Last year in this precious space of bandwidth, we introduced the first-ever On The Beat All-MLB Team. The thought was if the NFL has the All-Pro team and the NBA and NHL also have post-season all-star teams, why not baseball?
Unfortunately, the On The Beat All-MLB Team did not really catch on. Not one other media outlet, to the best of our knowledge, mentioned it, and not one player had making the OTBAMT written into his contract as a performance bonus this season.
Yet we will not be deterred—or as former CBS NFL studio analyst Bill Cowher says, "de-TEAR-ed." Because it's a week with very little baseball little news and we had so much fun doing it last year, here is the second annual On The Beat All-MLB Team. We pick one player at each position; a player qualifies at whichever position he appeared in the most during the regular season.
Catcher: Joe Mauer, Twins. He did not have a monster season like 2009, but he still led all catchers with a .312 True Average, 6.1 WARP, and 50.5 VORP. He also gave hope to all small-market franchises by signing a mega-extension with his hometown team during spring training.
First baseman: Albert Pujols, Cardinals. The Reds' Joey Votto will almost certainly be chosen as the National League's Most Valuable Player later this month. Yet as great as Votto played in 2010, he wasn't even the best first baseman in his division. Pujols led the major leagues with 81.9 VORP and also topped all major-leaguers at the position with 8.9 WARP.
Second baseman: Robinson Cano, Yankees. Oh, don't you know we can't resist using one of John Sterling's endless supplies of bad puns? Cano won the All-MLB Team Triple Crown for second basemen with a .311 TAv, 6.3 WARP, and 69.6 VORP.
Third baseman: Evan Longoria, Rays. He wasn't a clear-cut winner, as cases could be made for the Red Sox' Adrian Beltre and the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman. However, Longoria's 8.2 WARP led all American League position players.
Left fielder: Josh Hamilton, Rangers. Yes he played center field throughout the postseason, but his primary position was left field during the regular season. He was clearly the best player at either spot with a .346 TAv, AL-leading 80.5 VORP, and 8.2 WARP.
Center fielder: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates. It would have been even worse than a 105-loss season in Pittsburgh if McCutchen did not post 6.6 WARP and 45.0 VORP in his first full year in the major leagues. The NL Central has two potentially great center fielders in McCutchen and the Cardinals' Colby Rasmus, who also drew consideration for this spot.
Right fielder: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays. While it says here his 54-home run season will go down as one of the great outliers in baseball history, the fact of the matter is that is how many he hit in 2010 and that gives him the nod over the Phillies' Jayson Werth, who can take consolation in the huge free-agent contract he will sign in the coming weeks. Bautista also had a .331 TAv and 69.3 VORP.
Designated hitter: Jim Thome, Twins. Granted, the Red Sox' David Ortiz and the Orioles' Luke Scott played every day while Thome had 340 plate appearances. But, what Thome did in those trips to the plate was nothing short of amazing as homered 25 times and contributed 4.3 WARP to go with a .350 TAv.
Right-handed starting pitcher: Roy Halladay, Phillies. Well, he certainly lived up to all the hype that accompanied his trade from the Blue Jays last December. Halladay led the majors with 8.8 SNLVAR and topped all pitchers with 75.6 VORP.
Left-handed relief pitcher: Hong-Chih Kuo, Dodgers. Billy Wagner retired in a blaze of glory with the Braves, but Kuo had the highest WARP (5.1) and VORP (26.5) among southpaws who pitched out of the bullpen in 2010.
Right-handed relief pitcher: Brian Wilson, Giants. It was coin flip between him and the Royals' Joakim Soria; the tiebreaker is that Wilson was on the mound when the final out of the season was made while the Mexicutioner could only watch on TV. Of course, it didn't hurt that Wilson had 6.0 WARP and 27.3 VORP.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos had an active first offseason last winter as he traded Halladay and dealt for Mariners right-hander Brandon Morrow. However, Anthopoulos vows to be more aggressive in his second offseason as he seeks to fills holes at catcher, first base, and the bullpen for a team that finished a surprising 85-77.
"I still felt like I could have been more aggressive, I could have been a little bit more daring, taken a few more risks," Anthopoulos said of last winter. "I could talk myself in and out of anything, I could justify not making a trade or not making a big signing any day of the week all day. I could come up with a million reasons and feel good about it, feel like my process was solid and it makes sense and let's not do it."
Anthopoulos understands that he will need to take some chances playing in an AL East that includes three powerhouses in the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays, and another up-and-coming team in the Orioles.
"The trade route, though there's a lot more risk to it, I think that's probably the best avenue for us to pursue," Anthopoulos said. "There's no question we'll try to supplement that with free agents as well. If there's a big free agent to sign and we think the value is there in years and dollars, we'll certainly go out and do that as well."
Anthopoulos could start laying some groundwork for trade during the general managers' meetings that will be held next Tuesday and Wednesday in Orlando. The winter meetings follow from December 6-9 at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
"I'm talking to GMs right now, canvassing what everyone's needs are," Anthopoulos said. "I've been doing that the last little while on and off, and making my way through the 29 GMs to see where their priorities are to see if we line up in trade. We're going to have take chances at times and make moves that may open us for criticism, but we also have to look at the upside of the moves. They may backfire and may not work, but if they hit, we're going to do really well. And that's how we're going to get better."
The Indians opened last season with a payroll of $61 million and it isn't expected to grow in 2011. Thus, it figures to be a quiet winter for new GM Chris Antonetti.
"The bulk of the improvement of this team is going to have to come internally," Indians president Mark Shapiro said.
The Indians are most likely to look for upgrades at second base and third base as prospects such as Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, and Cord Phelps likely won't be ready to join the major-league club until at least midseason. So, the Indians will probably sign some stop-gap infielders once the free-agent market shakes out and some bargain players are left over.
That was exactly the route the Indians took last winter when Russell Branyan was considered their biggest signing among a free-agent group that also included Austin Kearns, Mike Redmond, and Mark Grudzielanek.
MLB Rumors & Rumblings: The Orioles are interested in a number of free-agent hitters, most notably Victor Martinez, who would play first base, and first baseman Paul Konerko. … Konerko is also on the Red Sox' free-agent wish list along with left-handed reliever Scott Downs, right-handed reliever Joaquin Benoit, and catcher John Buck. Look for the Red Sox to also make a play for Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and dangle right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka in trade talks. … The Blue Jays are eyeing free-agent first baseman Carlos Pena. … The White Sox will push hard to trade for Rasmus this winter. … Speculation persists that the Twins and Brewers will both make serious attempts to trade for Royals right-hander Zack Greinke. … While the Angels want to sign free-agent outfielder Carl Crawford, their backup plan is to try to trade for Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. … The Rangers are pursuing Martinez and fellow free-agent catcher Ramon Hernandez and also have interest in third baseman Adrian Beltre on the open market. … The Braves are willing to trade right-hander Jair Jurrjens for an outfielder with pop. … The Marlins are eyeing Buck as a free agent and also like right-handed reliever Jon Rauch. … Jeff Francoeur, already non-tendered by the Rangers, has a good chance of landing with the Phillies. … While the Nationals plan to make a play for left-hander Cliff Lee, they are also setting their free-agent targets at a more realistic level and looking at lefty Jorge De La Rosa and Pena. … The Pirates would like to sign free-agent right-hander Jeremy Bonderman. … The Cardinals have interest in signing veteran Miguel Tejada to play third base and trading for one of the Diamondbacks' two middle infielders, second baseman Kelly Johnson or shortstop Stephen Drew. … The Rockies have a number of free-agent targets including Buck, left-handed reliever Arthur Rhodes, right-hander Jake Westbrook, Francoeur, and infielder Juan Uribe.