Today, I'm gonna break from the organizational meetings and address some of the issues I've neglected recently. Let me thank you for reading this, as I've just had my best week ever. I'm glad this site is becoming a daily read for some of you, and I always appreciate e-mails. Tomorrow the Red Sox meeting will be up, so definitely come back for that.
Moving on to my thoughts...
First, the Phillies have traded for Billy Wagner. Obviously, this deal has two sides. For Philadelphia, it's a great deal (more on that in a minute). But for the Astros, I'm going to have to agree with Will Carroll, "Nice deal, but only if they get Pettite. Otherwise, the Cubs OWN this division the next two years." The Astros need to spend the eight million they just shed, and they need to spend it in the rotation. A fivesome of Oswalt, Miller, Redding, Robertson, and Duckworth is nice, but it could be better. Throw in Andy Pettite, boot out Duckworth, and this is a contending team.
For the Phillies, this is a sensational deal. Billy Wagner has been in the top ten in Baseball Prospectus' reliever reports for two years, and in all but one since 1998. He was third this season, behind Game Over Gagne and new teammate Rheal Cormier. Assuming they re-up Terry Adams, this is a very good bullpen. Without Duckworth, the rotation isn't as set in stone. Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla, and Brett Myers are locks. Prospect Ryan Madson and Amaury Telemaco may fill it out, but Ed Wade says the team has a little flexibiliy to add another starter. No matter what, the Phillies are the 2004 NL East favorite.
And just to clarify, it will be Octavio Dotel closing games in 2004, and closing them well. Gagne is the best closer in the NL, Wagner is second. It is very possible that next season Dotel will surpass Smoltz and become the best. Of course, that's assuming Jimy Williams doesn't throw him two innings every night. Taylor Buchholz, the main prospect in the deal, will definitely be in the Astro top five. He'll likely be able to debut in 2005, allowing the Astros to then trade/non-tender Tim Redding. But as I said, we'll have to address this down the road...
Speaking of unaddressable subjects, the Chicago White Sox named Ozzie Guillen their manager on Monday, giving him the slight edge over Cito Gaston. I liked a certain Baseball Primer post that mentioned the ironies between Guillen and Tony Pena a year ago. Guillen will push the White Sox, demanding hustle, and improving the clubhouse. He likely learned a lot in Florida, possibly as much as Gaston knows as a 2-time champion.
This move ensures that Robbie Alomar will be back, as he is said to speak with Ozzie twice a month. They are very good friends, and the White Sox were interested in retaining him before anyway. This will also help Jose Valentin's chances in returning, although I think that would be the completely wrong direction to take. Aaron Miles and Tony Graffanino might not be such a sexy duo, but I guarantee their level of performance would rival the Alomar and Valentin combo.
A lot of Ken Williams decision lied in the fact that Guillen makes the White Sox a more attractive option to free agents. He will have an attitude that is unlike many other managers, and Williams is gambling that it makes Chicago's south side a better choice. Maybe, Williams thinks, this will entice Bartolo Colon to accept his offer. Colon has been tabbed by me as the first dumbass of the hot stove league, rejecting a three-year, thirty-six million dollar deal. Believe me, he won't get that chance anywhere else. My conspiracy theory is he wants more years, because he may get injured during the course of the deal.
While Colon decided to not stay in Chicago, Frank Thomas didn't. He accepted six million dollars for this season, but will actually be on the hook for three more years, at twenty-four million. This was a good decision for Thomas, but it ensures the White Sox must trade either Carlos Lee or Paul Konerko. And Konerko's contract is pretty unmoveable, meaning Lee, the team's second best hitter, is likely gone. Without Colon and without Lee, this is a third place club...
One left fielder I have neglected to mention in the past week is Manny Ramirez, and the waive heard 'round the world. Theo Epstein is making his prescence known, basically calling Dan Duquette a retard out loud. It was a decent option, but a pretty crazy idea. There was about a 1% chance that someone would claim him, and now the Manny controversey will follow him all of next year.
I agreed with Ben Jacobs, who in a fantastic post, detailed why the Devil Rays should have bit. They want Gary Sheffield, who will likely turn down any option. But in Ramirez, they would have landed the American League's best hitter, with an already-negotiated contract. That would give them very little other options the rest of the winter, but make them a much better team. This club, this lineup, is actually pretty good:
1. Julio Lugo- SS
2. Carl Crawford- LF
3. Manny Ramirez- DH
4. Aubrey Huff- RF
5. Rocco Baldelli- CF
6. Pete LaForest- 1B
7. Toby Hall- C
8. cheap 3B pick-up
9. Antonio Perez- 2B
Not bad at all. If the Red Sox are really intent on dealing Manny, the Dodgers are the only place to look. If the BoSox were to take on the Darren Dreifort deal, which wouldn't hurt, the teams could do it. Basically, LA throws Dreifort, Joel Hanrahan, and a bag of balls for Ramirez. It would give the Red Sox a good prospect in Hanrahan, lots of potential in Dreifort, and some more money to spend. More on this in the BoSox offseason meeting tomorrow...
The Red Sox managerial search will be a strange one, although I believe Bud Black should ultimately end up with the job. Ex-Red Sox manager Grady Little will interview for the Baltimore job this week, in which he stands zero chance of getting it. Basically, it will be a battle between Lee Mazzilli, Yankees 3rd base coach, and Eddie Murray, their first interview. The Mariners GM quest is still yet to end, and I really do believe they were just waiting for Cashman. Now, it's really down to business...
I really like Cashman's decision to fire Rick Down and tab Don Mattingly as coach of the Yankees. In my Yankee opinions, I said, "Sign Don Mattingly to be hitting coach, David Cone to be pitching coach, and Luis Sojo for 1st base." Well, Mattingly and Sojo are now Yanks, and Mel Stottlemyre is yet to announce he won't return. But when he does, let's hope Cone gets his chance. And when Mazzilli leaves 3rd base? Something tells me it won't be Bucky Dent...
And welcome back Edgar Martinez, or did we ever think you were gone? Come back tomorrow for the Red Sox.