do to improve this off-season.

Unfortunately, as a Twins fan, I am contractually required [as are all Twins fans] to lead off my ranting blog with a precursor filled with bitching and moaning about Carl Pohlad and his unwillingness to “loosen the purse strings” and how its hurting his team and blah blah blah. I know Pohlad’s cheap. You know Pohlad’s cheap. We all know the dude has got more money than A-Rod has advisors [Warren Buffet, really?!]…so let’s go ahead and get past the fact that the stingy old bastard isn’t going to spend a ton of money and focus on what the Twins can do with what they have.

**DISCLAIMER: This doesn’t, however, change the fact that I’m still pulling for the Twinkies to re-up with Hunter and then promptly sign Cuddyer, Morneau, Santana and Nathan to long-term pacts.**

Okay, now that we’re through with all the formalities and the sad, misguided optimism, let’s look at the most glaring holes the Twins will seemingly need to fill to compete in 2008.

CENTERFIELD

The team will most likely be looking to bring in a centerfielder who can cover some ground to make up for the loss of Hunter and lighten the workload for whichever combination of Monroe, Kubel and Cuddyer is on the field at any given time. At the same time, some sort of offensive presence would be nice, but the team is clearly banking on productive seasons from Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel and Monroe.

[Realistic] Free Agent Options: Torii Hunter [if he gives a home-town discount and/or decides he really doesn’t want to leave the Twins], Corey Patterson, Mike Cameron, Milton Bradley, Darin Erstad, Kenny Lofton and Steve Finley.

[Realistic] Trade Options: Matt Kemp/Juan Pierre – LAD, Elijah Dukes/Delmon Young/BJ Upton/Rocco Baldelli – TB, Johnny Damon/Melky Cabrera – NYY, Lastings Milledge/Carlos Gomez/Fernando Martinez – NYM, Coco Crisp – BOS

BEST BET(S)

Via Free Agency: I think that the two most reasonable options are probably Corey Patterson and Mike Cameron. Both players offer the same risk and reward. Both have the potential to hit 20-25 HR and play Gold Glove defense. Both will also probably hit in the .250s with 100+ strikeouts. However, that type of risk is generally offset by the defensive skills and the speed the both men possess on the base paths.

Patterson is flying very much under the radar right now with all the hoopla surrounding Hunter, Rowand and Jones and could probably be signed to a reasonable contract if the move is made soon, although I’m sure the Twins don’t want to give Hunter any sort of indication that they’ve already moved on before he makes his decision. Lest us not forget that Patterson was also thought to be the next big thing as recently as 2004 following his 24 homer campaign with the Cubbies.

Cameron has proven his is a big time CF and has played in markets of all-sizes. His gamer attitude would be a great fit in the Twins clubhouse and his work ethic would almost mimic what the Twins were losing in Hunter. However, Cameron also comes with a buyer-beware tag as he’ll miss the first 25 games of 2008 while serving a suspension for using a banned substance.

Via Trade: The majority of the outfielders who could be acquired through a trade are factored in under the assumption that the Twins move Johan Santana. This theory, however, doesn’t apply to the Red Sox and/or Devil Rays nearly as much. I feel that moving one top-tier pitching prospect and a position player could bring a solid return.

If that were the case, I like the thought of Coco Crisp’s above average defense roaming centerfield at the dome. Crisp plays great defense and thrived in the AL Central with the Indians. His offensive numbers have dropped off significantly in Boston, but a return to a smaller market could bring back big rewards for the Twins and the slick-fielding Crisp.

THIRD BASE

Third base has been a relatively barren place for the Twins since the departure of Corey Koskie. Michael Cuddyer tried his hand at the hot corner, unsuccessfully. The highly touted and easily forgotten Terry Tiffee washed out of the Twins system when it was learned he couldn’t play the position he was groomed for. Tony Batista was…well…Tony Batista and Nick Punto’s feel-good story of 2006 turned out to be just that, a story of 2006 and only 2006. As such it is definitely time for an upgrade.

[Realistic] Free Agent Options: Pedro Feliz, Corey Koskie, Mike Lamb, Mark Bellhorn, Russell Branyan, Shea Hillenbrand and Aaron Boone.

[Realistic] Trade Options: Scott Rolen – STL, Ian Stewart – COL, Morgan Ensberg – SD, Andy LaRoche/Tony Abreu – LAD, Wilson Betemit – NYY, Andy Marte – CLE

BEST BET(S)

Via Free Agency: Pedro Feliz is, in my humble opinion, the best option on the free agent market and a player the Twins should pounce on immediately. Feliz will be 33 this season and could probably be locked up in a 3-year pact at a reasonable value given the explosion in the market for third basemen.

The Twins should act quickly given that two of the three highest-profile third basemen have already returned to their respective teams. This leaves the bidding war for Miguel “The Pillsbury Doughboy” Cabrera as the only thing keeping attention off of Feliz for the time being.

In his four years as a regular starter with the Giants Feliz has authored a fairly impressive set of averages that fit right in-line with the Twins’ needs at third base. He has averaged 21 home runs, 84 runs batted in, 31 doubles all while playing a very solid third base defensively. Those offensive numbers would look even better at the Metrodome which is a much better hitter’s park than AT&T Field in San Francisco.

Via Trade: Many of the potentially available third basemen in trade talks—that aren’t named Cabrera—bring some sort of baggage and/or buyer beware issues. Rolen may cost too much if the Cardinals stick to their current mantra that they won’t eat any of the remaining dollars on Rolen’s contract. Stewart is an ubber-prospect, currently stuck behind Garrett Atkins. The team is more likely to deploy Stewart at 2B if Kazou Matsui leaves via free agency and if they do move Stewart, he’d still be a rookie and could have an Alex Gordon-like rookie season or a Ryan Braun-like rookie season. Ensberg has a Jeckyl and Hyde complex, but if the Twins get the monster who can mash balls to the tune of 400 feet…that’d be just fine. The trades involving the Dodgers and Yankees are based upon moving Santana and as such, won’t be delved into until that dark, dark day falls upon all fans in Twins Territory.

That leaves Marte. It seems that Marte was a can’t miss prospect in Atlanta where he was saddled behind Chipper Jones but the Indians were less than impressed with Marte and gave the starting third base job to Casey Blake. Rumors have been swirling that the Indians were also sniffing around and kicking the tires on the likes of Lowell, Rolen and a few others implying that they may want an upgrade beyond Blake, thus making Marte, seemingly, expendable. Whether or not either the Twins or Indians would be willing to trade within the division is a large question mark, but it is definitely an option worth exploring for both teams.

In my opinion, snagging Feliz is the smartest move as the trade market for third basemen is guaranteed to be out of hand this off-season, especially once Cabrera has settled into a new home.

DESIGNATED HITTER

The Twins haven’t had a really reliable designated hitter in…um…you know, a really long time. Sure they had David Ortiz, but they were nice enough to let him mosey on over to Boston and become a folk hero. Granted in doing so they gave up one of the most prolific power and clutch hitters of the 21st century, but that’s neither here nor there. What is here AND there is the glaring hole the Twins have had at DH in recent years and the obvious necessity to find a reliable bat.

[Realistic] Free Agent Options: Mike Piazza, Sean Casey, Cliff Floyd, Sammy Sosa, Mike Sweeney, Luis Gonzalez, Jose Guillen, Reggie Sanders and Rafael Palmeiro.

[Realistic] Trade Options: Adam Dunn…yeah, I said it.

BEST BET(S)

Via Free Agency: This one is tough, because of all the names on this list, I feel like I am repeating a bunch of them from last year…which clearly goes to show how right I was last year?! I usually snag one comeback player dead-on. In 2006 it was Frank Thomas. Last year it was Sammy Sosa (sorta) and Dimitri Young. As far as 2008 goes, it could really be anyone on this list.

Piazza may still command too much money, but a rather dismal debut in his first stint as a full-time DH in Oakland might have driven his value down just enough for him to fall into a one-year deal with incentives. If he’s got some pop left in the bat and is willing to grow the ‘70s porno ‘stache back, the Twins would love to add the 20+ homers he could provide.

However, I like some of the bigger gambles on this list. Floyd has proven that when he’s healthy he can be a great offensive contributor. I think if he can be healthy for a full-season and avoid injury by DHing, he has a shot to be a solid 30 HR, 85 RBI producer in the middle of a solid lineup.

Jose Guillen is an intriguing, and oft-injured, option as well. Getting him out of the field most days would be good for keeping him off the DL and for putting runs on the board. His attitude has come into question many a time, but I think Ron Gardenhire might be the right type of manager to help squelch that problem before it starts. Guillen has, however, been linked to Senator Mitchell’s steroid probe and could face a suspension to start the 2008 season.

Easily the most intriguing name on this list is the last one, the long since forgotten about Rafael Palmeiro. He has been in exile for two seasons now. Whether or not he’s in shape or even thinking about making a comeback is entirely up for debate, but if he is and he can still put up numbers even remotely close to his career averages the Twins would be fools not to take a one-year incentive-laden chance on the would-be Hall of Famer. Palmeiro is probably chomping at the bit for a chance to comeback and not only clear his name, but to prove he can still perform and has had two years robbed from him. If he can in fact do so, I’d be more than willing for him to take that gamble in a Twins uniform.

Via Trade: Let’s be honest folks. Not a lot of teams are willing to give up big boppers, especially if they aren’t going to see much on the return. The Reds, however, are in an interesting position. They have a team overloaded with outfielders and prospects who are currently handcuffed to AAA as a result. Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. are probably the two biggest stars on the team and as such, are also two of the most expensive. The Reds probably foresee Dunn walking away via free agency next year to take over left field for the Yankees or Angels and would be willing to move him this off-season, potentially even eating some of his salary, if they received worthwhile compensation in the form of young pitching and a position player. The Twins could make a move and then try to sign Dunn for the same offer they currently have on the table for Torii Hunter. After all, a dude who can mash 40 home runs in his sleep is hard to come by.

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And that ladies and gentlemen concludes my game plan for the Twins to put together a competitive and relatively affordable lineup in 2008. Now I realize that a lot of this hinges on what happens with Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva. If Silva goes, then the direction in the off-probably turns to either a) acquiring a veteran starter or b) shipping Santana and Nathan out for prospects and beginning the rebuilding mode.

Either way, I still feel [as all good fans do] that the Twins are on the verge of being a very good team with the core they have established. I’d like to think that 2007 will prove to be an aberration and the majority of the squad that made the improbable comeback in 2006 will be together again next year working to start another string of division titles in Minnesota.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

One of My Pet Peeves...

I like a lot of people. I really do. In fact, it takes quite a bit for me to dislike most people.

Although, one sure fire way to flip my switch and turn me into a total hater is to run your mouth about baseball and simply be spewing bullshit that is: A) inaccurate B) outdated and/or C) just plain stupid.

In the last five minutes these three dudes--whom I can only assume are visiting from BC or BU--just sauntered in with their popped collar polos and crooked hats looking about as Abercrombie and Fitch'd out as any dude can on a Friday morning.

That part doesn't bother me. I've seen enough douche-bags dressed the exact same way a million times that...much like violence on television or politics as a whole...I'm completely desensitized to it.

It was what followed their Seventeen Magazine-esque entrance that has…as the old saying goes..."put a burr in my ass."

Wait...that's a really bad saying; just typing it makes me feel very uncomfortable sitting here. In fact, I think I’m going to stand up to type for a little bit. Let me try a more PG-phrase..."ruffled my feathers!"

That's right, folks, these Justin Timberlake wannabes ruffled my freakin' feathers without even stopping to talk to me.

Lemme lay it out for you in simple chat room format...

DBag1: u c the sox game?
DBag2: no
DBag3: no i luv the sox
DBag2: me 2
DBag1: u missed it? that sux
DBag1: it wuz a gr8 game
DBag2: sweet
DBag3: badass

Okay, doing that hurts my brain. Perhaps I’ll just try to hit the main points. Essentially, the first Douche-Bag was the only one who’d actually seen the game…which he later admitted to not having seen, but rather watching the highlights on SportsCenter. That’s one of the first things that bugged the piss out of me. Who starts a little rant about a game that they “saw” when they didn’t really see the game? If you want to run your mouth about a game you saw…please tell me you actually saw the game.

That’d be like me reading the back of a Harry Potter book and then showing up to some cult convention with a stick, weird glasses and a freakin’ lightning bolt on my forehead. It’s just not right. If you saw the trailer to a movie, it doesn’t mean you’ve seen the movie.

Thus, if you watched a two minute recap of the Red Sox/Indians game, you didn’t watch the game. You didn’t watch Josh Beckett absolutely own the Indians for eight innings. You didn’t watch the Sox pour it on all over a fading CC Sabathia and then obliterate the middle relief. You didn’t see the line drive that Grady Sizemore didn’t get to earlier that set up his missed diving catch. Shut your pie-hole, poser. You didn’t watch the game. Don’t tell your friends what a great game they missed out on because you don’t know what a great game you missed on a-hole.

Whew…that felt good.

Moving on…my next big problem was what DBag1 focused on about last night’s awesome game. Not once did he mention the fact that Josh Beckett looked like Bob Gibson on the mound. Not once did he mention Kevin Youkilis tearing the cover off the ball. Not once did he mention how well CC Sabathia held the Sox in check for the first six innings before they finally got to him in the seventh. Not once did he mention the way Travis Hafner has been completely hand-cuffed by the Red Sox.

What did he mention? He mentioned Manny Ramirez’s long fly that turned into a 390 foot single. He went on a rant about how lazy Manny is and how he should be traded. He went off about how Mike Lowell is a better offensive weapon than Manny and a better fielder too.

Things to note…a) Manny Ramirez is one of the most prolific right handed hitters of the last 30 years. b) Mike Lowell is not a better offensive weapon. c) Manny is a left-fielder, Lowell is a third baseman thus comparing their defensive prowess makes no sense. d) Lowell is a free agent after the World Series and is not a sure thing to stay in Boston.

All the while DBag2 and DBag3 are just eating it up and acting like this dude is some sort of preppy Peter Gammons/Bob Costas/Joe Buck hybrid who is all knowing and should be worshiped for his baseball knowledge.

When DBag2 asked when they played again, DBag1 replied: “beats me….probably next week or something.”

When DBag3 asked where they played the next game, DBag1 replied: “I think they’re still in California…”

At this point they got up and walked away; which was probably good timing, because I was actually in the processing of fashioning a prison shiv out of number 2 pencils, book tape and the remnants of a book on heat and mass transfer.

So please, people of Boston…people of the world…people within my hearing range…feel free to talk all the bullshit you want around me; 94% of it won’t really bug me. But please…PLEASE…don’t run your mouth about baseball when all that’s flappin’ from your gums is horseshit.

I’m an easy man to get along with if you follow this one simple rule. So please, know your baseball or save it for another time.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Picking Sides

This is getting a little rough for me.

I’m a fan of Peyton Manning, not because he’s an incredible quarterback, but because I think he’s absolutely hilarious in all of his commercials and because of one little line he uttered following the Colts Wild Card win over the Chiefs. He was asked, “So Peyton it looks like Ty Law still has your number, huh?” and without missing a beat Manning replies, “Yeah, I guess he does. But it looks to me like the Colts won today.” Manning then took of his headset and walked off. It was incredible.

I’m a big fan of the Chargers. I’ve been following the Chargers for about four years now, since the team started to show some real life and I feel like I’ve formed a sort of connection with them. I think LT is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I consider Antonio Gates to be the definition of what a tight end should be. Phillip Rivers is what Eli Manning wishes he was. Plus come on, those throw-back powder blue uniforms are f’n incredible!

I am a huge fan of the Saints. I loved Drew Brees because of my Chargers connection. I was following Reggie Bush at USC and couldn’t wait until he had a chance to put his incredible talent on display in the NFL. I’ve always thought Deuce McAllister was ridiculously underrated. (PS: Did you see that hit on Bush on the second offensive play of the day…holy crap!)

Currently I find myself at a point where I’m pulling for two teams and one player. It’s half-time of the Saints/Eagles game right now and the Eagles are currently up 14 to 13. Manning’s Colts already won early today in what wound up being an incredible defensive battle. The Chargers play tomorrow against a team that I am somewhat drawn to, based entirely on geography and a great QB.

I moved to Boston about five months ago and Patriotsmania was running wild by the time I’d moved here, largely because the Red Sox season was in the tank. I used to think Tom Brady was awesome, but the moment Peyton Manning uttered those cocky words and simply walked off set, I’ve found a new favorite QB not named Favre or Brees.

So the real question becomes, where do my allegiances lie from here on out? Personally, I’d love to see a Super Bowl that futures the dynamic offenses of San Diego and New Orleans going head-to-head and crashing face-first into both teams’ strong defenses. Part of me wants to see Manning finally rid himself of those postseason demons that have haunted him for so long. And part of me wants to see Brady continue his postseason brilliance.

In the end, I suppose I am going to make the official decision to pull for San Diego and New Orleans over Brady and/or Manning. It’s a tough call, but I have a feeling that come February 4, 2007…I’ll be a much happier man if I’m sipping on a Budweiser and watching two incredible offenses as opposed to watching one incredible QB.

Go Chargers and Saints!