Before we begin today, I would like to draw everyone's attention to a crucially important web article. I basically live and die by the Baseball Prospectus and a couple of weeks ago they released their predictions for how the divisions would shake out for each division in baseball including Wins and Losses. It is a fantastic list and Baseball Preview but I debated on whether or not I should link it.
Problem is, my Baseball Preview is going to resemble their's quite a bit. I have been working on this preview and thinking about these baseball team's diligently since the Phils won Game 5 of the World Series. But unfortunately mine is now going to resemble a lot of other source's Previews now. It is a fundamental question any baseball writer faces. Do I attempt to be on the cutting edge by releasing my Baseball Preview early or do I wait for most of the free agents to sign. I opted for Decision 2 this year and depending on how it goes, I might change my mind for next year.
Before I get to my grades of the AL Off-season, there are three, count 'em, three things I want to address about baseball this week.
First off, Tim Kirkjian secured an interview with Albert Pujols about the A-Rod scandal. I am SO glad that someone (especially a good writer) had the presence of mind to ask Albert Pujols how he felt about steroids. Pujols handled the interview like a champ, talking about children and admiring the game and being fair. But really what this interview was all about was taking the Crown off of A-Rod's head and placing it onto Albert Pujols's head as Best Player in the World. For the record, that is where the Crown belongs and that is where the Crown has always belonged.
Next, there was Adrian Beltre' speaking up. Look, I do not romanticize baseball as much as I used to. I have the mind of the G.M-all these players are just pieces that can be moved and added and subtracted and altered....not human beings. But Adrian Beltre' actually made me think about the human aspect a little more this week. The G.M in me knows that the Mariners need to dump anyone and everyone that they can from their failing team. Beltre' tells us, however, that it isn't always that easy and that Mariners players will miss Raul Ibanez contributions on and off the field quite a bit. Right on, Adrian, right on.
Then there is the news of two re-signings from struggling NL Central teams. The fact that the Pirates signed their semi-young CF Nate McLouth (a.k.a Jody Gerut 2.0) to 3 years, $15 million and the Reds signed their semi-young 3B Edwin Encarnacion to a 2 year, $7.6 million deal. Ladies and gentlemen, I can now safely say the Reds will climb out of the cellar far sooner than the Pirates.
Now here are the AL Off-season grades. Just like the NL Off-season grades, I will only take into account players that were added to or subtracted from the 25-man roster and I will not be counting re-signings. Enjoy reading!
Baltimore OriolesAdditions - Koji Uehara, Rich Hill, Felix Pie, Cesar Izturis, Ryan Freel, Greg Zaun
Subtractions - Ramon Hernandez, Daniel Cabrera, Garrett Olson
Result - B- The Orioles seem to have a decent core in place for the future so they seemed to keep that in mind for this off-season. No adding any high-priced free agents and looking for the bargain bin. I like the additions of Rich Hill and Felix Pie a lot. Hill could start every 5th day for them and Pie brings some nice up-side and could be a part of the potential core. The Uehara signing was fairly...interesting and Cesar Izturis was a decent, cheap option. I think Daniel Cabrera should have been re-signed. Not a slam dunk of an off-season by any means, but at least the O's didn't screw up too much or get in their own way.
Boston Red SoxAdditions - John Smoltz, Rocco Baldelli, Brad Penny, Ramom Ramirez, Josh Bard, Junichi Tazawa
Subtractions - Coco Crisp, Alan Embree, Paul Byrd
Result - A This is a deceptively excellent off-season. The Sox turned a player they didn't need into a player they did need (Crisp to Ramirez). And then they got a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer, a former top prospect and a perennial All-Star, all for about 1/12 of what the Yankees will be paying Mark Teixeira. That's not even to mention the fact that they brought in a young Japanese fireballer who came on the cheap because of his age. It still shocks me that teams will overpay for the Igawa's, Uehara's and Kawakami's of the world when presumably the Nippon League has plenty of talented players in their mid-20s who want to come America. You have scouts...USE THEM. Don't wait 10 years of a player's career in Japan before you decide if he is good or not. As far as I can tell, the Red Sox's only issue this off-season was missing out on an above-average Catcher. Other than that....perfecto.
New York YankeesAdditions - Nick Swisher, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, A.J Burnett,
Subtractions - Ivan Rodriguez, Wilson Betemit, Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Mussina, Scott Proctor, Carl Pavano, Jason Giambi
Result - B+ I've said it before and I will say it again: when talking about the Yankees, you have to throw words like "affordability" out the window. The Yankees could afford CC and Teixeira and wisely signed them. I think those are A+ deals and do not really mind the dollar amounts involved. There is one deal, however, that I cannot condone. I don't care if the Yankees have Infinity Dollars, signing A.J Burnett any longer than 2 years and for any more than $10 million a year is a M-I-S-T-A-K-E. What an awful deal. The other smaller moves the Yanks made seem to have worked out in their favor. Swisher can still produce and will at the very least get them a prospect or two should they choose to trade him and they can re-sign Pudge anytime they'd like. Good off-season.
Tampa Bay RaysAdditions - Pat Burrell, Matt Joyce, Joe Nelson
Subtractions - Edwin Jackson, Gabe Gross, Cliff Floyd
Results - B- The Burrell signing was a coup and I cannot argue with going out and getting another reliever. Take it from an Indians' fan: "you must always fortify the bullpen." Losing Cliff Floyd is fine and Gabe Gross won't be missed. This is the model of a small-market team off-season...until you get to the Edwin Jackson deal. I firmly believe that the Rays could have gotten more and should have gotten more for Edwin Jackson.
Toronto Blue JaysAdditions - Michael Barrett
Result - C- Do I really even need to write about this?
Chicago White SoxAdditions - Bartolo Colon, Dayan Viciedo, Wilson Betemit
Subtractions - Joe Crede, Javier Vazquez, Nick Swisher, Boone Logan, Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Uribe, Toby Hall, Horacio Ramirez, Orlando Cabrera
Result - D+ Sometimes I just think that Kenny Williams gets bored. Here is/are the addition(s) that I like: Dayan Viciedo. Here are the additions I don't like: Colon and Betemit (a.k.a everyone else). Why get rid of Swisher? Why get rid of Boone Logan in addition to Javier Vazquez....as a matter of fact, why get rid of Vazquez in the first place. I understand that Ozzie had problems with him, but is that really worth making yourself a worse club in 2009? The Sox actually had to give up TWO good players (Vazquez and Cabrera) just because they couldn't mesh with Ozzie. You say you want to get faster and more atheltic....and then you promptly get rid of your only lead-off option and dynamite Shortstop. The Sox may have positioned themselves for 2010 but they did not make their 25-man roster any better for this year and under these rules, that is an atrocious off-season.
Cleveland IndiansAdditions - Mark DeRosa, Carl Pavano, Kerry Wood, Joe Smith,
Subtractions - Franklin Gutierrez, Tom Mastny, Sal Fasano
Result - A- Call me biased, I don't care. The Indians had the best off-season of any team in baseball this year under a $100 million payroll. Look at the guys they lost....inconsequential (aside from Gutierrez who is an excellent fielder). Now look at the guys they added......fantastic. They got a Major League reliever in return for Gutierrez(remember what I said about fortifying that bullpen?), they got a potential All-Star Closer (probably the most purely talented relief pitcher in Cleveland since Jose Mesa) and they stole away one of the best role-players in baseball from the Cubs. Instead of overpaying for Casey Blake, they found a better version of Casey Blake and for less money and fewer years. That is just a masterstroke of a move, friends. The Pavano signing is fairly meaningless and Wood may have been a touch overpaid, but the Indians did very well for themselves this off-season.
Detroit TigersAdditions - Gerald Laird, Adam Everett, Edwin Jackson, Brandon Lyon, Matt Treanor
Subtractions - Todd Jones, Matt Joyce, Edgar Rentaria, Kenny Rogers
Result - B The Tigers had the right idea this year. They opted to go for smaller deals for Defense (Laird, Everett) and pitching (Jackson) instead of pulling off a big blockbuster like the Cabrera-Willis deal. I have to say, they won't miss anybody that they lost and everybody that they picked up will help, if only a little. Laird, and Everett's contribution won't be massive but it will exist. Jackson is their best pick-up of the off-season. My only problem with the Tigers off-season is that they didn't do enough to help the bullpen. Lyon is alright, but he isn't worth what they paid him and there is no guarantee he will be closer material.
Kansas City RoyalsAdditions - Coco Crisp, Willie Bloomquist, Mike Jacobs, Horacio Ramirez, Kyle Farnsworth
Subtractions - Leo Nunez, Mike Grudzilanek, Joey Gathright, Ramon Ramirez
Result - C+ I really like the Coco pick-up and the Mike Jacobs pick-up...I just find it bizarre that it cost exactly one reliever in each deal. They weren't necessarily reliever-rich to begin with but I think Jacobs and Crisp were too good to pass-up. Farnsworth was probably a reaction to that and it was a fair deal for a fair pitcher. They can find someone to replace Grudzilanek and for less dough and Gathright probably won't be missed (especially when they already have 4 outfielders) My two big beefs with the Royals off-season are that they subtracted from the bullpen when they really needed to add and they made the maddeningly insane decision to sign Willie Bloomquist. That was probably the second worst deal of the off-season. Behind only Edgar Rentaria for 2 years, $18 million.
Minnesota TwinsAdditions - R.A Dickey, Luis Ayala
Subtractions - Adam Everett, Dennys Reyes, Eddie Guardado
Result - C The Twins were not really in a position to add much or subtract much. You knew at the end of the season that their team was going to remain fairly static and it did. Their team looks pretty good as is but I have to say I would be nervous if I were a Twins' fan right now. Can you really remember the last time a team did not make a single significant change in the off-season and made it deep into the playoffs? I don't think I can.
Los Angeles AngelsAdditions - Brian Fuentes, Bobby Abreu
Subtractions - Mark Teixeira, Francisco Rodriguez, Jon Garland, Garet Anderson
Result - D+ If there were one team that could NOT afford to lose its free agent in this off-season in was the Angels. Teixeira absolutely had to be on this team. The difference with him in the line-up vs. him out of the line-up will be shocking. They didn't get better by losing Francisco Rodriguez but it wasn't as bad as losing Teixeira. Garland certainly won't be missed in that awesome rotation and Bobby Abreu is a huge upgrade over Garet Anderson. That team is just getting older and worse by the day (for the record, Angels fans, I predicted the Angels would be the best team in baseball last year) and they had to get Teixeira to switch up their whole offensive identity.
Oakland AthleticsAdditions - Jason Giambi, Matt Holliday, Russ Springer, Michael Wuertz
Subtractions - Carlos Gonzalez, Greg Smith, Huston Street, Matt Murton, Kirk Saarloos
Result - C+ This is technically an above average off-season, just a very confusing one. Matt Murton and Kirk Saarloos are gone and I don't care. Russ Springer and Michael Wuertz are added and I don't care. The only two deals I am looking at are the Giambi signing and the Holliday deal. The Jason Giambi deal made all kinds of sense. He has the left-handed power that the A's need and he is in the perfect stage of his career for an Oakland reunion. The Holliday deal made a little less sense. You can't argue that he doesn't make them a better team, but I think they gave up quite a bit for him. It is perfectly clear that they can't afford to resign him either so this will be a 1-year deal or he will be traded at the deadline for significantly less than what they traded for him.
Seattle MarinersAdditions - Russell Branyan, Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez, Garrett Olson, Tyler Walker, Ronny Cedeno, Ken Griffey Jr.
Subtractions - J.J Putz, Sean Green, Jose Vidro, Willie Bloomquist, Raul Ibanez, R.A Dickey, Aaron Heilman
Result - D- I really don't think the Mariners get it. They are in the worst position of all the teams in baseball. They are spending more than $100 million....and they are not winning any games. It's barn-burning time. EVERYONE NEEDS TO GO. And they have the balls to slap their fans in the face with a Russell Branyan signing? Endy Chavez should not be on this team either, of the entire Mets-Indians-M's deal, Seattle should have said "Look, we are willing to give up Putz and Green and Luis Valbuena and the absolute ONLY Major League player we want in return is Franklin Gutierrez (he is going to fit that team's short-term needs like a glove)....as for everyone else: PROSPECTS, PROSPECTS, PROSPECTS. High-ceiling Low-A to Double-A players and absolutely nothing more. Kudos, to getting rid of Putz, Green, Vidro (extra kudos for getting rid of this corpse), Bloomquist, Ibanez and Dickey. But still: they should have gotten rid of so much more. Don't be gentle about it, Seattle, just blow the whole damn thing up. It is rebuilding time, and it is much harder to build a new building when the old one is standing in the way. Well, then there's Junior. Who could have a problem with that?
Texas RangersAdditions -Jason Jennings, Eddie Guardado, Omar Vizquel
Subtractions - Gerald Laird, Milton Bradley
Result - C For all intents and purposes, the Rangers are set regarding half of their team. Their hitting and their bullpen are both fine. That leaves fielding and starting pitching as the problem areas. The Rangers seem to understand their fielding problems and have made numerous moves internally to solve the problem. Blalock is now a full-time DH, Michael Young is moving to 3B to make room for either the best fielding shortstop of all time (OOOOOMAAAAR!) or mega-prospect, Elvis Andrus. Texas has also expressed an interest in moving Josh Hamilton to RF and I expect that they will find someone competent to play CF. Hell, even their manager is a former infield coach. That leaves the off-season to solve the starting pitching problem. Did they? Absolutely not. Jason Jennings is just a flat-out waste of money. I am so glad that they got two competent prospects in exchange for Gerald Laird but they could have gotten another prospect or even a Major-League ready pitcher for Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Max Ramirez. The Rangers may have the starting pitcher to compete in 2010, but it isn't going to be there yet again for 2009.
That's a wrap on the MLB Off-season as far as I am concerned.
Special thanks go out to regular reader Lianna this week for crafting a new header for this blog. I hope everyone enjoys it!