Thursday, December 20, 2007

Checking Back In

The work piled up higher than I expected, so this will be my first entry in about three weeks. Sorry about that but that's how it is. Now that I'm done with school yet still stuck here until tomorrow because of yet another snowstorm, why not check in with a blog on the happening (and non-happenings) since you've last heard from me? It's not like I have anything better to do.

I'll briefly address the Mitchell Report, lots of people have been asking me for my take. In general I try to stay away from the steroids stuff because I'm more interested in what is actually happening on the field than anything else. The Mitchell Report, in my opinion, was about as useful a document as a Larry King marriage certificate. Buster Olney has covered this, but the report did nothing to show why the steroid culture of the '90s spread so rampantly, and did not pin any blame directly on anyone within baseball. I would have been fine if the report included answers to those questions and the series of recommendations that were actually in it. The "naming of names," most of which came from hearsay, served absolutely no tangible purpose in helping the game move on, which is what the report should have been about. I guess we were all wrong to expect more from Bud Selig.

As for Roger Clemens, if he really did not do all the things alleged in the report, he absolutely must use everything at his disposal to clear his name. Corroborative evidence against Brian McNamee's testimony, testifying before Congress, suing Mitchell for libel, taking a polygraph test; whatever it takes. Of course, I actually do believe what was in the report about him, it was something we all suspected for years. Now, instead of thinking of Clemens as a lying, arrogant, dirtbag mercenary, I can think of him as a lying, arrogant, cheating, dirtbag mercenary. So it's not all bad for me personally.

Moving on to more important things. The winter meetings wound up really just being a whole bunch of nothing in regards to the Johan Santana discussions. Not much has changed since the meetings ended, with the Red Sox leaving two very good offers on the table and the Yankees lurking around somewhere in the background. I'd still love to see it happen but I'm perfectly content to go into this season with the team they have as well.

The big news of winter meetings was the blockbuster trade of Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for star young lefty Andrew Miller, CF uber-prospect Cameron Maybin and four other players of minimal note. Taking chances on these two highly-touted, highly-expensive draft prospects in the 2005 and 2006 drafts paid off bigtime for Detroit, as they were able to turn them into veteran talent and make them instant World Series contenders. In Cabrera, the Tigers add perhaps the best young power slugger in the game not named Prince Fielder. Finishing in the top ten in OPS in the NL each of the last three seasons, his most comparable hitter by age to this point in his career is Hank Aaron. Now, he's moving from a terrible park for right-handed hitters to one that will much better suit him. There's a lot of issues about Cabrera's often brutal defense at third base, and there was some discussion around the time of the trade that he'd move back to the outfield. For now, the Tigers will keep him at third as they shop Brandon Inge (if Inge takes away his trade demand, he automatically becomes the best utility man in the league and gives the Tigers a huge advantage as a late-game defensive replacement. I'm sure he could still catch if needed as well).

Getting Willis in the deal was a good gamble for the Tigers as well. It's conceivable he could regain his stuff and revert back to his 2005 dominance, but he is going from the NL East to the AL Central, which is not likely to result in short-term success. Today news came out that Willis had agreed to an extension with the Tigers, one that buys out his last two years of arbitration and first year of free agency at around $10 million a season. As Tim Dierkes put it today over at MLBTR, around $10 million a year seems to be the going rate for an innings eater. In fact, that rate might be a slight bargain considering that it appears Carlos Silva is about to sign for 4/48 with the Mariners, and I'd think Willis' upside right now is a hell of a lot more than Silva's. In three years, it might be that $10 million is an even bigger bargain, especially if Willis does find his 2005 form. At the same time, I wonder if the Tigers will regret not waiting a year to see if Willis can pitch in the AL Central before giving him an extension. It's not like they have anything to lose since he could not have become a free agent until after 2009 anyway. Either way, the money won't set the Tigers back too far.

Miller and Maybin both have major star potential, as I think it's possible Miller will outpitch Willis in 2008. Maybin has been called the "next Griffey" by some, but his swing is awfully long and will likely never get the chance to play in Triple-A to work on it. At least he can say he got his first career hit off Clemens if things don't work out. Overall I'm fairly confident the Tigers won this trade solely based on acquiring Cabrera to cement the most potent offense in the AL, even more potent than the Yankees. The questions about their pitching depth, both in the rotation and the bullpen, keep me from calling them the favorites in the division in 2008. It's pretty close right now between them and Cleveland, and the offseason is still far from over. This trade also totally depletes the Detroit farm system, which now can only sport 2007 draft steal Rick Porcello as a blue-chipper.

Out west, Billy Beane finally decided to pull the trigger on moving Dan Haren, shipping him off to the D'Backs for a bevy of young players. Of the players they got back, only OF prospect Carlos Gonzalez looks like he might be a star, with lefty starter Brett Anderson also primed for a top-of-the-rotation future. I was a bit surprised to see him deal his best pitcher for a package of quantity over quality, but Beane is a mad genius and maybe knows something about one or two of the other guys he got back that we don't. For the Diamondbacks, Josh Byrnes did a phenomenal job getting a frontline starter without disrupting much of his 2008 club. The rest of the National League must be shuddering at the thought of Haren being teamed up with Brandon Webb for the next three years at well below market value (with 2010 options included, these two guys will cost a total of $36.75 million for Arizona. Holy shit.) and they'll also have Randy Johnson ready in spring for one last go-round. With a young, developing lineup centered around Chris Young, Justin Upton, and Stephen Drew, these Diamondbacks seem poised to sit atop the NL West for many years to come.

I'm already tuckered out by all this. Happy Holidays everyone.

No comments: