WTNYJanuary 06, 2004
Back from the Dead
By Bryan Smith

Well, I can't say I was pleased to get back from vacation and to hear the two baseball topics getting the most press are Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame. Yuk! The only thing I have to say about Rose is that he will make one great hitting coach, and I won't waste time reading his book. As for the Hall, I voted for Eck, Moliter, Blyleven, Sutter, Gossage, and Sandberg at the Internet Baseball Hall of Fame. I'll let others debate my choices, and move on to topics that interest me more, like...

Over at www.theminorsfirst.com, Mike Gullo has posted his Top 100 prospects for 2004, and done a damn good job if I say so myself. I created a rough top 25 on my trip, and while it's a little different, all lists will remain virtually the same. I'll be making 4 posts relatively soon with twenty-five prospects everyday, and I'll let that serve as my rebuttal. I'll also be e-mailing Gullo, and hopefully I'll get enough discussion with him to make a post as well. Basically, my main thoughts are Bobby Jenks is way too low, Ryan Madson is too high, and I would flip Jason Bay and Prince Fielder for sure. But as I said, more on that later...

Since this is my first day back I want to touch on a lot of issues, and I'll get into more detail as the week progresses. So, here goes...

Not a great week for Ugueth Urbina, who couldn't have been happy to hear that Braden Looper and Danys Baez are all but signed to the Mets and Devil Rays, respectively. I predicted Urbina would end up in New York, but I can't say I'm surprised the team went the cheaper route in Looper. Braden has been more than reliable in the last five seasons, pitching in at least 71 games in each year. For a flamethrower, his K/9 numbers have remained quite low:

1999: 5.42
2000: 3.88
2001: 6.59
2002: 5.76
2003: 6.25

It shouldn't come as a surprise that 2000 was his worst year in terms of ERA, 4.41, and he has remained relatively effective each of the last three years, keeping a K/BB above 5.75. Looper also relies heavily on his walk total, and 2002 was his best season largely because he only issued 28 free passes in 86 innings. He definitely favors right-handers, and is much more likely to give up the extra-base hit to a leftie. As for Baez, while he won't be used in the middle relief role I suggest, Lou Piniella will prefer him to Lance Carter at the end of games. Baez is vicious to right-handers, only allowing them to bat .165 off him last season. He struggled a bit in the second half, but I imagine he'll get 25 saves with an ERA under 3.50 next season. As for Urbina, he's threatened to stay in Venezuela if he doesn't get a contract, and if Cliff Politte ends up with the White Sox, it might be between that and returning to Texas.

As I talk about Baez, the Indians made a deal to acquire another reliever, Scott Stewart, from the Expos. After doing pretty well the first three months of the season, Stewart broke down, only throwing 8.1 terrible innings (16H, 9ER). His H/9 was way down last season, but he should be OK next year, making a nice Cleveland bullpen next year, with David Riske, Bob Wickman, Rafael Betancourt, Jack Cressend, etc.

While I write this article, two new headlines have appeared on ESPN, first is the Robbie Alomar is headed to the Diamondbacks, and secondly that the Mariners are close to dealing Jeff Cirillo to the Padres. I don't see how Robbie is a better player than Matt Kata, so basically the Diamondbacks are paying millions for replaceable value. Justifiable for teams with lots of money, but not so much for a team complaining of having no money. The D-Backs rotation is slated to have Johnson, Brandon Webb, Elmer Dessens, and some distasteful combination of Casey Fossum, Mike Gosling, Edgar Gonzalez, John Patterson, Andrew Good, and Shane Reynolds. Yikes, don't ya think Alomar's money should be headed in the starting pitching direction?

Finally, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick is reporting Cirillo will be dealt with Brian Sweeney and cash for Kevin Jarvis, Wiki Gonzalez, Dave Hansen, and a minor leaguer. Cirillo will play very sparingly with the Padres, although Jarvis really didn't look to have a better fate. Jarvis will pitch the end of games for the Mariners, and might put up some decent numbers in the large stadium of Safeco. Both these players are terrible, so I won't waste your time going into detail about this move.

That's about it today, but I promise I'll have more up this week. The Royals are the frontrunners to land Juan Gonzalez, which would give Allan Baird an A+ for offseason moves in my book. Farewell to the great Tug McGraw, and for all those Cubs fans out there, take note of Javier Vazquez's 4-year, $45M deal with the Yankees, that sets Wood's market.