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Roast Some Chestnuts on the Hot Stove

The Yankees made another move, now I believe, it’s the Red Sox turn.  Righthanded starting pitcher Javier Vazquez & lefty reliever Boone Logan (both with the White Sox a couple of years ago) were dealt to Atlanta in exchange for centerfielder Melky Cabrera, a 19 year old out of the Dominican Republic by the name of Arodys Vizcaino, and lefthanded relief pitcher Michael Dunn.  Vazquez crashed & burned in the Bronx, he did well with the Braves (but that’s the National League), it’ll be interesting to see how he makes out in the Big Apple (with big pressure), one of my happiest days as a White Sox fan  was when Javier Vazquez & Boone Logan were put on a train out of town.  Melky Cabrera, a fan favorite, will move into the lineup as the Braves everyday centerfielder, Dunn has a shot as a lefty in Atlanta’s pen, and the young righthander, Vizcaino, has a huge upside, only time will tell.

Atlanta also added their firstbaseman in the person of Troy Glaus.  Troy was injured last season with the Cardinals.  The hot corner has always been this big power hitter’s position, but he shouldn’t have any problems shifting across the diamond, his real position is BAT.

Darren Oliver went back to where he started, returning to Texas.  This will be Darren’s third go around with the Rangers.  Oliver spent the last three years in the Angels bullpen, the Halos are pursuing Fernando Rodney.

In a move that was kind of under the radar, Jason Marquis was signed by the Washington Nationals.  Marquis showed guts in winning 15 games last season with the Rockies.  This veteran righthander will provide the Nats with just what the doctor ordered, 200 innings & 30+ starts.  Next up Washington needs to secure Mike Capps as their team’s closer.

Throw a Few More Signings on the Hot Stove

atkinsThe Baltimore Orioles answered the question, who’s on 3rd, by signing free agent Garrett Atkins.  Garrett became a free agent when he lost his job to Ian Stewart, and the Rockies decided not to offer him a contract.  It seems like only yesterday the 30 year old looked to be a bright young star hitting his way onto the scene in Colorado.  In 2006 Atkins batted .329, with 29 homers, & 120 RBIs, following that with a .301 average, 25 long balls, and 111 knocked in, and in ’08 he drove in 99, with 21 big flies, and a .286 batting average.  But when he tailed off to .226, 9 HRs, & 48 ribbies, it was time for him to move on, and Baltimore is hoping he’ll regain his stroke in an Orioles uniform.

The O’s also locked up lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez.  Gonzalez appeared in nearly half of Atlanta’s game in 2009, 80 (which was 3rd in the majors), and with his funky delivery & nasty stuff Mike was able to strikeout 90 batters in 74′ innings pitched, he recorded a career high in saves, 24, with the Pirates in 2006.  His contract is loaded with bonuses if he does well as the closer in Baltimore.

Mr. OBP, Nick Johnson will take his act back to the Bronx, where it all started.  New York drafted Johnson in the third round of the 1996 amateur draft, he was a highly touted youngster in their organization, even batting over 700 times with the Yankees in 2002 & 2003 combined.  But Nick’s career has been filled with its share of injuries, still he has an outstanding career OBP of .402 in 770 big league games.  With Hideki Matsui signing with the Halos, it looks like the 31 year old lefthanded hitter will take over as the club’s designated hitter.

Across town Japanese reliever Ryota Igarashi will pitch this upcoming season out of the Metropolitans bullpen.  Ryota missed all of 2007 with an arm injury, but appears fully recovered as he posted a 2.42 ERA this past year for the Swallows, which was his career best.  The 30 year old, Igarashi, a righthander, is said to have the best fastball in Japanese baseball.

Milton is Now a Mariner

CHAPMAN_CUBS_24.JPG2004: Dugout confrontation with Indians manager Eric Wedge in spring training before getting traded to the Dodgers.

Slammed a plastic bottle at the feet of a fan in the right-field seats at Dodger Stadium after someone threw it onto the field. Bradley drew a five-game suspension. Also received four-game suspension for tossing a bag of balls onto the field after an ejection.

2005: Feuded with infielder Jeff Kent, accusing him of being a racist, and prompted Dodgers to trade him that winter.

2007: Bitter public disagreement with A’s general manager Billy Beane. After trade to Padres and in thick of pennant race, tore ACL in his right knee when he was spun to the ground by Padres manager Bud Black, who was trying to keep him from umpire Mike Winters. Bradley claimed he had been baited by Winters, who was suspended for the final five days of the regular season.

2008: According to Dallas Morning News, Bradley attempted to confront Royals television announcer Ryan Lefebvre in the press box after a game due to what he believed were unfair comments made on the air. Texas manager Ron Washington and GM Jon Daniels chased after him and stopped Bradley before he got to Lefebvre.

January 6, 2009: The Cubs will be the seventh team for Milton Bradley, who has a history of behavioral issues during nine seasons in the majors.

April 16, 2009: Milton Bradley’s suspension was reduced from two games to one by Major League Baseball on Thursday, but that didn’t make him any happier.  The Chicago Cubs outfielder still feels he was a victim of his reputation as a hothead.  “It figures,” he said after MLB announced its decision regarding the April 16 incident.  “I never get treated fairly.  This is me. This is exactly what I expected.  “I’m Milton Bradley, you know what I’m saying?  You expect me to be crazy and throw stuff and do whatever.”  Bradley didn’t throw anything after umpire Larry Vanover called him out on strikes with the bases loaded.  But the famously volatile ballplayer did get in Vanover’s face and the umpiring crew contended that Bradley’s hat made slight contact with Vanover.  It was Bradley’s first Wrigley Field at-bat after he had signed a $30 million contract during the offseason.

June 12, 2009: Milton forgot how many outs there were in a game at Wrigley Field, after catching a fly ball, he turned, and tossed the baseball to a fan in the rightfield bleachers, but there were only two outs, there were two runners on base.  The error didn’t cost the Cubs, as there were runners on 1st & 3rd, the runner on 3rd would’ve scored on the sac fly and the other runner was stranded after moving from first to third.  Here’s what Bradley had to say about the incident.  “I wasn’t embarrassed.  I’ve done a whole lot of things to be embarrassed about,” Bradley said.  “My heart was in the right place. I tried to give a souvenir.  It was messed up.”  “We talked about it today, just have fun and relax,” Bradley said.  “It’s hard to get me to smile on a baseball field, but I had to smile today.  You can’t just keep taking yourself too seriously.  You have to chill out, have fun.  If we do that, we’ll be all right.”

September, 2009: Here’s what Cubs GM Jim Hendry had to say after suspending Bradley in September for the rest of the season.  “Recently, it’s become intolerable to hear Milton talk about our great fans the way he has,” Hendry said. “We pride ourselves on having the greatest fans in baseball, so at this time we felt it was best to send him home for the rest of the season.”

All of this should come as no surprise, it’s been with Milton Bradley, pretty much, his whole life.  Here is a recap of a situation involving Milton when he was a minor leaguer with the Montreal Expos, he even was suspended one game from his high school baseball team.  Bradley’s anger grew to the point where would explode at authority figures left and right, particularly umpires: He poked one in the mask and later spit his gum at another, earning him a seven-game suspension and the worst reputation in the minor leagues.  “It wasn’t violent,” Bradley explains.  “It was something I shouldn’t have done.  You can’t touch the umpire.  You can’t spit on the umpire.  I know that. But you just get to the point where you’re just, ‘There, I got that off my chest.’ ”

I remember following this talented switch-hitting kid way back when, when he was in the minors with Montreal, the kid with the board game company name, and his birthday being April 15th, an Aries, my birthday’s the 14th & my brother’s is the 16th, so I was intrigued, but after the spitting incident I decided to strike him from my list.

I just can’t see how so many major league teams have fallen for his B.S.  Certainly he is a talented hitter, but he can’t field any more, he once was fleet-footed, but after knee surgeries, those days are long gone.  So I can’t see what the attraction is, other than his bat, he is a cancer in the clubhouse, and basically, can’t get along with anyone.  Bradley never seems able to accept responsibility for his actions and always comes off playing the victim.

I knew where this was going when the Cubs signed him to that big contract before this past season, why didn’t Jim Hendry?  Now Hendry is looking like the hero, finding a new home for Milton & his baggage in the Pacific Northwest with the Seattle Mariners.  The Cubs got starting righthanded pitcher Carlos Silva from Seattle, he’s the Mariners version of a mistake signing, $25 million over the next two years.  Since signing his lucrative contract the injured hurler has posted a record of 5-17 over the past two seasons, perhaps a change of scenery will do him good, but don’t count on it.

Getting back to the lame excuse Hendry gave for bringing Bradley to the Northside of Chicago in the first place, the team needed a lefthanded bat to balance out their lineup, after getting swept by the Dodgers following a 1st place finish a couple of years ago.  There were some very high quality alternatives to Milton, Raul Ibanez (a lefthanded hitter & one of the nicest guys in baseball) signed with the Phillies and Bobby Abreu (a lefthanded hitter, with a long career of solid numbers, & a decent rightfielder) signed with the Angels, both for less than Bradley’s contract.

Milton Bradley will probably do pretty well as Seattle’s regular DH in 2010, but most certainly it won’t last.  The Mariners will be his eighth team in ten years.  How many bridges must a man burn before there are none left to cross?

Dugout confrontation with Indians manager Eric Wedge in spring training before getting traded to the Dodgers.

White Sox Get a Leftfielder & a Leadoff Man

pierreKenny Williams did exactly what I wanted him to do, now let’s see if it works out, because sometimes when you ask for something, it doesn’t always workout the way you thought it would.  Leadoff man Juan Pierre was traded, along with cash, to the White Sox from the Dodgers for two players to be named later.  Whether this deal is a good one or not depends on which two players Chicago will have to give up to LA.  It’s a no brainer, looks great, a leftfielder, a leadoff man, & cash for basically nothing (nothing, that is, until the players to be named, are indeed, named).  But right now, I’m very happy with my new present from Santa, hope we didn’t have to pay to much on our credit card.

Here is what the Chicago had to give up: It is reported the White Sox will part ways with reliever Jon Link, whom they acquired from the Padres in the Rob Mackowiak trade (anything you get for Mackowiak is a bonus) and Homewood Flossmore’s own John Ely.  While Link has a pretty good strikeout pitch out of the pen, and might be ready for the majors, Ely is, far & away, the better prospect.  The 6’1″ 23 year old was impressive at AA in 2009, 14-2, 2.87 ERA, with 125 strikeouts in 156′ innings pitched, allowing only 140 hits.  The righthander had an impressive collegiate career at Miami of Ohio University before being selected by Chicago in the 3rd round of the 2007 amateur draft.

Monty Hall: Let’s Make a Deal

michael-taylorThere is another three way deal on the horizon, this one involving the Phillies, the Blue Jays, & the Mariners.  Philadelphia would get righthanded ace Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays & pitching prospect Phillippe Aumont (plus another Seattle youngster, yet to be named) from the Mariners, Seattle gets Cliff Lee from the City of Brotherly Love, and Toronto picks up superstar phenom outfielder Michael Taylor, sky’s the limit starter Kyle Drabek (Son of Doug), and minor league catcher Travis d’Arnaud from the Phils.  In a deal involving two former Cy Young Award winners switching uniforms, the third party player might end up being the big winner, that’s how good Michael Taylor might end up, he’s that good!  Trader Billy Beane jumped into the frey to make it a four-way deal, sending 1B-3B Brett Wallace, a 2008 1st round pick out of ASU by the Cardinals who was traded to Oakland in the Matt Holliday trade, to Toronto for Michael Taylor.  While Wallace has some serious power 20 or more homers in each of the last two seasons, he also swung & missed 106 times in the minors this past year.  To me, the A’s look to be the big winner getting the highly skilled outfielder Taylor.

This three way deal was probably made possible when the Red Sox inked John Lackey away from the Angels.  Once the Bronx Bombers knew Boston was no longer in the hunt to pickup either Halladay or Lee, the Pinstripers could relax and let the trade proceed without outside interference from NY.

In another move, not made by the Yankees, World Series MVP Hideki (Godzilla, but you can call me Shemp) Matsui headed west to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  The Orange County team needed to bring somebody on board after losing leadoff man Chone Figgins (now with the Mariners) & ace starter Lackey (over in Bean Town) already this offseason.  Still I don’t know if it’s much of a consolation prize, seeing the Mariners added Figgins & Lee, while on this day the Halos, in effect, swapped Lackey for Matsui.

Aroldis Chapman – Cuban Defector – Let the Bidding Begin

chapmanMLB is starved for good arms, especially if they’re lefthanded throwers, and there seems to be something exotic about coming from another country, like Japan as was the case with Daisuke Matsuzaka, or Cuba as is the case with Aroldis Chapman.  Now it’s being reported that the Red Sox are really interested in Chapman, Boston is also interested in John Lackey, and they already have Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and youngsters Clay Buchholz & Michael Bowden.

Aroldis’ defection from Cuba wasn’t as dramatic as some of his fellow countrymen, who’ve fled Castro’s Cuba in search of the big bucks of baseball in America.  The Cuban National team was in the Netherlands for a baseball tournament, Chapman simply walked out the front door of the hotel, into the car, driven by an acquaintance.  He petitioned MLB and now is on his way to the show.

Tomorrow the 21 year old lefthanded Cuban pitcher will throw for several ballclubs in Houston.  Back in July, when he defected, it was thought it would take $40 million to sign him, but now it looks like he’ll be a relative bargain, possibly signing for as little as under $20 million, you have to remember times are tough.  If you’ve got a young boy, be sure to teach him to throw a baseball with his lefthand.

The major players in the bidding war for the services of Aroldis Chapman will be the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

2009 MLB Free Agents – Big Names Join the List

JONNY GOMESSome pretty big names joined the free agent list when they were not tendered offers to stay with their clubs.  Jonny Gomes slugged the baseball pretty well in his brief time with the Reds, but it wasn’t enough for Cincinnati to want to throw cash his way.  Gomes is a high energy outfielder, with as much power as anybody in the game.  Then there’s Colorado Rockies thirdbaseman Garrett Atkins, in an effort to save money, the Rocks are turning over the hot corner duties to Ian Stewart.  Jack Cust nailed 84 big flies in Oakland for the A’s the last three seasons, but was surprisingly let go.  Another surprise was when Pittsburgh decided to cut ties with their closer, Matt Capps, but it’s the Pirates, so what would you expect?  The Washington Nationals also decided not to bring back their closer, if they have a better option, I haven’t heard it.  Starting pitcher Scott Olsen was also asked not to return to Washington, probably due to his poor attitude, but he throws the ball with his lefthand so somebody will take a flier on him.  Chien-Ming Wang won’t be returning to the Bronx, I can kind of see this, what with Wang’s history of injuries, they can go out there and pretty much sign whomever they want.

Throw Another Log on that Old Hot Stove

curtis-granderson-stealsSo far, the biggest trade was the three-way deal involving the Yankees, the Diamondbacks, and the Tigers.  New York got All Star centerfielder Curtis Granderson, enough said, they got the best player in the deal.  Arizona got starting pitchers Edwin Jackson & Ian Kennedy.  While Detroit landed centerfield prospect Austin Jackson, starting pitcher Max Scherzer, and a couple of lefties for their bullpen Phil Coke & Daniel Schlereth.

The Texas Rangers traded starter Kevin Millwood to the Orioles in exchange for reliever Chris Ray and Rule V selection Ben Snyder, the move was designed to free up money so Texas could sign free agent starter Rich Harden.  The Rangers had enough money left over to acquire thirdbaseman Mike Lowell for catching prospect Max Ramirez from the Red Sox.  Boston is interested in signing free agent thirdbaseman Adrian Beltre.

Pirates reliever Jesse Chavez has to be wondering whether it’s safe to unpack his bags, as he’s on his third team this offseason.  He was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays, who just dealt him to the Atlanta Braves for reliever Rafael Soriano.  The Braves no longer needed Soriano, since bringing in Billy Wagner & Takashi Saito.

The Chicago White Sox brought in former Seattle Mariners closer J.J. Putz to replace Octavio Dotel, whom they chose not to retain.

2009 MLB Rule V Draft

jamie hoffmannThe World Champion New York Yankees got Jamie Hoffmann out of the LA Dodgers organization via the Washington Nationals, who selected him with the 1st pick in the Rule V Draft.  The Rule V draft was designed to help teams at the bottom to select minor leaguers who might be log-jammed with their current.  Reliever Brian Bruney was traded from the Nats to the Yanks in exchange for Hoffmann.  Washington paid $50,000 for the Los Angeles outfielder.  Jamie must stay in the majors this year or be offered back to his original ballclub for $25,000.  The 25 year old righthanded hitting outfielder had a cup of coffee in the majors with the Dodgers this past season.

Interestingly the Pirates, with the 2nd pick, selected a guy by the name of John Raynor from the Florida Marlins, if you put a T at the beginning of his last name you get Traynor, as in Pie Traynor.  Raynor is a leftfielder with very little power, who strikes out alot, not much to like.

Ben Snyder a lefthander out of Ball State was taken by the Baltimore Orioles out of the San Francisco Giants organization.  The O’s dealt him, along with reliever Chris Ray, to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Kevin Millwood.  I’m not suggesting that Ray + Snyder = Millwood, but this trade allowed Texas to sign Rich Harden, and have some money left over to improve their bullpen.  Ben might be able to step right into the Rangers pen as a lefthanded specialist, he was 16-5 with a 2.09 ERA & 145 K’s in 151 IP in A ball in 2007, and in AA in 2009 he had a 2.88 ERA with 86 K’s in 97 IP.

Kansas City then selected Edgar Osuna out of the Atlanta Braves organization.  The Royals must’ve been impressed with Osuna’s work in Mazatlan this winter.  The 22 year old lefty has looked good out of the pen, crafting a 1.40 ERA in 19′ IP with 14 strikeouts.

Jorge Jimenez might shine in the Florida sunshine, drafted out of the Red Sox organization by the Astros, the thirdbaseman was dealt to the Florida Marlins.  The Marlins traded reliever Matt Lindstrom (the team’s closer at the start of last season), so they must be serious about this Puerto Rican kid.  The 25 year old batted .289 with decent power & a good eye at AA.

Milwaukee drafted a 23 year old lefthanded starter out of the Indians organization named Chuck Lofgren, who has struggled as a starter, perhaps they’re thinking of moving him to the bullpen, he has some pretty impressive strikeout numbers in the minors.

One of the steals of the draft might be lefthanded reliever Armando Zerpa, selected by Tampa Bay from the Red Sox.  The 22 year old sparkled in AA where he posted a 1.20 ERA striking out 51 batters in 45 innings allowing only 19 hits.

Perhaps this should have been the lead story, Yankees lose Texeira to the Mariners in the Rule V.  Actually it’s sinkerball righthander Kanekoa Texeira, not slugging firstbaseman Mark Teixeira.  Still the Yankees might regret not protecting this kid, whom they got from the White Sox in the Nick Swisher trade.

The Baltimore Orioles lost, native son, Steven Johnson, son of former Orioles star secondbaseman & announcer Dave Johnson, to the San Francisco Giants.  The 22 year old righthander recently came to the O’s in the George Sherrill trade.  Steven struckout 102 batters in 96″ innings in A+ in 2009.

27 year old 6’5″ lefthander Ben Jukich was drafted by the Cardinals from the Reds, he has good control, and has posted some impressive numbers in winter ball.

This is my coverage of the major league phase of the Rule V Draft.  Some recent players who were selected in this draft, who have gone on to have some pretty good success are Johan Santana, Dan Uggla, & Josh Hamilton, to name a few.

Hot Stove Starting to Heat Up

OmarVizquelThe White Sox fired up the Hot Stove signing SS Omar Vizquel & Andruw Jones.  Vizquel has been the best defensive shortstop of his time and will tutor Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez.  Omar might be headed for Cooperstown when he finally hangs them up, his numbers stack up with Ozzie Smith, and nobody flashed a better glove at short.  Speaking of excellent fielders, nobody did it better than Andruw Jones, but that was in his day.  Andruw isn’t all that old, but he got old in a hurry, with very old knees.  Jones will not embarrass himself in the outfield with the glove, although he won’t add to the team speed, but he was brought in here for his bat and to provide some outfield depth.

After a career year with the Blue Jays, Marco Scutaro cashed in with Boston, where he’ll be the Red Sox everyday shortstop.  Outfielder Mike Cameron’s new home will be Fenway Park, playing leftfield for the Bosox, which would mean Jason Bay will not be retained.  The Redbirds made a wise investment bringing Brad Penny on board.  Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan has to be licking his chops, adding Penny to a staff that already has Adam Wainwright & Chris Carpenter.  The Atlanta Braves bolstered their bullpen by adding lefty Billy Wagner and righthander Takashi Saito.  By signing with the Nationals, Ivan Rodriguez will serve as a backup catcher & mentor to Jesus Flores.

I’m sure there’s alot more to come, I’m especially looking forward to the Rule V Draft, which takes place on the 10th.