Winter Meetings Rapidly Approaching!!

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In only 4 short days, the best time of the baseball offseason begins.  Yes, that’s right, the Winter Meetings.  On Monday, December 3rd, the meetings will kick-off in Nashville, Tenn.

There are so many huge names being thrown around in the trade market, and this will surely dominate the talks among GM’s.  Some of the bigger stories to follow:

  • #1 will be the availability of Twins ace Johan Santana – Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and Dodgers will be the most likely destinations.
  • The possible trade of Miguel Cabrera to the Angels or Dodgers – the team that gets him or Johan will likely be out of the other race
  • Mets will be looking for an ace pitcher – Bedard, Haren and Blanton remain the most likely prospects; Pelfry/Humber/Gomez are bargaining chips
  • D-Backs will also be in the market for another ace to slot behind Brandon Webb – they appear to be in on the Haren/Blanton sweepstakes as well; Carlos Quentin and Carlos Gonzalez look like the trade bait here
  • The possible trade of Miguel Tejada – we probably won’t see this until after (if) Cabrera gets traded
  • Phils are also looking for pitching depth – Hiroki Kuroda looks like their main target
  • Cubs are looking to upgrade their offense – main target will be Japanese OF Fukudome, who would improve their much-needed OBP; they will also likely fleece themselves on Kaz Matsui
  • Detroit will look to upgrade their bullpen – Dotel? 

Man, I absolutely live for this time of year!  I hope you all are as excited as I am?!  We will keep you abreast of all the rumors, trades and signings. 

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Cardinals Shortstop Rumors: Tejada, Wilson?

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We touched on the Cards need for starting pitching  help yesterday.  Now let’s discuss the hole they have at shortstop.  Let’s examine the options:

  • The incumbent is David Eckstein.  But “The Pest” may have fleeced himself by saying that he wants Julio Lugo/Rafael Furcal money.   Lugo fleeced the Red Sox last winter for $36M over 4 years, and Furcal received $39M over 3 years from the Dodgers the previous year.   If anyone gives that kind of money to Eckstein, a 32 year old with no power, they should be relieved of their duties immediately.   And according to Joe Strauss, it is “widely believed within the organization” that the Cardinals will not offer Eckstein arbitration, let alone get fleeced into a long term deal. 
  • Struass names Miguel Tejada as a possibility, but I just don’t see why any team would want to acquire Tejada to play shortstop.   Plus, the Mitchell Report possibility looms.
  • Then there’s Jack Wilson, whom the Cardinals could probably acquire via trade relatively cheap due to Wilson’s prior fleecing of the Pirates.  The career .269 hitter is due nearly $14M over the next two seasons.  Wilson’s defense would be welcome in St. Louis, though.  Eckstein made 20 errors in 117 games last year.
  • The in house option is Brendan Ryan.  Ryan, a 7th round pick in 2003, is a promising 25 year old who showed promise last year in the big leagues, hitting .289 with a .347 OBP in 180 at bats.  He also had 4 homeruns, which is 2 shy of Eckstein’s total over the last two years.   The downside is Ryan’s defense.  The youngster committed 10 errors in 67 games last year.

Putting on my GM hat here, I’d consider offering Eckstein arbitration. But if he declines, I would give the job to Ryan and try to sign a veteran defensive minded backup like Cesar Izturis to mentor Ryan and start maybe once or twice a week.  The Cards should see what they have in Ryan.  Thoughts?

Garza to Seattle?; Bedard to the Mets?; and Jason Bay

We touched on the main news from Ken Rosenthal today – that being the Joe Nathan rumors.  But Rosenthal also had some other good tidbits.  Let’s take a look.

  • According to Rosenthal, “Matt Garza remains the young pitcher the Twins are most likely to move.”  Rosenthal mentions the Mariners as a potential partner with centerfield stud prospect Adam Jones as a return package.  I think that would be an absolute fleece for Minnesota, given their pitching depth (even after a Santana deal) and need for a center fielder.  Adam Jones is a future star.  And that’s no disrespect towards Matt Garza, who looks poised to be at least a future #2 starter.
  • The New York Mets made a “strong run” at Erik Bedard in last months GM meetings, but Baltimore president Andy McPhail wasn’t quite ready to deal the young ace then.  One would think the Mets would have to include Carlos Gomez and Lastings Milledge in a deal, among others.   Bedard is exactly what the Mets need in my opinion, and Baltimore is a team that Minaya has fleeced before (John Maine and Jorge Julio for Kris Benson).
  • Rosenthal speculates that the Pirates will try to hold on to Jason Bay until next winter to see if he can increase his trade value this season.  But if they get the right offer at next weeks winter meetings, they’ll pull the trigger.  Pittsburgh is looking at building around top prospects Andrew McCutcheon (CF) and Neil Walker (C), both 21 years old.  So look for Pitt to get younger for a potential run around 2010.
  • The Yankees will not be fleeced when signing middle relievers this year.  They apparently have a budget (yea, right) and will not overpay for the likes of Ron Mahay.  I say, FALSE.  

Dodgers Keeping Youngsters?

lad.jpgAccording to the LA Times, GM Ned Coletti has stated that due to the high price of acquiring talent in the trade market this off-season, the Dodgers may be holding onto their blue chip prospects rather than making a run at an impact player, like Florida’s Miguel Cabrera or Baltimore’s Erik Bedard (As previously reported here at MLB Fleece Factor.

Rumor has it when speaking with Florida about Cabrera, the Marlins were seeking four players from LA in return. Rumors have surfaced about OF Matt Kemp, SP Chad Billingsley, 1B James Loney, and top pitching prospect Clayton Kershaw, amongst others.

It is possible the only “big splash” Coletti will have announced this off-season was the hiring of manager Joe Torre. It has become apparent that Coletti is concerned with fleecing himself, and does not want to appear in a story on this site a few years from now under the category “Great Moments in Fleece History”. With the tremendous amount of young talent in the Dodgers’ system, however, the door will remain open for a fleece to occur.
 

Rumor: Bedard to Dodgers Stalled

bedard.jpg According to the LA Times, talks between the Dodgers and Orioles centering around Baltimore lefty Erik Bedard have stalled.  Apparently the Orioles will wait and see how the Miguel Cabrera trade rumors unfold, as the prospects rumored in any Cabrera deal will be the prospects they would want from the Dodgers.  (Probably Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp, among others).  The article mentions Hiroki Kuroda as a possible fallback for LA.

As mentioned here at The Fleece Factor, Baltimore should ask for the moon for Bedard.  Their bounty should probably exceed Johan Sanatana’s as Bedard is not a free agent until 2009.   From LA, Baltimore should seek Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp and at least one other top prospect, such as James Loney or Chad Billingsley.

Hunter Agrees with Angels

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Torii Hunter has agreed to sign a 5-year deal worth $90 million with the Los Angeles Angels.  We had been hearing all about Texas and Chicago as the front-runners, but the Angels swooped in and gave Hunter the length and money he was seeking.

Last off-season, the Angels gave a big contract to CF Gary Matthews, Jr.  Reggie Willits also provided speed from CF last year in Matthews’ absence.  CF did not appear to be a major position of need for the Angels.  Willits appears to have become expendable at this point.

According to Rotoworld.com, Matthews figures to move to a corner outfield position.  Hunter will provide some thump to a lineup that had been all about Vladimir Guerrero.   The range in the outfield will be excellent with Hunter and Matthews, whom are both Gold Glove caliber defenders.  The Twins will now receive the Angels 27th pick in the upcoming amateur draft. 

If the Angels are still able to land Miguel Cabrera or Miguel Tejada via trade, the middle of their batting order becomes very dangerous.

Fleece? Torii Hunter has had only 2 seasons in his career with over 100 RBI. While his glove is superb, he is indeed 32 years old, and will be earning $18 million per season until he is 36. He has never batted over .289 in his career. A comparable contract would be the one Carlos Beltran earned from the New York Mets (7 years, $119 million) in 2005. Beltran, however, was younger when he signed his deal (27). He also has more speed and more power. The NY Mets were thought to have overpaid on this deal. What does this mean for the Hunter deal? They paid way too much money here.

Melvin Mora to the Phillies?

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Courtesy of Ken Rosenthal, we find out that Melvin Mora would be willing to waive the no-trade clause in his current deal with the Orioles in order to go to another team on the East coast, and presumably to a contender.  The article specially mentions Philadelphia as a possible destination in Mora’s thinking, and also notes that he would be willing to switch positions to LF. 

Mora appears to be a possible ‘Plan B’ for the Phils, after their 4-year, $50 million offer was turned down by Mike Lowell, who returned to the Red Sox for less money and years.  I kinda like this move for Philadelphia.  Mora is certainly on the decline of his career, however, he is a much better option than what remains on the 3B market and would be feasbile for the Phils (they don’t have the bullets to trade for Cabrera or Tejada).  I’m not positive what the O’s would ask in return for Mora though?  I would think it couldn’t be too much, as it would be more of a salary dump.  Mora will make roughly $8.5 million in 2008, and is signed through 2009, with an option for 2010.