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Following Starlin Castro's 6-RBI debut with the Cubs last night, Giants fans have to be wondering when they'll see their own top prospect, Buster Posey, arrive in the bigs. Bengie Molina left this afternoon's game at Citi Field with a tight left hamstring, and whether or not the injury requires a roster move, the calls for Posey's promotion will only grow louder.
With Posey likely ticketed for San Francisco sometime in the coming days or weeks, the Giants will have to decide how they'll balance playing time between their young backstop and the incumbent, Molina. While Posey can also play some first base, his real value is as an offensive catcher. However, the Giants won't be inclined to keep Molina on the bench too often if the veteran continues to perform like he has so far (.325/.396/.450).
Although Molina has enjoyed some early-season success on the field, he seems unhappy with his situation. The 35-year-old has recently expressed regrets about not landing with the Mets and talked about retiring after the 2010 campaign. You'd have to think the prospect of losing playing time to Posey would only make things worse for Molina.
So if Posey is promoted and proves capable of handling the Giants' staff and hitting in the majors, would the Giants think about moving Molina? ESPN.com's MLB Rumors page suggests the Red Sox, Yankees, and Mariners could be among the clubs in the market for a catcher, and Molina's contract situation is more favorable than some. Chris Snyder, for instance, is guaranteed $11.25MM over the next two years, while Molina is earning $4.5MM on a one-year deal.
There have been no indications yet that Giants would consider shopping Molina, but if Posey thrives upon eventually arriving in San Francisco, Molina could be an interesting trade chip. Which teams do you think might inquire about Molina's availability? Will he still be a Giant in September?
Every year we see countless trades involving every kind of player, from established big leaguers to promising prospects to minor league roster filler. Most of the time, one team ends up getting the better end of the deal, whether or not that's apparent at the time of the trade is a different story all together.
Moshe Mandel at TYU posed an interesting question today: does a GM want to see the prospects he's traded away succeed? Are the Phillies rooted for Kyle Drabek or against him? What about the Yankees and Austin Jackson, or the Red Sox and Nick Hagadone? Furthermore, what about the big leaguers traded away? Does a GM want to see those players do well?
I believe that the best trades are those that benefit both teams, because they've not improved your ball club but also your reputation with other clubs as well, which can help with future deals. Some might not agree, and think that the best deals involve improving their team while hurting another.
What about you? What does your ideal trade look like; is it a win-win, or something else? Is it wrong to want to see someone you've traded away fail?
Earlier this week, the Royals optioned former first-round pick Alex Gordon to the minors. The second overall pick in 2005, Gordon was named Baseball America's #2 prospect in all of baseball prior to the 2007 season. However, since hitting .260/.351/.432 in 2008, the 26-year-old has struggled to stay healthy and has posted a slash line of just .226/.327/.369 in 227 plate appearances for the Royals, leading to his demotion.
For Joe Posnanski, the move is a signal that the club has given up on Gordon, writing that "when you send him to the minor leagues after only 12 games, it doesn’t matter what you say. You are giving up." ESPN.com's Rob Neyer agrees, pointing out that many people in Kansas City's front office weren't around when Gordon was drafted, reducing their investment in him. Neyer says that if he were running the Royals, he'd play Gordon at third base, barring injury, until season's end, but the organization has other plans — they intend to give Gordon playing time at left field and first base in Triple-A Omaha. As Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star notes, Gordon likely would've been displaced at third base eventually by prospect Mike Moustakas, who is hitting .417/.491/.917 in Double-A so far this season.
So where does this leave Gordon? Posnanski is pessimistic about the left-handed hitter's future in Kansas City, predicting that Gordon could end up blossoming with another team who appreciates his strengths. It's unclear if the Royals would consider moving him at this point though, or if there'd even be much of a market for him. Mellinger spoke to one rival scout who opines: "Nobody I know is excited about [Gordon] or thinks he’s above getting sent down."
Gordon is under team control until after the 2013 season, so for now the Royals figure to give him a chance to play every day and gain some confidence in the minors. Eventually, his performance or an injury on the 25-man roster will earn him another shot in the bigs. Posnanski, however, belives that "without expectation and without a position," it won't work.
Following the Red Sox' three-game sweep at the hands of the last-place Baltimore Orioles, GM Theo Epstein insinuated that the team may need to make roster changes. In a piece by John Tomase of the Boston Herald, Epstein assesses the current state of his club:
"We’re still playing bad baseball. Unintelligent, undisciplined, uninspired baseball. It’s got to change…. It either changes itself or we have to do something to change it."
The Red Sox ranked first in baseball in offseason spending, investing in players like John Lackey, Mike Cameron, Adrian Beltre, and Marco Scutaro. The on-field product has underperformed so far though, looking up in the standings at the Rays, Yankees, and even the Blue Jays.
As Tomase suggests, it's hard to single out one player or even one aspect of the team as the root of the problem. However, when considering the likelihood of a drastic roster move, it's worth noting that many of the struggling players are in the final year of their contracts. Victor Martinez has had trouble throwing out basestealers and is hitting just .233/.298/.314. Designated hitters David Ortiz (.159/.254/.381) and Mike Lowell (.222/.300/.333) are underachieving and overpaid. Even Beltre, despite a .330 average, has yet to homer and has played mediocre defense by his standards, committing his sixth error of the season tonight.
The Red Sox are, of course, unlikely to become sellers, but they'll need to turn things around soon or risk falling from contention in a competitive division. If the Sox fail to make up ground on the Rays and Yankees in the AL East, what moves could you see the club making in the coming weeks and months?
Raul Ibanez is in the second season of a three-year, $31.5MM deal with the Phillies, and so far 2010 isn't treating him as well as the first half of 2009 did. Last season, Ibanez got off to a torrid start, hitting 340/.399/.716 with 19 homers in his first 50 games. This year, the 37-year-old has yet to find his stroke, posting a slash line of just .221/.341/.338.
Ibanez is a notoriously streaky hitter, and it's possible another hot stretch like last year's is right around the corner. It's only May 1st and there are plenty of reasons to believe he'll right the ship, such as his .341 OBP, which is right in line with his career rate (.346) and his 2009 rate (.347). If Ibanez's struggles continue, however, it's a cause of concern for the two-time defending National League champs. In addition to this year's slow start, the outfielder finished 2009 by hitting 228/.313/.446 after those aforementioned first 50 games. Ibanez will turn 38 this month, and one has to wonder if his age is starting to catch up to him.
As a piece on ESPN.com's MLB Rumors page notes, Ibanez's leash will be long. The Phillies owe him $11.5MM in each of the next two seasons, and won't want to pay him that money to sit on the bench. Plus, their alternatives aren't overly appealing — in limited playing time, Ben Francisco has also struggled this year, and prospect Domonic Brown is probably not quite major league ready.
So what are the Phillies' options if Ibanez's numbers don't improve? Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer suggested that the club's best bet of retaining Jayson Werth beyond this year involved moving Ibanez to help clear salary space, but in addition to the $23MM he's owed, Ibanez's no-trade protection is problematic. Can you see the Phillies attempting to make any roster moves, or will this end up being a non-issue for the team?
Yesterday, we took a look at how Ryan Howard's contract extension might affect the Phillies' chances of retaining Jayson Werth beyond this season. Following the 2011 campaign, the Phils will face a decision on a player even more crucial to their recent successes than Werth: shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
The Phillies have already exercised their $8.5MM 2011 option for the 2007 National League MVP, and they'll likely want to keep Rollins past next season. He is perhaps the face of the franchise, and has been one of baseball's most productive all-around shortstops since becoming an everyday player in 2001.
The good news for the Phils is that they'll have a couple of bloated contracts coming off the books after 2011. Raul Ibanez and Brad Lidge are both owed $11.5MM in '11, but are probably unlikely to remain in Philadelphia beyond that, and certainly not at that price. However, as MLBTR's Howard Megdal pointed out yesterday, the Phillies already have plenty of other commitments in 2012 and beyond.
MLB.com's Todd Zolecki notes that Rollins has said in the past that he could picture himself finishing his career for a Bay Area club, near where he grew up. These days, the 31-year-old seems more open to staying put in Philadelphia: "We weren't good then. We're good now. As long as we're good, I'm good."
GM Ruben Amaro Jr. insists that Howard's extension won't affect the team's ability to re-sign players like Werth and Rollins, though extension talks with Werth are at an impasse for now. If the Phillies are unable to bring Werth back in 2010, Rollins' chances of remaining with the club look better, since they'll be locked into one less long-term deal. If Rollins does receive a multi-year, big-money extension though, the Phillies' financial flexibility will take yet another hit. Even with a payroll that exceeds $140MM, you have to wonder how much money they can afford to tie up long-term in aging players.
It's safe to say that Gil Meche is off to a less-than-stellar start as he has given up 16 runs with a 0.58 K/BB ratio in 12.2 innings of work. Even though he missed time early on this season with shoulder bursitis, Royals manager Trey Hillman doesn't believe that Meche is having any physical or mechanical issues (Ryan Young of The Kansas City Star reporting).
Meche, who shares the honor of having the largest contract in Royals history with Mike Sweeney, is set to earn $12MM in each of the two remaining years on his deal. The 31-year-old's contract didn't seem unreasonable at this time last year, as he turned in a 3.82 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 across his first two seasons in Kansas City. However, in the winter following his injury riddled 2009, the Royals told clubs that they would be open to dealing their former ace.
Roughly one month ago, the Dodgers appeared to have a surplus of starting pitching. There were more than a handful of hurlers who were making a strong case for the fifth spot in the rotation. Carlos Monasterios, Charlie Haeger, Josh Lindblom, Ramon Ortiz, Eric Stults, and Russ Ortiz were all impressive during Spring Training. There were so many candidates to choose from that the Dodgers sold Stults' contract to a Japanese team. My, how things have changed.
Russ Ortiz was DFA'd after floundering in seven big league innings. Haeger hasn't found much success in 15.1 IP (three starts and one relief appearance) either. Now, the Dodgers have another hole to fill as Padilla is headed to the disabled list with a sore elbow. There are pitchers at the ready in Triple-A Albuquerque, including the aforementioned Lindblom and once-ballyhooed James McDonald, though all have their fair share of question marks. Padilla's injury aside, the Dodgers' starting five still looks like it could use a lift.
Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times drops the names of three notable starters still available on the open market: Jarrod Washburn, John Smoltz, and Pedro Martinez. Washburn seems to be holding out for a deal approaching the $5MM he was offered by Minnesota this winter. Smoltz won't completely rule out a return to baseball, though he's enjoying his television gigs. Pedro is reportedly maintaining contact with the Phillies, though he is said to still hold a grudge against the Dodgers over things that happened back when jheri curls were still somewhat in vogue.
Should the cash-strapped Dodgers look into signing one of these vets or should they find other ways to improve?
After a battle for the first base job during Spring Training with top prospect Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez came out on top. Sanchez had just two major league starts to his credit coming into this season, but he has done well in the full-time position thus far. In 12 games, Sanchez has hit .308/.426/.538.
Meanwhile, as an item on the ESPN MLB Rumors page points out, Morrison is also performing well for the club's Triple-A affiliate. The 22-year-old lefty has an OPS of 1.066 and a pair of home runs in ten games. While sample size is obviously an issue here, one wonders if more of the same from Morrison could make Sanchez expendable. Prior to this season, ESPN.com's Keith Law ranked Morrison as the #21 prospect in baseball.
Dealing the Miami-born Sanchez could certainly help the Marlins get a boost in other areas. In the past, they have managed to catch lightning in a bottle when building their bullpen. However, GM Michael Hill would likely feel more comfortable if he could pick up some additional relief help this season. The Marlins have already parted ways with four of their relief additions from this offseason: Jose Veras, Mike MacDougal, Seth McClung, and Derrick Turnbow.
Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that Mike Napoli, unhappy with his playing time so far this year, requested a meeting with skipper Mike Scioscia. Napoli was the Angels' primary catcher last season, starting 84 games behind the plate (to Jeff Mathis' 78) and another 16 games at designated hitter. So far in 2010, Mathis has started seven of the Angels' ten contests.
"I don't like coming in here and not seeing my name in the lineup," said Napoli. "I'm a competitor. I want to be on the field. I don't feel like a player who should be in the lineup for only two of nine games. I feel like I should be a starter."
Napoli has provided impressive offensive production over the past two seasons, hitting .273/.359/.527 combined in 2008 and 2009, slugging 20 homers each year. Mathis' numbers with the bat have been considerably less impressive (.202/.281/.313), but Scioscia, a former backstop himself, values Mathis' defensive ability: "First and foremost, we need that defensive presence behind the plate. Jeff is getting more playing time because he's playing at a very high level on defense."
Ten games into the season, it's too early to jump to any conclusions about the Angels' catching situation, but supposing Scioscia continues to divide the playing time as he has so far, the team could have some flexibility. Each player has two more years of arbitration eligibility, but Mathis is more affordable than Napoli, earning $1.3MM in 2010 to Napoli's $3.6MM. One would think the Angels might entertain the idea of shopping their second catcher, who is not only more expensive, but also publicly frustrated with his playing time.
That's not to say the 28-year-old Napoli is likely to be dealt. Having his bat on their bench is a luxury the Angels can afford, and when Mathis (.333/.346/.458 this year) cools off, Napoli should earn a few more at-bats. However, as long as Napoli is sitting more often than he's starting, teams will take notice. There are plenty of less defensive-minded clubs who'd love to acquire a catcher that doesn't hit free agency for two more years and outslugged Victor Martinez and Brian McCann last season.
How would you handle your two backstops if you were the Angels? Should Napoli be playing more often, or is Mathis' defense strong enough to make up for his lesser offense? Which clubs could you see inquiring about Napoli's availability?