Thursday, November 15, 2007

Free Agent/Trade Predictions, Part 2

Before I get to my next batch of offseason predictions, I'll need to address the unlikelihood of one of my picks from earlier in the week. At some time tomorrow I would guess that Alex Rodriguez will have finalized a massive new deal with the Yankees that will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $275-$300 million over ten years. It appears that A-Rod kissed and made up with the Steinbrenners and now looks poised to man the hot corner during the infancy of the new Yankee Stadium. I guess we shouldn't be surprised, all along the Yankees were the team with the most money and now they will continue to have the highest paid player in baseball. Scott Boras' posturing about a $350 million contract ended up being all hogwash, and now baseball's super agent looks pretty bad for not getting his client what he hypothesized.

It would appear this would pave the way for a re-signing of Mike Lowell, but the Empire isn't done throwing large sums of money at corner infielders just yet. Tonight it is being reported that the Yankees have offered Lowell between $56-$60 million over four years to switch positions and play first base in the Bronx. As I said last time, the Red Sox did not and will not budge from their three-year offer for the World Series MVP. I've got to be honest; if the Yankees want to go to four years and that much money, and want to move him off the position at which he is Gold Glove-caliber, and bring him into a stadium where his numbers will be significantly worse than at Fenway, then by all means, the Red Sox should let the Yankees take him and happily accept the 28th overall pick in the 2008 draft in return. One thing you cannot possibly fault the Red Sox for in recent years is their willingness to set a value on a player and stick to it. I'm still surprised the Sox did decide to go past two years with Lowell.

Don't get me wrong, I love Mike Lowell as much as the next obsessive Red Sox fan. I know that after the World Series I implied that I wanted the team to do whatever it took to keep him around. But in retrospect, Lowell is going to be 34 at the start of next season. Do I really want to the Sox to handicap themselves into an unmovable mess of a contract if Lowell's skills diminish in Year Two of a four year pact? I mean, it's bad enough that they already have J.D. Drew's deal around their necks if this past year wasn't an aberration. Should the Red Sox make that mistake again? Let the Yankees make that mistake, again, if they want to. If they do sign Lowell, they'll have quite the logjam at the 1B/DH/LF positions, forcing them to deal off either Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui to make it work. Isn't it possible that in a few years the Yankees will have a whole TEAM full of guys who can only play first or DH? Good luck on that one.

Again, don't get me wrong: I want Lowell to stay with the Sox. He's a class act, a true professional, a phenomenal defender, and has a swing built for Fenway Park. Sure, by the time he's 37 he might not be that great of a player anymore. The Red Sox, however, have no viable options in the minor leagues to step in, nor do they want to move their Gold Glove first baseman back across the diamond to fill the void, nor are they willing to trade their valuable young commodities to another organization for the likes of Miguel Cabrera or Miguel Tejada. The best they could do would be to trade Coco Crisp for someone like Hank Blalock, a move that would excite absolutely no one in the Northeast. Despite all this, I still feel the Sox would do one of these things should Lowell go elsewhere and it would work out fine. Given the lack of interest from the Phillies and the difficulty of hitting in other parks competing for his services, Lowell needs Boston more than Boston needs Lowell. Therefore, I think the Red Sox have done their best to try and keep Lowell at their price. Either he takes it or he doesn't, and if not, they'll take the draft pick and move on. Getting into a bidding war on this particular player is a bad idea.

On to some more predictions:

Bartolo Colon - Mariners. It's hard to believe only a couple years ago that Colon was hands-down the best pitcher in the American League. Now he'll probably sign an incentive-laden one-year deal with a team so he can gain some value and try to hit it big next offseason. Any team willing to take on Colon will be taking a huge risk given his health/conditioning concerns. I think the Mariners are such a team, considering their decision to bring in Jeff Weaver last offseason to mixed results. The Mariners need to have it written in the contract that Colon can only visit his local McDonald's twice a week.

Francisco Cordero - Houston. Ladies and gentlemen, the Ed Wade Era in Houston has begun! I can't imagine the phone conversations GMs around baseball must have had after finding out Wade dealt off prime closer Brad Lidge for a sack of potatoes and a six-pack of Natural Ice. The previous GM of the Astros, Tim Purpura, never seemed willing to give up Lidge for anything less than top-flight talent. I know the Red Sox tried to get him, and the price always seemed way too high for a guy that is often unhittable but is also prone to the gopher ball. Within a month of getting the job, Wade, who was run out of Philly on a rail a couple years ago, shipped Lidge to his former employers as if to say, "Sorry I was such a bad GM for you guys. Here's my best reliever and all I want back is an overrated burner, a burned-out reliever, and a prospect no one has never heard of." To compensate, I expect baseball know-nothing Drayton McClane to open up his wallet for Wade to spend on Cordero. It only makes sense at this point. I had also expected the 'Stros to take a chance on Mike Cameron, but since acquiring Michael Bourn in the Lidge trade I don't see that happening anymore.

Tom Glavine - Atlanta. Another popular pick this offseason. There's a lot of incentive for Glavine to head back to the Braves: his family still lives there, he gets to team up with Smoltz one last time, and he gets to continue to climb his way up the record books in the uniform that brought him fame and fortune. Had the Red Sox failed to sign Schilling, I would have loved to see the Sox bring in the Billerica product to be that veteran presence on the pitching staff. Of course, I'm forgetting a major fact here, which is that Glavine really doesn't have that much left. Some are saying he will be lucky to get through another whole season. If he didn't want to go back to Atlanta I don't see why he declined $13 million to play another season for the Mets. Glavine has never been one to turn down a large sum of money given his long-standing leadership in the Player's Association. He wants to go back home for 2008 and wait for that call from Cooperstown in five years.

I had originally predicted that Barry Bonds would sign with the Padres, but now that he's finally been indicted on federal perjury and obstruction of justice charges, I now honestly believe we've seen Bonds play in the Majors for the last time. Any team willing to take a chance on Bonds right now is either criminally insane or run by Ed Wade.

I've also got Kyle Lohse replacing Glavine with the Mets, Carlos Silva taking big money to replace Kenny Rogers in Detroit, Paul Lo Duca heading back to South Florida to play for the Marlins, and Japanese stars Kosuke Fukudome and Hiroki Kuroda landing with the Cubs and Mariners, respectively. Now I'm going to move on to four trade candidates, and where I think they will end up.

Coco Crisp - Twins. Minnesota will bid farewell to Torii Hunter this winter and can welcome Crisp as his replacement. Red Sox fans all across the Nation are willing to help Coco pack his bags following Jacoby Ellsbury's performance over the final six games of the 2007 playoffs. Signing Coco to that very team-friendly contract extension during the 2006 season will end up being a savvy move by Theo Epstein as most any team in baseball will be able to afford the $10.5 million still owed on Crisp's deal (with an $8 million team option for 2010). The Twins seem like a natural fit, but my only concern is that the Red Sox have been asking a lot for Crisp thus far and I'm not sure what the Twins can offer. Just getting one reliever like Juan Rincon or Dennys Reyes back in the deal doesn't seem like enough. The Red Sox are in a good position here, and can wait until the dust clears on center field free agent signings before they make a move with Crisp.

Miguel Tejada - Orioles. Once again, Miguel Tejada will bitch about the losing culture in Baltimore that he just so happened to will himself into (the $72 million had nothing to do with his decision, apparently), and demand to be traded. Once again, Baltimore brass will canvass the masses and ask far too much for a loud-mouth hitter that can longer admirably play shortstop. Once again, no one will take the bait. Once again, Tejada will enter spring training donning the orange and white of Baltimore. And once again, the Orioles will suck. Doesn't this make anyone else sad?

Miguel Cabrera - Dodgers. This prediction was based on my belief that the Angels would sign A-Rod. With recent developments, the Cabrera sweepstakes are wide open, and based on some reports coming out of LA today, it appears that the Angels may be in the lead. I expected the Dodgers to finally put together a deal to bring in a big bopper with all the pieces they have: Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, James Loney, Jonathon Broxton, and even some others on the table as well. The Dodgers have been shy to involve these players in any trade talks, while the Angels are ready talk about putting up previously untouchable players like Howie Kendrick, Brandon Wood and Nick Adenhart to get Cabrera. I expect this trade to happen either way around the time of the Winter Meetings.

Johan Santana - Twins. I actually do think Santana will be traded. Now before you jump all over me for the incongruity of those last two statements, I only have Minnesota as his destination at the outset of the 2008 season because I have no idea who will trade for Santana. The Yankees are a logical fit, but they are unwilling to part with their young troika of Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy (sounds like a bad law firm). Maybe whichever LA team loses out on Cabrera can cash in their chips for Santana instead. If you're the Twins, don't you have to deal away your most prized possession while you still can? It's not possible to sign him long-term, and if they don't trade him they'll left with nothing to show for it when he departs after making $13 million this season. Someone will pay the price to get the guarantee of 230 innings of Johan each year once they sign him to an extension.

This looks to be a great offseason. I'll be checking in quite often with analysis of moves/non-moves that will affect how the 2008 MLB season plays out.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Free Agent/Trade Predictions

I figured I'd check in at the end of this long weekend with some of my feelings on where the winter's most coveted free agents and trade candidates will end up. Tonight at midnight, teams lose exclusive negotiating rights with their free agents, allowing those players to finally talk dollars with other teams. Tomorrow, the real offseason begins as most of the activity will take place between now and Christmas, with the Winter Meetings taking place December 3-6. I entered in a couple online contests with my picks and felt like sharing some with you right now.

Alex Rodriguez - Angels. It seems like too perfect of a fit to not happen. A-Rod gets to move back to the West Coast and play in a region where his every move won't be scrutinized by an invasive sports media and unappreciative fans. After watching the Angels in the playoffs, it's clear their biggest need is offense. Plus, there can be an ongoing debate between A-Rod and Vlad about who is a more inept postseason hitter.

Torii Hunter - Rangers. Every expert and learned baseball prognosticator feels this is the most sure thing of this winter, and I agree. Hunter's Arkansas home isn't too far away, and the Rangers always seem willing to throw their financial weight around at veterans. In that ballpark I don't see why Hunter can't have a major offensive resurgence and be a top-tier player for years to come.

Mike Lowell - Red Sox. I highly doubt Lowell will accept the Red Sox offer of three years and between $36-$45 million without seeing what else is out there. It's his right and I hope the Red Sox don't get offended by it. The market for Lowell is pretty good, and the Yankees have been somewhat vocal in their feeling that he will return to Boston, which isn't a good sign. That seems to be a Yankee tactic, swooping in and taking a player they say publicly they can't get or don't want. The Phillies don't seem to want to give up their draft pick, and who knows what other teams will do. In the end I feel the Sox will do whatever it takes to keep their 2007 team MVP in the fold for at least another three years.

Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera - Yankees. Both of these guys seem to want to stay with the Bombers, and that interest is mutual. I'm fairly certain if Rivera accepts the reported three years and $40 million offered by the Yankees it might be the worst contract ever given to a 38 year old reliever who is not likely to get better over that period of time. Posada might also be in bad shape at age 40 if he gets four years and somewhere around $15 million per year. But this is what it's like when you're the Yankees.

Andruw Jones - Dodgers. I'm pretty much guessing on this one, but if the Dodgers don't want to spend the cash on A-Rod they can look to get Jones at a discount. Boras will be pushing for a big deal but I don't see it with Jones coming off a .222 average for Atlanta. Hell, if no one bites Boras could just throw Jones out there for a one year pact to reestablish his value. If Jones hits anything like his former self in 2008, he could be one of the better bargains of this offseason. For the Dodgers, the only snafu I see is the potential of having Juan Pierre move to left field. And no one wants that.

Aaron Rowand - White Sox. A reunion on the South Side is likely if Kenny Williams is willing to dole out the dough. The Phillies were discouraged to learn that it would take $84 million to keep Rowand around and with so much money tied up elsewhere they seem willing to hand the reigns over to Shane Victorino next in 2008. I think the White Sox will be looking to right their mistakes of shipping off both Rowand and Chris Young after winning the World Series in 2005 and finally get some stability in centerfield as a result.

More to come later in the week.