An Even Dozen
The Winter Meetings always bring a nice weekend, and while I wasn't there, Alex Belth helped me picture the scene in one of the best blog entries of the year. The meetings didn't really heat up until late Saturday, and Sunday must have been a madhouse. It concludes with the Rule V draft tomorrow, and I'm really excited to see how that turns out. Anyway, here's my look into the twelve transactions that occurred, from most important, to Brent Mayne...
Since the signing of Albert Belle, Oriole owner Peter Angelos has been unable to bring a big name free agent to Baltimore. So far, he's one for three this offseason. Angelos signed Miguel Tejada, the 2002 MVP, yesterday to a 6-year, $72M contract, finally finding a replacement for the empty shoes of Cal Ripken. First, a few Tejada splits:
As you can see, Tejada was very good away from Oakland last year, a trend that has been evident for a few seasons now. He's also hit very well against AL East foes the last three seasons, so I'm predicting big things out of Miguel Tejada next season. Don't be surprised by a .300/.350/.500 season, possibly becoming the best shortstop in his division.
The Orioles are also close with Vladimir Guerrero, and will undoubtedly sign either Pudge Rodriguz or Javy Lopez this offseason. Assuming those things to be true, here's the Orioles lineup next season:
Very good lineup, assuming Jack Cust gets the majority of at-bats in the designated hitter spot. In fact, they will almost have too many bats, leaving either Melvin Mora or Luis Matos to the ninth hole. This would be a good team, but they lack a rotation. Some reports have them as the leaders for ex-Oriole Sidney Ponson, joining Jason Johnson, Kurt Ainsworth, and Matt Riley as Oriole starters next season. The last spot will be a battle between Rodrigo Lopez and Omar Daal in a battle the O's just can't win.
But, no matter what, the Orioles are stepping forward. Angelos is keeping his end of the bargain to be true, and this team is really making some improvements. I like what they have done under the Jim Beattie/Mike Flanagan regime, both revitalizing the Major League and minor league departments. Hopefully the fans will follow in beautiful Camden Yards.
Next, the rumored trade between the Yankees and Dodgers was completed, sending Kevin Brown to the Yankees. In exchange, the team gave up hated Yankee Jeff Weaver, converted pitcher Yhency Borzoban, another minor leaguer, and $2.6M. The Yankees will virtually be paying Kevin Brown $16.3M the next two seasons, while the Dodgers will pay Weaver salaries of $4.95M and $7.95M. Here are the splits of Brown:
Brown= 14-9 2.39 184/211 185/56
Surprisingly, Brown did not show an affinity for Dodger Stadium, one of the few Dodgers to do that. He actually threw 57 more innings in Dodger Stadium, which is my little known fact of the day. Brown is a good groundball pitcher that will suffer more from having Giambi, Soriano, and Jeter behind him than leaving Dodger Stadium. He's a health risk, and a rise in ERA seems to be in the cards. Overall, the Brown addition really matches that of Curt Schilling, leaving Javier Vazquez to compete with Derek Lowe.
The Yankees also have some addition by subtraction losing Weaver, who quickly became a fan target after posting these numbers:
Weaver= 7-9 5.99 211/159.1 93/47
Call me crazy, but I think Weaver is still a good pitcher, and should benefit from playing in Los Angeles. The team needs a better offense to bring Weaver into consideration for a fantasy draft, but expect the ERA to be in the fours next season. Los Angeles still has one too many pitchers when considering Odalis, Dreifort, and Edwin Jackson all in the equation. I would keep Odalis and Dreifort, send Jackson to AAA to work with Joel Hanrahan. Then, if and when a spot opens up, Jackson or Hanrahan are competing for the starts.
Here's a look at the player Evans brought in from the Yankees as an addition:
Brazoban (A+)= 2.83 27/28.2 34/12
Not very promising. I am left to think the player to be named later is very good, someone in the Rudy Guillen, Robinson Cano department. I think this deal will ultimately hurt the Dodgers, since they've lost out on Tejada and all left fielders (thanks to transaction #9). Nice haul by the Yankees, but I'm still less than impressed with Dan Evans here.
When Steinbrenner stole Gary Sheffield from Atlanta, it left a sizeable hole that John Scheurholtz had little to spend for. But as usual, the Braves' GM has improved the team for 2004, acquiring J.D. Drew from the Cardinals, with Eli Marrero for Jason Marquis, Ray King, and #3 prospect Adam Wainwright.
Drew, the most important name in the deal, was thought to be the Cardinals primary tool for bringing in a very good pitcher for next season. Instead, it landed Wainwright, a pitcher Baseball America calls "an ideal combination of size, talent, and makeup." The oft-injured Drew was a pain in the neck for the Cardinals, but the Braves are willing to take on the risk. He's drawn every comparison in the book, but we need to see 500AB before a judgment can really be made. During his career, he's never even gotten half of that. Here's the splits from last season:
Turner Field won't really help Drew, although I doubt it will hurt him much either. The second half was due to injury, but I'm less than impressed with his numbers against southpaws. I'm left to wonder if Gary Mathews Jr. will play in those situations, since Eli Marrero actually hits better against right-handers. Marrero only had 107 at-bats due to injury last season, but he'll take on the ultra-utility role next season, as well as backing up Johnny Estrada at catcher. This is the Atlanta lineup next season
1) Rafael Furcal- SS
I moved Giles to the sixth spot, where his bat will be more focused on replacing the large void left by Javy Lopez. Mark DeRosa will get his chance at third base, although I doubt he'll have the .800 OPS that Vinny Castilla did. Estrada isn't meant to do much, and I can't say his numbers will be any better than the last good International League catcher, Toby Hall.
As for the Cardinals, there seem to be mixed opinions for the trade. It's obvious they are worse for 2004, but I almost wonder if they are giving up on 2004 and waiting to jump back on the scene in 2005 and 2006. It would make sense, as that's when the likes of Wainwright and Blake Hawkesworth hit the bigtime, and Dan Haren should be much improved by then. The 2004 team will almost surely start either John Gall or Steve Cox at first next year, and are now left to sign a serviceable right fielder. They were on the trail of our #7 addition, but appear to be too late. I expect Reggie Sanders name to be thrown around often in the coming days.
As for the bullpen, Ray King will be the second leftie, and Jason Marquis will most likely battle for a long relief spot. The team currently has Matt Morris, Woody Williams, Dan Haren, and Cris Carpenter penciled in for spots, but they would really like to sign a #3 pitcher as well. That leaves a bullpen of Isringhausen, Eldred, Kline, King, Calero, and some mix of Josh Pearce, Jim Journell, Marquis, Stechschulte, and Simontacchi. Let me echo Jim Bowden in saying the 2004 NL Central race is really between the Cubs and the Astros.
In our fourth addition, the Red Sox have formally ditched the closer by committee option, and landed this year's best reliever, Keith Foulke. The deal is three years and $21M, which means that Boston's payroll will surely be between $120-130M next season. Here are Foulke's numbers:
Foulke= 2.08 57/86.2 88/20
The road and 2nd half numbers really jump out at me, and scream success for Foulke in 2004. Fenway Park will not help, but Foulke has become a very good closer. Being in Chicago I've seen him pitch numerous times, and I stand by the fact that his change up is the best in the league. He'll be very good in Boston, who now lose both Scotts (Williamson and Sauerbeck) from their bullpen next year. That 'pen will likely include Foulke, Mike Timlin, Bronson Arroyo, Alan Embree, Mark Malaska, and painfully, Ramiro Mendoza. Don't be surprised if Williamson yields a middle reliever who will put Arroyo in long relief and Mendoza out of the equation.
While Foulke isn't the sexy name that Mariano Rivera is, he's even more dependable, pitching in 65 games each of the last five seasons. Foulke also has the endurance to start in the eighth, which means that Schilling and Foulke should be the only two names in the box score on every fifth day.
The fifth best addition at the Winter Meetings were made by the New York Mets, who signed one of the best outfielders still available in Mike Cameron. Mike will bring the best centerfield to Shea Stadium has seen in years, along with a promising, albeit sometimes frustrating bat. Cameron is fully capable of hitting four homeruns in a given night, then promptly not hitting a ball for 10 straight at-bats. Here are his splits:
The road numbers breed some promise, although Shea Stadium was hardly built for hitters. He seems to be getting worse by the year, and judging by his 2nd half numbers, by the half. Cameron has improved his batting eye, and could very well hit the cover off the ball next season. But be rest assured, I will not pick him in any fantasy draft of mine. Cameron should hit sixth on the Mets, after whomever they get for right field, but before Jason Phillips. Here's the Mets most likely lineup next season:
1) Jose Reyes- 2B
Hell, the Mets could make a run for third place next season with those numbers. Expect New York to best the Montreal Expos next year, but they'll likely finish fourth behind any given combination of the Phillies, Braves, and Marlins. I like Cameron a lot, and their overall defense is improving by leaps and bounds. This is an example of a player the Mets should sign, and I'll likely classify Jose Guillen as that too. Here's a look at the 2006 Mets team, which could be dazzling:
C- Justin Huber
Damn, that will be a very good lineup. Throw in Aaron Heilman, Matt Peterson, and Scott Kazmir, and you might have the division favorites. Jim Duquette has hardly been a good GM with the Mets, but it seems that the team is somehow heading in the right direction.
The sixth best acquisition was the first of the Winter Meetings to be announced, and that was the signing of Miguel Batista by the Toronto Blue Jays. J.P. Riccardi has added yet another pitcher, this time for the next three years, at $13M. Batista took awhile to get started, but he really blossomed pitching every fith day last year. Here are his splits:
Batista= 10-9 3.54 197/193.1 142/60
Many have pointed to a very good career ERA on turf as well, predicting success for Batista in a Blue Jays uniform. I'm not so bold, and I'm hardly sold on him being the team's second starter next season. It's a very nice move, and he'll fit well with Ted Lilly and Pat Hentgen, but I don't think his ERA will get any better than 3.40.
Riccardi has done a lot to improve this team's staff, and their rotation should actually be very good next season. Part of the reason for Batista's breakdown could have been it was his first season starting every single game, so maybe that will change next year. Ted Lilly and Pat Hentgen had very good second halves, and this team really thinks they could make some noise as a Wild Card contender. Then they woke up and realized their division also included the Red Sox and the Yankees.
Seventh was a move, or three moves, made by yet another AL East team. In their quest for 70 wins, the Devil Rays added Jose Cruz, Geoff Blum, and Rey Sanchez yesterday, likely at a combined cost of $5M. Cruz signed a two-year, $6M contract, while Sanchez will stay for one million. Blum was acquired for Brandon Backe, a crappy AAA middle reliever. Here's a look at the splits of Cruz last season:
Cruz lost all his power in the second half, and if that continues, he isn't the best option. But, his plate discipline improved substantially, so I'm bullish on Cruz next season. He is a little platoonable, and it worries me that the AL East really does have a lack of left-handed pitching (Wells in NY, Lilly in TOR, Riley/Daal in BAL) in the division.
Here's a look at the Devil Rays lineup next year:
1) Crawford- LF
Not exactly the 1927 Yankees, but this is finally a ballclub that should eclipse the 70-win mark under the guidance of Lou Pinella. I think Crawford will improve next year, and I don't know what to think about Rocco Baldelli. He could very well be the Shea Hillenbrand type, a player that excites in April and then sucks the rest of the year. The team's future is basically non-existent, but they are putting a team that Bud Selig shouldn't contract next year.
Going from one bad team to worse, the Tigers signed another post-peak player to a 2-year, $6M contract, signing Rondell White to play left field. They missed out on Miguel Tejada, but I wouldn't be surprised if Rich Aurilia ends up signing here. If so, this will be the Tigers starting nine:
C- Brandon Inge
That will be a better team, no doubt, but this club should really be focusing on free agents that aren't past their peak seasons. I mean, what's the best that team could do? Anyways, here's a look at White's splits last year:
White's AL numbers were greatly influenced by Kauffman Stadium, and he's much more of the National League version. One good thing about White is that he isn't platoonable, a problem the Tigers really had last season. While there isn't a lot of upside when signing Vina, White, and Aurilia, it's going to be a waiting game for Tiger fans, and having the occasional recognizable name is a plus.
To end the string of outfield acquisitions is Juan Encarnacion, whom was acquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Encarnacion has always had the skills, but is yet to really put together an All-Star caliber season. Instead, he reminds me of Adrian Beltre. Here are his numbers:
Dodger Stadium will do more to hinder his numbrs than Pro Player did, so this really wasn't a great offensive addition by the Dodgers. While Encarnacion should improve the .220/.291/352 numbers that Dodger LF hit last season, numbers of .260/.300/.425 really wouldn't shock me. Why wouldn't this team pay a like amount to Reggie Sanders, Rondell White, or Matt Stairs? I have no idea, and that doesn't even begin to talk about the player they had to give up. The Dodgers really do lack direction, and the sooner the Frank McCourt thing is passed, the better this organization will be.
Here's a look at the Marlins starting 8, as a result of the Encarnacion dump:
C- Ramon Castro
Is it possible for Choi and Cabrera to match the 2003 production of Lee and Encarnacion? Very much so. Also, can Jeff Conine and Ramon Castro combine to match the production of Pudge and Todd Hollansworth last year? Probably. So, this lineup shouldn't be much worse next season, although they won't get any better midseason as they did last year with Conine and Cabrera. Mike Lowell really needs to stay healthy next year, and it would be a very good time for Choi to start 'getting it.'
The tenth move of the Winter Meetings was the only 3-team trade, one that sent 6-10 Mark Hendrickson to Tampa Bay, Joe Kennedy to Colorado, and Justin Speier to Toronto. I'll take this one team-by-team.
First, the Devil Rays don't seem to improve much with Hendrickson v. Kennedy, although they won't have to pay Hendrickson next year. Mark is two years removed from the NBA, so he actually does have room to improve. And it will be hard not to when considering the disastrous numbers he posted last year:
Hendrickson= 9-9 5.51 207/158.1 76/40
Well, the road numbers are a little more promising, possibly giving hope to Hendrickson pitching under 5.00 next season. He'll just fill the void left by Kennedy, and it all but assured a spot next year. He leaves behind the Blue Jays whom were most happy in this deal, acquiring an already proven reliever in Justin Speier. Here are Speier's splits from last season:
Speier= 4.05 73/73.1 66/23
Pitchers after they leave Coors are always a good buy, and I think Speier's first half numbers are really what to expect out of him next year. He'll be given every chance to win the Toronto closing job next year, in stiff competition with the likes of Kerry Ligtenberg and Aquilino Lopez. He pitches well against both right-handers and left-handers, and his home run rate should decrease in the Skydome next season. I really like the Speier addition, and J.P. Riccardi is a real winner of the Winter Meetings.
As for Kennedy, I don't know if he was worth giving up Speier. It's very possible that Joe will never break 6.00 in Coors Field, after witnessing him give up a few jacks on more than one occasion this season. Rich Lederer pointed out that he actually had the best and worst AL game score last season, although there will be more of the latter in 2004. The Colorado rotation now looks to have Kennedy, Shawn Chacon, Jason Jennings, Aaron Cook, and Denny Neagle. And O'Dowd still has a job?
I really like the 11th move, mainly because I really like the player. Kansas City did a very nice job signing Tony Graffanino to a 2-year, $2.2M contract. Graffanino is a .370 career hitter in Kauffman Stadium, and overall one of my top five favorite players in baseball. Tony Pena says that Desi Relaford still has the 2B job, which deeply saddens me, yet predicts that The Boy (El Nino) will have 400AB next season. Given 500AB, I'd say we're talking about a .275/.350/.450 player in Kauffman. Free Tony Graffanino!
Finally, moving from an new Royal to an ex-Royal, the Diamondbacks announced their signing of Brent Mayne about an hour ago. It's for 800,000, and it means the team will non-tender Rod Barajas and use Robby Hammock as their main catcher in 2004. I'm way too tired to go in-depth on Mayne, so please just come back tomorrow for insight on the Rule V draft picks.