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Monday, November 06, 2006

Other Off-Season Predictions

Of course, there's more going on this offseason that just the 10 names we discussed earlier. So I offer up 7 other offseason discussion topics (teams, players, etc.) to really get that hotstove going. After all, there's more to do in the offseason that watch reruns of The Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic Channel - right?

1. Juan Pierre - The Cubs thought they had the perfect catalyst and table setter in front of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. While Lee got hurt, Pierre simply underperformed. Or at least that was the thinking. But did he really? Here are his 2006 numbers compared to his 2005 numbers:


















It looks like Pierre actually improved on his '05 season, (and actually set a career high with 32 doubles) but suffered from a lack of more run producers behind him to drive him in. Pierre will only be 29 on opening day, and still in his "prime" so it's possible that a team that needs an outfielder could get a bargain here.
Atlanta needs a leadoff hitter and could use Pierre in left field for '07 and then to replace Andruw Jones in center when he leaves for boatloads of money after next season.
Chicago will probably want to keep Pierre and hope with a full season from Lee, that Pierre can get back to scoring 100 runs.
Giants might be in the market for an outfielder, maybe in left...

2. Daisuke Matsuzaka - There is a lot of speculation about the possible destinations for this far east import. How good will he be? Nobody really knows. He obviously has good stuff, but of course, so did Hideki Irabu. I think we can narrow down the possibilities to the following: Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Cubs. Would any other team be willing to shell out $30million just for the right to negotiate with Boras? (Personally, I think every team would be willing to spend $30million to drop Boras in the ocean.) What's interesting about the posting the process, is that if some team wanted to just block the Yankees, they could bid $60million and then just lowball Matsuzaka. If he stays in Japan, the MLB team gets its posting fee back. Interesting.
Most likely destination: Texas sees a quick fix for its pitching staff. And this team loves the idea of a quick fix (see Rodriguez, A - Park, C) and they have money to spend.

3. Gary Sheffield - Obviously, everybody should hate this guy, right? Has he ever left a team on good terms? Maybe Atlanta, but after his less than sterling 3-30 combined postseason effort with the Braves, I don't think Bobby Cox and Co. were begging him to stick around any longer. Does anybody else wonder why Sheffield was given a free pass after the Yankees' 2004 ALCS collapse? Did anybody notice that in games 4-7 Sheffield went 1-17 with 0 RBI? Somehow, this guy got a reputation as a big game player, but I dont know where or how. His career playoff batting average is .248, an OPS of .799, with 6 homers and 19 RBI in 44 games. But moving on, he would fit perfectly with the Phillies (between Utley and Howard) and in Houston, protecting Berkman. Those short fences would be fun for him to take aim at. And as Tyler Kepner of the NY Times pointed out this morning, since he's so close to 500 homers, a holdout for more money is unlikely.

4. Alex Rodriguez - If you stop any Yankee fan on the street (and right about now they are hard to find, try again next September, when as usual they come crawling out of the woodwork like the relatives of a lottery winner), they'll tell you what a choker Arod is. These no doubt, are the same people who in 2005 were arguing that he deserved the MVP. Admittedly, Arod's 2006 season was a dropoff from 2005 but he still hit 35 homers with 121 RBI. And after two consecutive lousy playoff series (fans forget that Jeter was a combined 6-44 in the 2001 ALCS/WS, but hey that's not his fault) fans want him out of town. Well, here are 2 big reasons why that won't happen:
1. With arod gone, the Yankee lineup would be a little onesided. Damon - Jeter - Abreu - Matsui - Giambi - Cano. Top 6 hitters, 1 righty. And that one has no power. The Yankees need Arod's righthanded bat to hit cleanup right between Abreu and Matsui, especially with Sheffield likely to be out the door.
2. At this point, Arod has to consider his decision to come to the Yankees a complete disaster. He will no longer be considered the greatest shortstop ever. The media is convinced that he cannot handle playing in NY and he constantly finds himself being compared to a player (Jeter) that he is clearly superior to in every imaginable way (looks not withstanding) but has had the misfortune, unlike Jeter, to arrive in NY when the pitching staff is not at the height of its strength and cannot carry the Yankees to the World Series. So what can he do? If he accepts a trade, in the eyes of many he is admitting that he can't handle it. Will his ego allow him to do that? I doubt it. My guess is if he can overcome being dropped to 6th and then 8th in the lineup in the playoffs (an epic managerial gaffe, of which only Rob Neyer of ESPN has even begun to mention the ramifications) ARod will return to hitting cleanup between Abreu and Matsui and have a career year. But hey, I've been wrong before.

5. Ervin Santana - Seems that a lot of big names have been mentioned in trade rumors with this young flamethrower. He gained notoriety by outdueling Mike Mussina in a big game (but really, how hard is that), and had a solid sophomore campaign in 2006. The Angels have apparently dangled him while trying to acquire Arod, Tejada and Carl Crawford. Obviously, those 3 players are All-Star quality offensive forces. But why would the Angels, at a time when young quality pitchers are worth their weight in HGH, I mean gold, dangle such a hot commodity? Are they scared off by his 5.95 road ERA in 2006? A 24 year old starter in the AL who allows less than a hit/inning pitched and holds batters to a .311 OBP should be more of a centerpiece. But the Angels appear to want to upgrade their offense, and with Arod unlikely to be dealt, here's betting Santana ends up in Tampa Bay with Carl Crawford setting the table to Vlad.

6. Boston Red Sox - For the first 4 months of the 2006 season, the Red Sox miraculously conceled just how terribly flawed they were. Nobody seemed to notice how bad Beckett was actually pitching, or how the bullpen had only one reliable reliever, or how Matt Clement was a joke, or that David Wells wasn't back yet, or that Mark Loretta had about as much pop in his bat as Luis Castillo, but without the speed. All of that was conceled by the Consistencey of Schilling, Papelbon, Wakefield, Ortiz, Manny, and a plethora of big clutch hits and late inning comebacks. This team was so defying the laws of nature by not failing that God himself tried to kill it (Ortiz's heart, Jon Lester's illness). But now that the dust has settled, we can look back on the 2006 season and wonder how anybody thought a team starting Kyle Snyder and Jason Johnson had a chance to go anywhere. Now the questions are mounting for Boston:
Will Beckett actually be good? - He should be better. As soon as he remembers his changeup.
Does Schilling have one more year left in the tank? - Maybe not 6 months, but at least 4.
Will Wakefield come back strong? - Should be fine.
Can Clement just take out the clubhouse garbage each day?
Will Papelbon's shoulder handle starting? - Everything I've read indicates it should be good.
Who will close? - My money is on Gagne.
Who will set up? - Timlin was bad last year and got tired. Hansen is not ready. Tavarez looked
good while starting late in the season.
Who will play second and short? - Julio Lugo will probably fill one of those voids.
Where will the runs come from? - Besides Manny or Ortiz, who knows?
Is Varitek this bad? - Probably in a decline, but couldn't be that sharp.
Is Coco Crisp this bad? - has to improve unless contracts leprosy.
Should the Red Sox take a year to rebuild? - No. Too much money at stake. Landing Matsuzaka might turn things around in a hurry.

7. Harold Reynolds - It's just getting funnier. But hey, at least Boston Market gets some free advertising, right?

There's a lot more going on this offseason, but frankly, I'm tired. And I'm sure DWTHB has some more to say. And hopefully, he won't call me, because I'm getting more sick of that guy then Dr. Nick Riviera is of the Coroner.


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