Archive for January, 2010

Mark Prior Wants To Be The Next Ben Sheets?

January 30, 2010

I was reading ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark’s Rumblings & Grumblings post this morning and I came across a quote that I thought was pretty interesting. Agent John Boggs had this to say about one of his clients:

“Mark has been through so many timelines, at this point I’m almost allergic to the word,” Boggs said. “But he’s out there. He’s getting himself ready. And when he’s ready, I’m sure you’ll hear a lot about him. Then we’ll invite teams to come watch him throw. And hopefully, he’ll be the next Ben Sheets.”

The Mark, Boggs is referring to is former Chicago Cubs’ pitcher Mark Prior. While I appreciate Boggs’ enthusiasm for his client comparing Prior’s situation to Sheets’, I am going to have to tell Boggs to pump the breaks a little bit.

Prior is on the comeback trail yet again

The only thing Sheets and Prior have in common is that they have been two injury prone pitchers throughout their careers. However, their situations are completely different.

The biggest and main difference between Sheets and Prior is that Sheets has actually taken the mound recently. Like in the last three years.

Sheets was pitching at an All-Star caliber level as late as September of 2008. Prior hasn’t taken the mound in a major league game since August of 2006.

Their situations are night and day.

As we all know, Prior burst on to the baseball scene going 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA for the Chicago Cubs in 2003. Since then, he has been an injury filled mess.

He has had an achilles tendon injury, a compression fracture in his pitching elbow, a strained oblique, shoulder tendonitis, and of course, two shoulder surgeries since 2003. That is a lot for any pitcher to handle.

If you would have told me Prior would only have 18 wins since the 2003, I would have said you were nuts. I would have said you were nuts too if back in 1987 you told me that Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry or Don Mattingly would never even sniff the Hall of Fame.

But this is baseball and one injury can ruin a player’s career.

Many have pointed to Prior’s poor mechanics, which have led to all his injury problems. While that may be the case, there have been pitchers with worse mechanics like Kevin Appier, who managed to pitch for 16 years in the major leagues.

Sometimes bad luck factors into a pitcher’s career just as much as mechanics.

Remarkably, Prior is not even 30-years-old yet. He will turn 30 in September of next year. Due to his relatively young age, I would imagine if Prior did hold a try out, there would be a fair share of teams that would come out to watch him pitch.

But unlike Sheets, Prior won’t get $10 million from a team, nor will he even get a major league contract.

Thus making their situations very, very different.

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

Seattle Mariners Bring In Eric Byrnes

January 30, 2010

One of the first posts I had ever written on The Ghost of Moonlight Graham last December was that the New York Mets should trade for Eric Byrnes. At the time–and I still believe this–the Mets needed a player likes Byrnes.

Byrnes is a gritty, hard-nosed, gamer who is great for any team’s clubhouse. I thought the Mets could use a personality like Byrnes to help bring their team together. Now, a little over a year later, he was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Byrnes hopes to be sliding for the Mariners in 2010

Any team was free to sign the 33-year-old.

Since Arizona is paying Byrnes’ salary in 2010 ($11 million), any team could have had Byrnes for the league minimum. The team that is hoping Byrnes’ hard-nosed attitude helps them next season is the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners signed Byrnes yesterday to a one-year deal. If Byrnes makes the team out of spring training he will serve as a backup outfielder along with Ryan Langerhans and Michael Saunders.

There is also the possibility that if the Mariners don’t add another outfielder this offseason, Byrnes and Langerhans could form a platoon in left field for Seattle. I am guessing the Mariners don’t want Milton Bradley in left field too often.

This is a good low-risk signing by the Mariners. Remember, this is a guy who just two years ago finished 11th in the National League MVP voting with a .286 average with 21 home runs and 50 stolen bases in 160 games.

Byrnes will be entering his 11th season in the majors and has a career .260 average with 109 home runs, 128 stolen bases, and a .763 OPS with the Oakland A’s, Colorado Rockies, Baltimore Orioles, and Diamondbacks.

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

Random Thoughts From Around Baseball

January 29, 2010

Since there is nothing going on so far today in baseball, I thought I would just give some random thoughts from around the majors.

Orlando Cabrera is deciding between the Colorado Rockies, Cincinnati Reds, and Washington Nationals today. The guy is a winner and will get a chance to win next year if he signs with the Rockies.

I can’t believe there was a “sweepstakes” for Derrick Turnbow. The guy hasn’t been good in four years. The Florida Marlins were the luck winner of the Turnbow “sweepstakes.”

On this day two years ago, the New York Mets traded for Johan Santana. Despite not making the playoffs in his two years with the team, Santana has been everything the Mets hoped he would be.

Santana was acquired by the Mets 2 years ago today

I waiting in line for Shake Shack today at Madison Square Park in NYC in 16 degree weather. Yeah, it’s that good.

Sticking with the New York theme, the Mets are getting crushed in the Big Apple right now. They have had a rough offseason and a lot of fans are losing faith in his ownership group.

Ken Griffey Jr. apparently got “ripped” this offseason. I still think the Seattle Mariners need a better DH option in 2010.

Thanks to injuries, Erik Bedard has probably cost himself close to $75 million the last two years. Ouch.

I would say it would be a major upset if the Cleveland Indians land Orlando Hudson. I still think the “O-Dog” ends up on the Nationals.

Watching Nolan Ryan’s seventh and final no-hitter from 1991 on the MLB Network now. From the first pitch, the Toronto Blue Jays didn’t stand a chance that night. Glenallen Hill looked as befuddled as any hitter I have seen at the plate against Ryan that night.

Francisco Liriano was dominant in the Dominican Winter League. In the final game of the DWL World Series, Liriano struck out 10 in five innings and was consistently in the low to mid-90’s with his fastball.

The Caribbean World Series starts next Tuesday. Those games will be on the MLB Network starting at 2:30 pm ET. Always good talent in those games.

My trivia team is still in first place after two weeks. Questions are much harder than the ones we were faced with in Milwaukee.

Tim Wakefield expects to be a full-time member of the Boston Red Sox rotation in 2010. Umm yeah, I am not sure about that one Tim. Unless Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, or Clay Buchholz get hurt (knock on wood), he will be used an old-fashion swing man.

I still haven’t figured out why the Chicago White Sox didn’t bring Jim Thome back. They need a DH and he could have helped.

That’s all for now. Have a good weekend everyone!!!

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

Jim Edmonds Ends Unofficial Retirement, Signs With Brewers

January 28, 2010

Yesterday, I talked about Jim Thome and whether or not he will be a Hall of Famer five years after he retires. The Thome HOF debate is certainly a fascinating one.

Another potential HOF candidate that will strike up a debate five years after he retires is outfielder Jim Edmonds.

One of Edmonds' many great catches

Edmonds is known as one of the better defensive center fielders of all-time. His acrobatic catches are stuff of legend. I still believe his back to the ball, giving catch against the Kansas City Royals as a member of the California/Anaheim Angels is the best catch I have ever seen by a center fielder.

Offensively, Edmonds has quietly amassed 384 home runs, a .284 average, and a .377 OBP. He is a four-time All Star and has two, top-five MVP finishes in his 16 year career.

It’s a classic argument of is the player SO great defensively, that it elevates him to HOF status even though his offensive numbers might not be there?

If you ask most St. Louis Cardinal fans, they will tell you Edmonds is a first-ballot HOF’er. The reality is, while Edmonds has had a nice career, the only way he will ever see the inside of Cooperstown will be if he goes with his family on a visit.

Now, I am sure I will get some less-than-friendly comments from Cardinal fans telling me how Edmonds is worthy of HOF consideration. Of course, it wouldn’t be a normal day without Cardinal fans crying or whining about something.

But Edmonds is not a HOF’er. He doesn’t have the offensive numbers. They are not even close. Defensively, while Edmonds was great, was he better than Devon White, Torii Hunter, or Andruw Jones?

The reason why Brooks Robinson and Ozzie Smith made and Omar Vizquel will make the HOF is because they were so much better defensively than anyone else who ever played their position. You can’t say that about Edmonds.

Whether you believe Edmonds is a HOF’er or not, there is no denying he was a very good player, for a good period of time. I thought Edmonds was going to be forced into retirement after not playing the entire 2009 season, but Edmonds isn’t done yet.

According to Tim Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, via Twitter, the Milwaukee Brewers have signed the Fullerton, CA native to a minor league contract. Edmonds can make $850,000 if he makes the team and another $1.65 million in incentives.

Edmonds last played in the majors in 2008 with the San Diego Padres and the Chicago Cubs. It looked like his career might have been over with the Padres after hitting only .178 with one home run in 26 games.

Edmonds was released and found is second wind with the Cubs and was really good for them. He hit .256 with 19 home runs and had a .937 OPS in just 86 games. He certainly gave the Cubs a spark and helped them to the best record in the National League.

Why the Cubs or any other team for that matter didn’t at least give Edmonds a shot to make the team in 2009 always was a mystery to me. A team could have certainly used him against righties in a pinch-hitting role.

If Edmonds makes the Brewers out of spring training, he could be used in a pinch-hitting role against righties and a fourth outfielder. Edmonds really slipped defensively in 2008 (-14.1 UZR), so I would doubt the Brewers would use him in a platoon with newly acquired center fielder Carlos Gomez.

The Brewers have to grant Edmonds his release if he’s not on the major league roster by March 25th.

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

MLB Network Announces Top-50 Prospects In Baseball

January 28, 2010

Last night, MLB.com announced their top-50 prospects in baseball through a special on the MLB Network. While there were few surprises on their list, there were a couple of players that caught my eye.

No. 8: Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates. When the Pirates promoted Andrew McCutchen to the major leagues last season, Alvarez became the jewel of the Pirates’ farm system. The Pirates really need Alvarez to become the player they think he can be.

No. 24: Tim Beckham, Tampa Bay Rays. Beckham was the No.1 overall pick in the 2008 draft. As a matter of fact, Alvarez was the No.2 pick in that draft.

The Rays took a chance on the less polished Beckham and he struggled somewhat in his first year of professional baseball. Beckham is only 19, so he has plenty of time to figure things out, but 2010 is a big year. The Rays could have drafted Buster Posey.

No. 28: Casey Kelly, Boston Red Sox. Kelly and the Red Sox organization were faced with a big decision in 2009. Where was Kelly going to play full-time moving forward? Shortstop or pitcher? Kelly is now a full-time pitcher and it was the right decision.

Kelly had a 2.05 ERA in 95 minor league innings last year. He could be in the Red Sox starting rotation by 2012.

No. 30: Yonder Alonso, Cincinnati Reds. The Reds are going to be faced with an interesting decision a year or two from now. Alonso is a first baseman and the Reds already have a star in waiting at first in Joey Votto.

Alonso isn’t as athletic as Votto, so I suspect Votto will be moved to the outfield. A broken bone in Alonso’s hand limited his power in 2009, but this guy can rake. Once he figures out how to hit lefties, he will be good to go.

No. 40: Drew Storen, Washington Nationals. Not only is Storen fun to follow on Twitter, but he is also on heck of pitcher. Stephen Strasburg is getting all the hype, but Storen isn’t far behind him.

Storen is being groomed at the Nationals’ closer of the future. He could be their closer by 2011.

The Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals led the way with four players in the top-50. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Chicago White Sox, New York Mets (Ike Davis could have been on this list), and St. Louis Cardinals were the only teams not to have a player in the top-50.

You can find MLB.com’s complete list of top-50 prospects here.

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

Padres Get A Bargain In Jon Garland

January 28, 2010

Here are the career pitching lines for two pitchers. Both pitchers have pitched 10 years in the major leagues.

Pitcher A: 30-years-old, a career record of 117-102 with a 4.42 ERA, a 1.38 WHIP, and a 44.5 percent groundball rate.

Pitcher B: 31-years-old, a career record of 87-79 with a 4.39 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP, and a 48.6 percent groundball rate.

Pitcher B is a year older and hasn’t enjoyed the same success throughout his career as Pitcher A. However, there was a “sweepstakes” for Pitcher B and Pitcher A didn’t have much of a market.

Garland will be pitching in San Diego in 2010

Both pitchers recently signed contracts. Pitcher A signed a one-year, $4.75 million contract with a mutual option for 2011. Pitcher B signed a two-year, $16 million contract.

Pitcher A is Jon Garland and Pitcher B is Joel Pineiro.

Pineiro went into this offseason as the second or third best starting pitcher on the market and Garland was an afterthought. Can someone explain to me why?

Oh wait, I know why. Pineiro had a career year in his walk year and Garland didn’t. Instead of looking at a pitcher’s overall success, teams usually sign a guy off of their performance in their walk-year. It’s a mistake that teams–and especially the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim–make time and time again.

While Pineiro had the better year in 2009, Garland throughout his career has been the better pitcher. I know Garland gives up a lot of hits and peripherals aren’t sexy. But the bottom line is, this guy knows how to win games.

From 2005-20008, Garland is 60-38 with a 4.12 ERA. His 60-38 record equals a .612 winning percentage. That is pretty impressive.

I know wins for a pitcher is becoming less relevant in this day and age of advanced statistics, but Garland knows how to win baseball games. Jack Morris (I am not comparing Garland to Morris. I just using him as a reference) didn’t have the greatest peripherals, but he knew how to win games.

Sometimes we and myself included, forget the bottom-line is winning.

Will Garland help the San Diego Padres win the National League West? Not a chance. The Padres are still a couple of years away from really competing for a NL West crown.

But Garland will give them innings (averages 208 innings over the last five years) and just as good of a performance as Joel Pineiro, for less money. Best case scenario? Garland pitches like he normally does and the Padres flip him for prospects at the trading deadline.

The Padres got a great bargain in Garland.

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

Yankees Sign Randy Winn, End The Johnny Damon Era In The Bronx

January 28, 2010

Whether you love the New York Yankees or despise them, you have to give them some credit this offseason. GM Brian Cashman had a budget and he stuck to it.

Albeit a big budget, but a budget none-the-less.

Usually when the Yankees talk about sticking to a budget, it means they are waiting in the weeds and then somehow come up with another $18 million to spend on a player. Not this year. The Yankees are sticking to their guns.

The only way Johnny Damon was going to come back to the Yankees was on the Yankees’ terms. Damon and his agent Scott Boras wanted a multi-year deal or a substantial one-year deal.

I am guessing Damon and Boras thought the Yankees would cave and come up with the money necessary to sign the outfielder. It never happened and the Yankees have moved on.

Since Damon was playing hardball, the Yankees decided to sign another outfielder. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Yankees have signed OF Randy Winn to a one-year, $2 million contract.

Winn is the newest Yankee

Winn is an exceptional corner outfielder that is point in his career. Last year with the San Francisco Giants, Winn had a 7.9 UZR in left field. All winter Cashman wanted to get better defensively in the outfield and he has certainly done that with the additions of Winn and Curtis Granderson.

Offensively, I have always felt Winn has been vastly underrated. He usually hovers around the .300 mark, has a decent eye at the plate, and he can steal a base.

I think the reason he is underrated his because he has played relative baseball obscurity for most of his career. Eight of his 12 year career have been spent in Tampa Bay and Seattle. Not the PR capitals of the world.

Two out of the last three years, Winn has hit .300. Last year, Winn’s average dipped to .262. Because Winn had a down year in 2009, he will have to battle Brett Gardner in spring training to win the starting left field spot.

What is interesting is that neither Winn and Gardner hit left-handed pitching well. Gardner is a career .241 hitter against lefties and Winn only hit .158 against lefties in 2009.

Despite Winn being a switch-hitter, I would say it’s a safe bet that the Yankees might add another right-handed hitting outfielder in the near future. Look for them to sign someone like Rocco Baldelli to a minor league contract.

As for Damon, his market just took a massive punch to the gut. Now that the Yankees are out of the picture, his options are limited.

His realistic options are the Detroit Tigers, Oakland A’s, Atlanta Braves, or Seattle Mariners. The Tigers might be the best fit as they need a leadoff man and left-handed hitter to ironically replace Granderson.

Listen, we have no idea what Damon’s financial situation is. Despite making almost $100 million in his career, rumor had it that he has fallen on hard times financially. Allegedly, he was hurt in the Bernie Madoff scandal, which is why he is hell-bent on getting one last payday.

Whatever his financial situation is, I just have a hard time believing that the Yankees and Damon couldn’t come to an agreement. Seems very odd to me.

Winn will be entering his 13th season in the major leagues and has a career .286 average with 106 home runs, 209 stolen bases, and a .344 OBP with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Seattle Mariners, and Giants.

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

Andre Dawson To Enter Hall As An Expo

January 27, 2010

When Andre Dawson was elected to the Hall of Fame earlier this month, many wondered which cap he would wear going in? Would it be the Montreal Expos or the Chicago Cubs?

That question was answered today.

According to a report by MLB.com, the Baseball Hall of Fame has decided that Dawson will enter Cooperstown as a Montreal Expo. On his Hall of Fame plaque, Dawson will be wearing an Expos cap.

Dawson will go into the HOF as an Expo

Dawson will become the second player to enter the Hall wearing an Expos cap. Gary Carter or “Pop up Gary” as my dad used to call him, was the first to enter Cooperstown wearing an Expos hat, when he did so in 2003.

While Dawson was obviously pleased with being elected to the HOF, he clearly is not pleased that he will be wearing an Expos hat. In an interview with WMVP-AM Chicago, Dawson said “I’m disappointed. I can proudly say that because Chicago was my preference.”

So which hat should Dawson being wearing? The Cubs or the Expos? Here are Dawson’s lines with both teams.

Expos: .280 with 225 home runs, 838 RBI, 253 stolen bases, and a .326 OBP in 11 years.

Cubs: .285 with 174 home runs, 587 RBI, 57 stolen bases, and a .327 OBP in six years.

It’s a tough call. Dawson played longer and was more of a five-tool-player with the Expos. However, he did have his MVP year and became a household name with the Cubs.

This whole to-do about which hat a player enters the hall with, is very silly to me. This whole Tom Foolery started when Wade Boggs wanted to enter the HOF as a Tampa Bay Devil Ray.

If that clown wanted to enter the Hall originally as a Boston Red Sox or New York Yankee, like he should have, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. It was rumored that the then Devil Rays were offering Boggs monetary compensation to wear their hat on his HOF plaque.

The HOF changed their policy as to which cap a player would wear thanks to Boggs and some other players (Dave Winfield) in 2001. Boggs is wearing a Red Sox cap on his HOF plaque.

I don’t think things like this were an issue 30-40 years ago because players didn’t change teams as often as they do know. Now with players changing teams every couple of years, I don’t have a problem with the HOF deciding which cap a player should wear.

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

Cubs Add Outfield Depth, Sign Xavier Nady

January 27, 2010

Here is what I wrote about Xavier Nady in my free agent primer at the beginning of the offseason:

“Best Low-Risk, High-Reward Hitter: Xavier Nady. Last year, I correctly predicted that Russell Branyan would be the 2007 version of Carlos Pena–a journeyman guy, who finally gets a chance to start and has a big year.

Nady is that free agent this year. Let a small market team sign him to a one-year deal, let him play 1B/DH and watch him hit 30 home runs.”

I really believed at the time that if Nady got a chance to be a full-time DH or first baseman in 2010, he would have a year much like what Russell Branyan had last year. Now, I don’t think he is going to get that chance.

Nady signed with the Chicago Cubs

According to various sources, the Chicago Cubs have signed Nady to a one-year, $3.3 million deal. Nady can also make an additional $2 million in incentives.

Nady played in only seven games for the New York Yankees in 2009 before missing the rest of the season with an elbow injury that resulting in him having his second Tommy John surgery.

The Tommy John surgery was Nady’s second of his career. If Nady is able to come back from a second Tommy John surgery, he would be only the second player to do so.

Catcher Vance Wilson is the only other player to have come back after two successful Tommy John surgeries. Wilson signed a minor league contract with the Kansas City Royals earlier this winter.

The key for Nady will be–and always has been–health. He has only played in 140 plus games just once in his career, but when he is in the lineup, he usually produces.

In his last full season in 2008, Nady hit .305 with 25 home runs, a .355 OBP and knocked in 97 runs with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Yankees. So can Nady produce these number with the Cubs in 2010?

The answer to that question will be based on playing time. Right now, Nady doesn’t have a full-time position with the Cubs. Nady will start the season as a fourth outfielder and right-handed hitter off the bench.

Nady could also find himself in a platoon with Kosuke Fukudome. Nady crushes left-handed pitching (.308/.383/.471 for his career), so he could perhaps spell Fukudome (.242/.343/.324 vs. lefties in his career) against lefties.

While I usually crush Jim Hendry on the moves he makes, I can’t crush him on this one. I like this signing for the Cubs.

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

“Thome’s Hommies” Are Headed To Minnesota

January 27, 2010

One of the more interesting debates that will occur six or seven years from now is the question of whether or not Jim Thome is a Hall of Famer?

Thome has all the stats you look for in a HOF’er. He has well over 500 home runs (564 to be exact), he is fifth all-time in HR/AB (13.7), 10th in walks (1,619), and 20th in OPS (.961). Those are some pretty impressive credentials.

Will Thome be a Hall of Famer?

But with only one, top-five finish in MVP voting during his career, plus playing in the steroid era, I am not sure how much love Thome will get on his first shot at the HOF.

I have the same take on Thome that I had with Barry Larkin. Yeah, the numbers might be there over a long period of time, but I never viewed either as a HOF player. I have never watched Thome play and say “There is an all-time great.”

Thome is like Fred McGriff, but with more home runs. McGriff only received 21.5 percent of the vote in this past HOF vote.

The reason I am bringing this up, is because yesterday Thome will be given another chance to add to his resumé. The Minnesota Twins inked Thome to a one-year, $1.5 million contract. Thome can earn another $700,000 in incentives.

This is a pretty sweet deal for the Twins. Despite already having a DH in Jason Kubel, the signing of Thome does give the Twins some options.

Thome’s main role will be a power source off the bench, but he could also DH against right-handed pitching. Thome hit 18 of his 23 home runs last year off of righties. The Twins could then move Kubel to left field and put Delmon Young on the bench.

I am kind of surprised there wasn’t more of a market for Thome this offseason. I know he is 40 and only is a DH at this point, which limits his options, but he was having a pretty legit year with the Chicago White Sox in 2009 before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and just rotted on the bench.

With the White Sox, Thome hit .249 with 23 home runs and a .377 OBP in 107 games. A team like the Seattle Mariners could have certainly used Thome as a full-time DH in 2010. I would rather him getting regular AB’s at this point than Ken Griffey Jr.

This will be Thome’s third stop in the American League Central. He played with the Cleveland Indians from 1991-2002 and for the White Sox from 2006-2009. Perhaps next year he can choose between the Detroit Tigers or the Kansas City Royals so he can play for every team in the division.

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