Silent And Achy

Hot Stove
  • As opposed to “silent and deadly”…

Teams have made acquisitions that aren’t earth-shattering; nor are they the final piece in a championship puzzle; but as a means-to-an-end, they’re not all that bad when put into full context.

In short, they’re like a pinch or a pinprick—it hurts, but not a lot and if you have a bunch of them, you slowly start to feel the effects.

Let’s have a look.

Don’t laugh.

Orioles sign 1B Derrek Lee to a 1-year contract; RHP Kevin Gregg to a 2-year contract; acquire SS J.J. Hardy and 3B Mark Reynolds in trades.

No, the Orioles have no chance of competing in the American League East; in fact, they have little chance—Buck Showalter or not—to escape the cellar in the division; but these acquisitions at low cost will make the team viable again.

The combination of Showalter’s regime, discipline and organization and the leadership of Lee and Reynolds will make the clubhouse more agreeable.

Gregg is what he is; he has trouble throwing strikes and gives up too many homers, but for the most part, he’ll get the saves; they’ll be of the heart-stopping variety, but he’ll close the games out. Mostly.

Showalter prefers having lesser name closers so he doesn’t have to answer questions about why he doesn’t adhere to the “he’s the guy no matter what” nonsense that managers use as their security blanket to absolve themselves from thinking in the ninth inning.

Both Mike Gonzalez and Gregg will be competent at the back of the bullpen and, worst case scenario, they have trade value as the season moves along.

I’m a fan of neither Hardy nor Reynolds, but considering what they’re replacing, both are giant steps up and the Orioles didn’t give up much to get either.

You can’t reel in the big fish until there’s stability; the new manager and players will bring that stability to a once-storied franchise that has been rudderless for far too long.

Mets sign LHP Chris Capuano and RHP Taylor Buchholz to 1-year contracts.

The Mets are desperate for pitching and while this can be seen as flinging darts at a dartboard while wearing a blindfold, it’s a win-win with both pitchers.

Capuano went 18-12 in 2005 and 11-12 in 2006. In both years, he pitched pretty much identically. He pitched similarly through July in 2007 and then started getting raked all over the lot.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2008, he missed the entire 2008-2009 seasons and pitched respectably in 2010 as a starter and reliever; he was very good in the minors on the way back up to the bigs.

If the Mets can get something close to what Capuano was from 2005 through the first half of 2007, they’ll be thrilled.

Buchholz also had Tommy John surgery and it cost him the entire 2009 season; he pitched briefly for the Rockies and Blue Jays in 2010. While he was mediocre as a starting pitcher with the Astros in 2006, he found his niche as a reliever with the Rockies in 2008.

The epitome of the failed starter who makes his way as a relief pitcher, Buchholz was excellent in 63 games for the Rockies that year. He’s got a good fastball and a great curveball; his stuff appeared to translate better going once through the lineup; he’s on a non-guaranteed contract and is a fine representative of how to properly build a bullpen by finding scraps, signing them cheaply, using them, maximizing them and dispatching them when they grow too pricey.

These are both good signings.

Blue Jays sign RHP Octavio Dotel to a 1-year contract.

Dotel’s about as good (or bad) as Kevin Gregg; the Blue Jays got 37 saves from Gregg last year and now they’re taking a similar approach by signing Dotel.

Dotel gives up too many homers, but his strikeout numbers are still better than one-per-inning and, again in the worst case scenario, someone always seems to want him in a trade to bolster their bullpen late in the season; hypothetically the Blue Jays could get something for him if he’s pitching well.

Much like the Orioles, the Blue Jays are building for the future; they’re a year ahead in their development and the club is teeming with pitching; Dotel’s a stopgap; everyone knows that, but there are worse ones out there; plus he’s cheap.

  • Viewer Mail 1.5.2010:

Dave writes RE the NESN column—2011 Red Sox Will Challenge 1927 Yankees for Title of Greatest Team in Major League History:

Articles like these are actually going to make people root for the underdog Yankees in the AL East. As messed up as that sounds. If the Yankees don’t sign Pettitte, they will even have a lower payroll than Boston. Strange days.

I’m certainly not rooting for the Yankees, but I understand what you’re saying. Much like the Jack Zduriencik double-dealing in the trade for Cliff Lee, there were head shakes at what he did because it was wrong and shrugs because it was the Yankees to whom he did it. Sometimes the lesser of two evils is difficult to distinguish, so it’s best to steer clear and watch it happen with rampant disinterest.

That said, when it came from the Yankees, it was this type of arrogance that provoked Red Sox fans for all those years. This ridiculous column wasn’t coming from the Red Sox themselves, but many of their players—Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Kevin Youkilis, Jonathan Papelbon—aren’t exactly likable and this will fuel the implication of smugness and condescension from the organization.

It’s not the beaten down and abused Red Sox against the Evil Empire anymore.

Joe writes RE the Rangers, Adrian Beltre and Michael Young:

I actually suggested a while back that Young could be moved to first if they were to sign Beltre. Because the reality is, the Rangers 1st baseman were awful last year.  Maybe Chris Davis learns how to hit this year?  Maybe. But letting him figure it all out in the Minors is a better idea, seeing how they can’t really risk him being horrendous while they are fielding a competitive Big League team.  Young is being paid regardless, so they might as well use him somewhere until all those positions are occupied by someone even better than Young is.

I can’t imagine Davis cutting his strikeouts to the point where he can be trusted to get 500 at bats, but he does have power. Mitch Moreland was competent in a part-time role; he’s also hit well in the minors.

I have never understood why people ridicule Young to the degree that they do. He delivers 180-200 hits a year; 60 extra base hits; and is a leader on and off the field. He’s not great defensively, but so what? He can play every infield position for the short-term in case of injury.

He’s making a lot of money ($48 million through 2013); his numbers are way better at home than they are on the road as most Rangers players tend to be, but the difference isn’t glaring as it is with some players.

In the short-term, the team is better with Young and Beltre; if they’re thinking of clearing the Young salary for some pitching, they could conceivably do that as well.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Jon Miller, Vladimir Guerrero and the Rangers:

I’m gonna miss Jon Miller on Sunday nights. But I digress….Why wouldn’t the Rangers re-sign Vlad? He had such a good year for them and I’d be willing to bet he’s not asking for the moon. Why do they even need Beltre with Young at 3rd?

Guerrero had a great year and he, like Young, showed he could hit at home and on the road; he’s probably not going to settle for a 1-year, incentive-laden deal again after the year he had, at least not to go back to the Rangers. I think you’re right; his leadership and watchful eye over the young Latin players (along with Vlad’s mother doing the cooking) was a major part of their success this year. I’d be reluctant to dismiss that as meaningless especially with such a weak manager in Ron Washington.

Young is a far inferior fielder to Beltre and Beltre would hit in Arlington.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE pro wrestling, Scott Boras and Michael Young:

Oooooooooooooooooh yeah, brother! *Snaps into a Slim Jim*

Ask me if I feel sorry for Michael Young and his $16 million a year. I WISH I had such hard times at the office.

Scratching my head on the Rangers/Beltre thing, for the same reasons you are… I think they’d be better off saving that money til mid-season, to see where they are, and maybe go out and make some noise then.

Michael Kay and Scott Boras doing a pro rasslin’ interview with Jayson Werth strutting around in the background and primping like Ric Flair would get me to watch.

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Bel–Tray To The Ran–Gers?

Hot Stove
  • Thinking and re-thinking:

For the uninitiated, the title of the posting is a play on the Jon Miller insistence in pronouncing the names of the likes of Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran “correctly” with the emphasis on Bel–TRAY and Bel—TRAN.

It’s funny.

In the inflection of William Shatner: “Ha……HA!”

Now to serious matters.

When the story about the Rangers possibly signing Adrian Beltre, I was dubious but for a few conditions.

One, what were they going to do with Michael Young?

Two, given his history of big years prior to free agency, can they trust Beltre to come close to the production he gave the Red Sox in 2010?

Three, is this a maneuver to make-up for the loss of Cliff Lee and spend that money they had lying around rather than to shore up a hole that didn’t exist or would signing Beltre really help them?

The Young situation isn’t as much of an issue as it would appear on the surface. As tired as the team leader, Young, apparently is of switching positions, what choice does he have? That the Rangers “approached” Young about moving (again) is irrelevant; what’s he going to do about it?

As ludicrous as I found the assertions from two years ago that Young, as an employee, had no right to be irritated about the change from shortstop to third base, it’s somewhat factual that he has nothing to say about it. It was a gesture that the Rangers even consulted with him in the first place. Now if they sign Beltre, Young’s either going to be a DH or perhaps shift to first base or the outfield.

Young’s contract pays him $16 million annually through 2013—it’s hard to move unless they took back a similarly bad contract like A.J. Burnett, Barry Zito or Carlos Zambrano; the Rangers trading Young for pitching is not out of the question, but even if they don’t, the signing of Beltre, shifting Young to DH and allowing Vladimir Guerrero to leave is financially reasonable enough…if they can trust Beltre to perform close to his free agent-year level at the plate.

Can they trust Beltre to perform up to his free agent year level at the plate?

I say probably not, but he’ll hit in Texas.

Beltre put up massive numbers in two of his seasons prior to becoming a free agent. In 2004 he hit 48 homers and batted .334 for the Dodgers; in 2010, he was an MVP candidate on and off the field for the Red Sox.

While he struggled in Seattle, part of that was due to the pitcher-generous dimensions of Safeco Field. He’s always hit well in Texas’s hitter-friendly park (.857 OPS in 229 career plate appearances) and his fielding is among the best in baseball at his position.

Presumably the Rangers would have to surpass the contract offer Beltre received from the Athletics that was said to be worth $64 million over 5 years; Beltre isn’t young anymore (he’ll be 32 in April), so they’ll have to trust he’ll be healthy and productive into his late-30s—not all that big a risk; with Beltre hitting in that ballpark and the improved defense on the left side of the infield, the combination of the Gold Glove-winner Beltre with Elvis Andrus at short would help the pitching staff greatly.

As for the idea that it’s a post-Lee desperation move, I don’t see this as a “let’s sign that guy then” to account for the loss of Lee. The Rangers have proven to be very intelligent and calculating with Jon Daniels as the GM; they’d lament the loss of Guerrero (my speculation: watch him go back to the Angels), but if that’s the price of signing Beltre, so be it; their offense wouldn’t suffer and they’d have a superior defense.

I thought it was a bad idea when it was reported to be “close”—ESPN Story, grain of salt—but overall, it’s not much of a gamble when assessing all the factors; in fact, in all areas Beltre is a good fit for the American League champion Rangers because he’s a good clubhouse guy and would perform on the field.

  • “Listen up ‘ya pencil necked geeks!!”

When I was a kid, I used to be a pro wrestling fan. That was before it became so repulsive that it’s not suitable for children. But I had a flashback when I read the following ESPN teaser headline: MLBPA finds no rule-breaking by Boras.

Who among us that remember wrestling in the 1980s and 90s couldn’t picture Scott Boras as a rule-breaking manager; a Bobby “The Brain” Heenan type who interfered in matches; hit people over the head with his binders of accomplishments he totes around to extract every single penny he can in service of his clients; screamed at and threatened the fans; and stood during interviews screaming at the camera (I could see Michael Kay as the play-by-play man and interviewer) and doing the pro wrestling manager thing?

If ever there was a “rule-breaker” manager, it’s Scott Boras. And he’d probably relish the role as villain—he plays it perfectly and I don’t think it’s an act.

Rule-breaker or not, Boras deserves credit for one thing: He gets his clients paid.

And that’s his job.

You heard it right here, brother…