As excited as we are here at MAMBINO HQ about the forthcoming NBA season, we still have to give a little love to baseball, who was the sweet bedfellow that kept us warm and loved when we thought that games on Christmas were only things of BockerKnocker's wet dreams. While the our NBA preview in the form of our 20 Burning Questions will go on, we have to pay a little respect to a pretty quiet offseason that has shown signs of life with the annual General Manager's Winter Meetings in Texas. Let's go over some news and notes from the past few days:
The Miami Marlins sign Jose Reyes to a 6-year, $106 million dollar deal
With a sparkling new stadium in downtown Miami, a entirely made-over brand identity and uniforms that Ricky Martin would call gay, the MIAMI Marlins needed to bring attention to the fact that they are a major market team that would be a player on the national sports scene. Jose Reyes, healthy or not, is the perfect player to launch this glorified marketing campaign with; he's a good-looking, charismatic 28 year old, whose physical tools lead to the type of exciting play that are needed with a relatively fair-weather fan market. He is one of the best latin players in the league, coming to a city that feels like it's not even a part of the continental United States. Hanley Ramirez, the Marlins' incumbent shortstop, remains as one of the best spanish-speaking players in the National League. But with Reyes, you have a guy that not only can match his production, but also capture a much broader appeal with his charm and force of personality.
By the Marlins signing one of the marquee free agents this offseason, they are trying to send a message to players, agents and fans that they are no longer a team that's going to exclusively purchase guys off the scrap heap and trade arbitration eligible rookies because of marginal raises. They are, for lack of a better term, legit. Even with Reyes' questionable recent health history (an average of only 98 games in the past 3 seasons) - most notably injuries to his legs which would rob him of his most valuable asset, his speed - the gamble was well-worth it for a team that needed his likeness and stature in so many ways.
But don't disregard the baseball part of the equation; when healthy last season (he still played in 126 games, by the way. No small feat), he was arguably the best player in the National League. He leads the league in triples since his arrival in the majors and is 3rd in stolen bases. Even while missing nearly a month of action, he still scored over 100 runs, hit a league-leading 16 triples with an .877 OPS, all while buoying a sometimes stagnant Mets offense featuring heavyweights like Lucas Duda, Ronny Paulino and Josh Thole.
The Marlins had to make a move like this. I think they made the best choice possible and for reasons beyond the ones on the field.
Albert Pujols offered a 10-year deal from the MIAMI Marlins
The Marlins are in the ultimate win-win situation here. By simply offering a contract to Pujols, they create the perception that this is a team that the baseball watching public needs to pay attention to, as money problems for the Dodgers and Mets have created a "big market vacuum" the Miami is all too obliged to fill. The Marlins offers stand there in the headlines alongside that of the Cubs and Cardinals, giving them a type of recognition that truly only money can buy. Even if Pujols doesn't sign, the Marlins are simply reinforcing the fact that in addition to their Jose Reyes deal and signing of closer Heath Bell, they are going to be a permanent fixture in December trade rumors for the foreseeable future.
But as if simply putting the offer on the table for the whole world (and media) to see wasn't enough, the real "win" would be for Pujols to actually sign with the Marlins. Along with table setters Reyes and Hanley Ramirez, and Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton batting in back of him, Pujols would be a part of the one of the best lineups in the National League. Miami wouldn't be a favorite to win the World Series, or even the favorite to win their own divison, but they'd certainly be one of the most exciting teams in the league. This contract offer isn't just a hollow publicity stunt - this is an offer to the best player in the National League. Win-win. Everyone stop being ridiculous.
San Francisco Giants acquire outfielder Angel Pagan from the New York Mets for outfielder Andres Torres and relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez
Along with the Giants rather underwhelming acquisition of a overachieving Melky Cabrera from the Royals for lefty starter Jonathan Sanchez, the Giants made yet another trade to try and shore up an unbelievably terrible 2010 offense. Overall, I don't think this trade has a large impact on either team; Torres came back down to Earth from his phenomenal 2010 season, reverting into the 30-something journeyman he's been for his whole career, Ramon Ramirez provided another season of great late inning relief and Pagan, who was supposed to be one of the Mets most productive hitters after a great 2009 and 2010 seasons, played so poorly that his performance barely affected his team's success (worth only 0.2 wins over a replacement player). The trade was largely innocuous on both sides, seeing both outfielders had terrible 2011 seasons and only Ramreiz provided value to either team.
What offends me about this trade is that the Giants, who won the World Series one year ago, were not able to reach the postseason again this year because despite one of the best rotations in the majors, they had a historically terrible offense. The Giants won their world championship because guys like Cody Ross, Juan Uribe and a washed-up Edgar Renteria had 10 great games at the right time. Their play for those two weeks in October were not at all indicative of the players they have been for the last 10 years. The way the Giants won the World Series is a completely unsustainable model for success. They have arguably the best four-man rotation in the majors with a devastating bullpen, and yet, when the iron is hot, they squander their otherwordly talent with risk-free trades for players whose one or two good seasons are well behind them. Sack up, San Francisco. I hate everything that Giants are as a Dodger fan, but as a baseball fan, I think it's tragic that they are so poorly managed.
The Dodgers sign a bunch of dudes
When I say "a bunch of dudes", I meant it to be vague, humorous and slighty disrespectful. In the past few days and weeks preceding, the Dodgers have spent over $37 million dollars on these players: backup catcher Matt Treanor (two years, $1.5 million), outfielder Juan Rivera (one year, $4 million), backup infielder Jerry Hairston, Jr. (two years, $6 million), backup infielder Adam Kennedy (one year, $1 million), starting pitcher Chris Capuano (two years, $10 million), starting pitcher Aaron Harang (two years, $12 million) and backup infielder Mark Ellis (two years, $8 million).
I have no problems with any of these players. Matt Treanor, Jerry Hairston, Mark Ellis, Adam Kennedy and Juan Rivera are all fine backups, and I wouldn't even mind if they were spot starters for a couple games a week. Chris Capuano had better numbers than his 4.55 ERA suggests (struck ou 8.1 batters per nine innings with only 2.6 walks per nine innings)and Aaron Harang is a solid 4th or 5th starter. However, Rivera will probably be an every day starter between left field and platooning at first with James Loney, Treanor will split time with either AJ Ellis or rookie Tim Federowicz, and one of the Hairston, Ellis or Kennedy group will be the starter at second base.
None of these players should be anything more than, as I said, a backup and a spot starter. I don't have compunctions with these players and their limited skill level, but much rather that money was spent on guys that we could have gotten on minor league signings or for $10 million less. As a team with a strict budget and so much uncertainty, it bothers me that so much money was thrown around at guys that will not only not be difference makers, but more importantly that money could have alocated elsewhere.
Blue Jays acquire closer Sergio Santos from the White Sox
In a market where Jonathan Papelbon is getting $50 million dollars and Heath Bell is getting $29 million, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous managed to pry away rookie closer Sergio Santos from the Chi Sox. Santos emerged from the pile of rubble masquerading as the Sox pen at the beginning of the season, overcame a shaky start and a lack of confidence from manager Ozzie Guillen to becoming one of the most steady closers in the American League. Santos was a buzzsaw against hitters, striking out a jarring 13 batters per nine innings, while giving up less than 6 hits per nine innings and destroyed right handed hitting, limiting batters to a .130 average. Though the Jays gave up one of their best prospects in Nestor Molina (a "22" year old from Venezuela with a lot of upside as a starting pitcher), they still got a steady back of the bullpen guy for a lot less money than the Phillies and Marlins just spent.