Winter Meetings Rapidly Approaching!!

winter-wallpaper.jpg 

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. 

Advertisements

John Heyman Rumors: Gary Matthews, Vicente Padilla, and Mets Rumors

John Heyman, of Sports Illustrated, has some interesting notes in today’s article.  Let’s summarize:

  • According to Heyman, one unnamed American League executive predicted the Angels would now try to move Gary Matthews, Jr. “if they can.”   This makes sense given the outrageous deal they recently gave Torii Hunter.  Replace one fleece with another, right?
  • Rangers pitcher Vicente Padilla is apparently on the block.   Padilla is entering the second year of a 3 year, $33.75M contract (with a 2010 option).   That contract is a lot more attractive than the free agency options like Kyle Lohse, who wants $40M over 4 years.
  • Regarding the Mets, Heyman believes GM Omar Minaya is real interested in Livan Hernandez, that Lastings Milledge will probably be traded (no speculation on the receiving team, though) and that the Mets are interested in acquiring Brian Schneider from Washington.    Hey, how about Milledge/Estrada for Cordero/Schneider?  Thoughts?  Too much of a fleece for the Mets?

Revisiting the Torii Hunter Fleece

With the holiday now past us, I’d like to take a minute and review the largest MLB transaction this weekend:  Torii Hunter completely fleecing the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for $90M over 5 years.  Yes, $18,000,000.00 per year for Torii Hunter.

First, to be fair to the Angels and their fans who suffered through the Gary Matthews fleece last winter and are probably in a state of deja vu right now, let’s take a look at the positives.  Torii Hunter is one of the finest defensive center fielders of the last 10 years.  He also has great character and should give LA 25 hr’s per year to protect Vladamir Guerrero.  Okay, let’s move on.

Torii Hunter is 32 years old, right at the age where players who depend on their legs begin to lose that element of their game (see Johnny Damon, for example). In fact, Hunter’s stolen base percentage has fallen from 75% in 2005 to a meager 66% in 2006 and 2007. So, the Angels can probably expect Hunter’s defense and speed to decline each year of this deal.   Hunter is also coming off of his best season, which should be a red flag.  Hunter hit .287 with a .334 OBP and .505 Slugging Percentage in 2007.  But his career marks are .271/.324/.469, which are very mediocre for a guy that will earn $18M per year in his mid 30’s.

As mentioned here at THE FLEECE FACTOR when he signed, Hunter is simply not an $18M player like an Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Beltran.  To drive that point further home, Baseball Reference lists Hunter’s top 5 comparable players as Carl Everett, Preston Wilson, Phil Nevin, Juan Encarnacion and Jose Guillen.  Yes, that same Jose Guillen who is also a free agent this year.  Jose Guillen is a year younger than Hunter, hit for a higher average and on base percentage last year (.290/.353), and seems to be available for about a third of what Hunter cost!   Subtract the steroids from Guillen, and you have Hunter’s bat.   Yes, defense is important.  But the Angels already have Gary Matthews/Reggie Willits/Chone Figgins to man centerfield.  All of them are at least average.  Is the marginal effect of Hunter’s defense worth what they are paying him?

Absolutely not.  This deal was a fleece in every sense of the word.  The Angels should have just given Hunter their ATM password.  Someday, we may be inducting this awful free agent signing into the “Great Moments in Fleece History.”

Johan and Twins Remain Far Apart

John Heyman has the scoop once again.   The Minnesota Twins have now offered Johan Santana the $20M annual salary that he deserves….but only for four years.

Heyman quotes Minnesota GM Bill Smith as saying, “Our first choice is to sign him (Santana). He’s about the best pitcher in the game.  He is signed for next year. Beyond that, I’m not commenting on contracts, trades or anything else.”

Previously, the Twins had reportedly offered the best pitcher in the game 5 years and $93M in what seemed like a PR stunt to make it seem like their billionaire owner Carl Pohlad at least tried to sign Mr. Santana.   This latest offer makes it clear that the Twins are not interested in a long term deal for Santana but are willing to give him the annual salary he deserves.  

Still, it would be a fleece.  Barry Zito’s 7 years and over $120M should be the floor for Santana.  I speculate Santana would obtain 7 years and close to $140M on the open market.   If he declines this offer, look for his name to be tossed around even more-so at next weeks winter meetings, with the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Angels and Dodgers as the prime suiters.

Update: Joe Christensen of The Minneapolis Star Tribune states that Johan Santana has 1 year left on his deal worth $13.25 million. The 4 year $80 million would have been tacked onto the current deal as an extension, hence previous reports of a 5 year deal for $93 million.

Johan is now said to be seeking a 6 year extension, and we already know he is seeking $126 million from Minnesota. Simple math suggest he is asking for $21 million per season.

Bitter Hicks Mulls Over CF

 

The Dallas Morning News reported that Tom Hicks is bitterly disappointed that Torii Hunter accepted the Anaheim offer and not theirs.

Moving on…..Texas needs to find someone to man centerfield for them. Surprisingly, it seems that Andruw Jones is only an option for them if he accepts a 1 year deal, which is not likely, according to Boras. Aaron Rowand doesn’t excite them, especially for the money he wants.

So, look for Texas to score a Mike Cameron or Coco Crisp for CF and thereby fleece themselves by assuring mediocrity for years to come.

Royals Shift Attention to Guillen

royals.jpgguillen.jpg 

The Kansas City Royals’ pursuit of a power hitting outfielder continues, as their hopes of landing Torii Hunter were dashed when the center fielder signed a 5 year $90 million deal with the Angels. At the Kansas City Star, Bob Dutton has the scoop. The Royals’ have been in search of a hard-hitting right handed outfielder, and their apparent bid for Hunter (in the range of 5 years $70 million), fell well shy.   Despite being linked to Andruw Jones by SI’s John Heyman, the only other “true” option in this year’s free agent market might be Jose Guillen, 31. Guillen’s value has taken a hit with a recent steroid controvery surrounding the right fielder. Despite a possible suspension for a portion of 2008, the Royals may still turn to Guillen to provide some pop. This kind of controversy could bring down Guillen’s price, which could work in GM Dayton Moore’s favor.

In 2007, Guillen hit .290 with 23 HR and 99 RBI in 153 games for the Seattle Mariners.

Hunter Agrees with Angels

laalogo.pngthunter.jpg 

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.