Friday, December 12, 2008

Free Kicks- Baseball Free Agency Edition

The Winter Meetings have wrapped up, and a lot more happened than I expected. Tex is down to 4 teams and the O’s are bringing up the rear (has the season started already?), CC has donned the hideous pinstripes, and Baltimore picked up a decent shortstop, dumped Ramon Hernandez for a good deal, and and set themselves up to get another stop-gap at catcher while Matt Wieters waits until June or July to take over. I will take it, though I would have liked some talk of pitchers… for now though, it seems like MacPhail is picking up where he left off last offseason. So, for the first Free Kicks bereft of football in what feels like months, let’s line up for the kick…

Silver Lining is Bigger than the Cloud for Teixeira Sweepstakes
Okay, so it looks like the Orioles may be falling out of the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes, and perhaps even the Nationals could get him (if the Red Sox don’t get him first). Now the Red Sox effort is pretty transparent- as soon as the Yankees sign CC Sabathia, the Red Sox became interested in Teixeira. These franchises are constantly trying to one-up the other, and this is as much a PR stunt as anything. Having Tex would mean moving Kevin Youkilis and trading Mike Lowell, and while it would upgrade a position, it is by far not their biggest deficiency. Unfortunately for teams like the Orioles, the Sox have $160 million to spare on a PR stunt and a slight upgrade. As for the Nationals, I would hate to have him across the state but at least he isn’t in the division and honestly, the Washington Expos aren’t going anywhere. They are not rebuilding like the Orioles are, and a free agent bat or two isn’t going to help them. What does this mean for the O’s? I would celebrate if we got him, but I will also be celebrating if we don’t. When A.J. Burnett costs $80 million to sign, the Orioles could get some great pieces to their rebuilding project with the $150 million they would save from not signing him. I mean, couldn’t that money be used to get 2 (or even 3) decent starters, and a lower-tier utility man? I think the Orioles need that a lot more than a superstar first baseman, even if he is home-grown.

Manny Ramirez is like the Stock Market- Volatile, and Losing Value
Do you remember the time before “Hot Stove” became the most overused cliché of the month? Remember when Manny Ramirez was among the superstars up for free agency? Nowadays it sounds like we are hearing more about Raul Ibanez than one of the best pure hitters of our time (I say “pure hitter” to sugarcoat the fact that he is an idiot in the field), and when you look back at it, it makes sense. In this economy (yes, it does matter even to the big fish), teams are looking for solid investments. Manny is not one of them. While everyone seemed to gloss over the fact that he completely gave up on his team last season and only plays hard when he feels like it or has been properly pampered, it seems to be hitting home as teams start to back off and wait for his demands to decrease as the winter wears on. Sure, Manny was happy in L.A. But who knows about next year? What about next week? There is no consistency, and anyone who can pull the antics he does WHILE he packs it in in June is not a player who GMs want to invest a lot of money in. In a bull market year, sure, they might be more apt to take a risk, but nowadays no one wants to make this clown the centerpiece of his franchise, and I don’t blame them. Manny will get signed for a boatload, but perhaps on someone else’s terms this time.

The Yankees Back to the Traditional Formula
It was only last year that we heard that the Yankees were adopting a more nuanced approach to baseball. They would focus on their farm system, build from within, save their money for contracts to their young talent, try not to get older as a team. It sounded smart, and it was the familiar trend that has been sweeping baseball over the last few years. How funny is it that that has already fallen by the wayside. No, I am not only referring to buying a starting rotation in A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia, which smacks of classic Yankees spending sprees of the past, but the upcoming trade of Melky Cabrera for Mike Cameron. Cameron, a 35 year old outfielder with his best year’s behind him, could not be more opposite to Cabrera, a 24 year old outfielder who had a down year this year but is still a solid young prospect. Sure, Carbera hit .249 this season, but the whole Yankees team was down this year, not just him. The fact of the matter is that Mike Cameron did even worse last year. This is an old-school Yankees move- dump the youth for the old veteran who can only get worse. Hey, as a division rival I will take it, but this makes all that talk from Yanks GM Brian Cashman last year sound like that much hot air. Forget the youth movement, these Yankees can’t (or won’t) change their pinstripes.

Photo Credit: AP

1 comment:

Tyler Radecki said...

Another interesting point to consider with the Tex sweepstakes is this:

The Red Sox have 21-year old Lars Anderson - their 2008 minor league player of the year - as their "first baseman of the future."

If they invest in Teixeira, what happens to him? I would assume they move Anderson to another team, or possibly to another position (if he's so good they must keep him).

Ultimately, they could decide they can win with Youk at first, Lowell at 3rd, and Anderson as the replacement for Youk/Lowell down the road. That could decide whether or not they are willing to out-bid the Nats.

Then again, they are interested in Teixeira because the Yankees signed CC, so who knows.