August 2006

Twins Trade For Phil Nevin

Given that the Twins rank second from the bottom of the AL in home runs, they acquired a DH type with some pop: Phil Nevin.

Nevin’s had his ups and downs this year between the Rangers and Cubs, but he is slugging .456 in 355 ABs.  Twins’ DHs have been a void this season so Nevin can only help.  Minnesota currently trails the White Sox by a half game for the AL wild card. 

Nevin’s $10MM salary ranks second on his new club, though the Cubs are footing some of the bill in hopes of receiving a decent prospect.

Heyman: Aramis Ramirez May Become A Free Agent

It seems that SI’s Jon Heyman has a different take than the Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan on the Aramis Ramirez situation.  As you recall, Sullivan mentioned ten days ago that the Cubs believe Ramirez won’t exercise his out clause and become a free agent this winter.  It seemed curious, as Ramirez could easily top three years and $33.5MM for his age 29-31 seasons on the open market.

Yesterday afternoon, Heyman commented:

"Aramis Ramirez is telling friends that he plans to exercise an option to opt out of his contract with the Cubs.  Ramirez…is also telling people he’d love to go to New York.  The Astros, Rangers, Angels, Dodgers, Red Sox and Tigers could be among favored players for Ramirez. But, of course, the Cubs won’t let him leave easily."

So what’s it going to be, Aramis?  Honor your current deal (a hometown discount), take more money on the open market, or renegotiate with the Cubs? 

Trade To Padres Likely For David Wells

As you well know, the Padres are the frontrunners to acquire David Wells by midnight tonight.  The name that’s been bandied about is catcher George Kottaras.  Keep an eye on tonight’s 7:05 contest between the Portland Beavers and the Fresno Grizzlies to see whether Kottaras starts for the Beavers.  If not, he’s probably the guy.  He went 0 for 4 last night.  According to the Boston Globe, the Dodgers could have Wells if they would step in with one of Matt Kemp, Andy LaRoche, or James Loney

Here’s the tricky part.  Based on info from a Steve Phillips article a year ago, I learned that "all 40-man roster players must go through waivers in order to change teams even if they are in the minor leagues."  All four prospects mentioned above are indeed on the 40-man roster.  So how does this work?  The key, I believe, is slipping the player through as a player to be named later.  The rule for waiver trades is that the PTBNL cannot be an active Major League player.  So, the Red Sox can acquire a top-notch prospect in exchange for Wells if they are willing to wait until spring to see him in a Sox uniform.  I think these rules debunk the notion that the Red Sox could somehow acquire Adam Wainwright in a deal.  It’s a moot point, as Wells won’t play in St. Louis.   

The Padres are three games back of the Dodgers in the NL West.  San Diego currently holds a half-game lead over the Phillies for the wild card.  If the Padres were to sneak into the playoffs once again, their playoff rotation would boast Jake Peavy, Chris Young, David Wells, and Woody Williams.  All have pitched decently or better this month; it would be a fairly deep group.  And fifth starter Clay Hensley has a 1.82 ERA and 1.25 WHIP this month, so maybe he’d be in the mix instead of Williams.

Oswalt Cashes In

Given the possibility of Roy Oswalt leaving the Astros after the 2007 season, the club decided to lock him up for a very long time.  Oswalt’s five-year, $73MM deal averages $14.6MM annually with a complete no-trade clause.

It’s backloaded, of course, with salaries of $15MM in 2010 and $16MM in 2011.  The concern with Oswalt is his size and workload.  Last year he threw 269 innings, and it was 256 in ’04.  At least this year Houston should miss the playoffs and give him a bit of a break.

Baseball Prospectus says Oswalt should be worth about $11.3MM in ’07, and then it’s a downward spiral to $6MM in 2010.  This deal will likely prove to be quite the financial burden near the end; the Astros apparently did not learn their lesson after the Jeff Bagwell contract. 

Then again, Oswalt could certainly defy the projections.  The key to survival for him into his late 20s and early 30s will be the continued transition away from power pitching.  He’s got a career low strikeout rate this year, but you wouldn’t know it from his 3.25 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.   

Minor Moves: Diaz, Ardoin

A couple of small deals came over the wires recently. 

The Rangers acquired outfielder Victor Diaz for catcher Mike Nickeas.  Diaz, 24, is having big-time problems with Triple A this season (.606 OPS).  It’s surprising because he hit Triple A pitching pretty well as a 22 year-old.  He earned 280 ABs with the big club last year and managed to slug .468. 

Back in the summer of ’03, Diaz was sent from the Dodgers to the Mets in the Jeromy Burnitz deal.  He’s not known for his defense, and has been tried at 1B, 2B, 3B, C, LF, and RF in his career.  Perhaps a steady position and a change of scenery will get this once top-prospect back on track.

Nickeas is a 23 year-old catcher from Georgia Tech.  He has never done much offensively at Double A and will report to the Class A St. Lucie Mets. He could be a Major League backup a few years down the road.

Speaking of backup backstops, the Orioles claimed Danny Ardoin off waivers from the Rockies.  He’s a 32 year-old minor league lifer.  It’s hard to make this move sound interesting.  He played with Miguel Tejada in the minors, does that help?   

Red Sox Ask For Matt Kemp In David Wells Deal

According to both the Boston Herald and the Los Angeles Daily News, the Red Sox have asked for 21 year-old outfielder Matt Kemp in exchange for David Wells.

Tony Jackson of the L.A. paper actually suggests that the Red Sox requested a package of prospects including Kemp.  As in, more than just Kemp.  Jackson states that the request "probably makes the deal impossible unless Boston general manager Theo Epstein reduces his asking price."

That’s an understatement.  Six years of Matt Kemp for a month or two of David Wells?  That’d be even worse than two or three months of an infielder you don’t really need in exchange for Joel Guzman.  The Dodgers are also talking about adding John Mabry, for some reason.

Kemp turns 22 in September.  Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein named him as the fourth-best center field prospect in the game, behind Cameron Maybin, Chris Young, and Justin Upton.  Most of those will be household names in two or three years.  Goldstein mentions that Kemp’s size could force a move to a corner outfield position eventually.  Much has been made of Kemp’s power outage at Triple A, where he has three home runs in 43 games.  However, he’s still slugging .554 due to 14 doubles and six triples.  The power is fine. His plate discipline may need a little fine-tuning though.

Another reason Kemp and other top-flight prospects are probably staying put: anyone on the 40-man roster has to pass through waivers.  Why would the 29 other teams allow a stud outfield prospect to pass by unclaimed?  That would be one hell of a gentleman’s agreement. 


Smoltz Chats With Schuerholz

One thing I forgot to mention when quoting John Smoltz a couple of days ago was his reference to Schuerholz as "the homeboy upstairs."  Didn’t seem newsworthy.  However, there has been some minor debate within the Braves community.  Was it offensive, was it part of an agenda, stuff like that.  To see Smoltz and Schuerholz’s take on that, check out David O’Brien’s blog for the AJC.

More importantly, O’Brien mentions that "the Braves are surely going to pick up the option."  As I mentioned before, it’s a no-brainer.  The more interesting question is whether the two parties will hammer out a contract extension to allow Smoltz to finish his career as a Brave.  He’s stated his desire to do so publicly.

Red Sox May Trade David Wells

Buster Olney has the word: the Red Sox are shopping southpaw David Wells.  The 43 year-old has a deserved reputation as a big game pitcher, and any contender would love to have him.

Olney speculates that the Mets, Twins, D’Backs, Padres, Dodgers, Phillies, Cardinals, A’s, and Reds could get involved.  I suppose the White Sox, Giants, or even the Marlins could be interested as well.  Did you know Florida is just two games out of the wild card? 

UPDATE: Padres, Dodgers, and Cards are frontrunners according to Nick Cafardo.

2007 Free Agent Market: Closers

Updated 1-9-07

There’s nothing left on the closer market.

Smoltz Could Leave Braves

It seems like every couple of years, the Braves go through contract negotations with John Smoltz.  He’s been a Brave for all these years, it just seems inevitable that they’ll work something out.  However, a recent quote from Smoltz makes this offseason sound a little different:

All I know is, after these last two years and with my desire to work out, I’ve got two or three more years, easy. I used to always be of the mind-set that if it’s not here, it won’t be anywhere else.  But that’s not the case any more. I’ll pitch somewhere else.

Smoltz, 39, is having a Cy Young caliber season.  He’s got a 3.36 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 8.3 K/9 in 190 innings.  Shortly after the World Series, the Braves need to decide if he’s worth $8MM for 2007.

Smoltz received a four-year deal worth $31MM in November of 1996 following his Cy Young season.  He became baseball’s highest-paid pitcher at the time.  The results of the contract were 90 starts, one Tommy John surgery, and one season as closer.  His next multiyear deal was three years and $30 mil, with a club option as well.  He signed his current extension in December of 2004; it included a $6MM signing bonus to bring the average annual value to $9.3MM assuming the option is exercised.

That option, by the way, is a no-brainer.  Smoltz is worth $7.4MM next year according to Baseball Prospectus.  They project his value at just $11.5MM over the 2008-10 seasons, however.  The smart business move may be to just exercise the option and leave it at that.  That could result in a midsummer deal.  Smoltz’s former team, the Tigers, could have interest if he’s ever available.  Smoltz hails from Warren, Michigan and grew up in the Tigers’ system.

One thing that could maybe turn a few teams off: some comments Smoltz made a couple of years ago.  I haven’t been able to find out if he’s amended or clarified since.  And honestly most teams would probably ignore it the way they ignore DUIs and stuff like that.