Hot Stove: Halladay and Lee in a Mega 3-Way

December 14, 2009

Lee will now make the best 1-2 punch in baseball with Kind Felix (artolog/Flickr).

ESPN Report: “A three-way deal that would send Roy Halladay to Philadelphia and Cliff Lee to Seattle is “close” but “not done,” according to two sources familiar with the negotiations…Toronto would get highly regarded Mariners pitching prospect Phillippe Aumont, Phillies catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud and another Phillies prospect in exchange for Halladay. Indications are that the Phillies have balked at Toronto’s repeated requests for outfielder Domonic Brown, and the Phillies are offering highly touted outfielder Michael Taylor instead…Seattle would also send two prospects to Philadelphia in exchange for Lee, who is a year away from free agency.”

Diamond Cutter Spin: Wow, what a deal this is looking to be. If this ends up going through (which it looks like it will) the Phillies get an ace locked up for a few years, the Mariners get another stud pitcher to go with King Felix and the Blue Jays reload their farm system. Looks pretty good all the way around.

I have to say, while this is a good deal for the Phillies considering Halladay (click here for my coverage and scouting report on Halladay) is locked up for a few seasons in Philly, I am really impressed with how aggressive the Mariners have been this winter. They have now added Chone Figgins to the top of their lineup and Cliff Lee to the front of their rotation to go with Felix Hernandez. They are setting themselves up to give the Angels the fight of their lives especially since the Angels have now lost Figgins and their ace John Lackey (to Boston).

Now is the time for the M’s to strike while the Angels are weakened.

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Hot Stove: Winter Meetings Day One Buzz

December 7, 2009

Here’s all the latest new, rumors and buzz around the winter meetings:

When will teams learn their lesson with Bradley? (Kimberly*/Flickr)

• In the day’s biggest rumor, FoxSports.com implied the Rays had inquired about Roy Halladay’s availability and that they may even be willing to part with center fielder BJ Upton and prized pitching prospect Wade Davis. While the Rays deny any discussion of these players, it begs the question of it would even be worth it or not. We all know Upton has star potential and Davis has incredible stuff (click here for my scouting report on him from last year) so unless the Rays could guarantee he would sign an extension, I think the price tag may be too high for only one season. Of course this would all be a moot point if it’s a false claim.

• It now looks as if it will be official that Carl Pavano will accept the arbitration offer from the Minnesota Twins and he will return to be part of their rotation in 2010. This will most likely end any effort of theirs to sign free agents Rich Harden or Jarrod Washburn.

• The Milwaukee Brewers appear to be pushing hard to bring lefty Randy Wolf to their rotation. Wolf is the best left hander available this winter which is why the Mets also appear to be sniffing around the veteran.

• A Brad Penny/St. Louis Cardinals partnership looks like it is on the verge of finalizing with a rumored $7.5 million base salary along with an additional $1.5 in incentives. This is an important contract for the rest of the starting pitchers out there as it will most likely set the tone for the rest of the winter in regards to contracts.

• Besides the Rangers and Rays ties to Milton Bradley, according to ESPN.com there are potentially “2 or 3” other teams who may also be involved in acquiring Bradley. My question is, don’t these teams pay attention to what goes on around the league and what Bradley has done?

• The St. Louis Cardinals appear to be on the verge of Mark DeRosa, Joel Pineiro and Matt Holliday declining their arbitration offers. The Cardinals are still interested in DeRosa, claim to be interested in Holliday and most likely will lose Pineiro due to what he will likely earn in the open market as well as their potential signing of Brad Penny.

More updates tomorrow…


Mauer and Halladay Set Deadlines

December 1, 2009

Mauer should receive his payday any day now (Keith Allison/Flickr).

It appears as if the two biggest names that have been swirling this winter, AL MVP Joe Mauer and ace pitcher Roy Halladay, have set deadlines for their teams to get something done.

The reigning American League MVP has laid down a deadline of opening day for the Twins to resign their franchise player according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. If the Twins don’t by then, Mauer will enter free agency following the season in which the Twins will have absolutely no chance to match dollars with the Yankees and Red Sox. According to reports the Twins do plan on having the issue resolved by Christmas which would make many Twins fans (including myself) sleep better at night.

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Blue Jays only have until the start of spring training to trade their lanky righthander. Following that he will veto any trade attempt (a powerful clause in his contract) in order to avoid distractions during the season. If the Jays can’t get the trade done all they will get is a compensatory draft pick while one of the best pitchers in baseball walks right out the door. They need to get something done ASAP.

I agree that it is extremely important for the players to set deadlines so that it doesn’t carry over into the season. Both sides have plenty of time to make something happen and I expect to see both stories wrapped up in plenty of time for pitchers and catchers to report.

[Update @ 8:25 AM: Halladay’s friend and former teammate AJ Burnett has spoken out about his desire to see the ace land with the Yankees and pitch alongside him once more. This would give the Yankees and incredibly strong top half of the rotation most likely making them the strong favorites to win the AL East again in 2010.]


MLB Hot Stove (Halladay, Granderson, Crisp & More)

November 24, 2009

What outfield will Granderson be patroling next year? (Josh May/Flickr)

This is one of the most exciting times of the year if you are a baseball fan. All the trade speculation. All the free agents floating around looking for a new home. It’s an exciting time.

Between now and the start of spring training, it’s my goal here at The Diamond Cutter to try to keep you updated on all the ins and outs of this off season. I’ll be using a variety of sources from ESPN Insider, MLBTradeRumors.com, local news sites and more.

So without further ado on to the recent flood of speculation…

· ESPN Insider has been repeatedly linking the New York Mets to Roy Halladay which I find to be quite a stretch. I just don’t think the Mets have the prospects available to make a move despite what some “experts” say. Names like Edwin Mejia, Ruben Tejada and prized prospect Fernando Martinez have been mentioned to be possibilities. The blurb also mentions the possibility of the Mets taking on Vernon Wells’ astronomical contract as part of the deal which would definitely sweeten the deal for the Jays.

· According to MLBTradeRumors.com the Chicago White Sox are once again linked to being interested in bringing in free agent Coco Crisp to play center for them in 2010. Crisp had a tough stretch for the Royals hitting only .228/.336/.378 in 215 plate appearances last season during a shortened season due to injury. Crisp definitely still has a lot left in the tank and will make some team very happy next season.

· Both FoxSports.com and ESPN.com have talked quite a bit about the Detroit Tigers moving lead off hitter Curtis Granderson to help cut payroll. FoxSports.com has linked the Los Angeles Angels to the lefty and others have tied him to the Mariners and Cubs. Both intriguing options, but I personally would like to see him land in Seattle alongside Griffey and Ichiro. And speaking of the Tigers, DetNews.com has indicated that Miguel Cabrera has even been added to the list of available Tiger players. That would be the waiving of the white flag in my book.

Nick Johnson is on many radars this winter. (Keith Allison/Flickr)

· ESPN Insider has discussed what options the Seattle Mariners have next season to help bolster their weakened infield. While the club is trying to bring back Russell Branyan to play first base next season, they are going to need to do something with the impending loss of third baseman Adrian Beltre to free agency. Names like Nick Johnson, Jim Thome, Casey Kotchman, Carlos Delgado, Orlando Hudson and Dan Uggla have been tossed in as possible candidates. I plan on digging a bit deeper into the 2010 Seattle Mariners later this week as I bring back the popular “GM for a Day” series where I go into detail of what I would do to turn their ship around.

For a look back at a few of the teams I did this for last year, look to the right hand column of this page under “Best Of” and give it a look. I’m pretty impressed with how many of my ideas took off for these clubs.

· Now it’s time for the lightening round for rumors. Hang on tight as they are coming fast and furious: Slugger Adrian Gonzalez looks to be staying put in San Diego for now…the Twins could have a great present for their fans with a signed MVP catcher by Christmas…the Mets may have interest in bringing in Jack Cust…Jermaine Dye is willing to move to first base if it gets him a job…the Rockies don’t want Mike Lowell to fill their third base hole…the Braves are already looking to move Derek Lowe out of town…and the Phillies have Placido Polanco, Mark DeRosa and Adrian Beltre on their radars to sure up their infield.

Stay tuned for more on this and more MLB rumors!<2


What’s Up Doc?

November 22, 2009

Which team will Halladay lead to the promise land? (ben lei/Flickr)

Despite not even being a free agent, starting pitcher Roy Halladay may be the most talked about and hottest commodity of the winter.

The ace righty has already indicated to his club, the Toronto Blue Jays, that he intends to test the free agent waters after the 2010 season when his contract is up. This negates any chance that the Jays may have hoped to have to sign him to an extension this off season. While this is what they would like people to think, reality is I don’t believe they ever had any intention of doing this as it would have cost them a very large sum of money.

What the Jays will do now is precisely what they tried to do before the trade deadline last summer and that’s to move the ace to the highest bidder. While the price tag is steep, there are teams out there who are willing to unload their farm system in order to add one of the few elite pitchers in the game for an entire season and give them that much better of a chance to win a World Series.

Is Halladay worth depleting an organization’s farm system? Of course this depends on what exactly would be given in exchange for him, but I do believe he is the type of impact arm that can put a team over the top. Here’s a snapshot of my scouting report on him:

Halladay has a smooth, repeatable delivery with a low 3/4 arm slot. He has incredible command of his pitches including a low-90’s tailing fastball, very original change up and a tight curve with a huge bite that can be thrown at any point in the count. Halladay is a workhorse who has thrived in the toughest division in baseball for many, many years. What is scariest about him is how he seems to be getting better with age. The past two seasons he has posted 37 wins, a 2.79 ERA, 18 complete games in 66 games started and 414 strikeouts. Those are incredible numbers for this day in age.

As you can see, he is very much worth the steep price tag. This coupled with Halladay’s thirst to win a World Series and you have yourself a legit workhorse ace.

Now that we have established that Halladay isn’t interested in having his paychecks converted between Canadian and U.S. dollars anymore and that the Jays want to cash in on their potential future Hall of Famer, the question is now who will be able to pull the trigger?

Unfortunately for the state of baseball, the clubs that are most interested (and most willing and able to part with young talent and try to pony up a big time extension) are the normal cast of characters. The Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers are the teams most heavily linked. The only teams who are noticeably absent, the Los Angeles Angels (too many players to try to resign) and New York Mets (an absolute train wreck), are always wild cards and could jump in at any time. But are the others all realistic?

Ace of aces (Keith Allison/Flickr).

Looking at the remaining clubs, they too have issues that may stand in the way of getting a deal done. The Cubs appear out of the running as I don’t believe they have the young talent to package together nor do they have the money to spare as Halladay is owed $15.75 million in 2010. The Phillies system already took a hit last summer when they traded for Cliff Lee down the stretch which they were very hesitant in making in the first place. The Red Sox could potentially swing a deal but they too are leery of moving youngsters not to mention they want to either resign Jason Bay or add Matt Holliday to fill their left field void. That leaves the Yankees and Dodgers.

Thankfully for baseball the Yankees will most likely not be part of the bidding after spending $423 million on only three free agents last winter not to mention a few guys still needing to be resigned this off season. I guess that really only leaves the Dodgers who could use Halladay 10 times more than any of the other teams mentioned above. Halladay would give them an absolute legit veteran starting pitcher to take some of the pressure off youngsters like Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. Basically you’d be looking at the difference between just making the playoffs and making it to the World Series. It’s that big.

So for the sake of baseball, I really do hope that if and when Halladay is moved that he goes to a team other than the big money teams who already have multiple aces to begin with to help spread the wealth a little.

But I guess as long as he doesn’t go to the Yankees that it will be just fine with me.


Roy-al Pain

June 17, 2009

After spending the entire season near the top of the very strong American League East despite numerous pitching injuries, the Toronto Blue Jays now find themselves with their worst injury possible.

Halladay has been one of baseballs best for years (keithallisonphotos.com)

Halladay has been one of baseball's best for years (keithallisonphotos.com)

The news came out today that their ace and definite Cy Young contender Roy Halladay will be placed on the 15-day DL (retroactive to June 13). Halladay left his last start against the Marlins after only three innings with a right groin strain. He tried to throw in a bullpen session this afternoon but still felt tightness and it was decided to shut him down until the end of the month.

This is the worst possible injury the Jays could get tagged with. After a strong 27-14 start, they have faded quickly going 8-17 since. Halladay has been their constant through it all going 10-1 this season with 103 innings pitched (both AL leads) and is ranked fifth with both 88 strikeouts and a 2.53 ERA.

If this news wasn’t bad enough, the Blue Jays also announced today they would be putting their closer, Scott Downs, on the 15-day DL with a sprained big toe. Downs has done a fantastic job since taking over the closer role from the injury-plagued and struggling BJ Ryan earlier this season. Downs is 1-0 with a 1.98 ERA and eight saves.

In a division that has been dominated for years by Boston and New York, it has been refreshing to see the emergence of teams like the Rays and Blue Jays as well as seeing the Orioles begin to get stronger. Hopefully the Jays can keep themselves in the race until Halladay comes back and give the other top teams a run for their money.

News & Notes:

· Ivan Rodriguez passed Carlton Fisk on the all-time list for games caught with number 2,227 today in Texas. A huge congratulations to Pudge for this great accomplishment.

· Veteran righty John Smoltz will finally make his highly anticipated debut with the Red Sox on June 25 against the Washington Nationals. What a huge addition to any rotation this is. I bet the Braves are kicking themselves with how good he’s looked in his rehab starts.

· Jose Canseco is suing Major League Baseball and the players’ association for essentially being banished for using steroids. Now he wants to get Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa to join his cause, or as this new alliance will be better know as, “The Cheater’s Club.”

Matthew Whipps is a writer for Baseball Daily Digest and co-writes the new blog The Minnesota Sports Guys. If you would like to contact him via email you can reach him at whipps15[at]gmail.com


2009 Preview: AL Starting Pitchers

February 26, 2009
Halladay looks to continue his AL East dominance (ben lei/Flickr).

Halladay looks to continue his AL East dominance (ben lei/Flickr).

In my continuing quest to preview the 2009 season, today’s edition will take a look at the top five pitchers in the American League. Not only will this help preview the upcoming season, but also is a nice little fantasy baseball preview if you have an upcoming draft (or as we call it here, “Phantasy Impact”). Below you will find the top five pitchers ranked along with their 2008 stats, my projections for their 2009 stats, a condensed scouting report of mine and a last word on each. As always please share your thoughts on this list or a ranking of your own in the comments section.

[1] C.C. Sabathia, LHP – New York Yankees
2008 Stats: 17-10, 2.70 ERA, 251 K, 1.11 WHIP
2009 Projections: 19-8, 3.55 ERA, 215 K, 1.18 WHIP
Scouting Report: Sabathia has a monstrous, imposing physical presence on the mound. He comes at hitters with a high 3/4 arm action with a slight hesitation in the middle of his delivery. Hides the ball well and unleashes a bevy of pitches including a fasatball (92-96 mph) with good life, a sliding-cutter he jams in on righties, a slurve to lefties and a circle change with an arm speed similar to his fastball. A workhorse that is an ace of aces.
Last Word: Despite having pitched over 500 innings over the past two years combined, Sabathia doesn’t seem to be the type to slow down. I don’t think he will tire out but his stats won’t be quite a strong as he leaves the AL/NL Central and moves to the very powerful AL East where he will have to contend with the lineups of Boston, Tampa Bay and Toronto. He is an incredible competitor and can handle the Big Apple and the sideshow that is the Yankees.

[2] Roy Halladay, RHP – Toronto Blue Jays
2008 Stats: 20-11, 2.78 ERA, 206 K, 1.05 WHIP
2009 Projections: 18-9, 3.18 ERA, 198 K, 1.10 WHIP
Scouting Report: Halladay has a smooth, repeatable delivery with a low 3/4 arm slot. He has incredible command of his pitches including a low-90’s tailing fastball, very original change up and a tight curve with a huge bite that can be thrown at any point in the count. Halladay is a workhorse who has thrived in the toughest division in baseball for many, many years.
Last Word: The American League East was Halladay’s division until the Yankees brought in Sabathia. Now Sabathia is the best of the best and it’s up to Halladay to prove otherwise. He has thrown over 220 innings each of the past three years so some worry about his stability. I don’t think he’s given us any reason to worry, so let’s just assume he’ll be the same Halladay we have come to know and love.

[3] Francisco Liriano, LHP – Minnesota Twins
2008 Stats: 6-4, 3.91 ERA, 67 K, 1.39 WHIP
2009 Projections: 20-6, 2.75 ERA, 225 K, 1.10 WHIP
Scouting Report: Liriano is a strong, athletic lefty with a high 3/4 arm angle. He’s recovering from Tommy John surgery from back in 2006 and this year looks to recover his same dominant stuff from back then. He showed signs of it last season and holds an arsenal of a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball, a hard, slanted slider with bite that hitters can’t touch. His return last year saw his pitch quality and command return.
Last Word: With the amount of time passed since his surgery, Liriano should see his success really start returning this season. It usually takes about a year and a half to start really seeing your pitches return and that’s right about where we are. The only reason he isn’t ranked higher is that the two above him have been more consistent. With how good the Twins rotation is, this right here is their ace and will return to the top of his game in 2009. Look for a serious Cy Young calibur season.

[4] John Lackey, RHP – Los Angeles Angels
2008 Stats: 12-5, 3.75 ERA, 130 K, 1.23 ERA
2009 Projections: 15-11, 3.50 ERA, 170 K, 1.26 WHIP
Scouting Report: Lackey has a sound delivery with a loose 3/4 arm action. He possess an 89-92 mph fastball with good late life that cuts in on lefties, a sharp, late-biting slider and a tight sweeping curveball. Has the ability to throw his breaking stuff at any point in the count. Unlike most, he tends to change speeds off his curveball rather than his change.
Last Word: Lackey isn’t as exciting as Sabathia, as reliable as Halladay or as sexy as Liriano, but he is a very consistent pitcher who will get the job done. Missed the first six weeks of the season last year with a tricep injury, but looks to return to form in 2009 as the ace of the Angels. And with the lack of offense they will provide him, he will need to be on top of his game.

[5] Felix Hernandez, RHP – Seattle Mariners
2008 Stats: 9-11, 3.45 ERA, 175 K, 1.39 WHIP
2009 Projections: 16-11, 3.10 ERA, 190 K, 1.30 WHIP
Scouting Report: Hernandez has an incredible arm and dominating, electric stuff. He attacks hitters with an over the top arm action with an arsenal including a two and four seam fastball (92-97 mph), a powerful slider, two different curves and a well placed change. Uses his four seamer as his predominant strikeout pitch. Has been wildly inconsistent and hasn’t lived up to the “King” billing he received as a rookie. For some reason he doesn’t seem to get up for the lesser teams as he does for the best in the league. Needs to change that before becoming elite.
Last Word: I don’t know what Hernandez’s problem is, but he needs to find his competitive side and unleash it. When he faces the tough teams he comes guns blazing but when he faces the bottom of the barrel it’s almost as if he, as much as I don’t want to say it, doesn’t try as hard. Has the weapons to be one of the best but will struggle to get run support with the anemic Seattle offense.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
diamondcutter@columnist.com

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