Baseball Beat/WTNYMay 06, 2005
One on One: Armchair GM
By Rich Lederer & Bryan Smith

While sitting in the stands beats a hotel lobby any day of the week, can anyone blame us for getting a little nostalgic for the Hot Stove League? Any baseball fan can agree that even the best of May Sweeps would pale in comparison to some good trade talk. We've gone on record with our first impressions, our second and some noteworthy early season statistics, and now it's time to move the focus from the field to the front office. As contenders are hit by injuries that expose holes and bad teams watch their hopes die, it is time to start talking trade.

Make Rich General Manager for a day and this is what he would and wouldn't do:

  • If I am Tim Purpura, I would either trade Roger Clemens or surround him with better players. The Astros are 11-16 and they are not getting any younger or better. In fact, Houston's roster is the fourth oldest in baseball. Clemens would be an expensive acquisition as his new team would not only have to pick up the balance of his $18 million contract for the year but also pay a $3 million assignment fee.

    With teammates like Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, the Astros need to make a decision to go for it all now (a decision I think is virtually impossible at this stage) or start rebuilding. As much as I enjoy Clemens pitching for his homestate team, I would vote to trade him to a contender. Reuniting the Rocket with the Boston Red Sox would be a great way for him to go out. Absent that, how about Toronto? At 16-13, the Blue Jays are in the thick of things in the AL East, especially given the fact that the Yankees or Red Sox are no longer a lock to win the division. Let's not forget that Clemens enjoyed perhaps the two best back-to-back years of his career north of the border.

  • If I am Brian Cashman, I might trade for Clemens if the Rocket and George were agreeable to such a deal. However, I would not trade for Ken Griffey, as rumored, under almost any scenario. Junior is not the answer to the team's problems in center field. He is nothing more than a name at this point in his career. Peel back the onion skin and you're looking at a 35-year-old, injury prone player, making over $10 million per year, barely hitting his weight and on pace to hit 13 HR.

  • Speaking of the Yankees, if you want to really shake things up, why not move Derek Jeter to CF, Alex Rodriguez back to SS, and pick up a cheaper option at 3B in the form of Casey Blake (if that could be arranged) or settle for a Mike Lamb or even a Jose Hernandez? This is the type of bold move that will light a fire under the Yankees. Moving Tony Womack around only makes the team worse, not better.

  • If I am Dan O'Dowd, I would swoop in and trade for Zach Day. The Washington National right-hander is apparently in manger Frank Robinson's doghouse. He is the prototypical Coors Field pitcher. Granted, Day needs to throw more strikes but his sinking fastball and low salary are an ideal fit for a rebuilding Colorado franchise.

    I am also of the belief that the Rockies should trade Todd Helton to any team willing to take on the rest of his contract, irrespective of the players I might get in return. Reallocating the money earmarked for Helton among a number of other players is a must in my mind.

  • If I am Paul DePodesta, I'm on the phone right now talking to Theo Epstein about Bill Mueller or Kevin Youkilis and Terry Ryan about Michael Cuddyer or Terry Tiffee. I think Youkilis, Cuddyer, and Tiffee are all better options than the Dodgers have now and offer decent solutions longer term. Mueller works because he would fill the void this year and perhaps for part or all of 2006, allowing the Dodgers to sit back and wait for Joel Guzman, who I think projects as a 3B, to develop.

  • If I am Bill Bavasi, I am on the horn with Scott Boras, working out a deal for Jered Weaver prior to the upcoming draft. Five years, $7.5 million. That's about a 50% improvement over the Angels' offer and just $600,000 below what the Weaver camp was asking for at the end.

    Paying a pitcher who could be in the starting rotation as early as 2006 an average of $1.5M per year for each of the next five years is a bargain, if you ask me. You overpay in the early going but, if he pans out, you've got yourself a steal in the post-arbitration years. Weaver, on the other hand, gets to stay on the west coast and pitch in the friendly confines of Safeco Park.

    * * * * *

    Make Bryan General Manager for a day and this is what he would and wouldn't do:

  • If I am Jim Hendry, I get on the phone with Chuck Lamar, quickly. Has anyone else noticed that the positions in which the Cubs are most lacking, the Devil Rays would consider trading? Aubrey Huff, Julio Lugo and Danys Baez. While I doubt the Cubs could muster a blockbuster involving all three, just grabbing Huff and Lugo would be a smart move for a team that still has a chance to get in the playoffs.

    Luckily, the one kid quickly becoming the Cub's untouchable -- Felix Pie -- plays a position the Devil Rays are not interested in acquiring. But start with Angel Guzman, Jason Dubois and one of the Cubs young relief prospects. Throw in a few more decent names, and the Devil Rays will have a hard time saying no. With Huff and Lugo added to that lineup, Cub fans will slowly stop wincing every time Nomar's name is mentioned.

  • If I am Allard Baird, I make sure Daniel Glass is willing to pay Alex Gordon what he is asking this June. While it's a given at this point that Arizona is going to draft Justin Upton, Baird should be very excited that he will land the top player on my board. Gordon continues to prove that he is a fantastic talent, and even Mark Teixeira bonus demands should not make the Royals run away. While the Royals are slowly putting together a pitching staff that isn't laughable, they have a long way to go on offense. Gordon is the type of player that will make rebuilding easier.

    After drafting Gordon, I make sure to recognize the considerable market for Jeremy Affeldt. It's amazing how ready people are to completely disregard performance and go straight by stuff, which Affeldt has plenty of. Closers are the one position that will be most sought after in the next three months, so Affeldt is a nice bargaining chip. Get a conference call going between Mr. Hendry, Mr. Sabean, Mr. Beinfest and Mr. Minaya, and let the four of them battle it out until the top bidder wins the southpaw.

  • If I am Ken Williams, I put some good publicity out there about Frank Thomas, who is not exactly receiving a hero's welcome in preparation for his return. I realize that this so-called "small ball" will not keep the Chisox in front of the division forever and that Frank's bat will be loads more valuable than what Jermaine Dye and Scott Podsednik are currently giving me. I also make sure that Dye and Poddy are the guys losing time, as Carl Everett is better than both of them, as well.

  • If I am Joe Garagiola Jr., I take advantage of the Cubs said interest in my infielder Alex Cintron. While I thought he might be a good player once, it seems like he really isn't much better than what Craig Counsell could give me. In no scenario will I back down from my current offer of one Major League reliever, though I might go as far to let Jim Hendry pick from the Mike Wuertz, Jon Leicester and Todd Wellemeyer group. If it were up to me, I would choose Wuertz.

  • If I am John Hart, I will undoubtedly shop Alfonso Soriano once Ian Kinsler proves to be a bit more ready. Soriano has put up some decent numbers in Texas, but with a ready contributor waiting in the wings and pitching sorely needed, you can kiss him goodbye. I'm not exactly sure who would be interested, but there has to be some market for a second baseman with great speed and plus power.

  • If I am every GM in baseball not named John Hart, I do not acquire Soriano. I realize that Hart will likely be asking for my best pitching prospect, and that is just not something I am willing to pay for someone who walks about as often as Jose Reyes. Soriano also plays sketchy defense, and should his OPS be lower than his .808 performance last year, that will be the fourth straight season of decline. Sure, players at 29 are supposed to be at the pinnacle of their careers, but Soriano is a perfect example of the kind that peaks at 26.

    So, would you hire us? What ideas are too ridiculous, too pie-in-the-sky, or simply make too much sense? What would you do?

  • Comments

    Would I hire you guys? Sure. Bryan would head minor league development and Rich, you could be my Senior Advisor of Baseball Operations any day!

    The Jeter-to-CF, ARod-to-SS moves make WAY too much sense for Steinbrenner to do it. I don't see Clemens pitching for Toronto at all. If I'm the Mets, I make a play for Ugueth Urbina.

    If I'm the Mets I avoid Urbina at all costs. A much better fit is Cameron for Dotel. Billy loves the centerfielder (he was bidding against the Mets when they ended up signing him two years ago) maybe enough to even throw in Calero, providing the Mets kick in some cash.

    Of course, all of that assumes the A's aren't interested in the Floyd for Zito discussions...

    Whooo! I'd love to see a Lugo-Huff-Baez for Dopirak-Guzman-Wellemeyer (Or Guzman) blockbuster type deal. Just the trade itself would be fun, not even including the baseball that would follow it. Two GMs taking big risks, putting their jobs on the line and swapping tons of talent with two mutually independent and contradictory goals to win today and win tomorrow. That would be sweeeeeeeet.

    I'd hire you if you could make that deal happen.

    I hope you're right about Affeldt. He's a major disappointment for Royals fans, and frankly his stuff has gotten worse since in the past year.

    If another GM is gullible enough to give up a decent prospect or two for Affeldt, I'd run, not walk, to sign those papers.

    If I was the Detroit GM, I would like to disembowel that team and start re-building. First, try damned hard to void the contract given to Maggs -- that was the most foolish move the Tiggers have made since they traded away the everything but the kitchen sink for one year of Juan Gone! Trade either Troy Percival or Ugueth Urbina, whichever one interests other teams. If there is some interest for both, then deal both. Why does a non-contending team need two closers? Finally, trade Ivan Rodriguez. He still has a great deal of value, but probably not too many years left. A contender (Anaheim perhaps?) would gladly scoop him up. And lastly, do not sign any more free agents on the wrong side of 30 until this team is ready to contend again!

    With all due respect, what good does dealing Clemens do for the Astros? In terms of run production and differential, Houston is quite comparable to Atlanta, but the two teams have performed differently in a small sample. Taking a different look, Houston isn't that far out in the Central. Really, if having Rocket on the team were about the money, he wouldn't have been re-signed in the first place. Armchair GMing is great fun, but dismantling a key component of a team's success by merit of them being seven out after 17% of the season (just for the sake of a media parade in Boston, New York, or Toronto) seems a tad disingenuous to me.

    My comments re the Astros trading Clemens or surrounding him with better players were not intended to be disingenuous at all. I'm not a big fan of finishing in third place, especially if the elevator is going down rather than up. I would rather take a short-term hit this year and position the team to compete next year and beyond.

    Trading Clemens isn't about dumping payroll per se. I think the Astros could get some longer-term value in return for his services this year. Absent trading the Rocket, I think the Astros need to make a Carlos Beltran type trade once again. If that is the chosen direction, great. But let's not kid ourselves here and think Houston can win its division or even gain a wild card spot as is.

    My point was that Houston doesn't need to be in panic mode right now, and dealing Clemens is a panic move. There's no doubt in my mind that another bat is needed, but I'll wait until Berkman returns to form before talking about potential upgrades. The slumping offense is lame, but the team could just as easily be 14-13 with some luck in 1-run games.

    I didn't realize that pointing out the Astros weren't as poorly off as they seemed was an admission that I look forward to a third place finish. I was pointing out that in a parallel universe, the Astros are only a game or two worse than the first place Cards.

    I wasn't trying to attack you or the idea of improvement through trade. A few of the other deals are off-the-wall and interesting, and I was only remarking on the hasty logic of dealing Clemens. If playing for a 2005 run is front and center like you say (and it is), then Clemens shouldn't be moving anytime soon.

    Here's one way of looking at it: if the Cardinals play .600 ball the rest of the season (which is assuming they are overperforming right now, they finish 99-63. For the Astros to then still win the division, they have to have a .659 winning percentage the rest of the year.

    Even when Lance Berkman comes back to this lineup and Brandon Backe stops playing like he is, this team is not a .660 ballclub.

    I agree that trading Clemens right now is a panic move, because for all we know, the Cardinals might win at just a .500 clip the rest of the year. But that isn't likely, and if the Astros are 10 back in July, trading Roger will make a whole lot of sense.


    Guess you missed the Times piece that said the Angels and Weaver have restarted negotiations...

    I read this morning's article, Rob, but unfortunately didn't have access to it Thursday night when I wrote mine.

    If I'm Bill Bavasi, I'm wondering why I'm negotiating with Boras about Weaver since I work for the Mariners now, not the Angels...

    Jim - I am acutely aware of the fact that Bavasi is the GM of the Mariners. I was referring to the fact that Seattle has the third pick in the upcoming draft (behind Arizona and Kansas City).

    I don't think the Diamondbacks or the Royals are likely to draft Weaver, meaning the 2004 College Player of the Year is likely to be available (assuming he doesn't sign with the Angels this month) when Bavasi and the Mariners are on the clock.

    The Angels hold exclusive negotiating rights to Weaver until one week prior to the draft. Bavasi, however, could call Boras between the time the Angels lose their rights to Weaver and the date of the draft to work out a deal. If I am Bavasi, that is what I would do. I hope I have made myself clear on this point.

    Point taken, but I'd be hard-pressed to see how Weaver is in a better negotiating position now than he was last year.

    In 2004, he was a player who had the potential to move quickly through any minor league system, based on polish. In 2005, though, he's a player who hasn't made a meaningful pitch since last June.

    Could he prove me wrong? Sure. Wouldn't be the first time I was wrong about something. But if I'm Bavasi, I'd have to think long and hard before committing my energy, time and money (not necessarily in that order) to Weaver at his current state.

    If I'm Larry Beinfest, I take a gander at Zach Day, too. Beckett, Burnett, and Willis are strong trio right now, but the early returns on Leiter have been far from impressive. Comments from Dr. Jack McKeon aside ("His stuff has actually been too good lately"), Leiter can't hit the broadside of a barn right now, and anything that comes near the plate gets shot back at him with extreme prejudice. Who knows when Ismael Valdes will come back, and with all due respect to my father, Brian Moehler is NOT a long-term solution to the problem. It'd be both a move to correct an existing problem, and a forward-thinking move, as the Marlins stand to lose at least 2/5, probably 3/5, of their opening day starting 5 next season [Burnett, Leiter, Valdes].