Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Theo Compensation Settled? Results very unsettling

When it was made known that the Cubs and Red Sox had to settle what the compensation would be for the Red Sox to allow Theo Epstein to scoot out of Boston after their incredible collapse, it was quite apparent that Boston didn't want to just give Theo away for anything.

Rumors swirled, outlandish ideas of Castro or Garza going to Boston were made. However, it was known that Boston's upper-management believed Theo was worth far more than even Theo believed he was worth. Was it "sour grapes" on Larry or John's behalf that their boy-genius savior left town after too much turmoil on what was the cause of Boston's historic September collapse?

Theo joined the Cubs, without compensation being settled.

A full month went on, no settlement.

Bud Selig gave both teams a deadline before he'd step in and settle the compensation himself....again, no settlement. However, both teams were given an extension of a undetermined length.

Time passed, both teams went on with their off-seasons without even a whisper of compensation. Finally both sides raised their hands and sent the order to Selig to let the MLB offices settle the compensation dispute.

A month passed, since then, and Pitchers & Catchers reported.....Compensation Settled....

Now, I'm just a fan of baseball who dabbles in prospects but knows generally about most major leaguers to some extent. However, why did it take almost 4 months to figure out that pitching prospect Chris Carpenter and an exchanging of PTBNLs of little-to-no-consequence would be the overall compensation?

Also, why is Boston forced to send a PTBNL to the Cubs when they were hornswaggled by the Cubs in allowing Epstein to be hired before they were compensated for letting him go before his contract expired?

Some Cub fans will point out that they think it's unjust that Carpenter was the player dealt and not a lower-level prospect(Junior Lake or Josh Vitters) and how the PTBNLs on both sides will be "organizational" filler. However, Organizational filler for a winning team with a strong farm system is vastly different than a team who's farm is "okay" and the franchise is being totally re-done. One man's trash is another man's treasure.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Shock The World: 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates

Not until I started thinking about it today, but if there's any division in baseball where a surprise could occur....The NL Central is where it could be located. The Cubs and Astros are being rebuilt from scratch by sabermetrically-inclined front offices. The Cards and Brewers are licking wounds from huge losses to their offenses with the AL-bound Prince Fielder & Albert Pujols and the possibility of NL MVP Ryan Braun starting the 2012 season on the suspended list for a PED suspension. Cincinatti seems comfortable to mortgage some of their future in hopes that they finally have a "real" ace-level pitcher in Mat Latos.

That leaves the Pittsburgh Pirates....the team that always seems like they're on the right track in ending their near-20 yr Losing Season drought, but end up having something happen and it only continues. Neal Huntington is the NL-version of Kansas City's Dayton Moore. The "process" doesn't always give the results that you imagined. They try very hard to sway free agent talent into wanting to go to Pittsburgh and play in beautiful PNC park, yet it always seems that they're more likely to sign a player that  is trying to redeem themselves and getting another big-money contract in the future. Erik Bedard, Clint Barmes, Jose Mijares and Casey McGeehee are their top acquisitions this offseason, thus far, and they even made a push for Free Agency's #3 SP Edwin Jackson(only to lose out to Washington).

Yet, for some odd reason, 2011's surprising push that led to ultimate disappointment for the Pirates may be the start of something for the franchise. It could be a lesson that their younger core of players needed to learn before they could make the move from "pretenders" to "contenders". Lesson is "Don't rest on your laurels, while you have success now...it could always go up in smoke in an instant".

Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchenson are very good players and the core of the Pittsburgh offense. They tasted what it was like to be a winner....for a half season. I'm sure that they'd likely trade anything to achieve that feeling again. To go from one of baseball's biggest underdogs to become one of baseball's "surprise stories" and "SHOCK THE WORLD" like the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays did.

Worst to first, worst to first....Ingredients: A somewhat young core of players who want to win...CHECK. Add a few key veterans...CHECK. Hope for a "perfect storm" within the division(Losses to perennial contenders that open playoff window just enough for other teams who are unlikely to ever get shot to contend)....CHECK

If the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates make their big playoff run, I will not be at all surprised. SHOCK THE WORLD, BUCCOS!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Chaos of "Rebuilding"(but not really, but really)- White Sox Edition

I've never been a fan of Kenny Williams, to be quite honest. It's hard for me to push a complimentary sentence out of my mouth when it comes to him making a good signing or making a good trade. Just my luck, you do not see him make these often. He's the same guy that has traded Gio Gonzalez twice and has traded for players he's been a big fan of....when they're on the downsides of their careers(Both Alomar brothers, Ken Griffey Jr. and Jake Peavy).

The Year 2008 may be the last year for awhile that the White Sox will be anywhere near winning a playoff game or contending for a World Series in a long while. The team has been in shambles since their 2005 World Series victory and the rift between Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen(and his family) began to grow in size.

Suffice it to say, I think Ozzie Guillen may have gotten the last laugh and Kenny Williams may soon be looking for a job. In 2012, Ozzie will be managing the newly revamped Miami Marlins and Kenny Williams will be the GM of a team that may or may not be rebuilding. Kenny, it seems, hasn't made up his mind on whether the Sox are actually rebuilding and 2012 isn't a year they plan on going "All In" or showing what the new "Grinder Rules" are.

I say that Kenny Williams hasn't made up his mind whether or not the White Sox are "rebuilding" because he's flip-flopped on the subject this offseason. He initially used the dreaded "R" word when the team traded Sergio Santos, the team's closer(with a team-friendly extension), to the Blue Jays for Nestor Molina. While some applauded the acquisition of Molina(he was one of Toronto's more successful prospects, numbers-wise), other point out the fact that Molina really isn't a "stuff" pitcher and is probably more likely to be a back-end rotation pitcher than ace-level. After the trade, Kenny was even quoted as saying that the team was in a rebuild mode.

The team's biggest trade asset this offseason was John Danks, who was a very polished pitcher whose "stuff" shines past his varying numbers playing for pretty bad Sox teams(both win-wise and fielding-wise). It was a question of who would offer most for Danks, which would substantially improve the White Sox's death-bed ridden farm system. However, Kenny Williams killed any chance of a game-changing trade to happen. He signed Danks to a 5 year contract extension, which the White Sox had tried to do in the past but never gotten the pen to paper for, and erased the attractiveness of Danks. While still an intriguing pitcher, his contract was not "team-friendly" and the White Sox would likely never get anything of promise for him in a future trading of him. After the un-"White Sox"-like extension(never have been known to be a team that gave a pitcher an extension of 4 years or more), Kenny says the team isn't "rebuilding" and that his initial quotes were a "misquote" and he plans on the White Sox being "in it".


Then what does Williams do on New Year's weekend?

Consecutive days with trades

On New Year's Eve, the White Sox deal power hitter Carlos Quentin to San Diego for once-heralded SP prospect Simon Castro and SP Pedro Hernandez. Many questioned this deal, since the duo doesn't have much upside and Quentin's swing and power actually accommodate the pitcher-friendly Petco Park. Most of the evaluators of the deal looked at the deal as a "salary dump" and a likely "win" for San Diego Padres.

On New Year's Day, when many MLB offices have their doors closed for the entire weekend, Kenny spins the 2nd deal in a 24 period when he deals Jason Frasor(one of the teams more successful relievers in 2011) for Daniel Webb and Myles Jaye. Neither were Top 10 or Top 20 prospects in Toronto's vast farm system, which smells of another "salary dump".

Kenny Williams is going to have a tough time proving to fans that the team is not rebuilding when dealing 3 of the teams more promising players for scraps and not pursuing anything of note in Free Agency....

There's a word for what happens when a team is trading it's more valuable parts for multiple players who are far from "major league-ready".....Oh, that's right, it's REBUILDING!!!!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Chaos of "Rebuilding", Cubs Edition

When Jim Hendry was fired midseason, Cub fans knew that something big was going to happen. It started with a very successful draft, which outgoing GM Jim Hendry helped put gold stamp on, but it then had it's supernova-like moment when the Cubs cashed in on Boston's implosion and wrestled Theo Epstein(and a few of his guys) from the Red Sox's grasps.

Who wouldn't want Theo as the President of Baseball Operations?

Now add Jed Hoyer, who is quite a great baseball mind and did decent as a GM for himself, and Jason McLeod(great scout of talent)....you've got a trio of guys who will add credibility to your staff and ease the blow of the that dreaded R-word....


Now, to say that the Cubs are rebuilding is an understatement. What they're doing is generally termed as a "utter demolition of old infrastructure" and "complete overhaul". The job of Epstein is to implement long-term success plan for the Cubs, like what he had done in Boston. 2 World Series rings for an also "believed"-to-be "cursed" franchise is a resume' topper, in my honest opinion.

Tom Ricketts gave Theo and Hoyer the keys to the franchise and the right to dump any contract they wanted to, no matter how much money was involved.

Since Epstoyer came into power, the Cubs have acquired Chris Volstad, Ian Stewart, Travis Wood, Anthony Rizzo and 4 prospects while losing Carlos Zambrano(and paying 15 MIL of the 18 MIL owed to him in 2012), Sean Marshall, Tyler Colvin, DJ LaMathieu and a few mediocre prospects.

The Colvin/Stewart trade is a wash to me, the Rizzo is a "win" for the Cubs and the Marshall deal was basically to start the rebuild  of a very barren farm system.

However, what an absolutely dumb and possibly damning trade that the Cubs front office made when they succumbed to media and fan's wishes by dealing Carlos Zambrano and 80% of his salary to Miami for the likes of a probable career #5 starter(with #3 upside, if everything goes well) when it is known/believed that Miami had offered a better package with a hitting prospect. Hrm, back-end rotation guy with ~2 years of MLB experience(not success) under his belt or highly-touted and now-blocked 3B prospect(Matt Dominguez) who is easily a better 3B than Ian Stewart now and has more upside than top organization 3B prospect in Josh Vitters.

I get it, Cub fans, Zambrano was never going to play for them again. He is believed to be a clubhouse cancer and was going to never be more than a headache instead of the presumed "ace" that he had was touted to be. However, it's an insanely horrible trade for the fact that you traded a #1 upside pitcher for a horrible SP and you're going to pay for 80% of his 2012 salary....and he's going to be managed by a guy who has wanted to manage him for the last 3 years when he was the manager of the cross-town rivals, the White Sox. Dave Sveum had no connections to Z, but Ozzie & Z are from the same country and have talked before/know of each other. If anyone will be able to harness a hot-head like Zambrano, it'd be a fellow hot-head in Ozzie.

On a side-note, for all the accolades and praise that I give the Cubs for the acquisition of Anthony Rizzo....the Cubs puzzle me when announcing that Rizzo will start 2012 season in AAA Iowa and they will likely start 2011 PCL MVP and Career AAAA-type Bryan LaHair as the Opening Day First Baseman. Everyone knows that the Cubs will suck in 2012, but with the Epstein-proof CBA in place and limiting an insane draft class like the 2011 Cubs had, what is the use of punting the 2012 season and giving LaHair ABs over Rizzo?

Looks like 2012 will be an easy year to get good tickets and watch a game at Wrigley....

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Why Walt Jocketty is Too Old to be a GM in MLB

Sometimes in life, you've got to look at yourself in the mirror and say "Is this really what I want to do?" After the public reaction of yesterday's Padres and Reds trade, I'm guessing  Reds GM Walt Jocketty may have done some soul-searching and had a deep, meaningful conversation with his thoughts.

Why? Although Cincinnati just acquired a 24 year old pitcher(Mat Latos) who is under Reds control for 4 more years for 4 players, I am in full belief that the price that they paid for Latos was vastly worth more than what value he'll bring to the Reds as their #1 SP. They overpaid to a degree that I almost would consider a full-blown robbery or fleecing. While time may be a factor  in regards to 1 or 2 of the pieces of the trade making any name for themselves at the MLB, the trade could be a fleecing before year's end from just 2 players alone. If the Padres had a plan in action to make a trade after this one is official, the Reds/Padres trade may have been an even bigger "win" for the Padres.

After conversations with some Reds fans and a few sportswriters, it is very very likely that the Rays may have asked for a far bigger trade package(in terms of immediate value to the Rays) without as many players involved. It is my inclination that the Rays likely asked for Yonder Alonso(who was involved in Padres trade), Devin Meseroco and possibly Brad Boxberger(also in Padres deal) as a throw-in. While Grandal has more power potential than Devin, Devin's glove and proximity to the majors were part of the reason why the Rays would like him over Grandal. Brad Boxberger likely would be a part of the Rays bullpen in 2012, which would have given Rays 3 players all likely to play a role in 2012 with the Reds getting just 1 at a somewhat high price(salary-wise, Shields is set to make ~13 MIL in 2012 and close to 16 MIL in 2013). Walt Jocketty basically stated at Winter Meetings that the Rays' asking price for Shields was way higher than he wanted to give up.

Fair enough, Walt, but then you turn around and do this.....You should really re-evaluate your career right now. I don't know Mr. Jocketty personally and I have never seen him working in the front office, however I am in full belief that the Reds scouting department and front office relies on "old-school" ways and approaches. Add the fact that Joe Morgan is/was a consultant to the team and quotes from Dusty Baker, there is not many sabermetric methods or ideas used by the Reds. True, they got a SP during his best years and have him through 2 yrs of his 5 "peak" years, but there's GLARING questions facing the Reds' scouting department.

The Reds play their home games in "The Great American Ballpark" which has been coinfully nicknamed "The Great American Small-park" for it's propensity to give up HRs and boost hitters' HR #s and avgs. and is the 2nd most hitter-friendly ballpark in the NL(#1 being Colorado's Coors Field). The Padres play in Petco Park, which has a propensity to be the most pitcher-friendly park in all of baseball and pitchers' stats are greatly effected due to fact that a flyball is more likely to drop for an out/single/double than it is to fall into the seats for a HR. So these 2 teams are basically on opposite ends of the spectrum in regards to team-building.One prefers hitting-first and relies on trading excess hitting to get pitchers, while the other does the opposite.

I realize that a free agent pitcher is not attracted to pitching in an extreme hitter's environment and the other way the Reds procure pitchers is through trades, but acquiring a flawed product for that much is questionable and I believe will quickly bite the Reds in the butt.

Deepdish Baseball's Grand Re-Opening?

Lots of baseball news has gone on since I last posted here, which is something I regret and would like to apologize for. However, thanks to facebook, my love for writing about the game has grown far more than it has ever been. Tons of news these days, thanks to twitter enabling to writers to tweet to the masses with their news about insane Free Agent spending to questionable trades and then there's questionable motives behind moves. It can be funny sometimes, but it can also be just mind-numbingly dumb.

Deep Dish Baseball will continue to focus on the Cubs, White Sox and my beloved Tampa Bay Rays...however, I will also share my opinions on the entire MLB and possibly elsewhere(if it matters). I do this at my facebook group, on a nearly daily basis, with help from some of my friends. However, the opinions in me can take up alot of space on the wall to my FB group, so I shall post my full opinions here and link there(if you are a member, you get the best of both worlds.....if not, there's always room to join).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jake Takes On: Sam Fuld, Rays Outfielder and Fellow Stat-head

This offseason has been a very interesting one, with the signings and numerous trades that have occured. One of which being the trade that sent Matt Garza to the Cubs. Many people look at that trade and just think it was Matt Garza and a couple of players to the Cubs for 5 prospects, but in reality it involved 2 of the brightest minds in baseball. Those 2 bright minds are Fernando Perez and Sam Fuld.

In the past, Sam did an interview with Baseball Prospectus and showed baseball fans that Brian Bannister wasn't the only player in the majors that is a "stat-head". After getting traded to the Rays, Sam did a podcast with Jonah Keri and it basically made me put Sam's name at the top of the list of people I'd like to interview. I was able to get into contact with him and he obliged my wishes to interview him. I've got to say that this interview has got to be one of my personal favorites that I've done as a blogger.

So sit down with your cup of coffee, mountain dew, what-have-you and enjoy!

Jake- For Rays fans who aren't familiar with you, who is Sam Fuld? What position do you play and what special skillsets do you feel that you give to the Rays?

Sam- I've always been an overachiever who gets the most out of his physical ability. Ever since I was in high school, I've known that I would have to do the little things to get noticed by recruiters, scouts, etc. My style of play hasn't changed, so you'll see me diving for balls in the outfield, taking an extra base on the basepaths and doing whatever I can to get on base.

JL- You come from the same hometown as Jonah Keri, who is a fan-favorite writer of Rays fans. How did you end up playing baseball, rather than football or hockey(2 sports that are more frequently played in a Northeastern state like New Hampshire).

SF- It's not that people don't play baseball in New Hampshire, it's just that the season is so short. Baseball is very popular there, and with both of my parents being fans, playing baseball was a no-brainer for me as a child. Our town actually didn't have a youth football program, so I played soccer along with everyone else. I played basketball, too, which was a horrible decision given my (lack of) height.

JL- You've shared stories of your childhood, in which you'd calculate baseball stats at a very young age. Which were your favorite stats then? Now, especially with your more sabermetrically-inclined background, what is a favorite baseball stat? Is it a traditional stat or a Baseball Prospectus-esque stat?

SF- I think like most fans back in the '80s and '90s I fell in love with the batting average. I just remember being so amazed that Wade Boggs could hit .360 year in and year out. Now there are a lot of new stats that I find interesting, especially the ones on the defensive side like UZR and +/-. But I would say my favorite stat is runs scored. Sometimes with all these new metrics it's easy to lose sight of how to win baseball games (by scoring more runs than the other team). It may not the most accurate measure of a player's success, but it's still something I pay close to attention to.

JL- You may not have the prototypical body or size of most big leaguers, but players like that(Pedroia, Pudge Rodriguez) always seem to use that as a "chip" on their shoulders and end up becoming huge stars. Do you use "trash-talk" regarding your smaller stature as fuel to make you a better player and makes you play harder?

SF- I don't know if I ever had a chip on my shoulder, but I was always realistic with myself. I knew that with my size I would have to work and play that much harder to be successful.

JL- You are one of the currently major leaguers who play with diabetes. How do you go about that? You've said in past interviews that you check levels during the game, but do you also receive insulin treatments during games?

SF- I check my blood sugar with a finger-poke several times during a game. If necessary (my blood sugar is too high), I'll give myself an insulin injection, as well. While I'm playing, my goal is to keep my blood sugar in the 150 range, which is slightly higher than what non-diabetics keep theirs in. It's when my levels get below 80 that I start to feel weak, shaky, irritable, etc.

JL- Most people don't know this, but you are the son of a college administrator and also a senator. Do you have any ideas of what you'd like to do post-baseball? Would you like to dabble in politics? School admin.? Stats Inc.?

SF- Two of the three interest me. I don't ever see myself getting into politics (no offense, Mom) but I've always been intrigued by the notion of teaching/coaching or by staying in the game on the stats side. Like so many other ballplayers, I would also be interested in working in the front office a Major League organization. Hopefully not too soon, though!

JL- How and when were you notified that you were traded to the Rays? Did Hendry/your agent call you first or did Andrew Friedman?

SF- Jim Hendry first contacted me about the trade, and just a couple hours later I spoke with Andrew Friedman. By the afternoon, the news had leaked publicly and that's when all my family and friends began contacting me.

JL- I could be wrong, but I believe that there was a story that a sign saying "Moonlight Graham" was hung above your locker in your earlier days with the Cubs. Did you ever feel that you were going to have that happen to you or were you assured that you'd definitely get at-bats in the long-run?

SF- That September was my first big-league experience, and I knew my role that month was going to be as a pinch-runner and late inning defensive replacement. But let me tell you that those first two and a half weeks before I got an AB felt like two and a half years. I was so fired up when I finally got an AB that I missed a take sign, weakly grounded back to the pitcher and got yelled at by Lou coming back to the dugout. Not how I had planned it.

JL- You were part of a trade that involved fellow super-scholar athlete, Fernando Perez. Have you ever met 'Nando and talked to him? I'm sure a convo between the 2 of you could be about a wide variety of subjects.

SF- I've never met him. I remember playing against him in AA and being really jealous of how fast he was. He also hit the first pitch of a game over the CF fence, and I remember thinking, "I'll never be able to do that in my entire career."

JL- You have also been most known for your gutsy leaps and defensive play, do you ever get a sinking feeling in your stomach that you're going to crash hard into a wall or do you just play "balls-out" and let whatever happens happen?

SF- My mindset is simple when a ball is hit to me. I try to get to it as quickly as possible, and any collateral damage I suppose I'll have to deal with later. It makes for some ugly collisions, but I've lived to tell about them

JL- With your love of baseball stats since childhood and your internship at Stats Inc. as a reporter, how hard is it to turn off the analyst switch on the field? I'm sure that the video-reviewing can be either a positive or a negative for a hitter. Does your past help you or hinder you when slumps possibly occur? Does it make things easier to identify?

SF- I think video analysis and statistical analysis are two completely different things. I'll use video to look at mechanics, but I never use stats to lift me out of a slump- there's just not enough of a sample size for it to be worthwhile. When I'm on the field, it's easy for me to shut off the stats aspect of baseball.

JL- Can you explain your approach in a normal at-bat? Are you a "grinder", in which you "take" with balls you see that are very much out of the strikezone and foul off pitches until you get the pitch you want to hit? Or do you just look for pitches that you can hit?

SF- Outside of specific RBI situations, my goal is to get on base however I can. I think you have to strike a balance with aggressiveness and patience at the plate, so I'll never go up there looking to just take pitches. I'm always ready to hit a pitch that's left out over the plate, but certain situations definitely call for being a little more patient (e.g. wild pitcher, new pitcher, I don't feel too good at the plate).

JL- What is something about you that many baseball fans don't know about you?

SF- I'm not sure many baseball fans know anything about me, so I guess that's kind of an easy question. But I always like to point out that my wife is actually a better athlete than me. She won two college national championships as a goalie in lacrosse.

JL- Who was your favorite baseball player growing up?

SF- Growing up a Red Sox fan, I always loved Wade Boggs, Mike Greenwell and Ellis Burks. Later on I loved watching Nomar Garciaparra.

JL- You had quite a Winter League stint in your past, in which you were tops/or near-tops in batting average while walking twice as many times as you did striking out. Did you have any trouble adjusting to playing in a foreign country, where english isn't the primary language?

SF- The culture shock wore off after about two weeks in Venezuela, and after that I really felt comfortable. I knew some Spanish from school and from playing with so many Spanish-speaking ballplayers in the U.S., so that helped. But I made a point to immerse myself in their culture and by the end I loved arepas and their national anthem and even the not-so-warm showers.

JL- How do you spend your offseason and when do you start preparing for the season?

SF- Every offseason has been markedly different from the previous, but this one I spent buying a home in Jupiter, FL and then trying to furnish it. We're not far from the beach, so my wife and I will go over there quite a bit with our one-year-old son. I hit the weight room pretty soon after the season ends, and I start throwing and hitting right around the New Year.

JL- If you weren't playing baseball, you'd be...

SF- Teaching high school math and coaching JV basketball.

JL- Any passing comments that you'd like to leave with Rays/Cubs/baseball fans?

SF- Playing in Wrigley was an unbelievable experience, one that I'll surely miss. It was a rush every time I stepped onto the field there, and those fans had a large part in that. I'm looking forward to hopefully playing in Tampa Bay and helping them continue their recent success.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile