Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on July 13, 2009
Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci lists the 10 players who make his All-Thrill List. He gives explanations of the players here.
Here's his list:
10 - Ted Williams
9 - Nolan Ryan
8 - Sandy Koufax
7 - Bo Jackson
6 - Mickey Mantle
5 - Rickey Henderson
4 - Willie Mays
3 - Ty Cobb
2 - Babe Ruth
1 - Jackie Robinson
Readers, which players are in your top 10?
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on July 12, 2009
It sounds like the Royals just traded for an in-his-prime Honus Wagner, if you believe the effusive praise players are giving Yuniesky Betancourt, née of the Mariners.
Gil Meche, Willie Bloomquist and Jose Guillen -- former teammates of Betancourt while in Seattle -- had only positive comments about Betancourt after hearing the Royals acquired him.
And then there was what Royals general manager Dayton Moore -- formerly a high-ranking baseball mind with one of the better organizations in baseball, the Braves -- had to say in the Kansas City Star.
"The bottom line is he's an upgrade for our team today. And based on other opportunities that we have evaluated for the next year or two, he's an upgrade there as well. He's a very talented shortstop with a chance to make an impact with the glove and the bat. He's somebody who has always hit a lot of doubles. His on-base percentage is something that's lacking, but he's a career .279 hitter."
But the truth of the matter is that Betancourt is probably the worst player in the Major Leagues. That's not hyperbole. Let's let Joe Posnanski tell it.
Well, as it turns out - ha ha, funny story here - um, actually, NO. Betancourt is not 24 - he's 27. He is not in the "shows promise" stage of his career - this is already his fourth season as a full-time player. And when I got to the hotel and actually looked up some numbers, well ... I started with his defensive numbers.
Ultimate Zone Rating
Um, that's not good, right? I mean, there's a MINUS sign in front of those numbers. This would seem to indicate that Betancourt - at least by these numbers - is a LEGENDARILY BAD defensive shortstop. No, really, we're talking legendary, like in three hundred years kids will be sitting around a campfire and singing songs about how bad a shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt was.
No, that's not true. That's not true - the Royals did not really trade for a shortstop who has a CAREER HIGH of 17 walks in a season. Well, OK, I think we can stop with these numbers now, I think we are all getting a pretty clear picture ...
OK, now my head hurts. The truth is, I had absolutely no idea just how bad a player Yuniesky Betancourt really was ... and the biggest reason for this is that certain baseball people simply will not give up on him. There seems to be this very real belief that one day - one day soon - a light will turn on for him, and he will suddenly harness all of his talent, and he will hit with some authority, and he will make all the great plays defensively ... and lost in this dreaming is that almost certain reality that Betancourt is slow, his bat's slow, he has no power, he has lost any range he might have had, he's sloppy, he blunders, he's getting worse, he's getting baseball old and the harsh truth is probably that there is no baseball talent to harness. Sigh.
Moore came into the last offseason saying he wanted to concentrate on on-base percentage. That's very commendable.
But now the Royals are making a run as the worst-run organization in baseball after this move. Think that's hyperbole?
He went out and traded for Mike Jacobs, who entered 2009 with a sub-.320 career OBP. Sure, he had the power, but he had no idea of how to get on base or field his position.
The Royals then signed, as in actually gave money to, Bloomquist. He is perhaps a little better than Jacobs at .280/.329/.380 so far this season, which is difficult to say with numbers like that. Bloomquist hasn't looked too good in the outfield from what I saw of him.
The Coco Crisp trade wasn't that bad at the time. It actually had a chance of working out. The Red Sox needed to dump Crisp, so Moore took advantage of a buy cheap situation. Good for him. Crisp brings solid defense in the outfield but is out for the season due to shoulder surgery.
The evidence gets more and more damning. Kyle Farnsworth got $9 million over two years the last offseason. Jose Guillen signed one of the worst contracts of recent history with his three-year, $36 million deal.
They let Joey Gathright play in 105 games last season, despite an on-base percentage of .311 and a slugging percentage of .272. Literally, .272.
I don't know what's worse: that they thought Kyle Davies was a No. 3 starter or that they gave Horacio Ramirez a spot in their rotation to start the season (and money to boot) or that they thought Sidney Ponson could start consistently in the American League or that Bruce Chen (he of 10 Major League teams at the age of 32) is in the starting rotation.
And now they traded for Betancourt. You remember earlier when we quoted Moore saying Betancourt's on-base percentage was something that was lacking? That's an understatement. Betancourt, in his career, has reached base at a .302 rate.
It usually takes an organization many years to accumulate this many bad moves. The Royals have done it over the last three years. I pity Royals fans. They are cheering for the worst-run franchise in the Major Leagues and a team somehow 10 1/2 games back in the worst division in baseball.
Written by Bjoern Hartig (Contact & Archive) on July 11, 2009
I am still touring the world and hardly have time to follow my beloved Angels, but when I had a few minutes to check Rob Neyer's blog, I found this great quote by Mets GM Omar Minaya on why he traded Ryan Church (.200/.332/.375) for Jeff Francoeur (.250/.282/.352):
"One thing we like about Francoeur is the amount of games that he plays."
I actually laughed out loud when I read this.
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on July 10, 2009
With the intrigue swirling around Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, there are a few questions that need to be answered before we know his eventual home for the remainder of this season. Whether that's Toronto still or Philadelphia or the West Coast remains to be seen.
1) What does the Phillies' phinancial (sorry) situation look like?
The Phillies have the seventh-highest payroll in the Major Leagues at a little over $113 million, according to ESPN.com. If the Phillies, the most logical contender for Halladay's services, can add a large amount of payroll, they could be the winners (see below) of the Halladay sweepstakes.
Brett Myers is eligible for free agency at season's end, as well as Pedro Feliz. The Phillies could non-tender Joe Blanton and hope Jamie Moyer decides to retire. If all four of those things come true, that would open about $28 million for next season.
Several players are expecting pay raises next season, Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard being among them. But it's very likely the Phillies could find room for Halladay's $15.75 million salary for 2010. It may require some finagling, but it can be done.
This season's money, on the other hand, would be a different story. I don't have any insider information into what the team is willing to spend this year above and beyond what they're paying now. Halladay is owed about $6 or 7 million for the remainder of this season, depending on when Philadelphia pulls the trigger on a trade. Where is that money going to come from? Perhaps the Blue Jays will pay part of it, but it's a good bet the Phillies will have to splurge for some of it. They would be, after all, acquiring one of the best pitchers of the last few seasons.
2) Just who will the Phillies trade?
This is probably the most difficult barrier for the Phillies. They have said outfielder Dominic Brown is untouchable and that pitcher Kyle Drabek would be difficult to obtain. They have middle infield prospect Jason Donald, who teams covet, they can deal, but the Phillies most likely will have to part with at least Drabek to get something done. General manager can't cross off the names of his best prospects and ask J.P. Ricciardi to make a deal from there.
If Ricciardi is desperate enough to trade Halladay, then he's desperate enough to demand a huge haul in return for his ace. This is one of the best pitchers in the American League, after all. He could deliver the Phillies, along with Cole Hamels, a second consecutive National League pennant.
3) What about those West Coast teams?
The Angels and Dodgers both make sense for Halladay.
Let's start with the Angels. Ervin Santana and John Lackey aren't right, while Jared Weaver is going to continue declining as the season progresses. And with a bullpen as bad as the Angels', they definitely need some help. What better player to obtain than a durable ace who goes deep into games?
The Angels have the young players the Blue Jays could be asking for in return. If they ever want to use their prospects for something -- and they definitely aren't using them at the Major League level -- this would be the time.
Fiscally, the move makes sense. The Angels are getting Vladimir Guerrero and John Lackey off the books this season, which would enable them to chase a mid-level bat with a solid 1-2 punch in Weaver and Halladay next season. Baseball-wise, trading for Halladay puts them back in playoffs over the Rangers. If one of Lackey or Santana get going, the Angels could be primed for a run deep into the playoffs.
The Dodgers have been an excellent team over the season, but it's not a guarantee they advance deep into the playoffs. Consider this: Chad Billingsley is an ace by most any measure, but Hiroki Kuroda and Randy Wolf aren't ideal 2-3 guys. In a five-game series, Billingsley would start twice, but Kuroda would start twice and Wolf once. Imagine if Billingsley lost game one. That could spell doom for the Dodgers' chances for advancing.
Halladay gives the Dodgers a staff ace to match up with others in the playoffs, and a 1-2 punch of Billinglsey and Halladay would cut through the playoffs with ease. The Dodgers may, however, not be able to financially bare the load or not willing to do this move considering their huge lead in the west division.
4) What about those other teams?
The Yankees, Red Sox and Rays aren't going to be involved because they are in the same division as the Blue Jays. None of those teams want to deal their top prospects to a team where it could come back to haunt them. And the Blue Jays don't want to deal Halladay to a team they'd have to face multiple times this season and next. With those three teams out, the bidding war diminishes (see below).
The Brewers and Cardinals have the biggest need other than the teams listed above. Both could shoot to the top of the NL Central division and at least one round with Halladay in their rotation.
Could you imagine Halladay paired with Yovani Gallardo for a five-game series? How about Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Halladay in some order for a seven-game set? That would almost be unfair, especially considering Albert Pujols.
It doesn't seem like the Brewers are willing to make a move. They probably don't have the financial situation that would allow them to do it -- pure speculation, of course -- and they're not willing to trade top prospects Mat Gamel or Alcides Escobar. One or both of those players would have to move for the Blue Jays to consider dealing Halladay.
According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, one team source said give the Blue Jays all of their minor league rosters and let him circle five names. Third base prospect Brett Wallace would almost certainly have to be part of the deal, unless the Cardinals were willing to move Colby Rasmus.
5) Is Halladay even going to leave Toronto?
The best guess here is that Halladay is staying in Toronto. With the economy shaping up as it is and two of the biggest spenders -- the Red Sox and Yankees -- excluded from the bidding war at the start, there just doesn't seem to be a team willing to throw together a package of prospects big enough for the Blue Jays.
The financial situation is also a mess. The Blue Jays are likely to pay part of Halladay's salary, considering the huge hit a team would take in adding about $16 million in 2010. I just don't know how many teams would be able to do this trade.
The New York Post reports that the Blue Jays want someone to take Vernon Wells off their hands in a package deal, but that's silly. There's no team in the Major Leagues who can afford to take on that type of salary. None.
So to handicap the race, the most likely scenarios for Halladay, in order: Blue Jays, Phillies, Angels, Cardinals, Dodgers, Brewers.
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on July 08, 2009
Yesterday, we discussed a potential trade for Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay. Let's switch to Athletics outfielder Matt Holliday, who was acquired last offseason.
John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the Athletics are looking to move Halladay.
It wouldn't be surprising if they unloaded players from their big-league roster, including Matt Holliday, before the July 31 deadline, but their only move so far this month was to add a player: Scott Hairston.
After three straight All-Star appearances in the National League, Holliday was left off this year's American League roster. One game past the halfway point of the season, he's hitting .275 with eight homers and 43 RBIs.
His average and homers are way down from his final three years with the Rockies, but his RBI count (one game past the season's midway point) is about half of last year's total (88), which was dramatically lower than his 2007 output (137).
"I think he's going to have a great second half," manager Bob Geren said, "and when it's all said and done, he's going to have a great season."
General manager Billy Beane's plan was a good one in theory. He acquired a player for less than he was actually worth in Holliday because the Rockies needed to deal him. Beane then, theoretically, could spin Holliday for a quality package of prospects at the trading deadline or receive compensation picks when Holliday left as a free agent.
A funny thing happened along the way: Holliday went out and performed badly in the first half of the season. That's put a serious crimp in Beane's plans.
Some teams were reluctant to spend much to acquire Holliday because of his not-so-great home/road splits while with the Rockies. He was a Coors Field product, so the thinking went.
Now that he's moved away from Coors Field, Holliday definitely isn't hitting like the young superstar he seemed to be while with the Rockies. A good season this year would've likely made him the premier talent available this offseason, but that honor likely falls to outfielder Jason Bay now.
So why would teams be willing to part with a package as large as the one Beane sent to Colorado? That package, let me remind you, was closer Huston Street, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and Greg Smith. None are stunning pieces, but the package is more than what Beane will likely get.
So, should Beane hold onto Holliday for the remainder of the season? Maybe not. Holliday, if he hits decently enough for the remainder of the season, will likely be a Type A free agent, which could give the Athletics a pick in the second half of the first round.
That's if the Athletics decide to give Holliday arbitration. With his season sputtering (at least relatively speaking for someone with his history), he could just accept the Athletics' offer and the Athletics would be stuck paying $15 or more million in 2010, even though they have routinely maintained a small payroll. It goes without saying that that scenario would not be an ideal one for the Athletics.
This is definitely a complicated situation for Beane and the Athletics. Holliday hurt both himself and the Athletics (in more ways than one) with his slow start to the season.
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on July 07, 2009
Roy Halladay has been placed on the trade market, writes Buster Olney of ESPN.com.
Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi has spoken with Roy Halladay and prepared him for the possibility that he will bring trade possibilities to the pitcher in the weeks or months ahead.
Halladay, 32, has a no-trade clause that will allow him to dictate whether he will be dealt before he becomes eligible for free agency next fall.
"He's open to at least listening," said Ricciardi. "He's not going to be a guy who will let you do all the work [preparing for a possible trade], and then he's not willing to listen. If it makes sense, he will listen."
It's hard to argue Halladay isn't one of the best two pitchers in the American League and the best pitcher theoretically available on the trade market this season. Jake Peavy is also out there, assuming everything goes well in his rehabilitation from an ankle injury.
Roy Oswalt could be out there, considering the Astros don't really need a pitcher of his caliber, while Jarrod Washburn, Erik Bedard and Matt Cain have been bandied about as potential trade targets.
The sheer number of quality pitchers available (at least in name) would likely dampen the trade value for all of them. Furthermore, with the financial situations around the Major Leagues such as they are, it would be difficult to swing a deal for a high-priced ace locked up for multiple years or bring yourself to trade decent prospects for a pitcher who could be a free agent soon.
The list of teams that could use Halladay includes the Yankees, Mets, Brewers, Dodgers, Angels, Red Sox, White Sox, Cubs and Rangers.
It would be difficult to fathom a situation in which the Yankees or Red Sox would A) Part with their top prospects when they wouldn't do so for Johan Santana, a pitcher at least slightly better than Halladay and B) Trade the required young players to a team within their division. (Conversely, it seems difficult to imagine a situation in which the Blue Jays would trade one of the few best pitchers in the Major Leagues to a team they would play often every season.)
The Rangers have the best mix of prospects they could send back, but they have serious financial limitations and are reluctant to move prospects. The Mets have the opposite problem: They could afford Halladay, but they don't have the high-end prospects needed to trade for him. Consider the White Sox and Cubs in the same category as the Mets: definite need, some money, but not enough to get Halladay.
The Brewers are a team that would most need him, considering Ryan Braun's prescient comments about the team needing another pitcher. The Brewers dealt for CC Sabathia to help their stretch run last season, but they are reluctant to part with shortstop Alcides Escobar or third baseman Mat Gamel, both highly touted prospects.
It would seem the Blue Jays would want at least one of those players in return.
That leaves the Angels, Phillies and Dodgers. All three teams could use an innings-eating ace. The Dodgers are likely to stay put at the deadline, considering their huge lead in the National League West division and quality pitching they've already received this season.
The Angels have been reluctant to deal their young players, even though some of them are just riding the bench with the big league club. They have the need with a tight division race in the American League West, as well as the lack of front-end pitching on the team.
John Lackey definitely doesn't have the same stuff as he did last season, while Ervin Santana is lacking some stuff and Jared Weaver isn't going to continue this success for the remainder of the season.
Angels owner Arte Moreno has been willing to spend money and with both Lackey and Vladimir Guerrero coming off the books after this season, he could afford to have a staff ace to build around.
The Phillies definitely have the biggest need with Jamie Moyer acting his age and Brett Myers likely out for the season. They have the prospects to make a move, but their financial situation may leave them looking for a lower-level pitcher rather than someone of Halladay's caliber.
But the best guess (at least for now) is that Halladay remains with the Blue Jays. J.P. Ricciardi is likely to be less than excited by the offers he's presented with and considering the economic situation, despite the clear quality of Halladay's stuff, it'll be a challenge to acquire him before the July 31 trading deadline.