MLB Waiver Deals 8.23.2011

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Playoffs, Prospects

Rockies claim Wandy Rodriguez.

It was something of a surprise that the Rockies claimed Rodriguez with his contract and their payroll constraints.

There are several factors surrounding Rodriguez that make his movement simultaneously iffy and possible.

The Rockies argument to the Astros will be that they’re giving them payroll relief to adhere to pending new owner Jim Crane’s payroll reduction demands and therefore shouldn’t be asked to give up anything significant for Rodriguez. The Astros can turn around and point out that Rodriguez is a good, durable pitcher who’s worth the money he’s getting.

I like Rodriguez a lot and always have, but if I’m the Astros, I consider the big picture and desire to start fresh with a lower payroll and let Rodriguez go for whatever the Rockies are willing to give…within reason. A couple of good-moderate prospects with upside or some attribute like a power fastball or speed on the bases would do it for me.

I think a deal is somehow going to get done. The Astros need to clear that payroll will supersede any reluctance to take limited return for Rodriguez.

Blue Jays trade Aaron Hill and John McDonald to the Diamondbacks for Kelly Johnson.

This is a worthwhile trade for both clubs.

Hill is signed through 2014 with team options in 2012 ($8 million), 2013 ($8 million), and 2014 ($10 million). He’s been offensively inept for two years running after a breakout 2009; he’s a good fielding second baseman.

McDonald is a useful utility glove who doesn’t hit; he’s versatile defensively and a feisty player.

I’m not the biggest Kelly Johnson fan. He was good with the Braves to start his career, had injury problems and slumped and they non-tendered him; the Diamondbacks picked him up and he was very good in 2010; this season, he’s hit for pop with poor on base/batting average production. He’s a free agent at the end of the season and it’s hard to imagine the Blue Jays doing this if they didn’t intend to try and keep him.

I’ll guess Johnson will be offered arbitration by the Blue Jays and accept it to try and increase his value for another shot at free agency after 2012. This benefits the Blue Jays because they have their eye on a playoff run next season—and they’re going to make a serious one.

If I were the Diamondbacks, I would be extremely concerned about Hill’s precipitous decline at the plate; but he’s signed for a similar amount of money that they’d wind up paying Johnson if he were offered arbitration and accepted it; you’re not going to get a talent like Hill for a pending free agent like Johnson when he’s hitting.

It makes sense in all aspects.

Rockies acquire Kevin Kouzmanoff.

Didn’t the Rockies do this before the season when they got the same player as Kouzmanoff in Jose Lopez?

It didn’t work then; given Kouzmanoff’s consistent disappointment, I don’t see this working any better than Lopez did.

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Team Turmoil

Books, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

By now you’re probably aware of the Jack WilsonEric Wedge disagreement over Wilson leaving last Wednesday’s game after making two errors at second base—Seattle PI Blog.

Most observers have taken stood squarely behind Mariners new manager, Wedge. I also agree with Wedge’s anger, but have to give some perspective as to Wilson’s position—literally and figuratively—in the matter.

While it’s not as egregious as it was last year, this Mariners early season distraction is a sign of still simmering issues in the clubhouse. The front office flung manager Don Wakamatsu overboard as the team’s promising season was a disaster on the field and a humiliation off. Wedge was hired because he’s more of a known quantity and fearless disciplinarian who isn’t going to tolerate similar nonsense as that which undermined Wakamatsu’s credibility and, in part, cost him his job.

But here’s a legitimate defense of Wilson: he’s a shortstop and not a second baseman; he’s a free agent at the end of the year; and it’s not very fair of the Mariners to do this to him at this point in his career.

Learning a new position on the fly in the final year of his contract is difficult on many levels—financial and practical; clearly he’s going to have trepidation about the shift and won’t be immediately comfortable. We’ve all had moments of “forget this, I’m leaving”; it just so happens that Wilson did it on a major league baseball diamond and had to answer a load of questions about it after contradicting his manager’s statement as to why.

It was a mistake and a lack of communication, but Wilson’s point-of-view isn’t out of order.

Wilson may statistically be seen as inferior defensively to Brendan Ryan at shortstop (and it’s highly debatable), but shouldn’t Wilson—as the returning veteran—have gotten priority to where he plays independent of stats?

Ryan can play second base as well. It’s not as if they imported Ozzie Smith to play shortstop; we’re talking about Brendan Ryan.

Wilson had never played second base professionally before this season and Ryan has. Is it fair to expect Wilson to be able to handle it without missing a beat? Without mistakes and frustration? Even a little fear?

Tsuyoshi Nishioka of the Twins just had his fibula broken by Nick Swisher on a clean play in which Swisher was breaking up a double play. It’s one of the hazards of playing second base and overcoming those mental hurdles without adequate preparation or experience takes time.

Regardless of the new, no-nonsense manager in the Mariners dugout, this provokes greater outside wonderment at the club hierarchy and why they’re so fond of making these questionable changes for negligible reasons. Last year it was the moving of an elite defensive third baseman, Chone Figgins to second base and Jose Lopez to third; this year it’s Wilson to second to make room for Ryan.

It seems that the Mariners are shifting players around based on numbers without accounting for the human being who’s asked to do something he’s unsure of and possibly lacking competency in doing.

As said earlier, Wilson’s a free agent at the end of the year and at age 34 with injury issues and poor offense, his options aren’t going to be great to begin with; it’s probably his last chance at a decent, long-term deal. The last things he needs are an injury or terrible year playing second base instead of shortstop.

As for Ryan, this is the second time this young season he’s been discussed in a bizarre context and neither have been his fault. First there was the NY Times column about which I wrote a posting on March 27th where the Cardinals winning record in games with Ryan in the lineup last season were somehow connected (banished logic included); now he’s caught in the crossfire of a teammate being usurped.

For a limited in talent, journeyman player, Ryan’s getting a lot of—too much—attention and now it’s affecting the whole Mariners team; a team that didn’t need controversy after a disastrous 2010 and hired the new manager specifically to get past all of that.

Instead of turning the page, the Mariners have picked up where they left off. And it’s not good.

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Young Chronicles

Hot Stove

It would be nice if the participants assisted me by doing whatever they’re going to do before I finish my book.

Selfish desires aside, the Rangers are trying trade Michael Young and there are several teams for whom Young is a fit as a person and player.

Contractually? That’s another story.

Despite the protestations of stats obsessed, Young is a very good player; I’ve never quite understood why they don’t like him. He hits for power and average and plays every day. Defensively, he’s limited in range, but versatile in where he can play. His on base percentage is relatively low in comparison to his batting average, but it actually is amazingly similar to…Ichiro Suzuki‘s!

But Young does things that Ichiro doesn’t do such as accumulate hits other than singles.

His contract and that Young nor the Rangers appear comfortable with him DHing are the main reasons for his availability. Young is owed $48 million through 2013; he also has a limited no-trade clause until May in which he can submit eight teams to whom he’ll accept a trade; and coincidentally (or not) Young also becomes as 10-and-5 player in May where he could refuse any trade.

As is said in this ESPN posting, the Rangers don’t want to dump him for nothing; nor do they want to pay a vast chunk of his salary just to get rid of him and acquire a decent return.

With that in mind, let’s see where Young would be a fit.

Colorado Rockies

They could use his bat, but as is being continually reported on MLB Trade Rumors, they can’t afford to take his whole salary. If I were the Rangers, getting Jose Lopez wouldn’t excite me in the least.

An interesting fit salary-wise would be Todd Helton, but would the Rockies trade him?

The Rockies could really use Young at second base, but it would require creativity/concessions on both ends to get it done.

Los Angeles Angels

Young would slide neatly in at third base and give the Angels another bat they desperately need. Young is extremely close friends with Vernon Wells and, as a person, fits perfectly into the Angels clubhouse.

They could absorb the majority of the contract, but would that be enough to spur the Rangers to trade Young within the division to a team they’re going to be fighting with for a playoff spot?

I doubt it.

Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s a perfect fit everywhere but financially.

I can’t imagine that the McCourts can take more salary onto the ledger and they don’t have a contract to exchange for him. Apart from that, they could—depending on defensive preferences—play Young at second or third; Juan Uribe at second or third; and shift Casey Blake to the outfield.

New York Mets

Would the Rangers take Carlos Beltran and one of the contracts of either Oliver Perez or Luis Castillo?

Could the Mets add the $18-24 million they’d need to to acquire Young?

With the way the Bernie Madoff/Wilpons/lawsuit mess has begun, probably not; and I can’t see Sandy Alderson doing this knowing how the season is looking to be a total bridge year in every conceivable sense.

Atlanta Braves

They don’t need him now, but what are they going to do if Chipper Jones can’t come back? They don’t have a viable backup plan; and they’re pinning their playoff hopes on a rookie at one corner—Freddie Freeman; and Jones returning at full strength.

Any deal involving Young would have to include salary relief and would need to wait until the Braves know what Jones is capable of.

I would expect the Young situation to have been settled by then.

Chicago Cubs

Would the Rangers be willing to take Carlos Zambrano?

The Cubs are short on pitching after Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza if they did this, but the slashing of the Zambrano salary (possibly worth $55 million) matches relatively neatly with Young’s deal.

I’m not a big Blake DeWitt fan and Young would bolster the Cubs lineup.

The Cubs shouldn’t have traded Tom Gorzelanny.

Detroit Tigers

Their current second baseman is listed as Carlos Guillen. If you think he’s going to stay healthy, then I admire your faith.

If the Tigers were willing to take Young’s salary and the Rangers took Guillen’s $13 million for 2011, it could work.

Pittsburgh Pirates

No, Young wouldn’t help the Pirates; nor do the Pirates need Young—they can lose 95 games with or without him; but if I’m Jon Daniels or Nolan Ryan, I call the Pirates and put the “used car salesman” hit on Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington of the Pirates.

“I want you and only you to have the widely respected and versatile Michael Young; all I’m asking for—ALL I’m asking for is Andrew McCutchen. This offer is on the table and will be removed within 5 minutes and I have two other offers that are far better than this; but since we’re friends, I’m willing to do you this favor!”

Who knows? They’re the Pirates. They might bite.