I have spoken on several occasions about potential veteran players that are free agents who may be able to impact the New York Mets bench. Though I would be interested in seeing Manny Ramirez, JD Drew and/ or Carlos Guillen in Port St. Lucie on minor league contracts, I seriously don't think Sandy Alderson has any interest in bringing in anybody else, let alone players like that. Jeff Francis would be a nice fit, but at this point, there are too many teams interested for him to accept the minor league contract the Mets have to offer. So assuming what you see if what you get, the Mets will fill out their bench with players currently on the roster and non-roster invitees that have probably been added already.
The Mets should use either Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Matt Den Dekker as their forth outfielder. Nieuwenhuis is probably more major league ready at this point. The value of the Mets forth outfielder is huge for this team and will provide the opportunity for a lot of playing time. Andres Torres will get a full shot at being the Mets regular center fielder, but it will be nice to know that there is another option outside of Scott Hairston. Hairston is a nice PH threat but should not be an injury away from playing every day. Lucas Duda is in his first full season for the Mets and there are still serious concerns over what Jason Bay has left. Duda played very well last season and may be the smallest question among the three outfielders.
Using either Nieuwenhuis or Den Dekker on the major league roster to start the season will interest fans a little more and give them a chance to see some of the younger players the organization has been developing. I agree that neither should be projected to be a star, but they both become useful players. I can see either becoming getting the equivalent of a full season replacing all three outfielders. At this point, it will be a more productive move than adding a Corey Patterson or Rick Ankiel.
As for backing up the Mets infielders, I am forced to accept Ronny Cedeno as a part of this team's bench. I still see no use in clogging up a valuable spot on a bench that will need to be used more than most on a player just because he knows how to play shortstop. He does nothing else. I like Justin Turner, but it may make sense for the Mets to trade him at this point. Staying along the lines of Nieuwenhuis and Den Dekker, I have considered suggesting the Mets using Reese Havens or Jordany Valdespin as bench players to start the season. I don't feel as strongly as I do the outfielders, being this spot could be better suited for a super-utility player. Valdespin has played one year at SS, and Havens would be better getting the chance to play every day in Buffalo. Havens will play every day at 2B if anything happens to Daniel Murphy.
I like the versatility of Ryan Theriot and Aaron Miles and wonder if they could possibly fall into the Mets lap. Otherwise, I think the Mets should consider a trade for a Joe McEwing like player. The emphasis has to be second base with the ability to play other positions. Robert Andino could be a fit from Baltimore, perhaps Mike Fontenot from the Giants. Other trade options could be Sean Rodriguez from the Rays, (you would have to give up a prospect for him) Don Kelly from the Tigers and Brandon Ryan of the Mariners. Perhaps even Wilson Valdez could be pried from the Phillies. They would all make the Mets bench deeper than it is right now.
We should all say a prayer today for Gary Carter, who is fighting a terrible battle with cancerous tumors reemerging in his brain. First and foremost, hopes are that the kid can fight this terrible disease. After that point is made, there has been a lot of talk amongst Mets fans about whether or not his number 8 should be retired.
As a player who spent the majority of his career with the Montreal Expos, many feel he didn't play for the Mets long enough. Others didn't see him as the backbone of that team (which I couldn't disagree more) citing Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and Keith Hernandez as whom the team revolved around. Others site the fact that he only had three very good seasons for the Mets. To me, the last statement is the most convincing of all. The question is: Should a New York Mets player who had three very good seasons with the Mets have his number retired?
To me its not a matter of seniority in my book. Carter was hurt and near the end of his career in 1989 with the Mets. He had a down year in 1988, hitting .242, 11, 46. Though his impact on the team cannot be overstated, the quest to have his number retired has to bring reasons that are above and beyond his time with the Mets. I do think he was the backbone of that team, but he shared it with Hernandez and the team could not have won in 1986 and the division in 1988 without Strawberry and Gooden, amongst others.
Here is the reason to retire his number. Once he was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 2003, the Mets decided they were not issuing his number 8 again. Prior to that, after leaving the Mets after the 1989 season, the number eight was issued to three players (Dave Gallagher, Carlos Baegra and Desi Reliford- all for short periods of time) and briefly to three coaches (Cookie Rojas, Steve Swisher and Matt Gallante.) The fact that 8 is not being issued again because of Carter is a reason in my opinion to retire it. Numbers are retired as an honor to that player and by not issuing the number again, the Mets have essentially retired it. Why not go the extra mile and put it up at Citi Field? Its not being issued again (I know I keep repeating this.) If not, it should be re-issued just like 16,17, and 18.
While we are at, the Mets have honored Willie Mays by only issuing his number 24 twice (once by accident and once to Rickey Henderson) since he retired after the 1973 season. I understand Mays was nothing more than a symbol of his name in his season and a half with the Mets. While his number being retired is not a symbol of what he did for the Mets, it should be retired because the number is not being issued because of Mays. But, if not, similarly to Carter, if the number is not being retired, it should be issued again. The Mets are one of the only teams that almost never retire their players' numbers and have to be the only team to not issue a number again in honor of a player and not retire it.
I agree with Matt Cerrone of Mets Blog, who says Carter's number should not be retired just because he is sick. That being said, I think either one of two things have to happen. Retire his number because the decision was made not to issue the number again in Carter's honor. Or, issue the number again as he has been honored already, amongst others, in the Mets Hall of Fame.
A lot is still to be determined with all the free agents still on the board. With players like Prince Fielder, Carlos Pena, Francisco Cordero, Edwin Jackson, Roy Oswalt, Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero, and Raul Ibanez still available this late in the offseason, rosters could look quite different going into the 2012 season.
One team that is "all set" for the 2012 season, is the New York Mets. Nobody really knows what the future holds for the Mets and their ownership, though every story seems to be getting worse. Is there any chance the Mets can be on their feet by the end of this season?
The almost unanimous response to my question would probably be no. But, lets play devils advocate for a minute. Lets say, for some strange reason, the Mets ownership situation resolves itself. Maybe they are forced to sell. Perhaps the real estate market changes and the value of houses goes up again. What if the Mets are the cinderella team of 2012 and a lot more fans than expected go to the games? Come up with your own scenario if you want, but the bottom line is I am envisioning something happening which will put the Mets in business after this coming season and offseason. (Sorry for taking the optimistic road, but this is what I am going with.)
Its hard to determine exactly who will become free agents after the 2012 season. Perhaps it is a bit early. If David Wright is traded, which I don't see happening, he will be a free agent after this season due to a clause in his contract that voids his 2013 option if he is traded. Many players have team or player options, where time will tell whether they are exercised or the players become free agents. So, I have decided not to mention any player who has an option for 2013. Also, among the list of top free agents, five players are most likely to remain with their current teams or sign an extension before the season's end. Those players are Mariano Rivera, Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Ichiro and Miguel Montero.
Among the potential free agents I wouldn't mess with if I were the Mets are Josh Hamilton, Carlos Lee, James Loney and Jonathan Sanchez. Hamilton is a great player but his injury history makes a long-term contract scary. One could wonder what Lee even has left coming off a down season. Plus the fact his body is wearing down makes him DH- American League material. Loney plays 1B and the Mets have a first baseman. And if you don't think Jonathan Sanchez reminds you of a young Oliver Perez, you are not paying attention.
A secondary list of free agents I would consider would have to be at the right price. These are players that the Mets should consider if they can be had for below market value, because none of these players can change the landscape of the team by simply being added. I'm talking about C Russell Martin, OF Marlon Byrd and RP Juan Carlos Oviedo. I wouldn't commit more than a year to Martin or two years to Oviedo and Byrd, assuming these were team friendly contracts. If not, I wouldn't expect the Mets to pursue these players.
I have comprised a list of the top eight players the Mets should pursue as free agents, assuming they become available and assuming the team is back in business next offseason. Now, I'm not suggesting 7-10 year contracts. But to land some of these players, it will take more than the standard 1 year contract Sandy Alderson has been generally floating out there.
8. RHP Brandon League: Mariners. The hard throwing reliever finally broke through when given the chance to be the Mariners closer in 2011. He was an all star, who finished the season with 37 saves, replacing injured RHP David Aardsma. He has a good fastball and has always been known to miss bats. Scouts have always liked his stuff and he has shown signs of becoming as good as the scouts have said.
7. LHP Sean Marshall: Reds. Its safe to say Marshall is a reliever now. He may get a chance to close some for the Reds this year, along with Aroldis Chapman. The last two seasons, he has pitched in 80 and 78 games, respectively and has also struck out more batters than innings pitched. Similarly to League, scouts have been high on Marshall and he is starting to prove them right.
6. RHP Zach Greinke: Brewers. The only problem with Greinke is the throught of signing him to a ridiculous contracts that good pitchers are looking for. That may be the only reason to stay away. That and maybe the fact that theres a question of whether he could handle New York at any cost. Greinke has ace stuff, and maybe his value goes down a little bit being second fiddle to Yovanni Gallardo another year, but it is very reasonable to see how a team may overpay for his services over the next several years. Talent and ability alone makes him worthy of being further up this list.
5. OF Andre Ethier: Dodgers. For the Mets to add a corner outfielder, something would have to happen with their current OFs, mainly Jason Bay. But, in a fantasy world, anything can happen. I could see Ethier being a fit for the Mets assuming he isn't looking for $14- $16 million a season. A fair contract would be about three years and about $35 million total. For todays standards, not a bad deal. His price will go up if he has a similar season to what he had in 2009 when he hit .272, 31, 106.
4. RHP Anabal Sanchez: Marlins. Sanchez could fall under the radar with the Marlins this season. Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson are anchoring the top of the rotation and Ricky Nolasco and Carlos Zambrano are behind them. Despite an 8-9 record last year in 32 starts, (15 no decisions) he had 202 strikeouts in 196 1/3 IP as well as 3 CG- 2 shutouts. He should make about $6-$7 million in arbitration this season. As an impending free agent, that puts him at about 3 years and less than $30 million guaranteed. That could be a steal.
3. OF BJ Upton: Rays. Upton is the type of player you like to have when you trying to put together a team. He has become a very good defensive outfielder, especially considering he has only played there a couple of years. He hits for power and has tremendous speed, which can put him anywhere in the lineup. Unfortunately his batting average and sometimes his attitude have not been up to par, He hit just .241 in 2009, .237 in 2010 amd .243 last year while having the propensity for striking out a lot. He draws his share of walks keeping his OBP as respectable as could be based on his BA.
2. OF Michael Bourn: Braves. Bourn would be number one on this list if it wasn't for one reason. After Carl Crawford got his contract and Jose Reyes got his, it is quite possible that Bourn will be looking for something in that neighborhood. As good of a player as he his, he is not in the same league as Crawford or even Reyes. Therefore, teams shouldn't put him in the same catagory. But somebody may. He strikes out way too much for a leadoff batter and is more of a slap hitter than gap hitter, which better describes Crawford and Reyes. If a fair contract agreement could be reached, I see Bourn filling a hole as the Mets leadoff batter and center fielder for years to come. Another team swiping him away with a foolish contract offer is the only thing keeping me from ranking him number one.
1. C Mike Napoli: Rangers. The Rangers would be wise to lock him up when they have the chance. He is a superstar in the making, coming off a year where he hit .320, 30, 75 as a catcher. Not only that, but he handles himself well behind the plate and throws out baserunners. He through out 36% of base stealers last year and pitchers don't seem to mind throwing to him.
How many of these free agents could the Mets possibly add? At this point, none. But hopefully things improve to a point where the Mets can put a competitive product on the field. If thats the case, maybe we can talk about the additions of Bourn, Napoli, Sanchez and Marshall next offseason. But, maybe I'm just living in a fantasy world.
The Detroit Tigers received news that no team wants to hear, a star player injures himself during the offseason. Its bad enough when teams lose players to tough luck injuries during the season, its got to be a worse feeling for all involved having a player of Victor Martinez's caliber lost for the season due to a torn ACL. Though this in no way makes up for the loss, there happens to be an abnormal amount of free agent hitters who can soften the blow a little bit for Detroit.
People will suggest Prince Fielder, but he is clearly not a fit at this point. Miguel Cabrera will eventually be a DH, but that time is not now, especially with two more guaranteed years coming to Martinez. What the Tigers are looking for is a power hitter who can DH for them for one season, and perhaps outperform his contract. If the Tigers wanted to go with a low budget option, (perhaps they take on Matt Garza and his contract and feel they have reached their budget) players like Derrick Lee, Johnny Gomes, Pat Burrell, Russell Branyan, Casey Kotchman and Eric Chavez are still available. Out of that list, only Kotchman was a regular player last season. For a minor league contract maybe Dan Johnson or Mike Jacobs, though either or both could sign regardless of who the Tigers add.
Without further due, here are the top six players that are still on the free agent market that could help the Tigers sudden need at the DH position.
6. Cody Ross: Ross was a 4th round draft pick by the Tigers in 1999. I saw him as a fit in Cincinnati but they signed Ryan Ludwick. Ross is an ok outfielder so in addition to DHing, he can spell the outfielders including centerfielder Austin Jackson. In a full season, he's good for 20 HR and 80 RBI and should hit about .270.
5. Raul Ibanez: Ibanez had a strong finish to the 2011 season after he looked finished through the first part of the season. An American League team would be to his liking, as his legs will benefit from DHing. A refreshed Ibanez has a huge upside, and will certainly benefit from batting behind Cabrera. The only concern is his age, and at 40 there is concern of how much he actually has left.
4. Hideki Matsui: There was a big dropoff, production wise, from Matsui in 2011. In 141 games in Oakland, he hit a career low .251 with 12 HR and 72 RBI. He has been a machine throughout his career, and the fact that he is as clutch as they come could entice Detroit here. A couple of years younger than Ibanez, but there is still a question of how much he has left.
3. Vladimir Guerrero: One thing you know about Guerrero is that he will hit. The .290 he hit last year was a career low and he would certainly add depth to the Tigers batting order. Similar to Matsui and Ibanez, he should thrive in the middle of the lineup but is a better hitter than the other two at their stages of their careers.
2. Johnny Damon: When Damon played for Detroit in 2010, he actually had a down season. He hit .271 with 8 HR and 51 RBI. For Tampa Bay in 2011, he hit .261 with 16 HR and 73 RBI. Approximately two healthy seasons away from 3000 hits, he could return to a job he just had, Tigers DH. He can hit in several parts of the batting order, and though he is not known for his defense by any stretch of the imagination, he could spell a corner OF if needed. He seems healthy, which gives him a slight edge over Guerrero.
1. Carlos Pena: I like Pena for a couple of reasons. Not for his batting average, which was low even when he played for Detroit from 2002-2005. He has a good eye at the plate and he can have a scary season if he gets on a roll. He is also the youngest on this list and can spell Cabrera at 1B if necessary. A return to the AL and a chance to DH could get the Tigers a big season from Pena. Last year, he hit .225 with 28 HR and 80 RBI which is the least of what he will do. Amongst this list, he has the most upside. I had him slated for Milwaukee, but I see him as a bigger fit in Detroit.
Part of the intrigue about the history of major league baseball is the ability to go back in time and compare stats of some of the greats of the game. Without first hand knowledge, its hard to be sure of how good a player was. Especially when they played fifty to eighty years before you were born. But stats tell a good story. And based on the stats, its fair to make a comparison between two players and use the numbers as the basis of such comparison. Today, I'm comparing the legendary careers of Pete (Grover Cleveland) Alexander and Christi Mathewson.
Mathewson pitched from 1900-1916, winning 373 games for the New York Giants. (He pitched in, and won, one game for the Cincinnati Reds in 1916.) Alexander pitched from 1911-1930, winning the same 373 games while pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. Mathewson had a .665 winning percentage to Alexander's .642. (Alexander had 20 more career losses.) Alexander, who pitched for three more seasons, had more innings pitched in his career. (5190-4788 2/3) Mathewson had more strikeouts (2507-2198) and had a lower ERA (2.13- 2.56) and gave up a lot less homeruns (165-89) than that of Alexander. Alexander had slightly more complete games (437-435) and owned a 90 to 79 edge in career shutouts. Both pitchers had dominant WHIPs. (Mathewson 1.057, Alexander 1.121) Mathewson won 30+ games four times in his career, while Alexander had three such seasons. Mathewson had 13 20+ win seasons and Alexander finished with 9 in his career.
The stats would say that Mathewson was the more successful pitcher. One thing that has to be considered is the eras that they pitched in. It is easy to say they pitched at the same time since it was all so long ago. But Mathewson pitched his entire career before 1920-1921, which was considered the beginning of the "live ball" era. Alexander pitched the first half of his career in the "dead ball" era and the second half in the "live ball" era. The fact that Alexander gave up almost twice as many HR as Mathewson has a lot to do with Alexander pitching ten years when homeruns were a big part of the game. But, with more homeruns came more strikeouts (still no where near as much as are in the game today) and because of that, the fact that Mathewson struck out many more batters than Alexander in less innings pitched was extremely impressive.
Interestingly enough, Mathewson was sent to the minors in 1901 and drafted by the Reds, who traded him back to the Giants. Of course, Mathewson would pitch the one game for the Reds in 1916 before taking over as the team's manager for the next three seasons.
Alexander is known for his performance for the Cardinals in the 1926 World Series. After pitching games two and six, he was called in from the bullpen with the Cardinals up by a run in the seventh inning of the seventh game with the bases loaded, two outs and one of the best Yankees hitters at bat, Tony Lazzeri. Manager Rogers Hornsby tried to advise him how to pitch the batter. Alexander disagreed, saying he would pitch with a fastball in (which was where Lazzeri liked the ball) then pitch him off speed away and finish him with another fastball in. Hornsby reportedly said, "Who am I to tell YOU how to pitch?" Lazzeri was struck out on three pitches despite almost hitting a homerun on the first fast ball. Alexander finished off the final two innings to lead the Cardinals to the World Series Championship.
Both pitchers are legends and are part of the best pitchers to ever play in this game.
At this point in free agency, the left over free agents usually end up going to the remaining team that is offering substantial dollars. This year, Prince Fielder, Roy Oswalt, Carlos Pena, Edwin Jackson, Joe Saunders, Francisco Cordero and Yoennis Cespedes, among others, remain available. In my opinion, this would allow other, less attractive, free agents to be patient and wait until the others have signed their new contracts. This way, they come away with more guaranteed money. But, it didn't stop free agent pitchers Aaron Cook and Joel Pineiro from signing minor league contracts with the Red Sox and Phillies, respectively.
Pineiro is coming off a very bad season for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He signed a 2 year, $16 million contract before the 2010 season after a very productive year with the Cardinals where he won 15 games and got just about every hitter to hit the ball on the ground. He was 7-7, with a 5.13 ERA for the Angels last year and by the end of the season, was pitching in the bullpen.
Cook has struggled to stay healthy each of the past couple of seasons for the Rockies. He has digressed every year since winning 16 games for the Rockies in 2008, though I think he pitched well in 2009, going 11-6 with a 4.16 ERA in 27 starts. His past two seasons have been terrible; he was 6-8 with a 5.08 ERA in 2010 and 3-10 with a 6.03 ERA in 2011. Naturally, his WHIP has increased to almost 1.6 over the past two years.
I have figured that teams likely interested in Oswalt, Jackson and Saunders have zeroed in on pitchers such as Jeff Francis, Jon Garland and Brad Penny as less costly alternatives if prices of the first group get too high. And unless the first three sign almost immediately, the second group of pitchers will net somewhere in the $2-$5 million range, depending on demand.
There is a group of pitchers who will see their stock fall due to the signing of Cook and Pineiro. Kevin Millwood, Zach Duke, Livan Hernandez, Jaime Moyer and Tim Wakefield all expect major league contracts going in to 2012. Millwood and Duke will probably have to settle for minor league contract now. Hernandez (Nationals), Moyer (Phillies) and Wakefield (Red Sox) have nowhere near the same value that they had for their former teams. All three have to be thinking about retirement, as the quest to make a new team at their ages on a minor league contract is less than likely.
I personally think Pineiro could have waited and probably landed a guaranteed contract, even if it was a low base salary. Cook was less likely, but the market could have changed if the Red Sox lose out on Oswalt or Saunders. Cook taking the minor league contract made it easier for the Red Sox, when he possibly could have gotten a guaranteed contract later on. If the market for starting pitching falls after the eventual signings of Oswalt, Jackson and Saunders, pitchers like Francis, Garland and Penny are going to blame pitchers like Pineiro and Cook for taking non-guaranteed contracts when there is still that much quality on the free agent market. Maybe teams (Mets perhaps?) will be more interested in adding Francis, Garland or Penny if they could be had for a minor league contract. What have you got to lose?
New York Yankees and their fans will have a lot less uncertainty in their starting rotation in 2012 due to the acquisition of Michael Pineda from the Seattle Mariners and the signing of FA RHP Hiroki Kuroda. In 2011, due to the struggles of AJ Burnett and the injury to Phil Hughes, the Yankees needed a couple of inspiring stories to take place in their pitching staff for them to continue their dominance in the American League East. Freddy Garcia pitched as well as could possibly be expected after having a comeback season for the White Sox the year before. Bartolo Colon followed suit in 2011, after barely pitching since 2005. I know he struggled down the stretch, but the question I propose today is, who will be that pitcher that puts his injury history behind him and returns to form after his career was considered over?
For every Garcia and Colon, there are plenty that don't make it. Mark Prior has been trying to return to the majors since he last appeared for the Cubs in 2006. Chris Young looked like he made it back successfully from his arm woes until he re-tore the anterior capsule muscle in his pitching shoulder, ruining his 2011 season. For this discussion, I won't include pitchers who are coming off single operations such as Johan Santana and Aaron Cook. (I will next year if they have no impact in the 2012 season.)
Colon, who missed the 2010 season and had only pitched in 48 games in the four seasons prior to that finished with a 9-10 record and a 4.00 ERA in 29 games (26 starts) for the Yankees. His 7.4 K per 9 IP was his best ratio since 2001. Garcia, in spite of pitching very well for the Yankees last season, was a bigger story in 2010 with the Chicago White Sox. After pitching a total of 23 games from 2007-2009, Garcia went 12-8 in 28 starts for the White Sox after his career was considered to be over.
Chin Ming Wang seems to be ready to pitch on a full time basis for the 2012 season. After a freak injury derailed his 2008 season, he pitched just 12 games in 2009. He seems to have recovered by going 4-3 with a 4.04 ERA in 11 starts with the Nationals. They rewarded him by signing him to a $4 million contract for this season. Rich Harden, despite almost making it back for the 2008 and 2009 seasons, has struggled to stay on the field the two prior and subsequent seasons. Often injured Ben Sheets may be looking to come back after missing two of the last three seasons. And how about a comeback for Jeremy Bonderman, since he is only 29?
I'm sure there are many other pitchers in the same situation. But its nice to see a story like that becoming common every year. Who will be the story of 2012?
I have made several complaints in the past over how teams refuse to make a fair trade nowadays. One team is always trying to outsmart the other, whereas in the past, it was not the case. I am sure that there are Yankees fans that couldn't imagine the team trading prospect Jesus Montero for anything less than Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Barry Bonds in his prime. And Seattle Mariners fans were fearing Felix Hernandez was going to be traded for Kei Igawa, Francisco Cervelli and Boone Logan.
The trade of RHP Michael Pineda and RHP Jose Campos from to Mariners to the Yankees in exchange for C/DH Montero and RHP Hector Noesi was an example of a trade that could very well help both teams. Most negative reaction is from fans that either have undervalued how good of a pitcher Pineda is or just simply feel they have to give up nothing of value in a trade. As a baseball fan, I like this trade because I feel both teams improved themselves.
Lets look at Pineda for a minute. For a terrible Seattle Mariners team, the 22 year old went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA in 28 starts. That it in itself should not excite you as a fan. But in 171 IP, he struck out 173 batters and gave up just 133 hits. He was 8th in the AL in WHIP 1.099, 5th in the AL in hits per 9 IP with 7 and 2nd in the AL in Ks per 9 IP (9.105). He also made the AL All Star team and finished 5th in the rookie of the year voting. He has a high 90s fastball and a very good slider and instantly slides into the top of the Yankees rotation. Campos is a young pitcher (will not be 20 until July) who the Yankees can put in their farm system with the potential to help them in the future either on the major league team or as a trade chip to get another piece down the road.
Montero showed in September that he could hit at the major league level. But, as a catcher, he wasn't as fine-tuned as fellow catching prospects Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez defensively. But, theres no question he is a hitter, bursting on the scene last year to hit .328 (20-61) with 4 HR and 12 RBI as a September call-up. The Mariners have a hitter they can instantly put in the middle of their order. Seattle also has the flexibility to play him at catcher, 1st base or as a designated hitter; something the Yankees could not do. Hector Noesi pitched primarily as a reliever last year for the Yankees. He has been a starter in the minors and should get a chance with the Mariners. Though he has upside, he is not expected to be in the same league as Pineda.
It is clear that both teams improved in this trade. The Yankees got a very young top of the rotation pitcher who will be there for a while. The Mariners got a young power hitter who they can put at catcher, 1st base or DH. Its nice to see a throwback trade, when two teams used to swap needs and improve because of one trade. Its about time!
Outside of Prince Fielder, one of the most intriguing free agent position players left is Cuban defecting outfielder Yoennis Cespedes. He is expected to immediately enter the signing team's plans and will be a regular player immediately. He better be for the money he is commanding. As a 26 year old, he is looking for a six year contract, which I personally think fits for the type of player he is. Granted, he has never played in the major leagues, which could be a concern due to his Cuban average being below average. Here are his most recent Cuban Granma career stats.
Year Team Lge AB H DB TP HR BB SO R RBI SB CS BA OBP SLG
2004 Granma______ CBA 300 73 17 4 8 23 86 40 34 3 1 .243 .302 .407 2005 Granma______ CBA 358 92 22 3 13 26 83 55 42 4 1 .257 .314 .444 2006 Granma______ CBA 360 101 23 2 19 31 68 66 58 6 1 .281 .344 .514 2007 Granma______ CBA 361 91 22 2 17 30 84 67 57 12 5 .252 .317 .465 2008 Granma______ CBA 378 82 14 1 18 21 79 57 52 3 2 .217 .258 .402 2009 Granma______ CBA 348 87 14 1 18 28 60 58 54 4 2 .250 .307 .451 2010 Granma______ CBA 358 93 19 3 14 30 70 61 45 4 1 .260 .321 .447 2011 Granma______ CBA 375 92 16 1 22 34 67 60 65 8 1 .245 .311 .469
As you can see, his batting average and on base percentage are not up to par with top major league players, let alone lead off batters. As a "five tool" player, I am surprised that he doesn't have many stolen bases. Maybe thats just not part of the Cuban game. He has homerun power that should translate to the majors and is a pure center fielder, something always in demand. The Cuban Leagues are also known to be dominated by their pitching. Without further due, here is my top five destinations for Yoennis Cespedes.
5. Minnesota Twins: The Twins could be a sleeper assuming they haven't eliminated long term contracts due to the lack of recent success of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. They have some money available, money they had put aside for free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel. His signing could take some of the pressure off the recoveries of Mauer and Morneau. And the Twins could use the buzz after a disappointing 2011 season.
4. Washington Nationals: I still see the Nationals landing Prince Fielder, and this may be a back up plan if Fielder falls through. His presence could make the transition easier for Bryce Harper, and maybe Harper could become a corner outfielder. An outfield of Cespedes, Harper and Jayson Werth could be known in Washington for the next several years.
3. San Francisco Giants: The Giants have added OFs Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan this offseason. Cespedes' projected power could be an addition to the Giants lineup. Especially if the Giants see themselves out of the Fielder derby. They would have to commit the six years, and he could be a power hitting number 3 or 5 hitter in the Giants lineup that has Buster Posey and Aubrey Huff.
2. Chicago Cubs: Cespedes seems like a player that has intrigued new team president Theo Epstein. After acquiring Anthony Rizzo to play first base and trading Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins to get Chris Volstad, this could be the third step of Theo putting his stamp on this team. The big Chicago market is something Cespedes could thrive in and he could be the center piece of the "new" Cubs. The offseason will be concluded when the Cubs decide what to do with SP Matt Garza and OF Alfonzo Soriano.
1. Miami Marlins: The Marlins have one final splash to make this offseason. I have heard that they have inquired about Fielder, but they have little interest. The Marlins had shed out a six year contract for CJ Wilson before he signed a five year deal with his hometown Angels. So, the Marlins have the money. It would also be a good spot for Cespedes to play since its the closest MLB city to his home country. And, the Marlins do not have a center fielder. Its the most logical fit.
Has there ever been a more uninspiring offseason than the Mets this winter? Sure, you can point to the fact that the owners are broke. You can say its part of the rebuilding process. Both valid points, but fans are still faced with the daunting task of having to root for a team that will not be competitive. All Mets fans went through 2009, but that team was expected to be good. The last couple of seasons there was hope that if the key players could stay healthy, they should be able to compete. Of course, that didn't happen, but at least there was something to root for.
Sandy Alderson says he is done adding players to the 40 man roster. And he says it as if he just finished building a championship team and he can't fit any more good players on it. We all know he has his eye on the future, but he gives the impression he can care less about the present.
As for any team, there is the hope that things will break perfectly. In a perfect world, Johan Santana will return healthy and instantly becomes the old Johan Santana. David Wright, Jason Bay and Ike Davis are all healthy and hit 30 plus home runs. Daniel Murphy makes a seamless transition to second base and hits like he did last season. Ruben Tejada becomes Placido Polanco (prior to last season) and Lucas Duda gives the Mets four 30 homerun hitters. Frank Francisco has an all star season, finishing with 40 saves and Mike Pelfrey, Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee combine to win over 40 games.
A fan can dream, right? The difference is this season the team needs most of the before mentioned to do right just to avoid last place. The Marlins are improved and there is no reason to think the Braves and Phillies are going to take a step back because they have good teams. Even the Nationals added Gio Gonzalez and I still see them as a favorite to add Prince Fielder. And lets be honest, to finish 3rd, 4th or 5th gets you no consolation prize and who cares about finishing third just because there were two worse teams than you.
I would like to see more depth on this team. There is very little in the Mets spending range, (minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, and if the player makes the team, they will get the league minimum) as most of the players that may play for that are either coming out of retirement, coming off of a major injury or can't play anymore but want to stay in the game for the love of it. I compiled a list that I don't even want to share. But, the problem remains that this team will not survive any injuries this season. And injuries are part of the game.
Picture an injury to a Mets outfielder. Yes, it could be a blessing to see Kirk Nieuwenhuis debut in the majors. But, otherwise it will be Scott Hairston. Justin Turner and Ronny Cedeno will play every day if anything happens to the starting infield. If Wright and Davis are out again at the same time, Cedeno will play 2B, Turner would play 3B and Murphy would be at 1B. An injury to a starting pitcher (Santana being an obvious concern) will bring in Miguel Batista and outside of Pedro Beato, there is no relief ready to help this season in the minors.
Fans can keep talking about the future. And you will be the ones that will not go to games. You can root for your NY Giants, Rangers and Knicks and only have a small part of the season that you have to pay attention. But, what if you go to games regardless? What if you go to spring training every year? It sucks for us. Fans say its not as bad as the late 70s, but at least then, things improved in the 80s. There is no guarantee things will improve this time.