Sunday, February 28, 2010

AL Central preview

Now that Johnny Damon has signed with the Tigers, we can go ahead and evaluate the AL Central. I'll cover the teams alphabetically, and then give my predictions at the end.

Chicago White Sox (no relation):

The Sox made all of their big moves during the season, picking up Jake Peavey at the trade deadline, and claiming Alex Rios off of waivers, getting him for nothing other than the commitment to his contract. He was terrible in Chicago last year, batting below .200 with a .530 OPS. His ability to bounce back is a big key to Chicago's season.

Peavey comes in as the second man in the rotation, behind Mark Buehrle, who struggled last year after his perfect innings streak ended mid-way through his next start after his perfect game. Buehrle should start opening day, but could be in the middle of a lot of drama this year as he is discussing retirement. Peavey goes from the N.L. to the A.L. and from the best pitchers' park in baseball to a pretty good hitters' park. I'm not sure he'll continue to be an ace under those new circumstances. In his favor is that he misses bats. The rest of the rotation is solid, with John Danks and Gavin Floyd. Veteran Freddie Garcia (an original Blue Sock) and second-year player Daniel Hudson will battle for the fifth spot. Look for Garcia to win the role, at least out of spring training, because Ozzie Likes him and likes veterans. Hudson will be in the bullpen. But Hudson will likely be in the rotation by the all star break, although he may need a stint in the minors to stretch out.

The line-up has added Juan Pierre from the Dodgers to lead-off and play left field, Andruw Jones for the "regular" DH spot, and Mark Teahan, who will be the regular third baseman, moving rookie sensation Gordon Beckham to second. Regarding Pierre, look for him to have a big year. When Podsednick was at the top of his game, Ozzie sent him about every other time he was on first base. If Pierre stays healthy and in the lead-off spot all year, with his walk rate and hit rate, he could easily steal 75 bases.

Also look for Paul Konerko to have a good year. He had a rough patch in '08, but started to bounce back last year. He's at a crossroads in his career and has something to prove. If Ozzie sticks with him, he'll hit 30 again, and drive in 100.

One thing to look at during the season: look for the Sox to be in the running for Adrian Gonzales if and when he goes on the trade block.

Cleveland Indians:

The Indians will not be good this year. They have some young talent, and Manny Acta seems like the right guy for this spot, but they don't have any pitching. The rotation is a complete mess, with Jake Westbrook, coming off injury, as the possible opening day starter. They have a bunch of arms, but none of them that good. Justin Masterson, acquired from the Red Sox (no relation) may be the best bet of the young guys, and I guess it's possible Fausto Carmona could return to his 2007 form.

The best case scenario for the Indians would be for Kerry Wood to get off to a good start as the closer so that he can be trade bait at the deadline. If that happens (and that's a big if) look for Chris Perez to take over as the closer.

The big thing for the Indians this year is whether or not they decide to trade Grady Sizemore. He's signed at a relatively cheap $7.5 mil. for 2011 and a club option for $8.5 mil. in 2012. Considering what Carl Crawford will get, Sizemore would be an attractive consolation prize. All of this assuming he bounces back from an injury plagued 2009, but I expect he will. (Of course I'm still bitter that he basically ruined any shot the Blue Sox had at the bgal championship last year.)

Detroit Tigers:

Without question, the most interesting off-season in the division. (The Twins are a close second, and may have been first had they gotten their deal done with Mauer.) It certainly appeared the Tigers were dumping salary when they traded Edwin Jackson and Curtis Granderson at the winter meetings in a blockbuster three-way deal, but now, with the signing of Johnny Damon, I'm not so sure. They basically swapped Jackson and Granderson for Max Scherzer, who should take the #3 starter spot, Austin Jackson, who will take Granderson's spot in center, if he makes the team, and two quality bullpen arms in Daniel Schlereth and Phil Coke.

The big question, of course, was this their plan all along, or did they change course when Damon became available? I have to think it's the latter; there's no way they could have predicted Damon would be available, right? Either way, the rotation is at least a wash with Scherzer for Jackson (and maybe a long-term upgrade), and Damon had a better year than Granderson last year. Throw in Jackson, and the outfield is better both this year and long term. Finally, the bullpen received two solid upgrades. And that was before they signed Valverde to take the closer role from the departed Fernando Rodney. Rodney had a lot of saves, but did not pitch that well. Valverde is an established closer, albeit in the weak N.L. west and central.

The big issue for the Tigers is whether their two rookies, Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore, neither one of which has had a single at bat in the major leagues can make the team and be regular contributors. The Tigers are proceeding as if they will.

Kansas City Royals:

Like the Indians, the Royals will be bad. They have better pitching, with Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria leading the rotation and the pen, but their clueless moves, like trading for Yuniesky Betancourt and adding Jason Kendall, will kill their chances. Billy Butler is solid, but can't carry the offense by himself. Maybe the most interesting part of this team is the transition of oft-maligned reliever Kyle Farnsworth into a rotation candidate.

The Royals need a bounce back from newly signed Rick Ankiel (maybe he could help the rotation) and need Alex Gordon to finally reach some of his potential.

Minnesota Twins:

The Twins have had a pretty good run of playoff appearances and look to be the class of the division and the team to beat. The big question for the Twins is whether or not they can lock-up Maurer long-term. Look for that question to dominate the Twins' news until they sign him, even though they should be talking about the new outdoor stadium opening this year.

The Twins solidified their weakness up the middle with the additions of J.J. Hardy (via trade of Carlos Gomez) and Orlando Hudson (via free agency). This should firm up the defense (with Span in center and Mauer behind the plate they are very solid up the middle) and the outfield with Gomez gone and Span entrenched in center. Delmon Young will get another chance to show he can be a power hitter. If he doesn't have a good start, however, look for Kubel to take over in left and newly signed Jim Thome to take over at DH. That's a very lefty-leaning line-up, though, with most of the power from Thome, Kubel, Mauer, and Morneau, all from the left side.

As usual, the Twins have good pitching. The rotation should include Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, Kevin Slowey, and Nick Blackburn. Francisco Liriano should get the fifth starter spot, but Glen Perkins is in the mix, if he's not traded to the Reds. Of course, the bullpen will be anchored again by Joe Nathan and a bunch of other unheralded, but effective relievers.

I think the new additions to the Twins will make the difference in the division and I'm picking them over the Tigers. The Sox theoretically have a better rotation, but the Twins have more depth, and depth in the rotation is huge. If Mauer's contract isn't too much of a distraction, I don't see any reason to pick against them.

This will be a close division at the top, with the Tigers and the White Sox competing with the Twins. If their is one wild card, it could be Kenny Williams, who is very aggressive and could pull off a big trade (like for Gonzalez) and change the division. Absent that big move, I like the Tigers for second and the White Sox a close third. The Indians and Royals will be a distant fourth and fifth. It probably doesn't matter, but I'll pick the Indians to stay out of the cellar.

Up next: AL West

Friday, February 26, 2010

Blue Sox keepers

Is it too early to start thinking about my keepers? I hope not, because I think my first "draft" of my 2010 keepers was sometime around the end of September. I've filled at least one legal pad with draft keeper lists. Anyway, it's getting to crunch time with our keeper list due on March 18. For those who weren't with us last year I'll give a brief re-cap. I'm in a 10-team A.L. only roto league with 4x4 scoring (avg., HR's, RBI's, and stolen bases; era, strikeouts, wins, and saves). We use the standard 23 guys, with nine pitchers, two catchers, six infielders, five outfielders, and one DH, that has to be a hitter. We have four minor league spots for keepers (you can carry as many as you have, but can only keep four from season to season). We have no reserve spots. So after the draft/auction, you have your 23 spots, plus any minor leaguers you kept or drafted. Any player placed on the D/L can be replaced (keeping the rights to the D/L'd guy) including anyone drafted that starts the year on the D/L. But to activate a D/L guy (or a called up minor leaguer) you have to drop a guy or put someone on the D/L or in the minors (but only if he qualifies).

We have a $50.00 budget. So at the auction, you have $50.00 minus the total of your keepers. We can keep up to 14 guys, not counting the four minor leaguers. Here are my no-brainers for keepers (although feel free to comment if you disagree), with their corresponding salary:

1st base: Russell Branyan .10
2nd base: Ian Kinsler 7.40
3rd base: Evan Longoria 2.00
Crnr inf: Alex Gordon 1.00
Outfield: Shin-Soo Choo 1.00

Pitcher: Josh Beckett 7.50
Pitcher: Brian Fuentes 4.50
Pitcher: Brian Matusz 1.00
Pitcher: Phil Hughes 1.00

That's nine players for $25.50, basically half of my money for a little less than half my players. I can keep up to 14, so I can keep up to five of these other eight:

Gerald Laird 2.00
Victor Martinez 6.70
Brian Robers 6.20
Ryan Raburn 1.00

John Lackey 7.20
Matt Thornton 2.00
Jason Frasor 1.00
Brandon McCarthy 1.00

There are some other options (CC at 10.10, Sizemore and Morneau at 9.00 each, A.J. Burnett at 8.10, and Alex Rios at 7.00) but they're just too high to consider. You could argue that is also true for Beckett, but I like him on a good team that has improved a lot defensively, and he's in his contract year. To some extent you could argue this for Kinsler, too.

If the Jays hadn't signed Kevin Gregg (how stupid was that move?) I would have kept Frasor for sure because he was first in line for saves. Now, I'm not sure. I think he's still worth the $1 but I might be able to get him cheaper at auction (and that's really the issue with any keeper). Same with Raburn. Had the Tigers not signed Damon (how smart was that move?) I would have kept Raburn. Again, he's probably worth the dollar, but without a sure starting role, I might get him cheaper.

If McCarthy is in the rotation, he's probably worth a spot at $1. He's never lived up to his potential, mostly because of injuries, but has enough upside to keep should he have a role. If he doesn't crack the rotation, a) he's not worth keeping because he won't pitch enough and b) he's not worth keeping because he couldn't crack the rotation.

I would keep Thornton at $1 because he was one of the best relievers in baseball last year and would be next in line for saves (maybe, they did sign Putz) should Jenks falter or get traded. But he'll go for less than $2 at the auction unless he's installed as the closer before the 3/18 deadline (but of course then I would keep him).

Lackey is an interesting case. No question he's a valuable guy, especially now that he's in Boston. But he's been an injury risk. The Red Sox (no relation) are very risk-adverse, so the big contract they gave him should be seen as a boost to his value. But $7.20 is a lot and would take up all of my remaining pitching budget. Typically, I'll spend $20 of my $50 on pitching, and keeping Lackey would put me at $21.20 for only five guys. So I probably can't keep him.

Another factor with Lackey, last year there were only two aces in the draft (that I remember) CC and Beckett. I got Beckett first at $7.50. (I knew I needed one of the two and I wanted CC -- who didn't -- and figured the worst case scenario would be for Beckett to get called up before CC. First guy up: Beckett. I realized when the Grim Rippers bowed out early (they had a ton of money available and needed an ace) that he was going for CC no matter what, so I stayed in on Beckett knowing he was my only shot. There was no way I could bid against the GR's for CC.) CC went for $10.10. This year, however, we'll have CC, A.J. Burnett, Lackey, and Cliff Lee, Javier Vazquez, Ben Sheets, and Rich Harden (all coming over from the N.L.). So I'll have a shot at a guy like Lackey at (hopefully) a cheaper price.

This is always a tough call: how much of the budget to allot to pitching and how much to hitting. A couple of schools of thought here. Most people argue hitting is more reliable, so you should put more resources toward it in the auction to limit risk. A 30/20 split of the 50 is also a fairly even divide among all players, working out to $2.22 per pitcher and $2.14 per hitter. But the scoring is divided evenly between hitting and pitching so shouldn't the budget be also? I usually plan for 30/20 and overspend on pitching if I have to.

I don't think Laird is worth the $2.00. Maybe I'll be proven wrong, but I just don't see it. Especially if Avila takes some of his playing time. But I haven't ruled him out for my 14th spot yet. The same is true for Raburn. That leaves V-Mart (at 6.70) and Roberts (at 6.20). Both are valuable guys at a scarce position. But you usually want to keep guys at that price only in they're four-category guys (although I'm keeping low average Kinsler -- hey it's tough to pass on a 30-30 candidate). Roberts has limited power and V-Mart doesn't steal bags. If I did keep those two, I'd be at 24.40 for only half of my hitters. That would leave only 5.60 for the other seven.

Another option I'm considering is the trade route. I put out feelers on some of my higher-priced guys and have one iron in the fire. (I won't analyze the offers being swapped; he reads this blog.) But the goal of the trade would be to simply get two or three keepers for a guy I'm probably not going to keep just to play the numbers game.

I'm also considering offering one of my draft picks in trade for a good keeper. I like my young guys that I have and I'm not sure I need more than a couple more. I'm already down to three of my four picks, but I think I could stand to lose one more. Which round I would trade would depend on the offer.

Any input would be appreciated. If you have any input or questions, put them in the comments section and I will respond.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Baseball America top-100 prospects

Baseball America is a subscription site, but the folks there have their top-100 prospects list available on the site for free. I love these lists. The following are notable:

#4 Jesus Montero - Montero is a Blue Sock, picked in the second round of last year's draft. But he was my third pick. Because of trades, I had my first round pick and four consecutive second round picks. So the order doesn't really matter much. He's still minor league eligible and will be one of my four minor league keepers.

#5 Brian Matusz - Matusz is also a Blue Sock, picked up in the second round of last year's draft. He's no longer minor league eligible, but will be kept (at $1.00) as one of my nine pitchers.

#13 Justin Smoak - Also a Blue Sock, he was my first round pick last year. I was wavering between Smoak and Eric Hosmer but picked Smoak because I'd seen him play in the AFL. Hosmer didn't make the list this year. Smoak is one of my minor league keepers.

#19 Aaron Hicks - Hicks and Greg Halman were my final two picks in the second round last year. Halman (who I traded as part of the CC Sabathia deal) did not make the list. Hicks is my final minor league keeper.

#6 Desmond Jennings - This is out-of-order, but a very interesting story. Two years ago in 2008, I picked Jennings with my first round pick. I then traded him during the season to an owner that coveted him and then quit after the season. The owner that took his place did not keep him so he was available last year, but coming off a poor, injury-riddled '08 season. I chose not to get him again, but sure wish I would have. No one else selected him. So he went from a first-rounder in '08 to an unkept, undrafted guy in '09. Now, he's the highest rated (by Baseball America) guy available for this year's draft. By the way, my other two '08 draft picks (I only had three that year) were Elvis Andrus and Austin Jackson, both of whom I have since traded.

#87 Lars Anderson - I picked up Anderson in a trade in 2008, and kept him last year. I'll keep him again this year, mostly because I only have four eligible guys for four spots. His stock has dropped dramatically from '08 because of a terrible year. He's low on this list, but I've still seen him listed as the top Red Sox (no relation) prospect on some lists.

The Reds on the list are Aroldis Chapman at 22, Todd Frazier at 43, Yonder Alonso at 45 (I always think of the Yonder Mountain Sting Band of Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues fame when I see his name), and Mike Leake at 72.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Gomesy back in the fold

The Reds have re-signed Jonny Gomes after his efforts to shop around for a better deal didn't work out. There is apparently some debate whether he signed a minor league or major league deal, but I doubt it matters; he'll be on the roster when the team comes north (east?).

Gomesy was one of my favorite Reds last year and, in fact, was second only to Joey Votto in OPS. But the Reds gave him less than 300 at bats. He hit .267/.338/.541 last year with 20 home runs and 51 rbi's in 281 at bats. He also hit three home runs in one night in the Reds' best game of the year.

Right now, I think the team is looking at a platoon with CD in left, and with Gomes on the "wrong" side of the platoon he may not get any more at bats this year. No question he can hit lefties, and hit them for power. His defense isn't great, but he wasn't too bad in left last year. And he's got some pop coming off the bench in a pinch-hit role. My preference would be to put in left as the starter, get him 550 at bats, and see what he can do.

Obviously, this takes the Reds out of any Jermaine Dye talk, if they were in it in the first place. And I think means that most of their young guys (Stubbs excepted) will start in the minors. I'm talking about Heisey, Frazier, Francisco, et al.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Reds, Yanks in same boat?

Spring training is underway and position battles will soon follow. The main position battles for both the Reds and the Yankees will be for the starting left fielder and the fifth starter. Here's a look at each:


Left field is generally believed to belong to Brett Gardner now that Melky is gone. Last year he won the centerfield job from Melky, only to lose it right back. With Granderson coming in as a centerfielder, it seems like it's Gardner's. But now there's a lot of talk about Gardner staying in center and Granderson moving to left. The other question (especially under this scenario) is whether Granderson will play against lefties. So let's say Gardner moves to center. That puts Granderson in left against righties and the likes of Randy Winn (who was terrible last year against lefties, but historically doesn't have big splits) and Marcus Thames (who's on a minor league deal) in a platoon. If it were me, I would start with Granderson in center and Gardner in left, with Thames at DH against lefties (for Nick Johnson) or on the bench. Randy Winn would be my fourth outfielder. All this subject to change if Swisher doesn't hit for higher average, Granderson doesn't hit lefties, etc. But that's how I would start out. They also have a rule 5 pick (Hoffman?) in the mix.

The fifth starter will presumably be decided between Joba and Phil Hughes, with the other in a bullpen set-up role. But if the Yanks put both in the pen, Chad Gaudin (who I like), Alfredo Aceves, or Sergio Mitre could get the job. I have Hughes in my AL keeper league and would love him as the fifth starter. A lot of fans want Joba as the set-up, heir-apparent to Mo, so they may go that route. If it were me, I'd stretch them both out as starters and wait as long as I could to decide. Ultimately, I would want both as starters, even if that means Hughes to the minors (or Joba to the pen) waiting on an injury. The Yanks were lucky last year regarding injuries and may not be as lucky this year. For 2010, the best bet might be Gaudin as the fifth guy and Hughes and Joba in a complete lock-down type bullpen. But I don't think that's the best use of those guys long-term.


Left field is up for grabs. Right now, I think Chris Dickerson has the inside track, with a potential platoon with a right-hander. Gomes hasn't signed yet, but indications are that he will. He's holding out for a better deal, but with guys like Dye still out there, I don't see a better opportunity for Gomes. I love Gomes, but would love to see the Reds make a run at Dye as the full-time leftfielder. In the mix are Laynce Nix, Wladimir Balentien, and a bunch of rookies/prospects. I don't see Heisey, Francisco, or Frazier getting the job. Ultimately, look for a Gomes/Dickerson platoon, with Nix a possibility for the CD spot.

The fifth-starter spot is also wide-open. Aroldis Chapman had a nice start to his spring and the Reds act as if they want him in the bigs as soon as he's ready, but I would be surprised if he gets the nod. But boy could the Reds use a power lefty in the rotation. Other options include guys like Justin Lehr and Matt Maloney. I don't see a big prospect getting the spot yet, like Travis Wood or Mike Leake.

So the Yanks and the Reds are in the same boat, right? Hardly. But we'll keep an eye on both camps throughout spring training.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chien-Ming Wang

According to this the Reds made a big league offer to Wang before he signed with the Nats. Wang would have fit well into the friendly confines of Pretty Good American Small Park, but I'm guessing he went with the Nats to ensure a spot in the rotation. If he's healthy, no question he pitches for them.

Christmas Eve for Reds fans

Pitchers and catchers report to Goodyear, Arizona, tomorrow. A lot has happened for the Reds in the last month since we started our 25-man roster preview with starting pitchers. The Reds signed O-Cab, Arredondo, Miguel Cairo, and Kip Wells, and traded T-Virus and Rosie for Aaron Miles. They still might be in the market for a free agent pitcher and may still sign Jonny Gomes. But we're going to assume the roster as is entering training camp, and pose and answer the five biggest questions for the Reds this year.

1. Which Aaron Harang shows up?

I think this is the single most important question for the Reds. There are issues in left field and with the fifth starter, but without Harang as the ace of the staff the Reds won't compete. They may not compete with him as the ace, but they have no chance without him. The national media will focus on how Chapman's doing and who the fifth starter will be, but Harang is the key.

In '06 and '07, Harang was 32-17, with a 3.75 era in 466 innings with 434 K's and a 1.208 WHIP. In '08 and '09, he was 12-31, with a 4.52 era in 346.2 innings with 295 K's and a 1.396 WHIP. The difference is stark. If the '06/'07 Harang shows up, look for the Reds to be competitive in the division. If he's the opening day starter, that's a good sign.

2. Will the Young Guns continue to develop?

Again, the Reds have some holes, but how those holes are filled won't matter if Votto, Bruce, Cueto, and Bailey don't continue to develop. If those four take a step forward, look out. The Reds know what they're getting from Arroyo, Cordero, Phillips, O-Cab, Rolen, and Hernandez. Those guys are all veterans with good, if not great, track records. Add four top developing stars, and that's a very solid team. Add four struggling prospects, and the team is out of it before the all-star break. There is no reason to think Votto won't continue his solid performance, and all of the fantasy magazines believe Bruce will have a break-out year. So I guess it's up to Bailey and Cueto to answer this one.

3. Where are the Reds at the trade deadline?

The Reds have a lot of competitions to decide in spring training. They need to settle on a fifth starter and a left fielder (or a platoon in left). But the answers to those questions won't matter as much as the answers to 1 and 2 above. If the guys in the left field and fifth starter roles struggle, there is plenty of depth to replace them. But if the guys at the top struggle, the Reds won't compete. For 2011, the Reds are only committed to Cordero, Rolen, Phillips, Chapman, Masset, and Alonso, with a few buy-outs. If the Reds are out of it near the trade deadline, look for a fire sale. If the Reds are in it, they have the flexibility to add a guy without killing the payroll and/or the future. They also have depth in their prospects to make a deal.

4. Who are the final pieces in the 25-man roster puzzle?

Aaron Miles is set to make $2.7 mil. this year. That's about the same as what the starting outfield (even if Balantein and Dickerson platoon) and three fifths of the rotation will make, combined. So he's on the team. Is that too much to pay for a super-utility guy? On this team, yes. But not when you consider that Jockety was able to unload Taveras to get him. And he's an upgrade over any other candidate for the super-utility role. Hanigan will be the back-up catcher, and the fifth starter winner will decide the final pieces of the bullpen, but these decisions aren't critical. As indicated, there is plenty of depth if a spring training performance leads to a surprise role on the team that doesn't pan out.

5. Who will date Dusty's daughter this year?

In '08 it was Cory Patterson. In '09 it was Willy Taveras. I have not bashed on Dusty as much as most, but I was ready to give up on him when I made it to the park late in the year last year and saw Taveras leading off and Janish batting second. Dusty cannot think unconventionally about his line-up. Just because a guy is fast doesn't make him a lead off hitter. And just because a guy has no power doesn't make him a second place hitter. Guys in the top spots have to get on base. Period. Inevitably, someone on this team will struggle and Dusty will not have the flexibility to adjust.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Changing of the guard

I usually limit my comments on this blog, at least my non-fantasy sports comments, to what others are doing. Even though that may be, "not of general interest" it's at least more interesting than what I'm usually doing. But last night there was a bit of a sea change on the tennis court.

I've played in a couple of different mens doubles tennis leagues over the last ten years, typically at a 3.5 USTA rating. Knee surgery aside, I'm usually younger and more mobile than the typical 3.5 mens doubles player. If guys can move around the court and have skills, they tend to play singles. So you get a lot of guys that are older and less mobile, but pretty savvy. I can't tell you how many times I've lost to guys in their 50's and 60's and sometimes worse, because my big serve won't go in or, even though they can't move, they always manage to be right where I hit it. Very frustrating.

Coming off of last year's league championship match, where my partner and I were up a set and 4-2 in the second and still managed to lose, we decided not to play this winter season. Part of that was some minor injuries plaguing my partner, part of it was general frustration with the league. We intended to get a regular weekly court time instead, but that fell through. Anyhoo, last night I was asked to sub in for a guy. I showed up (my partner for the night is older than I am) and we were playing two young guys with big serves that hit the ball hard, etc. We were quickly down 1-3, but battled back to tie it at 5-5, before losing the first set 7-5. Figuring it was over, I observed that I was almost the old guy that frustrated the heck out of the young guys to win. But it wasn't to be.

Except that it was. We ended up winning the next two sets and the match. It was bitter-sweet for me. They were better players, but refused to take something off a first serve to improve accuracy, or hit a solid shot instead of a "winner" every time. They let us back in the match and our consistency carried the day. I was thrilled to win, but not sure I like the idea of transforming into the old guy that out-savvied the young guys to win.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Epilogue

I still need someone to explain this to me.

More on Damon

Here is an excerpt from a general baseball chat by Jay Jaffe at Baseball Prospectus:

Scott (DC): If the Reds find a huge pile of money under the mattress and add Johnny Damon, do they instantly become favorites for the Wild Card?

Jay Jaffe: Man, if the Reds understood anything about the marginal win curve, they'd already have signed Damon. He'd be a nice fit in that park, and they really could use his bat atop that lineup.

Then again, that they haven't signed him suggests that maybe they know too much about the conditions of some of those young arms. Say a prayer for Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez tonight.

Marginal win curve basically means that the value of a win that takes you from win 84 to win 85, when the wild card winner is 85 wins, is a lot higher than the value of a win that takes you from 70 to 71 (or for that matter from 102 to 103). Teams that are very close to contention should pay a lot to get extra wins. Teams that are out of it need not worry and teams that are locks shouldn't over pay for more wins. (That's some what simplified for the locks, because they may be simply improving the team for a playoff win, and those are very valuable.) If the value of Damon is three wins, that would be very valuable to a team like the Reds, but not as valuable to a team like the Pirates.

Having said that, Damon is the perfect fit for the Reds because the Reds desperately need a left fielder, really their one remaining question mark. I guess it still remains to be seen what he'd be willing to take, but I still say he could be this year's Abreu although I've said that about Jermaine Dye, as well. Maybe the answer is to see which one of those two would play for the smallest salary and sign that guy.

Having signed some veterans like O-Cab and Hernandez, and extending Rolen, is wasted money unless the Reds are trying to win. The marginal value of adding one more piece is huge and the Reds should not let this chance go to waste.

Here's a fun scenario: The Reds sign Damon to a one-year, $6 mil. deal. The great Winn/Thames/Gardner experiment fails miserably, and the Reds trade Damon to the Yanks for catching prospect Jesus Montero. That would be nice for everyone but the Blue Sox.

Hey Yankees fans -- relax

We are certainly going to hear the hype/hysteria all year out of New York regarding Jeter, Rivera, and to a lesser extent Girardi. Here is the voice of reason on the subject. Although Rivera may be a legitimate concern under a couple of different scenarios, this won't be much more than a media distraction.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Minor league keepers

In the bgal (AL only, 10 team, 4x4 roto keeper league with a $50.00 budget), we get to keep up to four minor leaguers. To be eligible as a minor league, the player has to have been in the minor leagues (and not just on an injury rehab stint) on August 31 last season. In other words, a September call-up doesn't lose his minor league eligibility. Right now, I only have four guys eligible, so deciding which four to keep is easy unless I make a trade. The point of this post is to solicit opinion on whether I should stand pat with the four I have or try and make a trade to upgrade my minor league squad. You should know that we will have a four-round minor league draft prior to our major league auction, so in addition to the four I keep, I'll have three more on the squad when the season starts (I traded my fourth round pick). This comes into play knowing that next year I can again only keep four. So I have to have some guys graduate to the majors, or risk losing them next year. (In other words, if I go into next season with more than four eligible, I'll lose some of them.) Of Course, minor leaguers are always good trade bait (which is why I only have four right now).

I have Brian Matusz but because he was called up on August 4, he's not minor-league eligible. Like I said above, this can be good. If he were eligible, I would have 5 and have to cut some one (or make a trade). I first saw Matusz in the 2008 Arizona Fall league and was very impressed. He seemed top-notch, but I really did not expect him to be called up so soon. He's almost a lock for the O's rotation from the get go, unless he completely blows it this spring. I can keep him on my major league roster for $1.00 which I certainly will do.

My current minor leaguers are Lars Anderson, Aaron Hicks, Jesus Montero, and Justin Smoak. Montero and Smoak are no-brainers. I picked Smoak last year over Eric Hosmer, mostly because I saw Smoak play in Arizona; so that was my tie-breaker. I got luck in that he had a way better year than Hosmer. I wanted Carlos Santana for my catching prospect but he went right before I got to pick (third round, I had already taken Matusz and Smoak) so I took Montero. Not a terrible consolation pick, but Montero may not stick at catcher which would impact a large chunk of his value.

That leaves Hicks, who I picked in the fourth round last year as a deep sleeper pick, and Anderson, who I got in a '08 season trade and kept last year. Anderson had a terrible year last year, going from a .934 OPS in '08 between A and AA to a .673 OPS in AA. He's my weakest keeper. Hicks on the other hand is now the Twins' top prospect.

So Hicks is now a top guy and Smoak and Montero are no-brainers. The only issue with Hicks is that he's very unlikely to make the Twins before 9/1/10. So if I keep him this year, I'll probably have to keep him next year, too. So I would be counting on a couple guys to make it in the bigs before 9/1. Smoak seems like a good candidate, but I don't see the Yanks and Sox promoting Montero and Anderson. So that's three keepers for next year before I've even drafted for next year. So I think the thing to do is to keep the four and see if Anderson rebounds. Then decide whether to keep him. And maybe try to trade Hicks during the season when I'm making a late-year title run (or at least a move to make it to the money).

But I could try and trade one now and go into the year with only three (plus my three picks this year) and keep the best four next year or hope at least two graduate. Another possibility is to make runs at guys in this year's draft that are minor league eligible and likely to play this year, like Scott Sizemore or Brett Wallace. That would cut down on any keeper angst next year. Or, finally, I could try and trade for an upgrade on my four current guys. That would probably be a top major league guy, though, to pry away a minor-league keeper that's better than what I already have.

I'll have a post up on my major league keepers closer to the deadline, which will require a lot more work, but I wanted to get the minor leaguers out there so that any one that wants to can comment.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How much is Rosie worth?

Does this clear up the big question from yesterday's trade? While it is an explanation, I still don't get it. Rosie may be worth $800,000.00 per year over the next three years (although I doubt it), surely there was a cheaper way to procure his services.

Here is Rob Neyer's take. I read somewhere else (but can't find the link right now) that the A's are hoping to trade Taveras in the next ten days. Probably the Reds' right to a PTBNL or cash depends on the success of this venture. But, again, paying this kind of money to get Rosie and agreeing to shop Taveras for the Reds seems like an awfully steep price. Let's stay-tuned on this one.

Inside dope on Reds' prospects

As luck would have it, I got some inside dope on three of the Reds' top four prospects from a scout from another organization. The dope came via one of my best baseball contacts. The news is not good.

Aroldis Chapman (Baseball Prospectus #1): On Chapman, the scout said he was a big stretch for the money. He's only got 1 and 1/2 pitches and there's a question about his make-up. He's probably a reliever down the road.

Todd Frazier (BP #3): May not become a regular player. He may not have the power to play a corner position, which is where his skills are leading him.

Yonder Alonso (BP #4): His struggles against left handers are real. He even struggled with lefties in college.

Mike Leake is BP's 2nd ranked Reds' prospect.

The Reds have not had a great reputation for drafting/signing and developing guys. For example, their first pick in the 2007 draft, Devin Mesoraco, did not even make BP's top-15 prospects. That's unexcusable. (Frazier was their second pick that year.)I hope this scout is wrong, but the Reds may be in for a decline in the farm system. I'm less worried about Frazier and Chapman than I am about Alonso.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Reds trade Taveras

Yesterday, I said the Reds would need to make some move with the 40-man roster to make room for O-Cab. We didn't have to wait long for that move. Apparently, Walt Jocketty had the same apprehension I did about Dusty still wanting to play Taveras, because he traded him, along with Adam Rosales, to the A's for Aaron Miles and a PTBNL. The A's then promptly designated Taveras for assignment.

I guess the first big question has to be what's going on in Oakland? Why take the financial hit on Taveras to replace utility man Miles with utility man Rosales? I don't think Rosales has enough upside to justify that kind of hit. There has to be more to the story from the A's side of this deal.

But never mind for the Reds. The Taveras saga is now over in Cincy. Jocketty blew it by giving him two guaranteed years, and Dusty compounded the problem by refusing to move him out of the lead-off spot. (I wonder if the A's would like Mike Lincoln?) Surely, this clears centerfield for Drew Stubbs. it also gives the Reds an extra $1.3 mil. which can go toward O-Cab's new salary or into a pot for Jermaine Dye.

Miles becomes the main utility infielder for the Reds, and both he and O-Cab can now be added to the forty man. Miles had a miserable year last year for the Cubs, finishing with a .185 avg. and a .466 OPS. His career numbers, however, are .282/.322/.356. The A's got Miles in December as part of the Jake Fox deal with the Cubs. This deal reunites Miles and Jocketty who were together in St. Louis in 2006 when the Cards won the series.

The other question from this deal is what happens to Janish? Obviously, he'd be a good back-up at short because of his glove, but wouldn't the Reds be better off with a guy like Drew Sutton as the back-up, since he hits lefty and has some pop? The answer might depend on who wins the left field derby or if the Reds go with a platoon in left. I'm still holding out hope they'll trade for Perkins and sign Dye.