Written by Bjoern Hartig (Contact & Archive) on July 27, 2009
Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press lets us know why the Toronto GM absolutely must trade Halladay now:
What happens if the trade deadline passes and Roy Halladay is still a Blue Jay?
This is what you need to know about Halladay: right now, he has more value to the teams that are trying to trade for him than he does to the Blue Jays. Significantly more.
Consider: the Blue Jays owe Halladay roughly $20.45 million between now and the end of the 2010 season. But since they are sure to miss the playoffs this year, they are basically paying him for one potential pennant race, next year, in a division with the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays. That is a huge chunk of money for one starting pitcher in one pennant race.
And if the Blue Jays don't contend next year, then what? Halladay won't come out and say it, but he'll be out of there. He will have pitched 12 seasons in Toronto without throwing a postseason pitch. Why would he sign on for any more? Halladay's reluctance to sign an extension is presumably what fueled these trade talks in the first place.
The Blue Jays could then try to deal him by next summer's deadline, but the haul would be significantly smaller than it would be now, because he would be a two-month rental instead of a season-and-two-months rental.
The teams that are pursuing Halladay, on the other hand, are all contenders. They believe they will have him for two pennant races, minimum. And unlike Toronto, those teams are in prime position to sign Halladay to an extension, because they are contenders.
But right now, with Halladay in the middle of the best season of his career, coming off two straight dominant starts ... well, right now there is a perception that he is hands-down the best pitcher in the game. And that is the right time to trade him. It is the definition of peak value. (Even Halladay's birthday slightly inflates his current value — he is 31, but he turns 32 next month).
I agree with Rosenberg that the real question is "can the Blue Jays contend next year?". I say that is highly unlikely, their red hot start notwithstanding, so they need to move him at peak value, which obviously is now. Riccardi's self imposed deadline is nonsense, the Blue Jays can and possibly should wait as long as they can and then take the best offer before the calendar shows August.
Written by Bjoern Hartig (Contact & Archive) on July 26, 2009
Rickey Henderson, elected on the first ballot, and Jim Rice, elected on the fifteenth and last ballot, will be introduced into the Hall Of Fame this afternoon. A good time to link to a few articles on the web about those two players.
SI's Ted Keith praises Rickey Henderson as the perfect lead-off hitter:
When it comes to envisioning the perfect leadoff hitter, though, there is no need for speculation or debate. Simply picture Rickey Henderson, in his prime, shirt unbuttoned (an Oakland A's jersey, of course). But how do you recall him best? Is it of him scrunched way, way down in the batter's box, with a strike zone that was famously referred to by the late, great Jim Murray as being "smaller than Hitler's heart"? If so, you'll remember the man who ranks second all-time with 2,190 walks, the man who amassed 3,055 hits and a .401 on-base percentage or launched a record 81 leadoff home runs.
Or do you picture him on the basepaths, one arm resting on his knee, the other hanging loose, fingers dancing back and forth in anticipation while he stretched his lead to dangerous and exciting lengths? This is the Henderson who would obliterate every stolen base record that ever mattered, and invent a few that didn't. The one who swiped 130 bases in a season and 1,406 in his career. The one who scored a major-league record 2,295 runs.
Baseball Analyst Patrick Sullivan reminds everyone that in his opinion, Dwight Evans was better than Jim Rice. He also gives an explanation why Rice made it to the Hall while Evans dropped of the ballot quickly:
So why the perception gap? I have a few theories. For one, Rice had his best seasons early in his career and leveled off some thereafter while Evans started relatively slowly and became a superstar during the middle part of his career. It seems that each had their reputations solidified during their early years - Rice as the superstar and Evans as the good defender with an OK bat.
Also, Rice's best seasons, particularly 1977 and 1978, came for some very good Boston Red Sox teams while Evans did his best work for more mediocre editions of the Carmine Hose in the early 80's. Further, Rice excelled in the back-of-the-trading-card AVG/HR/RBI numbers whereas Evans stood out because he walked a lot, mixed in some pop and played great defense. Evans's statistical edges come in categories less valued by the mainstream. Take all of this together and the inexplicable, that fans and media alike recall Rice's work more favorably than Dewey's, becomes a little easier to account for.
Fan opinion is one thing. Fans are busy. Fans have jobs. Fans do not devote their professional lives to the coverage of baseball. But the media owes the game and the integrity of the Hall of Fame more - not the least of which is a good faith attempt at understanding the sport. Wouldn't it be more useful for you to know, say, that Evans twice led the American League in OPS while Rice did just once (something I had no idea of before researching for this piece) than to listen to story after story about how "Rice was the most feared hitter in the league for a decade?"
Dwight Evans was a better player than Jim Rice and yet the Baseball Writers' Association of America would have you believe that they were not even in the same galaxy as players, with the conventional wisdom being that Rice was better. Well you can take the more "feared" guy. I'll take the more durable player who was the superior offensive force, defender and baserunner.
Kirk Minihane of WEEI has a long mailbag on Rice & Evans:
You wrote about Evans having bad luck and it's true. Imagine if he were playing today? He'd be $100 million dollar player, easy.
A: Great point. Look at it like this: If J.D. Drew could get that contract at age 30 what would Evans get? Here's what each did in their age 30 seasons.
Drew: 20 homers, 100 RBI. .393 OBP, .891 OPS
Evans: 32 homers, 98 RBI, .402 OBP (led league), and .936 OPS
Throw in the huge edge in defense (Evans won a Gold Glove that year) and no durability questions and you've got a six-year, $90-million dollar deal. He would be exactly what Theo is looking for, good power, high-OBP, zero problems in the clubhouse. In fact, I guarantee you that Theo Epstein believes that Dwight Evans was a better player than Rice. I know Bill James does.
And now to end with a light note, Jim Rice will have his number retired by the Red Sox:
"As a fan of the game and a steward of this great franchise, it is an honor to be a part of the Red Sox during this special moment in the team's history," said Red Sox principal owner John Henry. "On behalf of our partners and the entire organization, we want to congratulate Jim Rice on his upcoming induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and finally taking his rightful place among the greatest players in the game. The retirement of his number will be a fitting way to honor one of the most dominant hitters to ever wear a Red Sox uniform."
Rice's number will be the seventh to be retired by the franchise, joining Bobby Doerr (No. 1), Joe Cronin (4), Johnny Pesky (6), Carl Yastrzemski (8), Ted Williams (9) and Carlton Fisk (27). Jackie Robinson's No. 42 has been retired by every team in the majors.
"It will be a thrill to welcome Jim Rice back to Fenway after his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame," said Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. "As one of only four Hall of Famers to spend his entire career with this organization, Jim will be joining an elite group of players whose contributions to Red Sox history are etched in the memories of generations of fans. And we are very fortunate that he continues to be a part of Red Sox games by bringing his more than three decades of baseball experience to the NESN broadcasting team."
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on July 24, 2009
With Matt Holliday and Julio Lugo in hand, that shows the Cardinals are going for it all. They are on the hook for $4.5 of the remaining $6 million on Holliday's contract, while Lugo isn't a cheap expenditure by himself. After these moves, a few questions come to mind.
Did Albert Pujols have any effect on the Cardinals' moves?
The early guess here is that he did. Pujols' agent, Dan Lozano, said that Pujols doesn't care about money but rather getting a few more World Series rings in a story for the Indianapolis Star. In the same story, Pujols would like to remain in St. Louis for the duration of his career but that doesn't mean he wouldn't leave.
So the Cardinals went out and acquired two players who could shore up their offense. After the Cardinals gave up on the Khalil Greene trade, they acquired Lugo, who was designated for assignment from the Red Sox. He is a solid glove who has gotten on base a little bit.
Lugo may not be an impressive bat, but he's certainly an upgrade over Greene.
The Cardinals also brought in Holliday, who provides a power bat in left field. He may be a bit of a Coors Field creation, but there should be a slight uptick in Holliday's statistics over the remainder of the season. He's moving from one of the worst hitter's parks in the Major Leagues and returning to facing pitchers with whom he's more familiar.
Combine that with a recent hot streak and it looks like Holliday may help the Cardinals offense get going deep into the playoffs. Should Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright stay healthy, that could be a dangerous rotation with which to contend come October.
But back to Pujols. It seems the Cardinals made these moves to appease their star and maybe persuade him that ownership is trying to contend. Pujols has an option for 2011 that will almost certainly be exercised, which means he has only two more seasons before he can test the free agent market. It's likely these series of trades were some sort of goodwill message to Pujols.
Now Pujols has a strong presence in the lineup to protect him, something that should make him difficult to handle down the stretch.
Does this impact the Halladay-to-the-Cardinals rumors?
Absolutely. It was unlikely Halladay was even going to get traded to any team but now it's even less likely he'll get shipped to St. Louis. The Cardinals aren't an organization plush with money - - I don't know where the money for these moves are coming from - - so it makes little sense to trade for another huge contract at this point, even though a postseason rotation of Halladay-Carpenter-Wainwright would look downright imposing come October.
The Cardinals also moved their biggest prospect, third baseman Brett Wallace. Some scouts didn't think he'd last at third base because of his body, but he should be able to play passable defense there for the time being. Does the Cardinals farm system have enough to A) Compete with the Phillies and the other clubs out there and B) Have enough to still survive future seasons after a potential Halladay deal? Doubtful.
What impact does this have on Troy Glaus?
The Cardinals were trying Glaus out in left field as he worked his way back from shoulder surgery. But with Holliday there, you'd have to think the Cardinals are going to end this experiment.
The fact that they moved him shows they're more willing to go with Mark DeRosa there. This might mean Glaus, a free agent at season's end, will be relegated to the bench if he makes it back to the Major Leagues this season.
How does the outfield situation play out?
It only seems logical that Holliday start everyday in left field because the Cardinals spent so much to acquire him. After that, Colby Rasmus has come on strong in center field, while Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel will split time in right field, unless one of them is traded.
Ankiel is a free agent at season's end, so the Cardinals could deal him for help elsewhere, but that's pure speculation on my behalf.
What is Holliday's situation beyond this season?
If Holliday is spurred to a good season after this deal, that may help him sign a huge extension with another team. After all, this is the guy who turned down four years and $84 million from the Rockies.
However, the Cardinals may have the money to keep Holliday if he performs well. Glaus, Greene and Ankiel are all coming off the books, which leaves the Cardinals a few million to play with. It doesn't seem like the Cardinals are going to use that money on him, however.
Going for broke is a dangerous game, but it's a wise move in a winnable division with two aces -- Carpenter and Wainwright -- to front a postseason rotation.
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on July 24, 2009
Buster Olney reports the Cardinals have traded for outfield Matt Holliday. This comes two days after the team solidified its shortstop position by trading for Red Sox outcast Julio Lugo. Both players should provide ample offense for a Cardinals team apparently looking to go all the way, considering salary expenditures.
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on July 23, 2009
Today, it was reported that Roy Halladay wants to test the free agent market, which nudged his trade value down a little bit. Teams are going to trade a few young stud prospects for Halladay only to have to bid on him with all 29 other teams out their as potential suitors. That does not sound like fun.
Of course, this should come as no surprise if you've been paying attention all along.
When the Blue Jays announced whichever team traded for Halladay wouldn't be allowed to have a window to negotiate a contract extension, it should have become obvious that something was up. In the case of Johan Santana, the Mets got an opportunity to negotiate a long-term deal for him before sending their prospects to the Twins.
Why should it be obvious? If the Blue Jays granted whichever team had agreed to an exchange of players the opportunity to discuss an extension, they would've found out immediately that Halladay intended to test the free agent market, which would've made the team with the potential deal less eager to send its top prospects.
J.P. Ricciardi thought he could work around that fact by not letting teams negotiate with Halladay before a trade was finalized. This is an example of buyer beware in action.
Halladay kind of shoots himself in the foot here, as well. He has said he wants to play for a winning team, but wanting to test free agency means one thing: money. The teams that have money are well known, so I won't have to say Red Sox or Yankees here. There are plenty of teams with opportunities to win that don't have the money, like the Phillies, Angels, Rangers or Cardinals.*
*Those teams may not be world beaters without Halladay but imagine where they'd be with him, especially next season in the case of the Rangers.
As has been argued on this blog way before J.P. Ricciardi announced it wasn't likely Halladay was moving (here and here), it just doesn't seem like Halladay will be moving. That's a shame because the Blue Jays need to dump Alex Rios and Vernon Wells -- two stupid contracts -- and trade Halladay for everything they can get.
It doesn't seem like that's going to happen now.
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on July 23, 2009
Mark Buehrle isn't going to impress anyone with an amazing fastball or killer off-speed stuff. Instead, he's going to work quickly, throw strikes and rely on the defense behind him.
Well, Buehrle did that on his way to Thursday's perfect game and the second time he's thrown a no-hitter in his career. His defense recorded 21 of the 27 outs, and he split them about evenly between the air and the ground.
He threw 116 pitches, 76 for strikes. Game time was a smidge over two hours.
There's a little bit of a flukish nature to no-hitters -- the best pitchers usually don't throw them and sometimes the lesser pitchers do, but let this be a lesson for pitchers out there: Throw strikes, let your defense play and more often than not, something good will come of it.