December 2011

Golly Gio…That’s a Big Trade!

The Washington Nationals acquired LHP Gio Gonzalez from the Oakland A’s on Thursday, sending four prospects to Oakland in return for the 26-year-old starter.  Gonzalez has been a pretty solid starter for the A’s, compiling a 38-32 record and 3.93 ERA in 89 starts since 2008, including a 31-21 record and 3.17 ERA over his last 55 starts (2010-2011).  Gonzalez can still be wild, posting a league-leading 91 walks in 2011, but he makes up for it with solid strikeout rate, including 197 in 202 IP last season.  You may wonder if he’ll be a superstar outside of pitcher-friendly Overstock.com Stadium (where Oakland plays for those of you who don’t follow terrible marketing ploys).  The last two seasons, these are his home/road splits:

Home: 18-8 record, 212 IP, 2.63 ERA, 189/95 K/BB

Road: 13-13 record, 190 2/3 IP, 3.78 ERA, 179/88 K/BB

Gonzalez is moving to what has been a pitcher’s park in Washington and it’s not like a 3.78 ERA isn’t solid, but he had a much better split at home in Oakland.

In return, the A’s received these four Minor Leaguers, with career stats shown:

Brad Peacock

Year League W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO
2007 GCL 1 1 3.89 13 7 39.1 38 17 1 15 34
2007 1 1 3.89 13 7 39.1 38 17 1 15 34
2008 NYP 4 7 3.12 14 14 75 67 26 3 27 54
2008 SAL 0 5 9.09 8 8 33.2 38 34 8 21 23
2008 4 12 4.97 22 22 108.2 105 60 11 48 77
2009 SAL 5 8 4.05 19 17 100 104 45 10 32 77
2009 CAR 3 3 4.34 8 7 47.2 46 23 4 10 27
2009 8 11 4.14 27 24 147.2 150 68 14 42 104
2010 CAR 4 9 4.44 19 18 103.1 109 51 11 25 118
2010 EAS 2 2 4.66 7 7 38.2 33 20 5 22 30
2010 6 11 4.5 26 25 142 142 71 16 47 148
2011 EAS 10 2 2.01 16 14 98.2 62 22 4 23 129
2011 INT 5 1 3.19 9 9 48 36 17 5 24 48
2011 15 3 2.39 25 23 146.2 98 39 9 47 177
2011 2 0 0.75 3 2 12 7 1 0 6 4

Derek Norris

Year League AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG OPS
2007 GCL 0.203 123 16 25 6 2 4 15 25 38 2 0.344 0.382 0.726
2007 0.203 123 16 25 6 2 4 15 25 38 2 0.344 0.382 0.726
2008 NYP 0.278 227 42 63 12 0 10 38 63 56 11 0.444 0.463 0.906
2008 0.278 227 42 63 12 0 10 38 63 56 11 0.444 0.463 0.906
2009 SAL 0.286 437 78 125 30 0 23 84 90 116 6 0.413 0.513 0.926
2009 0.286 437 78 125 30 0 23 84 90 116 6 0.413 0.513 0.926
2010 CAR 0.235 298 67 70 19 0 12 49 89 94 6 0.419 0.419 0.838
2010 0.235 298 67 70 19 0 12 49 89 94 6 0.419 0.419 0.838
2011 EAS 0.21 334 75 70 17 1 20 46 77 117 13 0.367 0.446 0.813
2011 0.21 334 75 70 17 1 20 46 77 117 13 0.367 0.446 0.813

Tom Milone

Year League W L ERA G GS IP H ER BB SO
2008 NYP 1 3 4.57 6 3 21.2 27 11 3 22
2008 SAL 0 3 2.89 7 7 37.1 36 12 6 27
2008 1 6 3.51 13 10 59 63 23 9 49
2009 CAR 12 5 2.91 27 25 151.1 144 49 36 106
2009 12 5 2.91 27 25 151.1 144 49 36 106
2010 EAS 12 5 2.85 27 27 158 161 50 23 155
2010 12 5 2.85 27 27 158 161 50 23 155
2011 INT 12 6 3.22 24 24 148.1 137 53 16 155
2011 12 6 3.22 24 24 148.1 137 53 16 155
2011 1 0 3.81 5 5 26 28 11 4 15

A.J. Cole

Year League W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO
2010 NYP 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1
2010 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1
2011 SAL 4 7 4.04 20 18 89 87 40 6 24 108
2011 4 7 4.04 20 18 89 87 40 6 24 108

These four are truly a great return on Gonzalez by A’s GM Billy Beane.  Peacock (#2), Cole (#4) and Norris (#10) were all ranked in the top 10 prospects list of the Nationals organization by Baseball America.  Peacock and Milone both saw some starts in D.C. last year and are Major League ready.  Norris is an intriguing prospect at catcher, looking like a Mike Napoli-lite with his big powerful swing and low average (pre-2011 Napoli, of course).  Cole is very young but he has a huge ceiling.  His K-rate last year was very good and he’ll probably be tested by the A’s to see what they have.  At 6’4″, 180, he has a nice frame and his already solid results and ability could continue to improve.  It’s a lot to give up, as these four are truly tremendous prospects, but after the Mat Latos deal, it looks like this will be the cost of cost-controlled, young starting pitchers this offseason.

This deal solidifies the Nationals rotation, creating three aces at the top in Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez.  With John Lannon and Chien-Ming Wang rounding out the rotation and Matt Purke and Alex Meyer on the way still in the prospect wing, the Nationals are suddenly a team to be reckoned with.  It will be interesting to see if this acquisition will lead to a push to sign Prince Fielder, which would put the Nats into a contending role in a suddenly exciting NL East, with the Nats, Phillies, Braves and Marlins developing nice rosters to compete.  They still have the Mets to point and laugh at, though.

About these ads

GM for the Day: Colorado Rockies

After winning the NL Wild Card in 2009, the Rockies have slipped the last two seasons, compiling a 156-168 record (.481), including a 4th place finish in NL West in 2011.  The team dealt one of the most dominating arms in baseball, Ubaldo Jimenez, to Cleveland for quite a nice package of prospects, a couple of which will help out the club by the end of the 2012 season, if they don’t start on Opening Day.  The team has a solid, young core still, built around shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who was the main piece in the Matt Holliday deal with Oakland.  What and who do they have to work with?  Let’s take a look at the current roster:

2 Catchers: Ramon Hernandez and Jordan Pacheco

1B: Todd Helton

2B: Jonathan Herrera

3B: Chris Nelson

SS: Troy Tulowitzki

LF: Carlos Gonzalez

CF: Dexter Fowler

RF: Michael Cuddyer

Bench: Tyler Colvin (1B/OF), Seth Smith (LF/RF), Jason Giambi (1B/PH), Charlie Blackmon (OF)

Starting Pitchers: Jhoulys Chacin, Jason Hammel, Drew Pomeranz, Tyler Chatwood and Alex White

Relief Pitchers: Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle, Matt Lindstrom, Matt Reynolds, Rex Brothers, Edgmer Escalona and Kevin Slowey

The Rockies are loaded in the outfield and that is why they have been dangling Seth Smith all winter.  Smith is a solid hitter if you use him right.  He has smashed right-handed pitching to an .878 OPS since the start of the 2009 season, while posting a measly .616 OPS against lefties in the same time frame.  The fact that he is 29 and arbitration-eligible (estimated to make $2.6 million) makes him a great candidate to be moved, especially when you could use some help in the rotation and/or infield.  Recent reports have Smith linked to Oakland, Tampa Bay, Seattle, Atlanta, the Mets and Cincinnati.  Even trading Smith, they’ll have five outfielders, but I would look at third base, where Chris Nelson is currently listed as the starter.  Nelson is a second baseman and is not a typical third baseman as far as offensive production.  He could do a lot more as the second baseman than Jonathan Herrara, who could move to a utility role and play up the middle to give Nelson and Tulo a night off here and there.  You have to make a deal for a third baseman unless you’re going to put Cuddyer there (he’s played 171 games there in his career) until Nolan Arenado is ready, which should or could be by July.  The Rockies can use Colvin and Blackmon in the outfield and hope that Fowler doesn’t falter in center again.  If he does, Blackmon can handle center or Tim Wheeler, another solid prospect, could get the call for Colorado.  Todd Helton is still very productive and you can probably count on him for about 120-130 games.  Jason Giambi signed on again as the backup, but it would be nice to see Colvin get some at bats there, too, especially if Helton misses any significant time due to injury.

The starting rotation is full of potential but may be an issue.  Jason Hammel shouldn’t get much of a look if he continues pitching the way he has since he came up in 2006, as he holds a career 34-45 with a 4.99 ERA and 1.47 WHIP.  Chacin is very nice at the top and should only improve.  Pomeranz was the prize of the Jimenez deal with Cleveland and should fit nicely in the middle of the rotation right now.  Chatwood is more of a thrower than a pitcher, possessing a tremendous fastball with the results that aren’t typical of a power pitcher (142 IP, 74/71 K/BB).  He could use more seasoning, yet, he could have some success in the NL West.  Alex White is another work in progress, part of the deal with the Indians for Jimenez, who has a high ceiling.  Juan Nicasio should be ready by Spring Training after having surgery due to being hit in the neck by a line drive last year, and Jorge De La Rosa should be returning in May from Tommy John surgery, so if any of the youngsters or Hammel struggle, they have help on the way.  If Nicasio is ready in Spring Training, they should probably put him in the rotation and send either White or Chatwood to Triple-A.  Chad Bettis is a name to watch, a RHP with great numbers in High-A last year.  He could get a look in September as a former college arm if he succeeds at Double-A.

The bullpen is solid.  Betancourt is the new closer after Huston Street was traded to San Diego.  He was spectacular last season in a short stint as closer, but has been very good since arriving in Colorado in 2009.

Colorado could use an upgrade in the rotation but they appear to be heading towards a rebuilding mode.  Todd Helton will be retiring and the face of the franchise is now Troy Tulowitzki, who is signed through 2021.  Nolan Arenado looks like a superstar in the making, but he probably won’t be a huge factor until 2013, though he could make an appearance if he continues hitting like he did last year.  Drew Pomeranz won’t be the only rookie that will make an impact, as Tim Wheeler should get a look at some point and Wilin Rosario could hit his way into the starting catcher position.  Since the team isn’t far off but has some holes, they could see if adding Jeff Francis would be a nice reunion.  Francis spent six seasons with the Rockies and was originally drafted in the first round by the team in 2002.  He’ll be 31 in January and proved last season that his shoulder is still functioning, though his 6-16 record and 4.82 ERA is scary.  He could be a good gamble if he comes cheap enough.

I would start Wilin Rosario at catcher, splitting the position with Ramon Hernandez 50/50, as Hernandez is getting older and his split with Ryan Hanigan in Cincinnati the last few years showed what that type of rotation can do for your team.  Rosario is a potential superstar at catcher with huge offensive upside.  Trade Seth Smith and Tim Wheeler or Charlie Blackmon to the Braves for Martin Prado and Zeke Spruill, a mid-level pitching prospect in the Braves system.  This improves the team’s roster and allows the club to have flexibility with the roster, as Prado can play 2B/3B/LF.  Let’s look at what we have now:

2 Catchers: Wilin Rosario and Ramon Hernandez

1B: Todd Helton

2B: Chris Nelson

3B: Martin Prado

SS: Troy Tulowitzki

LF: Carlos Gonzalez

CF: Dexter Fowler

RF: Michael Cuddyer

Bench: Jason Giambi (1B/PH), Jonathan Herrara (2B/3B/SS), Tyler Colvin (1B/OF) and Charlie Blackmon (OF)

Starting Pitchers: Jhoulys Chacin, Drew Pomeranz, Juan Nicasio, Jeff Francis and Jason Hammel (give White and Chatwood more time in Triple-A, if Francis and/or Hammel stink, bring up the top performer)

Relief Pitchers: Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle, Matt Lindstrom, Matt Reynolds, Rex Brothers, Edgmer Escalona and Kevin Slowey

Who are Yu?

Yu Darvish is a 25-year-old Japanese pitcher that the Texas Rangers just paid $51.7 million to be able to negotiate a contract with.  Darvish had been a member of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters since 2005.  He has some pretty incredible stats, which you’ll find below.  The Rangers lost a solid starting pitcher when The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-Orange County-California-United States of America-Planet Earth-Milky Way Galaxy signed C.J. Wilson, but they could be getting a phenom like no other seen since…well, Hideo Nomo when he mattered?  Daisuke Matsuzaka before reality set in?  Hideki Matsui before the acne scaring?  I don’t know if we’ve ever seen a player with this much hype, which is why it wasn’t surprising that the bid was so high.

Darvish instantly makes the Rangers dangerous.  Texas now has a six-man rotation to choose from in Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz.  While you have to wonder how Ogando and Feliz will hold up as starting pitchers, you have to think the Rangers know what they’re doing when they are converting…it worked out so well for Wilson, right?  Well, due to this potential signing, how dangerous is Ogando as a setup man?  If Feliz falters as a starter, can he take over closer duties again from the aging Joe Nathan?  Nevermind the fact that the Rangers have some sexy pitching prospects in Martin Perez, Robert Ross, Neil Ramirez, Barret Loux and Miguel De Los Santos who are a month, year or two or injury away from taking over a spot in the rotation.

This signing is bigger than Pujols to the Angels.  This is bigger than Reyes to the Marlins.  This is a potential superstar for a team that was in the World Series and needed to get over the hump.  The Rangers have the talent to win with the lineup that they have right now.  Reyes isn’t going to solidify the Marlins holes enough to build them into contenders and Pujols isn’t enough to overcome an aging outfield and lineup featuring Torii Hunter and an overpaid Vernon Wells.  Yu Darvish will have success.  He’s had it in Japan, even more than Matsuzaka ever had.  Just look below to realize the ace that was worth the bid.

Year W L GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2005 5 5 14 2 1 94.1 97 37 37 7 48 52 3.53 1.54
2006 12 5 24 3 2 149.2 128 55 48 12 64 115 2.89 1.28
2007 15 5 26 12 3 207.2 123 48 42 9 49 210 1.82 0.83
2008 16 4 24 10 2 200.2 136 44 42 11 44 208 1.88 0.9
2009 15 5 23 8 2 182 118 36 35 9 45 167 1.73 0.9
2010 12 8 25 10 2 202 158 48 40 5 47 222 1.78 1.01
2011 18 6 28 10 6 232 156 42 37 5 36 276 1.44 0.83
Career 93 38 164 55 18 1268.1 916 310 281 58 333 1259 1.99 0.98

GM for the Day: Arizona Diamondbacks

After going 94-68 last season, the Diamondbacks are building a roster that looks like it could be a juggernaut.  With recent acquisitions and rumors of more deals that could happen, Arizona is well on their way to another AL West title, featuring young stars that could eventually create a dynasty.  Let’s take a look at their current 25-man roster:

2 Catchers: Miguel Montero and Henry Blanco

1B: Paul Goldschmidt

2B: Aaron Hill

3B: Ryan Roberts

SS: Stephen Drew

LF: Gerardo Parra

CF: Chris Young

RF: Justin Upton

Bench: Willie Bloomquist (INF/OF), John McDonald (INF), Geoff Blum (INF/OF), Lyle Overbay (1B)

Starting Pitchers: Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Daniel Hudson, Josh Collmenter and Wade Miley

Relief Pitchers: J.J. Putz, David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler, Joe Patterson, Craig Breslow, Takashi Saito and Bryan Shaw

The starting lineup is solid, presenting a blend of power and speed that would be difficult for other teams to match.  Justin Upton will win an MVP in the next three years.  At the age of 23, Upton ripped 39 2B and 31 HR while stealing 21 bases in 2011.  As he continues to mature as a hitter, those extra-base hits will increase and the steals will go down as he touches home with one swing.  If someone gets hurt, though, the Diamondbacks could be in trouble.  They have some great flexibility with their defensive lineup due to the versatility of Geoff Blum, John McDonald and Willie Bloomquist, but you have to wonder what having one of those guys starting for an extended period of time would do to your offense.  The same goes for the dropoff from Miguel Montero to Henry Blanco behind the plate.  Blanco is still a solid defender, but he is a career .228/.293/.369 hitter.

The bullpen is solid.  The rotation is stacked and it could get better.  Trevor Bauer, the team’s 1st round pick last season, is just about ready.  The UCLA-product didn’t pitch extremely well in his debut last year, but he showcased his ability to pitch.  He posted a 5.96 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 7 starts, tossing 25 2/3 innings with a 43/12 K/BB.  15.1 K/9 IP is pretty impressive but the 4.2 BB/9 IP is something that needs to come down if he is going to be successful in the Majors.  Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Trevor Cahill are about as solid as a 1-2-3 punch you’ll find in baseball.  Josh Collmenter  is just 25 and posted a solid 3.38 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and a 100/28 K/BB in 154 1/3 IP last season.  As far as another arm for right now, the Diamondbacks appear to be in on Hiroki Kuroda.  If they were to get him and put Collmenter in the #5 spot, they would be near impossible to beat.  Kuroda has only posted a 3.45 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 699 career innings and 114 starts.  On a one-year deal, he would bring another stable arm to the group, with Kuroda being the veteran with four years of service time.  If they do nothing, Wade Miley, who went 4-2 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 7 starts, isn’t a bad options for a few months while Bauer works out some kinks.

Overall, the team doesn’t have much to work on.  I would say that they would be better off with Hiroki Kuroda as their #4 starter and Collmenter at #5 than Collmenter at #4 and Wade Miley at #5.  Over the long-haul of the season, it could be a difference of 7-11 wins from Miley to Kuroda, so it’s worth a one-year, $11 million deal to grab him.  I would also like to see the club upgrade in the #4 outfielder role.  Ryan Roberts can handle the corners in a long-term role with Blum taking over at third, Willie Bloomquist can fill the void in the short-term, but Roberts is more valuable at third with a thin market there.  Maybe J.D. Drew will sign with the Diamondbacks to play with his brother.  He could be a solid #4 outfielder since he won’t have to play a whole lot, which may result in him staying healthy.  He’ll probably retire or want a ridiculous Boras-contract to play, though, so maybe Juan Pierre would be a good fit.  He could handle center for Young in a pinch, the corners for a shorter pinch, and he still has enough speed (68 SB in 2010, 27 in 2011) to be a pinch-runner.  Here is what the 25-man roster would end up:

2 Catchers: Miguel Montero (please stay healthy!) and Henry Blanco

1B: Paul Goldschmidt

2B: Aaron Hill

3B: Ryan Roberts

SS: Stephen Drew

LF: Gerardo Parra

CF: Chris Young

RF: Justin Upton

Bench: Juan Pierre (OF), Willie Bloomquist (INF/OF), Lyle Overbay (1B), John McDonald (INF)

Starting Pitchers: Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Trevor Cahill, Hiroki Kuroda and Josh Collmenter

Relief Pitchers: J.J. Putz, David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler, Joe Patterson, Craig Breslow, Takashi Saito and Bryan Shaw

Right in the Ace

If you could please explain yourself, Walt...

Wow.  When I saw that the Reds acquired Mat Latos, I was pretty pumped.  He’s a front-end of the rotation type with some pretty good stuff.  Latos is under team control until the end of the 2015 season and will be arbitration-eligible next year.  He just turned 24 and holds a career 27-29 record with a 3.37 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 429 2/3 IP.  While I saw one Reds fan react that he “has a losing record, what a horrible deal,” the peripherals on Latos’ stats show that he has great skills and probably just suffered from that fact that the Padres suck and they can’t score runs in Petco Park.  With that being said, this deal was an absolute fleecing by new Padres GM Josh Byrnes, who bent over Walt Jocketty and stole the old man’s decency without any KY Jelly.  This deal was DREADFUL for Cincinnati on so many levels.

Level One: Cincinnati uses the “small-market” card more than Al Sharpton uses the “race” card.  You worry about how you’re going to move on or be able to function when you’re paying Joey Votto $17 million in 2013?  Well, who are you going to replace him with now?  Yonder Alonso may have been a horrible outfielder, we know this from the 24 chances he had to field in 16 games there in 2011.  That’s a great use of judgment.  That would have been like saying Hitler had good ideas in when he appointed chancellor of Germany in 1933 before seeing what he actually became…ok, so not that drastic but give me a break!  Alonso isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2015, he can’t become a Free Agent until 2018, and you give him up in the deal?  Sure, he could have bombed since he struggles against lefties and “can’t field”, but who plays first when your “small-market” team can’t afford to re-sign Votto?

Level Two: Edinson Volquez won 17 games in 2008, had elbow issues and was shut down in 2009, more elbow issues in 2010 followed by Tommy John surgery and came back in 2011.  Elbow issues followed by Tommy John surgery result in a pitcher taking 12-18 months after surgery to regain their form, and, especially, their control.  Volquez’s control never came back last year, but it was due to.  The fact that he was tossed in based on his most recent results was absolutely asinine.  Volquez’s fastball was 93.6 mph on average in 2008 and was sitting at 93.4 last year.  While his ERA and WHIP has increased, he was still a work in progress.  The Reds did a good thing by not locking him up long-term, but they shouldn’t have given up on him for nothing.

Level Three: Yasmani Grandal just turned 23 in November.  He played at three levels in 2011, posting a .305/.401/.500 slash, ripping 31 2B and 16 homers.  He wasn’t in the Reds plans due to the presence of Ryan Hanigan (who is signed on the cheap) and Devin Mesoraco, another slugging catching prospect who just arrived in Cincinnati late last season.  Grandal and Alonso alone for Latos is pushing it.  They are both top prospects, having been honored by Baseball America as the #3 and #4 prospects in the Reds system this season.  The Reds aren’t the Rangers, Rays or Jays as far as the strength of their system, but they have elite-level talent in Mesoraco, Billy Hamilton, Alonso and Grandal.

Level Four: Who is your closer next year?  Nick Masset?  Bill Bray?  Maybe it could have been the kid who will be 24 next May and posted a 93/28 K/BB and 2.03 ERA over 62 IP last year between Double-A and Triple-A…Brad Boxberger.  Young guys can sometimes dominate as closers.  Need examples?  Neftali Feliz and Craig Kimbrel.  BAM!  No more evidence needed.  You want to build a solid bullpen with a “small-market” payroll?  You give opportunities to guys like this and you don’t give someone like Francisco Cordero a four-year, $45 million deal like the Reds did in 2008.  You could have signed Votto and Bruce to a Ryan Braun (8-year, $45 million) or Evan Longoria (6-year, $17.5 million) lockdown, long-term deal to avoid the arbitration process and keep them on your roster.  Unfortunately, the ultra-conservative nature of the city and folks of Cincinnati would have probably flipped out at such a notion.

Mat Latos is good and has the potential to be an ace.  Unfortunately, the Reds got railroaded in the ace in this deal.  Their aces will be sore and fans want to hunt down the ace of Walt Jocketty when Votto leaves and they have a journey-man first baseman because the team traded their future for an short-term answer.  If you have such a problem locking up Free Agents, do you think you should be mortgaging the future on those short-term solutions.  I don’t believe so.  However, I am a lowly blogger and someone with white hair is in charge of the Reds, ruining the franchise by listening to Dusty Baker and making decisions based on his expertise.  Horrible trade.

GM for the Day: St. Louis Cardinals

It’s like having a date with the girl of your dreams and then she ditches you for Justin Bieber.  I hate you Bieber…and I’m not a fan of the Cardinals, so this offseason has been kind of interesting.  The whining birds will be without the greatest right-handed hitter of our generation, as Albert Pujols left for gobs of cash and the temperate climate that houses the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-Orange County-California-USA-Planet Earth-Milky Way Galaxy.  What’s left and what can the defending champions do?  Lets take a look-see at their 25-man roster:

2 Catchers: Yadier Molina and Tony Cruz

1B: Lance Berkman

2B: Daniel Descalso

3B: David Freese

SS: Rafael Furcal

LF: Matt Holliday

CF: Jon Jay

RF: Allen Craig

Bench: Erik Komatsu (OF – Rule 5 pick), Skip Schumaker (INF/OF), Tyler Green (INF), Shane Robinson (OF)

Starting Pitchers: Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook and Adam Wainwright

Relief Pitchers: Jason Motte, Fernando Salas, Lance Lynn, Marc Rzepczynski, Mitchell Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez and Maikel Cleto

The Cardinals need to replace Albert Pujols.  You can’t but they have to try.  Thinking that David Freese is going to be what he was in the playoffs is stupid.  He hit .397 in the postseason, including .545 in the NLCS, hitting five homers and collecting 21 RBI in 18 games.  Billy Hatcher once hit .750 in a World Series.  He went on to negative WAR (Wins Against Replacement) in five of his last six seasons.  They are rumored to be going after Carlos Beltran.  They can plug him into right and have Berkman move to first, which is what they would do if they didn’t sign Beltran and they put Allen Craig in right full-time.  Craig posted a .917 OPS in 75 games last year, so he deserves a look, but it’s possible the Cardinals need to show signs of life in Free Agency to please “the best fans in baseball.”  They’d probably be better off without signing an aging and declining Beltran, isn’t that why they didn’t go to the extent of the Angels on Pujols?  Daniel Descalso has an amazing arm and he’ll waste it at second.  He always posted solid numbers in the Minors, but if he falters, he’ll share the gig with Schumaker, who is now a super-utility player.  The Cards sured up the infield by signing Rafael Furcal to a two-year deal.

With Adam Wainwright coming back from Tommy John, the Cardinals seem very upbeat about their rotation.  They are dangling Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse in deals, but neither of them really hold a lot of value.  They’ll probably hang on to both veterans and use Shelby Miller, super prospect, as a tool when one of them falter, or if Wainwright hits an innings cap coming off of surgery.

The Cardinals lost a huge piece, more valuable to them than possibly even Pujols when the Astros stole Jeff Luhnow, the Cards Vice President of Scouting and Player Development.  He created a system that has Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Tyrell Jenkins, Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras at the top of the list, all potential stars.  They’ll be spending the next few years rebuilding the franchise and hoping to stay relevent in a changing division, as the Reds deal with payroll issues due to Votto’s upcoming salary increase and the Brewers lose Prince Fielder, who could end up a Cub!

This is what I would do as the Cardinals GM.  The infield is set.  You have to work on an extension for Yadier Molina.  He will be a Free Agent after 2012 and will be 29 this year.  His defensive value isn’t easy to explain but the bat makes him worth a raise and long-term investment.  I still can’t understand the Rasmus deal long-term for this team, as his attitude and inability to follow instruction couldn’t have been worth giving up on the talent, could it?  They are trusting Jon Jay in center and he is a reasonable option.  He has a .784 OPS vs. RHP and .733 OPS vs. LHP, so he doesn’t necessarily need to platoon at this point, but it could change.  Holliday is in left due to the crazy contract and he is pretty good, too.  I would give Craig a chance if I knew he was healthy, but he isn’t.  He is coming off of surgery to his knee and probably won’t be ready until May.  Due to that issue, the Cardinals need to gamble on Beltran or another Free Agent capable of playing right.  Maybe a reunion with Ryan Ludwick, who posted some amazing stats (.857 OPS) over his earlier three-year stay in St. Louis, would be a solid idea as a stopgap?  It wouldn’t be an absurd contract, you wouldn’t have to deal with Scott Boras and you wouldn’t have to invest in a player who has played in just 59% of his team games in the last three seasons.  I would sign Ludwick on the cheap, make him a 4th outfielder off the bat, put Berkman in right for a couple of months while Craig works his way back, and give first base to Matt Adams.  Adams is 23-years-old and he hit .300/.357/.566 last year, ripping 23 2B, 32 HR and 101 RBI in Double-A.  He’s a left-handed bat, which can fit in nicely with Holliday (right) and Berkman (switch) in the middle of the order.  If he falters, move him back to Triple-A and put Berkman at first and Craig/Ludwick in right.  See what you have.  The future in St. Louis needs to happen now.

The rotation is set, you’re not getting anything for the vets and the bullpen is nice.  See what Motte can do in the closer role and quit the closer-by-commitee bullcrap that LaRussa has been pulling since he managed the White Sox.

The 25-man roster would be:

2 Catchers: Yadier Molina and Tony Cruz

1B: Matt Adams

2B: Daniel Descalso

3B: David Freese

SS: Rafael Furcal

LF: Matt Holliday

CF: Jon Jay

RF: Lance Berkman

Bench: Skip Schumaker (INF/OF), Allen Craig (INF/OF), Ryan Ludwick (LF/RF), Tyler Green (2B/SS)

Starting Pitchers: Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook

Relief Pitchers: Jason Motte, Fernando Salas, Lance Lynn, Marc Rzepczynski, Mitchell Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez and Maikel Cleto

GM for the Day: Pittsburgh Pirates

Wasn’t it cute how the Pirates pretended to be relevant in 2011?  For a while, they had us all fooled, even ESPN was swinging on their jockstrap!  Reality set in and Pittsburgh became the sub-.500 team that they’ve been since 1992, finishing the season at 70-92.  With the NL Central wide-open with the departure of Albert Pujols and the possible suspension of Ryan Braun for 50 games, the Pirates have a shot, right?  Nope.  The team has pieces but not enough.  Their elite prospects were draft picks out of high school in recent years, outside of last year’s #1 pick Gerrit Cole (who may not have even been the best pitcher on UCLA’s staff, see Trevor Bauer).  Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie were elite high school pitchers and Josh Bell was a possible steal of a mashing high school bat last year.  That is why this team should continue to build for the future and hope that they actually build a core that they can KEEP.  Until then, more trades and wishing for stability.

The current 25-man roster would be:

2 Catchers: Rod Barajas and Michael McKendry

1B: Garrett Jones

2B: Neil Walker

3B: Pedro Alvarez

SS: Clint Barmes

LF: Alex Presley

CF: Andrew McCutchen

RF: Jose Tabata

Bench: Casey McGehee (1B/2B/3B), Nate McLouth (OF), Josh Harrison (3B), Chase d’Arnaud (INF)

Starting Pitchers: Jeff Karstans, Kevin Correia, Charlie Morton, James McDonald and Erik Bedard

Relief Pitchers: Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Chris Resop, Daniel Moskos, Chris Leroux, Tony Watson and Jason Grilli

This team isn’t going to win a whole lot, but they have some pieces to keep and some pieces to trade.  They shouldn’t keep signing the leftovers to multi-year deals.  No way is Clint Barmes in their long-term plans, especially when he costs $5.25 million per year on a 2-year, $10.5 million deal!  He had a .698 OPS last year for Houston and hasn’t mattered offensively since 2009 in Colorado (still just a .734 OPS), posting a .656 in 2010 before going to the Astros.  They need stopgaps on the cheap, not overpaid solutions.  They always sign guys like this and then deal away young, talented players.  They continue doing this no matter who the GM is.  The Pirates could have signed Ronny Cedeno, Adam Everett or Edgar Renteria to not hit for a hell of a lot less than they’re paying Barmes.  They already signed Barmes, so we’ll just say they should start over again, like they have the last 2o years.

I’m trading Andrew McCutchen because he isn’t going to stay there long-term when they continue to not build around him from year to year.  McCutchen just turned 25 in October and he won’t be a Free Agent until after 2015.  He will be arbitration eligible in 2013, so, clearly, he’s about to leave Pittsburgh anyway.  Lets do it now.  I’m sending him to the Texas Rangers for Martin Perez, Mike Olt, Miguel De Los Santos and Engel Beltre.  It’s going to be a Mark Teixeira-type of return, only this time, it’s the Rangers giving it up instead of getting it.  Perez is an ace.  Olt is a solid defender at third who needs to cut his strikeout rate.  De Los Santos has amazing strikeout totals and is a work in progress, so who knows where he’ll end up.  Beltre was a top prospect that fizzled out due to attitude problems, so a change of scenary could get him going again.

Jose Tabata is someone who should stick around since the Pirates signed him through 2019 if you count the two option years.  If he hit for more power, it would be nice.  They could bring up Robbie Grossman to play center after dealing McCutchen.  They once brought a guy up from High-A ball to play, Jose Guillen, and it worked out well.  Grossman is an interesting bat because he had a 111/104 K/BB and a .418 OBP with 49 extra-base hits and 24 SB last year.  It would be rushing him, but what do they have to lose but more games?  Presley is the kind of gritty player that Pittsburgh fans love.  His all-out style fits well and he can hold down the fort in left until Josh Bell comes up and pushes Tabata to left.

Pedro Alvarez will be 25-years-old on Opening Day of 2012.  When someone is so highly acclaimed coming out of college and signs for a $6 million bonus, teams and fans expect big things.  Alvarez has weight issues and skill issues, getting sent to the Minors last year hitting lefties to the tune of a .211/.291/.329 slash.  He’s heading towards a platoon and the Pirates should make it with Josh Harrison, who also stinks against LHP, because someone will need to platoon with Garrett Jones at first!  Jones is a .204/.242/.371 hitter since 2009 against lefties.  The Pirates were trying to re-sign Derrek Lee, but they received Casey McGehee from the Brewers in a recent deal, and he could platoon with Jones, saving the Pirates from another multi-year deal with a veteran.  Neil Walker is a star in the making at second, but the rest of the infield is garbage at this point.  They need to hope that Alvarez finds his swing and/or motivation to become what he is capable of, which is a guy who strikes out a ton but mashes 40 homers, a younger version of Adam Dunn without the walks and .159 average.

The Pirates pitching staff is a work in progress.  James McDonald is capable of a lot more than he has shown.  If he limits his walks, he could strikeout 200 this year.  His 4.04 ERA in over 300 career innings show that he isn’t a horrible pitcher.  With some work, he could be useful.  Charlie Morton’s mocking of Roy Halladay’s windup is about as close as he comes to the ace, but he had great results in 2011 for some time.  Karstans doesn’t walk anyone but he doesn’t strike anyone out either, posting a 96/33 K/BB in 162 1/3 IP and Correia is about the same, posting a 77/39 K/BB in 154 IP.  The Pirates signed Erik Bedard.  Nice job on a $4.5 million, one-year deal.  If he makes 10 starts for the Pirates without an injury, TRADE HIM!  Even after shoulder issues and mixed results, the Red Sox and Dodgers made a trade with the Mariners last year to get the M’s some talented prospects for the lefty.  Hopefully, the Pirates can do the same thing.  The bullpen is solid.  They should probably deal Joel Hanrahan but that can wait until the deadline.  There are so many relief pitchers out there in Free Agency that they wouldn’t get great value.  Waiting for a collapse and jumping on it in July could net them a great return.

So, making a huge deal for the future by dealing McCutchen, you’re left with a 25-man roster of:

2 Catchers: Rod Barajas and Michael McKendry

1B: Garrett Jones

2B: Neil Walker

3B: Pedro Alvarez

SS: Clint Barmes

LF: Alex Presley

CF: Robbie Grossman

RF: Jose Tabata

Bench: Casey McGehee (1B/2B/3B), Josh Harrison (3B), Nate McLouth (OF) and Chase d’Arnaud (INF)

Starting Pitchers: Erik Bedard, Charlie Morton, James McDonald, Jeff Karstans and Kevin Correia

Relief Pitchers: Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Chris Resop, Daniel Moskos, Chris Leroux, Tony Watson and Jason Grilli

GM for the Day: Milwaukee Brewers

Well, this just got interesting for the Brewers.  Just when you think they’ll be ok with Prince Fielder gone, out comes the potential suspension of superstar left fielder and 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun for 50-games due to something inappropriate (some are saying performance-enhancing drugs and others are saying a controlled substance, we’ll have to wait either way).  Braun deserves the benefit of the doubt, but in a system that states that you’re innocent until proven guilty but actually says you’re guilty until you’re actually proven guilty by peers, public opinion has already locked him out of the lineup for 50-games.  He probably locked himself out of the Hall, too, but that’s something we’ll have to wait years for.  Regardless, it was an offseason of changes for the Brewers and they knew that it was coming.  With the acquisitions of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum last year and the three-year deal for Corey Hart kicking in at beginning of 2011, they couldn’t afford to drop $20+ million per season on Prince Fielder.  So, what should they do from here?  Lets look at what they already have:

2 Catchers: Jonathan LuCroy and George Kottaras

1B: Mat Gamel

2B: Rickie Weeks

3B: Casey McGehee

SS: Alex Gonzalez

LF: Ryan Braun

CF: Nyjer Morgan

RF: Corey Hart

Bench: Taylor Green (3B), Carlos Gomez (OF), Logan Schafer (OF), Eric Farris (INF)

Starting Pitchers: Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson

Relief Pitchers: John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Marco Estrada, Manny Parra, Kameron Loe, Eulogio De La Cruz and Brandon Kintzler

The Brewers could use some depth, especially with the corner infield spots being so up in the air, but there isn’t anything out there, really, so I’d stick with what they have.  Casey McGehee will be 29 for the whole 2012 season and he “should” return to pre-2011 form, or at least that is the best case scenario for the Brew Crew, when he posted a .285/.337/.464 line like he did in 2010.  Mat Gamel is the huge risk.  He has been toying with the organization since 2008, showing incredible skills in the Minors with an OPS of .923 in 2008, .839 in 2009, .884 in 2010 and .912 last year.  However, Gamel has just a .684 OPS in 171 Major League at bats with 67 strikeouts (39.1% K-rate).  If he doesn’t show the same skills in the Majors with his first attempt at a full-time job, the Brewers may have to move McGehee to first and let Taylor Green have third base.  Green has been productive his entire Minor League career, including posting a .336/.412/.580 line with 37 2B, 22 HR and 91 RBI in 2011.  He is 25 and deserves a shot, too, and could get it sooner rather than later with both McGehee and Gamel around in Milwaukee.  I would allow McGehee to platoon at third with Green to see what you have in the younger guy, then put him at first or third depending on the success or failure of Green and Gamel.  If they both fail, maybe you shouldn’t have traded Brett Lawrie…booyah!  It isn’t worth signing the Free Agents with the list consisting of Casey Blake, Melvin Mora and Eric Chavez at third and Nick Johnson, Brad Hawpe and Carlos Pena at first.  Although Pena could be a good fit on a one-year deal, they NEED to see what they have in Gamel.  Edgar Renteria makes sense for the club since he could handle second, third, and some short.  He isn’t much with the bat, but you have enough production out of Weeks and Gonzalez (when he makes contact) to keep him around as insurance up the middle.

The outfield is also up in the air.  They really don’t have a full-time replacement for Ryan Braun if he were to miss nearly 1/3 of the 2012 season, so what do they do here?  You could make a case for the Brewers to go after Mike Cuddyer because he can play second, third, first and outfield, but why would he sign a deal as a super-utility type when he’ll probably just sign to play where he wants to?  Cody Ross could be a decent signing, though, since he can play wherever you may need him in the outfield and has some pop.  He’ll also be nice to have around if Nyjer Morgan goes all WWE on Pujols when they play the Angels and gets suspended.  Ross is also a lefty masher, posting an .863 OPS since 2009, which fits well with Morgan in center who has a .524 OPS versus lefties since 2009.  Carlos Gomez has speed and a .640 OPS since 2009, so he’s a speed/defensive replacement at the age of 26.

Pitching in general is huge for the Brewers.  They have a staff that teams envy.  Gallardo still hasn’t reached his full potential and he has a 53-34 record and 3.63 career ERA.  Greinke is an ace and Marcum isn’t a top of the rotation type but he is 35-22 since becoming a starter full-time in 2008.  Wolf is a veteran who knows what he is doing.  Narveson stinks.  Do you know what an 11-8 record and 4.45 ERA told me?  That they need to give the #5 spot to Wily Peralta.  Peralta went 11-7 with a 3.17 ERA in 2011 in the Minors, posting a 157/59 K/BB in 150 2/3 innings.  He is just 22 and at 6’2″, 240, he is built to be a horse.  He will be very, very valuable to this team in coming years, so take a look now and save Narveson as a left-handed specialist/long man.  The Brewers got bent over when Francisco Rodriguez accepted arbitration.  He’s going to be the richest set-up man in history and if he didn’t accept, they may have been able to get Jimmy Rollins at short instead of Alex Gonzalez.  A draft pick isn’t worth $11+ million GM’s.  Don’t offer arbitration to guys you don’t need and aren’t worth what you paid them last year.

So, after making some basic moves and hoping for the best in the young guys and the league matters with Braun, this is the Brewers final 25-man roster:

Catchers: Jonathan LuCroy and George Kottaras

1B: Mat Gamel

2B: Rickie Weeks

3B: Taylor Green

SS: Alex Gonzalez

LF: Ryan Braun

CF: Nyjer Morgan

RF: Corey Hart

Bench: Casey McGehee (INF), Cody Ross (OF), Carlos Gomez (OF), Edgar Renteria (INF)

Starting Pitchers: Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf and Wily Peralta

Relief Pitchers: John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Marco Estrada, Manny Parra, Kameron Loe, Eulogio De La Cruz and Chris Narveson

Ryan Brawn – the “Hebrew Injector”

As the NBA dealt with vetoed trades and lockouts and the NFL is recovering from a near work stoppage, MLB was basking in the glory of a fantastic postseason and happy labor negotiations.  The end of a weeklong Winter Meetings with, quite possibly, the biggest Free Agent signing ever just wasn’t enough for them.

Ryan Braun has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs (PED) and is appealing a 50-game suspension.  A source told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that “the positive result was triggered by elevated levels of testosterone in Braun’s system.”  Further, a more comprehensive test revealed the testosterone was synthetic.  Now Braun will go through the process of appeal, something that no one has ever been successful in overturning.

Braun won the NL MVP in 2011 after hitting .332/.397/.597 with 38 2B, 33 HR, 111 RBI and 33 SB.  He signed a five-year, $105 million extension that will keep him with the Brewers through 2021 last offseason.  Clearly, if the Brewers lose Prince Fielder to Free Agency, which they have basically admitted was going to happen, they’ll take a major hit over a 50-game absence from Braun.

You have to hope that this is an error but all signs point to MLB losing a well-respected, previously untarnished star.  Braun was in the Minors when drug-testing started and has had to pass tests every season up to this point, or he at least knew that he could have been tested.  Since Manny Ramirez was actually a part of the “Steroid Era” and only was suspended as an old, shell of his former self, it didn’t mean as much.  This is a devastating blow to the Brewers and to MLB.  Braun has had a track record that had him heading to Cooperstown, too, even if he is just 28 and played just five seasons.  He’ll just be a part of the crop that baseball writers choose to ignore once he gets to that point unless something drastically changes.  Though, he still has time and the appeal process to try to clean his legacy.

Playing With Cards

As a Cincinnati native and a sometimes homer for the Reds, I can’t say that I was disappointed by the fact that the Cardinals lost out on Albert Pujols when he signed his massive 10-year, $254 million deal officially on Saturday.  You can’t always keep everyone that you like on your team, and the Reds and their fans will have to come to grips with that when Brandon Phillips, who hasn’t been able to reach an extension beyond the 2012 season, and Joey Votto, who will be a Free Agent after the 2013 season, leave for greener (literally, $$$$) pastures.

Pujols was a part of the St. Louis community, working with charities and even opening a restaurant.  What Cardinal fans, who will blame Pujols for his “greed” in this contract, need to understand is that the Cardinals made this decision.  They aren’t a New York, Boston or Los Angeles team, so when they signed Matt Holliday to his seven-year, $120 million deal in January of 2010, they knew then that they were changing the face of the franchise.  However unfair his departure to Los Angeles feels to fans, you have ownership and management to blame.

The Cardinals couldn’t have fielded a team if they were to give both Holliday and Pujols massive contracts.  Even having over 3 million fans and winning a World Series won’t get the revenue to St. Louis to survive those contracts.  They took their chances on hoping for a “hometown discount” with one of the greatest players in baseball history and they failed.

I bet my life that Pujols, even if he ages poorly, will outperform Matt Holliday over the next several seasons.  Holliday, whose best season came in 2007, hasn’t come close to his inflated Coor’s Field numbers since leaving Denver.  In 345 games (a little over two seasons) as a Cardinal, he has a nice .314/.394/.543 slash, with 97 2B, 3 3B, 63 HR and 233 RBI.  He also had the luxury of hitting around the most feared hitter in baseball.

If Pujols, in his worst season goes .299/.366/.541 with 29 2B, 37 HR and 99 RBI in 147 games and Holliday was worth $17 million a year to the Cardinals, shouldn’t the Cardinals have offered Pujols a 10-year, $300 million deal in January of 2010 and continued building around him with pieces?  It’s not every day that you can sign a lesser player to a better contract than someone who could have been the greatest player in franchise history in the end, and that’s saying a lot with Stan “The Man” around.  The Cardinals really screwed up a couple of years ago and the NL Central is now wide open due to their gaffe.  When a player has a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 88.7 over 11 seasons (8.06 is his average and 8 is MVP quality), you know you’re going to have some issues actually replacing him.  I’ll go out on a limb and say that the Cardinals never will.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 393 other followers