2007 MLB Rumors Awards

Sunday, September 30, 2007

What an amazing end to a crazy season. Many leads were shrank and got big again, and some were even blown. The Rockies are making a case to be in the playoffs winning 13 of 14 to close the season and force a one game playoff against the Padres. Even if they don't win, that is great baseball. Furthermore, the Marlins and Nationals played great baseball towards the end to knock out the Mets and pull the Brewers closer to the Cubs, even though they weren't able to hold on. The Red Sox made it interesting against the Yankees but were also able to hang on, but they lost Clay Bucholz for the playoffs, which may or may not have any impact on the team. Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, and Greg Maddux finished their seasons with their respective teams, although they might not be done. Here are my 2007 Awards before they are officially announced:

National League MVP: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
- He played 162 games of great baseball and lead his team into the post season.
STATS: .296 AVG, 30 HR, 94 RBI, 41, SB.

National League Cy Young: Jake Peavy, Padres
- Although it could change if he loses the one game playoff, he has been consistent all season leading the Padres rotation.
STATS: 19-6 W-L, 2.36 ERA, 234 K.

National League Rookie of the Year: Ryan Braun, Brewers
- Troy Tulowitski is a close second, but Braun came up and showed impressive numbers for such a short time in the majors.
STATS: .324 AVG, 34 HR, 97 RBI, 15 SB.

National League Comeback Player of the Year: Derrek Lee, Cubs
- Lee broke his wrist in 2006 and the team fell apart from their finishing with a league worst 66 wins. Now he came back and although his swing was changed, he developed into more of a pure hitter than a homerun hitter.
STATS: .317 AVG, 22 HR, 82 RBI, 6 SB, 43 2B.

National League Manager of the Year: Lou Piniella, Cubs
- The Cubs were all but eliminated in mid June, when nothing seemed to be going their way. Piniella stepped up and put the attention on him and since them, the team had the best record in baseball, and he lead them into the playoffs.
RECORD: 85-77 W-L, .525 PCT, Playoff Appearance.

American League MVP: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
- Hands down. Dominated all season and kept the Yankees together during the low times.
STATS: .314 AVG, 54 HR, 156 RBI, 24 SB.

American League Cy Young: Josh Beckett, Red Sox
- He was very good all season and stepped up to lead the rotation. Although Sabathia won some big games for the Indians, Carmona and Byrd were right behind him in key games.
STATS: 20-7 W-L, 3.27 ERA, 194 K.

American League Rookie of the Year: Brian Bannister, Royals
- I am pretty sure he is still considered a rookie, but has stepped up nonetheless. Not many rookie pitchers could have done as well as he has on a team with such poor run support. He was like a veteran for that staff and really helped some of those young guys.
STATS: 12-9 W-L, 3.87 ERA, 77 K.

American League Comeback Player of the Year: Carlos Pena
- With out a doubt, surprised us all. Stepped up huge for the Devil Rays and will be a definite impact for the next several seasons.
STATS: .282 AVG, 46 HR, 121 RBI, 1 SB.

American League Manager of the Year: Mike Scoiscia
- He didn't have a lot to work with, but found the right young players and used them properly and it was obvious by the lead they had ending the season.
STATS: 94-68 W-L. .580 PCT.


Interview with Branch Rickey

Last week, I had the privilege of interview Pacific Coast League President Branch Rickey. Rickey has been apart of baseball his whole life, being the son of Branch Rickey Jr. and the grandson of the famous Hall of Famer Branch Rickey, who is probably most remembered for signing Jackie Robinson. He has helped improve the Pacific Coast league in attendance, and before that, developed many great players in the Pirates and Reds systems like Barry Bonds. I want to thank Branch Rickey for doing this interview for me, I really appreciate it.

ELI: What are your day to to day duties as the President of the Pacific Coast League?

BRANCH: I will usually come to work with a few things to do but most of my work I would say comes up throughout the day. I know it is hard to believe that sometimes I come to work with nothing planned, but it is rare that something does not come up.

ELI: During your time, minor league attendance numbers have sky rocketed. What has been done to increase that?

BRANCH: I think it is the improvement of the stadiums. A lot of the stadiums are old and when you can build a new stadium, in a city that wants baseball, you can draw people to the stadium. Also, when the facilities in the stadiums like bathrooms, food, and seats are upgraded, you get people of all ages wanting to come to the park. In some instances, minor league stadiums still being used today are from Franklin Roosevelt's job programs from the thirties. So you can imagine that those are smaller, and old fashioned, which some people do not like.

ELI: You once worked with the Pirates and Reds in Player Development. Did any players cross your path that went on to be great players?

BRANCH: Barry Bonds was in the minors when I was with the Pirates. He was a smaller guy back then, and a great spray hitter. He has come to be a dead pull hitter, but you could see his power and understanding of the game back then. If I had to compare him to any player, it would Willy Stargell. Willy was similar to Bonds. He was once a spray hitter who turned into a dead pull. Very slender, but had great power to both sides of the field, similar to Bonds now.

ELI: Your grandfather developed the minor league system, did you ever hear how the idea came about?

BRANCH: Yes. What he did was take all the independent leagues from around the country and rated them based on the level of play, grouped them into a league. He was working with the Cardinals at the time who couldn't afford big time players. So, to be able to dig into these leagues, or systems, he was able to get good, young talent. At first, the teams that were with a certain club had verbal agreements, which ultimately turned into contracts like they are today.

ELI: Jackie Robinson wasn't considered the best player in the Negro Leagues. Why do you think he was chosen over some of the better players?

BRANCH: Actually, I think the consensus was that he was the best player, by certain criteria however. He was the best able to withstand, develop, and lead a team. Furthermore, he was certainly the most athletic, and probably the best mentally to face arguments and other things like that.

ELI: Your grandfather and father played key roles in baseball and developing players. What was the best baseball advice they gave you?

BRANCH: I do not think it was anything verbal, more by way of example. I saw how they dealt with problems and handled their day to day duties and how they did it with integrity and pride.

ELI: Were you upset to see the Dodgers move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles?

BRANCH: I was actually standing right next to my grandfather when he heard the news. He thought it was very unfair, deceptive, and they didn't have the right reasons. But we had quite an attachment to Brooklyn, we saw many players grow up, and fans keep coming back. Although he said it was "The Greatest Betrayal of sports that I've ever known," it really was good for baseball in the long run.

ELI: What stadiums are doing well attendance wise?

BRANCH: The Sacramento Cats did very well this season.

ELI: How about Des Moines?

BRANCH: They are impressive because they are in such a small city.

ELI: What is your favorite baseball movie?

BRANCH: Field of Dreams.

ELI: What has been the best baseball game you have ever been to?

BRANCH: I was at the game where Roberto Clemente got his 3,000 hit, which happened to be his last of his life. I was also at the 7th game of the 1960 World Series when the Pirates beat the Yankees. Both those were very exciting.


Red Sox Playing Safe With Rookies

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Unlike many teams, the Red Sox are playing it safe with their young pitchers, not letting them get overworked in their rookie season. Names like Mark Prior, Carl Pavano, Rich Harden, Darren Dreifort, and even Mike Hampton all come as pitchers who were over worked throughout their young careers. When rookie Clay Bucholz reported that he had shoulder fatigue, the Red Sox did not hesitate to end his season and give him a shot next season. "I'm going to get home, take a few days off and start working towards next year,'' Buchholz said. "The key is to get to spring training, get healthy and try to fight for a role in the starting rotation.'' The Red Sox do have a full bullpen and playoff ready pitchers with their hitting starting to pick up. I don't think this will hurt them in the playoffs but hopefully this is not a reoccurring problem and it won't come back to haunt the Red Sox in 2008 and beyond.

FROM ESPN: Buchholz pitched 125 1/3 innings in the minor leagues thus year, going 7-2 with a 1.77 ERA for Double-A Portland and 1-3 with a 3.96 ERA at Triple-A Pawtucket. He is 3-1 with a 1.59 ERA in 22 2/3 innings for Boston.


Padres Favorite To Land Fukudome

Friday, September 28, 2007

Despite having shoulder surgery, Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, 30, will be well sought after this offseason when he becomes a free agent. He can put up good power numbers, is a solid fielder, and could be slotted in the just about any outfield. The Padres nearly signed him out of high school when he was still a shortstop, but opted to stay in Japan. Still their GM, Kevin Towers, when asked if he still had any interest in Fukudome said, "Absolutely." Not only that, but Mike Cameron will be a free agent this off season along with Milton Bradley, so there is room for him. Fukudome has the potential to hit 20 homeruns, with an average around .290. He has drawn comparisons to Hideki Matsui for his power at the plate, ability to get on base, and his cannon in the outfield. The Padres would benefit from his bat in the lineup because of his ability to hit the gaps, especially in clutch situations. The White Sox, Mariners, Cubs, Rangers, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Giants are all known to be interested in acquiring him, but the Padres see him more as a priority signing rather than a fallback behind players like Hunter, Jones, and Rowand. In 2006, he hit .351 with 31 HR and 104 RBI and drew 93 walks.


Bonds A Tiger?

Many are suggesting that the Tigers go after Barry Bonds making him their part time DH. They do have Gary Sheffield, but he can also platoon with Cameron Maybin in leftfield, so at-bats will be will spread. He will cost less this off season and will be just as productive, if not better coming over to the American League. Not only that, putting him in your lineup where teams are more likely than not going to pitch around him, you will have an extra runner on base. With Sheffield, Bonds, and Maybin, you could make sure they each got at least 120 games, with at least 300+ AB. Leyland would definitely be able to control the veteran Bonds, and Bonds would benefit to being in a locker room with a contending team. But how will Bonds and Sheffield do? They did play against each other for awhile when he was on the Dodgers, so there could be a feud or friendship there. From a business standpoint, he will draw so many fans to the stadium, jersey sales would go up, and media coverage as well. Not only that, but he is batting .276 AVG with 28 HR and 66 RBI, numbers that would definitely improve in the American League. It would be a smart move for the Tigers to take a chance on him, he won't cost much, and will do a lot for the Tigers.


Dodgers Little Should Go

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Coming into September, the Dodgers were in the run for a playoff spot and were playing great baseball. However, the team's veterans became upset after the younger players took their spot, began playing well, and shifted to a newer style of play. Luis Gonzalez and Jeff Kent were noticeably upset in the clubhouse and separating themselves from the team. Personally, I think they are upset because they saw this year as their last legitimate chance to win a World Series. "I've played a long time. I've played on some really good teams. I've been in the World Series once. So you hate to waste an opportunity, even if it's one and even if it's your first time. And it's hard to get them to understand that because they've haven't been there. So there lies some frustration." So where is Grady Little in all of this? Little did downplay comments but if there was a problem, he should have been all over the situation and squashed it before it got out of hand. I understand playing the rookies after elimination in back to back games and other things like that, but if they are playing well and you are in the hunt, why not play them. I think Kent is upset because his time is being cutback despite him leading the team in homeruns. Personally, there are several solid manager options next season and Little couldn't do anything for the team that has dropped five games this month. Maybe it isn't all him, but with a plethora of youth, you want a manager that can control those kind of emotions. Maybe Don Mattingly, or Joe Girardi?


Interview with Mark Shapiro

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

This morning, I had the privilege of interviewing Cleveland Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro. Despite just clinching a playoff spot and preparing for the post season, he gave me ten minutes to ask him some questions. Shapiro has been with the Indians since 1991 and recently lost his Special Assistant Neal Huntington to the Pirates, so he is a pretty busy guy right about now. I want to thank him again for giving me this interview, I really appreciate it.

ELI: You started with the Indians in 1991, what was your title then?

MARK: I wouldn't even say that I had a title, but I guess you could say Assistant in Baseball Operations.

ELI: Neal Huntington is going to the Pirates, how do you think he will do?

MARK: I think he will do great. He is prepared as possible, has had ideal training, knows how to develop players, has negotiated contracts, and has made important decisions, so I think he will do a great job there.

ELI: You were able to get Beau Mills signed early and off to the minors, where do you see him fitting into your future plans?

MARK: We usually don't look at him like that. We know his potential to be a middle of the order bat and help are team so we will see how he does as time goes on. We always try to draft guys that we would not be able to sign on the free agent market, and I think because we signed him early, he benefited and will ultimately make it sooner.

ELI: Was he eager to sign?

MARK: Yeah, I think he saw that the sooner he signed, the sooner he could make money and make it to the big leagues.

ELI: Now that the draft is over and you can plan for next season, what did you think of the rule change?

MARK: I think it had a minor impact on some teams.

ELI: Being in player development for so long, what did you see working for Fausto Carmona that wasn't working last season?

MARK: He developed the ability to slow the game down, remain focused on the mound, and execute his pitches more effectively. But his ability to slow it down allowed him to relax and get comfortable, which was a problem last season.

ELI: How many trade proposals are received a season?

MARK: There aren't many formal proposals but the ones the fans usually hear about do have some sort of significance in terms of they were talked about. Teams are always looking to improve their team so talks are ongoing all year.

ELI: The acquisition of Kenny Lofton sparked the team, how long was he on your radar?

MARK: I'd say a good amount of time. Once Dellucci went down we checked the list of corner outfielders and saw the Lofton would probably most help the team.

ELI: If you get the choice to which playoff schedule to follow, do you know which one you will take?

MARK: Yes, but I'm not going to tell you.

ELI: What would you say is the slow time during the off season?

MARK: Probably the end of December to early February. There just isn't a lot that has to be done during that time.

ELI: What do you hope to address this off season?

MARK: Not a lot of glaring needs so I think we will address internal contracts and always try to fortify are pitching.

ELI: Besides Jacobs Fields, do you have a favorite stadium?

MARK: I like Camden Yards because I grew up there and because of its history.

ELI: Do you usually travel with the team?

MARK: I'm not a big believer in traveling with the team. I do it strategically.

ELI: Princeton football is looking pretty good, any chance they could beat Michigan this season?

MARK: [Laughs] No.


Dodgers Prepare For Santana Craze

The Dodgers are preparing to make some critical decisions this offseason, including whether or not to trade for Twins pitcher Johan Santana. The Dodgers have a lot of prospects that they could trade away to acquire the All-Star pitcher, who would probably put up better numbers in the National League. What would it take to acquire him though? According to sources, the Dodgers would attempt to trade Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp to the Twins for Santana. Kemp would replace Hunter and Kershaw would be slotted right in the rotation. I think that it would probably take more though. The Dodgers have Chin-Lung Hu waiting in the wings to take over at shortstop and he has been doing very well as of late. And with Furcal entering the final year of his contract, you could see Furcal, Kemp, and Kershaw go to the Twins for Santana, cash, and maybe a minor leaguer. Furcal would take over at short and Bartlett would platoon at second for another year. It would give Twins a solid shortstop and trading option in July next season if needed. The Dodgers would definitely be a force in the NL West with this potential lineup. They will have for great pitchers, and a solid core of youth that could hold the NL West for the next years to come.


Report: Dunn Out Til May '08

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Today the team announced that Dunn will have arthroscopic knee surgery on his right knee. He hasn't started in a couple games and is batting .264 with 40 HR and 106 RBIs this season. He was set to make a lot of money if he were to opt out, but I'm sure if he can put up similar numbers, he can still get a large contract. He has a lot of power that most teams would want in their lineup everyday. But how long will he be out for this injury? With the surgery, which is set to take place tomorrow, it should take 4-6 weeks to recover and begin strength training and other things like that. They probably won't rush him to recover, but I doubt he will be out till May. They will probably play Buck Coats for the final games of the season. He was acquired from the Cubs this season and shows some potential, but they will find out more this week and Spring Training next season.


Padres Acquired Jason Lane

Monday, September 24, 2007

This is what you call a late edition. The Padres acquired Jason Lane from the Astros for a player to be named later and cash considerations. Lane was unlikely to be back with the Astros, and might be able to help the Padres in the final games with Milton Bradley and Mike Cameron out. Lane is batting .178 AVG this season with 8 HR and 27 RBI, but he hasn't made an error since 2005 which may give him a spot in the outfield for the final games of the season. Furthermore, since 2004, Lane has hit .280 AVG with 15 HR and 53 RBI in September versus the Giants and Brewers, who the Padres are playing in the final six games of the season. Lane won't be available for the playoffs and might not even be back with the Padres next season, but Kevin Towers must have felt that the Padres needed a veteran stop gap to hold their wild card lead. For the playoffs, they will probably put Rob Mackowiak in left field and Scott Hairston in center because Mike Cameron will is limited to pinch running for the next two weeks. The Padres could give themselves some breathing room tonight if they are able to win tonight against the Giants, but are missing two big bats in their lineup.


Interview with Kevin Towers

On Friday, I had the opportunity to interview the Padres General Manger Kevin Towers. Despite being in the playoff hunt, he set aside ten minutes to answer my questions and talk a little baseball with me. Kevin Towers joined the Padres in 1982 as a player and after leaving the team for a couple years to join the Pirates, he was back with the Padres as their GM where he is still working today. I want to thank him for giving me ten minutes to do this interview. It was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed it.

ELI: Where were you previously before joining the Padres?

KEVIN: I was actually a first round pick of the Padres back in 1982. I played several years in their system up until 1988. I played alongside the Alomar brothers winning a Pacific Coast League Championship. In 1989, I was an area scout in the Midwest and a pitching coach during the summer. From 1991 to '93, I worked with the Pirates as a Cross Checker, who is the right hand man to the Scouting Director. The following year I was hired as the scouting director for the Padres-

ELI: Did you scout any guys still playing today?

KEVIN: Yeah, Dustin Hermanson, Troy Glaus, but he didn't sign, Ben Davis, he is a catcher, he started with us as well. Then in 1995, I was hired as the General Manager where I am today.

ELI: Your number one pick in 2004 Matt Bush converted to a pitcher, how is he doing?

KEVIN: Bush got in about ten games before injuring his elbow. He is going to have Tommy John surgery and we hope to have him back by Spring Training in 2009. But, he was touching 98 mph on the gun so we hope he can come back strong and continue throwing the way he was.

ELI: What are your day to day duties as a General Manager during the off season?

KEVIN: Well, the off season is always a busy time, especially October to December. Your goals are to set the major league and minor league rosters, settle and arbitration hearings that you may have, set the major league staff, minor league staff, scouting staff, medical staff, strength and conditioning coaches, and other things like that.

ELI: What would you say is the slowest month of the year?

KEVIN: Probably January. By then, most players have signed and it is a time to get set up for Spring Training.

ELI: How about September?
KEVIN: It depends on where you are at. September is when you get to look at young players but when you are in a Pennant Race it is a time to do advanced work on opposition for the post season and begin thinking about the off season for potential free agents.

ELI: Can you tell me a little bit about the Michael Barrett trade, who contacted who?

KEVIN: The Cubs contacted us about Barrett and we wanted a veteran catcher like him because we didn't feel Bard or Bowen were ready to take an everyday role with their lack of experience. It worked out for both teams though. We got the veteran catcher we needed and they got a young defensive one.

ELI: Barrett is set to be a free agent, have you started talking with him at all?

KEVIN: I like to focus on that stuff more in the off season but he will definitely be considered. There are so many veteran catchers on the market that we will determine who would help us the most after the season. Whether it's Ausmus, Kendall, Barrett, Lo Duca, it will determined after the season. We do have some young guys like Nick Hundley or Colt Morton, and will get a better look at them in Spring Training.

ELI: You also acquired Kevin Kouzmanoff at the beginning of this season, was there any doubt in him when we was struggling in April?

KEVIN: Not too much. We needed a third baseman and trading Barfield didn't effect us too much because I believe it is the easiest position to fill. Giles, Belliard, and so many others were available. Also, Kouzmanoff has probably been are most productive player offensively since May.

ELI: Yeah, so you added Giles, what are the Giles brothers like in the clubhouse?

KEVIN: Those two are like an umbilical cord and they have wanted to play together for a long time now. It is rare that they are not fifteen feet from each other, or messing around in the clubhouse. Marcus hasn't been what we hoped at second base and he has an option for next year, so we'll see what happens.

ELI: When do teams start planning for the Trade Deadline?

KEVIN: Usually around early July but I am a very pro-active GM and I'll start probing certain teams in June. We'll start scanning rosters for fits and making calls to teams we think will be interested. If I knew Luis Castillo was available with the Twins, I would have called, but I didn't think he was available.

ELI: You were able to get Ensberg though, that was a solid pickup?

KEVIN: Yeah, we tried to get him in 2006 but the Astros weren't interested so Ensberg knew we were pretty interested all along.

ELI: Being with the Padres for so long you have probably formed some good trading partners, do you have any?

KEVIN: Yeah I suppose. The Rangers and I have worked some good trades over the past couple years. We were able to get Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez for Adam Eaton and Aki Otsuka. We also acquired Chan Ho Park in exchange for Phil Nevin, so they are probably are most active partner.
ELI: Were you surprised by anything Greg Maddux brought to the Padres?

KEVIN: No, he was pretty much advertised the way he is. His interactions with young players, the way he fields his position, how he uses the bat, everything is just about what we expected.

ELI: You usually don't get pitchers that are 6'10'', do you think he has an advantage over most hitters?

KEVIN: It definitely helps with his deception. He isn't the hardest throwing, but the way he hides the ball makes it look 5 mph faster.
ELI: Do you have a favorite NL Stadium besides PETCO?

KEVIN: Yeah, I love Wrigley Field, but it isn't the most comfortable. I also like San Francisco. Probably my all time favorite though is Pittsburgh. It is a very intimate stadium aside from the playing field and you have a great view of the skyline looking on into the city.

ELI: When trading minor leaguers, do you have any untouchables?

KEVIN: Nobody is untouchable if the right deal presents itself. I have three tiers though: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. I like to stay away from the 1st, and even the 2nd a little bit if I can but that is how I classify them if I have to.
ELI: Alright, what is your favorite sports movie?

KEVIN: Bang the Drum Slowly. It was made in the 70s.
ELI: Did you have a favorite player growing up?

KEVIN: Yeah, Tom Seaver. He was so good and had lighting stuff, a great fastball.

ELI: Is there anything you hope to address this off season?

KEVIN: Well the outfield is definitely something we want to address. [Mike] Cameron and [Milton] Bradley are set to become free agents so we will look to resign them or look at the market.

ELI: Is there any interest in Kosuke Fukudome?

KEVIN: Absolutely. We tried to sign him a couple years back when he didn't sign with his club out of school. He was originally a short stop so we have had interest in him for awhile. He did have surgery though but he is someone that we may pursue.

ELI: There season is shorter so he got an extra month and half to heal, does it worry you that players from Japan might wear down in September because they are not used to the extra month?

KEVIN: No, not really. Players are more durable than others and the guys that come over have proven they can play so that really isn't an issue.

ELI: How about the language barrier, how do they do in the clubhouse?

KEVIN: Well we had Otsuka and he fit in very nicely. He did have a translator, but he caught on pretty quick.


Renteria Back With Leyland?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Tigers plan on moving Carlos Guillen to first base because his knees are weak and there is a hole at first base. They tried to acquire Jack Wilson from the Pirates, but that fell through. So they are waiting out the season occasionally slotting Guillen at first while Ramon Santiago is holding his own at short. However, Guillen will only move to first if he is replaced by a Gold Glove caliber shortstop. Yunel Escobar of the Braves is ready to play everyday at short and Kelly Johnson is at second, making Renteria expendable. Renteria, who won the World Series for the Marlins in 1997 under Leyland, is still a personal favorite, and can still hit the ball. The Tigers front office are aware of what he is capable of and would be happy with him at short, but would probably have to give up a prospect or two to acquire him. The Braves will probably ask for Dallas Trahern, a young pitcher with an excellent slider to compliment his fastball, but the Tigers like to hold on to their young pitching, so they might not give him up. Clete Thomas is a young outfielder who might be major league ready in a season or two, but it would take another prospect or two to complete it, maybe Matt Rusch, but I am just speculating. I think it would be a great move for the Tigers. He would be coming to another contender, and understands Leyland's style of play. Furthermore, he can be slotted anywhere in the lineup and is guaranteed to give you 130 games. Renteria is considered a pull hitter, but has good power to the opposite field and its dimensions to right center favor him. This season, he is batting .332 with 12 HR and 55 RBI, but is batting .291 in twelve major league seasons.


Mailbag: Rules and Free Agents

Q: Hey Eli, What do you think about the Designated Hitter rule? Do you think its good for the game or bad for the game?

David Kozlowski, Eagle River, Wisconsin

ELI: I like the rule because I think it is what makes the leagues different. The pitchers have to be so careful with the bottom of the order even in the AL because the hitters are solid up and down. In the NL, you have to be careful but it can get interesting with pitchers like Livan Hernandez, Carlos Zambrano, and Micah Ownings pitching that night. Even a guy like Bronson Arroyo, if you make a mistake, he will get you. The NL can be more creative at times with a pitcher because a team may be more desperate to score a run with the eighth hitter up and their pitcher on deck. While in the AL, you do not have to worry as much.

Q: Eli, where do you see Alex Rodriguez landing this offseason? If Cashman sticks to his word, and the Yankees don't resign him, who do you think would be willing to pay his hefty contract? As a Cub fan I would be ecstatic to see him in the heart of their lineup. They would truly be deadly.

Zach S, Blenker, WI

ELI: There was a report today that the Cubs were going to make a run for his as a part player and owner, but we will only know when the season is over. The Angels are also very interested and so are the Giants, who now have money not going to Barry Bonds. It should get very interesting, but if the Cubs get him, they will be the team to beat in the NL Central in 2008.

Q: I heard you are winning the voting for the Bloggers Choice Awards, how do I go and vote?

Walt Aronstam, Newark

ELI: Thanks for asking. Here is what you do:

To register, click this link: Register, takes 30 seconds

Then check your email to confirm it and click that link. (It might be in spam, but it isn't bad)

Then it will take you to the main page, you can go to Sports Blog on the left side and vote for the top one or click this link: My Page

If you have any questions, email me at mlbrumors@gmail.com.


Cubs Owner A-Rod?

According to the New York Post, Scott Boras has spoken to a potential new owner for the Cubs about signing A-Rod and making him a part owner of the team. Rodriguez, who has three more years left on his contract making 81 million dollars, can opt out after this year and join another team. Although Boras is saying he will be looking for a ten year deal worth about 30 million a year, he will probably have to settle for a seven to eight year deal worth about the same. The Chicago Tribune plan to sell the team after the season is over to one of the many bidders on the team. Most Cubs fan hope and pray that it is Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, but baseball hierarchy don't think that would be such a good idea. They also refused to show Cuban sitting in the bleachers last week at a Cubs game suggesting they already don't like his presence. Many think it will be John Canning however, who is representing a group of men in a possible buy. Many other teams are also interested in A-Rod, including the Angels, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Giants, but if A-Rod is guaranteed part ownership, it might be hard to turn that down, especially with a winning team. But where would he play? And would he be able to fit in with the Cubs? All these questions will have to be addressed at the end of the season.

UPDATE: A-Rod's agent denies the report: "Great players with great demand create great rumors," Boras said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "While I would enjoy having lunch with Mark Cuban and Canning, at this point of the year that conversation would not include Alex Rodriguez. I have not talked to anyone."

Source: Foxsports.com


Reds Need to Keep Dunn, Sign Pitching

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Reds have a 13 million dollar option on outfielder Adam Dunn, and they would be dumb not to exercise it. The Reds have so much power up and down their lineup with him in it. Hatteberg, Phillips, Encarnacion, Dunn, Hamilton, Griffey, and young guys Hopper and Keppinger are starting to step up as well. However, there pitching is weak, and bullpen even worse. They are 27th in the league in ERA (4.96), they are forth in the league in homeruns given up (187), and are forth in the league in hits given up (1,525). If they were to add two more veteran relievers and a starter or two, they would definitely be a contender among the Brewers, Cubs, and Cardinals. They were just 6.5 games out a week or so ago. They are third in the league in homeruns (199), 11th in the league in RBIs (722), and tenth in the league in walks (513). They are ahead of the Cubs on all hitting stats, but only have one starter who is above five hundred in wins with at least ten starts. If they added someone like Scott Linebrink or Luis Vizcaino to their bullpen, and a starter like Eric Milton, Kyle Lohse, or both, they would make the NL Central very interesting.


Schilling As Good As Gone?

Curt Schilling, who is set to become a free agent at the end of this season, has put his Massachusetts home on the market. This could be a ploy to show the Red Sox that he is willing to leave, or he might have decided that he is ready to move on. Schilling, who represents himself, approached the Red Sox earlier this year about a contract, but they put it off til the end of the season. This season, he is 8-8 with a 3.97 ERA and 95 K and was hoping to get a one year deal, around 10-12 million dollars. I could see Schilling getting a Greg Maddux type deal. He is still a solid pitcher, who could put up good numbers with an NL Team, he is a leader in the clubhouse, and could help some of the younger guys on the team develop into better players. The Diamondbacks are looking to improve their rotation and with Livan hitting the market, it is possible we could have a homecoming in Arizona once again. He did grow up in Arizona and still has family in the area. But, if he is looking to stay closer to home in Massachusetts, he could return to Philadelphia as well. His future with the Red Sox will most likely be determined by his performance in the playoffs, assuming that they hold on to their tight lead.



Friday, September 21, 2007

According to Barry Bonds' official website, Barry Bonds will not return to the Giants next season. The team will call a press conference to officially announce it, but Barry Bonds has already informed the media through his website: "During the conversation with Peter McGowan I was told that my play this year far exceeded any expectations the Giants had, but that the organization decided this year would be my last season in San Francisco. Although I am disappointed, I've always said baseball is a business -- and I respect their decision." Bonds plans on playing next season, but it is uncertain who really wants him. It is possible to see the Angels make a move, but they have solid team and if they are hoping to add A-Rod, they probably do not have room for Bonds. Although very unlikely, if the Yankees are able to trade Johnny Damon, they could put Giambi at first and sign Bonds, but I doubt that the Yankees want someone like Bonds in New York. I hope the Giants give Bonds a proper send off in his final six games at AT&T Park before heading to LA for the final three games. He got the Giants to a World Series, drew millions to the park over his years, and broke the All-Time home run record as a Giant. Furthermore, if there isn't any interest in him he might call it a career because he accomplished his main goal this year of breaking the home run record.


Pirates To Hire Neal Huntington

The Pirates will name Neal Huntington as their new General Manager Tuesday, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Huntington's expertise is focused in on scouting, but his background didn't doubt anyone in the Pirates Front Office. For three years, Huntington worked in the Player Development department for the Expos. Following that, he joined the Indians where he worked in Player Development, Scouting, and Special Assistant to the General Manager where he was until today. With the youth the Pirates have up and down their system, it makes sense they would hire Huntington, a smart guy who has an eye for young talent. Personally, I'm surprised Ruben Amaro Jr. or Chris Antonetti weren't named but new, young, and smart isn't always bad with a young, struggling team.


Interview with Josh Byrnes

Yesterday afternoon, I put in a call to the Diamondbacks hoping to talk with GM Josh Byrnes for ten to fifteen minutes. After several failed attempts with other teams' GM's, I doubted a call back from the Diamondbacks or Byrnes. However, as I was walking in this afternoon, Byrnes called me back and had ten minutes to give me my interview. Byrnes is currently in his second year with the Diamondbacks as their GM, but has been with the Red Sox and the Indians previously. I want to thank Josh Byrnes again for calling me back and doing this interview with me.

ELI: How long have you been with the Diamondbacks?

JOSH: Almost two years now.

ELI: And what are your day to day duties with the Diamondbacks?

JOSH: A little bit of everything actually. I deal mostly with the MLB. You know, issues that may come up, how the team is doing, making sure everyone is healthy and things like that.

ELI: You have one assistant GM, do you talk with him everyday?

JOSH: We talk everyday.

ELI: You acquired Randy Johnson this off season, what were the initial steps to acquiring him?

JOSH: Well, we hadn't done much coming into the Winter Meetings and the Yankees had signed Andy Pettitte and Kei Igawa. So I put in a call to Cashman and ask about Randy Johnson. It made sense for both teams because Johnson was dealing with some personal issues and it made sense for him to be near home and we needed some veteran pitching to help anchor our rotation.

ELI: You were able to sign Eric Byrnes a couple weeks ago, how important was it to you and the organization to get him signed?

JOSH: Oh it was very important. He is a very talented player who players very well everyday.

ELI: Micah Owings is showing a lot of potential on the mound, but also with the bat. Was he once a hitter?

JOSH: Yeah he was a hitter all the way up. He set a homerun record in high school and played very well in college and all the way through our system.

ELI: From what you see, who would you say are the leaders of the team?

JOSH: Well, the pitchers sort of separate themselves at times so for the pitchers, I'd say Livan Hernandez. He is a veteran pitcher, great guy to have in the clubhouse, helps them out a lot. For the position players, probably [Eric] Byrnes, [Orlando] Hudson, and Tony Clark. All three of them are veterans who play the game well every game.

ELI: You worked with the Red Sox before the Diamondbacks, how do your philosophies differ?

JOSH: Are philosophies are similar, but different. I worked with Theo [Epstein] a lot so we see eye to eye at times. But I think the main difference is our payroll's that we deal with everyday.

ELI: You started as an intern with Indians, who in their Front Office was like a mentor to you?

JOSH: That was definitely a learning experience for me. John Hart, who was the GM at the time, was a big mentor of mine. I got to talk with Dan O'Dowd, who was very nice and taught me a lot. Mark Shapiro, who was the Director of Player Development, now there GM, taught me a lot about the game so I learned a lot from all three of those guys.

ELI: How did you decide this season who the September call ups were going to be?

JOSH: Being in a pennant race, we didn't want to many guys walking around not contributing or anything, so we called up guys who we thought could help out the club. You always want to reward guys for doing a good job but it is hard when you are in a race like this.

ELI: I wasn't able to check, but who were the minor league players of the year?

JOSH: Some of our position players like Justin Upton and Carlos Gonzalez have really impressed us this year while pitchers Brett Anderson and Esmerling Vasquez did a great job for us as well.

ELI: What have you heard about the new jersey's this year?

JOSH: I think people like them. The colors changed some but I think people like the new ones a lot. I see a lot of people wearing them around town, in the ballpark, so I guess people like the change.

ELI: What do you hope to improve upon this off season?

JOSH: We have a good offense and a lot of depth so I think we will be focusing on pitching this off season. Livan is going to be entering the free agent market and we feel that there are some good pitchers that could help out our club.


Astros Hire Experienced Wade

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Astros have opted to go with former Phillies GM Ed Wade as their new GM, ending his two year stint away from the general manager position. They said the Phillies assistant Amaro Jr. was the other finalist, but they felt Wade might get the job done sooner because of his experience in the league. Amaro will probably be one of the finalist for the Pirates opening now. Wade didn't take the Phillies to the playoffs, but he made some good trades, with some bad ones as well. However, he has a good eye for talent having drafted Pat Burrell, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, and Chase Utley, to name a few. He is also a very active GM, so there will probably be some changes right away. He was often criticized for letting Curt Schilling and Scott Rolen get away, along with his tendencies to giving large contracts, with no-trade clauses to aging players. Furthermore, when he had the opportunity to sign Jim Leyland, who most preferred, he opted to sign Charlie Manuel. My conclusion on him though is that his trading is average, contract negotiating is weak, while his eye for raw talent is excellent.


Astros Giving Brewers A Break?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

This weeks Brewers versus Astros series will go down in history as a big question mark. The Brewers, who were looking to take over first place from the Cubs came in to Houston 1.5 games out. The Astros lost Roy Oswalt because his wife was in labor, and opted to start struggling rookie Matt Albers. However, the following the day after the loss they started Felipe Paulino, who was making his major league debut, he also lost. Tonight they are sending rookie Juan Gutierrez to the mound, who has a 6+ ERA in 5 starts. The reason I bring this up is because the Astros interim manager Cecil Cooper, a former Brewer, decided to sit veteran Woody Williams, and send three straight rookies to the mound against a team that is fighting for a playoff spot. The Astros have been eliminated from playoff contention, and by rule, have to send their best team on the field until the last game of the season. The Brewers are looking to sweep tonight and could move ahead of the Cubs if they win by a game. While Cecil Cooper received permission from Selig to proceed with this lineup and Cubs GM Jim Hendry stated publicly he had no problem with it, it does bring into question the integrity of the Selig's decision. With a week left in the season I think someone should file a formal complaint to the Commissioners Office.


How Leagues Compare

Now that players will begin defecting, I thought I should show how different leagues compare to the MLB's.

Japanese League: Many believe that baseball in Japan is between Triple-A and the MLB, although that is misleading. They say that because there are at least three all-stars on each team which could fill a major league roster, while the bottom half of the players might not make it past Double-A.

Korean League: It is agreed by most that the Korean league is around AA, maybe even Triple-A. Some players will dominate and come to the United States but there are not many.

Italian League: A solid Italian player just signed with a major league club, I believe the Astros, but they are not spectacular otherwise. He is the first player to come over from Italy and are compared to a short-season in A ball, if that. There aren't any future stars coming there that can be seen, and it is uncertain if there will ever be any.

Cuban League: The Cuban league has brought over some good players, but many place them at Triple-A. Mostly because the bottom half of players is very weak, while only a select few can produce with a Major League club. The dimensions are smaller and pitching isn't as good, so a transition has proven ineffective to some players. Some players come over and their numbers get smaller, but are still effective. A good example of that is Mariners shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt.

Venezuelan League: The Venezuelan league is on the rise, and more players are coming out of there. The produce strong, durable players and are known to have players that can hit for both average and power. I would them between AA and AAA.

Dominican League: Baseball is the DR is focused in Academy's, but feature many good players because of there will to win and make money. However, if they are very good at the top, they get worse pretty quick. Furthermore, players are signed pretty young so it takes time to develop and break a low-A or rookie club.

Israeli League: The Israeli league is new and was a success in Israel. They had their first player signed to an Independent club a couple weeks back, but other than that, not to many prospects coming out. I would put them at Low-A or High-A.

Chinese Taipei League: The league is known for their power pitchers, but the leagues talent is very inconsistent. On a good day you'd put them at High-A, but usually sit around the low-A talent.

Chinese League: The league is still developing, but are showing some signs of life. They have smart players who just need more effective coaching. I put them at Rookie League or Low-A for now.

Australian League: More than a hobby than a competitive sport, but will have players come up in the MLB every once and awhile. Travis Blackley and Justin Huber in the MLB now and there are dozens more scattered around the minors. It is hard to compare them to any league, but you'd probably put them right around Single-A.

Mexican League: Lefty Gomez in the spotlight when it comes to the Mexcian League. Otherwise, Mexico doesn't have much pull in the MLB. There are about thirty players in the MLB, most notably Vinny Castilla. They would be placed in the Double-A range on a good day, usually High-A though.

South African League: The league is making some progress, and could see some players in the near future. However, they key word is still developing. They are around High-A on a good day and only have two players featured in the minor leagues. Barry Armitage on the Royals might break out soon, but it is uncertain when.

Let me know if you want to know about any more leagues. I will be happy to find out about whichever one you are concerned about.


Gagne Can't Pitch In Baseball Towns

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Eric Gagne has been able to pitch out of some of the most important games for his team, but since joining the Red Sox, where the focus in Boston is on baseball, he can't close anything. He blew the save tonight giving up three earned runs and is now 1-2 with a 9.00 ERA with three blown saves with the Red Sox. Although the Dodgers have some of the most passionate fans in baseball, baseball is not the focus in LA like Kobe and the Lakers are. Same with Texas, where he is pitching in a low pressure environment where not many people care whether they do well or not. So that took a lot of pressure off him to perform and he did going 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA and 16 SV. The Red Sox thought that would not be an issue and traded Kason Gabbard, David Murphy, and Engel Beltre. Gabbard will fit nicely in the rotation and Murphy will probably be with the Rangers next season. So the Rangers traded away three solid players for one who cannot close a game, and it is only affecting the Red Sox chances to hold the division. Gagne is a free agent after the season and probably won't stay in Boston. He probably will get a contract that has less incentives, but similar guaranteed amounts of money. It is possible to see the Phillies, who were trying to build their 'pen all season to make a run for him. Maybe even the Brewers, who could use a solid setup man or late inning reliever, could sign Gagne to a deal. There is about a week and half left in the season it so there is some time to see if he can turn it around, but I doubt the Red Sox will pitch him in any meaningful games.


Mets Should Trade Martinez

Pedro Martinez will be entering the final year of his four year contract worth 53 million dollars and recently came out saying if he gets hurt again, he will retire, rather than going through rehab: "If anything goes wrong: Hasta la vista, baby," he said in article on FOXSports.com. I think that should raise a red flag to Omar Minaya and the Mets front office suggesting they should trade him rather than risk loosing him forever. If he were to get injured next season, the Mets would have to find a permanent stopgap, not just a Triple-A pitcher for a couple of months. I think they should shop him this off season for young pitching, maybe a young outfielder. He is pitching well, so getting a solid position player would clear the way for Mike Pelfrey or Phil Humber. This season, he is 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA and 17 K in 16 IP. The Devil Rays have Elijah Dukes, Rocco Baldelli, or B.J. Upton, but in order for him to be traded, he would have to waive his no trade clause. Garrett Atkins has played some outfield and if the Mets can't find a different suitor, Atkins wouldn't be bad. And Martinez might be more inclined to pitch there. Martinez will make 16 million in '08 so the Mets would probably have to take on most of his salary to proceed through trade negotiations. Also, because he only has one more year on his contract, the Mets would probably have to include a prospect or two, or take on the whole contract.


Casey Will Likely Be Released

Tigers first baseman Sean Casey will be on the open market this off season, probably looking for a everyday role at first or as a DH. Young shortstop Ramon Santiago is doing well at his position for the time being and because Carlos Guillen's knee's are getting weaker, it makes sense that he will become the everyday first baseman next season. Casey's power numbers are down, but he is still batting .287 with 3 HR and 49 RBI. He is making four million this season and probably could get a two to three year deal worth 3-5 million dollars per year. Casey would be an addition to any team. He is a .301 career hitting who can put up good power numbers, hitting 29 doubles and a triple with three homeruns. Also, he is a veteran who is considered by his teammates and players around the league as the nicest player around. That kind of attitude would bring a lot to a team, especially a one scattered with youth. If the Yankees are looking for a stop gap for a year or two waiting for young Cuban signee Juan Miranda to develop, the New Jersey native would definitely be a legitimate option. However, they do have young player Andy Phillips and Eric Duncan so they could take a risk on them. Also, free agent first baseman like Mike Lamb, who passed through the Yankees system in 2004, could step in as the first baseman of the future if Miranda or Duncan can't find their swing. He is just 32 and could get a two to three year deal worth about 7-8 million per year. As of right now one thing is for certain, the Tigers have little to no interest in retaining Casey and plan to let him walk.


Encarnacion Update

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cardinals outfielder Juan Encarnacion is reportedly feeling better after being hit in the eye by a foul ball while waiting in the batters box on August 31st. The ball shattered his orbital bone and damaged the eye itself. Encarnacion will need surgery to repair the fractures but hope they can soon determine if the optic nerve has any damage. Because he is getting some of his vision back and is feeling better could suggest there is little to no damage to the nerve, meaning that his career might not necessarily be over. But I am sure after surgery and the initial steps to recovery the Cardinals will better determine his future. In 78 games, Encarnacion was batting .283 with 9 HR and 47 RBI.


Braves Might Catch Break

The Braves started the season pretty well but were missing that one thing to make a serious run at the playoffs. Jones one more chance. Jones has struggled a lot this year and many believe it is because he is in a contract year. This season, Jones is batting .220 with 24 HR and with 88 RBI and is in the final year of his six year, 75 million dollar deal making 13.5 million this season. Jones might accept a one year deal with an option for a second year giving him one more chance to reestablished his market value. The Braves do have room in the payroll to resign him, and could give him a one year deal worth 13-14 million dollars with an option for a second. That way, it gives the Braves a chance to not only make a run at the playoffs, but build up his trade value so if they are out of it, they can get some good young pitching. Personally, I think That addition may have come to late in Mark Texeira but there is little doubt in any ones mind that they could keep up with the Mets, especially if they give AndruwBoras' plan is to give the Braves a chance to sign him while he is on the open market. However, Jones has little leverage when negotiating a new contract so opting to stay with the Braves would give him the opportunity to test the market next off season, whether he decides to sign with the Braves or not. In the off season, if will probably be up to the Braves if they want to keep him or not because they could always attempt to invest in other outfielders Torii Hunter, Aaron Rowand, or even Kosuke Fokudome.


Horacio Ramirez Might Be Done

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Horacio Ramirez was traded by the Braves last December to the Mariners for pitcher Rafael Soriano. At the time, many wondered why the Mariners would accept such a trade because Soriano is regarded as one of the best late inning relievers in the game. He is just twenty-seven, and was able to hold an ERA under three while he was in the AL. So jumping leagues would probably be even easier for Soriano, joining a team with solid defense and a favorable ballpark. Ramirez showed promise as a youngster, but began to struggle with age. He hit the disabled list three times during the 2006 season and had a ERA over four before joining the Mariners. Anyways, the Mariners gave him an opportunity to help their rotation and he hasn't been much help at all. The coaching staff isn't even trusting him to get the job done warming up pitchers after facing just one batter. Ramirez is eligible for arbitration after this season and will be a free agent in 2008, but I am sure they will probably release rather than sticking him back in that rotation. Ramirez is making 2.65 M this season so if he goes to arbitration he will probably make about the same, maybe a little less. I think there would be interest in Ramirez if he is released. The Mets are known for bringing in players looking for a fresh start, and Ramirez probably needs one. The Rangers could use another pitcher and may look to him as a cheap risk with a lot of upside. Ramirez was 8-4 coming into September so he hasn't been struggling like this all season which makes me think that the Mariners will probably hold on to him for one more year. Furthermore, he is 6-3 at Safeco Field with a 5.59 ERA, but he is getting support so it isn't exactly bad. Bill Bavasi will definitely assess the situation and even put him out there if they can get something in return, but I think he will be with the Mariners in 2008.


Mailbag: What to talk about?

Q: Being a Rockies fan, I want to know where you think Garrett Atkins will wind up. I saw your article about him going to Anaheim, but is that still where you think he will go?

Brett, Denver, Colorado

ELI: I think it is possible that the Angels will go for him but they really value their pitching. I think the Phillies are probably the top suitor because they are desperate to make a splash and get that long term third baseman they have never had. The Rockies want pitching, so it is possible we could see a pair of young pitchers head to Colorado. Other teams that might be interested are the Dodgers, Marlins, and Angels.

Q: If you were at Wrigley Field and caught Barry Bonds' homerun, would you throw it back?

Josh, Lombard, Illinois

ELI: No. The cops would have dragged me out of there before I would have gotten the chance.

Q: Do you think players will start doing what Roger Clemens is doing by starting later in the season and getting pro-rated contracts and things like that?

George P., Bergenfield, New Jersey

ELI: If they are good enough, I think some might. Andy Pettitte seems to be the next player that will try it. He is already contemplating retirement and will probably wait till January to decide whether or not to comeback. And if he or others continue to pitch well, it should raise their price because of demand.

Q: Away from baseball for a second, Kanye or 50 Cent?

Darren, Royal Oak, Michigan

ELI: Kayne, hands down.

If you have any questions, you can Email Me at mlbrumors@gmail.com


Barrett to Marlins?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Michael Barrett had three solid years with the Cubs, despite on field altercations in two of them. This season, after fighting with Carlos Zambrano and clashing with pitchers Rich Hill, Will Ohman, and Ryan Dempster, the Cubs traded him to the Padres for catcher Rob Bowen. After being suspended for one game, and a minor concussion, Michael Barrett is ready to put this season in the books and start fresh wherever he ends up. The Marlins, who haven't had much success behind the plate since Ivan Rodriguez, could use a solid bat and veteran to place in the lineup. Although he struggled defensively, he has batted .451 AVG with 4 HR and five extra base hits at Pro Player Stadium. He also played in the NL East for six seasons while he was with the Expos. If the Marlins end up trading Dontrelle Willis or Miguel Cabrera, they would have even more room to add Michael Barrett, who is probably looking for a three year deal, worth about 12-15 million dollars. If the Marlins balk and withdraw from the running for Barrett, it is likely to see the Mets, and maybe even the Angels go after his services.


Lohse Set To Cash In

Phillies pitcher Kyle Lohse is preparing to become a free agent hoping Scott Boras can't once again work his magic to swing a big deal. This season, Lohse is 8-12 with a 4.47 ERA and 110 K, but has only put together two winning seasons in his career. I don't see him getting too much money, but he could get a four year deal. But there are not too many pitchers on the market so an innings eater like Lohse might be considered one of the top pitchers. Also, he has experience in the playoffs, and is capable of reaching ten double-digit numbers with a solid team. Boras probably will listen to the NL teams more, especially because of the success players have after pitching in the AL most of their career. The Astros are starved for pitching and could make a run at him, but the Astros are not fans of Boras. Maybe even the Rockies, who are looking to acquire a pitcher, may look to someone like Lohse if they fail to pull a trade. But I am sure Lohse knows about Coors Field and its tendencies. For now, we can assume that if he leaves the hitter friendly Citizen's Bank Ballpark, he would probably head to the West Coast where he is from, and solid defense is common. The Dodgers, Padres, and Diamondbacks might be interested and I do not think strained relationships will come in the way in the West because every team is looking for a way to push ahead of the rest. Behind some of the pitchers like Schilling, Glavine, and Pettitte, Lohse is likely to go around the Winter Meetings, so he can build up his price more.


Marlins Should Revamp...Again

Friday, September 14, 2007

This time last season, the Marlins were on the verge of making the playoffs and were enjoying the leadership from manager Joe Girardi. Now, they are eliminated from playoff contention and have their best pitcher with the third most losses in the majors. Furthermore, their franchise player Miguel Cabrera has put on more then twenty pounds this season and could be making the switch to first base if it continues. Are the Marlins on the verge of another minor fire sale? The Phillies are interested in acquiring Dontrelle Willis, and could make a big splash by trying to acquire both. They could offer up Pat Burrell, cash, and several prospects for the two, but probably would rather hold on to Burrell if they are losing Rowand this off season. The Dodgers are interested in Miguel Cabrera and could offer Nomar Garciaparra, cash, and a pitching prospect for him. That would give the Marlins a veteran infielder, and a young pitcher while staying young with Loney and LaRoche. Also, they will probably lose Miguel Olivo via free agency and would probably like a long term catcher to man the spot for the next several seasons. The Astros are overloaded with catchers and would probably except a young pitcher for someone like J.R. Towles. Maybe Sergio Mitre, they probably want more though. Pitching wise, who knows if you can rely on Nolasco, Johnson, or anyone else in that rotation. So it is possible that the Marlins would try to sign veteran pitchers Carlos Silva, Joel Pineiro, or former Marlin Matt Clement. All these guys would save their pitchers, and allow them to ride the season in the shadows behind these big guys. The Marlins have a long way to go, but will probably have to start with taking a step back.


Interview with Oneri Fleita

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Oneri Fleita is the Vice President of Player Personnel for the Chicago Cubs. He has been in baseball for twenty years, and is regarded as having one of the best eyes for talent in baseball. He has helped the Cubs improve over the past couple seasons, at the major league level and below. And is credited for starting the Latin Player Program some ten years ago. I want to thank Oneri for giving his time for this interview, I really appreciate it.

ELI: How long have you been in baseball?

ONERI: It is my twentieth season. I spent two seasons playing with the Orioles, then I was coaching. In 1995, I was coaching in the extended seasons and the following year I was scouting in the Midwest.

ELI: Were there any players back in 1996 that you saw or signed that are playing today?

ONERI: Yeah, I saw Chad Meyers, Braden Looper was in college, Joe Crede was about to be drafted. The following year I started the Latin Program and then 1999-2000 I made my way into the Player Development position with the Cubs.

ELI: What are the main things you look for when scouting a player?

ONERI: For pitchers, they have got to have a loose arm. More importantly though, they need to be able to throw a fastball for strikes. Personally, I like guys that throw a good curveball because I believe you can't learn how to throw a curveball, you are born to throw a curveball. But having a plus slider is great, and it can be very effective at the major league level if used correctly. Juan Cruz, Angel Guzman, and Carlos Zambrano all have great sliders that compliment their excellent curveball. Z sometimes combines his to get a fast slurve, which is very effective.

ELI: In your opinion, what is the most important trait a ballplayer needs to be successful?

ONERI: They need to be athletic, have a good makeup. They also need to be tough, and coach able. You may have the ability to make it to the pros, but to stay, you need to tough, coach able, and athletic.

ELI: There were some solid Triple-A players this year. Hoffpauir, Kroeger, Soto, Pie, Patterson, Mathes, and Cherry. Where do you see some of these guys next season.

ONERI: There are some good guys down there that if they keep playing hard, will get the opportunity to play at the major league level. Some of these guys you see this year will definitely be with the club for the next couple of seasons. I see some of these young guys down in Double-A and Single-A getting in the pipeline to be with the club very soon: Rocky Roquet, [Jeff] Samardzija, [Donnie] Veal, [Josh] Kroeger are definitely on their way, probably the closest.

ELI: Jeff Samardzija was a steal in last years draft, how did he look this season?

ONERI: From the start of the season to the end, Samardzija improved his delivery. He kept his arm slot high, had good downward movement, and was able to repeat his windup consistently. More importantly though, he learned to pitch, instead of just throwing the ball hard. He learned what he was capable of doing, and worked that into what he had to do. He was able to work a lot of ground balls, he matured a lot, and was very effective at each level. I said it the whole season that his numbers lied, and I think as he climbs the system, as fielding gets better, so will his numbers.

ELI: Grant Johnson was taken in 2004, what has he improved the most since being drafted?

ONERI: He showed a lot of improvement, especially coming off shoulder surgery. He made a lot of progress this year, with his slider and fastball. He cleaned up his delivery, did a nice job overall.

ELI: Tyler Colvin has been doing a great job at all levels, where do you see fitting into the Cubs plans in the future?

ONERI: I see him fitting into the Cubs plans very soon. I expect these things to take care of themselves because you can never have too many players. If someone can help at the Major League level, or fill the void for traded players, then they will get the opportunity.

ELI: When a team submits or ask for certain players, how does the front office decide who goes?

ONERI: Well, Jim [Hendry] keeps a list of players when this comes up and he has a list of "untouchables," "consider trading," and the "certainly trade" players. But when any trade comes in it always gets discussed among Jim [Hendry], Randy Bush, and others in the front office.

ELI: You were excited about a new signing, Jose Ceda, I believe. What did you see in him when you signed him?

ONERI: Oh yeah, We went off one scout on this one when he saw him during the instructional league. He throws in the upper nineties, big guy, resembles a young Lee Smith on the hill. I am excited to see what he can do and when he fully figures out what he is capable of doing.

ELI: They say there is a phase of "too good for AAA, but not quite ready for the MLB." Does that happen often?

ONERI: In this game, it is easy to say what they can't do. But if you give them an opportunity, you can really see what they cannot do. I see it as if they prove they can play at certain levels, they deserve the opportunity. As long as you have a jersey, you have the opportunity to make it.

ELI: Who would you say is the best pitching prospect and best hitting prospect AAA and below?

ONERI: Oh, that is a good question-Hmm. That is tough. I'd have to say for pitching it is Jeff Samardzija. He pitches in the upper ninties with good sink action. Has a great curveball and is very durable and athletic. For best hitter, it has to be Tyler Colvin. He has proved that he can hit at all the levels, especially when it counts. He now has even more playoff experience and is very athletic for an outfielder.