This is the first installment of a weekly series reporting on Major League Baseball's off-season, The Hot Stove League. I will continue reflecting on trades that go down, as well as Under the Radar columns, and pretty much the same stuff that I would typically be doing during the off season.
This series then, will touch on everything else that I deem important, but not important enough for it's own post. It's like taking Lassie out into the woods, and...
Leading off with the biggest news of the Hot Stove League this week is Mike Mussina announcing his retirement, axing a potential 300 winner from baseball. I'm not sure whether or not Mussina is a Hall of Fame pitcher, but he didn't hurt his cause by finishing his career with one of his best seasons. Mussina's reputation as a good guy coupled with a solid winning percentage should be enough for the voters to get him in eventually. He deserves to be in, but not based on those two, but rather because of his 3.57 career FIP and incredible durability.
The next highlight, or low light for Phillies fans, is the announcement that Chase Utley will require major surgery on his hip. As it stands, Utley is scheduled to miss at least April and May of the 2009 season. Hip surgeries are serious, and if not treated as such (ie. the Phillies caring more about repeating then longevity) Utley's career could quickly become in jeopardy.
In other news, Bud Selig has assured the fans that he won't have to implement the commissioner's best interest of the game clause the next time a playoff game is to be ended early. Selig announced on Thursday that playoff games will be played in their entirety.
A couple trades went down last week, first, the Royals and Red Sox agreed to swap Ramon Ramirez for Coco Crisp. I gave this trade to the Red Sox, as they were the ones who filled a spot on their roster with a meaningful piece. I can't see Crisp truly being a worthwhile player for the Royals.
ESPN's Rob Neyer reacts to the Crisp and Mike Jacobs deals questioning what the use of acquiring two players who only make this club marginally better, but still not good enough to contend. While I am not currently impressed with either acquisition, it is impossible to believe that Dayton Moore does not intend to make another deal off of these ones. That said, we have to believe that David DeJesus and Billy Butler will net a substantial gain over Leo Nunez and Ramirez.
While Moore takes a partial hit from DeJesus and Butler to Crisp and Jacobs, the gains ought to be larger then the value of Nunez and Ramirez. Until that occurs, however, Neyer is right, what's the use?
The second trade, a largely ignored swap of ex-first round picks between the Rangers and Phillies. The Rangers received uber-toolsy Gregory Golson in exchange for Hulk-like John Mayberry. This will be an interesting trade to look back on in a year or so from now.
Free Agency has been relatively quiet and largely disappointing in terms of signings. Yesterday, the White Sox and Cuban defector Dayan Viciedo agreed to terms on a contract. In other Chicago news, Ryan Dempster decided to stay put with the Cubs, thus foregoing his opportunity at winning a World Series.
The San Francisco Giants made an excellent move this week, bringing in highly underrated reliever Jeremy Affeldt. Affedlt's 2 year, $8M contract is well below market value, which is shocking, simply because he signed with the Giants-a team that traditionally overpays.
AJ Burnett seems to have stolen many of the headlines among available free agents. According to the Toronto Star, Burnett's agent has said any team not willing to offer a five year deal is going to be behind the eight ball. I can't see why it wouldn't worry a ball club that a player is so adamant about signing for a fifth year, especially with the injury history of a player like AJ Burnett.