Handicapping the Halladay chase

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halladay retro.jpg
With a deal seeming more likely by the hour, let’s run through the candidates to pick up Toronto’s ace:
Yankees – Money isn’t much of an issue, and the Yankees certainly have the pieces to get a deal done between Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, elite hitting prospect Jesus Montero and outfielder Austin Jackson. Also, new Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has stated that he’s willing to trade Halladay within the AL East. If the Yankees are willing to part with Chamberlain and Montero together or Hughes and Jackson together, then they’d have easily the best chance of landing Halladay. Getting it done with just one of the first three players might be possible, but only if no one else steps up.
Odds: 3:1
Dodgers – With Chad Billingsley to dangle, the Dodgers are the one team that can exchange top-of-the-rotation starters with the Jays. They’re not going to give up Clayton Kershaw, though. If the Jays want to stay competitive in 2010, a package of Billingsley and major league-ready players like left-hander Scott Elbert, outfielder Xavier Paul, shortstop Ivan DeJesus Jr. and catcher A.J. Ellis could trump anything another team would offer. The Jays, though, might prefer to build for 2011 and beyond, and Billingsley, who is eligible for arbitration for the first time, is going to start getting expensive soon.
Odds: 5:1
Phillies – Able to hold on to much of their elite young talent in the Cliff Lee trade, the Phillies still have quite a bit to offer for Halladay. It’s doubtful that they’d be willing to send both of their top prospects, right-hander Kyle Drabek and outfielder Domonic Brown, to Toronto, but if they gave up one of those two, J.A. Happ and Michael Taylor, I doubt the Jays would turn them down. The problem is that a Halladay acquisition would push the Phillies’ payroll up to $135 million, and the team would still need a third baseman, a setup man and bench help.
Odds: 6:1
Red Sox – The Red Sox would be in a better position to pick up Halladay if it didn’t part with Justin Masterson and Nick Hagadone to acquire Victor Martinez over the summer. It could well come down to how Anthopoulos feels about Clay Buchholz. If the Jays see Buchholz as a potential top-of-the-rotation guy, then the Red Sox would be able to build a package around him, one of their two advanced outfield prospects (Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish) and a couple of lesser pitching prospects. If not, then the Red Sox would likely have to trade closer of the future Daniel Bard and their No. 1 pitching prospect, Casey Kelly.
Odds: 6:1
Mariners – With no elite pitching prospect or top young shortstop, the Mariners may be too short on minor league talent to pull off a Halladay acquisition. Brandon Morrow and Phillipe Aumont have big-time arms, but Aumont is a reliever and Morrow might be. The Mariners would probably have to part with both and outfielder Michael Saunders to compete with what other teams have to offer. Lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith is another to throw into the mix.
Odds: 8:1
Angels – The Angels and Jays discussed Halladay at the trade deadline, but former GM J.P. Ricciardi held out for Erick Aybar and nothing got done. Unfortunately, the Angel farm system isn’t what it once was. Top pitchers Trevor Reckling and Jordan Walden didn’t help themselves this season, and there are no future stars on offense. Aybar would be a huge piece if the Angels relented and moved him, but barring that, they’d have to hope the Jays really like Brandon Wood, Mike Napoli and outfielder Peter Bourjos if they want to get something done.
Odds: 10:1
Rangers – Halladay to Texas was viewed as a possibility at the trade deadline, and the Rangers certainly have the talent to pull off a deal. Halladay, though, isn’t thought to want to pitch in Texas, and owner Tom Hicks’ financial woes might make a trade impossible anyway. It’s too bad, since a swap of Derek Holland, Chris Davis and Taylor Teagarden for Halladay could work out well for both teams.
Odds: 12:1
Mets – The Mets have so many problems that it would seem pretty foolish to commit $15.75 million next year and give up half the farm system to fill one spot. The Jays would likely hold out for outfielder Fernando Martinez, shortstop Wilmer Flores and two of the team’s best young arms.
Odds: 20:1
The field – The Orioles have all of the young pitching the Jays would require, but even the addition of an ace probably wouldn’t make them more than a fourth-place team next year. … The Diamondbacks might have the cash to take on Halladay, but their farm system still hasn’t recovered from the Dan Haren deal. … The Cubs don’t have the money or the motivation to acquire an ace with their offense in shambles.
Odds: 9:1

Mark McGwire to become the Padres bench coach

Los Angeles Dodgers batting coach Mark McGwire roams the field during practice for the National League baseball championship series Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, in St. Louis. The Dodgers are scheduled to play the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS on Friday in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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The other day Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the Padres were in discussions with former Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire about their bench coach job. Today Jon Heyman reports that the deal is done and will soon be announced.

McGwire has been the hitting coach for Los Angeles for the past three seasons. When his contract was not renewed following the end of 2015 he was rumored to be up for the Diamondbacks’ hitting coach job. He likely view staying in Southern California to be a plus, as he makes his home in Irvine, which is around 90 miles from Petco Park. That’s a long commute, but Mac can afford the gas, I guess.

How to talk to your family about the designated hitter at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Dinner

While political topics are normally the subject of awkward conversation at the Thanksgiving dinner table, hardcore baseball fans know that it can be just as awkward to talk about the game with relatives.

They don’t know baseball as well as you do — not by a long shot — but for some reason everyone thinks they have the God-given right not only to offer their baseball opinions but to demand acknowledgement that those opinions are correct. Baseball may be dying, you guys, but it’s vestigial status as our National Pastime makes everyone think they’re an expert by simple virtue of being an American. It’s maddening.

I can’t tell you how to keep your family away from sensitive topics, but here are brief answers to some frequently asked questions about the state of the game, and how you can defuse combustible conversations:

Will the National League adopt the designated hitter?

Despite the fact that the DH has been around four 43 seasons, your relatives — even those far younger than 43 — will loudly proclaim it to be a new-fangled abomination as they pass the sweet potatoes. While the best way to avoid conflict here is to say something like “I think the differences between the leagues are special and should be preserved” and try to quickly move on to something else, we don’t progress as a civilization by indulging foolishness in the name of peace. Tell your relatives that pitchers batting is dumb and that the DH should be universal. And then tell them to get their own sweet potatoes. You’re trying to eat here for cryin’ out loud.

Where will the big free agents go? Don’t the Yankees spend all of their big money and buy championships anyway?

My god, your uncle/cousin/sister’s boyfriend who probably shouldn’t be piping up about ANYTHING right now given that none of you really like him and it’s not going to last anyway is out of touch when it comes to such things. Tell them that the Yankees haven’t won jack since the first year of Obama’s first term and that even when they were winning the World Series all the time they did so on the back of homegrown talent, savvily-developed. Indeed, they STOPPED winning championships once they went huge on free agency and jacked up payroll and, despite the fact that they still owe a lot of old guys money, they are back to developing talent again and are way less likely to spend stupid money in free agency than they used to be. Careful here, though: people have strong feelings about the Yankees regardless of their ignorance and will likely fight back on this point. Maybe it’s safer just to discuss Obama. Here’s an idea to that end: how — as your drunk uncle claims — can Obama simultaneously be the least effective president ever AND a total dictator? Maybe Obama is one of those two things, but my drunk uncle has never given me a satisfactory answer to how he can be both.

Why doesn’t baseball have a salary cap? The players make too much money.

The idea of a salary cap in baseball is dead. Deader than vaudeville. It blew up the game in 1994-95, and the owners blinked rather than try it again in 2002.  Since then the money has been flowing, competitive balance has been better than most people will admit, and the owners seem to have very little desire to fight that fight again.  It’s not going to happen. Yet, for some reason — likely the Football Industrial Complex’s propaganda machine — every sports dilettante thinks that baseball not only needs a salary cap but that it’s actually something that could happen, even though it isn’t.

Here some ju-jitsu is in order. Rather than bog things down with facts which show that there is no need for a salary cap, turn the question around on them and ask them when the billionaires who own baseball teams will accept a cap on how much they should earn for their “labor.” When they spout off about how owners built the business themselves and are entitled to whatever they can get, ask them which of the current owners, who form a veritable Who’s-Who of Paper Movers, Genetic Lottery Winners and Men Who Were Born on Third Base Yet Think They Hit a Triple, built a dang thing. Peter Angelos, maybe. Just don’t tell them that he’s a rich plaintiff’s lawyer who had the union’s back during the 1994-95 strike.

What’s wrong with young players today? Why don’t they act professionally and respect the game? 

By this time your uncle may be so drunk on the Beaujolais Nouveau that he may actually slip and say “Latin players” instead of “young players,” and that’s assuming he’s polite enough to use words like “Latin” to refer to people from the Caribbean, Central and South America. If so, skip the lecture about how arguments regarding baseball decorum and “playing the game the right way” are really just proxies for cultural anxiety and creeping xenophobia and go directly to the inevitable conversation about immigration, refugees and Donald Trump. It’ll save you time and make everyone angrier way, way faster. And this is a wonderful thing.

Or, at least it is for me. I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year and the quicker people get to open warfare the quicker I can kick everyone out, bringing some peace and quiet back to my house. Plus: more pie for me.


(with both thanks and apologies to Brendan Nyhan of the New York Times)

Jerry Dipoto refutes the notion that Robinson Cano is unhappy

Robinson Cano

Yesterday John Harper of the Daily News reported that, according to a friend of Robinson Cano‘s, Cano is unhappy in Seattle and would like to go back to New York. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto responded to that report, saying that it’s totally false based on his conversations with Cano and his agent:

“[Cano’s agent] reached out to let me know that did not come from Robbie and that’s not at all reflective of how he felt,” said Dipoto, who replaced former GM Jack Zduriencik two months ago. “Shortly after the season ended, I sat down with Robinson in my office for two hours and we had a great talk and I think we left with a very clear understanding of who one another might be.

There are official lines and things one says to one’s friends. Then again, there are also friends who know things and “friends” who assume things thought by others and then talk to newspapers about it too. Where all of this falls on the truth/knowledge spectrum is something none of us can ever know.

What can be known for sure is that (a) Cano had a rough season from both a health and baseball perspective; (b) Cano is a professional who knows that there is zero upside to communicating displeasure with one’s current team to the press, either directly or through surrogates; and (c) when one is productive and one’s team is winning, one feels very differently about life than if one is not productive and not winning.

In short: there could very well be truth from both sides of this little happening.

Mariners looking to trade Mark Trumbo

Mark Trumbo

Seattle acquired Mark Trumbo from Arizona in June, but that was the Mariners’ old front office regime and new general manager Jerry Dipoto is remaking the roster. And he already traded away Trumbo once, back when he was the Angels’ general manager.

Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that “several rival executives said they expect” the Mariners to trade Trumbo, who is due to make around $9 million in 2016 via arbitration before becoming a free agent next offseason.

Trumbo has huge power, but he swings at everything and is a negative defensively as a corner outfielder/first baseman. He’s a career .250 hitter with a lowly .299 on-base percentage and modest .758 OPS thanks to averaging 160 strikeouts and 40 walks per 160 games.

It’s hard to imagine any team giving up a quality prospect for the right to pay $9 million for one season of Trumbo, but if Dipoto simply wants to be rid of the low-OBP slugger it might not take much to make a deal happen.