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December 6, 2006
I Love the Smell of Rumor in the Morning
It's a terrible, terrible thing when you realize at dinner that your new phone isn't sending the e-mails you've written. As a result, I apologize for no new information during the day, but honestly, you didn't miss much. Tuesday at the Meetings was a day of nothing, a Seinfeld episode without as many laughs. It was filled with wishcasting, hopes, speculation, and outright lies. At his press conference, Ozzie Guillen said "the winter meetings are worthless." I don't agree completely, but aside from the annual meet-and-greet part of the meetings, I don't disagree either.
The first good rumor of the day is one that was left over from Tuesday: Jason Schmidt is reported to have an offer in hand from both the Cubs and, more surprisingly, the Cardinals. The Cards would bump against their budget by signing Schmidt, though according to a source both have now made the leap to four-year deals. With both Pettitte and Schmidt in their stable, the Hendricks brothers are sure to be popular in the lobby today.
In the meantime, Tuesday began and ended with pitching. The rumblings of a Barry Zito signing never really amounted to much, but his former teammates were at the center of one rumor. Depending on who you talked to, either Joe Blanton or Danny Haren were discussed in return for Lastings Milledge and Aaron Heilman. The deal turned out to be mostly hot air, with one team or another probably trying to gauge the value of the various pieces, but no trade was close there.
Jason Schmidt and Ted Lilly were each discussed by several teams, with the Blue Jays taking an aggressive stance on Lilly. The Cubs can't leave Orlando with just Mickey Mouse gear; they need at least one pitcher, and would be happier with two. However, Lilly's price is north of $40 million, but there's not much else out there.
Julio Lugo signed, the second move by the Red Sox after the expected signing of J.D. Drew. The Lugo deal made several teams grumbling about the "tampering rules not working," but the Red Sox do appear to be following their plan. What's next might include Eric Gagne or a trade for a younger reliever. The Sox want a closer, but having failed to find one in a possible Manny Ramirez deal--and things seem dead on that front for now--they're left considering Gagne and Octavio Dotel.
Andy Pettitte was reportedly close to signing with the Yankees, but close isn't done, and in this market, it seems that getting to 'done' might be the longest part of the trip. The Yankees might be in on Ted Lilly only to push things along with Pettitte, though there are scenarios where the Yankees could use both and subsequently trade some excess pitching. Any Pettitte rumor has to have a Roger Clemens codicil, but the talk on the Rocket has been grounded. It seems that Pettitte's decision is between the Yankees and retirement, not another team, with much of the talk focused on the reasons why Pettitte left New York in the first place.
The White Sox continue to be both quiet and the center of a lot of speculation. Sources with the team say that they're busy, but not close. One particularly interesting rumor--denied by the Sox--was that they were trying to deal for Adam Jones, the young Mariners center fielder. The White Sox have no room in their rotation for Brandon McCarthy, seemingly making a pitching deal make a lot of sense. Ozzie Guillen doesn't seem too worried--he seems willing to send McCarthy back to Charlotte and go with the same five he had last year.
The Marlins were expected to spend some money in Orlando, finding some lower-tier veterans to support a very young team that's coming off a year of overachievement. Instead, they've been quiet. Other teams believe that the Marlins might be focusing on signing Miguel Cabrera to a long-term deal in hopes that they could get an Albert Pujols-style bargain.
Rumors of Mark Mulder to Arizona are interesting, but I could not get confirmation from either side. Mulder was initially expected to get a short, incentive-laden deal since he won't throw until next month, but he's now looking at up to three years. There's a possible high payoff, there and Josh Byrnes has been adeptly steering the Diamondbacks towards his vision for the team. A Mulder deal would be one way to solidify the rotation, though the D-Backs seem more likely to work the trade market right now.
Ken Rosenthal is reporting that Jason Schmidt is headed to the Dodgers. Is this the deal that pushes the rest of teams into action? Ted Lilly is probably the next tree to fall in the forest of mediocre pitchers. Schmidt leaves behind a creative St Louis offer and the Cubs' hopes to pair him with Carlos Zambrano, which might force both teams' hands, as both clearly need pitching. I was just on MLB Radio with Jim Leyritz, and we talked about the possibility that everyone's Plan B is talking to the White Sox or Angels about their very valuable surplus of starters. It's worth noting that Ned Colletti once again beat out other teams by going more dollars for fewer years; Schmidt's agent was lobbying hard for a guaranteed fourth year, and it didn't happen.
One of the favorite topics of beat writers is "how wrong the message boards are," as one vet writer put it. The quick nature of the net--how every rumor comes out in seconds rather than hours--is interesting. There are writers I've spoken to with better access to their teams and who have info, but don't run until the presses gear up overnight. There's nevertheless a coexistence here with the net that there hasn't been before. Watching Aaron Gleeman of NBC video taping Jim Leyland's interview session for his podcast reminds me just how fast and how far things have come.
I'm stunned that I've recieved several emails asking "Who's Jon Daniels?" In my Mill a couple days ago, I dropped the Rangers GM name without the identifier. That anonymity of the men that make these multimillion dollar decisions and run their part of a multibillion dollar industry is stunning. Yes, GMs get more airtime in baseball than in any other sport, but unless you're one of the people in the lobby, you might not know Brian Cashman or Jim Hendry if they were sitting next to you on a flight.
A question I got from a reader last night involved older pitchers--is signing Maddux or Glavine for one year and relatively high dollars a good play? Given the context of the market and the known quantity we have with these future Hall of Famers, getting the possibility that both have one more year of resume stuffing easily outweighs the risk that they end up looking like that year Babe Ruth played for the Braves.
Tomorrow's Rule 5 looks to be a very short affair. No team official that I've spoken with has a guy they're excited about. "There's no Dan Uggla this year," one said. I reminded him that no one was excited about Dan Uggla last year either, and he responded, "No, you had some upside there. He was worth the fifty (thousand dollar fee). There's no one here that I'd pay to see."
Lou Piniella is holding court, surrounded by at least three times the number of writers as Jim Leyland. The first word out of his mouth (I couldn't hear the question) was "pitching." Having just missed on Jason Schmidt, Piniella's next-best scenario is a rotation of Zambrano, Lilly, Hill, Meche, and some combination of Wade Miller and Mark Prior. Does that rotation seem improved, let alone one for a team that can contend? Even with the addition of Soriano and adding a healthy Derrek Lee back into the equation, you have to say "improved, maybe," but that's because it would be hard to regress on last year's group of starting pitchers. But just maybe, and not on a value basis. The Cubs have some prospects and a proven ability to deal with the team just south of them. I'm just sayin'...
Who is Mark Mulder? That Ayn Rand kind of question is something that says a lot about the current pitching market. The Diamondbacks appear to be willing to take on all the risk of bringing Mulder in. Sure, they have three 200-inning guys now, and some prospects behind that, so Mulder could sit out the year and the team wouldn't die. A better scenario is getting a Matt Morris-type season out of him, limiting his innings and letting the bullpen carry a signifiant middle-inning load during his turn. The Diamondbacks medical staff is an ideal fit for this type of scenario.
Barry Bonds is in the house! I'm looking for a word better than "posse" or "entourage" for his legion of staff and hangers-on. What did they call it when Roman soldiers would all stand close and hold their shields together, becoming some turtle-like impenetrable force? Yeah, that. "Barry Bonds' Legion" does sound like a good name for a fantasy team, according to Joe Sheehan.
I just met Manny Acta, the new manager of the Washington Nationals. While Stan Kasten has everyone's mouth tightly closed on most topics, Acta introduced himself as a BP reader looking forward to the PECOTA projections. He may not have much of a team to work with, but I love the idea that a young, bilingual manager will have a chance to make something happen. Matthew Kleine, the coordinating producer of BP Radio, met with Ron Washington and came away impressed. If baseball has moved on from retreads--well, mostly--it's a good thing.
The Mariners have started reacting to their losing out on Jason Schmidt, moving to the trade market rather than the lesser free agents. A team official discussed several possible trades, hoping that something will happen tonight. He wasn't confident that it would happen, and assured me it wasn't "impact." I was also told that Richie Sexson was not being shopped. We'll see.
What do the Cardinals do now that they also missed on Schmidt? Despite a credible St. Louis offer, sources tell me that Schmidt always wanted Los Angeles. His comfort level with Ned Colletti and new Dodgers trainer Stan Conte was evidently the deciding factor. That, and the $47 million must have helped. The Cards now look to bring back Jeff Weaver or try to figure out how to use the pieces of their farm system to get a starter.
Or did they miss? Some late word that the done deal with the Dodgers may not be quite so "done." Until we see a press release, anything is possible.
The Barry Bonds Roman formation? Testudo. Nice to have some history professors as readers.
In a market where Ted Lilly is going to get eight figures a year, why is Tomo Ohka getting no attention? I'm not saying Ohka is the next guy who will make a leap, but if he clears the physical, you get a pitcher who can give you league-average work without commanding a massive salary or a long-term deal.
After catching Joe Sheehan's ESPNews hit on ESPN 360--yes, I'm a company man, he says sitting in a Disney resort--I saw the video of Barry Bonds walking through the lobby this morning. I'd seen Steve Phillips chasing him, and Barry being Barry. What I didn't notice before was that Bonds walked through the lobby with a limp. You can check it out yourself. After standing on the hard tile for a couple days, I probably have a limp myself, but this is notable. I'm sure the teams noticed as well.
We'll see what happens tonight on the last night of having everyone in the building. Teams are already heading to dinner and readying their overpriced coffee for a long night.