Friday, December 31, 2004

The Hall of Fame and Chicago politics 

Things are very slow right now, in terms of Rangers news, but the Hall of Fame balloting is a popular topic right now, so I thought I'd take a look at the Chicago Tribune's piece on how each of their folks voted. It is an interesting look at the mindset of the folks who vote, for better or for worse.

Bill Adee, sports editor for the Tribune, shows the hometown bias at work, voting for Wade Boggs, Ryne Sandberg, Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage, Lee Smith, and Andre Dawson. Sandberg, Sutter, Dawson and Smith all spent much or all of their careers with the Cubs, Gossage spent several seasons with the Cubs and White Sox, and Boggs is the "no brainer" vote this year. Sutter, in particular, is a questionable choice, despite his popularity with the Chicago media...yes, he helped redefine the "closer" in the late-70s and early-80s, but he really was only a top reliever during a 10 year span, and only cracked the 150 mark in ERA+ three times. His career was too short, and not dominant enough during those years, to be a HOFer.

Mike Downey, a writer for the Tribune, voted for just Sandberg, Dawson, and the overrated Jim Rice. What is more notable is the players he didn't vote for -- Boggs, who he admits will probably make it in, but whom he is not voting for, "if only as a nod to Santo and Sandberg", lifetime Cubs players who haven't yet gotten in. Downey's mindset appears to be, Boggs isn't so much better than Santo and Sandberg that he deserves to get in on the first ballot, which is odd, but is also how the HOF voting has devolved over the years...now it isn't a matter of whether a player is a HOFer (which Boggs, one of the greatest 3B ever, clearly is), but whether he is a "first ballot" HOFer, or whether he deserves to be a unanimous HOFer.

Downey also says that, for the first time, he's not voting for Steve Garvey, a player whose HOF credentials are incredibly puny, and yet who has garnered a little bit of support year-in and year-out. You'd think that a first baseman who never cracked the top 10 in OBP, who was in the top 10 of OPS just once and slugging only twice, and who really wasn't much of a home run hitter wouldn't even get consideration for the Hall of Fame, but the votes he continues to get are proof that some writers still think that hits, RBIs, and leadership are what make a player great.

Crusty oldtimer Philip Hersh confesses to easing up on his standards in his old age, voting for seven players: Boggs, Sandberg, Smith, Gossage, Sutter, Don Mattingly, and Alan Trammell. Trammell is a worthy choice, a guy who seems to have carried on the tradition of earlier Tiger stars like Al Kaline and Hank Greenberg, players who were great, even dominant, but who seem to have slipped from our collective memories as time goes on. Trammell has the misfortune of coming into the American League at shortstop around the same time Robin Yount and Cal Ripken, Jr., were raising the standards for the position, and finishing his career just as Nomar, ARod and Jeter were arriving to take production from the position to another level. But in the meantime, Trammell was someone who just did everything well -- very good glove, hit for average, drew walks, hit for power, was a good basestealer. Trammell's problem, as with other players of his ilk such as Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker, is that there's no one great strength or stat you can point to...didn't get 3000 hits or 300 homers, never won an MVP or a batting title, and although he was the MVP of the 1984 World Series, more people remember Kirk Gibson or Jack Morris from that team than Trammell. Trammell was just a guy who did everything very well, and is overlooked as a result...20 years from now, I wouldn't be surprised if we were having this same discussion about Bobby Abreu.

Dan McGrath doesn't like Boggs, because he was selfish and didn't drive in runs, but is holding his nose and voting for him, along with Sandberg, Sutter, Dawson, and Rice. McGrath claims that Dawson deserves to be in because"he was the best player in the game until the unforgiving turf at Montreal's Olympic Stadium ravaged his knees." Regardless of what Olympic Stadium did to his knees, calling him the best player in the game before then simply is wrong. Dawson had a terrific combination of power and speed, and was a great defensive centerfielder, but he couldn't draw a walk to save his life, and his power numbers never quite measured up to others of his era. Looking at his best years, in the early-80s, he was a notch behind Dale Murphy, Mike Schmidt, Tim Raines, Rickey Henderson...really, he wasn't even the best player on his Expos teams. Gary Carter was. And the MVP award he won in 1987 was one of the all-time examples of egregious voting. Dawson was a very, very good player...think of Vernon Wells, if Wells ends up being as good as we think he'll be. But it isn't the Hall of very good...and Dawson, quite simply falls short.

Strangely, McGrath claims that Phil Rogers almost talked him into voting for Jack Morris and Bert Blyleven, but he ultimately decided against it. Why? Because "neither of them ever won a Cy Young Award, and I think you need to be able to say you were the best pitcher in the league in at least one year to be a Hall of Famer." I guess McGrath didn't vote for Nolan Ryan, then...and I guess, if Dawson hadn't won that bogus MVP award in 1987, then McGrath would be passing on him, as well...

Fred Mitchell voted for 10, the maximum allowed -- Sandberg, Boggs, Smith, Sutter, Dawson, Rice, Bert Blyleven, Tommy John, Dave Parker, and Dale Murphy. Murphy and Parker are similar cases...both were greats for a while, but weren't great enough for long enough to make it into the Hall. Blyleven is a worthy selection, maintaining a level of pitching excellence for two decades with mostly mediocre teams. As I've said before, Blyleven is as good as, or better than, contemporary HOFers Gaylord Perry, Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton, Steve Carlton, Phil Neikro, and Fergie Jenkins. He deserves to be in. John is a close call, but is one of those guys who comes just short...he was very good for a long time, but didn't quite reach the level of greatness needed, although he'll be remembered for generations for giving his name to the eponymous Tommy John surgery pitchers so often undergo.

Phil Rogers picked 9: Boggs, Sandberg, Sutter, Dawson, Gossage, Blyleven, Smith, Jack Morris, Trammell. Darryl Strawberry, it appears, would have been Rogers 10th, although Strawberry clearly didn't have a HOF career. Neither, for that matter, did Jack Morris, who seems to be the pitching version of Steve Garvey...a guy who was good, sometimes very good, but not great -- he ended his career with an ERA+ of just 105. But he was the #1 starter for some very good teams, and as Rogers noted, started game 1 of the World Series for three different teams, making him the bellwether selection for the "wins and intangibles" crowd.

Paul Sullivan, a baseball writer for the Tribune, voted for the same six as Adee -- Boggs, Sandberg, Sutter, Gossage, Smith and Dawson. He also laments the injustice of Bruce Sutter not getting voted in, and suggests that Dennis Eckersley's first ballot entry last year should help Sutter. What Sullivan ignores, however, is that Eckersley's career was twice as long as Sutter's; that Eckersley was a dominant reliever for 12 years, to Sutter's 10, and was better in his best year's than Sutter was in his best; and that Eckersley was a great starting pitcher well before he converted to a closer.

Special correspondent Dave van Dyck nominates Boggs, Dawson, Gossage, John, Sandberg, Smith and Sutter, plus writes in a vote for the banned Pete Rose. Curiously, he calls his vote for Boggs a "reluctant" vote, claiming that Boggs was never a "superstar", then turns around and heralds the "dominance" of Andre Dawson. It seems to have become fashionable to dismiss Boggs as a lightweight, a singles hitter who is getting in to the Hall just because he hung on long enough to collect 3000 hits. And some of the more unsavory things surrounding him -- the Margo Adams fiasco, the fact that he basically auctioned off his HOF hat rights to the Devil Rays -- no doubt contribute to that attitude.

But Wade Boggs was a legitimate great player -- more "dominant" than Andre Dawson, no doubt. He was an on base machine, hitting in the mid-.300s consistently while piling up the walks, finishing first in the league in OBP six times, along with a second, third and fourth place finish. He ended his career 26th all time in OBP, and is behind only five players who began their career in the last forty years. Plus, he had doubles power, and played a pretty decent third base, as well. He never got much respect in the MVP balloting, but then, in the 80s, folks were a lot more interested in RBI totals than in OBP. Boggs was a legitimately great player, one of the five best third basemen of all time, and a worthy first ballot Hall of Famer.

Finally, Bob Verdi selects Boggs, Sandberg, Rice, Dawson, Sutter, Smith, and Gossage. The fascination with Jim Rice is interesting...I remember, growing up in the 70s and 80s, the fear that Jim Rice struck in me when the BoSox came to town. I understand the emotional pull he has. But I can also go back and look at his career...only 12 years of being an elite player, and those while playing left field, one of the least challenging defensive positions, and while playing in the best hitter's park in the A.L. in those days, Fenway Park. He didn't walk much, and so, despite being a career .298 hitter, he cracked the top 10 in OBP only twice, never finishing higher than ninth. And while he was a feared slugger working with a short left field fence in his home park, his slugging percentages were rarely overwhelming -- he finished in the top 10 just 8 times in his career, and first only twice. He was a mediocre baserunner, an indifferent fielder, and he hit into a ton of double plays -- including a whopping 102 over one three year stretch.

Some suggest Rice is hurt because he didn't choose to "hang on" towards the end of his career, but the reality is he didn't have much choice. He posted EQAs of .274, .271, and .235 in his age 34-36 seasons, with his power rapidly disappearing. For a guy with no defensive value, no speed, and unimpressive on base skills, who was also known for being something of a jackass, diminished power meant his career was over. And his relatively early end means that he finished up with only 382 homers, a very small amount for a guy whose credentials are almost exclusively based on his power.

Jim Rice was a very good player in his day...but the modern players he is comparable to are guys like Moises Alou and Raul Mondesi, very good players who aren't Hall of Famers. Rice's reputation is the direct result of his posting terrific triple crown stats on a very good team in a prominent media market. He's not a Hall of Famer.

If I had a vote, I'd pick Boggs, Trammell, Gossage, and Blyleven. But, alas, I don't...so my votes have to be cast out into the cyberwind, I'm afraid...


Thursday, December 30, 2004

Two Yankee moves with possible Texas impacts 

The Yankees are, apparently, getting Randy Johnson after all.

New York is supposedly sending Javier Vazquez, Dioner Navarro, Brad Halsey, and $9 million to the D-Backs for the Big Unit, a pretty unimpressive haul for Arizona. Arizona should have been able to get Eric Duncan as part of the deal.

Arizona is apparently going to then look to ship Vazquez elsewhere, with Texas being among the teams supposedly interested. Vazquez is owed $34.5 million over the next three years, with the $9 million subsidy dropping that to $25.5 million. I've liked Vazquez for a while, although he was horrible in the second half of last season, and is a flyball pitcher, which the Rangers are trying to stay away from. Even with his tendency to give up homers, though, I'd like to see Texas make a run at him...he doesn't walk anyone, and his K/BB ratios prior to last season have consistently been very good. The concern about Vazquez is going to be whether his problems last season were due to health issues, and if so, if he's back to 100% now.

Arizona supposedly wants to try to compete this season, so I wouldn't be surprised if the Soriano trade rumors started back up, with him going to Arizona as part of a proposed deal for Vazquez.

The Yankees are also apparently close to signing Tino Martinez, whom the Rangers were interested in as a DH. Martinez is terrible, and bringing him in as the DH would do nothing but provide the clubhouse with another crusty veteran with "intangibles" and "leadership"...


Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Actual Rangers news!!! On Delgado... 

Carlos Delgado's agent is saying that Delgado remains interested in the Rangers...

However, he says that it's a "lack of money" that is preventing Delgado from going forward with the Rangers...

The (very brief) piece in the DMN says that Delgado's agent claims several teams are willing to go to four or five years on Delgado, and the Mets supposedly offered 3 years at $10-12 million per year.

At the very least, I hope the Rangers have matched the Mets' offer. And I tend to believe that Delgado is sincere in wanting to come here...he's a great fit for the park, and from what I've read about him, I tend to believe that he'd be a better fit in a more low-key market like DFW than in New York.

I'd be willing to see the Rangers go 4 years, $40 million on him...maybe even 4/45, or 3/33 with a vesting option for the fourth year...

But Delgado is the one guy left on the board that the Rangers should be going after heavily. If they bring Delgado in, I'll take back some of the bad things I've said about mangement this offseason.


Puffery and nonsense from texasrangers.com 

Nevermind that it was a major weakness last season, and that the Rangers have done little to upgrade it in the offseason...according to Jesse Sanchez, writer for the Rangers' website, the pitiful 2005 Ranger outfield "could rival the infield in popularity and production".

He's talking, of course, about David Dellucci, Richard Hidalgo, Gary Matthews, Jr., Laynce Nix, and Kevin Mench. Mench is described as "arguably the best overall defensive outfielder in the group", which, if true, means that Laynce Nix needs to be moved to a corner outfield spot immediately, and Matthews Jr. has no business in the major leagues.

Adding to the silliness, Assistant G.M. Jon Daniels claims that "it is safe to say that the outfield has become an area of strength for the organization", a statement that would put him in the running for the post of Iraq Minister of Information, if it still existed.

How puny is the Ranger outfielding corps? In 2004, those five outfielders had a combined VORP -- runs over replacement level offensive production -- of 67.3, with only Mench (29.0) and Matthews (15.3) posting a VORP over 10. In comparison, Mike Young, part of the infield that this group is supposedly going to rival in production, posted a 60.1 VORP by himself. Travis Hafner, the DH we discarded because we didn't have room for him, posted a VORP of 70.9.

Looking at RAP (Runs Above Position), the five combined to be an aggregate 24.3 runs below average for their positions last year. In other words, the area which Daniels claims is a team "strength" was, as a group, subpar with the bat in 2004.

If you look at WARP, which combines offensive and defensive contributions into a "Wins Above Replacement Player" number, the outfield looks a little better, at 15.2. Of course, just the four starting infielders for the Rangers posted a 24.9 WARP last season, and Barry Bonds alone had a WARP of 15.1, so again, that isn't very impressive.

So we are going into 2005 with a group of outfielders who performed pretty poorly last season. Now, there is some reason to hope for improvement. Mench is a solid, if unspectacular, corner outfielder. Nix, despite his awful second half, is considered a potential Jim Edmonds-type player in centerfield, and could come on very quickly with the bat. Hidalgo was great in 2000 and 2003, and if he can come close to producing the way he did then, the Rangers will be in great shape in right field.

But overall, the outfield is an area of concern. And I'm pretty disappointed that the Rangers front office, and the "reporters" they pay to write for their website, are insulting our intelligence by pretending otherwise.


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Team payrolls from 2000 through 2004 

Today's Star-Telegram has an article on the Yankees paying $25 million in luxury tax for 2004, which also features a chart of the payroll from all MLB teams from 2000 through 2004.

Their number for the Rangers seems awfully high...I'll see if I can figure out where they got that from...


Monday, December 27, 2004

Eric Milton to the Reds -- 3 years, $25.5 million 

Another godawful pitcher contract, as Eric Milton signs a 3 year, $25.5 million deal with the Reds.

No doubt there will be moaning about why the Rangers didn't go after him, but Milton is someone I wanted Texas to stay far away from. He's one of these guys who has earned a reputation for being a top-of-the-rotation starter despite unimpressive results -- a career ERA of 4.76, ERA+ of 99, and a susceptibility for the long ball. As a pretty extreme flyball pitcher, I thought he'd be a terrible match in Texas, and I'm glad we stayed clear.

Milton's 92 ERA+ last season, and 91 ERA+ in 2002 (he was injured most of 2003, pitching in only three games) means that he fits in nicely with Paul Wilson, who was rewarded for four straight 92 ERA+ seasons with a two year, $8.2 million deal. Remarkably, Milton's deal makes Wilson's -- which was pretty widely condemned -- look like a bargain in comparison.

Cincy's new park is also a very homer-friendly environment, so after giving up 43 homers last season in Philly, Milton could conceivably break 50 in 2005.

Rotoworld says that this might be the worst signing of the offseason. I think it is pretty close between this deal and the Russ Ortiz signing, personally...


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Merry Christmas... 

And with the holidays here, I'll be out of pocket for a couple of days.

So barring some major move, updates will likely be scarce or non-existant until Sunday...


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Josh Phelps to the D-Rays 

Josh Phelps now off the market...

Another player the Rangers should have been interested in has gone elsewhere.

Although I guess, when you have the likes of David Dellucci and Greg Colbrunn manning the DH slot, you don't need to be interested in a good young hitter like Phelps...


Wade Miller to the Red Sox 

Wade Miller signs with Boston.

One year, $1.5 million guaranteed, $3 million in incentives.

Texas should have offered him $5 million guaranteed, plus an option.

Once again, Hart appears to be asleep at the switch.


Johnson deal dead, and Yanks mad at the Dodgers 

The Dodgers have apparently reneged on their end of the Big Unit deal, apparently over concerns about Javier Vazquez not wanting to come to L.A.

And thus, the Big Unit to the Yanks deal is dead for now, and the Yanks are pissed at the Dodgers, suggesting that they won't deal with L.A. any more because they can't be trusted...

Poor, poor Yankees...I'm sure someone else will stick their nose in this thing, though, and facilitate a trade...

Wouldn't be surprised if Beane got involved in this deal, getting Vazquez, Navarro and Duncan (with the Yanks paying a chunk of Vazquez's salary) and sending Zito and something else -- Durazo? Kotsay? -- to the D-Backs.

Navarro would seem to be a great fit, if only because he can be added to the A's collection of catching prospects, joining Jeremy Brown, John Baker, Daric Barton, Landon Powell, and Kurt Suzuki...


Randa signs with the Reds 

In what passes for good news this offseason, the Reds have signed Joe Randa to play third base for them this season.

This means that the Rangers can't sign him to DH and backup the corner infield spots, something that wouldn't have done anything to help the team.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Expos/Nationals to Washington back on 

The D.C. Council has approved a new stadium finance deal.

Supposedly, everyone is happy...

I guess the Nationals can open their offices back up and resume business...


Ryne Sandberg, Crotchety Old Man 

In a column on Ryne Sandberg's Hall of Fame chances, Sandberg goes into crotchety old man mode, talking about how, in his day, you were supposed to be able to execute the hit and run and be "baseball players, not just home run hitters"...


The non-tender list 

Forty one players were non-tendered yesterday, with a handful of them being guys that the Rangers should be interested in.

Wade Miller and David Eckstein, I talked about yesterday. Miller is a guy the Rangers should try to sign to a multi-year deal, Eckstein would be a decent option at second base if they ever get around to trading Soriano.

Josh Phelps, I also talked about earlier. He crushes lefthanders and can be an emergency third catcher. I'd like to see the Rangers try to bring him in as a DH candidate...although, since he's under 35, Hart and Buck probably aren't terribly interested in him.

Eric Munson was non-tendered by the Tigers. He's sort of like a not-quite-as-good Phelps, although he can also play some third base. Munson was the #3 overall pick in the nation in 1999, right after Josh Beckett, and a few picks ahead of Barry Zito and Ben Sheets. A power-hitting catcher, he ended up not ever really developing as a hitter, and not being able to catch very well, ultimately moving to third base. Like Phelps, he's got some untapped potential the Rangers might feel they can reach, and the specter of Phil Nevin hangs over guys like Munson, so there's always the suspicion that he might put it all together eventually. If nothing else, he's a better option than Joe Randa to fill the Herb Perry righthanded corner infielder backup job, since unlike Randa, he actually has something that might resemble an upside.

Pitching prospect Rett Johnson was non-tendered by the Mariners. The U.S.S. Mariner guys like Johnson's arm, and he's someone who would be worth an NRI and a look in a relief role in Oklahoma.

Alex Cora had a pretty good season as the Dodgers' second baseman, and him being non-tendered is a bit of a surprise. He just turned 29, can play either middle infield position, and had a decent year with the bat. Maybe DePodesta thinks he's due for an off year, since from 2001 through 2004, his OBPs have been .285, .371, .287, .364. Like Eckstein, someone worth looking at at second base if Soriano gets dealt.


Monday, December 20, 2004

This is what I want to see... 

Soriano to the Mets for Cliff Floyd, with the Mets picking up half of the $13 million Floyd is owed over the next two years. Floyd takes over at DH.

David Eckstein signed on a one year deal to play second base.

Wade Miller signed on a two year, $10 million deal with a third year, $8 million option that vests based if Miller starts 50 games in 2005-2006, with a $1 million buyout.

Yes, the Miller deal is a big risk, but when healthy, he's a legit #2 starter, and it isn't as if the Rangers are going to do anything with the money if they don't spend it on Miller.

The Rangers aren't going to get a quality starting pitcher from outside the organization without rolling the dice. Miller is someone worth rolling the dice on.


Angels sign Cabrera, dump Eckstein 

In their latest mysterious move, the Anaheim Angels have signed free agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera to a 4 year, $32 million deal, and non-tendered incumbent shortstop David Eckstein.

In doing so, Anaheim has added payroll without doing anything to make their team any better.

Comparing Cabrera and Eckstein, one is hard-pressed to figure out why the Angels would be so willing to dump one to give the other a huge contract.

Cabrera is two months older than Eckstein. Eckstein has been in the majors four seasons, and has posted EQAs of .265, .273, .245, and .250 the past four years. Cabrera, meanwhile, has posted EQAs of .256, .249, .276, and .240 during that period. Cabrera has a reputation for being a very good gloveman, but BP has graded him out as below-average the past two seasons; Eckstein has a mediocre defensive reputation, but his defensive stats per BP are similar to Cabrera's the past two years. Eckstein has had a better ZR than Cabrera each of the last two seasons.

Cabrera has the bigger name, and somehow has gotten a reputation for being a top-flight shortstop despite rather average performances throughout his career. One would think that his shiny World Series ring would be at least neutralized by the ring Eckstein won with the Angels in 2002, but that was before Arte Moreno bought the team.

Really, a mystifying, pointless move.


Wade Miller non-tendered 

In a mildly surprising move, the Houston Astros non-tendered starting pitcher Wade Miller.

Miller team with Roy Oswalt to provide the Astros with a great young 1-2 punch in the rotation from 2001-2003, but missed much of the 2004 season with shoulder problems. After making $3.4 million in 2004, he was likely looking at a $5 million salary in 2005, and the Astros decided to cut ties with him rather than risk paying him to sit on the D.L. all year.

Shoulder injuries are always a risky proposition, but Miller's track record is such that I'm surprised the Astros couldn't get anything for him. The Rangers, I'm sure, will talk to him, but will no doubt decide he's out of their price range...I wouldn't be shocked if he ended up making more on the open market than he would have made in arbitration.


No Ranger non-tenders 

According to the S-T, all four Ranger arbitration-eligible players -- Alfonso Soriano, Rod Barajas, Gary Matthews, Jr., and Carlos Almanzar -- will be offered arbitration.

I was a bit worried that Almanzar would be non-tendered, based on some comments from management earlier this offseason, which would have been foolish.


Sunday, December 19, 2004

Comments added to blog 

Now you can comment on new blog entries I make here.

I'm sure you all will be thrilled...


Hal Bodley offbase on MLB's D.C. fiasco 

Noted MLB management apologist Hal Bodley of the USA Today has a column out where he rips the Washington D.C. City Council for failing to approve a stadium deal for the former Montreal Expos.

As I've noted earlier, this is a black eye for Selig, and a blow to his attempts to bully any and every public entity interested in having a major league team into paying for 100% of any stadium.

Bodley, however, is levying the blame on the D.C. City Council, and in particular chairman Linda Cropp, calling her behavior "ruthless and disgraceful".

And what is it that Cropp has done that is so awful? According to Bodley, not rubber-stamp D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams' deal with Selig, whereby D.C. would pay the full cost of building a new stadium.

Bodley sneers that MLB "will have the last laugh", that they'll "find a new home for the Expos where politicians honor agreements and appreciate what a big-league team will do for them."

Nevermind that MLB knew beforehand that Williams didn't have the authority to make a deal, that it had to be approved by the D.C. City Council -- according to Bodley:

"The council had every right to reject this deal if it felt it did not serve the citizens of Washington. Maybe the money could have been spent for more meaningful projects. But an agreement should be an agreement."

Bodley simply glosses over or ignores the fact that MLB had been dragging its feet on this issue for years now, had delayed dealing with Peter Angelos on how the Baltimore Orioles would be compensated for having a new neighbor right next door, had jumped the gun by announcing this as a done deal and moving the Expos' offices to Washington before the deal was ever approved by City Council. He fixates on the fact that the mayor cut a deal with MLB, even though he didn't have ultimate authority to make such a deal, and now wishes to demonize Cropp and Co. for not automatically approving it.

Bodley parrots management's line, declaring that there should be "no compromise", that the D.C. City Council should either accept the deal that Williams and Selig cut or suffer the consequences, which apparently consist of spending tax dollars on things like education and police rather than a baseball stadium.

Unfortunately, Bodley, busy playing the role of management stooge, appears to be in denial about the impact on MLB if this deal collapses. The Expos fiasco has already been a huge embarrassment for Selig, and if the team has nowhere to play in 2005, it will only make it that much worse. Selig has dug in his heels on the issue of public financing, insisting that whatever municipality ends up with the Expos tote 100% of the note. He's rightfully afraid that, should the new Expo owners have to pony up any of the money themselves, it will embolden other cities to stand up to MLB blackmail...after all, they'll say, if the team that was owned by MLB had to pay for some of the stadium construction costs for its new park, why shouldn't the Florida Marlins or the Oakland A's?

I'm hoping that this issue gets resolved before the December 31 deadline, although I'm not real hopeful. And I hope that sportswriters will start taking a little more critical view of how Selig is running MLB...although, once again, I'm not real hopeful.


Another view of the steroid scandal 

According to the Workers World, the only way to fix the problem of steroids in baseball is to have a socialist revolution and remove the profit motive from sports.


Crasnick article on the Rangers 

ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick has a piece entitled "Rangers reinventing themselves".

Crasnick appears to be celebrating the fact that the Rangers won't spend money, and are bringing in "clubhouse chemistry" guys like Sandy Alomar, Jr., rather than guys who can play. John Hart is quoted, claiming that Dallas is L.A. or New York, so the Rangers can't afford big-name free agents. Crasnick talks glowingly about how Showalter has been given the freedom "to bring in his type of player" -- "unassuming, ego-free gamers".

Too bad Showalter's type of player aren't, say, good players. Showalter says himself that the team is going to go after "professional, post-up, show-up-every-day, know-what-you're-getting guys" rather than players with "the kind of sexy resume that a lot of people look for".

And again, this is indicative of Showalter's arrogance...he thinks he's such a genius, he can beat everyone else without actually having that much talent or ability on his team.

I am beginning to believe last season's run is going to end up setting this team back, as it seems to have given Hicks faith in Buck's notion that a cheap team without stars is the way to go, that Buck's gritty gamers who can't really play can somehow prevail over those spoiled superstars with their big numbers.

Nevermind that the guys who carried this team weren't Buck's gritty gamers, but were guys like Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock, Ryan Drese, Francisco Cordero, Mike Young...Buck seems to believe, and Hicks seems to have bought into the notion, that it was the clubhouse chemistry and the intangible contributions of guys like Dellucci and Brian Jordan that made the difference.

I can see why Tom Hicks would want to buy into that notion. After all, it is a hell of a lot cheaper for him to bring in scrubs than guys who can play. He's gotten religion, and seems committed to building a team on the cheap.

But at the end of the day, it is winning teams that are going to bring fans and make money. And Buck's "no-star" philosophy, his notion of throwing a bunch of mediocrities with good attitudes out there, is doomed to failure.

It makes me sad, because we've got some really good, young talent on this team. But Buck's arrogance, his insistence on surrounding himself with "his guys", is going to run this team into the ground, and waste the years when Blalock and Teixeira are under team control and are affordable.

And in the meantime, the Rangers, who should be a "big market" team, are turning themselves into the Pirates.


Reeves ripping the Rangers 

And justifiably so, for their failure to do anything significant this offseason.

And he poses this question, which I've been asking for a while as well:

"Exactly when did the Rangers become Tampa Bay West? Or Milwaukee South?"

Management should be embarrassed about how they've done nothing to improve this team this offseason.

Oakland's recent moves should give us hope for the coming season. Instead, it simply makes it that much more likely than Anaheim will be the only team over .500 this year.


Saturday, December 18, 2004

Mulder traded to St. Louis 

Mark Mulder to the Cards for Dan Haren, Kiko Calero, and Daric Barton.

As with Hudson, a rather underwhelming haul for one of the Big Three.

And Beane once again defies expectations, as it was thought that Zito was the one who would be dealt, and Mulder and Hudson retained.

I don't like this deal at all from the Oakland standpoint.

As a Ranger fan, it makes me happy, and should serve as an impetus for management to do something, since Anaheim, at this point, appears to be the only legitimate contender in the A.L. West.


Free agent starting pitchers remaining 

I got this from a fairly reliable poster on a message board, so while I can't vouch that it is 100% accurate, I think it is probably pretty close...

Free agent starters left on the market right now:

Andy Ashby
Pedro Astacio
Omar Daal
Shawn Estes
Orlando Hernandez
Jose Lima
Esteban Loaiza
Derek Lowe (offered arbitration)
Kevin Millwood
Eric Milton
Hideo Nomo
Darren Oliver
Odalis Perez (offered arbitration)
Todd Ritchie
Aaron Sele
Steve Sparks
Ismael Valdez
Todd Van Poppel
Jamey Wright (offered arbitration)

No one on that list, other than possibly Perez, is a legitimate top-of-the-rotation starter.

I'd have a little interest in Millwood on a one year deal. Not much, but if no one else is out there, maybe.

Other than that, I don't think there's anyone I'd be interested in on that list, given their asking price.


The market breakdown 

Terrific analysis by Jeff Sullivan at leoneforthird.org of the way free agent contracts have been doled out this offseason.

It is a great read, and I'd encourage you to check out the article, but in a nutshell, average free agents are being vastly overpaid this offseason, compared to last offseason.


Updating the payroll situation 

I've added Dellucci and Colbrunn (who will likely start the season as at least a platoon DH) to the 2005 Ranger payroll breakdown:

Player2005 Salary
M. Young$2,500,000
Li'l Sarge$1,000,000*
The Ho$14,000,000
C. Young$400,000

That puts payroll at $51.35 million, with the team still needing another starting pitcher and a utility infielder.

We'll probably add Sele or someone of that ilk as a starting pitcher, for $750,000, and a veteran utility infielder at around $500,000.

That would put payroll at $52.6 million, or less than it was last season.


Dellucci signs, and the Rangers are now done for the offseason 

David Dellucci has signed a two year, $1.8 million deal to stick around as a backup outfielder.

And John Hart claims that Dellucci "likely would be" the last offensive addition the Rangers make.

So, basically, nothing has been done to upgrade the offense.

Way to go, Hart and Hicks...way to do nothing to address the team's problems from last season.


Friday, December 17, 2004

A condescending comment from John Donovan 

In his CNNSI column, in which he goes so far as to suggest that Kevin Malone may have been a better Dodger G.M. than Paul DePodesta, John Donovan makes a condescending remark that indicates how uninformed he thinks his readership is.

Talking about the Tim Hudson trade, he says that Atlanta gave up "a couple of young arms (guys you've probably never heard of)".

Dan Meyer, one of the young arms, is a well regarded prospect who is on the map and quite a few baseball fans have probably heard of.

But Juan Cruz, the second young arm we probably don't know about, was one of the top pitching prospect in all of baseball a few years ago, a heralded righthander who burst on the scene with the Cubs, was the subject of a ton of trade rumors before he went to Atlanta in a deal for Andy Pratt (who has since contracted Steve Blass Disease, and who is a former Ranger prospect shipped to Atlanta for Ben Kozlowski in 2002, in a deal that looked great for Texas until John Hart foolishly put Koz on waivers earlier this year).

Cruz is about to start his fifth season in the majors. He's pitched in 128 major league games, including 23 starts. He made everyone's top 10 prospect lists a couple of years ago.

And yet John Donovan thinks that his readers have never heard of the guy.

Unfortunately, this seems all too typical of how many in the mainstream sports media think of their readership...a tiny sliver of geeks who sit up late at night in their mother's basement calculating Mo Vaughn's career average while the moon is waxing, and the remainder an amorphous collection of dullards who aren't aware of anything that isn't spoon-fed to them by the national baseball writers.


Valentin signs to the Dodgers 

While the Rangers continued to futz around, another one of their targets disappeared, as the Dodgers signed Jose Valentin to a one year deal.

Obviously, the appeal to Valentin, as with Todd Walker, was the guarantee of playing in the field, instead of the DH job the Rangers were offering unless and until Soriano is dealt.

So at this point, it looks like Richard Hidalgo will be the only significant addition for the Rangers this offseason.

Sure am glad to see the team building on last year's success.


Dellucci, Colbrunn, Valentin, and Sele 

Those are apparently the Rangers' remaining moves this offseason.


What a disaster this offseason has been.


Thursday, December 16, 2004

One other Mench note 

According to the Baltimore Sun, Kevin Mench was the Ranger player that the Orioles had targeted when they were offering Matt Riley to the Rangers.


Royals after Mench? 

According to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, the Royals only traded for Eli Marrero after "making no progress last weekend at the winter meetings in pursuing their two long-time trade targets: Kevin Mench of the Texas Rangers and Austin Kearns of the Cincinnati Reds."

Particularly interesting is Dutton's comment that the Rangers want a "No. 1 starter" for Mench.

I know that a lot of teams have been interested in Mench for a while, prompted by his power potential and his having butted heads with both Jerry Narron and Buck Showalter.

But the notion that Hart is holding out for a #1 starter for Mench is pretty remarkable.


Or maybe no RJ trade 

Rotoworld says that the Big Unit trade I just posted about may not be a done deal after all...

We shall see...


D-Backs get fleeced in Big Unit trade 

The Yanks, reportedly, get the Big Unit.

And Jeff Moorad continues having a terrible offseason.

The Yankees are giving up Javier Vazquez -- considered a legitimate #1 starter as recently as July -- along with top prospects Eric Duncan and Dioner Navarro to get Randy Johnson.

However, for some unexplainable reason, the D-Backs aren't getting Vazquez, Navarro and Duncan.

Instead, the Dodgers have been brought in to make this a three-way deal, and are sending Shawn Green (and his awful contract), Brad Penny (and his arm problems), and Yhency Brazoban to the D-Backs.

As a poster on a Rangers message board noted, only the D-Backs could trade Randy Johnson and still increase their payroll.

This is an absolute trainwreck of a deal for Arizona, a complete, unmitigated disaster.

It is a steal for the Dodgers.

I have a hard time believing this.


Another note on Richie Sexson 

The seven closest comps to Richie Sexson through age 29:

Mo Vaughn
Cecil Fielder
Tino Martinez
Lee May
Tony Clark
Ryan Klesko
Glenn Davis

That's a lot of bad seasons from age 30 on...


Tim Hudson now a Brave 

The Athletics have traded Tim Hudson to Braves for Dan Meyer, Juan Cruz, and Charles Thomas.

A rather underwhelming return in exchange for one of the best, most consistent, and still pretty young starters in the game.

This is also nice because Atlanta has a history of letting its free agents walk, meaning that Texas can make a push to bring Hudson to town after 2005, with all the money they aren't spending this offseason.


A's pickup Ginter for two prospects 

Oakland traded reliever Justin Lehr and outfield prospect Nelson Cruz to the Brewers for Keith Ginter today.

Ginter is a pretty decent hitting second baseman who can't really field. He's one of those useful, random parts that Beane likes to pick up and find a way to work into his lineup.

Neither Cruz nor Lehr are anything all that special. Cruz posted a 900+ OPS this season in both high-A and AA, but he's already 24, so he's still a bit behind where he should be. Lehr is just organizational depth, a righty arm that throws hard.

Nice pickup for the A's. Ginter is someone who would have been a good fit on the Rangers. Too bad they are more interested in the Joe Randas of the world.


Mariners sign Beltre 

5 years, $64 million according to Ken Rosenthal.

Personally, I think that's a pretty heavy bet on a guy with only one good season under his belt, even if he's 25 and lost time because of a botched appendectomy.

Mariner blogger Jeff Sullivan likes it. As will the U.S.S. Mariner guys.

We'll see how it goes. I'd be pretty leery, though, if I were a Mariner fan.


The Nationals fiasco 

MLB has shut down operations for the Washington Nationals, in the wake of a D.C. city council vote that approved a stadium deal requiring one-half of the cost of building a stadium to come from private financing.

Selig is throwing a tantrum in response, apparently hoping to scare the D.C. City Council into caving on this issue, so that public funds will be spent on a baseball field rather than on more pressing needs in our national's capitol.

This is just one more in a series of fiascos stemming from MLB's ridiculous agreement to let Jeffrey Loria, who ran the Expos into the ground, sell the team to the league so that he could buy the Florida Marlins in 2002.

The Expos were supposed to be playing elsewhere in 2003, then 2004, and have split time between Montreal and San Juan the past two years under an asinine plan to try to build interest in Puerto Rico.

This latest problem is all Selig's doing...he is the person who insisted that the Expos would only move somewhere where governments paid 100% of the costs for a new stadium. He wasn't going to let his comrades down by letting the Expos go to a municipality that would require private financing, lest other cities get that idea and quit footing 100% of the bill. Things like steroids and labor relations may not be Selig's strong suit, but when it comes to making sure his fellow owners get a stadium for free, that's where he draws the line.

So we'll see what happens. Either way, this is a black eye for Selig and baseball. Season tickets have been sold, team offices have been relocated, schedules have been printed...and now, Selig is apparently threatening to uproot the team again and send them to parts unknown for 2005. Steve Wilstein's acidly funny column suggests that the Expos will barnstorm next season, roaming from town to town playing games before whomever will show up.

Better that, than having Selig lose face in Washington, right?


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Seattle gets Sexson 

Richie Sexson signs with Seattle for four years, $50 million.

Stop me if you've heard me say this before this offseason, but...

That's a terrible deal.

At this point, I'm just about ready to see Texas punt the offseason, in terms of free agent signing.

This also makes the ARod trade look that much worse in comparison...if we dumped Soriano now, the savings from the ARod trade would allow us to have signed Sexson and Cristian Guzman.

Or Russ Ortiz and Kris Benson.

Or just Carlos Delgado (based on his current demands).

Or Edgar Renteria and Jaret Wright.

Or Jermaine Dye and Troy Glaus.

Just a reminder...


Another Soriano rumor 

From Bob Nightengale of the USA Today...

He says that Padres are offering Brian Lawrence and Jay Payton for Alfonso Soriano...

Payton would be an okay 4th outfielder, if expensive at $3.5 million for 2005, while Lawrence is owed $5.75 million over the next two years, plus a $5.7 million option or a $550K buyout in 2007.

Lawrence has been a tad below league average the past two seasons, but he's an extreme groundball pitcher with a reasonable contract, someone who would probably adjust pretty well to pitching in TBIA.

I'd rather not take Payton -- if they wanted to deal Klesko instead ($16.5 million over the next two years) and eat some of his deal, I'd prefer that -- but it isn't a bad scenario. If San Diego would kick in a prospect as part of the deal, I'd probably do it.

Nightengale was supposedly on San Diego radio saying that there's a good chance the deal will go down in the next week...this is something worth keeping an eye on...


Renteria to the BoSox for 4 years, $40 million 

What a bad signing.

Theo Epstein has generally done a very good job as G.M. for the BoSox, but this is a terrible deal.

Renteria garnered a lot of buzz as being possibly the best shortstop in the N.L. in 2002 and 2003, when he posted back to back .285/.309 EQAs while playing gold glove defense for the Cards.

Those two seasons were in his age 26-27 seasons -- a player's expected peak seasons -- while reverting to a .255 EQA in 2004. That .255 EQA is quite similar to his performance before 2002, as he's posted EQAs from 1996-2001 of .273, .246, .255, .255, .258, and .245.

If Renteria plays the next four years like he did in 2003, then the 4 year, $40 million deal will end up being a good one for Boston. More likely, he's going to be a .250-.270 EQA player for the next four seasons, and Boston will be trying to unload his contract by late 2006.

I don't know what Theo is thinking other, other than possibly that money doesn't matter when you are going against the Yankees...

Bad move, regardless...


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Josh Phelps designated for assignment 

The Cleveland Indians have signed shortstop Jose Hernandez, and to make room for him, they have designated Josh Phelps for assignment, giving them 10 days to trade him or waive him.

Phelps has no real position, although he can play some 1B and catch in a pinch. But he mashes lefties, and would be a great option for the righty bat off the bench/platoon DH role that they are supposedly talking to Joe Randa about.

The Rangers need to see what it would take to pick him up and bring him to town.


Mets' Minaya getting suckered by Pedro Martinez 

Pedro Martinez has reportedly agreed to join the Mets with a four year, $54 million deal.

A truly insane gamble for Omar Minaya, the new Mets G.M., who has already thrown money away on an injury-prone pitcher when he gave Kris Benson a 3 year, $21 million deal.

Unlike Benson, Pedro Martinez is actually a very good pitcher. But he also reportedly has a labrum tear, and radio reports indicate that a condition of the deal is that the Mets cannot do an MRI of Pedro's shoulder as part of the physical Pedro must undergo.

What kind of team would agree to that sort of condition, particularly with an older pitcher whose durability and the soundness of his shoulder have been questionable the past few years?

Even Jayson Stark is lambasting the deal, calling it the worst contract since Mike Hampton signed with the Rockies in 2000. Stark reports that Pedro's labrum tear is as much as 90%, meaning that every pitch his arm is literally hanging by a thread.

If Pedro gives the Mets two full, healthy seasons, it will be an upset. But hopefully, the acquisition of Pedro will fuel the desire by Minaya to bring Alfonso Soriano to town...


Monday, December 13, 2004

Valentin says best offer has come from the Rangers 

According to a report out of the Dominican Republican, Jose Valentin is saying that the Rangers have made him the best offer since he became a free agent.

Hopefully, that's a sign that they are expecting Soriano to be dealt so, and that they are expecting Valentin to take over at shortstop.


No Rangers selected in the Rule 5 draft 

Good news for us Erik Thompson and Juan Senreiso fans...

The Rangers selected no one, and no one selected a Ranger.

The Cubs lost two high-ceiling pitchers, Andy Sisco (to the Royals) and Luke Hagerty (to the Orioles). Three Dodgers were selected, and seven other organizations lost one player apiece, with the most notable probably being Ty Godwin, the former Ranger first rounder who Texas failed to sign. Godwin was popped by the Nationals (damn, that looks weird).


Shawn Estes update 

The S-T is reporting that Shawn Estes is looking for a $6-9 million contract, and thus the Rangers, who have had interest in him, are looking elsewhere.

It seems like John Hart has been trying to get Estes ever since Hart came to town, and I can't figure out why.

Shawn Estes is a bad pitcher. He was great in his first full season, back in 1997, when he posted an ERA+ of 130.

Since then, he has posted ERA+s of 80, 84, 100, 100, 78, 74, and 86.

He walks a ton of batters -- his career rate is 4.7 walks per 9 innings. And he combines that with an underwhelming strikeout rate of 6.7 strikeouts per 9 innings. About the only thing positive is that he has a very high ground ball to fly ball ratio, which is probably why Hart is enamored with him. But even that doesn't make up for the fact that he walks to many batters and is quite hittable.

I'm not sure whether the fact that Estes thinks he can get a lucrative contract is more of an indictment on his grasp of reality, or the way G.M.s are spending money this offseason. Either way, though, I hope the Rangers stay far, far away from Estes.


Soriano to the Mets supposedly heating up again 

According to the Star-Ledger, the Rangers have decided that they are interested in dealing Alfonso Soriano to the Mets, supposedly targeting either Mike Piazza or Cliff Floyd.

Piazza has one year left on his current contract at $16 million, and Floyd is owed $13 million over the next two years on his deal.

Floyd is the more attractive option, to me. Piazza is to the point where he's probably not an everyday catcher anymore, and as a 36 year old DH candidate whose EQA has dropped six out of the last seven years, all the way down to .279 last season, the Mets would have to pick up a bunch of his contract, and send something else along with him for me to be interested.

Floyd, on the other hand, is younger, and while he's coming off of a season where he posted a .280 EQA, basically the same as Piazza, he also struggled with injuries last season. Floyd has been injury-prone his entire career, but letting him DH the majority of the time should help. At age 32, he seems a reasonable bet to return to his career level of production -- even including last year's offseason, he has a .293 career EQA -- and his lefty power bat and solid OBP would be a great fit for TBIA and this lineup.

The Mets have supposedly been willing to pay part of Floyd's contract to get him out of town, so if we could send Soriano to the Mets for Floyd plus $4-5 million, I'd be all over that deal.

Then, the Rangers could sign Jose Valentin as the starting shortstop, where he offers some pop and pretty decent defense, instead of as a DH, where he'd be wasted.

The Rangers could go into next season with a lineup of:

Young 2B
Blalock 3B
Teixeira 1B
Floyd DH
Hidalgo RF
Mench LF
Valentin SS
Nix CF
Barajas C

I could live with that.


Saturday, December 11, 2004

Rangers interested in Matt Riley 

According to the Baltimore Sun, the Rangers and Orioles discussed a deal sending Matt Riley to the Rangers.

Supposedly, though, "no deal appeared close", and they didn't identified the Ranger player the Orioles were interested in.

Riley's not that great, and I wouldn't want the Rangers to give up much for him.


Pavano to the Yanks -- 4 years, $44 million 

Another unbelievable contract.

Pavano was 7th in the N.L. in ERA last season, but also had one of the highest ratios of DIPS ERA to actual ERA in the league, a sign that Pavano was benefitted from very good luck and/or very good defense last season.

In a career plagued by injury after he was sent to the Expos with Tony Armas Jr. by the BoSox for Pedro Martinez, Pavano has been consistently disappointing, posting a career ERA+ of 100; before this season's 137 ERA+, he'd only had one season in six where he posted an ERA+ of better than 100.

Pavano sports a low walk rate, a mediocre strikeout rate (he ranked 31st out of 45 eligible N.L. pitchers in K/9, squeezing right between Paul Wilson and Cory Lidle), and a track record of not being able to stay healthy, nor of being terribly effective when he is healthy.

Yet, one strong season, along with scouting reports commending his tremendous stuff, was enough to get the Yanks to commit to a bigger contract than the one they awarded Javier Vazquez -- a guy with a much stronger track record than Pavano, and a guy that they now want to unload.

I thought Russ Ortiz's 4 year, $33 million deal -- on the heels of three straight average seasons, and with little to recommend him other than durability and the good fortune of pitching in great pitcher's parks with lots of run support -- was the worst deal of the offseason. This one, however, surpasses it, no question.

The Yankees are going to be trying to unload Pavano and his contract in 18 months, I guarantee.


Rangers in talks with Colorado about Chacon 

The S-T is reporting that the Rangers continue to have talks about Colorado righthander Shawn Chacon.

Chacon was a disaster as a closer last season for Colorado, posting a 7.11 ERA and a 71 ERA+ in 63 innings, walking as many as he struck out.

However, in his previous three seasons, he had been solid, if unspectacular, as a starter for the Rockies, posting ERA+s of 103, 85 and 103, and had done a pretty good job of keeping the ball in the park, as well.

Hart has been interested in Chacon for a few years now, and the Rangers seem to believe he'd be a good fit in TBIA. It is always hard to evalute Colorado pitchers, but Chacon's splits have been pretty level both at Coors and on the road; an optimist can interpret that to mean that he can pitch acceptably in a good hitting environment, while a pessimist would view his splits as proof that his numbers are simply not going to be good anywhere.

The S-T identifies a few prospects that Colorado has inquired about. Josh Rupe, Ian Kinsler, and Juan Dominguez are players who would not be worth giving up for Chacon -- all of them are close to major-league ready, and are too valuable to give up for a guy who would only be a #4 starter.

But Kelvin Jimenez, the other player mentioned as a possibility, wouldn't be such a loss. Jimenez, a 24 year old from the Dominican Republic, has intrigued the Rangers for a while with his live arm, but has yet to put together quality results in the minors. His walk totals have been consistently too high, and his ERA unimpressive at every level. He may be a candidate for a Frankie Francisco-like conversion to the pen, where he might be more successful.

But Jimenez is the type of fringe prospect whose best utility is likely to add someone like Chacon, and if the Rangers gave him up to get Chacon, I wouldn't have a problem with that.

The biggest issue with Chacon is his arbitration-eligible status. Dealing for Chacon, you run the risk of getting stuck paying him $4-4.5 million as a result of arbitration, which is more than he's worth.

But given the other options out there on the market, taking a one-year flyer on Chacon, even at $4 million, may not be a bad idea.


Indians send Lawton to Pittsburgh for Rhodes 

OF Matt Lawton has been dealt from Cleveland to Pittsburgh for lefty reliever Arthur Rhodes.

The Indians have been wanting to dump Lawton's salary for a while, and Rhodes is a good fit for them, since their bullpen has been a mess. Rhodes can step in and be a lefty short reliever who can solidify them in the 7th and 8th innings.

I'm curious to see whether Pittsburgh hangs on to Lawton, or moves him again. Lawton would be a great fit for the Rangers, as he could handle a corner outfield slot and hit leadoff. I wouldn't mind seeing the Rangers send Pittsburgh a fringe prospect and take on Lawton, with the Pirates paying a couple million of his salary.


Updating the Ranger 2005 payroll situation 

With the Rangers signing Hidalgo to either a $4.5 or $5 million deal for 2005, I've updated my payroll chart to incorporate him:

Player2005 Salary
M. Young$2,500,000
Li'l Sarge$1,000,000*
The Ho$14,000,000
C. Young$400,000

That leaves the Rangers with four slots to fill -- utility infielder, starting pitcher, DH, and 25th man.

This puts the team at $49.8 million, or $55.8 million if you include the $6 million the team owes the Yankees for the stupid ARod trade.

However, it also assumes that Soriano stays, something that I don't necessarily think is a slam dunk. If Soriano gets traded, payroll drops to $41.8 million, with the team needing to find a 2B or a SS...Jose Valentin, for example. That also leaves the Rangers with about $15 million to spend in a starting pitcher and DH.

We'll see if they actually do it.


The Transaction Oracle on Hidalgo 

The Oracle likes the signing, at least in comparison to the Dye deal.

He offers the same rationale as I have for endorsing the deal...it is a one year gamble on a guy who has shown in the past that he can be a great player.

His ZiPS projection for Hidalgo in 2005 put him at .276/.346/.501, numbers that I think the Rangers could live with from their right fielder.


Friday, December 10, 2004

Eric Young to the Padres 

EY has supposedly signed with San Diego for one year, $1 million.

Good pickup for the Padres. Young is a nice guy to have around in a utility role, and had a solid season off the bench for Texas last season.

I'd have liked to see him back. Good luck to Eric in Southern California.


Rangers sign Hidalgo 

Richard Hidalgo has signed with the Rangers on a one year, $4.5 million deal.

I've got mixed feelings on this...it is definitely more than I wanted to see the Rangers spend on Hidalgo. But on the other hand, he's just 29, and has been great at points in the past, although he was a disappointment last season.

I view this as the type of gamble the Rangers need to take...if Hidalgo returns to his 2000 or 2003 form, then $4.5 million is a steal. If he doesn't...well, it is only a one year deal, and they'll be free and clear of it after the season.

Hidalgo's career has been so up-and-down it is almost impossible to reasonably project how he will do in 2005. No doubt, the Rangers are optimistic that Rudy Jaramillo can work with Hidalgo on fixing a swing that has had a tendency to get out of whack relatively easily. But if Hidalgo hits like he did in 2004, then they are no better in RF now than they were last season (when they weren't very good).


Thursday, December 09, 2004

Steve Finley to the Angels 

Continuing this offseason's trend of vastly overpaying decent players, the Angels are reportedly close to signing Steve Finley to a two year, $20 million deal.

Finley is going to be 40 at the start of 2005, is little more than a decent defensive CF right now, and posted an EQA of .272 last season.

He's at an age, and has a skill set, where the question on the decline isn't when, but how much, and will it be a steep decline or a fall-off-the-cliff decline.

I'm guessing that, if this deal goes down, in mid-July of 2005, we'll be hearing talks about how Anaheim is trying to dump Finley and his contract.


The Krazy Kontracts keep on coming... 

Jermaine Dye has agreed to a $10.15 million, two-year deal with White Sox.

This is getting beyond insane.

Dye was heralded as a rising star in 2000, when he posted a .308 EQA for the Royals, while playing solid defense and exhibiting a great arm in right field.

To give you a sense of perspective, that 2000 Royals team also featured up-and-comers Mark Quinn, Mac Suzuki, and Blake Stein. Carlos Beltran was a great field/no hit centerfielder for Kansas City. In 2000, Albert Belle was still playing, Rusty Greer was still healthy, and Gil Heredia was the ace of the Oakland A's staff.

2000 was a long time ago, in baseball terms. And 2000 was the last time Jermaine Dye was a significantly above-average player.

Since then, Dye has posted EQAs of .280, .278, .188, and .274. Yes, the .188 was the season where he was trying to come back from his broken leg, and much has been made about the fact that he's supposedly only now completely healthy. But that ignores the fact that, even before he broke his leg, Dye wasn't anything special.

Dye's going to be good for a .265-.275 EQA the next couple of years, with okay defense. You can get a Ty Meadows or a Pete Zoccolillo to do close to that for the league minimum.

There is absolutely no reason to pay Jermaine Dye five million per year for multiple years, other than the fact that he's a proven major leaguer who has been in the league for a while, and it is much safer from a p.r. standpoint to go with the proven major leaguer than someone none of the fans have heard of before.

For all the scoffing about Moneyball, and the suggestions that the rest of the league has caught on to what Beane is doing, these are the type of moves that fly in the face of the whole Moneyball credo. A smart G.M. should be looking for another Geronimo Berroa or another Matt Stairs, the way Beane did in the late 90s. Kenny Williams, on the other hand, is paying Dye more than twice what he's worth because he's got a familiar name.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

More on Alomar and Laird 

Evan Grant indicates that Laird, apparently, had to find out that Alomar was being signed, and that Laird was heading back to AAA, from the media.

Classy move by Hart & Co.

And to clarify, since several folks don't understand why I'm so irate about this...

It isn't about who the backup catcher is.

It is about Gerald Laird, who won the starting catcher job last season, being sent back to AAA without a chance to get his job back this spring.

It is about the organization, as with Kevin Mench last season, punishing a young player for not playing winter ball -- although in Laird's case, he isn't playing winter ball because of his thumb injury, which hasn't healed because the organization had him come back from his injury sooner than he was supposed to in 2004.

It is about yet another player who doesn't deserve a major league contract being added to the 40 man roster, when Ben Kozlowski, Erik Thompson, and Sam Narron aren't, supposedly because roster spots are so precious right now.

It is about giving a guy a job on the 25 man roster when he isn't even good enough to be in the majors.

It is about management's thought processes, the decision making process going on with Hart and Buck that leads them to believe that signing Sandy Alomar, Jr., accomplishes anything.

That's the problem. And that's what is so maddening about this.


Ranger 2005 payroll 

With the craptacular signing of Alomar, I thought I'd take a look at the payroll situation right now, with an asterisk next to salary figures that I am estimating:

Player2005 Salary
M. Young$2,500,000
Li'l Sarge$1,000,000*
The Ho$14,000,000
C. Young$400,000

That is 80% of the Opening Day roster, with the team still needing to add a DH, RF, utility infielder, 25th man, and starting pitcher.

That totals $44.8 million. If we assume the 25th man and utility infielder are going to make the league minimum, or close to it, we go up to $45.8 million.

That leaves three positions to fill. And supposedly, Carlos Delgado, who wants $8 million per year, is an unlikely signee, because he'd use up all the remaining funds available for free agents.

Which means that the Rangers are looking at a 2005 payroll of around $52-53 million, or about $10 million less than 2004, before we take into account the roughly $6 million owed to ARod.

That's a hell of a way for Tom Hicks to reward the fans and build on a successful 2004 season.


John Hart says Laird the #3 catcher now 

I hate John Hart.

And I hate Tom Hicks for letting Buck and Hart bully him into letting Fuson leave.


Rangers management makes stupid moves today 

The Rangers have signed Sandy Alomar, Jr.

Alomar Jr. is a terrible catcher. He should not be in the major leagues. He can no longer play.

The only good thing I can say about this deal is that Alomar will probably get hurt fairly quickly, which means that Gerald Laird, who will now be banished to the minors, can get the chance to come back before too long.

We should have known, of course, that Laird's days were numbered, once Fuson -- who was his biggest proponent in the organization -- was axed. Buck clearly wasn't too comfortable with Laird late last season, and now, given the chance to replace him with one of his believed gritty vets, he's taken the opportunity to do so.

Sullivan also says that the team is interested in Carlos Delgado, but considers him a "longshot", since it would mean that they would have no money left over for any other free agents.

This is incredibly disheartening, mainly because reports are that Delgado wants 2 years, $16 million. That means that the team believes that it can only spend $8 million on free agents this offseason.

Which means that we are going into the 2005 season with a payroll that is in the Pittsburgh Pirate/Tampa Bay Devil Ray neighborhood.

Which means that all those promises about keeping payroll where it was last year, and maybe raising it a tad, were simply lies, like so much else that comes out of the mouths of Ranger management.

It appears that the reward for all the fans who suffered through four straight awful seasons, and who turned out last season and filled the park repeatedly for the 2004 revival, is to see Richard Hidalgo, Sandy Alomar Jr., and Doug Brocail as our big offseason free agent signings.

John Hart and Buck Showalter are running this franchise into the ground, and the sooner they are excised from the Texas Rangers, the better off the team will be.


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Brad Radke re-ups with the Twins 

Radke re-signs with the Twins for 2 years, $18 million.

Good deal for Minnesota. If Texas had signed him for that, I would have been very happy.

Also, the Yanks offered Jon Lieber arbitration, making it unlikely the Rangers will sign him, since it would cost them their first round pick.

So my first two choices for a rotation spot -- Lieber and Radke -- are both pretty much off the board.



Yankees also sign Tony Womack 

More good news for Ranger fans...Buck fave and all around lousy player (is that redundant?) Tony Womack has signed with the Yankees.

Two years, $4 million to play second base for New York. That's two more years and four million dollars more than he's worth.

On the downside, it may take the Yanks out of the Alfonso Soriano hunt.

I'm beginning to believe we may be stuck overpaying Soriano for another season.


Yankees sign Jaret Wright 

Former Indians pitcher Jaret Wright, a guy who I thought John Hart would be interested in picking up, has signed with the Yankees.

The deal is reportedly "comparable" to Kris Benson's 3 year, $22.5 million contract with the Mets.

This has become insane.

Check out Jaret Wright's career numbers.

A 5.09 ERA. 569 strikeouts and 369 walks in 758 innings pitched. A nice debut for the Indians early in his career, followed by arm problems and poor performances through 2003.

And then Wright gets together with Leo Mazzone in Atlanta, and turns it around, posting a 3.28 ERA, good for 13th in the N.L.

One would think that after the Chris Hammond fiasco, the Yankees would have learned their lesson, and wouldn't be overpaying for vets who put it together in Atlanta. And yet, here they are, giving (apparently) $7+ million per year to a 29 year old pitcher coming off of his only quality season.

He was handled carefully in Atlanta, pitching only 186 1/3 innings, good for just 34th in the N.L., and averaged less than 6 innings per start. His peripherals were solid, but still...this is a guy whose arm would seem to be hanging on by a thread. If you get a good season and a half out of him between now and the end of 2007, you should be happy.

And this is someone you give $20+ million to over three years?


I guess they figured they had to start spending their Jason Giambi refund money somewhere...


This guy is still active??? 

Rheal Cormier, who I thought entered the Matt Whiteside world of the journeyman minor league reliever with the annual NRI and occasion six-day stay on an active roster, has been resigned by the Phillies.

For 2 years, $5.25 million, no less.

As a general rule, I think that a multi-year deal, or a deal for more than $1 million, for a guy that I thought was out of baseball is probably a bad deal.


Todd Walker signs with Cubs, and Dellucci probably coming back 

A double dose of bad news...

Walker apparently took a one year, $2.5 million deal from the Cubs because they will make him their second baseman, while the Rangers were sticking with the DH plan (albeit on a two year deal).

Meanwhile, they are also apparently offering imminently replaceable gritty veteran David Dellucci a two-year deal to be the new Herb Perry.

Bah. Crappy day.


Greer gone 

Rusty Greer has announced that, despite saying for the past two seasons that he'd sign a minor league deal with the Rangers after 2004, that he'll sign elsewhere.

Greer, who hasn't played since June 2002, and hasn't played well since 1999, is apparently mad that the Rangers are trying to sign a DH, rather than having Greer as their primary option at DH, so he's going elsewhere. He has supposedly had interest from the Royals, Devil Rays, and Twins, although I'd be surprised if any of them offered him anything better than what the Rangers apparently offered...an NRI with a chance to stick if someone gets hurt.

This is actually a relief to me, since there's no reason to believe that Greer can still play, and I was fearful that Buck's love of gritty vets would result in us seeing Greer suck at the DH slot for much of 2005.

Of course, there's still no guarantee that we'll get a legitimate DH, but at least the specter of Greer returning is now gone...


Monday, December 06, 2004

Rockies terminate Neagle's contract 

So, Denny Neagle, free agent disaster and purported starting pitcher for the Colorado Rockies, is speeding Friday night, and gets pulled over.

A woman named Jill Russell was in his car. She apparently told the police officer that Neagle had paid her $40 for oral sex. Which seems to be a curious thing to volunteer, since apparently, they weren't caught in the act, although Neagle's belt was supposedly undone.

Neagle gets written up on a misdemeanor, and is issued a court summons. In response, the Rockies terminate Neagle's contract.

According to the article: Colorado cited section 7 (b) (1) of the Uniform Player Contract, which states the team can terminate the contract if a player shall ``fail, refuse or neglect to conform his personal conduct to the standards of good citizenship and good sportsmanship or to keep himself in first-class physical condition.''

Which should be pretty scary for major league players, many of whom fail to conform their personal conduct to the standards of good citizenship. I'm a bit curious about how many players there are out there who have done something skankier than giving some 40 year old woman a couple of twenties for what an acquaintance of mine refers to as "Bill Clinton sex". I'd wager it is pretty high...I'm wondering if the Rangers, right now, might not be concocting a scheme involving Chan Ho Park, lots of liquor, a couple of self-employed models, and a video camera...

One also has to wonder why Neagle was tooling about with this particularly lady of the evening, rather than going to one of these Executive Relaxation Centers that you see advertised. Yeah, those places probably cost more than $40, but given that Neagle is in the midst of a $51 million deal with Colorado, I imagine that he could certainly afford it.

End of the day, I don't think the Rockies will prevail on this deal, but they'll create enough of a ruckus that Neagle will likely accept less than the $19 million he's currently owed by Colorado.

And Colorado may be on the vanguard of a new trend...using a player's natural predilection for bad behavior as a hedge against a bad contract.

I'm sure Billy Beane is already crunching the numbers on some miscreant, thinking, "Okay, we give him a four year, $48 million deal, backloaded so we are only paying him $12 million the first two years. He's a notorious womanizer, he drinks too much, he felt up the owner's wife at a Christmas party with his last club, and I hear he's into fighting pit bulls. We get him in here on the cheap the first two years, then bust him in the second offseason, and void the deal...it is brilliant!!!"

Of course, when the rogue player finds Jesus in his first spring training with the A's and turns his life around, Beane then gets stuck, and has to figure out if singing "Oh What a Friend We Have In Jesus" offkey in the locker room constitutes poor citizenship, or has to bring Jeremy Giambi back to try to get the reformed ne'er-do-well back into the party lifestyle.

This also reminds me of the problems between Charles Haley and Tim Harris on the 49ers in the early 90s, that led to Haley being traded...apparently, Haley was unhappy that Harris had been brought in to share Haley's passrushing linebacker duties, and expressed his displeasure by going out to the parking lot and peeing on Harris's new Mercedes. Harris went out and, not surprisingly, went berzerk, resulting in the two getting into a fistfight in the parking lot, something I would have paid a great deal to see.

So maybe we can have someone go pee on Chan Ho Park's car, in the hopes of setting him off and causing him to freak out and start a fight, allowing the Rangers to void his contract. Doug Brocail seems like an ideal candidate...he's apparently a little nuts, likes to fight, and will likely do whatever Buck Showalter tells him to do. And that would probably be the only thing Brocail can do to earn his $1 million salary for 2005.

Or maybe we can get Chan Ho Park to pee on someone else's car...that might be a better bet. Convince him it is part of a hazing ritual or something. Then catch him on camera, have it shown on Sportscenter 800 times with the blur over the naughty bits. Selig would rage, people would write angry letters...that might work.

Ultimately, though, if there is a lesson to be learned, it is the same one that everyone should have learned along with Hugh Grant a decade ago...if you are going to pay for it, cough up enough so that you don't have to do it in your car.

Particularly if you are a highly paid athlete whose team is desperate for any excuse to dump you and your contract.


Rangers in on Delgado? 

In the first good news in quite a while on the Rangers this offseason, Evant Grant is reporting that the Rangers have had discussions with the agent for Carlos Delgado, and are apparently looking at him as a possible DH for 2005.

Delgado has been a monster for several years in Toronto, posting an OPS of no lower than 948 from 1998 through 2003. He hasn't had overwhelming, Jim Thome-type power, but he's consistently posted OBPs at the .400 mark, and his lefty swing would be an ideal fit in TBIA with the short right field porch.

The market for Delgado soured considerably last year, as he struggled with injuries early and posted a 746 OPS in the first half. But he caught fire in August and September, apparently returning to health, posting an OPS well over 1000 in each month and showing signs that his early season problems were injury-related and now behind him.

He's going to be a bit of a gamble, and as Grant points out, he'll have to take a paycut wherever he goes, since he made $17 million last season. But BP's PECOTA projections coming into 2004 showed Delgado's 50% projection each of the next four years as being above a .300 EQA, which would make him a production DH.

Delgado turns 33 in June, so he's not someone you want to make a real long-term commitment to, nor is he someone you are going to expect to see improvement out of...his best days are likely behind him.

However, if the Rangers could bring him in on a 2 year, $16 million deal, with a third year option at $10 million with a $2 million buyout, I think that would be a worthwhile move to make. You get a power hitter with a great OBP to plug in the middle of your lineup -- I'd love to see him hit third, ahead of Mark Teixeira -- and you get an immense upgrade in one of your biggest weaknesses for 2005.

The Rangers may have to go three years guaranteed to get him, which I'd prefer not to do, and there's no way I'd go more than three years...but Delgado is someone I've thought that the Rangers needed to target this offseason, and the fact that they are apparently interested in him is definitely encouraging.


Sunday, December 05, 2004

Leiter about to sign with the Marlins? 

39 year old starting pitcher Al Leiter is reportedly on the verge of signing with Florida, on a one year deal for $7-8 million.

Leiter would head up a rotation also featuring A.J. Burnett, Josh Beckett, and Dontrelle Willis, a group with a huge upside but with spotty results over their careers.

Leiter had an ERA just a shade over 3 last season, but his K rate has dropped dramatically in the last few years, and he had a K/BB rate of only about 1.2 last season.

This seems to be a concession by the Marlins that Pavano isn't coming back, and it allows them to bring in a proven veteran with ties to their 1997 World Series victory on a one year deal, which minimizes the risk.

But it also appears that they are overpaying for Leiter...he'll be in a pitcher's park again in 2005, but I'd be surprised if he keeps his ERA under 4 next season...


Friday, December 03, 2004

Dellucci and the Rangers apparently aren't close 

According to the DMN, the Rangers and David Dellucci aren't terribly close on a contract, with Dellucci's agent saying that he's been offered two-year guaranteed deals by other clubs.

The DMN says that the Rangers have only offered a one year deal.

If Dellucci leaves, that's fine...he's a decent backup outfielder, but he's also coming off a career year in terms of homers and RBIs, and other clubs are apparently willing to overpay to bring him there.

Other than his "outstanding clubhouse presence" (to quote Grant), I'm not sure what Dellucci offers than the Rangers couldn't get from, say, Pete Zoccolillo, who is already in the organization and would make the league minimum.


Thursday, December 02, 2004

Rangers bring back Tejera as an NRI 

After grabbing Michael Tejera and then not really using him down the stretch last season, the Rangers ended up dropping him from their 40 man roster, but have now signed him to a minor league deal, with an invite to the minor league camp.

Meh. He's insurance. That's about it.


Herpes and Jose Lima 

Jose Lima has been ordered to pay $475,000 to a woman in Houston for, supposedly, giving her herpes...

Makes you look at Lima's wife a little differently, no?


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Paul Wilson, another bad free agent signing 

And the bad deals just keep on coming...

Just days after Kris Benson and Cory Lidle get re-upped for ridiculous amounts, the Cincinnati Reds re-signed Paul Wilson to a two year, $8.2 million deal, with a club option for a third year.

The funniest thing about this deal is the headline in the Cincinnati Post: Reds bringing back pitching ace Wilson

Pitching ace Wilson? Paul Wilson has had four straight years of posting an ERA+ of 92...in other words, 8% worse than league average. He's got an unimpressive K/BB ratio and a high homer rate, indicating that the remarkably consistent mediocrity in ERA isn't any fluke. And he'll be 32 at the start of 2005, so he's likely going to get progressively worse.

A mediocre starting pitcher gets $4.1 million per year? Wilson is basically another Mark Clark...just another guy that a team is overpaying for out of desperation.

The bad deals being offered to these second-tier free agents is frightening...I'm worried that Hart is going to panic and give Jaret Wright a 3 year, $15 million deal or something.

Oh, wait...the Mariners offered Wright that much...

Hopefully, the Rangers will bide their time until the initial frenzy dies down...


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