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Thursday, December 16, 2004

What a day. Several important moves involving the M's, so forgive the long post. God, where to begin?

The Beltre signing is a hell of a job by the organization. He is a guy who is a) just entering his prime, b) coming off a season where he led the MLB in homeruns, c) plays a position in short supply right now, and d) doesn't have a serious injury history. Three years ago, this guy gets $100+ million, easily. I'm frankly pretty shocked he came for so cheap. I think he's almost as valuable a commodity as Beltran going forward, and comes for less than 2/3 of what Carlos will probably eventually go for.

I don't hate the Sexson signing as much as some writers have (even Buster Olney hated it!). He is a local kid, which really seems to matter to the M's marketing department, as much as us real baseball fans mock it. More importantly, he is a guy who has a shot at hitting 35-40 HR's per year. Yeah, they gave him a lot more than he's worth, but does it really matter that much? Won't the team just make up some arbitrary payroll number, and cry poverty anyway? Do we really think that the difference between $12.5 mil and $8 mil will be the difference between the M's making a profit or not? Also, first base is not as crowded with elite players as it once was. Julio Franco, Robin Ventura, Tony Clark, Scott Hatteberg, and the steaming remains of John Olerud all saw significant time at the sack for playoff teams. Hell, Sexson can get on base, hit the ball far, and catch it. I'll expect him to have three of the four years that look like the prime of Jay Buhner. Or else his shoulder flies apart.

With all of the excitement, the DFA of Luis Ugueto kind of slid underneath the radar. It makes the fact they carried his dead weight for most of 2002 (up until that devastating late season hangnail) more laughable. Somewhere down south, Lou Pinella is coughing up a lung laughing about this. Still, kind of surprising they held two expendable third basemen (Dobbs and Leone) over a AAA shortstop who may be a useful insurance policy for a shallow position next year. Still, this is the time of year he might sneak through anyway. If he doesn't, there are others out there just like him.

The Hudson trade seems kind of bizarre. The got a lefty with a low strikeout rate (not to be confused with the Mariners first 'star'), a spot starter with a live arm and no control, and a 26-year-old outfielder with only 250 MLB AB's. At first glance, Thomas looks like the kind of guy the A's value - high OBP, decent pop. Looking into the numbers further, nearly half of his walks were intentional, and he got hit by a flukish amount of pitches. He only earned his base about once every 20 times up. If he doesn't hit .288 again, he'll be Terrance Long. I would have thought they'd have gotten a little more. Kenny Williams must not have been by the phone today.

The M's position players look pretty set - the only question seems to be who the utility infielder is going to be. I'm feeling hopeful that the fallout from today's signing includes the end of the Bloomquist era. Sure, the difference between two utility infielders probably won't mean a damn thing in the standings; but still, he really doesn't belong in the MLB. I think the team will bring back Cabrera, as he can handle shortstop a little better.

Jeez, if the M's pitching weren't such a shambles, I'd think they could actually contend next year. Right now, though, I don't see a dependable starter in the stack. Madritsch was good last year, but don't expect him to continue giving up a tater every four starts. He'll come back down to earth, probably in league average territory. Pinero may come back OK, but the reports on his elbow last year were scary. If the reports about elbow damage last year were true, don't expect anything from his this year. Moyer looked done last year, but he did in 2000, too. His run at the single season souvenier record seems a little flukish - if he comes back down to 20-some gopher balls, he'll be at least passable in the back of the rotation. Meche and Franklin don't exactly fill me with confidence.

So where is this going? If the M's want to contend next year, they'll need to take a chance on a high-risk, high-potential reward starter. I'd put Derek Lowe, Orlando Hernandez, Estaban Loiza, and (disclaimer: this is sort of a joke) Jose Lima all in this category. These guys should all be available for a short deal, maybe one year plus an option. If they can find the old magic, they might scrape above .500. If they pitch like you would predict - badly - toss 'em in the garbage and bring up the kids. The season would be over by then, anyway.

Damn, Adrian Beltre. Nice job, Bavasi. I'm looking forward to the season now.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Grand Salami would like to give a final tip of the cap to one of our favorite players: Mark McLemore. Mark was a class guy when he was here, and was always good for a joke at the photo booth. We'll miss you, Mac.

Now to the good news: the Diamondbacks just signed Russ Ortiz! One more mediocre pitcher is officially off the radar. Four years, $34 mil. It looks like the Snakes would like to challenge the (formerly?) Montreal Expos and both New York teams for worst off-season signings. They'll now owe Ortiz and Glaus about $20 mil in 2008. I'll predict at least one of them will be a millstone by then.

Remember that by this time last year, our Billy B (you know, the other Billy B) had jumped the gun and signed a bunch of expensive mediocrities. Perhaps he is learning his lesson, as he has laid back and waited for the big fish this time. I'll have to admit, I'm feeling hopeful: Beltre, Beltran, Delgado, Sexson, Drew, Clement, and Renteria are all available. The Yanks have already spent a lot, and spend $1.50 or so for every $1 another team spends from here out due to luxury tax. The Cubs, Rangers and Dodgers will get at best one of these guys each. The Red Sox have their hands full bringing back the old guys. Maybe Anaheim or Baltimore gets one. It's getting harder to imagine a scenario in which the M's don't get at least one, maybe two A list guys.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

I would like to encourage everyone to buy MLB.com's all-access video pass. It's only $4 a month and you can watch video highlights from last season and some highlights from previous seasons.
Want to see every home run Mike Cameron hit last year? No problem...
Feel like watching every error Willie Bloomquist made? You're a few clicks away!
Seriously, it's money well spent. Check it out!


Thursday, December 02, 2004

Andy Sisco
Although I’ve been told otherwise, I still believe (as does Will Carroll) that Andy Sisco will be available in the Rule 5 draft next week. He was 18 years old when he was selected by the Cubs in the 2nd round of the 2001 draft, so, according to Rob Neyer’s invaluable Transactions Primer, Sisco should be available.

Neyer says: “A player not on a team's Major League 40-man roster is eligible for the Rule 5 draft if: the player was 18 or younger when he first signed a pro contract and this is the fourth Rule 5 draft since he signed, OR if he was 19 or older when he first signed a pro contract and this is the third Rule 5 draft since he signed.”

Just as they will in June, the Mariners hold the third pick in the Rule 5, and if Sisco were still available, I would love to see him come home (he’s from Redmond). He could spend a year with Bryan Price, working on his mechanics, developing his pitches, and seeing a few innings here and there, probably mostly mopping up out of the bullpen.

Here is what Baseball Prospectus said about Sisco in their 2004 book:

Sisco’s fastball-curve combo is good and should continue to get better, as should his command. He’s well ahead of where Randy Johnson was at the same age. The concern is his delivery. Sisco has an odd 5/8ths arm slot, and a habit of leaning forward with his body last leaves him off-kilter as he releases the ball. Although the injury that sidelined him for part of the summer did not occur while he was on the mound—Sisco broke his hand, reportedly as a result of punching a clubhouse wall—refining his mechanics is a critical given the big frame he’s carrying.

While his mechanics need work, Sisco’s 5/8ths arm-slot makes it tough for both righties and lefties to pick up his pitches. On top of that deception, Sisco is a 6’9” lefty with a fastball in the mid-90s and a decent changeup, so obviously he has great upside. His other pitches need some work (he’s been known to use a splitter, curve and slider), but with his size and stuff, there have been a lot of Randy Johnson comparisons. Personally, I don’t think comparing a player who hasn’t played in AA to one of the best pitchers in baseball history is really fair. Sure, Sisco could be the next Randy Johnson, but he could just as easily be the next Jeff Juden or Kyle Farnsworth. A more realistic comparison would probably be someone like C.C. Sabathia.

One of the best Rule 5 selections is Johan Santana. Here are Santana’s pre-Rule 5 numbers, next to Sisco’s minor league numbers to this point:

Name---IP---ERA-K/9-BB/9
Santana-334.0-4.77-8.76-3.37
Sisco----331.0-3.72-9.92-3.94

As you can see, I really need to figure out how to insert tables! As you can also see...while they are very similar, Sisco put up slightly better numbers prior to being exposed to the Rule 5 draft. There are certainly other factors to consider and this probably doesn't mean much, but I still found it interesting.

If you check out his minor league statistics, you will see that after being drafted in the second round of the 2001 draft, Sisco has spent four years in professional baseball, slowly progressing through the ranks. He played for the Daytona Cubs of the Florida State League last season and will turn 22 a month after the Rule 5 draft.

Santana, on the other hand, was a few months shy of 21 when the Twins plucked him from the Astros’ system in 1999. Like Sisco, Santana topped out at A-ball before being exposed to the Rule 5 draft. He spent 2000 in Minnesota, pitching 86 innings in 30 games, five of which were starts. Santana struggled through those 86 innings, posting an ERA of 6.49 after giving up 102 hits—11 of which were home runs—striking out 64 and walking 54.

In conclusion, there isn’t a lot at risk by picking up Sisco—-either financially or in the standings—-and there is a lot that could be gained. Although the M's are already pretty loaded with minor league arms, Sisco would certainly be a welcommed addition in my eyes, but I won't be holding my breath!

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