Marlon Byrd has signed a 3 year $15M dollar deal with the Chicago Cubs. The deal still gives Jim Hendry some flexibility this winter because it is backloaded and only pays the center fielder $3M in 2010.
The deal is already drawing criticism. This is the second year in a row that Jim Hendry gave a 3 year deal to a Texas outfielder coming off a career season. The Ballpark in Arlington is well known to be a hitter’s park and may have inflated Byrd’s numbers over the past couple of years as shown in his home/away splits.
Also, it appears that Hendry has overbid, basically, himself. There was interest from other clubs in regards to Byrd but no details on their offers have been reveiled yet. However, it is not expected that Byrd received any other 3 year proposals.
The value of the contract is what makes it OK in my eyes. $15M is not the worst thing in the world and his defense will improve when he can focus on one position all year. He will get some playing time in left when Soriano inevitably gets hurt again (probably making his trademark skip when he catches routine flyballs). Cubs fans just shouldn’t expect too much out of Marlon. He isn’t supposed to ‘save’ the Cubs or hit 4th like Milton Bradley was. Do expect high energy and some RBIs though.
Only time will tell if this contract was worth it, but maybe the small ’10 salary will give the Cubs enough room to still bring in Orlando Hudson. The team could still use another arm as well. The Cubs are at least trying to keep pace with the Cardinals who now appear likely to re-sign Matt Holliday to a huge deal.
Today the New York Mets signed Jason Bay to a four year deal with a reportedly player-friendly vesting option for the fifth year. Jason Bay will be locked in for the left field job. Carlos Beltran will again be the center fielder. These two are obvious given their production and they will hold down the four and five spots in the lineup.
Right field is not as settled however. Jeff Francoeur was brought in last year and did much better for the Mets than he had done for the Braves over the previous 3 months. Francoeur’s defense was always strong, especially the arm strength, but his offensive approach lacks patience as shown by his .309 OBP of 2009. His average did jump after a first half .250 to a second half .311. He slugged very well for the Mets too.
Angel Pagan was another outfielder who performed above expectations in the second half for New York. Pagan played all three outfield spots while filling in due to injuries. Pagan led off frequently in the season’s last two months, leading to his 54 runs in only 343 at-bats. He’s a switch hitter who took advantage of the huge gaps at Citi Field posting 11 triples which was the third most in the majors (and he had 190 less ABs than second place).
The last option has the most potential but least major league success. Fernando Martinez is the club’s top prospect but struggled in his debut last year. Martinez has time to grow as he is only 21. He is probably suited best for left field but will transition fine to right if needed as he is a great athlete.
I predict that Jeff Francoeur starts the year as the right fielder with Pagan still earning plenty of at-bats. Pagan will also get playing time in left to spell Bay late in games because of Bay’s poor fielding. Fernando Martinez, aka F-Mart, will have to start the year in AAA to get more playing time. The Mets are infamous for their bad luck and if that injury bug strikes again, Martinez will be the first to get called up.
Here’s what the final group of teams still needs going into the New Year:
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies have already made a big splash with the Halladay acquisition which was followed with a hefty extension. It works out well that Philadelphia doesn’t have much money left, because there aren’t many holes to fill either. Another lefty in the bullpen wouldn’t hurt because J.C. Romero has had some struggles staying on the field.
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates should try to unload catcher Ryan Doumit and his extension, though it isn’t too large. Rumors for a Rick Ankiel signing makes sense because it would add some more power and a strong arm to help in the deep gaps of Pittsburgh’s field. A player like him can be a one year stop-gap until top prospects Jose Tabata and/or Gorkys Hernandez are able to assume full-time roles. Besides these ideas, there aren’t many reasons for additional moves given their slim chances of contending.
San Diego Padres: While contending next year is possible, it’s not extremely likely. Their best bet would be to add a middle level starter to hold down a rotation spot. Losing catcher Henry Blanco via free agency will have a significant impact, just ask the Cubs. Though it’s overdue, the Padres need to trade one of Chase Headley or Kevin Kouzmanoff. They waited too long and their values have both dropped. Also, test the market and see if there is still any interest in middle infield prospect Matt Antonelli as David Eckstein will block his path for the second year in a row.
San Francisco Giants: Though the Giants were able to compete last year, they have a lot to do. Travis Ishikawa, Fred Lewis and Nate Schierholtz cannot all be in the lineup at the same time. Apparently the team is close on both Mark DeRosa and Juan Uribe, which would move Pablo Sandoval to first and Ishikawa out of the lineup. A cheap outfielder would at least allow for a platoon with Lewis or Schierholtz. Buster Posey needs a mentor behind the plate and the bullpen needs more proven arms. As I said, they have a lot of work ahead.
Seattle Mariners: Speaking of lots of work, the M’s have already done that and surely have more moves on the horizon. A first baseman is necessary and Russell Branyan is the best fit. The rotation is very strong with two Cy Young candidates already there but depth is needed. A lefty in the bullpen is also very important.
St. Louis Cardinals: Will the team re-sign Matt Holliday? They should. Holliday has proven to be hard to sign in the past and Scott Boras has already shrugged off huge offers in the first half of the off-season. If not Holliday, someone else must be brought in because their depth in left field is horrible right now. The team claims to be happy with David Freese at third base but I doubt it.
Tampa Bay Rays: The lineup is interesting to look at from the trading-block standpoint. The team has already moved Akinori Iwamura, tried vigorously to move Pat Burrell, almost non-tendered Dionner Navaro, and has been rumored to at least listen to offers for B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford. The team has to decide upon their direction but I only foresee Pat Burrell getting moved while Matt Joyce, Willy Aybar and Fernando Perez gets his at-bats.
Texas Rangers: After a failed trade for Mike Lowell, look for the team to pursue Vladimir Guerrero to play DH. He played great down the stretch last year and, for whatever its worth, hits like the second-coming of Babe Ruth in Texas. Another top starter is necessary to win the division. Signing a catcher may be in store because Jarrod Saltalamacchia got hurt during winter ball, Taylor Teagarden hasn’t proven himself yet, and Max Ramirez has been in trade rumors for the past two years.
Toronto Blue Jays: The new GM has gotten off to a great start in his rebuilding process. The team has needed it for a while but the relations between ownership and former GM J.P. Ricciardi wouldn’t really allow for it. Trading Roy Halladay has been a must for two years. Did they really think they would compete? Even after Tamba Bay passed them? Continuing this process will include attempts to move Vernon Wells, Jeremy Accardo, and Edwin Encarnacion.
Washington Nationals: Last but not least, the Washington Nationals. Their off-season is honestly pretty much done. However, one thing that still needs some attention is the middle infield. Ian Desmond came up at the end of the year and did fine at shortstop leading to attempts to persuade Christian Guzman to play second base. Guzman initially met it with hesitance but his range has dropped and second should be a little less physically demanding. He would fit well there and can swing the bat so it would work for the team. If he really demands to be moved, the Nationals have always been intrigued by Orlando Hudson who could replace him at second.
Now we just have to wait and see what the coaches, GMs and owners really have planned for their teams.
Here’s what the next group of teams still needs going into the New Year:
Florida Marlins: Entering the off-season the entire world new what this team was going to do: cut costs. Jeremy Hermida was shipped to Boston while Matt Lindstrom was moved to Houston. Since then, the Marlins have tried and failed to sign Josh Johnson to an extension and trade slugger Dan Uggla. Uggla has plenty of potential suiters but teams are not agreeing on similar trade value. If Uggla is moved, as expected, Florida could bring in a first or third baseman with Jorge Cantu playing the other and Emilio Bonifacio likely filling the second base void. A left-handed bat off the bench, preferably an outfielder, is also needed.
Houston Astros: The Astros have been in a horrible state of flux since their World Series appearance. They’re not quite good enough to win the division and not quite bad enough to completely rebuild. The latter is probably the best move however. For the rest of the off-season, expect another catcher to be added with the goal of meshing the scrap-heap that is their pitching staff.
Kansas City Royals: Adding another starting pitcher would be smart along with a good lefty in the bullpen to match up with AL foes Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Justin Kubel and Grady Sizemore. This division will be up for grabs next year because no teams in it are great just yet which gives the Royals hope. Hopefully the team will refrain from the idea of trading Alberto Callaspo. Players they may need to think about moving are Jose Guillen, Yuniesky Betancourt, Alex Gordon or Mike Aviles, in that order. Also, decide if David DeJesus will be in left or center.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: The Angels should focus on adding depth for the rotation and a swing man to come out of the bullpen. Though they have four young studs in the rotation even after the departure of Lackey, injuries seem to hit them each year. It seems inevitable Gary Matthews Jr. will be moved so the team will need some more pop added to the bench.
Los Angeles Dodgers: This team badly needs a fourth or fifth starter and is currently in early talks for Aaron Harang. Blake Dewitt is not the answer at second base and a reunion with Orlando Hudson is not in the plans after how much he was benched in the second half and the playoffs. The benching started because of injury but continued when Ronnie Belliard took his job. A more likely option is Felipe Lopez.
Milwaukee Brewers: More additions to the rotation are needed to compete with the Cardinals and Cubs. It has been rumored with great frequency (and great plausibility) that Mark Mulder will sign to fill one of those spots and reunite with former coaches Macha and Peterson. The Crew could also use an all-around utility player to fill out their bench.
Minnesota Twins: Depending on the Twins’ confidence in Francisco Liriano they may want to add a legitimate starting pitcher. However, even before that, the lineup needs to be more balanced. Last year the bottom half consisted of Brendan Harris, Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert, and Alexi Casilla far too often. Bringing in J.J. Hardy to play short was a fine move but improvements need to be made to either third or second base. Mark DeRosa seems like a good fit and the club may re-sign Orlando Cabrera to play second.
New York Mets: A healthy year is this most important facot for the Mets. The Phillies and Braves already pose challenges no matter who the Mets bring in, but Jason Bay and Bengie Molina would certainly help. The Mets were interested in John Lackey and Jason Marquis but with them off the market a Joel Piniero signing makes sense.
New York Yankees: Like the Red Sox, the Yankees don’t need too much. If the team wants some insurance or just an insurance partner for Brett Gardner in left, there are plenty of options on the free agent market. Reed Johnson has been in talks with New York. Jerry Hairston Jr. would be a valuable re-sign for the bench.
Oakland Athletics: The A’s will finish in last place next year while they wait for both their starting pitching to mature and Chris Carter and Michael Taylor to make an impact at the major league level. For now, newcomers Coco Crisp and Jake Fox will get a chance to prove they are starters in this league. The entire team is young and don’t expect Billy Beane to block paths with one year deals this time around. Justin Duchscherer was signed to mentor the staff, but there won’t be any Frank Thomas, Orlando Cabrera, or Jason Giambi-like signings this winter.
First of all, happy holidays!
Now, here’s what teams still need going into the New Year:
Arizona Diamondbacks: The rotation is inspiring with Dan Haren, Brandon Webb and Edwin Jackson followed by a couple younger guys who will get a chance to prove themselves. The middle of their bullpen will struggle, Aaron Heilman was not enough of an addition. A healthy Conor Jackson and Stephen Drew will provide more baserunners but the team could still use an RBI man at first base and a dynamic hitter at second.
Atlanta Braves: Troy Glaus was recently signed to play first base and I hope (for the Braves’ sake) that he is not the legitimate right-handed power threat they have coveted. If Jason Heyward is not going to start the year with the big club, Atlanta needs to use some of the money saved in the Javier Vazquez deal to pursue Jason Bay. I expect Melky Cabrera to excel whether in left field or right.
Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles could be division contenders if it was for their AL East residency. They will run out an up-and-coming team that is full of All-Star potential including Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters. What the team is still needing: a first baseman. The Orioles staff was not impressed with the Luke Scott experiment there last year and look for him to DH. Their young pitching is ready to break through.
Boston Red Sox: Like the Red Sox still need something… Though they do not, Theo is still going after Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. Seemingly, for every proven veteran, there is another prospect in the wings. Look for a ring in Boston next October.
Chicago Cubs: The Carlos Silva acquisition was more addition by subtraction than anything, but so were the Aaron Miles and Aaron Heilman trades. At first glance the rotation looks fine, but Ted Lilly will miss time to start the year, Randy Wells could encounter a sophomore slump, and this time last year, Tom Gorzelanny wasn’t even Major League caliber for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Another right-handed setup man and center fielder should be next on the list while a second baseman would be luxury.
Chicago White Sox: Juan Pierre, Jake Peavy, and Andruw Jones will pay off this year. My opinion is still un-decided in regards to the Mark Teahen extension, but just the acquisition itself made sense. I believe the White Sox are done with the big transactions so adding depth is all that’s left.
Cincinnati Reds: The Reds still need a lot, but have too much money tied up in a few players. Spreading out Scott Rolen’s salary was thrifty but they’ll have to work overtime to figure out how to move the high salaries of Francisco Cordero, Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang and even Willy Tavarez. Whatever happens with their finances, the team could sure use a shortstop and another outfielder.
Cleveland Indians: The Indians only have a few veterans remaining on the roster due to their rebuilding process. This process takes time and it will result in a last place finish in their division. In the meantime, a veteran catcher could help mentor prospects Lou Marson and Carlos Santana.
Colorado Rockies: The lineup is solid from top to bottom though a little lefty heavy. Ryan Spilborghs will have another prominent role this year off the bench to relieve Carlos Gonzalez and Brad Hawpe in the corners. Another right handed option of the bench should be a new backup catcher. Yorvit Torrealba has filled that role the last couple years but he may be leaving via free agency.
Detroit Tigers: The return was big enough for Curtis Granderson but the full effect of that move will not be felt this year. Austin Jackson will have a chance to earn the center field spot this year but Detroit has been linked to Scott Podsednik and other free agent targets for that position. The Tigers will also have to decide if prospect Scott Sizemore is ready for the everyday second base job.
Though a couple big name targets are off the market, each team can still fill there voids with quality talent. Here’s the best of what’s left:
- Orlando Cabrera ss
- Orlando Hudson 2b
- Matt Holliday lf
- Russell Branyan 1b
- Adrian Beltre 3b
- Rick Ankiel rf
- Bengie Molina c
- Marlon Byrd cf
Amidst studying for my last final, I’ve decided this is important enough for a slight break. Milton Bradley has finally been traded and it is a surprisingly O.K. ending to a failed relationship. Ironically, I will blame Jim Hendry for more of the failure than what I put on Milton Bradley. Hendry was the one who decided to offer Bradley twice the amount of his other offers last off-season, not to mention Bradley’s intense desire to become a Chicago Cub. Don’t you think that even if the offers were the same, his well-known motives for becoming a Cub would’ve placed them over any other option? The third year and huge dollars are very questionable. Mistake number one.
So, Jim, you already over-paid a man who is often injured and constantly giving himself the precise attention he doesn’t need… That all plays out in the perfect fashion that is the Chicago Cubs, that is, it falls apart. And while the story is in the middle of it’s decline, Bradley achieves his player friendly vesting option of playing 75 games in the outfield, kicking in the 3rd year of his contract and another $10MM. Mr. Hendry, just because an outfielder who gets hurt too often plays in at least 75 games, it doesn’t mean he produced worth a crap during that span. Rehabbing pitchers get vesting options for starts, not potential franchise right fielders, especially when you have no other option in right field (Micah Hoffpauir doesn’t count). Mistake number two.
Bradley’s foul behavior and comments got himself in more trouble late in the season. Instead of talking behind closed doors to find a solution, Hendry announced to the world that Bradley had been sent home for the season. It was obvious that the Bradley was not going to be back so Hendry lost even more leverage by saying we have to trade him. Did Hendry think he was sending a message to his team? Did he think if he didn’t ‘make an example’ out of Bradley that Derrek Lee and Ryan Dempster were soon to follow Bradley’s string of bad behavior? P.S. Jim: The Cubs were already well out of contention so the suspension mattered even less! Mistake number three.
But in the end, despite offering a contract that was too valuable and too easy, along with losing all leverage what-so-ever (Hendry couldn’t even work out a trade for Pat “I Lost My Bat” Burrell), the Cubs made a trade that will help them this season and next.
No I’m not talking about the Carlos Silva part. I’m talking about the ridiculous $9MM dollars the Mariners sent us with Silva. That balances out to the Cubs paying $15MM for two years of a bad pitcher while the M’s pay $30MM for two years of a player that we almost had to release because of Hendry’s horrible attempt at a PR move. If the Cubs were able to get this in return, imagine what the return could’ve been without Hendry’s butchering of the whole process…
Either way the Cubs brought in a pitcher who has had some success years ago and it never hurts to have some extra pitching depth, even though he’s really bad. Jack Z in Seattle had brought in Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee this off-season but the money he gave up here has me questioning him a little bit. I’m sure Bradley will bounce back a bit but was it worth that much?
Now Jim, just because you saved a few bucks this winter by ridding yourself of Heilman, Miles, and Bradley, you should not go out and blow it again. Marlon Byrd and Rick Ankiel are interesting options in center and both should be considered at the right price. Both have scary splits in their stats however. Orlando Hudson will be the most efficient use of money for any team this off-season and his effort/personality would be a great insert to the Cubs’ clubhouse after moving Bradley. Let’s hope that is the next move on the Cubs’ slate this off-season.
After the Yankees well-known spending spree of a year ago, the Red Sox are doing their best to keep pace. They’ve already acquired outfielders Mike Cameron and Jeremy Hermida, ace pitcher John Lackey, and shortstop Marco Scutaro. The Sox re-upped catchers Jason Varitek and Victor Martinez and knuckle-baller Tim Wakefield. They are nearing a deal to send third basemen Mike Lowell to Texas for catching prospect Max Ramirez.
There has been rumors that Boston is enamored by free agent third basemen Adrian Beltre to fill the third base spot potentially vacated by Lowell but Kevin Youkilis could also fill that spot. The Beltre rumors were moved to the backseat today as the Adrian Gonzalez rumors sped back up and a deal seems very likely, in my opinion. The Red Sox have the prospects to bring Gonzalez in, but do they want to give up that much? A deal would potentially include center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and/or starter Clay Buchholz along with more prospects. That seems like a good start to me as the Padres would get young major league ready players in return.
But it doesn’t stop there. The Red Sox have notified Jeremy Hermida that he would be traded if Jason Bay was resigned. I’ll assume the same would happen if Matt Holliday were brought in but we’ll stick with Bay for now. The Red Sox are instant AL favorites if they bring in Adrian Gonzalez, not to mention Jason Bay.
A rotation containg three aces (Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jon Lester) and a solid bullpen may potentially be supported by quite a bit of power:
- Pedroia 2b
- Youkilis 3b
- Gonzalez 1b
- Martinez c
- Ortiz dh
- Bay lf
- Drew rf
- Cameron cf
- Scutaro ss
The frequency and amount of posts should pick back up in 5-7 days as I am focusing on finals during the busiest time of the year for academics.
The deadline for teams to non-tender players whom they were not keen on giving a raise to has come and gone. With the weak economy, payrolls of all sizes are looking to cut costs where possible and it showed during the non-tendering period. Let’s take a look at which players are now available on the free agent market with an ”All Non-Tender Roster.”
- Alfredo Amezaga ss (Can play short, second, third, and center.)
- Kelly Johnson 2b (Lost the second base job to start the year but is only 28)
- Garrett Atkins 3b (Has tons of power and was great for two years)
- Jack Cust lf (25 home runs three years in a row, strike out rates are too high)
- Jonny Gomes rf (Great pickup for the Reds last year, good platoon option)
- Mike Jacobs dh (Horrible defense but is strong, was a force a couple years ago)
- Ryan Garko 1b (Another platoon candidate, possibly with Jacobs?)
- Jeremy Reed cf (Good outfielder but has developed holes in his swing)
- John Buck c (Younger than most of the catching options on the market)
These players are all younger options and most have some pop in their bat or at least a history of it. The non-tendered group of pitchers includes Scott Olsen, Chien-Ming Wang, Clay Condrey, Matt Capps, and D.J. Carrasco to name a few hurlers with recently prominent roles.
So the question is: Which of these players would you buy or sell for your team this off-season?
A quick synopsis of this year’s Winter Meetings from Indianapolis.
- Ivan Rodriguez was able to snag 2 years at a huge $6MM from the dismal Washington Nationals. He will provide great leadership for young catcher Jesus Flores and potential first overall pick of next summer’s draft, catcher Bryce Harper. Only time will tell if he really is worth $6MM.
- The Astros decided to spend relatively big on Brandon Lyon and Matt Lindstrom for the back of the bullpen plus another $4.5MM on Pedro Feliz to keep the hot corner warm until Chris Johnson arrives.
- Brad Penny got a large $7.5MM contract plus another $1.5MM in incentives from the Cards.
- In maybe the most surprising move of all (undoubtedly the most surprising to the Braves), Rafael Soriano accepted arbitration and then demanded a trade. I see that as another crafty move around not costing his new team a first round draft pick while still commanding a nice salary. The Braves are currently finalizing a trade to ship Soriano to the Rays for another reliever, Jessie Chavez.
- The Brewers decided to spend on another aging veteran for the rotation in Randy Wolf. They’re hoping he’s not the next Jeff Suppan. One solid move by Milwaukee, in my opinion, was adding LaTroy Hawkins to a previously unreliable setup crew in front of Trevor Hoffman.
- Andy Pettitte resigned with the Yankees on another one year contract. The salary was a little more than most expected however, at $11.75MM.
- The Yankees made another big splash in acquiring Curtis Granderson which has already been discussed in an earlier entry.
- The Cubs still have not found the elusive trade partner for Milton Bradley. The most intriguing rumors for Cubs fans so far would be an exchange of Bradley and Gil Meche, a starter on the Royals. The salaries match up pretty well and Meche may be able to win more in the NL.