THE BASEBALL ODDS AND END ZONE
Winter baseball transactions were off to a slow start this off season until earlier this week when the Blue Jays and Marlins completed a blockbuster trade. 12 players will exchange uniforms, if physicals are passed and Commissioner approval is obtained, which is expected. Toronto dealt themselves back into the American League East championship picture, as they received starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle as well as All-Star shortstop and lead-off hitter Jose Reyes. The Marlins on the other hand shed significant amounts of payroll, just a year after being one of the biggest buyers in the free agent market.
There is dismay in South Florida as just a year after completion of a new stadium, built with almost $400 million of public funds, the team has held a fire sale of Major League players. The Marlins had traded Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez last summer, reliever Heath Bell already this winter, and with this trade have now stripped the team of any credible chance to compete for a playoff spot in 2013.
The blockbuster trade not only thrusts the Jays into the East Division mix, but has ramifications for further transactions that could affect the Rangers. Toronto received catcher John Buck in the deal with Miami, and already had Bobby Wilson and J. P. Arencibia on their roster. They also have a treasured Major League ready prospect in Travis d’Arnaud. It is virtually a certainty that one of the four catchers will be moved this winter. Texas however is not the only team seeking catching, so there will be strong competition for whoever the Jays trade.
Also the Marlins are left with one super star – Giancarlo Stanton. Early reports indicate the Marlins are adamant that Stanton will not be traded. However, Stanton expressed his disgust and outrage on Twitter once the rumors of the trade became wide spread, and undoubtedly wants to get traded too. It is a long shot, but Ranger fans can dream that Texas will overwhelm Florida with prospects for Stanton. Stanton is good enough to be a solid replacement for Josh Hamilton.
FREE AGENT WATCH:
As expected, Josh Hamilton turned down the Rangers’ qualifying offer of $13.3 million for one year. The offer and turn down were procedural as the Rangers now will receive a draft pick if Hamilton signs elsewhere this winter. That draft pick under the new rules is a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of the draft, but may actually turn out to be a selection in the 25-30 range. Under the new rules, first round picks of teams selecting in the latter half of the first round are forfeited for signing free agents that received qualifying offers. In the past, the team losing the free agent received that draft pick, but no more. The pick is simply forfeited. There are eight players that received qualifying offers.
Hamilton has made known his desire for a $175 million contract. He’s not alone. Everyone reading this article would like such a contract, and everyone reading this article may have a chance to receive one equal to Hamilton’s. Supposedly teams in the mix for Hamilton include Baltimore, Seattle, Philadelphia and Milwaukee; though no team has stepped up to discuss a contract in the neighborhood Hamilton is seeking. In any event, the Rangers are not initiating contract negotiations, and Hamilton has no “other” offer to bring to the Rangers to match, as promised. There is little chance a deal for Hamilton gets done until the winter meetings in early December, and very possibly later. Nolan Ryan has indicated that the team would not be waiting on Hamilton if other opportunities arise.
There is no hard news on Mike Napoli, though the list of teams interested is a long one. Napoli has indicated he wants to be the main catcher with the opportunity to play more than 100 games behind the plate, while many of the teams seeking his services are more interested in his bat and consequently want him to play a majority of games at first base and DH, catching just 50-60 games. The Rangers have not closed the door on bringing back Napoli. The departure of both Napoli and Hamilton would create a major hole in the Rangers’ batting order, as they combined for 67 home runs and 184 RBIs last year.
One free agent rumored to be on the Rangers’ radar screen was Torii Hunter. Not now. Hunter agreed to a two year, $26 million deal with the Tigers this week, pending a physical. The Tigers will not forfeit a draft pick for the signing, as the Angels did not make a qualifying offer for Hunter.
Ranger starting pitcher Yu Darvish finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting. There was no question that Mike Trout would win. He had a season for the ages (.326, 35 home runs, 83 RBI’s and 49 stolen bases), a season that puts him in strong consideration for the league’s MVP Award. Oakland’s Yeonis Cespedes finished second.
Bob Melvin was named American League Manager of the Year. He guided Oakland to the A. L. West championship, unseating the two time World Series participants, the Texas Rangers. The A’s traded All-Star starting pitchers Trevor Cahill and Geo Gonzalez before last winter, then lost starting pitchers Bartolo Colon, Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson during the course of the 2012 season. They once trailed Texas by as many as 13.5 games, but won eight of their last 10 games, including a three game sweep of the Rangers to finish the season and win the division on the very last day, the ONLY day they led the division. It was an amazing job. He richly deserves the honor, but it is still an upset. He had to beat out Buck Showalter, who led Baltimore into the playoffs. Showalter also did a magnificent job, so Melvin had to overcome not only a great managerial performance in Baltimore, but the East Coast bias among the voters. Either manager would have been a worthy choice. Hats off to Melvin for being the one that got the nod.