- A new report has come out listing former Giants third baseman Matt Wiliams, among others, as having received steroids and/or other PEDs. Maybe we can finally, finally admit that the good guys used PEDs, too. And instead of throwing a sportswriter hissy-fit and sulking and pouting in public, let's just accept that our melodramatic, overwraught attempts to cast the PED scandal in black and white terms is infinitely inaccurate.
- George Mitchell has set this Saturday (tomorrow) as the deadline for any new evidence or information to include in the Mitchell Report. My guess is that this means we're going to get the report before Christmas. Ho, ho, freakin' ho.
- This brings me to my next point . . .
- The Player's Union is paranoid about collusion, and there is more and more evidence mounting up that their fears are not entirely without merit. With the GMs meeting in Orlando, a lot of people have been wondering if there will be any sort of attempt to collude either against A-Rod or Scott Boras in general. But even more interesting is this little excerpt from the linked column:
"General managers, in an innovation, each spoke at their annual meeting Tuesday about their offseason goals, and many mentioned what players they were making available. The idea was suggested by this year's co-chairs, Boston's Theo Epstein and Florida's Larry Beinfest, and many GMs said they found it to be useful."
Well, this sounds more than a little inappropriate. And, if you've read this book, eerily familiar . . .
- Braves trade Edgar Renteria and to the Tigers for pitcher Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez.
The Braves can save money by moving Renteria, with Yunel Escobar and Brent Lillibridge ready to take over shortstop. Jurrjens is a prospect, but doesn't really have star potential. That's fine for the Braves, who have stars (Smoltz, Hudson), but no one to back them up. And since #3 starters will make a fortune on the market, and even #4 starters (Kyle Lohse) will be raking it in, acquiring Jurrjens is a handy solution. And Hernandez, while still a bit raw, is a viable center field prospect.
The Tigers fill a big hole (with Carlos Guillen moving to first base). The 2008 combination of Renteria-Guillen should be more productive and more valuable than the 2007 combo of Guillen-Sean Casey. Age is a facto here, but at least the Tigers will get some cash from Atlanta to cover Edgar's salary. The Tigers already have enough young pitchers and a few still coming up, which makes a mid-level prospect like Jurrjens expendable in the right deal. All in all, a pretty good trade for both teams.
- Brewers decline 2008 option of Geoff Jenkins.
This can't be a fun part of a GM's job, but Jenkins' option was just too expensive for a team whose #1 priority is pitching, with a number of corner outfield alternatives.
- Reds exercise options on Adam Dunn, Scott Hatteberg & Javier Valentin; decline option on Eddie Guardado
I like Scott Hatteberg and all, but the Reds' outfield situation is intolerably crowded. If Scott Hatteberg and Joey Votto are sharing time at first base (which I REALLY hope is the case), that leaves room for 3 outfield spots. Dunn and Ken Griffey, Jr. would (presumably) have a spot guaranteed. So that's exactly ONE lineup slot for Josh Hamilton, Ryan Freel, Jay Bruce, and Norris Hopper, for starters. The Reds really need to explore a trade. Dunn would be the most marketable commodity, with two years left on his option at a reasonable price for a left-handed masher. I've heard rumors about Griffey being traded, but to me those seem highly unlikely. He is in the last year of his contract, but it's still a silly contract, and he's not going to hold down center field (in Atlanta, for example) for more than 120 games. And since he's getting older and losing offense, he's not the best corner outfield option out there -- not by a long shot.
The other thing to consider is that the best value -- and maybe even the best player -- of the lot is young Jay Bruce. But with Wayne Krivsky GMing and Dusty Baker managing, Bruce's chances of breaking into the starting lineup aren't so promising -- not unless someone on high declares him a starter by executive fiat. Making room for Bruce should be top priority -- and you can even shed some payroll in the process. It sounds so easy that I don't think the Reds will actually do it. With Dusty managing, look for Ryan Freel and Norris Hopper to get far more playing time than their performance merits.
- Blue Jays re-sign Matt Stairs to a 2-year contract.
This pretty much guarantees that the Blue Jays are going to stick with what they have, even if that means staying in the 85-win rut for the foreseeable future. It's not that Stairs isn't valuable, but as part of the big picture, it's clear that this franchise will only makes the postseason if the teams in front of them crash and burn.
- Yankees pick up 2008 option on Bobby Abreu.
Well, who wouldn't want to pay an extra outfielder $16 million? Seriously, the Yankees have an overcrowded outfield, and the simplest solution would have been to just decline Abreu's option. They could still have negotiated with him as a free agent, but paying a no-longer-elite player that much money to fill a hole that doesn't exist puzzles me.
- Red Sox pick up 2008 options on Tim Wakefield and Julian Tavarez. Re-sign Curt Schilling to 1-year, incentive-laden deal.
Wakefield, I understand. He's not much better than average, but he's a legitimate, reliable, versatile innings-eater making $4 million for one year. That's always a good deal. But with Wakefield (and now Schilling, signed to a good deal), why do you need Tavarez? With Buchholz and Lester looking to move into the starting rotation in 2008, they join Josh Beckett, Schilling, and Daisuke Matsuzaka as one of the very best rotations in baseball. Wakefield is a valuable insurance policy, spot starter, and reliever. So why spend money on a 7th starter who's below-average in most regards? Are they planning on using him as a middle reliever? Are they so paranoid about their starters that they need an insurance policy for their insurance policy? This isn't such a bad move, really, but it does puzzle me.
- Astros trade Brad Lidge and infielder Eric Bruntlett to Phillies for Michael Bourn, Michael Costanzo, and Geoff Geary.
The reaction to this deal has been very mixed. My own personal feeling is that Lidge's value was at its lowest, and the Phillies picked up a legitimately good closer for very little. The disagreement, though, is about how much the Phillies gave up. Michael Bourn is a fast guy, but is average, at best, as a hitter. He's not a bad starting center fielder, but I don't see him as an irreplaceable part. Costanzo has promise as a third baseman, but that promise doesn't seem to be as a star, and it's not immediate. The Phillies, more than most other NL team, are built to win now, and there's little point in saving decent players for 2010, when they're not likely to make a big difference anyhow.
But that all depends on your point of view. Baseball Prospectus writers have weighed in as feeling the Phillies made a big mistake in giving up so much. But I don't see such a rosy future for Bourn and Costanzo. As for the Astros, they're not contending in 2008 anyhow, so they might as well do what they can.
FRONT OFFICE/MANAGERIAL CHANGES
(I've already covered some of those, but bear with me)
(I've already covered some of those, but bear with me)
- Jon Schuerholz resigns as Braves GM to take over as team president. Frank Wren takes over as the new GM.
As I said before, this is the end of an era. Considering the change in ownership and the fact that Bobby Cox won't be around forever, this is a pretty big deal. I hate to say it, but the Braves -- as I knew them -- will soon no longer exist.
- Dusty Baker takes over as Reds manager.
If Dusty succeeds, it will be in spite of himself.
- Ed Wade replaces Tim Purpura as Astros General Manager.
I'm not so fond of Wade's abilities as a talent evaluator/baseball ops man. I also don't think that he has the authority to stand up to Drayton McLane and start a rebuilding process. Because if this franchise doesn't take aggressive steps to rebuild from the ground up, they're going to ruin what has been a generally impressive 25-year run of baseball.
- Neal Huntington takes over as Pirates GM; John Russell is hired as manager; most front-office positions turned over.
I always hesitate to say that a team has nowhere to go but up, because I'm so often wrong. But with this franchise, it really is true. Huntington seems to know what he's doing and what he needs to do.
- Tony LaRussa teases, but ends up staying on as Cardinals manager. GM Walt Jocketty is fired and replaced by interim GM John Mozeliak, who gets the job on a permanent basis a few weeks later.
If there is a villain here, I think it's Bill DeWitt. Walt Jocketty is/was one of the best GMs in the game of baseball, and while I can't say that he's perfect, it's hard for me to see how the Cardinals are better without him. The Cardinals have more stability in their rebuilding process, but they still need to revitalize their farm system and improve their quality of free agent signings.
- Dodgers hire Joe Torre as manager. Don Mattingly and Larry Bowa follow Torre from New York to fill out his coaching staff.
I've expressed my mixed feelings about Joe Torre before, and suffice to say, this pseudo-mythology isn't an accurate assessment of his potential. I think Torre will be very popular in L.A. I'm not as worried about the quick trigger finger on owner Frank McCourt as some are, simply because Torre is a much bigger star, and McCourt has already aligned most of the baseball media against him.
I'm worried that Torre and Ned Colletti are a big combination for a franchise that has already shown a terrible ability to utilize young talent and a laughable level of baseball ops acumen. The Dodgers have one of the best development minds in the game (Logan White) and an enviable collection of young talent. Joe Torre might aid in the process of pissing it all away, but in the end the full responsibility won't be on his shoulders.
- Orioles fire pitching coach Leo Mazzone. Andy MacPhail sort of ends up as the voice of the front office through some vague process.
MacPhail's been calling the shots for a while, I just like the sound of that. As for Mazzone, his days were probably numbered once his childhood friend Sam Perlozzo was fired as manager. Still, his time in Baltimore cannot be considered much of a success. Most people point to the fact that wild, fireblaling youngster Daniel Cabrera never reached his potential, but I think that's silly; you can't judge any coach by the success or failure of one player. More damning is the fact that the Orioles staff as a whole did not improve their control or maintain their health to any significant degree. This does influence the way we view Mazzone, historically, but I still think he deserves the utmost respect. The real lesson to be learned here is that it was the combination of Mazzone, Bobby Cox, and John Schuerholz that led to such a historically great pitching staff in Atlanta.
- Yankees fire Joe Torre, hire Joe Girardi.
I don't have anything new to say about this, except that we've all forgotten just how hard is to be the Yankees' manager.
- Tampa Bay Devil Rays officially renamed Tampa Bay Rays.
- Trey Hillman hired to manage Kansas City Royals.
Yeah, good luck with that.
- Bill Smith takes over as Twins GM from Terry Ryan.
Ryan gets a lot of credit as a good GM, and rightfully so. But someone has to point out the team's very poor record at developing and signing good hitters. For all the good things said (and justifiably so) about Minnesota's young pitchers, shouldn't we wonder how good they would have been if somebody had been able to hit worth a damn? Thank God for Joe Mauer.
- Tony Reagins takes over as Angels GM from Bill Stoneman.
Maybe I just haven't been listening, but why hasn't this story gotten more than a peep out of the national media? Stoneman and Ryan had similar issues with hitting, but the combination of Stoneman and owner Arte Moreno built one of the best franchises, top to bottom, in baseball.
A-ROD OPTS OUT
That one gets its own column. For now, read this.