Author Archives: Joe Pawlikowski

Free Agent Matchmaker: Braves Need An OF

A look at the remaining 2009 free agents reveals a number of household names still without a job. True, most of these are over the hill veterans, but in many cases they can help contending teams fill roster gaps. Over the next few weeks we'll look at which team/player combinations make sense. Since we're right around the 1/3 mark of the season, now is the time for teams to take chances on these guys. Since they'll probably need at least a few weeks to get into game-playing condition, acting soon would mean having them around the halfway mark.

The 23-23 Braves are lacking in the outfield. Of their Opening Day starters, Jordan Schafer holds the highest OBP at .322. His .301 SLG and .209 BA make his low OBP look even worse. After a hot start Jeff Francoeur has stumbled, and now posts a paltry .629 OPS. Garrett Anderson and his .300 OBP and .322 SLG have been sitting more in favor of Matt Diaz, whose numbers have been more than acceptable in his 93 plate appearances. Still, the Braves could use someone else to shore up the outfield. They could look to a trade, but they might as well scour the free agent market first.

The crop of free agent outfielders have a common problem: lack of mobility. The Braves already have Anderson, so adding another no-glove outfielder who is also a gamble with the bat makes little sense. Maybe Jay Payton could help, but he didn't exactly post sterling statistics as a 35-year-old in 2008. In fact, the Braves would probably be better off just sticking with Diaz-Schafer-Francoeur than signing someone like Payton.

One name on the list sticks out: Jim Edmonds. Yes, he's 39, so his range is going to be limited. In fact, he posted a -14.1 UZR (-23.3 UZR/150) last year as a CF for the Padres and Cubs, so he might only be a help defensively at a corner. But if he can put up even 85 percent of his OPS with the Cubs last year, he'd be a definite upgrade over Francoeur at this point. He could make sense as a replacement if the Braves decide to bench or trade Frenchy.

Yet there is a name which does not appear on the official MLBTR list, and who might not only be willing to play, but would be a mobile outfielder who still has some skills left, even at 42 years old. Yes, that's Kenny Lofton. He's an outside the box pick, mainly because of his age and that he hasn't played in a game since 2007. Way back when the off-season started, Lofton expressed a desire to play in 2009. The downside is that Lofton doesn't just want to play: he wants to get paid. It's doubtful even the desperate Braves will pay Lofton the $6 million he made in '07, even if prorated.

Still, Lofton put up good defensive numbers in 2007 and had a .781 OPS to boot. But if we're talking about the 85 percent production as we did with Edmonds, it doesn't seem as attractive. Even so, he could represent an upgrade over Schafer in center, given his defense and what we'll assume will be league-average offense for a center fielder.

The question facing the Braves right now is of whether checking out these two free agents is more attractive than dealing prospects for outfield replacements. They're in a decent spot with their pitching, and that could become even stronger if Tommy Hanson jumps out of the gate and/or Tim Hudson comes back. With the Mets battling injuries and pitching issues of their own, and with the Phillies doing much the same (more on the pitching front than injuries), the Braves are certainly in the NL East race. They'll certainly look to upgrade in the outfield. Will it be through some gambles on free agents? Or will they reach into their bag o' prospects and try to acquire a younger player?

Joe Pawlikowski is a writer for River Ave. Blues.


Brewers Done Until After Holidays

It looks like the Brewers won’t be making any moves prior to the holidays. General Manager Doug Melvin revealed on Sunday that the team was interested in pitcher Braden Looper, but also said that nothing is close. He echoed those statements earlier today, saying that doesn’t think anything will happen with the free agent righty. "I think he’s going to wait until after the holiday, too. Players are all still looking for multiyear deals and waiting for other players to sign," said the GM.

Melvin also addressed the issue of lefty closer Brian Fuentes. The Brewers have targeted him, but nothing appears close. In fact, Melvin described his dealings with Fuentes’ agent, Rick Thurman, as "talks" and not "negotiations." MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy takes this to mean that the Brewers have not yet submitted an offer. Still, Melving says that he doesn’t expect the team to get Fuentes.


Mark Teixeira Signing Reactions

Here’s a quick look at some of the reactions to the Mark Teixeira signing. If you guys find any you find particularly remarkable, hit me up (josephp, Shift+2, riveraveblues dot com) and I’ll add it if it adds something. But for now:

  • RotoAuthority has the fantasy analysis.
  • Interesting angle from Joel Sherman – he says the team’s poor choice of passing on Carlos Beltran taught them to sign Teixeira now.  He says they’d prefer to trade Hideki Matsui, among their outfield surplus.  The Braves like Xavier Nady and Nick Swisher.
  • Brewers owner Mark Attanasio suggests a salary cap for the sport.
  • Gordon Edes calls this a "staggering blow" to the Red Sox and Angels. I’m not sure I would go that far, at least in the case of the Angels. That could be my bias speaking, though.
  • Jesse Spector of the New York Daily News notes the long-term implications of the deal. He wonders if Teixeira is really a $20 million player (or, rather, a $22.5 million player) and calls into question committing eight years to a position that serves as a transition for older players.
  • Roch Kubatko got some quotes from Andy MacPhail. "We can’t devote that many resources to one player, no matter where he’s from," was the telling line. Roch wonders if the Orioles were even given a chance to counter the Yankees offer.
  • Jeff Zrebiec backs up Roch. Boras didn’t give the Orioles a chance to counter. He instead informed MacPhail that Teixeira was going in another direction.
  • Peter Abraham has learned a lesson from this. "This will also teach me not to believe anything Cashman says about living under a budget."
  • Tony Massarotti isn’t pleased with how this turned out. "Instead, the Sox lost Teixeira for what amounted to about $10-$15 million over eight years, which is chump change for a franchise with an estimated value (including NESN and Fenway Park) or somewhere in the range of $1 billion." He notes also that the Sox had plenty of contracts coming off the books, much like the Yankees.
  • Over on my home turf, Ben notes the obvious: "What this Teixeira signing indicates though is that a new generation of Steinbrenners is willing to spend what it takes to win just like George."
  • Keith Law on the signing: "Signing three of the top four free agents on the market is a sign that they have excellent taste, even if they don’t seem to have a credit limit."


Mets Looking At Starters

4:15pm: Jayson Stark says the Mets will meet with Scott Boras today to discuss Perez and Derek Lowe.  They’ll also meet with the agents for Jon Garland and Randy Wolf.

3:10pm: In a radio appearance on WFAN, via MetsBlog, Jon Heyman said that the Mets are interested in bringing back lefty Oliver Perez, but the two sides are "still far apart on the dollars." He went on to say that Perez and agent Scott Boras are seeking five years and around $70MM.


Padres Waiting To Hear From Hoffman

SATURDAY: ESPN’s Buster Olney says the Padres offered Hoffman a $4MM salary for ’09, plus an option for ’10 that includes a buyout.  Tough call for Hoffman.

THURSDAY: Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune talked to Padres GM Kevin Towers about the Hoffman situation.  Towers says he made an offer to Hoffman on Friday and has yet to receive a response.

TUESDAY: Trevor Hoffman wants to continue pitching. The Padres would like to retain his services. It sounds like a perfect match. According to Corey Brock of MLB.com, the two sides could get something done soon. The Padres will offer their long-time closer a deal this week, in hopes to sign him before the beginning of free agency.

Hoffman made $7.5 million in his age-40 season, posting a 3.77 ERA and recording 30 saves for the last-place Friars. Despite his highest ERA since 1995 and the fewest innings since his injury-shortened 2003 campaign, he thinks he’s got plenty of innings left in his arm:

"Well, I think I have more than one [season left].  My body feels good. My arm feels a heck of a lot better than it has the last few years. The competitive juices are still there."

Brock speculates that Hoffman could be in line for a one-year deal with incentives, possibly with a team option for 2010. That sounds reasonable enough. Will it be enough for Hoffman, though?


Odds and Ends: Gillick, Cashman, Burnett

Links for Tuesday…


Odds and Ends: Mets, Royals, Sabathia

Links for Monday:

  • Brewers owner Mark Attanasio wants to extend GM Doug Melvin beyond 2009.
  • Royals GM Dayton Moore recognizes that his team has to win now. "We’re at a point now where you will never, ever hear me say again that we have young players who are improving. You will never, ever hear me say again that we are rebuilding. That stuff is over. I’m sick of all that."
  • At Sabernomics, JC Bradbury examines what C.C. Sabathia will command on the market. Conclusion: six years and $144 million. Will any team go that high, though?
  • Jim Callis reveals the 2009 MLB amateur draft order. The Nats pick first for having the worst record, and 10th for failing to sign Aaron Crow. The Mariners slot at 2 and 22, though they could lose the 22nd pick if they sign Josh Fields. The Yankees pick 26th and 31st, the latter for missing out on Gerrit Cole.
  • Ken Davidoff looks at the Mets’ sunk costs.
  • Jon Heyman tackles some Mets issues, too, including their interest in Manny Ramirez, and their thoughts on a few players who might play better outside of New York. The trick, of course, is convincing other GMs that this is the case.

Predicting the Tigers Offseason

Tim has already broken down the Tigers situation, noting that they already have $115 million tied up in players for 2009, not counting arbitration raises. With speculation that the team could reduce their payroll by $40MM from the team’s $137.7MM Opening Day 2008 figure, that could mean some big changes. This is no good for a team that finished in the cellar.

Jon Paul Morosi of the Detroit Free Press takes a look at the Tigers situation and makes five predictions for what could happen. Let’s take a look at what he’s come up with:

  • First, he doesn’t think J.J. Hardy will be manning the six-hole for the Tigers. His name has been bandied about, since Milwaukee has Alcides Escobar in the pipeline. The Brewers would likely require starting pitching in return, which the Tigers don’t have. Morosi finds fault in each of the free agent shortstop options as well.
  • Morosi thinks that Jim Leyland wants an experienced catcher for 2009, rather than going with internal option Dusty Ryan from the get-go. He mentions Arizona’s Miguel Montero, and then, of course, moves to Texas and their surplus. Gerald Laird could be a good fit, though it’s not known what the Rangers would want in return.
  • The Tigers could also look to the Rangers for a shortstop. They have Elvis Andrus and Joaquin Arias in the pipeline, as well as Michael Young, whose five-year, $80MM extension just begins kicking in for 2009. To get a catcher and a shortstop from Texas, I would imagine, wouldn’t happen without the inclusion of Rick Porcello.
  • Following in the White Sox footsteps, the Tigers could pick up some free agent parts to fill out their bullpen. Wil Ohman will be a free agent, as will Brandon Lyon. The Yankees could decline Damaso Marte’s option as well. Since the Tigers finished in the bottom 15, they wouldn’t lose a first rounder for signing the probable Type-A.
  • Finally, Morosi thinks that the Tigers will shop Magglio Ordonez, but not find the right price. It would, however, server the purpose of reducing payroll and plugging other holes. Leyland says the team would have to be blown away by an offer, though.

Full Story | Comments | Categories: Detroit Tigers

Where Will Atlanta Find A Bat?

Mark Bowman of MLB.com has a new mailbag up. The first question leads to a discussion of the Braves adding a bat this off-season. The Braves have $45MM to spend this winter, and could use every penny to fortify their team. While pitching is certainly a concern, the team would like to add a bat. They could use an outfielder or three.

Bowman begins by listing the usual free agent targets: Pat Burrell and Adam Dunn, though he notes that the team isn’t necessarily interested in either. In the Braves offseason outlook, Tim also mentioned free agents Raul Ibanez and Juan Rivera. Given a guess, I’d say the latter ends up in Atlanta. He’s coming off a poor season and could end up being a bargain. Bobby Abreu could be an option, too. He wants multiple years, while the Yankees seem to be content offering him arbitration and allowing him to sign elsewhere.

On the trade front, Bowman gets a little unorthodox. Jason Bay and Matt Holliday get first mention, though they’re quickly written off. It’s unlikely Bay leaves Boston. He’s signed for $7.5MM next year before reaching free agency, and will certainly earn his pay. The Holliday mention is a nonstarter; there’s little chance the Braves will pay a ton in prospects for a guy who will reach free agency next year. I suppose the same goes for Bay, too.

He makes the most compelling case for Xavier Nady, whom the Braves attempted to acquire at the deadline. It appears unlikely, however, that the Yankees would part with the outfielder, who is entering his last year of arbitration. Perhaps if Casey Kotchman were involved, but that’s highly doubtful. If the Braves are intent on acquiring a bat through a trade, it now appears that Delmon Young could be available.

If you’re so inclined, you can check out River Ave. Blues, Joe’s Yankees blog. Today we’re talking Mariano Rivera and CC Sabathia.


Heyman’s Latest: Padres, Lowe, Manny, Minaya

Let’s take a look at what SI.com’s Jon Heyman has for us today.

  • The Padres might be looking to slash their already-low payroll. With Kevin Towers, Paul DePodesta, and Sandy Alderson on staff, they might be able to do it. The question is of how competitive they’ll be in ’09.  For more on the topic, check out our Padres Offseason Outlook.
  • Towers thinks that when it comes to free agents, no one does it better than Pat Gillick.
  • Will the Dodgers retain Manny Ramirez? Tough to say. Owner Frank McCourt might not want to spend the dough. Then again, with Manny’s jersey going for over $300 at Dodger Stadium — no, that’s not a typo — he might keep him on as an attraction. If only they weren’t so committed to Juan Pierre.
  • It doesn’t appear likely Derek Lowe will don Dodger blue next season. He’s had a few rough starts this season, but is still pitching to a 3.69 ERA, and his walks are low. He’ll get a nice contract somewhere, and won’t cost a draft pick.
  • The Mets want to extend Omar Minaya’s contract, which expires after the 2009 season.