Reading Between Sandy Alderson’s Lines

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Sandy Alderson was a guest with Mike Francesa on WFAN in New York yesterday and said a lot without going into great detail as to what his true intentions are. This is nothing new. Alderson is cautious and makes it a point to give himself room by not saying anything that could later come back to haunt him. But if you read between the lines of what he said, you can come to a conclusion as to where he’s heading for the Mets in 2014 and beyond.

Matt Harvey – surgery or not?

According to Alderson, by next month there should be a plan in place on what to do about Harvey’s partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. While Harvey’s determination to avoid surgery to help the Mets is admirable, it was clear from listening to Alderson that he and the Mets want Harvey to get the surgery done, have his elbow repaired and be 100 percent for late 2014/early 2015.

Alderson is essentially saying what the self-educated “experts” in the media and on social media should say: “I’m not a doctor and we’ll do what the doctors’ consensus is.” If I were Alderson, I would speak to Harvey’s dad, Ed Harvey, who is a notable high school coach and make certain he understands the ramifications of Matt not getting the surgery and express that to his son.

Ike Davis and Lucas Duda

Alderson sounds as if he’s unsure about Davis and likes Duda much better. I agree. The bottom line with the two players is that Duda’s a better hitter. He’s got more power; he’s got a better eye; he hits lefties; he’s got a shorter swing that will be more consistent in the long run; he takes the game more seriously; and he can play a similar defensive first base to Davis.

Alderson brought up Duda’s struggles but made sure to point out that in spite of them, he still had one of the highest OPS’s on the club. Davis improved in certain aspects when he returned from his Triple A demotion, but his power is still missing. He’s walking more, but unless Davis is hitting the ball out of the park, what good is he?

The strained right oblique that Davis suffered in Washington has all but ended his 2013 season. This is a positive and negative for the Mets. It’s a negative because they won’t be able to get a look at Davis over the final month to see if the improved selectivity yielded an increase in power over the final 30 games. It’s a positive because they can play Duda every single day at first base and get a gauge on whether they can trade Davis and trust Duda without it exploding in their faces.

Joel Sherman came up with a ridiculous series of scenarios for Davis including trading him for the likes of Chris Coghlan, Gordon Beckham or Jeremy Hellickson. Coghlan is a possible non-tender candidate after this season and Beckham and Hellickson have done nothing to warrant being traded for a player who hit 32 home runs in 2012.

It’s almost as if Alderson is pleading with Duda to give him a reason to hand him the job in 2014. Alderson clearly wants Duda to put a chokehold on first base so the Mets can trade Davis.

Ruben Tejada

The Mets had implied as far back as spring training 2012 that Tejada’s work ethic was questionable. It’s not that he doesn’t hustle or play hard when he’s on the field. He does. It’s that Alderson came right out and said that Tejada has to be dragged onto the field for extra infield, extra hitting and any kind of after-hours instruction. Whereas players like Juan Lagares can’t get enough work, Tejada doesn’t think he needs it. They’d never gone as far as to openly say it, but now it’s out there. Unless Tejada shows that he’s willing to go as far as he needs to to be the Mets’ shortstop, he’s not going to be the Mets’ shortstop. In fact, it’s unlikely that he’s going to be their shortstop next year whether he suddenly finds a determination similar to Derek Jeter’s. He doesn’t hit for enough power to suit Alderson and he can’t run.

The status of manager Terry Collins

Collins is going to be the manager of the Mets in 2014. While there has been a media/fan-stoked idea that if the Mets tank in September and come completely undone that will spell doom for Collins, it’s nonsense. That might have been the case had David Wright, Davis, Harvey and Bobby Parnell been healthy and if they hadn’t traded Marlon Byrd and John Buck. Now that they’re without all of these players and are on the cusp of shutting down Zack Wheeler, they’re playing so shorthanded that a September record of 10-19 would be expected. If they go 14-15 or thereabouts, Collins will get the credit for overachievement.

How can anyone in their right mind hold Collins responsible if the team has a poor September when they’re going to be trotting Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Harang out to the mound for a number of starts just to get the season over with?

The upcoming winter and spending

I’m not getting into speculation on the Wilpons’ loan payments due in 2014. So many have already done that and the vast majority of them have been completely wrong every step of the way since the arrest of Bernie Madoff and the financial meltdown. From the outside, I’m going to say that the banks are going to let the Wilpons renegotiate the debt. In truth, considering the amount of money they owe, what it will cost to sign a few players – even expensive players – is relatively negligible. It’s not in Alderson’s DNA to pay $150 million for a free agent because as Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Carl Crawford and so many others have proven, it’s just not worth it in the majority of cases. The Mets will be in on the likes of Bronson Arroyo, Carlos Beltran and Jhonny Peralta whose prices will be “what’s the difference?” outlays. Alderson said they have financial flexibility and they do. The Mets are going to spend this winter because they’re out of excuses and they can’t afford not to.




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Are The White Sox For Real?

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The White Sox are 27-22, have won 6 straight, are ½ game out of first place and are one of the bigger surprises in baseball. They made wholesale changes this past winter and hired a neophyte manager, Robin Ventura. They put forth the pretense of a rebuilding project when they dealt away Carlos Quentin and Sergio Santos and it didn’t appear that the White Sox were expecting to contend in 2012. GM Ken Williams vacillated on his statements implying that he was clearing out the house. He kept veteran A.J. Pierzynski; signed lefty John Danks to a contract extension after fielding trade offers for him; and resisted inquiries on Gavin Floyd.

They didn’t define what they were doing in the off-season and as a result, we don’t know what they are in-season.

Are they a .500 team? Are they a contender? Are they “open for business” either way as Williams said last Fall?

I don’t think they know. I think they’re waiting to see where they are by July before committing one way or the other.

Jake Peavy is having a brilliant comeback season after an injury-ravaged tenure as a White Sox. He has a contract option for 2013 at $22 million with a $4 million buyout. The White Sox could opt to keep him for 2013, trade him at the deadline or in the winter or simply decline the option.

Adam Dunn has reverted into being Adam Dunn with home runs, walks and strikeouts after a rough transition and profoundly bad luck in 2011.

Their defense has been surprisingly good following years of neglect by the front office.

They might be better than predicted.

But contenders?

That’s still up in the air.

Is Paul Konerko going to hit .380? To have an on base percentage of nearly .470? Konerko’s a fine hitter and leader and is making a strong Hall of Fame case with his late-career production, but he’ll be back down to a .295/.370/.520 slash line with 30-35 homers by the time the season’s over. That won’t make up for the dead spots in the lineup they’re carrying at second and third base.

It comes down to what’s real. Is this (.224/.282/.364 with 5 homers) the real Gordon Beckham or is he the hitter he was as a rookie in 2009 when he was a budding star? Given that he’s been rapidly declining since 2010, I’d say this is it.

Will Peavy keep up his work? Will Pierzynski spend the whole season batting above .300? Can Chris Sale maintain his stamina and excellence that resulted in 15 strikeouts last night after being a reliever in his first two big league seasons? What will Danks contribute when he returns from a shoulder injury?

They’re on their second closer in Addison Reed after Hector Santiago flunked out of the role. There were even a brief several days when it was said that Sale was moving back to the bullpen.

We don’t know what they are. They don’t know what they are.

There are teams like the Yankees and Angels for whom we can study history and the backs of the bubblegum cards and reasonably extrapolate that for their name players, the struggles and successes of the present won’t continue into the future. Then there are teams like the White Sox for whom the current results are unsustainable.

Williams is always aggressive, but whether he’s aggressive to add or subtract will depend on how his team is playing at that moment. They’re not particularly good, but they’re not particularly bad either. It’s the undefined teams that have to come to that determination regardless of fan/media demands. It’s not as simple as it looks. Williams is fond of making bold moves that generally ignoring conventional wisdom. In the case of the 2012 White Sox, the bold move might be to stand pat. They don’t have many prospects to deal and the veteran players they’d like to dump could help them more as White Sox than they would as trade bait.

It’s not easy, but it’s smarter to stay where they are and hope they maintain their unlikely spurt into contention.

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MLB Lightning Strikes 8.4.2011

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The trading deadline was not the finish line.

Soxfinger is about to press the button.

Amid all the threats from White Sox GM Kenny Williams (AKA the James Bond villain known as Soxfinger) that he was going to blow up his roster for underperformance, there wasn’t much of a chance of him doing it while the team was at or near .500 and within 3 or so games of first place.

Now, after the trading deadline, the White Sox have lost every game they’ve played and looked awful doing it.

Their veterans are putting out the aura that they’ve relaxed with the passing of that arbitrary date of July 31st.

In case they hadn’t noticed, most of them have contracts which will allow them to get through waivers. The others who’ll be claimed—Mark Buehrle, Carlos Quentin, Matt Thornton—had probably better prepare themselves to be moved.

Soxfinger might even do something drastic with Gordon Beckham.

They’re 6 1/2 games out of first now and have lost 5 straight.

Williams is going to blow it up. Soon.

Red Sox evaluation validation.

With the news that the Red Sox made an aggressive and substantial offer for Ubaldo Jimenez, his value was validated.

Whether that’s accurate or not remains to be seen and judged. The Red Sox have made mistakes in their evaluations, especially with pitchers. But the Red Sox have such industry-wide respect for intelligent analysis that the perception will mute the worries about his performance over the past calendar year. It was so with Jose Bautista when the Red Sox tried to pry him from the Blue Jays and it’s the same with Jimenez now.

THIS IS WHAT YOU BOUGHT!!!

Perhaps if I alter my familiar rant regarding A.J. Burnett—“THIS IS WHAT YOU BOUGHT!!!”—and added statistics to prove the point of “THIS IS WHAT YOU BOUGHT!!!” people will start to get it through their thick skulls that THIS IS WHAT YOU BOUGHT!!!.

Here are Burnett’s career numbers and averages.

Year W L W-L% ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP ERA+
1995 2 3 .400 4.28 9 8 33.2 27 16 16 2 23 0 26 2 4 7
1996 4 0 1.000 3.88 12 12 58.0 31 26 25 0 54 0 68 7 3 16
1997 3 2 .600 4.39 12 11 55.1 36 34 27 3 43 0 63 8 0 12
1998 10 4 .714 1.97 20 20 119.0 74 27 26 3 45 0 186 8 2 6
1999 6 12 .333 5.52 26 23 120.2 132 91 74 15 71 0 121 5 2 16
1999 4 2 .667 3.48 7 7 41.1 37 23 16 3 25 2 33 0 0 0 126
2000 0 0 2.19 3 3 12.1 4 3 3 0 9 0 12 0 2 2
2000 3 7 .300 4.79 13 13 82.2 80 46 44 8 44 3 57 2 0 2 92
2001 0 0 1.93 2 2 9.1 4 2 2 0 4 0 10 0 0 0
2001 11 12 .478 4.05 27 27 173.1 145 82 78 20 83 3 128 7 1 7 105
2002 12 9 .571 3.30 31 29 204.1 153 84 75 12 90 5 203 9 0 14 122
2003 0 2 .000 4.70 4 4 23.0 18 13 12 2 18 2 21 2 0 2 91
2004 0 0 4.91 2 2 7.1 9 5 4 1 4 0 10 1 0 3
2004 7 6 .538 3.68 20 19 120.0 102 50 49 9 38 0 113 4 0 7 112
2005 12 12 .500 3.44 32 32 209.0 184 97 80 12 79 1 198 7 0 12 116
2006 2 0 1.000 1.89 4 4 19.0 11 5 4 1 6 0 22 2 0 1
2006 10 8 .556 3.98 21 21 135.2 138 67 60 14 39 3 118 8 1 6 115
2007 0 0 1.80 1 1 5.0 3 1 1 0 1 0 7 0 0 0
2007 10 8 .556 3.75 25 25 165.2 131 74 69 23 66 2 176 12 0 5 119
2008 18 10 .643 4.07 35 34 221.1 211 109 100 19 86 2 231 9 2 11 104
2009 13 9 .591 4.04 33 33 207.0 193 99 93 25 97 0 195 10 1 17 114
2010 10 15 .400 5.26 33 33 186.2 204 118 109 25 78 2 145 19 0 16 82
2011 8 9 .471 4.54 23 23 142.2 129 78 72 21 63 1 123 7 0 14 93
13 Seasons 118 109 .520 4.03 304 300 1912.2 1725 940 857 193 806 26 1741 96 5 113 106
162 Game Avg. 13 12 .520 4.03 34 34 215 194 106 96 22 91 3 196 11 1 13 106
FLA (7 yrs) 49 50 .495 3.73 134 131 853.2 719 395 354 66 377 16 753 31 1 44 111
NYY (3 yrs) 31 33 .484 4.60 89 89 536.1 526 295 274 71 238 3 463 36 1 47 96
TOR (3 yrs) 38 26 .594 3.94 81 80 522.2 480 250 229 56 191 7 525 29 3 22 112
NL (7 yrs) 49 50 .495 3.73 134 131 853.2 719 395 354 66 377 16 753 31 1 44 111
AL (6 yrs) 69 59 .539 4.27 170 169 1059.0 1006 545 503 127 429 10 988 65 4 69 103
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/4/2011.

He’s consistently inconsistent. That makes him consistent.

He might pitch as he did last night again in his next start.

Or he might pitch a no-hitter.

That is A.J. Burnett.

THIS IS WHAT YOU BOUGHT!!!

Accept it and stop complaining.

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Your Idiot Rumor/Stupid Idea Of The Day 7.24.2011

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It was a close call. The near winner was the rumor that the White Sox and Cardinals were discussing a trade that would sent White Sox pitchers Edwin Jackson (a pending free agent) and reliever Matt Thornton to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus.

Supposedly the White Sox were also going to send young players to the Cardinals or a third team was going to be recruited to help facilitate matters.

Do the White Sox even have any worthwhile young players past Gordon Beckham, Chris Sale and Dayan Viciedo? And why would the Cardinals want to rent Jackson and take Thornton, who was a total disaster as the White Sox closer for Rasmus, who’s taken up residence in Tony LaRussa‘s entrance only doghouse?

Rasmus is 25 and under team control for the next 3 years. If they’re going to trade him, they’d better get a substantial amount more than Jackson and Thornton and don’t do it in a fit of pique for a manager like LaRussa who’s going year-to-year and is notoriously prickly with anyone—especially a young player—who dares rub him the wrong way.

It’s lunacy.

But there was another rumor that was even more deranged.

The worst of the worst is reserved for the Nick Cafardo weekly piece summed up here on MLBTradeRumors.

Here’s the relevant bit:

Some Nationals people believe a change of scenery would greatly benefit B.J. Upton, and are considering “offering the moon” for him.

The “moon”? For B.J. Upton?

The same Nationals organization that thought they were going to straighten out Lastings Milledge, Scott Olsen and Elijah Dukes is going to somehow get through to Upton?

Have they learned from their mistakes in the attempted nurturing and maturing of the aforementioned problem children and the failures? Do they have a new strategy that the Rays haven’t tried?

The Rays have benched, yelled at, physically challenged and fined Upton. They’ve had leaders like Troy Percival, Jason Isringhausen, Gabe Kapler and Evan Longoria in their clubhouse and not one has gotten through to Upton. Joe Maddon is probably the easiest manager any player is ever going to play for while according him a modicum of respect. Short of sticking him in a room alone with Kyle Farnsworth and telling Farnsworth to do whatever he has to do short of killing Upton to get him in line, I don’t know what else they can do.

So what gives the Nats the idea that they’re going to unlock the secret to Upton’s massive talent? Who came up with this concept and why would they surrender the “moon” to get him? Is this the same line of thought that spurred them to give Jayson Werth $126 million? Because if it is, maybe they should do the exact opposite of what they think is a good move now.

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For The White Sox, It Makes No Sense To Sell

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Circumstances have to be aligned for teams that have a veteran core and massive payroll commitments to make the decision to try and sell at mid-season.

The White Sox have that veteran core and their payroll has skyrocketed to $127 million. But they’re not in a position to clean out the house for several reasons.

Apart from Chris Sale, Gordon Beckham and John Danks the White Sox—to be blunt—are old. In addition to that wear on their tires, they’re ridiculously expensive with contracts that are almost totally immovable.

Jake Peavy, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios are locked in with the White Sox and are going nowhere. Short of taking on another club’s prohibitive contract/headache along the lines of Barry Zito, Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano, Chone Figgins or Jason Bay, they’re stuck with those players.

The more marketable types like the free agents-to-be Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson would absolutely be in demand, but it makes little sense for the White Sox—5 games out of first place in a weak and winnable division—to trade them for the “future”.

If they can improve now by making a deal with one of those players, that’s a different story.

If there are going to be a wholesale set of changes, it’ll be after this season as Juan Pierre, Jackson and Buehrle all come off the books. At that point, the White Sox can start to listen to offers on Carlos Quentin and even Gavin Floyd to restock their farm system.

GM Kenny Williams has been loathe to surrender a season in the interests of the future and mid-season 2011 won’t be any different not only because he doesn’t want to, but because he can’t.

A retool/rebuild is also contingent on what happens with manager Ozzie Guillen. An entirely new direction with a different core would likely include a new manager. There’s been speculation forever about Guillen’s job security and he’s still there; the Marlins are known to have interest and want a “name” manager to take over as they enter their new ballpark; Guillen is signed through next year, but Williams was willing to discuss an exchange that would let Guillen leave last winter when the Marlins came calling. After the 2011 season and the way things have come apart, perhaps he’d like to make a change once and for all.

If they were in the American or National League East, I’d say the White Sox should dispatch anyone and everyone they could. They’re not. They’re well within striking distance of first place and one hot streak from jumping right over both the Tigers and Indians.

They shouldn’t sell because it’s unwise and it wouldn’t do them any good anyway.

Stand pat or add and see what happens.

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Under The Radar Available(?)

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The obvious names are out there and available via trade. You’ve got the pending free agents for struggling teams (Casey Blake, Vladimir Guerrero); those that clubs are desperate to dump (Francisco Rodriguez, Chone Figgins); and some that are having good years but, for one reason or another, are on the trade block (Jason Isringhausen, Michael Bourn).

But here are some under-the-radar names about whom clubs should inquire just to see if they’re potential targets.

I may not have the “whispers” of Ken Rosenthal; the “genius” of Billy Beane; the “numerous insiders that I may or may not have conjured out of thin air” like Joel Sherman; and I may not be a “thin-skinned and smarmy” baby like Jon Heyman, but I can tell which way the wind is blowing.

Bear in mind that when the Diamondbacks got off to an atrocious start in early 2010, I said teams should start calling about Dan Haren.

No one else was saying it and, lo and behold, Haren was traded at mid-season.

So let’s have a look at some names I’d call and ask about.

Just to see.

Logan Morrison, OF—Marlins

The Marlins will listen on and trade anyone. They’ve spoken to, warned, threatened and benched Morrison, but he’s not listening. He’s young and he can mash, but since they’re playing the tough-love game with Jack McKeon, maybe a shockwave would be sent through the clubhouse by trading their mouthy, tweety young star.

They’d get a lot for him.

Chase Headley, 3B—Padres

He plays a hard-to-fill position, switch hits, is arbitration-eligible and doesn’t appear as if he’s ever going to hit for much power—at least in San Diego’s cavernous park.

The Padres aren’t going anywhere this year; Headley would bring back a couple of good prospects.

Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP—Rockies

He’s signed cheaply through 2014. The Rockies are in a winnable division and are within striking distance of first place; their trade for Mark Ellis indicates they’re still going for it despite being 4 games under .500.

But what happens in three weeks if they’re still floundering? Jimenez would bring back multiple, high-end prospects.

Brandon Phillips, 2B—Reds

He’s got a $12 million, 2012 club option (that becomes mutual if he’s traded), the Reds can score enough without him and are desperate for pitching. They’re under .500, but are still only 4 games out of first.

Gordon Beckham, INF—White Sox

It’s going on a year-and-a-half with Beckham struggling at the plate and the White Sox are always ready and willing to do something drastic. They seem to be getting annoyed with him. Annoyed enough to trade him.

These names aren’t out in the public consciousness because the media “insiders” don’t mention them; nor have they been planted by the clubs to gauge public reaction for the possibility of trading them.

All are worth a call because unless you ask the question, you don’t know what answer you’ll get.

Sometimes, the answer is yes.

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