Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Santana a Phil

Nope not him

Getting warmer, but still not quite (a guy can dream though)

That's the one

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.

Gregg Jeffries Regional - First Round

Check out an explanation of what is going

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.


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 New York. His problems were obvious upon closer inspection. Looper’s K/BB ratio dropped from a career best 3.16 in 2004 to a pathetic 1.08 in 2005. He struck out fewer guys and walked more – never a recipe for success. His K/9 rate went from 6.48 in 2004 down to 4.10 in 2005 while his BB/9 rose from 1.73 in 2004 to 3.34 in 2005. Those are drastic differences and are fairly clear indicators as to why Looper struggled the way he did in 2005. So we’ve established the fact that Looper had a less than great year as a closer in 2005. This doesn’t make him a bad reliever, it only means he had a less than great year. It happens. Comparing his 2004 and 2005 might be a mistake anyway considering his 2004 season was a career best season and out of line with the rest of his big league numbers. He isn’t as good as he was in 2004 (ERA+ 158, ERA 2.70, 60 Ks in 83.1 innings) and he isn’t as bad as he was in 2005 (ERA+ 106, ERA 3.94, only 27 Ks in 59.1 innings).

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 Baltimore, 3-year deal worth $7.75 million

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 St. Louis, 2-years worth $6 million

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 Pittsburgh and even found a way to get the one batter he faced out. And it should not be forgotten that Nunez was 5th in the NL in triples in 2003 with 7 and 2nd in the NL in sacrifices in 1999 with 13. Don’t you hate it when in an attempt to make somebody sound good you have to reach so hard to find positive things to say it only sounds like you are making fun of their modest accomplishments? I sure do.


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.


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 Atlanta. Garciaparra was on a team with a lineup that included both Jason Varitek and Jay Payton and a pitching staff that included Brad Rigby, an eventual second rounder to Oakland who pitched in 73 big league games. That was one good college club.


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.


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, Boston Herald, Feb 19, 2003. I’ve always been a big Bill Mueller fan – he was “Bill Mueller Phillie Killer” during his run with the Giants after all. Part of the fun of writing all these notes down is to have a full proof record of my opinions so that I can’t be accused of second guessing. I bring this up because I was all about Bill Mueller in the offseason leading up to the 2003 season. I didn’t hate the Bell signing (still don’t hate it), but I was going on and on about Mueller for days. Oh well.

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 Cincinnati for Jeff Shaw and then traded by the Reds to the White Sox for Mike Cameron. Konerko has now settled in and matured into one of the most feared sluggers in the major leagues today.


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 Washington as the career journeyman reliever we all knew and loved. But a funny thing happened in D.C. – Carrasco was given a shot to start and ran with it. He went 1-1 in 5 starts down the stretch while putting up a 2.03 ERA. His 5 starts were just that – 5 starts. I hope no GM is out there thinking that Hector Pacheco Pipo Carrasco Pacheco can be a real life major league starter in 2005. The man is 36 years old – what’s that they say about old dogs and new tricks? If a GM sees the overall success Carrasco had in 2005 including his successful run as a starter and decides to make a nice, low reasonable offer for him to come in and work as a swingman out of the bullpen then that would be acceptable. Anything else is just chasing fool’s gold. For the record, Hector Pacheco Pipo Carrasco Pacheco is good. Really good. But is it any match for the greatest name of them all? I think not. The winner, and still champion, Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacques Wamutombo.

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 Norristown, PA and the most accomplished 62nd round pick of all time. He was flat out dominating for an entire decade beginning with his rookie year in 1993 to his last truly great season in 2002. That is ten years of dominance. His best stretch was from 1995 to 1998. Piazza was a catcher. Not a good one, but a serviceable one. For a catcher to hit like this…it really boggles my mind. During that stretch his worst line would have been .336/.417/.563 with 32 homers. His 1997 was one for the ages - .362/.431/.638 with 355 total bases, 40 homers, 201 hits, and 5 steals (!) in 6 chances. Piazza is a 12-time All-Star and winner of 10 straight Silver Sluggers (1993-2002). He has made over $110,000,000 in his career and was once involved in a megadeal that Sports Illustrated proclaimed the “Trade of the Century” (I still remember the cover to that week’s issue, the article itself was one of the best I have ever read too). Piazza was dealt on May 14th, 1998 from Los Angeles (I never in a million years thought he’d play anywhere but L.A.) to Florida for a package including Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich, Charles Johnson, and Gary Sheffield (Manuel Barrios was also included). Just about a week later (May 22nd, 1998) the Marlins dealt Piazza (there was never any doubt he wouldn’t be a Marlin much longer than the week that he was) to the Mets for young prospects Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnall, and Geoff Goetz. Fascinating trades all around which fit in nicely with the overarching theme of the really amazing, storybook career Mike Piazza has had. Baseball Reference has no real strong comparisons to him because no catcher has ever put up numbers quite like he has before. Piazza was (is) a one of a kind ballplayer.


Eyre is entering his Age-34 season coming off of three very solid years in San Francisco. He is a good reliever, but he’ll be overpaid soon enough. You can’t pay for middle relief. You just can’t do it. It’s a bad idea every single time. Nothing personal, Scott, you deserve what ever amount of money a team will foolishly throw your way, but you just don’t have enough of an impact on any one baseball game to warrant a big deal. Middle relief is the perfect spot to develop some young, homegrown talent that’ll only cost you around $315,000 a year. Scott Eyre was a marginal reliever at best until 2003 and his Age-31 season – do not forget this.

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

On the Agenda

Here is a nice, long list of things that need to be done in the coming days. This list is in no particular order and is very much open to be moved around. The final first round bracket should be up shortly as the FA tournament will be progressing (and hopefully concluding) in the not too distant future. Any opinions on how this list should be prioritized and/or what particular things should be talked about in more detail would be greatly appreciated.
  1. Thoughts on Wagner's Departure
  2. Thoughts on Thome's Departure and the Big Trade
  3. Getting to Know...Abraham Nunez and Thoughts on the Nunez Signing
  4. Getting to Know...Aaron Rowand
  5. Getting to Know...The Two Newest Phillies Prospects
  6. Around the League: Josh Beckett, Carlos Delgado, and Esteban Loaiza
  7. Around the League: Random Signings and Deals
  8. In-Depth Look at Phillies Top Ten Prospect List
  9. Bobby Abreu Trade Rumors (and what it would take for me to give him up)
  10. The Firing of Paul DePodesta
  11. Man of the People: Response to Reader Comment Concerning Sean Burroughs

At Least He Has a Cool Name...

Abraham Orlando Nunez Adames - the newest Philadelphia Phillie. Nunez has agreed to a 2-year contract worth $3.35 million with a team option for the 2008 season. Nunez is a switch-hitter who can play three infield positions (2B, SS, 3B). He'll turn 30 years old in March of 2006. More to come...

Monday, November 28, 2005

Country Mouse in the Big City

Billy Wagner is a New York Met today after signing a 4-year contract worth $43 million. The deal includes a team option in 2010 for a fifth year. The contract breaks down nice and easy with Wagner set to collect $10.5 million for each of the four seasons ($42 million guaranteed) and then either get paid $8 million in 2010 to pitch for the Mets or $1 million to go away.

The Phillies obviously now need to address the hole in the back of their bullpen. Wagner is gone. B.J. Ryan is gone. To whom do the Phillies turn? Could it be.....Tom Gordon? Stay tuned.

The fallout from the Wagner signing doesn't end at the big league level. To the best of my understanding, the Wagner signing will result in the movement of draft picks from the Mets to the Phillies. Wagner was a Type A Free Agent so the compensation is steep - a first rounder (so long as it isn't in the top half of the draft order) and a pick in the compensatory round between the first and second rounds. That's quite a haul. The Phillies original pick was at the 21st spot in the first round, but due to the Mets signing of Wagner, the Phillies will receive New York's first round pick (18th overall) and a compensatory pick (believed to be 31st overall). If the Phillies sign a Type A Free Agent, they'll lose their original first rounder (21st), but they can not lose either of the new picks from the Mets.

This is all very welcomed news to a franchise that has seen the farm system slowly picked away at over the past few years through promotions, trades, and an overall lack of top of the draft selections due to free agent signings. Two young arms added in the Thome deal, two high picks added here, I'd say things are looking up for the long-term future of the franchise. As for the short-term, let's see what happens with Tom Gordon and any other potential closer target. That will really give an indication of what is going on in Gillick's head and where the team is going in 2006.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Market Watch

B.J. Ryan signs a 5-year, $47 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays (probably). Assuming this deal is done, the ramifications on the Billy Wagner contract talks are huge. If the number two closer gets a deal like this, what is the new going rate for the number one guy?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


November 23, 2005 - Phillies make a deal with the Chicago White Sox

Phillies give: 1B Jim Thome
Phillies get: CF Aaron Rowand, SP Daniel Haigwood, SP Gio Gonzalez (2004 numbers and 2005 numbers)

It is being reported that the Phillies will pay about $22 million of the $46 million owed to Thome. Rowand earned $2 million in 2005 and is expected to receive $3.25 million in 2006. There is a club option for 2007 at $5 million and Rowand holds a player option for 2007 at $3.25 million. Busy time of year for all, so more will come at a later date.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Little Bit 'O News

- According to reports out of New York, the Mets will offer Billy Wagner the 4-year, $40 million contract he covets. An announcement on this signing could come as early as Wednesday. Not much to say about it since its still speculation and the sources are of the unnamed variety, but there you go

- Old friend Jim Fregosi is a “lock” to become next manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers according to the LA Times

- We’ll get to some quick thoughts on the NL MVP vote as it pertained to the Phils (good stuff) and the steroid agreement (even better stuff) as soon as this free agent tournament wraps up

- Speaking of the tournament, check out the Rex Hudler Regional directly below (I'm always afraid stuff will get buried, I know I would only ever check whatever new thing was on top)

Rex Hudler Regional - First Round

Check out an explanation of what is going

First Round Matchup: 1. SP A.J Burnett (2) vs. 16. 1B Travis Lee (63)

A.J. Burnett will get the biggest free agent contract for a pitcher this offseason. He’ll be 29 this season and has a career record of 49-50. Travis Lee will be 31 (where does the time go?) and is without a doubt one of my least favorite players to ever play the game. Burnett is a highly thought of guy (with my own personal high seed representing it), but could be victimized by an upset somewhere down the line. Travis Lee isn’t the guy to get the job done.

VICTOR: A.J. Burnett

Burnett is coming off a season when he posted a 3.44 ERA, won 12 games, and struck out 198 guys in 209 innings. He is a strapping lad who measures in at 6’5’’, 205 pounds and will be 29 years old going into the season. He also could have added value to teams seeking ground ball pitchers – he had a 2.11 GO/AO ratio this year.


Travis Lee – where to begin? He is an exceptional fielder, quite possibly the best defensive first baseman in the game. Lee and Rico Brogna were the two best defensive first basemen I’ve seen in my 13 seasons following the Phillies (Brogna is number 4 on the list of comparable players for Lee by the way). That’s the good news. The bad isn’t even all that bad to be honest. Lee was a victim first and foremost of high expectations. He was the number two overall pick in 1996, but became a free agent through a draft loophole and signed a huge deal with the new franchise in Arizona. After a strong rookie year in 1998, Lee disappointed for the D’Backs for a season and a half before being the centerpiece in the Curt Schilling trade from Philadelphia. High expectations again. His first full year in Philly wasn’t bad and there was plenty of room to grow (waiting for those doubles and his gap power to turn into homers and real power), but Lee regressed and proved to be an awful fit playing in a town that actually cares about things like winning, losing, and watching million dollar athletes actually play like they give a shit. Travis Lee is talented. He just doesn’t care. He is motivated by the huge paycheck he gets every other week and is satisfied in doing just enough to keep his bank account fat. His last two full seasons in Tampa have been better than league average, so maybe he is beginning to figure things out at a later stage than most. I don’t really know, nor do I care. So long as I don’t have him as a member of the team I follow and pay good money to watch, I am okay with him coasting through life like the dog that he is. I hate this regional. It is chock full of guys that I just flat out don’t like.

Prediction: Re-signs with Tampa, 1-year deal worth $1.75 million

First Round Matchup: 8. SP Matt Morris (29) vs. 9. OF Reggie Sanders (36)

This matchup comes down to money – Morris will get a ton, Sanders won’t (relatively speaking). Simple as that. If money was no consideration at all, Morris is the better bet at this point in his career. But part of the whole point of this is to factor in potential contract offers and that’s where Morris is hurt. Sanders beats his old teammate in a minor upset.

VICTOR: Reggie Sanders

I’m as big a Reggie Sanders fan as you’ll find. The guy really is a consummate professional. He is incredibly consistent (5 straight years and six out of seven with OPS+ over 100 and 13 of 14 seasons with OPS+ over 99), has a career OPS of .835, and had one of the better under the radar seasons in the past decade in 1995. Reggie had 280 total bases that year, hit .306/.397/.579 good for an OPS+ of 155. He also hit 28 homers and stole 36 bases while playing a consistently strong outfield throughout. Sanders was also involved in two of the more intriguing, star filled deals of the late 90s. Cincinnati dealt him to San Diego in a trade involving Greg Vaughn and then, ten months later, the Padres traded him (along with Wally Joyner and Quilvio Veras) to Atlanta for Bret Boone and Ryan Klesko. And his full name is Reginald Laverne Sanders. I don’t know much, but I do know this: never mess with a guy named Laverne. You are only asking for trouble.


Same old, same old. It isn’t that I dislike Morris, I just think he is better suited for a spot in the middle of the rotation than at the top. His 2005 featured a disastrous second half that has led many to doubt him as a top of the line free agent starter. They should doubt him, but not solely because of a weak second half. The big question surrounding Morris is his health. Not only is he healthy enough to pitch, but is he healthy enough to pitch like his capable of. His homerun numbers have been funny – 20 in 2003, huge jump to 35 in 2004, back down to 22 in 2005. If you can tell me what to make of that, I’m all ears. Morris is an extreme groundball pitcher who set a career low in BB/9 innings (1.73). His WHIP in what was perceived to be a disappointing 2005 season was 1.28; his WHIP during his 22-win 2001 season was 1.26. Without doing all the research on it, it seems safe to assume the Cardinal offense helped Morris out a good deal more in 2001 than in 2005. People are so conditioned to judge a pitcher on wins and losses (See AL Cy Young vote, 2005) that they forget to realize how much really goes into winning a ballgame. Morris didn’t allow a significant increase of men on base in 2005 than he did in 2001 – isn’t that all the pitcher can do when he is out there? Sure, when you put guys on and when you don’t within the context of a game plays a large part in that stat, but I have to imagine something like that does even out over the course of 200 innings. I’ve sold myself on Morris a bit by writing this and, although I think he’ll be overpaid, I do think he could be one of the best second-tier starters available (basically anyone non-Clemens/Burnett). I’d go as far as to say Morris could topple A.J. Burnett if he would have survived Reggie Sanders. Oh well.

Prediction: Signs with San Francisco, 3-year deal worth $22.5 million

First Round Matchup: 4. SP Jeff Weaver (13) vs. 13. SP Tony Armas (52)

Jeff Weaver ain’t a kid anymore – he’ll be 30 years old in August. He is coming off a mediocre 2005 campaign and hasn’t the kind of year that a guy who will soon be paid very handsomely should be having consistently since 2002. It isn’t so much that I dislike Jeff Weaver as a ballplayer, it is more that I think he’ll be well overpaid over the course of his next contract. Tony Armas will not be overpaid. Get that boy healthy and I think he could equal Weaver’s production for a fraction of the cost. Upset?

VICTOR: Tony Armas

Tony Armas will be 28 next April and has only had one good year since becoming a big leaguer. He has only pitched over 100 innings 3 times. Despite this, I like him. And because of this, he'll be a relative bargain. More to come on Tony Armas, but, since I can't really think of too many nice things at the moment, we'll get to him later (and yet I still like him - baseball is weird).


Weaver had a thoroughly confusing 2005 season. His WHIP was a career low 1.17, but he saw a huge spike in homeruns allowed (career high 35, up from 19 the year before). His wild pitch totals (maybe these aren’t all too important, but strange nonetheless) dropped from a career high 9 in 2004 to tie a career low with 2 in 2005. The lowest WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) of his career is directly related to Weaver posting his lowest BB/9 ever (1.73). He also put up career highs in K/BB (3.57) and K/9 (6.31). There are a lot of positives to take from that. Statistically, Weaver could be in line for a bit of a successful run even though he has passed his theoretical peak years. With Weaver, however, stats tend to be ignored by scouts and baseball fans always ready for that breakout year. It may be unfair to use Weaver as an example for this as there are many guys that fit the mold of inconsistent stats vs. excellent scouting reports, but he really is a good example and he is convenient seeing as we are talking about him, so he’ll have to deal with it. Weaver will get paid like the frontline pitcher that scouts have always believed he could be. Teams will pay him for what he might do rather than what he has done. Normally, this is a sound strategy. In Weaver’s case, it’ll be a big budget risk that will either boom or bust (Wow 250 words and stupid statistics telling me that Jeff Weaver will either be a good signing or a bad signing with some random team currently in the majors, thanks that’s very informative – fine, I tend to think he’ll fall victim to the trap of a decent pitcher getting paid too much like a star and then getting criticized for only being decent in the first place – happy?)

Prediction: Signs with Baltimore, 3-years worth $24 million

First Round Matchup: 5. OF Rondell White (20) vs. 12. SP Jamie Moyer (45)

Since this is a new regional I can probably get away with talking incessantly about the crowded free agent outfield picture for about the 10th time if I wanted to. I’ll spare you the usual routine, but I will say this – given the choice of one year out all the second tier outfielders available this offseason, I’d take Rondell White. He’ll be 34 and it’s a well worn 34, but the man can still hit. I’m higher on White than just about anybody else.

VICTOR: Rondell White

Rondell White hit .313/.348/.472 with 12 home runs in 374 at bats in 2005. Those numbers are very much in line with what should be expected of White at this point in his career. He has been incredibly consistent (except for in the whole games played department, some guys are just followed by injuries no matter they go) with his only real blemish of a 13 season career coming in 2002 with the Yankees. I’ll personally forgive anybody for having an off year while in New York. I’d like to think he was working an overt inside job trying to take the Yanks down from within. Probably not though. He has rebounded since then with three above average seasons and is a good bet to put up another solid year in ’06. Rondell (I saw White play in AA Harrisburg in 1993, so I’ve been a fan for a long time. Why is that important? I think I take for granted how cool a name Rondell is. Anybody else know anybody named Rondell?) stole one base in one try this past season. Big deal, right? This is the same guy who once stole 50 bases in the SAL in 1991, 42 bases in the FSL in 1992, and stole 25 of 30 bases in 1995 with the Expos. Obviously things have changed since his younger years, but it always astonishes me how much these big league athletes are capable of. White is a bit worn down these days, but I’ll never forget the talents he possessed youngster. Very, very talented ballplayer. Anyway, assuming he doesn’t re-up with Detroit, he’ll be playing on team number seven this season.


Jamie Moyer is one of two major leaguers to come out of St. Joseph’s University. He turned 43 just last week (November 18th) and has expressed an interest of at least playing another season, maybe two. I’ve said it before and I promise I’ll say it again - the best thing you can do for a young kid is to get him or her using that left hand as much as possible. Moyer has been very durable in his career, a fact made more impressive by his durability since he become a grandpa (quick clarification: he isn’t actually a grandpa) - beginning at the age of 38 he has rattled off 5 straight seasons of at least 200 innings pitched. It definitely has something to do with how consistent Moyer is each year without every being outstanding, but it still seems silly to me that he has only ever made one All-Star team. That’s all in the past. In 2005, Moyer had his lowest strikeout total since his abbreviated 2000 season. That’s worrisome as a declining K rate is often a pretty good indicator for a diminishing skill set. Seattle really is the perfect fit for him and the idea of making him a “home starter” is an intriguing one. Moyer can hang back in Seattle, pitch only in home games, and enjoy spacious Safeco Field (nice fit for a flyball pitcher).

Prediction: Re-signs with Seattle, 1-year deal worth $4 million

First Round Matchup: 3. SP Kevin Millwood (10) vs. 14. OF Jeromy Burnitz (55)
Millwood is a good pitcher with good career statistics coming off his second best year as a professional. Jeromy Burnitz will be 37 this April and he is likely done as a regular in this league.

VICTOR: Kevin Millwood

In eight full seasons, Millwood has had 2 absolute standout years, 1 excellent year, and 4 either average or slightly above average years. That is an impressive track record for a big league starting pitcher. Oh and of the roughly $35 million Millwood has made in his career to this point, he can thank the Phillies (and the arbitrators) for about $21 million of that. That’s 60% of his career earnings. For…..what? A no hitter? (This was supposed to be a positive, complimentary look at Millwood for his hard earned win over Burnitz - oh well)


Jeromy Burnitz is sitting on 299 career homers so whoever signs him this year will have the great thrill and honor of Burnitz hitting 300 in their uniform. That’s not a big deal you say? Well, you’re right. Burnitz has had a very good career and remains a solid OBP guy, but there are better, younger options out there at this point. Maybe a desperate team will find a starting job for him (doubt it), but he can still find work as a reserve outfielder/pinch hitter if he wants it.

Prediction: Signs with Kansas City, 1-year deal worth $2.5 million

First Round Matchup: 6. SP Kenny Rogers (23) vs. 11. 1B Kevin Millar (42)

Two of my absolute least favorite players going – Kenny Rogers and Kevin Millar. Personal feelings aside, I still think Millar can hit and I am less sure that Rogers can still pitch. Millar’s power disappeared in 2005 and that is a major concern heading into 2006, but I have far greater concerns over Kenny Rogers 87 strikeouts in 2005. Rogers is due for a disaster of a season while Millar could be a relative bargain with an improved ‘06.

VICTOR: Kevin Millar

Millar is the best player ever to come out of renowned baseball factory Lamar University. He has exactly 3000 at bats as a major leaguer. The players most similar to him through his Age-33 season are all very intriguing comparisons: Raul Ibanez, Jeff Conine, Greg Colbrunn, and Marty Cordova. Ibanez, Conine, and Millar all might as well be the same guy to me. That’s not a bad thing.

Kenny, Kenny, Kenny. So much to say about you - it’s really been one interesting career, hasn’t it?
- 190 wins, 400 starts, and 687 games pitched - not bad for a 39th round pick
- 28 career saves? It’s true. Kenny broke in as a reliever and pitched in 274 games in his first four seasons out of the pen with good success. Way to go Kenny!
- Career postseason line: 20.1 IP (9 games, 5 starts), 20 ER, 32 H, 16 BB, 0-3 record, 8.85 ERA
- Very similar to the aforementioned Jamie Moyer through their respective Age-40 seasons (again, if you have a young kid get him or her throwing lefty - now!)
- Played a big part in the ascension of the Yankee dynasty of the mid to late 90’s - traded with cash to Oakland for 3B and “true Yankee” (makes me ill to write that, but some people really do believe it) Scott Brosius
- I always forget his 2003 season - he pitched for Minnesota? Always slips my mind for some reason when I think of him. Maybe its me…
- July 28th, 1994 - Perfect Game - I watched the highlights from a hotel room in Baltimore. Good times
- Enjoys pushing over defenseless cameramen and then acting perfectly indignant when reprimanded even though the penalty is pathetic and does not fit the crime. He makes me so mad I resort to run-on sentences and incoherent rambling
- Big-time groundball pitcher who has always had a strong, durable left arm. He is coming off his best season since 1998 to boot. Absolutely frightening strikeout total - 87 K’s in 195.1 IP? That’s a 40 K drop off from 2004. Another dip remotely similar to that (or even if his strikeouts remain below 100 or so) and I think he is done. The pitcher has complete control over only one outcome - strikeouts. Strikeouts are all on the pitcher. If you can’t strike guys out, you’d better be special because eventually the law of averages will do its part and batted balls that were once outs will begin to drop in. This isn’t always the case and is a very complex subject, but the general thinking behind the idea is sound (if I do say so myself).

Prediction: Signs with Los Angles Dodgers, 2-year deal worth $10.5 million

First Round Matchup: 2. RP B.J. Ryan (7) vs. 15. SP Scott Elarton (58)
Ryan is a notch below the true top-tier closers in the big leagues. Elarton is just about a notch above AAA. Elarton in an upset? No.


Ryan has had three very good seasons in a row. His ERAs over that span were 3.40, 2.28, and 2.43. 2005 was his first year as a closer and it was a good one - 36 saves in 41 opportunities. His K/9 innings tell the real story with his success. 11.26 in 2003, 12.62 in 2004, and 12.80 in 2005. Those are some eye popping numbers. For comparison sake, Mark Prior led all starters in K/9 with an impressive 10.15. Billy Wagner, renowned strikeout artist, hasn’t posted K/9 numbers like that since 1999 (he was at 10.08 last year and 10.99 in 2004). Ryan is good.


Scott Elarton was the first prospect I was wrong about. Many of come since, many more are sure to follow, but I really loved Scott Elarton and thought he’d be a major league star. His minor league numbers were always excellent, he was always young for the leagues he was competing in, and he had great stuff with the classic righthanded power pitcher frame to boot (maybe not classic per se - being 6’7’’, 240 makes him a bit larger than the norm). Why hasn’t Elarton panned out? Well, I have no idea. The first statistical things that jump out are two major discrepancies between his minor league numbers and his major league numbers. Elarton struck over 1.5 batters more per 9 innings while in the minors. This is a very significant number. His homerun rate is also stunning. In the minors, he allowed 0.36 HR/9 - that’s a very low number. In the majors, he has allowed 1.54 HR/9 - that’s a rather large number. What makes this all the more peculiar is his early major league success. Elarton was excellent in his first three seasons. His K rate was still superb, although his HR rate was already beginning to climb. He is a flyball pitcher after all, maybe that plays into it. I don’t know. Arm injuries haven’t helped his development any and there is very little hope that he’ll ever become anything more than what he has shown himself to be over the past few years. Elarton is a borderline major league starter with a career ERA over 5.

Prediction: Signs with Cincinnati, 2-year deal worth $5 million

First Round Matchup: 7. RP Tom Gordon (26) vs. 10. RP Todd Jones (39)

I think both of these players will disappoint whatever teams sign them this offseason – neither are equipped to be big time closers anymore (yes I realize the year Gordon had in a setup role and yes I also realize the outstanding year Jones had actually closing in 2005). Don’t pay them for their 2005’s; pay them for their 2006’s and beyond. Remember that rule? Jones had a fluke year in 2005 and won’t get close to the same results no matter where he goes or what role he is in once the 2006 season rolls around. Gordon has been the better, more consistent pitcher over the last few years. I think, under the ideal circumstances anyway, Gordon can be a decent option to close.

I mentioned a dislike for Rogers and Millar earlier. You can add Todd Jones to that list. He is probably tied for the bottom spot in my heart with Kenny Rogers (grown man still going by Kenny?…..ok). I’ll ruin the suspense of the next round by saying that no matter who wins here (it’s a toss up really) is only going to get slaughtered by B.J. Ryan.

VICTOR: Tom Gordon

Gordon is another guy who has had one interesting career. He definitely has gone against the grain throughout his major league run - successful in late inning relief, starting, and closing while being the rare smallish righthander to make it in the first place (he is only 5’9’’). Gordon celebrated his 38th birthday November 18th (Moyer too, popular birthday I guess) and is on a run of 5 very, very good years capped off by excellent seasons in 2004 and 2005 with the Yankees. On track record alone, he is a great buy. There are other questions beyond track record, however, so enthusiasm about Gordon should be tempered until we get more into his downside next round.


Jones will also be 38 next season and is also coming off an excellent 2005. He has not had the same kind of successful run that Gordon has had over the past half decade though - average in 2004, awful in 2003, a bit above average in both 2002 and 2001. As mentioned earlier, Todd Jones has some eerily similar numbers to Bob Wickman. I think he is a better player than Wickman and a better bet to repeat on his 2005 success, but I’m not completely sold on Todd Jones in 2006 in beyond. His arm has a lot of mileage on it and it would be a tough sell for me to give him anything more than a one year deal as a setup man. Guys just don’t have career years at age 37 and follow up with sustainable successes. It’s very rare. I’d rather have Gordon than Jones from a pure baseball standpoint. But, as I’ve mentioned before and should mention again, I hate Todd Jones. I think I have been fairly objective, but even so you should take everything I say about this with a grain of salt.

Prediction: Signs with Atlanta, 2-year deal worth $9.5 million

Monday, November 21, 2005

Last Word

Bill Lyon wrote his last regular column in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. Whether you loved him over the years, hated him over the years, or maybe only glanced over his columns from time to time, I recommend checking his final column out. Maybe I'm just a sucker for a genuine, heartfelt farewell coupled with a trip down memory lane, I don't really know. I always considered Bill Lyon one of us - (ok maybe one of us who happens to express his thoughts in a more flowery language than the rest of us) a true fan who was elated when our teams won and, more often than not, crushed when they broke our hearts. His column, again whether you loved it or hated it, was always there. Now it won't be. Thanks Bill.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Two Signings So Far

The Top 65 FA Tournament is a work in progress, but we are already seeing free agents signed. Chalk that up to bad time management and it being a very hectic time of year. Enough with excuses though - I'd much rather ask for trust. I am working on the writeups for each matchup, but I finished the predictions about a week and a half ago. So my predictions are done and have been for a while - whether you choose to believe me or not is entirely up to you. Why do I feel the need to say all this? Two free agents have signed so far and I just so happened to nail their destinations (not so accurate on the money). In case you missed it,

Hideki Matsui re-signs with New York Yankees, 4-year deal worth $52 million
Prediction: Re-signs with New York Yankees, 3-year deal worth $34.5 million

Scott Eyre signs with Chicago Cubs, terms undisclosed (as of now, will be edited as it comes out)
Prediction: Signs with Chicago Cubs, 3-year deal worth $11.25 million

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Lance Parrish Regional - First Round

Check out an explanation of what is going

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.


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 Cincinnati and the Reds have already expressed interest in bringing him back at a cheaper rate. Aurilia will almost certainly get more than $2 million on the open market – teams will make these mistakes. If a starting job is what Aurilia seeks then potential landing spots could be St. Louis (depending on Grudzielanek), New York (depending on how the Mets 2B situation shakes out or whether the Yanks deal Robinson Cano or not), or Minnesota.

Prediction: Signs with Kansas City, 1-year deal worth $2.5 million

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 Cleveland teams had. Incredible. Tavarez is a bit of a nutcase, but, to my knowledge, he has no history of attacking people with machetes. So how bad could he really be? His ERA+ over the past three season: 116, 176, 125. How he fits in with the overcrowded relief and, big picture, how that relief market shakes out throughout the offseason, will be one of the interesting things to watch in the coming weeks.


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 Washington. Washington offered him 2-years, $8 million and he countered with a 3-year, $21 offer. He’ll probably get paid closer to what he wants than what the Nats initially offered. Whether he gets a third year or not will be a very interesting development to watch (to me anyway) as it unfolds. Loaiza has earned almost $23,000,000 in the major leagues to date; he has a decent shot to match that with one big contract depending on how the market plays out. Teams with a need for a starter and that could make a move like signing Loaiza include Cincinnati, Colorado and Baltimore. Do the Reds make a move for pitching after getting burned by Milton? Does Colorado even bother? Baltimore will probably have their sights on other pitchers first. A return trip to Washington is not out of the question. My dark horse candidate is Tampa. Call it a hunch.

Prediction: Signs with Tampa, 2-year deal worth $13 million (mutual option for 3rd year)

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 Arizona, he excelled and when given the chance the play full time in Oakland. His 2004 was top notch by any statistical measure and he is a good bet to have another year or two close to that in his future. Mark Bellhorn is another buy low guy. His 2005 was awful. The difference is he hasn’t had quite the success of Durazo. He hasn’t been nearly as consistent stringing together successful years and his peak seasons haven’t been nearly as good. Both intriguing guys with their similarities, but Durazo is a better bet.

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.


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 Toronto deals Orlando Hudson a spot could open up there, but otherwise the choices are limited. He could be a last resort for the Mets, a possibility for St. Louis if Grudzielanek bolts, or even an option for Minnesota depending on how their pursuit of infielders works out. How about another dark horse team (and a familiar one at that)?

Prediction: Signs with Tampa, 1-year deal worth $2.2 million

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 Japan. Outside of his stats and fractured stories from Japanese newspapers though, he is a bit of an unknown. Take a look at the combined numbers of the catchers in Seattle last year and tell me that even the unknown of Jojima wouldn’t be a significant upgrade. Jojima will instantly be a top-30 catcher when he signs his first American contract. All signs point to that contract being with Seattle and I’ll opt to go with the consensus on this one.


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: Kansas City. It’s better than jail anyway.

Prediction: 5-10 year contract with shady Venezuelan prison cell…. Or 1-year contract with Washington worth $3.6 million

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 Oakland. Pitchers like throwing to the guy. That is a big, big plus for any catcher. Hitting is secondary, but not completely forgotten. Hernandez has been above average the last 3 seasons (his theoretical peak years by the way) putting up OPS+ of 112, 116, and 109 with 51 homers in that span.


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 St. Louis, 2-year deal worth $4.2 million

First Round Matchup: 6. RP Bob Wickman (21) vs. 11. OF Preston Wilson (44)

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 Wilson against the other outfielders on the market. Hmm maybe I’ll do that at some point in here. Anyway, Wickman is the man, but by a much smaller margin than you might think. I know Wickman has been successful for a long time, but a 37-year old closer who only struck out 41 guys last year makes me very nervous.

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?


Preston Wilson – why did I have him 2 overall spots below Juan Encarnacion? I don’t like that and I’m not sure why I did it. Preston Wilson has been a much better player than Juan Encarnacion. I’d rather pay Wilson whatever he’ll get than Encarnacion whatever he gets. Hopefully time will allow a closer look at this group of FA relievers and outfielders so they can be sorted out and compared about like players in a more organized, useful way. Until then, we’ll have to judge Preston Wilson on his own merits. Wilson has amazingly similar career numbers to Richard Hidalgo. Hidalgo is a free agent outfielder who barely missed out on the top-65 list. This gives you an idea of how thin a line separates all these outfielders. It comes down to personal taste more than anything else. Wilson has been a very consistent player since reaching the majors. His injury plagued disaster of a 2004 season aside, he has put up OPS+ numbers over 100 every full year since he debuted. Wilson may very well be the cream of the crop amongst the second tier of outfielders. He isn’t a star player by any stretch (the strikeouts are far too high and he never has put up strong OBP), but he is a useful guy who still has some power that can help a ball club.

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 St. Louis misses out on Giles, they could turn to Wilson. He could also be the answer to the Yankees CF dilemma. A club like the Royals could swoop in early and offer him more money to help them out. Florida could have a hole in center if they deal Juan Pierre. There are plenty of teams out there that I failed to mention, but you get the idea of how in demand these mediocre outfielders will be this offseason. The guess here is that the new, out of touch management (unless it is Dayton Moore of course) in Boston jumps on Wilson to fill Damon’s hole in center.

Prediction: Signs with Boston, 2-year deal worth $10.75 million

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.


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 Minnesota). His value should be given a boost by the fact that he can play all three outfield positions and would be a plus defender anywhere you put him. Howry is a big time sleeper candidate for teams searching for closers this offseason. It’s been awhile since he last exclusively pitched the ninth (1999), but there is no real reason to why he couldn’t get the job done late in games again. Toughest matchup yet. I thought the upset was imminent for sure, but the low K rate of Howry freaks me out enough to stick with my higher ranked guy. Jones by a whisker (upsets are coming people, I didn’t plan this thing too far out in advance so as I write about a matchup it’s the first time I even think about two random players going head to head. I had assumed there would be more upsets (otherwise why do a tournament), but in taking a brief look ahead I see some potential for surprises in the remaining two regionals).

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.


Howry has had two very good back to back years with Cleveland and should be sought after by a number of teams with holes to fill in the back end of their bullpens. The question surrounding Howry is similar to the one surrounding Urbina (not the machete thing, the baseball thing) – will he find somebody who thinks he can close again? I’m willing to bet no, but mainly because of the oversaturated closer market. Teams with shaky closing situations (ineffectiveness, injury history, age) would be wise to invest in Howry as an 8th inning guy and closer insurance.

Prediction: Signs with San Francisco, 2-year deal worth $5 million

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Baseball America's Phillies Top Ten Prospects

1. Cole Hamels, lhp
2. Greg Golson, of
3. Michael Bourn, of
4. Scott Mathieson, rhp
5. Welinson Baez, ss/3b
6. Mike Costanzo, 3b
7. Brad Harman, ss/2b
8. Tim Moss, 2b
9. Jason Jaramillo, c
10. Edgar Garcia, rhp

Baseball America

More to come on these top ten at a later date. The top-65 free agent list will be resumed tomorrow and as soon as that is wrapped up, we'll get to these prospects. Deal?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Danny Tartabull Regional - First Round

Check out an explanation of what is going

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?


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 Houston for a year or rejoin the team he broke in with, the Padres.

Prediction: Signs with San Diego, 1-year deal worth $2.5 million

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 Pittsburgh for Jose Hernandez, Bobby Hill, and Matt Bruback. Ramirez is a star for the Cubs, but Lofton alone would have made the deal work. All he did was hit .327/.381/.471 in 208 late season at bats for Chicago. Lofton kept it up by hitting over .300 in the playoffs for a Cubs team that fell in Game 7 of the NLCS. To sum all that up – good trade Pittsburgh!


Rudy Seanez is coming off of a stellar year with San Diego. Seanez went 7-1 with a 2.69 ERA and an ERA+ of 143. It was, by any statistical measure, a dominating year. He struck out 84 guys in 60.2 innings while only walking 22 batters. Seanez will be a hot middle relief/setup option for any team needing bullpen help. An injury history that plagued him in the early part of his career will now end up benefiting him – his arm has been preserved over the years and still has a lot of mileage on it. It would be foolhardy to expect similar numbers to his standout 2005 season, but Seanez is a candidate to be a significantly above average reliever for the next year or two. He is a real sleeper amongst the free agent class of 2005 – his overall ranking of 33 is higher than you’ll see him ranked anywhere else. Many teams will call and offer him some interesting deals (more money for a one-year deal or less for two and a club option third), but I believe his Southern California loyalties will win out.

Prediction: Re-signs with San Diego, 2-year contract worth $2.6 million

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.


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 (St. Louis as Rolen injury insurance? A platoon with David Bell in Philly? One year stopgap in Minnesota?) or the possibility of a starter’s job on either an improving team looking for a veteran presence (Milwaukee – he’s a native) or a mismanaged team willing to make a dumb decision (how about the newly crowned most mismanaged franchise in sports – it pains me to say it – the Los Angeles Dodgers).

Prediction: Signs with Milwaukee, 1-year contract worth $2.25 million

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.


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 Cincinnati and, assuming those problems are cleared up, would fit in nicely on any big league bench. Jimenez was last seen as a starter in the majors in 2004 when he hit .270/.364/.394 in 563 at bats. He has big league experience at third, short, and second and has even pitched 1.1 innings of perfect ball. Teams that might be willing to take a shot include Atlanta, San Diego, Oakland, or Toronto. Whether or not he gets a chance at a starting gig depends on how the offseasons shake out for a number of teams. Whatever team signs him would be wise to just flat out tell him to stop running – he has 34 steals in 55 attempts, good for a success rate of 61%. Ouch.

Prediction: Signs with San Diego, 1-year contract worth $1.1 million

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. Lawton is without a doubt an underrated player perhaps picked on over the years for the unreasonable contracts teams signed him to. He should be a bargain this offseason and is a great option as fourth outfielder on a contender or even a starter on a needier, outfielder depleted team. Bargain or not, the matchup doesn’t look good for Lawton. A premium shortstop entering his prime is hard to score an upset over. The bad news just keeps on coming for Mr. Lawton.

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.


Matt Lawton probably could use a hug. He was booed everywhere he want last year (mostly New York down the stretch) and that was before he tested positive for steroids. It was not a good year for the guy. If I were to mention his house being destroyed by the hurricanes would that be just considered adding on to his misery? Well whether it is adding on or not, it is true – this guy had one bad year. All of this makes him a nice option as a buy low guy. Lawton has hinted at retirement, but it is doubtful it comes to that. He’ll need some extra cash for the rebuilding of that house. What’s that you say? He has earned over $35 million in his career so far? Well I still think he’ll be back. He’ll be 34 and coming off a year that was not nearly as bad as people want to claim. Hmm, high OBP guy whom the market will devalue due to the steroid suspension and lack of pop in 2005 – sounds like Billy Beane could be all over this in his attempt to exploit a new market inefficiency.

Prediction: Signs with Oakland, 1-year deal worth $2.8 million

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.


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 – Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Detroit to name a few potential destinations. I see Tomko being reunited with Jim Bowden (if he is still there) in Washington. Pitching in RFK could even bump Tomko up to league average. But I doubt it.

Prediction: Signs with Washington, 2-year deal worth $8.5 million

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 Boston and is known for his ability to get on base (.353 career OBP) and good power for a leadoff guy (130 career homeruns). His base stealing decision making improved drastically in 2005 as Damon stole 18 of 19 bases. Injuries hampered Damon all season long, but he should be back healthy and ready to go in 2006.


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 Texas, disaster will ensue (74 ERA+). Put him in San Diego, and things will go much smoother (122 ERA+). Where he signs this year will play a large part in determining his value. Similar teams that pursue Brett Tomko could also pursue Astacio. Astacio does have some wear and tear on his arm – he’ll be 36 this season and has thrown over 2100 big league innings. I consider a return to either San Diego or Colorado as possible scenarios for Pedro Julio Astacio Pura.

Predictions: Re-signs with San Diego, 2-year deal worth $5 million

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 (Florida and Los Angeles). His career OBP has been dismal, but his 2005 OBP was .349. Nothing came close to that previously and it represented a whopping 50 point jump from 2004. I always considered Encarnacion to be an interesting comparison to Bobby Abreu. More as in a “what if” kind of way. Maybe in some alternate universe in a galaxy far, far away, Encarnacion is the 5-tool player (hey he won a Gold Glove) that Abreu is in this universe. His list of comparables is an interesting one (no Abreu obviously). It does include Jose Guillen (a very similar match), Torii Hunter, and Jacque Jones. Encarnacion has a plus arm, above average speed, and some power – even at 30 there is still some hope for him to put it together for a couple years. Some players do peak later than others. There are a lot of similar outfielders out there this year. Encarnacion could wind up as the best investment of all the second-tier guys. Teams with some cash and in need of OF help such as Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Houston could all come calling.

Prediction: Signs with Texas, 3-year deal worth $15.75 million