January 2006

White Sox Interested In Abreu

Remember that Abreu/Contreras/Dye rumor that was bouncing around last night that couldn’t quite graduate from the Unfounded category?  We’re a little closer to a foundation about this one tonight.

A very solid source close to the Phillies tells me that Kenny Williams and the White Sox "love" Bobby Abreu.  It’s the first I’ve heard that the club is truly interested in the right fielder.  He also mentioned that the Phils would like a pitcher like Jose Contreras.  There is some question as to whether the Phils would need to include Gavin Floyd to make an equitable deal.

He said that with the White Sox payroll rising to over $90MM, they can’t take on much more.  However, I’ve heard in the past from my White Sox guy that the Sox would actually take the payroll to $105MM.  What’s more, the 2006 salaries of Dye, Contreras, and Abreu are a wash.  The Phils would take on $13MM and the White Sox would do the same.

The Sox would have to squeeze a marginal $11MM into their payroll in 2007.  Abreu is owed $17MM for that season (including a $2MM buyout of his ’08 option).  But given that the club likely would have exercised Jermaine Dye‘s affordable $6MM option, it’s a marginal $11 mil for ’07.

This would clearly be a win now move for the Phils, as it would strengthen their team for 2006.  The combination of Contreras and Dye was worth 10.5 wins above replacement players in 2005.  Abreu was worth 6.8 wins.  While he still has potential at age 23, Gavin Floyd can’t be counted on for much after posting a 6.16 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in 137 Triple A innings in 2005.

Another interesting nugget is the close friendship between Abreu and Ozzie Guillen.  Guillen certainly had some influence on the acquisition and retention of Freddy Garcia.

Alfonso Soriano Trade Possibilities

Ken Rosenthal’s latest article mentions that a trade of Alfonso Soriano could happen, but Nationals are more likely to offer Soriano a long-term deal to convince him to become an outfielder.  I don’t doubt Rosenthal, but let’s take a look at some possible suitors for the second baseman.  I’ll assume that a trade signifies no position change.

First off, let’s narrow the field by looking at which teams lack an established 2B.

Blue Jays – Looks like Aaron Hill is the man at second base for 2006, and he’s a fairly solid hitter already.  Plus, Soriano probably isn’t Ricciardi’s type of player.

MarinersJose Lopez will get the nod entering this season, and he slugged .505 during a couple of stints at Triple A.  Giving him a full-time shot makes way more sense than trading for Soriano.

Marlins – Obviously the Fish aren’t dealing for Sori.

Mets – The Mets have made all sorts of splashes this winter, and adding a 2B isn’t top priority.  They’d like to cut their losses with Matsui, but Jeff Keppinger and Anderson Hernandez are viable in-house candidates.

Cubs – The Cubs have a three-headed monster at second base, and Soriano probably doesn’t fit into the budget at $12MM+ over several years.  The Cubs have a tradition of free swinging, and I could see Hendry trying this for 2006 if A)The Nationals win their arbitration case and/or eat some salary and B)the price is low.

Cardinals – St. Louis seems content with a battle between Junior Spivey and Aaron Miles for the 2B job.  Plus, Soriano doesn’t seem like the typical St. Louis team player. 

Padres – They’re going to let Mark Bellhorn, Eric Young, and Josh Barfield have a crack at 2B.  Plus, I can’t see how Soriano would fit into the budget.

Of course, the Nationals already had an established 2B when they traded for Soriano, so maybe this isn’t the best guide.  Rosenthal’s suggestion that Soriano will stay put is entirely logical once you break down the potential trade partners.  If a deal was struck, it’d mostly be a salary dump and I think the only teams with mild interest would be the Cubs and Mets.  Just my opinion. 

Unfounded Rumors

It’s time for everyone’s favorite segment, Unfounded Rumors.  It’s where I toss out some rumors that have been floating around radio stations, message boards, my inbox, whatever.  You never know; we did get Russell Branyan right the last time we did this.  Feel free to debunk.

Apparently Dodgers GM Colletti is working on two deals, one big, one small.  Many have theorized that Bengie Molina would represent the small deal.  As for the big one, there are plenty of possibilities.  Could Eric Gagne be on the block?  It seems he’d have to prove his health first.

How about Bobby Abreu and Gavin Floyd to the White Sox for Jermaine Dye and Jose Contreras?  According to message boards, Philly radio personality Howard Eskin originated this one.  I’m trying to find more, but on the surface it seems like the Phils would want someone younger with less service time for their star outfielder.  Plus, word is that the White Sox want to wait til spring training before they consider deals for Contreras.

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Trade Candidates Part 2

Last time we looked at players in their contract year and trade possibilities.  Today we’ll open the field and see who else could be available.

Dealing Shea Hillenbrand or Eric Hinske would probably make sense for the Blue Jays.  It looks like the two will enter 2006 splitting DH duty for the Jays, and Hillenbrand may have twice as much value with the bat as Hinske.  The problem is figuring out which team actually has a need for a middling 1B/3B/DH type.

The Red Sox have six starters (seven if you think Papelbon is rotation-ready), but they shouldn’t be so eager to send one packing.  Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling are highly unlikely to make all of their starts.  Epstein might send Arroyo over to Tampa Bay for Julio Lugo anyway.  More likely, of course, is a signing of Alex Gonzalez and a trade of David Wells for a spare part or prospect.

A lot of folks think Carlos Pena still has some good seasons ahead of him.  For example, PECOTA projects him to hit .255/.349/.482 in 514 ABs in 2006.  The Tigers could probably use some sort of contingency plan in case Carlos Guillen misses time again.

The Diamondbacks have too many veteran OFs and no place for Carlos Quentin.  I’m sure Shawn Green and Luis Gonzalez are available, it’s just a matter of finding clubs to take most of their salaries.  Both outfielders are still contributors.

Sunday Night Reading

Over at RotoAuthority:

Fantasy Hotsheet discussing Piazza, Willingham, Kubel, and Kendall.

My Frank Thomas projection.

Speaking of fantasy baseball, The Closer Watch is the best resource on the web for closer depth charts.  It’s worth checking out even if you don’t play fantasy baseball, actually.

Don’t forget to swing by HoopsBuzz and see what’s happening in that other sport.

AllCubs.com applicants, don’t despair if you haven’t heard back from me after emailing about the gig.  Right now I’m just collecting the interested writers; I have yet to sort through the emails.

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Angels Should Pursue Javy Lopez

Javy Lopez and his agent have been making a stir lately, pushing for a contract extension or a trade.  Lopez is in the last year of a three-year deal, and will make $8.5MM in 2006.

A recent Baltimore Sun article mentioned:

"The Orioles have had some discussions with teams about Lopez, including a potential trade for Angels first baseman/outfielder Darin Erstad during the winter meetings, but the Angels weren’t interested in making the deal."

In between the flurry of rumors back in December, this is one I missed.  The Angels should not have dismissed this trade so quickly.

Erstad makes the same salary as Lopez in 2006, so that’s a wash.  The team plans on employing him in center field in 2006, and another season of .273/.325/.371 wouldn’t look quite so bad with the position change.  Still, the average American League center fielder hit .268/.322/.407 in 2005, so his bat’s not exactly an asset.  His defenders will point to his glovework; Erstad won a much-deserved Gold Glove playing center field in 2002.

But will Erstad be the same center fielder he was four years ago?  Highly unlikely.  My guess is that he’ll play average defense at this point at best.  Chone Figgins would be a better overall solution in center field.  That would allow Dallas McPherson to get another crack at third base, where he’s still primed to hit 30 HR in a full season.  The Angels would upgrade significantly behind the plate by bringing in Lopez, as Jeff Mathis could learn on the job as a backup.  Acquiring Lopez for Erstad would be an excellent move for the Angels.

Piazza Signs With Padres

RotoWorld and other sources are reporting that the Padres have signed Mike Piazza to a one-year, $2MM deal with an $8MM mutual option for 2007.  The Padres were one of a handful of teams that stood to better their club by acquiring Piazza or Bengie Molina.  At this point, Molina should be begging the Angels to take him back, as they’re one of the few teams he can help.

The Padres probably added 2 or 3 wins by signing Piazza, so they’re getting good bang for their buck.  There’s approximately zero chance they exercise that 2007 option.  Here’s a look at some various projections on him for 2006:

PECOTA:  .253/.329/.420 with 11 HR in 333 PA
Bill James:  .268/.349/.476 with 24 HR in 456 ABs
RotoAuthority:  .272, 24 HR in 460 ABs
ZiPS:  .239/.328/.411 with 16 HR in 394 ABs

PECOTA expects a pretty big decline and the smallest amount of playing time.  ZiPS is also not very optimistic on the catcher.  Bill James and I were picturing a rejuvenated Piazza as an AL DH, so my projection is going to require a major adjustment.  ZiPS may have hit the mark, as Piazza is entering a home ballpark that has suppressed right-handers’ home runs by a whopping 41%.  The changes to PETCO will affect the right field power alley, but Piazza has been known for his opposite field power in the past.

Possible Kearns/Westbrook Swap

Reds interim GM Brad Kullman certainly seems more open-minded than his predecessor, Dan O’Brien.  But one of O’Brien’s final non-moves may have been one of his few wise ones.  Sheldon Ocker’s Beacon Journal article today reports that O’Brien turned down an Austin Kearns for Jake Westbrook all-Ohio trade prior to his firing.

Such a one for one trade would lean heavily towards the Indians, in my opinion.  Here’s my reasoning.

The 25 year-old Kearns has yet to reach his potential, while Westbrook has topped out at age 28.  Let’s look at 2005.  In just 387 at-bats, Kearns was worth 3.6 wins.  Westbrook was worth 3.8, but that was in a full season.  Kullman has said that Kearns stands to get 550 ABs in 2006.  If Kearns could maintain his .240/.333/.452 line and his defense over that many at-bats, he’d be a 5.1 win right fielder.  That kind of production could make him the 8th best RF in the game, and I’m assuming no improvement.

However, it stands to reason that Kearns will indeed improve given the full-time job in ’06.  My projection has him hitting .257 with 22 HR and 83 RBI in 486 at-bats this season.  PECOTA sees an even bigger jump, to .275/.367/.510 in 459 plate appearances (21 HR).  Bill James weighs in with .270/.363/.497 in 392 ABs, and ZiPS went with .258/.349/.480 in 431 ABs.  PECOTA lists Pat Burrell and Dale Murphy among his comps.  This is a player on the rise, and he makes $1.85MM.

Westbrook’s ability lies somewhere between his 3.38 ERA in 2004 and his 4.49 ERA last year.  He’s a solid 210 inning guy, and an extreme groundball pitcher.  Projections:

RotoAuthority: 3.98 ERA in 213 IP
PECOTA: 3.97 ERA in 199 IP
James: 3.91 ERA in 211 IP
ZiPS:  4.02 ERA in 195 IP

Wow.  That’s as close to a consensus as four projection systems can get.  But here’s the rub.  In 2005, the Indians had the 3rd best defense in baseball.  The Reds had the 3rd worst.  Kullman might think he needs groundball pitchers to succeed in a park that inflates HRs by 16%, but that won’t work with a crappy defense.  Westbrook does keep the ball in the park, but that’s only half the battle.  The Reds need a guy who also misses bats.  Westbrook’s $4.25MM salary for 2006 and $5.6MM option for ’07 are quite reasonable, however.

Some fine alternatives for the Reds would’ve been Josh Beckett and Esteban Loaiza.  While neither would’ve come cheaply, both are built to succeed in Great American Ballpark.  Out of possible remaining trade candidates, I think Matt Clement and Brad Penny could prosper as Reds.  If the Dodgers were to send Jayson Werth elsewhere, it could open up some room for Kearns.  The Red Sox would do well to groom a replacement for Trot Nixon.

Should the Indians add Kearns and Marte for Westbrook and Crisp this offseason, they’ll have improved their team while also making it younger and cheaper, a rare feat.  What’s more, a Millwood-esque signing of Jeff Weaver could keep the starting rotation five-deep with 200 inning guys, a model perfected by the White Sox.         

Recruiting Writers For New Cubs Blog

Well, the time has come.  This website is bursting at the seams with Cubs fans who need another outlet for their Cub-centric minds.  A place where it’s OK to argue about Matt Murton‘s HOF chances.  A place where it’s acceptable to profess your undying love for Joe Kmak.  A website where Cubs fans can congregate before, during, and after every game.  An outlet where the wackiest, most lopsided Cubs trade proposals are tolerated.

AllCubs.com should be live within a couple of weeks.  It’ll be a full-service Cubs blog, with perhaps dozens of established, unique, Cub-savvy authors chiming in on every topic imaginable.  It’ll be a place for Cubs fans to check three times daily and spend even more hours debating Cubs issues when you’re supposed to be working.

The bottom line is that I’m going to recruit writers for this blog for the next couple of weeks.  I’ll probably cap it at a dozen authors.  I can’t pay you for your efforts, as I have no idea if this blog can even bring in a couple of bucks a month.  Here’s what I’m looking for:

Strong writing background.  Journalism or English majors preferred.  Impeccable grammar and spelling are required.  Blogging experience a plus but not at all required. 

Ability to make at least three posts per week.

In-depth Cubs knowledge and commitment.

Ability to select and cover the hell out of a Cubs-related niche.  For example, maybe you want to be the Ballpark Guy (or gal!), who simply focuses on Wrigley Field itself.  Maybe you’re the contracts, stats, scouting, humorous, or depressing person.  I want to cover this ballclub from every angle, and diverse viewpoints are what will make this blog stand out and attract readers.

Love for the Cubs is all well and good, but I’m not looking for writers blinded by their Cub obsession.  Optimism is fine, I’m not looking for someone who thinks Ronny Cedeno is the next A-Rod.  Or that Kerry Wood is a lock for 230 innings.  Cubs bias will come with the territory, but you have to have a sense of reality too.

Current or former employment with the ballclub would be a plus.  Peanut vendors, retired sportswriters, and Shawon Dunston himself could all provide their own unique viewpoints developed during their time spent with the Cubs.

Writers living close to minor league affiliates (Iowa, for example) could be a great asset to the site.  Somebody’s gotta get the scoop on Kerry Wood‘s latest rehab assignment.

An eagerness to help AllCubs become the best Cubs blog out there.  That might mean chasing down Brian Dopirak for an interview in Daytona, or just telling everyone in your office to check out the site.  I want this thing to be huge, but I need your help.

If what I just described reads like your resume, email me at allcubs@gmail.com and make your case.  I’m guessing we’ll get around 100 applicants, so I’ve created an email address just for this purpose.  Please don’t inquire about it at my regular email address; I won’t reply to those.  That’s all; this should be a lot of fun and I can’t wait to get the site rolling.

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Crisp For Marte Done Deal?

According to a source:

"I’ve been told it’s a done deal with a contingency regarding Mota’s health.  If he hits the DL a predetermined amount of times Sox might have to give up another player to be named later."

This is the same rumor/source cited in the recent RotoWorld blurb on the topic.  RotoWorld also points to a Paul Hoynes Cleveland Plain Dealer article from this morning.  Here’s that info:

"There is movement in the Coco Crisp trade to Boston.

Indians left-hander Arthur Rhodes, according to a major league source, flew to Philadelphia on Friday morning to undergo a physical by the Philadelphia Phillies. Rhodes is part of a much discussed three-way trade among the Indians, Boston and Philadelphia.

The source said the Indians are still negotiating with Boston on the main part of the trade. The key players discussed between the Indians and Boston – Crisp and third base prospect Andy Marte and right-hander Guillermo Mota – reportedly remain the same. Other players who may be traded include Indians reliever David Riske and catcher Josh Bard and Boston catcher Kelly Shoppach and right-hander Manny Delcarmen.

Rhodes would be traded for Phillies outfielder Jason Michaels, who would replace Crisp in left field."