May 2007

Shea Hillenbrand Expendable

It’s an understatement to say that Angels’ DH Shea Hillenbrand is an expendable player.  He’s hitting .236/.250/.311 in 148 ABs, the third-worst hitting performance in baseball according to VORP.  Only Jason Kendall and Chone Figgins have done more damage to their teams.

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes that the return of Garret Anderson and Vladimir Guerrero‘s need to DH could spell the end of the Shea Hillenbrand Era in L.A.  It was a lousy signing to begin with; $6.5MM wasted.  At least it was just money. Brian Sabean gave away Jeremy Accardo to acquire Hillenbrand last year.

So, who wants a double-play machine with no glove?  Tough call.  Open DH jobs are hard to come by.  Maybe the Giants would want him back, or the Tigers or Orioles could plug him in at first base. 


White Sox Snag Craig Wilson

According to Ken Rosenthal, the White Sox have signed 30 year-old 1B/LF Craig Wilson to a minor league contract.  It was a good move before the Pablo Ozuna injury, but now the need is even stronger.

Wilson, at the least, can probably help the Sox as a lefty-masher.  He’s at .290/.389/.527 against them in his career.  The White Sox aren’t known for their skills against southpaws; in fact, their .583 team OPS against them is the worst in the AL.  Compare that to the Blue Jays, who have an .851 OPS vs. lefties.  Oddly, the only member of the team who has hit lefties is the left-handed A.J. Pierzynski, who hasn’t fared well against them in his career.

If they can stomach his glove, the Sox should try Wilson in left field regularly.  They’ve gotten a .233/.327/.340 line from their left fielders, collectively.  Scott Podsednik may not necessarily provide any offensive lift to the club, but he could be out til July anyway.

First things first – Craig Wilson needs to remember how to hit.  He hasn’t had a decent month since June of 2006.  Since July 1st of last year, Wilson has hit .200/.263/.325 in 200 ABs for the Pirates, Yankees, and Braves.

Olney On The Center Fielder Market

The upcoming offseason will feature roughly nine viable free agent center fielder options (2008 age in parentheses):

Ichiro Suzuki (34)
Andruw Jones (31)
Torii Hunter (32)
Eric Byrnes (32)
Corey Patterson (28)
Milton Bradley (30)
Aaron Rowand (30)
Mike Cameron (35)
Kenny Lofton (41)

There’s the Big Three, then second tier options with various flaws (not that the Big Three are without flaws).  Of the second tier, Rowand and Byrnes have seen their stock rise this season.

Interestingly, Buster Olney believes that Cameron will draw heavy bidding.  Olney sees Cameron landing in Atlanta; Ken Rosenthal reached the same conclusion back in April.  I know Cameron is seen as the default CF bargain, the guy with a solid all-around game who will slip under the radar.  However, we know Cameron wants three years.  Assuming he doesn’t repeat his April performance, $30MM over 2008-2010 would be a reasonable prediction.  Not sure that’s going to end well.

Olney also predicts Torii Hunter will land in Texas; we’ve discussed that here before and it seems reasonable.  The remaining question: where do Ichiro and Andruw end up?

Olney sees Ichiro with the White Sox.  I like the match.  Fits their style, sparks fan interest.  Do I think it’d be a smart signing?  No.  But I can see it happening.  One would almost rather prefer Darin Erstad and his .685 OPS, as at least that comes cheap.

Buster’s prediction for Andruw is the Mariners.  However, the Ms do have a fine prospect for the position in 21 year-old Adam Jones.  Despite his age Jones is responding to the challenge of Triple A with a .302/.388/.503 line.  I know the Mariners make some bad decisions but even they have to let the kid play.  This could be the next Carlos Beltran or Vernon Wells (both land within Jones’ top ten comparables).   

Olney eliminates the Mets, Red Sox, Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, and Cubs from next year’s CF suitors.  Yet there should still be plenty of teams looking to fill the position.  The Orioles will be looking for a replacement for Patterson and might spend some money.  I have no idea what the Twins will do if Hunter walks.  Maybe the Marlins will finally pony up some cash and get a center fielder.  The Phillies and Padres could have vacancies if their current guys leave.  The Brewers could shift Bill Hall to right.  The Pirates could get in the game.  The Giants have Dave Roberts and Fred Lewis, but could make a play for Ichiro nonetheless.   

It’ll be fun to see where all these center fielders end up once the dust settles.  I do agree with Olney in that there may be a bargain or two.

The Percival Chase

My apologies to the loyal readers hoping for more posts this weekend – my wife and I are painting the condo.  Good times.

For those keeping score at home, here’s a summary of Troy Percival‘s suitors.  He won’t be returning to the Angels, but plenty of other clubs want in.

Though interest hasn’t been confirmed, Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon thinks highly of Percival.  The Indians are another club where only speculation exists.  Let’s add the Cubs to that list; Phil Rogers notes the team’s interest in the 2004-05 offseason.  Back then, the Cubs wisely decided to open the season with LaTroy Hawkins at closer given Joe Borowski‘s broken hand.  OK, maybe not so wisely. 

Last week, two teams publicly showed interest in the Tigers and Phillies.  Now we know the Marlins are "closely monitoring" Percival as well.  It wouldn’t be right to have a Marlin season go by without the club resurrecting a closer.

Speculated interest: Devil Rays, Indians, Cubs
Confirmed interest: Tigers, Phillies, Marlins
Not interested: Angels

Heyman On Teixeira

With the trading deadline a mere two months away, we have to drum up some big names on which to speculate.  The advent of no-trade clauses and the valuation of young pitching seems to have resulted in fewer blockbusters.  Mark Teixeira seems to be this summer’s big name. 

We last speculated about Teixeira two weeks ago.  The Orioles and Nick Markakis were discussed, as well as the fit for the Angels.  The Nationals were seen as a long shot.  Jon Heyman has talked to some baseball execs on this topic, and he’s got more ideas.  Heyman adds the Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers to the mix as well.

The Yanks seemingly wouldn’t mind adding a major slugger at first base, and Heyman’s source doesn’t think they want Todd Helton.  But unless the Yanks revert to their old ways and trade The Franchise – Phil Hughes – a Teixeira acquisition seems unlikely.  The Yankees don’t have other elite pitching prospects.  They would have to go to more established players.  The Rangers don’t have a fit for Robinson Cano, though Chien-Ming Wang and his groundballing nature could work.

There’s no real reason for the Red Sox to give up the farm for Teixeira, unless they just want to keep him from the Yankees.  I don’t see it. 

The Dodgers I see as a strong player.  James Loney plus one of their top-rated starting pitching prospects and it’s a done deal.  I’m not sure Nomar can handle third base these days, but I don’t see that problem preventing a trade.   

Back to the Orioles – as much as Teixeira is dying to play for them, he’s not going to take a big discount and the price in young players will be high.  Then again, if the O’s could work something out involving Daniel Cabrera but not Markakis, that gamble could work for both clubs. 

The Angels are a fantastic fit, but when has Bill Stoneman ever made a trade like this?  I guess there’s a first time for everything.

Let’s not count out the Mets, Braves, or Tigers, either.

Wily Mo Pena And The Padres?

Buster Olney had an intriguing thought in his blog yesterday.  The Padres’ bullpen is a source of strength, but they’ve got a lefty-heavy lineup and are tenth in the league in slugging.  How about Wily Mo Pena to the Padres for a top shelf reliever, maybe Scott Linebrink

I know what you’re thinking – the Red Sox have the best relief ERA in the league.  OK, maybe you weren’t thinking that.  I had to look it up.  But Boston’s relief success has been reliant on two players – Jonathan Papelbon and Hideki Okajima.  Are the Sox confident that this pair will remain healthy and effective all year? 

Wily Mo is an unfortunate story.  The 25 year-old has prodigious power and should be entering the prime of his career, but his development has been trifled with.  He essentially skipped Triple A, and now the Red Sox can barely find at-bats for him.  Pena’s comparables list is littered with names like Frank Howard, Matt Holliday, Dale Murphy, Jay Buhner, Jesse Barfield, and Richie Sexson.  Pena is a 40 homer season waiting to happen.  He won’t find an opportunity in Boston unless Manny Ramirez is traded.

Hunter A Fit With Rangers

The Rangers need a long-term center fielder, and they play 45 minutes from Torii Hunter’s hometown.  Seems like a perfect fit, right?

Maybe.  But according to Hunter yesterday, his heart still lies in Minnesota.  It seems that if the Twins can muster even a fairly competitive long-term offer for him, he’ll stay.  Hunter’s next deal will cover his age 32-35 seasons, at the least.  $13MM annually might be considered a discount.  Will the Twins at least offer Hunter a Johnny Damon contract?  Even if they did, he would have to turn a blind eye to more lucrative offers.  I think some team would give him a fifth year, and $15MM a year seems plenty possible following a career season.

The Rangers could certainly use Hunter in the lineup, especially if they trade Mark Teixeira for pitching (as has been speculated).  The team entered the season with a $71MM payroll, down from a high of $105MM in 2002.  Money coming off the books in ’08: Gagne ($6MM+), Lofton ($6MM), Wilkerson ($4.35MM), Sosa (about $2.4MM), and Mahay ($1.2MM).  That’s about $20MM, plus a random Jerry Hairston here and there.  On the other hand, some players have escalating salaries for ’08: Millwood ($1MM), Padilla ($2MM), Teixeira ($2.6MM), Blalock ($1.2MM), plus various other minor increases and arb-eligible guys.  Still, the Rangers should clear about $13MM even if they keep Teixeira, meaning there is definitely room for Hunter in the payroll.

I should add that if Alex Rodriguez becomes a free agent, that’s $27MM saved for Texas.

Yankees Looking At Helton, Fuentes

Plenty of Todd Helton to the Yankees rumors surfacing lately, the first of which came via Mark Healey of Gotham Baseball.  Healey also mentioned the Yanks’ interest in Brian Fuentes last Friday. 

Today, Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post confirms those rumors on the Rockies side of things.  While the interest in confirmed, Renck says "nothing is brewing."  Guess we’ll have to wait a month or so, to see if desperation sets in. 

There had been a lot of talk of the "New Yankees," who are building from within and not taking on ridiculous contracts.  But with players like Bobby Abreu, Roger Clemens, and Helton, the Yankees are simply using financial clout like the old days.  I suppose holding onto Phil Hughes is a step in the right direction though.

Percival Possibilities

The Angels aren’t interested in reliever Troy Percival, but several other clubs will be in attendance when he works out for teams in a week or two.

The Tigers are publicly showing interest, as Percival left the club on good terms despite barely pitching for them.  He was voted a playoff share last year and used the money to buy a suite for the players’ wives.  With Joel Zumaya out for quite a while, the Tigers could use another arm at the back of the bullpen.  Contrary to previous reports of 97 mph (subtract five mph from anything an agent says) Percival is topping out around 92 these days.

The Phillies also want in; they remain desperate for relief help.  They’ll attend his workout.  The Indians gave a "no comment" on the Percival topic, but I can’t see why they wouldn’t send someone to observe the workout.  I also can’t see why Rafael Betancourt isn’t closing, but that’s my fantasy side talking.

Bedard To Join Jays In 2010?

Blue Jays play-by-play guy Jamie Campbell has a blog, and he’s got an interesting rumor up today.  Campbell speaks of a "prominent member of the Orioles organization" telling him to expect Erik Bedard in a Blue Jays uniform for the 2010 season.

Campbell points out Bedard’s Canadian roots and the Orioles’ inability to sign him long-term as factors.  He sees a possible rotation of Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Bedard, and two youngsters in 2010.

Campbell notes that Burnett can opt out of his contract after the 2008 season.  He’d be walking away from three years and $36MM.  If he stays relatively healthy and keeps his ERA in the low 4s, you can bet he’ll top 3/36.