D-Train to the D-Backs?

Nick Piecoro of azcentral.com reports that the Arizona Diamondbacks may look to acquire Dontrelle Willis later this offseason.

Piecoro points out that a primary D’Backs need is a starter to slot in behind ace Brandon Webb.   And although the club has plenty of young stars to acquire Johan Santana, Erik Bedard or Dan Haren, they most likely will not trade away Justin Upton, Chris Young, Mark Reynolds or Stephen Drew as they continue to build up a solid foundation that can compete in the present.

Enter a Dontrelle Willis – a second tier pitcher available via trade this winter.   Piecoro speculates the D’Backs could eventually engage the Marlins by using outfielders Carlos Quentin and/or Carlos Gonzalez.  It seems a logical fit to me, although given the trade demands for pitchers this year, I’d imagine it would take more to land Willis even though he is coming off a down year.

The Diamondbacks have also been rumored to be in on a possible Haren or Blanton trade as well.

Mitchell Report Looms Over Winter Meetings

With the winter meetings fast approaching, let’s talk about the one thing that has been looming over the baseball offseason:  The Mitchell Report.   Earlier reports had suggested that the study on steroid abuse within baseball led by former majority leader Senator George Mitchell could be released by the end of this year.   Any potential free agent or trade candidate will undoubtedly lose value if linked to this report.

On that note, today comes a story out of FloridaToday.com about former Reds and Marlins trainer Larry Starr.  Starr was a trainer for 30 years and claims that he warned MLB about rampant steroid abuse two decades ago.  Says Starr:  “I have notes from the Winter Meetings where the owners group and the players’ association sat in meetings with the team physicians and team trainers. I was there. And team physicians stood up and said, ‘Look, we need to do something about this. We’ve got a problem here if we don’t do something about it.’ That was in 1988.”

Starr says he won’t name names but says some teams had up to 40% of their players using performance enhancing drugs, and that by the late 80’s, “20%-30%” of the entire league was using.   Starr said, “When Mark McGwire was discovered taking androstenedione, when that hit ESPN, four players walked into my office within an hour and asked, ‘Where can I get androstenedione?’ ”

Starr grew very concerned with particular players but says he wasn’t able to protect the players as much as he could because the league refused to acknowledge and tackle the problem.  He doesn’t blame the players for using the system.  He seems to blame the league for enabling them.

It’s a great article by David Jones.  I recommend reading it in it’s entirety as a good warm-up for what’s ahead with the Mitchell Report fallout.

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.
 

Anyone Want Chris Duffy?

According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, if Chris Duffy is not traded this winter, look for him to open the season at AAA. 

This begs the obvious question:  Who would want Chris Duffy?   Well, the speedy centerfielder would probably fall towards the end of the list of available center fielders behind the likes of Andruw Jones, Aaron Rowand, Mike Cameron, Coco Crisp and Corey Patterson, etc.  My guess is that if Duffy is traded, it will be after a few of these guys find their 2008 homes, and that Duffy suitors would probably be the smaller market teams in need of center fielders who lost out on the bigger names.  The Marlins, Nationals and Padres come to mind.  

I’m not sure that the Pirates can expect a decent return, though.  A once promising prospect, Duffy has hit only .269/.328/.361 in three seasons with Pittsburgh.  Sounds like a fourth outfielder to me.

Cafardo Rumors: Cabrera, Lincecum, Andruw, etc.

  • The most significant rumor from the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo this Sunday:   “It appears (Giants GM) Sabean is after Marlins third baseman Miguel Cabrera and is willing to offer a package that could include prized right hander Tim Lincecum.”   Could that deal be straight up?  Not sure who would wear the fleece in that one.  That would be a nice bounty for Florida although Lincecum’s size and delivery worry me.  I think they’d want at least one more top prospect.  But if Lincecum is available, the Giants have to be considered the new Cabrera front runners, especially since…..
  • If you listen to Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, it seems like LA will not be making any major moves this offseason but instead moving forward with their young crop of prospects (Matt Kemp, Andy Laroche, James Loney, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw) and hoping 2007 acquisitions like Jason Schmidt and Juan Pierre can step up in 2008.  Says McCourt: “I think we’re in a good position right now.  We don’t have to make a deal. We made the biggest move we needed to make in signing Joe (Torre).  I don’t anticipate any nonsense in that clubhouse. He gives us instant credibility and we’re thrilled to have him.”
  • Andruw Jones will not accept a one year deal, according to Scott Boras.  The Nationals seem to be the most interested in Jones.
  • Bump the Chicago White Sox up the list on prospective teams that may acquire Coco Crisp from Boston.   According to Cafardo, the ChiSox might be interested after being spurned by Torii Hunter.  An obvious match for Chicago and Boston doesn’t jump out at me, however.
  • Cafardo speculates that the A’s trade of Marco Scutaro could be a signal that the team will take the rebuilding route this year, meaning Danny Haren, Joe Blanton and Huston Street could be traded next month in three separate fleeces for Oakland.
  • Cafardo ruins the Mets acquisition of Johnny Estrada, pointing out that Estrada threw out only 6 of 79 baserunners last year and had clubhouse issues.  Apparently he “had conflicts with Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux, and got into a shouting match in the dugout with teammate Tony Graffanino late in the season.”

Great Moments in Fleece History: The Mike Hampton Signing

In light of Mike Hampton’s newest comeback, let’s take a look at his greatest accomplishment, and induct it into the Great Moments in Fleece History.

Even though former Astro and Met Mike Hampton was the prize pitcher on the market that winter, when the Colorado Rockies signed Mike Hampton in 2000, it seemed a bit excessive.  But I do not think anyone imagined the extent to which Hampton fleeced Colorado at the time.  It is a fleece that keeps on fleecing as 3 teams have now been involved and there is still one more year of fleecing to go. 

The Date: December 9th, 2000

The Players:  Colorado General Manager Dan O’Dowd (the fleecee) and Mike Hampton and his agent Mark Rodgers (the fleecers).

The Fleece:  The Colorado Rockies signed 28 year old pitcher Mike Hampton to an eight-year, $123.8M contract which, at the time, was the largest contract in baseball.

The Result:  Well, not so good for Colorado.  Hampton lasted just two years in the Mile High city, posting a disastrous 21-28 record with a disgusting and hideous 5.75 ERA.  (Note to Dan O’Dowd:  This was actually LOWER than Hampton’s career ERA at Coors Field prior to the signing – 6.88!  What were you thinking?  Seriously, were you alright at the time? We need to know.  Because this was just plain awful management, sir.)

After the 2002 season, the Rockies actually paid the Florida Marlins to get Hampton out of their sights.  That same winter, the Marlins then shipped him to Atlanta, who hoped that pitching guru Leo Mazzone could fix him. 

Hampton’s first two years in Atlanta were slightly above average as he won 27 games and posted an ERA close to 4.0.   But he was anything but the $16M per year pitcher he was being paid (mostly by Colorado) to be.   In 2006 and 2007, the fleecing increased even more as Hampton was out for the entirety of both seasons (collecting nearly $32M in the process) with elbow problems.  Hampton is currently rehabbing and hoping to be in the Braves rotation by April so that he can hit the free agent market next winter and attempt to fleece again.

Strangely, Dan O’Dowd (pictured above), who was also fleeced by Denny Neagle that same winter and later by Todd Helton, survived this signing.  He changed his philosophy (although probably forced by management) and lead the team through a rebuilding phase that has recently paid huge dividends in the form of a 2007 NL pennant.   Still, Dan O’Dowd will probably most be remembered for being fitted for a huge fleece by the likes of Mr. Hampton. This fleece was one of the worst free agent decisions of all time.

Brewers Would Not Be Fleeced… Now What?

 

As reported earlier, Francisco Cordero has signed with the Reds in a head-scratching move, both in the team he went to and the amount of money they gave him. But, such is life…

I applaud the Brewers for not wanting a thick fleece, especially since it can get awfully cold up in Wisconsin, but now they are in a pretty rough spot of finding a closer for an up and coming team with NL Central Championship aspirations. Where do they turn now? Tom Hadricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel breaks it down.

  • It appears the logical guy, Eric Gagne, is not an option for the Brew Crew at this time.
  • The Brewers would like to look to the trade market, but GM Doug Melvin sees the market for a closer as a pretty steep one and would like to avoid getting fleeced for a Kevin Gregg of Florida or a Chad Cordero of Washington.
  • Internally, the Brewers could turn to Derrick Turnbow, who saved 39 games in 2005 and 24 in 2006. They seemed to have soured on the big righty in recent years, even after his big first half of last season.

So, it looks as though that after being smart in not getting fleeced by Cordero, the Brewers might be left with a very weak 9th inning guy this season….which makes me wonder, if there was ever a time to get fleeced, signing Cordero to that deal might have been the time.

That said, I think the smart move is to bring in Gagne. Maybe a 2 year deal for 18 million or so.