May 2006

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Clemens Signs, Nevin to Cubs

The long expected Roger Clemens signing with Houston has finally been made official.  One less distraction; the sideshow is finally over.  Until Clemens decides there's a slight chance he pitches in 2007.  The Astros are 6.5 games back and Clemens should provide a several-win boost over the likes of Fernando Nieve.


The Cubs are 11 games under .500, 12.5 out of first, but they're not giving up.  Jim Hendry just swapped Jerry Hairston for Phil Nevin, a clear win now type move for a team with little chance of winning now.  Cubs fans shouldn't mind the deal, given that the Rangers should take on most of Nevin's salary.  Would've been nice if Hendry could've pulled this off a month ago though.

Finally, Pat Burrell was curiously absent from the Philadelphia lineup given all the trade rumors swirling about.  Burrell makes plenty of sense for the Yanks if they can get him, but they can't afford to give up any decent starting pitching. 



Angels Buzz

All sorts of good info coming from my Angels guy:

The Halos were recently close to a fairly big trade, but pulled back at the last minute.  It may have been the much discussed Adam Kennedy for Shea Hillenbrand deal, but another one that was rumored to be close was Alfonso Soriano for Erick Aybar and Joe Saunders.  The Soriano deal included a component where Jose Molina ended up a Yankee.

Now that Kendry Morales heated up and is holding his own in the middle of the L.A. lineup, the team plans on waiting until the All-Star break to make their move.


Also, word is that Arte Moreno has greenlighted Bill Stoneman for more salary room.  Moreno craves Manny Ramirez or Miguel Tejada, someone who can truly make a difference of several wins for the Angels.

Finally, I'm told that Darin Erstad is "probably done for the season." 



Zito On Mets' 40 Man Roster...Sort Of

Just got word from a loyal emailer:

"Was driving back from a party last night around 1:20AM and WFAN in NY had callers saying that Barry Zito's name was on the Mets roster over at Mets.com. His name was in place of Alay Soler. Sure enough, WFAN had checked it out and they confirmed that it was the case."

No, this probably isn't an early sign that the Mets have completed a Zito for Milledge and Soler trade.  Most likely it was just a webmaster getting crazy in the way that only a webmaster can.

On the other hand, if my memory serves me correct, the person in charge of Cubs.com accidentally posted Dusty Baker as the team's manager before his hiring was made public.  So you never know.




Fire Sale In Chicago?

It's May 28th and the Cubs are now 13.5 games out of first place, 13 games under .500.  The June schedule doesn't include any pushover matchups (if there is such a thing for this club).  It's becoming time to shake things up.  Which players are the most likely trade candidates?

How about Kerry Wood?  Yes, he loves Chicago and has a no-trade clause.  But there are a couple of teams in Texas who could use Wood as a backup option if they miss out on Roger Clemens

The Rangers are clinging to first place right now and could get Adam Eaton back in July.  Still, if the league figures out John Koronka the second time around, there may be a need for more starting pitching.  Wood makes $11MM and has the huge injury history, but he'd make for an intriguing pickup if he improves over the next month.  Seems to me that a Jason Botts would be plenty given how far Wood's stock has fallen.

Houston would probably only express a mild interest in the event that Roger Clemens goes to the Yankees.  They could part with Willy Taveras, and then Jim Hendry would have his low-OBP speedster atop the lineup for years to come.


I've seen Aramis Ramirez's name bandied about in the local papers.  Ramirez's current four-year deal includes a player void option after '06, built in by agent Paul Kinzer in the event that he has a monster 2006 season.  He's off to a slow start, but does have an .848 OPS for May.  Even an off-year, resulting in .270-30-90, would be more than enough to top three years and $33MM in the free market.  That's what's left on his current deal.  Ramirez only turns 28 this year.  Still, he doesn't sound like a man who wants to bail out.  One could envision the Angels, Phillies, or Dodgers getting involved if the Cubs decide to shop Ramirez.  He's probably the team's most marketable player, Mark Prior included.

Greg Maddux has a handshake agreement that he will not be traded.  Still, he could have some interest in helping the Padres, Giants, Angels, or A's make a pennant run.  Unfortunately for the Cubs, Maddux's hot streak came at a time when teams aren't ready to make deals (April).  Is Maddux hungry for pennant race baseball at all costs, or is he complacent the way Jamie Moyer was last summer?  Funny how the Chicago press was calling for a contract extension for Maddux after his renaissance (one month of excellent pitching). 

Juan Pierre seems very likely to be dealt.  There's just one little problem: his .231/.268/.286 line.  The speedster hasn't quite been Rondell White/Yadier Molina bad, but he's still been awful.  If Pierre can heat up for a month or so the Cubs might be able to get something useful in return.  He would seem to fit in with the Angels or White Sox.  How about Brian Anderson for Pierre? John Mabry better watch his back.

The Cubs will definitely send off Todd Walker at some point this summer.  Countless teams would have interest in the affordable second base/DH candidate.  Role players like Scott Williamson and John Mabry are trade candidates as well.  Despite poor control this season, Williamson could be the most marketable of the three.

The Cubs have a host of additional undesirable to awful type contracts that probably could not be unloaded.  This includes Jacque Jones, Glendon Rusch, and Neifi Perez.  Some might include Bob Howry and Scott Eyre on this list despite their excellent starts.  If the Cubs want to use 2007 to rebuild, the two relievers should be shopped.   



El Duque Swapped For Julio

In a surprising move, the Diamondbacks sent starter Orlando Hernandez to the Mets for reliever Jorge Julio.  El Duque, age 36-40ish, has a 6.11 ERA and 1.58 WHIP through his first nine starts this year.  27 year-old righty Julio had a 5.06 ERA and 1.45 WHIP for the Mets.

Hernandez will be paid $4.5MM this season and doesn't figure to pick up his incentives for Comeback Player of the Year or an All-Star Game.  Julio makes about $2.5MM and has yet to reach free agency.  Hernandez was projected to add about 1.8 wins in 122 innings while Julio's projection called for 1.5 wins in 58 innings (3.73 ERA, 1.29 WHIP).


Perhaps D'Backs pitching coach Bryan Price thinks he can limit Julio's largest flaw, his tendency to allow home runs.  He'd better figure something out because Chase Field boosts homers for lefties by 18% (Shea suppressed them by 6%).  The only silver lining in Julio's 2006 performance is that he's managed to whiff 33 hitters in just over 21 innings.  The 13.92 K/9 is the best in the game among pitchers with 20 innings.

El Duque had three quality starts in nine tries for Arizona.  Last year for the White Sox, 45% of his starts were quality efforts.  While he's an improvement over Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez, the difference may be marginal.  PECOTA projected Gonzalez at a 5.71 ERA, Lima at 5.21, and Hernandez at 5.17.  Who knows, though, maybe El Duque will rise to the occasion on the big stage and give the Mets 100 innings of league average ball.  And of course he could be an asset should the Mets make the playoffs.

I can see the reasoning here for both sides.  The Mets fill their starter vacancy at a low cost and value Hernandez higher than most teams.  El Duque loves New York and Minaya loves El Duque.  Minaya scouted Hernandez and considers him a warrior.  On the other hand, the D'Backs get a reliever who still at least has potential to be dominant.  Julio is under contract for a couple more years and adds depth to an already decent Arizona pen.  Perhaps Josh Byrnes thought Hernandez's value would only continue to decrease as the season wore on.

It will be interesting to see if the Mets continue their pursuit of Orlando's half-brother, Livan Hernandez.



Latest Mets Buzz

Haven't heard from my Mets source in a while, but he checked in this morning with some good info.

He tells me that the Mets are not interested in trading Lastings Milledge or Aaron Heilman in a Barry Zito deal.  The Mets aren't a team to overpay for 2-3 months of Zito given his impending free agency.  In addition, the Wilpons are sensitive about the Scott Kazmir trade (7-2, 2.39 ERA) and won't let history repeat itself. 


On the other hand, if the Mets had to include Milledge and another top prospect (Alay Soler?) to acquire Dontrelle Willis, they'd jump at the chance.  Willis could anchor the rotation for many years in front of Mike Pelfrey.

20 year-old outfielder Carlos Gomez is a scout favorite despite his current .219/.290/.318 line at Double A so far.  The Mets love the kid, but he could be had if it meant acquiring an ace-caliber pitcher like Jason Schmidt without parting with Milledge. 

Anderson Hernandez, Michael Abreu, Evan Maclane, Heath Bell, and Victor Diaz are all readily available trading chips if the Mets decide not to shoot for the stars. 



Yanks Get Creative With Hidalgo

Finding cheap free talent has never been a strong suit of the Yankees.  That's why I was surprised to see them in contact with Richard Hidalgo's agent.  Hidalgo will work out for New York and could get a minor league contract.  The 30 year-old outfielder was last seen in Baltimore's spring training camp.

Though he hasn't posted an OPS over .800 since 2003, Hidalgo is still a good low-risk gamble.  It's possible the time off helped him recover from last year's wrist injuries.  A healthy Hidalgo could still hit something like .260/.340/.480, good for a couple of cheap wins.  He'd also make an above average left fielder and an average right fielder.  It's worth a shot.




Nats Want Milledge for Livan

I find it almost comical that Jim Bowden would demand Lastings Milledge in a trade for Livan Hernandez.  I know he wants to save his job with the next Scott Kazmir deal, but c'mon now.  The Mets aren't that desperate, are they?

Hernandez has an ERA over 6 and is only 31 years old in theory.  He makes $8MM this year and $7MM the next.  Whether or not Milledge is worthy of all the hype, the Mets could do a lot better.  I still think Livan will come around and could help the Mets, but at that price they need look at internal candidates instead. 


Milledge is at .284/.440/.447 in Triple A at age 21.  The 17% walk rate is an excellent development, and you have to figure the 20 HR power will come with time.

The Nationals do need to find a way to stock up one of baseball's worst farm systems.  Hernandez, Jose Guillen, Alfonso Soriano, Nick Johnson, and Brian Schneider should keep the hot stove boiling all summer.      



Rox, Jays Interested In D-Train?

We haven't mentioned Canada's Marty York in a good two months. Back in March, York mentioned that the Blue Jays were close to acquiring Craig Wilson and that A.J. Burnett would miss all of April.  Wilson's a Pirate and Burnett made two starts in April, but I have to give him partial credit on Burnett. 

Last Tuesday, York threw out all sorts of intiguing teams in connection with Dontrelle Willis.  The Blue Jays and Rockies were two I definitely hadn't heard before.


Willis to Colorado isn't as crazy as it sounds.  For one thing, the Rockies are shockingly a half game out of first place in the West.  Secondly, they've never really tried this strategy in Colorado: just acquire really good pitchers and the ballpark won't matter.  A rotation of Willis, Jeff Francis, Aaron Cook, Jason Jennings, and Byung-Hyun Kim would actually be decent.  Would the Rox offer up Ian Stewart and Brad Hawpe?

The Blue Jays, though...that part would be more feasible if the team had expendable young studs with which to make a deal.  Dustin McGowan, Josh Banks, Brandon League, David Purcey, and Casey Janssen are all intriguing young pitchers, but only McGowan has been seen on any Top 50 Prospects lists.  I imagine the Fish would want Alex Rios in the deal.  Still doesn't seem like a good fit.

York also mentions the Rangers, Yankees, and Phillies as interested parties. 



2007 Free Agent Market: Shortstops

Updated 12-07-06

Sorry folks, there's nothing left at short.

The demand for Miguel Tejada, Michael Young, and Omar Vizquel should be strong if someone needs to make a splashy deal.










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