WINTER MEETINGS IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR

I’ve got to say, the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis were
pretty cool.  It’s a collection of all the General Managers and Managers
of every team in baseball…and for a die-hard like myself, it is almost
nirvana.

The biggest news to come out of the meetings, in my
estimation, was the three-team deal between the Yankees, Diamondbacks and
Tigers.  From the Yankees perspective, they had a need in centerfield and
they addressed it.  And as good a player as I think Curtis Granderson is
and will probably be for the pinstripers, I am a tad concerned about the
decline in plate discipline.  “Grandy” had two solid years in
2007 and 2008 (’07 – .302/38 2B/23 3B/23 HR/74 RBI/122 R/.361 OBP & ’08 -
.280/26 2B/13 3B/22 HR/66 RBI/112 R/.365 OBP and that was shortened because of
the wrist injury he suffered in Spring Training of that year) before becoming
the “power hitter” that he’s become.  I put that in quotation
marks because he’s not your typical power hitter…as listed above, the guy has
flirted with the long ball in his career.  It seems to get magnified
because he did hit 30 big fly’s in what is a spacious home ballpark in Detroit.
 But those 30 HR’s came at the expense of his OBP (.327, full season
career low) and Runs Scored (91, second fewest full-season total).

But does any of that matter?  Not necessarily and
it’s mostly because it’s the Yankees.  It’s clearly understood that if
Grandy doesn’t get the job done in his PA (plate appearance), the Yankees have
8 other studs that can pick-up the slack.  He doesn’t have to worry as
much as say in Detroit, where the only real offense in 2009 was provided by
Miguel Cabrera (that is until the singles-machine Magglio Ordonez showed up in
September).  But he will be the match-up candidate of the year because of
his struggles against left-handed pitching in 2009.  So what you say?  I’m
just saying that in the American League East, there are some talented lefties
as starters as well as the situational guys in the ‘pen.  The bigger concern
for the Yankees?  Which defender is going to show up because towards the
end of 2009, Grandy was taking routes that not even Mapquest wanted to sponsor.
 Was it just bad reads?  Bad eyesight?  Who knows?  But the
Yankees honed in on their guy and they made the move…kudos for pulling the
trigger and filling that need.

For the Tigers it was a move that was predicated on
salary-flex.  I would not be surprised to hear that Dave Dombrowkski’s
wheels started churning on the turn-over his ballcllub as Ordonez’ option was
getting closer and closer.  The $18 million hit that the Tigers will take
with Mags in right field as well as the non-existent offense in 2009 forced the
Tigers into this situation.  Some have chided Dombrowski for moving a
pretty damn good starting pitcher and cornerstone center fielder but when you
have pieces that are attractive to other teams AND they have value, it’s the
time to strike.

I absolutely love the haul that Dombrowski got for trading
Grandy and Edwin Jackson.  Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth from the
Diamondbacks and Phil Coke and Austin Jackson from the Yankees.  From the
pitching standpoint, Dombrowski picked up one, if not, three starting pitchers.
 That’s right, I said it…there’s a potential that Coke could be an option
moving forward in the rotation.  The same goes for Schlereth.  Either
way, the Tigers will start 2010 with a rotation of Justin Verlander, Rick
Porcello, & Max Scherzer (9-11, 4.12 in 30 starts w/ Arizona)…that’s not
a bad front three to have in the American League Central.  If nothing
else, Coke will be a terrific bullpen piece as will Schlereth (I like him as a
possible closer down the road).  As far as Austin Jackson…you always
have to be leery of Yankees prospects but this kid seems to have some good
numbers/makeup.  The Tigers are not the Yankees, in that they’ll give
Jackson first crack at winning the center field job and ride it out.  The
Yankees, as we’ve seen in the past (Melky Cabrera to name one), prefer the
“established” guy.  Oh, almost forgot…I wouldn’t be surprised
to see the Tigers make a couple of other moves.  They’re not done dealing.

Last but not least, the Arizona Diamondbacks.  If you
have a consistent offense and you can play defense and your bullpen is
lock-down solid, then I understand this trade.  Otherwise it’s a brutal
move.  They’ve swapped out Scherzer (who’s several years away from free
agency) for Edwin Jackson (who’s numbers were great in the first half and
mediocre at best in the second half – 7-4, 2.52 pre All Star Game/6-5, 5.07
post All Star Game).  Not only that, Jackson is arbitration eligible and
will probably see his salary jump to the $5-$6 million range…that doesn’t
sound like much, but when you tack on the $1.33 million bonus they gave to
Schlereth as their #1 pick in 2008, you begin to wonder about the fuzzy math
(and on top of that, you’ll have to run through that process again after 2010
unless they give him a 2-year deal or longer to “buy” it out).  

The other piece that the DBacks received came courtesy of
the Yankees.  Pitcher Ian Kennedy.  The thing about Kennedy is that
he’s an unknown.  He had the surgery to take care of an 
aneurysm that he had near his
shoulder…it a surgery that David Cone and Kenny Rogers have come back from.  The
problem with this surgery, more times than not, is that  velocity is
affected.  Could he get it back?  Yes.  Will he get it back?  No
one knows.  At the end of the day, the DBacks felt comfortable enough to
make the call on Kennedy and it was a go…but like I said, it’s a shot in the
dark.

The
Diamondbacks will begin their quest for the National League West with a
rotation of Dan Haren, Brandon Webb (assuming he’s all the way back) and Edwin
Jackson.  That’s a pretty good three.  But this is what comes to
mind…Why has Edwin Jackson been traded so many times?  Are there issues
out there we don’t know about?  Remember, the Rays traded him AFTER going
to the World Series for Matt Joyce…MATT JOYCE (.188 in 11 games with TB
JOYCE)!  Other than that, the Diamondbacks were 27th in Average (.253),
20th in Runs, 22nd in OBP (.324), 1st in K’s (1298), 19th ERA (4.42) and the
2nd worst fielding percentage in baseball (.980 – 124 errors).  They’ve
got a lot of issues to address outside of their front three and that’s not
including how bad their bullpen is.  My point being that you make a move
like this if you’re pretty damn close to winning a division, not when you have
glaring holes throughout.  Maybe the DBacks surprise everyone and go out
and make a multitude of moves and all of a sudden the moves become genius.  UNTIL
then, it looks like a shot in the dark by a General Manager (Josh Byrnes) that
hasn’t proven anything yet other than he has the security (signed through 2015)
make moves like this.  Oh yeah, the National League West includes two
teams that were in the post-season in ’09 (Dodgers and Rockies) and the Giants
who have a “decent” rotation…yep, looks like the DBacks have a
chance.

 

Random Thoughts:

*  I
have no idea what the Nationals were thinking when they handed Pudge Rodriguez
a two-year contract.  At 38 years of age and coming off one of his worst
offensive season, there’s no need to give that type of guaranteed deal.  A
one year with an option would’ve probably been a little more appropriate.  The
other thing is the development of the young pitchers…Pudge has been around
and can give great advice, the Nats better hope he remains engaged throughout
the season in order to be the mentor they’d like him to be for both the arms as
well as their future backstops.

*  Chone
Figgins going to the Mariners makes sense.  I like what Figgy can do when
he’s on both sides of the ball.  Offensively, he’ll slide in nicely in the
2-hole behind Ichiro.  Defensively I see him being at 3B although neither
GM Jack Zduriencik
 nor Manager Don Wakamatsu would commit during the
meetings.  The Mariners are not done with their off-season either…Jason
Bay in left field would be a heckuva move.

*  Love the fact the Brewers went out and got Randy
Wolf (even though, like the toolbox that I am, I called him Ben Sheets during
the show the other day…that crap happens and at least I corrected it) and
LaTroy Hawkins this past week.  Still surprised that Wolf was not offered
arbitration by the Dodgers, a team that needs some.  Hawkins continues to
impress with his work out of the ‘pen for the Astros in 2009.  I wouldn’t
mind seeing the Brewers make one more, mid-range move on the rotation.  They
have been rumored with the courting of Mark Mulder.

*  For a team that had no flexibility whatsoever, the
Texas Rangers did a helluva job during the meetings.  Sure they lost a
starter in Kevin Millwood, but they get a pretty “nasty” (Brian
Cashman term) reliever in Chris Ray.  On top of that they go out and sign
Rich Harden to a very club-friendly deal that includes an option for 2011.  In
a perfect world and if their ownership situation were resolved, I’d plug John
Lackey at the top of the rotation and then take your chances.  But that’s
not going to be the case…at least for now.


Just livin’ the dream…

VR

1 Comment

Who ever thought we’d be referring to Maggs as a ‘singles machine’? LOL. I thought the MLB Network coverage of the meetings was fantastic. For the first time ever I got a detailed inside look at what actually goes on. The interviews were great, specifically Ozzie Guillen’s and the one with Sweet Lou and Bobby Cox. Fantastic! And as a Cardinals fan, my favorite move was the Brewers acquiring LaTroy Hawkins. Albert’s lickin’ his proverbial chops as I write this ;-)
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

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