The Cliff Lee Trade Rumor Factoid

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

The Phillies are not trading Cliff Lee.

Get it?

If that means they’re not going to be able to keep Cole Hamels, so be it.

Is this even a rumor or is it a viral bit of nonsense that started with the crown prince of tabloid buffoonery Joel Sherman in his Sunday column?

In that piece Sherman naturally suggested Lee go to…the Yankees.

Shocking.

In that same column, Sherman also wants the Yankees to make a move on Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies.

Anyone else Joel?

How about the Yankees just take R.A. Dickey with them when they visit Citi Field this weekend? That Andrew McCutchen is something special, why not him? Justin Verlander? Matt Cain? Bryce Harper? Yu Darvish? Aroldis Chapman? Shouldn’t they all be Yankees? And if the Yankees don’t need them, so what? It’s not enough to have a $200 million payroll and stars at every position. Perhaps they can put an auxiliary team in reserve so the regulars–Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, CC Sabathia–can have preplanned vacations during the season. Or they can take the entire season off! “Just show up for game 1 of the World Series CC. Earn your money then.”

It’s the stuff of a thousand Mike Francesa hang-ups.

Sherman is the tabloid editor’s dream. Whereas most writers are told to write certain stories and include information that may not be relevant or accurate in the interest of drumming up webhits and clicks to increase advertising dollars, Sherman does it on his own and he does it better. Or worse, depending on your point-of-view.

But, as is my wont, I disappoint with evenhanded reality.

If the Phillies have to make the choice between Lee and Hamels, the financial and practical decision favors keeping Lee. Hamels is going to ask for somewhere in the vicinity of $140-$170 million after this season and the Phillies have to draw the financial line somewhere. Hamels has been worked hard as he’s heading for his fifth straight season of 200+ innings and playoff work. It’s a big risk signing him for 6-8 years at the dollars he’s looking for.

Lee is signed. He’s been mostly durable and is locked in through 2015 with a 2016 option. He’s guaranteed $87.5 million after this season. Who’s taking that contract? No one. Not even the Yankees.

The Phillies, without Hamels and with a rotation fronted by Roy Halladay, Lee, Vance Worley and whichever pitchers they sign or trade for to replace the departed Hamels, are still good enough to contend in a world of two Wild Cards. This is not a situation where the Phillies are going to trade Lee and replenish the farm system for the “future”. They tried that. It didn’t work. They’re going to turn around and do it again?

Without explicitly saying it, the Phillies admitted the mistake of trading Lee in two ways. First they acquired Roy Oswalt at mid-season 2010, then they re-signed Lee after the 2010 season.

Let’s suspend absurdity for a second and say the Phillies do trade Lee. Is any top-tier free agent going to want to sign with the Phillies without a full no-trade clause to protect them from Ruben Amaro Jr’s lies, schemes and desperation deals that would be evident if he traded Lee a second time?

And what of Hamels? If he hasn’t signed an extension when the Phillies trade Lee, how tight of a grip is he going to have on the club’s collective throats? They’ll have to pay him whatever he wants because if he leaves they won’t have him or Lee.

Then what?

So it’s not happening. Lee’s not getting moved.

It’s foolish. It’s nonsense. It’s fabricated.

It’s Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

Reader beware.

//

Advertisements

Soler Provides A Window Into The Future

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, College Football, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Football, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, NFL, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

Through Jorge Soler, I’ve gazed into the future.

Not because he’s such a hot prospect and was so heavily in demand that the Cubs today signed the 20-year-old Cuban outfielder to a 9-year, $30 million contract. I have no idea how good he is or if he’s going to take 3-5 years of seasoning to become anything close to what his talent indicates he could be. Cubs’ team President Theo Epstein is a good executive, but he’s gotten torched on the international market before both practically and narratively.

The posting fee and signing of Daisuke Matsuzaka was costly. The results were inconsistent at best and, by all accounts, disappointing. One can only hope that Epstein won’t take to calling a 20-year-old from Cuba “Mr.” Soler as he called Matsuzaka “Mr.” Matsuzaka.

When the Red Sox were avidly pursuing Jose Contreras, Epstein had just taken over as their GM and there was still a sense of puppetry with Larry Lucchino holding the strings floating over the head of the then-28-year-old, so it wasn’t such a shock that the story of Epstein being so angry that the Yankees had signed Contreras that he broke a chair in the Nicaragua hotel in a fit of rage.

Epstein vehemently denied it and I believe him. In subsequent years, he became a respected GM and won two championships while working in his hometown and running what isn’t a passion in Boston, but is a religion. It’s no surprise that he was showing the wear of eight years at their helm—he was burned out and needed a new mountain to climb. The Cubs are certainly that.

That said, no one knows what Soler will be. In that sense, he’s like a highly drafted player who is given a massive signing bonus along the lines of Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg just for signing his name on a contract.

But he’s not a drafted player. He was a former professional player in Cuba who, because of that status, became an MLB free agent.

It’s ironic that the Soler signing occurred during the frenzied confusion that’s been a corollary to the new MLB draft rules that have the “experts” and advocates of drafting and developing throwing hissy fits over players like Stanford pitcher Mark Appel. Appel was considered one of the top if not the top player in the draft, but fell to the Pirates at 8 because of signability concerns that have placed him in a box: his eligibility as an amateur is exhausted; MLB is the only game in town; it’s sign or don’t play.

A large part of the preparation for a drawn out battle is Appel’s adviser, Scott Boras. Boras has been openly critical of the new draft rules.

You can read about the new draft rules here. They’re hardline to say the least.

It’s only a matter of time before the defector’s handbook is used in the opposite way for the known amateur stars in North America and Canada to circumnavigate the draft. Much like the reserve clause challenged and from which Curt Flood, Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally eventually won their freedom from the indentured servitude that used to be in place, someone will try to take MLB to court to negate the draft. From the legal wrangling initiated by Flood, the entire wall came crashing down not long after. It only takes one player and one agent to try and sue baseball to get out of the requirement that the player go to the team that drafted him or be forced to delay the start of his career by years if necessary to get the opportunity to be paid and go to a venue he prefers. J.D. Drew tried something similar when he (also represented by Boras) played with an independent minor league team after being drafted 2nd overall by the Phillies and couldn’t come to an agreement on a contract. The ploy didn’t work, Drew went back into the draft the next year and was taken by the Cardinals with the 5th pick in the first round. This time he signed.

Much like the concussion and long-term damage inspired lawsuits now being filed on behalf of retired NFL players, it only takes one to start the train rolling before others (some traveling in first class; others hopping onto the boxcar) join in and try to get their piece of the American Dream of riches through lawsuits.

That’s not to diminish the tragic deaths of Dave Duerson, Andre Waters and Mike Webster among many others, but did they need a warning that playing in the NFL was dangerous? That repeated blows to the head and body would eventually take its toll and that they were trading years off their lives for the money, glory, excitement and perks of playing in the NFL?

How long before Boras convinces a top draft pick to shun MLB and walk through the loophole of age and professional status presented by players who’ve played in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Cuba? According to this piece on MLB.com, that loophole is big enough for a convoy of prospects to walk through—maybe even the entire first round of the draft.

The relevant bit follows:

Not all international players will be subject to these rules. Players in leagues deemed to be professional (those in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Cuba apply), are at least 23 years old and have played a certain number of years in those leagues can be signed without the money counting against the pool. Yoenis Cespedes, the 26-year-old outfielder who is a free agent after defecting from Cuba for example, would not count against the pool. Neither would Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, should he be posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters. But the money spent on Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman, who was 22 when he signed with the Reds almost two years ago, would have counted against the pool.

Japan has a working relationship with MLB that nets them large sums of money for the posting fees on players like Darvish and Matsuzaka so it’s unlikely that they’d want to upset that applecart by messing with MLB’s attempt to install cost certainty into the draft and cap the bonuses, but would Taiwan care? Would Korea? And if Cuba sees a way to really stick it to a big American business that has raided their players and caused embarrassment with worldwide stories on players defecting, what’s to stop them from creating a baseball player program where college age players would be able to come to Cuba, make some money and then walk back into MLB as free agents and make a truckload of cash that they wouldn’t make otherwise?

Don’t think these scenarios haven’t been considered by Boras.

And don’t think that a player isn’t going to be willing to destroy the draft and the rules because it’s depriving him—in a way that doesn’t reflect the capitalism of what America stands for—of the freedom to auction his skills to the highest bidder due to MLB’s oligarchical constraints.

Baseball as an industry has to think about this. They never thought the reserve clause would be struck down, but it was. The same thing could happen to the draft if they wind up in front of the wrong judge.

It’s going to be tested. Soon.

//

National League Patience Or Panic?

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

Earlier I wrote of the American League teams that either need to have patience or panic. Let’s look at the National League teams in the same predicament.

Miami Marlins

It’s safe to assume that Marlins’ owner Jeffrey Loria’s office is outfitted with escape hatches, listening devices, nefarious contraptions and trapdoors at various spots on the floor—one of which sends the hapless victim to the airtight, windowless room (complete with Lazarus Pit) in which Jack McKeon is kept.

There’s one small vent as a concession for McKeon’s cigar smoke.

Along with these amenities is, presumably, a dutiful assistant carrying a black box. Inside that black box is the panic button.

When said panic button is pressed, something happens: a manager is fired; a player is demoted; a son-in-law is sent to speak to the media; a pretentiously gauche extravaganza masquerading as art is activated; a fealty-induced political marker is cashed.

Something.

Is it time for the Marlins to panic?

Just about.

Already under investigation by the SEC for the way the new Marlins’ Stadium was financed, with manager Ozzie Guillen under siege for his pro-Fidel Castro comments and the team playing poorly, it’s not long before a Steinbrennerean missive is issued on stationary emblazoned across the top with the words:

From the Mildly Artistic Mind of Jeffrey L.

He learned his lessons from George Steinbrenner in terms of morally-challenged behavior under the guise of business and personal interests and now his team is eerily similar to the Yankees of the 1980s: expensive, underachieving, fractured, dysfunctional and disinterested.

Heath Bell and Jose Reyes have both been atrocious; Hanley Ramirez isn’t hitting; and, on the whole, they look like a group that not only doesn’t know how to play together, but don’t like each other very much.

Loria thought he was buying a contender and that the attendance to see that contender would be commensurate with the amenities of a new park and a good team.

The winning team would attract the real baseball fans; the nightclub, pool, dancing girls, acrobats, restaurants and art would attract the eclectic denizens of Miami who go where it’s cool regardless of the venue.

They’re seventh in the National League in attendance.

The team is flawed and, right now, just plain bad.

Loria’s finger is itching to hit that panic button and it should be because veteran teams in disarray tend to spiral out of control early once they sense the season is lost.

Philadelphia Phillies

No team could function with the spate of injuries that have befallen the Phillies. All they’re trying to do is keep their heads above water until Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Cliff Lee are healthy.

Manager Charlie Manuel has been trying to find a lineup combination that works. He’s playing small ball to account for the lost power and it’s failing. Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco aren’t hitting and as good as Freddy Galvis is defensively, the Phillies currently can’t afford to carry his popgun bat.

If they get healthy, they’ll be fine. The question is what level of Howard and Utley are they going to get when they return and how long is Lee going to be out with a strained oblique? They don’t want to fall too far behind, but the second Wild Card added this year makes it much easier to be patient even in a demanding city like Philadelphia.

Cincinnati Reds

Amid all the preseason talk that the Reds’ decision to trade chunks of their farm system to get Mat Latos and Sean Marshall and the pending free agencies (in 2014) of Joey Votto and (in 2013) of Brandon Phillips made them a “win now or else” team, they’re well-situated for the future with all their pieces in place.

Latos, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs are all under team control for the foreseeable future; and they signed Votto, Phillips and Marshall to contract extensions.

The loss of Ryan Madson was a blow, but they’ve replaced him with Marshall and Aroldis Chapman can close if necessary.

The pitching has been solid; they just haven’t hit. This core of this Reds team was second in runs scored in 2011 and first in 2010. They’re going to hit.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants’ strength was in their starting rotation and that they had a deep, diverse and organized bullpen with a horse of a closer.

The rotation should be fine but the bullpen is in flux with the loss of Brian Wilson. Bruce Bochy is not the closer-by-committee type of manager, but that’s where he is as of now. He named Santiago Casilla as the closer and proceeded to treat him as if he’s just another arm in the bullpen as soon as he got in trouble in one of his first save chances after being dubbed the closer.

The lineup has been better than expected, but is still carrying potential black spots at shortstop, second base, first base and right field.

And Angel Pagan, being Angel Pagan, will inspire the entire team—individually—to strangle him at least once by forgetting how many outs there are; running the team out of an inning; throwing to the wrong base (or wrong team); or something.

The Giants don’t need to panic, but they do need to be vigilant that unless they settle on a reasonable plan with their bullpen, they’re going to fade by August.

//

Get Yu Darvish

All Star Game, Books, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Movies, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

I had prepared to write about how pitchers from Japan have a small margin for error and terrible history, especially when the hype-machine is so stifling that no one could possibly succeed. That history with the likes of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Irabu should make clubs reticent about the astronomical posting bids for the right to even negotiate with them. In addition to that, the number of pitchers who arrived without the media exposure and did well—Hideo Nomo, Hideki Okajima—should give greater pause before going all in with cash and expectations.

Part of my argument was intended to be centered around the same teams that passed on Aroldis Chapman being after the latest hot commodity, Yu Darvish.

I still don’t know how Chapman wound up with the Reds and not the Yankees or Red Sox—he was the real deal before he signed and is the real deal now.

But after looking at video clips of Darvish, he’s going to be a dominating pitcher in the big leagues.

His motion combines the height and ball-hooking quirkiness of Rick Sutcliffe; the deception and charisma of Tim Lincecum; and the leg drive and finish of David Cone.

Watching Darvish in the video below, you see the similarities to Sutcliffe.

Sutcliffe was 6’7″, had a set of mechanics that no pitching coach in his right mind would teach, but were actually technically perfect in terms of balance and usage of both arms and intimidating size. The hooking of the wrist toward the forearm is said to be bad for the elbow, but that’s the way he threw; sometimes it does more damage to alter a natural motion that it would be to try and fix it; in some cases, it’s the oddity that makes them effective.

Darvish turns his back to the hitter similarly to Lincecum, he collapses he back leg to load up for the drive to the plate, and uses a leverage-based torque to generate power. The difference being he’s doing it at 6’5″ while Lincecum is (supposedly) 5’11”.

Cone was listed at 6’1″; was actually around 5’11” and threw everything at the hitter from a variety of arm angles; Darvish is said to throw a wide array of pitches including the conventional 4-seam and 2-seam fastballs; a wicked off-speed curve; a forkball; and a slider.

Here’s Cone as he’s just about to release:

And here’s Darvish:

I would totally ignore the results against against Japanese hitters—that’s a mistake that’s repeatedly made in trying to translate the success from Japan to North America. It’s happened not only with the above-mentioned pitchers who didn’t work out as hoped, but with hitters like Tsuyoshi Nishioka who was played up as a batting champion when he signed with the Twins and was a disaster.

With his unique heritage of an Iranian father and Japanese mother; a clear love of the spotlight; and the goods to back it up, Darvish is going to come to the big leagues and be a sensation.

The teams that miss out on him due to being gun-shy after prior errors are going to regret it. He’ll be a devastating force as a big league pitcher.

//

Trading Joey Votto Is Risky For The Reds

All Star Game, Books, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, Movies, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires

The Reds are said to be prepared to listen to offers for Joey Votto.

It will only be known in retrospect whether this is similar to the Diamondbacks “listening” on Justin Upton before ultimately deciding not to trade him or the Rockies trade of Ubaldo Jimenez.

I’d be willing to listen on any and all players, but for Votto—age 28 and signed through 2013 at $9.5 million in 2012; $17 million in 2013—they’d better get at least one established, young, star-caliber player and two blue chip prospects.

At least.

Reds GM Walt Jocketty has received an undue amount of credit for circumstances out of his control. The Cardinals won regularly with him as GM and he made some solid moves in getting Jim Edmonds, Chris Carpenter, Mark McGwire and Darryl Kile for very little. But his drafts were never particularly strong and he made some drastic mistakes such as trading Dan Haren for Mark Mulder.

Relying on a Hall of Fame manager in Tony LaRussa, a brilliant pitching coach in Dave Duncan and having players accept less money to stay in St. Louis were greater factors in the Cardinals success under Jocketty than Jocketty himself.

With the Reds, he again is benefiting from a foundation already in place upon his arrival.

The 2010 team that won the NL Central was put together before took over. Jocketty didn’t hire the manager, Dusty Baker; didn’t acquire any of the key players apart from Scott Rolen, Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman. And Chapman is the only one for whom Jocketty receives accolades for foresight.

On the subject of Chapman, I will never understand how the same people with the Red Sox and Yankees thought that it was a good idea to give the amount of money they gave to acquire Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kei Igawa chose not to spend the $30 million it cost to get that raw talent and searing fastball of Chapman.

Either they were gun-shy or stupid. Or both.

As for the Reds taking offers on Votto, they have a first baseman in waiting in Yonder Alonso and payroll constraints make it difficult to keep one player making $17 million in 2013.

But they’d better make sure they know what they’re doing, what they’re getting and that Alonso and others can replace Votto’s bat, glove and leadership.

It does make some semblance of sense. They’d ask a lot for Votto. And if they pull the trigger, they’d better get it.

//

From The Man Who Brought You Kei Igawa…

Management, Media, Players, Spring Training

Brian Cashman’s poor pitching decisions are becoming analogous to the schlock film producer who tosses out a lot of content and only hits when he has the star power of a C.C. Sabathia to rely on. Even the middling names with a modicum of said “star power” are enigmatic, good box office/bad box office dependent on the script, director, etc.

That would be A.J. Burnett.

The lawsuit filed against Aroldis Chapman‘s representatives claims the Yankees made an offer worth “more than $54 million” for Chapman; Cashman denies it—MLB Trade Rumors posting—I believe him.

While it and Cashman’s recent spate of honesty speaks well of his forthrightness exemplified in the contracts of Derek Jeter and Rafael Soriano, it doesn’t make his scouting eye look particularly good.

He’s got a rocky history with pitchers.

What makes it worse are the reports of how amazing Arodys Vizcaino has looked for the Braves this spring with a fastball that was clocked at over 100-mph yesterday.Vizcaino was sent to the Braves along with Mike Dunn in exchange for Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan.

In the Hollywood vernacular, Vazquez would equate to the ill-thought-out sequel for which no one was clamoring and against whose making they were warned.

Vazquez was a reasonable enough idea in theory, but was a disaster in practice; Logan is a useful lefty with a good fastball but isn’t a difference-maker one way or the other.

Two pitchers with 100+ mph fastballs—one from the left side (Chapman); and the right side (Vizcaino); both in their early 20s—are difference-makers.

Did Logan and Vazquez make the opposing manager think differently in how to approach a game against the Yankees?

No.

Would Vizcaino and Chapman?

Absolutely.

The failure to recognize that ability in Chapman, an ability that should’ve been clear in watching him throw once, is another blot on Cashman’s record in terms of pitchers. At one time, blame for errors in acquisitions and development could be shifted to the capricious lunatic George Steinbrenner; now there’s no one to blame for the gaffes with Joba Chamberlain; the trade of Vizcaino; and the inability to recognize what Chapman is.

Other clubs aren’t innocent here either. The Red Sox—who doled a ridiculous amount of money on Daisuke Matsuzaka—should’ve spotted Chapman’s talents as well.

As for the argument that because of the failures of Matsuzaka and Kei Igawa, the Yankees and Red Sox were rightfully reluctant to shell out more cash for an unproven commodity like Chapman, it’s self-righteous nonsense.

Similar to saying, “because Oliver Perez was a disaster, the Mets shouldn’t have pursued Cliff Lee“, it’s lumping everyone in the same pile. In fact, “lumping everyone in the same pile” is one of the reasons Chamberlain’s development has been stunted to the degree it has.

They’ve tried to formulate a set of guidelines to build up pitchers that are treating everyone the same. Akin to The Verducci Effect—why wouldn’t big league GMs listen and adhere to a sportswriter when developing pitchers?—they’re not treating each person as an individual who can’t be placed into a pure statistical, broad-based category and built as such.

And it’s a practical failure.

Speculation is rampant that because Cashman is being so open in his attempts to lower the Yankees payroll and build a club in a vein as the Red Sox and Rays do, he’d like a chance to be “small market Brian” and run a club under restrictive finances that would never constrain him with the Yankees and their financial might.

I’d like to see it; judging from his pitching decisions, it would not go well.

At all.

On another note regarding the Vazquez trade, Braves GM Frank Wren is looking like a bandit; not only did he get Vizcaino, but he spun Dunn off to the Marlins to get Dan Uggla. A year after the fact, the Braves have Uggla and Vizcaino for Omar Infante, Vazquez, Logan and Dunn.

In any configuration, that’s a terrific trade.

I’ll answer the mail later today.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe and it’s posted on Amazon. It currently says “Out of Stock”, but it must’ve just been placed on the site.


Share
|



var addthis_config = {“data_track_clickback”:true};

2011 Bust Out

Hot Stove

Occasionally I go for the deep strike. Based on facts (as I see them) and analysis that makes sense in the moment, this is how I come to my conclusions for better or worse.

Sometimes they’re good: accurately calling the Giants making the playoffs in 2010 and the Diamondbacks disaster, to name two.

Sometimes they’re bad: thinking the Mets would have a drastic turnaround.

At the very least, I had a viable reason for them, right or wrong.

So, with that in mind, let’s have a look at some players whose stock may have fallen, who are still learning their trade, or are somewhat unrecognized for what they can do; players who are bust out candidates for 2011.

Matt Garza, RHP—Tampa Bay Rays

Garza just turned 27, he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time and the Rays have been listening to trade offers for him; he’s got three years to go before free agency, but he’s undoubtedly looking for his payday before then. He’ll be motivated to have a big year.

Having gone 15-10 in 2010, he’s primed to win 18-20 this year. His strikeouts dropped by 39 from 2009-2010; his hits allowed increased; but his walks diminished drastically, so he may have been pitching to contact by design.

He’s ready to step forward.

Joba Chamberlain, RHP—New York Yankees

I’m a believer in the freedom of diminished expectations.

For all the perceived disappointment surrounding Chamberlain, the Yankees have an opportunity to redeem him; he has a chance to redeem himself.

It seems so long ago that Chamberlain was treated with such paranoia; that the fan/media/baseball person debate was so intense as to whether he should be a starter or reliever that it was a war of attrition; it was unsolvable until it was resolved one way or the other on the field; the endless battle succeeded only in dismantling the Joba Monster that was created in the final month of the 2007 season and was advanced by the unreasonable expectations and babying that accompanied it.

Now, Chamberlain is an afterthought. He’s no longer untouchable in a trade; no one cares about the starter/reliever debate; he’s seen as a non-entity who isn’t even going to be trusted as the primary set-up man to Mariano Rivera.

This is freedom.

Freedom from the constraints of expectation and abuse masquerading as “development”.

The Yankees and Chamberlain now have the opportunity to use him correctly without worrying about injury. Since no one’s going to care one way or the other if he does get hurt now, they can let him pitch.

And that’s what I’d do.

I’d quietly tell him to prepare as a starter and give him every opportunity to win one of the open (gaping) spots in the Yankees rotation. Then I’d turn him loose. This doesn’t imply letting him throw 145 pitches in a start, but it means bagging those ridiculous and hindering rules that played a large part in his ruination.

If they let him pitch, who knows what they’re going to uncover? They can do what they should’ve done from the beginning; with that, they might get what they thought they had in the first place.

Kyle Drabek, RHP—Toronto Blue Jays

His motion and mannerisms are identical to his dad, Doug Drabek. He’s got similar stuff and more strikeout ability. And he’s mean.

Kyle Drabek is going to be a mega-star.

Chris Sale, LHP—Chicago White Sox

I’d trust Matt Thornton as the closer initially and work Sale into the role slowly, but the White Sox have no fear of throwing their young players into the fire. Sale has been dominant with blow-away stuff and he throws strikes.

Luke Hochevar, RHP—Kansas City Royals

Would someone please unlock this guy’s talent? Please?

I look at him, his size and his motion and think Roy Halladay; then I see the results and think former Mets #1 pick Paul Wilson.

Hochevar’s at the point where he could go either way. I’m thinking he’ll have a good year and start to develop into his gifts.

Maybe.

Dallas Braden, LHP—Oakland Athletics

He showed you the 209 in his dustup with Alex Rodriguez; this season, if he’s healthy, he could also show you the CYA (Cy Young Award).

Johnny Venters, LHP—Atlanta Braves

The Braves don’t have a veteran closer and Venters has the strikeout numbers and deceptive motion to handle the job. In fact, he can dominate. Most importantly, he only allowed 1 homer in 83 innings last season.

Ruben Tejada, INF—New York Mets

Why the “experts” question whether or not he’ll hit is a mystery to me. He was overmatched early in his big league trial, but didn’t get discouraged while the bat was being knocked out of his hands and, late in the season, started turning on pitches and showing more pop than one would think he should have at his size.

Defensively, he’s fearless; I think he’s going to win the 2nd base job in spring training and he’ll be playing shortstop by August when the Mets most likely will have traded Jose Reyes.

He looks and moves like a player.

Aroldis Chapman, LHP—Cincinnati Reds

I saw him once last year—on video—and wondered why the Yankees and Red Sox didn’t grab him.

Un….hittable.

Wandy Rodriguez, LHP—Houston Astros

Rodriguez aggravates me because every year I say he’s going to bust out; every year he shows flashes; and every year, he ends up in the same position of “potential” only to re-start the process again.

He’s a free agent at the end of the year, so perhaps money will motivate him.

Andrew McCutchen, CF—Pittsburgh Pirates

McCutchen is going to win an MVP one of these years.

Well, if he’s ever on a competitive team, that is.

Clayton Richard, LHP—San Diego Padres

He took the next step in 2010 as he threw 200 innings and went 14-9. Richard’s a 20-game winner waiting to happen.

Luke Gregerson, RHP—San Diego Padres

He’ll end up as the closer if (when) Heath Bell is traded. I’m waiting for an explanation as to what the Cardinals were thinking in trading him for Khalil Greene.

It’d have to be a doozy.

Clayton Kershaw, LHP—Los Angeles Dodgers

Let’s try this again.

Last year, I said Kershaw was going to blossom into an ace/Cy Young Award winner. He developed, but not to that degree. He went 12-10, but did pitch well enough to win 18 or so games. The strikeouts and hits/innings-pitched ratios show a potential for dominance. Kershaw’s control is wanting, but he’s going to be 23 in March.

The Dodgers need him to step up and take the reins. I think he will.