August 2012

Poll: Which AL GM Made The Best Offseason Moves?

Baseball’s 30 general managers complete hundreds of transactions every offseason as they look for ways of improving their respective teams. Some of those moves, such as the signing of Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, generate tons of buzz. Others go unnoticed until the season begins and players start exceeding or falling short of expectations.

MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker offers a look back at last offseason’s moves (you can filter by team for more focused summaries). Now that the stretch run of the 2012 season is about to begin, let’s take stock of last winter’s moves. Taking into account both 2012 results and the long-term outlook, which American League general manager had the best 2011-12 offseason?



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Offseason Trades Fuel Athletics’ Success

Only two American League teams have a better record than the Athletics, even though they traded away their closer and two top starting pitchers for a collection of relatively unproven players after the 2011 season. Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey are all gone, but the A’s have a 71-57 record and are tied for one of the American League’s Wild Card berths with 34 games to go.

Though there’s no singular reason that the A’s have played this well, the team’s offseason trades could hardly be working out better. Billy Beane acquired one third of the team’s starting lineup, its setup man and two fifths of its starting rotation in deals this past winter. MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker offers a recap of these moves. Here’s the breakdown, featuring players on the team’s active roster:

  • Josh Reddick, acquired from Red Sox in trade for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney – Reddick has been a major contributor to Oakland's offense this year, hitting 26 home runs and posting a .253/.321/.487 batting line. He has already been worth 4.3 wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs' version of the metric.
  • Seth Smith, acquired from Rockies in trade for Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman - Smith has posted a respectable .244/.344/.431 batting line with 12 home runs. He continues to produce against right-handed pitchers (10 homers). 
  • Derek Norris, acquired from Washington in trade for Gio Gonzalez and Robert Gilliam – Norris became the Athletics' regular catcher when Oakland sent Kurt Suzuki to Washington. He has five home runs but just a .272 on-base percentage in 158 plate appearances.
  • Ryan Cook, acquired from Arizona in trade for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow – The 25-year-old right-hander has a 2.45 ERA with more strikeouts (60) than innings pitched (55). He averages 95 mph with his fastball and 11.8% of his offerings generate swings and misses. Cook, a 2012 All-Star, picked up 12 saves earlier in the year.  
  • Jarrod Parker, acquired from Arizona in trade for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow – Parker has a 3.52 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 135 1/3 innings this year. Peripheral stats such as his 43.9 % ground ball rate and a 9.8% swinging strike rate are also encouraging.
  • Tommy Milone, acquired from Washington in trade for Gio Gonzalez and Robert Gilliam – Milone has a 3.73 ERA with four times as many strikeouts as walks in 159 1/3 innings. 
  • The A’s also traded for a number of minor league players, including Brad Peacock and Collin Cowgill.

Oakland currently has a 51% chance of playing in the postseason, according to Baseball Prospectus’ postseason odds report. But even if the A’s don’t qualify this year, last winter’s trades should have an impact in future seasons. Smith will be second-time arbitration eligible this offseason, but Reddick won’t be arbitration eligible until next offseason. The others — Norris, Cook, Parker and Milone — are at least two years away from arbitration eligibility. Not only are these players contributing, they’re doing so at a time in their careers when they’re relatively affordable. That creates flexibility which makes a difference in any market and should be especially valuable in Oakland.


Free Agent Stock Watch: David Ortiz

David Ortiz has played in just one game since July 16 due to a right Achilles strain, and while he hopes to be back in September, this prolonged injury isn't a good sign for a 36-year-old on the way to free agency.  The injury adds another twist to that should be a very interesting free agent case for Ortiz, especially in the wake of the recent overhaul of the Red Sox roster.

Before the injury, Ortiz was enjoying one of his best seasons.  The veteran slugger has hit 23 homers and posted a .318/.415/.611 line in 2012, providing solid production all season long and avoiding the slow starts that plagued him over the last three years.  Even though he turns 37 in November, it appears as though Ortiz still has plenty left in the tank and, if healthy, projects as one of the biggest bats on the free agent market.  Ortiz's suitors will be limited to AL teams given his inability to play the field, but as he recently pointed out to WEEI.com's Rob Bradford, his full-time DH status and his recenUspw_6403502t health issues will be less important to teams than his potent bat.

In this game when you are capable to do what I do, that’s a plus. I don’t care what anybody says. It’s a plus," Ortiz said.  "It’s hard to hit a damn baseball. Harder than what anybody can imagine. If you put two, three David Ortiz in your lineup you’re going to have some results. I guarantee that….[Offense is] what everybody is looking for right now.  They don’t care if you’re a catcher, first base, DH, whatever. If you can produce, trust me, you’re going to play.”

Ortiz has a point.  Teams have been reluctant in recent years to spend on the DH spot, thus limiting a number of veteran designated hitters to modestly-priced one-year deals.  Several of those veterans are back on the free agent market in 2013, and of that group, Ortiz has by far had the most recent success and is able to consistently produce against both right-handed and left-handed pitching.  His current Achilles strain aside, Ortiz is quite durable for an older player, with just one other DL stint since 2002.

After having to settle for accepting Boston's offer of arbitration last offseason and agreeing to a one-year, $14.575MM contract, I would guess that Ortiz will certainly be able to find a multiyear contract this winter.  Agent Fernando Cuza should be able to find, at minimum, a two-year, $30MM deal for his client.  The Red Sox will make Ortiz a qualifying offer, but given how such offers are one-year deals worth around $13.35MM, Ortiz will surely turn it down in hopes of finding a better deal elsewhere. 

The Sox would get a supplemental first round draft pick if Ortiz did reject that qualifying offer and signed with a new team, but it's likely that Boston would make a significant push to bring back its long-time star.  With Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford all gone to the Dodgers, the Red Sox suddenly have loads of future payroll space to work with in the offseason. 

Two years and $30-$35MM is a very fair price for a hitter who can still generate a 1.026 OPS and locking up a franchise icon like "Big Papi" would also be a good PR move for ownership in the wake of a tumultuous season.  For his part, Ortiz has been vocal about going through the "humiliating" arbitration process and his displeasure with the constant controversy surrounding the Sox, but said earlier this week that he wanted to return to Boston in 2013.

If not Boston, where else could Ortiz land next season?  The Royals, White Sox and Tigers already have their DH spots filled, the Yankees are known to keep their DH spot flexible so they can rest their older players and Ortiz will want to play for a likely contender, ruling out the Astros, Mariners and Twins.  This leaves…

  • Angels.  This one is doubtful, as while it's possible the Halos could trade or non-tender Kendrys Morales, they're unlikely to do so in favor of a DH who is seven years older.
  • Blue Jays.  Edwin Encarnacion could become a full-time first baseman.
  • Indians.  The Tribe are known to be looking for hitting help this winter and will have an open DH spot with Travis Hafner's contract expiring.  That said, Ortiz might not consider Cleveland to be close to contention in 2013.
  • Orioles.  Jim Thome is in the mix but is a free agent himself and could also choose to retire.  The O's could decline their $11MM option on Mark Reynolds for 2013, move Chris Davis to first base and sign Ortiz as their designated hitter.
  • Rangers.   With Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli headed for free agency, Texas could well make a play for Ortiz depending on how the rest of their offseason shakes out.
  • Rays and Athletics.  I group these teams together as signing Ortiz would be a larger salary outlay than either is usually comfortable making.  For just a two-year deal, however, Andrew Friedman or Billy Beane could think Ortiz is worth it for a pennant run.  The Rays are the likelier of the two to pursue Ortiz given that the Rays are more established contenders, whereas the A's have been a surprise this year.

Photo courtesy of Bob DeChiara/US Presswire



Quick Hits: Swisher, Utley, Hamilton, Hairston

Chris Corrigan of the High-A ball Palm Beach Cardinals made history tonight by throwing a perfect game in his start against the Charlotte Stone Crabs.  Corrigan, 24, was a 30th-round selection for the Cardinals in the 2009 amateur draft and carried a career 4.04 ERA in 102 minor league games (25 starts) entering tonight.  Corrigan's gem was the first minor league perfect game since Jeanmar Gomez threw a perfecto for Double-A Akron in 2009.  As for the Stone Crabs, they're an affiliate of (who else?) the Rays, who have been perfecto'd three times in the last four years at the Major League level.

Some news and notes from around the baseball world…

  • Every team needs a guy like [Nick] Swisher,” an AL executive tells Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.  “You watch him play every day and you can see how much he cares. I wish every player cared that much.”  Feinsand suggests that the Yankees could re-sign Swisher and move Brett Gardner to center field, thus creating room to trade the more expensive Curtis Granderson.  MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently looked at Swisher's free agent stock.
  • Chase Utley took some groundballs at third base before today's game and he told reporters (including MLB.com's Todd Zolecki) that he had approached the Phillies about getting some reps at third in order to "create some more flexibility as far as the organization is concerned."  Utley spent a season playing third in 2002 in Triple-A before but hasn't played at the hot corner since.
  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. commented on Utley's trial, noting that "in a perfect scenario," Utley could hold down third base until prospect Cody Asche is ready, theoretically for the 2014 season.  Amaro cautioned reporters (including Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer) that it's hypothetical since Asche has yet to play above Double-A.
  • Billy Hamilton will "probably not" be called up for September, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty tells MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.  Jocketty noted that the decision wasn't finalized yet, however, and that he was going to watch Hamilton play in person this weekend.
  • Mets outfielder Scott Hairston believes the Diamondbacks claimed him off waivers, he tells Adam Rubin of ESPN New York (Twitter link).  The Giants were known to be interested in outfield help and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports speculated earlier this month that the D'Backs would likely try to block Hairston or Juan Pierre from getting to their NL West rivals.  Rosenthal also reported that the team that claimed Hairston did so as a blocking maneuver.
  • Roger Clemens is planning to start again for the Sugar Land Skeeters on September 7, according to a text the pitcher sent Mark Berman, sports director of FOX 26 KRIV (Twitter link).  Clemens, 50, threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings in his first start with the Skeeters on August 25.
  • Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston suggests a few moves the Red Sox should make this offseason, including re-signing David Ortiz and Cody Ross and trying to add Justin Upton and a top-tier starting pitcher.
  • Major League Baseball is investigating whether agents Sam and Seth Levinson arranged for former client Paul Lo Duca to meet with PED distributor Kirk Radomski, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

AL West Notes: Angels, Haren, Godfrey, Clemens

It was on this day in 1990 that the Athletics acquired Willie McGee in a trade with the Cardinals.  McGee hit .274/.333/.336 in 123 plate appearances for the eventual AL champions but McGee still remained a presence in the National League.  His .335 average in St. Louis stood up throughout September to win McGee the NL batting crown, making him the only player in history to win a batting title despite being traded to the other league partway through a season.

Here are some items from the AL West…

  • The Angels are unlikely to add a reliever before the waiver deadline, reports MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez, and GM Jerry Dipoto discusses how the new collective bargaining agreement has limited the trade market for relief pitching.
  • Despite Dan Haren's struggles and injury issues this season, Fangraphs' J.P. Breen still thinks the Angels should pick up Haren's $15.5MM option for 2013, as Haren provides a better value at $12MM (factoring in his $3.5MM buyout) than possible free agent options.
  • Athletics right-hander Graham Godfrey cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.  The A's designated Godfrey for assignment last week.
  • Rangers president Nolan Ryan seemed to dismiss the idea of his team having interest in Roger Clemens.  In an interview on the Galloway & Company show on ESPN 103.3 radio, Ryan said "I might call [Clemens], but I don’t think I’ll be calling him about a job.”  Clemens has signed a contract with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters and is rumored to be considering a Major League comeback, though Clemens has said he is "nowhere near" Major League shape yet.

Terry Ryan On Gardenhire, Morneau, Interim Tag

Twins interim general manager Terry Ryan spoke to Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (in two separate pieces) about the Twins' season, offseason plans and his own future with the team.  Here are some of the highlights…

  • Ryan doesn't plan to fire Ron Gardenhire and says that he wouldn't make any changes to the coaching staff without Gardenhire's approval.  "I don't think either one of us should independently make that call. I wouldn't want to force-feed a coach on a manager. That never works in a clubhouse," Ryan said.  Souhan notes that Ryan didn't fire former Twins manager Tom Kelly even after Kelly had presided over eight consecutive losing seasons.
  • The Twins' biggest offseason need is starting pitching, though Ryan described the free agent pitching market as "a little lean."  The club isn't likely to get into a bidding war over big name free agent starters, though Ryan said the team would explore all avenues to improve their pitching, including possibly re-signing Carl Pavano and Scott Baker.  The Twins have a $9.5MM team option on Baker for 2013 but I would think the team would decline that option and try to re-sign Baker on a new, smaller deal.
  • Ryan is satisfied with the team's payroll (slightly over $100MM in 2012) and said finances weren't to blame for the last two seasons.  "This one isn’t payroll-oriented at all. This is just making good baseball decisions," Ryan said.
  • Justin Morneau has been the subject of trade rumors this year but Ryan sees the former MVP as part of next year's Twins.  "I think his numbers are going to return. I think he's a core guy. He's a former MVP who's what, 31? He's one of the most important people in this organization, no doubt," Ryan said.
  • In regards to his future as the Twins' GM, Ryan said he would make a decision after the season, though Souhan noted that Ryan "sounds as if he is determined to keep the job, even if he won't yet admit it."  Twins owner Jim Pohlad said earlier this week that he would like Ryan to remain as GM and Ryan is free to remove the 'interim' tag from his job whenever he wishes.

Orioles Links: Bundy, Bedard, Roster Moves

The newly-acquired Joe Saunders makes his Orioles debut tonight against the White Sox as the O's look for their fifth straight victory.  A Baltimore win would put the Orioles just 2.5 games behind the Yankees for first place in the AL East.  Here are some notes from Charm City…

  • Dylan Bundy won't be called up for the Orioles' pennant drive, manager Buck Showalter told reporters (including MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli).  The right-hander will instead pitch in the instructional league once the Double-A season concludes.  While Showalter "couldn’t ask for a better progression” of Bundy's minor league development, he and the team feel that the 19-year-old Bundy isn't yet ready for Major League hitters.
  • The Orioles don't appear to be interested in left-hander Erik Bedard, tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.  The Pirates released Bedard yesterday after the southpaw posted a 5.01 ERA, 8.5 K/9 rate and a 2.11 K/BB ratio in 24 starts in Pittsburgh.  Bedard spent five seasons with the O's before being traded to the Mariners in 2008 in the deal that brought Adam Jones and Chris Tillman (among others) to Baltimore.
  • Showalter also told reporters (including Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore) that the team is looking at Randy Wolf as a starting pitcher, though he isn't ruling out using Wolf out of the bullpen.  The Orioles will sign Wolf and activate him before Friday but the deal hasn't yet been officially finalized.
  • GM Dan Duquette hasn't been afraid to make moves this year, as FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal notes how the Orioles' willingness to shuffle their roster has helped the team to their surprising record.

Victorino Could Re-Sign With Dodgers

Shane Victorino would like to re-sign with the Dodgers when he hits free agency this coming offseason. But if there isn’t room in Los Angeles’ starting outfield, he won’t be back. The 31-year-old switch-hitter told Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times that he has no intention of returning as a bench player.

"Are you crazy?" Victorino said. "I'm not even thinking about stepping back. Why would I? I'm 31 years old. . . . I'm going to be an everyday play, whether it be here, whether it be Philly, whether it be any uniform."

Los Angeles seemed like a possible long-term fit for Victorino when he was acquired from the Phillies before the non-waiver trade deadline. The Dodgers have since acquired Carl Crawford, who’s under contract through 2017. However, Crawford recently underwent Tommy John surgery, so he might not be ready for the beginning of the 2013 season.

Victorino, who lives in Las Vegas, said he likes what the Dodgers are doing and would consider re-signing with the team if there’s interest on both sides. "Anything can happen,” he told Hernandez.


NL West Notes: Padres, D’Backs, Dodgers, Oswalt

The Padres announced that the ownership group led by the Seidler/O’Malley families and Ron Fowler completed the purchase of the team for $800MM. Fowler is the team’s control person and the ownership group includes two sons and two nephews of Peter O’Malley, the Dodgers’ longtime owner. Tom Garfinkel will stay on as the Padres' president and CEO and Josh Byrnes will remain the team’s executive VP and general manager.

Here are today’s NL West links…

  • The Padres' new owners offered more platitudes than specifics when addressing the media today, Scott Miller of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). The owners didn't say where the team's payroll will sit.
  • The Dodgers continue spending aggressively, but it doesn’t seem to bother the Diamondbacks’ top officials. Managing general partner Ken Kendrick told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that he has “no problem competing with these folks." Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall said "there is so much more to building a championship team than just exorbitant salaries."
  • The Diamondbacks will be able to contend with the Dodgers if their young core of starting pitchers can stay healthy and perform, Piecoro writes. If pitchers such as Tyler Skaggs, Wade Miley and Trevor Bauer can continue to pitch effectively as pre-arbitration eligible players, Arizona can spend elsewhere. Relying on young starting pitching isn’t foolproof, but it’s been done before, as Piecoro explains.
  • One Dodgers person didn’t seem enthused about the possibility of trading for Roy Oswalt, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). Oswalt has cleared waivers and the Rangers will consider trading him. The Dodgers inquired on Oswalt, according to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times.

Joe Mauer Clears Waivers

Joe Mauer has cleared revocable waivers, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter). The Twins can technically trade Mauer now, but they would need his permission to do so and a deal is highly unlikely. 

The Twins, who placed Mauer on waivers earlier this week, would have to complete a trade by Friday for him to be eligible for another club's postseason roster. However, it's more likely the Twins placed Mauer on waivers as a matter of procedure and don't intend to trade him.

Mauer's record-setting eight-year, $184MM extension assures him of a $23MM annual salary through 2018. The 29-year-old has a .309/.403/.425 batting line with as many walks as strikeouts (70) in 522 plate appearances this year.