From the archives: November 2008
We know the Yankees can, will and may keep moving up to make it impossible for Sabathia to go anywhere else. We also know that Angels owner Arte Moreno can make it very difficult for anyone to say no; ask Torii Hunter after Moreno put the rush on him at the Del Taco across the street from the ballpark. Many had thought the Dodgers would be into Sabathia big-time, but as several baseball people have pointed out, their statements on Manny Ramirez indicate that the McCourts still are trying to bring the Dodgers' revenue streams into the 21st century. And with holes to fill at second, short, third, the starting rotation and in the bullpen, there are a lot of concerns to address. Sabathia is not an egomaniac. He puts family first, winning second and everything else falls in behind. The union is not interested in family or winning, only getting top dollar, and for Sabathia to turn down top dollar from the Yankees may be very difficult. 2. The Braves, Cubs and seemingly everyone else claim they're not in on Jake Peavy. What's going on?
The Padres absolutely believe Cubs GM Jim Hendry can make this a three-way trade to get the Padres the pitching they need in addition to third-base prospect Josh Vitters. The Braves were not going to have to surrender any of their five best prospects, but have hesitated over Class A-level pitching. Peavy is a Cy Young winner, in case anyone's forgotten. 3. How can Scott Boras ask for more than two years for Manny Ramirez?
That's what Manny was looking for when he wanted out of his Boston contract, and while one might wonder about Ramirez losing interest, he is in better shape now than he was when he signed with the Red Sox. His work at Athletes' Performance Institute last winter was legendary (API was closed for the week between Christmas and New Year's and he got a key to get in and do his work), and right now he's at the API/Dr. James Andrews facility in Gulf Breeze, Fla. "The work Manny did for his core and his agility completely changed him," says former North Carolina coach Mike Roberts, who oversees much of the baseball-related operations for API. "It is amazing what he's done for his body." One of Manny's best baseball friends says he believes he will stay focused, especially if he could get to a place like Anaheim. "Right now he's really obsessed with 600 homers [Ramirez has 527], and when he gets to 600, he may get obsessed with 700." Nice little rivalry with Alex Rodriguez (553 homers) to see if they can make a run at Barry Bonds' 762. 4. Where is A.J. Burnett going?
Nowhere until Sabathia signs. Obviously. 5. Is Pudge Rodriguez done?
Who knows? Give him credit. He played for Caguas in the Puerto Rican Winter League in the past month, helping the team that he believes gave him his first start. At this point, one doesn't have much clue about the second tier of free agents. Padres GM Kevin Towers went to Sunday's Chargers game with Brad Ausmus and hopes to bring him back to the Padres as a mentor to Nick Hundley. The return of Mike Hampton to Houston may be a fit for the Astros; Jason Giambi may well be a good fit for the Rays.
"Essentially we wanted to do two things this winter," says Beinfest. "We wanted to improve our defense and work on deepening our bullpen, especially after trading Gregg." Not that they wanted to necessarily move Gregg, Josh Willingham, Mike Jacobs and Scott Olsen, but those are the rules of the small market with no legitimate venue, rules that can be followed without complaint because of the developmental system.Miller's upside eclipses Olsen's if his knee is right and he gets his breaking ball over. They think fireballing right-hander Matt Lindstrom takes Gregg's place, with help from Leo Nunez out of the Jacobs deal, Ceda and a couple of other young arms. Morrison, the MVP of the Florida State League and one of top performers in the Arizona Fall League, is athletic enough to move to the outfield. Second baseman/third baseman Chris Coghlan (67 BB, 65 K, .298 in Double-A) can play second or third. Speedy outfielder John Raynor had a .402 on-base percentage in Double-A, Scott Cousins hit .285 climbing from Single-A to Double-A, and the two best prospects of all -- 18-year-old monster Mike Stanton (39 HR, .611 SLG in 125 games) and third baseman Matt Dominguez, who turned 19 in August -- played in Greensboro. If Nolasco, Johnson, Vostad and Miller are all healthy this season and a couple of players from the Maybin, Morris, Sanchez and Coghlan group hit, then the Marlins will be a legitimate team for the Phillies and Mets to fear. Because they're so young and they've got these Stantons up and down the system, the Florida Marlins are going to be around for the long haul. Ownership put Beinfest and a highly-skilled organization in place, allowed them to draft freely and have put a competitive team on the field, competitive enough to have more winning seasons in the past six years than the Orioles, Pirates, Reds, Nationals, Rockies, Royals and Tigers, combined. Contrary to what may you might have read and heard, the Phillies' road to the World Series was not just the Mets, it was the talented young Marlins before they got to the talent of the Brewers, Dodgers and Rays. Come to think of it, maybe when the Marlins play the Rays in the battle for who has the best young talent in Florida or across the Southeast, they will be two of the most interesting series of the first half of 2009 season, even if they play in Yeehaw Junction, Indiantown or on the back lawn of the Orville Tribewasser House of Taxidermy.
• Ken Williams is one of the winter's most significant wheelers and dealers. He is marketing Javier Vazquez, Bobby Jenks, Jermaine Dye and others as he tries to overhaul the White Sox. The Mets are afraid of the red flag on Jenks, whose strikeout rate has dropped precipitously from 50 in 39 1/3 innings in 2005 to 38 in 61 2/3 innings this past season. And although GM Omar Minaya checked in on Sabathia, it does not mean the Mets will get into a bidding war with the Yankees for the 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner.• Scouts in Arizona for the Arizona Fall League and the White Sox's minor league people are convinced that Gordon Beckham, the eighth pick in the MLB draft this past June, will be Chicago's everyday second baseman by June. • The Rangers are setting a high bar for any of their catchers in a trade. The Tigers found the asking price on Gerald Laird too high, and Boston wouldn't part with either Clay Buchholz or two out of the Justin Masterson/Nick Hagadone/Michael Bowden trio for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Nolan Ryan is intrigued by Kerry Wood, but to afford Wood, the Rangers would have to deal Hank Blalock. • The Marlins have found an interested market for Jeremy Hermida, including the Cubs, Rays and others. • While the Tigers are out looking for a shortstop, Jim Leyland doesn't dismiss the idea of putting Brandon Inge back at the position at which he was a college All-American. Inge is athletic enough, and unlike at catcher, where he spent his time this past season, would play at a position he played while growing up.
FIVE OF THE MOST INTRIGUING FREE AGENTS:
1. Rafael Furcal. If his shoulder checks out, the fact remains he put the Dodgers in position to make the playoffs by running his OPS over 1.000 until he got hurt on May 5.
2. Derek Lowe. He is 36, but in great shape, physically and mentally. He's averaged 210 innings the past six years, is a world-class athlete and can get the Yankees and Red Sox into a bidding war. He is a better pitcher than when he left Boston after winning the series clinchers of the ALDS, ALCS and World Series in 2004.
3. Raul Ibanez. His 338 RBIs the past three years are more than Ramirez (311), Teixeira (336) or Vladimir Guerrero; he is a leader, a tremendous person and a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat. It's nice that such a good person will get paid.
4. Adam Dunn. He is spending the winter at Athletes Performance Institute trying to get into the best shape of his career. The Diamondbacks liked him; they're just not willing to spend the money, but they felt his on-base percentage and power and enjoyment of the pennant race were really good. Dunn wants to play for a contender, so Washington may be out.
5. Milton Bradley. He'll be 31 in April, comes off leading the AL in OPS, and while he again had injuries that limited him to 414 at-bats, he is a big-time offensive force.
FIVE PLAYERS WE ARE WATCHING TO SEE IF THEY END UP ON THE TRADE MARKET:
- 1. We know Jake Peavy is out there, but after seeing Tommy Hanson in the Arizona Fall League, one scout says, "I can see why the Braves won't put him in the Peavy deal. It likely will still happen, but replacing Hanson with Yunel Escobar and Jordan Schafer included will be difficult."
2. Russell Martin. Some Dodger officials have spread the word that Martin will either be traded or moved to third base, with a Jason Varitek signing a possibility. Whether or not it actually happens will be interesting to see, but teams looking for catching, like the Red Sox, will do a headfirst dive to get in on Martin, who turns 26 in February. I've also heard that the Yankees are making a major push on Martin and Matt Kemp.
3. Prince Fielder. He's 25 and has averaged 37 homers the past three years.Robinson Cano. In 2007, Brian Cashman asked his staff about trading Cano and trading for Orlando Hudson, who has filed for free agency. Dealing Cano and signing Hudson could happen if Cashman is really in charge.
• Brad Penny was shut down after 94 2/3 innings and a 6.28 ERA, a year after going 16-4 with a 3.03 ERA. He knows he needs to get in better shape, and has begun working at the API in L.A. He could be an intriguing signing for some team come January.• If you're wondering about Jayson Werth's extraordinary athleticism, his mother, Kim, not only participated in the U.S. Olympic track and field trials (and lost out because of injuries), she still holds the Illinois state high school record in the women's 50-yard dash. OK, they don't run the 50-yard dash anymore, but it's still remarkable.