Santana a Phil
Phillies sign RP Julio Santana to a 1-year deal worth $800,000. Not bad, though I hear Carlos has been working on a mean splitter.
First Round Matchup: 1.RP Billy Wagner (3) vs. 16. RP Braden Looper (62)
Mets new closer easily topples the Mets old closer.
VICTOR: Billy Wagner
Billy Wagner is the surest thing in this year’s free agent market heading into the 2006 season. The pitcher most similar to him through Age 33 – Mariano Rivera. Other guys on that list include Trevor Hoffman, Randy Myers, John Franco, and Dan Quisenberry. Those really are some of the best of the best all-time relievers. Wagner is a four time All-Star who has twice garnered NL MVP votes. His 2005 season was the best in his career. Wagner had an ERA of 1.51, 38 saves, and 87 strikeouts in 77.2 innings.
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Braden Looper
Looper has the classic frame of a big league pitcher (6’5’’, 225 lbs.) and the stuff to back it up. His spotty 2005 season with the Mets will surely leave a bad taste in the mouths of teams looking at him as a potential closer. This is fair. Looper had a difficult time closing out games this year for
Looper is an extreme ground ball pitcher (1.92 GO/AO ration in 2005, 2.74 in 2004) who hasn’t had a season below league average in his entire big league career (beginning in 1999). He has always walked a bit more guys than you’d like and never struck out batters like the elite closers do, but he has done a consistently solid job in many different roles coming out of the pen. Looper should be a very nice “buy low” candidate in this crazy, oversaturated, overvalued relief pitching market.
Prediction: Signs with
First Round Matchup: 8.2B Mark Grudzielanek (32) vs. 9. P Byung-Hyun Kim (35)
Call me crazy, but I really like Byung-Hyun Kim as a sleeper candidate to make a difference somewhere in 2006. He’ll only be 27 next season, has experience as a closer and a starter, and has just over a strikeout per inning pitched in his career (570 Ks to 567.2 IP). Grudzielanek is finished as an everyday regular in my mind. To me the choice here is obvious.
VICTOR: Byung-Hyun Kim
Kim’s number one comparable per Baseball Reference: Octavio Dotel. It’s a very interesting name to me for a lot of reasons. Both have experience as starters and closers, both are known for high strikeout totals, and both are big question marks and free agents heading into the offseason. Kim will be 27 in January and carries a career ERA of 3.76 into 2006. His career ERA+ is 123. There is more to say about Kim (of course), but since we are only focusing on the good for now we’ll leave it at for now. Keep this in mind though: Kim has had a history of success (albeit not so much a recent history) and still has youth on his side. This is not a bad way for a guy to market himself to the many big league clubs needy for pitching.
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Mark Grudzielanek
His OBP has always been closely tied to his batting average. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing so long as his BA remains high, but at 36 years old it will be difficult to maintain. Another one year-deal might be a decent, stopgap investment for a team with a hole at second. The problem is we all know he’ll get more than this. There are even rumors circulating that he is only entertaining three-year deals. Beware any player with a career high of 45 walks especially one coming off a 26 walk year. If he hits .326 and slugs .436 like he did in his age 29 year, then you can not walk as much as you like and still be a very useful player. If that batting average even dips a little bit, to say….in the .280s or .290s, then you just aren’t doing enough to help a team. That’ll be the case with Grudzielanek in 2006 and beyond. He isn’t a good long-term investment.
Prediction: Re-signs with
First Round Matchup: 4. SP Ted Lilly (16) vs. 13. IF Abraham Nunez (51)
My apologies. Ted Lilly is not actually a free agent this year. There was much confusion by many surrounding his contractual status, but the bottom line is I suck. Lilly isn’t a free agent, so he loses. Congratulations Abraham Nunez!
VICTOR: Abraham Nunez
Nunez is lucky he is playing a fake free agent. Otherwise, I see little way he could advance in this tournament. In fact, his overall ranking (51) was far too high upon closer inspection. Nunez is a nice player to have on the bench. He is a switch hitter and can play three infield positions (3B, SS, 2B). Versatility is good. As far as other positive statements…..well there just aren’t many. He did pitch in a game in 2004 with
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Ted Lilly
I bet I get this prediction wrong. Something very weird is going to happen with Lilly (traded, maybe even non-tendered) and he’ll wind up elsewhere just to spite me. I don’t see it happening, but it would be fun.
Prediction: Lilly remains a Blue Jay of course
First Round Matchup: 5. SP Paul Byrd (19) vs. 12. C Benji Molina (48)
Another matchup involving former battery mates opposing one another. Funny how that worked out again (Ausmus vs. Clemens faced off in a matchup that seems like it was weeks ago – oh it was? Man I’m slow). Byrd is a solid middle of the rotation starting pitcher. Molina is an aging catcher coming off a career year at the age of 30. Molina is still an above average catcher in this league and definitely a top-30 guy at his position, but paying him big bucks is just too risky when there are better alternatives out there that have yet to be uncovered. A catcher would have to be special to get a multi-year deal after the age of 30 – Molina is far from special (career OPS+ of 84, not good), so Byrd wins it by default more than anything else. Not to take anything away from Byrd by the way - he really has become a solid middle of the rotation starter and deserves to get some notice this offseason.
VICTOR: Paul Byrd
Paul Byrd is on a pretty nice run right now of four consecutive solid years. His number one comparable is Cory Lidle – isn’t that an absolutely dead on comparison? Byrd has walked 2.348 batters per 9 innings in his career putting him 13th on the active list. Jon Lieber is second (1.748), Rheal Cormier is 11th (2.299), and Cory Lidle is 12th (2.328). Byrd came out of nowhere to be an All-Star for the Phillies in 1999. My all-time favorite Paul Byrd story came during that summer in the middle of a brawl with the Atlanta Braves. Byrd was on the mound and Eddie Perez was at the plate. Tensions had been mounting between the two clubs all summer long and Perez finally took action after being plunked in the back with a pitch thrown by the high sock wearing Byrd. Benches cleared, people shoved, you know the drill. The only two players missing from all the fisticuffs? That would be Paul Byrd and Eddie Perez. Byrd, well known for being a devout Christian man, immediately fell to his knees and prayed for forgiveness and help through the ongoing brawl. Perez heard his prayer and, being the man of faith that he was, kneeled beside Byrd and joined him in prayer. This was all going on unbeknownst to anyone under a huge pile of gigantic men trying to knock each others heads off. It was only much after the brawl occurred that the story got out and it still gets a laugh out of me to this day. Anyway, Paul Byrd would be a nice fit in a lot of places. Guys that don’t walk batters will find jobs in the majors, you can count on it.
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Benji Molina
Older catchers are scary. Molina will be 31 in July and will get 3 years, maybe 4 on the open market. That’s all well and good for this upcoming season (even that point is highly debatable), but come the second, third, and (gulp) fourth years it is a disaster of a contract. Molina had a career year across the board offensively in 2005 (.295/.336/.446 with 15 homers) and has a well deserved reputation as a plus defensive catcher. He doesn’t walk (118 in 6+ big league seasons), but he doesn’t strikeout either (only 231 in his career). Molina has a career .309 OBP. That is troublesome. In the end, I stay far, far away from him.
Prediction: Signs with Houston Astros, 3-year deal worth $16.5 million
First Round Matchup: 3. SS Nomar Garciaparra (9) vs. 14. 2B Tony Graffanino (54)
Nomar Garciaparra and Tony Graffanino are, without a doubt, the top two free agent infielders with last names longer than ten letters that begin with the letter ‘G’. It is a bold statement I know, but that’s what I’m all about. After rereading that, I realize Grudzielanek also falls into this category. How weird is that? Anyway, I stand by my claim that Garciaparra and Graffanino are the best 10 plus letter G-men out there. I still think Garciaparra can be an impact guy somewhere. If he is healthy (that is one big if, of course – isn’t it always a “big if”? I don’t remember ever seeing a “little if” anywhere) then I think Nomar will be the absolute best bargain on this free agent market come the 2006 season. Graffanino has good value as a top notch utility guy being paid like a top notch utility guy, but somebody out there will jump all over him and give him a starting spot and the nice salary that goes along with it.
VICTOR: Nomar Garciaparra
Nomar can hit. Believe that. He is a career .320 hitter and has put up a lifetime .911 OPS. His worst season came in 2005 with the Cubs and it is tough to pin too much of the blame on Nomar for his still decent .283/.320/.452 line considering the year began with an absolutely horrible groin tear. Garciaparra attended Georgia Tech from 1992 to 1994 and had some pretty impressive teams while in
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Tony Graffanino
Graffanino is actually a little bit of a better player than I had initially given him credit for. I still think he fits best as a backup somewhere (consider him a good version of Abraham Nunez), but he won’t kill you filling in as a starter in the short-term either. Graffanino will be 34 in June so what you see is what you get for the most part. He did get the benefit of having a career high in at bats in 2005 and responded with his best year ever across the board. Is it possible he has had the ability to be at least a league average ML 2B all along and just hasn’t gotten the opportunity? It’s possible, but I seriously doubt it. Graffanino is a good guy to have around in the clubhouse and is versatile enough to play anywhere in the infield. He is an okay fit for a team needed a stopgap at 2B (I’d put maybe barely ahead or just about even with Grudzielanek), but an even better fit as a utility guy getting 200-250 at bats off the bench somewhere.
Prediction: Signs with the New York Mets, 2-year deal worth $4 million
First Round Matchup: 6. 3B Bill Mueller (22) vs. 11. DH Frank Thomas (41)
Finally, one of the very best first round matchups out there. Here are two players I think will sign reasonable, fair contracts and perform either at the level of their new deals or even exceed them. Isn’t that a beautiful concept? Neither player is anything close to a guarantee though. Mueller will be 35 and Thomas will be 38 this upcoming season. Thomas has only 345 at bats in the past two seasons. There are risks everywhere. Mueller is still the cream of the crop at a premium position this offseason and Thomas, if healthy and in shape, can still potentially hit like few others in the game. There are risks and there is upside. Even after factoring in the age of both guys, I like the unique upside each provides. Both are solid buys this offseason, but the belief that Thomas will get healthy and experience a mini-resurgence at the plate just won’t go away. Thomas wins in a minor upset of two worthy combatants.
VICTOR: Frank Thomas
I could write about the Big Hurt forever. Thomas, Piazza, Clemens – guys like these make it very easy to find complimentary things to say. Thomas was one of my favorite hitters to watch growing up even though I despised the White Sox. He is without a doubt in my mind the best righthanded hitter of my generation and that may be understating how good he is. His 7-year stretch from 1991 to 1997 is beyond compare – his lowest totals in that run would make a .308/.426/.536 line. No year topped his strike shortened 1994 - .353/.487/.729 with 38 homers, 34 doubles, 109 walks, 291 total bases, 106 runs, and 141 hits. All of those numbers in 1994 came in a mere 399 at bats roughly 150 less than a typical year in that time span for him. His OPS+ for that same year was 212. Thomas is an absolute, sure fire, without a shred of doubt, Hall of Famer in my mind and I hope he can work out a deal to continue with the White Sox (his only big league club) until his Hall of Fame day comes.
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Bill Mueller
This is the quote from Mueller from the person who sponsored him on Baseball Reference: "I want to be unselfish and worry about the name on the front of my uniform instead of the back." - Bill Mueller,
Mueller is coming off of three productive years with the Red Sox (OPS+ of 140, 106, 112) and must still be considered at top 30 third baseman in this league. He remains a hitter with good gap power and a very strong batting eye (34 doubles in 2005 along with 59 walks and a .369 OBP). Plenty of teams are looking at third basemen this offseason, but I can admit I have absolutely no idea what kind of money or terms Mueller will get. His new contract will be one I eagerly anticipate breaking down.
Prediction: Signs with Los Angeles Dodgers, 2-year deal worth $6.5 million (player option for third year at $3.5 million)
First Round Matchup: 2. 1B Paul Konerko (5) vs. 15. P Hector Carrasco (57)
Konerko is a rare impact bat on the free agent market this year. Carrasco is a run of the mill pitcher going into 2006 without a clearly defined role. These quick, one sentence about each guy matchups must be a real treat to read. I could pretend to make some of these matchups closer than they are, but let’s face facts here. Konerko vs. Carrasco? Hardly a fair fight.
VICTOR: Paul Konerko
Konerko is coming off a career best season (.283/.375/.534 with 40 homers) at exactly the right time. He has put up big numbers in four of the last five seasons and has improved his overall numbers in each of those four successful seasons (2003 was a disaster of Burrell-esque proportions so we choose to ignore it – lord knows his agent will). Konerko was most famous early on in his career for being a top catching prospect in the Dodger organization. Then he was famous for being the key piece in two major deals – he was traded in a package to
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Hector Carrasco
Best name on the open market this year without a doubt – Hector Pacheco Pipo Carrasco Pacheco. It’s hard not to root for a guy with a name like that. By my count, HPPCP has been a member of 13 different major league teams and 14 total (Mets, Astros, Marlins, Reds, Royals, Diamondbacks, Twins, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Twins again, Rangers, Orioles, Cubs, and Nationals). That is quite a career. I bet Carrasco looks at it as an honor that so many teams have wanted him bad enough to acquire him so many times. I hope that’s how he looks at it anyway. It is far more palatable than any of the alternative theories on constant player movement. Carrasco is a really difficult guy to judge. He went into 2005 with
Prediction: Re-signs with Nationals, 1-year deal worth $1.25 million
First Round Matchup: 7. RP Scott Eyre (25) vs. 10. C Mike Piazza (38)
I don’t like either guy – how could I have ranked Eyre the 25th best free agent? Eyre has been worked like a dog the past few seasons and he’ll wind up an overpaid, broken down middle reliever who will cost whatever team he signs with a first/second round pick. Piazza will be a 37-year old catcher/DH type coming off the two worst seasons of his career. Would you rather blow your money on middle relief or a fading slugger without a real position? This matchup comes down to what kind of contract each will receive – I think somebody will give Eyre more years than Piazza will get (baseball rule number one: don’t ever pay for middle relief unless it is a special, special player or it is on a one-year deal) and that swings this battle to the old catcher.
VICTOR: Mike Piazza
Piazza is the best hitting catcher to have ever played the game. He is the greatest player to ever come out of
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Scott Eyre
Eyre is entering his Age-34 season coming off of three very solid years in
Prediction: Signs with Chicago Cubs, 3-year deal worth $11.25 million
Actual: Signs with Chicago Cubs, 2-year deal worth $7.20 million with a $3.8 million player option for 2008 and possible bonuses that could total $2.4 million over the three years
First Round Matchup: 1. OF Brian Giles (4) vs. 16. IF Rich Aurilia (61)
Brian Giles is the best available hitter on the free agent market even though he’ll be 35 this upcoming season. That’s just too much for Rich Aurilia to compete with. Aurilia peaked somewhat late to begin with, so his resurgence in 2005 could be the beginning signs of another short stretch of above average ball. Either way, he is no Brian Giles.
VICTOR: Brian Giles
Hall of Famer Hack Wilson is the number one comp to Brian Giles through their respective Age-34 seasons. All Giles has done as a major leaguer is hit. He is without a doubt making up for lost time (first full-time job at the age of 28) by putting up as good a stretch of peak years of any player during the same time frame (1999-2002). Little known fact about Giles – he isn’t the first Brian Giles to ever play in the majors. That honor goes to Brian Jeffrey Giles and not Brian Stephen Giles. So there you go.
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Rich Aurilia
Aurilia could make a very good utility guy in 2006 – whether he or any of the 30 major league teams agree with this remains to be seen. Aurilia is entering his Age-34 and is coming off a four-year stretch of below league average performances. Nothing about his recent history shows him deserving of anything but a one-year deal and a chance at a utility/super-sub role. Teams will surprise you though. What teams though? Aurilia had his $2 million option declined by
Prediction: Signs with
First Round Matchup: 8. SP Esteban Loaiza (31) vs. 9. RP Julian Tavarez (34)
Loaiza is a guy I’d stay away from. He turns 34 on New Year’s Eve and has a remarkably up and down career to this point. As a fourth or fifth starter being paid like a fourth or fifth starter, he is fine. Anything more is a concern. Julian Tavarez has had three excellent years in row. Overpaying for bullpen help is one of the big mistakes teams make; if there is a position that can be filled from within an organization, it is often in middle relief. That being said, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Tavarez has proved to be a very good late inning reliever that can help a team shorten a game. Overpaying for any reliever can be very damaging, but Tavarez has proved he is worth a good chunk of change for his services. Tavarez will get less cash than Loaiza and do more.
VICTOR: Julian Tavarez
Tavarez, like Giles, was originally an Indians farmhand. It is astounding to think about all the talent those mid-90s
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Esteban Loaiza
Esteban Loaiza is another one of the guys I lump in the growing group of back of the rotation starters available this offseason. The problem with Loaiza is the fact he won’t get paid like that. He’ll get second/third starter money (think anything over $5 million per) and, for that price, he is a big time gamble. Loaiza enters his Age-34 season coming off a strong year with
Prediction: Signs with
First Round Matchup: 4. 1B Erubiel Durazo (15) vs. 13. 2B Mark Bellhorn (50)
Erubiel Durazo had an awful, injury filled 2005 season. It was his worst year as a major leaguer by far. Again, things like this can actually help teams on the free agent market. Durazo could be a very good buy low guy. In four seasons of part-time play in
VICTOR: Erubiel Durazo
Before 2005 Durazo had never had anything but a significantly above average major league season. Billy Beane had long coveted him for his on base skills and he has not disappointed (until that bad injury filled 2005). In his first year as a regular player, Durazo hit 21 homers, walked 100 times, and put up a line of .259/.374/.430. The next year he changed his approached (only 56 walks), but compensated by hitting .321/.396/.523. There were always rumblings that he was a tad too picky at the plate, but any concerns there were put to rest by his 2004 numbers. The name of the game is to not make an out and Durazo has done a good job of avoiding outs since getting a chance full time.
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Mark Bellhorn
Bellhorn has played every position in his career thus far except catcher. Problem is, he plays none of the particularly well. Teams may be down on him after his awful 2005 season and he might not be able to find any starting 2B jobs out there. Maybe if
Prediction: Signs with
First Round Matchup: 5. C Kenji Jojima (18) vs. 12. RP Ugueth Urbina (47)
Kenji Jojima is a great unknown. He has posted three straight years of batting averages over .300 and 144 homers over the past five seasons. He has an excellent reputation as a defensive player and is by all accounts a very good teammate. He’ll be 30 in June which may worry some teams as he could begin to enter his decline phase. The years of wear and tear often slows down catchers sooner than most. The adjustment to the major leagues will also be a big one; Jojima is the first Japanese catcher to come to the States and how he performs will be a test for future generations. So much of catching is communicating and the language barrier will be in effect. With the dearth of good catching currently in baseball, Jojima, based on his strong offensive numbers and defensive reputation, should be a solid starter in the majors for at least a year or two or three. Urbina could wind up in jail for lighting people on fire and wielding a machete. Not good.
VICTOR: Kenji Jojima
Jojima has been a good hitter, good fielder, and good teammate in
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Ugueth Urbina
No player heads into the offseason with more questions than Ugueth Urbina. The guy really has had an excellent big league career – 10 straight seasons of ERA+ over 100. Take away one league average season and his lowest ERA+ in that stretch is 114.That’s impressive stuff. Urbina actually started 21 games in his first two years in the majors winning 10 games in 1996. His Age-24 season was off the charts – in his second season as the Expos full-time closer, Urbina saved 34 games while posting a 1.30 ERA. Those are sensational numbers. Urbina has been very good for a long time now and there is little doubt in my mind that he can still be an above average closer somewhere. The situation has to be right as Urbina is an extreme fly ball pitcher who has a style that will play better in certain ballparks than others. This relief/closer market is impossible to figure out. Of all the positions that I’m guessing at here, these bullpeners are my most out there choices. Bowden likes taking chances, RFK is a big ole place, I don’t think there will be any closer jobs out left for UUU when the market settles, so why not? Dark horse:
Prediction: 5-10 year contract with shady Venezuelan prison cell…. Or 1-year contract with
First Round Matchup: 3. C Ramon Hernandez (12) vs. 14. Joey Eischen (53)
Every year the market works out well for one position above all the others (besides pitching, everybody always needs pitching no matter the year. A handful of teams need catching this year and there are, you guessed it, a handful of worth free agent catchers looking for homes. Ramon Hernandez is the best catcher out there and will be able to set his price when talking to the 4 or 5 teams desperately in need of catching. Joey Eischen has been an underrated reliever for a while now, but this is a loaded year for relief pitching. So many of these first round matchups come down to position. In this case, starting catcher beats relief pitcher.
VICTOR: Ramon Hernandez
Hitting is secondary for catchers. So long as a guy can catch and throw and communicate well with the pitching staff, a catcher will get work. Hernandez has a fantastic reputation as a receiver dating back to his days in
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Joey Eischen
Eischen has been around. By my count, he has been the property of ten major league teams. He’ll be 36 next year so it appears the dream of pitching for all 30 teams will be just a bit out of reach. I’m still holding out hope for Bruce Chen to set that record. Eischen is a solid LOOGY ((L)eft-handed (O)ne (O)ut (G)u(Y)) although not necessarily used as one who is coming off of 3 very good years out of the past 4 (his 2004 performance was above league average, but he was hurt and only pitched 18.2 innings so its thrown out). As good as those years have been, the fact remains that Eischen is a limited pitcher. Big money can not be spent on such a one trick pony. He is the kind of luxury a good team (with a nice sized payroll) can afford. There should be lots of options for Eischen as he gets to decide where he wants to play for the first time in his career, but I see him going to safe, boring St. Louis route as so many ballplayers like to do.
Prediction: Signs with
First Round Matchup: 6. RP Bob Wickman (21) vs. 11. OF Preston
Again, these first round matchups tend to come down to position. In this case a good reliever emblematic of a good year for relievers opposes an inconsistent, boom or bust type outfielder in a year full of similar OF talents. This does expose a bit of a weakness of the tournament format. It would be far more interesting to judge Wickman up against all other free agent relievers. It would be definitely more beneficial to stack up
VICTOR: Bob Wickman
Wickman is coming off his second All-Star appearance and his second best overall season as a professional. He had 45 saves, an ERA of 2.47, and an ERA+ of 116. He has eerily similar stats to another closer on this crowded market. Any guesses who?
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Preston
I see close to two dozen teams that are actively shopping for outfielders, but movement will be slow until Brian Giles and Johnny Damon find homes. The second-tier (J.Jones, P.Wilson, J.Encarnacion – you know the names by now) will wait, see who misses out on the stars, and base their moves on that. If
Prediction: Signs with
First Round Matchup: 2. OF Hideki Matsui (5) vs. 15. SP Jason Johnson (60)
Matsui is a star. Johnson is back of the rotation filler. Next!
VICTOR: Hideki Matsui
Matsui is coming off back to back years of OPS+ values at 139 and 125. He’ll hit put up a .295/.365/.490 for you and is capable of playing anywhere in the outfield. He also brings 20+ homer potential and is a consistent extra base hitter (over 40 doubles in 2 of his 3 seasons). Even entering his Age-32 season, Matsui is deserving of a 3-year deal and might even live up to the standards of a 4-year pact. He’ll stay a Yankee, you can count on it.
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Jason Johnson
I wrote a lot about Jason Johnson. It got deleted. So if this is short, I advise you to not take it as an indictment of how I personally feel about Jason Johnson. He is a lovely man I'm sure. Good back of the rotation filler. Steady ground ball pitcher. Did you know he is a diabetic who keeps an insulin pump handy at all times?
Prediction: Signs with Colorado, 2-year deal worth $7.5 million
First Round Matchup: 7. OF Jacque Jones (28) vs. 10. RP Bob Howry (37)
I personally like Jacque Jones. Very good defensive outfielder and hits well against righties. He is a guy that could be very useful if used properly (i.e. not playing for a dunderhead who doesn’t believe in platooning like Ron Gardenhire in
VICTOR: Jacque Jones
Jacque Jones is an excellent defensive outfielder and a competent everyday major league outfielder. His career year of 2002 may never again be duplicated (or approached for that matter), but he is a steady, veteran player capable of hitting 20 homers and stealing 10 bases. He is just about a league average player for his career and should remain steady for another few years.
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Bob Howry
Howry has had two very good back to back years with
Prediction: Signs with
First Round Matchup: 1. SP Roger Clemens (1) vs. 16. C Brad Ausmus (65)
The National League Champion Houston Astros will have many difficult decisions to make this offseason. Luckily, that is up to them and not me. The only decision I have to make right now is between Clemens and Ausmus. I’ll be as nice to both guys as possible since I’m sure they are buddies and made up a very successful battery this year. So, in an attempt to maintain my niceness, let’s just say Clemens narrowly squeaks by Ausmus in this matchup. Deal?
VICTOR: Roger Clemens
Roger Clemens broke into baseball about 10 years too soon. Sure, he has made over $121,000,000 since breaking into the bigs in 1985, but can you imagine the kind of money he could have made, in his prime, in the mid to late 90’s marketplace?
THANKS FOR PLAYING : Brad Ausmus
Brad Ausmus is arguably the fourth best catcher on the open market this offseason despite his putrid offensive numbers of the past few years. He is still an above average catcher behind the plate and has a reputation of being one of the best in baseball at handling a pitching staff – Roger Clemens (oh the irony) has called him the best catcher he has ever pitched to. These are perfect qualities in a backup catcher. However, as previously noted, Ausmus is the fourth best catcher available. This says something about the state of catching in the game today. There are starting jobs to be had for a player like Ausmus for better or worse.
Ausmus actually had his best offensive season since 2000 putting up a .258/.351/.331 line in 387 at bats – the biggest surprise of the line has to be the 51 walks compared to 48 strikeouts. It is doubtful Ausmus can duplicate even his modest numbers of ’05 in 2006 as he is entering his Age-37 season and should be in full decline phase. The fact that he is a catcher and a good defensive one at that will keep him working, however.
Where Ausmus winds up will depend on where the three highly coveted catchers of the offseason decide on playing. Whatever team is left without the guy they really want will turn to Ausmus. Expect him to either resign with
Prediction: Signs with
First Round Matchup: 8. CF Kenny Lofton (30) vs. 9. RP Rudy Seanez (33)
These 8-9 matchups are always the best. Lofton had a sensational year with the Phillies in 2005 at the age of 38. Rudy Seanez had a fantastic year out of the Padres bullpen in 2005 at the age of 36. I am sure I am a little biased because I got to see Lofton play every night, but I saw very few signs of him slowing down this year. He got better as the year progressed. Seanez is the more likely candidate to not duplicate his outstanding 2005 although I still see him as an above average relief pitcher going forward. Lofton’s recent track record (only one barely below average season in the last four) compared with the track record of Seanez (unsuccessful injury shortened years in both 2002 and 2003) help give Lofton an edge. Seanez is also coming off a career high in innings pitched at the age of 36. Lofton is coming off a year in which he played in 110 games – evidence that he has been kept fresh while also playing in two out of every three games. I’ll take the platoon outfielder over the middle reliever in this case.
VICTOR: Kenny Lofton
Lofton his .335/.392/.420 last year. He stole 22 bases in 25 attempts (88%). He had more triples (5) than hit into double plays (3). If his game was built on speed and contact, the man can still play. Lofton keeps his body in great shape (nagging hamstring injuries aside) and there is little reason to think he won’t at least be a productive platoon partner for somebody for another year. Plus, he was involved in one of the worst trades in recent memory. The Cubs stole Lofton and Aramis Ramirez from
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Rudy Seanez
Rudy Seanez is coming off of a stellar year with
Prediction: Re-signs with
First Round Matchup: 4. RP Octavio Dotel (14) vs. 13. Joe Randa (49)
Octavio Dotel is a guy that I have higher than most. His injury concerns worry me, but short of that I see nothing but upside. He is heading into his Age-32 season and hasn’t had anything short of a significantly above average year since his conversion to the bullpen began in 2001. Joe Randa is entering his Age-36 season and is on the downside of a very nondescript major league career. Nondescript isn’t meant in a mean way here either – the guy has lasted 11 seasons so far as an all around average third baseman. An average third baseman at his peak is not going to be a hot commodity now that he has hit his decline phase. Dotel, injuries and all, wins out.
VICTOR: Octavio Dotel
Dotel has been very good pitching under the radar for the past few years. It seems that being a closer can sometimes do that – successes are downplayed while failures are replayed over and over and over and over…you get the idea. We’ll call 2005 a wash due to injuries (he only pitched 15.2 innings) and look at other recent years to explain his value. Dotel struck out 122 batters in 85.2 innings in 2004 while only walking 33. Those numbers help explain his breakout season of 36 saves.
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Joe Randa
Randa has been discussed at length here, so there isn’t much more to be said. That is actually a bit of lie since I really didn’t go into too much detail on Randa in that previous post. The real reason why there isn’t much more to say about him is because it’s Joe Randa. He can still hit .270/.330/.425 for you so he isn’t an awful player, but most teams look for more out of that from their third baseman. The market for third baseman figures to be a slow one this offseason, so Randa will more than likely have to settle for another 1-year contract. He also could be faced with the decision of choosing less money and playing time for a contender (
Prediction: Signs with
First Round Matchup: 5. RP Trevor Hoffman (17) vs. 12. D’Angelo Jimenez (46)
D’Angelo Jimenez is another player who has been discussed at length – you can find that here. Ideally, he is a super-sub on a contending team. A very useful player, to be sure, but not a difference maker like a star closer can be. Even at 59 years old, Hoffman is still a legit closer in the big leagues. This gives him the edge.
VICTOR: Trevor Hoffman
Hoffman has 436 career saves and could overtake Lee Smith as the career leader with a big year (he needs 42 to tie). He rebounded strongly from injury 2 years ago to post back to back 40 save seasons. I’d personally expect more than a .121 batting average out of a converted outfielder though.
THANKS FOR PLAYING: D'Angelo Jimenez
Jimenez is really an underrated player. He isn’t a superstar, but he can be a valuable asset of the bench and is a better option at second for some teams out there. He should come cheap after his problems in
Prediction: Signs with
First Round Matchup: 3. SS Rafael Furcal (11) vs. 14. Matt Lawton (56)
Furcal is one of the more controversial, polarizing free agents out there. Some people love him; others think he is incredibly overrated. He’ll only be 28 and will be in hot demand as teams with holes at SS, 2B, and maybe even CF pursue him. Matt Lawton, on the other hand, will be 34, and comes with a free 10-game steroid suspension to start 2006 for any team that signs him.
VICTOR: Rafael Furcal
Rafael Furcal expects a $50 million deal. More power to him for shooting for the top, I say. Furcal has good pop, great speed, a cannon for an arm (not literally), and shows signs of improving plate discipline. There is a lot to like from him as he enters his year 28 season. His number one comparable: none other than Mr. Jimmy Rollins.
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Matt Lawton
Matt Lawton probably could use a hug. He was booed everywhere he want last year (mostly
Prediction: Signs with
First Round Matchup: 6. SP Jarrod Washburn (24) vs. 11. SP Brett Tomko (43)
These guys are similar pitchers except for the fact that Washburn is younger and better. He’ll be paid more and will probably be overpaid, but the fact remains he is a better option for a team looking for quality starting pitching. Too bad this matchup wasn’t between Jeff Weaver and Brett Tomko. Their career numbers are very, very similar (Weaver’s awful season as a Yankee was his big outlier while Tomko has been consistently below average).
VICTOR: Jarrod Washburn
Washburn has been a winner throughout his Angels career. There are so many other factors that go into winning a baseball game that wins by a pitcher has become the most overrated stat in baseball. Washburn has the wins and other good numbers to back up his success. A career ERA under 4 and an ERA+ of 114 for a starting pitcher with 183 starts under his belt is bound to be a hot commodity in 2005. Washburn is coming off his second best full season as a starter. He is also arguably the best player (definitely the best pitcher) to come out of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Gary Varsho, a proud Titan, should be proud.
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Brett Tomko
Brett Tomko’s career began with such high expectations. I thought for sure he was a future stud pitcher. Good body, good stuff, always seemed to have his head on his shoulders. Something just went wrong along the way. Tomko will be 33 next season and is now officially what he is going to be – a back of the rotation innings eater. This may even be a generous assessment considering he has only had one above average year (ERA+ of 110 in 2004) since his sensational debut in 1997. Tomko is a fly ball pitcher so it would be wise for teams with tiny ballparks to pass him by. He could be tempting to a number of teams –
Prediction: Signs with
First Round Matchup: 2. OF Johnny Damon (8) vs. 15. Pedro Astacio (59)
Damon scares me a little bit – he’ll be 32 this upcoming season and his defense (a controversial subject – some defensive metrics say it’s good, some bad) is questionable at best. The man is a bona fide major league leadoff man and that is a quality that goes a long way in today’s market. Astacio was a personal sleeper of mine last season. The Rangers picking him up for $800,000 was a pretty decent move. This season the secret is out and some team might be silly enough to guarantee at least a million dollar deal longer than one year and open up a rotation spot for the guy. That seems like a big risk on a 36-year old starter. Damon may have his question marks, but he is still a potential impact player in a year in which there are few (I know, I know – I’m a broken record, but it’s true).
VICTOR: Johnny Damon
Johnny Damon is still a very good leadoff man. He is coming off back to back good years with
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Pedro Astacio
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Pedro Astacio
I liked Pedro Astacio more as a reliever last year and my opinion on him hasn’t changed. His success (and failure) in 2005 was predictable. Put a fly ball pitcher in
Predictions: Re-signs with
First Round Matchup: 7. RP Kyle Farnsworth (27) vs. 10. Juan Encarnacion (42)
Farnsworth has the arm to be a big-time closer in this league, but does he have the head? Sounds like a question that has asked about this guy since he was converted to the bullpen full time in 2000. Farnsworth had his breakout in 2005, but there were some other factors that may have played into it. Encarnacion is coming off his best year ever (.287/.349/.447), but has still not matured into the player scouts expected. He is turning 30 this season and time is running out on that ever happening (if it hasn’t already). He is still a solid player capable of hitting in various spots of a lineup. This is as close a matchup as there has been. Two 30-year old guys with unrealized potential – the success of each is largely dependent on where they wind up. Going on the general rule of pitching over hitting, Farnsworth takes it.
VICTOR: Kyle Farnsworth
Farnsworth finished 2005 with an ERA at 2.19 and an ERA+ of 198. Those are some serious numbers. He struck out 87 in 70 innings and only walked 27 batters. His homeruns allowed were cut in half from 2004 and, in his first year getting even semi-regular save opportunities, he saved a career high 16 games. He is also one big, scary guy when on the mound.
THANKS FOR PLAYING: Juan Encarnacion
Encarnacion is a really interesting player. As are many players with unrealized potential, he is a regular walking contradiction. His power numbers jump out as underwhelming (when put in context with the big expectations he once came with), but he has played his prime years in big ballparks (
Prediction: Signs with