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Santana Heading to the Mets

Johan SantanaP Johan Santana (89/88) is on his way to the Mets for OF Carlos Gomez (70/82), P Philip Humber (65/71), P Kevin Mulvey (63/80), and P Deolis Guerra (45/81). All that is left is for the Mets to get Santana to waive his no-trade clause by signing him to a lucrative deal. Santana was worth about $14.5 million in my pay projector last season, but right now he holds all the bargaining power, and on top of that can legitimately claim that he will bounce back from an "off year," which was still pretty darn good. On top of that, inflation over the next several seasons also has to be considered. When it is all said and done, a deal worth between $20-$25 million a year is justifiable in the current market.

For the Mets, this is an epic deal. They acquired a premier starting pitcher for nobody on their major league team, and also did not have to give up their top prospect, OF Fernando Martinez (51/85). They already had a team that was going to be in the playoff hunt, but now the team is among the favorites to go to the World Series.

For the Twins, the deal is somewhat disappointing, but not quite as bad as some are making it out to be. Unless the Red Sox ever included OF Jacoby Ellsbury (76/84), or the Yankees P Joba Chamberlain (73/92), this deal is comparable to their offers. Gomez can be their starting center fielder this season and do a solid job. His best asset by far is his speed, which plays well in to their general team concept of offense. I don't think Humber is as good as most do, but I also think Mulvey is much better than most give him credit for. He just doesn't give up home runs. Deolis Guerra is still a long way from the majors, but the Twins have a knack for finding gems long before they are polished. David Ortiz and Francisco Liriano come to mind. To expect Guerra to be as good as either of them is unrealistic, but the important thing to notice is that he is probably much more than an afterthought.

In the end, though this is a better deal for the Mets, it is a good deal for both clubs. The Twins got more than any compensatory draft pick from losing Santana in free agency would have likely netted them, and the Mets now have one of the best pitchers in baseball. If I were Minnesota I would have pushed for one more prospect, a guy like P Jonathan Niese (48/76), P Carlos Muniz (63/74), or OF Sean Henry (49/74), but ultimately I probably would have done this deal too.

Bedard for Jones Talks Red Hot

Last week, reports broke out of Venezuela that OF Adam Jones (73/85) had been pulled out of the lineup because a trade for SP Erik Bedard (96/94) was close. The rumor subsided when Jones returned to the lineup. Tonight, word broke again that Jones had been pulled from the lineup. However, this time is much, much different. According to reports, Jones received a call from Bavasi Saturday night telling him that he was the centerpiece of a deal for Bedard, and that he needed to go to Baltimore for a physical. Additionally, the Mariners have confirmed that Jones is finished in Venezuela, but would say no more. Still, considering Jones was hitting third in the lineup for a team in the midst of the Venezuelan championship series, it seems obvious that only something as major as a trade would make the Mariners suddenly rip him out of the lineup for good.

Of course, both sides said a final agreement has not been reached as of tonight, though Baltimore GM Andy MacPhail according to one report also said Jones was not coming to Baltimore for a physical. Furthermore, it is rather certain the deal will include as many as three more players going from the Mariners to the Orioles, and speculation is rampant on who those others could be. Interestingly, one player commonly brought up in the trade, RP George Sherrill (86/83), says he has not been contacted by anyone to this point.

Right now, I am not sure if the deal is actually done or not. Listening to Bavasi last week, it was clear he had laid out his final offer to the Orioles, and that he was also fairly confident the Orioles would agree to it. I think their GM clearly has at this point, but owner Peter Angelos must sign off on it. With most owners, this step can be dismissed, but not with Angelos. He is notorious for striking down deals, and considering a prospect is at the center of what they will receive, it is no given that he will give a final thumbs up. Still, he did approve the Tejada trade earlier this offseason, so between that and the Orioles apparent interest in acquiring a black star, the odds seem to be that he will approve this deal. That is, if he has not already.

The second key to this deal, from a baseball standpoint, is how much more beyond Jones the M's have to give up. My gut tells me SP Chris Tillman (46/78) will also be in the deal, and that C Jeff Clement (70/78) will not be. Tillman makes sense because I do not see the M's including Jones and SP Brandon Morrow (75/81), so Tillman is in effect a substitute for Morrow. As for Clement, I think he has more value to the Mariners than the Orioles since Baltimore just drafted a power-hitting catcher with their first pick this year, Matt Wieters. However, any additional pieces in the trade I have no idea about, though the report about Sherrill makes me believe he will not be a part of it (though I am not sold that he is not in it). I will write more about the trade once there are more details.

Mariners Announce Spring Invitees

Arthur RhodesYesterday the Mariners announced that they had invited 18 players not on the 40-man roster to spring training. For any of these players to make the team a player would have to be dropped from the 40-man roster and thus potentially lost to another team for nothing, so it stacks the odds against any of them. However, just last year P Brandon Morrow (75/81), P Arthur Rhodes (76/72), and C Jamie Burke (69/70) were in these players' shoes and made the opening day roster.

Every year three types of players are on this list: prized prospects that will not make the ballclub, but that the team wants to introduce to the major league environment, prospects the front office wants to take a closer look at, and veterans of either the majors or minors who could make it on the opening day squad, but more than likely are ticketed for AAA as needed organizational depth. Though prospects tend to get the headlines, I enjoy looking at the veterans because they have the best chance to make the team, and also because it showcases what I believe is Bavasi's greatest talent - finding players cast away by other teams that probably should not have been set free. He drives much nuts as a GM much of the time, but I admire his exceptional ability to find quality role players for cheap. Here is this year's list of spring training invitees:

P Phillipe Aumont (-/-) - Aumont definitely falls into the category of prized prospect with no chance to make the team. He will likely be compared to Morrow at some point, especially if he looks good in his first couple appearances, but he is much younger and even more inexperienced than Morrow was at this point last year. That being said, I am eager to get a chance to see how he does.

P Phillip Barzilla (59/63) - Barzilla is a 28-year-old lefty that had been in the Astros organization his whole career until now. He has major league experience, though only one-third of an inning's worth. I do not think he is much, but he was switched to the bullpen mid-season last year and posted a sub-1.00 ERA. I am guessing that is what prompted the Mariners to extend him an invite.

P Roy Corcoran (65/70) - Corcoran got cups of coffee in the majors in three different seasons with the Expos/Nationals, but spent all of last year in AAA at Albequerque, Florida's affiliate. He is a classic example of the kind of player Bavasi is great at finding. Corcoran is not a guy I would like to see working the late innings, but he is good enough to be a middle reliever on many ballclubs.

P Brodie Downs (56/66) - Downs is somewhere between "unique" and "intriguing." At 28 years old and a former 23rd round draftee, he does not seem to be exactly a prospect. However, he was drafted just last June, making him the only player besides Aumont invited to camp from the most recent draft class. His rating is the reflection of only 25.1 innings worth of work last season, so I do not know how well it reflects his actual ability. He is worth keeping an eye on.

P Stephen Kahn (50/68) - Kahn missed all of last season thanks to reconstructive knee surgery, so his rating is based on his 2006 numbers. A reliever, Kahn struck better than a batter per inning and kept his home run rate low, but also walked a bunch of batters and gave up a fair number of hits too. Much like Downs, he is a prospect the Mariners want to take a closer look at, but is quite unlikely to make the team.

P Kameron Mickolio (65/76) - I really like this guy, and so do the Mariners. He was drafted in the 18th round in 2006, but logged ample time in AAA last year and excelled. At 6'9" he is an imposing presence on the mound and has a bright future. Of all the prospects on this list, I think Mickolio has the best chance to make the team.

P Chris Reitsma (50/50) - Reitsma has really fallen off the table the last couple season, thanks in large part to injuries. If he has truly healed he may have some gas left in the tank and make a run at a spot in the bullpen. I think his chances are slim, but the real question is how much allegiance John McLaren has to him. If McLaren wants Reitsma on the roster, he will get every opportunity to make it.

P Arthur Rhodes (72/68) - Wisdom says that a pitcher in his late 30s coming off of major elbow surgery that made him miss all of last season would have almost no chance of making the team. However, this is Arthur Rhodes, and he is an exception for two reasons. First and foremost, McLaren remembers how dominant Rhodes was for the M's back in his prime, and without a doubt he would like to add Rhodes to the bullpen. However, beyond that, the numbers indicate that if he has recovered from the elbow surgery, he still has something to offer. Of all the veterans invited to camp, Rhodes has by far the best chance to stick.

P Robert Rohrbaugh (65/75) - Rohrbaugh has torn through the minors the past couple years rather quietly, only garnering attention the second half of last year when he was promoted to Tacoma and ultimately was named the Rainiers Pitcher of the Year. He was one of my darkhorses for the fifth starter spot until the M's signed Carlos Silva (75/74), but even without a spot to compete for on the roster, he will probably survive several cuts in spring training.

P Chris Tillman (46/78) - Many people are high on this former prep star, including the Mariners. They are treating him like a big-time prospect by inviting him to camp this year, though I think he is ultimately going to start the year in AA. I am not as sold on him as most, though I like his potential and do think he could take a big stride forward in 2008.

P Jake Woods (51/57) - He was a quality middle reliever in 2006, but struggled mightily in 2007. If he is sticking in the M's organization past March, he will be in Tacoma.

C Jair Fernandez (42/71) - Jair got invited most likely because the Mariners needed more catcher to handle all the pitchers. He is only 20 years old, but did not log even 200 at-bats in low A Wisconsin last year. He will likely be cut once enough pitchers are cut.

C Adam Moore (52/71) - Moore also gets an invite because of a need for catchers, but he may very well have received an invite regardless. He opened many eyes with an impressive season at Inland Empire, though it should be noted he was a bit old for the league at 23. He should open up the season in AA, and if he duplicates his performance last year he will become an even more interesting prospect.

C Brant Ust (56/61) - Much like Fernandez, Ust is here just for the pitchers. He is a 28-year-old utility player who did not even play much catcher last year in Tacoma. Still, it is a nice gesture by the team to give this career minor-leaguer a chance to play in a major league camp, even if it ends up being for only a few weeks.

2B Tug Hulett (66/72) - Hulett is a new-comer to the organization acquired in the Ben Broussard (73/72) trade. Hulett is not a star in the making, but he would be a good bench player. I would not be surprised if he hung around until one of the final cuts.

3B Mark Kiger (63/74) - Though Kriger has never appeared in a regular season MLB game, he has appeared in the playoffs with the A's in 2006! In fact, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Kiger is the only player in major league history to make his major league debut in the playoffs. Last year he was in the Mets organization, where he spent most of his time in AA. He posted great numbers, though at 27 years of age he was rather old for the league. Kiger has played mostly third in his career, though he has played some at all infield spots. Kiger is another example of a quality role player that Bavasi has a knack for finding. He likely will not make the M's, but he should provide depth down in Tacoma.

3B Matt Tuiasosopo (51/70) - Tui has been invited several times to major league camp now, and it would still be stunning if he made the team. With that being said, I expect the team to give him a longer look this spring training, because I think he will ultimately start the year in Tacoma.

OF Bronson Sardinha (62/68) - Sardinha is a former first-round pick of the New York Yankees, and finally made the majors last year as a September call-up, appearing in only 10 games. His numbers were disappointing in AAA last year, but his combination of power and speed is intriguing, and at 24 years old he certainly could bounce back. Bronson is this year's version of OF Charlton Jimerson (59/69), except a little younger and a little better.

Bedard Rumors Continue to Swirl

Erik BedardRumors concerning the Mariners acquiring SP Erik Bedard (96/94) from the Orioles refuse to die. The latest I have seen is that the M's are willing to part ways with OF Adam Jones (73/85) and RP George Sherrill (86/83), but the Orioles want in addition to those two either SP Brandon Morrow (75/81) or SS Carlos Triunfel (43/85). Currently, it appears the Mariners would prefer to include Triunfel between the two.

Jones, Sherrill, and Triunfel is an awfully high price to pay for any player. Erik Bedard was incredible last year (the only pitcher better than him last year according to my formula was Jake Peavy), but what he is actually worth needs to be examined further. Looking at his numbers, he exploded last year, and I doubt he will ever have a better year despite the fact he is only 28 years old. In fact, I really do not think he will reach the 94 rating my rating system projects for him next year. That is not to say Bedard will not be a great pitcher in the future, but to expect him to duplicate his 2007 output for the next several seasons is intrepid, to put it nicely. Taking Bedard's last three seasons and plugging them into my rating formula (with a slight injury adjustment), his rating drops to 86, with an expected decay to 85. That means Bedard is still a great pitcher, but the difference between a 96 rating and an 86 is significant.

After taking a closer look at Bedard, I think offering Jones and Sherrill for him is a fair deal. Baltimore needs a center fielder, and Jones fits that need perfectly, especially because he could become the black superstar that connects with the Baltimore community, which the Orioles covet badly. Though the Orioles would not receive a starter to replace Bedard in the trade, they added depth in the off-season by acquiring SP Troy Patton (61/78) and Matt Albers (59/63) in the Tejada trade, both of whom the team considers rotation candidates (I'm not as sold on them, but all that matters is if Baltimore believes in them). If they really wanted a starter, I would be willing to offer either Carlos Silva (75/74), Miguel Batista (76/72), or Jarrod Washburn (74/72), and get any one of those contracts off the books while making room in the rotation for Morrow. I doubt the Orioles would be interested in one of those three though.

As for the Mariners, Bedard would team with Felix Hernandez (83/90) and the mediocre, but effective, trio of Batista, Silva , and Washburn to turn the starting rotation into a decent, if not borderline formidable, group. Furthermore, though Sherrill would be missed in the bullpen, the M's have still have two very good bullpen lefties in Eric O'Flaherty (78/83) and Ryan Rowland-Smith (73/77), and Morrow would be pitching in the later innings as well. Adam Jones would also be missed, but Wladimir Balentien (70/80) is not a bad option, and there have been rumors the Mariners would sign Luis Gonzalez (79/74) if they were to trade Jones. So, it is not as if there would be a giant void in the outfield if Jones were to be traded, making it reasonable to say the upgrade Bedard brings to the starting rotation more than counteracts the loss of Jones in the outfield.

Still, it looks like the Orioles are not interested in only acquiring Jones and Sherrill for Bedard, and I would not be willing to offer much more for that. I would be willing to include INF Mike Morse (69/75) because there is no longer room for him on the 25-man roster thanks to INF Miguel Cairo (70/68), and Baltimore would be smart to take a look at Morse because he could fill their hole at shortstop, but I doubt that would be enough either. Bedard would be a great addition to the Mariners, but Baltimore's asking price is just a little too steep.

New Future Projector!

Over the weekend, I made major improvements to my peak projecting system. Looking at historical data, this new formula does a much better job of projecting peaks, and also attempts to predict decay for players that have already reached their peak. So, now every player's rating will have two numbers, with the first being their current rating, and their second either being their projected peak or their projected decay for the upcoming year. This new formula was used in the post above.

Miguel Cairo Signed By Mariners

Miguel CairoTonight the Mariners announced that they signed INF Miguel Cairo (70) to a one-year contract. He is expected to team with INF Willie Bloomquist (68) to form a super-sub duo from the bench that should, in the words of Bill Bavasi, "allow Mac more flexibility to use Miguel or Willie earlier in a game, if he wants, and still be covered late."

Essentially, Bloomquist and Cairo are the same player, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Both are not exactly feared hitters, but possess good speed and the ability to defend multiple positions. They are both the kind of guys a team wants on their bench. Indeed, the flexibility John McLaren has with these two guys is a nice luxury to have.

With all that said, this deal is a mistake. Assuming the Mariners starting 9 is set (which it is), and that they carry a 12-man pitching staff (which appears highly likely), they will only be able to carry 4 bench players. Bloomquist, Cairo, and Jamie Burke (69) will be three of them, leaving only one more spot. Since all of them are right-handed, it seems likely that the last bench member will be left-handed, which points towards C Jeff Clement (70/85) as the front-runner. That is a nice bench, and I do not have any problems with any of those players. The problem is that none of them are INF Mike Morse (69/81).

First of all, Morse would be a good bench player. He is a decent hitter, certainly good enough for pinch-hitting duties. He also can defend a number of positions. Of particular importance though, Morse is out of minor league options, so he must make the 25-man roster or be placed on waivers. Clement could be sent down, but I do not see McLaren carrying an all right-handed hitting bench. So, it looks like the Mariners are prepared to let Morse go for absolutely nothing, because I would be surprised if he cleared waivers.

Miguel Cairo is a good bench player, and many teams would have been wise to pick him up. However, the Mariners are not one of those teams. They already had a good bench duo in Bloomquist and Morse, and anyone who does not think that Morse has more upside than Cairo at this point in their careers is a fool. Morse is not an elite prospect, but he is good enough to be a quality sub right now, and he has the chance to develop into a solid everyday player. Maybe Morse is now free to be offered in a trade for someone else, like SP Erik Bedard (96), but I doubt that is what the M's have in mind.

Players as good as Mike Morse are not an endangered species, but they also are not a dime a dozen. A player of his caliber should not be thrown away, especially in favor of an aging reserve infielder.

Nick Swisher Traded

Nick SwisherWhile I was skeptical about whether the A's were rebuilding or not after the trade of SP Dan Haren (86/89), they removed all doubt yesterday by trading OF/1B Nick Swisher (80/84) to the White Sox for OF Ryan Sweeney (62/81), SP Gio Gonzalez (68/89), and P Fautino de los Santos (59/86). Chicago went in to the off-season hunting for a center fielder, and they now have one. Meanwhile, Oakland continued to bolster their farm system.

White Sox GM Kenny Williams vowed that he would not sit idle after last year's disappointing season, and he certainly has not. Their offense left much to be desired in 2007, but adding SS Orlando Cabrera (79) and Nick Swisher should do wonders. The White Sox will be better, but I am not convinced they can compete with the Indians, and they certainly do not look as good as the new-and-improved Detroit Tigers.

As for the A's, this move was clearly made with an eye towards the future. Sweeney and Gonzalez are both highly regarded prospects, though I am not completely sold on Sweeney. He looks like a good player to me, not a great one. However, Gio is the real deal, as his 185 strikeouts in AA attest to. Nobody had more strikeouts than Gonzalez in the minors last year, and he is a rare talent that may be able to make the jump from AA to the majors and taste some success. Finally, de los Santos should not be overlooked. Last year, he piled up 153 strikeouts in only 122.1 innings pitched, with a meager .163 batting average against. It is quite easy to tell that the guy is flat-out hard to hit, and at 21 years old (he will turn 22 in a little over a month), he also has age on his side.

Nick Swisher is just entering his prime and may get a little better, but this deal clearly favors the A's. It does make the White Sox better now, but they are still far from competing against the Tigers and Indians. More importantly, only one of the three players the A's received has to reach their projected peak for the deal to be fair. Even in the unpredictable world of baseball prospects, hitting on one out of three with three guys who have played in AA or higher are relatively safe odds.

Billy Beane continues to show why he is one of the best GMs in baseball. He is proactive instead of reactive, which is one of the biggest reasons Oakland has maintained a high level of success with limited resources. I am convinced Beane understands the market value of players better than anyone else in the game, and ruthlessly uses it to his advantage. He understands that players are vastly underpaid before they hit free agency, so he squeezes those quality years out of ballplayers to get more talent than he pays for.

However, all GMs understand this inefficiency, especially others that operate lower revenue teams. What really sets apart Billy Beane is how well he understands the value of his own players to other teams. This free agent market was devoid of really good starters. Not surprisingly, Beane starts shopping around Haren and Joe Blanton (86/89). Both of these players are still well within Oakland's budget for the next couple years, but Beane understands that the demand for pitchers of their caliber this year far outweighs the supply. That, in addition with the viable threat to walk away from any deal, gives Beane tremendous leverage in these deals, as evidenced by the monster package of prospects he received from the D'Backs in the Haren trade.

The same basic thing happened again with the Swisher trade. The White Sox were actively looking for a center fielder. They zeroed in on Torii Hunter (78), but he signed with the Angels. Soon after, Andruw Jones (72) and Aaron Rowand (84) were off the market as well. Even a creative option like Kosuke Fukudome (76) had signed with the Cubs. All of this activity, coupled with Swisher's affordable contract, gave Beane tremendous leverage against the White Sox in this trade, and once again it shows with the package the A's received.

Oakland will likely suffer through another tough season in 2008, but their future has never been brighter. A new ballpark is on the horizon, perhaps as early as 2011, and with it should come increased revenue. By then, many of the prospects included in the Haren and Swisher deals should have asserted themselves in the majors, and perhaps may even be hitting arbitration years. This may be the first generation of A's players since the late 80s/early 90s that Oakland can seriously think about locking up to long-term contracts. Now, considering Beane already figures out how to get the higher ground in deals even when teams know he eventually cannot sign a player, imagine how much more effective he can be with the threat of legitimately retaining a player through all of their most productive years. The prospects Beane and the A's have acquired this off-season could be with the team for a very long time. Then again, maybe they too will have inflated worth to other teams some day, and Billy will find himself with incredible bargaining power in some trade, and the A's will just get better and better. Any team that is perpetually "rebuilding" should take a look at Billy Beane and how his seemingly magical touch works. It is all about foresight instead of hindsight, and understanding how the market impacts leverage in deals.