Link to Radio Appearance On Breakin’ the Norm

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My recent appearance with Les Norman on Breakin’ the Norm is now available to listen to via podcast on Les’s site here.

Miraculously (or not) I wound up being right about Mike Napoli winding up with the Red Sox. We discussed other goings on in Boston, the Blue Jays trade with the Marlins for Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, et al., the Marlins mess, the Mets, Zack Greinke, the Angels, free agents, trades and much more. Click on the link and check it out.

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The David Ortiz Free Agency Profile

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Name: David Ortiz


Position: Designated Hitter.

Vital Statistics:

Age-36.

Height-6’4″.

Listed Weight-230.

Actual Weight-probably around 250 at least.

Bats-Left.

Throws-Left.

Signed as an amateur free agent by the Seattle Mariners in 1992; traded to the Minnesota Twins for Dave Hollins in 1996; signed as a free agent with the Red Sox in 2003 after being non-tendered by the Twins.

Agent: Fernando Cuza.

Chances of returning to the Red Sox: Very good.

Teams that could use and pay him: Boston Red Sox; Toronto Blue Jays; New York Yankees; Baltimore Orioles; Texas Rangers; Los Angeles Angels; Seattle Mariners; Oakland Athletics.

Positives:

Ortiz hits for power and walks a lot; he’s a superior hitter in the clutch and has no fear of the big moments—he relishes them. He’s a fiery competitor.

He’s popular in the clubhouse with the media and most teammates; the fans love him and he’s great with children. In 2011, he drastically cut down on his strikeouts.

Negatives:

Ortiz might be a “Red Sox Player”. I don’t mean that he’s a creation of Fenway Park—he’s always hit well enough on the road—but that he’s a Red Sox whose main successes have come as a Red Sox and if he’s taken out of that comfort zone, there’s a chance that the team signing him will get 12 homers, a .260 batting average and endless regret that they didn’t realize that the Red Sox uniform was part of what made Ortiz Ortiz.

When things came apart for the Red Sox, where was he?

He was certainly all over the place after the fact, talking a lot and saying things that would better have been left unsaid. For example, in a defense of his teammates’ gustatory activities during games, Ortiz stated that beer and chicken had long been a part of the Red Sox clubhouse culture; while he was probably telling the truth, he should’ve kept quiet. As for his free agency, he suggested he might want to go to the Yankees—a no-no in all aspects of playing in Boston.

His personality might not work in a different atmosphere and his insertion to a close-knit group like the Angels or a young, rising team like the Blue Jays would be a misplaced puzzle piece.

If he joined a club with little chance of contending like the Mariners, his sunny personality—which is partially an act—has the potential to morph into self-serving and whiny misery.

What he’ll want: 3-years, $36 million.

What he’ll get: From the Red Sox, 1-year, $12 million with an option for another year at $12 million; from another club, 2-years, $25 million.

Teams that might give it to him: Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, Rangers, Angels, Mariners.

Ortiz needs to stay with the Red Sox. It’s a bad move for him and for a team other than the Red Sox to sign him for more than one year and that’s what it’s going to take to get him to leave Boston. In addition, the pursuit of him might be limited by the knowledge that he doesn’t want to leave Boston and is simply using any and all other offers to extract an extra year or a few more dollars from the Red Sox.

Would I sign Ortiz if I were a club other than the Red Sox? No.

Will it be a “bad” signing for the club that does pay him? For every team other than the Red Sox, Ortiz has disaster written all over him.

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The C.J. Wilson Free Agency Profile

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Name: C.J. Wilson.


Position: Left handed pitcher.

Vital Statistics: Age-31. Height-6’1″. Weight-210. Selected by the Texas Rangers in the 5th round of the 2001 MLB Draft.

Agent: Bob Garber.

Might he return to the Rangers? Yes.

Teams that could use and pay him: Texas Rangers; New York Yankees; Boston Red Sox; Toronto Blue Jays; Baltimore Orioles; Detroit Tigers; Kansas City Royals; Minnesota Twins; Los Angeles Angels; Seattle Mariners; Washington Nationals; New York Mets; Florida Marlins; Milwaukee Brewers; Cincinnati Reds; Chicago Cubs; Los Angeles Dodgers.

Positives:

Wilson is durable and hasn’t had the massive workload that accompanies being a starting pitcher throughout his big league career. He has a clean motion and was a starter in the minors before switching to the bullpen in 2006; he made it to the big leagues and was a reliever until 2010. He’s still fresh.

His versatility will make him useful even if he no longer has the ability to start by the waning years of his contract—he was a closer for the Rangers.

He throws a good, moving fastball; has a nice curve and change-up; is willing to pitch inside; strikes out a fair number of hitters; and despite pitching in a notorious hitters’ ballpark, allowed only 26 homers in 427 innings as a starter over the past two seasons. Wilson induces a lot of ground balls, so he needs a solid infield defense.

He’s very, very pretty according to female purring when he’s on the mound or on camera.

Negatives:

He’s can get wild and has a big mouth which might irritate teammates; players who love to hear themselves talk tend to grate on the nerves.

His results in the post-season have been terrible. With his personality, he appears to get too excited when pitching in a big game, tries to throw too hard and forgets what it was that made him successful. When a pitcher tries to throw too hard or the adrenaline is pumping too heavily, his pitches tend to flatten out and stay up in the strike zone; his post-season struggles weren’t due to a lack of stuff.

What he’ll want: 6-years, $105 million.

What he’ll get: 5-years, $87 million with a club option for a 6th year pushing it to a possible $105 million; plus an opt-out after 3 seasons.

Teams that might give it to him: Yankees; Red Sox; Orioles; Blue Jays; Tigers; Royals; Angels; Mariners; Nationals; Marlins; Dodgers; Cubs.

The Yankees are playing their cards close to the vest so far, but you can bet that they’d dearly love to get rid of A.J. Burnett and replace him with Wilson; how feasible that is remains to be seen, but someone will take a chance on Burnett’s talent at the right price.

The Orioles desperately need pitching and have money to spend, but with the demand Wilson will be in they’d have to overpay drastically to get him and they don’t have a GM yet.

The Nationals also need starting pitching.

Wilson is from Southern California putting the Dodgers and Angels in play; the Angels love to collect 200-inning starting pitchers and a rotation of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, Wilson and Tyler Chatwood would be devastating.

The Marlins are diving into free agency and don’t discount the Cubs.

Would I sign Wilson if I were a GM? Yes.

Will it be a “bad” signing for the club that does pay him? No. He’s not a kid—he’s 31-years-old—but as said earlier, his pitching age is different from his actual age because he was a reliever for the first 5 years of his career. It’s almost like an individual placed in a controlled environment—they don’t age as fast. The wear on his tires is lessened; the clean motion and lack of overuse bodes well for him staying healthy into his mid-30s and remaining effective.

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The Prince Fielder Free Agency Profile

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Name: Prince Fielder.

Position: First base.

Vital Statistics: Age-28; Height-5’11”; Listed Weight-275; Actual weight-more than 275; Drafted in the 1st round (7th pick) by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2002 MLB Draft.

Agent: Scott Boras.

Chances of returning to the Brewers: None whatsoever.

Teams that could use and pay him: Boston Red Sox; New York Yankees; Toronto Blue Jays; Baltimore Orioles; Minnesota Twins; Texas Rangers; Los Angeles Angels; Seattle Mariners; Washington Nationals; Florida Marlins; Chicago Cubs; Los Angeles Dodgers.

Positives:

He has massive power and patience; a fiery competitor; he’s intense and hits or walks in the clutch.

Fielder will hit his home runs wherever he goes and draws plenty of walks. For a power hitter in today’s game, he doesn’t strike out that much—135 a year is reasonable in comparison to the likes of Ryan Howard.

His intensity and on-field confrontational nature is a dual-edged sword; it indicates a simmering anger, but it fuels him.

Put him in a batting order with a good hitter in front and major protection behind him and he’d put up bigger numbers than he did in Milwaukee.

Negatives:

His weight—listed at 275—hasn’t been as much of an issue as it would be with a player who actually has to move. He’s supposedly a vegan, which I find very strange. Mike Tyson was over 300 lbs, became a vegan and slimmed down to fighting trim; Fielder became a vegan and got bigger.

For a player who relies on speed or attributes related to his size, it would be a problem; Fielder doesn’t. Stress on his knees will be a concern if he gets heavier and a fat contract can contribute to a fat player getting fatter, but Fielder will always hit his homers and walk. A club has to and will accept this when signing him.

Can he DH? Is he willing to DH? It’s not as easy as it sounds. While he’s a better hitter than Adam Dunn, Dunn couldn’t adjust to DHing or the American League and was a disaster with the White Sox—no one could’ve anticipated it.

It’s a super-small sample and I’m not dissecting it for pitchers, ballparks and other factors, but Fielder is 18 for 78 in his career as a DH with 3 homers and a .295 on base percentage. It’s not something to ignore.

Fielder won’t want to DH regularly and his defense is bad and going to get worse. He catches the balls he can get to; he’s quicker than he looks, but he’s not, nor will he ever be, a good defensive first baseman.

What he’ll want: 8-years, $190 million.

What he’ll get: 6-years, $148 million guaranteed with an easy option to raise it to 7-years, $173 million.

There will be a player opt-out mid-stream and a guarantee the team that signs him won’t offer arbitration at the contract’s conclusion so he won’t cost a compensatory draft pick (if that rule is still in existence).

Teams that might give it to him: Orioles, Blue Jays, Mariners, Rangers, Cubs.

I’m not predicting where he’s going to go; nor will I do so with other free agents aside from the most obvious ones like Albert Pujols—the obvious ones tend to stay where they are or have ties to a particular club pursuing them.

If you look at the predictions for Jayson Werth a year ago, no one had him going to the Nationals; most “mainstream insiders” had him signing with the Angels, Red Sox, Giants or Yankees and they were all wrong.

Cliff Lee was just about guaranteed to be a Yankee and no one considered the Phillies.

Werth wound up with the Nationals for $126 million—an amount of cash that aghast the industry.

Lee went back to the team with which he was comfortable, the Phillies, for less money than the Yankees offered.

Would I sign Fielder if I were a GM? No.

Will it be a “bad” signing for the club that does pay him? No. He’ll produce as long as they know what they’re getting and put him in the right circumstances.

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Weaver And Hendry’s Rational Self-Interests

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Refreshing?

A tribute to the type of people they are?

These are the kinds of things that are being said about Angels pitcher Jered Weaver and former Cubs GM Jim Hendry.

Weaver took less money to sign a contract extension with the Angels when he could’ve been a free agent at the end of the 2012 season and made probably double what he’s getting from the Angels—$85 million over 5-years.

Hendry continued working for the Cubs after he was informed that he was being let go last month.

These acts are being treated as if they saved orphans from a burning building and found them loving new homes.

Did Weaver leave money on the table and presumably ignore the preference of his agent Scott Boras by re-upping with the Angels? Of course. He said all the “right” things that the tone-deaf Alex Rodriguez would never have said.

But A-Rod is seen as money-hungry, spotlight-hogging and perception-clueless.

Never mind that it’s within A-Rod’s rights to go for every penny he could possibly make—and did; never mind that Boras got him that money even when the rift between the two became public after A-Rod’s opt-out during the 2007 World Series. But Weaver is seen as a “better” person than A-Rod because he’s going to somehow survive on $17 million a year through 2016.

There have been testimonials as to the integrity of both Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and former GM Jim Hendry because Hendry was willing to stay on—for continuity sake—through the signing of the Cubs draft picks even though he knew he was fired.

Hendry is well-respected person within baseball and he’d been with the Cubs for a long time; he wasn’t going to sabotage the place on the way out the door, so it was a personal thing for him to continue doing his job after being fired.

But he was also under contract—presumably he could’ve left immediately upon his firing. But why? If the organization is asking him to stay and help and he’s still being paid, whom did it hurt? No one.

In fact, it makes Hendry’s reputation for professionalism look all the more impressive when he sifts through offers from other clubs to be a member of their front office because he helped the Cubs as he did.

Weaver and Hendry were behaving with rational self-interests in mind and it’s being framed as selfless and courteous.

Selflessness and courtesy were certainly a part of their decisions, but they weren’t acts of charity.

There will be the pursed lips, thin smiles of satisfaction and nods of approval to validate what both Weaver and Hendry did. Obviously they were doing what they saw as the right thing; but the right thing was also convenient for what they wanted and needed. That shouldn’t be forgotten during the love-fest.

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Phillies Sign Jack Cust—Not Sexy But Maybe Important

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Sometimes it’s the understated and ignored acquisition or signing that turns out to be most important.

Eyes rolled at the Giants signing Pat Burrell and claiming Cody Ross last season, but without Burrell and Ross there likely wouldn’t have been a Giants World Series win.

In 1985, the Cardinals made a late-August trade for the stretch run when they acquired Cesar Cedeno for a nondescript minor leaguer named Mark Jackson who never made it to the majors. Cedeno was an unproductive part-timer in the twilight of his career with the Reds before getting to the Cardinals—upon which he went on a tear.

Over that final month in 1985, Cedeno batted .434 in 82 plate appearances with an absurd 1.213 OPS and 6 homers—some of which were game-winners. (I was at the September game in which Dwight Gooden and John Tudor hooked up for a scoreless tie through 9 innings; Cedeno pinch hit in the top of the 10th against Jesse Orosco and homered. Tudor finished the shutout in the bottom of the inning.)

Without Cedeno, the Cardinals would probably not have held the Mets off that September.

In what were essentially “nothing” moves, the Cardinals and Giants made it to the World Series.

It’s not sexy, but the Phillies signing of Jack Cust to a minor league deal could eventually be seen as big.

Cust was a washout with the Mariners this year, but that team is currently a lost cause; he was jerked around by the Athletics after rejuvenating his career with the organization, but the A’s are a farce of their very own with an upcoming feature film to prove it.

The difference with the Phillies is that he’s only going to be asked to do what he does in a limited role rather than as the lone power threat for two desperately short-handed clubs.

What Cust does is hit the ball out of the park; strike out; or walk.

The Phillies home of Citizens Bank Park will be more enticing to him than the vast dimensions of the Oakland Coliseum and Safeco Field, and he can hit a fastball. He murders the Giants’ Matt Cain and can catch up to Brian Wilson‘s fastball or walk if Wilson loses the strike zone.

Much like Matt Stairs‘s towering homer against a 100-mph fastball from Jonathan Broxton spun the 2009 NLCS into the Phillies favor and sent Broxton into a confidence-sapped tailspin from which he’s yet to recover, Cust could perform a similar function of a lefty bat off the bench against the Giants, Braves, Brewers or Cardinals—all potential playoff opponents for the Phillies.

Occasionally, all it takes is the smell of a pennant race to wake up a veteran’s bat. These inexpensive acquisitions wind up being turning points in a championship season without anyone realizing it at the time they were completed and it could be so with the Phillies signing of Cust.

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Considering Isringhausen

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Should the Mets think about Jason Isringhausen as closer for 2012?

Almost a month ago when they traded Francisco Rodriguez, Isringhausen was considered the veteran stopgap before they decided what they were really going to do. Most of the focus centered around Bobby Parnell, but Pedro Beato, Manny Acosta and Ryota Igarashi have all gotten long looks in innings prior to the ninth. Beato had a chance to close a game but a failed double play necessitated the use of Tim Byrdak to finish.

Would Isringhausen be an inexpensive, veteran option to start the season in 2012?

His arm is duct-taped together and he’s about to turn 39; his numbers are mediocre if you take them at face value; but he’s been a good-humored leader in the clubhouse; has done everything asked of him; has pitched well enough that if age and injury-history weren’t factored in, he’d be an obvious choice to stay and continue in the role. He strikes out a fair amount of hitters and throws strikes; there would be a seamless transition once they move on to someone else.

His stuff isn’t as impressive as K-Rod’s was, but what I call the “aggravation factor” (no, it’s not a stat) is diminished with Isringhausen. You pretty much know what you’re getting—he allows a homer here and there; is going to blow a few games; and doesn’t get in trouble just for the sake of it as K-Rod does—and for the most part, will do his job.

There will be numerous closer-types available next season, but given what the Mets front office believes, they’re not going to overpay for a mediocrity when they could find someone from within who’d do the same job at a lower salary; nor are they going to spend the money and draft picks for a Jonathan Papelbon or Heath Bell; they’re not going to trade the exorbitant player-price demanded for Joakim Soria.

Parnell is too inconsistent to be trusted as a set-up man, so using him as a closer could be disastrous especially to start a season; the others are question marks and the Mets have no young minor league fireballer like the Braves did with Craig Kimbrel.

Would the Mets be better off taking a chance on a Brad Lidge or Fernando Rodney than Isringhausen? By digging through the scrapheap to find another arm the way they did with him and Beato?

If they’re going to do that, they should just keep Izzy.

Such a thought would’ve been seen as ridiculous a few weeks ago, but given what’s out there and the way this Mets team is being rebuilt, it’s not so ridiculous anymore.

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The Crawford-Reyes Comparison

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With each missed game due to the unpredictability (or predictability depending on where you sit) of Jose Reyes‘s hamstring, the Mets decision on whether or not to go all-out to keep the shortstop or let him leave becomes easier.

Reyes exited Sunday’s game against the Braves with “tightness” in his left hamstring; the same hamstring that sent him to the disabled list in early July. He was scheduled for an MRI on Sunday evening.

Now what?

The comparisons of Reyes to Carl Crawford has become a regular part of baseball vernacular. Reyes was set to sift through offers of “Carl Crawford money” meaning a contract that equals or surpasses the 7-year, $142 million Crawford received from the Red Sox.

Early in the season, when Reyes was the talk of baseball with his all-around play and boundless energy, that end looked inevitable.

Then he strained his hamstring and the questions started up again.

That was a month ago.

He’s hurt with some permutation of the same injury. The bane to his existence and obstruction to maximizing his potential has always been his troublesome hamstrings. No amount of bolstering of the true but someone inaccurate statements of his consistent health can eliminate that perception that he’s always one step away from going back on the disabled list for an extended period because of his penchant for hamstring woes that have sabotaged several seasons of his career.

Before that fateful day in July, the speculated dollar amounts were rising exponentially. Scott Boras was hotly pursuing Reyes as a client and was undoubtedly promising to get him more money than Crawford got. After the Jayson Werth contract, it’s foolish to doubt the ability of Boras to achieve that end. Reyes chose to stay with his current representatives.

Reyes was limited in his suitors before the injury. The two biggest financial juggernauts—the Yankees and Red Sox—are not going to be pursuing him. The Giants aren’t going to have the money to throw $140 million+ at Reyes; the Angels, Nationals and Tigers have the money; and if things break strangely perhaps the Cardinals and Dodgers could jump in.

Where else?

And how does Crawford fit into this equation?

Inadvertently, Carl Crawford and the Red Sox set the market for Jose Reyes when the somewhat surprising (post-Werth) deal came down. The Angels thought they had a competitive offer for Crawford of over $100 million, but were blown away by the Red Sox decisive maneuver to get him.

Crawford and Reyes are basically the same players. Crawford has been remarkably durable in his career and his disabled list stays haven’t been because of his legs. Crawford has more power; Reyes plays a more demanding and difficult-to-fill position, but they’re eerily close in what they do—stolen bases; some pop; lots of triples; wreaking havoc on the basepaths.

Crawford’s been a borderline disaster with the Red Sox in 2011.

Reyes was well on the way to surpassing “Crawford money” in his foray into free agency—someone was going to pay him. Now will there be that one dumb owner who ignores the warning signs and throws that $142 million+ at Reyes hoping that he’ll stay on the field?

What will the Mets do?

Reyes, like Crawford, is not a “speed only” player like Vince Coleman was; a player who, once that speed is gone, doesn’t do much of anything. He’ll always have that arm; he switch hits; has that pop to hit 10-15 homers a year; and will produce without the stolen bases. But produce to the tune of $142 million+?

It’s a tough question.

GM Sandy Alderson is not the type to overpay for a player when his club has numerous other holes to fill and is still in financial limbo. Things have settled down with the Mets after forecasts of bankruptcy, an MLB takeover and imminent collapse; but they’re still unclear. They’ve extricated themselves from the circling vulture of Francisco Rodriguez‘s $17.5 million contract option and have played well enough on the field and been respectable enough off the field so they’re no longer a last resort for prospective free agents.

Will Alderson want to allocate a vast chunk of club payroll on Reyes when that money could be used to find 4-5 players who would be less of a gamble and would fill in pieces of the puzzle while not being the superstar individual? When they’re going to get two draft picks as compensation for Reyes?

Reyes’s injuries have provided a sense of freedom for the front office to do what they think is right sans the pressure of fan/media reaction and the fallout for letting Reyes leave. They can frame this any way they choose and get away with it with a negligible response in the news cycle. The firestorm will be brief and lamenting that he’s gone, but understood.

Believe me when I tell you that Alderson and his deputies have a contingency plan in place without Reyes. It may not be as exciting, but it could be as good or better.

To justify Reyes’s departure, all they have to do is point to his history, the hamstring tweaks and subtly explain why they chose this course of action. They’ll make him a lucrative offer to remain a Met. But if someone trumps it, the Mets can shrug and move on. It might even be better in the long term. No one will blame them anymore.

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