February 2007

A Little Help: Dodgers

In my recent survey, one significant finding was that if I carefully select some additional contributors to MLBTradeRumors.com, most of you would like it (88.7%).  Over 800 people responded to that question.  More rumors, news, and analysis = good.

So, today I will start that process by asking for one person to serve as my Dodgers correspondent.  I feel that an area that might be underrepresented on this site is the west coast.  What am I looking for?

  • A person with solid writing skills whose style fits with MLBTradeRumors.  Basically, I’ll know it when I see it.  I’m looking for the same type of analysis you see here every day.
  • Someone who can post up-to-the-minute Dodgers rumors as they surface.  I want a person who follows the Dodgers religiously and will have every source (traditional newspapers, high quality blogs, radio) covered.  You should be near a computer most times and able to hop on and write a post if something happens.
  • While this person is probably a Dodgers fan, objective analysis is preferred.  Additionally it would be nice to provide the local vibe/sentiment that people might otherwise not know about.  That might sound contradictory but I don’t think it is.
  • The benefit to you: a decent-sized audience and a chance to do a little sportswriting.
  • Email me at mlbtraderumors@gmail.com if this interests you and explain why you’re the best candidate.  I’ll choose one person and unfortunately won’t be able to reply to all.  A sample post of a rumor/signing (whether fake or true) might help make your case.  Note: long-winded posts are typically not my style! Brevity is a plus – I like 3-4 paragraph posts.
  • I’m going to be careful finding the right person, and if I as well as the readers like the results, we will add some more correspondents for other teams down the road.

NOTE: Please don’t contact me about doing this for other teams.  I just want a Dodgers person at the moment.

2007 Washington Nationals

Ah, I bet you thought I wouldn’t come through with this one today, eh?  Time to take a look at those lovable Washington Nationals.

Jim Bowden’s contract obligations:

C – Brian Schneider – $3.5MM
C – Jesus Flores – $0.38MM
C/1B – Robert Fick – $0.38MM
1B – Larry Broadway – $0.38MM
2B – Felipe Lopez – $3.9MM
SS – Cristian Guzman – $4.2MM
3B – Ryan Zimmerman – $0.38MM
IF – Ron Belliard – $0.75MM
IF – Travis Lee – $0.38MM
LF – Ryan Church – $0.38MM
CF – Nook Logan – $0.38MM
RF – Austin Kearns – $3.5MM
OF – Chris Snelling – $0.45MM

SP – John Patterson – $0.85MM
SP – Jerome Williams – $0.5MM
SP – Tim Redding – $0.38MM
SP – Shawn Hill – $0.38MM
SP – Matt Chico – $0.38MM
SP – Beltran Perez – $0.38MM

RP – Chad Cordero – $4.15MM
RP – Luis Ayala – $1.3MM
RP – Jon Rauch – $0.38MM
RP – Ryan Wagner – $0.38MM
RP – Ray King – $0.38MM
RP – Levale Speigner – $0.38MM


1B – Nick Johnson – $5.5MM (June return expected for broken femur)
OF – Alex Escobar – $0.53MM (May start year on DL following Sept.labrum surgery)
SP – Brandon Claussen – $0.38MM (Hopes for a May return from rotator cuff surgery)
SP – Mike O’Connor – $0.38MM (November elbow surgery)

That’s my exhausting take on the 25-man roster.  I’m no roster construction expert, but I read up on some popular Nats blogs and took my best shot.  (By the way – Nationals Power is the new kid on the block. Check it out.)  The players listed here amount to $35-36MM.

The Nats are committed to keeping Rule 5 pick Jesus Flores and want to use him as a backup catcher.  Baseball America thinks a year on Washington’s bench would hurt the slugging catcher’s development, given that he’s jumping up from A ball.  My version of the roster has Fick so that Flores won’t get overexposed.

Washington will be without perhaps their best hitter in Johnson until June or so.  Broadway appears to be the favorite to start at first, with Travis Lee and Dmitri Young also in the mix.  I’ll go with Lee for his oft-cited glovework.  It’s still an open competition at this point.

Lopez has played twelve games at 2B in his Major League career, but the Nationals will try it in hopes of getting some value out of Guzman.  Should Guzzie bomb again, Lopez moves to short and Belliard takes over at second.

It seems Church will get a crack at starting in left under a fresh manager, so he needs to make the most of it.  Snelling will provide ample competition. 

Overall, only Lopez, Zimmerman, and maybe Kearns can be expected to provide above average offense for their positions.  This team will struggle to score runs, but expectations are low anyway. On the bright side, the defense looks respectable.

You can see my guess at the rotation; the first four seem fairly likely.  Chico, a 23 year-old southpaw who came over in the Livan Hernandez deal, hasn’t pitched above Double A yet.  He’s got a four-pitch mix and sits in the low 90s.  An ERA below 5 would be a success if he makes the team.  He’s got Jarrod Washburn among his comps.

The point has been made that this motley crew of starters can’t be worse than last year’s, and I agree.  Redding, Williams, and Claussen are the right kind of gambles for the Nationals.  I think they’d be satisfied if one solid guy emerged behind Patterson for ’08.

The pen is an intriguing mix, the purported strength of the club.  Should Ayala bounce back from elbow surgery, he’ll form an underrated trio with Cordero and Rauch.  King adds character, while Speigner is a Rule 5 attempt who closed in Double A last year.

Sure, the Nats will be bad.  Still, they’ve got an impressive rookie manager and the ability to play the spoiler on certain nights.  You gotta start somewhere.

Matthews Jr. Acquired HGH

According to SI.com, Angels center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. was allegedly sent HGH in August of 2004. A number of other high-profile athletes were linked to Tuesday’s steroid raid.

Interestingly, Matthews’s big league success actually began in 2004, and his isolated power has remained steady since that season.  It seems possible that he started taking performance-enhancing drugs at the beginning of the ’04 season, but who knows.

Will the Angels be able to use this as a way out of his lousy five-year, $50MM contract?  Highly unlikely, in my opinion.  HGH wasn’t on the banned substance list until 2005, and Matthews has never tested positive for anything.  There probably won’t be any suspension and the Jason Giambi situation indicates that the Angels can’t void his contract based on this information.

Here’s a link at Matthews’s minor league teammates in ’04.  Based on the SI.com article, one of them may have been involved as well.

Cuban To Bid For Cubs?

UPDATE: Cuban shoots down the rumor.  Today has been a big day for shot-down rumors.  Well here’s a rumor that’s about to come true: I’m planning on making tacos for dinner.

Radar Online is reporting that Mark Cuban is set to offer the Tribune Company $625MM for the Cubs.  That’s about 40% more than the recent Forbes estimate of the team’s worth.  The Tribune refused to comment.

If Cuban were to successfully purchase the club, he’d be saddled with some painful backloaded contracts.  Take the ’09 Cubs – they have four players under contract for $12-16MM (Lee, Ramirez, Soriano, Lilly).  And Marquis, Blanco, and DeRosa locked in as well.  That’s $71MM on the books for seven players.  It won’t be fun to be the person digging out from Jim Hendry’s hole. 

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Cards Hope To Woo Clemens

UPDATE: Hendricks squashed the rumor.

The big story this morning: Walt Jocketty and co. met at length with Roger Clemens‘s agent Randy Hendricks yesterday.  Other clients’ of Hendricks were the main topic, but Roger’s name came up.  Unlike this winter’s Barry Bonds rumor, Jocketty isn’t denying interest. 

The Cardinals have some extra money after missing out on various pitching targets this winter.  Clemens is quite a longshot, but it’s certainly fun to speculate.  This is the single move with the largest possible impact for St. Louis.  Adding 100 innings of the Rocket would probably improve the Cardinals by 3-4 wins, based on PECOTA’s projected WARP.  And Murray Chass just stopped reading this post.

Aside from Clemens, the Cards could pursue Carl Pavano, Jon Lieber, or Brad Penny.  Penny is the possible impact arm and of course would draw much more interest if he’s available.  His overall impact would probably be similar to that of Clemens, but the bounty is to be paid in prospects.  Colby Rasmus, Jaime Garcia, and Chris Duncan could be targets of L.A.

MLBTradeRumors Survey

I present to you…the first ever MLBTradeRumors.com reader survey.  If you would do me a favor by answering these twelve questions, it would be much appreciated.  Thanks.

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Ms Could Trade Reed, Broussard

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s John Hickey reports that fringe players Jeremy Reed and Ben Broussard stand a decent chance of being dealt this spring.  With Ichiro in center and Vidro at DH, one or both may be expendable.

Reed remains a valuable commodity, a perfect guy for a team like the Marlins to acquire at fifty cents on the dollar.  He enters his age 26 season having survived a trade from the White Sox, a partially torn wrist ligament, Red Sox trade rumors, a serious wrist sprain, and a broken thumb.  The Fielding Bible called him "an up-and-coming elite center fielder" a year ago, but he’s without a starting gig now. 

Can Reed bounce back from an awful .217/.260/.377 line?  Baseball Prospectus has him at .267/.333/.399 for ’07; ZiPS calls for .262/.335/.393.  We have a consensus.  The average AL CF hit .275/.334/.437 last year; it was .264/.335/.418 in the NL.  There’s reason to believe Reed could provide league average offense and excellent defense for a good price for some team in ’07. 

Broussard is a 30 year-old 1B/DH.  He’s been used as a platoon guy, but doesn’t really have the splits to back that up.  As a $3.55MM bench player, he doesn’t have much use for the Mariners. On the plus side, he is a talented beat-boxer.

New-Age Stats

Murray Chass has had enough.  Enough of Roger, Bernie, and A-Rod.  Me too, despite the generation gap between Chass and I.  Still, I know that 70 year-old guys and 25 year-old guys are going to have different takes on the game of baseball.  This is only logical.  But to create this divide between those who like stats and those who don’t is silly.  If I brought up VORP to my grandpa or the guys at work the baseball conversations would die pretty quickly.  There are many different ways to appreciate the game.

Chass, however, comes out firing against "new-age" statistics. Baseball Prospectus keeps its cool and would just like to talk. Meanwhile, Fire Joe Morgan shot back with the venom I was craving.

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2007 Oakland Athletics

Next up in our refreshed team outlooks, the A’s.

Billy Beane’s contract obligations:

C – Jason Kendall – $8MM
C – Adam Melhuse – $0.815MM
1B – Dan Johnson – $0.38MM
2B – Mark Ellis – $3.5MM
SS – Bobby Crosby – $2.5MM
3B – Eric Chavez – $9.5MM
IF – Marco Scutaro – $1.55MM
IF – Antonio Perez – $0.5MM
LF – Nick Swisher – $0.38MM
CF – Mark Kotsay – $7.5MM
RF – Milton Bradley – $4MM
OF – Bobby Kielty – $2.1MM
OF – Shannon Stewart – $1MM + incentives
DH – Mike Piazza – $8.5MM

SP – Esteban Loaiza – $7MM
SP – Dan Haren – $2.2MM
SP – Rich Harden – $2MM
SP – Joe Blanton – $0.38MM 
SP – Joe Kennedy – $2.8MM

RP – Alan Embree – $2.25MM
RP – Kiko Calero – $1.6MM
RP – Jay Witasick – $1.5MM
RP – Justin Duchscherer – $1.1875MM
RP – Chad Gaudin – $0.38MM
RP – Huston Street – $0.38MM
RP – Brad Halsey – $0.38MM

On the fringe: Halsey, Perez, Lenny Dinardo, Ryan Goleski, Jay Marshall

It appears to be a $72MM payroll.  As you’ll notice, the A’s have a bit of a roster crunch if everyone is healthy.  I’ve listed 26 players because I’m not sure who gets sent down or dealt.  It seems one of Halsey or Perez won’t break camp with the team, as the A’s don’t want Piazza as the backup catcher.  One injury or trade may solve this problem.  Two injuries/trades could clear space for an interesting Rule 5 project like Goleski.      

Johnson seems the favorite to earn the first base job, and maybe correction of his double vision can help him return to average 1B production.  I know he’s got it in him.  If I’m wrong, Erubiel Durazo or Daric Barton will get a shot.

The position players are otherwise locked in, but how many times will we see that starting eight on the field at once?  Johnson, Kendall, and Swisher may be the only guys to avoid the DL this year out of the group.  To be fair, Kotsay is always kind of day-to-day with his back but he’s stayed on the field the past few seasons.  As for Chavez – is he the picture of health or are his injuries a major concern?  Both those articles came out on the same day.  And you know all about the issues of Crosby, Ellis, and Bradley.  The team’s defense appears well above average when the regulars are on the field.

Haren and Blanton are the two starters who can be counted on for 30+ starts.  Loaiza doesn’t scare me much, and Kennedy can be replaced by numerous candidates if he can’t handle the switch to starting.  Jason Windsor might be able to hurl some 85mphers past Vlad and co as the sixth man.  Harden is the wild card.  He’s got ace potential but has been derailed for years since a blister rippled into a sprained elbow ligament.  He’s the difference maker, as this is a pitching and defense team in my opinion.

The bullpen is deep; this team should be involved in plenty of low-scoring games.  A power core of Swisher/Piazza/Chavez can be quite good, with a solid supporting cast.  It’s true the A’s had some bad luck on certain injuries last year, but they’ll need a similar amount of career years healthwise to be an AL superpower.

2007 Chicago Cubs

A reader suggested that during this slow rumor period, with 30+ days until the season starts, I do Team Outlooks once again.  Sounds like a good idea to me; a lot has changed with most teams.  Let’s kick it off with the Cubs.

Jim Hendry’s contract obligations:

C – Michael Barrett – $4.5MM + $0.133 of signing bonus = 4.63MM
C – Henry Blanco – $1.8MM
1B – Derrek Lee – $13MM
2B – Mark DeRosa – $4.33MM
SS – Cesar Izturis – $4.15MM
3B – Aramis Ramirez – $8MM + $1MM of signing bonus = $9MM
IF – Daryle Ward – $1MM
IF – Ryan Theriot – $0.38MM
LF – Cliff Floyd – $3MM + incentives/Matt Murton – $0.38MM
CF – Alfonso Soriano – $9MM
RF – Jacque Jones – $4MM
OF – Angel Pagan – $0.38MM

SP – Carlos Zambrano – $12.4MM
SP – Ted Lilly – $5MM
SP – Rich Hill – $0.38MM
SP – Jason Marquis – $4.75MM
SP – Mark Prior – $3.575MM
SP – Wade Miller – $1.5MM + incentives

RP – Ryan Dempster – $5MM
RP – Bob Howry – $4MM
RP – Scott Eyre – $3.5MM
RP – Kerry Wood – $1.75MM + incentives
RP – Will Ohman – $0.9MM
RP – Neal Cotts – $0.825MM
RP – Mike Wuertz – $0.38MM

I know I’ve got a 13-man pitching staff and 26 total players here, but we can safely assume one of these pitchers will be on the DL at any given time.  I have the 2007 payroll around $99MM.  Notice how the Cubs backloaded contracts for guys like Ramirez, Soriano, Lilly, and Marquis.  They have a clear win-now strategy and could probably add one more impact $10MM player via trade if a large need surfaced.  Could be trouble in ’09 though.

OBP issues notwithstanding, I think the Cubs’ offense is clearly above average.  Just looking at league positional averages, only Izturis seems obviously below.  DeRosa should be about league average at 2B.  They didn’t just add Soriano over Juan Pierre – they’re replacing crap 1B production with an apparently healthy Lee.  Left field could be improved as well.

Defense will be a concern with this club.  Izturis and Lee can certainly handle their positions, but the rest are not known for glovework.  Soriano is completely untested at a key defensive position, and Jones wouldn’t be great either.  If Felix Pie can give the Cubs league average CF offense right now, they should play him in center and ship Jones out for whatever.  Lilly and Hill would be forever thankful.   

The starting rotation should be the key to the Cubs’ success. If this group can manage a collective 4.50 ERA, they’ll be in the top half of the league.  I have the Cubs coming in around 4.15, which is probably on the optimistic side.  It’s because I have Hill at 3.55 and 120 innings of Prior at 4.00.  Then again, I don’t expect Marquis/Miller to be much below 5.00 if at all.  I don’t think the Cubs need to rely on Prior/Miller.  Sean Gallagher, Angel Guzman, or Sean Marshall could fill in capably as the #5 if neither rehab project pans out.  I like the depth, and it’ll be a good staff if Zambrano, Lilly, and Hill are healthy.

The Cubs seem to have a decent bullpen.  I don’t want to say above average, but I see the potential.  Last year’s relief signings turned out well and aren’t showing scary signs of decline.  The underrated Wuertz and Ohman give the team four solid relievers.  A healthy Wood or effective Cotts/Dempster would be big lift and could lift the pen to above average.  Larry Rothschild and the Cubs’ training staff can make the difference.    

If the Cubs don’t give Dempster too long of a leash, are bold with Pie, and Hill’s second half promise carries over, they should be at least a wild card contender all year.  Those are my three ifs for the ’07 Cubs.