Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Daisuke Matsuzaka Arrives

posted by Jon Williams


I love this time of year when there is baseball newsevery single day (even if some of it is silly and made up). Yesterday the big news was the rookies of the year. Hanley Ramirez won the National League Rookie of the Year by batting .292 with 17 homeruns, 51 stolen bases and 119 runs scored. In the American League the winner was Justin Verlander who lead his team t o the World Series by pitching to a 17-9 record with a 3.63 earned run average.

Today the big news is the National League Cy Young. Brandon Webb won over closer Trevor Hoffman. Chris Carpenter was third and Roy Oswalt was fourth. Webb was 16-8 with a 3.10 earned run average with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Mets traded right-hander Heath Bell (who I've raved about elsewhere in this blog) and lefty Royce Ring to the Padres for outfielder Ben Johnson. This is a great move in my opinion for the Padres. I've believed Ben Johnson to be overrated and I think Bell is closer material. This also makes it easier for the Padres to trade the much hyped Scott Linebrink. The Braves seem to like Linebrink a lot and would give up Marcus Giles to get him. On the other hand this might make it easier for the Mets to trade one of their outfield prospects like Lastings Milledge or Martinez who the Marlins want in return for Dontrelle Willis.

Former New York Mets coach Manny Acta has a new job. Manager of the Washington Nationals. Stan Kasten, the Nationals’ team president, and Jim Bowden, the general manager, said Acta impressed them with his personality, his knowledge of the team and his ideas about how to turn around the club, which finished last in the National League East the past three seasons.

Baseball is planning another World Baseball Classic for 2009. We can only hope that they won't have it happen during Spring Training again. Interrupting the season would be better than that. But in my opinion the best option would be after the World Series.

Today's moves also include yesterday's moves since I was so certain we would finally get definitive news on Daisuke Matsuzaka I waited most of the day. The News did come but by then I wrapped up in other business so you get two days today, lucky you.

Today's Moves:

The Huge news yesterday was the official announcement that the Boston Red Sox won the bidding for the rights to negociate a contract with 26-year old Japanese Ace Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Red Sox bid was for a stunning $51.1 million. (No more Evil Empire talk, Larry Lucchino) Boston's bid of $51.1 million was bigger than the Opening Day payrolls of Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Colorado and Florida for the 2006 season.Although there are rumors that the Red Sox have no intention of signing D-Mat (the nickname given him by agent Scott Boras) and that the large bid was an attempt to keep him from the Yankees. I am not buying it. The Red Sox are a lot more secure than than some of their fans apparently. D-Mat, is the best pitcher available and if the people I trust to evaluate and translate his stats are correct he would be the best pitcher available most seasons. When I start doing my teams reports which will include blurbs on all their major players and prospects Matsuzaka's will be a fun one. Stay tuned...

The New York Yankees and Mike Mussina have agreed on a two-year $22.5 million contract extension. The Yankees more than likely had this deal in their pocket as they waited to find out the results of the Daisuke Matsuzaka bidding. The Yankees may not be as aggressive after this year's free-agents as some seem to think. Brian Cashman intends to re-build his pitching staff with young arms.

Moving on to a guy I'm sure we are all familiar with; The Toronto Blue Jays signed right-hander Matt Roney to a one-year contract. Roney is a pitcher that despite jumping around quite a bit has had some success in the minor leagues. Last season in Sacramento as part of the Oakland A's system he had a great season. He pitched 58.0 innings ub 47 relief appearances with a 9.00 H9, 0.62 HR9, 2.95 BB9 and a 10.09 K9. Probably as good an available relief pitcher as Justin Speier whomay get a three-year $13 million dollar offer from multiple teams.

The Colorado Rockies signed infielder Kazuo Matsui to a one-year contract. The Rockies see Matsui as a potential leadoff hitter which is what the Mets used to see. Fortunately for the Rockies they've actually managed to see recent signs that Matsui can still hit. Matsui will receive a base salary of $1.5 million with incentives that could add another $950,000. With the Rockies in 113 at-bats Matsui batted .345/.392/.504 with 2 homeruns and eight stolen bases.

The Mariners signed an assortment of minor leaguers to contracts but the ones you should know about are: right-hander Jesse Foppert and infielder Rey Ordonez (who knew he was still kicking around). Foppert has supposedly lost a lot of velocity but these things have suddenly returned in the past. Do not touch Ordonez.

Jason Standridge
was picked up off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds by the New York Mets. Standridge has not been good in the majors but his minor league numbers have been interesting. Last year in triple-A in 46 innings pitched he had a 7.83 H9, 0.39 HR9, 2.93 BB9 and 8.41 K9.

The Mets also re-signed free-agents Jose Valentine and Orlando Hernandez. Valentine is most likely the super-utility player but will get playing time at second depending on who the Mets choose to bring in at the position. El Duque was 9-7 with a 4.09 earned run average for the Mets. He was a huge part of their rotation when everyone seemed to go down with injuries.

The Cubs signed former Texas Ranger (the baseball kind not the Chuck Norris kind) Mark DeRosa to a three-year $13 million contract. The Cubs think he can handle a fulltime job. With the Rangers DeRosa batted .296/.357/.456 in 520 at-bats with 40 doubles, two triples, 13 homeruns and four stolen bases. He is now 31 years-old and this is really his first real success as a fulltime player. He would not be the first to break out this late but I'd be hesitant to bet on his future.

The Hot Stove Noise:

Phill Rogers says that the Yankees have expressed interest in both Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte and this is probably true. But not for the reasons some might think. The Yankees are serious about giving their collectionof young arms a shot but they can't simoly enter re-building mode. If the Yankees were able to sign one or both to one-year contracts that would give the Yankees the flexibility to move young players into the rotation and bullpen without giving up the season or committing to a multi-millions and even worse multi-years deal. Brian Cashman is going to do things right and those teams that have been living large off luxury tax payments had better go to plan B and fast.

From the San Francisco Chronicle: Major-league sources said Tuesday the Giants are negotiating with Juan Pierre, who had 204 hits, 156 of them singles, and stole 58 bases in 78 attempts for the Cubs in 2006...Rather than try to re-sign Ray Durham or another big-money free agent to play second base, the Giants might go with a tandem of Kevin Frandsen and an experienced backup -- Craig Counsell or someone similar. Frandse
n hit .215 in 93 scattered at-bats as a rookie but is tearing up the Arizona Fall League...The Giants have investigated relievers Justin Speier, Joe Borowski and others with late-inning experience as insurance for closer Armando Benitez. Speier was Toronto's setup man and Borowski Florida's closer in 2006, and both are said to be attracting a lot of interest as potential closers. Another option is re-signing Mike Stanton.

The Giants have a ton of money to spend this offseason. The salaries of their departing free-agents will give them nearly $40 million to spend if they choose. Why they would choose to give a big chunck to Pierre is a bit beyond me to answer. Pierre is a decent fielder which is made slightly irrelevant by his extremely weak throwing arm (the reason he did not last in Colorado in the first place). Despite his speed and his ability to make contact he is not a great leadoff hitter. The Giants would be better off trading for triple-A player like Kevin Thompson than putting millions into a player like Pierre. But that is the way teams seem to go these days. If someone else gave them the money they must still be worth it, right?

From the New York Times: The Mets did not rule out the possibility of pursuing a right-handed hitting second baseman, like Mark Loretta, Adam Kennedy, Rich Aurilia or Julio Lugo, on the free-agent market to complement Valentín. The Mets have spoken with several teams, including the Chicago White Sox, about potential trades at the general managers meeting here. They are interested in pitchers Freddy García and Javier Vázquez, a longtime favorite of Omar Minaya’s. No one on the Mets is untouchable, Minaya added — “Babe Ruth got traded,” he said — although he did not elaborate on the turn of events that befell the Red Sox afterward. Minaya has received many inquiries about the Mets’ stockpile of young pitchers and outfielders.

The Mets’ pitching list begins with Philip Humber and Mike Pelfrey, their highly regarded draft picks from 2004 and 2005, and it also includes Brian Bannister, Alay Soler, Oliver Pérez, John Maine and Aaron Heilman, who would prefer to start next season and would not be averse to receiving that opportunity elsewhere. It is doubtful that the Mets would consider trading Humber or Pelfrey except in a blockbuster deal that would yield someone who would remain under their contractual control for a few years.

The Mets will need to do battle with the Boston Red Sox to acquire Julio Lugo. Boston has coveted Lugo for almost two years now. I do think the White Sox will trade one of their starters for a bat. I do not think the Mets have the bat the White are going to want.

From the New York Post (mostly Joel Sherman): the Yanks strongly believe Boston is pushing hard to sign J.D. Drew to bat behind David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez...The Yanks would rather go short-term and pay heavy for a pitcher they like, notably Andy Pettitte if he decides to keep playing, or perhaps Roger Clemens. Failing that, they saw a World Series in which Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver were heroes. They feel they have upgraded their scouting and are as likely to pluck a pitcher who will need just a one- or two-year contract - think Miguel Batista or Adam Eaton - who will pitch as well as, say, Padilla at a fraction of the cost. That is the right notion.

Adam Eaton is probably my favorite available starter behind Matsuzaka. Barry Zito has great stuff but has been so inconsistent in execution that spending $80 million on him scares me a lot. Eaton has #1 starter stuff even if he has never actually pitched that way. And as Sherman points out he will come cheap. You remember when people started to give up on former Braves prospect Jason Schmidt? I think Eaton will come around in the same way. He just needs a year or two of health.

A-Rod is represented by Boras and has said often, despite strong indications to the contrary, that he likes New York and wants to remain a Yankee. After the 2007 season, Rodriguez has the right to void the final three years on his contract and declare free agency. He would be walking away from $81 million (of which the Yanks are responsible for $51 million, with the Rangers picking up the rest).Following the 2007 season, Rodriguez will gain leverage to potentially follow one of three paths: 1) to opt out as a free agent; 2) to push the Yanks to extend his contract upon threat of opting out; 3) to use the threat of opting out and the Yanks getting nothing to push the Yanks to trade him to a desired spot so that he does not have to forfeit the $27 million annually."If he chooses [to leave], so be it," Cashman said. "He earned the rights he has in that contract through fair negotiations."

I get the feeling that Cashman would secretly love the move. He would also love if third base prospect Eric Duncan were ready at that point. I have my doubts abou that.

With Mike Mussina re-upping to fall in between ace Chien-Ming Wang and Randy Johnson, if he is healthy, the Yankees have shown an interest in Seattle free agent Gil Meche and are entertaining the possibility of using newly-acquired Humberto Sanchez in a trade for an established starter.

I like Meche's stuff a lot as well but I've sort of given up on him achieving and higher heights. From Eaton we've seen flashes between injuries. From Meche we haven't seem much at all.

Minaya has broached the idea of trying to acquire star center fielder Vernon Wells from Toronto to play left field next to Carlos Beltran. The Mets had not yet broached the idea with the Blue Jays. In addition, Toronto officials indicated if they were to trade Wells, they would want starting pitching in return that is more certain than the Mets' enticing but not yet proven arms such as Mike Pelfrey, Phil Humber, John Maine or Oliver Perez.The Blue Jays are trying to re-sign Wells, who can be a free agent after the season. They are not likely to be able to do that, but since they have hopes of contending in 2007, the Jays might just decide to keep Wells and make a decision in July based on where they are in the standings whether they would trade him or not.

Kei Igawa is trying to come to the U.S. through the posting system from Japan, though with far less fanfare than Matsuzaka. He is a lefty that former Met and current Chiba Lotte Marines manager Bobby Valentine assessed as having a fastball that maxes out at 92 mph, plus a changeup and slider. Valentine said, "He can pitch there as a No. 4 or 5 starter and win 12 games with a good offense."

From Mark Healey at Gotham Baseball:
Cashman is wiping his roster clean of players (Gary Sheffield and Jaret Wright) that insiders say he wanted nothing to do with in the first place, word is that he's focusing on his minor league depth as much as the improvements needed to improve his club at the major league level.Cashman's growing role as a major player and power broker is scaring the "bejeezus" out of the mid-market teams, says one MLB scout, who says that "a Yankee team looking at the big picture and long-term franchise screws up the market. "Teams that call the Yankees are facing the reality that Cashman actually wants All-Star caliber players in return for his highly-rated prospects, not the one-dimensional veterans that used to litter the Yankee roster every year. That's bad for baseball."

I think it is pretty obvious to everyone that Cashman got what he wanted from last year's negotiations. George Steinbrenner has stepped aside and been so quiet that reporters keep wondering if he's alive, seriously.

Reports out of Florida say the Mets are engaged in active discussions with the Florida Marlins for the services of Dontrelle Willis, with Aaron Heilman and Lastings Milledge as the main pieces in any deal. Well, after speaking with two MLB officials, we've been able to confirm a few phone calls between hotel suites, but not much else, except for one interesting note. Milledge is a player that Florida “likes”, but they “love” Fernando Martinez, and if the Mets include him in any deal, it'll get done. I am reporting this for the simple reason that this detail tells me that no deal will get done, because Minaya has no intention of including Martinez in any deal for any player. "Minaya has other guys in his system that he's willing to deal, but not that kid. No way/”

I'm not so sure. Shouldn't Minaya have learned someting from last season when he refused to include Milledge in any deals? I love Martinez too, a lot more than I do Lastings Milledge but The Mets have the money and the space in the payroll to find another hitter. Hell, they another outfield prospect in Carlos Gomez that I like almost as much. Willis would be hugely popular in New York the mets should make the deal.

From Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports (and the big gun in Baseball Reporting these days if you ask me): The Cubs, the most aggressive club at the general managers' meetings, are just getting started. The team's ideal blueprint, according to new manager Lou Piniella, includes the addition of two more hitters and two starting pitchers. The Cubs might not accomplish all that, but they've already added free-agent infielder Mark DeRosa and re-signed third baseman Aramis Ramirez and right-hander Kerry Wood for a combined $89.5 million. If they signed free agent Alfonso Soriano, their No. 1 target, to play center, they likely would add a lesser outfield bat to alternate with Jacque Jones and Matt Murton...Perhaps the most fascinating development in the aftermath of the DeRosa signing is that the Cubs continue to pursue free agent Julio Lugo, whom they envision batting leadoff and possibly moving to center field, according to major-league sources...Don't look now, but the representatives for free-agent right-hander Adam Eaton believe that he might command a four-year deal — not bad for a guy who has made only 35 combined starts the past two seasons due to finger injuries.The Cardinals, facing the possible losses of free-agent right-handers Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver and left-hander Mark Mulder, were among the clubs that met Tuesday with Eaton's agents...

Phillies left fielder Pat Burrell has informed the club that he would accept a trade only to the Yankees, Red Sox or a west-coast club, according to a source with knowledge of his thinking. The Phillies badly want to move Burrell, who has a complete no-trade clause. They also would be willing to trade center fielder Aaron Rowand for a quality reliever...

Pat Burrell if he were willing to move back to first base might be a good fit with the Yankees who are looking for a first baseman.

The Brewers and Orioles have discussed a trade that would send outfielder Kevin Mench to Baltimore for right-hander Rodrigo Lopez; the Orioles also have expressed interest in another Brewers outfielder, Geoff Jenkins, but their bigger priority is believed to be free-agent left fielder Carlos Lee...Believe it or not, teams are contacting the Yankees about trading for right-hander Carl Pavano; the Rockies are one club that might have interest if the Yankees paid a portion of the $21 million that Pavano is owed over the next two seasons. The Yankees, naturally, say they won't give Pavano away; their public position is that they want him to get healthy and be productive. Still, it's difficult to imagine the Yankees rejecting even a mediocre offer for a pitcher who has been a severe disappointment. One rotation possibility that the Yankees might consider, with or without Pavano: Right-hander Scott Proctor, who was one of the team's best relievers last season.

Yes, the Devil Rays bid for the negotiating rights to Japanese third baseman Akinori Iwamura, but they wouldn't necessarily play him at third. The Rays like that they could plug Iwamura into a number of positions: Second base, outfield, even first as a last-ditch measure. Speaking of the Rays, a rival scout who saw shortstop Ben Zobrist in the Arizona Fall League says that the former Astros' prospect is as good a player as the Twins' Jason Bartlett — and the scout offers the same opinion about Giants second baseman Kevin Frandsen...

Very interesting. I like Barlett a lot. I didn't think Zobrist had that type of speed. I'll have to look into it. Of course I will share what I find. But where does this leave B.J. Upton? I have no clue what the Devil Rays are thinking most of the time.

The Diamondbacks have made a pitch to free-agent left-hander Mark Mulder, but if they want him to help anchor a starting rotation with Cy Young winner Brandon Webb, they may have to offer more up-front money than perhaps any other interested team. That's because the Diamondbacks, under Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick and his fellow owners, basically refuse to make incentive-laden deals where a player can earn more salary during a season through good health and production. Mulder, who underwent rotator cuff surgery on his pitching shoulder in August, likely would command a hefty contract if he were healthy.


Avoid pitchers coming off of shoulder surgery. This is good advice for fantasy owners and major league GMs.

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer: The Marlins might take a run at Franklin Gutierrez. Florida needs a center fielder and Gutierrez, with one option left, seems to be blocked in the Tribe's outfield.

This makes a lot of sense for the Tribe. Gutierrez is behind Shin Soo Choo, Casey Blake and whatever player the Tribe brings in this season. The Marlins have bunches of major league ready pitching they can deal back.

Till next time... Peace.


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