August 2006

Tribune: Cubs Believe Ramirez Will Stay

According to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune:

"While the Cubs still believe Aramis Ramirez won’t exercise his opt-out clause after this season and leave $22 million on the table to become a free agent, they do have a third baseman in the system with a bright future. West Tenn’s Scott Moore, a 22-year-old prospect who was a first-round draft pick of Detroit in 2002, is tied for second in the Southern League with 20 home runs and ranks third with 68 RBIs. Moore, who was acquired with Roberto Novoa from Detroit in the Kyle Farnsworth trade, is at least a year away from the majors."

Ramirez’s contract, signed in April of last year, calls for $11MM in 2007 and $11.5MM in 2008.  The deal also has an $11MM mutual option for ’09 that becomes guaranteed with 270 games played from 2007-08.  How likely is this?  Here’s a look at Ramirez’s games played.

Age 23: 158 games
Age 24: 142 games
Age 25: 159 games
Age 26: 145 games
Age 27: 123 games
Age 28: 158 games (projected)

2005, Ramirez dealt with groin problems, lower back tightness, a sprained ankle, a bruised shin, and a quad injury.  The quad injury is what really caused the missed time, and it looks like an exception rather than the norm.  So I think it’s safe to say Ramirez is looking at a three-year, $33.5MM deal for his age 29-31 seasons.

One has to wonder whether the Tribune is quietly laying the groundwork for the Scott Moore era in Chicago.  Paul Sullivan hasn’t been a company man, though, so there are probably no hidden motives.  Cubs fans can rest easy for the moment; it appears Ramirez will remain a Cub.

The offseason won’t be without temptation, however.  Ramirez’s toughest competition at the hot corner: Aubrey Huff and Nomar Garciaparra.  He’s younger, he’s better, and he’s healthier than that pair.  The most comparable contract might be Troy Glaus at four guaranteed years, $45MM for 2005-08.  Glaus was entering his age 28 season, though he’d played just 149 games from 2003-04.  Ramirez, on the other hand, just posted his third consecutive 30 HR campaign.  There’s no doubt he could get four guaranteed years (as opposed to the current two) and at least $13MM annually. 

Either Ramirez A)doesn’t exercise his out clause and honors his deal (which is a hometown discount), B)tests the free agent market and finds several superior offers, or C)renegotiates his current deal.  Jim Hendry hopes for A; C seems a lot more likely.      

Minor Trades and Rumors

The Cubs unloaded Neifi Perez on the Tigers today, and it was no surprise Neifi got through waivers.  What team would want to be on the hook for $2.5MM for him next year?  Ditching Neifi at this point at least partially rights the wrong of signing him to an extension in the first place for Jim Hendry.  The Cubs’ "everything man" will be making outs atop of Detroit’s lineup now.  Even more impressive is that Hendry snagged a 22 year-old catching prospect, Chris Robinson, in the deal.

The Mets added righty reliever Guillermo Mota today.  Along with Oliver Perez, this is another project with plenty of upside.  Mota was one of the game’s top setup men a few years ago.

Tom Glavine‘s got a possible blood clot, which could mean season or career-ending surgery. At least his life is not in danger.  The news first appeared on an ESPN message board from a man said to be Glavine’s brother-in-law.  Back when Glavine appeared healthy, the same source indicated that the southpaw would finish his career with the Braves, at any salary.

Reggie Sanders may have cleared waivers.  Who wants a 38 year-old right fielder with a .248/.304/.424 line?  Don’t forget the $5MM he’s owed next year.   

From Yankees announcer Jim Kaat: the Rangers may be talking to the Orioles about Mark Teixeira.  Tex is from Maryland, for what it’s worth.

Plenty of buzz going around in various forms of media that the Red Sox may acquire reliever LaTroy Hawkins.  We’ll know soon enough.  The 33 year-old has, at least, kept the ball in the yard and exhibited good control with the Orioles this year.

Vernon Wells Trade On The Horizon?

Former Blue Jays assistant GM Keith Law stirred the pot a few days ago in his blog, mentioning that:

"Vernon Wells has told Blue Jays’ management that he has no intention of signing a contract extension to stay in Toronto."

J.P. Ricciardi responded by calling Law an idiot, and Wells himself said the conversation was fabricated.  While the drama here is amusing, let’s take a look at some suitors for Wells if Toronto does make a deal this winter.  It’s potentially a long list.

Red Sox – They can afford a long-term extension for Wells, and did shop Coco Crisp this July.  Wells is a top five defensive CF, and Crisp doesn’t even enter the conversation.  And I didn’t even mention the offensive difference.  The obvious problem: both of these teams are trying to win the AL East in 2007.  That makes a trade here highly unlikely.

White Sox – They’ve shown a strong commitment to Brian Anderson despite a very rough start.  Anderson has at least shown signs of being a league average offensive CF over the last two months, and his defense has drawn praise.  Kenny Williams is certainly capable of an unexpected splash, but there’s not a big need here for Wells.

Angels – Let’s hope the Halos realize next year that Garret Anderson is no longer a starting left fielder.  Juan Rivera has already stepped up to fill his shoes, and Wells could be added to play center.  That leaves Chones Figgins bouncing around again, but does his .698 OPS really need to play every day?

A’s – The A’s are committed to Mark Kotsay through 2008, though Kotsay’s performance has been less than inspiring this season.  There’s certainly a chance Billy Beane goes after Wells; the Oakland lineup has been missing a player like that.

MarinersAdam Jones isn’t ready for full-time duty this year, but he’s only 21.  Jeremy Reed will still be with the club next year to help out.  The Mariners should probably focus on starting pitching this winter.

Rangers – As has been speculated, the Rangers make an excellent fit for Wells.  Gary Matthews Jr. is on the wrong side of 30 and an impending free agent, so Texas is in search of a long-term center field solution.  Do they have the cash to lock up both Wells and Carlos Lee?  Probably not, but Lee is not guaranteed to stay in Texas this winter.  I think if he signs elsewhere the Rangers would step up their pursuit of Wells.

Astros – Houston could try some combo of Willy Taveras, Jason Lane, and Chris Burke out in center next season.  That could work, but with money to burn Tim Purpura is expected to bring in some big names.  Wells should be at the top of his list.

Cardinals – There’s plenty of debate about whether to exercise Jim Edmonds‘s $10MM option for 2007. I think the Cards should do it, but trading for Wells would be even better.  I’m not sure how that would make Colby Rasmus feel, but the team could cross that bridge if they come to it.  There’s probably room in the budget for one major splash, though it should probably be a pitcher.

Cubs – The unfortunate lack of a Juan Pierre trade this summer may indicate that the Cubs want to keep him around for three, four more years.  Bringing in a star like Wells would be exciting for Cubs fans, but the team seems more likely to focus its dollars on Carlos Lee and some starting pitching.

Reds – Only if Junior will finally move over.  In Ryan Freel and Chris Denorfia, the Reds already have some workable options for center if that does happen.  Wells seems a very long shot for Cincy.

Dodgers – How about an outfield of J.D. Drew, Andre Ethier, and Wells?  I can’t see any reason Ned Colletti wouldn’t be involved if Wells is available this winter.  They’ve got an opening, the cash, and the talent to make a deal.

Rockies – Now this would be a fun destination.  Bring some firepower to the middle of the Colorado order and sparkling outfield defense.  There would be a lot of athleticism between Matt Holliday and Wells.  It’s not a bad idea if the financials and prospects could be hammered out.

Looks like the major players would be the Texas teams and Dodgers, with the Angels and Red Sox as dark horses.  Wells grew up in Arlington, Texas, for what it’s worth.   

Phillies Acquire Jamie Moyer

Found via RotoWorld, FSN West is reporting that the Phillies have traded for 43 year-old southpaw Jamie Moyer.

In 25 starts this year, Moyer’s been just about league average.  He makes about $6.5MM this year and has been a Mariner since 1996.  Last year, Moyer used his no-trade rights to block trades to Houston and Atlanta at the trading deadline.

The changeup artist has remained effective into his early 40s.  Here and there, he’s been stricken by home run problems.  He’s given up a lot this year while playing half his games in a ballpark that’s neutral for home runs.  Safeco does deflate right-handed homers by 12%, though, and Moyer is a southpaw.  Citizens Bank Park inflates home runs by 21% overall, 20% for righthanders.

The Phillies are fourth in the wild card standings, 2.5 games behind the Reds.

Cardinals Acquire Preston Wilson

In a minor move this morning, the Cardinals acquired outfielder Preston Wilson.  The 32 year-old had been released by the Astros.

Wilson is expected to step in for Chris Duncan if the clock strikes midnight or for Jim Edmonds if this post-concussion thing persists.  Wilson at least has an OK ability to hit southpaws most years, whereas Edmonds has been slipping in ’06.  Still, Edmonds mashed them in ’05 and this year’s sample is only 95 at-bats.

The Astros released Wilson after his SLG plummeted to just .405 this season.  He slugged .443 in Washington last year and PECOTA projected .463 for ’06.  I know I thought he’d hit 30 home runs playing half his games in Minute Maid. 

Rosenthal: Red Sox May Make Eric Hinske Trade

According to our good friend Ken Rosenthal, Toronto 1B/3B/RF/DH Eric Hinske has cleared waivers and the Red Sox are discussing a trade.  Rosenthal mentions that Hinske was pulled from the lineup tonight.

Moving Hinske and his contract makes good sense given the emergence of outfielder/DH Adam Lind.  Hinske, who turned 29 this month, will make $5.626MM next year to finish his contract.  Hinske has declined over the years since winning the ROY in 2002 by hitting .279/.365/.481 and playing third base.  This season, he’s learned how to play right field and has a career high .513 SLG. 

As a rookie, Hinske’s numbers were boosted by limited exposure to southpaws.  He faced them in about 22% of his plate appearances that year.  In 2003-04, the Jays set him loose to face lefties in about 29% of his PAs.  He did terribly.  He didn’t really do much against righties either during those seasons either.  This year and last, they’ve cut him back to face lefties less than 20% of his PAs.  Maybe just the prospect of facing southpaws on a regular basis frightens Hinske into performing poorly against all pitchers.

He wouldn’t have that problem in Boston, where he’d form a formidable platoon with Wily Mo Pena.  It’d be a fine move by Theo Epstein for this year and ’07, though there are some decent short term options for rightfielders this winter

UPDATE: According to Gordon Edes, the deal is done pending commissioner approval.

Available Starting Pitchers: The Horses

One very important aspect in a starting pitcher is the ability to go deep into games.  Teams can avoid resorting to inferior middle relievers if the starter can consistently pitch seven innings.

Only two starters this year – Brandon Webb and Roy Halladay – are averaging seven innings per start.  Neither of those guys will be available this winter.  Let’s take a look at some starters who are available and can save bullpens.

Jason Schmidt, in addition to being one of the NL’s best this year, has averaged 6.83 innings per start.  The 33 year-old is destined for one of the offseason’s biggest contracts; perhaps similar to the deal Pedro Martinez signed.

Roy Oswalt‘s name has been popping up in trade rumors.  Oswalt has averaged 6.78 innings per start this year; he’ll turn 29 soon.  Oswalt has been worked hard, throwing almost 270 innings last year and 256 the year before.  We see how that type of workload has affected Mark Buehrle.  Oswalt’s strikeout rate has slipped to a career low 6.2 per nine innings in 2006.

Dontrelle Willis could be made available by Florida.  He’s 15th in baseball with 6.61 innings per start.  The 24 year-old has been abused by Joe Girardi; he leads baseball in starts with 110-121 pitches (14).  In case you’re curious, Carlos Zambrano leads in starts with 122-132 pitches (5).

Groundball specialist Jake Westbrook has also been mentioned in trade rumors, with the Diamondbacks surfacing as a possible suitor.  Westbrook turns 29 in September and has increased his innings per start to 6.55 this season.  Westbrook is underrated; he’ll make just $5.6MM next year and is a model of consistency and durability.

2007 Free Agent Market: Starting Pitchers Part 4

2006 League Averages for Pitchers:
AL: 4.59 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 3.20 BB/9, 6.38 K/9, 1.14 HR/9
NL: 4.56 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 3.43 BB/9, 6.60 K/9, 1.12 HR/9

Mark Redman – The Royals inexplicably failed to trade the 32 year-old lefty this July.  Redman has only posted a sub-5 ERA in one month out of the entire season (June).  He’s earning $4.5MM for his efforts.  He’ll probably end up as someone’s fifth starter next year.

Mets Pursuing Shawn Green

According to the East Valley Tribune, the Mets are hot on the tail of Arizona right fielder Shawn Green.  Jack Magruder tells us:

"There are strong indications that the Diamondbacks will ask Shawn Green to waive his no-trade clause to facilitate a trade to the New York Mets, although Green said after Saturday’s game no such request has been made. The Mets asked the D-Backs about Green earlier this week, after he cleared waivers, sources said Saturday. 

While Green can veto a trade to a team other than San Diego, Anaheim or San Francisco, a deal to the Mets would reunite him with good friend Carlos Delgado, who was in Green’s wedding and played with Green in Toronto from 1993-99."

This week, the Mets have been using Endy Chavez, Lastings Milledge, and newly acquired Ricky Ledee in right field.  Chavez, 28, is playing the best ball of his career and is even showing a little pop (.436 SLG).  At .284/.349/.429, Green has a nearly identical stat line to Chavez.  Any improvement would be minimal, but perhaps the Mets could acquire Green without surrendering much.

2007 Free Agent Market: Starting Pitchers Part 3

2006 League Averages for Pitchers:
AL: 4.59 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 3.20 BB/9, 6.38 K/9, 1.14 HR/9
NL: 4.56 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 3.43 BB/9, 6.60 K/9, 1.12 HR/9

Mark Mulder – A lost season for Mulder, who had rotator cuff surgery in September.  He won’t be ready for Opening Day.  You can blame his batting-practice like perfomance on the injury, though was K rate is identical to last year.  When you’re this hittable things can get ugly in a hurry; just ask Bruce Chen.  He could bounce back somewhat next year in his age 29 season, but shoulder surgery is tough to return from. 

Tomo Ohka – The 30 year-old missed a chunk of the season with a rotator cuff injury.  Ohka is reliably a tick above average in the NL.  He’s a solid fourth or fifth starter and should get something close to two years and $12MM.

Ramon Ortiz – Ortiz, 33, gives up a ton of hits but compensates with good control.  If you can get 200 innings of league average ball out of him for $3MM, that’s not too bad.

Chan Ho Park – Park remains quite hittable, but at least he’s harnessed his control in San Diego.  He earned a whopping $15MM in 2006 to finish off his awful contract.  Any starter who keeps his ERA under 5 and WHIP under 1.40 will hook on somewhere.