Stupid and Speculating 

I feel like an idiot. I write a whole article Friday devoted to the Marlins signings of Castillo and Lowell, which I heard were to be announced that day. Since, neither has been announced, although the Lowell extension looks true. But the Castillo signing his a snag when the Chicago Cubs came into the fight, along with the Mets matching the Marlins 4th year vesting option move. So, the price is being dragged up by the slappin’ switch hitter, and will probably settle close to $6M per season. Wow.

Now I don’t want to report something before it happens, again, but there is speculation (ESPN radio 1000 in Chicago) that the Brewers have traded Richie Sexson to the Diamondbacks for Junior Spivey, Craig Counsell, Lyle Overbay, and Chris Capuano. Here, to start, are some statistics, along with my comments:

Sexson: .272/.379/.548
Vs. RH: .271/.359/.545 Vs. LH: .279/.448/.557
Home: .257/.364/.521 Road: .287/.393/.574
Pre-ASB: .263/.376/.513 Post-ASB: .285/.383/.597
3-YR OPS: .889, .867, .927
Comments: Richie plays with power, and he has some of the top 5 power in the Majors. He’s absolutely huge, although Sexson has made huge strides in defense the last few seasons. He probably will sit around .275 for his average, although he walks about 100 times per season and whiffs equally as much. He improved after the break and played better on the road, which is a good indicator for the D-Backs.

Spivey: .255/.326/.433
Vs. RH: .238/.305/.392 Vs. LH: .288/.366/.512
Home: .294/.347/.525 Road: .205/.301/.317
Pre-ASB: .255/.323/.441 Post-ASB: .255/.330/.422
Comments: Spivey’s 2002 stats are misleading, as his first half was much different than his second, .966 vs. .763. So, for the last three halves, Spivey has been a .760 player, which is where his value stands. His OBP may rise to .380 at one point, although .430 is about his slugging high. So, the max for Spivey OPS in 2004 is .810, while .740 is about the low.

Counsell: .234/.328/.304 in 303AB
Vs. RH: .239/.336/.319 Vs. LH: .219/.301/.274
Home: .239/.339/.317 Road: .230/.317/.292
Pre-ASB: .268/.385/.373 Post-ASB: .205/.274/.242
Comments: I hate to pardon bad play, but much of Counsell’s horrible season, including a disastrous second half, can be blamed on injury. He is very eligible for improvement next season, although topping .700 on the OPS chart may be unreasonable. He’ll play shortstop for the Brewers, heating the position up for J.J. Hardy, although stealing time away from Bill Hall.

Overbay in MLB: .276/.365/.402 24XBH in 254AB
Overbay in AAA: .286/.419/.479 15XBH in 119AB
Comments: Overbay has been compared to Mark Grace before, as a high average, solid defensive, doubles power first basemen. Asking 20 home runs out of Overbay is unreasonable, although 30 doubles and 15 home runs isn’t. He could hit .300 very soon, and has OF in his history. The Brewers are already moving former top prospect Brad Nelson to outfield, in preparation for Prince Fielder’s arrival. Expect Overbay to play first until Fielder, and then to either move to the OF or be traded/non-tendered.

Capuano in MLB: 2-4 4.64 27/33 23/11
Capuano In AAA: 9-5 3.34 133/142.2 108/43
Comments: Capuano has little minor league experience, despite the fact he’ll turn 25 after the break next season. He’s only had 75 minor league starts, and nearly one-third of them came in 2003. He has a good curveball, and a fastball that sits around 90mph. He pitched better than his ERA indicates, and should be in the Milwaukee rotation next season.

For his slugging first basemen, Doug Melvin has nearly built himself an infield for 2004. CBS Sportsline doesn’t have Spivey as arbitration-eligible, so I’m going to assume that is true and say he won’t be traded this winter. The team will play Counsell at shortstop, meaning one-time prospect Bill Hall will have to take his .300OBP act elsewhere. Spivey gives the team an excuse to not play Rickie Weeks right away, which actually should help his development. Same holds true for SS prospect J.J. Hardy, who needs some time in AAA.

I think the team will trade Spivey during next season, about the team Weeks is ready to contribute. The $3.4M Counsell will stick around though, as his value is supposedly better than sabermatricians realize.

Actually, Melvin could field a lineup that looks like:

1. Scott Podsednik- CF
2. Junior Spivey- 2B
3. Geoff Jenkins- LF
4. Lyle Overbay- 1B
5. Wes Helms- 3B
6. Brady Clark- RF
7. ???- C
8. Craig Counsell- SS

He is in need of a shortstop and possibly a right fielder, although Clark showed flashes of brilliance last season. The team’s rotation will have Sheets and Capuano, and probably Matt Kinney, Doug Davis, and Luis Martinez. God, they’re bad. As for Arizona, they add a big bat for their lineup, and I imagine Brenly will field this lineup:

1. Matt Kata- 2B
2. Alex Cintron- SS
3. Luis Gonzalez- LF
4. Richie Sexson- 1B
5. Shea Hillenbrand- 3B
6. Steve Finley- CF
7. Danny Bautista- RF
8. Moeller/Barajas/Hammock- C

Not a bad lineup, considering the successes of Kata, Cintron, and Hillenbrand. The rotation is a big question in Arizona, but I think Johnson, Webb, Fossum, De La Rosa, and a combination of Good, Patterson, or Edgar Gonzalez will claim the final slot. The team will realize Fossum is cut out for the bullpen about the same time that Mike Gosling bounces back from a disappointing season in the Pacific Coast League.

Overall, not a bad trade for both teams, although this is a nice move for the Diamondbacks after dealing away their ace. By taking out Counsell and adding Sexson, the team will pay Richie about $4.85M in 2004, which is quite a bargain. The team also lost $12M with Schilling, putting the team currently on the hook for about $58.4M, when considering the arbitration-eligible players. That gives Garigiola $8-11M to spend, although I don’t really see where the work will be done. Maybe the team will move to sign Miguel Batista, which is the smartest option at this point.

Not bad for a weekend post, huh?


Turkey or Fish? 

According to this column in the Florida Sun-Sentinal, the Marlins will announce the re-signings of Luis Castillo and Mike Lowell as early as today. According to Mike Berardino, Castillo will sign a three-year deal woth $15.5M, with a $6M option that could vest by plate appearances. Lowell's extension will be a four-year contract, believed to be in the $36-40M range. For the purposes of this column, I'm going to assume Lowell makes $9.5M in 2004, which would fall right in the middle of that range.

Before digging deeper into the Marlins, let's look at Lowell and Castillo splits:

Lowell Overall: .276/.350/.530
Vs. RH: .271/.346/.484 Vs. LH: .295/.363/.688
At Home: .282/.365/.509 Road: .271/.336/.550
Pre-ASB: .275/.351/.586 Post-ASB: .281/.348/.388

Castillo Overall: .314/.381/.397
Vs. RH: .312/.377/.357 Vs. LH: .320/.394/.494
At Home: .326/.398/.406 Road: .303/.365/.388
Pre-ASB: .311/.375/.407 Post-ASB: .320/.390/.382

Lowell's second half numbers look very shaky because he was injured, the sole reasoning his power went away completely. His OPS has increased each of the last three seasons, and he is likely to break .900 next season. Castillo has started striking out less, but he needs to improve his baserunning abilities to be top-notch. He fits very well in that second hole, and Fox documented the importance Pierre and Castillo played on the Marlins last season. I believe a large part of these signings were to draw a crowd to Miami, bringing back popular, Latino players to satisfy Miami's largest demographic.

Berardino also writes the team will non-tender both Juan Encarnacion and Braden Looper, assuming trades can not be worked out beforehand. But by this news going public, Larry Beinfest has lost any potential market he was hoping to harbor with these two. So using the information I presented this week, I can assume the following:

Signed for 2004: Juan Pierre (2.3), Mike Hampton (10), Mike Lowell (9.5), Luis Castillo (5.5)

Arbitration-Eligible: Brad Penny (2.5), Mark Redman (3), A.J. Burnett (2.5), Gonzalez (2.7)

Currently on the hook for: $38M

Last season's Opening Day payroll was a shade over $50M, and my belief is the team will allow Beinfest to reach $55M in 2004. After assuming $4M is spent on auto-renewals, the team will have $42M spent on next season's team. That would allow Beinfest to spend roughly $13M towards next season's team. Let's look at what kind of team the World Champion's will trot out there:

1. Pierre- CF
2. Castillo- 2B
3. Lowell- 3B
4. Cabrera- RF
5. Conine-LF
6. Choi- 1B
7. Gonzalez- SS
8. Castro/?- C

Ivan Rodriguez is the largest question mark this team has, but that question will be answered in the next ten days. Last season Rodriguez stipulated the team could not offer him arbitration this season, meaning if the team doesn't sign him by December 7th, he will be lost. Pudge was the heart and soul of last year's team, and the most popular Latino player of all. Beinfest and Boras are millions of miles apart, but as I said, all will be known a week from Sunday. Here's a look at the rotation:

1. Beckett- RH
2. Pavano- RH
3. Redman- LH
4. Willis- LH
5. Penny- RH

The team will expect A.J. Burnett back early in the season, although I can't say I expect Pavano, Redman, Penny, and Burnett to all be Marlins next season. One will be either dealt or non-tendered, and that will be seen on December 20. Berardino hints that Mark Redman will be the player to go if Pudge is signed, but if the team is forced to go with Ramon Castro, that rotation above stays.

Jack McKeon's bullpen has many questions within itself, and those will grow when Looper is non-tendered. The team will probably look for one-time studs like Blaine Neal and Tim Spooneybarger to step up, along with a couple veterans they sign. Berardino says the team is closing in on Chad Fox, and is looking to add another reliever (a former closer of some type) after that. I would advise Mike Williams, who is only one season removed from 40 saves. Armando Almanza and Michael Tejera are two more, and I imagine someone of the Tommy Phelps or Allan Levrault variety.

Florida is trying desperately to avoid the 1997 sell-out logo, and will spend $15M next season (Castillo and Lowell) to prove it. Lowell will be able to escape his deal if Miami doesn't get a new stadium deal, and Florida is trying to buy their stadium on payroll. I fully expect Beinfest to realize Pudge's importance (along with Pudge seeing he has no market) and the two sides coming together for a deal. When that happens, the NL East is still wide open, although the Phillies are the favorites in 2004.

2004 favorites (assuming Schilling is in Boston): Phillies, Cubs, Padres, Red Sox, Royals/Twins, A's

Have a good weekend, check back if something worthy of posting happens. And, make your way over to Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT to see an exclusive interview with injury guru and fellow blogger, Will Carroll.


Royals and Rumors 

Happy Thanksgiving, hope everyone has a great day of festivities, and (for once), football. Today’s column is filled with rumors and signings, kind of like a Friday column normally would be. But I’ll have more substantial material tomorrow, so check back then. First off, let’s please the Kansas City fans…

Allan Baird re-signed a triplet of Royals yesterday, and as usual, I’ll throw some splits your way before analyzing…

Brian Anderson statistics:

Overall: 14-11 3.78 212/197.2 87/43
With Royals: 5-1 3.99 50/49.2 15/11
In Kauffman: 3-1 6.53 36/30.1 11/6
Before Break: 7-6 4.13 120/104.2 39/21
After Break: 7-5 3.39 92/93 48/22

Joe Randa stats:

Overall: .291/.348/.452
Vs. RH: .282/.345/.433 Vs. LH: .311/.356/.497
Home: .286/.357/.478 Away: .295/.341/.432
Pre-ASB: .248/.304/.414 Post-ASB: .344/.402/.500

Curt Leskanic splits:

Overall: 5-0 2.22 38/52.2 50/29
With Royals: 1.73 16/26 22/11
Vs. RH: .228/.319/.356 Vs. LH: .176/.307/.247

Anderson will make $3.25M the next two seasons, Randa will make a hefty $3.75M next year, and Leskanic will earn $1.5M. In total, the Royals spent $8.5M towards their 2004 team, landing them at $31.4M so far, by my calculations. OK, here’s what I know about the pitching staff next season:

1. Brian Anderson
2. Runelvys Hernandez
3. Darrell May
4. Kevin Appier
5. Gobble vs. Asencio vs. Snyder

Not bad, and so far the bullpen has Leskanic, Nate Field, Mike MacDougal, Jeremy Affeldt, D.J. Carrasco, and possibly Kris Wilson. I believe Affeldt has huge potential out of the ‘pen, able to pitch in any role necessary. He can go long relief, middle relief, close, and come in to get lefties out. Leskanic can get right-handers out, but MacDougal actually showed a huge reverse platoon split. Signing one more right-hander, possibly Al Levine, is a possibility.

Randa will likely be one of two veterans signed, and I’ve made it no secret what I believe this team should do. My vote would be to put DeJesus and Guiel on the outfield corners, and sign Javy Lopez with the remaining money. That would give a very good lineup of:

1. David DeJesus- LF
2. Joe Randa- 3B
3. Mike Sweeney- 1B
4. Carlos Beltran- CF
5. Javy Lopez- C
6. Ken Harvey- DH
7. Angel Berroa- SS
8. Aaron Guiel- RF
9. Desi Relaford- 2B

That’s a very good lineup, with even more potential. If Randa hits like he did in the second half, and Lopez was to continue his tear, they would have one of the more formidable offenses in baseball. DeJesus would switch with Guiel if he struggled, and Ken Harvey and Angel Berroa are likely to further improve next season. It’s looking good in Kansas City, especially when considering the hits Minnesota and Chicago have taken thus far.

And after that rant, I’d like to briefly mention that Mark Kotsay is officially an A, while Sandy Alomar Jr. re-signed with the Chicago White Sox. I already wrote about Kotsay, and the 150AB that Alomar will steal from Miguel Olivo isn’t substantial enough for me to spend time writing about. So, onto the rumors:

- Kaz Matsui has announced he is more than willing to change positions, which will officially count the Yankees in for negotiations. The Yankees are hoping to bring Matsui in to play second, and move Soriano to center. Bernie Williams would shift to DH, and Nick Johnson would then be featured in a deal for Javier Vazquez.

But, I must say I don’t believe Matsui is as open as he is saying, I mean, he was voted best Japanese shortstop of all-time last season. He is fantastic on defense, and is probably using the Yankees to drive his price up. Ultimately, the Dodgers or Mariners will sign him, with emphasis on the latter. That leaves the Yankees with one other second base option…

- Luis Castillo is sitting in a very comfortable position, in the driver’s seat with two very nice offers on the table. And yes, more are to come. Castillo was first offered a three year, $15.5M extension by the Marlins, to which he gave the response, “Let’s wait and see.” The Mets, according to the New York Post, countered with an offer in the $14M range over three seasons, apparently asking Castillo to ditch Miami to play in New York (for less money).

But, if Matsui turns the Yankees down, they’re likely to go after Castillo, and the Red Sox and Cubs are supposedly interested as well. If Castillo plays his cards right, we could be talking $7M per for a sound defensive, light hitting second basemen. Let me just say I hardly advocate the signing of Castillo for the Cubs, as other options (Aurilia, Grudzi, Durham, Walker) would be more fiscally/statistically sound for this team.

- The Cubs are said to be one of the teams interested in Keith Foulke, the ‘mystery’ team of the bidding process. Foulke has received a four-year offer from the Red Sox, but will wait to hear offers from Oakland, New York, and Chicago. Keith isn’t said to be interested in the Mets, as he wants to be pitching for a contender. Who knows how far the Cubs will go, as they are interested in three other pitchers as closers. Who?

- Tom Gordon, Rod Beck, and Ugueth Urbina are all expected to hear offers from the Cubs, all to take over Joe Borowski’s job as closer. Borowski would then move to middle relief, where I believe he is much better suited. Gordon is drawing a ton of interest from the Devil Rays, Urbina will probably end up with the Mets, and Rod Beck remains a wild card. If the Cubs miss out on Foulke and Gordon, expect them to jump all over Beck. If the A’s miss out on Foulke, I expect them to be interested in Rod. Funny, I haven’t heard LaTroy Hawkins’ name in weeks.

- No real news on Curt Schilling, as Epstein and Lucchino appear to be trying to keep the deal hush-hush. If Schilling doesn’t get a three-year offer from Boston, he will spurn them and stay in Arizona. If he does, Boston will have an amazing rotation, and Richie Sexson will be a Diamondback next week…

That’s all for today, I just can’t stomach to write more. OK, I can’t write puns. Dammit, see ya tomorrow.


Lee, Lee, and some salaries 

Yesterday, Aaron Gleeman introduced a new stat of his, entitled "Gleeman Production Average," which is a more advanced statistic than OPS. He is trying to weigh on-base percentage and slugging percentage equally, basically by multiplying OBP by 1.8. He then divides by four, and you have a number synonomous to batting average. It's a good attempt, but if he calls it GPA, then multiplying his final number by 10 would give you a school-like GPA. Barry Bonds would have a 4.25, which makes a lot more sense. That came from a thread on Baseball Primer, during which I spent half my afternoon talking on. Between Gleeman, Patel, and Pinto's statistics, it's definitely a sabermatrician winter.

Then, news broke about my Cubbies. Derrek Lee for Hee Seop and an unimportant minor league (to be named later). I argued for this trade on both Primer and the Cub Reporter. Primer was a very negative source for the trade, and the Cub Reporter was filled with optimism. I'll make my argument a little later in this column, but basically, it's very stupid and close-minded for any REAL Cub fan to diss Jim Hendry. Read on if you want stuff on that.

But today I'm going back to salaries briefly, in which I've spent each of the last two days talking about. I gave rough estimates of where teams currently stood at, and how much money that would leave them on the free agent market. Numbers ranged from $4M to over $30M, obviously depending on the team and market. I wanted to establish what type of market there would be, and how much money would be sitting around for free agents.

So, I've added all the totals of how much teams will spend this offseason, for both the National League and the American League...

National League- $218M ($13.625M per team)
American League- $173M ($12.357M per team)

Major League Baseball- $391M ($13.033M per team)

The National League is slightly more this offseason, which is mainly helped by me adding the Curt Schilling trade int my accounts. I then used the Transaction Guy's free agents listing to discover there are currently 204 Major League free agents whom have filed for free agency and intend to sign. I say that because Roger Clemens, Albert Belle, and Dean Palmer are all likely finished. So, a little more calculating:

$391M/204FA= $1.917M per FA

So, by my calculations, the average contract signed this offseason will be just under $2M, although I must admit I don't know where this ranks in recent years. I'll try to figure out where that relates to past seasons, but I'm guessing it isn't as low as last season, but still below the Golden years (the Rodriguez, Ramirez, Hampton contract offseason).

This season's top 6 free agents, ranked by ESPN, read as follows:

1. Vladimir Guerrero- RF
2. Bartolo Colon- SP
3. Miguel Tejada- SS
4. Gary Sheffield- RF
5. Pudge Rodriguez- C
6. Kevin Millwood- SP

These are the only six free agents that I estimate will earn $8M or more per year in contract, as they find themselves in the upmost echelon. I then went on to predict their contracts:

1. Guerrero- $14M per year
2. Colon- $12M per year
3. Tejada- $10M per year
4. Sheffield- $12M per year
5. Rodriguez- $8M per year
6. Millwood- $8M per year

Total- $64M

So, by my unprecise calculations, I guess the top six free agents will earn a combined $64M next season, or making up 16.37% of the money that will be spent on free agents. So, I re-run the calculations...

Money available: 391-64= $327M
Players available: 204-6= 198FA

Money per player: 327/198= $1.65M

So, after the upmost echelon, the average free agent will make $1.65M in the 2003-2004 offseason. Why is this interesting? You tell me. It will make a lot more sense when I compare this to past years, but this is a very introductory article. I'm trying to add stats to this site folks, bear with me for awhile.

OK, that's not exactly my niche, so I'm going to move to analyzing trades, my specialty...

Yesterday, the Cub's got Derrek Lee from the Marlins for 1B Hee Seop Choi and a future minor leaguer. To start my argument, let me re-emphasize the history of the Cubs. The last time Chicago was in the World Series was 1945, a.k.a the end of World War II. The last time the Cubs won the World Series was nearly a decade before World War I broke out. That is the longest drought in professional sports. We suffer, and we are mocked. Cubs fans would do anything to win a World Series, which was the gist behind some bad Old Style commercials in the Chicago area (I won't get into that).

So, let me go onto say that 2004 is the most important year for the Cubs since the late-60s. Haha, you're probably laughing right? I mean, us Cub fans say that every year. But I'm completely serious, for a number of reasons:

- This is the last contract year for Kerry Wood, Matt Clement, Derrek Lee, Moises Alou
- Sammy Sosa is starting a long decline
- Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano are reaching their peaks eerily early

So, I conclude that 2004, the first year I can remember that the Cubs could be the NL favorites, is very important. It's all about 2004. Our great farm system, good crop of young players doesn't matter, the focus is on next season. My belief is that any move to improve next year's team is a good one, which definitely (to me) meant trading Juan Cruz and Hee Seop Choi.

OK, I'll throw some stats out there:

Lee Overall: .271/.379/.508
Vs. LH: .333/.462/.600 Vs. RH: .256/.358/.486
Home: .242/.371/.419 Away: .297/.388/.591
Pre-ASB: .263/.372/.491 Post-ASB: .284/.393/.537
Lee 2001 OPS: .820
Lee 2002 OPS: .872
Lee 2003 OPS: .887
And Choi:

Choi Overall: .218/.350/.421
Vs. LH: 1H in 17AB Vs. RH: .232/.349/.449
Home: .211/.372/.413 Away: .226/.321/.430
Pre-ASB: .239/.379/.465 Post-ASB: 6H in 43AB

Derrek Lee has amazingly positive indicators, because he hit much better on the road, after the break, and has improved each of the last three seasons. He mashes left-handers, but will contribute against right-handers very well. The Cubs will keep a left-handed 1B bat (Simon or Snow) on the bench to make the occasional start, but it won't be a straight platoon. Also, Lee won a Gold Glove in 2003, and has stolen at least 19 bases each of the last two seasons. Not only is he better (currently) offensively than Choi, but he also adds defense and speed.

Choi has as much potential, as any hitter under 25 right now, but that isn't important to Cub fans, as I explained earlier. While his OPS (and GPA) might be favorable because of a lot of walks, he doesn't make contact enough to be a factor in the Major Leagues right now. Scouts say he has a gaping hole on the inside half of the plate, and while I think he'll overcome that problem, it might take a little while. Chicago doesn't have time to waste developing players, Corey Patterson took long enough.

The only valid argument for naysayers is money. I will argue that the difference between Choi and Lee contracts aren't important, I mean I documented yesterday the Cubs had the money to make a big deal like this. But the argument is the Cubs should be worrying about different positions first. Should Miguel Tejada have been higher on the want list because Alex Gonzalez sucks? Maybe. But right now, the Cubs 3-5 (Sosa, Lee, Ramirez) is very good, and Gonzalez adds Gold Glove defense. They still have the money to address 2B, the fifth spot, and the bullpen, so I guess I can invalidate (is that a word?) that argument as well.

I loved the Lee-Choi trade, and I will definitely track their progress in 2004. My guess? How about a .120 difference in OPS, in favor of Mr. Lee. And whomever first pointed out that Derrek Lee's father was the one that signed Choi should be sainted, as that is the coolest fact I read all of yesterday. I'm going to have to refer to Tupac to conclude my article, as a quote from "Keep Ya Head Up" perfectly defines the Cubs philosophy for 2003-2004: "if you fall, stand tall and come back for more." See ya tomorrow...


Looking Into Salaries and Schilling 

Even though the Curt Schilling trade is big news, that analysis is at the bottom of my post today, as I first wrote about the contracts and payrolls of all NL teams. To put it all in perspective, a day after I predicted Jon Garland's arbitration/renewal contract would be $2M, he signed for $2.3. I'm a little low on arbitration numbers, so I tried to work on that for today. Any feedback please e-mail me, those are always greatly appreciated.

And on to the NL teams, once again thanks to Christian Ruzich for arbitration help and Avkash Patel for this story idea.

Arizona Diamondbacks
2003 Opening Day Payroll: 75.9M

Signed for 2004: Elmer Dessens (4), Randy Johnson (16), Matt Mantei (7), Curt Schilling (12), Craig Counsell (3.15), Steve Finley (6.75), Luis Gonzalez (8.5), Danny Bautista (4)

Arbitration Eligible: Rob Barajas (1), Shea Hillenbrand (3)

On the hook for: $65.4M currently

That "on the hook" number may be the most inaccurate of all the teams, as Johnson and Schilling have lots of deferred payments. If Schilling moves and Sexson comes, the number will decrease to $61.4M. The team is looking to drop payroll into the $70M range, so that leaves Garagiola $5M if he keeps Schilling, or $9M if he goes with Sexson. That money will go to RF and a starter to replace Mr. Schilling.

Atlanta Braves
2003 Opening Day Payroll: $99.2M

Signed for 2004: Paul Byrd (7), Mike Hampton (2), John Smoltz (11), Russ Ortiz (5.7), Andruw Jones (12), Chipper Jones (14), Ray King (1)

Arbitration Eligible: Mark DeRosa (1), Rafael Furcal (5), Jason Marquis (750k), Jaret Wright (750k)

On the hook for: $60.2M currently

AOL/Time Warner is looking to drop into the $90M range, so Scheurholtz has to decrease costs about $10M next year. Even if that's so, it gives him roughly $25M to work with. He can then put up the best offer for Sheffield, and even make a run at Millwood. If that's so, he better be committed to staring Estrada, LaRoche, and DeRosa. I didn't include Gary Mathews Jr., whom was claimed yesterday. He'll add about 800k to that pot.

Chicago Cubs
Opening Day Payroll: $86.25M

Signed for 2004: Matt Clement (6), Mark Prior (1.6), Mike Remlinger (3.55), Damian Miller (3), Alex Gonzalez (4.5), Aramis Ramirez (6), Moises Alou (9.5), Sammy Sosa (16)

Arbitration Eligible: Joe Borowski (3), Kyle Farnsworth (1.5), Ramon Martinez (1.5), Kerry Wood (8)

On the hook for: $64.15M currently

Jim Hendry has money to spend, as the Tribune Company will probably touch $90M if needed. The team is looking to add a left-handed fifth starter, second basemen, possibly a catcher, and some right-handed relief. With that kind of money they can buy the best of everything they need. I've always endorsed a Miguel Tejada signing (then eat Alex Gonzalez's contract), although there are more popular rumors (Hitchcock, Hawkins, Walker). BTW, this leaves out Paul Bako and Randall Simon, whom I see as non-tender candidates.

Cincy Reds
2003 Opening Day Payroll: $58.4M

Signed for 2004: Danny Graves (6), Jimmy Haynes (2.5), Sean Casey (6.8), Barry Larkin (700k), Ken Griffey (12.5)

Arbitration Eligible: Russ Branyan (750k), D'Angelo Jimenez (1), Jason LaRue (2), John Reidling (750k), Chris Reitsma (1)

On the hook for: $34.5 currently

The 58.4 mentioned as payroll is deceiving, as trades decimated that number by almost $15M. Carl Lindner is looking for a payroll around $40M, which will be a problem for the new GM, Mr. O'Brien. The team already has a lineup, but they desperately need pitching in all areas. Can he do that with $3-7M, no. Fans have to come to the stadium, and owners have to pony up the dough, it should go hand in hand.

Colorado Rockies
2003 Opening Day Payroll- $59.7M

Signed for 2004: Hampton (1.9), Denny Neagle (9), Charles Johnson (9), Todd Helton (11.6), Preston Wilson (9), Larry Walker (12.5), Mark Belhorn (490k)

Arbitration Eligible: Shawn Chacon (2), Scott Elarton (.5), Justin Speier (1)

On the hook for: $56.39M currently

Dan O'Dowd is in trouble. With his current payroll almost matching last season's Opening Day, I assumed Jay Payton to be a non-tender victim in mid-December. He will probably need to dump another player, with Todd Helton being the only name I've heard. But man, that's one Hell of a contract. I think ownership may have to raise payroll by about $5M in 2004, because after next season, O'Dowd loses the contracts of Neagle, Johnson, Wilson, and Walker, which will total almost $37M in spending money. Much of their prospects will be ready then, and in 2006, a new era begins.

Florida Marlins
2003 Opening Day Payroll: 52.5M

Signed for 2004: Juan Pierre (2.3), Mike Hampton (10)

Arbitration Eligible: Juan Encarnacion (4), Derrek Lee (6), Mike Lowell (6), Brad Penny (2.5), Mike Redman (2.5), A.J. Burnett (2.5), Braden Looper (2)

On the hook for: $37.8M currently

Much of the Marlins team is arbitration-eligible or auto-renewable, so don't be shocked by the signed for 2004 status. The team likely will be able to raise payroll to about $55M in 2004, so Beinfest has about $17-20M to spend on the current market. He wants to sign Castillo, lock up Lowell, and get Rodriguez to stay. To do that and build the rest of a team, he probably will have to get rid of Derrek Lee, who may be an Oriole as I type this. There is also talk of either Penny, Redman, or Burnett getting non-tendered, although I don't see why that's necessary.

Houston Astros
2003 Opening Day Payroll: $66.8M

Signed for 2004: Brad Ausmus (2), Jose Vizcaino (1.2), Dan Miceli (600k), Jeff Bagwell (13), Jeff Kent (8.5), Craig Biggio (3), Lance Berkman (6.5), Richard Hidalgo (12)

Arbitration Eligible: Geoff Blum (1.5), Octavio Dotel (2.5), Wade Miller (2)

On the hook for: $52.8M currently

Drayton McLane constantly bitches about losing money, so the payroll next season will hover around $65M once again. The team has already sunk about $4M into Ausmus, Vizcaino, and Miceli, so if that's indicative on the rest of the offseason, Hunsicker should get fired. The team should non-tender Geoff Blum (they won't) and give Morgan Ensberg an everyday job. Signing Andy Pettite might work, but that would be one of their last moves. And no, there isn't one team who will take Richard Hidalgo at $12M.

Los Angeles Dodgers
2003 Opening Day Payroll: $115.76M

Signed for 2004: Kevin Brown (15), Darren Dreifort (11), Kaz Ishii (2.6), Tom Martin (1.65), Paul Shuey (3.8), Hideo Nomo (8), Todd Hundley (6.5), Paul Lo Duca (3.9), Shawn Green (16)

Arbitration Eligible: Adrian Beltre (4), Eric Gagne (6.8), Guillermo Mota (1), Odalis Perez (4), Dave Roberts (750k), Alex Cora (1), Jolbert Cabrera (1)

On the hook for: $87M currently

If the team keeps all these players, Dan Evans will have about $25M to improve this team. That entails getting a first basemen, second basemen, left fielder, and more if possible to create a better lineup. Todd Hundley's contract might be the biggest joke in the Majors, right up there with Mo Vaughn. By signing all second-tier players, the Dodgers could still be a contender for 2004.

Milwaukee Brewers
2003 Opening Day Payroll: $27.9M

Signed for 2004: Richie Sexson (8), Geoff Jenkins (8.25)

Arbitration Eligible: Wes Helms (1), Dan Kolb (750k), Ben Sheets (2.25), Luis Vizcaino (750k)

On the hook for: $21M currently

The team hopes to drop payroll to $20M this season, but their current payroll already sits above that number. But if Richie Sexson gets moved as rumored, the team will be around $13M. Doug Melvin is trying to build with minor league free agents, and have landed some good ones, like Brian Bowles, Travis Phelps, and Trent Durrington. But if Sexson gets dealt he'll have about $5M to spend, and God knows they'll need it.

Montreal Expos
2003 Opening Day Payroll: $45.8M

Signed for 2004: Livan Hernandez (6), Jose Vidro (7)

Arbitration Eligible: Tony Armas (2.5), Rocky Biddle (1), Orlando Cabrera (4), El Duque (3), Tomo Ohka (1.5), Scott Stewart (1), Javier Vazquez (8)

On the hook for: $34M currently

The Expos need a lot of help, and I don't know where they are going to get it. MLB will go up to $40M for the payroll next season, and that is it. That means the team should non-tender Orlando Hernandez, and think hard about trading Vazquez to the Yankees for Nick Johnson and Dioner Navarro. But, I wouldn't trade Vidro or Cabrera, and I'm all over the band wagon for Brad Wilkerson in 2004.

New York Mets
2003 Opening Day Payroll: $86.3M

Signed for 2004: Mo Vaughn (6), Tom Glavine (10.5), Al Leiter (8), Mike Stanton (3), Steve Trachsel (5), Dave Weathers (3.6), Mike Piazza (15), Cliff Floyd (6.5), Roger Cedeno (5)

Arbitration Eligible: Joe McEwing (750k), Timo Perez (1), Scott Strickland (1), Vance Wilson (750k)

On the hook for: $66.1M currently

That figure is assuming Mo Vaughn's threat to play next season is false, and the Mets get to collect on $11M in insurance. If Vaughn tries to play, that number goes up to $77M, and Jim Duquette doesn't have breathing room. As is, Duquette has $20-25M to spend, on a 2B, CF, RF, and a closer. Luis Castillo, Mike Cameron, Jose Guillen, and Keith Foulke are at the top of their wish list. Can that be achieved with $20M? Probably not. Hopefully it's not Fernando Vina, Kenny Lofton, Raul Mondesi, and Jose Mesa though. But hey, it's the Mets.

Philadelphia Phillies
2003 Opening Day Payroll: 70.5M

Signed for 2004: Billy Wagner (8), Rheal Cormier (3), Randy Wolf (4.25), Mike Lieberthal (7.5), David Bell (4.2), Jim Thome (10.5), Pat Burrell (4)

Arbitration Eligible: Vicente Padilla (2.5), Placido Polanco (3), Jimmy Rollins (2.5), Amaury Telemaco (750k), Valerio De Los Santos (750k)

On the hook for: $51M currently

Ed Wade is moving into a new stadium next season, so the team should have a payroll nearing $75M. If the Schilling trade goes down, the team won't take long to re-sign Kevin Millwood or to land Bartolo Colon, acquring their main offensive need. The team's offense is set in stone, and an ace will put a rotation in place. After that, Wade will add to a bullpen that currently features Wagner and Cormier. The Phillies are going to be very tough next season, very tough.

Pittsburgh Pirates
2003 Opening Day Payroll: $42.1M

Signed for 2004: Kris Benson (6.1), Brian Boehringer (2), Jason Kendall (8)

Arbitration Eligible: Joe Beimel (750k), Mike Lincoln (750k), Brian Meadows (750k), Abraham Nunez (750k), Saloman Torres (1), Kip Wells (2.9), Craig Wilson (1), Jack Wilson (1)

On the hook for: $25M currently

This is another team bitching about payroll, so it will be slashed to $35-40M for next season. The infield could include Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, Bobby Hill, and Jack Wilson, with an outfield of Jason Bay, Tony Alvarez, and J.J. Davis. That would be the ultracheap version, although Joe Randa is one target the team has. The team doesn't have a lot of needs, and don't be too suprised if they fall to a payroll betwen $30-35M. That sucks for PNC Park, as the nicest stadium in MLB deserves better baseball.

San Diego Padres
2003 Opening Day Payroll: $44.5M

Signed for 2004: Ryan Klesko (6.5), Mark Loretta (1.25), Phil Nevin (8.5), Brian Giles (9), Trevor Hoffman (2.5), Brian Lawrence (800k), Kevin Jarvis (4.25), Jay Witasick (1.75), Ramon Hernandez (2.375), Terrence Long (3.9), Akinori Otsuka negotiation rights (300k)

Arbitration Eligible: Adam Eaton (1), Mike Mathews (500k)

On the hook for: $42.625 currently

This is before the team actually signs Otsuka, which will take the current payroll to about $44M. This is a very complete team, but they should fight hard to get David Wells. I mean, they won't even give him a guaranteed contract? C'mon, it's not like Chuck Finley is any better. But, I really like this team, and with the D-Backs recent demotion, this will be a battle with San Fran, LA, and the Pads. Right now, the Pads are in front.

San Francisco Giants
2003 Opening Day Payroll: $89.05M

Signed for 2004: Jason Christensen (2.3), Robb Nen (9), Felix Rodriguez (5), Kirk Rueter (5), Jason Schmidt (8.5), Edgardo Alfonzo (8.5), Ray Durham (6), Neifi Perez (2.75), Barry Bonds (16), Marquis Grissom (2)

Arbitration Eligible: Jim Brower (1), Scott Eyre (750k), Pedro Feliz (1), Matt Herges (1), A.J. Pierzynski (2.2)

On the hook for: $68M currently

This team's payroll will be $75M next season, which doesn't give Brian Sabean a whole lot of breathing room. A bullpen can already be conceived by this, and the team is one starter away from a rotation. Pierzynski helped shore up the offensive situation, but 1B, SS, and RF are all still empty. That's a lot with only $7M to spend.

St. Louis Cardinals
2003 Opening Day Payroll: $84.1M

Signed for 2004: Jason Isringhausen (6.75), Matt Morris (12.5), Woody Williams (8), Mike Matheny (2.75), Edgar Renteria (5), Scott Rolen (11.25), Jim Edmonds (9), Eli Marrero (2.25), So Taguchi (1)

Arbitration Eligible: J.D. Drew (4), Albert Pujols (8), Kerry Robinson (750k)

On the hook for: 71.25M currently

The team's payroll will be about $85M again next season, which gives Jocketty about $12M to build a pitching staff. I've already wrote moving Pujols to first is a bad idea, as John Gall can take that spot for about $300,000. With his $12M, Jocketty needs a good set-up man, a LOOGY, one #3 starter, and a #5. It won't exactly be easy, but this team doesn't need to be wheelin' and dealin' to keep up with the Cubs.

First, before I go into too much analyzation, let's look at some numbers and splits for Curt Schilling in 2003:

Schilling- 8-9 2.95 144/168 194/32
Schilling at home- 1-6 3.69 78/85.1 96/18
Schilling on road- 7-3 2.18 66/82.2 98/14
Before Break- 4-4 3.27 59/77 87/19
After Break- 4-5 2.67 85/91 107/13

And onto the numbers of those acquired by the Diamonbacks (Brandon Lyon, Casey Fossum, Jorge De La Rosa, and Michael Goss):

Lyon- 73/59 50/19
RH: .276/.309/.378 LH: .317/.381/.550
Home- 36/27.1 27/5 Away: 37/31.2 23/14

Fossum in MLB: 6-5 5.47 82/79 63/34
Fossum in AAA: 1-0 3.46 11/13 14/5
Fossum in AA: 0-1 6.75 5/4 7/3

De La Rosa (AA): 6-3 2.80 87/99.2 120/36
Goss (A-): .245/.327/.295 29SB

Here are some scouting reports I've fished up, one from John Sickels on De La Rosa, and some quotes from old Baseball America's about Casey Fossum...

John Sickels of ESPN on De La Rosa: He has a fastball clocked as high as 94 mph. His slider is very good, and he improved his ability to change speeds this year. His biggest problem right now is still command, as his mechanics can be inconsistent, which hinders his ability to throw strikes where he wants them.

Baseball America in 2000 (Fossum #10 BoSox prospect): "Fossum is about as polished as a pitcher coming into professional baseball can be...If you don’t like Fossum, you see him as a situational lefty with a low ceiling. If you do, you see him as an effective No. 4 or 5 starter who will move fast to the big leagues."
BA in 2001 (Fossum #5 prospect): "Fossum reminds scouts of Jimmy Key...He has very good command, lots of confidence and a sound delivery...At worst, he’ll make a good situational reliever."
BA in 2002 (Fossum #5 prospect): "Fossum’s 73-79 mph curveball is the top breaking pitch in the system; lefthanders can’t touch it...He’s not durable, as he tires quickly...he has just one plus pitch."

What's funny with Fossum is that at the beginning, BA praised a low-90s fastball and hard slider, but in 2002 wrote his slow curve was his only real pitch. I saw him in Spring Training before 2002 throwing harder, but his hard slider isn't what it used to be. He attacks hitters well, but his stamina is a major problem. A swingman is really the best you will see from him at this point, sad considering his early hype.

Schilling would be an amazing acquisition for Theo Epstein, and immedietly place him in the upper echelon of GMs. Schilling apparently wants a contract extension, and if Epstein satisfies that need, he is offically waiving Pedro good-bye after next season. Also, this move will put the team too far into the red, so Theo will have to non-tender or trade Byung-Hyun, and make Arroyo the 5th starter. And, I don't think the team can sign Keith Foulke, they'll have to accept Williamson in the closer role.

Curt pitched much better on the road last season, although Fenway Park is very small. His ERA will still be under 3, and the Red Sox rotation, and lineup, will be better than their arch rivals. Lyon won't be missed, as Theo was trying to get rid of him since the All-Star Break, and Fossum never had a spot on this team. De La Rosa is the big loss, and Goss is much more of a Duquette acquisition than an Epstein choice.

I don't like the loot for the D-Backs, but I'll have to wait to see what they give up for Richie Sexson before I judge too thoroughly. I imagine the sum would be Junior Spivey, Casey Fossum, and De La Rosa, although that's purely my opinion. I think the D-Backs are keeping Lyon, although he's not the best pitcher in the world.

There is no question the Red Sox won out on this trade, and there is no way Joe Garigiola got fair market value for Curt. But just like the Kotsay deal, this one isn't over until it's over.

See ya tomorrow...


Looking Into Salaries (Part One) 

First of all, if you didn't check my weekend post, do so now. It has analysis on the Tino trade, Escobar and Appier signings, and as many rumors as I could think of.

This week will largely be devoted to suggestions my readers made, and next week I'll get into Organizational Meetings again. Today, by request of Avkash Patel of the Raindrops, I'm writing about future salaries. Part One will be looking into 2004 salaries of AL teams, Part Two will be for NL teams, and three will be seeing who is on the hook for how much after next season. The Yankees are a prime example, as they look to be $70M in the hole as early as 2005. Ouch.

OK, here we go (for this article I got lots of help from ESPN, this player salaries site, and the Transaction Guy)...

Anaheim Angels
2003 Opening Day Payroll- 68.325M

Being Payed in 2004: Kevin Appier (12), Ramon Ortiz (2.42), Aaron Sele (8.5), Troy Percival (7.5), Kelvim Escobar (6.25), Ben Molina (1.9), Troy Glaus (9), Garret Anderson (5), Darin Erstad (7.5), Tim Salmon (9.5)

Arbitration Eligible and Projected Salaries- Jarrod Washburn (5), Ben Weber (1.5), David Eckstein (2)

On the hook for: 78.07 currently

The Appier contract sucks, as the Angels have to pay him over ten million to pitch for Kansas City. The team has said they will raise payroll to 85-90 million next year, giving Stonemann about 7 million to work with. Remember this doesn't include any auto-renewals, which will drive payroll about about 2-3M. With these signed players, the team only lacks a 1B, SS, DH, and a little in the bullpen.

Baltimore Orioles
2003 Opening Day Payroll- 67.5M

Signed in 2004: Omar Daal (4.5), Buddy Groom (3), Marty Cordova (3.5), David Segui (7)

Arbitration Eligible: Jay Gibbons (3), Jerry Hairston (2), Jason Johnson (5), Luis Matos (1.5), Mora (3), Brian Roberts (1), B.J. Ryan (750k), Willis Roberts (750k)

On the hook for: 35M currently

Although DavidSegui and Omar Daal will take up 11.5M to suck next season, the team will have about $30M to spend. I have assumed that Damian Moss will be non-tendered, which is a pretty safe assumption. With this taken into consideration, the team needs a C, 1B, 3B, RF, 2-3 starters, 2 MR. A lot.

Boston Red Sox
2003 Opening Day Payroll: $100.1M

Signed for 2004: Alan Embree (2.75), Derek Lowe (5), Pedro Martinez (17.5), Ramiro Mendoca (3.6), Mike Timlin (2.5), Tim Wakefield (4.35), Jason Varitek (6.7), Nomar Garciaparra (11.5), Kevin Millar (2.7), Bill Mueller (2.1), Johnny Damon (8), Manny Ramirez (20.5)

Arbitration Eligible: Byung-Hyun Kim (4), Doug Mirabelli (900k), Trot Nixon (5), David Ortiz (3), Scott Sauerbeck (1.6), Scott Williamson (2.5)

On the hook for: $104.2M currently

Uh-oh, Epstein is in trouble. With the current players on the roster, he is already over last season's Opening Day Payroll, and I'm assuming Jeremy Giambi and Damian Jackson get non-tendered. The team will go up to $110M next season, giving Theo next-to-nothing to spend. This signed team lacks a second basemen, no starters if Arroyo or Fossum gets a spot, and about 2-3MR.

Chicago White Sox
2003 Opening Day Payroll: $69M

Signed for 2004: Billy Koch (6.375), Esteban Loaiza (3.5), Paul Konerko (8), Jose Valentin (5), Frank Thomas (6), Magglio Ordonez (14)

Arbitration Eligible- Mark Buehrle (3.5), Brian Daubach (1), Jon Garland (2), Carlos Lee (5), Scott Schoenweis (1.5), Kelly Wunsch (1)

On the hook for: 56.875 currently

Ken Williams has about 10 million to spend this offseason, although he's trying to trade either Konerko, Lee, or Ordonez for more breathing room. This team would lack just a 2B, SP, CF, and set-up. Peter Gammons reports they are once again on the trail for Bartolo Colon, but then Carlos Lee and another player would have to get dealt. Is Colon that good? No. Sign Alomar, Ponson, and then worry about the rest after the non-tenders.

Cleveland Indians
2003 Opening Day Payroll: 47.6M

Signed for 2004: Milton Bradley (1.43), CC Sabathia (2.45), Mark Wohlers (1), Bob Wickman (5.3), Ricky Gutierrez (3.82), Omar Vizquel (7.5), Matt Lawton (6.75)

Arbitration Eligible: John McDonald (750k), David Riske (1.5), Jake Westbrook (1)

On the hook for: 31.5M currently

The team is likely slashing payroll again next year, giving Mark Shapiro about 40M to work with. The offense can pretty much be constructed as is, although Shapiro is said to want a 2B. I didn't touch the Danys Baez situation here, and he could pose even more problems. The team will need a 2B, SP, and MR with about $7M.

Detroit Tigers
2003 Opening Day Payroll- 46.5M

Signed for 2004: Matt Anderson (4.3), Danny Patterson (2.8), Bobby Higginson (8.85), Dmitri Young (7.125), Damion Easley (6.65), Eric Munson (?2?)

On the hook for: 31M

And this is about all Dambrowski has to work with, maybe about 4M on the free agent market. And he wants Miguel Tejada? Ha, possibly the funniest rumor in years. The team will need to build around auto-renewals, and likely non-tender Warren Morris is the only Tiger up for arbitration. It will be a slow few years in Detroit.

Kansas City Royals
2003 Opening Day Payroll- 43M

Signed for 2004: Kevin Appier (300k), Mike Sweeney (11)

Arbitration Eligible: Carlos Beltran (9), Darrell May (1), Kris Wilson (750k)

On the hook for: 22.9M

OK, so the Royals can easily keep Beltran and Sweeney, giving Baird about 10-12 million to patch the other holes. He is said to want a corner outfielder, although I would go with Guiel and DeJesus. Going after a C (Lopez?) would be a nice move, and the team needs another veteran starter and lots of relief help. This is a good team to do a column on, I'll do so soon.

Minnesota Twins
2003 Opening Day Payroll- 67.7M

Signed for 2004: Joe Mays (5.75), Eric Milton (9), Brad Radke (10), Christian Guzman (2.25), Corey Koskie (4.5), Jacque Jones (4.35), Torii Hunter (8)

Arbitration Eligible: Doug Mientkiewicz (3), Luis Rivas (1.5), JC Romero (1.5), Johan Santana (3)

On the hook for: 52.85M

This team may non-tender Luis Rivas and trade Mientkiewicz or Eric Milton. They are looking to re-sign both Shannon Stewart and Eddie Guardado, although I would just choose Stewart. I'll write more when I do their organizational meeting, but I have big plans for the Twinsies. But let me say, Terry Ryan has about 13M to spend on an open market.

New York Yankees
2003 Opening Day Payroll- 156.1M

Signed for 2004: Jose Contreras (7), Chris Hammond (2.4), Steve Karsay (5), Jon Lieber (2.45), Mike Mussina (14), Mariano Rivera (8.9), Jeff Weaver (6.25), Jorge Posada (6), Jason Giambi (10), Derek Jeter (17), Hideki Matsui (7), Bernie Williams (12)

Arbitration Eligible: Aaron Boone (4), David Delucci (1), Karim Garcia (1), Nick Johnson (3), Alfonso Soriano (8), Enrique Wilson (750k)

On the hook for: 115.75M currently

Well, even if they keep everyone currently on their roster, Brian Cashman has a lot to spend. Conceivably, this team could add Sheffield (12), Colon (12), and two good relievers (10?), and sit right around 150M for next season. Why trade Johnson or Soriano. Just go to camp with this team, and let the pieces fall into place. Believe me, they aren't far from more rings.

Oakland Athletics
2003 Opening Day Payroll: 49.3M

Signed for 2004: Tim Hudson (4.55), Jim Mecir (3.3), Mark Mulder (4.4), Barry Zito (2.7), Eric Chavez (5.2), Jermaine Dye (11), Mark Kotsay (5.5), Scott Hatteberg (2.325)

Arbitration Eligible: Chad Bradford (1.5), Erubiel Durazo (3), Frank Menechino (500k)

On the hook for: 43.975 currently

Well, Billy Beane doesn't have a lot more to work with. Phil Rogers suggestion the team may non-tender Durazo is stupid, although they may do so to Menechino. This team already would have a lineup and rotation in place, although signing a backup C (i.e. Pratt) would be a smart move. Basically that would leave Billy Beane $5M to spend on a bullpen, and more importantly a closer.

Seattle Mariners
2003 Opening Day Payroll: 87.1M

Signed for 2004: Jamie Moyer (6.5), Kaz Sasaki (8), Dan Wilson (3.5), Bret Boone (8), Edgar Martinez (4.5), Jeff Cirillo (6.725), Greg Colbrunn (1.75), John Olerud (7.7), Raul Ibanez (4.3)

Arbitration Eligible: Ben Davis (1), Ryan Franklin (3), Carlos Guillen (3), Gil Meche (2), Joel Pineiro (3), Ichiro Suzuki (7), Randy Winn (3.5)

On the hook for: 73.475M currently

In this, I assumed the team to non-tender Freddy Garcia and to keep Randy Winn, as those are the moves I would do. That leaves Bill Bavasi with a little more than $10M to sign a very good SS and to get some solid middle relief into that team. And, oh yeah, they could also use another cheaper starter. Well, I guess you can say I'm not bullish on the M's next season!

Tampa Bay Devil Rays
2003 Opening Day Payroll: 18.75M

Signed for 2004: Tino Martinez (1.5), Paul Abbott (600k), John Halama (750k)

Arbitration Eligible- Marlon Anderson (1.5), Rob Bell (750k), Jeremi Gonzalez (2), Aubrey Huff (4), Adam Piatt (500k), Damian Rolls (500k)

On the hook for: 12M currently

I don't really know how much this leaves the inept Chuck LaMar, although I'm guessing about $13M on the current market. Spending that money on Tom Gordon, Mike Cameron, and Arthur Rhodes would put them very close to a .500 contender, although that is leaving the team without a 3B. Well, I know the first order of business should be firing LaMar!

Texas Rangers
2003 Opening Day Payroll: 72.941M

Signed for 2004: Alex Rodriguez (20), Chan Ho Park (13), Jay Powell (3), Jeff Zimmerman (4.3), Todd Van Poppell (3), Einar Diaz (2.5), Herbert Perry (1.7), Rusty Greer (7.4), Mark Teixeira (2.1??)

Arbitration Eligible- Francisco Cordero (1), Michael Young (2)

On the hook for: $60M currently

Well, I think the opening day figure for 72.941 is a little low, because I thought the team wanted to significantly drop payroll to 70M for this season? Well, John Hart has about 10M to spend on this team, which includes a cheap corner outfielder, Palmiero, and 1-2 cheap starters. I think Hicks might be unrealistic hoping for $70M next season, unless he really does accept that Manny for A-Rod deal.

Toronto Blue Jays
2003 Opening Day Payroll- 45M? No sources on this!

Signed for 2004: Pat Hentgen (2.2), Frank Catalanotto (2.3), Greg Myers (900k), Carlos Delgado (18.5), Eric Hinske (800k), Vernon Wells (700k)

Arbitration Eligible: Roy Halladay (10), Ted Lilly (2.5), Trever Miller (750k), Cliff Pollitte (1), Pete Walker (750k), Chris Woodward (1.5)

On the hook for: 41.9 currently

Well, there is still a lot to do for a team that is nearing last season's payroll. With about 5 million, Riccardi is hoping to add one more starter, a good late-inning reliever, and a middle infielder. Paul Quantrill is the reliever they are hoping for, but even Ben Sheets may be asking too much. Toronto will need a $50M payroll to succeed next season, and then the team will lose Carlos Delgado the following year and start to compete.

That's it. E-Mail me with any corrections, and let me reiterate this is vastly unofficial, I made up all the arbitration figures. But I did work hard on this, so don't bash me in e-mails too much! Have a good one...


Tino, Escobar, Appier 

As promised, Tino Martinez was traded to the Devil Rays, with the Cardinals sending $7M of the $8.5M Tino is owed through next season. Tampa sent Evan Rust, a 25-year old reliever, and a player to be named later. Let's look at some numbers:

Tino Martinez- 273/352/429
Martinez vs. RH- 281/358/446 Martinez vs. LH- 235/323/346
Martinez at home- 286/372/440 Martinez away- 260/333/417
Before Break- 281/350/455 After Break- 261/356/386

Evan Rust at AA- 1-3 2.65 28/34 35/15
Rust at AAA- 2-2 3.25 32/36 26/10

So, Tino can't hit left-handers, and struggled away and after the break. But hey, he's got that veteran presence we all love. He goes along with Paul Abbott and John Halama under the category of Piniella acquisitions, indicating how little pull Chuck LaMar has on this franchise. He is a yes man, and it's a matter of weeks (in my mind), before Jim Bowden sits atop the D-Rays.

I thought that maybe one bonus Tino had was defense, but the statistics proved me wrong. He was 7th in the National League with 1.79 defensive win shares, thanks to the boys over at www.baseballgraphs.com. And using Dave Pinto's new defensive statistic, Martinez was 12th among first base regulars. Who was top on that list? None other than former Devil Ray, Travis Lee.

Lee is a very similar player that will provide a little less veteran leadership, and a little more on defense. At the plate, Lee hit 275/348/459, which is virtually the same production from the plate. If Lee ends up signing for $1.5M or less, this wasn't the right move. If he gets $3M, than Lou and LaMar have a little defense. Tampa still will sign a 3B (Tony Batista?), and a RF (Carl Everett), so their offense is hardly finished.

While much press has come from St. Louis that Albert Pujols will play first next season, I don't see it happening. John Gall is one of their better prospects, and here are his stats from AAA last season:

John Gall at AAA- 312/368/473 16HR/73RBI

Not bad at all. So Gall will come in and play first base, and we will see the following lineup from the 2004 St. Louis Cardinals:

1. Bo Hart- 2B
2. J.D. Drew- RF
3. Albert Pujols- LF
4. Jim Edmonds- CF
5. Scott Rolen- 3B
6. Scott Renteria- SS
7. John Gall- 1B
8. Mike Matheny- C

Rust is a solid addition, and could pitch in the 2004 bullpen that so far only has Jason Isringhausen, Kiko Calero, and Cal Eldred. Rust will probably battle with the likes of Jimmy Journell and Mike Crudale for a spot. He's a hard-thrower, and him, along with Gall, will make St. Louis forger Mr. Martinez.

Next transaction: Kelvim Escobar signs with the Anaheim Angels for three seasons, worth $18.75M. Let's see the statistics:

Kelvim Escobar as starter- 12-8 3.92 162/163 136/70
Escobar at home- 5-7 5.65 119/95.2 91/43
Escobar away- 8-2 2.76 70/84.2 68/35
Before Break- 5-6 4.72 99/87.2 86/38
After Break- 8-3 3.89 90/92.2 73/40

For his totals I left out about 15 bad relief appearences, although they are included in the home, away, and pre-all star game splits. Escobar finally found his niche in 2003, pitching very well in the Toronto starting rotation. He was very good on the road, and will be moving from the Majors 5th best stadium for hitters, to the 25th.

Escobar throws his fastball 95mph, and can throw a mean breaking pitch. He walks a lot of people, and may join the few and proud of topping the 100 marker over one season. He struck out less people per inning after the break, probably because he didn't have any relief appearences the final three months.

Lee Sinins reports this won't decrease interest in Bartolo Colon, but if the Angels can snag Colon I imagine Jarrod Washburn would be non-tendered. But right now, we are looking at a rotation in Anaheim of:

Jarrod Washburn- LH
Kelvim Escobar- RH
Ramon Ortiz- RH
John Lackey- RH
Aaron Sele- RH

And remember, Ervin Santana and Bobby Jenks are getting closer to Anaheim everyday. The Blue Jays knew this was coming, ever since Kelvim turned down a two-year, $10M offer from Riccardi. J.P. has already added Ted Lilly and Pat Hentgen, and Sinins writes the team will have interest in Ben Sheets. One Batter's Box thread gives a good offer of Jayson Werth, Kevin Cash, and Brandon League.

Good move by the Angels, although the Blue Jays won't be missing too much. And if this ends the interest in Colon, he may have no choice but to sign with New York.

Finally, the Kansas City Royals signed Kevin Appier for the league minimum of $300,000. This isn't exactly an impact signing, after considering Appier's 2003:

Appier in 2003: 8-9 5.40 120/111.2 55/43
Appier with KC: 1-2 4.26 15/19 5/7

Kevin didn't pitch particularly badly with the Royals, although one of his four starts only went two innings, due to a sore elbow. Obviously that has been checked out, and Kevin will be back with average or below-average six inning starts in 2004. Baird can't go wrong here, as 300K is nothing, and Appier can't go wrong, because Anaheim still owes him $12M. Right now, the Royals rotation has Appier, Runelvys Hernandez, Jimmy Gobble, Miguel Asencio, and Darrell May. I'm assuming Jeremy Affeldt will be in the bullpen, pitching very effectively next season.

So that's the transactions I've seen. The Mark Kotsay-Ramon Hernandez deal is still yet to be finalized, and Kevin Towers will take the offer away if Beane doesn't accept it by tomorrow. So, that's an interesting thing to watch out for. Other news and rumors:

- The Baltimore Orioles are close to trading for Derrek Lee, apparently for young pitching. Lee will make about $7.5M in 2004, and the Marlins wish to save their money for Mike Lowell, Luis Castillo, and...

- Ivan Rodriguez isn't close to signing with Florida. Pudge wants 5 years and $50M, the Marlins want 2 years and $15M. I would say that is pretty far off, wouldn't you? Other than Florida, only the Cubs are showing a lot of interest in Rodriguez.

- Tony Graffanino will probably sign with the Red Sox some time next week, and fellow infielder Jeff Cirillo is going to be released this offseason. Boston is planning on non-tendering Jeremy Giambi, and avidly pursuing Adam Kennedy when he is non-tendered. TGraff and Kennedy would platoon at second.

- The Yankees will not pursue Vladimir Guerrero, and hopes David Well's will take a non-roster invite. The Padres remain interested in Wells, and would probably guarantee a contract. Andy Pettite is drawing interest from New York, Houston, and now Boston.

- Guerrero may be left with just the Orioles and Expos, with Baltimore picking up the MLB trash. This would leave Miguel Tejada to just the Angels, Dodgers, or the Cubs. Gary Sheffield wants the Yankees, but is unimpressed with their offer. Supposedly, Atlanta currently has a better offer. If the Braves lose out on Sheffield they'll likely sign Millwood, and the Phillies will trade for Schilling.

- Sterling Hitchcock is gaining interest on the free agent market, notably from the Cubs. Chicago is also interested in left-hander Eric Milton, who may go to the Red Sox. Boston is also pursuing Jarrod Washburn in a trade.

- A few 40-man roster waiver claims: Walter Young (1B) claimed by Orioles from Pirates, Duaner Sanchez (RP) claimed by LA from Pirates, Mario Ramos (LHP) claimed by Oakland from Texas, Edwin Almonte (RP) claimed by Boston from Mets, Matt Guerrier claimed by Twins from Pirates. Pittsburgh has too many players, and left off a bunch from the 40-man. Another interesting one is Chris Shelton, a C/1B who raked in A+ last year. More on potential Rule V picks next week.

Have a good weekend and I'll be back on Monday.


Foreign Friday  

A few odds and ends on a Friday. I have AL Central OPS reports below, and I’ll post AL East, along with news on a transaction if need be. I fully expect that to be Tino Martinez becoming a Devil Ray, when I’ll get the chance to write 500-1000 words bashing the Devil Rays. Ahh...good times.

First, a little foreign news. Kaz Matsui, the next big-name player to come overseas, announced he is surely coming to America. This wasn’t headline material, as it was seen coming. I wrote earlier the rumors to the New York teams were idiotic, and he’ll end up on the West Coast, or Baltimore. Yesterday I said he’d be good in Seattle, likely hitting forty doubles in the two-hole.

Fellow Japanese middle infielder, Tadahito Iguchi, announced he will wait a year to pursue the Major Leagues. I wrote about Iguchi a few weeks ago, and speculation had been he would land with the New York Mets. He broke out in 2003, and will use next season to build on his breakout season. Next year, he’ll have the title of the best Japanese import of the year. This season, he’s the third best foreign player.

That is, of course, because Korean first basemen Lee Seung-yeop is right behind Matsui. Seung is in town this week, disappointed he is yet to receive a contract offer. He’ll be putting on a show in Los Angeles, hoping the Dodgers offer some dough. He’s a very good fit there, and Lo Duca could play first vs. left-handers to ease Lee into Major League play. I mean, Hell, he can’t be worse than Fred McGriff!

Finally, the Padres spend $300,000 yesterday to retain negotiating rights of Japanese closer Akinori Otsuka. A look at the last three seasons for Otsuka, thanks to japanesebaseball.com...

2001: 26Sv 48G 42H/56IP 82K/15BB 4.02ERA
2002: 22Sv 41G 22H/44.1IP 54K/3BB 1.28ERA
2003: 17Sv 51G 31H/43IP 56K/5BB 2.09ERA

It looks like the days are gone when Otsuka pitches multiple innings, so he’ll really be used in the set-up role next season. I don’t know if this means Rod Beck is gone or not, but my guess is yes. Beck will catch on somewhere, with my gut telling me Chicago, Boston, or Oakland. Otsuka obviously has fantastic control, but his numbers aren’t quite as dominant as Kaz Sasaki’s were. But Sasaki’s impact was huge, and I think this is a nice attempt by Kevin Towers, who is pulling every cord to improve this team.

40-man rosters were due by yesterday at midnight, so next week I’m hoping to write an article on the best Rule V options available. Walter Young, a solid first base prospect of the Pirates, didn’t make Pittsburgh’s forty, so the Baltimore Orioles claimed him on waivers. Solid pick-up, but the Pirates will be fine at first base since Ryan Shelton or Doumit will have to move there. Nothing strikes me as surprising off the bat, but my weekend job is to find some solid available players. That and fan suggested articles coming next week.

Big day for college recruiting yesterday, and if I knew anything about college baseball, I’d be happy to pass it on...

My prediction of Sheffield to the Yankees is a gimme, and the Danys Baez situation is the most confusing in baseball. There really is a flaw if Mark Shapiro can pay him near the minimum next year. But if so, nice loophole find by Shapiro...

I have to admit, that’s all, except for some OPS reports below. Enjoy...

Minnesota Twins
Doug Mientkiewicz- 851, 757, 843
Luis Rivas- 681, 697, 689
Christian Guzman- 814, 677, 676- Three down
Corey Koskie- 850, 815, 845
Jacque Jones- 752, 852, 797
Shannon Stewart- 834, 813, 823
Torii Hunter- 785, 858, 763

Chicago White Sox
Frank Thomas- 1061, 833, 952
Paul Konerko- 856, 857, 704
Robbie Alomar- 956, 707, 682- Three down
Jose Valentin- 845, 790, 776- Three down
Carlos Lee- 789, 843, 830
Carl Everett- 761, 772, 876- Three up
Magglio Ordonez- 915, 978, 926

Kansas City Royals
Brent Mayne- 678, 619, 651
Mike Sweeney- 916, 980, 858
Desi Relaford- 836, 713, 691- Three down
Joe Randa- 693, 767, 800- Three up
Rondell White- 900, 666, 829
Carlos Beltran- 876, 847, 911

Cleveland Indians
Matt Lawton- 797, 741, 763
Milton Bradley- 620, 723, 922- Three up

Detroit Tigers
Brandon Inge- 453, 599, 603- Three up
Dmitri Young- 831, 787, 909
Bobby Higginson- 812, 762, 689- Three down

Recap time. Here are the players who have very positive indicators from the last three years:

Carl Everett- OF- Free Agent
Joe Randa- 3B- Free Agent
Milton Bradley- OF- Indians
Brandon Inge- C- Tigers- Might break .610 next season

And for those with negative tendencies:

Christian Guzman- SS- Twins
Robbie Alomar- 2B- Free Agent
Jose Valentin- SS- White Sox
Desi Relaford- IF- Royals
Bobby Higginson- OF- Tigers

Have a good weekend and check back if anything worthy of note happens...


Seattle Slew 

Thanks everyone who has sent in e-mails for article suggestions, they have definitely helped. I'm going to write a few of them next week, so stay tuned for that. I'm also hoping some more Organizational Meetings get posted next week, and I'm looking forward to that. I'm sorry to announce the Seattle Mariner e-mails I sent out went unanswered, so I'm going to have to tackle Seattle on my own...

First off, let me say I was correct in predicting Raul Ibanez would come to Seattle. But hell, I didn't think it would be that fast! Ibanez signed quickly, bringing in a three-year deal worth a total of $13M. It is a lot of money to pay someone who just exited their prime seasons, and the guys at U.S.S. Mariner are in a frenzy about the signing. While I disagree with David Cameron that John Vander Wal would have been a better choice, Matt Stairs may have. Anyway, let's check out some Raul stats:

Ibanez: .294/.345/.454
Ibanez vs. RH- .319/.371/.485 Ibanez vs. LH- .245/.291/.392
Ibanez in KC- .316/.381/.482 Ibanez away- .274/.328/.427
Before Break- .286/.337/.454 After Break- .307/.356/.454

Well, those numbers don't exactly help Bill Bavasi's case. Ibanez can't hit left-handers at all, and really struggled with power away from Kauffman Stadium. He's moving to Safeco Field, which isn't exactly a haven for power hitters. His numbers in the second half were a little stronger, but that holds true throughout his career. Ibanez is a platoon case waiting to happen, and Bavasi will see a .275/.325/.425 season if he isn't careful.

But, rumors are the Mariners will still go after Mike Cameron, with the intent of platooning Randy Winn and Ibanez in left. Winn hit .314/.368/.491 vs. LH in 2003, and .323/.379/.490 during the last three seasons. So if Bavasi sticks with this, he'll keep a very good defensive outfield vs. LH, and he'll have a pretty solid platoon combination in left field. White Sox fans are very happy, as the rival Royals lose a solid leftie bat, and those Freddy Garcia for Carlos Lee rumors go away.

We'll deal with Garcia in a minute, but let me close the hitting. There is obviously another gap in this lineup, and Bavasi must fill it with a shortstop. Normally, I would support Miguel Tejada for this job, but given cash consideration and Safeco field, I'm going to choose Kaz Matsui. He is more of a doubles hitter than Tejada, and his speed will provide a spark with Ichiro at the top. It would make Seattle's lineup look like:

1. Ichiro Suzuki- RF
2. Kaz Matsui- SS
3. Bret Boone- 2B
4. Edgar Martinez- DH
5. Raul Ibanez/Randy Winn- LF
6. John Olerud- 1B
7. Mike Cameron- CF
8. Carlos Guillen- 3B
9. Dan Wilson/Ben Davis- C

That's not bad, but it's pretty imperative the team signs Mike Cameron. While his bat is getting worse and worse in Safeco, he helps the team in so many other ways. Also, the team really lacks a real #5 hitter, but that was Ibanez's former role with the Royals. They are getting old fast, but this lineup would definitely compete with those indivision.

Getting back to Freddy and the pitching, I think it's imperative the team trade Garcia. Rafeal Soriano is more than ready for the rotation, and the way he pitched down the stretch, he'd likely be more effective than Freddy was. I don't know what Garcia would yield on the market, but an overpaid effective reliever would seem like a good fit. If Garcia was to stay, the rotation would look like this, along with second half ERA:

1. Jamie Moyer- 3.59
2. Ryan Franklin- 3.34
3. Joel Pineiro- 4.57
4. Freddy Garcia- 4.67
5. Gil Meche- 6.07

But, by bringing in Soriano, and his sparkling 1.14 ERA, this rotation has some spark. And while Franklin has a lot of positive indicators, his K/9 rate has decreased every season thus far in the Majors. If any member(s) of this rotation were to struggle, the trio of Rett Johnson, Clint Nageotte, and Travis Blackley will be ready to take over. Hell, by midseason the Mariners could be sporting Jamie Moyer and 4 pitchers well under 25 years of age.

The real scare of the Mariners is their bullpen, which is currently employing two members. Kazuhiro Sasaki is becoming decreasingly effective in his old age, and if needed Soriano might move back to close at some point. I really like Julio Mateo, the other returning member who put in fifty solid games last season. He is very capable of going multiple innings, and really doesn't hurt himself with the walk.

Bringing back Armando Benitez isn't a bad idea, as he gets a lot more flak than he deserves. Armando holds right-handers to an OPS under .600, and left-handers under .650. He would be a very solid set-up man, and could take over Sasaki's position if necessary. But like all relievers, Bavasi must be careful to overpay. Waiting to see Keith Foulke's contract is important, because if he can only net $4 or 5M per, the market goes way down. The team also needs a LOOGY, and probably have a price they'd like to match. Arthur Rhodes could be brought back, although I think he'll re-join Lou in Tampa. Mark Guthrie is a name no one is talking about, and I don't think he'd be a bad addition.

The last two bullpen spots are unimportant, and could easily be filled by younsters. Bobby Madritsch, the 2002 Independent League Pitcher of the Year, had very good K/9 numbers in AA, and could be a valuable second leftie/long reliever in the bullpen. Aaron Looper and Aaron Taylor will likely battle for the final slot. I'm a big proprietor of going with cheap bullpens, and to have an effective starting lineup, Bavasi must go cheap.

Staying in the AL West, I caught a lot of criticism from a certain Billy Beane fan in my inbox yesterday, who seemed to strongly disagree with my comments. Avkash thinks the Oakland deals were made about money first and talent second. While I would normally agree, I just can't in this situation. Beane lost Miguel Tejada and Keith Foulke from his payroll, so the $2M he'll save with Kielty and Kotsay aren't THAT important. In my mind, Beane becomes enfatuated with players easily, and while they are good choices, he could overpay at times. He's a very good GM, don't get me wrong, but he ain't the best in the bigs.

Also, Patel disagreed with my bashing of the Scott Hatteberg extension and Jeremy Brown choice. He says Brown was a money pick, and while he could have grabbed him in the 8th, he needed to save money. And this, I must admit, is pretty true. Brown signed for $350,000, which was the lowest at that time. Oakland payed their next two picks in the 700s, which indicated they did have some money to spend. And hell, Blue Jays solid prospect David Bush was picked 55th, and only signed for 100K more than Brown. Believe me, Bush is higher on my prospect chart than Jeremy.

Finally, I also got an e-mail from someone who noted the ridiculous rumor of Miguel Tejada going to the Tigers. Miguel has some better options, although it would be fun to listen in on Dambrowski's offer to Miguel. Miguel is going to either Anaheim or the Cubs, with the Orioles having an outside chance. Also, the A's claimed Mario Ramos off waivers, the same player sent to receive Carlos Pena two seasons ago. For all the bashing I do of Beane, he is very good on claiming people off waivers. Ramos still has potential, and I think the A's could be the team to transform him into the John Halama type.

Finally, here are the OPS trends for AL West players, without comments today...

Dan Wilson- 708, 722, 611
Ben Davis- 694, 717, 666
John Olerud- 873, 893, 762
Edgar Martinez- 966, 888, 895
Bret Boone- 950, 801, 901
Carlos Guillen- 688, 720, 753- Three up
Randy Winn- 740, 821, 771
Raul Ibanez- 848, 883, 799
Mike Cameron- 833, 782, 775- Three down
Ichiro Suzuki- 838, 818, 788- Three down

Scott Hatteberg- 677, 807, 725
Erubiel Durazo- 909, 945, 804
Miguel Tejada- 802, 862, 808
Eric Chavez- 878, 861, 864
Jose Guillen- 695, 654, 928
Mark Kotsay- 807, 811, 727
Jermaine Dye- 813, 792, 514- Three down

Ben Molina- 660, 596, 747
Brad Fullmer- 770, 888, 887
Scott Spiezio- 764, 807, 779
Adam Kennedy- 690, 794, 743
David Eckstein- 712, 751, 650
Troy Glaus- 895, 805, 807
Garret Anderson- 792, 871, 886- Three up
Darin Erstad- 691, 702, 642
Tim Salmon- 748, 883, 838

A-Rod's Team
Einar Diaz- 715, 542, 635
Rafeal Palmiero- 944, 962, 867
Michael Young- 700, 690, 785
Alex Rodriguez- 1021, 1015, 996- Three down
Juan Gonzalez- 960, 775, 901

Reviewing, only two players, Carlos Guillen and Garret Anderson had positive indicators. Guillen will probably build on a .753 season, and Anderson needs about 20 walks to reach the .900 plateau. If he reaches it, Peter Gammons will launch a nationwide campaign for his election of MVP, President, and Boston Mayor.

Mike Cameron, Ichiro, Jermaine Dye, and A-Rod have had three seasons with OPS on the decline. Cameron would reverse that outside of Safeco, but inside who knows? Ichiro could very well have a .775 season next yar, staying with his decline rate. Dye really can't get worse than .514, and might even be back in the 700s next season. A-Rod, well, .996 ain't bad. If he declines to .990, I don't think anyone will care. Decline or not, he's the best baseball player alive, end of story.


Pair of Deals and lots more 

Busy day in the Majors, as I've got two trades and a signing to discuss. ESPN was quick to report a Mark Kotsay for Ramon Hernandez and Terrence Long deal, as it is yet to be finalized. But my guess is that it will be, so my comments are going up today. And if you haven't seen Christian Ruzich's new blog, you shouldn't be calling yourself a baseball fan.

In the proposed deal, the Padres would be netting the catcher Kevin Towers wanted, and a left-handed bat for the outfield. I talked about San Diego's claim of Henri Stanley a couple of days ago, but the Long acquisition ruins Stanley's, and Todd Sears' chances of making the team. Before I go too far into it, let's look at a few numbers:

Hernandez: .273/.331/.458
Hernandez vs. RH: .302/.365/.494 vs. LH- .208/.255/.376
Ramon at Home: .266/.332/.425 away- .280/.331/.488
Before Break: .266/.322/.447 after break- .288/.343/.471

Long: .245/.293/.385
Long vs. RH: .249/.302/.408 vs. LH: .236/.270/.329
Long at home: .277/.328/.460 away: .218/.263/.321
Before Break: .251/.300/.405 after break: .236/.282/.354

Wow, Long is bad. Long can hit right-handers a lot more than left-handers, and he can play left and center. That will be the extent of his playing time in San Diego. He was terrible away from Alameda, and he was God-awful after the All-Star break. He'll never get 400AB again, but with the Padres now going with a terrible outfield, he'll come into games late.

Hernandez, on the other hand, shows very promising numbers. His slugging percentage was .488 away from home, and it was .471 after the break. He actually showed a backwards platoon split, although it was the first time in his career in which that held true. I think he has the ability to top a .500 slugging percentage in San Diego, although it's unfair to expect a .350OBP. He's durable and powerful, and won't have problems behind San Diego's big guns.

So, as I see it, San Diego has shored up their 2004 starting lineup. It will look something like:

1. Mark Loretta- 2B- RH
2. Sean Burroughs- 3B- LH
3. Phil Nevin- LF- RH
4. Brian Giles- CF- LH
5. Ryan Klesko- 1B- LH
6. Ramon Hernandez- C- RH
7. Xavier Nady- RF- RH
8. Khalil Greene- SS- RH

Although, let me say I love Jonah Keri's idea of trading Nevin or Klesko for starting (Odalis?), and then going after Mike Cameron to play center field. That would really improve this team, and I would then be ready to hand them the divisional crown. After Sabean beat Towers to Pierzynski, it was essential for Kevin to make a quick deal. I think Hernandez will outperform A.J. in terms of OPS next season, and right now the Padres might be favored to win this division.

Oakland got Mark Kotsay in this deal, and landed Bobby Kielty in exchange for Ted Lilly. Let's look at the two hitters that Billy Beane has landed:

Kotsay: .266/.343/.384
Kotsay vs. LH: .236/.316/.329 vs. RH: .278/.353/.406
Kotsay at home: .266/.360/.353 away: .266/.324/.415
Before Break: .245/.329/.340 After break: .290/.360/.438

Kielty: .244/.358/.400
Kielty vs. LH: .300/.417/.500 vs. RH: .216/.328/.328
Kielty at home: .222/.321/.387 away: .267/.397/.416
Before Break: .252/.370/.420 After break: .233/.342/.376

I banked on Kotsay this season, probably overdrafting him in a few fantasy leagues. A bad back led to me later releasing him, and to him putting up only decent 2003 numbers. It's important to look at the platoon split, as Oakland has a few (Chavez, Durazo, Hatteberg) left-handers already. Eric Byrnes is going to platoon here, as he slugged .524 off southpaws last year. The numbers Kotsay posted after the break are indicative on his performance, and there is a strong likelihood that Kotsay is the 2004 Oakland A's leadoff man. There goes my Kenny Lofton idea.

J.P. Riccardi worked with Billy Beane a long time, and has noticed a flaw. He likes people too much. He chose Jeremy Brown in the first round, when he could have had him in the 8th. And with Kielty, he ended up paying a lot for a guy who didn't have a good season. But I like Kielty as well, so I think this will eventually work out for Beane. Kielty hits left-handers very well, but if he continues to hit so poorly vs. RH, Billy McMillon is going to steal some at-bats. He will be a major piece of the puzzle in 2004, and Beane is counting on him, and fellow "holy grail" acquisition Erubiel Durazo to lead them to the playoffs.

And let me go off on a few Oakland tangents. To anyone saying Oakland will use Jeremy Brown next year: you are an idiot. I think Minnesota's rushing Joe Mauer too much, and he's the Majors top prospect. Brown, he ain't in the top 50. Oakland is prepared to use Melhuse, and don't be shocked if they sign Todd Pratt, who slugs lefties and walks a lot. Also, I was re-reading Moneyball. Hatteberg, the supposed posterchild of the book, is now the antichrist. If the book is about spotting inefficiencies and managing resources, why sign Scott to an extension. Graham Koonce has the patience and power philosophy Oakland loves, at an eighth less the cost of Scott. God, Beane is SOOO overrated.

With this, Beane is done fixing that offense. It needs little tweaking, so you'll see some variation of this:

Oakland vs. RH Oakland vs. LH
1. Kotsay- CF 1. Scutaro- 2B???
2. Crosby- SS 2. Crosby- SS
3. Chavez- 3B 3. Kielty- LF
4. Durazo- DH 4. Chavez- 3B
5. Kielty/McMillon- LF 5. Byrnes- CF
6. Hatteberg- 1B 6. Durazo- DH
7. Dye- RF 7. Dye- RF
8. Melhuse- C 8. Hatteberg- 1B
9. Ellis- 2B 9. Pratt- C

OK, finally, moving onto Toronto. I'm going to team the acquisition of Pat Hentgen ($2.2M) into this, and analyze Riccardi landing two pitchers. Let's see those numbers (W-L ERA H/IP K/BB):

Lilly: 12-10 4.34 179/178.1 147/58
Lilly at home: 7-5 3.95 83/86.2 65/25 away: 5-5 4.71 96/91.2 82/33
Before Break: 5-7 4.96 110/105.1 80/37 after: 7-3 3.45 69/73 67/21

Hentgen: 7-8 4.09 150/160.2 100/58
at home: 4-4 3.95 78/84.1 57/32 away: 3-4 4.25 72/76.1 43/26
Before Break: 1-5 5.25 81/73.2 43/31 after: 6-3 3.10 69/87 57/27

Lilly was another player I chose in my fantasy draft, but he proved a little too wishy-washy for my fantasy needs. He's a great pitcher and I love watching him, but is it ever going to completely come together? It did in the second half, which seems to be Riccardi's motives behind both of these moves. Lilly's ERA will suffer a bit moving to the Skydome, but I think he'll be a better pitcher than 4.34. He'll have a 4.00 ERA next year, when he would have had a 3.50 in Oakland.

Hentgen is an interesting addition, and a little expensive as well. If J.P. waited on this, he probably could have saves 700K or something along those lines. Hentgen had a disastrous first half that was even worse than the numbers, because there are 22 effective relief innings in that 5.25 ERA. He really got his stuff back in the second half, and became the Hentgen of old. He was virtually the same inside and outside of Camden Yards, so I would ignore that. I can't call him an innings-eater, just another Riccardi gamble. He's a decent third starter, and will do a helluva lot better than Cory Lidle last year.

In case you didn't realize it, this really does mean Escobar and Lidle are both gone. Kelvim is said to be deciding between Philly and Anaheim, and should be on a team in days. Lidle might be a tiny one-year deal, my guess with the White Sox, who coveted him a year ago.

Continuing on with rumors, the Reds have finalized their list of managers to 4: Dave Miley (interim), Jerry Manuel (ex-manager), Brian Graham (Player Development guy for Pittsburgh) and John McLaren (Pinella's bench coach). My guess? Miley and Graham will be eliminated, and O'Brien's first decision will be down to Manuel and McLaren. I would urge not to go after Manuel, but it probably will be the former Manager of the Year.

And finally before I get to the OPS numbers, let me say something about a pair of shortstops. Kaz Matsui is not going to the Yankees nor the Mets, and Alex Rodriguez isn't going anywhere, much less the Mets. Matsui will go where he can play shortstop, and that is disputed with the New York teams. Ultimately, Little Matsui's decision is between Baltimore, Anaheim, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Texas is not going to trade A-Rod, and they really should stop bitching about it. John Hart ultimately has $50 million for 24 players, and A-Rod. I don't think Billy Beane would be bitching with that situation.

OK, to continue my look at OPS numbers, here are the 3-year trends for NL West players, which are a little over 30 players:

San Fran G-Men
Benito Santiago- 664, 765, 753- Getting old, and will be below .753 next year
A.J. Pierzynski- 763, 773, 824- Three up, but matching .824 in Pac Bell? Doubtful.
J.T. Snow- 750, 704, 805- .704 is low and .804 is high, he's a .750 player
Ray Durham- 803, 824, 807- Durham is very consistent, a definite .800 player
Rich Aurilia- 941, 718, 735- .941 was a joke, he's a 700-750 player, no more
Edgardo Alfonzo- 725, 850, 725- Amazing what that .850 with the Mets made him
Barry Bonds- 1378, 1381, 1278- I promise you, Bonds will be less than 1.278 in '04
Marquis Grissom- 654, 831, 790- He will sit around .800 the next few seasons
Jose Cruz Jr.- 856, 755, 780- Somewhere between .780 and .856 next season

LA Dodgers
Paul Lo Duca- 917, 732, 712- It will keep going down, Lo Duca was never that good
Fred McGriff- 930, 858, 750- He'll be better than .750 outside Dodger Stadium
Adrian Beltre- 721, 729, 714- In Los Angeles, he'll never top .750, he will elsewhere
Robin Ventura- 778, 826, 741- Tough read, but probably right around .750
Jeremy Burnitz- 851, 676, 786- In a hitter's park, he'll top .786
Shawn Green- 970, 943, 815- Three down, but it won't be lower than .815

'Zona D-Bax
Junior Spivey- 777, 865, 759- Will live between .750-.800 for awhile
Shea Hillenbrand- 682, 789, 782- Gets way too much bad press for nearing .800
Craig Counsell- 721, 699, 632- Three down, but should bounce back in 2004
Luis Gonzalez- 1117, 896, 934- Won't be touching .934 ever again
Steve Finley- 767, 869, 863- Will be a little below .863 next season

The Airless Boys
Charles Johnson- 771, 670, 775- In Coors he's .775, elsewhere he's .675
Todd Helton- 1117, 1006, 1088- Such an underrated player, always above 1.000
Jay Payton- 669, 839, 866- The Coors effect is amazing, three straight up
Preston Wilson- 825, 758, 880- Living to potential or helped by thin air?
Larry Walker- 1111, 1023, 898- Three down, but I think he'll be .850-.950 next yr.

Ryan Klesko- 923, 925, 810- Will be back above .900 on very good 2004 team
Mark Loretta- 698, 791, 813- What the Hell? Expect .750-.800 in '04
Phil Nevin- 976, 757, 826- I don't have any projection for this guy
Ramon Hernandez- 724, 648, 789- Hernandez will top .800 next season
Terence Long- 747, 688, 678- Three down, and will be lucky to ever top .700
Brian Giles- 994, 1072, 941- He'll be above .950 in '04

OK, recap. Here are those precious few NL West sluggers with positive indicators:

A.J. Pierzynski- C- Giants
Jay Payton- LF- Rockies (I wouldn't trade for him)
Mark Loretta- 2B- Padres

And that is it. Pierzynski's numbers will decline in Pac Bell, Payton will be abysmal outside of Denver, and I don't think it is possible for Loretta to top .813. So that just proves the NL West is a very old, and diminishing division. Here's some more proof, those with negative indicators:

Paul Lo Duca- C- Dodgers
Fred McGriff- 1B- Dodgers
Shawn Green- RF- Dodgers
Steve Finley- CF- Diamondbacks
Larry Walker- RF- Rockies
Terrence Long- OF- Padres

Of those, expect Lo Duca, Finley, Long, and possibly Walker to really feel the heat. McGriff should be better in a hitter's park, Green could bounce back, and Walker should be more motivated after Clint Hurdle verbally tore him to shreads.

That's it for today. Pray for more trades in the next 24 hours, and send me an e-mail! I would love suggestions for articles you'd like to see, or your list of favorite baseball books. Thanks a lot!


Central OPS 

Big transaction news- Texas signs Andy Fox- Well, Buck Showalter signs another old friend, as Fox signs a minor league contract with the Rangers. While three of his eight seasons in the Majors have seen him hit below .200 (two out of his last three), Fox was relatively useful in 2002. He stole 31 bases in 38 tries, although his OPS didn't near .700. He plays almost every position on the diamond, although his defense is subpar. Not even worthy of the money spent on a minor league deal in my book.

Also, the Astros signed Jose Vizcaino to an insane $1.2M contract, as Gerry Hunsicker continues to be vastly overrated. I mean, Drayton McLane must have been hoping Hunsicker would go to New York so Purpura could finally take over. $1.2 to Vizcaino? Insane. Save it for the starting.

As these weeks in baseball are really slow, I need some help. While giving you statistics to indicate 2004 success is interesting to you, some of it isn't as exciting as other stuff. If you have any suggestions or ideas for articles you'd like to see, drop me an e-mail at bryball@hotmail.com. I appreciate it.

Anyway, I move on today to the NL Central, looking at OPS numbers from 2001-2003 for almost 40 players. It may suprise you who is on the decline...

Chicago Cubs
Damian Miller- 761, 774, 679- No trends, but expect nothing more than .700
Eric Karros- 691, 722, 786- Up three straight, and probably could top .800
Randall Simon- 786, 779, 743- Down three straight as pitchers are figuring him out
Mark Grudzilanek- 710, 665, 782- Big 2003 after paltry past years. .720-.760
Alex Gonzalez- 691, 737, 704- Nothing indicative, but will sit around .700
Aramis Ramirez- 886, 666, 789- Will be somewhere between .789-.886
Moises Alou- 950, 756, 819- Rebounded nicely in 2003, but will be .800 in 2004
Kenny Lofton- 720, 764, 802- Three up, but can't be much past .800
Corey Patterson- 602, 676, 840- Three up, but 2003 number isn't telling enough
Sammy Sosa- 1174, 993, 911- Three down, but Sosa won't dip below .900

Cincinnati Reds
Jason LaRue- 707, 729, 743- Three Up, and LaRue is becoming a .750-type
Sean Casey- 827, 696, 758- Another .750 type player
Adam Dunn- 949, 854, 819- Three down, but look for bounce back in 2004

Houston Astros
Brad Ausmus- 625, 675, 594- Terrible, will be lower than .625 next year
Jeff Bagwell- 965, 919, 897- Three down, but will loom around .900 still
Jeff Kent- 876, 933, 860- Should be posting bigger numbers next season
Lance Berkman- 1050, 983, 927- Three down, and may put up .900 in 2004
Craig Biggio- 837, 734, 762- Still has a couple .750 seasons in him
Richard Hidalgo- 811, 734, 957- Who is the real Richard Hidalgo?

St. Louis Cardinals
Mike Matheny- 580, 630, 676- Three up, whew, may top .680 next year
Tino Martinez- 830, 775, 781- Still can hang around .775
Fernando Vina- 775, 671, 691- Won't hit .700 again in his career
Edgar Renteria- 685, 803, 874- Three up, and I can see a .900 in '04
Scott Rolen- 876, 860, 910- Right around .875-.900
Albert Pujols- 1013, 955, 1106- Has lots of support, and I can see more 1.000
Jim Edmonds- 974, 981, 1002- Three up, but reached his top in 2003
J.D. Drew- 1027, 778, 886- Needs 500 healthy at-bats, could hit .900

Pittsburgh Pirates
Jason Kendall- 693, 706, 815- Three up, and possibly reverting to old Kendall
Matt Stairs- 820, 827, 950- Three up, but .950 is too high to top
Reggie Sanders- 886, 779, 912- Getting old, and should be closer to .850
Jack Wilson- 550, 638, 656- Three up and may even hit .660 one season!

Milwaukee Brewers
Richie Sexson- 889, 867, 927- Pretty consistent, right around .900
Royce Clayton- 708, 660, 634- Dipping and could be sub-.600 in '04
Geoff Jenkins- 808, 764, 913- Like Drew, could use a full season of health
John Vander Wal- 806, 756, 818- Can hit .800 off the bench each season

Once again, those with three straight seasons with climbing OPS numbers:

Eric Karros- 1B- Free Agent
Kenny Lofton- CF- Free Agent
Corey Patterson- CF- Cubs
Jason LaRue- C- Reds
Mike Matheny- C- Cardinals
Edgar Renteria- SS- Cardinals
Jim Edmonds- CF- Cardinals
Jason Kendall- C- Pirates
Matt Stairs- OF/1B- Free Agent
Jack Wilson- SS- Pirates

To fantasy owners, only Karros, Patterson, LaRue, Renteria, and Kendall matter from that group. And even Karros likely won't, as I don't see him reaching 500AB again during his career. But Patterson could be a late-round steal, LaRue can be a last round pick to be your catcher, Renteria is about to become the "5th shortstop," and Kendall may be a top-five catcher next season.

Those players to watch out for, as they've had declining OPS stats:

Randall Simon- 1B- Cubs/FA
Sammy Sosa- OF- Cubs
Adam Dunn- OF- Reds
Jeff Bagwell- 1B- Astros
Lance Berkman- OF- Astros
Royce Clayton- SS- Free Agent

I would stay away from all these players save Dunn, as there will likely be better options available than Sosa, Bagwell, and Berkman when they are chosen in any fantasy draft. Write that down, and e-mail me if you have any suggestions.

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