Sunday, November 30, 2008

2009 Hot Stove Updates - Part Two

Another week into the off season, and another week with little to no action. Rumors, however, are beginning to heat up as teams send out their arbitration offers to impending free agents, as well as letting it be known what their intentions are for the winter meetings.

With the rule five draft a little over two weeks away, we see a front office executives look at how things work. Paul DePodesta of the San Diego Padres writes,
It would seem logical that the best way to protect a player would be to put him on the 40-man roster. That is often, but not always, the case. Sometimes, for players who are borderline roster considerations, you may be safer by leaving him OFF the 40-man. The reason is that if he's taken in the Rule V, he has to stay in the Majors or else be offered back. However, if for some reason (add a free agent, add someone through trade, need someone during the season due to injury) you need to add a player to the 40-man at a later date, you may be forced to outright someone to make room. When you outright a first year roster player, he still has all of his minor league options, so teams can claim him and send him right into their minor league system. In short, it's much easier to lose a player trying to remove him from the 40-man than it is to lose him via the Rule V draft.
This is certainly an interesting take, and one that few probably consider. The Indians, for example, left the electric, yet highly unpolished left hander Chuck Lofgren off the 40 man roster. While Lofgren is likely to be selected in the draft, it seems unlikely that he will remain on a teams 25 man roster for the duration of the season. While Lofgren is blessed with incredible stuff, his lack of control has gotten the better of him and he has failed to show improvements while repeating levels.

I will take a more indepth look at the Rule V draft once we get a little bit closer to that time.

December first, marks the date that teams have to finalize arbitration offers to any impending free agents. There are a lot of interesting cases this year, none more so then the New York Yankees Andy Pettitte. Pettitte's agent leaked that the Dodger's had asked if Andy would be willing to come to the West Coast. This news sparked the interest of the Yankees as a rejected arbitration offer to Pettitte would make it likely that the Yankees would land some high draft picks as compensation.

However, there is a question whether the Yankees want Pettitte around for another season. With three arms almost certainly locked into the rotation, and speculation regarded the addition of at least one top tier free agent, the Yankees simply do not need the 36 year old lefty.

The Red Sox have a similarly interesting case on their hands with Jason Varitek. The major difference here is that Varitek's value is predominantly placed within the intangibles, such as being the team captain. However, Tek the hitter, has slipped to a point where his bat may be hurting the Sox more then his intangibles help. That being said, do the Sox offer Varitek arbitration and risk him accepting the offer? If Varitek rejects arbitration, the Sox would have a type A free agent on the market that would net them two high draft picks.

While many of the cases are obvious, there are the aforementioned pair, as well as a dozen borderline candidates, players whom their current teams would prefer to be without, but are risking being stuck with if arbitration is accepted.

In other news, Junichi Tazawa will announce the team he will sign with on Monday. Rumor has it that Tazawa will pick the Boston Red Sox and sign for a reported $6M for three years. The contract is presumed to be a Major League deal, despite the fact that Tazawa will start his North American career in the minors.

As I wrote previously, the Pittsburgh Pirates came to terms on deals with two pitchers from India. Both Patel and Singh were involved in a contest that would see the winner given $100,000 cash, and a chance to train under the watch of University of Southern California's pitching coach. These two are certainly worth monitoring during the 2009 season.

Here's a brief wrap-up of the minor league signings that occurred this week,
  • Mike Koplove signed a minor league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Koplove had a fine season for the Dodgers triple A affiliate but isn't much more then an insurance policy for the back end of the Phillies bullpen.
  • The Kansas City Royals brought in backstop JR House. While House has never been able to succeed at the Major League level, his recent minor league statistics give reason to believe he could be a fine backup. At worst, he is organization depth.
  • Trying to scoop up the next Joakim Soria, the Kansas City Royals signed 24 year old, right handed pitcher Federico Castaneda. Armed with a fastball that sits between 92 and 94mph, Castaneda is a fine pick up and one to keep an eye on.
  • Dayton Moore continued his busy week, also signing ex-Orioles short stop Luis Hernandez, as well as Corey Smith of the Angels and Carlos Sencion from the Braves. There are predominantly organizational filler, but with enough of these signings, an organization is bound to land at least one worth-while player.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers brough aboard Robert Swindle of the Phillies, and Jason Bourgeois from the White Sox. Swindle is a soft tossing left hander who had phenomenal success in both double and triple A.
The Jake Peavy rumors warmed back up this week as the Orioles surfaced as a possible partner in a three-way deal with the Cubs and Padres. This most recent offer would see Felix Pie heading to Baltimore in exchange for Garret Olson who would then be flipped to the Padres as part of a package for Peavy. To be completely honest, I cannot understand why the Padres would prefer Olson to Pie, but that's just me.

The Angels also surfaced as a potential landing place for both Peavy and CC Sabathia. This news surprises me as I recall Angels owner, Arte Moreno, suggesting that Alex Rodriguez is not an investment he would make. Moreno suggested that no single player is worth that percent of a teams spending.

Two trades did go down this week. The first saw the Red Sox acquiring soft-tossing relief pitcher Wes Littleton from the Texas Rangers for two players to be named or cash. As a ground ball pitcher, the Sox may hope to get out of Littleton what they have from Hideki Okajima.

In equally as useless news, the Astros acquired Tyler Lumsden from the Kansas City Royals for a PTBNL or cash.

The starting pitcher market, which is relatively deep, took a hit this week with the news that Freddy Garcia's shoulder injury has again flarred up. Garcia had made a successful return from his shoulder injury that sidelined him for the better part of two years. He was considered as a great bargain entering the free agency, however this news has got to hurt his chances of signing anything more then an incentive based deal.

Finally, the weak short stop market appears to be cornered by the Oakland Athletics. It appears imminent that Rafeal Furcal will choose that side of the bay to call his home. This will almost certainly make Bobby Crosby expendable as well as opening the door for Eric Patterson to be moved.

This weak market has also encouraged the Pirates to ask for a king's ransom for Jack Wilson. Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Dodgers have balked at the Pirates asking price of highly regarded prospect Chin-Lung Hu, Delwyn Young, and a third player. It would be wise for Huntington to take Hu straight up, but with the market in his favor, Huntington is in the position to get exactly what he wants.

In non-specific player news, MLB announced that the names of players who tested positive for Amphetamines. By MLB rule, players were suspended only after testing positive a second time, which has resulted in only a couple of suspensions. This new ruling will alert the public the names of every player who tested positive during the 2008 season and going forward.

It will be interesting to see what sort of performance correlation there exists with positive tests.

That's the wrap from last week...

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