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November 9, 2010

Prospectus Perspective

Five Deals That Must Happen

by Christina Kahrl

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Some 176 players became potential free agents when the World Series ended, and other big names are always rumored to be on the block for their respective teams. Within the context of all this, there are moves that seem to be "musts," and in this case, they all involve teams that didn't make the 2010 fall classic. Here are five options:

The Yankees getting Cliff Lee

He had a less-than-ideal World Series, yes, but this is a Sabathia-level no-brainer as signings go. It's obvious and it's predictable, and indeed, by trading for Javier Vazquez to fit into that one-year budget slot, it was even more obvious and predictable. The Yankees have the financial muscle to add another player in the $20 million-plus price range, not just because they're shedding Vazquez's expense, but also because they can pitch the rest of the Core Four to take pay cuts in their (less) golden years, just as Andy Pettitte has already done the last two.

When the Yanks signed A.J. Burnett for what they did ($82.5 million over five years), they did so knowing he was flaky and wouldn't give them a full five seasons' worth of starts. Remember, the Yankees didn't have to pay $82.5 million, but they had to outbid competing suitors to get him at that price. They'll similarly, understandably get bid up a bit on Lee, but they'll win—and they need to, because they finished 20th in the major leagues in SNLVAR.

The Reds should trade for Zack Greinke

First, consider Walt Jocketty's nice problem: He has 2011 options to pick up or reject on Aaron Harang (goodbye) and Bronson Arroyo (exercised), and he has Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez already in place, with Travis Wood, Mike Leake, and Homer Bailey all recently arrived. Then there's Cuban superman Aroldis Chapman, plus guys like Matt Maloney and Sam LeCure, who would be getting much bigger touts in other organizations. Set against that, the Reds are in the same division as the Cardinals, who own two of the 10 best starting pitchers in baseball in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, and with a postseason that demonstrated something about the value of having a stopper, Jocketty has to confront the fact that his depth doesn't provide him one of those—at least not until Chapman comes into his own.

Against that, the Royals need everything. Happily, beyond that rotation depth, the Reds also have a little bit of everything to help spruce up a deal. With just two years but $27 million yet to go on Greinke's commitment with the Royals, Dayton Moore has to deal with the likelihood that he'll never have a better opportunity to convert that into significantly better value than he'll get once his ace becomes just a memory and draft picks.

The Reds should offer Leake, Bailey, outfielder Chris Heisey, and a fourth player—say, shortstops Zack Cozart or Didi Gregorius, or a low-level pitcher. Two rotation starters and an Opening Day outfielder might qualify as the beginnings of a doable deal, but if Moore balks, there's always the Reds' overflow of corner bats blocked by Joey Votto and Jay Bruce: Yonder Alonso, Todd Frazier, or Juan Francisco. That would be a lot of talent to put into play, but Greinke is a former Cy Young winner and legit rotation front man.

The Padres should sign Carl Crawford

With Petco Park squelching offense, the Padres managed to rank just 11th in the National League in team True Average, suggesting they need to do Adrian Gonzalez the favor of bringing in better help than just renting Miguel Tejada or adding a year and two months of Ryan Ludwick before he reaches free agency. Perhaps just as importantly, they need to show Gonzalez that any effort to re-sign him will be sincere. And finally, with a payroll that was in the vicinity of $40 million in 2010, they figure to be on the union's watch list for clubs possibly pocketing revenue-sharing cash.

So the easy fix is to pay top dollar for a player whose blend of skills and profile would give them an excellent answer to many of these problems. Because of his stolen-base tallies, it might seem obvious that Crawford would give the Pads a real leadoff man, someone who would give Gonzalez that many more RBI opportunities (when he isn't being intentionally walked at a Pujolsian pace). He'd end up offering more than that, though: speed and tremendous defense, yes, but also the ability to make quality contact (.331 career BABIP), and enough power to play well in their home park, which becomes that much tougher in divisional matchups in the bandboxes in Arizona and Colorado. Add in the benefit of coming over from the toughest division in the tougher league, and the Petco effect shouldn't deter the Padres from getting into the thick of what figures to be one of the biggest bidding wars of the winter. Since he's only just heading into his age-29 season and speed players tend to age better, Crawford is the sort of big-ticket offensive help Padres GM Jed Hoyer should make a point of affording.

The Red Sox need to get Victor Martinez back

This is fairly straightforward, because while Theo Epstein can afford to entertain ideas about moving Kevin Youkilis to third base if Adrian Beltre is not retained, and replacing David Ortiz with the overflow from a crowded outfield, the Red Sox can't really afford to lose V-Mart to free agency because of the paucity of quality alternatives behind the plate. While Jarrod Saltalamacchia makes for a nice home-schooling project to see if the Red Sox can extract the value the Rangers couldn't, Boston got 1 ½ wins more worth of additional offense out of their catchers last season than the average major-league team. Losing that on top of Beltre's possible defection is only going to add that much more ground for Boston's offense to make up in other lineup slots, and the market is not replete with happy answers for needy shoppers. Naturally, some fans will complain about Martinez throwing out just 21 percent of opposing baserunners last year, but hey, at least Crawford just left the division, right? So sign V-Mart to a three-year deal, rent a veteran for first base for a year, and move Martinez to first base (or DH) once they feel Salty is really ready.

The Rays should get Adam Dunn to DH

The Rays do a lot of things right—but managing the DH slot isn't one of them. Cutting Pat Burrell, using Willy Aybar, and then not even learning from the Orioles' Garrett Atkins experience by adding an altitude-starved Brad Hawpe? These are the choices of a team that deserves to fail. So close the book on that nonsense and sign this winter's heavy hitter to fill a need once and for all, or for at least the next three years. Dunn walks, he slugs, and with his .308 TAv, Andrew Friedman will have just given Evan Longoria the left-handed complement in the middle of the order to frighten opposing pitchers.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

Related Content:  Dollar Sign On The Muscle

27 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

wonkothesane1

Padres have already stated that the payrol will "begin with a 4" in 2011. They also have to pay the signing bonuses of 2 first round picks.

Nov 09, 2010 01:53 AM
rating: 2
 
hessshaun

Insider Story. I was trying to find the connection, ESPN, there it is.

Nov 09, 2010 06:15 AM
rating: -2
 
CRP13

I really like that all of these (sans the first one) are suggestions that I haven't read before. Thanks for bringing us something more outside-the-box than we can get on the regular internet rumor mill.

Question: Couldn't putting him in that bandbox with habitual pitcher-abuser Dusty Baker lead to disappointing results? See "Peavy, Jake" in Chicago.

On the other hand, Cincinnati fans hero-worship even their worst players, like when my family there called to brag that they signed Willy Taveras as a free agent. So perhaps the ego-boost of playing there would help offset park effects.

Nov 09, 2010 06:20 AM
rating: 2
 
CRP13

For the people who just look for comments to destroy, yes I know that ESPN has Kaufmann and Great American ranked with the exact same 2010 park factor, but Kaufmann's is inflated by a ridiculous number of triples (2.6 x average, holy crap). Home Run rate there is depressed, walks were the lowest in the league, and everything else was average.

Nov 09, 2010 06:25 AM
rating: 1
 
10graham43

Not sure you've ever been to a game at GAB, but Wily Taveras never received hero-worship status. Rather, fans treated him like they treated Cory Patterson (badly, and rightfully so) and Edwin Encarnacion (same). If you hustle, play hard and act like you care, Reds fans will give you the benefit of the doubt. Unless, of course, your name is Adam Dunn. That poor chap could never please the masses... except for short periods 40 times a season.

Nov 09, 2010 10:49 AM
rating: 1
 
CRP13

I've been ostracized from my family because I don't root for the Reds. A prerequisite to existence in my extended family is to be able to name the entire starting lineup and pitching rotation for the 1975-1976 Reds. You must think that Pete Rose got a raw deal and that he really was an ok guy.

To set the record straight - the relatives in question really do understand baseball. But something about the Reds clouds their grasp on reality. I received multiple phone calls from people bragging that the Reds would win the NL Central because they finally signed a "legitimate leadoff hitter" in Willy Taveras. The fact that I'm an Astros fan gave them particular glee at that time. I tried to warn them, but alas affiliation the mustached baseball in red stockings automatically elevated Taveras to "misunderstood superstar" status.

I know me some Reds fans. They can't pronounce "Aroldis Chapman", but by God they know he throws 105.

Nov 09, 2010 12:26 PM
rating: 0
 
rcrary

I guess it's unlikely, but god it would make me unaccountably happy if Lee signs elsewhere; it would have anyway, but especially now that the Yankees are so in need of starting pitching...

Nov 09, 2010 06:23 AM
rating: 0
 
Rick Baumhauer

Absolutely - please, Texas/Anaheim/etc, don't take 'No' for an answer!

The Yankees don't deserve to be able to buy their way into Burnett (with his insane contract) being a #4/5 ON TOP of destroying Chamberlain. Their inability to grow their own pitching is second only to their inability to use it properly once it gets to the majors.

Nov 09, 2010 08:24 AM
rating: 1
 
amazin_mess

Agreed. Makes you curious as to the futures of guys like Dellin Betances.

Nov 09, 2010 16:20 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Phil Hughes ain't turning out too badly. Jus' sayin' ....

Nov 09, 2010 22:26 PM
 
JoeSky60

In the alternate universe of the Yankees, this deal "must" happen, but in the real world, the Rangers will put up a good fight to keep Lee. Now that the restrictions of bankruptcy are gone, and with a new, long-term TV contract in hand, owner Chuck Greenburg vows to do whatever necessary. So, obviously, we'll see.

Nov 09, 2010 08:27 AM
rating: 0
 
T. Kiefer

I thought Brian Cashman had a man-crush on Carl Crawford, so might we be seeing a Lee-Crawford signing, like we did with Sabathia-Texeira?

Nov 09, 2010 10:58 AM
rating: 0
 
Mtn Jam

Christina,

Do you think a 3 year deal will get VMart done? I think the Red Sox are going to face a Johnny Damon-like scenario. They'll make a perfectly acceptable offer (like Damon's 4/40) and some other team will make a significantly better offer (Yankees 4/52). I don't think it'll be the Yankees to step in but I have a feeling some team is going to blow the Sox out of the water here.

Nov 09, 2010 06:23 AM
rating: 3
 
Matt Kory

I agree. I feel like if a three year deal for Martinez would get it done then it probably would've happened already. And what with Gammons predicting (over and over) that Detroit is set to offer four years or even more (depending which day he's doing the predicting) it seems that the V-Mart back to Boston ship has sailed.

Nov 09, 2010 10:02 AM
rating: 0
 
cavebird

Christina---it would be nice for the Padres to sign Crawford, but I don't see that possibly happening, and it is MLB's fault. The current "ownership" bought the Padres on law-away more or less, and they are still paying for the team. They can't significantly add payroll as they need to extract every possible dollar they can just to complete the purchase. Why MLB allowed these shenanigans is beyond me, but the Padres are financially hamstrung for several more years.

Nov 09, 2010 06:31 AM
rating: 7
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Perhaps wishful thinking got the better of me, but there's a difference between what's good for each of the 30 in the abstract, and what's good for Bud's hand-picked crew of 30 in their role as so many assorted cossacks, sworn to the Czar.

Nov 09, 2010 22:25 PM
 
juiced

1. Duh 2. Good call, interesting 3. Not hPpening in this universe with SD budget 4. Far less important than you contend. VMart ain't that good and The Sox have bigger needs, and better FA options, at 3b and Of corners, 5. Good call, Dunn remains underrated and therefore relatively cheap and a three true outcome productive monster.

Nov 09, 2010 09:51 AM
rating: -3
 
Matt Kory

I recall reading somewhere (sorry for the lack of attribution, I can't seem to find the article) that Dunn very much wants to play the field, i.e. not DH. I guess money could change that but I'd be surprised if the Rays went and out-bid every other team. The next time that happens will be the first.

Nov 09, 2010 10:05 AM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

Rays also need a 1B with Carlos Pena now a FA - they could feasibly dangle the carrot of playing 1B for now, and then maybe pull the switch after a year or two.

Nov 09, 2010 10:45 AM
rating: 0
 
erniepoe

Padres???? Giants!!!! Crawford would be the perfect fit for the World Champs.

Nov 09, 2010 12:02 PM
rating: 2
 
Agent007

I think (even hope) Lee is going to stay in Texas much to the Yankees chagrin. And that Crawford will end up in Boston. Even if the Yankees sign Crawford, it won't gain them much. Who are they going to bench? Swisher? Gardner? Granderson? They have pitching problems and aging problems (and Jeter, a defensive problem), but I don't think Crawford is the answer to any of those.

Nov 09, 2010 12:41 PM
rating: 1
 
lesmash

The deal I'd love to see would be Crawford to SD; they have some pieces but not enough to legitimately contend. A perfect storm happens and maybe they sneak into the playoffs, but one bad week in September can mess that up as we saw this season.

The deal that the team needs the most is Cincinnati. They look ready to win now, meaning they have a window of about 3 years or so, max. Might as well pony up some prospects for a proven stud and really go for it. If they are not careful, St. Louis could leapfrog them in 2011.

Nov 09, 2010 18:44 PM
rating: 1
 
StarkFist

Lee to the Yankees is the deal that absolutely MUSN'T get done. I mean sure, let them go on signing the biggest free agent every offseason, and eventually they'll be the Rock or Hulk Hogan, and every other team will be the Iron Sheik or George "the Animal" Steele. So yeah, I honestly believe that it's for the good of the game that he sign elsewhere.

Nov 09, 2010 22:18 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Hey, you'll get no argument from me, in terms of how I'd *like* to see Cliff Lee pitching for somebody else, but the point I'd stress is that the Yankees really do need him.

Nov 09, 2010 22:23 PM
 
WaldoInSC

Christina, eschewing the obtuse references and undulating parenthetical statements for ESPN makes your writing so much crisper and reader-friendly, IMHO. I'd love to see more of that snappy writing and less showing off in the future.

Nov 13, 2010 19:20 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Waldo,

In all honesty, I appreciate the feedback. I know that I don't write for myself alone, so critical commentary is always valued.


Christina

Nov 13, 2010 21:41 PM
 
IvanGrushenko

That doesn't seem like much for Greinke. I'd think someone else could top that, especially if the Yankees include Montero. I'm hoping the A's can build a trade around Cahill, but I'm not sure they have enough else.

Nov 14, 2010 05:06 AM
rating: 0
 
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