Important Dates

Now that both the Yankees and Red Sox are done for the 2008 season, here are a few important dates in anticipation of the Hot Stove League.

Day After World Series

October 15th or the day following the end of the World Series (whichever is later) marks the commencement of the 15-day period during which eligible players may elect free agency.

16th Day After World Series

First day Major League free agents may negotiate and sign with a club other than their former club.

Nov. 3-6, 2008

General Managers Meetings, Dana Point, Calif.  (Get your tickets now!)

Nov. 20, 2008

Day to file reserve lists for all Minor League levels and Major Leagues

Dec. 1, 2008

Last date for former club to offer salary arbitration to ranked free agents in order to be eligible for compensation.

Dec. 7, 2008

Last date for player who declared free agency to accept an arbitration offer from former club.

Dec. 8-11, 2008

Winter Meetings, Las Vegas (Ok, this would be worth getting tickets for, don’t expect much to be accomplished given the locale)

Dec. 11, 2008

Rule 5 Draft (the next Vaughn Eshelman perhaps?)

Dec. 12, 2008

Last date to tender contracts for 2009

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Please write these down and carry them around with you, they are important.

Mike Cameron

I was going to talk about Derek Lowe today, but there are a number of stories in the papers today about the Mets being interested in Mike Cameron so I thought I would take a look at him.  First thing with Cameron is that he is not a free agent- yet.  The Brewers have a $10-million option on him and they still haven’t decided what to do about that.  If they exercise it, Cameron returns to the Brewers in ’09 and this is moot.

But, let’s say they don’t, should the Yankees sign Cameron?  Let’s consider centerfield for New York right now.  The Yankees do not want to invest a lot of $$ into center because they are hoping for Austin Jackson to step into the role and hopefully do so in 2010.  So, any player trotting out to center in a Yankees uniform should not be too comfortable. 

Option 1 would be putting Damon back in center, but I think the Yankees realize he can’t handle the defense out there fulltime in 2009 and his arm is much better suited to left.  

Option 2 would be Gardner.  I like this idea, why not see what you have in Garnder before going outside the organization and bringing in another player?  Maybe Garnder can be a high OBP guy who can play defense.  The problem is, Gardner is a risk, a big one for a team trying to contend in 2009.  (I am not putting Melky into the conversation, almost 1500 AB’s have given us a reasonable basis to say he isn’t an everyday player)

So that leads us to Option 3 which is find someone who can play center for a year or maybe two and then vanish and Cameron is perfect in that role.  Yes, he strikes out way, way too much.  And he has had some problems with taking things he shouldn’t have, but he is a plus OPS player at a tough position and he plays it well. He has also played in New York, so it won’t be a shock to him.  I would prefer to roll the dice on Garnder and see what he can become, but signing Cameron to a two-year deal wouldn’t be a bad move.

Manny Ramirez

Look, we have to go here, I just hope we don’t spend a lot of time on this planet.  Anyone interested in improving the Yankees for 2009 has to at least consider that signing Manny would help.  And yes, I understand the guy is a total ass. 

But, you have to admit, other than A-Rod is there a better righty hitter in the game?  Plus, unlike A-Rod, Manny seems to do better when the pressure is on, thriving in the clutch.  (To be fair to A-Rod, no matter how much you don’t like him you have to say he never would have quit on a team the way Manny quit on Boston earlier in 2008)  You could sign Manny in 2009, put him in left, Damon in center and Matsui at DH.  After 2009, Manny could split time between left and DH.  Plus, he would be coming back home- playing every night about 10 minutes from where he grew up.

If I type anymore, I am going to be sick.  Manny may be one of the most talented hitters I have ever seen, but he is also the biggest ass I have ever seen.  Boston fans adored him and defended him until he stopped playing for them and now LA is embracing him.  Don’t be fooled, as soon as he is comfortable again he will stop playing at the same level and revert to his old habits.  The best thing in all of this is his agent, Scott Boras, comparing Manny to Bonds when saying he deserves a five or six-year deal.  (First question I would ask if I were the GM sitting across the table from Boras and Manny is "does Manny do HGH and other illegal steroids too?" because if that is the standard, I want to know my future player is doing everything he can to emulate Bonds)  "Let the buyer beware" has never been a more appropriate saying ever.

I am not even going to waste your time with this nonsense.  instead, I want to know if there is a Yankees fan out there who wants Manny on the team in 2009?  Is there anyone who would like this move?

(And, I will make my pitch for signing a former Red Sox or two in the next few days) 

World Series Time

Hopefully, someone has told A-Rod this year that MLB doesn’t want any announcements made over the next week because the World Series starts tonight.  Personally, I am rooting for the Phillies (the only Philadelphia team I would ever root for) but I would expect Tampa to win.  Who are you picking?

CC Sabathia

It wasn’t the numbers that Sabathia put up when he went to Millwaukee, but the way he did it.  Not only did he dominate, but he showed guts, demanding the ball on three-days rest multiple times to pitch his team into the playoffs.  Whatever team lands him in 2009 will have a great pitcher at the front of their rotation.

The problem with Sabathia is the deal he is going to sign and the risks involved with it.  Let’s assume he gets a deal similar or slightly better than the extension Johan Santana signed with the Mets.  That means six years and somewhere around $25 million a year.  That is simply tremendous money for anyone and especially a pitcher.  Sabathia has thrown over 600 innings the past two years and it is not a stretch to imagine his arm will wear out at some point during his upcoming deal.

So, does that mean it is too much of a risk to sign him?  For almost any other team than the Yankees the answer would probably be yes.  But, the Yankees are about to explode their revenues with a new ballpark and they are one of the few teams in the league (maybe the only one) that could put $25 million of their payroll into one player and not have to have a big contribution from him.  (And don’t forget about the deal the Yankees signed with the Dallas Cowboys yesterday, that is going to make a lot of money for the team)  Signing him solves a lot of problems heading into 2009 and it only costs the Yankees draft picks.  Think of this as a mulligan on the Santana move.  New York needs to be the high bidder and they need to pull out all the stops to acquire him.  Yes, he may spend most of 2011 or 2012 on the DL, but in 2009 Sabathia returns the Yankees to contention.   I don’t normally condone the buy the biggest name available approach, but in this case, get it done. 

Quick Take Red Sox 2009

c – ?

1b – Youkilis

2b – Pedroia

3b – Lowell

ss – Lowrie/Lugo

lf – Bay

cf – Ellsbury/Crisp

rf – Drew

dh – Ortiz

sp – Lester

sp – Beckett

sp – Matsuzaka

sp – Wakefield

sp – ?

rp – Papelbon

rp – Masterson

rp – Delcarmen

rp – Okajima

rp – ?

rp – ?

Above you have the Red Sox players currently under contract through next year or with whom the Red Sox hold rights.  The obvious hole for the line-up is catcher.  To a lesser extent will be who plays short and who plays center.  The shortstop answer to me will probably be Lowrie with Lugo being dealt unless Lugo expresses interest in staying in Boston in a hybrid bench/starter capacity.  As for Crisp/Ellsbury, I think with Drew’s injury history, Crisp and Ellsbury will find plenty of time in 2009, so I think Crisp stays.

The Red Sox need another starter, 2 if they elect to walk away from Wakefield.  Clay Buchholz is one idea, assuming he’s figure himself out and the Red Sox might decide they prefer Masterson back in a starters role, where he handled himself nicely in 2008.

Michael Bowden is an idea and of course there are a bunch of other AAA guys to consider, but none really standout.

Back to catcher.  If Varitek has truly entered the phase we saw in 2008, you know the phase catchers usually enter when they are 32, then he is probably only useful as a defender and pitch caller, but certainly not as a hitter.  In the minors their’s George Kottaras and Dusty Brown.  Of course their’s Kevin Cash, but while he did a good job as Varitek’s back-up, he’s never going to be better than he was this year.

If it were up to me, I’d sign Varitek to a 1 year deal at no more than $4mm, maybe $5mm a year with incentives to boost things if he returns to form (unlikely).  I’d use him in a platoon capacity with him getting all of the ABs against lefties and only spot duty against righties.  As for the other half of that platoon?  Beats me.  Maybe a trade is in order, just don’t ask me for whom.

The bench was also exposed in the post-season.  Even had Lowell stayed healthy, the options off the bench for offense were Cora, Kotsay, Casey, Cash and Crisp/Ellsbury.  None of those guys hits for power.  I look at Matt Stairs in Philly and think he’s the type of player the Red Sox could use.  Obviously you want versatile players off the bench, but isn’t one of those characteristics in the versatility mix, power?  That’s a skill set, no?

I’m not saying go get Stairs, but have someone on the bench who can go yard.  Jeff Bailey would have been my choice once Lowell went down.  Casey is fine, but really, really slow and has no power left.  Bailey had a great OBP (.405) at Pawtucket and a great SLG (.567).   Someone who can hit the long-ball is needed.  Cora, 0 HRs, Casey, 0 HRs, Kotsay, 0 HR, Cash, 3 HR, Crisp, 7 HR (in 409 Plate Appearances).  Where was the beef?  Bailey for Casey would have been OK with me.

Anyway, just wetting my whistle on Hot Stove talk.  More to come.

And if anyone things a major signing (Sabathia, Teixeira) or deal (Peavy) needs to happen, please chime in on who and why.

Perhaps It Is Time To Change The Speech?

I make no political statement with the following post, just thought this was kind of funny

Last week in Salem, NH, Governor Palin made the following statement to the crowd:

 "We’re just 20 days out from the election and it’s going to come right down to the wire, and we’re counting on you because Red Sox fans know how to turn an underdog into a victor, and that’s exactly what you can help us do on Nov. 4.

And then earlier this month in Jacksonville, FL, she said the following:

 "How about those Tampa Bay Rays? … You know what that tells me; it tells me that the people in this area know a little something about turning an underdog into a victor. And we’re counting on you to help us do that Nov. 4."

Pennsylvania is a pretty important state in this election, so expect to hear about the Phillies being an underdog that "knows how to win" soon. 

This Is A Problem

Tampa Bay just became a much, much tougher opponent last night.  One of the worst things about a Tampa-Boston ALCS was that the Yankees were going to have to open 2009 knowing they were playing in the same division as the AL champ.  In many ways, it would have been much better if it had been Boston again.  The Red Sox know they are good, they have won some titiles recently and another trip to the World Series would not have done that much to change them. 

Tampa on the other hand is a bunch of young guys who had no idea how good they were.  Now they absolutley know.  They survived on of the biggest in-game collpases in playoff history and now they are headed to the World Series.  I don’t know what will happen there (again, go Phillies) but they will open 2009 a confident team.  And, they will be a young team.  Longoria, Upton, Garza, Shields, Kazmir…not one of those guys is even 27 yet.  Carl Crawford just turned 27, Carlos Pena is all of 30.  

The point is Tampa has a young and now experienced team.  The kind of team that can cause problems for the Yankees for years to come.  They were clearly better than New York in 2008 and unless something radical and I mean really radical changes they will be, at least on paper, heading into 2009.  If the Yankees had any doubts about having to get younger, I hope last night finally squashed them.  The future is in Tampa and not the part where the Yankees train.   

Clunker

Jon Lester did not lose game 7 of the ALCS, the Red Sox offense did.

Obviously credit is due to Matt Garza and the rest of the Rays bullpen (David Price for example), but for a gifted offensive team like the Red Sox to lay so many eggs in the ALCS, there’s just no excuse.

I’m tempted to start talking about 2009, but the Rays are due their spoils.  They were better.  They were better in the regular season and obviously better in the post-season.

The Red Sox had a golden opportunity tonight and things got off to a good start, but, as the Rays proved all season, they weren’t intimidated by a first inning home run off Garza and went on to take the AL crown.

There will be some significant moves in the off-season, there always are, but one major one is the possibility we just witnessed Jason Varitek’s last AB in a Red Sox uniform (striking out mind you).  In addition, the fact David Ortiz wasn’t Ortiz most of the season suggests a major upgrade in offense is in order.  Even with a healthy Ortiz, Mike Lowell and JD Drew, those guys aren’t getting younger, something has to change.

Ok, I said I was ready to talk about 2009, but there I go again.  Let’s let this sink in (phase one, sleeplessness, phase two, nausea, phase 3, projectile nausea, phase 4, anger, phase 5, rage, phase 6, depression, phase 7, more anger, phase 8, well, the list just goes on).

Ahead, Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia, just what MLB wanted for ratings…ahem.

Thanks TBS

You really have to hand it to TBS and their "router failure" last night, what a joke.  Maybe it failed because it saw one thousand too many "Frank TV" ads?  (Side note, I love Frank Caliendo and think he is one of the most talented comedians out there, but I am not going to watch his show out of spite at this point.  There is such a thing as overkill and TBS has gone way, way over that line with these promos.)

The oddsmakers have favored the Red Sox tonight by 1-1/2 runs, which makes sense.  At this point, momentum and everything else are on the Boston side and it would be very surprising if Tampa pulls this out.  You know they are going up there thinking "we were seven outs away from winning this thing" and that is not going to help them in tight spots tonight.  (Side note #2, for those of you thinking I am rooting against the Red Sox, I am not, I really want both teams to lose I just can’t figure out how to make that happen.  Whatever happens tonight, go Phillies!)  At least the playoffs have finally giving us a compelling game.  The first round was pretty bad and the NLCS was miserable.  We have a real series here and as a baseball fan I am thankful (again see side note #2). 

In off the field news, Joba Chamberlain was pulled over for a DUI.  Joba isn’t talking and the Yankees aren’t talking which is absolutely the wrong approach to take at this point.  Driving around with an open container of alcohol in your car shows a blatant disregard for others.  We keep hearing stories about Joba and his Dad and what a good job his Dad did raising him, well time to walk that walk.  This may just be a dumb mistake, but it is a terrible example to kids and Joba needs to step up and admit it and apologize for it. 

Anyway, enjoy the game tonight, should be interesting to say the least. 

UPDATE: Joba has apologized, good for him.