Going off the menu lands the Rangers a game-changing bat, but are they done dealing?
Apparently failing to get Cliff Lee has its benefits. As a defending pennant-winner, once you have decided that you have roughly nine figures to burn as fuel for your franchise's ambition, and then you don't get your man, what are you supposed to do? There was no other pitcher in the market worthy of anything like the same money. Maybe the Royals wanted too much for Zack Greinke. The list of pitchers you'd want to throw scads of cash at to pitch in Texas is fairly short.
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Why Boston is the slam-dunk favorite to win the American League East.
AIf 2010 was a season the Red Sox would rather forget, 2011 is gearing up to be the year where they'll have no excuses. Last season, they had to take their turn as post-season wallflowers in the three-way fight for the AL East division crown and the league's wild-card bid, just as the Yankees did in 2008 and the Rays endured in 2009. The competitive dynamics of baseball's toughest division has no mercy for even the slightest misstep.
Character assassination, speculation, a commitment to process... ah, it has to be Hall of Fame season.
I doubt you've missed it, but the Hall of Fame announcement is coming next week. I should stress that I don't vote on the Hall of Fame because as of yet I cannot, and won't be eligible to for another eight years, if ever. As a result, I tend not to get as wrapped up in the annual frustrations with the process as some, having already long since despaired over the shabby treatment of the late Ron Santo for not getting voted in, not to mention the flabby gymnastics presented by way of explanation from that shrinking segment of voters determined to ignore Bert Blyleven. But I get asked about it often enough casually by people assuming that I must already be in the electorate; optimist that I am, I stick with the hope that, come the day, Tim Raines will never need my vote, and that justice will be done to the players who deserve election in the meantime, however fractiously, and with however many unhappy exceptions.
The list of available free agents offers a shrinking number of major components, but a few worthwhile risks.
Where past markets left lots of quality on the shelves for post-Christmas shopping, this year's has been characterized by early response and quick solutions. The risk for the players who have remained aloof is obvious—there are only so many jobs to go around, and as the number of interested parties shrinks, so too do the opportunities to avoid ignominies like unpacked bags in February, taking those phone calls from Japan or Korea, or wondering what kind of time serving a few months in the Atlantic League would be: quality, or slow.
What about the doings of the ballclub from that other city by the bay?
The A's are invariably interesting to talk about, not simply for personal reasons. On the one hand, they might be seen as overachievers, managing 81 wins to finish second in the short stack. On the other, this is the team we here at BP have managed to collectively peg as a likely division winner as recently as 2009. And no, they did not win the division, though there's no real joy in confessing my own innocence and failure to get aboard to projected performance bandwagon. If the A's had really been a little engine that could, that would have been swell, what with a new East Bay stadium in Fremont San Jose a location TBD to winkle out of an unwilling public, not to mention the even less tractable, ungenerous Giants.
What has Brian Sabean been up to, and will it provide enough stuff for a successful title defense?
Almost two months later and still basking in the afterglow of having gotten to the game's pinnacle, there isn't a lot of controversy or second-guessing—the Giants are world champs, after all. But now's the time to start dialing in on what, if anything, they should have done and should be doing. How has Brian Sabean responded to life on the other side of the ultimate? More importantly, what, if anything, has Sabean done to guarantee his team's future as a contender? No time to rest on one's laurels, after all—there ain't no rest for the wicked.
Sizing up the shortstop market and who has been on the move this winter.
One of the most over-worked tropes of the last three seasons has been the newly assigned importance of defense, as if fielding had been suddenly forgotten or overlooked or undervalued. Where there used to be the suggestion that much—perhaps too much—of sabermetrics was the art of documenting the previously observed, to some extent I wonder if these phenomena are more appropriately chalked up to the need to discover, as opposed to making real discoveries. After all, everyone likes being the first to notice something, and if there wasn't really anything there, well, it was news in 2008, so it has to be newsworthy, right?
The free-agent ace decides W.C. Fields was right, because Philadelphia will do.
So, about that mystery bidder. It wasn't the woman with the opera gloves wearing sunglasses indoors in the front row. Nor was it the guy in the corner wearing a fez. The rumors weren't entirely wrong—the international man of mystery this time around was somebody from the National League East. It just wasn't the Nationals' Mike Rizzo; it was the Phillies' Ruben Amaro Jr. By signing with Philadelphia for at least $120 million over five years, Lee decided you could go home again. Which, admittedly, is easy enough to say about a guy who has played for four different teams in the last two seasons.
And Sori makes three, or why both deals won't be worthless, but will leave their teams feeling sorry.
Pending Cliff Lee's decision to stop being the Hamlet of Arkansas, the biggest big-ticket signings were consummated last week, with the Nationals signing Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million deal, while Carl Crawford inked a seven-year, $146 million contract to likely spend a fair-sized chunk of his adult life playing for Boston. The deals were huge, products of pre-economic slump pricing and a healthy dose of limited supply inspiring those huge bids. If the market has overstocked with first basemen or DHs or catchers, it was short on outfielders who could play the outfield and hit for power.
The Hot Stove gets 50 pieces of coal, all the better to run hotter still.
By the time December rolls around on the baseball calendar, it used to be that the Rule 5 draft was the Christmas present that any team might give to itself. But in the seasonal spirit of charity and gift-giving, there's a new, bigger redistributive mechanism in place, one that involves more established talent: the non-tender deadline. That's much less the case these days, which makes last Thursday's activity a lot more important than this coming Thursday's grab-bag.
Hoping against too warm of a Hot Stove while putting together a 600-page tome.
I come to you today in kind of a dizzy, Tasmanian Devil-like blur of frenzied activity, as we are deep into preparation of the 2011 Baseball Prospectus annual, the 16th edition in the series and my sixth as editor or co-editor. It is a time of great energy, excitement, and terror. The book has dozens of moving parts, and it’s my job to connect them: team chapters coming in from about a dozen different directions, stats from another, corrections from under the desk, and artwork from behind a curtain. There is limited time to get all of these disparate elements lined up the right way and off to the book factory, little chance to correct an error if something gets misrouted or lost. The hardest part, as the atomized bits of book whirl dizzyingly above my head, is keeping a weather eye on the Hot Stove for the big move that knocks down all my dominoes and requires me to yank whole chapters.