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Hot Stove 2010: Yankees Should Think Outside Of The Free Agency Box

It’s no mystery Father Time is nipping at the heels of the Yankees and all indications is next season’s team will just look every bit of a team in the twilight of their prime. With the Derek Jeter soap opera sure to end with him re-signing and Cliff Lee likely to end up in pinstripes, veteran talent will continue to hold down a lion’s share of the 25-man roster.

What about getting creative and getting young?

Sure these moves surely reside outside the Tampa and Bronx brain-trusts’ agenda, but lets think outside the box? 


Trade for Justin Upton. This is the hot name on the trade market and any deal will require overpaying by whomever finally acquires the talented 23-year-old. Upton would certainly call for a package that could include a few prospects from the Austin Romine, Manny Banuelos, Ivan Nova, Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances, Slate Heathcott and Gary Sanchez pool. 

The Yankees could offer up an enticing package sure to present equal value and net them a young building block with proven experience. The Juan Miranda deal has shown the Diamondbacks and Yankees are willing trade partners.

Let’s see them make a deal that could help shape both franchises for the long-term.


Trade for Colby Rasmus. It’s known that Tony LaRussa and Rasmus have been on the outs and last season featured a few benchings of the 24-year-old centerfielder. The Yankees have a couple pieces that could entice the Cardinals into making this happen: Joba Chamberlain and Curtis Granderson.

Chamberlain could become their next closer or Dave Duncan could commit to helping Joba flourish as a starter. Chamberlain’s mangled handling has killed his value and potential as the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera, but a move to St. Louis could revitalize this once electric talent and help improve the Cardinals pitching staff.

In Granderson they’d get a dependable third bat in the lineup and a Rasmus replacement.  He also could provide the Cardinals with above average centerfield play and ease the loss of the talented Rasmus.

The benefit for the Yankees is obvious and it could be a great addition to an Upton acquisition by giving the Yankees a more youthful starting lineup. Rasmus would also be under the Yankees control for the next four seasons and help contribute to the Yankees financial flexibilities.

Rasmus would come in much like Granderson with a flawed swing against left-handed pitching, but as long as Kevin Long is the hitting coach expect the issue to get worked out. Rasmus’s swing is also tailor-made for the short right field porch and he projects to be a 2 or 5 hitter who is likely to churn out .300/30/90/15/.390 seasons during his prime. A prime that is a couple years away from kicking in and a future as the centerfielder could only bolster the aging and uncertain Yankees outfield.


Trade for Zach Greinke. While Greinke has established himself as a top 20 pitcher, he still has huge issues that could affect him in the mega-market of New York. Is his psyche too frail to handle the scrutiny he’ll face when he loses consecutive starts? What if he struggles against the Red Sox? These are the inherent risks, but his talent in undeniable.

Greinke would transform the rotation and allow the Yankees to bump AJ Burnett down to a fifth starter and if they also got Lee it would form the best rotation this game has ever seen. It would allow the Yankees to move Burnett, while eating a considerable chunk of his bloated salary, but it would be beneficial to send him off to a place like Washington where he could experience a revival. In return the Yankees could pick someone like a John Lannan who would be a great Darren Oliver-esque long reliever instead of a middling starter.


Trade Jorge Posada – It’s not an easy proposition since he has a huge contract and the emotional connection will make it tough to send him away. But he know clogs up the DH position that should be left open to give half days off to veterans like Jeter, Rodriguez, Teixeira, Swisher and Cano. With Montero ready to step in and Cervelli in place as a backup, Posada doesn’t have mentors mindset and clearly looks to pass off blame whenever he makes mistakes. It’s time to move on and he’ll overstay his welcome. It’s time to move on.

Not all of these deals will happen. In fact none of them are likely to happen, but it’s time to get creative and retool positions that will lead to the next core of players leading the Yankees to their next run of championships.

One thing is strikingly apparent. The Yankees are old and they can either tear it down in the future or augment it now. These are a few ideas on how to move this process along. Why wait to overpay when you could move some prospects unlikely to ever don the pinstripes. I say go big now and make a seismic splash soon and force other teams to sop up the aging stars and their exorbitant salaries.

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Everything In It’s Right Place for the Washington Nationals

The non-waiver trade deadline has passed and the Washington Nationals have continued to accumulate critical pieces to their future championship puzzle.

There was no purge of all veteran players for prospects, but there were deft moves to acquire highly thought of prospects, including Wilson Ramos, and create major league openings for young talent already in their system.

Ramos, 22, was the top catching prospect in the Twins organization and only cost them an overachieving Matt Capps. Ramos helps the Nationals solidify the catching position and could arrive in Washington during September call-ups.

Although the Nationals already have Ivan Rodriguez mentoring their young staff and Derek Norris developing at minor league level, Ramos sheds some light into what Rizzo wants in his backstop. It would make great sense for Ramos to spend the next year or so picking Pudge Rodriguez’s brain about the art of catching.

For all the things said about Pudge, Rizzo should be applauded for recognizing Pudge’s ability to bring along a young staff. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the Nationals transition him to a coaching position within the next five years. His great understanding of the game would translate well into a solid managerial career.

The move, or lack thereof, that baffled many was the keeping of Adam Dunn. Dunn was rumored to be in several deals and at one point he seemed fated to go to the White Sox in exchange for the enigmatic Edwin Jackson. Instead Rizzo held on to his slugging first baseman with the hopes to re-sign him to a multi-year deal.

However, if Rizzo loses him during free agency the Nationals could receive to premium compensatory picks that could become future contributors for this developing powerhouse. The ultimate in terms of a win-win proposition one can find outside of a lopsided prospect package deal.

The Nationals also found a way to unload veteran Christian Guzman and continue to augment their pitching depth in the farm system. Guzman was set to be a free agent after this season and was most likely not going to be brought back or garner high quality draft picks via free agency.

Another key point was losing a bit of salary that will most certainly go into the Bryce Harper fund as the Nationals continue to negotiate with the powerful prodigy. With the Ramos trade, it also solidifies the organization’s stance that Harper’s future is as an outfielder and not a catcher.

With September call-ups a month away, it will be interesting to get a glimpse of future major league talent that could be apart of Washington’s ascension through the next levels on their way to being the top team in the NL East and a perennial championship contender. Names like Marrero, Zimmermann, Norris and Espinosa could surface on the big team. While others like Marquis, Walker, Martin, and Atilano try to prove healthy and could create some value as possible trade chips during the upcoming hot stove.

This could make the end of the season appointment television for both fans and scouts.

For hopeful devout fans and eager front-runners ready to reserve their seat on the Nationals freight train that is poised to roll through everyone shortly and for a better part of this decade, possibly the next as well.

Stephen Strasburg’s recovery will coincide with this potential unveiling of something special. His place on this team has been carved out and all the fans are waiting on is for the leashes to be removed so Strasburg can mow down opponents and claim his place baseball’s top pitcher. A title that can only elude his grasp if he suffers major injuries preventing him from reaching his considerable potential.

And the craziest thing is that this is all a prelude to the arrival of Bryce. Harper’s arrival may be a year or more away, but his shadow will loom over division foes like an hourglass counting down to the moment of truth.

The moment Washington is ready. A moment Rizzo has been carefully building to.


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Brewers Should Sell Now and Contend Next Year

The Milwaukee Brewers find themselves at a pivotal crossroads as a franchise.

Unlike most mid-market franchises, the Brewers woes aren’t the surefire sign of a fire sale and lengthy rebuilding process. Although there are structural issues with this team that point to bolstering their talent pool by trading some major league talent to this year’s contenders. 

However, some selling could mean being a strong contender next season.

The hot rumor, of course, has Prince Fielder available and several teams in hot pursuit of his services. The power hitting Fielder is viewed by many as a middle of the order cornerstone. A view shared by super agent, and mid-market nemesis, Scott Boras.

With his outlandish demands and thirst for the biggest deal, Boras is almost certain to steer Fielder to a bigger market and more lucrative contract than the Brewers could offer.

It appears Fielder’s greater value to the Brewers is the bounty of major league ready prospects he would net for Milwaukee. One potential scenario could have him going to the Chicago White Sox for some combination of second baseman Gordon Beckham, starting pitcher Daniel Hudson, third baseman Dayan Viciendo, and other prospects. It is no secret that White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams always gets his man even if it means overpaying so there is a good chance the Brewers could get the best value from Williams.

Is that the only move?


While this means they would acquire great talent with huge upside, but it would create a log jam in the infield. This means the Brewers could sell high on Rickie Weeks, Casey McGehee, and possibly Mat Gamel. These players could help bulk up on lower level minor league talent, back-of-the-rotation starters, or relievers.

Speaking of selling high, there is the matter of Corey Hart. The outfielder is having the classic trap year for those who think he is going to hit at this pace for the rest of the prime years in his career. His numbers year to year suggest he is far from a sure bet and it behooves the Brewers to sell him to the highest bidder immediately. With the Giants, Rays, and Padres rumored to be interested, there is no doubt Hart could increase depth for the Brewers on the major league level. 

How about Hart for Matt Garza or Ben Zobrist or B.J. Upton? That sounds like something that could happen.

Other veterans like Craig Counsell, Randy Wolf, LaTroy Hawkins, or Jim Edmonds could also bring back players that could provide organizational depth in key areas of need.

After cleaning out some big league talent how does this come together?

Using the current payroll $90 million and project their current obligations, with potential deals being taken on by trades, at about $30 million to spend. That is enough space to add significant talent to reload for a serious run.

It could mean making a free agent splash and signing Adam Dunn. Dunn makes sense for the Brewers and his price tag will be significantly less than Boras’ bonkers asking price for Prince Fielder.

The rest could be used to grab workhorse Javier Vazquez for significantly less than many teams are expected to offer Cliff Lee. They could also invest in some bullpen help like Jon Rauch or Matt Guerrier.

The Brewers moves at the deadline could feel like a rebuilding project, but with proper foresight this could retool this team for a more serious run over the next five years.

So let the rumors run wild, but please don’t stand pat. Milwaukee is ready to see a true contender.

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MLB Trade News: Cliff Lee Always Worth More than What He is Traded For

For the third time in less than a year, Cliff Lee has a new home. This time, he has joined the Texas Rangers.

Lee, 31, was brought in to help strengthen a relatively inexperienced rotation as the Rangers look to make a deep run in the playoffs.

Much like the past deals Lee has been involved in, the team parting ways with the star pitcher has looked for a huge haul of prospects in return.

The Indians’, Phillies’, and Mariners’ prospects arrived with the glimmer of a brighter future, as each team will expect to find their value in the years to come.

This value is based upon scouting reports and potential. The potential here is the potential to become a dominant ace, a slugging monster, a slick fielder, or a great signal caller is the hook used by the teams who desire Lee’s services.

Thus, this renews the argument of potential vs. proven commodity.

The Indians purged their roster last season and moved their ace, along with outfielder Ben Francisco, to the Phillies in exchange for pitcher Jason Knapp, pitcher Carlos Carrasco, infielder Jason Donald, and catcher Lou Marson.

Three of the four prospects have seen action on the major league level since the trade, but they have all struggled, and aren’t doing well at the minor league level this year.

Marson plays the same position as rookie Carlos Santana, who seized control of the catching position.

Donald, 25, appears to be destined for a nomadic career that alternates between the majors and minors.

Carrasco, 23, is still struggling, but has shown flashes that suggest he could help fill out a rotation someday.

The biggest piece of the trade was Jason Knapp, 19, who has already experienced physical setbacks that have hampered his development.

Cleveland’s deals have restocked their farm system, but the question, is what are they stocked with? Can they build on this?

What about the Phillies?

The Phillies took some prospects from the Mariners to replenish the loss of some highly regarded youngsters. The Phillies sent Lee to Seattle for pitcher J.C. Ramirez, pitcher Phillippe Aumont, and outfielder Tyson Gillies.

Again, another deal that is far too early to judge, but the numbers being posted at their current levels aren’t instilling a ton of confidence.

Ramirez, 21, has exhibited control issues while posting a high WHIP (1.47) and an ERA of 4.63, which means he is giving up slightly more than a run every two innings. That won’t work in a hitter’s park like Citizens Bank Park.

To say that Aumont, 21, has been knocked around would be an understatement, and this is at the Double-A level, where elite prospects tend to shine.

Center fielder Tyson Gillies, 21, has not looked horrible, but a sluggish start while he is playing at the Double-A level for the first time also must be worrisome for the Phillies’ front office that expected these players to contribute in the upcoming seasons.

The franchise has solid depth on the major and minor league level that should make these disappointments palatable.

What did Cliff Lee net for the struggling Mariners?

How about Justin Smoak? The highly touted first baseman was sent to last place Seattle along with pitcher Blake Beavan, pitcher Josh Lueke, and second baseman Matthew Lawson.

The hard-hitting prospect has struggled at the major league level but does have the potential to become a middle-of-the-order talent that could help a pathetic offense in Seattle.

Beavan, 21, was also coveted by the Mariners and has posted numbers that suggest he can dominate at his current level and could be moved up to the Triple-A club by season’s end.

Lueke, 25, has all the makings of a career minor leaguer who could possibly be a serviceable fill-in reliever on the big team if someone were to be injured.

Lawson, 24, also falls into the category of career minor leaguer.

Sure these prospects could develop into future All-Stars or good complimentary pieces on a future contending team. But this past year has been a movement of players who won’t make up for the loss of what was given up.

And absolutely, I mean absolutely, these trades will never yield the lopsided results of this deal of a staff ace for prospects.

Remember the June 27, 2002 trade of then-ace Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew from the Indians to the Expos for Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, Lee Stevens, and Cliff Lee?

Now that was a steal!

Front offices around baseball dream every time they deal away one of their stars, but it almost never happens.

So we get situations like Lee’s journey to find a long-term home. A journey that has seen many promising players moved to acquire him.

A journey that might not be over.


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The Nationals Reign: Domination Begins In 2012

The nation has laid witness to the dominance of Stephen Strasburg and now it’s time for the Washington Nationals to claim their spot amongst the upper echelon of baseball.

While it is obvious that this franchise has been in a shambles for years, the Nationals benefited from their ineptitude by getting Strasburg and teenage hitting phenomenon Bryce Harper. These unique talents are once in a generation talents that will become cornerstones of championship quality teams.

Having both Strasburg and Harper, in addition to Ryan Zimmerman and Drew Storen, gives the Nationals four players who each solidify specific needs found on dynastic teams (i.e. the Yankees’ big four of Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera).

The assets the Nationals have acquired during these years of loss and disappointment situate them to make a serious push in the next few seasons. This push could last for at least a decade.

If you look at similar franchises and project the future salary budget of this team in a major media market it would reasonable to see them with $100 to $140 million payroll. Their current payroll is $61.5 million and roughly half of what it will be once they are ready to become a contender.  

Here is a reasonable blueprint for the Nationals path to a championship:

(At the beginning of this upcoming off-season, the Nationals will have only $24.4 million committed dollars that could grow to $52 million through arbitration.)


1. Lockup the foursome immediately. Give Zimmerman a 10 year, $150 million dollar deal. How about a 12 year, $200 million for Strasburg? Harper would be a steal at 10 years, $170 million. Storen could be a little more economical at 8 years, $48 million.

(The payroll would climb up to $67.4 of guaranteed cash before arbitration. Let’s call it $85 million.)


2. What to do with Adam Dunn. Dunn has been a loyal and productive player without complaining or demanding a trade. He wants to be in Washington and it would make sense to keep unless another team offers up a few choice prospects. It would make sense to sign him unless they…


3. Make room for Prince Fielder. Fielder will be a free agent following next season and that would fit with the arrival of Bryce Harper. A 3-4-5 punch of Harper-Zimmerman-Fielder would be among baseball’s best. The trio would produce the runs that have eluded the Nationals this year and in years past.

(Payroll with Dunn $100 million, with Fielder $103, with another lesser known first baseman $91 million)


4. Sign or trade for a top of the rotation pitcher. Strasburg is going to be a star and will be an ace for several years, but a pennant caliber team needs two guys at the top of their rotation. The pitching free agent market looks bleak and there is only one man to be had. His name is Cliff Lee and he will be available after this season. While it is highly unlikely Lee would sign with a team not ready to contend, it is worth making a pitch to bring him in. A signing like this and bringing in Fielder would make waves in baseball and establish the Nationals as a championship contender.

(Payroll with Lee is $120 million.)


5. Complementary pieces put in place. The Nationals have pieces ready to fill these roles. Ian Desmond is a year or two away from being a solid infielder who could give them power in the bottom half of the lineup, and possibly become an option at the 2-hole.

The rotation, as presently constructed, has three started who could fill out the rest of the rotation: John Lannan, Scott Olsen and a healthy Jordan Zimmerman.Tyler Clippard is a solid seventh inning guy and could help their eighth inning setup man. The other pitchers vying for rotation spots could be used to fill out the bullpen. For instance maybe Detwiler becomes a lefty specialist or he claims a rotation spot. 


6. Players on the horizon. What is left to be said about Bryce Harper? Virtually everyone agrees that Harper will be a unique talent and can be penciled in for several All-Star appearances. However it makes sense for Harper to become the everyday right fielder so that could allow another prospect Derek Norris to handle the catching duties beginning next year. Norris could learn a lot from Pudge and the transition could also extend Rodriguez’s career another season as he shares catching duties with Norris.

Chris Marrero could start the switch from playing first base and be groomed to be Willingham’s left field replacement. His experience at first base could come in handy if they don’t pursue the two options previously suggested for the position. Danny Espinosa will allow Ian Desmond to move over to second base allowing Espinosa to play his natural position where he excels at.


7. Feed the farm. The farm system has begun to yield some pro-level talent and there will be more to come, but it is important to continue acquiring assets and nurture their young talent. This process could see an influx at the trading deadline if the Nationals decide to move some of their veterans for prospects.

Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham and Jason Marquis could bring back a few players who could help the team down the road. This process was hindered greatly by the wrongdoings of the previous regime and it is important Rizzo continues the development if this talent resource.

How about this 2012 Opening Day roster:






Fielder or Dunn-1B





Rotation and bullpen:


Cliff Lee

Scott Olsen

Jordan Zimmerman

John Lannan

Setup: Detwiler and Clippard

Closer: Storen

TOTAL PAYROLL: $125 million

The future is beginning to look like a full ballpark and talent on the field that could be a once-in-a-generation experience that will continue to be appointment television and attendance. A dynasty is coming at all of us quickly.

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