Author: Matthew Pouliot

Brian Wilson

The Dodgers aren’t looking at Brian Wilson

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Well, this is a first. The free-spending Dodgers have no plans to make a run at non-tendered closer Brian Wilson, sources told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.

Wilson was said to be quite interested in pitching in SoCal with the Dodgers or Angels, but both teams have already signed closers this winter. The Dodgers re-signed Brandon League for $22.5 million over three years, while the Angels added Ryan Madson on a one-year deal that could earn him $7 million.

Wilson, like Madson, is returning from Tommy John surgery. He’s probably going to want more than the $3.5 million guarantee that Madson got from the Halos.

Boston might be another possibility for Wilson, though the Red Sox only figure to upgrade from Andrew Bailey in the closer’s role if they find a potential bargain.

Reds interested in Dexter Fowler to fill leadoff spot

Dexter Fowler
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The Reds aren’t willing to spend for Michael Bourn or Angel Pagan to upgrade from Drew Stubbs in center fielder, but there is a cheaper alternative available in trade: Colorado’s Dexter Fowler.

FOXSports.com’s Jon Morosi reports that the Reds are interested in Fowler, while the Rockies happen to like Reds starter Homer Bailey. There’s no indication that the two sides have actually discussed a deal involving those two, but perhaps they will at the winter meetings beginning Monday.

A deal involving those two would seem to improve the Reds’ chances for 2013. Bailey emerged as a very good starting pitcher last year, but he has a history of arm problems and the Reds have Mike Leake available to step into his spot in the rotation. The difference between Leake and Bailey probably isn’t as great as the difference between Stubbs and Fowler.

The Rockies would probably want more than Bailey for their center fielder, but perhaps adding Stubbs to the deal would even it up in their eyes. They could take a one-year look at Stubbs and then go in a different direction if he fails to take a step forward.

There’s also a complication for the Reds; much of Fowler’s trade value is rooted in the fact that he’s under control through 2015. The Reds, though, should have Billy Hamilton ready to take over in center in 2014, and Fowler wouldn’t be all that valuable in a corner.

Steroids or no, Sammy Sosa doesn’t belong in Hall of Fame

Sammy Sosa
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If I had a Hall of Fame ballot — and don’t worry, I do not — I’d put down nine names on it this year: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling and Alan Trammell.

Yes, there are some cheaters on that list: three definites and at least a couple of maybes. I am willing to penalize for steroids. But I can’t see leaving Bonds, Clemens and McGwire out of the Hall. For better and for worse, they’re part of the history of the game.

Rafael Palmeiro, on the other hand, is close enough to the borderline that I don’t mind leaving him off the list. His career numbers are deserving, but he was never a dominant force. His highest MVP finish was fifth place. Baseball-reference WAR puts him among his league’s top 10 players once (8th place in 1993).

And then there’s Sammy Sosa. He’s not in the same boat as Palmeiro because he was a true superstar. From 1998-2002, Sosa hit .306/.397/.649 with 292 homers. That’s 292 homers in five years! He led the NL in homers in 2000 and ’02 and RBI in 1998 and 2001. He had 63 homers and 141 RBI in 1999 and didn’t lead the league in either category.

But that five-year run supplies the vast majority of Sosa’s case. The problem with Sosa is that he just wasn’t that valuable over the course of the rest of his six 30-homer seasons. He started out as a fine defensive outfielder, but he lost most of his value there by the time he became a great hitter. His initial 30-homer campaigns came with lousy OBPs and few doubles. His later ones came with average OBPs and poor defense.

Look at where Sosa ranks on the career lists:

K’s: 3rd
HR: 8th
RBI: 27th
SLG: 44th
Outs: 62nd
Runs: 75th
OPS: 100th
Hits: 116th
BB: 155th
OPS+: 190th
2B: 217th
OBP: 699th

Compare that with McGwire. He’s two spots below Sosa on the home run list and just 68th in RBI, but he’s eighth in slugging, 10th in OPS and 13th in OPS+. McGwire was one of the greatest hitters of all-time. Sosa certainly had a great run, but he was also a product of his time. If he came up in 1979 or 1999, rather than 1989, his numbers wouldn’t be nearly as impressive.

Like most everyone else, I do believe Sosa was a cheater, even though there isn’t much besides one anonymous New York Times report to back that up. But the reason I don’t include him on my imaginary ballot is that I don’t believe he was good enough for long enough.

HOF voters: choose Mike Piazza or accuse him of using steroids

Mike Piazza
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Jeff Bagwell gave the Hall of Fame voters an easy way out. Sure, his body of work leaves him qualified for Cooperstown based on the standards for first basemen, but he didn’t bat .300 for his career or hit 500 homers. His one MVP season came in strike-shortened 1994. That’s also the only year he led the league in a Triple Crown category.

Thus, a Hall of Fame voter can look at Bagwell’s record and say it’s not quite Hall of Fame worthy, all without getting into the messy steroid issue.

Will they be able to do the same for Mike Piazza? A career .308/.377/.545 hitter with 427 homers in 16 seasons, Piazza is pretty obviously the greatest offensive catcher the game has ever seen. His 143 OPS+ is well in front of any other player to catch at least 70 percent of his games. Joe Mauer is next at 135, and he’s yet to enter his decline phase. Mickey Cochrane is third at 129, followed by Bill Dickey and Johnny Bench.

Of course, Piazza’s defensive reputation was shaky at its best, dreadful at its worst. But that was mostly (almost entirely?) due to his arm. It doesn’t seem like he ever held back his his teams. Here are the NL ERA ranks from all of Piazza’s staffs in his years as a team’s primary catcher:

1993 Dodgers: 3rd
1994 Dodgers: 9th
1995 Dodgers: 2nd
1996 Dodgers: 1st
1997 Dodgers: 2nd
1998 Mets: 4th
1999 Mets: 5th
2000 Mets: 3rd
2001 Mets: 5th
2002 Mets: 5th
2005 Mets: 3rd
2006 Padres: 1st

So, how bad of a defensive catcher could he have been? In 12 years as a primary catcher, his pitchers finished in the top third of the league in ERA 11 times.

(And whether it’s worth pointing out or not, the 1994 Dodgers, the one odd ball on the list, had a 3.97 ERA with Piazza catching and a 5.28 ERA with Carlos Hernandez and Tom Prince behind the plate.)

All of this has been a long-winded way of saying there’s absolutely no way to justify leaving Piazza out of the Hall of Fame based on performance. We can argue whether Piazza is inner-circle or not, but he’s certainly a Hall of Famer according the numbers. Still, I’m guessing he’ll be left off 35-45 percent of the ballots when the votes are counted in January, despite never having failed a drug test.

And for that reason, I’m challenging Hall of Fame voters; if you don’t vote for him, call him out for using steroids. Say “I’m not voting for Piazza because I think he was a cheater.” Preferably present some evidence if you have it, but whether you do or not, make the reason clear. No wishy-washy stuff. There’s no excuse for leaving him off the ballot otherwise.

Breaking down Friday’s non-tenders: Wilson, Reynolds and more

Brian Wilson Getty
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Here’s the official list of Friday’s non-tenders:

American League

Angels: none

Athletics: OF Jermaine Mitchell

Mitchell had already been designated for assignment. He had a breakthrough 2011 in Triple-A, hitting .302/.401/.453, but he regressed to .252/.345/.386 for Sacramento last season.

Astros: none

Blue Jays: C Bobby Wilson

Wilson is minor league contract material. The 29-year-old has hit .208/.272/.321 in 389 major league at-bats. 

Indians: 3B Jack Hannahan, LHP Rafael Perez, LHP Chris Seddon

The Indians seem to like Hannahan as a part-timer, but they paid him $1.75 million to hit .244/.312/.341 last season. Maybe he’ll be brought back for less if he doesn’t find the open market to his liking. Perez is a goner after shoulder surgery limited him to eight appearances last season, but there will be several teams interested in taking a flier on him.

Mariners: INF Robert Andino

Andino would have been non-tendered by the Orioles, but the Mariners traded outfielder Trayvon Robinson for him earlier this month, apparently with the idea that he wouldn’t be looking for much of a raise on top of the $1.3 million he made last season. He balked, so he’s gone for now. He could always be re-signed if he doesn’t find free agency to his liking.

And the Mariners have already re-signed Andino to a one-year contract. He’ll serve as a backup at both middle infield spots next year.

Orioles: RHP Stuart Pomeranz, INF Omar Quintanilla, 1B Mark Reynolds

Reynolds says the Orioles didn’t even offer him a deal after a down season in which he hit .221 with 23 homers in 538 at-bats. He could bounce back to 30 homers next year and he has more defensive value at first than he did at third, so some team could commit $8 million to him on a one-year contract.

Rangers: RHP Jake Brigham, 1B Brandon Snyder, C Geovany Soto

The Rangers traded Brigham to the Cubs for Soto in July and then took him back earlier this month as a result of his arm problems (the Cubs ended up getting RHP Barret Loux instead). It’s a pretty good guess that he’ll will be re-signed to a minor league deal. … Soto, on the other hand, seems likely to depart after he failed to come to terms on a one-year deal. Even though he hit just .198/.270/.343 in 324 at-bats last season, he could well wind up as a starter. Expect the Yankees to give him a look.

Rays: OF Ben Francisco

Francisco’s OPS has dropped three years running (he came in at .670 in 2012), and he hasn’t hit lefties the last two seasons. He’s not worth a guaranteed roster spot at this point.

Red Sox: RHP Scott Atchison, LHP Rich Hill, OF Ryan Sweeney

No Alfredo Aceves, though that seemed to be a given when he wasn’t let go prior to the purge of non-arbitration eligible players last week. … Atchison was Boston’s best pitcher last season, finishing with a 1.58 ERA in 51 1/3 innings. Hill was also quite effective, amassing a 1.83 ERA in 19 2/3 innings after returning from Tommy John surgery. One gathers that the Red Sox will attempt to re-sign both, but there’s certainly no reason for either to accept minor league contracts. … Sweeney hit .260/.303/.373 in 62 games last season before going down with a self-inflicted hand injury.

Royals: OF Derrick Robinson

Luke Hochevar keeps his spot despite last season’s 5.73 ERA and a likely $4 million salary. … Robinson reached Triple-A in his seventh season in the Royals minor league system, hitting .268/.344/.325 with 23 steals for Omaha. Even a future as a fifth outfielder seems unlikely at this point. He could be re-signed to a minor league deal.

Tigers: LHP Daniel Schlereth

A key component in the big Curtis Granderson-Max Scherzer-Edwin Jackson deal, Schlereth was supposed to develop into a big-time reliever after getting sent from Arizona to Detroit. However, his command has never come around and he missed most of last season with shoulder woes. The Tigers will try to keep him in the organization on a minor league contract.

Twins: RHP Lester Oliveros

Oliveros remains a promising reliever, but Tommy John surgery will sideline him for most or all of 2013. The Twins will want to re-sign him to a minor league deal.

White Sox: RHP Anthony Carter, 1B Dan Johnson

Carter was an intriguing relief prospect a couple of years ago, but he’s stumbled to 5.84 and 4.60 ERAs the last two seasons. Johnson would make for nice insurance for Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn, but he’s the kind of player the White Sox would much prefer to have on a minor league deal than occupying a 40-man roster spot.

Yankees: none

National League

Braves: RHP Jair Jurrjens, RHP Peter Moylan

After two lost seasons due to back and shoulder seasons, Moylan wasn’t going to get much of a guarantee from the Braves. However, he’s healthy now and he should draw quite a bit of interest. … That Jurrjens went 13-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 2011 has already been forgotten after a 2012 season in which he showed diminished stuff and got knocked around in 10 starts. No one was interested in acquiring him and paying him $6 million through the arbitration process, but now that he’s free, several teams will come calling. 

Brewers: LHP Manny Parra

Parra was nearly non-tendered last winter, but the team opted to give him one more chance. A full-time reliever for the first time, he had a 5.06 ERA in 62 appearances, though it did come with 61 strikeouts and just three homers allowed in 58 2/3 innings. He still has plus stuff, and several teams will think they can get better results from him.

Cardinals: none

Cubs: RHP Zach Putnam, RHP Jaye Chapman, 3B Ian Stewart

Stewart was known to be long gone after hitting .201/.292/.335 in 55 games and then missing the rest of the season with a wrist injury. In such a thin third base market, he could get a chance to compete for a starting job elsewhere in the spring. The two righties will likely be offered minor league contracts to stick around.

Diamondbacks: C Wil Nieves

The Diamondbacks won’t splurge on a backup catcher, but it won’t be hard to find an upgrade over Nieves, even if was a nice surprise in limited action last season (.301/.330/.410 in 83 AB).

Dodgers: none

Giants: RHP Brian Wilson

Even though he missed all but the first 10 days of the season following Tommy John surgery, Wilson wasn’t interested in taking a significant paycut. He’ll draw plenty of interest in free agency, so his Giants career is almost surely over. Between Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla, the Giants will be spending plenty on their bullpen regardless. 

Marlins: none

Mets: RHP Manny Acosta, RHP Mike Pelfrey, OF Andres Torres

Pelfrey’s non-tender was a given after he underwent Tommy John surgery. The Mets will likely attempt to re-sign him for about half of the $5.6875 million he made last season. … Acosta shook off a horrible start to post a 1.78 ERA in the second half of the season. He would have earned $1.5 million or less in arbitration, so it’s disappointing the Mets didn’t bring him back. … Torres will be looked at as a fourth or fifth outfielder after hitting .230/.327/.337 in his lone year with the Mets.

Nationals: C Jesus Flores, LHP Tom Gorzelanny, LHP John Lannan

It seems like the Nationals are just throwing away a fair amount of talent here, but it must be that no one offered anything in trade. Lannan was likely due about $6 million in arbitration, Gorzelanny $3.5 million and Flores $1.2 million. Lannan is a lock to wind up in some team’s rotation next year after the Nationals allowed him to waste away in Triple-A for much of 2012. Gorzelanny had a nice 2.88 ERA in 72 innings out of the pen last season. Flores was a disappointment after initially stepping in for the injured Wilson Ramos, hitting .213/.248/.329 in 277 at-bats. Still, someone will want him as a backup.

Padres: LHP Juan Oramas

Oramas, who went 3-4 with a 6.37 ERA in eight Double-A starts last season, will miss at least the first couple of months of 2013 after Tommy John surgery. The Padres will likely re-sign him to a minor league contract.

Phillies: OF Nate Schierholtz

With his fine defense in right field, Schierholtz makes for a quality fourth outfielder. The only problem there is that he has yet to resign himself to a career as a bench player, and he’s made it clear he much prefers to start. He hit .257/.321/.407 in 241 at-bats for the Giants and Phillies last season.

Pirates: RHP Jeff Karstens

I never imagined Karstens would stick when he originally came up with the Yankees, but he’s added some velocity through the years and he posted ERAs of 3.38 in 162 1/3 innings in 2011 and 3.97 in 90 2/3 innings last season. He’s a fringe guy as a full-time starter, but as a swingman, he’d be very handy to have around.

Reds: INF-OF Kris Negron, OF Denis Phipps

Two expendable players. The 26-year-old Negron is very versatile, but he’s posted OPSs of .607 and .628 in two years in Triple-A. Phipps has a little pop and enough range to handle center on a part-time basis, but he just isn’t good enough in any one area to carve out a career.

Rockies: none