January 23, 2011
Right at the top I really want to thank each of you for reading my columns. Just yesterday, without a new post, I received close to 100 unique readers, which I think is pretty solid for being less than 2 weeks old. Please keep spreading the word and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if there are things you would like me to write about or just general feedback.
Toronto trades OF Vernon Wells to Anaheim for OF Juan Rivera and C/1B Mike Napoli
Hooray! Nationals fans can breathe a sigh of relief… fans were worried that the media would slam the Jayson Werth contract as the worst move of the off-season, but thank goodness for the GM of the Angels. Acquiring Vernon Wells and his 4 years and $86 million while giving up C/1B Mike Napoli, a weak defensive but solid hitting catcher who can play 1B and DH, along with Juan Rivera, a decent right handed hitting corner OF is simply head scratching. Wells is a above average player, whose skills are beginning to deteriorate both offensively and defensively, but his contract pays him as an in his prime superstar. I know the Angel fans and the media were heavily criticizing the club for their lack of off-season moves, but this reeks of desperation. With Peter Bourjos ready to take over in CF, and Torii Hunter ,Bobby Abreu, and Juan Rivera already under contract for 2011 (and Mike Trout about 12-18 months from arriving in the big leagues) why acquire such a expensive contract at an area of little need? To take Wells and move him from CF to LF further drives down his value, and further makes me question the thinking behind this deal. There is no question that Wells upgrades their outfield, but adding that additional payroll and trading away solid players makes this a lousy long-term move for the organization.
For the Blue Jays, their fans have to be ecstatic, as their rebuilding plans have probably moved up 12-24 months by clearing that albatross of a contract from their books. This club has some solid young pitching, a developing farm system with a rash of picks in this upcoming amateur draft in June, and little in the way of long-term contracts. Napoli should split his time at catcher with prospect JP Arencibia, and 1B/DH with Adam Lind, while Rivera should start in LF on opening day and perhaps serve as a trade chip during the season. In short, those expletives and loud shouting noises you heard Friday were from the executives of the other AL East teams, as the Blue Jays just became a much larger threat in the division.
Rumor: the Nationals heavily pursued 1B James Loney
A report from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe this morning came out with news that before the Nationals signed Adam LaRoche to serve as the teams first baseman for the next two years, the club heavily pursued James Loney from the Los Angeles Dodgers. On the surface, this makes a ton of sense, as Loney is known as a solid defensive first baseman with the ability to drive in runs, similar to LaRoche. The big knock on Loney has always been in the power department: he just does not hit for the number of home runs typically expected from the position. Loney now into his arbitration years, saw his salary jump to over $5 million in 2011, certainly no bargain. So why did the Nationals resist: well according to Cafardo, the Dodgers insisted on Ian Desmond AND Jordan Zimmermann in return for Loney’s services.
The Dodgers must be overcome with a case of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. I guess they think Loney will begin to hit for more power, because Desmond and Zimmermann should be the beginning of a trade package for a superstar caliber player, not a league average 1B. While Desmond and Zimmermann are both somewhat unproven, both have the potential to be above average starters, with Zimmermann perhaps as a #2 starter in time. Glad the front office resisted this “temptation“ and signed the better player in Adam LaRoche.
Rumor: Tampa Bay signs LF/DHs Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon
WOW! And just as the consensus started to assume that the Rays would take a huge step back this season, they acquire two veterans who may have something left in the tank. According to Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated, Johnny Damon will receive a one-year contract worth $5.25 million with $750k in incentives, and Manny Ramirez will receive a one-year deal worth $2 million. Assuming these signings do happen, Damon likely slots into left field, with uber prospect Desmond Jennings in right field, along with others, and Manny should slide into the DH spot. While Manny may not be the hitter he was a few years ago, even last season while marred with injuries and controversy, he batted .298/.409/.460 in 320 plate appearances. If both of these players still have something in the tank, this just made the Rays VERY interesting this season, and should help them keep pace with Boston and New York in the AL East. Damon’s play has deteriorated in recent years, but he still does an excellent job of getting on base and could provide the Rays with a poor man’s version of Carl Crawford, minus the excellent defense. And Manny should be a positive upgrade at DH from last years club and should fill the hole left in the lineup by Carlos Pena’s departure to the Chicago Cubs.
I still prefer the roster of Boston, and to a lesser degree, the Yankees compared to the Rays, but with these two signings, the gap has closed significantly and these moves could go down as two of the best value signings of this winter. Excellent job by Tampa’s front office.
Finally, for those that are interested, I will take Pittsburgh minus the points and Green Bay minus the points today. Just think the gap of Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers is too great compared to Mark Sanchez and Jay Cutler and will be the difference in the games today.
Pittsburgh 24- Jets 14
Green Bay 30- Chicago 13
Thanks again for reading and I will be back tomorrow with a new column.