October 2006

Tribune: Cubs After Heilman

According to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs have interest in acquiring Aaron Heilman to be their fifth starter in 2007.  Heilman will be 28 next season.

Sullivan notes that Jim Hendry hopes to bring in one or two frontline starters not including Heilman. He doesn’t mention what the Cubs have that the Mets would want…Eric Patterson?

Unfounded Rumor: Aramis Ramirez

I have debated about posting this one because I can’t verify the source.  Some folks have confirmed that this is indeed in the ballpark, so I’m going to go with it.  As you know, MLBTradeRumors doesn’t pretend to be a newspaper, so I am just going to post this info under Unfounded Rumors because I can’t get multiple sources to confirm.  The beauty of a self-owned blog I guess.

I am told that Aramis Ramirez‘s agent Paul Kinzer is asking for six years at $15MM per or seven years at $14MM annually.

Jim Hendry’s counteroffer: five years, $70MM guaranteed (11/12/15/16/16), sixth year vests at $14MM with a team option and seventh year a player option at $14MM.  Full no-trade 2007-09, partial no-trade 2010-13.

If true, it seems like a gap the Cubs can close.  Thoughts? 

Mariners Backing Off On Matsuzaka?

Larry Stone has an excellent article for the Seattle Times outlining the process for Daisuke Matsuzaka.  He mentions two baseball sources who indicated that the Mariners will make just a token bid for the coveted hurler.  To me this info only cements the Yankees’ status as the frontrunner.

Instead, Stone mentions that Bill Bavasi might focus his money to acquire Jason Schmidt or Barry Zito

It’s expected that Seibu will post Matsuzaka in the first or second week of November.  After that teams will have four days to submit bids.  MLB will notify Seibu of the winning bid amount but not the team.  If the bid is accepted, a contract must be reached within 30 days. 

10 Moves I’d Make

I heard that Buster Olney was going to do a column with this topic soon.  Before I read his here’s my two cents.

1. Padres: Sign Akinori Iwamura for third base.  The Phils would be a fine fit as well.  Japan produced bargains like Kenji Johjima and Takashi Saito last year; Iwamura should come at a reasonable salary as he’s something of an unknown.  He’ll play good defense and could even spell Khalil Greene at shortstop if needed.  I’d give him $7-8MM annually.

2. Cardinals: Trade Chris Duncan to the Cardinals for Mike Gonzalez.  Both clubs need to capitalize on fine seasons by these two players, and each could fill a need.  Duncan is a natural first baseman, and the Pirates have a glaring need for a cheap power hitter who can draw some walks.  The Cards have a void at the back end of their bullpen with Adam Wainwright moving to the rotation.

3. White Sox: Trade Freddy Garcia to the Diamondbacks for Scott Hairston and Juan Cruz.  Now don’t yell at me Sox fans, it’s more of a general idea than the exact trade.  If Garcia is worth more then I’m sure Kenny will extract that.  But in Hairston and Cruz, the Sox would have their left fielder and a nasty bullpen arm for Don Cooper to work with.  At the least, these two clubs get along so perhaps they can help each other.

4. Devil Rays: Keep Elijah Dukes.  To me, a guy needs a change of scenery when he’s not playing up to his talent.  Dukes posted a .400 OBP as a 22 year-old in Triple A.  He could be a great option at first base in the near future for Tampa Bay.  The D-Rays should find a way to make it work instead of trading him for fifty cents on the dollar.

5.  Cubs: Trade Bob Howry and Jacque Jones to the Yankees for Gary Sheffield.  Is this lopsided towards the Cubs?  Probably.  Feel free to tweak it so as not to outrage Yankee fans.  But if the Cubs could move one or two of their expensive but effective relievers and rid themselves of Jones, it’d be a great deal for them.  I would also sign Gary Matthews Jr. to play center to balance out Sheff’s defense.

6. Tigers: Sign Barry Bonds.  This is stolen directly from Nate Silver.  What can I say?  I’m on that bandwagon.  Bonds is exactly what Detroit needs.

7.  Astros: Sign Jose Guillen for right field.  Coming off an injury, Guillen could be a bargain.  His defense paired with Willy Taveras in center could be an excellent combo.  With Luke Scott in left I think they’d have a solid outfield.

8. Rangers: Trade Mike Young to the Orioles for Erik Bedard.  OK, I just pulled this deal out of my ass.  But in Bedard the Rangers get a 28 year-old who keeps the ball in the yard and has three years until free agency.  Young, while a great player, is poor defensively and will be 30 next year.  He has two more seasons under contract at a very reasonable price.  This trade is contingent on #9…

9. Orioles: Trade Miguel Tejada for Jeremy Bonderman.  If the Tigers are really shopping Bonderman, you just can’t pass this up.  Bonderman replaces Bedard in the rotation and becomes the ace; Mike Young moves in at short.  I think Orioles fans would be excited with these moves (I could be wrong though).  The Tigers would then move Carlos Guillen to first base and add an impact hitter in Tejada.  Would Bonds and Tejada be great for clubhouse chemistry?  No.  But that could be a very solid all-around club.

10. Mets: Sign Barry Zito.  The Mets need some stability here with Pedro out, Glavine and El Duque in question, and mostly question marks rounded out the rest of the rotation.  I see the Yanks getting Matsuzaka, so Zito is the best long-term bet for a starter.

Go ahead, have your say in the comments.  Remember that this is all in good fun and these are just ideas I cooked up.  You’ll notice I left out all sorts of good stuff like the Red Sox and Alfonso Soriano.  Have at it! 

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Sheffield And The Mets

Word from Gotham Baseball’s Mark Healey is that the Mets might be a good fit for Gary Sheffield.  Apparently the team’s COO Jeff Wilpon is quite fond of Sheff.  There are several other reasons why this could work; check out Healey’s post.

On a related note, Newsday reports that Brian Cashman has a Sheffield deal in place but has yet to pull the trigger.  A trade is described as "inevitable," with the Cubs, Phillies, Rangers, Indians, Padres, Giants, Braves, and Astros as possible suitors.  The Cubs would have to find a new spot for Jacque Jones; perhaps he would be a component of the deal as the Yanks expressed interest in him last summer.

2007 MLB Free Agents: Ted Lilly

Today let’s take a closer look at free agent southpaw Ted Lilly.

Lilly made $4MM this year, failing to hit any of his innings pitched incentives.  He’ll turn 31 in January and should be able to snag a three-year contract without a problem.  2006 was not his best season despite the career high 15 wins; Lilly’s 2004 effort was better and included an All-Star appearance.  He’s said publicly that he’d like to return to the Bay Area to play with the Giants or again with the A’s.  The Jays have some interest in retaining him at the right price.

Performance-wise you’re getting a strikeout pitcher who’s tough to hit and battle-tested in the AL East.  He’s a flyball pitcher and is prone to worse than average HRs allowed.  His control’s a problem too, as Lilly walks about four batters per nine innings.   After his fastball, Lilly mixes in an equal number of curves, sliders, and changeups.  He’s tougher on lefties but not terribly so.

Some past history on Theodore Roosevelt Lilly:

July: Traded from Dodgers to Expos in deadline deal for Mark Grudzielanek and Carlos Perez.
Tossed 213.2 innings, including winter ball.

March: Couldn’t quite crack the Expo rotation.
May: Called up for a few weeks.
June/July: MRI on left shoulder shows no significant damage.
September: Called up again.
October: Shoulder surgery.

March: Traded to Yanks along with Jake Westbrook in Hideki Irabu deal.
Pitched mostly at Triple A as a 24 year-old.

April: Called up, whiffs 10 Red Sox. Remains in rotation.
August: Suspended for nailing Scott Spiezio with a pitch.  Sent back to minors.
September: Called up, using his last option.

April: Makes team as a reliever/spot starter.  Remains in rotation after injuries to starters.
Summer: Shuttles between starting and relief with Pettitte and El Duque injuries.
July: Traded to A’s in 3-team deal involving Jeff Weaver and Carlos Pena. Enters Oakland rotation. Hits DL later that month with inflamed left shoulder.
September: Returns from DL/rehab.

March: Reworks mechanics to take strain off shoulder.
July: With Lilly struggling in rotation, a trade rumor involving Kelvim Escobar surfaces. He stays put.
September: Misses start with back spasms.
November: Traded to Toronto for Bobby Kielty.

January: Signs two-year deal.
February: Reports to camp with sore wrist but remains healthy thereafter.

February: Misses time with left shoulder tendinitis.
April: Begins season on DL but makes April starts.
May: Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg discusses Lilly’s perceived lack of intensity.
July: Biceps tendinitis sends him to the DL again.
September: Comes off DL.  Experiences shoulder blade discomfort.

January: Signs one-year, $4MM deal.
March: Makes change in follow-through. Later in month, experiences minor right shoulder injury.
April: Makes first start despite back/shoulder issues.
June: Leaves start with shoulder tightness.
August: Misses start with stiff neck. Later in month, has heated argument with manager John Gibbons after being pulled from awful start.  Gibbons gets bloody nose.
October: Lilly files for free agency.

Well, that injury history definitely rules out Baltimore.  Whoever signs Lilly is really going to have to take a long look at that left shoulder; he’s yet to throw 200 innings in the Majors.

White Sox Exercise Options

The White Sox made four no-brainer moves today, exercising options to retain Mark Buehrle, Jermaine Dye, and Tadahito Iguchi while declining an option for Dustin Hermanson.  Hermanson could still be re-signed at a lesser price.

Two needs are clear for Kenny Williams this offseason: he’ll have to import an outfielder and a reliever.  He’ll probably try to unload Scott Podsednik for something useful.  Other possible trade bait could include any member of the 2006 rotation or third baseman Joe Crede.

Aramis Ramirez Opts For Free Agency

It’s been reported by Bruce Levine on ESPN 1000 in Chicago that Aramis Ramirez has opted out of his contract and filed for free agency.

Daily Herald sportswriter Bruce Miles calls it a formality, reminding Cubs fans that the Cubs still have the exclusive right to sign him for a while.

Hiroki Kuroda To Stay In Japan?

Japanese free agent and ERA leader Hiroki Kuroda is leaning towards playing for the Hanshin Tigers in 2007.  Kuroda was said to be on the Cubs’ wish list.

Should Kuroda join Hanshin, the likelihood of Kei Igawa being posted increases because Hanshin would have their ace.  However, Kuroda could still be convinced to play in the U.S. and will take about a week to decide.

Japanese Players In MLB

Nerd that I am, I decided to compile a spreadsheet of all 28 Japanese players who have played in Major League Baseball.  You can Download japanese_players_in_mlb_102906.xls here.

Some highlights and fun facts:

You might think that a Japanese player first played in MLB in 1995, when Hideo Nomo took the Majors by storm.  Not true.  The first Japanese player to play in MLB was reliever Masanori Murakami back in 1964 for the Giants.  There’s an interesting story behind that.  Not only was Murakami the first, he was the youngest at 20 years old.  The next youngest was Mac Suzuki, who came to the Mariners at 21.

The most common type of player to come from Japan is a reliever.  Relievers make up almost half of the players to come from Japan to MLB.

The Mets have had eight Japanese players, more than any other team.  The best year from any of them was Tsuyoshi Shinjo’s 2001 when he amassed 3.5 wins.  Shinjo played all three outfield positions for New York.

Of course you could guess that the best-ever season by a Japanese player was one of Ichiro‘s.  It was his ’01 debut, when he was worth 9 wins.  Best year by a pitcher was Hideo Nomo in 2003; he was worth nearly 8 wins for L.A.

It’s also obvious that Ichiro has totaled the most wins throughout his career (more than 45).  You may be surprised to learn that Hideki Matsui places just fifth on the list, behind Nomo, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, and Tomo Ohka.

I bet you think 2006 was the best year for Japanese players, what with guys like Takashi Saito and Kenji Johjima joining MLB.  Nope – Japanese players were slightly more productive in 2002.  Back in ’02 there were major contributions from Ichiro, Nomo, Ohka, and Kaz Sasaki.  You can point to Matsui and Shinji Mori‘s injuries as the reason 2006 wasn’t the banner year.  Regardless, I’m sure we’ll fly past the Japanese contribution of 36 wins from 2002 in the upcoming season.