Now that it's February 20th, the trade and signing rumors aren't flowing as freely as they used to. Occasionally we have to go to great lengths to dig up mildly intriguing rumors. By great lengths I mean I had to bust out my high school Spanish textbook.
El Nuevo Dia is a Puerto Rican newspaper. Yesterday, Hiram Alberto Torraca had an exclusive interview with former MVP Juan Gonzalez. Gonzalez was last seen with the Indians, amassing a single at-bat before straining his hamstring. If you want to register and can read Spanish, you can view the article here. For the rest of you, allow me to do my best to give you the gist of it.
According to Gonzalez, the Cubs sent Carmelo Martinez to Puerto Rico to watch him swing the bat and run the bases. [Note - Martinez is the hitting coach for the Cubs' rookie ball affiliate, as far as I can tell.] The Cubs have yet to make an offer to Gonzalez because they wanted to observe him first.
Gonzalez has been practicing daily and says that the Red Sox and White Sox have also shown interest in him. Juan Gone's thoughts on playing in the National League for the first time in his career:
"If I have to go the National League, I will do it. With that there is no problem. I am in the best condition of my life."
According to Gonzalez, Indians GM Mark Shapiro had promised a minor league invite for 2006 but didn't keep his word. On the subject of money, Gonzalez had this to say:
"At this time, money does not matter to me. What I want is to play and to achieve some goals. If no contract is offered I will be tranquil and happy because I arrived at where wanted and I achieved many things."
It's anticipated that Gonzalez will see some time in the World Baseball Classic, although he has yet to be added officially to Puerto Rico's 30 man roster.
Gonzalez was last relevant in baseball in 2003, when he hit .294/.329/.572 for the Rangers in 327 ABs. It seems that teams continue to be tantalized by Gonzalez's power even as he enters his age 36 season with a recent record of poor health. Gonzalez has mashed lefties throughout his career, and would make an intriguing platoon partner for Jacque Jones to say the least.
I've been at least mildly curious as to why Erubiel Durazo is being treated like he has a disease one year removed from a .919 OPS season. I mean, if there's interest in Ruben Sierra, there sure as hell should be interest in Durazo.
Fortunately, I had a source fill me in recently on the story here. Seems that Durazo was raking in a simulated game last summer and was cleared by Oakland team doctors. He was penciled in to the following week's lineup, but ultimately chose surgery against the team's advice. Apparently Durazo is perceived as less than a team player around baseball, leaving him with few interested suitors.
Of course, the fact that he's exclusively a DH and is coming off Tommy John surgery doesn't exactly spark bidding wars, regardless of his attitude. I still need Durazo and Roger Clemens to come to terms so that I can analyze the results of my Top 50 Free Agents list.
Barry Bonds needs 48 home runs to become the record holder. With the recent relevation that 2006 will be his last season, it's almost become a foregone conclusion that he'll never hit #756. Said Ken Rosenthal:
"If this season is Bonds' last, Aaron's mark almost certainly will be out of reach, saving MLB the embarrassment of celebrating a tainted slugger passing one of the game's most dignified greats."
Rosenthal pulls no punches in tonight's column, calling for Bonds to retire now and put everyone out of their misery.
Rather than engage in the typical judgment of Bonds as a person, I'm far more interested in his chances of pulling an upset and topping Aaron in 2006. Bonds needs 47 to tie and 48 to own the record.
The over/under on games played for Bonds in 2006 is 120, a number thrown out by Giants GM Brian Sabean last October. I don't want to get all crazy statistical on you here, so let's keep it simple and see how many games played Bonds might need to get those 48 HR. Below is a handy chart; feel free to skip it if you hate numbers.
The PA/HR indicates how many plate appearances Bonds needed per HR that year. You can see that his 2005 pace was his best since he set the single season record, though it's probably silly to draw conclusions from such a tiny sample. But for the sake of argument, let's say Bonds performs at the exact same pace as 2005 this season. In that case, he'd need to play in 135 games to break the record. Don't you think he'd find a way to tolerate the pain and get into those extra 15 games?
In our example above, Bonds was getting less than four plate appearances per game. Felipe Alou was careful with his superstar, as Bonds didn't play until September 12th. Though he'll continue to be pulled early in 2006, let's say that Bonds agrees to bat second and somehow manages to get exactly four plate appearances per game. It'd still be less than any of the four seasons before 2005. In this case, Bonds would only need 125 games to break Aaron's record.
Bonds will need anywhere from 440 to 660 plate appearances to hit 48 home runs. In the best case he'll go deep every ten plate appearances and in at the worst it might take fourteen. It's all just a numbers game, but Bonds has an entirely legitimate chance to hit his 756th HR in 2006.
Bill James pegged Bonds's chance at 756 at 28% in his latest book, while A-Rod has a 37% chance. Albert Pujols has a 16% likelihood. So all the Bonds haters can take solace in the distinct possibility that one of today's untainted stars will glide right by his HR total in ten or fifteen years and even make it to 800.
Scott Reifert is the VP of communications for the White Sox. In a cool trendsetting move, the team created an MLB blog for him last June. I didn't unearth any juicy trade rumors while browsing the blog, but there was one interesting post on July 1st entitled Trade Deadline Aftermath. According to Reifert:
"A poster, who had read about the unrealistic trade demands that were out there from other teams, asked me to identify the players in our organization who were in high demand.
Williams has been quite active since then - here's the full rundown.
Buehrle - White Sox possess $9.5MM option for 2007, a no-brainer
Garland - Signed to a three-year, $29MM extension this winter
Garcia - Signed through 2007
Marte - Traded for Rob Mackowiak
Rowand - Traded for Jim Thome
McCarthy - Hoping for starting rotation opening
Anderson - Penciled in as starting CF
Young - Dealt for Javier Vazquez. Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus had some interesting comments on the Diamondbacks' CF prospect:
"Chris Young and Brian Anderson might have seemed interchangeable to people who were more casual followers of the White Sox, but Young (now a Diamondback) is the better prospect by a long shot. He has two years on Anderson, and his skills rate is vastly superior in every department except throwing arm (not a substantial consideration for PECOTA) and contact hitting ability. PECOTA sees Young growing into a .300 EqA guy, with about a 30% chance of becoming a true superstar. There’s some risk involved because of Young’s strikeout rate--it takes a “special” prospect to get both Willie Mays and Chin-Feng Chen on his comparables list--but we’ll save that discussion for the next installment."
Out of nine players named by Reifert, three were dealt and another was close to being traded. You can bet Jose Contreras has been a hot topic of late, although the Ozzie and Kenny continue to deny the rumors. In other White Sox news, this guy continues to make a fool of himself.
I started off with the good stuff from November, and now it's only fair that I run through some of my missteps.
A lot of rumors that find their way onto the site come from other sources, which I've always been quick to credit. With one of my early email tips, though, I didn't give the rumor a reality check or delve deep enough to figure out its source.
I used the unfortunate headline "Cubs To Trade Todd Walker For Aaron Heilman" on November 14th. It's not wise to be so decisive when headlining a trade rumor, that's for sure. What's more, the deal seems way lopsided knowing what we know now. At the time, though, there was an impression that the Mets had soured on Heilman and were eager to deal him. After a lot of flak, I figured out that this rumor originated on WFAN. This one should've never made the site.
I had another post that month called "Mark Buehrle To The Cardinals," another poor headline choice. I did begin that one by nothing that it was pure speculation, but the title implies otherwise. For what it's worth, I still think Buehrle will find his way to St. Louis within the next couple of years.
On November 23rd, I misquoted/misinterpreted a couple of sources and labeled the Juan Pierre to the Cubs trade as complete. It wasn't, and Cubs fans weren't shy letting about reminding me until the deal actually did get done in December. The silver lining buried in the gaffe is that I was able to get some fairly accurate info from Bruce Levine about the minor leaguers involved.
On November 29th, I busted out a Brad Wilkerson for Ronny Cedeno rumor. It had a crazy-sounding story attached to it involving Barry Larkin's cousin. Although much scoffing and name-calling ensued, I still think these talks were legit. In my opinion, it would've been fair value and helpful to both teams. What's more, a young shortstop prospect like Cedeno would've been a better bounty for Wilkerson than Alfonso Soriano. Maybe one of these days I can get a hold of someone and find out if there was anything to this rumor.
"Mulder is certain to seek a package with higher average annual value than the five-year, $55 million contract A.J. Burnett received last December from the Toronto Blue Jays."
I don't doubt that he'll want and expect this kind of money, based on his career totals of 98 victories, a 3.87 ERA, and a 1.30 WHIP before age 29. The problem with his contract (and most free agent contracts) is that he'll be paid largely on what he's done and not what he will do. Burnett at least has upside.
I'm not here to bash Mulder; I know he's still a solid innings guy and that he's become one of the more extreme groundball pitchers in the game as his strikeout rate has declined. He's a decent five-win pitcher, akin to the current version of Brad Radke.
I don't know why teams continue to overpay for this kind of production, but they do. If you look at Mulder's projected Marginal Value Over Replacement Player, his next five-year contract could have an annual average close to his value for the entire length of the contract. In other words, he might make $12MM in 2007 despite being worth less than $16MM over the entire period of 2007-2011.
It's understood that that's the way free agency works and you have to pay a premium to get decent starting pitching. But Mulder's next contract looks like it will be one of the most egregious examples of a free agent mistake. If the market overvalues starters, shouldn't teams find other ways to acquire them or else just build a dominant offense at the expense of pitching?
Guys like Brad Radke, Mike Mussina, Kerry Wood, Andy Pettitte, and Jason Schmidt should also hit the market after the 2006 season. The Schmidt Derby should be a wild one, especially if he returns to form in 2006 as I've projected.
Back in November, I realized my love of the Hot Stove League was spilling over too much onto RotoAuthority. I still wanted to talk a lot of fantasy baseball, but I crave real baseball too. I started up MLBTradeRumors, and it quickly dwarfed RotoAuthority in popularity. It's been a mix of aggregating known sources plus whatever info I managed to gather. Let's take a look back at November at some of the highlights in my first month. Don't worry, I'll discuss the worst of it in a separate post.
Back on November 13th, I got my first one right. I reported the Cameron for Nady swap as close to a done deal, and it probably put this site on the map. Rosenthal backed it up two days later, and the deal was done on the 16th.
On the 17th of November, I got word from an interesting source that the Mets, Indians, and Cardinals had contacted Octavio Dotel's agent. The Cards' interest was confirmed in the Post-Dispatch on the 19th. I can't recall whether the other two teams' interest was confirmed in the major media. A month later, my source told me that Dotel's preference was the Yankees, and he signed with them later that day.
My source confirmed that the Giants offered Matt Morris a three-year deal on November 20th. Morris sat on that one for a while, and received a lowball offer from the Cards on December 10th. The next day, Morris inked the Giants contract.
On November 21st, my Mets source told me that the Mets would offer Billy Wagner a $40MM deal with the fourth year guaranteed after his tour of the city and he planned to accept it. In a regrettable move, I relayed actual dates for the deal mentioned by my source. I missed on the date, but Wagner signed on the 28th. I'd call it a half-success.
I had a tip on the 28th that the Phillies were talking about an Abreu for Bedard and Gibbons swap with the Orioles. I'm fairly confident that similar discussions occurred, though I can't guarantee I had it first.
Also on the 29th, a source gave me word of an exciting memo to Cardinals employees. I worked with Viva El Birdos to piece together various scenarios, and the Cards' interest in A.J. Burnett soon came to the forefront.
I definitely didn't break this one, but it wasn't yet well known that Paul Byrd was in Cleveland to talk business. In this case, all I did was pass along a Scout.com message board posting to spread the word. Some useful stuff comes out of message boards occasionally.
We had some blunders in November, which you'll read about later. But all in all, it was an exciting and successful inaugural month.
Interesting article over at The Cub Reporter today by Arizona Phil. According to the post:
"MLB owners have the unilateral right to contract MLB by two clubs effective with the 2007 season. To do this, MLB owners have a three month window starting on April 1, 2006 to make the decision, and then the owners only have to notify the MLBPA by July 1st.
Look for MLB owners to travel "under the radar" and then suddenly announce sometime in June that two teams will be contracted for the 2007 season. Personally, I believe it WILL happen."
This is something on which I've remained willfully ignorant. I really just hate the idea of eliminating teams, even if it makes sense economically and for the cities. I just think you're going to crush a couple million baseball fans. I couldn't imagine being a lifelong Twins fan and watching a contending team like that simply dissolve.
UPDATE: Here's a poll so we can see which teams you'd like to see go.
For one reason or another, free agent DH Erubiel Durazo has gotten little to no interest this offseason. Durazo struggled through a lost season in 2005, which culminated in July Tommy John surgery. He won't be able to help a team until summertime.
Durazo had an awesome age 30 season in 2004 for the Athletics: .321/.396/.523 in 511 ABs. I kept thinking the White Sox would go after him this offseason, not fully realizing that he'd undergone Tommy John. My ignorance caused me to rank Durazo 15th among all free agents this winter, probably my biggest gaffe on the list. Another point working against him is that he needs to be the DH, and there are only 14 such spots in baseball.
Nonetheless, Durazo will probably cost less than $1MM and could theoretically provide a .900 OPS in Texas for a half season.
The article also mentions that Weaver's agent, Scott Boras, said Weaver left better offers on the table. No doubt Boras and Weaver are trying to execute the strategy that worked so well for Kevin Millwood. The move pushes Hector Carrasco to the bullpen.