Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Time Running Out for Albert Pujols and Cardinals

February 13, 2011

Albert Pujols reportedly rejected the Cardinals latest contract offer on Sunday, setting up the Armageddon scenario that has been talked about this off season.

Tuesday is reported to be the deadline for a new contract to be signed, or Pujols has stated he will walk at the end of the 2011 season.

The rejection of today’s offer would seem to make inking a deal by Tuesday a long-shot.

Multiple reports state Pujols is demanding a 10-year deal in the $300 million range. It is widely speculated that Pujols wants a salary similar to that of Alex Rodriguez . The Yankees deal with Rodriguez can reach a $30 million per season average if he reaches certain performance thresholds.

A side-by-side comparison between Pujols and Rodriguez would suggest he has been a more productive hitter with less protection in the lineup the past 10 years. So it is easy to understand where Pujols would want to be compensated at a rate near that of Rodriguez.

But is it realistic for Pujols to expect a deal that exceeds the Rodriguez contract?

That is a tough question.  Imagine you produced better than another person, but were told by your employer you would not meet or exceed that person’s salary. That’s a tough pill to swallow.

Of course we all realize guys like Rodriguez and Pujols are not nine-to-five workers like most of us. They are supremely talented, ultra-competitive individuals creating tens of millions of dollars of value for their owners in a multi-billion dollar industry.

The big issue I see is this: How many teams can realistically pay one player $30 million per season and hope to be a contender year in and year out?

Both the Yankees and  Red Sox would be the most obvious deep-pocketed suitors for Pujols. But with rosters full of huge contracts you have to think even they have their limits.

Sure there are other large market teams like the Cubs, Phillies, Dodgers, Mets and Angels that will be mentioned if Pujols hits the free agent market. But a closer look casts doubt as to how many of those teams would be serious bidders for Pujols.

The Cubs are still licking their wounds for several bad contracts they have handed out the past few years, including Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano each earning upward of $20 million per season.

The Phillies broke the bank the past couple years with the addition of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee. Oh, and by the way, they have a first baseman named Ryan Howard signed to a long-term deal paying $25 million per season.

The Dodgers would likely be out with the continuing divorce saga and alleged cash flow problems of their owners, the McCourts.

The Mets would probably be out as they will likely be dealing with the fallout of their owners involvement with Bernie Madoff for the foreseeable future.

Rumors persist that they are seeking investors in the hopes of raising $250 million. And you can be sure the $250 million is not being raised to sign Albert Pujols.

The Angels would seem to be a logical candidate for Pujols. Especially after Angels owner, Arte Moreno said after last season he would spend what it takes to contend. He then proceeded to let big time free agents like Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre slip through his fingers.

Multiple sources reported Moreno balked at the asking price for Crawford and Beltre ultimately losing out on them both thus taking huge heat from the Angels fan base.

Moreno’s solution to the heat was to take on the bloated contract of Vernon Wells from the Blue Jays.

If Moreno would not pay Adrian Beltre $96 million over 6-years, it’s doubtful he is going to pay Albert Pujols $300 million over 10 years

The biggest question facing the Cardinals or other potential suitors after the 2011 season is how much will a 40-year-old Pujols be worth in year nine or 10 of a $300 million deal?

An under-performing 40-year-old first baseman earning $30 million per season would be the biggest albatross in major league history.

Jose Bautista and Toronto Blue Jays Negotiation Deadline Looming

February 13, 2011

Every baseball fan on the planet probably knows by now that Albert Pujols says he will test the free-agent market after the 2011 season if a new contract is not signed by the start of spring training.

Jose Bautista has also imposed a deadline for a new contract. Bautista says he will not negotiate after his arbitration hearing on Monday. Bautista’s self imposed deadline is probably not on the radar of most fans outside of Toronto.

He is asking for $10.5 million for 2011 and the Blue Jays have countered with $7.6 million. If he can come close to duplicating his 2010 season, you could add the figures together and he would be a bargain at $18.1 million.

A long-term deal is rumored to be in the works, but with the deadline looming, nothing appears imminent.

Bautista is an amazing story. He toiled for six years, putting up numbers that would only be noticed by hardcore fantasy baseball owners.

Then seemingly out of nowhere, he hits 54 home runs in 2010. This from a guy whose previous career high was 16 in 2006. Even more amazing was his career total of 59 in 1754 at bats. He nearly doubled it in 569 at bats in 2010.

There is no rational explanation of how a 29-year-old player with 59 career homers can nearly double that total in one season. The closest example I can think of is Brady Anderson hitting 50 in 1996. The only reason I remember this fact is that I drafted Anderson in a fantasy league that season, hoping he would steal 20 bases.

After his 50 homer explosion, Anderson never reached even 25 homers again, hitting only 88 more in his career in 2,649 at bats over six seasons.

I am sure many people have studied and projected statistics for Bautista for 2011. I honestly don’t see how anyone can project Bautista for 2011 with any degree of confidence.

My gut feeling based on his age and career numbers is there no way he will come close to ever matching his production of 2010.

Maybe it’s just the memories of Brady Anderson in my mind?

Maybe it’s that Vernon Wells was jettisoned to the Angels, thus costing Bautista valuable protection in the lineup?

Maybe it’s hard to fathom a player that never showed signs of greatness exploding for 54 homers at age 29?

Or maybe it’s the fact that I cannot think of any other example of a player having such huge single season spike so far along in his career backing it up the following season?

I know I for one will be watching Bautista during the 2011 season with great anticipation.

Can the Chicago Cubs Compete in 2011?

January 24, 2011

San Francisco Giants Manager Bruce Bochy said a bunch of castoffs and misfits won the World Series in 2010. After enormously disappointing seasons in 2009 and 2010, the Cubs definitely fall in the category of misfits.

How did a team that seemed to be the odds on favorite to advance to the World Series in 2008 drop so far so fast?

The Cubs won 98 games during the 2008 season but were swept out of the playoffs by the Dodgers. The Dodger sweep brought the Cubs postseason losing streak to nine games, dating all the way back to the infamous Steve Bartman game in the 2003 National League Championship Series.

They entered the 2009 and 2010 seasons with high expectations and proceeded to sleepwalk through the schedule. Now, entering the 2011 season, most fans will probably see the Cubs and their $140 million plus team as a roster full of overpaid underachievers.

Yes, the Cubs have a large collection of vastly overpaid players including Alfonso Soriano ($18 million), Aramis Ramirez ($15.75 million), Carlos Silva ($11.5 million), Kosuke Fukudome ($13.5 million), and Carlos Zambrano ($17.875 million).

Sure, the Cubs and their fans want these contracts off the books, but that does not mean they won’t contend for the National League Central in 2011.

Maybe I am dreaming but I see a lot of potential for the Cubs in 2011.

The hiring of Mike Quade as the new manager provides reason for optimism after he led the Cubs to a 24-13 record in the last 37 games of 2010. Quade was a career minor league manager that is getting his first shot to manage at the big league level. He is sure to be highly motivated to get the Cubs back into postseason contention.

The starting pitching staff should be much improved.

The acquisition of Matt Garza should pay immediate dividends. Garza is battle tested after three years in the American League East. During his tenure with the Rays, he posted a sub 4.00 ERA while helping them to division titles in 2008 and 2010.

Ryan Dempster can generally be counted on to post 200 innings and a sub 4.00 ERA. On his good days, he has the stuff to match up with any pitcher in the league.

Carlos Zambrano went 8-0 in 11 starts with an outstanding 1.40 ERA following his suspension in 2010. The question is whether he can keep his emotions in check and build on the outstanding stretch he had at the end of 2010.

The forth and fifth spots in the rotation are clearly question marks but have potential.

Randy Wells pitched well in his first full season in 2009, posting a 3.05 ERA even though he regressed last season with a 4.26 ERA. Wells recently admitted that, as he put it, “I got too big for my britches”. Wells obviously realizes he lacked the focus and dedication to be successful in 2010. If he can get back to his 2009 form he should be one of the better number four starters in the National League.

The fifth spot should fall to Carlos Silva with the trade of Tom Gorzelanny to the Nationals. Silva pitched well the first half of 2010, winning his first 8 decisions. He fell off dramatically in the second battling elbow and shoulder injuries.

The back end of the bullpen figures to be very good with Kerry Wood likely setting up Carlos Marmol. Marmol was electric, posting 38 saves in 43 chances for a team that only won 75 games last season. Marmol’s 138 strikeouts in only 77 2/3 innings are nearly impossible to comprehend.

The Cubs hitting figures to be a question mark.

Stralin Castro and Tyler Colvin played well as rookies in 2010 and should be able to continue their development in 2011.

Castro hit .300 as the youngest everyday player in the National League, and Colvin hit a respectable 20 Home Runs in only 358 at bats before missing the last two weeks of the season.

Geovany Soto has been inconsistent since his Rookie of the Year season in 2008. He underwent shoulder surgery in September and expects to be 100% for spring training. In 2010, he showed signs of getting back to his 2008 form, posting an OPS of .890 and an OBP of .393 in 105 games

Carlos Pena has been feast or famine the past couple of seasons. Yes, he had 28 homers and 84 RBI in 2010. But, he had a horrible batting average of .199. Even more alarming is his steady drop in OPS from 1.037 in 2007 to .732 in 2010.

Blake DeWitt at second base appears to be a soft spot. The Cubs will likely try to upgrade DeWitt if they are given the chance. Going into the season, he will likely split time with Darwin Barney or Jeff Baker with the hot hand likely earning playing time.

Aramis Ramirez has battled injuries the past two seasons, limiting him to a total of only 206 games. He posted 25 homers and 83 RBI in 124 games in 2010. But like Pena saw an alarming drop in his OBP and OPS. His OBP dropped from .389 to .294, and his OPS dropped from .905 to .745. If Ramirez can get back to his pre-2009 form, he would be a major boost for the Cubs in 2011.

Marlon Byrd was a pleasant surprise in 2010, scoring 84 runs and posting a .775 OPS. If he can come close to duplicating his 2010 numbers, he would provide a major boost.

Alfonso Soriano has been an erratic underachiever during his time with the Cubs. At 35 years of age, he definitely looks to have his best years behind him. At this point in his career, anything beyond 25 homers and 80 RBIs would probably be considered a surprise.

Kosuke Fukedome will likely start the 2011 season as the fourth outfielder. It is no secret the Cubs have been shopping him this offseason. A rumored contract swap with the Giants for the underperforming Aaron Rowand never materialized in December. The Cubs would likely have to eat a large portion of his $13.5 million due for 2011 to make any deal happen.

Like all teams, the Cubs have question marks going into the 2011 season. In a tough National League Central, they are going to have to turn much of their potential into performance if they are going to compete for a postseason berth in 2011.

Washington Nationals Paying Jayson Werth $126 Million Is Insanity

December 24, 2010

The Jayson Werth signing has been bothering me since it was announced.

I understand the Nationals are looking forward, and with the loss of Stephen Strasburg for 2011, they feel they need a big name to energize the fan base. They realize a great ballpark alone will not draw forever. When Nationals Park opened in 2008, the attendance was 29,000 per game. Since then, it has dropped to about 22,500 per game.

The Nationals’ front office and ownership realize that realistically, Bryce Harper has to be at least a couple of years and probably more away from contributing at the big league level. And although Stephen Strasburg seems to progressing with his rehab on schedule, the organization has to be holding its collective breath awaiting his anticipated return in 2012.

But committing a seven year, $126 million deal to a player who has played over 135 games only twice in his career? Really? And Werth is soon to be 32, folks. Not 22, but 32. Think about that. Werth has only had more than 420 at bats in a season twice in his career.

Werth was a very productive player the past two years in a loaded Phillies lineup. He spent the greater part of 2010 hitting fifth behind Ryan Howard. Everybody agrees Ryan Zimmerman is a very good player on the upside of his career, but Zimmerman and Werth cannot do it alone for the Nationals. Having Nyjer Morgan and Ian Desmond in the lineup is just not as intimidating to opposing pitchers as seeing a lineup with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

There should definitely be more opportunities to pitch around Werth and make him prove he can be patient in a less potent lineup. His average of 153 strikeouts the last two seasons is definitely reason for concern.

He will definitely have much more pressure to provide protection for teammates rather then receiving protection from guys like Howard and Ibanez. In short, he, along with Zimmerman, will be “the guys”. It will not be like it was on the Phillies where he was one good hitter among many. Guys like Utley, Howard, Rollins and Ibanez will no longer be there to pick up the slack.

With 75 extra base hits in 2010, Werth certainly played at the level of an $18 million player. But looking three or four years down the road, it’s hard to imagine a 36 year old Jayson Werth producing anywhere near the $18 million level.

Time will tell, as it always does. If Werth produces to his contract, Harper lives up to the hype, Strasburg recovers to his early 2010 form and Zimmerman signs an extension, the Nationals could be a force to be reckoned with in three or four years.

If the Nationals are not a team to be reckoned four years from now, Jayson Werth is sure to receive a great deal of the blame from fans.

The Risk of Signing Carl Pavano to a Multi Year Deal

December 21, 2010
The signing of Cliff Lee last week leaves Carl Pavano as arguably the most sought after free agent pitcher left this offseason. Apologies to the rumored to retire Andy Pettitte since it would be a shocker for Pettitte to sign with any team other than the Yankees. 

Speaking of the Yankees, ask any Yankee fan and they can tell you the risk of signing Pavano to a multi-year deal. His four year 39.95 million dollar deal signed with the Yankees before the 2005 season can be characterized in one word. Disastrous!

In Pavano’s four injury-riddled seasons with the Yankees he logged only 145 2/3 innings while posting an ERA just over 5.00. Just mention the rumored asking price of 3 years 30 million to any Yankee fan and you are sure to get a priceless reaction.

The laundry list of Pavano past injuries includes his right shoulder, bruised buttocks, elbow strain and two broken ribs from an automobile accident he failed to report to the Yankees until 13 days after it happened in August of 2006.

Sure Pavano posted tantalizing numbers in 2010 with 17 Wins, a 3.75 ERA and 1.195 WHIP. But consider that Pavano pitched 221 innings in 2010. It was only his second season of 125+ innings since 2004 when he was 28. Pavano will be 35 in 2011 with a lot more mileage on his oft injured body.

Every baseball fan knows the value of good pitching but the prospect of paying Pavano 30 million over 3 years seems too risky.

If Pavano can come close to duplicating his 2010 production over the next 3 years 30 million will be a bargain. But with his past history 30 million over 3 years seems like an enormous risk to the team that decides to sign him.

Edgar Renteria is Offended by Giants 1 Million Offer?

December 19, 2010

For the past couple days there have been conflicting reports about comments Edgar Renteria may have made about the Giants 1 year, 1 million dollar offer.

Josh Alper of the FanHouse reported on Friday that Renteria called the Giants offer “total disrespect”.

Renteria’s agent Barry Mesiter reportedly called the Giants on Friday to smooth things out. Meister said Renteria’s comments “weren’t necessarily an accurate characterization”.  This is curious since they were on ESPN Deportes. I find it hard to believe EPSN Deports would misquote Renteria or have some sort of ax to grind.

Renteria signed a two year 18.5 million dollar contract before the 2009 season. And it is an understatement to say Giants fans have not been pleased by Renteria’s paltry production during his two seasons in San Francisco.

Renteria battled injuries in 2010 but played well at times. And played extremely well in the World Series earning the series MVP.

Renteria obviously sees the money Juan Uribe and Miguel Tejada got this off season and thinks he is in their class. That was true when he was an everyday player but he has not been an effective everyday player since 2008.

The offers for Renteria aside form the Giants must be pretty limited if any?  Otherwise why even mention the Giants if you have better offers on the table? Renteria is no longer a 9 million dollar a season player and he has to come to grips with that fact. Yes he can still show flashes of the player he was in the past but to think he can do it for a  full season is a big reach.

Renteria would be a valuable addition to the Giants as a backup infielder for 1-2 million. But any more than that would probably prove an unwise signing.

The Brewers Are Going for it in 2011

December 19, 2010

The Brewers are making a statement.

With the acquisition of Zack Greinke they are telling the rest of the National League they are a team to be reckoned with in 2011.

With Prince Fielder being a free agent after the 2011 season the team could look a lot different in 2012. So why not go for it? Outside of the Bronx, Boston and now seemingly Philadelphia getting a chance to assemble a team to make a serious run does not happen every year. Especially in Milwaukee where the Brewers have been to the postseason only once since their World Series appearance in 1982.

The Brewers have assembled a modern day version of Harvey’s Wallbangers with Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Casey McGhee, Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks. But current baseball economics will probably make this the last season to have this core of five hitters together.

The animosity between Fielder and the Brewers was well publicized when the Brewers signed Ryan Braun to a long term extension in 2008 after denying Fielder an extension. When Fielder hits the free agent market following the 2011 season his Agent Scott Boras figures to be looking for a deal in the Ryan Howard range. Howard signed a five year 125 million extension in April of 2010. The Brewers will obviously not pay that type of money and Fielder is definitely not going to be offering them a “hometown discount”

The addition of Greinke definitely gives the Brewers a starting staff the potential to be formidable in 2011. The big question is how effective will they be?  At 27 Greinke will be entering his prime years very motivated. There is no argument he has number one stuff. But he has to prove he has the mental makeup to be a consistent number one for a playoff caliber team.

Yovani Gallardo should feel less pressure in 2011 by not having to be the number one. He has had a nice start to his career and at just 25 years old going into 2011 still looks to have upside.

Shaun Marcum has quietly had three very respectable years in Toronto. His ERA the past two years has been under 3.65 and his WHIP has been under 1.20. That is very impressive when you consider the number of games the Blue Jays play against the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees If he adjusts to the National League he could be a huge addition to the Brewers rotation.

With Randy Wolf you know you are probably going to get, 30 starts and 200 innings. If he can keep his ERA around 4.00 and get decent run support there is no reason to think he won’t beat last years win total of 13.

The fifth spot in the rotation looks to be Chris Narverson. But Manny Parra could force his way in with a good Spring. If the Brewers top four pitch near expectations anything out of the fifth spot would be a bonus.

The key for the Brewers is to find a way to get to the playoffs in a National Central that has a resurgent Reds team. An always dangerous Cardinals team, A Cubs team that will spend year in and year out to try to contend. And an Astros team that has a chance to surprise people in 2011.

With Greinke at the top of the rotation and a lineup that has the potential to score runs off of anybody the Brewers are definitely a team you would not want to see in a short series.

Will Cubs Look to Deal Carlos Zambrano?

December 15, 2010

Carlos Zambrano’s trials and tribulations have been well documented since he signed a 5 year 91.5 million dollar deal in August of 2007. Although Carlos has not put terrible numbers during the current contract he certainly has not put up numbers expected of a 18 million per season pitcher.

Another big concern is the emotional outbursts Zambrano has had on multiple occasions. The latest being on June 25th 2010 leading the Cubs to suspend him indefinitely. After completing anger management Zambrano worked his way back into the starting rotation for the last two months of the 2010 season.

During those two months Zambrano went 8-0 in 11 starts not allowing more than two runs in any of the 11 starts. That is outstanding production by any standard.

So Zambrano’s late season production definitely begs the question of is there a team out there willing to take Zambrano off the Cubs hands? Like maybe the deep pocketed Yankees as a consolation prize after losing out on Cliff Lee. Zambrano only has two years left on the current deal so for a normal team 2 years for 36 million seems insane. But as we have seen in the past no dollar amount is obscene for the Yankees if they decide they want a player. Plus Sergio Mitre does not exactly have the Red Sox quaking in their hitting shoes.

Cliff Lee Signing Leads to Huge Hype for Phillies Big 4

December 13, 2010

With the announcement of Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies the hype of the Philles “Big 4” has already started. Comparisons are already being thrown around with the best rotations of the past 40+ years. Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine and insert Neagle-Avery etc. Dobson, Cuellar, Palmer and McNally.

Lets not forget the supposedly big bad unbeatable 4 lost a total of 5 games to the Giants in the 2010 postseason. Yes I am biased and yes the Giants were a hot team. But nobody will ever confuse the Giants for murders row. I know the thought of Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels sounds sexy but only Hamels owns a World Series ring.

The Phillies starting lineup is full of guys in their 30s. And Dominic Brown was reportedly sent home from winter ball after going 2-29. And don’t forget Jayson Werth and his 70+ extra base hits will have to be replaced.

So before we hand over the 2011 World Series Trophy or the National League Pennant lets consider a couple things.

Outside of Brad Lidge the Phillies bullpen is well, pretty terrible. Just ask Hudson, Mulder and Zito about their glory days with the A’s and how many wins a bad bullpen cost all of them.

The Braves are no joke. They were under appreciated in the 2010 Postseason. Hudson, Lowe and Hanson all pitched well and the Braves were a break or two away and a couple of Brooks Conrad errors away from knocking off the Giants in the NLDS.  With the addition of Dan Uggla and a very tough bullpen the Braves figure to be neck and neck with the Phillies all season in 2011.

And finally the Giants “Big 4”. Outside of Lincecum although not as established as the Phillies “Big 4′ are a force to be reckoned with. On any given day any of the four has the stuff to shut down anybody. Just ask the Rangers and their powerful lineup that was one Nelson Cruz game 5 swing away from being shut out 3 times in the World Series.

One thing for sure. 2011 is shaping up to be a very interesting season.