Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Major League Baseball Talk

I really wish I had time to compile link to the major stories of the day like the folks at Pro Sports Daily. Actually, I probably could finagle such an operation, as it would become much easier as I became more and more familiar with each local newspaper. But I’m not content with a mere link to a relevant baseball story. No, I need to weigh in with a paragraph or two of my own thoughts.

I feel justified in ripping a team or a columnist because I have a collection of my own commentary that is ripe for criticism. I put my own thoughts out there for the public, much like these mainstream media folks. And since I have a comments section that allows readers to berate me over a disagreement in opinions, I feel that it isn’t wrong for me to rip others when I see fit.

And I’m done rambling. Let’s get to it.

Odd Man Out
The Toronto Blue Jays have been the most active team of the off-season, adding pitchers A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan along with corner infielders Lyle Overbay and Troy Glaus. The pitching situation seems to be in order, but the Blue Jays have a glut of starter-quality players to fill a mere nine spots.

Gregg Zaun, Glaus, Overbay, (Correction, thanks Mark) Russ Adams, and Aaron Hill figure to occupy the infield, while Vernon Wells is the only certain outfield starter. Alexis Rios is the incumbent in right field, but his value at that position is marginal. Of AL right fielders with at least 450 plate appearances, Rios ranked last in OBP and Slugging Percentage. Erik Hinske could be the answer at the position, though the linked article has him slated for right, which was held in 2005 by Frank Cattolonatto.

But why depose Cattolnatto? Of AL left fielders with at least 450 plate appearances, he ranked third in OBP (behind Manny and Matsui) and sixth in slugging. This would make Toronto’s optimal outfield – as things stand now – Catt, Wells, and Hinske. But wait, there’s more.

Shea Hillenbrand and Corey Koskie are starters relegated to bench duty due to the influx of talent. While the team would be wise to keep one on as a bat off the bench/DH, surely one is expendable. The Cleveland Indians have inquired about Hillenbrand, ostensibly to replace Aaron Effing Boone at third base (who ranked dead last among qualified AL third basemen in OBP and second to last in Slugging). The Blue Jays have initially scoffed at the idea of trading Hillenbrand, but a change of heart could be quickly in the making.

Mets Mull Matsui Move
I laud Omar Minaya’s sense of urgency in dishing Matsui. What I don’t understand is why any other team would be remotely interested in him. In essence, he’s a replacement level shortstop/second baseman (2.7 Value Over Replacement Player according to Baseball Prospectus).

It was just a week or so ago in this space that I opined Baltimore should dish Tejada for a quality pitcher like Mark Prior, since the added value of pitching should somewhat offset the lost offense in Tejada. Normally, I like these moves since top-flight pitching has always been a key to postseason success. Here’s the problem all of this presents for the D-Rays:

They’re giving up their closer for a mid-level starter and a replacement level shortstop. In the grand scheme of things, Matsui would replace incumbent Julio Lugo at shortstop, who would be shipped off to a team like Boston for a pitcher like Bronson Arroyo. So, in essence, the D-Rays would be swapping their closer and valuable shortstop for a replacement level shortstop and two mid-rotation starters.

Of course, the deal digs a bit deeper than the preceding sentence. The D-Rays are desperate for any kind of pitching, so mid-level starters will have to do for now. And surely they don’t expect Julio Lugo to repeat his .295/.361/.403 season that earned him his $4.95 million 2006 option. But Lugo should at least put up league average numbers, while it would surprise no one if Matsui it .250/.260/.270 in 2006.

The sole reason this Baez deal makes any sense for the Rays is that he’s probably not going to be a top-flight Major League closer. The D-Rays are in no position to be spending $4 million on a set-up man, so why not exchange those dollars for a young starter? Then again, the D-Rays bullpen is in such shambles that I can’t even estimate the number of games they could cost the team in 2006.

Maybe owner Stuart Sternberg needs to open his man purse…

More Manny-Miggy Talk
This will certainly make the newspapers every day until either is finally traded. But you know what? I don’t think the Red Sox really plan on dealing Manny.

Manny for Tejada would make sense if both teams could come up with adequate secondary compensation. The Sox have offered Matt Clement, but now reportedly want a prospect back. The Orioles certainly will balk at such an offer, and will probably counter with something like Luis Matos (per the linked article).

Manny and Clement for Miggy and Matos. It kinda makes sense in that the Red Sox would be relieving themselves of an inflated starting pitcher’s contract and a guy who doesn’t want to be in town. It makes sense for Baltimore in that they dish a disgruntled player and a mediocre center fielder, and receive a mid-level starter and one of the best bats in the majors.

Problem is, there is no possible way that Miggy and Matos can equal Manny’s production. I realize that Tejada is a valuable commodity, especially as a shortstop. But he’s just not Manny. No one is. And that’s why I think the Red Sox are ultimately going to keep him around, despite threats of a holdout.

That’s what I’ve got for today. More to come tomorrow, and surely I’ll do a Yankees piece some time this week.