June 2006

John Smoltz Available?

John Smoltz‘s recent comments were blown out of proportion perhaps, but the possibility remains: the Braves could consider trading him this summer.  He makes $6MM this year and has an $8MM club option for next year.  Though he’s 39 years old, he’s signed to a very friendly deal. 

Baseball Prospectus finds Smoltz very similar to Gaylord Perry, minus the spitters.  Perry pitched decently until age 44.  BP’s projections value Smoltz at $11MM this year and about $7 mil in ’07.  He’s shown consistent dominance on the big stage, throwing 206 innings of 2.66 ball in the postseason.

Atlanta has had a top notch farm system for as long as I can remember, and the idea of them being sellers at the trading deadline  hasn’t surfaced since I was in grade school.  It all depends on whether the team is expected to be competitive in 2007.  They should be in the hunt, so trading Smoltz would only make sense if a near-ready MLB prospect came back in the deal – say an Anthony Reyes type.

In 2007, the Braves will have to sort through the following pitchers for the four spots behind Smoltz:

Mike Hampton
Tim Hudson
Kyle Davies
Chuck James
Anthony Lerew

That group in itself could form a competitive rotation.  Still, the only sure thing in the group is Hudson.  It would be dangerous to count on Hampton to return from Tommy John at age 34 in his old form and for three kids to succeed in the same season.  Lerew was highly regarded entering this season but has a 9.38 ERA through 48 Triple A innings this season.  He came off the DL a week ago after a back strain.  The fact remains: the 2007 Braves need John Smoltz.

The ’07 Braves probably don’t need John Thomson or Marcus Giles, however.  I’ve heard Joe Blanton for Giles tossed around, and it would be a smart move for the Braves in my opinion.

Aubrey Huff and the Tigers

The Detroit press seems to think Aubrey Huff is the perfect left-handed bat to add via trade.  I’m assuming Huff would move to the DH spot, as the outfield of Marcus Thames, Curtis Granderson, and Magglio Ordonez seems pretty well set.

Would the Tigers really gain anything by adding Huff?  Let’s assume Dmitri Young doesn’t play anymore this year.  That still leaves Detroit with 29 year-old outfielder Craig Monroe on the roster.  Monroe is pretty much back to game shape after missing some time with a sprained right ankle. 

Monroe has hit .228/.271/.405 so far in 215 ABs this year.  Among American League left fielders, only Nick Markakis has been worse.  However, Monroe should ultimately come closer to his .273/.320/.451 projection.  He makes less than $3MM.

Aubrey Huff has been even worse, hitting .200/.294/.303 in 155 ABs after missing about a month with a knee sprain.  The lack of power is disturbing.  Most people think getting Huff out of Tampa Bay would help him hit closer to his projection of .283/.340/.468. 

Certainly, replacing Monroe with Huff would mean simply banking that Huff will play up to his projection and Monroe won’t.  The difference between the players is less than one win based on preseason projections.  Huff’s got the name value and the $6.75MM salary.  Still, it wouldn’t be a terrible gamble if the price is right.

But if the Tigers actually want to pick up a couple of wins by improving their DH spot, they should think bigger than Huff or Jeromy BurnitzAlfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, or Pat Burrell would make a measurable difference, handedness be damned.  This is a legitimate World Series contender, right?  Replacing Monroe with some other second tier player would be much ado about nothing.

Friends Of Jason Grimsley

I was recently directed to a previously unpublished Jason Grimsley interview from 2004.  It mostly focuses on Grimsley’s guitar preferences, but it also reveals some more of Grimsley’s friends within baseball.  Just in case you’re not sick of this story yet.

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Ervin Santana Trade Hinges On Saunders, Colon

Today comes word from Halos Heaven that any deal of righty Ervin Santana will hinge on the performances of Bartolo Colon and Joe Saunders

Slowed by a couple of surgeries in his career, Saunders is putting it together in Triple A for the first time.  He’s got a 2.51 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 13 starts this year.  He’d slot into the rotation in place of Santana.  The Angels can deal from their strength, as this rotation could become:

Bartolo Colon
John Lackey
Kelvim Escobar
Jered Weaver
Joe Saunders

That is a deep group, with Jeff Weaver serving as a tolerable sixth starter for the rest of the season.  He’s been decent in two starts this month, but could end up in the ‘pen.  The Halos can have Saunders and Jeff Weaver competing for the fifth starter spot.

Halos Heaven mentions Carl Crawford, Torii Hunter, and Vernon Wells as targets of Bill Stoneman.  Stoneman has also had Alfonso Soriano, Manny Ramirez, Miguel Tejada, and Miguel Cabrera in his sights for months. It certainly seems that the Angels, currently five games back in the West, will acquire a big bat before the trading deadline.

Billingsley Day!

Curious about this Chad Billingsley guy debuting for the Dodgers tonight?  He’s one of the game’s best pitching prospects, and RotoAuthority has the details on him.  Read up.

Also, click here to view his career stats and here to view his work in Triple A this year.

MLBTradeRumors On The Radio

If you live in the St. Louis area, I will be making an appearance on 1380AM around 10:30pm.  We’ll discuss the Cardinals’ left field situation and possible upcoming trades this summer.  Check it out!

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Teams Still Interested In Kerry Wood

Just got word from a solid source, an insider who had previously indicated the Devil Rays’ interest in Ervin Santana back in December.  This time, he’s got some info concerning oft-injured Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood.

Word is that despite Wood’s awful health record, Jim Hendry is shopping him and has received some interest.  The Rangers would like to add Wood and may give up John Danks or Thomas Diamond to get him. 

Danks, a 21 year-old southpaw, has made some progress in his second stint in Double A.  His strikeout rate is way up and his control has improved, though his home run prevention has worsened.  Danks is mentioned as a potential #2 starter one day by Baseball America, and should earn a promotion to Triple A this year if he can further improve upon his 4.41 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.

Diamond is a 23 year-old righty with a mid-90s fastball and a good changeup.  He’s also done better in his second stint at Double A Frisco, managing a 4.15 ERA despite his 1.48 WHIP.  Diamond has whiffed over 11 batters per nine innings, but his walks per nine has soared past 6.  Diamond and Danks are ranked #2-3 in strikeouts in the Texas League, behind only Juan Gutierrez in the Astros’ system.

Wood would have to approve a trade to any club, and the Rangers seem more likely than another possible suitor: the Yankees.  I’m told the Yanks are poking around as well, but don’t have details on any offers.  Given that Wood’s $13.5MM option will most certainly be bought out for 2007, a trade to Texas would be contingent on a restructured agreement for 2007 with Wood.

Wood is no lock to be traded, and could turn into an effective, healthy pitcher if used in the bullpen.  The Cubs are certainly open to the idea of retaining Wood for 2007 at a discounted price.

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Braves Looking To Trade Giles

Just got word from a reputable, well-connected source out of Atlanta.  Excellent timing, as Braves fans have been clamoring for any indication of a deal.

According to my source, the Braves are serious about trading Marcus Giles and using Wilson Betemit at second base.  The club loves Betemit’s bat and he’s earned a chance as a regular.  The Braves have gotten a paltry .235/.328/.349 line out of Giles in 238 ABs this year. 

Fantasy players often ask me what happened to the 28 year-old Giles, and I don’t have a good answer.  His PECOTA projection of .284/.363/.449 seemed about right given his last three seasons.  Giles is not blaming April’s strained finger ligament, but you have to wonder if he’s completely healthy.  He’s making $3.85MM this year and isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2007 season.

Betemit has only played three games in his career at second base, but the team thinks he’s capable.  He’s always shown decent power, slugging .425 in the minor leagues.  But this year’s .524 mark in 103 ABs is beyond even his highest expectations.    

There was no word on which teams are interested in Giles, but the Cardinals are a possible fit.


Another Option For St. Louis

My Mets source has sent an update regarding the recent Victor Diaz information.  Seems the Cards just weren’t offering enough in Mark Worrell for Diaz.  Diaz remains widely available, and could be used to acquire a decent second baseman like Mark Grudzielanek.

The Cardinals have another outfielder on the radar – old favorite Reggie Sanders.  Reggie is 38 now, and he’s not showing any ability to get on base as a regular for the Royals.  Still, his .259/.301/.476 line (8 home runs) is not far from his work with St. Louis back in ’04.  Sanders typically walks about 7-8% of the time, but this year it’s been below 6%.  I guess his new club is influencing his style – KC is second to last in the AL in walks this year.

Sanders’s .777 OPS is just the 12th best among AL right fielders.  He signed a two-year, $10MM deal with the Royals last offseason.  He’d probably play left field if he returned to St. Louis.  As a group, the Cardinals’ left fielders have hit just .243/.305/.321 with one home run.  At the least, Sanders would provide a power threat.

The Cardinals will likely settle for a second tier outfielder in the trade market, as I’m told Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright are being slotted into the 2007 rotation.

Cards Interested In Victor Diaz

Walt Jocketty and the Cardinals are currently mulling over various options to add an outfield bat, and one player who is definitely on the radar is Victor Diaz

The 24 year-old Diaz had a fine year in 2005 between Triple A and the Majors.  However, after losing the Mets’ right field battle to Xavier Nady this year Diaz has become the odd man out.  He’s stumbled to a .245/.310/.371 line in Triple A and his stock is at an all-time low.  Still, Diaz has shown 25 HR power and was projected to hit .265/.323/.469 for the Mets by Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA system.

New York doesn’t have much use for Diaz, and one player they like is 24 year-old righthander Mark Worrell in the Cardinals’ system.  Worrell uses an unorthodox, sometimes sidearm delivery to retire hitters.  He did a fine job as a closer in A ball last year, but the jump to Double A hasn’t been so kind.  Worrell has 15 saves and a 1.28 WHIP, but he also owns a 5.27 ERA.  Walks and home runs have been a problem.

It’s a swap that makes sense – a couple of minor leaguers who have not met expectations this year.  My Mets source tells me that discussions are ongoing.