Archive for December, 2009

Chicago Cubs Find Their Center Fielder, Sign Marlon Byrd

December 31, 2009

Center field as really been a black hole for the Chicago Cubs during the 2000’s.

They started off the decade with the legendary Damon Buford and over the last 10 years have had players like Gary Matthews Jr., Corey Patterson, Juan Pierre, Jacque Jones, Alfonso Soriano, Reed Johnson, Jim Edmonds, and Kosuke Fukudome patrol center field.

Either players they had playing center weren’t very good overall (Patterson), or not very good defensively (Soriano), or were a short-term solution (Edmonds). Today, the Cubs hope they have finally found a long-term solution to their center field problems–at least for the next three years.

According to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago, the Cubs have signed former Texas Ranger Marlon Byrd to a three-year, $15 million contract. Not a bad start to the new year for Byrd.

Byrd is the latest Cubs' CF

I hate sitting on the fence with these type of free agent deals, but I am very torn on this one. Half of me sees the positives to this deal and the other half sees the negatives.

As far as the positives go, I definitely see a few.

First and foremost, the contract is not an albatross. A three-year deal at essentially $5 million a year will not break the Cubs’ bank. What’s the harm in paying your starting center fielder $5 million a year?

Second, the signing of Byrd allows Fukudome to move to his natural position of right field. Fukudome looked out of place in center last year and this move will improve the Cubs’ outfield defense.

Byrd isn’t the best defensive center fielder in the world, but having him in center and Fukudome in right is an improvement over Fukudome in center and Milton Bradley in right.

Lastly, Byrd is coming off a career year with the Rangers in 2009. Byrd hit .298 with 20 home runs and played in a career high 146 games in 2009.If Byrd can produce those numbers with the Cubs, then this is a great deal for the Cubs.

And it’s with that last paragraph, where I start having my doubts about Byrd.

Haven’t we seen this act play out before us time and time again? A mediocre player has a career year in his free agency year, earns a nice contract, and then never lives up to that deal.

That scenario has been a time honored tradition in baseball for the last 25+ years.

Byrd’s only other year of significance in he majors was back in 2003 with the Philadelphia Phillies. He played in 135 games that year hitting .303 with seven home runs, a .784 OPS, and 11 stolen bases.

Since that year, Byrd has been a fringe starter/forth outfielder with the Phillies, Washington Nationals, and Rangers. Byrd never lived up to the hype that made him one of the Phillies’ top prospects in the early-2000’s.

Ironically for me, Byrd has a lot of former Cub Gary Matthews Jr. in him. Matthews too, was a fringe starter/forth outfielder for most his career, then had one great year with the Rangers in his free agency year, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim signed him to a huge contract.

Now Byrd’s contract isn’t nearly as bad as Matthews was, but the similarities are there.

Another concern I have about Byrd is his home and road splits. Last season in Texas, his home OPS was .873 and his road OPS was .740. That is a huge difference.

Byrd was the Cubs’ first big signing of the offseason and they will need a lot more than him to get where they need to be. I look at the Cubs’ roster as of today, and I feel it’s significantly worse than it was just two years ago.

Unless a lot of Cubs’ players have bounce back years in 2010, it looks like next year is going to be another frustrating one in Wrigleyville.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Reds Get Good News, Edinson Volquez To Begin Throwing

December 31, 2009

There is more than one way for a fan to receive good news in the offseason about their favorite team.

The most common way during the offseason for a fan to receive good news is through a trade or free agent signing. But another form of good news could come from a star player progressing well from an injury.

Volquez is on the comeback trail

The Cincinnati Reds and their fans got that type of good news yesterday.

John Fay of the Cincinnati Inquirer spoke to Reds’ Assistant GM Bob Miller yesterday. While they talked about a variety of topics concerning the Reds, the topic of Edinson Volquez’s rehab came up.

“The reports are good,” Miller said. “He’s worked hard and got in great shape. That helps.” Volquez is about to begin throwing soon.

This is very good news for Reds fans.

For those of you who are not familiar with what happened to Volquez, he underwent Tommy John surgery last August. I am fully confident that Volquez can make a complete comeback and be a top of the rotation starter yet again.

Tommy John surgery is as common to pitchers these days as them hearing from a pitching coach “Bend your back” or “Don’t let your shoulder fly open.”

The list of pitchers who had Tommy John surgery stretches a mile long. Pitchers like Chris Carpenter, A.J. Burnett, Josh Johnson, Ryan Dempster, Kenny Rogers, and Randy Wolf have all had Tommy John surgery and have enjoyed success afterwards.

Volquez wants to return in 2010 by June, but I doubt that will happen. There is no reason for the Reds to rush the 26-year-old back and risk further damage. I am guessing Volquez returns around late August, early September.

He will probably start off in the bullpen just to get his feel for the game back and then make a couple of starts towards the end of the year. That seems to be the pattern most teams take with pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery.

A lot of people are picking the Reds as a darkhorse team in 2010. Without Volquez for a full year, I think it is going to be tough for them. I believe they are a year away.

When Volquez comes back and along with Drew Stubbs, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, and Yonder Alonso, the Reds could be the team to beat in the NL Central in 2011.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Mike Lowell Has Surgery On His Famous Thumb

December 31, 2009

Has there been a body part on a player more talked about this offseason than Mike Lowell’s thumb?

Lowell was supposed to be part of the trade that would have sent him and $9 million to the Texas Rangers and catcher Max Ramirez to the Boston Red Sox. The trade was really a salary dump by the Red Sox in order to free up money to pursue Adrian Beltre or other free agents.

Lowell had surgery yesterday

As we all know the trade was called off by the Rangers because they found a ligament tear in Lowell’s thumb. Yesterday, Lowell had surgery on that thumb.

According to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, Dr. Donald Sheridan performed surgery on Lowell’s thumb and found a 95 percent tear in the radical collateral ligament in that thumb. Lowell will need six-to-eight weeks of recovery time.

Here is what is confusing to me.

Lowell had a 95 percent tear in his thumb, which is obviously pretty significant. The season for the Red Sox ended almost three months ago. Why didn’t Lowell have this surgery as soon as the season ended?

Also, did the Red Sox not think the Rangers’ medical staff wouldn’t notice a 95 percent tear in Lowell’s thumb? I would think even a first year student in med. school would be able to diagnose that.

Now that Lowell has had his surgery, he will remain with the Red Sox when the 2010 season starts. Lowell might be ready by Opening Day, but he has zero trade value now.

When the season starts, my best guess is Lowell will play third against lefties and Casey Kotchman plays first base against righties. Kevin Youkilis will be in the lineup everyday and play third against righties and first against lefties.

Of course, nothing is ever set in stone with the Red Sox as they always look to improve their roster.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Kelly Johnson A Diamond(back) In The Rough

December 30, 2009

I really like it when teams make smart and sound acquisitions. The latest example of this–the Arizona Diamonbacks’ signing of free agent Kelly Johnson.

According to SI.com’ Jon Heyman, via Twitter, the Diamondbacks have signed 2B to a one-year, $2 million contract. Johnson will undergo a physical today.

Johnson is headed to the valley of the sun

There are two ways you can look at Johnson.

The first way is to look at the player, whose OPS has declined three straight years and lost his job to Martin Prado last season. There are some Diamondback fans that are probably wondering why the Diamondbacks would sign a guy who spent the majority of the 2009 season in Bobby Cox’s doghouse?

It’s a good question and I could see why a fan would ask it.

However, there is a second way to look at Johnson–the way I look at him.

I am probably a bigger fan of Johnson than most people. Here is what I wrote about Johnson in my Free Agent Primer:

“Non-Tender Candidate Sleeper: Kelly Johnson. On December 12th, hundreds of players will not be tendered contracts. The sleeper out of this bunch–Kelly Johnson.”

Johnson was put in Bobby Cox’s doghouse in Atlanta in 2009, but in 2007 he had an OPS of .831 and in 2007 he had an OPS of .795. He is a classic change of scenery guy.”

I really believe Johnson just needs a change of scenery. Just because a player was in a manager’s clubhouse doesn’t mean he can’t play. Adam Kennedy was in Tony LaRussa’s doghouse and he did quite well with Oakland last season.

I fully expect Johnson to have a year that rivals what he did in 2007 and 2008. .280 with 10+ home runs and an OPS around .800 is not out of the question for Johnson in 2010.

For the Diamondbacks, they get a second baseman to replace Felipe Lopez, who was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers last season. While Ryan Roberts and his 300 tattoo’s were productive in 2009 (.276/.367/.416 in 110 games), I am guessing the Diamondbacks view him more as a utility player rather than a full-time starting second baseman.

Johnson will be 28-years-old next year and has a career .264 average and a .777 OPS in four seasons with the Atlanta Braves.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Out Of Options, Jason Bay Forced To Sign With The Mets

December 30, 2009

Yesterday on the Mike Francesa Show on WFAN in New York, Mike Francesa set the hot stove on fire by announcing the New York Mets have signed Jason Bay and the Mets will make that announcement next week.

Francesa’s announcement was confirmed by several sources and the Mets have signed Bay to a four-year, $66 million contract. There is a vesting option for a fifth-year, which could bring to the total value to the contract to $80 million.

Bay got the fifth year he wanted

For the Mets, they fill their gaping hole in left field and for Bay, he gets paid. Here is what I wrote about Bay in my Free Agent Primer:

“Biggest Free Agent Surprise: Jason Bay will not be back with the Boston Red Sox. As I told my buddy Odie, Bay is like the girl in high school who appears all sweet and innocent, but has slept with the entire football team.”

Everyone thinks because Bay is a soft-spoken nice guy and has thrived in Boston, he will just accept whatever Theo Epstein offers him and money doesn’t matter–not the case. I think Bay gets a five-year deal from another team and takes the years and the money and runs.”

And I wouldn’t fault him for that.”

Bay got the potential fifth year and the money he was seeking from the Mets. However, Bay really overplayed his hand this offseason and was forced to sign with the Mets.

Here is my time line of what happened to Bay this offseason.

The Boston Red Sox offer Bay a four-year, $60 million contract.

Though Bay wants to stay in Boston, he feels jilted and thinks he can get more years and money on the free agent market.

With Bay being perhaps the second or third best hitter on the free agent market, Bay feels he can easily get what he thinks he deserves.

Bay feels he could have interest from the Red Sox, Mets, New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and Seattle Mariners.

As the days went on, Bay’s No.1 choice–the Red Sox seemed to have moved on.

The Mets make an offer to Bay.

Bay, lukewarm on signing with the Mets, holds out in hopes of another team making an offer.

The Mariners, Yankees, and Giants show no interest in signing Bay leaving only the Mets as a possible suitor.

Bay and his agent go back to the Red Sox to talk about a backloaded contract.

The Red Sox aren’t too keen on going over the luxury tax pass on the idea.

The Mets get desperate, bid against themselves, and with no other team in the mix give Bay a vesting option for a fifth year.

Bay, with no other options and not wanting his only offer to disappear is forced to sign with the Mets.

The Mets will have a press conference announcing the Bay signing and Bay will say “It’s a dream come true” to play for the Mets.

Pretty interesting stuff huh? But I don’t think anything I have just said is too far off. As a matter of fact, I think it’s a pretty accurate time line.

While Bay overplayed his hand in one aspect because he didn’t have as many suitors as he thought he would, on the other hand he got what he wanted.

Bay’s situation is very similar to CC Sabathia’s last season. The Mets are a big market team, who were desperate to make a move, and desperate to land Bay. So they gave him another year in order to get him signed.

And make no mistake about it, the Mets were desperate to land Bay. Ticket sales are down right now and the Mets had to sign someone to energize their disgruntled fan base.

Bay is a start, but is not the final answer for the Mets.

Do I think Bay will be handle the pressure of playing in New York? Yes, I do. There was more pressure on him in Boston to perform and to replace Manny Ramirez and he handled everything better than I ever thought he would.

However, between Bay’s rather poor and all signs pointing to a rapid decline–I think Bay will not live up to his contract in New York. As a matter of fact, I think in the third, forth, and fifth years of this contract, Bay will be a disaster in Flushing.

He is a power hitter, who strikes out a ton playing in the Grand Canyon of ballparks. Bay was a benefactor of playing his games at Fenway Park. A lot of his home runs that he hit will just be long outs at Citi Field.

By his third, forth, and fifth years of his contract, Bay will be a guy hitting 15-20 home runs and striking out 170 times a year. A player like that is not worth $16.5 million.

Ironically, I don’t think Bay’s defense will be as big of an issue as people are making it out to be. I have watched every game Bay has played in over the last year and a half and I never saw him not get to a ball he was supposed to.

Does Bay have a terrible arm? Yes, there is no question about that. But every ball that needed to be caught, he caught.

Now if the Mets could just add some pitching, they will have a shot to compete with the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

New York Mets To Sign Jason Bay

December 29, 2009

Update

Joel Sherman of the New York Post is reporting that the deal is a four-year deal worth $66 million. There is also a vesting option for 2011.

Original Post

WFAN’s Mike Francesa said he had big news concerning the New York Mets this afternoon and big news he delivered.

Once he was done ripping New York Jets’ Head Coach Rex Ryan for no apparent reason (he is a bitter New York Giants fan), Francesa announced that he has learned the Mets will announce they have signed OF Jason Bay early next week.

Bay is coming to Flushing

The Wilpons are currently on vacation and Bay needs to pass his physical, which is why no deal has been announced already. Francesa didn’t mention any terms of the deal nor did he give an official day when the deal would be announced.

Obviously when this deal is officially announced, I will have a full write up on what this means for both parties. I will say right now that this will be bad for Bay’s career.

In other Mets’ news, Francesa did say they are still interested in catcher Bengie Molina, but Molina is steadfast on receiving a three-year deal. I don’t see Molina can get a three-year deal, but one can dream.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

San Francisco Giants Add Offense, Sign DeRosa

December 29, 2009

In desperate need of some offense, the San Francisco Giants added a bat last night.

According to SI.com’s Jon Heyman, via Twitter, the Giants have signed Mark DeRosa to a two-year, $12 million contract. DeRosa is expected to play third base for the Giants in 2010.

I’ll get to the Giants part of this in a second, but for DeRosa and his camp, this has to be considered a loss. I know it’s hard to fathom someone losing when they just made $12 million, but it is.

DeRosa is headed west to San Fran

At the beginning of the offseason, DeRosa and his camp were reportedly asking for a three-year deal and $18-$19 million. To get one-year and $6 million less, is something I don’t think DeRosa was hoping for.

But I think it was a smart move by his camp to get a deal done now. The longer he held out, the more likely he would be forced to accept a one-year deal. A road Adam LaRoche seems destined to travel.

For the Giants, this is a good deal, but it doesn’t solve all of their problems.

DeRosa can play third, second, first, left, or right. He is one of the most versatile players in the game. As I mentioned earlier, for the Giants he will most likely play third in 2010.

This move will allow current third baseman Pablo Sandoval to move to first, where he is much better suited. I expect DeRosa’s power numbers to decline a little playing in AT&T Park, but the Sandoval/DeRosa combination at first and third is a definite upgrade over the Sandoval/Travis Ishikawa/Ryan Garko combination of last year.

The Giants offense right now reminds me of a college basketball team after their one super-star player leaves for the NBA and all that is left is the supporting cast. Sure the supporting cast can compete, but they are not the powerhouse team they were the year before.

The Giants are like Oklahoma without Blake Griffin.

The Giants are missing that one dynamic hitter in the middle of the lineup that makes all the role players around him better. DeRosa, Freddy Sanchez, Aaron Roward, etc…are good players, but they are role players.

They shouldn’t be the focal point of the offense, but in the Giants’ offense they are. In order for the Giants to take the next step–not only in the NL West, but in the National League–they need to find their Blake Griffin or really their Barry Bonds.

And one last thing, as I think out loud here. If you are the Philadelphia Phillies, don’t you have a little pie in your face this morning?

They rushed to sign a second baseman to play third for three-years and $18 million. If they would have just waited two months, they could have had DeRosa for one-year and $6 million less.

I personally would rather have DeRosa play third for my team than Placido Polanco.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Arizona Diamondbacks Ink Bobby Howry To One-Year Deal

December 28, 2009

Update: Here are the exact terms of this deal.

Howry will earn $2 million in 2010 and the club option for 2011 is for $3 million. There is also a $250,000 buyout in Howry’s option year.

Original Post

After a couple of fantasy posts today, lets shift our focus to the hot stove.

According to SI.com’s Jon Heyman via Twitter, the Arizona Diamondbacks have signed RHP Bobby Howry to a one-year, $3 million contract. There is also a team option for 2011.

Howry, 36, spent the 2009 season with the San Francisco Giants. He posted a 3.39 ERA with a 6.5 K/9 ratio in 63.2 innings pitched.

While Howry’s K/9 has declined three straight years, he is still a solid reliever. Outside of a disastrous 2008 season with the Chicago Cubs, Howry has posted an ERA under 3.39 every year except one (2008) since 2004.

There aren’t too many relievers who have been as consistent as Howry over the last six seasons.

I would trust Howry in a big spot more than I would trust another offseason acquisition by the Diamondbacks, Aaron Heilman. I wouldn’t trust Heilman to close out a Little League game.

For one-year and three million, this is a good signing by the Diamondbacks. Now if they can just find someone to close out their games they will really be in business.

Howry has pitched 12 seasons in the major leagues and has a career 3.66 ERA in 752.2 innings with the Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Cubs, and Giants.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Fantasy Impact: Arizona Diamondbacks’ Edwin Jackson

December 28, 2009

I think I am going to make today a very fantasy focused day on The Ghost of Moonlight Graham.

Earlier in the day I talked about the fantasy possibilities of Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Brandon Wood. Now I will talk about Arizona Diamondbacks’ RHP Edwin Jackson.

Jackson should do well in the NL West

Jackson came over the Diamondbacks in the big three-way trade that sent Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees and Max Scherzer to the Detroit Tigers. While many–including myself ripped the trade from a Diamondbacks perspective–I want to take the time to look at the fantasy impact of the key player the Diamondbacks got in the trade.

This will Jackson’s second tour of duty in the NL West. While many people just remember Jackson as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Detroit Tigers, he actually started out his career in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization.

Jackson didn’t have great success with the Dodgers, but I expect him to have a much better go around in the NL West this time around. My logic is pretty simple for this–the NL West is the most pathetic offensive division in baseball.

Any time you can pitch against the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants and pitch in AT&T Park, Petco Park, and Dodger Stadium the majority of the time, your numbers will improve. There is a reason why nine out of the last 11 National League Cy Young award winners are from the NL West.

Over the last two years, Jackson is 27-20 with a 3.99 ERA and 269 K’s in 397.1 innings in the AL. However, Jackson has really slipped in the second half over those two years.

In the second half over the last two years, Jackson has a 5.11 ERA. What is really concerning is that Jackson has played on two contenders the last two years and has faded when his teams have needed him the most.

The Diamondbacks could be a dark horse contender in 2010, so I wonder if the pressure will get to him for a third year in a row? While I don’t like the fact that Jackson has faded the last couple of years, there is a lot of things I do like about Jackson in 2010.

Like I said, he is going to the AL from the NL, which is always a plus. The Diamondbacks should improve upon their 70-win season in 2010. And I also like the fact that he is going to be a No. 3 starter in 2010, which means he won’t be facing other team’s No. 1 or No. 2 starter.

I expect Jackson to go 13-10 with a solid 3.40-3.50 ERA in 200+ innings. Jackson has never been a big strikeout guy, so expect around 150-160 K’s in those 200+ innings.

With those numbers, Jackson should be a very solid No. 3 fantasy starter in most fantasy formats in 2010.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Opportunity Finally Knocks For Brandon Wood

December 28, 2009

If there is one thing I have tried to do with each job that I have had in my life is to take something away and learn something from that job. For example, I have learned two things from last job.

First, I learned that even one of the biggest companies in the world can be dysfunctional. Then again, here is a life lesson for all you kids who are reading this who are still in college or just graduated–all companies in Corporate America are dysfunctional.

The second thing I learned is how to deal with change. People at my last  company were being laid off or quitting daily. It was a constant revolving door. However, sometimes with change comes opportunity.

When someone leaves a company or an organization, it opens the door for someone else. You feel bad to get an opportunity when someone else gets laid off, but that is just the way life is.

For the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Brandon Wood, he finally might get an opportunity because of someone else leaving. Now, I am not saying the Angels are a dysfunctional organization, because they are not.

Wood will get an opportunity in 2010

As a matter of fact, I think the Angels are one of the best three or four best run organizations in baseball. But just like with every team in baseball, the Angels lose players to free agency or trade away players to try to improve in other areas.

In this case, the player that left Anaheim was Chone Figgins. Figgins left to sign with the Seattle Mariners and thus, the Angels have an opening at third base in 2010.

The player most likely to fill that spot is Wood. Wood has been one of the most hyped prospects in the Angels’ system since the Angels selected him with the 23rd pick in the first round of the 2003 draft.

He has put up some impressive minor league numbers, but he hasn’t translated that success to the major league level. In 236 AB’s over three seasons, Wood has a career .192 average.

I will give Wood a pass in those 236 AB’s because it has to be hard for a young player to perform when he doesn’t get regular AB’s and is shuffling between the minors and majors.

Wood will be given every opportunity to win the third base job in spring training and I think he will have a very productive 2010 season. Wood will bat sixth or seventh in the Angels’ lineup and should have plenty of RBI opportunities next year.

Here is what I expect from Wood in 2010. I expect a .255 average with 20-25 home runs, 65-75 RBI, and a .335 OBP. Those are good, but not great numbers.

Draft Wood as a backup third baseman and as a future starting third baseman in keeper league settings.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg