January 2006

Trade Candidates Part 1

With the hot stove not all that hot at the moment, I thought I’d run down some guys who could be traded between now and July 31st in an attempt to peer into the future.  Part 1 of the series will focus on some of the players in their contract year.

Barry Bonds is unlikely to be dealt, given that the Giants have pinned most of their offensive hopes on him.  But if, for some reason, the team is out of contention in July and Bonds is looking more awful than usual in the field, a deal to the AL could be in the cards.  Adding Bonds at DH could mean 4-5 extra wins in the second half alone, so I’d expect a big bounty even with his $18MM salary and impending free agency.

We’re all pretty much assuming Jose Contreras will be dealt.  Some say it’d be most prudent for the Sox to wait til spring training and take stock before sending him off to the Mets, Phillies, or wherever else.  On the other hand, if there was ever a time to sell high, it’s right now.

One name I haven’t seen thrown about in trade rumors at all is Greg Maddux.  I assume it’s because he’s over 40 and makes $9MM in 2006, but Mad Dog could be a big help to a contender at the deadline.  I’ve projected a 3.84 ERA and 1.21 WHIP; he’s got plenty left.  Even if the Cubs had to eat a few mil, it’d make more sense to trade Maddux than Jerome Williams.  If the health of Wood, Prior, and Miller works out in their favor the Cubs could have a surplus.


Jason Marquis is projected to post a 4.43 ERA in 200 innings.  He’d be serviceable as rental for the season, and he’s still on the right side of 30.  I’m not sure which teams will be chomping at the bit to give him the three year, $21MM extension he’ll require, but someone will.

Mark Mulder is also under 30, though he’s shown some ugly trends over the past three seasons.  It’ll be interesting to see how Walt Jocketty views Mulder – perhaps Mulder will take the St. Louis discount to keep that top-notch defense behind him?

It seems that Andy Pettitte wouldn’t be dealt by the Astros midseason pretty much no matter what.  Even when the Astros have been counted out they’ve made the playoffs, so it’d be impossible to justify trading Pettitte to the fanbase.

I’m fairly certain the Cubs will sign Juan Pierre to a long-term deal.  Especially if he hits .309 as projected and impresses the old hands with his bunting skills and work ethic.  Politically, Jim Hendry almost has to keep Pierre around in case one of the three pitchers sent to Florida pans out.

Jason Schmidt could be a hot commodity, but, like Bonds, is a long shot to be dealt.  I think the Giants would look for a young bat in return.

More impending free agents and trade candidates to come…


HoopsBuzz In Full Swing

Just wanted to make sure anyone who is remotely interested in basketball has bookmarked the new site HoopsBuzz.  We’ve got twelve sharp guys currently writing for it, so several posts appear every day.  It’s in the general style of this blog, and I think you should get acquainted.  Leave some comments, the authors would love some feedback.


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RotoAuthority Poll: Keepers

I am trying to get a read on how many people use keepers in their 5×5 mixed 12 team fantasy baseball league.  So far it seems like a good chunk of people, so I’m considering adding some sort of keeper-related feature to the 2006 RotoAuthority Fantasy Baseball Guide.  Please take this poll over at RotoAuthority if you qualify.


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Help Kenny Williams Trade Contreras

White Sox GM Kenny Williams made a funny comment yesterday in his interview with Daily Herald writer Scot Gregor.  Below is Gregor’s question followed by KW’s answer.

Gregor: Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in three weeks, and you still have six starters (Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, Vazquez and Brandon McCarthy) and only five spots in the rotation. Is it safe to assume one of the starters will be traded before Opening Day?

KW: I’m at the golf course right now, so I’m trying not to think about trades. But I go online sometimes and get plenty of ideas about what I should be doing with the extra starter.

Let me say this: In my mind, there is no such thing as having too much starting pitching. I can remember more than one season when we struggled to find a fifth starter, and that really hurt us.

If anybody out there thinks we’re going to move one of our starting pitchers for less than equal value — for anything less than a guy that can get up on the mound and give us the same results — they’re barking up the wrong tree.


Well, you heard the man.  He goes online (hopefully to MLBTradeRumors.com) for suggestions on what to do with his extra starting pitcher.  (Yes, I realize he was kidding).

Have at it!  Propose a legitimate trade involving Jose Contreras in the comments.  Try your best to make it fair for both teams, all factors considered.  I’m interested to see what y’all can come up with.  Maybe we’ll send the best one to KW, since he kind of almost acknowledged us.

Williams seemed to indicate that he wanted a starter of equal value in return.  Certainly take that into consideration, but I wouldn’t limit the possibilites to starting pitchers.  For example, my proposal would be Contreras for Pat Burrell.  I think the Sox need offense more than starting pitching.


Unfounded Rumors

Inevitably someone will sneak in here and say that none of my rumors have a foundation.  Well, they do, but I am thinking of starting a segment here called Unfounded Rumors.  It’ll just be a dumping ground of things I couldn’t confirm.  Maybe it was heard through the grapevine, on a message board, or from a source I don’t know too well yet.  Doesn’t make it any more true or false, I just can’t vouch for it at the moment.  A lot of things end up in my inbox that would at least make good fodder for discussion.  I figured that this is a rumor site, so I might as well add fuel to the fire for the fun of it.  So that’s your disclaimer.

An insider over at the Orioles Hangout message board says the Orioles will trade a starting pitcher soon.  Could be Erik Bedard, Rodrigo Lopez, or Hayden Penn.  Speculation is that the Orioles would love to swap a starter for a power hitter now that they’ve added Kris Benson.  I know some Oriole fans are clamoring for Adam Dunn, and at the very least we know the Reds will be more open to trading with O’Brien gone.


Speaking of Adam Dunn, a source tells me that the Reds have been talking to the Dodgers about him.  Derek Lowe or Brad Penny may be involved.  He also tells me that Boston could send Brandon Moss to Cincy along with Matt Clement.  It would be part of a three-way deal where Austin Kearns and Moss land in Cleveland.  I think Coco Crisp would then end up in Boston.  Yeah, I just confused myself, but maybe you can sort that one out.

Jay Payton could be on the block, but the Zito rumors seem to be running cold.  I guess Beane said recently that any team trading for Zito would be "ripped off," indicating that Zito will stay unless he’s blown away.

The Devil Rays might be looking at Russell Branyan for a minor-league deal.  Branyan has slugged .518 against righties over the last three years.

Someone told me that a Griffey to the Braves rumor was floating around last week.  I’m not sure where it originated, but it would be a nice fit in my opinion.  Plus, the Braves would have the ammo to get it done.


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Piazza And Cubs A Match?

Surprising bit of info out of the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning courtesy of Todd Zolecki.  According to the article:

"The Phillies have talked with free-agent catcher Mike Piazza about a possible contract, a baseball source said, but it seems Piazza might have better options with the San Diego Padres or Chicago Cubs. Piazza could make a decision before the end of the week."

The extent of Jim Hendry’s talks, if any, with Piazza’s agent (Dan Lozano) is unknown currently.  For what it’s worth, Lozano also represents Jacque Jones


My thoughts on this: if it was for $4MM or so for a year, the Cubs should bring Piazza aboard and worry about his role later.  Hendry did the same with Todd Walker a couple of years ago because the price was right.  Maybe Piazza spells Derrek Lee at first for ten games, DHs in interleague games, and catches 40 times.  Piazza’s three-year splits don’t really indicate a big platoon advantage, so it would likely just be a matter of working him into the lineup whenever possible.

I’m poking around to try to find some more information and determine whether the Cubs are seriously considering Piazza.

UPDATE:  The Tribune’s Dave van Dyck debunked the Piazza rumor today:

"Cubs general manager Jim Hendry was surprised at the report, admitting he had jokingly said to Piazza’s agent that he could use a pinch-hitter like the future Hall of Famer, but that ‘I think he can get a better job than that.’"


Fielding Statistics

If you’re baffled by the current state of fielding statistics in baseball, welcome to the club.  Dave’s latest post at U.S.S. Mariner outlines the contenders and rates the usefulness of the various defensive metrics.

And don’t forget to swing by HoopsBuzz regularly.  Check out the latest rumors involving Chris Bosh, Darko Milicic, and Ron Artest.

Finally, I’ve got a Wade Miller projection up at RotoAuthority.


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Comparing Crisp And Damon

Both Coco Crisp and Johnny Damon came at a very steep price.  The Red Sox mortgaged part of their future, while the Yankees simply coughed up $52MM for four years.  Tossing salaries and cost of acquisition aside, which team actually has the better player for 2006?

Let’s start by looking at Baseball Prospectus’s WARP statistic.  Wins Above Replacement Player is a measure of value that combines both offense and defense into a single number.

Damon was worth 5.5 wins in 2005, while Crisp tallied 5.6.  So the players had very near equal value.  Baseball Prospectus projects Crisp at 4.6 wins in 2006, whereas Damon projects at 5.7.  It will be interesting to see if those projections are changed before the ’06 season begins.

As leadoff hitters, who gets on base more often?  Damon has a career OBP of .353, but his last two seasons had rates of .380 and .366.  Crisp has a more pedestrian .332 career OBP, with marks of .344 and .345 in recent years.  It’s not a huge difference, but Damon has a clear advantage here.


Damon’s overall offense is superior, probably worth about one win more than Crisp.

How about defense?  Damon posted 14 FRAR (Fielding Runs Above Replacement) in 2005 and 22 the season before.  Crisp managed 15 FRAR in left field last season, and 11 as mostly a CF in 2004.  His playing time was limited, but it still looks like Damon may have a slight edge here.    Damon had a 2.93 range factor in 2005 to Crisp’s 2.23.  Crisp posted a 2.32 mark in 2004.  Fielding stats are imperfect, but it doesn’t hurt to consider what’s available.

One other factor to consider is that Damon is entering his age 32 season while Crisp is entering his age 26.  That’s an important six year difference.  Crisp’s most comparable player, Jim Piersall, posted a .293/.350/.449 line at age 26.  Damon’s closest comp is Kenny Lofton, who hit .301/.405/.432 at age 32 but managed just 465 ABs.  Obviously these are just comparisons, but Lofton basically became a part-time player due to injuries and declining skills at age 35.  After hitting .322 at age 31, Piersall didn’t contribute much in any season.

It’s close, but I’d rather have Damon if I was trying to win it all in 2006.  Certainly Boston’s decision is defensible considering Damon’s contract and age.


Cubs Sign Wade Miller

Jim Hendry took a nice low-risk gamble today, inking Wade Miller to a one-year pact for $1MM. He can reach $2MM with incentives.

Miller gutted his way through 91 innings in 2005 for the Red Sox, posting a 4.95 ERA.  Miller had the dreaded labrum surgery on his shoulder in late September 2005.


UPDATE:  First, a few notes on labrum tear survivors.  Chris Carpenter and Jose Valverde are the best examples, and Carpenter sat out almost two years.  Valverde still hasn’t matched his per-surgery velocity.  Six months is a general guideline for a pitcher to resume activity.  (Tip of the cap to Will Carroll for the info).

Also, Wade Miller and his agent Bob Garber were on WGN’s Sports Central with Dave Kaplan tonight.  Miller had many teams inquire, but all of them required an option for a second year or just a non-roster invite.  Hendry pushed for the option at first as well.  Garber indicated that Miller never considered accepting anything but a one-year deal with no option.  The interested parties came down to the Cubs and Mariners, and the Cubs were Miller’s preference all along (or so he says).

Miller has already begun throwing at 60 feet, and he plans to join the Cubs’ rotation by mid-May.  I’m paraphrasing here, but Garber and Miller seemed entirely confident that Miller is considered a lock for a rotation spot upon his Cubs debut.  Obviously the Cubs will have too many starters on their hands, but it sure beats throwing John Koronka and Sergio Mitre to the wolves.            


On Michaels For Rhodes…

Obviously there are a lot of conflicting reports and general confusion surrounding this whole Crisp/Marte/Michaels/Rhodes thing.  I’ve read several iterations, sometimes with catchers involved.

I apologize for contributing so little information on this one, but rest assured I’ve been trying.  Here’s what little I know:

A Cleveland source tells me the Indians are really keeping a lid on everything.  He’s a lot closer to the team than I, and he hasn’t been able to dig up details.


I also spoke to a source familiar with the inner workings of the Phillies.  He’s scrambling for information as well.  He told me that the Phils have been dangling Jason Michaels for a while now, and it’s quite possible that all they could get for him is Arthur Rhodes.  Such an acquisition will facilitate Ryan Madson‘s move to the rotation.

He also mentioned that the Phils have had interest in Kelly Shoppach for some time now, though Carlos Ruiz is every bit as good if he can manage to stay healthy.