Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 9, 2005
BASEBALL: Winter Meeting Roundup

Quick thoughts:

*Well, the Blue Jays are back in the game with the acquisitions of BJ Ryan, AJ Burnett and Lyle Overbay, and they're not done yet. All are good baseball moves, although spending $102 million on Burnett and Ryan seems like a financial decision they may come to regret, especially given that they're still basically working towards building a third place team unless the Red Sox go into rebuilding mode, which seems unlikely with the acquisition of Josh Beckett and Mark Loretta.

*Tough times, by contrast, in Baltimore, even with the arrival of Leo Mazzone and Ramon Hernandez; Hernandez creates a bit of a logjam with Javy Lopez, and the revival of the Jays only makes the division more competitive.

*The trade of Edgar Renteria for Andy Marte - which I know will make at least one of our regular readers happy - is a fascinating challenge. If you apply the basic principles of modern sabermetrics, this looks like a heist for the sabermetrically-oriented Red Sox, who unload a player who is expensive, 30, coming off two straight off years at the plate and a terrible year in the field, and has lost a significant amount of speed (his signature skill) in exchange for a 22-year-old who the Baseball Prospectus named as the best prospect in baseball entering the 2005 season. (Marte batted .275/.506/.372 in AAA Richmond this year, unspectacular but impressive for a 21-year-old in what, if I recall correctly, is a pitcher's park, plus Marte cut his strikeouts as he moved up, a good sign). Even with the Braves needing a shortstop and even given that the Red Sox are eating part of the contract, I have to say that unless the Braves know more about Renteria and/or Marte than we do, this is a steal.

But you know what? They're the Braves. So there's a good chance that they do know more than you or I or the Red Sox know about these two players.

*I could live, I suppose, with the Mets possibly getting Mark Grudzielanek (thank heavens they wouldn't be playing him with Mientkiewicz), if he's cheap and, ideally, a bench player. But I don't like the idea. Grudzielanek is 36 and only useful if he bats .300, and players of his type tend to hit the wall very abruptly around 35-36 (Tommy Herr was 34 when the Mets got him). On the other hand, Jose Valentin is my kind of player, a guy who has had great range and made up for low batting averages with power, some patience, and an ability to avoid the DP. But he's also 36 and batted .170 last season (he also had a huge spike upward in walks, which Bill James thinks can sometimes be a trouble sign for an old player); I don't want to get the tail end of Valentin's career just because he was useful a few years ago. Mercifully, it appears that they've only signed him to a 1-year deal.

But I'm glad the Mets passed on Bernie Williams. You never know anything for sure in this game, but it's hard to be surer about anything than that Bernie is done. With little range and no arm, he's a liability in the field; he's got minimal power now, and has batted .263, .262 and .249 the last three years. Bernie should retire, but he's apparently returning to the Yankees, to do what I can't imagine.

Julio Franco, I like, but a two-year deal for a 47-year-old?

And the Rangers can keep Laynce Nix and his career .285 OBP in Coors Field South.

*Gee, what were the odds that things would end badly for Roger Clemens in Houston, and over money? I still say, as I've said for the past six years, that this ends with Clemens trying to go into Cooperstown in a Devil Rays hat . . . much as I hate to say so, Clemens owes it to baseball to keep pitching. You can't retire while you're that good, you just can't.

Now, whether I'd take him as a Met is another matter. I guess I could hold my nose, and it would be amusing to have a Clemens/Pedro 1-2 punch. But in all seriousness, I'd bet it's probably the Rangers who win out here.

*Alfonso Soriano remains a talented slugger who can play in the middle infield, but his decline at the plate the past two years really has been masked by the park, plus the Nationals are getting him while they still have Jose Vidro, so if they can ever get Vidro healthy they will have to move one of them. I think the Rangers got the better of this deal, adding a guy, Brad Wilkerson, who has power and a lot of plate discipline, although he did have a poor 2005. Wilkerson's a year younger, and as recently as 2004 hit more homers and scored more runs. I wonder how many fewer pitches opposing starters will have to throw this year by exchanging Wilkerson for Soriano.

More on some of the other moves another day, if time permits. It's been a busy winter.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (1)
Comments

If the Mets sign Julio Franco, do his Social Security checks count toward the luxury tax number?

Posted by: WD at December 9, 2005 11:50 AM

Good round-up. I'm fairly excited about getting Renteria, especially when the Bosox are picking up a chunk of his salary. Renteria for $7 or $8 million/per year or Furcal for $13mil? If only they'd known about Tejada wanting a trade. But then old Ted (I'll name the ballpark after myself) Turner would never spring that kind of cash, unless it was to support the corrupt tyrant supporting, children raping hypocrisy known as the U.N. What an embarrasment to baseball that piece of crap is.

I'll have to disagree with you though on Clemens. He should play in the World Baseball Classic (which I'm lucky enough to live in Phoenix where the first round will be played) and then retire. He seemed to be slowing the second half of last year and especially in the post season.

With all the trades and $$ being thrown around, both the NL and AL east divisions should be entertaining this year.

Posted by: JB at December 9, 2005 12:10 PM

Clemens isn't going to play anywhere but Houston, assuming he plays.

He may not. If you look at his stats he broke down in a big way over the last 2 months of the season. At his age the grind of a whole season plus October may be a bit much.

With the Astros he was allowed to only show up when he pitched, and thus got to live at home for the first time in his career. He isn't going to move to Tampa and live in hotels for a half year, those days are over for him. And remember, the Astros have his son Kobe on the roster - chances are excellent Kobe is a September call up for the Astros this year. Think Roger doesn't want to start a September game with his son playing third? Talk about baseball history.

The thinking down here is if he pitches at all he will return to the Astros in June.

Posted by: Dwilkers at December 9, 2005 12:20 PM

Clemens could rejoin Houston in May or June, if they are in contention. Or he could wait even longer, and let the Yankees and Red Sox bid for his services around the All-Star break. He could probably survive being away from home for three months.

Bernie Williams won't kill the Yankees if they only use him as a pinch hitter,although I suspect Ruben Sierra is still better in that role, and as long as Bernie is around, Joe Torre cannot be trusted to stop pencilling him into CF, where he really doesn't belong anymore.

Posted by: Jerry at December 9, 2005 12:46 PM

Only the Yankees could have a $13 million pinch hitter. Man!

Posted by: JB at December 9, 2005 2:03 PM

Just to let you know, Ted Turner no longer owns the Braves-AOL/Time Warner does. This is why the Braves have to compete with only$80 mil in payroll, while the Mets will end up out of the money again after buying everyone available. With the financial considerations coming from Boston, the Braves replaced Furcal with a shortstop who has better career numbers in average and OBP than Furcal, at roughly what they paid Furcal LAST YEAR. I'm not sure what the Nationals had in mind picking up Soriano. He doesn't want to play the outfield and yet that appears to be where they want him to play. As far as Clemens goes, does the fact that he has back and leg problems not bother anyone? These are two body parts a power pitcher must have functioning well. He may need until May1 to recuperate.

Posted by: Lew at December 9, 2005 2:16 PM

Good-bye Edgar, don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out. He is addition by subtraction in my book and I don't mind paying part of his contract to be rid of him. He is no longer fast, he has negligible power, he hits .280 and that's with 81 games in Fenway and he is BRUTAL in the field. I don't know what they are going to do there but I assume they will sign a free-agent to take his place. Pretty much anything will be an upgrade. Oh, if Edgar is 30 or within 2 years of it I am a right-wing Republican.

Julio Franco for 2 years on the face of it seems weird given that he is older than even Edgar Renteria. However, he had good numbers last year, you aren't going to expect him to get more than 150 ABs, he's a total pro's pro which is good in the clubhouse (that is one OLD clubhouse) and the whole thing is $2 million. There are way worse guys to sign as back-up 1Bmen/pinch-hitter.

Posted by: jim at December 9, 2005 3:08 PM

I don't think I have seen mention on the site of Grady "He's got another inning in him" Little getting hired as the Dodgers manager. Aside from the hilarity of that did you see what number they assigned old Grady to wear? Number 6. How does die-hard Dodger fan react to that?

By the way teams without GMs, shortstops or centerfielders do make the playoffs, right?

Posted by: jim at December 9, 2005 3:24 PM

Dude, did you just say that Alfonso Soriano could play the field? Have you ever seen him attempt a basic 6-4-3?

Posted by: Leon H at December 9, 2005 7:21 PM

I don't think I have seen mention on the site of Grady "He's got another inning in him" Little getting hired as the Dodgers manager. Aside from the hilarity of that did you see what number they assigned old Grady to wear? Number 6. How does die-hard Dodger fan react to that?

Sadly, there are fewer and fewer left who remember when the guy who wore that number for the Dodgers twenty-three years ago (pause for a "Oh God, I am getting so old" moment) was anything but a punchline. I was watching "Cheap Seats" on ESPN Classic the other night, and they were doing an old episode of "Superstars"--the Garvey-ripping was brutal

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at December 10, 2005 1:04 AM
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