February 2006

Unfounded Rumors

I’m told that one of the shows on ESPN 710 in Los Angeles reported a couple of interesting Dodger trade rumors Saturday morning.  I didn’t hear the program myself so I can’t vouch for it, but it’s a slow news day so let me toss it out there.

Supposedly, Ned Colletti is looking a couple of proposals over.  The first would be Barry Zito and Mark Kotsay for Chad Billingsley, Greg Miller, and Joel Guzman.  There are a host of reasons not to buy into this one.  Billingsley looks like a front-rotation prospect, best in the Dodger system according to Baseball America.  21 year-old Guzman ranks third, while Miller is recovering from a couple of shoulder surgeries.  While I really don’t think the Dodgers would be that shortsighted, this deal would seem hard to resist for Billy Beane.

The other rumor apparently tossed out there by the radio station was Odalis Perez and Hee Seop Choi for Aubrey Huff and a player to be named later.  As you may recall, I’ve been a big proponent of the Rays acquiring Choi.  While their starting staff is hurting for a vet like Perez, this doesn’t seem like the time for Tampa Bay to take on his $15MM salary over the next two seasons.

Pretty wacky stuff, but that’s why I tossed it under Unfounded Rumors for Sunday night amusement.      

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Cubs Sign Carlos Zambrano

According to Bruce Levine of ESPN Radio 1000, the Cubs have agreed to a one-year, $6.5MM contract with starter Carlos Zambrano.  With the signing, the Cubs are done with their arbitration-eligible players.

Zambrano enters his age 25 season with a 3.26 career ERA and 1.27 WHIP.  He has steadily improved his baserunners per inning, from 1.45 in his rookie season to 1.15 last year.  While he’s already one of the best 15 pitchers in baseball, Zambrano could enter the truly elite if he’s able to further trim his walk rate.

Baseball Prospectus projects Zambrano to be worth $15,275,000 in 2006 and at least a $10MM pitcher annually through the end of the decade.

Latest Roger Clemens Buzz

This might be an example of Red Sox fans reaching for any indication that Roger Clemens is likely to sign with their team.  But there was an interesting piece of info yesterday over at BornIntoIt.com:

"With Al Nipper now assuming the duties of interim pitching coach, it brings up an interesting scenario. When he pitched for the Sox in the mid-1980s, one of his best buddies on the team was Roger Clemens. Nipper has maintained a close friendship with Clemens since he left the Red Sox in 1996. With Clemens now a free agent, could this be an incentive for a possible Clemens return to Fenway?"

This same concept appeared two months ago alongside the possibility of the Red Sox signing Brad Ausmus to lure Clemens.  Also, according to Gordon Edes’s article from a few days ago, John Flaherty has experience catching Roger.  So it seems that he could fill the personal catcher role to some extent.  The only problem with this concept is that Flaherty is already expected to be Tim Wakefield‘s catcher, and the Red Sox would probably not want him behind the plate 40% of the time given his anemic bat.  I’m sure they could work something out though. 

Clemens’s agent Randy Hendricks finally commented via email to the New York Times yesterday:

"I continue to say that nothing will be decided until after the World Baseball Classic," the agent, Randy Hendricks, said in an e-mail message. "It is a five-horse race between Retirement, Boston, Houston (post May 1), New York, and Texas (alphabetical order except for the lead horse, named Retirement)." 

What’s Derrek Lee Worth?

Baseball Prospectus has a cool new stat called MORP.  I know what you’re thinking – "What the hell is MORP?  It sounds made up."  Well, bear with me because it’s interesting stuff and it may be at least one point of data considered by Jim Hendry when drawing up Derrek Lee‘s next contract.

MORP stands for Market Value Over Replacement Player, and it’s an attempt to place a dollar value on a player’s total offensive and defensive production.  Today I think it’d be cool to look at the projections for Derrek Lee for the next several years and try to determine a fair amount for his contract extension.

First, let’s start off by looking at Lee’s 2005.  He hit .335/.418/.662 in 691 plate appearances, perhaps the best offensive performance in baseball.  He also played plus defense at first base.  The sum total of his efforts was 10.6 wins.  That’s right – Lee was worth more than ten wins for the Cubs all by himself.

No one expects Lee to sustain that level of production as he enters his 30s.  But Jim Hendry and Co. are going to need to project Lee’s production and place a dollar value on it for his contract offer.  Now, Paul Konerko is a similarly aged first baseman, and he just received a five-year contract for $60MM.

Let’s look at a five-year deal for the first scenario.  Over the next five seasons, Lee is projected to be worth 27 wins (combining offense and defense).  If you factor in inflation and assign the proper value to each win he earns, Lee will be worth about $45MM over the next five seasons.  We all know that Lee and his agent wouldn’t dream of accepting a contract averaging $9MM coming off the season he had.  He’ll want Konerko money and then some, perhaps $65-75MM.  That would put the Cubs out at least $20MM, so let’s get creative.

What about offering a three-year extension? Lee is projected to be worth $36,575,000 over the next three seasons.  Significant decline shouldn’t set in until his age 33 season three years from now.  How about an offer of $42MM for 2006-2008?  The deal would replace his $8MM salary for 2006.  Lee would average a healthy $14MM annually, and the Cubs would finish up before major decline sets in.  Perhaps it’d be necessary to offer no-trade protection to seal the deal.

It’s expected that after the 2008 season, the 33 year-old Lee would start to slip measurably on both offense and defense.  On the face of it, he’d still look like a .290-30-100 hitter and could command a massive free agent contract elsewhere.  All of these projections and speculation come with the usual disclaimer: obviously no one has a crystal ball and Baseball Prospectus could be dead wrong on this stuff.  No one can project five years into the future.  But the three-year, $42MM proposal here seems like the ideal course of action for Cubs management. 

Cubs Still Interested In Soriano?

Interesting column from Dave Van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune yesterday.  The gist: a decent spring by Sammy Sosa for the Nationals could make Alfonso Soriano or Jose Vidro more expendable.

Van Dyck’s column assumes that the Nationals actually were counting on Soriano to fill an outfield spot, and that Sosa could take that spot instead.  My take: Soriano is seriously not moving to the outfield.  He’s said it over and over and my sources said the same before that.  The column also assumes a healthy Jose Vidro.  Despite some positive reports, I’m nowhere near convinced of that.  I don’t think the outfield situation affects the second base situation for the Nats.  The only variable is Vidro’s health.  If he’s in great shape this spring, they have a surplus.

Both Soriano and Vidro’s contracts are terribly bloated.  Can Soriano possibly provide $11MM worth of value in 2006?  Highly unlikely.  He’s been less than a four win player each season since joining Texas.  According to Baseball Prospectus’s Marginal Value Above Replacement Player,  Soriano will be worth around $7MM in this season.

The same system has Vidro worth about $3.5MM in ’06 and $2.5MM in ’07.  Given that he’s owed $16MM over the next two seasons, Jim Bowden would have to kick in some major cash for it to make sense for Chicago.

The Cubs’ apparent infatuation with various overpaid second basemen doesn’t gel with the supposed new organizational philosophy.  I thought the Cubs were shifting towards OBP and defense, two attributes not found in Soriano’s repertoire.  The Cubs would be well served to put their efforts towards Julio Lugo, who is available and was a seven win shortstop in 2005.  Even the most optimistic projection of Ronny Cedeno doesn’t call for that kind of production, and three or four extra wins could make all the difference.

The Mets seem content with their internal options for second base, so the Cubs probably are the only team interested in Soriano at this point. 

White Sox Payroll To Increase

I recently got word from my White Sox source, so I have some info to pass along. 

He confirmed that while the Sox would indeed love to bring Abreu aboard (as would plenty of teams), there’s really nothing in the works.  Kenny Williams wants pitching in return for his extra starter, but is in no hurry to trade Jose Contreras.  The Sox are still in contact with Houston about him, but it’s likely that Contreras stays put at least until after the World Baseball Classic.  It makes sense to play it safe given that the Sox hold all the cards.  Look for Houston’s interest to escalate if Clemens ends up elsewhere or retires.

It is a fact that the payroll can and will increase as necessary.  The Sox are actively pushing for a repeat and will spend more money to do it.  The Sox should have at least $10MM in the coffers for any major need that may arise.

AllCubs.com Launches

Well folks, it begins.  We’ve got a brand new post up at AllCubs.com, a discussion of what’s become of the 2003 Cubs.  If you’re a Cubs fan, bookmark the site and visit regularly; we’ll have tons of unique content appearing pretty much daily.

I’m still in the process of emailing my prospective authors; I received a lot of apps for this thing.

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Nationals Make Guaranteed Offer To Sosa

The genius of Jim Bowden strikes again.  He’s offered Sammy Sosa a guaranteed Major League contract with incentives.

It seems like Washington was the only club considering such an offer.  Sosa earned $17MM in 2005, and had negative offensive value.  He was outhit by many pitchers, including Elmer Dessens, Hector Carrasco, and Josh Fogg.  He just barely edged out Braves pitcher Jorge Sosa offensively.

However, Sosa was far from the worst hitter in baseball.  That honor goes to Miguel Olivo‘s Seattle stint, where he hit .151/.172/.276 in 157 plate appearances.  Nipping at Olivo’s heels was Corey Patterson, who hit .215/.251/.348 in 483 plate appearances.

Should we expect another laughably bad season from the former idol?  Tough to say.  Let’s take a look at the field of forecasters, using the AVG-HR-RBI-runs format and pro-rating to my projected total of 486 ABs.

RotoAuthority:  .245-19-60-51
PECOTA:           .242-21-76-53
ZiPS:                .227-23-74-39

Outlook: not so good.  Sosa looks to serve as the backup for Jose Guillen, who is in no hurry to get back after November labrum surgery.  Guillen should miss at least a month of the season. Why can’t Ryan Church get some love?

Mark your calendars for Tuesday, May 16th at 7:05.  That would presumably mark Sosa’s return to Wrigley Field if he accepts the Nats’ offer and stays healthy that long.  It’s not entirely out of the question that Sosa could be pursuing his 600th home run during the Wrigley Series if he has a great April.  He has faced Greg Maddux more than any other Cubs starter, and has three home runs in 56 at-bats against him.

Recently At RotoAuthority

Been over to RotoAuthority recently?  Fantasy leagues are gearing up, and we’ve got new content appearing every day.

Forecasting Rickie Weeks

Wily Mo To Break Out?

While I’ve got your attention, how about some HoopsBuzz action?

Earl Waston On The Move?

Rose/Davis Trade Analysis

And one more thing: my favorite Scott Podsednik story.

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Red Sox To Pursue Clemens

The Boston Herald’s Gerry Callahan reported today that the Red Sox "as we speak are preparing to make a serious offer to one Roger Clemens."  Not so coincidentally, it’s a slow news day, with the Phillies’ hot pursuit of the other Alex Gonzalez a top story.

Apparently the Red Sox know Clemens won’t be lured by money (he’s made over $120MM in salary in his career) so they are going a different route:

"The Sox’ pitch will include a slick video presentation that features a number of Red Sox fans imploring the Rocket to finish his career where it began.  This is not a Theo idea or a Larry idea; it comes straight from chairman Tom Werner, the Hollywood producer who is making sure the Sox’ sales pitch is Oscar quality. They may not land the Rocket, but Werner is demanding they give it their best shot."

Do Boston fans really want Clemens back?  I should put up a poll or something.  Regardless, every source I’ve ever spoken to about this insists that Clemens’s options are the Astros and retirement.  Roger’s personal catcher is there and the team is bending over backwards to accomodate him.  As I said in December, an undeserved promotion of Koby Clemens to Double A might seal the deal.  While Koby plays in the Astros’ farm system, his Class A team resides in New York.