Thursday, May 31, 2007

Surprise, It's Rerun Thursday!

Seeing as this day lacks juicy rumors beyond what we have heard for the past weeks, not to mention breaking news, I decided to experiment with what I will call 'Moves in Review'. In these entries we will look back at transactions through our 20-20 restrospect goggles, subsequently critiquing both ends of the deal. I hope you'll excuse the general flood of Dallas-area information I examine, but those are simply the moves I know best. (That is not to say, of course, that I won't be looking back upon the AJ Pierzinsky deal-so come back next Thursday!)

Today I've decided to run down Ranger GM Jon Daniels' first major action in his new job: The trade that rented Alfonso Soriano to the Washington Nationals.

Now, before looking at the raw production of the involved subjects lsat season let us examine the background information surrounding Alfonso Soriano and Brad Wilkerson-the two lynchpins.

Soriano, of course, came over with AA straggler Joaquin Arias in the Pay-Rod deal of 2004. He had hit 77 home runs in the previous two seasons, in addition to stealing 76 bases. He came to texas and posted a batting average of .274 over the next two years, hitting 64 home runs and driving in 195 from spots in the order as various as 1 and 4. His talents were never truly utilized in this stop of his career, as manager Buck Showalter forced Sori to shy away from his dynamic nature on the basepaths. In addition, he lacked the testicular resilience to force Soriano into a more natural left feld role, instead prompting AL batting champ Mike Young to move to shortstop.

There's no doubt that Soriano a disappointment in Texas. In reality there was no way he could have fulfilled expectations; he was percieved as the trade off for Alex Rodriguez. But what he managed to do was underperform-to the fans, and more importantly to the king of micromanagers, Buck Showalter.
Nobody ever received confirmation on this fact, but most believe that Daniels pulled the trigger at the behest of his manager. Between Soriano's blatant refusal to play the outfield (Which, interestingly, disappeared during his free agent year)and his Buck-angering demeanor (To be quite honest, though, is there anyone good enough for a micromanager?), at some point Showalter tired of his prize second baseman.
Brad Wilkerson came into the league in 2001, labeled as a tough, gritty player who exhibited talents in every facet of the game; power, plate discipline, defense, speed. He put up solid years in 2002 and 2003, his first couple of full-length seasons. But in '04, Wilkerson broke out by hitting 32 home runs. He gained the dubious moniker of being the Montrewashington ExpoNats' best hitter, and if the Rangers had attempted to trade Soriano for him straight up that offseason, they would have been sent away with tail tucked in shame.
Unfortunately for Brad, the coming season did not pan out. His home run total dropped by 21, his on base percentage by .023. Nevertheless, many dismissed this as a simple off-year; apparently Daniels counted himself amongst them.
Soriano went on to have a career year in Washington. Surprise surprise, the move to left field that he dreaded so much turned out to be the very thing that helped him earn a 136 million dollar payday from the Cubbies. However, when looking at his stats from last season, something is fishy... his 46 home runs contrasted rather badly with only 95 RBI. While this is partly to blame on the dreadful lineup the Nats trotted out there, something must be said about his penchant for hitting meaningless homers.
Wilkerson fared far worse both in financial strength and on field performance, however. He was injured for over half the year, and when on the diamond performed exceedingly poorly; hitting only .222 and playing defense below his usual standard.
The other principals Texas recieved in the deal were Armando Gallarage and Terrmel Sledge. Sledge was dealt to San Diego as part of the horrendous exchange later in the offseason, Gallaraga is wallowing in AA mediocrity keeping Mr. Arias company.
Washington got nothing other than Soriano officially, but they will collect two picks early in this year's draft as compensation for Soriano's departure.
All in all, the trade looks like an utter disaster. Washington recieved a monster season and two draft picks, Texas an oft-injured outfielder who has failed to deliver, an unimportant piece in an AWFUL trade, and a fading prospect. There isn't a doubt in my mind that when I grade this trade, I have to present...
Advantage: Washington.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Rashard Lewis is desirable somewhere

People like to lump pro sports together; and in many ways this is a great mistake. One of the major discrepancies between the major sports is the way the entirety of the free agent system operates. Baseball and to a lesser extent hockey see a plethora of players jump ship regularly, picking up enormous contracts along the way. However, in the NFL and NBA the situation varies greatly. Truly primo players hit the free agent market once a decade (a la Shaq signing with the Lakers) so in the end teams end up haggling for a whole bunch of mediocre players who they hope will 'fit' into their specific system.
Rashard Lewis is a very nice player on an awful Seattle team. He signed a rather lucrative deal three years ago if I recall correctly,and could have remained in Seattle for a further 2 years for 22 million dollars. However, Seattle encountered an incredible stroke of luck on the night of the draft lottery. We all know of the buzz surrounding the two players projected to go in slots one and two in this year's draft (And if you dispute either of these players being in one of those slots, you are either on some incredible crack or a close relation to Mike Conley).
But I digress... Kevin Durant will go to Seattle at #2, barring any unforeseen consternation in the Portland front office or Mike Conley's sister being named Sonics GM.
Durant is 6'10, Lewis is 6'10. Durant's greatest stregth is his shooting ability, Lewis' defining trait is his shooting ability. They both play the small forward position. They are both skinny, athletic guys with Texas roots.
But Rashard Lewis is eight or nine years older, far higher paid for a shorter period of time, and lacks the upside of the UT prodigy. Therefore, Lewis saw that his role on the squad would be greatly diminished; and in fact he was a likely trade target even if he did keep the last two years of his deal. So Lewis opted out.
As you can see (Thank you, NBA, for this nifty system with which I can communicate handy dandy stats with a cool picture of the player in question!) Lewis is a very useful scorer, although a below average rebounder for his size. His defense is questionable but not awful, and his passing not terrible. (Keep in mind, the ONLY player on that Seattle team worth passing to is Ray Allen, so his lack of numbers in that category doesn't concern me)
His move is unconventional, in this light: His opt-out wasn't a move executed to try for a bigger payday. If I recall correctly, there is only one team in the association under the cap this offseason-Charlotte. So the likelihood is that he will leave in some sort of sign-and-trade, allowing Seattle to take their next franchise superstar and still get something for their second best player. Lewis would probably demand an extension from whichever team the Sonics would potentially deal him to; and he has the right to do so, as he is technically a free agent. But that should not be too large an issue, he's not an old player, nor did his work ethic come into question after he signed that 40 million dollar deal not too long ago.
To be honest, no team especially stands out to me as a perfect fit for him. Obviously the area team bias is in contention here; so allow me to offer up a deal I'll cite from a certain broadcaster who hails from the greatest sports station in the known galaxies (Skin of Sportsradio 1310 the Ticket).
Most crazy speculative deals fans have debated this offseason have included Jason Terry. It's not that we don't love the guy; to the contrary, most of us think he's wonderful both as a player and person. But he's just not a very good fit; too much of a score-first guard to play the 1, too small to play the 2, not quick enough for the one and not physical enough for the 2. He'd be optimal as a lightning rod of a sixth man playing either position, but Jerry Stackhouse takes most of the bench minutes already, and the team would lack a starting 2. In addition, he has a contract that while not unfeasible is sizable enough to factor into most major deals.
To Skin's deal... this one would send Terry and Erick Dampier to Seattle in return for Lewis and point guard Earl Watson. Personally, I think the exchange favors Dallas as far as player talent is concerned. It would allow the Mavs to run a lineup of Harris,Howard, Lewis, Nowitzki, and Diop with Stackhouse, Watson, Ager, Croshere, Mbenga, and hopefully a FA like Mikki Moore off the bench. Lewis doesn't fill a need; he's not a pass-first point guard or a post presence. But by essentially replacing Terry on the starting lineup, he offers the same game with 7 additional inches on his frame. In essence, he adds several more rebounds to the team and allows Devin Harris enough minutes at the 1 to properly develop his game. I am a big fan of the underrated Earl Watson, though. He isn't much of a scorer, but a solid perimeter defender with sizable passing ability. He'd be a terrific backup to Harris.
In conclusion, Lewis will be traded. It'd be nice to have him in Dallas. I'm tired. Good night.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Kobe Bryant is exasperated. Also, there are reports of Vitamin C in orange Juice.

The best player in basketball wears the number 23.
His size identifies him as a prototypical swingman. He has the ability to singularly take over a game in several different ways.
He didn't win a playoff game this year.
At this point those who didn't read the title do a double take thinking that I've totally turned a blank stare to the Association since the Mav collapse, and don't know of the Cavalier run over in the pitiful eastern conference.
But then they'll realize I'm actually talking about he who dons the purple and yellow; he who ran Shaq out of town; he who passed up future championships to satisfy his precious ego .He who remains the most dynamic, unparalleled force in the NBA.
Anyway... the prima donna has hatched out another of his frequent fits. This time, he wishes to be reunited with longtime Laker player and exec Jerry West. That's all well and good, West did great things with the team. Kobe undoubtedly wants his squad to return to prominence (As long as everyone and their dog knows that it is in fact HIS squad). However... is Bryant really in any position to bemoan the state of the franchise? In reality, his stubbornness and immaturity are the reason that LA has fallen to where it has.
This sickens me. This guy sees the world as his oyster; a piece of seafood set to revolve around his person and act in accordance to his wishes(To rather confusingly combine two often misused cliches). He is oblivious to his own mistakes, and views developments on a purely personal level: How will this impact ME! Will I score more points? Win more championships? Come onto more hotel employees? Gain more scrutiny?
Sorry, that last part was slightly uncalled for. Kobe enjoys privacy as much as the next guy... especially if it pertains to the third distinction I mentioned.
If I were a Vegas oddsmaker, I'd set the chances of Kobe going elsewhere at an infinitesimal level. It's simply not going to happen. To get Kobe, a team would have to give up either a comparable superstar (Lebron) a top 2 pick in this year's draft+some serviceable pieces (Zach Randolph and the #1) or a combination of youngtalent too steep to justify(Think Chris Bosh+Andrea Bargnani+ any scrub player with a bloated contract). In short, the Lakers aren't giving up their identity without getting incredible, primo value in return around which they can build for the next 15 years. And the teams going after Kobe simply aren't going to sanely give up on their own long term future for 5 years of dominant Kobe.
So to conclude, Kobe is a whiny little expletive. He won't win a thing until he realizes that basketball is a team sport; and while he's perfectly capable of dissecting any defense in this league, he seems to be incapable of digesting this simple fact.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Teixeira Conundrum-Speculation

Mark Teixeira is a star.
He is 27 years old, hits for power, hits for average, fields like the gold glover he is. He has no noticeable character flaws and says all the right things. Most would look at all of these facts and see him as a franchise cornerstone, the type of guy to hang on to for preferably his entire career.
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Why? The exact reasons for which he is so desirable.
Tex will be a free agent after the 08 season. He is represented by the baseball Antichrist, Scott Boras-and if anyone believes he will settle for a contract under 9 figures, I will personally guarantee that naivety is one of their primary character traits.
However, for some the question lingers. Tex is a home-grown player, the only significant player of that variety the organization has produced since Juan Gonzalez in the late 80s. His developement is a testament to scouting department, the minor league staff, the GM himself-for that matter, the entirety of the Texas front office. Dallas is not a small market, and Tom Hicks has in the past shown himself very capable of doling out the cash for an asset (And some considerably less valuable-see Chan Ho, Juan Gonzalez signing #2). This case is different, however, in several ways: Firstly, the team was for the most part bidding against themselves. In addition, these were two mercenaries; players out for nothing but the money. Teixeira stands to collect an enormous payday, but he has stated without end his desire to win as a major factor in his ultimate destination.
For this reason, then, doubts arise about the Rangers' ability to retain him. And with the team struggles during this awful season, cries have rung out from far and wide, imploring Rangers GM Jon Daniels to get a deal done.
The longer the team holds on to Tex, the more his value will diminish. A little more than a year ago, a straight up deal for Jake Peavy probably would have worked. Now, nobody expects as much as a #2 starter in return-nor do they want one. The state of the team is deplorable enough that most fans are actually clamoring for the club to go on rebuilding mode; deal anyone and everyone who has no future with the club, get a solid crop of youngsters to augment an extremely thin minor league system, and wait for the future.
Who are the probable suitors for the superstar first baseman? Allow me to rank them in order of probability, according to my humble speculation.
#1: Yankees. The team whose farm system was the laughingstock of the MLB has made great gains in that area throughout the last year, combining good drafting with good trades to accumulate a very deep, not to mention top-heavy group of youngsters. In addition, we all know the drama revolving around Jason Giambi; and even if he were to remain with the club he is more fit for a DH role much like David Ortiz plays in Boston. We all know about George Steinbrenner's financial flexibility, as well as his relationship with aforementioned baseball antichrist. A package that might work would send highly touted right fielder Jose Tabata and righty Humberto Sanchez. I also have an interesting idea which would help alleviate the Yankees' pitching woes, but that's for another day.
#2: Los Angeles Dodgers. Their first base situation is a mess- They've been playing a combination of the awful Olmaedo Saenz, the shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, and the second baseman Jeff Ken at the position. While the latter two are good players, neither is a natural first baseman. The Dodgers are badly lacking in power hitters, and have a plethora of young players to deal from. A Scott Elbert+Jonathan Broxton package would be optimal, although I'm not sure if the Dodgers would bite. If they don't perhaps James Loney could take the place of one of them.
#3: Baltimore Orioles: The superstar hails from the area and has displayed interest in returning, stating that it is somewhere he'd be delighted to play. Kevin Millar and Aubrey Huff make up a highly overrated duo of first basemen, they are by no means a permanent solution. Brandon Erbe and Nick Markakis would get the job done here.
#4:Anaheim Angels. Yes, I failed to refer to them as the Los Angeles California Angels from Heaven not hell commanded by God almighty who is non denominational of Anaheim USA. They are in a similar situation to the Dodgers: They need a big bat, are major contenders in a division without a great team, and have many prospects to barter. I'd look at a deal of Nick Adenhart and the Angels' current first baseman, Casey Kotchman- a solid, but not spectacular player. The impediment here is the fact that the Angels rip Texas to shreds as is, and adding another weapon to the division leader would cause much consternation within the Ranger front office.
#5: Boston Red Sox. I'm surprised at the amount of people who have brought this team up as the likeliest trade partner. I'd say the Sox are a long shot at best, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there's that little issue where Tex feels he was treated badly by the Red Sox when they drafted him in '98. It's said he harbors a minor grudge against the organization. In addition... Boston has a top notch first baseman in Kevin Youkilis already, who they retain at far cheaper. However, if for some odd reason the Sox were intent on picking him up, the most logical package would include Jacob Ellsburry and Jon Lester.
Well, those are the top 5 candidates in my estimation. I hope you enjoyed the first piece and decide to frequent my blog in the future!