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As we wait to discover if Ichiro Suzuki might finally, finally become the second-slot hitter he’s been, by his skills, since the day he arrived in Seattle…

New York Yankees:
Breathlessly reported midweek, it’s not at all news that the Yankees payroll will be coming down in 2009. The $200 million payrolls were always local maximums, the overlap of some bad contracts from a down period in organizational decision-making and producing its own low-cost talent with the monster deals the team committed to in the last two offseasons. Last year’s $206 million Opening Day payroll included the expiring contracts of Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Xavier Nady, and Andy Pettitte, plus money owed to Jason Giambi, a total of $43 million gone. A handful of players get raises to eat some of that money, and taking the story literally, capping the payroll in the $185 million range would preclude a large free-agent signing this offseason.

I think the story about the Yankee payroll isn’t about their payroll, but this winter’s free-agent market. With no free agents the caliber of CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira available, the Yankees will resist the temptation to overpay the Matt Holliday/John Lackey top of the market, not because they want to keep payroll down per se, but because it’s the right baseball decision. A year from now, $37 million comes off the payroll in the form of legends Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, and even if you expect the team to bring one or both of them back, the price tag will almost certainly be less than that figure, freeing space for some of the prizes of next year’s market.

This winter, they’ll look to patch left field rather than solve it-maybe by signing Mike Cameron to play center-and spend a few bucks in the bullpen as a means of fixing the rotation, allowing Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes to start. It’s not out of the question that they’ll trade for Roy Halladay, just unlikely given the facts in play.

Boston Red Sox:
I covered some of their issues last week. As with the Yankees, their interest in Halladay is inversely proportional to the price they’d have to pay in talent and dollars, more the former. They don’t really need a starting pitcher, however. Their biggest hole may be third base, where Mike Lowell has a year left on his contract and cannot play full time. Jed Lowrie, himself a health case, could be part of the solution there. They’re deep enough in the bullpen that losing Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito won’t hurt. If there’s one interesting play they could make, it would be to trade Jonathan Papelbon for… well, anything. Not a dump trade, but a move that recognizes the volatility of the breed and the ease of replacing relievers. Papelbon’s trade value almost certainly exceeds his actual value.

Tampa Bay Rays:
With so much pitching in the system, they can probably address last year’s bullpen follies from within. With that said, they may be in the market for a Brandon Lyon or David Weathers type, a low-platoon-split, low-homer-rate pitcher whose role can be a bit vague depending on how the guys around him do. There have been no rumblings that they will trade Carl Crawford; however, with Crawford a free agent after 2010 and little chance the Rays will be able to commit 20 percent of the payroll to him, he could very well be shopped. Balanced against that is that the ’10 Rays will be a very good team, able to challenge the Yankees and Red Sox in the division, leaving little reason for them to make a move like that. They’ll probably be quiet this week.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:
The Angels will try to retain John Lackey, although the sheer number of teams looking for a starter and his status as the best one available will price him past their point of tolerance. Trading for Scott Kazmir will prove to be a less expensive and less satisfying solution. If Brandon Wood inherits the third-base job, the ’10 Angels will be missing a significant portion of what worked in ’09, which are high OBPs at the top of the lineup. Replacing Chone Figgins with Erick Aybar isn’t going to work very well; replacing the missing baserunners, rather than Lackey, is the team’s biggest remaining challenge. They could use some relief help as well, and could be active in the second-tier market this week.

Texas Rangers:
The staggering amount of young talent poised to break into the majors puts Jon Daniels in the enviable position of dealing from strength. He doesn’t have to make any trades, but 2010 is the first season in which his team could be favored in the AL West, so if he can deal some of that future to lower the variance on performance from a lineup or rotation slot, he may be in position to do that. Jed Hoyer and Alex Anthopolous should both be pinging Daniels frequently, for the Rangers are the one team positioned to trade multiple top prospects in a single deal if the player is right. There’s some question as to how much money the Rangers can spend, which is why a trade rather than a free-agent signing seems a more likely route. This team can be a favorite in ’10, but it needs to add OBP and needs to recognize that the performance of its pitchers in ’09 may not be repeatable.

Seattle Mariners:
They’re behaving like a team that expects to win next season, which at least makes more sense than the idea that they were going to win in 2008. They may well have the best defensive team in baseball again, depending on who eventually plays left field, and adding Chone Figgins to play third base will mean little to no drop-off in the field from Adrian Beltre. Figgins would be a great signing for them, a high-OBP, top-of-the-order batter to pair with Ichiro in the same way the ’09 Angels had Figgins and Abreu key their offense. They still lack a catcher and a first baseman, neither of which is unattainable in this market. The pitching staff is high variance; only Felix Hernandez can be counted on for a strong season, but the rest of the starters and much of the bullpen has tremendous talent and some short-term history of pitching very well. As much as any team, the Mariners could use a stabilizing second starter, but that pitcher may not be available on the market.

Minnesota Twins:
The nice story of their late-season drive to 87 wins and the playoffs covered up that this isn’t a great baseball team, and that was with Joe Mauer going nuts. They can fix the rotation through better health, but there’s no money for any project until Mauer gets signed, so second base, third base, and left field all look like problems that may not be solved. The bullpen in front of Joe Nathan needs work, and for that matter, why does an 87-win team needing to pay for its All-Planet catcher need a crazy expensive closer? Trading Joe Nathan for position players is the Twins’ silver bullet, and remember that in the AL Central, your silver bullets can have a chip or two in them and still effective hit the mark. If dealing Nathan solves a lineup hole, the money saved can be used for another one, and the Twins will look like the favorites in the Central.

Cleveland Indians:
Their starting nine could be one of the best in the league and, in fact, they almost have too many good young players, what with Michael Brantley emerging. Their pitching staff… doesn’t match that. The pitchers they got in the CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee trades may not throw an inning for them next season, and the ones they’ve produced on their own are almost all command lefties who don’t appear to have the command to get by that way. No team in baseball would be more justified in signing two mid-rotation starters this winter; unfortunately, those guys aren’t really out there. There are high-risk pitchers such as Rich Harden and Ben Sheets, but not stabilizing forces. The Indians could, however, look to the trade market. They have a surplus of infielders, and via a trade Jhonny Peralta could bring them 200 league-average innings, the latter of which is more important to their ’10 than the gap between Peralta and Jason Donald.

Oakland A’s:
The A’s have a staggering amount of young pitching talent at their disposal. They also continue to have one of the worst offenses in baseball, and until they show up with something approaching league average, it’s hard to get excited about any renaissance. They’re not spending any money this offseason, and after last year’s plan fizzled, at best you’ll see them in the third-tier markets, perhaps chasing some non-tenders or making deals like the Jake Fox trade. Fox helps them, which is as much an indictment of how bad their offense is as it is a commentary on Fox’s skills. They’re terrible up the middle; that has to be repaired.

Baltimore Orioles:
The Orioles have no reason to work on their 2010 roster. It really doesn’t matter who works in the infield corners or DHs or relieves. The best idea may be to maximize the defense at first base and third base however possible with an eye towards protecting the many young starting pitchers on hand. That should save pitches and pitches from the stretch, and getting Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, and the rest from here to 2012 in one piece has to be the first goal of the organization. Trading Luke Scott for future help can be on that list next.

Chicago White Sox:
I like everything they’ve done so far, from cutting loose Jermaine Dye to trading for Mark Teahen. The pitching staff is fine, with an above-average rotation, and the bullpen will work itself out. If the White Sox want to win in ’10, though, they have to work on the offense, which right now looks to be missing at least three hitters. There’s no right fielder or DH to speak of, and that’s giving them full credit for a center fielder, which may be generous. Because their DH slot is open, the Sox can add the best hitter they can find, perhaps Hideki Matsui, to bolster the lineup. They could use OBP at or near the top as well. As a large-market team that draws well when it plays well, they could probably afford Jason Bay if they wanted. Come to think of it…

A group led by Jerry Reinsdorf bought the White Sox for $20 million in 1981. Forbes magazine valued the club at $450 million in April, 2009.

… don’t tell me any team “can’t” afford something. The appreciation in the value of franchises dwarfs short-term cash flow issues. (Quote is from Cot’s.)

If the answer is Scott Podsednik, you’re asking the wrong question; his ’09 was a fluke.

Detroit Tigers:
I don’t think trading Curtis Granderson is a bad idea, for the team with Granderson may not be good enough to win anything, and Granderson is probably a bit overrated thanks to his sunny disposition and great 2007 season. There are so many problems with this roster that it may take a couple of seasons to fix, and while the Tigers are unlikely to undergo a massive rebuilding project or to slip to 65 wins, it’s not clear that they can hang with the Indians, Twins, and White Sox in the short term. Roster spots five through 15 just don’t support that kind of success, and with so much money tied up in untradeable contracts and so few prospects to move, they’re a bit hamstrung.

Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson, and Jeremy Bonderman will make $34.5 million in 2010. I mean, really? Wait, I can do it with hitters, too: Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, and Brandon Inge will make $37.6 million in 2010. That’s $70 million for… nothing, probably. Maybe two wins, depending on how much you let the pitchers kill you.

Kansas City Royals:
I don’t know anything about Noel Arguelles. However, spending money on a 19-year-old Cuban defector has to be a better idea than anything else the Royals might have done with the cash. If they can continue in this vein, worrying not at all about the 2010 and 2011 Royals and focusing on the 2012 ones, they may start to get somewhere.

I got asked-and don’t remember if it was an e-mail or a comment-whether the Royals should try to trade Zack Greinke. Were this a Strat league in which you had the Royals, I think that would be a solid decision. Greinke is the Adrian Gonzalez of pitchers, with terrific performance, likely to continue, on a fantastic contract. The team around him has no shot to win in 2010 and not much better than that kind of chance in 2011. As great as he was last year, Greinke isn’t likely to be quite that good again, so his value is peaking. This should make him a perfect trade candidate.

In the real world, you can’t trade Zack Greinke. I’m as sanguine about the effects of team decisions on the gate as anyone-if you win, they will come-and I’m telling you that you can’t trade Zack Greinke, not right now. He’s the only good thing about a bad, bad franchise, and the negative effects of trading him would swamp whatever you got in return. I don’t even know if I could entertain the idea, because what if the Rangers dangle Julio Borbon, Michael Main, and Jurickson Profar? Then what do you do?

Toronto Blue Jays:
Just to be on record with this one more time, the ideal Roy Halladay trade for the Blue Jays is Halladay and Vernon Wells for nothing. Anthopolous can pump up Wells all he wants, but the guy is a .270 EqA hitter who can’t play center field any longer and makes $20 million a year until the rapture. The $100 million they save in that trade is more value than any realistic prospect package, given Halladay’s no-trade clause and imminent free agency, will have.

The Jays can sign all the lousy shortstops they want, but all that matters to them right now is the Halladay deal. It’s the only story around the team, the franchise, and until Halladay is traded, which has to happen, nothing else matters. The Jays proved last year that they can survive the loss of starting pitchers-their entire rotation was hurt at one point and they kept running average-ish arms out there-so in dealing Halladay it’s not pitching they need, but a future center fielder, catcher or shortstop; two of the three, really. If you’re not going to get out from under Wells’ contract, you have to make sure you get building blocks, the guys who will be the best players on the 2015 Blue Jays. I’m not sure that deal is out there, but I’d run up a hell of a cell bill finding out.

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> Cleveland Indians: Their starting nine could be one of the best in the league and, in fact, they almost have too many good young players ...
> Oakland A’s: The A’s have a staggering amount of young pitching talent at their disposal. They also continue to have one of the worst offenses in baseball ...

So ... is there a match here? As much as I like players like Shin-Soo Choo or Asdrubal Cabrera or anyone else not named Carlos Santana (because of position scarcity as much as talent), I don't believe in "untouchable" assets. With these two statements, combined with two GMs with a history of trying to be smarter than anyone else, it sure SOUNDS like there ought to be a way to mesh needs and assets ...
I saw this immediately too. Jhonny Peralta to the A's for any pitching sounds like a good match.
Why would the A's want Peralta? I understand why you'd make the connection, but I don't see why he's such a fit for the A's that they'd trade for him.
"They’re not spending any money this offseason..."

The A's actually offered Marco Scutaro more money and the same years to return to Oakland, but he chose Boston instead. The A's have money to spend, there just aren't that many guys out there worth their asking price.
damn, supposed to go at the bottom...
Aaah! the dulcet tones of BP over-rating the Indians and A's (which cuts through this, and so many other otherwise excellent analyses here at BP)
You're right that the Indians and A's have underachieved lately, but they both have some nice young talent. Brett Anderson has the makings of a star and the Indians lineup will be stacked by 2011 (Brantley/ A.Cabrera/ Sizemore/ Santana/ Choo/ LaPorta looks like a potentially very intimidating 1-6). They both have holes, but much promise.
So I take that as a, "No, there is not match?"
On that yankee's legend issue, can they really expect to save money? I mean, Jeter has them over a barrel doesn't he, and rivera is actually worth his salary.

If jeter doesn't get what he wants and walks or causes a fuss he can actually hurt them right, and he's been worth it to them over the years.
While the Jeter/Rivera thing could play out in any number of ways, I think the single most likely scenario has them both back in the Bronx in 2011 while making every bit of the $37 million they make in 2010. No savings to be found there, I think.
I agree completely. I don't know in what universe the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees, a future Hall of Famer, (aka Derek Jeter) takes a pay cut. The contract may not be 10 years long, but it won't be cheap.

And if I recall correctly, the last time Rivera was an impending free agent there was talk of him jumping ship if the Yankees weren't willing to pay up. I'm not saying he would've left or will go, but don't expect him to take a pay cut just because he's a "true Yankee".
Could they get Jeter to defer salary in the new deal? Is that even allowed in the current CBA?
Why exactly do you say Ichiro is a second slot hitter? I mean I think he would be good there, but why wouldn't he be considered a perfect elad off guy too? He gets on base a lot and has been a great baserunner. Isn't that pretty much the main criteria for a lead off hitter?
This may not be what Joe was thinking, but I assumed he was looking at the distribution of batting outcomes. If you have two great baserunners with .390 OBPs, you want the one who walks all the time to bat leadoff, and the one who hits a ton of singles and doubles to bat second, so that those hits can lead to a lot of first-and-third and scored-from-first.

A long time ago, I did some lineup analysis that suggested that your #3 slot should prefer hits to walks the most (other things being equal). The #3 hitter leads off the fewest innings, and bats with runners on (and with RISP and 2 outs) more than nearly all other slots. Ichiro would be just fine as a #3 hitter, too, if you could find two high OBP guys to bat ahead of him.
Baseball "wisdom" also says that you want your leadoff hitter to work the count so that other batters can get a look at his stuff. This isn't quite Ichiro's best skill, though I also don't know how accurate this wisdom is.
Ichiro's uncanny ability to "place" his batted balls (which foxes PECOTA) is perfect for shooting ground balls through the 1B hole when the defense is holding a runner on.
I will speculate on an answer here - there's just a very subtle difference between the 'ideal' lead-off hitter and a 'great' 2nd-slot hitter. Both need high OBP. But a slight difference in how they get on base can be significant if you have two high-OBP/low-power players for these two slots.

The guy who gets on base with some walks is your leadoff guy, and the guy who gets on base with his batting average bats in your 2nd-slot. This will lead to more first-and-third situations than if you reversed their slots in the order.

... but if you only have one high-OBP/low-power guy, he makes for a pretty good leadoff hitter...
Ditto on Jeter and Rivera. No way on God's green earth do they ask them to take pay cuts. No way. Unless they stink next year.
I understand that teams are willing to spend bucco $$$ for free agent closers. But is there much of a flesh trade market for them? What are top relievers bringing back in trade? My impression was, not much. But I could be wrong. So, am I?
A related question is- which high-payroll team needs aq closer? Yanks, RedSox, Mets, Dodgers all nope.
I was wonderin' how happy the Angels are with Fuentes after the second half of 2008 ... 1.685 WHIP with an ERA of 4.81 and a K/9 of just 4.4.

Was curious if there was anything in the Angels system that the Royals could have an eye on for 2012-2013... and in Anaheim, Fuentes setting up Soria could also work at the turnstiles.
12/07, that would be 2009. My internal calendar is apparently needing to be re-wound...
RE: Seattle. This IS a great time for them to be aggressive. The Angels are looking to regress one way or another and I don't think Tex is nearly ready to take the division. And Seattle drew well when they were great, so maybe JBay is worth the investment. Keep the DH slot fluid and put Branyan back at first. Sure it's a magnet for lefty pitching, but there's just not that many decent starters to offset the damage that offense could do. Playing 10-15% more home day games would help the offense a ton as well. Any thoughts?
Borbon, Main and Profar for Greinke? Isn't that missing a few names?
I'm a ranger fan and still think that's not nearly enough. I'd offer Holland, Main, Ross, and Poveda. That's one very young major league pitcher and 3 guys who would probably rank in the top 10 among Royals prospects.


That suggested package for Greinke is absolutely laughable.
Why do people keep insisting that Toronto should give Halladay away for nothing to anyone who will take Wells salary? Toronto is going to be a weak team until the bad contract expires so they can tie up the wasted money until then. They won't be luring any prime players to this club for the next few years, so let's keep the payroll obligations to Wells from letting management waste it on middle relievers and other castoffs. Freeing up the commitment to Halladay and Wells at once would leave them too much money to spend. With a fair minor league system at best, Toronto will not contend for some time under your scenario. Instead they should maximize the talent they can get for Halladay and eat Wells contract. By the time the contract runs out, the prospects should be major league ready and they will have money to spend on prime free agent talent giving them a chance at a run for the division.

Another peeve of mine is the idea that Toronto is asking too much for Halladay. If they keep him they get a year of Halladay and two prospects in the next draft. Trading him for less than two prospects plus some compensation for losing one of the best pitchers in MLB is not a wise decision. I know people like to use sabermetrics to calculate the value of the trade based of the number of years the Toronto would retain the prospects they received, but these calculations fail to take into account the fact that the team who gets Halladay would also get two prospects should he walk. I think people value prospects too much. Often prospects amount to nothing. Give me a proven MLB veteran every time. Halladay is easily worth three blue chip prospects. If I were a GM and had the prospects Toronto wanted I would trade them in a heartbeat for Halladay.
Because Wells is unlikely to perform at a $100 million level over the next 5 years. If he's an average player, as the article suggests, he might be worth 40-50 million.

There are very few prospect packages, and none that I've seen offered, that could match that surplus value. Having another $50 million (assuming they acquire a market-cost "average" FA to fill that role -- if they don't, they could save 80-100 mil) freed up is a game-changer.

Clearly they should try to maximize the prospects they receive in return, but I haven't seen too many packages that look to provide in excess of 20 million or so in value. This one isn't close -- if they find a team who will make this trade, they need to do it.
I also think five years is too long a time to wait for your next batch of prospects to swing in and win the division. If you get blue-chip prospects for Halladay like you say, they would be ready in two years, three max. You would be wasting the first year or two of their productive play.
I don't know the Jays need to worry about having a lot of cash to spend in the FA market. The way they have been eating contracts with no return - Rios, Ryan, and now Wells under this scenario - I don't see Toronto being a very popular destination. Doubly so if Halladay is gone.

If Roy were to get dealt and Wells dumped that would mean that of the 5 big deals Ricciardi handed out - Wells, Rios, Halladay, Ryan, and Burnett - not ONE of them will have finished their contract as a Blue Jay. If Halladay were to go to an AL East rival that would only put the team even further away from contending so you can pretty much forget the idea that cash to spend on free agents would have much use right now.

Wells is the most overpaid player in the game and he was brutal in 2009 but I think the idea of using his contract dollars elsewhere works better in theory than it would in practice.
Don't forget there's always the option of just letting the money saved accrue interest. Improving the profitability of the team has the chance to leave more money available for contracts in future FA markets (or draft/international bonuses) too. You don't necessarily have to use it all right away.
fair enough, though there are already reports the club has $16 million to spend on the draft and international free agents this coming year (a bit hard to believe i know)
Alex, good to hear from you...hope Indy is treating you well.
Any ideas as to how the Twins should go about obtaining a second baseman, third baseman, and left fielder? Free agency? If they trade Nathan, to whom do they trade him and who could they get in return? I like this series, but some of the entries are a little vague.
As for the franchise valuation comment, isn't $20M for 28 years at 11% per year just about what the White Sox are worth? That's a good, not spectacular, return. It's about the same as what you'd get if you'd been reasonably lucky with $20M in the stock market. The owners are doing pretty well, but wouldn't you expect a bit more in a growing industry with giant government subsidies?

(Hope the numbers I crunched were right - I just googled "time value of money calculator" and plugged in values.)
If it doesn't make sense for the Twins, a likely contender, to have Joe Nathan for $10 million, why would they be able to find another team willing to pay through the nose in a trade for him?

Your premise is that the Twins would get a position player as good for the Twins as Nathan in a trade and that this player would make essentially no money. Then with the extra money, the Twins could sign a $10 million free agent and fill another hole. But why would any team trade a player of equal value for Nathan if the player they're trading away makes little or no money? Do the other MLB GMs have some irrational love of Joe Nathan?

I could see netting a couple mediocre players in a trade plus free-agent signing, but then you're creating a full-size hole by trading Nathan and only half-filling two holes in return. This especially doesn't make sense if the Twins already have a weak bullpen, as you suggest (although I'm not really sure that's true), since it would just be trading from weakness to address weakness.

So..... Roy Halladay for Brandon Wood + Hank Conger/Mike Napoli? None of those guys seem to be "Angels guys" and the Angels certainly need a front-end arm for their rotation... Then again, in real baseball value that's certainly a massive overpay but I'd certainly be talking the ear off of Reagins.
Halladay and Wells to the Angels for a handshake?