The Hot Stove League had barely been simmering until earlier this week when a flurry of moves was able to keep it cooking. The Matt Hollidays and John Lackeys are already off the market. So, that leaves us with the Jon Garlands and Ronnie Belliards to spark the interest of myself and fellow transaction junkies. Nonetheless, these moves deserve some notoriety and I’m here to do just that with a quick synopsis of this weeks moves:
Rich Hill LHP- The former star prospect of the Chicago Cubs has signed on with the St. Louis Cardinals with the hope that pitching coach Dave Duncan can work his magic again. Duncan has gotten solid production out of many pitchers who were facing career declines before arriving in St. Louis. His revamping projects have included Jeff Weaver, Todd Wellemeyer, Ryan Franklin, Joel Pineiro, and Kyle Lohse, just off the top of my head. Hill has a nice repetoire including a plus curveball which makes him an enticing project for Duncan and a candidate for the 5th spot in the rotation.
Jim Edmonds OF- Edmonds is a former All-Star for the Cardinals who resurrected his career once already with the Cubs after a rough start in San Diego two years ago. After not receiving much interest last winter, Edmonds took the year off. He now returns to the NL Central on a minor league deal with the Brewers in search of a part-time role in Milwaukee. It’s a great signing for the Crew given the low risk contract.
Fernando Tatis UT– Tatis finally was able to find a home in the Majors with the Mets the past couple of seasons after being away from The Show for a while. This off-season he re-signed with the Mets to primarily serve as the platoon partner for Daniel Murphy at first base. His return seemed unlikely until recently as the Mets were rumored to be interested in higher profile first basemen like Russell Branyan, Adam LaRoche and Carlos Delgado. The Mets continue to miss out on their targets this off-season but this signing is a nice fallback plan.
Jon Garland RHP- Garland has never been great and has never been bad. That means he should have a pretty steady salary of about $5M on one year deals for a while. You know what you’re going to get with Garland and it’s usually a chance to win ball games. He goes to San Diego who I believe will make some noise this season in the NL West. The Padres were an over-achieving team in the second half. Garland’s arrival gives San Diego time to mold their abundance of young starters. If they do fall out of the race, however, Garland will be dealt along with closer Heath Bell.
Randy Winn OF- Above all else, Randy Winn signing with the Yankees finally ended the nagging drama between the Evil Empire and Johnny Damon. Whether the Yankees or Damon should’ve lowered their demands is finally behind us. Now back to Mr. Winn. He will provide plus defense and is perfect for the nine spot in an already dangerous lineup. Winn displayed durability last year and was added on a relatively inexpensive contract. This was the best destination for the veteran outfielder.
Ronnie Belliard 2B– Belliard turned out to be a difference maker down the stretch and even stole the starting gig from Orlando Hudson for the month of September. After re-signing with the Dodgers, it will be tough for him to produce at the same level but I doubt that the Dodgers are expecting that. A return to form by Russell Martin and a full season of Manny Ramirez will give the Dodgers plenty of offense. Belliard will start most of the time but Jamey Carroll will also get starts at second.
Jim Thome DH– Last year Thome put up 23 home runs along with a .366 OBP in 124 games for the White Sox and Dodgers. Much of those numbers came while Thome was starting at DH for the White Sox but he got a taste of being a pinch hitter in limited time with Los Angeles. Pinch hitting will be his main role with the Twins as the DH spot is already held down by fellow lefty Jason Kubel. However, Thome is one injury to Kubel, Michael Cuddyer or Delmon Young from the starting DH job. If Cuddyer or Young were to get injured, Kubel would take over in a corner outfield spot and Thome would inherit the DH job while quietly continuing his chase for 600 career home runs.
Eric Byrnes OF– Byrnes’ time in Arizona did not go as well as he or the Diamondbacks would’ve hoped and it resulted in his release this week. Byrnes has always been known as a stand-up guy who gives everything he’s got on every play. That attitude will embraced by both the fans and players in Seattle. He will not be a starter which may help him stay away from the DL. What he will be is a pinch runner/hitter and a part-time left fielder when the club wants to give Milton Bradley a day at designated hitter. This signing fits well for the Mariners and Byrnes.
Marlon Byrd has signed a 3 year $15M dollar deal with the Chicago Cubs. The deal still gives Jim Hendry some flexibility this winter because it is backloaded and only pays the center fielder $3M in 2010.
The deal is already drawing criticism. This is the second year in a row that Jim Hendry gave a 3 year deal to a Texas outfielder coming off a career season. The Ballpark in Arlington is well known to be a hitter’s park and may have inflated Byrd’s numbers over the past couple of years as shown in his home/away splits.
Also, it appears that Hendry has overbid, basically, himself. There was interest from other clubs in regards to Byrd but no details on their offers have been reveiled yet. However, it is not expected that Byrd received any other 3 year proposals.
The value of the contract is what makes it OK in my eyes. $15M is not the worst thing in the world and his defense will improve when he can focus on one position all year. He will get some playing time in left when Soriano inevitably gets hurt again (probably making his trademark skip when he catches routine flyballs). Cubs fans just shouldn’t expect too much out of Marlon. He isn’t supposed to ‘save’ the Cubs or hit 4th like Milton Bradley was. Do expect high energy and some RBIs though.
Only time will tell if this contract was worth it, but maybe the small ’10 salary will give the Cubs enough room to still bring in Orlando Hudson. The team could still use another arm as well. The Cubs are at least trying to keep pace with the Cardinals who now appear likely to re-sign Matt Holliday to a huge deal.
Amidst studying for my last final, I’ve decided this is important enough for a slight break. Milton Bradley has finally been traded and it is a surprisingly O.K. ending to a failed relationship. Ironically, I will blame Jim Hendry for more of the failure than what I put on Milton Bradley. Hendry was the one who decided to offer Bradley twice the amount of his other offers last off-season, not to mention Bradley’s intense desire to become a Chicago Cub. Don’t you think that even if the offers were the same, his well-known motives for becoming a Cub would’ve placed them over any other option? The third year and huge dollars are very questionable. Mistake number one.
So, Jim, you already over-paid a man who is often injured and constantly giving himself the precise attention he doesn’t need… That all plays out in the perfect fashion that is the Chicago Cubs, that is, it falls apart. And while the story is in the middle of it’s decline, Bradley achieves his player friendly vesting option of playing 75 games in the outfield, kicking in the 3rd year of his contract and another $10MM. Mr. Hendry, just because an outfielder who gets hurt too often plays in at least 75 games, it doesn’t mean he produced worth a crap during that span. Rehabbing pitchers get vesting options for starts, not potential franchise right fielders, especially when you have no other option in right field (Micah Hoffpauir doesn’t count). Mistake number two.
Bradley’s foul behavior and comments got himself in more trouble late in the season. Instead of talking behind closed doors to find a solution, Hendry announced to the world that Bradley had been sent home for the season. It was obvious that the Bradley was not going to be back so Hendry lost even more leverage by saying we have to trade him. Did Hendry think he was sending a message to his team? Did he think if he didn’t ‘make an example’ out of Bradley that Derrek Lee and Ryan Dempster were soon to follow Bradley’s string of bad behavior? P.S. Jim: The Cubs were already well out of contention so the suspension mattered even less! Mistake number three.
But in the end, despite offering a contract that was too valuable and too easy, along with losing all leverage what-so-ever (Hendry couldn’t even work out a trade for Pat “I Lost My Bat” Burrell), the Cubs made a trade that will help them this season and next.
No I’m not talking about the Carlos Silva part. I’m talking about the ridiculous $9MM dollars the Mariners sent us with Silva. That balances out to the Cubs paying $15MM for two years of a bad pitcher while the M’s pay $30MM for two years of a player that we almost had to release because of Hendry’s horrible attempt at a PR move. If the Cubs were able to get this in return, imagine what the return could’ve been without Hendry’s butchering of the whole process…
Either way the Cubs brought in a pitcher who has had some success years ago and it never hurts to have some extra pitching depth, even though he’s really bad. Jack Z in Seattle had brought in Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee this off-season but the money he gave up here has me questioning him a little bit. I’m sure Bradley will bounce back a bit but was it worth that much?
Now Jim, just because you saved a few bucks this winter by ridding yourself of Heilman, Miles, and Bradley, you should not go out and blow it again. Marlon Byrd and Rick Ankiel are interesting options in center and both should be considered at the right price. Both have scary splits in their stats however. Orlando Hudson will be the most efficient use of money for any team this off-season and his effort/personality would be a great insert to the Cubs’ clubhouse after moving Bradley. Let’s hope that is the next move on the Cubs’ slate this off-season.
A quick synopsis of this year’s Winter Meetings from Indianapolis.
- Ivan Rodriguez was able to snag 2 years at a huge $6MM from the dismal Washington Nationals. He will provide great leadership for young catcher Jesus Flores and potential first overall pick of next summer’s draft, catcher Bryce Harper. Only time will tell if he really is worth $6MM.
- The Astros decided to spend relatively big on Brandon Lyon and Matt Lindstrom for the back of the bullpen plus another $4.5MM on Pedro Feliz to keep the hot corner warm until Chris Johnson arrives.
- Brad Penny got a large $7.5MM contract plus another $1.5MM in incentives from the Cards.
- In maybe the most surprising move of all (undoubtedly the most surprising to the Braves), Rafael Soriano accepted arbitration and then demanded a trade. I see that as another crafty move around not costing his new team a first round draft pick while still commanding a nice salary. The Braves are currently finalizing a trade to ship Soriano to the Rays for another reliever, Jessie Chavez.
- The Brewers decided to spend on another aging veteran for the rotation in Randy Wolf. They’re hoping he’s not the next Jeff Suppan. One solid move by Milwaukee, in my opinion, was adding LaTroy Hawkins to a previously unreliable setup crew in front of Trevor Hoffman.
- Andy Pettitte resigned with the Yankees on another one year contract. The salary was a little more than most expected however, at $11.75MM.
- The Yankees made another big splash in acquiring Curtis Granderson which has already been discussed in an earlier entry.
- The Cubs still have not found the elusive trade partner for Milton Bradley. The most intriguing rumors for Cubs fans so far would be an exchange of Bradley and Gil Meche, a starter on the Royals. The salaries match up pretty well and Meche may be able to win more in the NL.
Right now every team needs pitching depth and will look to acquire it this time of the year. But right now I would like to focus on offensive aspect of the Chicago Cubs and what Jim Hendry should do to fix it.
Because I don’t see the Cubs and Milton Bradley getting past their differences, I’ll plan on him not being with them this summer. So priority number one, deal Bradley for whatever salary relief you can get. I would not clog up the lineup with another bad contract, but instead try to get a pitcher in return. It would have to be another bad contract (Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson, Carlos Silva come to mind) but they would add depth I was just talking about if nothing else. Bringing in Pat Burrell would not help the Cubs in any way, shape, or form.
The free agent market is where the Cubs should go to fix their lineup. I like the idea of Coco Crisp on an inexpensive deal to share time with Tyler Colvin. Crisp provides solid defense, speed and a true leadoff bat. That shifts Kosuke Fukudome back to right where he is most valuable. It’s a no-risk move and if Colvin produces with more time, Crisp could easily be moved.
Orlando Hudson is the best option at second. Why trade for Luis Castillo if Hudson is available, better, and less expensive? Hudson is comparable to Crisp in the fact that he is a switch hitter, plays great defense, and both guys offer a great clubhouse presence. Hudson has been injured very often over the past two seasons but that should not be too much of a worry, ironically, in this situation. Like a year ago, it will keep his price tag down but you still get five-tool value when he is healthy. Also, Jeff Baker came on strong in the second half and deserves some starts against lefties while still giving the team further depth at first, third, left, and right. Baker’s starts will keep Hudson rested and hopefully injury-free.
These two options should cost a combined maximum $8MM next year. These players don’t hurt the pocket book but are solid value. My hopeful lineup for 2010:
- Crisp cf
- Hudson 2b
- Lee 1b
- Ramirez 3b
- Soriano lf
- Fukudome rf
- Soto c
- Theriot ss
One bright-spot of the Chicago Cubs last year was the stride of improvement their ’09 class of prospects made.
Pitcher Randy Wells was discussed as a National League ROY candidate while Jake Fox played five positions and banged 11 home runs. Angel Guzman was healthy for a full year and and posted a 2.95 ERA in 55 outings. There were also some part-time players who contributed big-time. Esmailin Caridad appeared in 14 games, struck out 17, and walked only 3 en route to a 1.40 ERA. Justin Berg found similar success in 11 outings, only allowing one run. Backup outfielder Sam Fuld and reserve infielder Andres Blanco provided exceptional defense and reasonable offense.
Now to Jim Hendry all of this is just fine and dandy but it doesn’t matter. After a couple division titles and two disappointing trips to the NLDS, Hendry is on the hot seat. The window may be slim. Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly are entering the final years of their contracts. Meanwhile, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano aren’t getting any younger…
These factors raise the question: Why not continue getting younger? The bullpen is already almost all products of the organization’s farm system. It consists of mainly pre-arbitration arms, providing the team with some financial security and still the possibility of a future. The rotation will have openings after this year which top prospects Jay Jackson, Andrew Cashner, and even ‘the other’ Chris Carpenter should have opportunities to fill.
The offense has an opening in center with the plans to move Kosuke Fukudome back right after the imminent Milton Bradley disposal. Instead of replacing Bradley with a high-priced center fielder (Curtis Granderson, Vernon Wells, Aaron Rowand, etc.), I would plan on leaving the spot open for an internal replacement. Tyler Colvin made his debut last season and is a lefty gap hitter who plays center. He hit very well at AA. Kyler Burke is another top outfield prospect but he is only 21 and still a few years away.
As for the middle of the infield, Starlin Castro is the young phenom rising fast in the club’s inner circles. Still only 19, Castro will not break camp with the big league club this spring. But that’s not necessary. Leave him at AAA to get some more seasoning and let Jeff Baker hang onto the starting gig which he earned last summer. If Castro can prove himself in Iowa and the right situation arises, a promotion is likely as Ryan Theriot has already agreed to moving to second base if it would help the team.
Going along with these moves will be tough for a GM under fire and a manager in the last year of his illustrious career, but will set up the Cubs for a financially functional future. The Ricketts have big plans for Wrigley so saving money when possible would be nice. Instead of the huge free agent/trade targets, the Cubs need to pursue a right handed outfielder to split time with Colvin in center and share the load with Kosuke against tough lefties. If Marlon Byrd’s value really does drop as far as some say it will, he would be a perfect fit as would guys like Randy Winn, Coco Crisp, and Reed Johnson. Otherwise, acquiring this outfielder as part of the return for Milton Bradley makes sense with such possibilities as Gary Matthews Jr. and Nick Swisher. The other spot Hendry needs to focus on is the rotation because it sounds like Ted Lilly will miss extended time next year.
I don’t predict this to be a huge off-season for the Cubbies, but I also don’t think they need huge changes. Saving some money now may give them the flexibility to add payroll in a couple winters when the free agent class will offer better values.
A recent post on mlbtraderumors.com by Tim Dierkes posed a challenge to the readers: Create the best possible lineup, rotation, and bullpen of this off-season’s trade candidates. So this evening I’ll take my crack at it, again only using players who have a good chance of getting traded this winter.
1. Granderson cf– Detroit seems to be cost cutting, could bring in a haul.
2. Pierre lf– Dodger’s OF is full and getting expensive through arbitration.
3. Bradley rf– You know the story. Will he rebound after another ‘fresh start?’
4. Uggla 2b– Another Marlins cost cutting off-season is very probable.
5. Cust dh– Billy Beane isn’t a huge fan of giving out raises via arbitration.
6. Atkins 1b– Ian Stewart’s emergence has made Atkins expendable.
7. Gamel 3b– The Brewers will try to make a big splash after failing to retain C.C. last year. That splash starts with prospects.
8. Doumit c– Had a rough season and doesn’t seem to fit in with the coaches/management.
9. (Macier, not Cesar) Izturis ss– Erik Aybar’s earned the full-time role at short.
1. Halladay– The new GM knows the Jays won’t compete before his Doc’s deal runs out.
2. Jackson- See ‘Granderson’ above.
3. Kawakami– The Braves don’t have a spot for him in their solid rotation and he’s affordable.
4. Arroyo- Great second half but the Reds are cutting costs and they’ll start with this $13MM.
5. Silva- Will be swapped for another bad contract.
- Tallet LH– May not fit Toronto’s plans and will be getting a slight raise.
- Pinto LH– Talented lefty struggled for the Marlins but is very talented. Will draw interest.
- Casilla RH– Similar to Pinto, though a righty.
- Farnsworth RH- His deal seemed bad from the start. He’s due $5MM.
- Corpas RH- Shedding the $6.5MM he’s due will redirect money towards resigning Betancourt.
- Wheeler RH- Has closed but is better as a setup man. Rays will go cheaper.
- Lindstrom CL- Leo Nunez stole his closer job in-season. Brings intimidation with heater.
As you can see, I don’t think some of the more intriguing picks (Adrian Gonzalez, Felix Hernandez, Carl Crawford, etc.) will get traded this off-season. These types of players are both integral to their team’s success and are rather affordable, not to mention how close each of those teams are to contending in their division. I expect this off-season’s trade market to consist of more cost-adjusting moves and less blockbusters than the headlines would like to suggest.
But they don’t call it the Hot Stove League for nothing as I’m sure there will be some surprising and exciting deals pulled off as the owners’ holiday wishlists grow larger.