Crazy stuff coming from everywhere on the first night of the winter meetings. I’m going to try and start with the stuff we know for sure and work downwards into the hearsay.
Nobody seems to know for sure, but A.J. Burnett seems to be headed for Toronto. The last I heard was 5 years, $55 million for everyone’s favorite career .500 starter. The Cardinals are the other team in the running but I’ve yet to hear anyone claim that St. Louis is willing to go that high in either years or dollars. Of course, you never know — I could have sworn that Rafael Furcal was going to the Cubs, and then he reversed course and went to Los Angeles. It’s good news for the Rockies, anyway, as the Dysfunctional Dodgers (I think it says that on their uniforms now) will pay cleanup hitter money to a guy with a .757 career OPS.
Oakland has allegedly sent a pair of spare pitchers, Kirk Saarloos and Mario Ramos, to Los Angeles for Milton Bradley. If the A’s also add Frank Thomas as is rumored, they’re going to be pretty good next year. If they get those two bats without trading Barry Zito, they could keep him, or they could turn the Cy Young lefty into Alfonso Soriano or Hank Blalock. They already have Esteban Loaiza in the fold, who by the way was better than A.J. Burnett last year. In any event the A’s are dealing from a position of power while their division rivals in Seattle (who missed out on Burnett), Anaheim (runners-up for Paul Konerko), and Arlington (losers of bidding wars for both free agent Kyle Farnsworth and Florida fire sale chip Josh Beckett) are not.
Another good tidbit from the must-bookmark MLB Trade Rumors: Cincinnati’s Austin Kearns (who they should have traded about three years ago) for Cubs Jerome Williams and Ricky Nolasco. After losing out on Furcal Chicago GM Jim Hendry is desperate to make some kind of splash and he certainly doesn’t lack for young talent (which Dusty Baker won’t play, anyway). Kearns would be an upgrade from Jeromy Burnitz in any event. Although Johnny Damon remains the sleeping giant on the free agent scene thanks to demented agent Scott Boras (who apparently wants 7 years and $84 million for the 32-year-old Damon), I think he’d be a good fit for the Cubs if his price comes down any. Better than Julio Lugo or Joey Gathright, anyway.
And it never ends: Kevin Millwood to Seattle, Paul Byrd to replace him in Cleveland. Trevor Hoffman’s name has also been mentioned in connection with the Indians. The Marlins sent Luis Castillo to the Twins and Paul Lo Duca to the Mets and are weighing offers for Juan Pierre. The Florida fire sale is, no way around it, embarrassing for baseball, but the Fish have done a better job than the last time around in securing promising prospects in their salary dumps: Yusmeiro Petit, Travis Bowyer, Gaby Hernandez. The very fact that there was a last time around, though, is pretty awful.
One kind of weird thing that’s new on me: FOXSports.com in its AL offseason report cards indicates the Mariners are after Jason Jennings and/or Aaron Cook. Jennings, fine. He makes a lot of money for a Colorado pitcher and he’s not getting any better. But the Rockies would be completely insane to deal Aaron Cook, the closest thing to an ace they’ve ever had and a relative bargain as an early arbitration-years player. Also, Seattle doesn’t have anybody the Rockies want besides Yorvit Torrealba, who’s not worth Cook or Jennings, and Felix Hernandez who I assure you is not for sale. Anyway Dayn Perry turns right around and in his NL report cards claims that Colorado has no interest in trading either of their starters, which begs the question of why exactly he brought it up in the first place.
One team to keep an eye on at the winter meetings is the Devil Rays, who are under new management and have a lot of chips to deal. Hopefully the evil spectre of Chuck LaMar won’t haunt them into overplaying their hand and walking away with nothing from one of the hottest sellers’ markets in recent memory. Another small-market story is developing in Milwaukee, where the smokescreens are already up regarding the status of Lyle Overbay. He’s going somewhere, folks. The weirdest rumor involving Overbay that I’ve heard has him going to Boston for Matt Clement, which seems odd since Clement’s contract is ludicrous and the Red Sox already have Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis to staff the infield corners. If Boston doesn’t want to start Youkilis they should really trade him, because he’s been ready to be an everyday player in the big leagues for two years now. Milwaukee fans still recovering from the three-headed Russell Branyan-Wes Helms-Jeff Cirillo monster at third would certainly welcome the Greek God of Walks appearing in those sassy retro uniforms, and it would free up TGTBATB fave Bill Hall to go back to his natural super-utility role.
This is but the first day of the meetings! Tomorrow will probably be crazier still. Yikes.
My father just called to say he was listening to the radio in Chicago and he heard a real ******* of a trade rumor: Barry Zito to Chicago, Kerry Wood to Texas, assorted young guys to Oakland. I haven’t seen it repeated anywhere else yet, so I’m just going to go ahead and mention it so I can feel smart if it turns out to be true.
Meanwhile, the latest news on the Rockies is both good and bad. They’re definitely talking to Byung-Hyun Kim, which is good. But they still want Shawn Estes, which is bad. Esteban Loaiza’s contract has effectively removed mentions of Colorado in connection with Matt Morris. Oh well, that was a pipe dream. Cubs reliever Todd Wellemeyer is mentioned as a trade target, which is interesting. Wellemeyer is affordable and changes speeds well.
Hooray for Colorado losing 70-3 in the Big 12 Championship Game!
The Rockies avoid the sweep thanks to a 9-run inning off of Jon Lieber and another solid home start by Jeff Francis. Omar Quintanilla was 1 for 3 in his first game with the big club. Ryan Shealy was 2 for 4. Dustan Mohr had a double and a homer but sadly was not traded. J.D. Closser responded to his near-demotion with a 2 for 4 day including a double.
The big news today is no news at all. The Rockies were unable to move Larry Bigbie, Mohr, or Desi Relaford. The official site has a bill of sale to present to you on this issue. Don’t believe the hype. Colorado bungled this trade season badly and if there was any justice in the world heads would roll for it. Zach Day, J.J. Davis, Bigbie, and miscellaneous Yankee "prospects" are not building blocks for the future. Quintanilla is going to be a good one (and even right now, he’s approximately a million billion times better than Aaron Miles), but whatever happened with Boston, the fact is the organization is now saddled with more singles-hitting tweener outfielders than they could possibly have any use for. They still don’t have a catcher. And, extraordinarily, they’ve failed to add even a single acceptable starting pitcher candidate (Day doesn’t count) even while sending off Shawn Chacon and Joe Kennedy.
I watched ESPNews all day today and not a mention was made of the shoddy handling Boston made of their "agreed-upon" deal with O’Dowd. The sad fact is nobody cares when a successful team with a national following reams one run by gibbering idiots. They expect it, actually. Still, would you rather be a fan of the Rockies, who gave up a roll call of popular players for basically nothing, or Pittsburgh or Tampa Bay, who refused to back down on their demands for solid returns and ended up doing not much at all?
Except for Mohr, whom I suppose is not too long of a shot for a waiver deal, the Rockies’ lineup today reflected the youth movement that we’ve been promised since before spring training started. About time. With Shoppach off the board, there is no defensible reason for not giving J.D. Closser the bulk of the starts at catcher the rest of the year. Atkins–Luis Gonzalez-Q-Ryan Shealy isn’t a bad little infield. Matt Holliday should stay a fixture in left. Bigbie, Jorge Piedra, and Cory Sullivan will have to work it out amongst themselves who will grab the other spot after Brad Hawpe returns. Still, and I can’t emphasize this enough: We already had options for the infield. We already had a bunch of slap-hitting outfielders. We already have demonstrated that a decent to good Coors bullpen can be assembled using smoke, the Rule 5 draft, and mirrors. Where’s our catcher? Where’s our strikeout starting staff? For whom does the bell toll, Dan O’Dowd? It tolls for thee.
Aaron Cook dug the Rockies a hole they couldn’t get out of, even with a pair of Matt Holliday homers. The Colorado bullpen was really good (again), but even a rare 11-hit performance by the offense couldn’t overcome Cook, who gave up 11 hits himself (and 7 earned runs) in four and a third. Did they rush him back? Does it matter?
Meanwhile, Dan O’Dowd looks stupid (surprise, surprise) as he ends up stuck with Larry Bigbie as the Boston deal falls apart. The Red Sox grabbed Jose Cruz, Jr. from the Diamondbacks so they don’t want Bigbie even if they can’t send Shoppach to Tampa Bay for Aubrey Huff. What does it say about O’Dowd that the Red Sox would rather work with Chuck LaMar, who’s like a "South Park" character when it comes to negotiating trades (and I’m not just talking about the overextended run): "Han-LEY! Han-LEY! Han-LEY! Hanley."
The Rockies will try and create the illusion of progress by designating Desi Relaford for assignment (as they should have done in, oh, April) and calling up Omar Quintanilla. Make no mistake, though, if they don’t move Bigbie before the deadline, this trade season has been a spectacular failure. The Rockies’ shopping list was not iffy relief prospects, more tweener outfielders, and a second baseman. Not only haven’t the Rockies gotten any of the pieces they needed (besides Quintanilla), but they burned off two of their best offseason trading chips in Byrnes and Chacon. The Rockies are going to be awful the rest of this year with the starting pitching they have, and they’re going to be equally bad next year. No more second chances, Dan.
I want to believe the best about what the team is trying to do but the end result of their manuevering thus far strains credibility past its breaking point. This isn’t Pittsburgh or Kansas City. The Rockies’ attendance woes are their own fault and I fail to see how trading Preston Wilson,Shawn Chacon, and Eric Byrnes for buckets of dirt (thrifty dirt) gives them any chance whatsoever of improving the product on the field.
So, Oakland looks pretty good, huh? Think the Brewers have a shot at .500? What are the White Sox going to do in the wake of the Frank Thomas injury? There’s too much good season left to waste much time thinking about Colorado baseball.
Update: For what it’s worth, ESPN’s Rumor Central (subscription required) says four or five other teams have an interest in Bigbie and he could still be traded before the deadline, which is in less than three hours.
Boston.com reports Bigbie for Shoppach/Stern is dead. On the other hand ESPN says Tampa Bay is now out of the Man-Ram discussions and the Red Sox and Mets will work it out by themselves if it gets worked out at all. Apparently Chuck LaMar wanted Jon Lester and Hanley Ramirez. Is it any wonder the experts say LaMar "doesn’t know how to trade?" I doubt Shoppach is going to be involved in a Mike Cameron-for-Manny deal, so the Bigbie trade may well be resurrected at the last moment.
Shawn Chacon pitched well in his Yankees debut, helping defeat the Angels (and move the A’s to a mere 2 1/2 back). Aaron Cook unfortunately has not been so great in his first major league start of the year.
Now, this is more like it. Hours after the Eric Byrnes-for-Larry Bigbie trade was announced, Colorado flips Bigbie to Boston for a younger, cheaper lefty-swinging outfielder who hits for average and can play some center, and a potential long-term solution at catcher (link courtesy of Purple Row). Bigbie for Kelly Shoppach and Adam Stern (or, in the long view, Jay Witasick and Joe Kennedy for Shoppach, Stern, and Omar Quintanilla) is a deal that improves the Colorado organization while costing them little.
Kelly Shoppach is the prize here, so let’s do him first. Kelly is 25 (born 4/29/1980) and is regarded as a fine defensive backstop. More pleasing to mine eyes are his high walk numbers and 22 homers for the PawSox last season. He’s killing ’em in repeating AAA this year: 21 jacks, .260/.360/.527. And the Prospectus says Pawtucket is a pitchers’ park! BP projected him to have a higher (major league) VORP than either Closser or Ardoin this year so the Rockies ought to plug him right in. Any trade that brings an end to the ugliness of the Danny Ardoin era is sunshine and posies to me. The Baseball America book has him as the #8 guy in the Red Sox system and notes that he was voted best defensive catcher by International League managers last year. He strikes out a lot, but if he can hit homers and draw walks, who cares? Shoppach was a second-round pick by the Red Sox out of Baylor in 2001. He’s 5’11", 210 in case you were planning on buying him a suit. He swings righty.
Adam Stern is more of a sleeper, but his line in AAA is sweet: .303/.365/.474 in 76 ABs. Stern was only in Pawtucket because he was recovering from a broken right thumb he suffered in spring training; he’s a Rule 5 guy originally from the Braves’ organization. He’s 5’11", 180 and was born 2/12/1980 (the same month as me, incidentally). Unlike most Atlanta prospects, he went to college. The Braves took him in the third round out of Nebraska in ’01. It’s easy to see what attracted Theo Epstein to Stern: a .378 OBP in AA Greenville last year. Stern has no home run power whatsoever (14 on his career) but he’ll hit some doubles and he can steal a base. John Sickels says Stern "has a solid lefty swing and should hit for average at all levels." BA has him at #23 in the Boston system. If the slight uptick in walk rate Stern has showed this season isn’t a fluke, he’s going to be a real useful player.
A starting lineup next Opening Day of Hawpe, Stern, and Holliday in the outfield, Atkins, Barmes, Quintanilla, and Todd Helton on the infield, and a battery of Jeff Francis and Shoppach isn’t awful for the price the Rockies will be paying. Aside from the vexing question of who’s going to pitch the second, third, fourth, and fifth games.
Update: As of very early Saturday morning the Boston Herald was reporting that Shoppach was among the prospects to be included in a package sent to Tampa Bay as part of a three-way Manny Ramirez deal also involving the Mets. ESPN is calling that same deal as good as dead. The Boston Globe seems more sanguine about a Manny deal going through but is less certain that Shoppach will be included. It’s possible that Man-Ram will get his way (although how New York is going to offer him greater privacy is beyond me) and the lesser Bigbie deal will occur as here described. The Denver Post seems a beat or two behind but does note that Anderson Machado is gone (Anderson, we hardly knew ye) and Desi Relaford will follow him by the trade deadline one way or another. The future is now!
Eric Byrnes for Larry Bigbie. Ah, yeah. Bigbie is lefthanded, and cheaper. The Rockies still have way too many outfielders who don’t hit home runs.
Meanwhile, the expected crazy stuff is going down right before the deadline. The Padres found a team to trade Phil Nevin to that he couldn’t veto, the Rangers. For their trouble they get Chan Ho Park. It’s like bad contract-palooza. Torii Hunter could be out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury. That could be it for the Twins’ playoff chances. Meanwhile the Mets, Red Sox, and Devil Rays are working on a super-colossal Man-Ram deal. Who knows, trading franchise players has suddenly become good luck for Boston. I’m watching Oakland and Detroit as I’m writing this and it honestly looks as if the A’s may never lose again. Kirk Saarloos is their fifth starter and he’s better than anyone the Rockies have now or in fact have ever had. That’s kind of depressing.