Tagged: Albert Pujols

Recent MLB Contracts That Became Nightmares…

With free agents cashing in big this off-season, it’s wise for teams to revisit some of the horrible contracts of the past. From extensions for franchise players to ill-advised free agent deals, there have been countless misfires by Major League Baseball general managers and owners in recent years. Here are seven contracts that quickly turned into nightmares for the teams in question.

Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies

Ryan Howard downThough critics were horrified by the deal, Ryan Howard was all smiles when the Phillies offered him a five-year contract extension worth $125 million. Instead of waiting until the end of his contract, which expired after 2011, the Phillies locked up their aging slugger early in 2010.

This move became a case of how not to manage a franchise’s money. Age and injury caught up with Howard quickly, making the deal a major black eye for Phillies GM Ruben Amaro. Philadelphia still owes Howard $25 million per year through 2016 for what is likely going to be average production.

A.J. Burnett, New York Yankees

BurnettAs a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, A.J. Burnett made mincemeat of mighty Yankees lineups. When it came time for Burnett to hit free agency, it coincided with the Yankees opening their new stadium after missing the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. The Yankees pounced, inking the right hander to a five-year, $82.5 million deal.

Aside from a successful 2009 campaign — which culminated in the Yankees’ 27th World Series title — New York and Burnett were a disaster together. The Yankees eventually pawned off the right hander to Pittsburgh for a few no-name prospects, eating much of the remaining cash owed to Burnett in the process.

Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants

Zito farewellThe signing of Barry Zito may have sounded good in theory, but few baseball minds thought the southpaw was worth $126 million over the course of seven years. The Giants were dismayed early and often by Zito’s performance, though the lefty did contribute to one World Series win for San Francisco. Now that his contract has ended, we’re able to see what he delivered to the Giants for $126 million: In 208 appearances, Zito went 63-80 with an ugly 4.62 earned-run average.

Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels

PujolsToo early to call? It’s possible, but it looks as if the Los Angeles Angels have an albatross on their hands with the 10-year, $240 million contract they handed to Albert Pujols after the 2011 season. Pujols has had the two worst seasons of his career thus far for the Angels, with his 2013 campaign enough to depress even the most optimistic of fans. At $24 million per year, 17 home runs simply won’t do the trick. This may turn out to be the worst contract of all time when it terminates after the 2021 season.

Carl Pavano, New York Yankees

PavanoFour years for $40 million doesn’t sound like an awful contract. However, the Yankees got next to nothing from the underachieving, tabloid-starring whipping boy that was Carl Pavano in pinstripes. Pavano was victimized by one curious injury after another while under contract for New York, with a buttocks injury keeping him out of the rotation at one point.

In terms of sheer uselessness, it’s difficult to top the Pavano contract. The right hander pitched just 145 innings in 26 appearances over four seasons for the Yankees. That amounts to $273,972 per inning.

Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels

Hamilton frustratedHitting Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton behind Mike Trout sounds like the makings of a new murderers’ row, but it hasn’t panned out that way for the Angels. After signing a contract worth $125 million over five years, Hamilton hit a career-worst .250 with just 21 home runs in 2013. At $25 million per year, those numbers simply don’t cut it. The Angels will need both Hamilton and Pujols to return to form for the franchise to right itself.

Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees

Alex Rodriguez poutingAt 10 years and $275 million, there was really no way the Yankees could have gotten their money’s worth from the ill-advised contract they dished out to Alex Rodriguez at age 32. A-Rod went from MVP to PR nightmare for the Yankees, who have watched the once-epic player become an embarrassment to the organization, sport, and himself.

Both sides would benefit from a swift resolution to the pending lawsuits, suspensions, and other legal affairs hanging over Rodriguez. Once upon a time, he seemed destined to be one of Major League Baseball’s all-time greats.

Jack Clark Boston

I’m sure if went a little further back in the time machine, we’d find a good number of Tom Yawkey and later Lou Gorman inspired nightmares for the Sox of the 1970’s through the early 1990’s.  Jack Clark ring a bell?  Let’s not even get into Carl Crawford.

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10 Reasons to get Excited about the 2013 World Series

This probably isn’t the World Series most baseball folks wanted, assuming you don’t root for the Red Sox or Cardinals. After all, both franchises have been to the World Series multiple times in the past decade and both have won twice. So maybe you wanted some new blood.

Instead you’ll get beards. Lots of them.

But you also get two great teams, with no shortage of reasons to watch. Here are 10:

1. Adam Wainwright. He was a rookie closer when the Cardinals won the World Series in 2006 but was injured when they won again in 2011. In a season where much of the attention for pitchers went to Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Matt Harvey and Mariano Rivera, Wainwright quietly went 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA while leading the majors in innings pitched. This is his chance to make his October mark in Cardinals history alongside the likes of Bob Gibson and his mentor Chris Carpenter, who won two games in the 2011 World Series. He has that big curveball — maybe the best since Bert Blyleven was spinning his own — that he’ll throw on any count but is especially deadly with two strikes, when opponents hit .118 with 130 strikeouts in 238 plate appearances.

2. David Ortiz versus Carlos Beltran. They’re not facing each other, but you sort of get the feeling they are. Few hitters have delivered in their playoff careers like these two, although Ortiz did go just 2-for-22 in the American League Championship Series. Beltran had six RBIs in each of the Cardinals’ first two series and now gets the opportunity to play in his first World Series … and perhaps make a Hall of Fame statement.

Lackey 2013 PS3. John Lackey’s redemption. Two years ago he was the most hated man in Boston after posting a 6.41 ERA in 28 starts and ordering lots of fried chicken between starts. Now, after beating Justin Verlander 1-0 in the ALCS, he’s going to start Game 2 of the World Series. Remember, he’s familiar with the pressures of a big game: As a rookie with the Angels in the 2002 World Series, he was the winning pitcher in Game 7.

4. Yadier Molina. One of the memories of the 2011 World Series that stuck with me was the ovations Molina received from his home fans — louder than those given Albert Pujols. Perhaps Cardinals fans anticipated Pujols’ departure, or maybe they just appreciated everything Molina does for the team, from his hitting to his defense to the confidence he instills in his pitchers. Few players ever perfect their jobs on a baseball field, but you get the idea Molina has perfected playing catcher. Appreciate and enjoy. And then see if the Red Sox — who set the all-time record for stolen-base percentage (123 for 142) — attempt to run on him.

5. Power versus RISP. Each team led its league in runs scored, just the fourth time since 1976 that’s happened (1976, Reds-Yankees; 2004, Cardinals-Red Sox; 2009, Phillies-Yankees), but did so in different ways. The Red Sox, while not as powerful as some Red Sox teams of the past, hit 178 home runs (sixth in the majors), but also pounded out 363 doubles (first) and drew 581 walks (third). The Cardinals ranked 27th in the majors in home runs and don’t steal many bases (just 45), but they put the ball in play, an attribute that allowed them to hit .330 with runners in scoring position, the highest figure in the majors since that stat has been recorded beginning in 1961. The Red Sox beat the Tigers largely because of three key home runs — the grand slams from Ortiz and Shane Victorino plus Mike Napoli’s solo shot in the 1-0 victory in Game 3 — and while the Cardinals have hit just .210 in the postseason they’ve hit .286 with RISP.

6. Michael Wacha. In the span of 16 months he’s gone from Texas A&M to … well, almost unhittable. In his past four starts, going back to his final outing of the regular season, he’s allowed an .093 batting average — 9 for 97. In his three postseason starts, he’s allowed one run for a tidy 0.43 ERA. He has a chance to become just the sixth pitcher to have four starts in one postseason where he allowed one run or less, joining Blue Moon Odom (1972), Burt Hooton (1981), John Smoltz (1996), Ryan Vogelsong (2012) and Curt Schilling (2001, the only one with five). I can’t wait to see what the rookie does.

Xander Bogaerts Fenway7. Xander Bogaerts. He just turned 21 and had just 18 games of big-league experience before the playoffs began. Now he may be starting at third base, like he did the final two games of the ALCS. He’s going to be a big star down the road so this is kind of like a sneak preview. He’s had 11 plate appearances in the playoffs and drawn five walks while going 3-for-6. How can a kid have such a mature approach at the plate?

8. Cardinals relievers. Speaking of kids, the Cardinals’ top four relievers right now — Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness — are all rookies. Teams have won before with rookie closers — Bobby Jenks of the White Sox in 2005, Wainwright in 2006 — and the Cardinals had some inexperienced relievers in 2011. But four rookie relievers in key roles? (Five if you include starter Shelby Miller working out of the bullpen.) How can you not be pumped watching Rosenthal and Martinez throwing 100 mph in the eighth and ninth innings?

Koji 20139. Koji Uehara’s splitter. It’s the most dominant 81 mph pitch in baseball history, a force of nature that breaks the natural laws of baseball, a pitcher who turns skilled batsmen into helpless amateurs. Including the postseason, batters are hitting .134 off Uehara. Against the splitter, they’re hitting .096. Since the All-Star break, they’re hitting .074 against the splitter, just 6-for-81 with 37 strikeouts and no walks. He’s 38 years old and basically the opposite of the gas-throwing Rosenthal and Martinez. The contrast in styles should make for some exciting late-game drama. One more thing: In what other sport could a 38-year-old guy, who while a good pitcher was never to be confused with Mariano Rivera, suddenly have a year better than any season Rivera ever had?

10. The best against the best. For the time since 1999, the teams with the best records in the majors will face off in the World Series. For the time since 2004, the teams with the best run differentials will face off. The rejuvenated, bearded Red Sox against the youthful, talented Cardinals. Players trying to create postseason legacies, others trying to add to existing ones. Big stars and future stars on the rise. It’s a World Series that has the elements for a classic duel. I think we’re going to get one.

Fact or Fiction…. ?

Many an MLB analyst, ‘insider’ and blogger have touched upon the subject of Kevin Youkilis and the possibility of his being traded during the 2012 calendar year.

It’s not that Youk has outlived his welcome, been branded a loss or some clubhouse miscreant.  It’s because he’s a valuable commodity.  That and both Will Middlebrooks and Jose Iglesias could be making regular appearances on the big-club by September, should their minor league seasoning go as planned.

Youk is only going to be traded to a team that needs him.  The Sox aren’t waving the flag for a 33-year-old 3B who finished the last two seasons with injuries around the league.  The interested team will have a specific need for an established veteran 1B/DH platoon (not necessarily a 3B) who gobbles up at at-bats like Skittles… a need so great that they’ll part with a young MLB ready starter.  Period.

There are clubs out there… they’re all the one’s whose faces are turning blue waiting for Prince Fielder to make a decision.  Think of Youk bitch-slapping Bryce Harper in Washington as a calming influence on a young team.  Picture Youk in Texas filling the 1B/DH spot behind Hamilton, Beltre or Napoli in the line-up.  Ooh, maybe he’ll give Ryan Braun the fish eye, you know.. after the 50 game suspension is over, for the Brew Crew. Or maybe even a package deal to Seattle for King Felix.  And then there are teams who just need to bolster their line-up in front of or behind a veteran bomber.  Think of him (gasp!) setting the table for King Albert in LA as a 3B/1B/DH platoon.

I don’t want to see him go, but the business side of the game beckons and the truth may be obvious… Youkillis won’t be as productive a 3B for the long haul as he would a 1B or DH.  He plays too hard, too heartily and too old-fashioned,  the way he should,  to not breakdown over the span of the season.  I love Youk.  He reminds me of Bill Mueller, Mike Stanley or Dwight Evans… guys who go between the foul lines, play their heart out and don’t ask for or expect the attention for their fairly quiet, continuous production.  Dustin Pedroia is made in the same mold.   The other ‘one-five’ echoed this style as well, but Millar’s personality and media savvy attitude served as a shield for his teammates and allowed them to just be themselves on the grandest stages.  Youk can easily pick up the 1B/DH platoon with Adrain Gonzalez… once Big Papi has retired.

Obviously, this war or worried words will be continuing well into the season.  A tell-tale sign will come as soon as the ink dries on Prince Fielder’s contract.  The vultures will then turn eyes to guys like Casey Kotchman and Carlos Pena while the serious contender watches Youk’s spring training sessions and Grapefruit League games.  I’d expect the beginning of March and then the beginning of July to be a real scale of the honest interest in his services.  Youkilis’ return from injury combined with Lars Anderson returning to form could obviously dicate how the Sox approach their future trades.

“Aftershock”

That was the headline in St. Louis ‘the morning after’, or the first day of ‘AD’ on the Cardinals calendar.  Albert Departed.

Folks can me mad.  They can blow up their Face_space pages,  jump on My Tube with clips of burning their Pujols jersey,  call the talk radio, be Twits on Twitter and blah blah blah…

But life will continue long past December 8th.

12/8/11; the Anniversary of John Lennon’s murder on the doorstep of the Dakota.  The day following the Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It will go on past this coming Saturday (the press conference in LA to announce Pujols official signing) and past the second week in February when players begin reporting for Spring Training.

The fans wanted it.  The team would have liked it.  Stan ‘The Man’ had hoped for it.  But as Ozzie Smith said, “.. It wasn’t meant to be.”

But, let’s look at it seriously.  Yes, The Los Angeles Angels made a splash.  A massive free agent splash.  But, they signed a 31-year-old player whose numbers have begun to show a slight decline.  In the end, St. Louis is breathing a sigh of relief (hence why they allowed him to become a FA in the first place).  Sure, it sucks to lose the greatest player of his generation, no doubt.  However, in five years, St. Louis will be coasting as a perennial contender and Pujols will be the DH in LA.  The Red Birds can invest that money a bit more wisely in a solid number three and four starter, a power hitting outfielder and make plans to find a slugging first baseman to succeed Lance Berkman next year.

It stings.  But it’s the business side of The Game.

Oh yeah, The Angels also signed C.J. Wilson to a five-year deal to augment one of the better starting rotations in the American League.    Amazing what a $3Billion television contract can do for a team, a fan base and a city.  (potential Dodgers owners had best be paying attention)  And please don’t be surprised if the Angels aren’t done yet.

Good thing there’s a second Wild Card now.

 

And I don’t care what Nolan Ryan says, The Rangers are going to make a play for Prince Fielder.  They don’t need to sign him for 7 or 10 years…  sign him for four or five years at the higher annual salary, win two or three WS Titles and let him hit the market again.  Go into the next few years with a bona-fide first baseman who can crush the ball in your ball park, use the time to cultivate a prospect 1B for when Prince makes the move to platoon 1B/DH and bask in the glory of the AL West.  Now they have to keep pace with the Angels not vice-versa… it’s an even playing field at this point…  because even after Houston joins the division in ’13, it’s still a two-horse race for the next half decade.

 

Aside from signing Bobby V., the Sox had no unexpected happenings at the Winter Meetings.  We’ll discuss the new manager and Big Papi’s return in a further entry as well as some of the big happenings across Florida and how all of it may affect the Scarlet Hose.

“Latin America’s Team…”

So, as previously mentioned and perhaps no so widely publicized, the Florida Marlins have taken a bold step to re-brand themselves.  In making themselves ‘Latin America’s Team’ and taking advantage of their new retractable dome stadium (in ‘Little Havana’ no less) the Fightin’ Fish changed their moniker and uniforms to have a more local flair.  The Miami Marlins it is.

The Florida Marlins, the bargain basement two-time World Series Champions (known for their post championship fire-sales) are no more.  Announcing that the roughly $50 million payroll was going to expand, the Ozzie Guillen led Marlins made offers to not only Albert Pujols (with reports ranging from a ‘lowball’ offer to a substantial offer) and Jose Reyes (again, nothing solid reported but supposedly under $100 million) but to pitcher Mark Buehrle as well.  It is also believed the team will make advances to K-Rod in the coming days, just another Latin/Dominican player to be courted.   And to solidify it all, Ozzie has stated that these offers are not just publicity bluster but serious offers.

I like the team’s effort to reach out and court the Latin American community, and perhaps the Latin community as a whole.  In Boston, during the days of Pedro Martinez (and especially during the 2003-2004 seasons where he and Big Papi were teammates) the Latin/Dominican fans were energized and brought a new flavor to not only Fenway Park but to the Boston area and Red Sox Nation as a whole.  With former revered players such as El Tiante, it was made all the more magical.  This could be the Marlins chance to convert many of those Latin fans who flock towards the publicity of teams like the Yankees and Dodgers (who have great Latin followings, especially in the California market) for fans who can latch on to their ‘own’ team and not just a dynasty or logo.

Of course, questions abound.  Will a new stadium really give the recently lackluster Fish such a financial push to be perennial contenders?  Will the re-branding be enough to sway King Albert let alone the vast latin fan base they seek?  Should they start small (Jose Reyes, Aramis Ramirez, K-Rod among others) and build around their youth?  How will MLB’s announcement of a second Wild Card effect their chances in the NL East?

Well, if anything, the new Miami uniforms will add to the revenue.  The Marlins, whose fan base has always been cloaked in invisibility to match the seating at Landshark/Dolphin/Pro Player stadium usually show up for the playoffs in droves so they’ll be buying shirts, caps and jerseys instead of tickets during the regular season.  Now, perhaps unknown to many a baseball fan, the Marlins have retired the jersey #5 (in honor of one of their original front office personnel who died suddenly and his fave player was Joe D’).  In fact, no player has ever worn it.  Would it be re-circulated for Albert Pujols?  Would he settle for a #55 or maybe a #25?

Personally, I’m not impressed.  Maybe it needs to grow on me, maybe they’ll tweak it in the next season or two.  I can easily admit I’m an old school uniform lover and having been born into Red Sox Nation, rivals with the Yankees and having a rich sporting history in Boston, I’ve been spoiled uniform wise.  The Celtics and Sox uniforms have changed little in their respective legendary tenures (apart from a few road variants and alternative jerseys) and aside from the 1995-2006 years, the Bruins have sported the same general look for their black n’ gold heritage (although all of hockey, thankfully, has gone retro in the recent Reebok years).   The Patriots transitioned fairly well from ‘Pat the Patriot’ to their current ‘Elvis’ jerseys even through the brighter Bledsoe years.  The Marlins home jerseys should read ‘Marlins’ across the front, not ‘Miami’.  There’s a touch of retro in there, but it got lost in translation.

But, since the recent trend has shown us ‘what goes around comes around’…. Toronto has gone back to the 1992-1993 glory days and “put the Blue back in Blue Jays” while the Orioles have brought back a touch of the 1970’s in the cartoon bird upon their caps….

…. perhaps Miami’s gate revenue, television ratings and playoff appearances should tell us that in the near future.

In other news:  The Red Sox have contacted current ESPN analyst and former MLB/Japanese manager Bobby Valentine in regards to their managerial opening.  Since Dale Sveum apparently gave the Sox a last chance to hire him before taking the Cub’s job, that tells us that neither Cherington nor the ownership group has seen a candidate they feel comfortable with.   I just can’t understand what has taken them so long to do so.  In my mind, the Boston position is one that, at this point, shouldn’t be handed over to a novice.  You don’t learn to drive on a V-12, 8 gear super-car… and there are names out there… Bobby Valentine, Tony Pena (former KC manager and current ‘Bombers bench coach) or maybe even a Joe Torre.   Let’s not forget, both Joe Torre in 1996 and Terry Francona in 2004 were considered ‘failed’ managers, but obviously being placed in the right organization under the right conditions with a talented roster can change that.  I’m not saying we need a big name like Torre or LaRussa but experience should count for something when guiding a $160 million payroll littered in All-Stars, past & potential MVP/Cy Young candidates (and winners), Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers.  And it needs to be addressed fairly soon.

The Holidays are upon us… must be Hot Stove!

Isn’t it crazy that the Hot Stove season can be just as exciting as the real deal?

Due to the ongoing CBA negotiations and other technical stuff which isn’t expected to be resolved till the Thanksgiving time-frame, the real heat of the Hot Stove could be closer to December.

Teams that could definitely make a splash:

The Los Angeles Angels. Several members of the Halo’s front office were let go following the rather inept offseason of 2010-2011.  The ‘Napoli’ fiasco (turning Texas down and then trading him to Toronto knowing Texas would obtain him from the Jays) and taking a pass on Adrian Beltre (who lives 30 minutes from the Stadium) who both went on to solidify their only division rival (well, with money, anyway) and have great postseason stats will do that.  Even with the division facing expansion (The Houston Astros joining the AL West) the Rangers are their biggest foe (in town rival Dodgers should be fairly quiet facing their sale to new ownership) and the Angels need to make up ground to keep pace.

The Miami Marlins: New stadium, new branding and a good deal of dollars to invest.  The Fish are looking to become ‘Latin America’s Team’ and have already taken a few steps to push that.  Signing Ozzie, Latin baseball’s poster boy went a long way as did the geographical name change but look for a few changes in the playing personnel too, especially with a number of Latin free agents available and the owner’s decision to increase payroll.

The Washington Nationals: They’ve rebuilt and now it’s time to contend.  The Nat’s have shown some signs of brilliance and an ability to contend in the NL East (the Braves and Phils aren’t going anywhere) with the talent assembled.  Like Miami, they have money to spend and a hungry fan base.  Plus being friends with Scott Boras helps.

The Chicago Cubs: Theo has arrived and brought a number of his former Red Sox employees with him to build a new Dynasty in baseball’s only other historic Cathedral.  He may not have as much payroll as he did in Boston but he has enough to make a splash and be taken seriously in the market.  No, the Cubs won’t be serious playoff contenders next year, but building for two and three years down the road starts right now.

Darkhorse Candidates:

The Los Angeles Dodgers: No, I don’t see them being serious contenders for Prince Fielder (though they should have been under better circumstances) or the top five to ten in the market, but with a pending sale both Frank McCourt and MLB may believe a few prize pieces to complement the established core could go a long way to frost the cake.

The New York Mets:  Again, I don’t see a lot of big name consideration but the brain trust finally came to the overdue decision to bring in the fences at CitiField and by cutting loose Jose Reyes and possibly David Wright they’ll have money to spend on some flashy re-treads who could show some power.  The owner’s financial situation may be too shaky for a Pujols or Fielder to settle on.  Plus they need to contend with the Yankees on the back page.

Now, I’m not expecting the Sox to be big players in the market, they have a set team and may be playing ‘gun-shy’ because of their recent past signings (Crawford, Lackey, multiple members of the bullpen), but they will dabble and pick some fruit from the lower B & C tier.  After all, anyone in their right mind knows Carl Crawford will rebound and so for that matter could John Lackey.  If I had a bum arm, a wife with cancer who decided to divorce me and was in a generally p!ss poor mood for the entire season… yeah, I’d be a rather poor teammate, drinking and fast food pickin’ in the clubhouse who had one of the worst starting pitching seasons in Sox history (and we had Matt Young in early 90’s too.. Yeesh!).  Just remember, now he has something to prove (or at least should) and will be easier to off load if he turns it around.

Anywhoo!  Here is a list of the Scarlett Hose free agent players:  Erik Bedard, J.D. Drew, Conor Jackson, Trever Miller, David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield.  Obviously, of these eight, Big Papi and Pap’ are the one’s to watch while Wake and ‘Tek are the sentimental faves.

David Ortiz: A Type-A free agent who has ranked in most experts Top 10 or close to it.  Yes, he had a great year, almost a ‘comeback’ year but in the end it was a ‘contract’ year.  Papi has the cache to demand his price for a what will probably be his last big payday but the market for a professional DH has dwindled greatly.  Sure, the power is there and he can still be a middle of the order threat in the right line-up (taking home his 5th Silver Slugger), but the stars still need to align both contract wise and probably (with most veteran players) championship caliber talent wise as well.  No, he won’t be as beloved elsewhere.  He’s a big personality and a great media darling but he’s a part of Red Sox lore and you can’t just transplant that, even if he did shoot himself in the face with the ‘Yankees are great’ comments in the Francona/Theo fallout, plus the fact Youk may require more DH time to avoid these late season breakdowns, especially with Will Middlebrooks seasoning in Pawtucket. I don’t forsee much NL interest due to his limited mobility at first.

Teams who might show interest:

1. Boston: Obvious.

2. Los Angeles Angels:  A big-ticket draw who can re-shape that line-up in a hurry and appeal to LA’s latin fan base.  They are contenders in the West and would sign him to keep Texas from thinking about it.

3. Toronto Blue Jays: A power hitter who does well at the Rogers Center but they Jays could climb as high as 3rd in the AL East.

4. The Texas Rangers:  A world champion and veteran presence who could change the face of an already great line-up.  If they can’t sign Prince Fielder, he may be a power hitting 2nd chance prize.

5. New York Yankees: He’s a part of Boston’s folk-lore, so he’s worth a look just as the Sox looked at both Jeter and Mo Rivera last off-season.  They’re the ‘Bombers so they can afford him and will obviously be in contention, but they don’t need him and don’t really have the roster space.  With A-Rod declining in the field, he’ll need more DH time to avoid injury as will a grooming Montero, aging Posada (should they re-sign him) and possibly Jeter as well.

I see him staying put, but if the Angels or Rangers offer 3 years and silly money…

Jonathan Papelbon: Type-A free agent who had a good rebound year but more importantly progressed as a leader with maturity.  Pap’ has said for years he’s been drooling to hit the market and I don’t see him jumping without due diligence.  There are several other closers on the market, however, Papelbon is obviously the best pick, ranking in the mid to late teens on most experts FA lists.

1. Boston: Obvious

2. Philadelphia: The closer’s role has been somewhat by committee the last few seasons and after the downfall against the Cards in the NLDS, they may be the serious contenders for a proven closer.

3. Los Angeles Angels: He’d go great with the Rally-Monkey.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers: Would be another jewel to package with the young core to entice a new owner.

5.1 Washington Nationals: If they’re making an honest push, they’ll make contact but K-Rod or maybe even a Joe Nathan could be a cheaper alternative if Prince or Reyes are on the radar.

5.2 Chicago Cubs: The Cubs can offer a ‘reasonable’ contract, and Theo’s experience will definately dictate that as the former Sox GM praised Pap’s progress as a mature leader who found the next level in his game.

If he doesn’t go to Philly, the Sox may be the next best landing spot for a big payday and shot at another title.  If he can accept a leadership in rebuilding role, Theo’s Cubs could be a very distinct Darkhorse candidate.

Tim Wakefield: Sure, he’s closing in on tying both Clemens and Young for all time Sox wins and is old enough to say he played in Scarlett Hose with the Rocket, but he fits in where ever he is asked and he’s still the Time Lord who can flash some brilliance in the flutterball.  His silence in the ‘Pitcher-gate’ fall out may go against him as a veteran leader in a clubhouse looking for change.

Jason Varitek: He rebounded a bit with a lighter work load in his role as mentor/back-up to ‘Salty for the majority of the season.  With Lavarnway still needing some seasoning in Pawtucket for both his defensive and offensive prowess (probably a mid-season call up with some back-up catcher/DH duty), I can see ‘Tek coming back for one more year as back-up before transitioning to his life as a coach and manager in the major leagues.  Like Wakefield, he may suffer from the silence regarding ‘Pitcher-gate’ and the fall-out may go against him.

Now, a few of the other groceries available in the winter market…

Albert Pujols, 1B: The best player of his generation seeking a contract to match.

1. St. Louis Cardinals: He’s a an established legend in a rabid baseball town and two-time WS Champion with the ‘Cards.  However, LaRussa was his mentor and King Albert may not be giving a hometown discount.

2. Miami Marlins: The Marlins should be hip deep in the biggest Latin player this side of Ozzie Guillen, who just happens to be the new manager for the Fish.  While increasing payroll, it still might be too steep to relocate the King.

3. Toronto Blue Jays:  The Jays are looking to compete in the AL East and obviously Pujols would be the trigger to get them on the right track.  He’d put a$$es in the seats but probably limit them beyond that.

4. Los Angeles Angels: Since the Dodgers can’t do it, it’s up to the Halos to try to bring one of baseball’s biggest marquee names to LA.  Arte Morneo would love to put this Latin juggernaut in the line-up, but may need to pick up more pitching and line-up depth for the money.

5. New York Mets: Nothing serious, but it would trump the Yankees Hot Stove season on the back pages.

This will probably drag out but will make a great Christmas present to either Miami or front-runner St. Louis.

Prince Fielder, 1B: He’s only 27 and been one of the best hitters in either league for the past six years.  Probably not A-Rod money (Rodriguez was younger in his initial free agency), but easily Mark Texiera dollars.

1. Washington Nationals:  He’s the cornerstone to build on and become the new ‘it’ team in the NL East.  They have the money to spend and have taken years to rebuild to this point.  Baltimore is an afterthought in this mid-Atlantic market and the Nats can finally put the Montreal stigma in the rear-view mirror.

2. Texas Rangers: The Rangers, for all their power and prowess, went to the WS without a bona-fide 1st baseman.  Adding Prince shores up the corner position, adds incredible power to an already potent line-up and ensures Texas a ticket to the dance for years to come.

3. Chicago Cubs: Theo will call in for King Albert but could give serious consideration for the Prince instead.  Fielder is younger and will most likely be cheaper, but could easily carry the hopes and dreams of Cubs fans while kicking Brewers fans in the gut.  Plus, one would think the smaller confines of Wrigley may increase those already gaudy numbers.  It may be the first big step in Theo’s plan for the future.

4. St. Louis Cardinals: Pujols is obviously the priority but should talks stall, turn ugly or just not meet on paper, another star of the NL Central certainly couldn’t hurt.

5. Darkhorse: It’s hard to imagine an off-season like this, with a player like Prince Fielder, where both the Dodgers and Mets are basically tied up in a corner and forced to watch.  This could give teams like Miami, Seattle or Toronto a chance to get into a better negotiating position.

Too close to call for me.  The Cubs offer history and a massive media market to a shy kid who could be the darling of a hungry fan base while Texas may be the best chance at a quick fix WS title.  I’d avoid St. Louis and the endless comparisons to Albert and settle for Washington, whose money is still green, if I had to.

Jose Reyes, SS:  He may have wanted Carl Crawford money but the poor dear is fragile and may have to settle for four or five years just under a hundred million.

1. Miami Marlins: Jose is friends with Hanley Ramirez (who already supposedly stated he’d move to third or another bag for his buddy) and could flourish under Ozzie Guillen.  If Pujols is off the radar, signing Reyes and maybe an Aramis Ramirez could go a long way remaking and re-branding ‘Latin America’s Team’.

2. Washington Nationals: Again, they have the money and he could fit nicely with what the Nats hope to do this offseason.

3. San Fransisco Giants: Jimmy Rollins may be a better investment for the G-Men but I look for them to make a fairly serious inquiry on a still moderately young big name.

4. New York Mets: It’s a longshot at best but he’s been there, has a fan base and is still marketable as a Met.

5. Darkhorse: The Red Sox may only be a bit off the radar if they feel Jose Iglesias is going off track, especially since Scutaro isn’t a long-term fix. St. Louis is in the market as well and don’t count out interest from the Yanks (Jeter and A-Rod are aging…).

I can easily see him amending his asking price / years to be part of something special in Miami.  Anywhere else, he’s cashing in.

C.J. Wilson, SP: He’s had a couple of above average regular seasons now, but fell apart in the playoffs.  However mediocrity is always rewarded (John Lackey & A.J. Burnett) when starting pitching is thin.

1. Texas Rangers: Texas is certainly a good place to be these days, so I’d be surprised if he wanted to leave.  But if the Rangers are going for Prince Fielder then it may tie things up.

2. Los Angeles Angels:  Hometown OC kid who the Halos can afford to add to an already impressive front half of the rotation (and lure away from rival Texas).

3. New York Yankees: He’s a big-ticket AL pitcher. Nuff’ said.

4. Boston Red Sox: I think the Sox will take a fairly serious look at a young guy who can win 15 games.  I think the Bombers will take it more seriously as Cherington may want to avoid a big-ticket pitcher for a rehab/low-cost alternative for the #4 and #5 starter.

5. Darkhorse: Obviously each of the bigger market teams will have a look with Chicago (both), St. Louis, Washington and maybe even Seattle on the bubble but he has WS experience now and again the market is thin.

The Angels should be able to pry him free, especially if he’s perceived by Texas as a choke artist in the playoffs.

Carlos Beltran, OF: 2011 was supposed to be the contract year but once he got to San Fransisco the remainder of the year stalled out on him.  There’s still a market for his bat, even if his outfield mobility is waning.  The Red Sox and Yankees are expected to make calls on him as are several other clubs.  I’d imagine he’ll land in the AL for a platoon OF/DH role but probably won’t be worth the years/money expected.  Grady Sizemore may be a better alternative for someone wanting to take a chance.

Roy Oswalt, SP: He’s older and obviously a bit more hittable, but he’s still Roy Oswalt.  He’s not necessarily out of Philadelphia, but he’s going to be cheaper if he’s in.  Most teams will call in on this one, especially from the NL, but The White Sox, Red Sox and Yankees love older innings eaters who cost money.  The Rangers will probably give some serious consideration for mid-range money for the guy who carried the Astros for years.

Jimmy Rollins, SS: He’s not the same player he was four or five years ago but his skills, passion and leadership could easily make him a valuable alternative to Jose Reyes.  He’s looking for four years, but an incentive laden three years plus an option for a contender may work.  Both the Cardinals and Giants could go deep for his services, but San Fransisco might win out as the Cards wait on Pujols.  Washington and Seattle (and don’t count out the Mets) could call on him for some veteran stability as well.

Grady Sizemore, OF:  He’s not going to rate very high on anyone’s FA list due to his injury plagued past, but he’s only 29 and will be a year removed from micofracture surgery.  For a big market team in need of a platoon OF/DH type, he could definitely be worth a try.  Boston should be on the phone with serious consideration (after all, they used to have J.D. Drew) as could a team like the Rays.  If he gets the right situation and is held to under a hundred games, it could supply enough rest to build towards his old self.   He could fall somewhere between Carlos Beltran and a Josh Willingham.

Aramis Ramirez, 3B: He opted out of Chicago which may have saved Theo the buyout fee.  One of the better hitting 3rd basemen in the NL, there aren’t a lot of options on the market this off-season.  Definitely not Adrian Beltre but may translate as a 3B/1B/DH for an AL club.  Look for the Miami Marlins to give a serious look as a Pujols fall back plan to team with Reyes and Hanley.

David Ortiz, DH/1B: see above.

Ryan Madson, RP:  Like Oswalt, he’s not necessarily out of Philly, but with the steps he’s taken in the past few seasons he’s definitely sought after.  The Phillies and Red Sox (depending on what they plan to do with Bard) could be at the top of the list (especially if both end up scrambling for Papelbon) but so could any big market team in need of late-inning help.

Edwin Jackson, SP:  Yes, he’s a WS Champion but he’s been traded more than a few times and you really have to wonder why for such a young and seemingly capable guy.  He’ll command a salary in the market (perhaps too pricey for a #4 or #5 type guy the Yankees or Red Sox need) but that could leave anyone to step-up.

Jonathan Papelbon, RP: see above

Carlos Pena, 1B:  His average was down but over all Pena still performed for the Cubs.  Most figure he’ll land in Milwaukie to replace Prince Fielder but I could see the Rays (he has a history), Rangers (if they don’t land Fielder) and Pirates (could be cheap but established) calling as well.

Heath Bell, RP: His K’s were down but he’s still a possible alternative to Papelbon or maybe a Madson.  Probably staying in San Diego, he could still command more than a few inquiries.

Francisco Rodriguez, RP: K-Rod will probably get a lot of attention as a Papelbon alternative even though he’s still a 9th inning rollercoaster.  A few teams will probably call for his set-up qualities as well as closing prowess, the Reds and Red Sox among them but look for Ozzie’s Marlins to make a big push.

Josh Willingham, OF: Even though he played in the caverns of Oakland’s O.co Stadium, Willingham still posted respectable numbers.  Moving to a smaller home field will probably work wonders for him.  The Mets, Red Sox, Braves and Rays could come calling.  Boston could be a viable option as they need a right-handed RF in Fenway to platoon.

Johnny Damon, DH/OF: Damon has transitioned well from everyday outfielder to spot starter/DH and mentor for teams with younger emerging talent just as he did in Detroit and most recently Tampa.  Plus he can still hit.  Arizona would appear to need someone to fill those shoes and maybe even the Cubs (Theo won a title with Johnny) but I see him staying in the AL, possibly for Toronto, Seattle or the Angels if not returning to Tampa.

Now obviously there are roughly 200 free agents on this year’s market.  I’m not covering them all, just touching on some of the more notable players crossing everyone’s wish lists.  There are a lot of B and C type players, veterans, rehabs and retreads who will be circulating as well.  In my next post, I’ll touch upon a few more who I feel the Red Sox in particular should explore.

Another long weekend…

   The kids are heading back to school which means Summer is winding down and the holiday weekend is coming up.  At this point though, it’s just another three day weekend in The Nation.  This weekend being no exception.

   Now, suddenly there are a lot of comments going around such as “the Sox underestimated New York” or “the Yankees have the Sox number” and of course the ever popular “Choke Artists”, but as we all know you never underestimate the Bombers and the ‘Choke Artists formerly known as the Mets” reside in the other new stadium in NY. 

  The New York / Boston series is simply going to come down to performancSpank.jpge… pretty much like every game against every other team during the season in every sport.  It’s just two teams spanking each other all season long.  We spanked them 8 straight, they spanked us.. and now we’re just passing the paddle.  Yesterday, Cy Young candidate A.J. Burnette underperformed and was cut to ribbons while today it was Cy Young Candidate Josh Beckett (who other than the long ball was fairly effective).  The hitters simply swapped performances as did the pitchers.  End of story.

   But you know… Cy Young pitchers have those days at all ages.  Pitch 5 innings where your control is fairly unhittable collecting a few K’s and then BAM! give up a few homers to the NASA moon-shot program and your team loses.  But hey, other times you debut with a new teaSmoltz Cards.jpgm pitching a half-dozen or so shutout innings collecting nine or so K’s.  All in how far to the left or right your Cy Young hangs, huh?  (I guess there is something to that ‘moving from the American to National League’ idea, right?  Oh wait, Sabathia and Cliff Lee dispelled that.  So maybe the ‘not giving a veteran pitcher time to adjust to his new recieving corps. and newly repaired probably diffrerent feeling shoulder while not exactly throwing the run support out there for him’ idea has some legs? )

   Back to the subject matter at hand…. With summer winding down, September is upon us as is the wrath of the Wild Card and its demon seed known as the schedule makers.  As we know, September is also known as AL East month and this year it will be a stomach acid churning affair.  Sure, you mix in a few appearances by the ever pesky Pale-Hose and the Kansas City Royalty (who much like British royalty are apparently just for show) but then you have not only the f^@&in’ Rays and Yankees but the Angels swinging though to p!ss on the Sox parade which I’m sure Toronto and the slowly maturing Orioles are looking to spoil.  The birds of a feather are calling up all their young talent come Sept. 1st and have absolutely nothing to lose and a lot of confidence to gain… lets just hope they kick NY & TB around in equal fashion.  With 6 games versus the Rays and just 3 versus the Yankees, lets talk turkey…

   Brad Penny has been temporarily placed in the ‘Pen.  Yes, many will say he deserve

Thumbnail image for Penny road.jpgs to be there while others will say he should be designated and ejected from the cockpit just like Smoltz.  Well, at this point, we need him.  He’ll be filling a vital role this week as the back-stop to both Wakefield and if still available, Tazawa.  With Wake making his first start since The Break he may exit early.  If the forty plus year old shows his 11-3 form, then ‘Hoss will be available to jump in if Tazawa should not show the same ability he did in that great Yankees performance.  After all, Junichi is a kid and may not rebound so quickly as we all saw in Buchholz last season.  Will Penny stay in the Bullpen?  No.  If Beckett or Lester continue to show the signs of wearing down, you can bet an extra day of rest with a Penny spot start is already planned.  His velocity was up in that NASA launch pad game the other night and against a team like KC or even the O’s his confidence could get a boost.  But hey, everybody goes on waivers this time of year, right?

  As we know, the Sox placed a claim on Billy Wagner the recently returned ‘super’ closer ejected by the Mets last week. What you may not know (nah! not in this media market) or may not have expected to happen depending on which source you read, is that Jonathan Papelbon is supposedly not happy with the idea.  ESPN hints it may be some professional jealousy or insecurity while other report he simply doesn’t want the ‘Pen to change as he and his mates are secure in their set-up.  Well, September is nearly here and the rosters expand so that’s a moot point…. So just what might the real problem be?  It can’t be confidence.  Not from the guy who said he could see himself exiting the ‘Pen in pinstripes in the House That Ruth Financed once Mariano Rivera retires.  If he’s slipped and the Sox are looking to use him as trade-bait or if he has a long secure future in the ‘Williamsburg’ region of Fenway Park the fact is Wagner is an older reclaimation project who wouldn’t serve a long term solution to any closer role problems but just might be helpful as a spot lefty Holder/Set-Up down the stretch.  We’ll see how this continues to unfold.

  It’s very good to see Big Papi slowly and rather steadily coming around.  Let’s hope it’s for more than a week or so this time.  With Youk and Martinez holding their own among the league’s best right now, Bay beginning to really catch some fire, Ellsbury really looking comfortable again at the plate and Petey following his lead… this could be a the end of the funk we’ve all been waiting for and just in time. (And then I can say “I told you so” to the non-believers of The Nation) 

  Congrats to Bruntlett in Philly for turning that unassisted Triple Play (forgiving his very poor effort earlier in the same inning and ending the game a Pedro Martinez win), the first in a thousand years and only second in baseball recorded history but please tell Sportscenter to stop showing it every eleven seconds (who are now pitching it as a ‘first’ becuase the ancient occurance happened in the AL).

  In regards to tTed & Yaz.jpghat Smoltz debut eluded to earlier… Pujols hit homer number 40 on the season (possibly en route to his first 50 HR season) but while he leads the NL in homers and is second in RBI’s he currently sits outside the top 5 in Average.  The Triple Crown watch is still on until season’s end as Yaz’ last recorded crown holds its place in history.  Oh yeah… Smoltz wearing #30? I’d rather have seen him go with #92 since Carpenter couldn’t part with it for the whole two months (Yes the Cards will see October) the future HOF’er is in St. Louis.

 

  And no blog having to do with the Boston Red Sox would be at all completeJerry Remy.jpg without a huge ‘Welcome Back!’ to Jerry Remy.  All-Star, President of Red Sox Nation, NESN’s anchor (well, in regards to the Sox anyhow) for two decades, Cancer survivor and all around Rem-Dawg.

  That of course means a big ‘Thank You’ to ‘Eck, Frankie V., Dave Roberts, et al… who I’m sure we’ll still be seeing on road games.