Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Final Roster Moves of 2008

Well, it did not take long for my rankings from last week to be ruined. The Indians traded for the #5 2B, Mark DeRosa, and immediately announced that he would be playing 3B. So now Mark DeRosa falls out of the 2B race and everyone moves up one. Actually I think I had him ranked one spot too high to begin with. Brandon Phillips is about as good a hitter as he is, maybe a little worse. But Brandon is also significantly younger with more upside and is a slightly better defender. So where does Mark DeRosa fall in the top ten 3B? He falls right after Adrian Beltre, nestled safely at #8 between Mark Reynolds and Adrian. If given my way, I would like to replace the displaced Alex Gordon with Mark Reynolds outright (I neglected to notice that Reynolds led the NL in strikeouts AND errors) but I already made the list and can't retroactively meddle with anything.

But enough about last week (and thanks for the mostly positive response to my list last week, by the way). Let's move on to this week. Thanks to my top player list last week, we have much off-season action to get to this week. Now, I don't want to spoil anything but I believe that here we have the best move of the off-season so far, the worst move and a surprise cameo appearance by Nippon Professional Baseball. So read on, but first a few predictions for 2008 (specific predictions regarding playoffs and World Series will come in March)

- Power numbers will continue to go down this year and the league leader in home runs will be in the low 40s.
- The National League will still suck and will still be beat by the American League in both Interleague Play and the All-Star Game.
- If MLB Network is provided in Athens, Ohio, I will never leave my dorm room.
- If it isn't, I will fall into a deep depression.
- People will begin to complain about the Replay system already.
Los Angeles (AL) signs OF Juan Rivera to 3 year, $12.75 million deal
What a difference a year makes. In 2008, Juan Rivera was a convenient insurance policy for the Angels. In 2009, he is an absolute necessity. Garet Anderson is a free-agent. Gary Matthews Jr. is entirely worthless. Mark Teixeira signed with the Evil Empire. Vladimir Guerro may not be able to play right-field anymore. Reggie Willits may not ever be able to be an everyday player. So enter Juan Rivera. $12.75 million is the biggest contract of Rivera's career and he clearly cashed in on the Angels obvious need of him. It looks like a good deal now as Rivera is a competent every day player, but if Adam Dunn or Pat Burrell end up signing a deal around $20 million, the Angels should be kicking themselves.

Washington signs SP Daniel Cabrera to 1 year, $2.6 million deal
This is the "Hey, why not." deal of the winter. Daniel Cabrera was once considered a top prospect who just hasn't quite figured it out yet. The talent still appears to be there, just untapped as of yet. The Nationals had some money to throw around and had a clear need for starting pitching. So: hey, why not?

Hanshin (Japan) signs OF Kevin Mench to 1 year, $1.8 million deal
Here is another deal that only I care about. As Bobby Valentine once said on an ESPN special (and I significantly paraphrase): Japan is the only modern country in the world where baseball is number one and Major League Baseball would be stupid not to try and support that. So here I am supporting it. Go Hanshin! Sign as many Major Leaguers as you possibly can. I will miss you, Kevin Mench and your massive noggin.

San Francisco signs SP Randy Johnson to 1 year, $8 million deal
This is the difference between good franchises and bad franchises. Good franchises (the Red Sox) find a way to get a hard-throwing starting pitcher in his prime for $8 million (with incentives). Bad franchises find a way to get a hard-throwing starting pitcher who is far beyond his prime for $8 million. $8 million seems like a fair price for a future Hall-of-Famer until you realize how much more the Giants could have done with that money. For only $4-10 million more than the combined contracts of Randy Johnson and Edgar Rentaria, the Giants could have made a legitmate run at Rafael Furcal or Francisco Rodriguez. Plus, if Noah Lowry is healthy (a big if), there is no guarentee that Big Randy and his $8 million will crack the starting rotation....unless he pushes Barry Zito and his $126 million out of the rotation. My sincere hope is that Noah Lowry stays healthy, Jonathan Sanchez stays competent and the Giants call up a stud pitcher from the Minors so that they are paying a combine $134 million to pitchers who are not starting.

Tampa Bay signs RP Joe Nelson to 1 year, $1.3 million deal
After big names like Wood and Rodriguez came off the market, Joe Nelson became the in-vogue free agent reliever for some reason. There is something charming about the hard-working, effective reliever who hits his stride at age 34 but there is the very real possibility that Joe Nelson's 2008 season was an aberration. His peripheal stats look fine and his K/BB ratio is nearly 3:1, I am just not sure that the Rays and their limited resources should be paying $1.3 million to a guy who has bounced around between the Minors and Majors and only has 107 appearences in his career.

Cincinatti signs OF Willy Taveras to 2 year, $6.25 million deal
Here is a deal that makes the Ramon Hernandez a lot more palatable to me. The Reds were incredibly thin at outfield, which made trading Ryan Freel seem curious to me. But while Willy Taveras does not have the verstility of Freel (not many do), he is something that the Reds critically needed: a centerfielder and a competent lead-off hitter. He has good speed and is a legitimate base-stealing threat. His career OBP (.331) is low, however. He is better than any other option the Reds have right now and at $3 million a year, he is a relative bargain but he is not going to get them any closer to a post-season berth.

Boston signs SP Brad Penny to 1 year, $5 million deal
What a quriky off-season this has turned out to be. A guy like Brian Fuentes can pull down $9 million a year. But a 100 MPH flamethrower and one of the National League's consistently excellent starters over the past few years can only get a $5 million. What is interesting about this deal to me is the fact that Boston engineered it. Boston is a big-market team spending their money like a small-market team. Penny's $5 million base with $3 million in performance incentives reminds me of the contract that Mark Shapiro wrote up for Kevin Millwood in 2005. Millwood, like Penny, was coming off an injury plagued year, and Millwood, like Penny, was just entering the prime of his career, and Millwood bounced back in a huge way that year, just like Penny will do this year. This is a traditional low-risk, high-reward deal but it is even lower of a risk considering the capital of the team that is making the risk. This might be the biggest steal of the off-season. If $5 million is all it takes for a potential ace and All-Star, then I am wondering why my precious Indians didn't give Mr. Penny a call.

Boston signs C Josh Bard to 1 year, $1.7 million deal

Not a very exciting deal for anyone other than Josh Bard, who should be thanking his lucky stars that the Red Sox were willing to dish out $2 million for a back-up. But is Bard really a back-up? His stats and skill-set suggest that he can be a decent starter but certainly not an ideal candidate for a team competing for the toughest Division in baseball. Jason Varitek doesn't look to be coming back and there is no one else on the Catching roster that really lights the world on fire. I suppose he is an upgrade over the ancient Varitek but this is nothing to write home about for Sox fans. One thing I know is that he sure won't be catching for Tim Wakefield any time soon.

Baltimore signs SP Mark Hendrickson to 1 year, $1.5 million deal

Mark Hendrickson had a pretty decent year with the Marlins last year. He is far removed from the promise he showed as a youngster but at the very least he can eat some innings. And the Orioles flat out need ANY warm body who can throw a baseball and as their rotation is currently constituted, Hendrickson can be as high as a #2 starter. $1.5 million for a #2 (albeit an illegitimate #2) is an excellent deal for a mid-market club considering that the Royals gave the slightly worse Horacio Ramirez $1.8 million.

Chicago (NL) trades SP Jason Marquis to Colorado for RP Luis Vizcaino

Not the most exciting trade in the world. The Cubs did not need much more bullpen help but they certainly did not need Jason Marquis. And the Rockies certainly should not need him either. He will get absolutely rocked in Coors Field. I can wrap my head around a team overpaying for a guy like Marquis as a free-agent but I do not know why a non-contending team would trade their own important commodities to seek him out.

Chicago (NL) trades 2B Mark DeRosa to Cleveland for RP Jeff Stevens, SP Chris Archer and RP John Gaub

This is a very interesting trade for many reasons. I must admit, that as an Indians' fan I was on cloud nine after I read of this trade. I was yelling in every one's faces "WE GOT DEROSA! WE GOT DEROSA!" After all, I rated this guy the 5th best secondbaseman in baseball just last week. But no one else seemed to share my enthusiasm. Even though Indians' beat reporter first broke the story around 5:30, the Cleveland Plain Dealer had still yet to report on it by 11:00 the night of New Year's Eve. So I had to ask myself: is there something that everyone else is seeing that I am just not. And try as I might, I just can't find it. DeRosa is a slam dunk and the Indians gave away the baseball equivalent of table scraps to get him. I just couldn't see what was in it for Chicago. DeRosa's contract situation was less than ideal, being in the final year of his contract. So the cubs seemed to have resigned themselves to getting pennies back on the dollar he represented. But here was a guy who was going to play a significant part in the Jake Peavy trade before talks fell apart, so much so that the story paints this trade as the final nail in the coffin for that deal. In the end, the Cubs will be more than fine with Mike Fontenot at 2B and will probably benefit from the payroll flexibility, but they simply did not get enough for a versatile power-hitter. As for MDR's versatility, I envisioned him at 2B with Asdrubal Cabrera sliding to SS and Jhonny Peralta sliding to 3B. The Indians have even had Peralta playing 3B in Dominican winter ball. But Castrovince's story boldly stated that DeRosa WILL be playing 3B for the Tribe in 2009. I really have to question the wisdom of that move but I am beyond happy to have him. The Indians need one more starting pitcher to compete in 2009 and the Cubs now need a competent lefty or switch-hitting bat.

Los Angeles signs RP Brian Fuentes to 2 year, $17.5 million deal
What a strange, backwards world we live in when a starting outfielder (Juan Rivera) can be bought for less over 3 years than a Relief Pitcher over 2. The funny thing is that at this point, $17.5 for Brian Fuentes looks to be a bargain. It was a bully market for relief pitching this year. And if the man they call K-Rod could only pull down around $35 million than Fuentes could not have expected much more than $17.5 million. I don't think he is worth even that, however. This is the same pitcher that lost his closer job to Manny Corpas....Manny-freaking-Corpas. Strangely enough though, I think his demotion is another thing that only helped him. He hit the market this year as the "versatile option" whereas a guy like K-Rod or Trevor Hoffman can ONLY be a Closer. Ultimately, he will be a Closer in Anaheim. But his designation as "versatile" probably bought him a few more million dollars.

Come back next week for another list that I think you will all get a kick out of.


Curiousgab said...

Could you make-up a happy Pirates roster scenario for me

A.G.B said...

I am sorry, even with my extensive baseball knowledge, there is just no way I can put a positive spin on the Pirates current situation. If Andrew McCutcheon is the next Roberto Clemente, the may win ten more games a year and finish in 5th place instead of 6th. That is the best I can do.