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November 4, 2007
Every Given Sunday
They hadn't even gotten all the cigar ashes and champagne stains out of the carpet in the visiting clubhouse at Coors Field when the offseason began in earnest. The Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves pulled off a major trade this past Monday, less than 24 hours after the Boston Red Sox finished their sweep of the Colorado Rockies in the World Series. The Tigers acquired shortstop Edgar Renteria from the Braves--making official the shift of Carlos Guillen to first base--in exchange for a pair of top-flight prospects in right-hander Jair Jurrjens and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez.
That move likely signaled the start of a crazy winter. With the first major event of the offseason--the general managers' meetings--beginning Monday in Orlando, let's take a cue from Nate Silver's outstanding division-by-division look at where the 30 major-league teams stand as they get ready to make major overhauls, minor tweaks, or something in between. Whereas Nate did a great job of illustrating what the teams should do, the following is more a summation of what they are likely going to do.
Atlanta: Make a pitch to Tom Glavine to return home to the Braves as a free agent, and sign Mike Cameron--amphetamine suspension notwithstanding--to fill the hole left by Andruw Jones in center field until either Gorkys Hernandez or Jordan Schafer is ready.
Baltimore: Dismantle the club, as team president Andy MacPhail has seen enough. Miguel Tejada will be moved this winter and so will Ramon Hernandez, and the Orioles would even entertain offers for Eric Bedard if they could get a big haul in return. Aubrey Huff, Jay Gibbons, and Melvin Mora can be had for a song.
Boston: Re-sign Mike Lowell--who has suddenly become the favorite son of Red Sox Nation--and Curt Schilling, who showed in October he still has something left. Coco Crisp is available, as room needs to be made in center field for Jacoby Ellsbury.
Cleveland: Exercise the contract options on Paul Byrd and Joe Borowski, add a run producer in left field, and see if they can get C.C. Sabathia locked up for the long term before he becomes a free agent next winter.
Detroit: Find out if Kenny Rogers is going to pitch another year or retire and pursue a veteran starter if he decides to hang it up. Look for a left-handed-hitting left fielder as an upgrade on a potential Marcus Thames/Timo Perez platoon.
Kansas City: Spend some of that $25 million in payroll coming off the books on a legitimate thumper for the middle of the lineup.
Milwaukee: Make every effort to re-sign closer Francisco Cordero, then look for a left fielder and some middle relief help.
Minnesota: Try to get a bundle for Johan Santana before he walks as a free agent after next season.
New York Yankees : Trade for a third baseman to replace A-Rod--either the White Sox' Joe Crede or Detroit's Brandon Inge--then try to pry Johan Santana away from Minnesota with an offer of Chien-Ming Wang and either Robinson Cano or Melky Cabrera.
Oakland: Go into its first massive rebuilding in years and trade either Joe Blanton or Dan Haren for a package of top prospects. See if they can turn Dan Johnson into a decent pitching prospect while staying away from Barry Bonds on the free-agent market.
Philadelphia: Try to find some pitching help on a thin market and sign Lowell as a free agent if they can't retain Rowand.
Pittsburgh: Rebuild the infrastructure of weak player procurement and development systems by hiring top-flight scouting and farm directors and see what the trade market may yield for Jason Bay.
St. Louis: Find a top-of-the-rotation starter and determine whether they want to re-sign David Eckstein.
Seattle: See if it can get anything in return for Richie Sexson, who is owed $14 million in the final year of his four-year, $56-million contract.
Texas: Sign a top-flight center fielder such as Hunter, Rowand, or perhaps Cameron. If that fails, trade with the Red Sox for Crisp.
Washington: Make a splash heading into its new ballpark by signing Jones, Hunter, or Rowand.
The Red Sox appear set to continue making championship runs for the foreseeable future after blowing away the Rockies in the World Series. What about Colorado, though? The Rockies have struggled at the gate in recent years after leading MLB in attendance in the years following their joining the National League. Furthermore, the Rockies have had to overpay pitchers--think Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle--to pitch in the thin air of Denver.
"I would like to think this is a good step forward for us," Rockies General Manager Dan O'Dowd said during the World Series. "Only time will tell, though. We'll see what happens next year. I'm cautiously optimistic but there is just no way of knowing yet."
"What we need to look at is we got a lot of experience," Rockies owner Charles Monfort said. "We're a team to be reckoned with. We are going to be good for a long time. People who watch this team and the farm system said once this team gained confidence it was going to be tough. We've gained that confidence." Confidence for the Rockies came with becoming only the third team to go from being nine games under .500 to the World Series in the same season, winning 14 of their last 15 regular-season games, sweeping Philadelphia in the National League Division Series and Arizona in the National League Championship Series, and going a franchise-best 39-42 on the road.
"They have brought credibility back to the franchise," Monfort said of his players. "We should be proud of that. We have a great foundation to build on. We've gone to the World Series. Now we will go to the World Series and win it." Said manager Clint Hurdle, "We knocked a lot off our to-do list this season. We have one big item that remains."
GM Brian Cashman's power in the Yankees' hierarchy has not been usurped by Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, sons of owner George, as many suspected might happen. That was evidenced when the Yankees hired Joe Girardi as manager this past week instead of Steinbrenner favorite Don Mattingly.
"This is a great deal of trust we're putting in Joe's hands," Cashman told the Newark Star-Ledger. "That's why it took so long to make a final decision. I know this person and obviously I'm betting on this person."
"Brian and I have always had a good working relationship, we did when I was a coach here in 2005," Girardi said of Cashman. "I wasn't in the room when they made the decision on who they were going to pursue. Obviously, I impressed them with what I wanted to do and that's why they chose me."
Girardi is replacing a legend in Joe Torre, who turned down a one-year incentive-laden contract offer from the Yankees and instead took a three-year deal from the Dodgers. However, Girardi insists he does not feel pressure in taking over for a manager who guided the Yankees to the postseason in each of his 12 years on the job and won four World Series in a five-year span from 1996-2000. "I can't be Joe Torre because I'm made up different," Girardi said. "I'm a different character. I don't necessarily worry about replacing someone. I just worry about being myself."
The St. Louis Cardinals' general manager situation seemed to work out well for everyone. Cleveland assistant GM Chris Antonetti pulled his name from consideration and parlayed the Cardinals' interest into a contract extension with a sizeable raise from the Indians, though reports that he has been promised to eventually replace GM Mark Shapiro are inaccurate. Those who know Antonetti insist the only two GM jobs that interest him are the Indians and Washington.
Meanwhile, John Mozeliak got a deserved promotion from the Cardinals after spending 12 seasons in the organization under Walt Jocketty, who was fired last month. Mozeliak got a three-year contract, and the 38-year-old made it a point to tell the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "I'm not Walt Jocketty Jr." One of Mozeliak's strengths has been his ability to work with amateur scouting and player development director Jeff Luhnow, whose hiring and methods did not sit well with Jocketty. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who had a huge say in personnel decisions with Jocketty as GM, says he can work with Mozeliak. "Knowing that (La Russa) felt comfortable with me as the next general manager made me feel very good about this," Mozeliak said. "I would have been very hesitant had he not."
Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and President Mark Lamping were also impressed with the job Mozeliak did during his four weeks as interim GM, including exercising the $8-million option on closer Jason Isringhausen's contract and re-signing right-handers Russ Springer and Joel Pineiro before they became free agents.
If you will indulge me, I would like to substitute From The Rumor Mill this week with a personal note as Every Given Sunday goes on brief hiatus.
I would like to thank everyone at Baseball Prospectus for the opportunity to provide insight (I hope) every Wednesday and Sunday during the baseball season, along with entrusting me with the privilege of covering the American League Championship Series and World Series. BP has always been willing to try different things, and hopefully bringing a "mainstream" reporter into the fold helped bolster this site's already esteemed coverage of the game we all love and brought some entertainment to its devoted readers.
Also, I apologize profusely for not responding to e-mail during the course of the season. Because of persistent server problems, I was unable to receive e-mails from readers. We finally were able to get the problem resolved this week, and I can now be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to write with questions, comments, criticism, recipes, etc. I promise to read them all and likely learn much while hopefully having the opportunity to respond to as many as possible.