- Sunday, November 8, 2009 10:55 PM
- Written By: Larry Yee
The biggest sporting event in the baseball world has come and gone. The Yankees bought their way to the 27th title in franchise history, an issue we plan on addressing in a separate post. But for now, the best way to kick off the "Thinking Fan's blog," is to suggest a few out-of-the-box MLB off-season moves that will no doubt be intriguing, possibly good for the respective teams, but that also have absolutely zero chance of occurring. (If they did, I'd have a much higher paying job.) If nothing else, these moves should be comment and thought-provoking and bring up some real issues that these teams face.
1. Jose Reyes needs to be traded.
Not what you expected at all, huh? But consider the few following facts.
Their building block on the offense is clearly going to be David Wright, the only Met that managed to remain healthy for the vast majority of the season. He’s proven he can be a powerful presence in the middle of that lineup for years to come, and the Mets have already acted on the evidence to the tune of $55M over six years. The other pieces left in the lineup are untradeable; Beltran has a full no-trade clause, Castillo would be needed to fill the speed gap Reyes leaves and they very well are not about to turn and show K-Rod the door. There are no other players on this team, offensively and pitching-wise that is worth moving or can be moved at all. Moreover, Reyes has an expiring contract, even more lucrative to other teams.
If Johan Santana comes back fully healthy in the rotation, they are still left with one ace and an over-priced number four or five option in Oliver Perez. They clearly need a real boost in the pitching department, legitimate number two and three pitchers and someone to fill out the back end of the rotation, potentially in-house.
Clearly, the pitching is in much worse condition at the moment, though the hitting is not better off at all. But if this season has proven anything, it is that pitching can win games and can keep you in the race for the playoffs. They were 21st in ERA+ and six points under the league average of 100. Their hitting however, was much better league-average-wise. They hit .270, tied with the Dodgers for tops in the NL and were only two points below average in OPS+. The more deficient part of this team is obviously the pitching.
Now, onto the move itself
What would dealing Reyes accomplish? Well, with the freed-up money, if Minaya and Wilpon plan on keeping the salary around $140mN, in between ’08 and ’09, they would have a spare $10M to work with this year. This would give GM Omar Minaya the option to head out into the market and add an arm. They already have the expiring money from Sheffield to work with, and assuming they either pick a bat or an arm, this extra money instantly gives them more wiggle room to act in the free agent class, albeit a weak pitching one.
What’s more, there are several intriguing arms that can be had for cheap. Joel Pineiro, Brad Penny and Doug Davis have all pitched themselves into consideration, but are the Mets willing to take a chance on any of them (Ben Sheets)? The best approach may be what the Red Sox did last off-season, throwing cheap money at Smoltz and Penny and having them duke it out for a position. Granted, the Sox had a few more sure-things going in to the season, but by the end, the most consistent pitcher may have been ol’ Tim Wakefield. At $10M, Smoltz, Penny and Davis could all be had, put together with the money left from Sheffield, a number of arms could land in New York, a very attractive pitcher’s park. That would solve their biggest problem.
2. Jonathan Papelbon needs to be traded
Before the ire of the Red Sox Nation rains down on me, there are again, a few facts that should be considered. This is much less about correcting a broken team, like the Mets, than it is about saving money, promoting talented players and being wise with personnel decisions.
Jonathan Papelbon is not completely untouchable. He clearly showed his flaws this year through some of his struggles. His FIP shot up an entire point while his K/BB fell by two-thirds, and his Line Drive rate has increased by three percent each year.
Currently, he has a contract at $6.25M for 2010, and almost without a doubt, hitting arbitration will net him at least $10M (the amount K-Rod was awarded for LOSING arbitration) if not more, a hefty price tag. This Boston team is with flaw and it has a chance to take a very slight step down from Papelbon to Daniel Bard. Dealing for a shortstop or utility infielder will greatly increase their depth. Moreover, the
extra money will help them go after lucrative free agent, Matt Holliday.
The move to Daniel Bard will not be a great fall, either. Someone who can clearly bring the gas, Bard still needs time to develop, but this solution provides them with an acceptable (even good comparatively) solution while opening more possibilities to fill holes elsewhere with more money. Bard is also younger, further from arbitration and in my opinion, more talented, though less refined, than Papelbon.
3. Matt Cain needs to be shopped.
No one was happier finally to see Cain succeed, especially after all the possible trades and unlucky years. However, I still believe he is incredibly overrated. While his ERA showed great improvement, his FIP of 3.89 stayed around last year’s 3.91 and told a different story. His low ERA was due to luck and an almost ridiculous .260 BABIP, almost 40 points lower than ’08. No player screams, regression more than Matty.
With that being said, his trade value may never be higher. His peripheral numbers look awesome and his stuff is still as good as before (he held constant with his fastball velocity from last year and through this year). In recent winters, Matt Cain has been linked to names like Alex Rios, bust, formerly of Toronto and Prince Fielder, jerk, currently of Milwaukee. Both players weren’t good enough returns for GM Brian Sabean, and perhaps, thankfully, he held back on the trigger. Yet, the Giants need to see what kind of market will develop for this young bulldog of a pitcher. Undoubtedly, there are potential middle-of-the-order musclemen that can be had for a relatively reasonable price in Matt Cain. On the other hand, they could take the Dan Haren approach and completely pick apart another team’s minor league system. This has proven workable with returns such as Adam Jones and Carlos Gonzalez being the most clear-cut examples.
No big bat to provide 30 home runs and 120 RBI exists this year or for the next few years. They passed on both Alfonso Soriano and Vladimir Guerrero in recent years, two good decisions in hindsight. Adding Aaron Rowand really did not result in the punch they want. The in-house solutions are not what the Giants need. Buster Posey only provides OBP and a solid five spot in the order. Angel Villalona is spending his time in jail for suspected murder while guys like Nick Noonan and Brandon Crawford have taken steps back. The trade market is the only legit way the Giants will be able to bring a bat in to solve their offensive woes.
There is no exact solution to this one as there are to Papelbon and Reyes. Both cases there are salary dumps to fill holes, but in this case, the Giants may give up too much. After having dropped Tim Alderson in their farm system for over-the-hill Freddy Sanchez and bringing in Ryan Garko for Scott Barnes, much of the minor league pitching depth that was so highly vaunted is now gone. What remains is uber-prospect Madison Bumgarner, who may have disappointed some fans this year. Lincecum and Cain do provide the most deadly one-two combination in the National League, with maybe only Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee giving them a run for their money. (In a late September series, the Phillies won a series 2-1 on the back of 2-1 and 1-0 wins.) Dropping half of this tandem may prove harmful to the future of this franchise, but if Brad Penny is resigned reasonably and Barry Zito continues moving his contract from God-awful to awful to not-so-awful, the Giants may have some wiggle room here.
This year proved two things for the San Francisco Giants. Their pitching is quite possibly the best in the Major Leagues, with a very dangerous short series rotation, and that their hitting is quite possibly the worst in the Major Leagues, less dangerous than AARP softball league teams. This needs to be solved.