There’s Something About Manny

2008 represents Manny Ramirez’s 8th season with the Boston Red Sox and it marks the end of his 8-year, $160mm deal. The Red Sox hold options for both 2009 and 2010 at $20mm each.

It got me thinking just what are the Red Sox going to do after 2008? We all remember the Red Sox front office putting Manny on irrevocable waivers after the 2003 with no team claiming him. At the time, the Red Sox were content to let any MLB team have Manny, contract and all for nothing in return. Times sure have changed. Somewhere along the line the Red Sox FO felt Manny proved a value after all (maybe it was those 2 World Series Championships), Manny learned to love Boston and certainly the Boston fanbase proved willing to ignore most of Manny’s idiosyncrasies.

With Manny’s base contract up after next year, what are the Red Sox going to do? If I am Theo Epstein, it’s simple. Exercize the 2009 option. Assuming Manny has a productive year, it’s a no-brainer. If Andruw Jones can get $18.1 per year with a .724 OPS, certainly Manny’s .881 OPS is worth $20mm (hold your comments, I know Jones brings more to the table defensively, but if I mentioned that, it makes my argument look weaker, so pipe it).

Of course it isn’t as simple as that seeing as Manny is coming off his worst season since 1994. Manny missed 35 games and hit only 20 home runs and saw his slugging % drop to a career worst .495 (he had a .302 slg in 1993 in only 53 at bats, his first year in the Majors.).

The warning signs are there. It wasn’t as though he just had his overall production numbers reduced by the same % of games missed, the largest concern was that slg % drop. Manny had a terrible April, found his grove in May, June and July, then scuffled again in August before missing most of September due to injury. The average and obp remained solid enough, but again, no power. Add to it Manny will be 36 in May 2008. Power hitters generally don’t stay power hitters past their mid-late 30’s unless their name is Barry Bonds and they use flax seed oil.

So here’s the deal. If Manny posts decent numbers in 2008, take the option year. If he struggles, let him go and see if you can sign him to a smaller deal. It really is a win-win. If he does well, you have an all-star in LF for 2009. If he doesn’t, you have $20mm to spend on a replacement. The trouble with that is it isn’t easy to find another Manny Ramirez.

Addendum: Eric Gagne declined arbitration with the Red Sox and instead signed a 1-year $10mm deal with Milwaukee. Gagne just got a taste of the High Life, yes, the Champagne of Beers. Gagne was terrible to be kind with Boston and somehow got a 66.6% pay raise to sign with Milwaukee. Small market ownership will never cease to amaze me with their stupidity. Dear Milwaukee, have fun being bad again. You made a nice run in 2007, but lost your minds (collectively) by signing a reliever who was really bad for 3 of 7 months in 2007 to a 66.6% raise. That is some good business. Perhaps a reading of Moneyball is in order when it comes to closers.

LaTroy Hawkins?

Reportedly, the Yankees are very close to a deal with Hawkins. I have to admit, at first glance, I didn’t see why. But, it is a one-year deal and it “only” costs $3.75 million, so it is worth a shot. Worst case, the Yankees can eat the salary in a heartbeat. Best case and Hawkins becomes this year’s Vizcaino, a solid 7th inning guy.

This may be all the Yankees do with the bullpen. With reliever prices soaring, the Yankees are likely to stay out of the market. That may not be a bad thing as one of Joe Girardi’s strengths is his ability to work with young players. But, heading into 2008 relying on Ohlendorf, Ramirez and Veras to be big parts of the bullpen is a risk.

Rule 5

Today’s Rule 5 draft wrapped up the Winter Meetings and while the Yankees didn’t have a major league pick (their 40 man roster was full) they did a minor league move and lost a player.

In the major league phase, the Yankees lost Michael Gardner to the Padres. Garnder had nice numbers in AA last year (2.88ERA 81.1 IP 66K’s 33BB’S) but he will be 27 in May. The Padres will now have to keep him in the majors all year or offer him back to the Yankees. Not much of a loss and I think the Yankees are happy because they didn’t lose Eric Duncan or Steven Jackson.

In the AAA phase, the Yankees selected Bo Hall from the Brewers. Hall averaged over a strikeout an inning last season at AA but also walked too many guys (3.46ERA in 54.2IP 56K’s 33BB’s) Like Gardner, he is old, 27 right now, but he will get a shot at Scranton next year and he fits the current Yankee thinking of grabbing a bunch of low-cost relievers and seeing what works.

The reports on the draft are still coming in, so I will update if anything more occurred.

Hurry Up and Wait

Day 3 of the Winter Meetings and Johan Santana is still a Twin. The Twins were expected to get back to the Red Sox with a decision either way on whether they would accept 1 of 2 offers from the Red Sox for Santana.

I’m beginning to think this deal will not happen. Why? Well there are reports that the Twins are actively engaging other teams about Santana which makes me believe they aren’t satisfied with either Red Sox offer. ESPN’s Keith Law said on ESPN News this am that the Twins have reached out to the Mets, Dodgers and Angels to see if they could put together a better offer.

If I’m the Red Sox, I think it is time to look at ways other than Santana to improve (as if they haven’t been all along). The Twins are stalling for a better offer. This is good new/bad news because the Red Sox are in a position of power here, but there is nothing to say the Twins might simply end talks and keep Santana for themselves. The public decree by Hank Steinbrenner that the Yankees were out of the running has probably has something to do with this situation.

The is suggesting, however, that despite Hank’s public declaration, the Yankees have not told the Twins they are out of it.

With all of this in mind, they Red Sox might let out a giant sigh of relief if Santana gets trade elsewhere or doesn’t get trade at all as the volume and quality of prosects they are offering would be a big price to pay. Maybe the ideal situation would be for Santana to land in Los Angeles. If he were a pitcher for the Dodgers, that would mean the Red Sox would see him in the regular maybe once every 3 years or in the World Series.

Peter and I have discusses this a bit off-line and agree that no matter which teams gets Santana, that team will be fired up to get such a talent, but the cost is so high both in terms of talent and money, that if the Red Sox don’t get Santana, it’s not exactly as if they are going to be left with a weak team. They have a pretty good rotation already, all of whom are signed for $10mm per year or less, and with Jon Lester, Clay Buccholz and some of the other young arms coming up route 95, they might just have talent for the next few years. Same can be said of the Yankees. One of the Yankees fans made this point on our comments section that if the Yankees do not get Santana, they start the year with a rotation that went 51-25 to send the season in 2007. Not too bad.

Regardless, the Twins are starting to drag their feet and business can’t be done by the Red Sox if they are in a wait mode. Time to do your business Minnesota or get off the pot. Quit jerking the Red Sox around (or shame on the Red Sox for allowing themselves to get jerked around).

Other meeting news: The Red Sox will approach Jason Varitek about a contract extension. It is hard to believe that JV is in the last year of his deal and even harder to believe that I think this would be a great idea. I think a 2 year, $20mm offer is more than fair. His bat has dropped off, but he is still a great defensive catcher and can call a pretty good game.

The Red Sox are shopping Julian Tavarez who reportedly wants to start for someone in the National League.

A New Way Of Doing Business In The Bronx?

Hank is not his father’s son. Yes, he talks like George once did and he looks a lot like him, but there is a huge difference. If George was in charge, Johan Santana would be a Yankee right now.

It is almost unbelievable to think that this report is true, but if is it, the Yankees could have had Santana for Hughes, Cabrera, Hilligoss and Marquez. That is a steal and the fact that the Yankees didn’t do it knowing that it would mean that the Red Sox would get Santana tells you that there is a new order being established in the Bronx.

You can draw two conclusions from this.

First, even the Yankees have a budget. Santana would have cost a ton of money while opening up a hole in center. The Yankees could have simply written a couple of checks to cover up the holes and gone on their merry way, but they didn’t. This despite knowing that $65 million comes off the payroll at the end of ’08 and a new stadium opening up means lots of new revenue streams.

The other is that the Yankees finally, finally, finally, finally have learned their lesson, you can’t just bring people into New York and expect them to star. Santana is a wonderful pitcher, but he is a wonderful pitcher in Minnesota. I mean no disrespect to Minnesota, it’s a wonderful place and I have always loved visiting it, but it is not New York. That’s not a bad thing, but until you have come and played in New York and had to deal with the media, you just don’t know what you are in for. Think of all the papers who cover the Yankees with a beat writer. Off the top of my head, I can name eight and then throw in two 24 sports radio stations with their reporters who cover the team and the tv and you get a circus. If you screw up in New York, you face 15 microphones in your face that night asking you why. Will Santana be able to handle that? Nobody knows, Randy Johnson certainly wasn’t able to. And I am not suggesting that the media was the reason Johnson bombed in New York, that was more age than anything. But, the media didn’t help.

Santana could come here and thrive under the lights, he could wilt. He probably still would be a very good pitcher, but the Yankees are not looking for good, they want great. Consider how Phil Hughes has been brought through the organization. The non-roster invites to camp, traveling with the team at the end of 2006 to see how things worked. The Yankees have tried to indoctrinate him a little at a time to the ways of New York. It looked like it had worked pretty well in Game 3 of the ALDS when Hughes showed he was ready to step into the spotlight. Brian Cashman knows Hughes, he knows everything about him and he is willing to stake his career on what Hughes does in 2008. The easy thing for Brian to do would have been to make the trade. There is an old adage for mutual fund managers about how .obody gets fired for buying IBM. The implication being that IBM is the smart and safe choice. That was Santana, but Cashman didn’t bite and his conviction should be admired.

Whatever the reason, the Yankees have taken a big risk. Put Santana atop the Boston rotation and you have a dominant 1-2 combination that is unparalleled in baseball. Think about having to face Beckett and Santana or Santana and Beckett in the playoffs, not a pretty thought. But, the Yankees obviously believe that Hughes and Joba will at least approach that level. They are willing to bet their ability to compete with Boston on the arms of some young pitchers and the potential of their farm system. If they are wrong, expect plenty of parades in Boston. That is a bold move, but as a fan, I could not be happier.

A Big Trade

The Marlins are sending Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera to Detroit for six players. The Tigers just got a lot better.

This trade may also put the Angels into the Santana sweepstakes because they were considered the favorites to land Cabrera before this trade and they have a ton of prospects they could deal.

Yanks Are Out

Sounds like Santana is headed elsewhere. (Probably Boston, but you never know) The question is, what do the Yankees do now?

Some will say go try and get Haren. I don’t agree with that at all. First, Haren is probably going to cost more in talent than Santana would have because he is signed through 2010 at a cheap (for MLB prices). Second, as good as his first three years have been, I am not ready to declare him on Santana’s level. I didn’t want to trade Hughes to begin with, but I would have done it for Santana, I won’t for Haren.

Erik Bedard is interesting, but are the Orioles dumb enough to trade him in the division. As Andy said to me earlier, “probably” but I have concerns about Bedard’s health.

For me it comes down to this, the Yankees had a shot at Santana and didn’t take it because they believed that Kennedy, Jackson and Horne have bright futures. If you won’t deal these guys for the best in the game, I don’t think you deal them for less than that. Roll the dice with the kids and let’s see how they do in 2008.

That doesn’t mean the work is done, the bullpen needs some help, but other than that, I think the Yankees have a pretty good team.

Red Sox Front Runners for Santana

UPDATE: The Boston Herald is saying the Twins were satisfied with Lester’s medical records paving the way for an agreement. But, the Herald also notes that potentially 2 different packages are on the table that the Twins can pick from. The article doesn’t make one feel that a deal is a definite, but rather a hurdle has been cleared.

ESPN’s Buster Olney reported overnight that the Red Sox have emerged as the front runners to land Johan Santana. The biggest clue Olney provided is that the Minnesota Twins asked to look at the medical records of Jon Lester.

If the Twins have settled on Lester as opposed to Jacoby Ellsbury, expect the deal to be Johan Santana in exchange for Jon Lester, Jed Lowrie, Coco Crisp and either Justin Masterson or Michael Bowden.

Also expect the Red Sox to get together with Santana’s representatives to start work on a contract extension. 72 hours is generally the window of time alloted for such things.

Red Sox fans, please understand that the Red Sox aren’t a team that will sign just any deal. If Santana’s reps want too much money and/or too many years, don’t be surprised to see the Red Sox say “no thanks.” In other words, should the Twins accept the Red Sox offer, the job is only half done, so don’t get your hopes up.

Here is the take of some other media outlets, none of whom seem quite as sure the Red Sox/Twins deal is a lock.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rostenthal characterized the situation as the Red Sox are back in the hunt, but not necessarily the lead dog.

SI.Com’s Jon Heyman says that the Yankees and Twins are at in impasse and the Twins asked the Red Sox to present an offer centered around Jon Lester. If Hank Steinbrenner is to be believed, the Yankees should no longer be in the running.

Hank’s word will be tested if you believe what Tyler Kepner of the New York Times reported this morning, that the Yankees/Twins deal has a “flicker of life.”

Yanks Pull Off A Trade

No, not the one you think, but a solid one nonetheless. They got Jonathan Albaldejeo in exchange for Tyler Clippard.

Albaladejeo is 25, a righty reliever who stands 6’5″ and weighs in at 250. He pitched 60 innings in AA and AAA last year for Washington ending up with a 2.97 ERA and 56K’s in 60 IP.

Clippard fell apart after he was sent down to the minors ending up in Trenton where he did not pitch well. (5.40 ERA in six starts) He’s young, but the Yankees have quite a few pitching prospects who are better than him and this will clear some room in Scranton’s rotation next season. Plus, Albaladejeo is a low-cost arm who could help the big league pen. That’s a good deal in my book, so the Winter Meetings get off to a good start.

As for Johan, the most telling quote I read was in a Jason Stark report from the middle of the night:

“Officials from other clubs said several of the Yankees’ baseball personnel at the meetings had begun openly questioning whether they even wanted to make this trade if the Twins said yes. “The more this goes on,” said one AL executive, “the less they want to do it.”

I think he is headed to Boston which will give them a scary rotation. The Yankees better hope their scouts are right about the potential of the prospects they are keeping.

“Neither Offer Is Going To Change”

That was Peter Gammons tonight on Sportscenter talking about the Yankees and Red Sox offers for Santana. Gammons believes a deal is going to happen, it’s just up to the Twins to decide which package they like more.