Why Are the Diamondbacks So Desperate to Deal Upton?

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You can counter the title question with, “They’re not desperate; they’re just listening and trying to maximize an asset,” or some other line of sludge. But they sure sound desperate to deal him to me.

Since he took the job as Diamondbacks’ GM after the 2010 season, Kevin Towers has tossed Justin Upton’s name around as a negotiable commodity. That the Diamondbacks are so willing to trade a soon-to-be-25-year-old who has the talent to win an MVP is truly baffling. He’s also signed through 2015 with $38.5 million owed to him from 2013 onward.

Why?

Team managing general partner Ken Kendrick was publicly unhappy with both Upton and Stephen Drew earlier this season so this might not be coming from Towers, but he’s the front man and he’s the one making Upton available, so he’s the one to look at when asking the obvious question: Why?

The shift from willing to maybe to increasingly definite is curious. So curious that it would give me pause.

Before making a substantial bid for him and offer what Towers is going to want—figure on starting pitching, either a blue chip shortstop or third baseman, and possibly an outfield bat—I’d want to know why they’re moving him and I’d want a real answer. Then I’d ask around behind the scenes if there’s anything the Diamondbacks are hiding such as a worrisome physical problem or off-field issues.

In the spring, before they signed him to a team-friendly contract extension, the Pirates had put it out there that they’d listen to offers for Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen is one of perhaps 3-4 players in baseball for whom I’d surrender upwards of 5 players to get. In fact, if I was starting an organization, I’d select him over Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Giancarlo Stanton. He’s a foundational player that an organization builds around. The Pirates signed him, he’s staying in Pittsburgh and he’s blossomed into an MVP candidate.

I don’t consider Upton to be that type of player. He’s just below that group on the next tier. With the Diamondbacks acting as if they have to get rid of him, I can’t help but wonder what’s going on under the surface. I’d ask the question of Towers during negotiations and if I didn’t like the answers, I’d regretfully decline to make any deal and move along.

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American League East—Buy, Sell or Stand Pat?

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You’ll see all the “rumors” floating around, published in newspapers and discussed on blogs, websites and shows. Most of them are fabrications, blown out of proportion or strategically placed factoids by owners, GMs, player agents, players, media members and anyone else with a stake in getting a story out there.

Starting with the American League East, here’s a realistic analysis of what teams should do at the upcoming trading deadline and which players might be available.

New York Yankees

Of course the Yankees are buyers, but what they’re buying and are willing to sell is still unknown. GM Brian Cashman has said he’s not going after any big name starting pitchers. Is that because they don’t want to trade prospects or because their prospects have lost luster throughout baseball?

The Yankees have crafted a case study in diminishing the value of their lauded minor leaguers. They managed to sell their one big asset—Jesus Montero—for a lemon in Michael Pineda and a bent “key” Jose Campos. (Still no updates on the condition of Campos’s elbow, by the way. Have they buried him somewhere?)

Manny Banuelos is also injured and Dellin Betances was demoted from Triple A to Double A because he couldn’t throw strikes.

Teams would take both, but not as the centerpiece for a notable veteran player. As part of a package? Absolutely.

They’d be foolish not to at least check in on Cole Hamels. They’re a more likely suitor for Ryan Dempster. I’d steer clear of Jason Vargas and Wandy Rodriguez (not good ideas for Yankee Stadium); Matt Garza is intriguing buy costly.

They need bullpen help with Grant Balfour, Rafael Betancourt, Brandon League and Joe Thatcher targets to consider.

If I were Cashman, I’d call Diamondbacks’ GM Kevin Towers (a former Cashman assistant) and tell him to hold off on trading Justin Upton in-season because the Yankees will want him over the winter to replace Nick Swisher.

Baltimore Orioles

They should stand pat making only negligible and cheap additions.

While it’s a great story that the Orioles are 45-40 and the doubters of some of the moves made by Dan Duquette have been proven wrong (Jason Hammel has been one of the great, under-the-radar pickups this season), they have to weigh the chances of a playoff spot vs surrendering too much to get mid-season help.

Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy are off the table in trades.

If they can get a starter and an outfielder simply by taking on salary and not giving up much to get them, they should do it. Carlos Quentin for the outfield and Joe Blanton to eat innings. Apart from that, they shouldn’t go crazy for a longshot.

Tampa Bay Rays

It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen for the Rays this year. They’re banking their hopes on Evan Longoria’s return—whenever that’s going to be. The starting pitching that was supposed to be an embarrassment of riches that the rest of baseball envied has fizzled. I expected B.J. Upton to have a massive statistical season in his contract year, but he’s continued being B.J. Upton: aggravating, inconsistent, lazy with flashes of brilliance.

Comebacks such as the one they pulled off last September don’t happen very often.

They should stand pat and listen to offers for Upton.

Boston Red Sox

Fan demand might force them to do something drastic and it’s not going to sell if Ben Cherington and Larry Lucchino pull the old Theo Epstein trick of being in on ginormous deals that never come to pass. The media and radio talk shows are going to want something significant done.

They need to ignore the pleas and stand pat.

This team, bottom line, isn’t very good. They’re dysfunctional in the clubhouse; there’s a leadership vacuum in the front office with multiple voices vying for influence; and their veterans haven’t performed. Trading prospects for a rental starting pitcher or even one that they’ll be able to keep in Garza makes no sense.

Toronto Blue Jays

There’s talk that they’re buyers. There’s talk that they’re sellers. There’s talk that they’re both.

GM Alex Anthopoulos is in on everything and they have the prospects to do something major. Desperate for starting pitching and holding out hope for a late-season playoff run, it’s something to consider when making a move on Garza or Wandy Rodriguez. They’re not far away from being a legitimate contender now and definitely in 2013 and beyond.

But they’ve been on that verge multiple times for the past 10 years and nothing’s happened.

I don’t get the impression that the Brewers are all-in on cleaning house and dealing Zack Greinke. In fact, I’m thinking that unless they totally come apart over the next three weeks, they won’t move him. They Blue Jays would probably be better off shifting focus toward a Randy Wolf or bringing Shaun Marcum back because they’re cheaper.

I’d try to get rid of Adam Lind now that he’s hitting again.

Edwin Encarnacion’s name popped up as being in play. He’s having his career year and still makes mental gaffes that can aggravate the most patient manager. If someone is willing give up a pitcher for him, then do it in a mutually advantageous deal. The Pirates have extra pitching and could use a bat, but I’d be concerned about messing with their current chemistry.

I’d buy or sell within reason with nothing too explosive.

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Who Won’t Be Traded At The Deadline?

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Everyone’s coming up with their lists of players who are going to be available or traded at the upcoming MLB trading deadline. I’ve been doing it too and will continue up to the big day, but there are also names floating around that come from anonymous (possibly nonexistent) sources; have reasons to possibly be on the block but actually aren’t; or are pulled out of the air by rumormongers because they can’t think of anything else to write or talk about.

Here are some of the players that are implied to be available, but aren’t and won’t be traded.

Josh Willingham, Twins

The Twins are ready to deal but they’re not going to get rid of every big league player on the roster. They just signed Willingham this past winter, he’s paid reasonably and they wouldn’t get much for him if they did decide to trade him. The days of teams taking on big contracts and giving up significant prospects are over and the Twins aren’t going to pay any of Willingham’s salary.

He’s 33 and is signed through 2014 at $7 million per year. He’s either more valuable for the Twins to keep or to look to trade as the contract winds down.

The Twins aren’t going to have the stomach to rebuild the team completely in an expansion-franchise sense. Willingham can help them in the next two seasons and he’s a good influence on the younger players.

Justin Upton, Diamondbacks

I understand the thinking that the Diamondbacks might listen. Managing general partner Ken Kendrick called Upton out for his mediocre play and GM Kevin Towers listened to offers on Upton shortly after taking over. There’s a logic to doing something drastic when a team with high expectations is struggling, but Upton is only 24 (25 in August); is signed at a reasonable rate ($38.5 million from 2013-2015); and the Diamondbacks still have a good shot at the playoffs despite their poor start.

Upton has a no-trade clause to four teams: the Tigers, A’s, Indians and Royals.

Other teams will call and ask; as he should, Towers might listen to what the offers are; but Upton’s not getting moved.

Alex Gordon, Royals

He’s finally found a defensive home in left field; he’s signed through 2015; is hitting better after a bad luck-infused start; and the Royals aren’t doing the “we’re rebuilding” thing and dumping any and all veterans.

The Royals have something positive building in spite of their stimulus response critics. Gordon is a part of that.

Felix Hernandez, Mariners

They’re not trading him. Forget it.

It’s partially because the Mariners have a load of pitching on the roster and on the way up and need a veteran leader to front the rotation when they’re ready to move from terrible to mediocre to (someday) pretty good, but if they’re letting Ichiro Suzuki go after this season, they don’t want to alienate the fanbase entirely by dumping two fan favorites within months of one another.

Tim Lincecum, Giants

There’s a logic to the idea. He’s been bad this season, somewhat unlucky and his velocity is down. Lincecum is a free agent after the 2013 season and has shown no inclination to sign a long-term deal for one penny less than market value.

One thing that flashed through my head was Cole Hamels and one of the Phillies’ minor league arms (Phillippe Aumont, Trevor May) for Lincecum. The Giants would get an ace (pitching like an ace) for the rest of the season and a young pitcher; the Phillies would have Lincecum for this year and next.

But the Giants aren’t going to trade their most popular and marketable player regardless of how poor he’s going.

David Wright, Mets

Wright is having an MVP-quality season and is back to the player he was until the Mets moved into Citi Field and turned Wright into a nervous wreck who altered his swing and approach to account for the stadium’s dimensions. The Mets are hovering around contention and aren’t drawing well. Trading Wright would throw the white flag up on the season. That’s not going to happen.

He’s signed for 2013 at $16 million and the Mets are going to give him an extension comparable to Ryan Zimmerman’s with the Nationals. He’s going nowhere.

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Diamondbacks Sign Jason Kubel—Is There a Reason?

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This is either overkill; an impulse buy; or a precursor to other deals.

Unless the Diamondbacks are going to make a trade including Gerardo Parra, I’m not understanding what they need with Jason Kubel.

Kubel’s a useful ancillary piece; he has some pop and should feel liberated to have gained freedom from the cavernous Twins home park Target Field that robbed him of his home field production; he’s not costing a fortune nor is his deal long-term (2-years, $15 million with an option for 2014); but the Diamondbacks don’t need him…unless GM Kevin Towers has something cooking with Parra going somewhere in a trade.

Parra won a Gold Glove for his play in left field in 2011 and he had a fine year at the plate with a .784 OPS and 15 stolen bases; Kubel isn’t a very good outfielder; not only is Towers failing to improve his offense to any great degree other than Kubel having more power than Parra—mitigated by his lack of speed and that he doesn’t hit lefties—he’s also weakened his outfield defense.

Is Towers disbelieving Parra’s breakout year? I don’t see why since Parra put up similar numbers in the minors and is only 24, but that’s a scouting determination that needs to be made.

Towers has been looking for pitching and the White Sox are willing to clean house; Parra is the type of player that White Sox GM Kenny Williams might have interest in to take over in left field for Juan Pierre; perhaps Towers has his eye on John Danks or Gavin Floyd and Parra would be part of that trade.

Other than that, this was a redundant maneuver that makes no sense at all.

Then again, as much as Towers is lauded for being a “great” GM, he’s done some stupid things in his time. One came in 1998 when, as Padres GM, he claimed Randy Myers on waivers to prevent him from going to the Braves (who didn’t want Myers) and nearly got fired because of it.

I don’t know why he would give nearly $4 million guaranteed to Willie Bloomquist.

So it’s not as if there’s always a logical explanation for what Towers does.

Does the Kubel signing and benching of Parra fall into the former category as part of a plan or the latter of just “doing stuff”?

I’m not sure.

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The Padres Generosity Of The Absurd

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With the near end to the negotiations freeing Theo Epstein to join the Cubs as team president and the simultaneously anticipated and apparently agreed to deal for Jed Hoyer to the Padres to take over as Cubs GM, the differences in the machinations are stark.

The Red Sox are getting something for the right to poach their contracted employee and the Padres aren’t.

Epstein is under contract for one more season with the Red Sox and the club was being outrageous in its initial demands for compensation as they asked for Matt Garza; Hoyer is under contract to the Padres until 2014, but owner Jeff Moorad isn’t asking for anything in return.

It’s strange bordering on irrational.

And it’s making me wonder exactly what’s going on in San Diego.

Josh Byrnes is reportedly going to step right in and take over for Hoyer; he’s a qualified GM and was hired by Moorad when he ran the Diamondbacks.

Hoyer did a good job with the Padres considering the mandate he was under to trade Adrian Gonzalez and payroll constraints. The team made a shocking leap into contention in 2010, he acquired veterans Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada (without giving up anything for them) to try and win; he got the jewels of the Red Sox farm system for Gonzalez; acquired top prospects for Mike Adams; and acquired Cameron Maybin for replaceable bullpen pieces.

Other deals, like the one for Jason Bartlett, haven’t worked out; and he should’ve traded Heath Bell before Bell’s yapping mouth and declining performance put the Padres in an unwinnable situation.

But he’s done the best he could with the hand he was dealt.

And he’s bailing.

There’s been an odd aura around the Padres for years.

From Sandy Alderson’s management style of cultivating factions; pushing Bruce Bochy out the door because Bochy rebelled against front office interference and he was making too much money for Alderson’s tastes; hoping that former GM Kevin Towers would get the Diamondbacks GM job in 2005 (that went to Byrnes), then putting Towers in a position where he was either going to get on Alderson’s train of dysfunction or get dragged behind it; to having Paul DePodesta operating what amounted to a spy agency independent of Towers; to the way things have developed under Moorad, it’s as if they like to have dysfunction over cohesion.

The tree of bizarreness for this is striking.

Clearly Moorad thinks a lot of the Red Sox because he hired both Byrnes and Hoyer from their positions as assistants to Epstein; what’s also clear is that Moorad prefers Byrnes as his GM. Why else would he simply let Hoyer go to another club in the same league and not ask for anything—anything at all—for him? Something?

What makes it worse is that Moorad made his name in sports as an agent.

One would assume that he knows the sanctity of a contract and why its terms shouldn’t be violated; or at least the team interested in an employee under said contract should provide something of value in exchange.

Perhaps he isn’t all that impressed with Hoyer to begin with and wanted Byrnes all along.

It’s bad business to have another club raiding his front office and for him to say, “okay, go” as if he doesn’t care one way or the other; Moorad being fine with it shouldn’t matter. No one wants to be perceived as the guy who can be stolen from without consequences; it’s a bad precedent to set.

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The Polar Opposites Of Genius/Idiot

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So now Theo Epstein’s no longer a genius?

Jack Zduriencik’s not a truly amazin’ exec?

Billy Beane—forever canonized in film and books of creative non-fiction—is finally receiving questioning looks and rightful dissection of his true history rather than what some agenda-driven writer is trying to convey (and adjust on the fly)?

What happened?

Genius is fleeting and a matter of opinion?

I thought it was either there or it wasn’t; now it’s based on a myriad of factors out of someone’s control? And who’s making the determination as to whom is a genius and who isn’t?

On the other side of the spectrum, Brian Cashman is receiving credit for basically having failed last winter in his attempts to get Cliff Lee and that he scraped the bottom of the barrel for the likes of Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and Russell Martin; those moves happened to have worked.

Here’s news: it was luck; Brian Cashman will tell you it was luck.

Buck Showalter, whose mere presence with the Orioles, was going to craft a full 180 degree turn for that stagnant ship, has also lost his luster.

Know why? Because he doesn’t have any pitching and spent a good deal of the 2011 season using Kevin Gregg as his closer.

Who’s the next genius?

The next moron?

Is Kevin Towers a “genius” for tweaking what was already in place in Arizona with a few extra bullpen pieces?

Is Epstein now a fool because some of his name players haven’t performed?

Are we going to stop with the polar opposites of genius/idiot when it comes to analyzing baseball executives?

The word “genius” is thrown around so liberally and based on absolutely nothing other than factional debates and similar belief systems that it’s lost all meaning.

A genius is someone who creates a life-saving vaccine or builds something out of nothing, not the guy who signed Scott Hatteberg because he walked a lot and has taken endless advantage of a portrayal that is an absolute and utter farce; an image has been notoriously quick to use as an impenetrable shield to protect himself from the fact that his team is terrible.

And don’t you dare come back at me with the “oh, the A’s need a new ballpark and their options are limited”. The same people trying to use that tack were the ones who picked the A’s to win the AL West. You can’t have it both ways.

People are quizzical now as to Beane’s “genius”. It’s simplistic to ask, “well if Beane’s such a genius, why haven’t the A’s ever won a World Series?”

But maybe it’s not so simplistic in a world of genius/idiot.

Maybe if those who are benefiting from the appellation are going to advance because of it, they should decline because of it as well.

And perhaps those who are trying to pompously “explain” the concept of Moneyball as an “idea” rather than a strategy from which one must not deviate for fear of not being part of the herd are being exposed for what they are.

That contextualized version wasn’t the book I read. But you’ll find people who’ll call me a genius and an idiot.

And I don’t care either way.

There are no geniuses in baseball, but the public doesn’t want to hear that; they don’t want to hear about the labor pains, they just want to see the baby. And in the case of Beane and Moneyball, the baby was supposed to be a showpiece—gorgeous, intelligent and perfect.

The movie apparently says so.

But look at the A’s. Look at the desperation with which the myth is being protected and shifted to suit themselves.

By those metrics, it’s easier to have the separate and ironclad labels of either-or.

And under those parameters, where do the media darlings and targets wind up? Are they geniuses? Idiots? Or fantasies based on selfish ends?

You tell me.

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I’ve decided: no review of the film Moneyball to be published here. It’ll be in my book, will be aboveboard and based on my own judgments. That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.

It’s sheer GENIUS!!!!!!!

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The 2011 Diamondbacks And The Towers Of Credit

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The Diamondbacks turnaround and success under first-year GM Kevin Towers has cemented his supposed brilliance. A brilliance that became more pronounced while he wasn’t a GM and had his name bandied about as a “perfect” choice for any number of GM jobs. Like a backup quarterback in football, Towers could do no wrong as long as he wasn’t specifically doing anything. It’s a safe place to be.

After being fired by the Padres, Towers was an assistant to Brian Cashman with the Yankees for the 2010 season; as various jobs opened up, he was a candidate for all of them. He was hired by the Diamondbacks and took steps to improve the club’s woeful strikeout rate by trading Mark Reynolds and in the process acquired a valuable bullpen arm in David Hernandez.

Among other moves Towers made like signing J.J. Putz at a reduced rate and retaining manager Kirk Gibson, there’s little he’s had to do with this current club—a club that’s in first place, streaking with 7 straight wins and has opened some daylight between themselves and the reeling Giants. They now lead the NL West by 5 games.

But does Towers deserve all the credit he’s getting?

Much of the foundation of this club was already in place and it’s been there for awhile. The two prior regimes acquired many of the players on the team now.

Joe Garagiola Jr. was a highly underrated GM who won a World Series, dealt with a micromanaging organizational gadfly, Buck Showalter; and an empty uniform, Bob Brenly.

Garagiola’s replacement, Josh Byrnes, contributed as did interim GM Jerry DiPoto. In fact, DiPoto warrants accolades more than Towers; he’s still with the Diamondbacks as an assistant and is a top GM candidate himself.

Garagiola acquisitions:

Stephen Drew, SS—1st round draft choice, 2004.

Justin Upton, OF—1st round draft choice, 2005.

Miguel Montero, C—amateur free agent from Venezuela, 2001.

Gerardo Parra, OF—amateur free agent from Venezuela, 2004.

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Byrnes acquisitions:

Chris Young, CF—acquired from the White Sox for Javier Vazquez in December 2005.

Ian Kennedy, RHP—acquired in a 3-way trade with Edwin Jackson for Daniel Schlereth and Max Scherzer.

Ryan Roberts, INF, OF—signed as a minor league free agent in November, 2008.

Josh Collmenter, RHP—15th round draft choice, 2007.

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B—8th round draft choice, 2009.

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DiPoto acquisitions:

Joe Saunders, LHP—acquired from the Angels in the Dan Haren trade in July 2010.

Daniel Hudson, RHP—acquired from the White Sox in the Edwin Jackson trade in July 2010.

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Towers acquisitions:

J.J. Putz, RHP—signed as a free agent for 2-years, $10 million.

Zach Duke, LHP—signed as a free agent for 1-year at $4.25 million with a club option for 2012.

Henry Blanco, C—signed as a free agent for 1-year at $1.25 million with a mutual option 2012.

Willie Bloomquist, INF—signed as a free agent for 1-year, $900,000 with a mutual option for 2012.

Brad Ziegler, RHP—acquired from the Oakland Athletics for Brandon Allen and Jordan Norberto in July 2011.

Then there’s the deal of Kelly Johnson to the Blue Jays for Aaron Hill and John McDonald; its results remain to be seen.

There are certain things that Towers is good at. He builds excellent bullpens on the cheap; he loads his bench with versatile, leader-type players; and he can clear salary. But to suggest that the Diamondbacks are a product of Towers is the same fractured logic that led to him being so widely feted during the time that he wasn’t even a GM.

The one superiorly smart thing he did was to retain Gibson as his manager. Gibson lobbied hard for the job and said that his team was not going to be a pleasant opponent; they’d take people out on the bases; pitch inside; and retaliate when needed. And they have.

This Diamondbacks team is more than the sum of their parts; they play very, very hard and on the edge—like their manager did. He brought the football mentality to baseball when he was a player, took everything seriously and was more interested in winning over personal achievement; that’s how this Diamondbacks group plays.

Did Towers see that in Gibson? Was he enamored of the intensity that Gibson was going to instill? Or was it more of a, “he’s here and he’s not going to cost a lot of money” for a team that wasn’t expected to come this far, this fast?

Maybe.

Towers is a good GM.

In public perception Towers is responsible for the rise of the Diamondbacks; how much he’s owed in reality is limited because a large portion of this club was in place on his arrival and is succeeding as a matter of circumstance rather than grand design on the part of the GM.

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Dayton Moore’s Strengths Are Superseded By His Weaknesses

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Baseball’s lower-echelon is inhabited by a “genius” (Billy Beane‘s Athletics are dreadful); an “Amazin’ Exec” (Jack Zduriencik’s Mariners couldn’t win without being able to score); and a boy wonder (Jed Hoyer of the Padres looks terrible in comparison to the man he replaced, Kevin Towers, who has the Diamondbacks in contention as the Padres are floundering).

But what of an executive whose work is ongoing? One who has made some tremendous acquisitions through the draft, but has shown drastic flaws in major aspects of how he runs his club?

When Dayton Moore was hired by the Royals to be their GM, I thought it was an inspired choice. Not only did he have a solid reputation as a development man, but he’d worked under a fine executive in John Schuerholz with the Braves and made well-thought-out changes to the way the Royals ran their scouting staff and minor league system.

There are people who are not meant to be the overseers of an entire operation and that appears to be the case with Moore.

The Royals have an abundance of talent finally bursting through to the big leagues. But that doesn’t eliminate the mistakes and haphazard intractability/capriciousness Moore has shown in signing players and making trades.

Gil Meche pitched well for two of the five years for which he was signed as a free agent and the only saving grace for Moore in the final year of the deal was that Meche basically gave $11 million back because he couldn’t pitch due to injury.

Willie Bloomquist, Jose Guillen, Kyle Farnsworth and Horacio Ramirez were predictable disasters and his trade of a power arm like Leo Nunez for a one-dimensional bat like Mike Jacobs were failures.

He jumped the gun in trading former Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke and got a fraction of what he should’ve gotten had he waited.

Now the Royals are again in last place.

Now they’re considering dealing veterans to contending clubs.

But again, Moore has it wrong.

The price for closer Joakim Soria is said to be “exorbitant” for reasons that only Moore can understand. Soria was so bad earlier in the year that he lost his closer’s role and has had arm trouble in the past, possibly due to overwork at the hands of overmatched former manager Trey Hillman. Wouldn’t it be better to deal him now?

With Soria, at least there’s an argument to keeping him. He’s a proven closer and is signed through 2014 at a very reasonable rate.

But for the likes of Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francoeur and Wilson Betemit, Moore is being delusional in both his demands and vacillation as to whether or not he’ll trade them.

Cabrera has played well this season (37 extra base hits; 11 homers; .781 OPS); Francoeur is what he is—a defensive ace with some pop and a head as hard as quartz, but he has use for a contender; Betemit is Betemit—a journeyman player for whom the Royals should sell high while he’s back to the Betemit he was with the Braves and Dodgers and not the one from the Yankees and White Sox which allowed him to wind up with the Royals in the first place.

But according to this posting on MLBTradeRumors, the Royals are “willing to move Betemit in the right deal”.

Right deal?

What’s the “right deal”?

With all their young players starting to graduate to the big leagues, does Moore truly believe that Betemit, Cabrera or Francoeur are going to be key parts of a resurgence after the 2-3 years it’s going to take before they’re ready to contend?

I’m not of the belief that the GM should only get blame for the bad stuff and no credit for the good stuff. Royals Senior Advisor Mike Arbuckle was largely credited to drafting the foundation of the Phillies with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels with nothing but vitriol rained down on former GM Ed Wade.

It doesn’t work that way with me.

The GM is the boss; he gets the credit, he gets the blame.

It’s the same way with Moore.

He’s done a masterful job of finding talent like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, Louis Coleman and others on the way.

The Royals are going to get better simply by nature of more talent in the pipeline that was accrued after Moore took control.

He gets the credit.

But the GM is still making ghastly mistakes at the big league level with free agents and trades.

He takes the blame.

To a large degree, the poor decisions sabotage the good work he’s done in building up that farm system.

He’s going to be the GM for the long term with a contract through 2014, but given the mistakes he’s made (and is apparently going to repeat again-and-again), maybe he shouldn’t be.

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Mirror Much?

Fantasy/Roto, Games, Management, Media, Players

Carlos Zambrano‘s act has reached the level of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark—critically panned; questionable characters; repeatedly remade; and so disastrously expensive that there’s no other option but to try and salvage it, somehow.

Yesterday, after the Cubs loss to the Cardinals (the second game in a row in which Albert Pujols hit a walk-off homer—apparently, he’s not finished nor is he letting contract pressures get to him; he was in a slump), Zambrano unloaded on, well, everyone.

You can listen to Zambrano below.

I’m not getting into a dissection of Zambrano’s comments, their validity or why he said them other than if he felt that the strategy employed in pitching to Ryan Theriot was faulty, he should’ve said it privately.

Right or wrong is irrelevant, it shouldn’t have been aired to the media to create this.

This being another Zambrano “meltdown”; this being another embarrassing episode in the continued ruination of what could be a notable career if he was ever able to harness his emotions and control himself long enough to perform as well as he talks, explodes and allocates blame.

For a brief moment, I too tried to find a way to straighten out Zambrano. Thinking that perhaps his Venezuelan countryman and friend Ozzie Guillen might be able to get through to him (as he has before), I checked the contracts of Jake Peavy and Zambrano to see if there was a mutual match to dump/exchange.

Peavy was willing to go to the Cubs a couple of years ago when he refused to go to the White Sox because he wanted to stay in the National League; only when White Sox GM Kenny Williams tried to get Peavy again and then-Padres GM Kevin Towers explained the situation to Peavy—they had nowhere else to send him—did Peavy sign off on the deal.

But the money doesn’t match.

Peavy’s owed around a guaranteed $44 million; Zambrano is owed over $60 million including his vesting option for 2013. Plus Peavy left yesterday’s start for the White Sox with a groin strain adding to his list of maladies that have sabotaged his time with the White Sox.

You’ll hear and read stories about how the Cubs have to “cut ties” with Zambrano once and for all; that he’s become too much of a distraction.

No one’s taking that contract and it makes no sense to simply eat $60 million or trade him for a Peavy or Chone Figgins or Barry Zito or Jason Bay or some other onerous contract from another club.

They’re stuck with Zambrano and until he finds a mirror or comprehends that the fault lies within himself, this will happen again…and again…and again…and again.

What to do with Zambrano? It’s a pointless thing to ask.

Why we pay attention is the applicable question.

And I don’t have an answer.

Here’s the clip:

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Hot Stove….Um….Were We Supposed To Keep Working?

Hot Stove, Uncategorized
  • “After the season ended, were we supposed to keep working?”

This isn’t going to be a rip-fest; certain teams have done little-to-nothing this winter and for the most part, it hasn’t been for lack of trying; the market is very, very weak and logic dictates that the few attractive players available will gravitate towards the better teams or those that offer them the most money.

That said, in certain cases, it’s hard to improve when these are the moves that have been made. In other cases, teams are wise to show restraint. Some have made good moves and bizarre moves.

Let’s take a look.

Baltimore Orioles:

The hot streak at the end of the season under Buck Showalter was all well and good, but all they’ve done so far is trade for J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds—-two dramatically flawed players. While they’re both far better than what the Orioles had previously, that’s more of a reflection on what was there before rather than what they’ve imported.

Their pitching is very, very young and they’ve done nothing to bolster either the starting rotation or bullpen.

Showalter will have them playing the game correctly and that will result in better fortunes; they’re looking hard at Adam LaRoche; he, along with Hardy and Reynolds will make the offense better. The organization is not a wasteland anymore, but they’ve got a loooooong way to go.

Toronto Blue Jays:

They hired a new manager in John Farrell and subtracted Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs and John Buck. Still building with pitching, the Blue Jays aren’t spending heavily but have a lot to work with for 2011. It’s unlikely that they’ll contend before 2012 at the earliest, so the wise move is to stand relatively pat and let the young players develop.

Cleveland Indians:

With everything the Indians have done this winter, they’re primed to go from 69-93 to….69-93.

Kansas City Royals:

Not much need be said about the signings of Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur—-it’s the same story over and over for the Royals under GM Dayton Moore.

The trade he made in sending Zack Greinke to the Brewers, however, has the potential to be a big win for the club. The Royals got rid of Yuniesky Betancourt in the trade along with Greinke and brought in pretty much the top tier of Brewers prospects—-Jake Odorizzi, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain and Jeremy Jeffress—-all young, cheap and high end.

They traded David DeJesus to the Athletics for pitching.

We’ll wait and see how this all works out for the Royals. Their starting pitching is serviceable and they have some arms in the bullpen.

We’ll see…

Texas Rangers:

The Rangers made a legitimate attempt to keep Cliff Lee and failed—-nothing to be ashamed of there; their starting pitching may be short unless they make a move—-they’re in on Brandon Webb, but what any club will get from him is a bonus if he can actually pitch.

Their bullpen is unlikely to repeat the work from 2010; they’re trying to keep Vladimir Guerrero, but they can hit well enough—-especially in their hitter-friendly home part—-so that run-scoring won’t be an issue.

Their off-season has been vanilla.

Florida Marlins:

Year-after-year I’ve gone to great lengths to express my admiration for the way the Marlins do business under a tight budget. They’ve been smart, aggressive and fearless; but this winter they’ve added the word “strange” to that list of adjectives.

Sending Dan Uggla to the Braves for Omar Infante and Michael Dunn? They couldn’t have gotten more for Uggla than that?

Cameron Maybin to the Padres for two relief pitchers? Signing Randy Choate? A 3-year contract for John Buck?

The risk they’re taking on Javier Vazquez is worthwhile and they signed Ricky Nolasco to a contract extension.

Addressing the bullpen in the way they have appears to fly in the face of the correct way to build a bullpen by signing a lot of retreads and hoping to hit paydirt.

Still loaded with prospects, the Marlins will be competitive, but they’ve done some things that I can’t agree with.

Cincinnati Reds:

They lost Arthur Rhodes, Aaron Harang and Orlando Cabrera.

They kept Miguel Cairo.

Yah.

Chicago Cubs:

The Cubs retained manager Mike Quade; signed Carlos Pena to a 1-year deal; brought back Kerry Wood; and are unable to dump the contracts of Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano.

The Cubs situation is what it is. They’re not awful, but they’re not good either; this hot stove season mirrors that reality.

Houston Astros:

People jumped on the Astros bandwagon a bit early in comparing two separate entities (they and the Padres of 2009) because of similar late season spurts of solid play.

It’s a mistake.

They have some good starting pitching; subtracted Matt Lindstrom from an up-and-down bullpen; and are still building waiting for Carlos Lee‘s contract to expire.

They acquired Clint Barmes and Bill Hall to man the middle infield—-better than what they had, but not anything to get excited about.

Drayton McLane may be looking to sell the team too.

Pittsburgh Pirates:

Ooh boy….

They hired a competent manager for their station in Clint Hurdle; they’ve been spending on the likes of Scott Olsen and Lyle Overbay.

How much these moves will help in improving a 57-win team is an open question. Take solace in the fact that they can’t be much worse…I don’t think.

San Francisco Giants:

The world champions lost Juan Uribe to the rival Dodgers; they tried to re-sign World Series MVP Edgar Renteria to a contract Renteria felt was insulting; they kept Aubrey Huff and signed Miguel Tejada.

Pitching carried the Giants to the title and that’s what will keep them competitive if they stay competitive.

Colorado Rockies:

A lot of risky money was spent to keep Jorge de la Rosa;they traded for Matt Lindstrom to boost their bullpen and signed Ty Wigginton.

Jason Giambi and Melvin Mora have been subtracted.

It’s a wait-and-see winter for the Rockies. Sometimes these under-the-radar signings/trades work and sometimes they don’t.

Arizona Diamondbacks:

It’s interesting to see when the belle of the ball, the most attractive single remaining—-new GM Kevin Towers—-re-enters the fray and his supporters and detractors remember exactly what those positives and negatives of his long tenure as Padres GM were.

Towers is a smart baseball man, but he’s not the “brilliant” mind he was portrayed to be when he was an assistant to Yankees GM Brian Cashman and waiting for the offers to flow in to be a GM again.

Now he’s with the Diamondbacks, put Justin Upton on the market and took him off; as for the rest of his maneuvers? One word: meh.

J.J. Putz? Meh.

Xavier Nady? Meh.

Melvin Mora? Meh.

Geoff Blum? Meh.

And “meh” is not going to cut it in that division after a 65-97 season.

  • Don’t blast the messenger:

A Washington Nationals fan forum is attacking me for telling the truth (and whoever linked it had a typo in John Lannan‘s name for which I’m being blamed); have a look—-link.

I dunno what’s more shocking—-that they’re attacking me for the sins of their own front office or that there’s actually a fan forum dedicated to the Washington Nationals.

  • Sunday Lightning Preview:

Tomorrow, I’ll have stuff to say about Bob Feller; Dave Eiland; and I’ll answer the mail including a welcome message from a fellow survivor of the carnage that is, was and forever will be MLBlogs.