April 2006

Interview With John Hickey

John Hickey covers the Mariners for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, writing frequent columns and even manning a blog.  John was kind of enough to provide insight into all sorts of Mariners questions.

MLBTradeRumors: What’s your take on the extra day off for Kenji Johjima?  Was Hargrove sending any kind of message or was there a miscommunication?

John Hickey: It’s an odd thing, really. Historically, when Hargrove gets a backup player into the lineup, he likes to get him two games in a row. (Willie Bloomquist gets two as often as not). So there is the thought that he was just being consistent in doing that for Rene Rivera. But mostly he just seems to want to make sure Johjima stays strong. Johjima played lots in Japan and will play lots here, but the season is about 27 games longer here — an extra month. Johjima has never played that much. So extra time off is warranted. Also, the Mariners only had two off days in April when normally they would have four or more. So that’s a factor. 

MLBTR: Who do you think Hargrove will turn to first in the 9th inning if he gives up on Eddie Guardado – Putz or Soriano?  Which pitcher would you choose?

JH: You go with Guardado for now. But he doesn’t have endless time to get his game together. He either is the productive closer he was or he works in setup relief for Soriano.

MLBTR: Richie Sexson: just an early slump, or something more? 

JH: Hard to tell. The large number of strikeouts are alarming. But Seattle has faced very tough pitching, so some slumps are to be expected. To have every bat go south in unison, however, is alarming on any number of levels.

MLBTR: Carl Everett is hitting .212.  Do you think Roberto Petagine gets a shot at DH at some point despite Everett’s contract?

JH: I would think so if another three weeks or a month goes by and there is no noticeable improvement, Hargrove will have to explore his other options.

MLBTR: Can you name which players you think are most likely to be traded this summer by the Mariners?

JH: This all assumes they’re not anywhere close to first place. In that case, Guardado, Moyer, Everett and Meche are strong candidates to go … if anyone is interested. Beltre could be on that list, too, but I think it would be impossible to move that contract without some sign that he’s something more than a singles hitter.

MLBTR: Will we see Shin-Soo Choo or Adam Jones in Seattle anytime soon?  They are both hitting well in Triple A.

JH: Overall the club is higher on Jones than on Choo. But Choo has been up before and hasn’t really gotten a chance, so I’d think they go to him first. Remember, as soon as they call up Jones, there is no turning back the clock. He starts ticking off time toward salary arbitration and free agency. When a prospect is that good (if he in fact is), you want him to come up ready to play every day, or there is no point starting that clock.

MLBTR: Do you expect to see Daisuke Matsuzaka in a Mariners uniform in 2007?  He and Felix would make a hell of a 1-2 punch.

JH: Do I expect it? I think the Mariners have a better shot at him than most of the other clubs, but Seattle is one of 30 options. He’s going to be 27 and free agent, and he was already considered the best pitcher in Japan before he turned in a standup performance in the WBC. It’s hard to see Seattle not making a strong run at him.

MLBTR: Is Mike Hargrove gone after this season if the Mariners don’t win?

JH: I would thing GM Bill Bavasi would be even more on the hot seat than Hargrove. He has presided over back-to-back 90-loss seasons, and (as i write this) a 9-15 start to the 2006 season. But, yes, Hargrove could be gone too if things don’t turn around.

MLBTR: Thanks for your time, John!  Don’t be a stranger.

What To Do With Delmon Young

By now, we’ve all seen the video of Delmon Young‘s bat flip.  At least, ESPN was calling it a flip before the video came out.  They’ve kind of quieted on that now that we saw that Young really whipped that sucker.

Intent to harm is still a question mark…but when you throw a wooden object at that speed end over end in the direction of someone, you have to realize the distinct possibility of injury.  This eyewitness account stresses that he tossed and did not fling the bat, but I vote fling. 

The Young incident is far worse than Roberto Alomar‘s hocker.  In comparison, I don’t know why we got so worked up over that.  Sure, it was gross and incredibly disrespectful, but Hirschbeck was never in harm’s way.  The two are actually friends now.

Buster Olney made the point that if you suspend steroid users for 50 games, Young deserves at least as long.  Because steroid users are not putting anyone else in danger (except perhaps their friends and loved ones).  Kenny Rogers got 20 games for his cameraman thing.  How does this compare?  Young’s infraction is probably worse.  I think we are looking at 40-50 games, which will definitely stunt his growth.  The Devil Rays will probably wait until 2007 to call him up. 

Should Cubs Add Tony Clark?

Word comes today that Tony Clark is willing to waive his no-trade clause if that’s what the Diamondbacks want.  The Cubs are the obvious fit – should they go after him?

I vote yes.  The Cubs’ offense was barely acceptable before Derrek Lee went down, and now it’s just plain feeble.  This club cannot be backed into playing Neifi Perez regularly once again.

Clark is probably worth a win or two in Lee’s two month absence, and that easily justifies the $2MM owed to him through 2007.  Josh Byrnes is a shrewd GM, however, so Hendry has to try not to send the next Dontrelle Willis over.

The issue of what to do with Clark once Lee comes back isn’t really an issue to me.  The Cubs can use him to DH against the Indians and Mariners in June if Lee comes back early and otherwise add some pop and OBP to the bench.  If Hendry can flip him somewhere in August, so be it. 

Clark is not expensive and not a complainer.  If Josh Byrnes isn’t asking for Rich Hill, I think a deal should be made.  I wouldn’t expect Clark to hit .304/.366/.636 again, but he’ll improve the team by keeping Neifi on the bench. 

2007 Free Agent Market – Second Basemen

Updated 1-9-07

Let’s assess the 2B free agent market next offseason for those teams in need.  These are the guys who I consider starters at the position.

Ronnie Belliard – Should be worth about $4 mil at age 32 in 2007.  Consistent if not spectacular.  The dreads are a plus.

Cubs Shopping Maddux?

A good one from the rumor mill over at Gotham Baseball.  Unfortunately their page is not working right now so here’s a link to MetsBlog’s take on Gotham’s report.  According to Gotham, Greg Maddux is being shopped.  Interested parties: Mets, Yankees, Brewers, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Royals, and Cardinals. 

The Cubs would essentially be reducing their rotation to "Carlos Zambrano and pray for a tornado," but Maddux is an impending free agent.  My opinion from a couple of weeks ago:  he’s the same old Mad Dog, just with a well-timed hot streak.  Still, dealing him now would be a very early white flag for a Cubs team with a $94MM payroll.  Doesn’t seem to compute.  And the obligatory intradivision thing must be cited for the Brewers and Cards.  I am surprised no West Coast teams have been mentioned.

Miscellaneous Rumors

There are a few trade-related nuggets in the newspapers today, but I don’t expect anything major to go down until June.

The Reds are trying to find a taker for Tony Womack, who has thankfully been pushed out of their infield and demoted.  That is what we call a million dollar mistake.  I guess Brandon Phillips makes up for it, at least until his bat runs cold.

Jay Payton and his agent are being vocal about finding him his 500 ABs with another team if necessary.  The best fit I can find is the Cardinals.

The Yanks plan on declining Mike Mussina‘s option and re-signing him to a more reasonable deal.  The decline is a no-brainer at $17MM, but I’m just remembering what happened with Jon Lieber.  New York had some goodwill there after paying Lieber to rehab, but he still jumped ship after seeing the market.  This is a different situation given Mussina’s tenure, and he has said he wants to stay put.  I’m just saying, it’s not a 100% lock.

Howie Kendrick got the call, but it took an injury, and not a trade, of Maicer Izturis.  My guess is that Izturis will spend at least a month on the shelf and that Kendrick will stick for the rest of the season.  If Kendrick can hit as expected between pinch-hitting, DHing, and spot starting at 2B/3B, there will be plenty of interest for Adam Kennedy in the coming months.  Kennedy is a 3-4 win guy who could really help the Mets or Cardinals for half a season. 

2007 Free Agent Market: First Basemen

Updated 1-2-07

Today we take a look at the first basemen available as free agents after the 2006 season.  These are players who I think are actually capable of starting regularly at first base.  Aubrey Huff and Darin Erstad – I don’t think they’ll end up at 1B next year.

Phil Nevin – He made $10MM this season.  The Rangers traded him to the Cubs and Nevin responded with an .832 OPS as Derrek Lee’s replacement.  Things didn’t go so well after the Cubs traded him to Minnesota, however.  A long shot to start for anyone next year.

Craig Wilson – Wilson hit .251/.314/.446 in his contract year.  He made just $3.5MM and will be only 29 next year.  Wilson can play catcher, first base, and the outfield corners.  He didn’t do a thing for the Yankees and could be had cheaply.  The Orioles are having discussions with Wilson’s agent.

A very weak crop.  Wilson could be the #1 pick because of his age, price, skills, and versatility.  Teams with holes may try to trade market, which could contain Mark Teixeira, Todd Helton, and Richie Sexson.

Marlins Made Crazy Offer To Mets

According to Jon Heyman, the Fish offered Dontrelle Willis to the Mets for David Wright this spring.  Sounds like something out of a fantasy league.

Baseball Prospectus projects Wright to be with about ten more wins than Willis over the next five seasons. I believe Heyman here.  His report definitely calls Jeffrey Loria’s denials into question.  Sounds like the Fish are shooting for the moon with Willis, but he really does seem to be available.

What do you think of a Willis for Chase Utley deal?  Who wins, and why wouldn’t it work?

Replacing Derrek Lee

The Cubs have plenty of external options to replace their All-Star first baseman.  Still, IvyChat makes a fine point: Jim Hendry has very rarely made trades to cover for injuries (see Nomar, Alex Gonzalez.)  Then again, there was one exception (quote from IvyChat):

"What’s ironic is that the only reason Hendry received the contract extension was due to a trade he made to fill in for an injury. If not for Korey Patterson‘s injury, the Cubs win nothing in 2003."

Link found via Baseball Musings.

RotoWorld adds that Michael Restovich was out of Triple A Iowa’s lineup last night, a possible indication that he will take Lee’s roster spot.

The Cubs are probably going to solve this one internally, a move that should cost them 2-3 wins this season.  While I liked the Cubs to win the division (I’m an eternal optimist) I didn’t like them to win it by more than three games.  And the three wins number assumes Lee misses just two months and returns as an All-Star, no sure thing.

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Howie Kendrick To Debut In May?

Just got word from a respected Angels source.

You may be wondering why Maicer Izturis has made four consecutive starts – at shortstop, third base, and even DH.  Sure, he’s hitting well (5 for 15 with three steals).  But this is Maicer Izturis here folks.  He’s a .232/.299/.336 hitter in 300 career ABs.  You don’t want him DHing.

The reason behind all the PT for Izturis is that he’s being shown off for scouts in attendance.  The Angels are hunting for the right deal to make room for Howie Kendrick by mid-May.  If they can’t find something they like for the 25 year-old Izturis, Edgardo Alfonzo may be waived.  Not sure exactly how Adam Kennedy‘s playing time will be affected by the callup.

One Angels blog is so sure that Kenrick is on his way they are asking readers to guess the date and cause of his callup!

A little background on Kendrick: he’s an absolute hitting machine.  The 22 year-old second baseman boasts a minor league line of .359/.404/.555.  He doesn’t draw walks, but he doesn’t need to.  Through 57 ABs in 2006, Kendrick’s .386 average ranks 8th in the Pacific Coast League. 

PECOTA calls Kendrick the best prospect in baseball.  Said Baseball Prospectus’s Nate Silver:

"Since 1998, there are 54 players (including major leaguers) who posted a translated BA of .300 or better in a season in which they were age 22 or younger (minimum 300 AB). Only seven of those players made the list twice:

Sean Burroughs
Miguel Cabrera
Howie Kendrick
Joe Mauer
Albert Pujols
Tony Torcato
David Wright

Cabrera, Wright, Mauer and Pujols presently rate among the ten most valuable commodities in baseball. Burroughs and Tony Torcato were abject failures, but Kendrick has significantly more power and runs significantly better than either of them. In any event, those are pretty good odds."