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Jay’s McDonald is nice defensively, but still can’t catch starting gig.

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Poor John McDonald.

Just when it looked like the 35-year-old may have finally locked down the Toronto Blue Jays’ starting shortstop gig, the club announced the signing of Alex Gonzalez to a one-year, $2.75 million contract.

Sayonara, starts.

McDonald has been a fan favorite in Toronto since his incredible defensive campaign in 2007. Fans have clamored for the light-hitting veteran to receive an extended audition, but McDonald has been used strictly as a defensive reserve on the Canadian ball club. In five seasons with the team, he’s yet to receive more than 350 at-bats.

And with age 36 approaching fast, McDonald is just a few years away from the proverbial pasture. A starting gig, at this point, is tremendously unlikely.

Still, it’s hard to argue with the Blue Jay’s logic; McDonald just does not have a playable bat at the Major League level.

In parts of 11 seasons, McDonald has stroked just 13 homeruns to go along with a .238 career batting average. That kind of production is acceptable if you’re a terror on the basepaths or an on-base machine, but that’s not the case with McDonald.

McDonald’s offense is so behind his dazzling glove work, that he’s consistently mentioned among the worst hitting position players in the American League, a dubious distinction to say the least. According to Fangraphs, McDonald isn’t helping the Jays win any more: his Ultimate Zone Rating of plus-9.1 at shortstop is just enough to offset what he’s costing the team with his bat.

McDonald owns a career on-base percentage of .276 and his slugging percentage is a paltry .317, 55 points lower than the notoriously meek hitting Juan Pierre (who has the same number of career homeruns over one less season). Caesar Izturis, a similar shortstop, has an on-base plus slugging percentage of .623, a mere 30 points lower than McDonald’s, but has earned almost double the plate appearances as McDonald.

That’s telling.

Last year, McDonald posted a career high with a .384 slugging percentage. That marked improvement clearly did very little to ease the mind of the Jay’s front office.

Jay’s General Manager Alex Anthopoulos signed McDonald to a 2-year, $3 million deal just one day before effectively replacing him with Gonzalez. For a player who profiles as nothing more than a late-inning defensive replacement and who will be 38-years-old by the time the contract expires, that’s quite a payday.

Only time will tell if it’s money well spent.

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Written by dylansharek

November 26, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Dallas McPherson to provide “insurance” for A’s in 2010.

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And they’re definitely going to need it.

With third baseman Eric Chavez not expected to return to the field because of lingering effects from a second microdiscetomy surgery, the Athletics signed the 29-year-old McPherson to a minor league contract, complete with an invitation to Spring Training.

Ironically McPherson, once a heralded prospect in the Anaheim Angels’ organization, missed both the 2007 and 2009 seasons because of lower back injuries.

McPherson burst onto the prospect landscape in 2000 after a dominating college campaign at South Carolina’s Citadel. Anaheim drafted him in the second round of the 2001 draft (57th overall) and immediately sent him to the short season Pioneer League. McPherson obliterated the competition, hitting .395 with a .605 slugging percentage in just 31 games.

McPherson took off from there, excelling at each step of the organizational ladder. By 2004, he was one of the game’s best third base prospects and the logical successor to Anaheim’s Troy Glaus.

In 2005, McPherson was given the chance to win the third base job when Glaus opted for free agency and signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. McPherson stumbled and was never able to replicate his prodigious minor league power. His season was truncated because of a hip injury, the first notice of a disturbing trend that has earmarked McPherson’s career thus far.

With the dynamic Chone Figgins forcing his way into the lineup at third base, McPherson found himself out of the Angel’s plans in 2006. He spent most of the season toiling in Triple A and played in just 40 games with Angels, where he once again struggled to make consistent contact.

Because of a bulging disc in his lower back, McPherson underwent vertebrae fusion surgery at the end of the season.

He missed all of 2007. He was released by the club eight days before Christmas.

In 2008, a 27-year-old McPherson signed a minor league deal with the Florida Marlins worth $500,000. The power that had tantalized big league scouts returned, and a shot at the team’s major league roster seemed imminent. In 127 games with the Albuquerque Isotopes, McPherson led the Pacific Coast League with 42 homeruns and batted .275, drove in 98 runs, and scored 94 more.

It seemed like McPherson had gone from big-time prospect, to nothing, to big-time (albeit, highly suspicious) prospect once again.

But just like that, McPherson was nonchalantly released.

And after another year lost to injuries, we, the baseball consuming public, find ourselves talking about Dallas McPherson once again.

There’s no denying that McPherson is a special player when he’s healthy: twice in his prolonged minor league career he’s clubbed 40 homeruns in a season; four times he’s posted slugging percentages over .600.

But the truth is, McPherson’s rarely healthy. To honestly promote him as an insurance policy for Eric Chavez…well, it’s like saying, “In 2010, the Oakland Athletics will be replacing egg shells with balsa wood.”

It’s hard to figure out exactly what the Oakland Athletics are hoping to get from this signing. Whatever it is, it’s almost certain to be an even mixture of promise and disappointment with a splash of unreliable.

The Athletics need an insurance policy for their insurance policy.

Places RHP John Lackey won’t end up: Washington Nationals

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Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.

That’s the likelihood that John Lackey, 2010’s blue chip free agent, ends up with the Washington National’s ball club.

But that’s not what some would have us believe. Today MLB.com’s Nationals beat writer Bill Ladson announced that the Nationals will be bidding for the services of the 31-year-old righthander.

Well, duh. I have $3,000 in my savings account and I’m in the damn bidding.

The Washington Nationals can certainly afford to sign John Lackey, don’t get me wrong. Earlier this offseason, Austin Kearns’ shouldn’t-have-done-that salary came off the books and catcher Josh Bard and hurler Livan Hernandez followed him into the free agent pool shortly thereafter. Dmitri “Da Meathook” Young also departed and reliever Ron “Suitcase” Villone packed his bags once again, too.

All in all, it’s expected that the team will free up nearly one-quarter of its $62 million payroll from 2009. For around $15 million per season, it is hypothetically possible they could lock Lackey down to a five or six year deal, which is inline with what he’s supposedly demanding.

Still, General Manager Mike Rizzo will have to outbid the deep pockets of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and New York Mets, all of which own payrolls at least twice as large as the Nationals.

But there’s other factors too. The main one being: the Washington Nationals are a terrible team.

Lackey has played for a World Championship contender for the past eight seasons. He has pitched in five different playoffs; 60 percent of the time he’s been a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, he’s reached the postseason. Hell, the guy has even won Game 7 of the World Series.

Now, it would be really cute to imagine a world where John Lackey signs with the Washington Nationals and they immediately reach the postseason. But unfortunately, we live in the real world and that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

Mr. Rizzo stated that Lackey might want to become a Washington Natinal (intentional) because :

We think with the additions of an Adam Dunn, a Josh Willingham and Nyjer Morgan, it’s going to attract some veteran players. These guys know what we are doing here. It’s all over the league where we are at and what we are trying to do. I think they can see this is the beginning of a good, exciting ballclub.

Yeah, a good, exciting ballclub that has lost 100 games in consecutive seasons. Yeah, a good, exciting ballclub that cites Josh Willingham and Nyjer Morgan as reasons to come join a perennial loser. I’m sorry, Mr. Rizzo, but you lost me at “Adam Dunn.”

The only way John Lackey suits up as a National in 2010 is if he decides to perform charity and “mentor” the likes of Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler, and Stephen Strasburg. It’s certainly going to take something or someone drastic to improve a team pitching staff that ranked 16th in wins, ERA, shutouts, hits allowed, earned runs allowed, and base-on-balls.

But once again, it’s really just sweet dreams to imagine a sport where ace pitchers doom themselves to perpetual loser-dom.

If John Lackey touches Washington with a 10-foot pole, I’d be surprised.

Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.

No chance.

Mark DeRosa among the game’s top free agents?

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According to the media, the most coveted free agents of 2009’s relatively thin market are outfielders Matt Holliday and Jason Bay and pitcher John Lackey. But versatile infielder/outfielder Mark DeRosa might very well be sought by more teams, many of which could contend in 2010.

Mark DeRosa is a free agent in 2010.This past season was a bit of a let down for DeRosa. A Cub’s fan-favorite, DeRosa was surprisingly traded from Chicago to the Cleveland Indians last winter for three minor league pitchers. When Cleveland finally called it a season, he was then sent to St. Louis for future closer Chris Perez. Shortly after coming to the Cardinals, DeRosa partially tore a tendon in his wrist. He spent a stint on the disabled list but fought the injury throughout the remainder of the season.

The surgery to repair DeRosa’s wrist was done shortly after the Cardinal’s quick exit from the post season. While his limited time in St. Louis was mostly uneventful, DeRosa was a valuable asset to a team during its hunt for the National League Central Division championship. He shored up a troubled position and brought leadership to a clubhouse that relied solely on Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter.

DeRosa’s flexibility and versatility made him a perfect match for Tony LaRussa. And LaRussa and the Cardinals paid dearly to get him. Even as the veteran manager handed the ball to flame-throwing Jason Motte on Opening Day, many fans speculated that the impressive Perez would be the team’s closer before the season ended.

But that was well before Ryan Franklin dominated the job during his All-Star season.

The trade was welcome in St. Louis. The fans knew that third base was a huge issue for the club with Troy Glaus’ return undeterminable. The rumors and call for action began early. DeRosa was wanted by the fans. The front office, knowing that their fans are among the most knowledgeable in baseball, listened.

DeRosa ended his season with a .250 average and 23 homeruns. For the Indians, he hit .270. With the Cardinals that production dropped to .228. While the tendon injury hampered DeRosa’s bat, it didn’t prevent him from playing the field like the veteran he is. His attitude about the situation, upbeat and even apologetic, showed the team and the fans that there was more to the Cardinals than just one or two players.

Any team that lands DeRosa gets a better than average ball player. He’s incredibly versatile, a natural second baseman that can also start at third and play the outfield. He can hit anywhere in the line-up. He will give his manager 100%, no matter what. He’s also a leader.

DeRosa will join any team with the intention of making the best of the situation. He will greet his teammates. He will talk and chat. Then he will lead them onto the field and in the clubhouse. That makes him more valuable than Holliday’s bat or Lackey’s arm.

Written by LS Murphy. Mrs. Murphy is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and is a consistent contributor to Cardinal’s Mix. She can also be followed on Twitter.

Brandon Webb secured, Jermaine Dye jobless

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Two moves that were expected by many occurred today: the Arizona Diamondbacks finally picked up injured pitcher Brandon Webb’s $8.5 million option for 2010 and the Chicago White Sox declined rightfielder Jermaine Dye’s option, officially making him a free agent.

Webb pitched only four innings in 2009 before arthroscopic surgery sidelined him for the rest of the season. The 2006 Cy Young Award winner is worth considerably more than $8.5 million on the open market so pitching-desperate Arizona smartly retained the ace. Webb hasn’t pitched in over eight months.

Will Webb bounce back?There’s more than a leery few curiously following the Webb situation. During the 2008 offseason, an insurance company refused to cover a large contract extension offered to Webb, causing many to wonder if there was an underlying injury.

Despite the inherent risk involved with spending such a large sum on a pitcher who just underwent major surgery, the Diamondbacks needed an ace and Webb was the least costly, most logical choice.

It will be an interesting storyline to follow in 2010.

As has been expected since Chicago signed Alex Rios, the club finally cut ties with Jermaine Dye, the latest move in what has already been a busy offseason for the Ozzie Guillen-led American League Central franchise.

Dye, 35, slugged 27 homeruns and 81 RBI during his 2009 campaign. The White Sox buyout the remaining portion of his contract for $950,000.

Will Dye return to Oakland?Losing Dye presents a big loss of power for the White Sox’s offense, one that will almost certainly not be replaced by the addition of Kansas City Royal’s import Mark Teahen. There’s not much on the market in terms of slugging rightfielders and with no apparent internal options, there will be a void in Chicago’s outfield.

Dye will garner a ton of interest on the open market. Since he is a liability in the outfield, I would look for him to go to an American League team.

The Toronto Blue Jays have had a revolving door of ineffective designated hitters the last few years, so they seem like a possible destination.

The Oakland Athletics are also losing just enough salary in free agents to make a Dye signing a possibility. Oakland has a dire need for corner outfield power and with their rotation on the upturn, this could be a good time to make a substantial move. Dye was born in Oakland and played for Oakland from 2000-2004, making him seem like a natural fit with the club.

JUST ANNOUNCED: J.J. Hardy traded to Twins for Carlos Gomez.

Jeremy Hermida is shipping up to Boston.

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It must be nice to be the Boston Red Sox.

But the Florida Marlins? Eh, not so much.

Florida’s room for error is so tremendously small. With baseball’s smallest payroll ($36 million), the club needs production from each and every dollar it spends.

And 2002 first-round pick Jeremy Hermida, the yet-to-bud outfielder with the $4 million price tag, just wasn’t producing enough.

Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.For a team like Boston though, $4 million for a 25-year-old with all the tools to be a star, is change in the couch cushions. It’s a smart investment, even if the player in question proves to be nothing more than a bench or role player.

Yesterday, the Boston Red Sox acquired Hermida and sent minor league lefties Hunter Jones and Jose Alvarez to the Marlins.

This is a steal for the Red Sox.

The Red Sox greatly deepened the outfield bench and grabbed a left-handed bench bat that should play well in the friendly confines of Fenway Park. Hermida doesn’t project as a starting outfielder for the team unless Jason Bay is lured away, but he is a great insurance policy for the oft-injured J.D. Drew and Rocco Baldelli.

The fact that the team gave up only two fringe left-handers that have work to do before they break the majors is staggering.

In 2002, Hermida was drafted as the 11th pick. Despite being a high school product, scouts loved his polish. When he hit the High-A Florida State League in 2005, he developed a power stroke that put him on everyone’s big-time prospect list.

In his first extended look in the major leagues in 2006, Hermida failed to tap into that power, hitting five homeruns in half-a-season’s at bats.

His 2007, however, tantalized followers once again. With that sweet left-handed stroke he clubbed 18 homeruns and 32 doubles while batting .296. The campaign included refreshing bumps in his on-base percentage, slugging percentage and walk rate.

He looked like the high-end prospect that took High-A Jupiter and Double-A Carolina by storm. His stock was so high that he was supposedly part of a few deals involving Manny Ramirez in 2008.

Since then, however, Hermida hasn’t produced. His power has been sapped by a lingering oblique injury, causing his slugging percentage to drop over a 100 points over the course of the last two years. His walk rate has been inconsistent. His play in the outfield, which is probably the one gripe that has followed him throughout all stops of his career, has been dismal.

If there was ever a time to “buy low,” in the purest sense of the term, it was now.

Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein is a smart guy. While Hermida is not the prospect he once was, there were signs of encouragement in 2009. His 11.5% walk rate was the highest he’s posted in his four full seasons. His on-base percentage saw a slight bump. His declining power is still an issue, but it should see a sharp increase simply because of Fenway Park.

Of the two prospects Epstein surrendered to Florida, Hunter Jones is more major league ready. He enjoyed a brief call-up with Boston in 2009, but posted a 9.24 ERA and was sent down after just 12 innings pitched. He did, however, have nine strikeouts.

According to SoxProspects.com, Jones is a:

Big, tough lefty who can go a lot of innings out of the pen. Above average command, deceptive delivery. Goes right at hitters.  Utilizes a 88-91 mph two-seam fastball and a tough slider, which is rather new to his arsenal. Also has a low 80s slider – almost a slurve-type pitch. He has a low 80s circle change that he’s moved in an out of his arsenal.

At 25-years-old, Jones’ considerable minor league success needs to translate to the majors for him to have any value. He could find himself with a Marlin’s bullpen spot in 2010 if he has a successful Spring Training. Otherwise, he’s destined to be minor league filler.

Jose Alvarez, the other chip in the deal, is intriguing. As a 20-year-old, he led the New York Penn League in earned run average (1.52) last year during an All-Star campaign. He possesses a 90 mile-per-hour straight fastball, a swing-and-miss 12-6 curveball, and a slow changeup. Sources tout his curveball as his out-pitch, despite it being in the early stages of development.

He should be sent to Florida’s Double-A club to start the season.

Neither player should prove have any real impact anytime soon.

The same can’t be said for Hermida. It’s tough to be the Marlins.

Iwamura to Pirates, Teahen to White Sox

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And so it begins.

While the New York Yankees haven’t even had enough time to catch their breath from their World Series victory, the 29 other teams are already in rebuilding mode, hoping for a different outcome in 2010.

In the first week of the Hot Stove, Akinori Iwamura, a 2006 Japanese import, was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates for righty Jesse Chavez. In a deal which should be concluded today, the Chicago White Sox will own Mark Teahen. In exchange, the Royals will acquire second baseman Chris Getz and third baseman Josh Fields.

Neither deal should incite too much excitement, but the lone Bucco’s fan should be happy that the Delwyn Young experiment is over.

In parts of three seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, Iwamura was a top of the lineup run producer, scoring an average of 87 runs a season (not including his injury shortened 2009 campaign). He possesses good plate discipline and should bat high in the order, most likely in the second spot. He has above average speed, but has yet to develop sound base stealing instincts, notching just a 51 percent success rate.

Iwamura will be an upgrade over Young at second base, but is far from an above-average fielder.

The Rays save $550,000 by dealing Iwamura before having to buyout his contract and get righty Jesse Chavez in return.

Chavez is a 26-year-old flamethrower who profiles as a middle reliever to start the season. Scouts love his stuff–a fastball that sits at 94-95 miles per hour, a plus-change, and average slider–but are weary of his tendency to give up the longball. Because of his brutal changeup, he should be particularly valuable against left-handed hitters. I wouldn’t be surprised if he develops under the Rays’ pitching staff.

Akinori Iwamura to Pirates.

Jesse Chavez to Rays.

The second trade of the week was completed by American League Central rivals the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals.

Upon first inspection it looks like Royal’s General Manager Dayton Moore pulled a fast one on White Sox GM Kenny Williams. In the end, however, this trade should end up a wash for both clubs, with Kansas City getting a miniscule edge for salary reasons.

The Royals finally gave up on 28-year-old Mark Teahen, a perennial under-performer with both the bat and glove, and received two serviceable, roster-bolstering additions in third baseman Josh Fields and second baseman Chris Getz.

While Fields has great power, he hit just .222 last season and looked completely lost at the plate. He’s a shadow of the Rookie of the Year candidate we witnessed in 2007, but could be a good reclamation project. With Alex Gordon blocking third base and the corner outfield spots looking like logjams, there’s no telling where Fields will play.

At this point in his career, Fields is comparable Mark Teahen without the mist of arbitration looming. He will be paid the league minimum while Teahen is slated to command around $5 million in arbitration this year.

In Getz, the Royals receive a traditional slap-and-run second baseman with good base stealing abilities. Last year, he swiped 25 of 27 bags while hitting .261.

The trade most likely signifies the end of Jermaine Dye’s tenure in Chicago and Yuniesky Betancourt’s time in Kansas City.

While Teahen isn’t a good fielder by any measure, he’s better than an aging and sluggish Dye. Dye has a $12 million option with a $1 million buyout for 2010, but it’s been long expected that it will not be picked up this offseason. Teahen is the logical, and cheap, replacement.

Betancourt is the worst defensive shortstop in the history of the game. His UZR of negative-20.5 put him in a horrible league of his own and should be the sole reason Kansas City should drop him without thinking twice. Eat salary, admit that the 2009 trade for him was dumb, and move on with it.

Getz isn’t Ozzie Smith. And Alberto Callaspo (the Royal’s current 2B) isn’t either. But moving either to shortstop makes an incredible amount of sense for the Royals.

Word around town is that Dayton Moore doesn’t pay attention to statistics UZR. Hopefully someone kicks him in the head.