September 2007

The Andruw Jones Situation

David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a thorough dissection of the Andruw Jones situation.

The Braves have yet to speak to Jones, and their intentions for the center field spot in ’08 are anybody’s guess.  If the Braves want to go short-term, it appears Andruw would consider a one-year offer.  Scott Boras scoffed at the idea a few months ago but Jones had a subpar second half since then.  If the Braves still want to lock him up, O’Brien reports that Jones might take a five-year, $75MM pact.  I don’t see the Braves doing it.

As for fitting Andruw into the 2008 budget, the team’s president has indicated that payroll is likely to rise next year.  It could reach the $90-100MM range.  Payroll stood at $87MM on Opening Day. 

Here’s the problem: even subtracting Jones’ $13.5MM salary and replacing him internally with, say, Kelly Johnson, the Braves are looking at roughly a $7MM net increase just with current players.  Hudson, Smoltz, and Teixeira’s raises will add roughly $17MM to the payroll, plus another several million for arbitration-eligible players.  So a $95MM payroll might just buy the Braves their current roster sans Andruw and Octavio Dotel.  Trading Edgar Renteria might be a necessity.

Meanwhile, Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune has reported that the Padres are mulling a one-year offer to Jones in excess of his current $13.5MM salary.  The Nationals and many other clubs could make a similar one-year offer. 



Let’s Make A Deal: Edgar Renteria

I’ve been getting a lot of emails about Edgar Renteria.  Let’s take a look at the situation.


In my opinion, the Braves need to import one solid, dependable starting pitcher.  Free agency presents plenty of options – a few dependable, most not: Matt Clement, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Randy Wolf, Jaret Wright, Jason Jennings, Koji Uehara, Carlos Silva, Livan Hernandez, Tom Glavine.

Same deal with trade options: Carl Pavano, Jose Contreras, Kei Igawa, Matt Morris, Jon Garland, Bronson Arroyo, Nate Robertson, maybe Joe Blanton.

Back to Renteria – can we find a match?  The White Sox, Tigers, and A’s might want to import a shortstop (though Renteria for Blanton wouldn’t fly with Oakland).  Indeed, the first two connections have already surfaced in print.  The Braves offered Renteria and a top pitching prospect to the White Sox for Garland and were denied.  And more recently, John Paul Morosi of the Detroit Free Press connected Renteria with the Tigers for multiple reasons.

I like a Robertson for Renteria swap.  The Braves get two below-market price years of Robertson, who could be quite solid in the NL and is only 30 years old.  Renteria meanwhile is signed cheaply for $9MM in ’08 with an $11MM club option ($3MM buyout) for ’09.  Better yet, the Red Sox are chipping in towards next year’s salary and would cover the buyout.  Everybody wins and even Carlos Guillen is happy. 

The Braves would then move Yunel Escobar to shortstop and play Kelly Johnson every day at second base.  That’s not much of a loss and Robertson would really solidify the staff if healthy.  You may recall Keith Law opining in July that Escobar did have the glove to play short and could be a respectable hitter.

The Blue Jays, Royals, A’s, Cubs, Astros, Cardinals, and Giants may also be in the market for a shortstop.  Shaun Marcum, Joe Blanton, Wandy Rodriguez, Anthony Reyes, Sean Marshall, and Noah Lowry could conceivably be available from those clubs.  Marcum’s a long shot and as I said above I don’t see Renteria for Blanton happening.

Anyone have any other reasonable trade scenarios for Renteria?


Could Bonds Join Royals, Devil Rays?

Barry Bonds has a stated desire to win a World Series before his finishes his career.  That doesn’t gel with the idea of joining a last-place team like the Royals or Devil Rays.  However, he may have to decide between non-contenders and retirement.


Last week when the Giants told Bonds he wasn’t welcome in 2008, I analyzed the situations of the 14 American League teams’ DH spots.  The Orioles, Royals, Angels, A’s and Rangers seemed the most likely fits.  I didn’t like the D-Rays for Bonds because they’ve already got all three outfield spots filled and have to find playing time for Jonny Gomes and Rocco Baldelli at DH.

However, Buster Olney is intrigued by the idea of Bonds in Tampa Bay.  In Olney’s view, Bonds would basically split time at DH with Baldelli, pushing Gomes out of the starting picture (perhaps he’d be traded).  That’s reasonable if the price is right.  But keep in mind John Shea’s note, that Bonds wouldn’t have gone to St. Petersburg had the Giants moved there in 1993.  Beggars can’t be choosy though. 

Bob Dutton also wrote about the possibility of Bonds joining the Royals next year.  Dutton says the Royals have $30MM coming off the books.  Billy Butler could play maybe 120 games at first base and 40 at DH in ’08.   The heart of this order could put up some runs, though you’d like to see some kind of offense coming out of left field or shortstop:

David DeJesus – CF
Mark Grudzielanek – 2B
Barry Bonds – DH
Billy Butler – 1B
Alex Gordon – 3B
Mark Teahen – RF
John Buck – C
Joey Gathright – LF
Tony Pena Jr. – SS



DiamondView

Just heard of the Indians’ proprietary DiamondView system (hat tip to Will Carroll).  The article is from 2003 but it’s really cool to read about the team’s huge confidential database.  There’s quite a bit of info concerning the Jim Thome situation, where the Indians would’ve loved to keep him but going to six years just couldn’t work.  Four years later, it’s clear they made the right decision.



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Padres Acquire Jason Lane

Ed Wade’s first move as Astros GM was something of a favor to his former boss, Kevin Towers.  He dealt 30 year-old outfielder Jason Lane to the Padres for a player to be named later or cash considerations.  MLB.com’s Alyson Footer expects the Astros to take the cash.

Lane was featured in our non-tender candidate list written back in August.  He has a bit more than three years of service time and makes $1.05MM this year.  I believe he’ll reach arbitration for the first time this winter.

The Padres apparently want Lane for more than just this week (he won’t be eligible for the postseason should they make it).  Towers says Lane will be in the mix with Scott Hairston and Brian Giles for next year’s outfield.  They might use Lane in center field.

So far Lane has a .241/.315/.458 line in about 1200 big league at-bats.  The average NL center fielder is hitting .273/.336/.427 this year.  If Lane can play to his career averages and not embarrass himself defensively the Padres might have something here.  He has some interesting comparables in his list, including Jermaine Dye and Eric Byrnes on the optimistic end.  This is a typical Towers stathead-type move.  There’s really no downside to it.



A’s Exercise 2008 Option On Mark Ellis

30 year-old second baseman Mark Ellis has had a solid season, hitting .273/.333/.440 with 19 HR in 568 ABs.  He’s generally regarded as a fine defender.  Today, the A’s exercised their $5MM club option on the second baseman for the 2008 season.

It’s a smart move; the market seems to continually undervalue this position (Brian Roberts signed for $14.3MM over two years).  PECOTA actually figures Ellis to be worth a surprising $13.4MM in ’08, with much of that value coming from his defense.

Billy Beane may still shop Ellis this winter.  Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein feels that the club wouldn’t lose much in switching to 25 year-old prospect Kevin Melillo.  Ellis is locked in at a reasonable price and is better than any free agent second baseman.  The Mets, Astros, or Rockies could be possible fits this winter.



Needs and Luxuries: St. Louis Cardinals

I’ve had several requests for the Cardinals in this series, so here we go.


C – Yadier Molina
1B – Albert Pujols
2B – Adam Kennedy
SS – Brendan Ryan
3B – Scott Rolen
LF – Chris Duncan/Ryan Ludwick
CF – Jim Edmonds
RF – Rick Ankiel

SP – Adam Wainwright
SP – Braden Looper
SP – Chris Carpenter (half season at best)
SP – Mark Mulder
SP – Brad Thompson/Anthony Reyes/Todd Wellemeyer

Setup: Ryan Franklin
Closer: Jason Isringhausen

Needs

For starters, the Cards might need a shortstop.  25 year-old Brendan Ryan is hitting .302/.355/.426 in 169 ABs, better than his Triple A performance (.272/.328/.341 in 323 ABs).  I spoke to Viva El Birdos‘ Larry Borowsky on this topic today.  Assuming Tony La Russa is around, Larry doesn’t expect Ryan to get starting gig at short next year.   You may recall La Russa’s benching of Ryan recently for swinging at a 3-0 pitch and his general lack of patience with youngsters.

Larry speculated that David Eckstein would be allowed to walk and the team would try to make a splash by acquiring a shortstop via trade, perhaps Rafael Furcal or another go-round with Edgar Renteria.  Makes sense.  The Cards have some interesting young players: Duncan, Ankiel, Reyes, Colby Rasmus, Bryan Anderson, Jamie Garcia, Blake Hawksworth, Jarrett Hoffpauir, and Mark Hamilton.  Obviously you don’t want to gut the farm system for one year of a decent veteran shortstop.  Reyes is a young player who is out of options and has had some chances already.  I could see him with the Braves.

The other need is, of course, starting pitching.  The Cardinals revamped their rotation this year, and the two bullpen converts stuck.  They can hope for but not count on Carpenter and Mulder.  They can fill the fifth slot with whoever.  Don’t pencil in Joel Pineiro‘s $4MM player option for ’08 just yet – he might prefer to hit the open market.  It seems that one or two decent starters must be imported.  Borowsky discusses trade candidates here, and here’s the free agent list.  It’d be nice to sign a healthy free agent, but Kyle Lohse is going to want $40MM.  There are many other intriguing gambles among the free agent starters.

Luxuries

I’m not confident that the Cardinals have a surplus of anything.  It’s true that they have a lot of outfielders, but they all have issues.  Duncan can’t hit lefties or play defense. Ludwick is a 29 year-old journeyman. Ankiel has the HGH stigma.  Edmonds is old, expensive, and ineffective.  Encarnacion’s terrible injury may be career-threatening.  Rasmus isn’t ready.  Still, if a big trade is made, it might have to include Duncan. 

As I said earlier, Reyes is out of options and a prime candidate to be dealt.  He turns 26 soon; plenty of clubs would like to try to turn him around.  He might be part of a package for a shortstop or veteran starter.

In any other division I’d recommend this team cash in its chips and go for a full-blown rebuild.  But this is the NL Central, and if a few offseason gambles work out they can be right back in the thick of things.


Pedro Feliz Looking For Two Years

Pedro Feliz is making about $5.4MM this year.  Has he been worth it?  He’s hitting an ugly .249/.287/.421 while supplying what some consider to be Gold Glove defense.  I am not a regular Feliz observer, so Giants fans feel free to weigh in.

It seems like nothing’s changed with Feliz, but as John Shea notes, he is making better contact in this his age 32 season.  I’m surprised that hasn’t resulted in a better batting average.

If you subscribe to the Baseball Prospectus line of thinking, Feliz’s awful OBP actually results in negative offensive value.  Even with the 20 home runs every year, he’s doing more harm than good to the offense.

Feliz, however, is hoping to snag a two-year deal from the Giants this time around.  I imagine he’s looking for $12MM or so.  I hope Brian Sabean resists the temptation and lets him go.  The Bonds-less 2008 Giants are going to be desperate for OBP, and Feliz detracts from that goal.  In my opinion, it’s time to let Feliz walk and use Rich Aurilia at third base because, well, the Giants are stuck with him.



Twins Might Offer Torii A Fourth Year

Was Torii Hunter‘s farewell premature?  La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that while the center fielder rejected the Twins’ modest 3/45 offer a few weeks back, the team might be willing to tack on a fourth year. 

For a while now we’ve been hearing that Hunter’s bare minimum is a five-year, $75MM contract.  To jump from three years to five might be impossible for the Twins.  And how sure are we that Hunter would even take that offer?

I agree with Aaron Gleeman on this one: while I might do the same in his shoes, it remains true that Hunter will probably leave the Twins over money.  I’m not one to declare that Hunter should leave $30MM on the table.  But if he really loves the organization and fans, 4/60 would still set up several generations of Hunters for life.



Off Topic

It’s Monday morning, and that means I’m going to annoy you with some off-topic stuff.

  • If you or someone you know is interested in moving to the western suburbs of Chicago, check out my condo for sale in Lombard.
  • Do you have your own blog?  If so, check out BlogRush.  It’s a kind of new-wave traffic exchange that I’m trying out.  If your sports blog becomes part of the BlogRush network, then you might appear on this site on the From The Blogosphere thing on the sidebar.  Likewise, headlines from MLBTR might appear on the widget on your blog.
  • MLBTR is slowly moving up the ranks in the Blogger’s Choice Awards.  Thanks to those who have voted.  If you haven’t, please consider it.  It’s not time-consuming to vote, but it is slightly confusing.  Here’s how to do it:

          1.  Sign up for an account with a valid email address here.

          2. Wait for a "Welcome To Blogger Choice Awards" email from do-not-reply@bloggerschoiceawards.com.  Click the link in the email to confirm your account.  (If you don’t get the email within a few minutes it might have landed in your spam folder.)

          3.  Go here and click the small yellow "vote" button in the middle of the page (near the faceless man’s head).  You’re done! 


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