Reactions To The Mitchell Report

I have skimmed the Mitchell Report and I have some initial conclusions.

1- I think Mitchell did a pretty good job. He will rightly be targeted as biased because of his involvement with the Red Sox but I am pretty sure that is not the reason for all the Yankees named in the report and the lack of many Red Sox players. The fact is, Mitchell got a lot of testimony from Kirk Radomski and Radomski was based in New York. Just as there are a lot of Giants and A’s players who got fingered because of BALCO, Radomski brought in the New York element. If Mitchell had gotten someone from a lab in Quincy or Natick, I am sure we would have a lot of Red Sox names. That being said, baseball would have been smart if they had put someone in charge of the investigation who didn’t have ties to the sport in any capacity.

2- The sad reality of this report, that Mitchell fully admits, is that he has only scratched the surface. Mitchell talks about how the people who design these drugs are ahead of the testers. Furthermore, they are serious problems with how the test are conducted. MLB can fix some of this, but not without significant help from the players’ association.

3- Based on the above, you have to view stats carefully. As the report showed, it’s not just power hitters who use this stuff. Nook Logan bought some of it. I will be interested to see how Baseball Prospectus handles this with their PECOTA system.

4- Roger Clemens is as big a crook as Barry Bonds. You cannot excuse one and condemn the other. Reading the reports of Clemens getting injections in the butt makes you realize that the greatest hitter and the greatest pitcher of the past 20 years are both cheats.

Those are my initial reactions, what do you think?

Timing Anyone?

This is quickly becoming the most bizarre day in Yankees’ history. For some reason, the Yankees are currently announcing the A-Rod deal.

I have no clue why they chose today and considering the revelations of the last hour, the timing could not be worse. Anyway, it will be interesting to hear Alex’s explanation for acting like he did, but it is going to get swallowed up in the Mitchell Report.

Maybe Dan Duquette Was Right

ESPN is reporting that Roger Clemens is going to be named in the Mitchell Report. In addition, the Bergen Record has a source that proclaims “It’s going to be a rough day in the Bronx”.

I am not going to indulge in speculation at this point, but I am hoping that we don’t see names like Rivera, Jeter, Williams and Pettitte in the report. Either way, get ready for a sad day for baseball.

Back after the report comes out.

UPDATE- apparently, I am going to be disappointed.

Somewhat Of A Surprise

The Yankees tendered Brian Bruney and are letting TJ Beam, Darrell Rasner and Matt DeSalvo go. There is always a chance to sign them to minor league deals, but it may be the end for all of them with the Yankees.

As an interesting side note, the Cubs have non-tendered Mark Prior. If I am the Yankees, I at least make a call to see what he wants for a deal.

Tender Is Tonight

Tonight is the tender deadline which means that clubs have to offer contracts to their arbitration-eligible players or those players become free agents. For the Yankees there are four guys who fit that description: Chien-Ming Wang, Robinson Cano, Wilson Betemit and Brian Bruney.

Obviously, Wang, Cano and Betemit are going to be tendered and I will renew my plea that the Yankees talk to Cano and Wang about longterm contracts. The question is, what will they do with Bruney?

The Yankees face a numbers crunch right now because they have three players, Mariano, A-Rod and Hawkins, that they are finalizing deals with and 0 spots open on their 40-man roster. They have asked Carl Pavano to accept a minor league deal to help the crunch, but he doesn’t seem thrilled by the idea.

I imagine the Yankees will just cut him if he doesn’t accept because even if they lose some insurance money (and I am not sure if they would or not) they wouldn’t want to lose a player who might help them in the future.

That’s one spot and I think Bruney will be non-tendered tonight and offered a minor league deal as well. Bruney certainly has the arm, but I think his head just isn’t there. With all of the other arms in the system, his loss won’t be felt.

That leaves one more spot to open and I would guess Sean Henn is the most likely candidate to go. I will update later with the decisions.

On a side note, the Dodgers invited Tanyon Sturtze to Spring Training. If Torre can get Paul Quantrill to come out of retirement he will have all three of his favorite relievers to abuse next March.

Santana Dreamin’

The Red Sox left Nashville without Johan Santana, but ESPN’s Buster Olney reports “that the folks in position to have insight into the Johan Santana talks strongly believe that the Twins and Red Sox will eventually work out a deal.” Olney references Mark Christianson of the Star Tribune as saying the Twins prefer a deal surrounding Jacoby Ellsbury and not Jon Lester.

I have no idea at this point if this deal will get done, but I think I can be forgiven for dreaming of a starting rotation that looks like this (Buster Olney also had a Red Sox rotation projection):

SP – Beckett
SP – Santana
SP – Matsuzaka
SP – Schilling
SP – Lester/Buchholz/Wakefield

That looks good. If/when Schilling is done after 2008, either Lester or Buchholz steps in full time. Same can be said for Wakefield.

If the Red Sox do trade Ellsbury, perhaps they will still deal Coco Crisp and focus on Japanese League star Kosuke Fukudome who today declared his ententions of playing in the Majors in 2008. Some say Fukudome isn’t an ideal fit in CF, but his bat projects to be superior to Crisp’s. A long shot though as Fukudome is expected to get at least $10mm a season based on what I’ve read.

I will be happy with Crisp in CF because of his defense, but he really needs to find his stroke again and give the Red Sox a 2004 or 2005 like performance with the bat. Could those 2 seasons really have been a fluke? Or did his finger injury in 2006 really set him back this much?

Anyway, the most newsworthy post, but something to keep our interest in the Hot Stove League as things have slowed to a crawl.

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.