A Day Late and Buck Short

Tom DubberkeCorrespondent IApril 7, 2010

Here are some thoughts that I really should have posted last night, but I was just too tired.  Still, I don’t see anything else I’d rather write about, so here goes.

I saw a post on mlbtraderumors.com about what the Rays will do about Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena, who become free agents at the end of the season unless they are re-signed.  As to Crawford, I suspect he’s leaving.  I’ve heard too many rumors about the Yankees lusting after him, and if they want a player who’s willing to play on the biggest stage, they just about always get him.

I have no reason at this moment to think that Carl Crawford doesn’t want to play in New York, and he’d certainly be a good fit on the Yankees, a team that could use a defensive stud to help their overpaid pitching staff look good.  At least the Rays can offer Crawford arbitration and get the Yankees’ 2011 first round Draft pick and a supplemental pick.

As for Carlos Pena, if the Rays aren’t still reasonably in the race come the July 31st trade deadline, they have to trade Pena.  Pena is 32 this year, which means his career is due for a drop-off, if not in 2010, then definitely in 2011.  If he’s still hitting the long ball in 201o the way he’s done the last three seasons, he’ll still command at least a couple of decent prospects.

For a small market team like the Rays playing in the AL East, you just can’t afford to get sentimental about veteran players whose best seasons are behind them.  Pena is never going to have another season like 2007, and the odds that he will have more than one season after 2010 as good as 2008 or 2009 isn’t good.

If the Rays are still in contention on July 31, then, of course, you hold onto Pena and try to win it all. By the end of the 2010 season, however, it will be time for the Rays to look for the next Carlos Pena, not re-sign the actual one to a multi-year contract.  Give someone else the privilege of overpaying for diminishing performance — I’d guess the Nationals might be the team to look for.

The Players’ Association is considering filing a grievance alleging collusion by the teams this past off-season.  The basis for the grievance would be the reports from players’ agents that they received an awful lot of similar offers for the same player, suggesting that the teams had met and conferred among themselves about what would be a maximum offer for each player.

These kinds of cases are awfully hard to prove.  What the Players’ Association has to show is that it’s clearly more likely than not that there were enough offers that were so similar for a large enough number of free agents that it couldn’t have reasonably just been coincidence.  That’s hard to do.  (I say “clearly more likely than not” — the actual legal standard is simply more likely than not; however, to win at arbitration, I think you’d need to convince the arbitrator that it really couldn’t have just been a coincidence, which would come closer to a clear and convincing standard.)

Here’s a post on Twins minor league catching prospect Wilson Ramos, which I thought was pretty good.  I commented on Ramos about ten days ago.  I still think that it would be foolish for the Twins to rush trading Ramos away.

The best move right now is to play it cool until Ramos is pressing right up against the door of the major leagues — in other words, he’s too good to leave him in the minors.  As I’ve said, somebody could get hurt on the major league team in the meantime.  Besides, Ramos’ trade value will be at a maximum when he’s clearly ready to be a major league starter.

Does anyone remember Sandy Alomar, Jr. when he was a young catcher stuck in the Padres system behind Benito Santiago, who was just a couple of years older?  The Padres ended up trading Alomar, along with Carlos Baerga and Chris James, to the Indians for Joe Carter.

It turned out to be a terrible deal for the Padres.  Alomar had a long and successful career for the Indians, Baerga turned into a huge star at second for the Indians, and Santiago began to have injury problems the year after Alomar was traded away.

Joe Carter did not make the adjustment well to playing in the National League, had a terrible year, at which point the Padres traded him when his value was way down.  Carter ended up with the Blue Jays, where he hit a combined 100 HRs over the next three seasons and helped the Jays win their only two World Series, including his legendary homerun off Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams in the 1993 Fall Classic.

Well, that trade turned out to be a terrible one, but the idea was right.  The Padres just made the mistake of not making that deal for an established National League slugger, or, at least, holding onto Carter for more than one year to see if he could adjust to the new league.  The point of my comparison is that the Padres waited until Alomar was pressing against the door of the major leagues and could command something of real value in return.