Heading into the offseason, the Yankees considered themselves favorites to land Cliff Lee, and the Rangers definitely thought they had a chance. The Angels though they could sign Carl Crawford, and several teams around the league believed they could bring in Zack Greinke.
With all three players off the market—Lee in Philly, Greinke in Milwaukee and Crawford in Boston—GM's around baseball are scrambling to find that backup plan, fill their budgets and put a competitive team on the field heading into 2011.
Some backup moves work out. But when teams panic, things rarely go well.
When Cliff Lee signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, Yankees fans who had pinned their offseason hopes on one player began to wonder what was left. With Lee in Philly, and the Yankees rotation far from robust what could Cashman do?The first answer was simple: trade for Zack Greinke. But the Yankees didn’t feel comfortable with Greinke in New York, and this past Saturday he was traded to Milwaukee.
Also mentioned was Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano, who has had an up-and-down couple of years with Chicago, has nevertheless managed to post sub-4 ERA after sub-4 ERA. He’s no longer the ace he once was, but maybe, just maybe, he could be an above average No. 2 starter, even switching leagues from the NL Central to the AL East. To add to this, the Yankees brought in Larry Rothschild, Zambrano’s pitching coach in Chicago.They also signed Zambrano’s ex-teammate Mark Prior to a minor league deal.
The problem here is that Zambrano has two years and $36 million left on an extension he signed several years ago. His numbers have been up and down in the National League Central, and pitching against the Red Sox and Rays won't help. He’s also a major risk in the clubhouse—he almost got himself thrown out of Chicago last summer. Zambrano is a good pitcher, but there are too many question marks here, and too much money involved to make this a viable trade for the Yankees. They should look elsewhere with their prospects and their dollars.
Even before Cliff Lee signed with Philadelphia, the Rangers had begun to target Adrian Beltre as a backup option in case Lee decided to go elsewhere. Beltre was one of the best players in all of baseball last season, finishing second in the American League in wins above replacement behind only MVP Josh Hamilton.
While Beltre has always been a well above average player, 2010 came out of nowhere and brought back memories of the last time Adrian Beltre was among the best players in the league back in 2004, when he hit 48 home runs and nearly won the MVP award, finishing second to Barry Bonds. Needless to say, that offensive performance was not repeatable, and his offensive performance last season probably wasn’t either.
Beltre is a very good player, but given the contracts handed out already to Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford, he is likely to be overpaid. Beyond that, the Rangers really don’t need him. Yes, he’s a massive defensive upgrade over current third baseman Michael Young, but his offense could very well be comparable, and moving Young to DH would decrease the Rangers flexibility. It’s doable, but signing Beltre could come back to bite the Rangers in the near future.
I'm not saying the Angels should not sign Adrian Beltre, as I think they should. Third base was a big problem for the team last season with Chone Figgins gone, and Beltre has been their second biggest free-agent target all offseason behind Carl Crawford. Beltre is a gold glover, and his bat will always provide decent value.
The problem is that with the market evaporating so quickly and prices so high for guys like Jayson Werth, the Angels may be tempted to bid against themselves and sign Beltre to a long-term deal at a huge dollar figure. This is not a good idea.
Yeah, Beltre's a good player, but don't fool yourself into thinking he can be an MVP year in and year out. If the Rangers are in on Beltre, this makes things even worse. The Angels should try to sign him at the right price. If he can't be had, there's always a tremendous stock of free-agent bats available next winter. Don't spend money just to spend money.
I've already gone over Garza a bit, but I think the Nationals could be in a particularly bad situation were they to acquire him.
Having gone hard after Greinke and missing out, the Nationals are left looking for an experienced, young starting pitcher to pair with Jordan Zimermmann and eventually Stephen Strasburg. Garza might look like that guy. Low ERAs, good stuff, pitched in the AL East. But he's not.
The Nationals should not risk a decent chunk of their farm system. Matt Garza isn't half the pitcher Zack Greinke is. I hope Washington management realizes this.
With starting pitching very thin, many have suggested the Yankees won't scrape the bottom of the free-agent barrel for a solid starter and will instead spend money on the bench and the bullpen. The prize of the free-agent reliever pool, former Rays closer Rafael Soriano, is still available.
While Soriano is certainly a good relief pitcher and someone who could solidify the back of the Yankees bullpen for the next couple of years, he’s also likely to be very expensive. There are also several major question marks involving Soriano. Can he stay healthy? Will his strikeout rate continue to fall?
One also must consider what the Yankees bullpen looks like right now. They are set at closer for the near future. They also “spent” a top 10 prospect on a bullpen arm, turning Joba Chamberlain into a set-up man. While Chamberlain struggled last season, he showed all the skill necessary to dominate in a Major League bullpen.
The Yankees also have talented young middle reliever David Robertson and brought in lefty Pedro Feleciano to solidify the bullpen. Soriano could help, but the money that would be needed to bring him to New York could better be used in the future. He isn’t needed and budget flexibility has value.
This is another case where signing the player probably isn't a panic move. The Angels have targeted Soriano from Day 1, and given the way they're bullpen has fallen apart since Francisco Rodriguez left town, it makes sense.
But again, there are major question marks with Soriano. Injuries and a drop in K rate are concerning. And the last time the Angels gave a long-term deal to a reliever, we know how that turned out. Unless you're Mariano Rivera or Joe Nathan, you're probably not worth a long-term deal as a closer in my opinion.
The Angels could use Soriano, but this is another case where they may overpay for an inferior free agent because they have so much money left over after being spurned by Crawford.
The Rangers biggest goal heading into this offseason was to improve their starting rotation. While CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis performed admirably last season, neither has much of a track record in the Major Leagues, and the team still won fewer than 90-games despite receiving career years from both starters.
Re-signing Cliff Lee would have been a big step in the right direction, but he chose Philly. The Rangers failed to get a deal done for Zack Greinke and will now head into 2011 with a very questionable starting rotation. One name many have mentioned in connection with Texas is Matt Garza.
Garza was a very highly regarded prospect coming through the Twins organization and has had moderate success as a member of the Rays the past few years. He’s no longer young, turning 27 this past November, but he’s heading into what should be the prime of his career coming off a 3.91 ERA in 2010, a 3.95 ERA in 2009, and a 3.70 ERA in 2008.
Garza is a solid starting pitcher, he’s stayed relatively healthy the past few seasons, and he’s heading into his best seasons. But whatever team acquires him could live to regret it.
Garza has good stuff, but has yet to translate his pure talent into elite on the field skill. His 7.1 career strikeout rate is nothing to write home about, especially as a fly ball pitcher. He also has average control. Of course, Garza is a solid No. 3 starter. But given his recent track record, and especially the way he started last season, he’ll likely be far overvalued in any trade. Pitching in front of a defense other than the Rays’, Garza could struggle.
If Texas decides they'd rather hold onto their prospects, there are very few pitchers out there on the free-agent market worth signing. One of those pitchers is Carl Pavano.
Pavano struggled from 2004 to 2008 with the Yankees, but had a solid season in 2009 between Cleveland and Minnesota and faired well as the Twins No. 2 starter this past season. He's a finesse pitcher with elite control, and he's actually been very durable the past couple of seasons.
But we are talking about Carl Pavano here. Among ERA qualifiers, Pavano had the fifth lowest strikeout rate in the big leagues last season. Even with his elite control and above-average groundball rate, a 4.76 K/9 is not going to cut it in Arlington. And with Pavano being the best free agent on the market, and the Twins, Rangers, and Nationals pursuing him at the moment, signing him could get very expensive. Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels best stay away.
The Washington Nationals have had a very interesting offseason to say the last. After signing Jayson Werth to a mammoth seven-year, $124 million contract, they bid aggressively on Cliff Lee and Zack Greinke. Now, the Nationals are reportedly attempting to sign Carl Pavano, Brandon Webb or another veteran pitcher. At the moment, the Nationals may even have agreed to terms with Pavano.
It's almost as if everyone in Washington forgets that this team lost 93 games last year, that Stephen Strasburg will miss most if not all of this upcoming season and that Bryce Harper is at most a September Callup...in 2012.
This is both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, it's great to get your fans involved. The Nationals clearly have money, and they clearly want to put a better team on the field. But as Billy Beane once said, you're either competing for a championship or your rebuilding. The teams in between are lost, and the Nationals seem to be one of those teams.
The Nationals should wait. Signing aging players, especially pitchers to long-term deals at high dollar figures is always a bad idea. And when your team is at least a year away from contention, it's even worse. Wait till next offseason and try to build a team around (Ryan) Zimmerman, Werth, Strasburg, Harper and (Jordan) Zimmermann.
Budget flexibility is valuable, especially for a mid-market team. No rush to spend now.
This was supposed to be a monster offseason for the Angels. Arti Moreno was finally supposed to land his prized free agent. Things have not worked out as of yet.
The Angels failed to sign Carl Crawford, and with the Brewers now competitive, a trade for Prince Fielder seems very unlikely. Adrian Beltre and Rafael Soriano are still on the market, but both will likely receive considerable attention over the coming weeks.
There have been rumors that the Angels would consider moving Jered Weaver, and were they to do so, I would have to think at least a partial rebuild would be underway. While a team with LA's market and money can pull off a rebuilding effort much quicker than, say, the Pirates, I think it's far from necessary.
The Rangers have taken a step back, the Mariners suck and the A's, despite making some noise early in the offseason, haven't done much. This could still be the Angels division.