Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hurry up and wait (part 2)

To finish my last thought, there will surely be a lot of offseason movement this winter. Here are the five biggest names on the list and where I believe they will end up.

Jayson Werth (OF), Free Agent
Werth is coming off of a huge second half after he started the season a bit slowly. Although his agent, the beloved Scott Boras, says that Werth is a good enough athlete to play center field, he's certainly better suited to continue playing right field. Werth is a legitimate 30/30 candidate at this point in his career, although that will probably change as he ages past his current 27 years of age. At 6'5", Werth is an athletic specimen who will command a lot of money this winter. He is one of the "Big 3" free agents who will likely need to fall into place before many of the smaller deals fall into place this offseason. He could be the recipient of a six or seven year deal worth over $100 million. Prediction: the familiar suspects will likely be involved in the bidding, such as the Angels, Red Sox, Yankees, Braves, Nationals and maybe even the Dodgers or Cubs. I'm curious if someone will be willing to overpay and just buy Werth away from the competition. Depending on where Carl Crawford lands, I see Werth staying in the National League, presumably with the Nationals. Since they may not retain Adam Dunn, Werth would be a solid replacement offensively and a big upgrade defensively, plus they may just be willing to pay the price to get him. Expect the discussion to be where to play Bryce Harper in two years, first base or left field?

Prince Fielder (1B), Milwaukee Brewers
The big firstbaseman of the Brewers could be on the move the winter. The small-market Brewers have grown tired of his antics at times and probably won't be able to afford him once his deal is up at the end of the 2011 season. As is the case with Gonzalez, the Brewers could trade Prince to bring something back in return for him moving along. A perennial 40 homerun threat, Fielder could be enticing to teams that are high on his power and not scared off by his weight problems. Prediction: while the smart move would be to move Fielder this offseason, I don't think the Brewers will get it done. Teams like the Dodgers, Braves, Nationals, Mariners and Orioles could be interested and "kick the tires" on Fielder in the next few months, but I expect the Brewers to have too high of an asking price to make a deal realistic.

Zack Greinke (SP), Kansas City Royals
Interestingly, Greinke's name has recently surfaced in trade rumors. The 2009 Cy Young winner had a letdown season in 2010 but most agree that his "stuff" is still top-notch. Because he's young and has been pretty consistent, Greinke could be a huge get for any team looking to significantly upgrade their starting pitching. It appears that Greinke has gotten frustrated with the direction of the franchise and it is truly a shame that one of the game's best pitchers plays for such an abysmal team. Prediction: This one may have some traction. The Royals may jump at the chance to move Greinke for the right pieces since they are still obviously a long ways away from being a legitimate contender. The Yankees still have Jesus Montero to deal and could presumably put something together, especially since AJ Burnett has disappointed. The Mets, Twins, Braves and Cardinals could also take a run at the Ace. Odds are that he stays a Royal but don't be surprised he does change teams in the next few months.

Carl Crawford (OF), Free Agent
Crawford is clearly the premier position player available and he will receive a very large contract with whomever he chooses. He appears to be really coming into his prime with the bat as his power numbers have steadily increased over the last few seasons. He's also a very athletic left fielder since he has the prototypical speed of a center fielder. He can steal 40 bases per season too if needed. At this point in his career, and with the price it will take to acquire him, he appears to slated for a middle-of-the-order role rather than in the leadoff capacity. The former Ray will not have the opportunity to come back to his former team since they are cutting payroll so drastically. Prediction: I firmly believe that Crawford will end up a member of the Los Angeles Angels. He's a good fit with them and they will likely pursue him hard. Other teams could include the Braves, Tigers and Red Sox. As an Angel, however, Crawford will continue to play in a warm, sunny environment (not Tropicana Field) and showcase his talents to the Left Coast.

Cliff Lee (SP), Free Agent
If you don't know who Cliff Lee is or haven't followed the hoopla that has surrounded him, I have know idea how you found this blog. Everybody and their brother will probably make a pitch at the hottest Ace to hit free agency since CC Sabathia. Turning 32 next season, Lee is not a spring chicken but isn't exactly and old guy either. His mechanics make his pitching style, which isn't overpowering, much more manageable. The Rangers will try hard to convince Lee to stay with the club but others will be lurkkng, such as the Yankees, Cubs, White Sox, Angels and even the Phillies. Prediction: Lee will be a huge target this offseason and a deal for him will help the other pieces fall into place. At the end of the day, I think Lee will re-sign with the Rangers. He's a simple guy who loves to Bass fish, Deer and Duck hunt and Texas isn't far from his home in Arkansas. The bright lights of New York would probably be a little much for him. The other teams will do their best but I don't think they will be willing to commit enough resources to garner the best postseason pitcher in recent baseball history.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hurry up and wait (part 1)

As Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum face off tonight, I started wondering something. No, I wasn't debating who's the better pitcher or even who will win the 2010 World Series. Like any true Hot Stove addict, I'm wondering what faces are trading places in this year's offseason. This winter should see a fair amount of deals go down because this is a relatively deep free agent class. Add to this the fact that there are also a number of marquee names who are under contract but will definitely be discussed as trade pieces and we should get an offseason full of rumors and, hopefully, personnel movement. Going off of Yahoo! Sports' Tim Brown article, here are ten names to keep an eye on and where exactly I think they will end up.

Matt Kemp (OF), Los Angeles Dodgers
The embattled centerfielder may have just worn out his welcome in the City of Angles. He's clearly a talented individual, wether with the bat, on the basepaths or in the outfield. The problem is consistent effort. Kemp did not get along well with Joe Torre and it is yet to be seen whether he will work well with new manager Don Mattingly who is a younger manager but also someone who is cut from the traditional baseball cloth. Despite his playing and limited coaching background, the perception is that Mattingly is more of a "players manager" than was Torre. Prediction: I don't think that the Dodgers are willing to give up on Kemp yet, despite his attitude. Mattingly will at least get a chance to get through to the young talent. Since Kemp is under contract, he would have to be traded and would likely net the Dodgers quite a haul of prospects but I just don't think the Dodgers will be willing to let him go this early in his career.

Adam Dunn (OF/1B), Free Agent
Dunn is undoubtably the biggest power bat available in this offseason, at least via free agency. Despite not having a true defensive position, Adam Dunn is always a threat to put 40+ baseballs over the fence each season, which is becoming more and more valuable in the post-steroid era. There will likely be many suitors for Dunn this winter and he will definitely command a large price on the open market. Early possibilities could include the Nationals, the Cubs, the Angels and the Mariners. Dunn will have to end up in a place where offense is emphasized more than defense, especially if he stays in the NL. Otherwise, he's best suited as a DH in the American League but could survive in left field (but just barely so). Prediction: I see Dunn signing with either the Cubs or the Angels. Chicago would take him with open arms and has money to spend as they always seem to. The Angles would take him as well, but probably only if they lose out on Carl Crawford and Jason Werth, both of whom will likely be their key targets. The Mariners need the pop but probably won't shell out the cash or take the defensive risk and the Nationals will likely wait in the wings and see how things play out before making an offer. My gut says he ends up on the Northside.

Adrian Gonzalez (1B), San Diego Padres
Unfortunately for Padre fans, the winter of 2010 may be the time that all of the trade talk surrounding Adrian Gonzalez comes to fruition. The only position player with any sort of clout in the Padre lineup, Gonzalez is a huge fish swimming in a muddle puddle in his current situation. He has power to all fields, plays a solid first base defensively and is a good teammate, making him essential total package. His deal is up at the end of 2011 so the Padres only have him for one more season. By trading him this offseason, as opposed to dealing him at the trade deadline, San Diego could get a healthy haul of prospects and probably one MLB-ready player in return for Gonzalez. Prediction: Boston has been long enamored with Gonzalez and would to snag the power firstbasmen but they appear to be somewhat unwilling to part with the pieces to complete the deal. The Cubs have an opening at first and could also be serious contenders. Despite the fact that the Red Sox and Cubs would love nothing more than to lure Gonzalez away from San Diego, I don't think the Padres will ultimately pull the trigger on dealing the man. Why? Because they're the Padres and they are sometimes willing let the ultimate opportunity pass them by. That will be the case here as well.

Rafael Soriano (RP), Free Agent
The Tampa Bay Rays employed one of the best closers in the game in 2010 but don't appear to be willing to bring him back. Soriano will likely be looking at a big time deal this offseason and the Rays are expected to be reducing payroll in a major way in 2011. As always, closers are debatable when it comes to big contracts. In his favor are the facts that Soriano has a good track record and is relatively young. He can be flat-out dominant at times and will probably get at least a 3-year deal worth $7-$9 million dollars per season. There aren't too any teams that have the capital to commit to a deal like that and most of the teams that do already have a closer who they've invested in. There are several potential suitors but nobody really jumps out at this stage of the game. Depending on Francisco Rodriguez' situation, the Mets could be involved as could the Red Sox if they decide to let Jonathan Papelbon go. The White Sox appear to be fed up with the declining Bobby Jenks and the Nationals could use back-end help that is dependable with a solid, young pitching staff expected to mature over the next few seasons. Don't count out the Angles in this sweepstakes, either. Prediction: I see the White Sox as the team most likely to sign Soriano with the Angels also getting in the mix. Ozzie Guillen likes to have a solid closer to turn to in the ninth and I think Soriano will be pitching for the Chi Sox in 2011.

Adrian Beltre (3B), Free Agent
After a breakout performance in 2010, Beltre will be looking to cash in for the long haul in 2011. After leaving Seattle, the third baseman put up MVP caliber numbers in 2010 for the Red Sox. He's a free agent once again this winter and the bidding could be intense. The Red Sox are likely the early favorites but that depends on what happens with catcher Victor Martinez and a possible trade for Adrian Gonzalez. Several other teams could use help at the hot corner, especially teams that value a good defensive third baseman like Beltre, but few will likely have the resources to bid on an aging slugger who could be resurrecting his career or just coming off a good season only to disappear like he did following his stellar 2004 campaign. Once again, the Angels could be a possibility as could be the Orioles, Dodgers, Tigers and Cardinals. I don't believe the Dodgers will bring him back and I can't see the Cardinals spending the money either. The Tigers are intriguing as they are probably going to let Ordonez walk without much of a struggle, making them a likely landing destination. The Orioles are looking for a power upgrade and Beltre could fit the bill because he already knows the divisional pitching staffs. The Red Sox would prefer to keep him but their priorities may lie elsewhere. Prediction: The Orioles will pay Beltre what it takes to bring him aboard. He will be a good fit for the O's if he keeps his form given the amount of good young talent they already have in place.

The other five names will be next to come!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Its World Series Time!!!

Well, its finally here: World Series Time! Aces Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum will face off in game one in approximately 56 hours and I can barely contain myself. As a huge Giants fan, I wanted two things at the outset of the playoffs: 1, for the Giants to reach the World Series and, 2, for the Yankees to get beat by the Rangers (since I knew the Twins couldn't do it). In case you missed it, both of these things has come true and I am now squarely placed in a large conundrum. What the hell do you do when both of your favorites make it to the World Series?

Since I am ultimately a Giants fan to the core whereas I have recently picked up on the Rangers, I suppose I should address this problem from the San Francisco perspective. I love teams with strong pitching. Lincecum is truly "the Freak," Matt Cain is as steady as a rock and Brian Wilson is, well, Brian Wison . I can even admit, although somewhat grudgingly, that I enjoy Barry Zito's overpriced 12-6 curveball. But wait a sec, the Rangers have some outstanding chuckers, too. Cliff is the best post-season pitcher in recent history, CJ Wilson has made an amazing transformation from back-end bullpen guy to successful starter and Neftali Feliz has some wicked hair hanging out the back of is cap, not to mention a crazy ability to close games. From a pitching standpoint, the series is pretty even with an ever-so-slight nod going to San Francisco.

I’ve always appreciated teams with an ability to do “the little things” like timely hitting, bunt a runner over and cash him in, hit the much-needed sacrifice fly or steal a base when necessary. Despite their offensive ineptitude at times, the Giants can do all of the things listed above. Bruce Bochy has had an innate ability to push all of the right buttons at all of the right times this post-season. With that said, there’s only one flaw here. The Rangers can hit the ball out of the park with insane regularity. Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Vladamir Guerrero and Ian Kinsler can all put the ball over the wall with authority. Even Bengie Molina, Michael Young and David Murphy can swat a big fly if one leaves a fastball out over the plate. The ability to hit homeruns with frequency eliminates the need to do “the little things.” The San Francisco pitching staff had better be nearly perfect because if they get down three, four or five runs or more, they will be in a nearly impossible situation because the offense lacks the ability to pick them up. There’s a big edge to the Rangers when it comes to the bats.

There are some intangibles in this series. The coaching staff’s are both solid, so that should be a push. One area I see things turning, however, is homefield advantage. There will be seven games in San Francisco’s AT&T Park, a beautiful ballpark if I may say so, and that should heavily favor the Giants. Sure the crowd will be cheering for the home team in those games, but the real advantage lies in the conditions at the park. AT&T is a tough park to hit a homerun in, especially this late in the season. Its often windy with the wind blowing in and the damp, coastal air has a way of knocking down fly balls. By the end of October and early November, these conditions will be at their most extreme. Since Texas relies on the thin Texas night air to hit so many of their homers, they will likely see a decrease in their ability to put the ball over the fence when the series is in San Francisco. This could be critical. The Giants are accustomed to the conditions and aren’t engineered to hit the long ball anyways, so the effects are pretty negligible to them. Add this to the difficulty some newcomers have in playing balls in Triples Corner and the Giants just might be able to win three of four at home. Last but not least is the fact that San Francisco is an awesome city while George “Dub-Ya” Bush owns the Rangers. The edge here is solidly in favor of the Giants since there are more games in San Francisco than Arlington.

Through it all, I see the Rangers taking this series, probably in five or six games. Best-case-scenario is the Giants pushing a game seven in which Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum both pitch on three days rest with the wind blowing way in creating lots of fly ball outs for the Rangers while the Giants succeed at playing small-ball and stealing a home and clinching victory. But don’t bet on it. In all likelihood, Texas takes game one, the Giants game two and then the series goes to Arlington. There the Rangers will take game three, the Giants game four and the Rangers game five before the series goes back to San Fran. I believe the Rangers will take came six and win the series but, I could be wrong. I just don’t see the Giants being able to keep up offensively, especially against the incredible pitching wonder, Cliff Lee. Respecting both teams so much, there’s only one thing I know: it’s World Series Time and it’s going to be fun to watch!