Friday, January 14, 2011

Hot Stove Rehash: Soriano to the Yanks

The offseason is flying by. Pitchers and catchers are a month away from reporting. So let's get started with some of the Hottest Stove action of the new year.

Rafael Soriano: Hot off the presses, Soriano signed a $35 million, 3-year deal with the Yankees to set up Mariano Rivera. Pretty sweet gig. Deal includes player options after 2011 and 2012. Yanks wanted Soriano to feel comfortable signing, so they gave him two outs. And 35 million reasons to be satisfied as a setup guy. Of course, he inherits the Yankees closer gig in 2013 if all runs smooth. Spin: Soriano has career 2.73 ERA and 1.00 WHIP numbers and over a K an inning, including a sick 1.73/0.80 line last year with the Rays. He'll be one of the few useful setup guys and Rivera isn't getting any younger...

Adrian Beltre: In an odd move, the Rangers, fresh off a runner-up Cliff Lee shopping spree, doled out $80 M over 5 years for the third-base whiz, although it remains to be seen what happens to Michael Young. First thought was, he'll tackle Texas' DH spot. But now, Nolan and Co. are talking to Jim Thome, meaning Young would split DH at-bats and become a utility IF. Spin: What? Sure Young's not buying green bananas, but he's only 35 and coming off a 21-HR, 91-RBI, 99-run, .284 campaign. Oh, and he's owed $16 M per. Beltre has been one of the most inconsistent hitters and while he's likely to repeat his Boston numbers in the hot Arlington summers, and that will be a stacked lineup, but Young is one of the top 10 pure hitters in the game and is still a must-star in all formats.

Trevor Hoffman: The right-hander change-up magician retires with 601 saves. First-ballot HOF. Great first name.

Kyle Farnsworth: From one of the most deceptive throwers to one of the least, The Farns somehow signed a 3.25 M deal with the Rays. Spin: For a guy who has switched teams 11 times in the past 7 years and a career 4.39 ERA and 1.39 WHIP, all I have to say is how to I sign with his agent? To get this contract on a team that's pinching pennies is almost as impressive as Farnsworth pitching a 1-2-3 inning. He's always been able to throw through a brick wall, the question is, which building? Don't look for him to close.

Fred Lewis: A one-year deal with Cincinnati for $900K barely gets a brief, but despite a crowded OF in Cincy, don't sleep on Lewis and his career .348 OBP. Plus, he's the only lefty bat in that OF besides Jay Bruce. But the right injury or two and he's hitting ahead of Votto and Phillips. Spin: Thin deep, deep sleeper.

Matt Garza: Yes, it's a bit old but how can we not wax over one of the biggest off-season deals. In the same day, two different analysts on XM's MLB channel both absolutely ripped Tampa Bay and later the Cubs for the deal. Never have I heard of such a mixed reaction. Here's what I know. Garza is close to a K/inning guy who had a sub-ERA in the AL East this past year. He's very reasonable, under team control for the next three years (owed in the$6 million range) and he could slip to a below-3.50 ERA guy in the strikeout-happy NL Central.

Now to the prospects: Chris Archer is definitely the gem of the bunch coming off a great year, but his control is an issue. Sam Fuld may forever be a fourth OF. Brandon Guyer is another sell-high guy coming off a phenomenal AA season (.344/.398/.588) and swiped 30 bases but the Cubs like Brett Jackson better and were able to keep him and 3B prospect Josh Vitters. Robinson Chirinos was reportedly key to the deal and is phenomenal handling pitchers, but is 27 already. Hak-Ju Lee is said to have a top-notch glove and arm at SS, but what do you do with Sterlin Castro? Lee was at least two, maybe three years away. The Cubs gave up 4 of their top 12 prospects. A lot? Sure, but Garza's ceiling, cost and World Series experience make the gamble worth it. Yes, I said World Series.

Here's the final out of Garza's no-hitter.

Monday, December 6, 2010

On Santo, Werth, Jeter

Baseball lost one of its most devoted and lovable icons this past week when Ron Santo lost his battle with bladder cancer on Dec. 2 at age 70.

In fact, his cancer had come back several months ago, according to longtime teammate Glenn Beckert, but he swore his family not to tell anyone.

Widely known as one of the top 3 third-basemen during his generation (after Mike Schmidt and Eddie Matthews), baseball's Hall of Fame has continued to pass over Santo.

While this blog could be devoted entirely to reasons why Santo should be in the Hall, that drum has been beaten to death and frankly, the Veteran's Committee blew it. No post-death induction will make up for that.

Forget Ernie Banks, Santo was Mr. Cub. His blood quite possibly was Cubbie Blue, although it can't be proven.

He played for 12 years with Diabetes before anyone found out, then later had to have both legs replaced because of the disease. Yet, year after year, I'd see him walking out to his car after a Cubs spring training game in Mesa, using two prosthetic legs.

But besides all his on-field contributions, Santo endeared himself to Cub Nation -- if that's such a word -- with his ultra-homeristic calls on WGN radio. Thanks to XM radio, I was fortunate to share many of the Cubs' heartbreaking moments with Ronnie.

It's not just your typical hometown whining with Santo. He feels every bad play deep within the recesses of his soul to a point where you as a fan don't feel nearly as bad about it.

Ohhhhhhh, noooooooooo. Jeeeeeeeeeee, whiiiiiiz!!!!!! Oh my Goaaashhhhh!!!

I'm convinced that at least 10 times a game, Cubs broadcaster Pat Hughes has to hit the cough button on Santo's mike, as the bemoaning would just be too painful for a mainstream audience to hear.

Here's a classic call from Sept. 23, 1998 as the Cubs were in a Pennant race and OF Brandt Brown dropped a routine flyball, giving the game to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Here's another one against the Phillies that is self-explanatory.

Lastly, a nice Ron Santo tribute, including many celebrities talking about what Santo means to them. Worth a watch.

Is he Werth it? Jayson Werth signed with the Nationals for 7 years and $126 million dollars. What?!?

Are you kidding me? A guy who turns 32 in May, who has only had a regular gig for three years -- and was platooned at one point in 2009 -- is worth $18 million a year?

I only have one word for this: Boras. Actually five. Boras is ruining the game. He's driving up prices to a point where teams have to raise ticket prices to a point that an average family can no longer afford to take in a game.

Ironically, Barry Zito and Vernon Wells signed exact same contracts. Oh, and both have the same agent.

To steal a joke from a Twitter post, I thought Washington was trying to reduce the National deficit.

Jeter signs with Yankees: This is a day or so old, but still newsworthy. Derek Jeter signs with the Yankees for 3 years and $51 million.

This is a rare situation in sports where both the player and the team desperately need each other. Jeter certainly needs the Yanks, but what would the pinstripes be without their "Captain."

It's a little much for the production Jeter brings to the table, but this contract is far more than just the numbers he brings to the table. At least half of it is for Jeter's star power, image and marketability he portrays with the Yankees.

If the Boss was still alive, Jeter may have pocketed an extra 10 or 15 million on this deal. But in the end, not an unfair deal on either side.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Don't count Rangers out quite yet

Sure, it doesn't look good, Texas fans.

Down 3-1 isn't usually the recipe to a World Series title. But it just might be this year.

So, 38 of the previous 44 teams up 3-1 have closed out the deal. So, what?

All that stands in the way of the first Rangers World Series championship is a 3-game sweep. That's not impossible.

And they're in a perfect spot with Cliff Lee on the bump tonight. Before the Game 1 debacle, Lee was easily the ace of the playoffs. He had allowed 1 ER in six of his past seven starts, including 24 innings of 2-run dominance.

Baseball is a funny sport. Momentum can swing on one crack of the bat, as it did Sunday with Aubrey Huff's monster shot to right.

But a strong Lee performance sends them back to the Bay, where C.J. Wilson faces Matt Cain. The entire series would hinge on that game and even though Cain has been unhittable in his previous two starts, nobody will confuse him for Nolan Ryan, who up until now has made all the right moves, and based on his first-pitch, could probably still throw an inning or two of scoreless inning in relief.

Wilson was strong in Game 2, giving up just 2 runs, 3 hits and 2 BB in 6 IP and his 2010 splits were actually better on the road (2.91 ERA, 1.23 WHIP). The Rangers clearly need to get the bats rattling or else this is a moot point, but a Lee win and the Giants start thinking a little. A win over Cain and they're nearly toast. Baseball is a game best served up loose (just like a Maid-Rite sandwich).

Technically, anyone could win Game 7, but the "grizzled veteran" Colby Lewis is the guy I want on the mound over lefty Jonathan Sanchez.

So if you hail from Texas, fear not, as everything is bigger, including, in this case, World Series comebacks.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Andre Johnson inactive; Steve Smith injured

It's not looking good for Andre Johnson owners this week. Even worse for Steve Smith owners.

And as the case in the Observer league, if you are one and the same, well, our condolences.

Steve Smith was carted off the Panthers game with an ankle injury. Carted off. Never a good phrase to read as an owner. Word is, he couldn't put pressure on the ankle. That could mean anything. But one thing's clear, until Jimmy Clausen gets more seasoning, Smith is no longer a top WR option. You could argue he's not even worth starting at all.

Brandon Lloyd (another 100-yard game today) or the aging Derrick Mason (80 yards, 6 catches) would make a nice fill-in for Smith if either guy is hanging on your wire.

Texans WR Johnson has been declared inactive, which means Jacoby Jones will start on the outside. Jones, seemingly a good play, will likely draw shutdown corner Nnamdi Asomugha, so on paper, he's not a good play. Slot guy Kevin Walter, however is.

If you need a quick sub out, kick the tires on Arizona Cardinals WR Stephen Williams (filling in for Steve Breaston) or the Raiders Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was targed 11 times last week (so what if he only caught 3 passes) and draws the league's worst pass D in Houston.

I just ordered me a side of Heyward-Bey and plugged him into my lineup, so we'll see how tasty that ends up being.

-- Trevor Freeze

Saturday, September 18, 2010

On Torre, Jeter, Josh and Big Z

Some quick notes over the past few days that are begging for some commentary:

Joe Torre: The long-time Yankee skipper turned Dodgers manager said he's calling it a day in L.A. And when you're a dozen games out of the division race, who can blame you.

This opens the door for Don Mattingly, who hopes to last longer as Dodgers manager than his restaurant did in Evansville, Ind.

Donny Baseball will bring the mechanics of one of baseball's sweetest swings and if Hollywood is lucky, he'll bring back his infamous mustache, one of the all-time greats in the game.

Derek Jeter: And the Oscar goes to ...

The Yankees Derek Jeter did his best Tom Hanks this week in Tampa, faking a hit-by-pitch with one of the most convincing selling jobs I've seen.

The ball hit the handle of the bat, but Jeter flailed in apparent pain, which led to Joe Madden arguing the call and ultimately his ejection. Watch for yourself:

"It's really a big deal being made out of nothing," Jeter said on Friday. "I had nothing to do with the call. The umpire called it from the get-go. I didn't do it. I didn't tell myself to go to first base."

True. But some think Jeter went over the "Gamesmanship" line with his charade. Third word. Sounds like ditch.

Just as the Yankees would be furious if Evan Longoria tried such a stunt, the Rays have a right to be mad at Jeter. Technically, there was no rule broken and it's true his job is to get to first anyway possible, but this gives new meaning to beg, borrow or steal.

Guess that's what you'll resort to when you're hitting .261.

Josh Hamilton: It's officially time to get worried, Rangers fans. And if you had hoped for Hamilton to come back and push your fantasy team to the finish line, it's not looking good.

Hamilton said Saturday his ribs have not responded to two cortisone ejections earlier in the week. Not that this is a surprise.

Hamilton is nearing a modern-era record for cortisones, totaling five so far this year. He had a chance to hit for the Triple Crown (.361, 31 HR, 97 RBI) but won't get there.

Even Hamilton himself says getting back on the field a week before the season ends is not looking good, so you should probably cut him loose. And frankly, it might be time to cross him off next year's cheat sheet, unless he falls considerably. Just too brittle.

Let someone else take him late in the first round.

Carlos Zambrano: Despite unforeseen success this year or any year recently (6-0, 1.59 ERA since joining the rotation), the Cubs' Zambrano is talking retirement. Again. Only he'll play out his lucrative contract that pays him nearly $36 million over the next two years.

Cubs fans, with their ears perked on the news of Big Z's retirement, were let down to hear he's planning on playing out one of the worst contracts dished out by a team in this century.

If he's still dangling on your wire, he's worth a shot in almost every format right now, especially if you're league's turned into Streamsville, USA, like our Observer league unfortunately has.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Great Moments in Lou Piniella History

Lou Piniella may not have invented arguing with an umpire. But he sure perfected it.

But on Sunday, five weeks earlier than anyone expected, Piniella retired, pulling the plug on 48 years of baseball, both as a coach and a player. He moved up his retirement date to be with his ailing mother and his final post-game press conference was quite emotional. Read about it here.

Piniella, a likely managerial Hall of Famer, finished with 3,547 wins (14th all-time) and 1,705 hits.

But more than those stats, he'll be remembered for his on-field antics. Going nose-to-nose with an umpire. Throwing a base into the outfield grass. And, of course, kicking dirt on an umpire's shoes.

Here's a couple classic Lou tirades to warm your soul on a Monday.




Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lee trade signals winds of change at Wrigley

Well, if you know anything about this blogger, it's his passion for the Cubs.

As much as I try to hide it (not that much), Wednesday was a sad day for the Chicago Cubs (not really).

There was a small pit in my stomach when news broke that Derek Lee had been traded to the Atlanta Braves for three mediocre low-level pitchers. This wasn't about the minor-leaguers.

It was about starting over for the Cubs. This is the twing in the gut part.

Not too long ago, the Cubs were annual threats to win the NL Central. A powerhouse, if there is such a thing in that division.

The core of Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Derek Lee and Carlos Zambrano were going to help them break that 100-year World Series. Or so we believed.

Then, they got old. Together, Soriano (34), Ramirez (32) and Lee (34) brought to the plate a century worth of years to the plate. And who knows what happened to Big Z. Probably too much e-mailing his brother.

But this is what happens when you hand out long-term contracts like full-size Snickers at Halloween. Eventually someone gets the circus peanuts. And that's the Cubs right now.

Nobody knows what they're doing. Lou's retiring. They're trying to play the young guys, although Tyler Colvin has now sat out three straight games.

Shedding their aging, big-money contracts gives fans hope, as they make room for younger guys like Micah Hoffpauer, who seemed more than ready after the 2009 Spring Training.

Between Colvin, rookie SS Starlin Castro, Hoffpauer, Randy Wells and Carlos Marmol there is a youth movement starting to creep into Wrigley.

The sad part is a true youth movement takes years to mature and pay off.

Look for Ryne Sandberg to get the managerial gig, if Joe Girardi spurns their advances (and why wouldn't he).

But there's still a lot of dead weight in that lineup.

Derek Lee was the lightest. Sure, he was hitting .250, but he just raked 4 HR in the Cardinals' series. He's a "professional hitter," as some would say.

He will be missed. A quiet leader, Lee never really took over that position, but he was a stand-up guy and one of the fan favorites on the North Side.

So much so, that someone put together this little ditty:

Fantasy Spin: Lee's value probably gets a kick up in Atlanta. Presumably, he'll hit 3rd or 4th with the Braves, who desperately need the Gold-Glover's service. Lee has a way of hitting HR in bunches when he's healthy. A wrist injury limited him a couple years ago, but it's been the back that has kept him off the field. Still, if he's around your wire, snatch him up. Double-digit HR are not out of the question. Since when has a pennant race not help energize a slugging hitter?