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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CBS Rumors and News: Rowand, Headley, Hunter, Wood

We mentioned the Peavy rumor, but CBS Sportstline also had some other good rumblings today:

  • Sportsline expects the Phillies to be “aggressive” in trying to keep Aaron Rowand.  If true, this would be another lie by the Philly brass, who claimed to only be in on free agent pitchers this offseason, but was then exposed as offering Mike Lowell a 4 year, $50M deal. 
  • The Pirates are making a serious run at Padres third base prospect Chase Headley (.330, 20, 78 for Double-A San Antonio), by offering outfielders Xavier Nady and Nate McClouth.  In my eyes, this would be a fleece for Pittsburgh.  I like McClouth, but San Diego should definitely be able to get a better package for Headley.
  • Texas (6 years, $70M) and Kansas City (5 years, $75M) made serious runs at Torii Hunter before the centerfielder fleeced the Angels.   Hunter, however, wanted to play for a contender.  Allllllllriiiiiiiiight, Torii.  Just admit it….you took the highest bid.
  • Kerry Wood had a two year offer from Milwaukee before he showed his loyalty and returned to the Cubs for a one year deal.

Joe Nathan Rumors: Brewers, Cubs, Red Sox?

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Ken Rosenthal reports this morning that if the Twins trade Johan Santana, look for them to also move closer Joe Nathan this winter.   The logic fits.   If Minnesota loses Santana in addition to Torii Hunter, they may be better off long term by dealing Nathan now and moving ahead with the youngsters they acquire for the two pitchers.

Rosenthal speculates that the Brewers would be a perfect fit for Joe Nathan, who has become one of the most dominant closers in baseball, averaging 40 saves over the last 4 years with miniscule ERA’s hovering around 2.0 during those years.   Most likely, the Brewers would have to part with either JJ Hardy or Corey Hart in a deal for Nathan.   Receiving either one of those two young stars would be a nice bounty for the Twins – perhaps even a good fleece.

Rosenthal also mentions the Cubs and Red Sox as suitors.  The Cubs would be a great fit for Nathan, but one would think they’d have to give up center field prospect Felix Pie – among others – which could be a deal breaker.  The Red Sox would use Nathan as a setup man for Jon Papelbon, but I do not envision the Sox giving up top prospects for 1 year of a setup man.  I’m fairly confident in dismissing that speculative rumor.

Cubs Willing to trade Prior

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According to Espn.com’s Buster Olney, rival executives of the Chicago Cubs have stated that the team is open to trading their oft-injured star pitcher.  It appears the Cubs would like to sign him to a 1-year deal with a vesting option for a second season rather than go through arbitration with him this winter, but it seems Prior is looking for a deal more long-term. 

Pretty ballsy of Prior if you ask me, considering he didn’t even pitch in the 2007 season, and is just 18-17 in his last 35 decisions.  But I guess he knows that the combination of his name (cause he went 18-6 in 2003) and the amount of money pitchers with half his talent are getting over many years, makes him marketable for a comparable deal.  The Cubs already have 3 pitchers notched to long-term deals however (Zambrano, Lilly and Marquis), and seem hesitent to add Prior as the fourth. 

Mark Prior could certainly be a great addition to a contending team’s staff (Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, Phils) , if the price isn’t exorbitant (multiple top prospects).  You have team’s out there willing to give up 3-4 blue-chip guys for the likes of Santana and Haren… but maybe you take a shot on a Prior for one high-level prospect, and hope he can contribute to the club at least in the second-half of 2008, and beyond. 

Mile High Update

 

The Denver Post  has some interesting tidbits on the Rockies offseason.

  • Rockies are close to a deal with middle reliever Matt Herges. Herges was very effective for the Rockies last season, sporting a 2.96 ERA in 35 games.
  • The Yorvit Torrealba saga continues as he is now looking to re-up with the Rockies after Omar Minaya told him that he was not alright. Speculation is the Rockies won’t budge on the 2 years for 7 million offer.
  • Lastly, Kaz Matsui looks to be leaving town as both the Cubs and Astros have offered more loot than the Rox.

Kendall, Brewers, Agree to Terms

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As previously reported, the Brewers had targeted Jason Kendall as their catcher for 2008. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the two sides have agreed to terms on a contract. The terms of the deal are not known at this time, but we expect the contract to span over one, possibly two seasons. Anything longer would be a major league fleece-job.

The Brewers have a void to fill after they dealt Johnny Estrada to the New York Mets. Jason Kendall finished up last season with the Chicago Cubs, and appears to be staying in the NL Central.

Update: The Brewers signed Kendall for one year, with a vesting option for a second year (115 games played). The money has not yet been disclosed.

Cubs Payroll Expected to Rise

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According to ChicagoSports.com, Chicago Cubs Senior vice president/legal counsel Crane Kenney hinted that the Cubs $110 million payroll from the end of ’07 will be “significantly higher” for the upcoming season.

First, the good news for Cubs fans regarding this payroll increase:  It increases their odds at acquiring a player that fills a need, like Japanese star outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. If Fukudome decides to play in the States, he seems poised to make an instant impact, judging by his career .305/.397/.543 line in Japan (Ichiro, for comparison, had a .353/.421/.522 line in Japan; and Hideki Matsui’s career line was .304/.413/.582).  A player like Fukudome would address the Cubs greatest need – a right fielder.  Fukudome has received a 4-year offer from the Yomiuri Giants worth $20M, so you’d have to figure that his US price will approach 3 years and close to $30M when all the bids are in.

Now, the bad news.  If you’re going to “significantly” increase your payroll, this offseason might not be the best time to do it.  This free agent market, aside from a few possible bargains like the aforementioned Fukudome, is basically like an Old Navy warehouse – fleeces gallore.   The Cubs even have internal issues that could hamstring them if they make the wrong decisions.   For example, Kerry Wood is drawing interest around the league, and may end up commanding a 2- or 3-year deal.  With this added cash, do the Cubs let their love for Wood blind them as they hand him a possible 3-year, $15 -$18M deal?   And then there are the Kaz Matusi rumors.   Again, flush with cash, will the Cubs do whatever it takes to sign Kaz Matsui, a very mediocre player who hit .249 with a .304 OBP away from Coors field last year (by the way, why doesn’t someone show Chicago GM Jim Hendry and Houston GM Ed Wade these stats?)?

It will be interesting to see how the Cubs do increase their payroll.  Will they be smart, or will they get fleeced?  Maybe they should hang on to some of that cash and wait for better deals next year. Post your ideas in the comments….