Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sheffield bailout plan hits Detroit

In a head-scratcher even by Jim Leyland standards, the Tigers released borderline Hall-of-Famer Gary Sheffield on Tuesday, eating $14 million.

Sheffield had 499 home runs and was going to be Detroit's full-time DH. 

The reason: a lack of versatility.


"We looked at Sheffield as primarily a DH, and we don't look at Marcus (Thames) the same way," GM Dave Dombrowski said. "That's the reason."

Thames has power oozing out of his bat. But he's also a career .241 hitter and .231 against righties.

The Tigers are aging, sure. They say they want flexibility to DH Carlos Guillen, who is rarely seen without ice packs on his knees these days. They would like to have the luxury of pulling Magglio Ordonez out of right field for a DH stint. Maybe even Miguel Cabrera.

Still. This is the reason you eat $14 million? In a town like Detroit, whose economy is suffering beyond belief?

Can't imagine this will go over well with the fan base. 

Wonder if there's a Sheffield Bailout Plan we don't know about.

Fantasy Spin: Sheffield, who's battling shoulder issues, will likely get picked up by someone, as he's just one swing away from the 500 Club. But he's no longer fantasy relevant, save for deep one-league formats. Thames looks to be the main beneficiary of ABs in Detroit, but it's hard to think they'll give him 550-600 ABs with a career .302 OBP. The signing of recent Braves castoff Josh Anderson may factor into the OF mix, but in deeper mixed leagues, Thames becomes an instant pickup.  And if you're hurting for power in shallow leagues (10 teams or less), consider him a viable option of 30+ HR who will drain your average, a poor-man's Adam Dunn.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lou picks Gregg over Marmol as closer

If you didn't see this coming, raise your hand.

The Cubs closer competition may not have been close after all. Maybe they were humoring Carlos Marmol. Or so, that's what he thinks.

"They knew what they were going to do before I got here," said Marmol on Sunday after losing out to former Marlin RP Kevin Gregg for the Cubs closer job. "That's why I say there's not competition."

To Marmol's credit, he jumped on the backward bicycle and made nice: "I guess we're going to get ready for the season, no matter what. You'll see the same smile. I'll be the same guy."

Good soldier.

Here's all that Marmol did in mostly setup duty last year in 87 1/3 IP: 2.68 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 114 Ks along with 7 saves. 

Sure, Gregg has converted 62 of 77 save chances the past two seasons with the Fish, but even he sounded a little surprised to get the nod: "Marmol's ability to get five or six outs, it's crazy just to watch him go out there and he dominates lefties and righties."

But you had to know this was in the works:

1). Lou Piniella loves experienced closers. Ding.

2). Marmol all but forfeited his chance when he went on a 3-week hiatus to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the WBC (you didn't see Derek Lee leave camp, with Micah Hoffpauir breathing down his neck?) 

3). This takes the pressure off Marmol, the closer of the future, and the second Gregg blows two saves in a row, Lou will start massaging Marmol's shoulders.

Sure, Gregg has been nearly perfect this spring, has passable closer stuff and can get you close to a K an inning, but he doesn't have the out pitch or the dominance that Marmol possesses. And doesn't throw near the smoke.

Just listen to him and see for yourself:

Fantasy Spin: By all means, take your finger off the drop button. Unless you are stocked with plenty of sure-fire closers on your team, try to find room for Marmol. Consider this: In 2008, with only 7 saves and 2 wins, his other numbers were so good, he was ranked as the 10th most valuable RP by Yahoo! What's the over/under that Marmol takes over closing duties by June 1? I'd say 40 percent. And 60 percent by July 4. And don't rule out a spot save chance every two weeks or so. This isn't one of those deals where the closer will get chance after chance, while the manager spits out his Big League Chew excess in the nearest dugout spittoon. All it's gonna take is any Gregg injury or a small stretch of bad road and Lou will make the switch. He's just making this interesting for fantasy owners.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rays' demotion of Price a 'baseball decision'?

Jason Hammel or Jeff Niemann.

This will be the answer to the trivia question, in a bar somewhere, to the question, who beat out David Price for the Rays' 5th starting pitching job in 2009.

Welcome to small-time baseball, with your host Tampa Bay.

The Rays came from obscurity and mediocrity last season, shocking the baseball world with a World Series berth most thought belonged to the Red Sox.

They accomplished this with a tiny budget, using frugal means, retread closers, young players and a rising pitching staff.

Nothing's change a year later. The Rays are somewhere between frugal and cheap. The difference may be simply how you were raised.

I used to think they were simply frugal. Now, after David Price's demotion to AAA to start the season - a year after they did the same thing with All-Star Evan Longoria - I'm convinced they're simply cheap.

Frugal is not going out and signing overrated Pat Burrell to a 2-year, $16 million contract and then a few months later try to play off the Price demotion as purely a "baseball decision." The change-up and slider location simply are not worthy.

C'mon. Ask J.D. Drew about Price's slider location.

Through 8 1/3 Spring Training innings, Price has a 1.08 ERA, striking out 10 and walking 6 (Hammel a 4.95 ERA; Niemann a 6.32).

Earlier today, XM interviewed St. Pete Times beat writer Marc Topkin, who said Price's change-up had gone from suspect to one of the best 3 or 4 change-ups on the whole staff after he worked on it in the offseason.

The change-up that the Rays are most interested is the number of dollars they'll be able to sign Price in a long-term deal, ala Evan Longoria, who they were able to coax into signing a 6-year, $17.5 million deal days after calling him up in mid-April last spring.

Longoria, widely believed to be one of the top-hitting 3B in the game already, was worth way more than $3 million a year. Sure, the deal has 3 option years attached, which would raise the total deal to $44 over 9 years, but they are team options and that still isn't anywhere near market value.

Basically, it's his contract price that ultimately cost Price a demotion.

Cue appropriate Alanis Morissette ditty.

Fantasy Spin: What to do with David Price? This will haunt fantasy owners for the next 1-2 months. If your league has bench spot, it's a no-brainer. Stash and wait. It's leagues where you have no bench spots, where it gets sticky. What is Price's value for, say, 4 or 5 months, compared to the next best waiver option? I'm betting that Price is called up mid-May and that he'll outperform your NBO (next best option) in every category, besides possibly wins. Even in my 10-team Observer mixed league, I'm not planning on dropping him. Just too much talent. And he's just fun to watch.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Observations from Spring Training

MESA - Next year is here. 

Or so the Cubs are hoping. They've tweaked and twittered with their lineup. Milton Bradley and Kevin Gregg in, Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood out.

After two straight seasons of being swept in the first round, Cubs GM Jim Hendry has decided his team was too right-handed to break the Billy Goat Curse, and has brought in the brittle Bradley to infuse some lefty life into the right-leaning Cubbies.

Lefty Mike Fontenot will start at 2B and switch-hitting Aaron Miles will also spell the infield, but will all the left-right, fair and balanced lineup in the world help the mounting expectations on the Northsiders to win a World Championship? 

Probably not.

But Jake Peavy sure would help. Check back in July on that front.

But for now, some random observations from a recent trip to Arizona, where the Cubs lost four of five games.

WHITE SOX: Jeffrey Marquez, who came over in the Nick Swisher trade, looks rock solid against the Cubs in Las Vegas as he continues to make his bid to be Chicago's fifth starter. Marquez threw three scoreless innings, giving up one walk and one hit, while striking out two. Marquez forced Alfonso Soriano to pop out twice on three total pitches. Look for him in AL only leagues now and a deep sleeper in mixed formats. Also, in deeper AL leagues, keep Gordan Beckham on the radar.

L.A. DODGERS: This team looks very mediocre offensively without Manny Ramirez, although Matt Kemp looks like the top-40 overall pick that most people are predicting. Some of his production depends on where Joe Torre slots Kemp, but against the Cubs, he recorded a single, stole a base and was caught one other time. So far, he's 3 of 5 in spring training SB, and has 2 HR, making another 20-35 campaign not too far fetched.

BREWERS: When you look up and down this offensive lineup, all you see is fantasy studs: Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Corey Hart....shoot, even J.J. Hardy and Mike Cameron are useful mixed-league players. But against Carlos Zambrano, the Brew Crew was quieter than the Bratwurst in the Great Sausage Race. Try to get a piece of this offense if you can. But as far as the pitching staff, outside of Yovani Gallardo, don't waste your time.

RANGERS: Just a fun team to watch. And with Arlington as a pressure-cooker to play in, look for big numbers. Josh Hamilton is the biggest name and has forearms the size of tree trunks, although they're completely tattoed. Hamilton's story is quite inspiring, almost as much as watching him sign for 45 minutes before the game, posing for pictures with anyone who asked. Keep Chris Davis on your round 6-7 radar. And don't reach too high for Ian Kinsler. A 10th overall pick is plenty high enough.

ROYALS: Besides looking very short, Kansas City did very little to stick out. Alex Gordon has a cannon and is promising, but strip away his name and .260-16-59-9 is just not worth a top 150 pick, so don't reach. I tucked Mike Jacobs and his 32 HR 2008 campaign away on one of my auction teams for a buck.