Baseball Beat/Change-UpDecember 08, 2010
Back & Forth: Hot Stove Edition
By Rich Lederer and Patrick Sullivan

We talked some baseball over email last night and decided to share our conversation as a post on Baseball Analysts. Hope you enjoy.


Sully: Rich, you did a nice job covering the Red Sox Adrian Gonzalez acquisition but as a Boston fan it's definitely still at the forefront of my mind this Hot Stove season. What's most of interest to you now that we're a couple of days into the Winter Meetings?

Rich: Thanks, Sully. Adrian Gonzalez is likely to remain at the forefront of your mind at least through September… OK, October. Maybe even November if the World Series schedule repeats itself. As an Angels fan, I'd like to see the team pick up an impact player or two. Other than that, I guess we're all interested in the whereabouts of the big-name free agents like Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Beltre, as well as guys like Zack Greinke.

Sully: What do you see the Angels doing? I have heard they're in big on both Beltre and Crawford, and I think Hisanori Takahashi is one of the nice under-the-radar signings of this offseason. I suppose ideally you'd like to see him inducing more grounders (just a 38.4 GB%) but other than that, he was excellent for the Mets in his first Major League season. What is your sense for Tony Reagins's other priorities?

Rich: Takahashi was a nice pickup. He gives the Angels a much-needed lefty in the bullpen and could also serve as an insurance for a fifth starter if Scott Kazmir continues to implode. I hope it's as a reliever though as Takahashi was much more effective coming out of the bullpen (2.04 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) than starting (5.01 ERA, 1.45 WHIP). A good guy to go to when the opposing team has two LHB out of three coming to the plate in an inning, such as, ahem, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz or Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. But the reality is that Takahashi is just a role player. The Halos need to do something big this offseason like sign Crawford and/or Beltre, if the club wants to compete for a championship next year. How do you see the Angels from the other coast?

Sully: Seems to me the rotation's fine, if not very good. The Angels biggest problem to me is that the once promising prospect core of Erick Aybar, Brandon Wood, Mike Napoli and Howie Kendrick has failed to produce a very good player much less a star or two the way many thought. Like you, I think they will need an impact position player or two in order to regain their standing atop the AL West. Speaking of Crawford, I was impressed with this article by Jayson Stark discussing the market for him in light of the Jayson Werth blockbuster. Like many others, my gut was to assume Crawford would make way more than Werth since he's the younger and better player. Stark makes the great point that just because one team - in this case the Nats - goes way above market for a player, that does not mean it necessarily resets the market. What's your sense for what it will take to lock up Crawford?

Rich: Prior to the Werth signing, I thought it would take more than five years and more than $100 million. Maybe 6 years/$108 million. Or something close to that. The Werth deal may not reset the market but, remember, it only takes one team to step up. With the big-market clubs like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels, among others, showing interest in Crawford, it's my guess that he will get a Werth-like contract. Maybe not more as some people now think but in that ballpark. If it means going 8 years and $160 million, I would say "No thanks." What do you think it will take to sign Crawford, Beltre, and Lee?

Sully: Tough to say. I will call it 6/115 for Crawford and 6/140 for Lee. As for Beltre, his market seems to be drying up a tad. Boston's out, and it would seem the O's are out as well now with Mark Reynolds in the mix. I bet he ends up around 5/60 or so.

Rich: My sense is that you might be light on all three. Unless Lee has his heart on signing with Texas, I believe it will take a seventh year to lure him to New York or one of the other rumored teams. It's also my belief that Beltre will do better than $12M per year.

Sully: When you look at the current FA class, do you think there might be some nice values to be had for teams that wait out the silly season and the biggest names going off the board? Maybe a Derrek Lee type?

Rich: I thought the Aaron Harang signing was a real bargain. The San Diego native might give the Padres 180-200 decent innings. Not bad for no more than $4 million. As to free agents who are currently available, I think Orlando Hudson is still a valuable second baseman. If O-Dog could be had on the cheap again and my club needed a second baseman, I'd ink him to another one-year deal for a few million bucks. I can't believe I'm saying this but Miguel Olivo might present a bargain on a one-year deal with an option for a second year. The glut of defensively challenged, offensive types is sure to leave a couple of players without a chair when the music stops. As such, there could be some values like Magglio Ordonez, Vladimir Guerrero, Hideki Matsui, and Jim Thome for a patient AL team in search of a DH.

Sully: I like the Harang signing too. He's still a decent pitcher but has problems when teams lift the ball for extra base hits. He's always had a below average gopher-ball rate. That should change at Petco given the size of the ballpark and Jed Hoyer's emphasis on outfield defense. As for other values, I think you have it exactly right. When a David Ortiz is under contract for $12.5 million, some of the names you mention will be shooting higher than what's realistic. That should leave a nice slugger or two hanging around late in the Hot Stove season.

Rich: How about Paul Konerko? He apparently wants as much or more as Adam Dunn in terms of both years and money. Does that seem reasonable to you? Do you think he will be back with the White Sox?

Sully: Dunn's three years younger and has had a considerably better long-term track record, which the Fangraphs wOBA, um, graph shows below. With that said, you could hardly blame a man for trying to capitalize on a huge contract year, which Konerko certainly had.

I think Konerko returns to the White Sox. This negotiation has a "Derek Jeter and New York Yankees" feel, with a revered player trying to get as much as he can while the team tries to stay as chained to reality as possible.

Rich: Switching gears here, I don't believe for a second that Boston is going to be satisfied with Jarrod Saltalamacchia as its starting catcher. C'mon now, who do you see the Red Sox adding between now and spring training?

Sully: I couldn't disagree with you any more. I think the Red Sox are very comfortable with the combo. That's not to say that they won't remain open to other options, but don't expect them to give up much in a trade or spend above market for anyone as though it remains a need. A Salty and Jason Varitek platoon actually looks somewhat formidable to me given the way Tek has hit righties the last few seasons.

Rich: If Boston doesn't sign Crawford, do you think the Red Sox and the Mets might reach a deal for Carlos Beltran? Seems to me that he would be worth a shot if New York picked up half of his $18.5M salary. I'm not sure Beltran can play center anymore, but his 30 walks and 39 strikeouts suggest he still has a good approach at the plate and the switch-hitter put up a line of .321/.365/.603 in September and October. If nothing else, the guy is intriguing.

Sully: Yeah, I think that's right - he is intriguing. Boston - perhaps bizarrely at this point given the way 2010 went on the injury front - has a lot of faith in its ability to gain an edge by performing strong medical due diligence. If the reports are true that Boston is in fact interested in Beltran, they must be very comfortable with his health. The other fourth outfielder options appear to be Josh Willingham or Magglio Ordonez, something Marc Normandin addressed yesterday at Red Sox Beacon.

Rich: What happens to Greinke? Do the Royals trade him or does he stay put for another year?

Sully: Sounds to me like they want to move him. Given the premium Lee seems poised to command, why the heck not? Who's the second best pitcher on the free agent market right now? Carl Pavano? Dayton Moore, particularly given some of Greinke's public comments, would be crazy not to consider dealing him in this market. I expect Toronto to be a key player there. Rightly, I think the Jays believe they have a real chance in 2011 and beyond.

Rich: Albert Pujols is interested in signing a long-term extension with the Cardinals. I'm setting the line at 10 years and $275 million, which is exactly what A-Rod received the last time around. Are you taking the overs or the unders?

Sully: Ooooh. Give me the under there, but he'll get a huge number.

Rich: Time for a lightning round. Match the player with the team. First up: Cliff Lee. I say Texas. You say?

Sully: Angels

Rich: Carl Crawford?

Sully: Red Sox

Rich: Adrian Beltre?

Sully: Angels

Rich: Circling back to A-Gon, I know you talked to Carson Cistulli at Fangraphs Audio about him. How many years and dollars do you think he will coax from John Henry?

Sully: The reports say 8 years (including 2010, I believe) and $155-$165 million.

Rich: Lastly, who owns the Dodgers a year from now? Frank, Jamie, their attorneys, the taxpayers, Bank of America, or … ?

Sully: I'll leave that one to my Southern California pal. You have the feet on the street!