March 2006

Juan Gonzalez Tries Out For Rockies

The Juan Gonzalez saga is fairly amusing for a lazy Friday afternoon, so let me take another crack at translating a new El Nuevo Dia article.

Yesterday, Juan Gonzalez tried out for the Colorado Rockies in Puerto Rico.  He’s reportedly in magnificent physical condition.  That report has been passed along to Colorado’s front office, but there is no agreement as of yet.


Gonzalez tried out for the Athletics on Monday, and worked for the Red Sox and Cubs previously.  Despite reports that Gonzalez was due in Red Sox camp this week, a close friend of Gonzalez’s told El Nuevo Dia that he never signed a contract with them.  His agent has negotiated with the Sox, but he’s still a free agent.  There may have been a verbal agreement in place prior to the Wily Mo Pena trade.

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Friday Afternoon Reading

Armchair GM has taken on the task of categorizing all the baseball blogs out there so you don’t have to.  It’s pretty comprehensive – have a look

Also, a cool Mets news site I’ve recently come across:  SheaBaseball.com.

Got a fantasy draft this weekend?  My 2006 Fantasy Guide is just $9.99 and is drawing rave reviews from hundreds of customers.  Check it out.

Start gearing up for this bad boy, which will start rolling on Opening Day.  Download the free spreadsheet to get in on the gambling mayhem.

Bronson Arroyo‘s Cincinnati projection at RotoAuthority.

AllCubs looks at some spring training stats.

Five Questions about the Mariners, asked and answered.

What an awesome, free site.

Cool Zach Greinke story at the bottom of Ken Rosenthal’s article.


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Angels Interested In Ruben Sierra

Hold on to your hats, kids – the Angels almost acquired Ruben Sierra the other day.  The L.A. Times has made it known that the Halos need a lefty bat off the bench and are willing to part with Esteban Yan or Kevin Gregg.  Apparently one of those two intrigues the Twins enough to toss Sierra their way. 


That plan may have been dashed by Sierra’s strained hamstring, however.  At this point it’s possible that the Twinkies release him and give his spot to Jason Kubel (fantasy leaguers, take note).  If Sierra isn’t released, he’ll start the season on the DL.  So the Angels may have to look for another trading partner for their swap.

Halos Heaven also indicates that Tampa Bay could make a play for one of the relievers.  Yan was decent for the D-Rays back in 2001-02, and the loss of Shinji Mori creates a need.

In addition, the Angels plan to trade Chris Bootcheck early in the season for whatever needs arise.  The 27 year-old righty has only seen 29 innings of Major League action.  The former college pick has been a disappointment thus far, posting a 5.42 ERA in his fourth try at Triple A. 

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MLB Free Agents 2007: Eric Gagne

Recently I got to thinking about Eric Gagne.  30 years old.  An unstoppable relief ace from 2002-04 (a 1.79 ERA and 13.3 K/9 over 247 innings.  Imagine if he did that in one season as a starter!  Roto Immortality.)  Tommy John surgery in 1997 plus another cleanup type surgery last summer.  A $10MM salary for 2006 with a $12MM option for 2007. 

With Scott Boras as his agent, Gagne may elect to void that ’07 option.  Or the Dodgers may simply choose not to exercise it.  The Dodgers are one probably the only team in baseball with two established "closers" on the roster.  No, Jose Mesa and Braden Looper don’t count.  Danys Baez is an excellent backup that will allow the Dodgers to limit Gagne’s innings this season.  But should a decent setup man emerge from Yhency Brazoban, Franquelis Osoria, and Jonathan Broxton, the Dodgers may just send Gagne packing this summer.


So which contending teams have questionable closers? 

Red Sox.  I have to assume Epstein doesn’t see Papelbon as a long-term reliever/closer candidate.  He’ll probably be in the rotation by July, and Keith Foulke may give out by then.  The pen has some depth, but lacks a relief ace.  Many folks see Craig Hansen closing out games by year’s end, and I don’t disagree.  Still, if he stumbles a bit in his first Major League season, the Sox could take a crack at Gagne.   

White Sox.  Bobby Jenks and Dustin Hermanson are wild cards right now.  With only Neal Cotts and Cliff Politte as dependable options, Kenny Williams could go after the cream of the crop in Gagne.  His trading chips will probably have to come from his Major League roster this time. 

Rangers.  Should Francisco Cordero happen to go down this year, I’m not sure if Texas will be content to give the ball to Akinori Otsuka, Joaquin Benoit, or Frank Francisco in the 9th inning.

Braves.  This really wouldn’t be their style, though Gagne would really solidify the relief corps.   

Phillies. What’s Plan B if Tom Gordon‘s elbow gives out?  The Phils need Ryan Madson in the rotation and probably don’t trust Arthur Rhodes.

This is all just speculation, but watch the rumors fly this summer if Baez and Gagne are both pitching well and an injury to a starter or position player creates a need for the Dodgers.

Thanks to The Closer Watch for the current bullpen depth charts.      

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Graffanino to Mets?

Did you know that Baseball America scouts and ranks 12 year-olds?  That’s kind of weird.  I learned this after reading that Austin Jackson, a Yankees outfield prospect, ranked at the top of his age group when he was 12.  They should’ve been scouting my age 11 season.  I was the leadoff hitter for the Foxes and posted an OBP over .500.  I could lay a mean drag bunt despite well below-average speed to first base.  The third baseman knew it was coming but still couldn’t throw me out.  But even then, my makeup was in question with all the rampant womanizing.  My vices got the best of me and I was out of baseball by age 15.

On to the trade rumor.  A source has given me some more info on the Mets’ second base situation.

The Alfonso Soriano rumors have died down now that he’s decided to give left field a try.  Good for him.  The Mets see Jeff Keppinger as more of a utility man, and they are a little wary of throwing Anderson Hernandez to the wolves without a little more seasoning in the minors.  Kaz Matsui‘s injury might keep him out more than a few weeks, perhaps as long as two months.  Enter Tony Graffanino, a Minaya favorite.


If Boston’s demands drop a bit, the teams might be able to strike a deal.  The Mets might be willing to part with one of the following three pitchers.  The following info is from Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook.  Thought you might like a little background.

Matt Lindstrom is a 26 year-old right-handed reliever with "the most explosive arm in the system."  His heater is the best among Mets’ minor leaguers, occasionally touching 100mph.  How come this dude is still in Double A then?  He’s two years behind because of a Mormon mission.  The problems:  his fastball is straight, he doesn’t have a secondary pitch, and he has some mechanical issues.  He didn’t have a great 2005 season and is now ranked as the 26th best Mets prospect after a #10 ranking the year before.

Henry Owens is ranked 29th in the system and was a Triple A Rule 5 pick.  The former catcher has good heat but questionable breaking stuff…he’s a reliever entering Double A and will turn 27 soon.  He and Lindstrom are the two best relievers in the Mets’ system according to BA.

Jason Scobie led the Mets’ minor leagues with 15 wins in 2005.  He’s entering his age 28 season, and seems to have a handle on Triple A despite a strikeout rate barely above 5 K.9.  He’s 8th among starters on the Mets’ minor league depth chart, so he’s not exactly a hot commodity.


Latest Mets/Soriano Rumor

A source of mine reports some info concerning the Mets’ interest in Alfonso Soriano:

The Mets do want Soriano, but they’ll only make a deal if the Nats will accept Kaz Matsui.  The Nats would use Matsui at shortstop and would also receive Victor Diaz.

Matsui will be out until mid-April with a sprained knee ligament.  He last played shortstop in 2004, appearing in 110 games there.


This morning, Soriano plans to announce whether he’s willing to play left field for the Nationals.  The fact that he’s even considering it leads me to believe that he will play out there.  Soriano refused to play LF on Monday and would likely be placed on the disqualified list if he refuses again.  He’d lose his salary and right to become a free agent after 2006 in that case. I’m pretty sure his agent is going to advise that he gives in.  Still, he may still be a trade candidate if he’s enormously unhappy with the Nationals. 

Another note from the MLB.com article: it looks like Jon Daniels pulled one over on Jim Bowden.

"Texas denied Washington permission to talk to Soriano about a switch from second base to left field until the players took their physicals and the trade was official."

Diaz may start the season in Triple A, as Xavier Nady is the heavy favorite for right field for the Mets.


Cards Sour On Anthony Reyes?

The fine Cardinals blog Viva El Birdos pieces together the latest info about hotshot pitching prospect Anthony ReyesSidney Ponson has won the fifth starter competition, and Reyes will be optioned to Memphis soon.

Furthermore, Larry gets the impression that the organization is not committed to Reyes and is priming things for a trade.  Even with a less than stellar spring, Reyes’s stock is high coming off a 3.64 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in Triple A last year.  He’s a 24 year-old Major League-ready starting pitcher with #2 starter potential within a year or two.  How many of those are floating around?  If he can even manage league-average pitching and stay healthy, he’d provide incredible bang for the buck.


Now, it’s possible the Cards truly just want Reyes to work on his sinker and start regularly before a permanent May callup.  As was pointed out at Viva, payroll concerns for next year indicate that the club should retain Reyes.

But who doesn’t love trade speculation?  A favorite over at Viva El Birdos is a Reyes for Carlos Quentin swap.  The D’Backs need young starters, the Cards need a quality left fielder – that’s the idea.  That’s probably just wishful thinking, as stud prospects are typically not dealt for each other.

Let’s consider a few other possibilities.  Perhaps Jocketty sends Reyes to Washington for Alfonso Soriano?  No doubt Bowden would pull the trigger on that one (or at least I hope he would) but Jocketty can probably do better.  Reyes could be used as some sort of Miguel Cabrera package, as the Cards are known to have expressed interest.

As for a more down-to-Earth Reyes trade, we turn to a post from early March.  A few names the Cardinals might go for include Luis Gonzalez, Kevin Mench, and Craig Wilson.   


Getting Paid To Watch

A former assistant athletic trainer for the 1986 Mets, Bob Sikes, has a blog called Getting Paid To Watch.  Check it out, he’s got some good info in there.  Click here to read his thoughts on various Mets injuries, including Pedro and Matsui.


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Speculation: Choi or Pena to Reds?

Publicly, the Reds’ plan seems to be using Scott Hatteberg as a full-time first baseman and shifting Adam Dunn back to the outfield now that Wily Mo Pena is gone.


Hatteberg authored a .256/.334/.343 line for Oakland last year in 464 at-bats.  That’s just nowhere near the work of a starting first baseman, even if he does dial that OBP up to .370 again.  A commenter on the Wily Mo thread, Mike Murphy, had this to say:

"I predict… the Cincy Reds will wind up with either Carlos Pena or Hee Seop Choi."

To that I say, good call!  One of those interesting first base projects would be an ideal fit for Cincinnati.  Other possibilities:  Tony Clark, Ryan Shealy, and maybe Walter Young.  Hell, Calvin Pickering deserves another shot, the big lug.  Not sure who the Reds could send over to acquire Shealy, but that would be a fantastic pickup.   


Borchard For Thornton Trade Completed

The White Sox sent Joe Borchard, object of many fans’ scorn, to the Mariners for lefty reliever Matt ThorntonU.S.S. Mariner has detailed analysis if you’re interested.

I was reading the Tribune this weekend, and it had a section where fans explained what to do when you visit U.S. Cellular.  One suggestion was along the lines of:

1.  Order a polish and an MGD.
2.  Heckle Joe Borchard.
3.  Have another polish.
4.  Repeat.

So who’s the new whipping boy?