Monday, December 8, 2008

MLB Weekly: Yankees CF Options, Greg Maddux Retires, Atlanta Braves, & More

New York Yankees: There have been rumblings all offseason that the Yankees might end up trading for Mike Cameron to play CF. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports feels this is still a possibility:

Right-handed hitting outfielders are in relatively scant supply on the trade market. The White Sox's Jermaine Dye is the most attractive, followed by the Brewers' Mike Cameron, Tigers' Marcus Thames and Rangers' Marlon Byrd. Cameron, signed for $10 million next season, still could end up with the Yankees, perhaps reuniting with Sabathia, his good friend and former Brewers teammate.

Personally, I think the Yankees should forget about Cameron and go after Marlon Byrd to play CF next season. Byrd was once one of the top prospects in the Phillies minor league system and has put together two back to back solid seasons with the Rangers:

2007: .307/10 HR/70 RBI/.355 OBP/.459 SLG/113 OPS+.
2008: .298/10 HR/53 RBI/.380 OBP/.462 SLG/123 OPS+.

That would be an upgrade in CF for the Yankees over Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner, who they could still use occasionally in CF, perhaps against tougher right-handed pitching. Byrd is only around league average defensively in CF, but it appears that he is not a butcher out there and would play well enough.

Some other reasons the Yankees should look at Marlon Byrd in CF over Mike Cameron:

- Byrd is much cheaper than Cameron making only $1.8 million compared to Cameron's $10 million option for 2009. It would probably take much less to acquire him in a trade than it would take to acquire Cameron. The Yankees would also be getting better production for their money, with Byrd putting up OPS+ numbers of 113 and 123 the past two seasons, while Cameron has only had an OPS+ of 103 and 110 the past two years.

- Byrd is 4 years younger than Cameron, so if he plays well he will be worth keeping around. Cameron is older, but I believe he is only signed for 2009, which means he would be easy to move if needed, especially if Austin Jackson is ready to play in CF in 2010. Byrd would be just as easy to move and is more likely to accept a 4th OF type role if Jackson was ready to play.

- Cameron is a strikeout machine and with age his K totals most likely will only go up. The past three seasons Cameron has struck out 142, 160, and 142 times. Players who strike out this much are often useless in the playoffs, because the best pitchers know how to get hitters like Cameron out. This is why Cameron has a playoff batting average of just .174, with 29 strike outs in 27 games.

Greg Maddux: All-time great pitcher, Greg Maddux, retired after 23 seasons. There's really not much you can say about Maddux that hasn't been said before. The man is a lock to be a first ballot Hall of Fame selection, with 355 wins, 4 Cy Youngs, and 18 Gold Golves. His 355 wins are 8th all-time and the most of any pitcher who started playing after 1965. Maddux was never an overpowering pitcher, but still managed to accumulate 3,371 strikeouts over his career, which is good for 10th all-time. His career ERA of 3.16 is also not too shabby either. Overall, Greg Maddux had a tremendous career and will always be in the discussion when people talk about the greatest pitchers of all-time. His retirement means that he will up for election to the Hall of Fame in the same season as recently retired Mike Mussina. I didn't think Mussina had any chance to make the Hall of Fame in the first year he was eligible, but with Maddux being eligible in the same year there will be no way Mussina will be a first ballot Hall of Fame selection.

Atlanta Braves: Maddux's former team has been quite busy in the offseason. The Braves had been rumored to be involved in a trade for Padres pitcher Jake Peavy, but instead they traded for pitcher Javier Vazquez. Along with Vazquez, they also received relief pitcher Boone Logan in exchange for 4 minor league prospects: catcher Tyler Flowers, infielders Jonathan Gilmore and Brent Lillibridge and left-handed pitcher Santos Rodriguez. Vazquez has been mostly a league average pitcher since being acquired by the Yankees in 2004. He has posted ERA+ totals of 92, 100, 98, 127, and 98 since then, so he is pretty much a league average starter since that would be defined by a 100 ERA+. I think Vazquez will benefit from pitching in the National League, but he is definitely not an ace pitcher and is more like a 3rd starter at this point.

The Braves also look to have the inside track on signing free agent pitcher A.J. Burnett. Word on the street is that the Braves have offered Burnett a 5 year deal for close to $75 million. Burnett is a solid pitcher when healthy, but being healthy is not his strength and he is seen as a risk to sign to such a lucrative contract. However, to his credit he has averaged over 180 innings pitched the last 4 seasons and has numbers(731 IP, 113 ERA+) similar to Josh Beckett(758 IP, 115 ERA+) and Tim Hudson(776 IP, 113 ERA). Of all pitchers to average 175 innings or more in the past seasons, he is ranked 16th in ERA+. Some of the pitchers above him on the list include names like Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, C.C. Sabathia, Brandon Webb and many other ace pitchers. In other words, he is only slightly worse than most # 1 pitchers, and would probably be a good addition to a Braves rotation that already includes Tim Hudson, Vazquez, and Jair Jurrjens. I could see the Braves competing with the Phillies and Mets next season and possibly even winning the division if they add Burnett and he stays healthy.

Other MLB News:

- Apparently, 34 year old free agent pitcher Derek Lowe is looking for a 5 year-$90 million contract and Brian Cashman and the Yankees have shown heavy interest in signing Lowe. As you know, I believe that signing Lowe to a lucrative contract of more than 3 or 4 seasons would be colossal mistake. Unless Lowe's sinker ball has the same effectiveness as Phil Niekro's knuckleball and Gaylord Perry's spitballs then I think whoever signs Lowe is only going to get 2 or 3 solid years from him. Signing him for 5 years at $18 million annually seems a little excessive to me.

- Word on the street is that the Twins are looking to move Delmon Young just one year after trading Matt Garza and Jason Barlett to the Rays to acquire him. Young was a huge prospect coming up in the Tampa Bay organization, but he has yet to develop the power that many thought he would hitting only 10 home runs last year and just 26 in his 3 year career. Of course Young is still only 23 years old and has plenty of time to develop. If I were the Twins, then I would only move Young and his cannon arm if the right deal came along.

- Robinson Cano is still on trading block too, who I believe could be in line for a breakout season in 2009 and would be a mistake to move. The Yankees have been most actively talking to the Dodgers about trading Cano. Seems like the most likely swap would still be for CF Matt Kemp, but apparently the Yankees asked for pitchers Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw as well. I don't see the Dodgers trading either one of them for Cano, but a trade for Kemp is certainly possible.

- The Giants signed SS Edgar Renteria to a 2 year-$18.5 million contract. Renteria had one of the worst seasons of his career last year, but seems more comfortable in the NL, so the change of scenery could help him out. This is also a good move for the Giants since they will only be committed to Renteria for 2 years. Of course, if this contract turns out anything like the Dodgers' contract with Andruw Jones, then even one season might seem too long to have Renteria around.
- SS Rafael Furcal rejected the Oakland A's offer for 4 years-$35-$40 million, however there doesn't seem to be much of a market for Furcal right now and he could still end up with the A's. There are also rumors that the A's are interested in signing Randy Johnson. Johnson needs just 10 wins to reach 300 for his career.

More: MLB & MLB Weekly

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