Hot Stove Winners—2010

  • In no particular order:

There are still a couple of “name” free agents available, but I highly doubt that any team’s acquisition of Carl Pavano or Adrian Beltre will catapult them from one category into another.

As for trade possibilities, it’s been all quiet. I believe—-without inside information—-that the Yankees have started laying the groundwork for a mid-season deal for a Chris Carpenter or Ubaldo Jimenez.

It’s bizarre that my speculation is generally more on the money than those with inside information, but that can stem from the hand-in-hand nature of executives, agents and writers all using one another to get their messages out there.

I’m not hand-in-hand with anyone.

Let’s have a look at the winners.

Tampa Bay Rays:

On the surface, one wouldn’t think a team that is dumping salary and in a nightmarish division could be considered a “winner”, but the Rays looked at their circumstances both financially and practically and acted accordingly.

Carlos Pena was a leader in the clubhouse and despite his on base ability, defense and power, he batted under .200 last year; they’d gotten everything they could get from him.

Carl Crawford was not staying in Tampa no matter what and the Rays had no chance to come within $50 million of the offer the Red Sox presented.

They’ve also allowed Rafael Soriano, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler and Joaquin Benoit to leave. Ordinarily, one would say that has gutted their bullpen, but no club in baseball has been better at finding the refuse of other teams and inserting them successfully into their bullpen mix than the Rays.

They traded Jason Bartlett to the Padres for four prospects—-all young, cheap and with big strikeout numbers on the mound or on base numbers at the plate. After his career year in 2009, Bartlett reverted to what he is in 2010: an okay player who can catch the ball well enough at shortstop.

The Rays have replacements in hand (Reid Brignac, Desmond Jennings) for the departed; and they have a LOAD of compensatory draft picks.

One of the reasons I’d love to see teams allowed to trade draft picks is to see what the Rays would do with such an opportunity—-it’s be Jimmy Johnson-esque.

The Rays will be competitive. Watch.

Boston Red Sox:

They improved both the lineup and defense with Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Their bullpen is deep, experienced and playoff-proven with Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks joining Jonathan Papelbon.

They re-signed Jason Varitek to keep the clubhouse in order despite his rapidly declining skills, but with that lineup, they can carry Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia as the catcher as long as they handle the pitching staff.

The Red Sox set lines in “trying” to retain Beltre and Victor Martinez and I’m of the mind that they knew all along that unless the market crashed completely they weren’t going to be able to keep either, nor did they truly want to.

With this flurry of imports, the Red Sox are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the American League and that includes the Yankees.

Chicago White Sox:

“James Bond Villain” Kenny Williams needed a power bat? He signed Adam Dunn.

He needed to keep Paul Konerko? He kept Paul Konerko.

He’d grown tired of watching Bobby Jenks gack games? He dumped Bobby Jenks.

There is no one more aggressive and gutsy in baseball than Kenny Williams; what makes him more impressive is his utter disregard for what anyone says or thinks of him. He just does things and, for the most part, the things he does work out just fine.

Detroit Tigers:

Ignoring that they overspent for Joaquin Benoit and Victor Martinez, they filled two holes with the signings. My main concern regarding finances has never been the amount of money spent, but whether the money spent for “wants” precludes that which is left for “needs”. But the Tigers filled two needs in the bullpen and lineup with Benoit and Martinez.

They kept Magglio Ordonez on a 1-year contract and also retained Jhonny Peralta. They’ll be ready to move at mid-season as well.

Long term, these decisions may prove costly; but for 2011, they’re winners.

Oakland Athletics:

I’ve often torn into A’s boss Billy Beane for using Moneyball and his reputation as a “genius” to shield him from ghastly personnel moves; but he’s quietly had a terrific off-season and brought the A’s into legitimate playoff contention.

He used the organizational depth he’d accumulated in prior deals to acquire the underrated bats David DeJesus and Josh Willingham to bolster a putrid lineup; he signed Hideki Matsui to a team-friendly contract; and they still have a very deep pitching staff.

Even if the staff takes a step back from their league-leading ERA, the lineup will account for any fallback.

They’re still hanging around trying to get Adrian Beltre too.

Philadelphia Phillies:

Two words: Cliff Lee.

As my Phillies fan friend said in an overnight text message informing me of the Lee signing—-“Mwaahahahahaha.”

Atlanta Braves:

They needed a bat and got that bat in Dan Uggla; to make it even more of a steal, they got him for almost nothing.

Scott Linebrink helps the bullpen and while they’re still in flux at the closer’s spot, one thing I’d keep my eye on is a potential Billy Wagner return at mid-season.

The Phillies are loaded, but the Braves are very, very good.

Milwaukee Brewers:

The Brewers went from having Randy Wolf as their number 2 starter to having Yovani Gallardo (their erstwhile number 1) as their number 2 behind former AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke; they also acquired Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays.

Having not surrendered anything of note from their powerful lineup, their only question is the bullpen and I’m wondering if they’re making a stealth move on Rafael Soriano.

The Brewers are ready to contend for real.

Los Angeles Dodgers:

Amid the lunacy surrounding the warring McCourts, GM Ned Colletti has quietly and relatively inexpensively improved both the entire Dodgers roster.

Jon Garland was signed to provide innings; Matt Guerrier is a highly underrated and durable reliever; and Juan Uribe provided pop and clutch hits.

The Dodgers also kept Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Rod Barajas and might be in on Johnny Damon.

In an under-the-radar fashion, the Dodgers are again a team to watch for on-field stuff rather than courtroom drama.

  • Viewer Mail 12.23.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE my new site and the Washington Nationals:

Love the new look of your blog! Very easy to use with great graphics. Kudos. As for the Nationals, they’re surreptitiously becoming the new Yankees.

Thanks for the compliment about the site.

I dunno if the “new Yankees” stuff is exactly a compliment considering how the off-seasons of both clubs has gone so far. And the Nats may be after Carl Pavano!!

Caveat emptor.

Jim Downs writes about me and the Nats:

A couple of mistakes in your post. Scott Olsen is not longer a National, he signed with the Pirates on 6 December and the Nationals had a .500 record in their first year in Washington (not in Montreal). Only time will tell if the rest of your post has any merit. I would only point out that they do have some decent young prospects for pitching within their organization. Pitchers such as Jordan Zimmermann, Colin Balestar, Garrett Mock, Aaron Thompson, Yunesky Maya, and Ross Detwiler all have some potential to become good starters.

Jim’s right about my mistake. I checked and their transaction listing for the Nats and Olsen was listed as having signed a contract. It didn’t specify where, but I knew Olsen had signed with the Pirates. It’s an inexplicable mistake and I should’ve fact-checked.

Regarding the status of being at or over .500, I meant over .500, but that’s not a big deal.

As for the Nats pitching prospects? You’re asking a lot from that group if they’re going to be part of a team that has visions of contention in the NL East as they clearly do with the deranged contract they gave to Jayson Werth.

Jordan Zimmerman is still returning from injury and could be serviceable; Balester was consistently blasted as a starter and may be a good reliever; Mock is another reliever; Thompson’s minor league numbers are not promising; I saw Maya pitch against the Mets—-he’s a right-handed cunnythumber and is awful; Detwiler’s put up good minor league numbers and maybe they can get something from him.

But this is the point. What are they? If they had a powerful lineup to account for the building starting rotation filled with mediocrity and question marks, then okay; but they don’t.

They have a good bullpen that was abused trying to win as many games as possible early last season; they can’t really hit. As I said yesterday, they’re waiting for Stephen Strasburg (again) and for Bryce Harper to come and save them.

Is this the plan? Relying on the pitchers you mentioned and Jayson Werth?

I can’t see how it can possibly work.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the Nats:

I really don’t understand the Nat’inals either. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really feel sorry for Ryan Zimmerman. He’s loaded with talent and promise… talent which is wasted, and I assure you that THAT ain’t promising.

Ryan Zimmerman should be rightfully annoyed that Werth is getting paid so well. Zimmerman signed a long-term deal, but he’s far superior to Werth and plays a more difficult position to fill.

Gabriel writes RE the Nats:

I think the Nationals just want to make money through ticket sales on the days Strasburg pitches. There’s no logic on that team.

Washington is such a promising venue for a team; access to fans and political power. I’ve often said that if I were going to run one team in baseball, it’d be the Nationals. Current ownership deserves credit for aggressiveness and because they’re willing to spend, but they need to think about what they’re doing before they do it.


2 thoughts on “Hot Stove Winners—2010

  1. Why don’t you expound on the Konerko and Benoit signings? They might be winners for a year, but both of those contracts will most likely bite them. 3 years for an injury prone reliever. And 3 years for a mid-30’s 1B with only the ability to hit.

  2. I can add this to the Nat’inals talk: that ballpark is badass. I’ve been there several times and had a blast each time. The park is beautiful, easily accessible and extremely fan friendly. One problem in DC though is the fact that it’s such a transient city… there aren’t many Nationals fans — instead, they’re mostly fans of other clubs that have been relocated to the DC Metro area. From what I have seen, the largest contention of Nats fans seems to be Latino immigrants, who, ironically, will be priced out of watching their favorite team, now that they’re doling out crazy assed salaries.

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