Monday, November 19, 2012

Marlins Gut Their Team, Again

                                          Toronto bound

When the Marlins spend money, what usually happens next is they look for a way to dump those contracts. They went out and signed manager Jim Leyland, Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou, and Alex Fernandez before the 1997 season. They already had veterans Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Robb Nen, and Gary Sheffield, and up and coming players like Edgar Renteria, Livan Hernandez, and Charles Johnson. They won the 1997 World Series, but within a couple of years, all those players were traded away. They lost 108 games the next season after gutting their championship team.

In 2003, the Marlins had a group of talented players entering their prime. They changed managers mid-season and under Jack McKeon they went on a second half surge. They won the wild card and upset the Giants, Cubs, and Yankees to win their second World Series. Yet, after the season they didn't re-sign Pudge Rodriguez and traded away Derrek Lee. A few years later, they either traded or didnt' re-sign Luis Castillo, Juan Pierre, Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Alex Gonzalez, Brad Penny, and many others. They entered the 2006 season with a 15 million dollar payroll, with only Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis remaining from their 2003 team. Two years later, they traded both players to the Tigers for practically nothing. The big prospects from that trade(Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller) did little with the Marlins, and Cabrera just won the Triple Crown and MVP this past season.

Marlins ownership then decided to sign Hanley Ramirez to a long term deal during the 2008 season. After the 2009 season, MLB Players Association and Commissioner Bud Selig forced the Marlins to spend more of their money. The Marlins were due to open Marlins Park in 2012 and they had received $300 million in revenue sharing in the last 10 years. The Marlins then signed Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco to contract extensions. They still traded away Dan Uggla a season later after signing free agent catcher John Buck. The prior offseason, the Marlins said they would change their ways and keep a higher payroll. The went on a spending binge and got a new manager in Ozzie Guillen. They went out and acquired Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Carlos Zambrano. The Fish were expected to contend this year, but they were a flop.

Maybe it was a bad mix of players, or that manager Guillen wasn't a good fit, or it could of been that ownership didn't give this team a fair chance to succeed. They traded away Hanley Ramirez, Randy Choate, Edward Mujica, Gaby Sanchez, Anibal Sanchez, and Omar Infante at the deadline this year. Guillen was fired weeks after the season ended, and Heath Bell was traded away to Arizona after a disastrous season. Then last week, the Marlins announced they would be trading Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, John Buck, and Emilio Bonifacio to the Blue Jays for Yunel Escobar, Jeff Mathis, Henderson Alvarez, and 4 minor leaguers. The Marlins heavily backloaded the Reyes, Buehrle, and Bell deals and traded them all after 1 season.

The Marlins have now shed $236 million in future contracts since July. Some of the players they recieved back could be good players like pitchers Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi. But, the Marlins have said for years they needed a new stadium to be competitive. Now that they have it, they still are cheapskates. Giancarlo Stanton is now the face of the franchise and is a a enormous talent, but he wasn't happy about the trades and I can't blame him. Stanton tweeted after the Fish-Jays megadeal, "Alright, I'm pissed off!!! Plain and Simple." I doubt the Marlins will pony up the money for Stanton when he's eligible for free agency either.

Jeffrey Loria is one of the worst owners in professional sports, if not the worst. He bought the Montreal Expos in late 1999, and is somewhat responsible for the extinction of baseball in Montreal. He wanted more money for English broadcasts of the team in 2000, and ended up having no English broadcasts available. The Quebec government had a deal for a new stadium for the Expos, but Loria wanted them to spend more money. The proposed Labatt Park never became a reality because of Loria's greed. He then sold the Expos to MLB before the 2002 season, and bought the Marlins from John Henry for a discount rate. Henry went on to buy the Red Sox.

Despite winning the 2003 World Series, Loria would not keep that team together. He dumped salary and explored moving the team during 2005 and 2006. Loria was then able to work out a sweetheart deal with Miami to build a new stadium. The city of Miami and Miami-Dade County agreed to pick up 80% of the $634 million costs of the new ballpark. Loria isn't as rich as some big league owners, but he has a net worth of $500 million. Loria is also a big recipient of revenue sharing along with the corporate welfare picked up by the city of Miami. Yet, he has not held up his end of the bargain in trying to field a competitive team.

The latest trade with Toronto is under review from Bud Selig. He is angered about the deal since he helped Loria secure the stadium deal. Still, Selig is likely to approve the deal. There is talk that he could strip the Marlins of the 2015 All Star Game now. The Marlins will have a tough time recruiting free agents to Miami now because of this. There was not a no-trade clause in the Reyes, Buehrle, or Bell deals, but Loria assured Reyes that he would not be traded. Loria only cares about making money, and isn't all that interested in winning and has alienated Marlins fans. It would be for the best interests of the Marlins franchise, their fans, and baseball if he sold the team.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Teams Going With Younger Managers

Walt Weiss: Former Rockies shortstop becomes manager

Last year, two teams hired managers without previous managerial experience. The White Sox hired Robin Ventura after Ozzie Guillen left to go to the Marlins. While Ventura hadn't even been a coach at the major league level, the White Sox nearly made the playoffs this year. Guillen wore out his welcome in the South Side and Ventura's style was a good change for them. After the Cardinals won the World Series last year, future Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa retired. After interviewing several candidates, GM John Mozeliak decided to go with his special assistant and former Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny. There were some questions since Matheny had no prior experience. However, Matheny did a terrific job and nearly got the Redbirds back into the World Series this year.

This year, there has been 6 managerial openings. The Indians fired Manny Acta, and ended up going with former Red Sox manager Terry Francona. Cleveland almost went with former All Star catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., but decided on Francona instead. Alomar Jr. will be Cleveland's bench coach, though. The Red Sox fired Bobby Valentine after one disastrous season, and worked out a deal to bring Toronto's manager John Farrell to Boston. Farrell had been a pitching coach previously with the Red Sox. Toronto still doesn't have a manager yet. They have interviewed Alomar Jr. and Tim Wallach, but its rumored they want someone with previous experience.

The Astros have lost 100 games two years in a row, and will be moving to the American League next year. They went with 40 year old Nationals coach Bo Porter to be their manager. Porter briefly played in the big leagues at the turn of the century, and was a journeyman minor leaguer. He has held a variety of minor and major league coaching jobs since retiring as a player. The Astros are in sorry shape, and Porter will have his work cut out for him in Houston.

The Marlins signed Guillen to a four year contract after luring him from the White Sox last year. Miami spent a bunch of money in the offseason, acquiring Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Carlos Zambrano, and Heath Bell. However, Miami had a dissapointing year and finished in last place. Hanley Ramirez, Gaby Sanchez, Anibal Sanchez, and Omar Infante were traded in July in a fire sale. Guillen also made negative headlines praising Fidel Castro and said he gets wasted on every road trip. The Marlins decided to go a different route, and went with former catcher Mike Redmond. Redmond played for over 10 years in the big leagues, and was a member of the 2003 World Champion Marlins team. Redmond had been managing in the Blue Jays farm system the last two years. Jim Leyland and Jack McKeon both highly recommended Redmond as a manager.

Jim Tracy resigned as Rockies manager after a frustrating last place finish. Colorado did a search, and considered bench coach Tom Runnels and even Jason Giambi to be manager. However, they went with former shortstop Walt Weiss. Weiss played with the Rockies from 1994 to 1997. He also played with the Athletics, Marlins, and Braves. Weiss was the 1988 AL Rookie of the Year, and part of the Athletics 1989 World Champions. However, Weiss has only managed at the high school level and was a special assistant to GM Dan O'Dowd last season. Weiss did play for La Russa and Bobby Cox during his career, so I imagined he learned a few things from them.

Also, the Nationals have brought back Davey Johnson for one more season. The Nationals made the playoffs for the first time since 1981 when they were the Expos this past season. Johnson is 70 years old and the oldest manager in the game right now. Johnson will retire at the end of the 2013 season and move into a consultant's role. Johnson has led 4 different teams into the playoffs, including the Mets, Reds, Orioles, along with the Nats.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cardinals Should Trade for Elvis Andrus

Elvis Andrus and Matt Holliday - 2011 World Series Game 6 - Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals
                Elvis Andrus avoiding a Matt Holliday slide in the 2011 World Series

The Texas Rangers have the luxury of having two outstanding shortstops in their organization. In the big leagues, they have Elvis Andrus. He took over as Rangers shortstop at age 20 in 2009, moving Michael Young to third base. Andrus is one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, and a big part of their two World Series teams. Andrus hit for a career high .286 in 2012, and set a career high in doubles, RBIs, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. Andrus is just entering his prime and is still only 24 years old.

Texas also has the top rated shortstop prospect in the game in Jurickson Profar. The Rangers signed him out of Curacao in 2009, and he was a Little League World Champion in 2004. Before the 2012 season, Profar was rated the #7 prospect in baseball, barely after he turned 19. Profar will turn 20 next February, but he may be ready for the big leagues. Profar homered in his first major league at bat this past September, and made an appearance for the Rangers in their wild card game loss.

What will the Rangers do with Profar? They recently signed second baseman Ian Kinsler to a long term extension, so moving to second is out of the question. They also have third baseman Adrian Beltre signed for several more years, so moving to third isn't going to happen either. They could keep him in Triple A next year, as insurance in case someone gets injured. Or they could trade him for another bat in the outfield or first base. Another possibility is that the Rangers could put Andrus on the market to make room for Profar.

Its not often when a team would consider trading someone like Andrus. But, Andrus is two years away from free agency, and Profar would be six years away. Profar is also 4 and a half years younger than Andrus, and has more power. Like Andrus, Profar steals bases and is an excellent defensive shortstop. Rangers GM Jon Daniels has a good problem to have, but may make a move to address weaker spots in the organization. Josh Hamilton is a free agent, and its quite possible he will depart. The Rangers could be in the market for a big bat, and use either Andrus or Profar as trade bait.

The Cardinals might be a player for one of those two players. Rafael Furcal isn't likely to be ready for opening day, and it would be a miracle for the Cardinals to get 121 games out of him again. Thats the second highest total of games played by Furcal in the last 5 seasons. Furcal is also in the last year of his deal, and is 35 years old. Pete Kozma had a terrific September, and had some big hits for the Cardinals in the playoffs. However, Kozma also had some errors and fielding misplays in the playoffs. Also alarming is that Kozma is just a .236 career hitter in the minor leagues. Its also possible that the Cardinals could stick with a platoon of Kozma and Furcal, but that plan could blow up if Furcal isn't healthy. That would leave Kozma as the main guy, and who knows which version you would be getting. The .236 career minor league hitter, or the .333 September hitter in 72 at bats.

I think the Cardinals should make a major push for either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar. Andrus is the most likely target and its rumored the Rangers might be shopping him. I'm not sure what the Rangers would want for him, but I have a few guesses. I would think they would want one of our bigtime pitching prospects like Shelby Miller or Trevor Rosenthal. But the Rangers have several top pitching prospects of their own. Another guess would be a big bat to replace Josh Hamilton. That could be a number of players, they could want Oscar Tavares, but I would want Profar instead of Andrus if that was the case. They could want Allen Craig, Matt Adams, or Matt Carpenter. I would hate to give up Craig, but it would be worth looking at.

There is one more option, and while not as likely, but is something I would do in a hearbeat. Matt Holliday for Elvis Andrus, straight up. It might sound like a radical idea to some, but I don't think it is. Holliday will be 33 next year, and still has 4 years and a option left on his contract. Holliday is still productive and hit .295, had a .379 on base pct., 27 home runs, and 102 RBIs. Holliday did a good job as the #3 hitter this year, and actually had a better year than the guy he replaced this year, Albert Pujols. However, Holliday set a career high with 132 strikeouts this year. His defense is somewhat shaky, and while he has some big hot streaks, his bat can go cold for long stretches. Holliday always plays hard(just ask Marco Scutaro), but he never seems to get a big hit when you need it.

I don't know if the Rangers would be interested in picking up the rest of Holliday's contract, but they might if Hamilton leaves. They would need a big bat to replace him, and Holliday would be that guy. I also don't know if Holliday would accept a trade to Texas or not. The Cardinals could move Craig to right field, and put Adams or Carpenter at first base. They could also leave Craig at first, and put Carpenter or even Oscar Tavares in left. Its obvious the Cardinals need a shortstop, though and Andrus would fill that void. Andrus is two years away from free agency, and the Cardinals could use the money they save from the Holliday deal to sign Andrus to a long term deal.

The Cardinals should be considering upgrading shortstop this offseason. It looks like they might, I've read a story on them looking at Stephen Drew. I also just read a Bleacher Report story about the Cardinals trading for Elvis Andrus. Middle infield is really the Cardinals only weakness, and shorstop specifically. 2011 top pick Kolten Wong will soon be ready to take over second base, and Matt Carpenter is learning how to play second this offseason, so I'm not as worried about that. Daniel Descalso was overexposed this year, and would be better off as the Cards top utilityman like he was in 2011. Descalso is a scrappy player, takes good at bats, and plays good defense, but is a weak hitter overall.

Shorstop is a position the Cardinals will have to go outside the organization to upgrade. Andrus would be a huge upgrade from what we have. Andrus hits for a .270-.280 average, steals bases(stole over 30 bases in 3 out of 4 big league seasons), and is a defensive wizard. Andrus also wears #1 in Texas, like Ozzie Smith, but would obviously have to change his number in St. Louis. Besides the huge upgrade in defense, he would add some much needed speed to the ballclub. Jon Jay has turned into a stolen base threat, stealing 19 bags this year, but he's pretty much it. Andrus would add a new dimension to the Cardinals with his speed. At age 24, Andrus is young enough where he could be the Cardinals shortstop for years to come. I hope John Mozeliak is looking into acquiring him.

                            Jurickson Profar, the Rangers shortstop prospect