Wednesday, November 14, 2007

MLB Offseason Preview Part II

Before we get into trade rumors, as promised, here are some updates on the (arbitrarily decided) top ten free agents, as discussed in last week’s edition of Rumor Season 2007-2008.

Mike Lowell, listed at #3 last week, looked as though he was a lock to resign with the Red Sox, but apparently Theo Epstein is reluctant to include a 4th year to Lowell’s deal. Reports last week had the Red Sox offering what appeared to be a lowball offer at 3 years and $30 million, although with the third base market being as deep as it is (A-Rod, who can be had via free agency, and Miguel Cabrera, who can be had via trade, are better and younger than Mike Lowell), it’s not crazy to think that Lowell won’t get more than $12 million per season. With that have been said, Lowell and his agents believe he can get a four-year deal in the $13-$14 million range, so this stalemate might continue, and will surely impact the market for Miguel Cabrera.

Jorge Posada, listed in the Yankees trio at #4-6, re-signed with the Yankees as predicted by WCBN’s Maize & Blog, for $52.4 million over 4 years (with the last year basically a DH year given that Posada is 36, signaling the beginning of the end for most catchers). Posada is now the highest paid catcher annually in baseball at $13.1 million, eclipsing the $10 million that Pudge and Jason Varitek received last year and the $13 million that Pudge is guaranteed in 2008.

Mariano Rivera, also in the aforementioned Yankees trio, has been offered a record contract for relievers at $45 million over 3 years, which would make him higher paid than Billy Wagner, who is currently the highest paid reliever.

In other free agent news, Todd Jones re-upped with Michigan’s very own Detroit Tigers, signing a reasonable one-year deal that will guarantee the aging closer $7 million in 2008. Speaking of the Tigers, they have not only been busy signing Todd Jones, as they have been working the phone lines, and have made the early splashes via trade this offseason. The Tigers acquired Edgar Renteria earlier this offseason, and have now added Jacque Jones from the Cubs for Omar Infante, presumably to platoon with Marcus Thames in LF.

Finally, as promised, here are WCBN’s Top 5 Trade Targets and, as always, relevant predictions, for Rumor Season ’07-’08.

  1. Johan Santana: Well, he’s the cream of the crop. What A-Rod is to the free agent market, Santana is to the trade market… potentially. The big question is whether Johan will be made available. The Twins want to keep either Torii Hunter or Johan Santana, with Hunter obviously being the more affordable and less effective of the two players. The problem that the Twins, and the teams who want Johan Santana (and that list includes every team, from the Toledo Mud Hens to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to the New York Yankees) may have is that Torii Hunter is receiving a lot of interest. As written last week, Hunter is being pursued strongly by the Rangers, and as predicted would happen last week, Hunter is being courted by the White Sox. Both the Rangers and White Sox probably will have more money to spend than the Twins, although neither team has the inherent advantage of being Hunter’s previous home, so this situation will need to unfold itself before we can really tell whether Santana will be dealt. However, the one thing that we’ll continue to see as the offseason goes on (and this started early with the Astros putting Brad Lidge on the market so that the Phillies could move Brett Myers into the rotation) is that there are simply no good pitchers available via free agency, so if teams want to move their starting pitching, now is the time to get the highest possible value – not July 31st, and not next offseason.

Prediction: Hunter signs with the White Sox and Santana stays with the Twins. However, I could envision a scenario in which the Twins move Santana either way. If this is the case, you’re going to see a huge bidding war, including all of the teams with great young talent, and that includes the Yankees, Dodgers, and Angels (the Mets would be interested, but they won’t be able to come close to matching offers from the Yankees, Dodgers, and Angels). This bidding war will basically depend on the Yankees; if Pettitte re-signs with the Yankees and doesn’t retire, the rotation will contain Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy. In this case, the Yankees will need to decide whether they are willing to give up one of Hughes, Joba, or Kennedy along with Melky Cabrera in order to get Johan Santana from the Twins (some reports say that the Twins will demand Robinson Cano, but I can’t imagine them getting more than Kennedy, Melky, and some blue chip prospects).

  1. Miguel Cabrera: This could be another offseason for the Marlins in which they’ll unload their stars who are about to get paid for young talent. Cabrera has all the talent in the world, and one of the best bats in the game, but his attitude was certainly in question last year with the Marlins. From his fights with Scott Olsen to a visible lack of effort in the field, Cabrera looked last year like a guy who the Marlins may not want to build around, especially with young talent like Jeremy Hermida and, of course, Hanley Ramirez able to carry the offense. Now might be the best time for the Marlins to get value for the second best 3B in the NL (no bias, I promise).

Prediction: The Yankees abstain from talks with the Twins for Johan Santana and go with the young aforementioned rotation, while the Red Sox give Mike Lowell the fourth year he desires, so the Yankees are left with prospects and a vacancy at 3B. They use those prospects to outbid the Angels for Miguel Cabrera, who will be unwilling to part with Howie Kendrick, who the Marlins want in any deal for Cabrera. The Dodgers will feel out the Marlins, but will inevitably cough up the big bucks to bring A-Rod to Hollywood, and the Giants will dangle some young pitching, including Jonathon Sanchez, but will also get outbid by the Yanks in an attempt to give their offense some juice.

  1. Giants Pitching (Noah Lowry, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum): The Giants fit into the category of teams that were discussed earlier, who will look to capitalize on a weak free agent class of starting pitching. Although GM Brian Sabean has said that nobody is untouchable, I just can’t envision the Giants giving up Tim Lincecum. So, that leaves the Giants with a guy who I evaluate as a potential #2 major league starter in Cain and a southpaw who, if he’s on, reminds me of a young Tom Glavine, but will never show the same consistency and will always be counted on as a #3 guy.

Prediction: The Giants make a blockbuster deal with the Devil Rays, in which they acquire Delmon Young and hitting prospects for whichever pitcher of Cain and Lowry the Devil Rays desire. The Giants could try and go after a big time bat with their pitching talent, but they are simply not one player away, especially after losing Barry Bonds. This trade would provide the Giants with some young, desperately needed hitters, while giving the D-Rays some legitimacy for the first time in franchise history, as they’ll be able to send out Scott Kazmir, Jamie Shields, or Cain/Lowry three of every five days, making them a team that needs to at least be reckoned with.

  1. Oakland Pitching (Joe Blanton, Rich Harden, Danny Haren): The A’s are in the same boat as the Giants – they are capitalizing on a weak free agent class and they need offense. They also will probably not give up the guy who has the most value of the three tradable commodities in Danny Haren because he’s simply too valuable to the A’s.

Prediction: The Mets are not willing to go into the season with Mike Pelfrey or Phil Humber as a starting pitcher, so after signing Carlos Silva, they go after Joe Blanton to give the rotation two inning-eaters with good consistency over the last three years. Billy Beane loves Lastings Milledge, and the Mets still have Moises Alou, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Gomez, and Endy Chavez in a busy OF, with Shawn Green still having the potential to re-sign. The Mets and Beane work out a deal that works for both sides, with Blanton and Milledge going coast-to-coast.

  1. Dontrelle Willis: This story is particularly interesting for those of us currently living in Michigan, as trade rumors have been swirling about Detroit making a run at Dontrelle. Coming off an atrocious year, the Marlins, as discussed earlier, must decide whether they want to build around Willis, Cabrera, or neither.

Prediction: While the Marlins do have young hitting that makes Cabrera expendable, they don’t have nearly enough starting pitchers. They need Dontrelle to be good, and they hold onto him for now, but don’t be surprised to see a 35-55 Marlins team looking to trade Dontrelle to a contender in July, at perhaps a higher price than they would get now.

Thanks for tuning in folks, and hopefully we’ll be able to do less previewing and more reviewing in the coming weeks of Rumor Season ’07-’08.

- Jeremy Kreisberg

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