Let there be news – Volume 4

Let There Be News is a recap of the most interesting stories from the previous week.

Commission Bud Selig earned a two-year extension this week. I will defer analysis to Brian Borowski. He undoubtedly will have plenty to say on Wednesday in his weekly Business of Baseball column.

Before hitting the content, is there any interest in adding a weekly transactions feature to this column? It would add a lot of work and would take the place of the fourth story, so I’m only going to try it out if there is a high level of interest.

No. 4: The Rays sign Luke Scott

In what has become an annual tradition, the Rays found their probable 2012 DH on the retread pile. Scott’s contract calls for $5 million in 2012 with a $6 million option for 2013. A $1 million buyout guarantees Scott $6 million.

The Rays have received praise for the move, as they often do. Let’s face it, the Rays make a lot of intelligent moves. Sideline Scholars discusses the similarities between Scott and another left-handed bat—Carlos Pena.

Scott comes with some baggage, both real and perceived. A shoulder injury ruined his 2011 season and isn’t expected to be fully healed until sometime midseason. To fantasy owners, Scott is known for his epic streaks, both of the positive and negative variety. He’s been known to hit like a shortstop for months at a time, only to morph into an All-Star caliber batter without warning. He also owns some worrisome splits. But let’s not read too far into those.

And of course, Scott is one of those rare athletes who doesn’t put stock in being politically correct.

Given the injury and history of inconsistency, could it be possible that the Rays are getting too much credit for this move? Think about it from another perspective. If the Royals signed Scott to the same deal (let’s pretend they don’t have Billy Butler for a second), what do you think the reaction would have been like?

No. 3: The Nationals extend Gio Gonzalez

The Gio Gonzalez trade was the top story in LTBN Volume 1, making him the first player to be featured twice in this column. The Nationals wasted no time locking up Gonzalez through 2016 with options for 2017 and 2018. According to Enrique Rojas, the deal is rumored to be worth $42 million with the options bringing the total to $65 million.

With Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg under contract through 2016 and Jordan Zimmermann through 2015, the Nationals have built a youthful counter to the Phillies’ trio of aces. Unlike the aging Phillies unit, the Nationals trio of “aces” may have its best days still ahead.

The combination of youth and talent in the nation’s capital is impressive. Assuming the Nationals convert that talent into future playoff appearances, they will have provided a textbook example of how to rebuild a struggling franchise.

As for Gonzalez, after pinballing from Chicago to Philadelphia to Chicago to Oakland and now to Washington, it’s nice that he will have a chance to settle down. There should be a few years before trade rumors start kicking up again, right?

No. 2: The Reds sign Ryan Madson

Who had Madson to the Reds on a one-year deal in the pool? Please come down to collect your prize.

Oh, nobody had Madson to the Reds? That’s not surprising. The Reds clearly do not have the funds to sign a relief pitcher to an expensive, multi-year contract. By waiting out the relief market—whether by design or pure happenstance—the Reds made out like bandits.

Closers are generally overvalued, at least according to the Fangraphs WAR model, but Madson is one of the few relievers worth a hefty investment. The deal inspired Tom Verducci to comment about baseball’s new reliever spending habits.

Since returning to the bullpen full-time in 2007, Madson has posted ERAs ranging from 23 to 38 percent better than league average. His best numbers have come in 2010 and 2011 as he’s learned to master his deadly fastball-change up repertoire.

Kudos to the Reds for jumping on a low-risk opportunity.

Of course, the interesting part of this story is the “civilized” back and forth between Madson’s agent, Scott Boras, and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. THT’s own Greg Simons did an excellent job translating Boras’ comments from high English to common English.

Amaro, noted king of smugness, stated that there was never an agreement in place and that the Phillies simply went in another direction.

This story figures to come up periodically over the next few years. File it away for your next cocktail party.

No. 1: Yankees acquire Michael Pineda, Hiroki Kuroda

Hiroki Kuroda is probably one of the least interesting pitchers in baseball. That’s a good thing, especially when it costs only $10 million on a one-year contract to acquire him.

The interesting part of the Yankees’ lightning redesign of their rotation was the trade. The Yankees sent top prospect Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Mariners for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos.

These kinds of trades simply don’t happen very often. Pineda is essentially a top prospect in his own right. He had a successful rookie campaign in Seattle, but there were concerns from the start of spring training that he needed more development, and that still seems to be the case.

However, Cashman has stated his belief that Pineda will develop into an ace.

With the Yankees’ resources, finding an adequate designated hitter will be a much easier task than finding a pitcher with Pineda’s raw talent, experience and cheap cost.

Coverage of the trade focuses on the Yankees, but the Mariners seem to have done well for themselves. They will hope that Montero can grow defensively as a catcher, where his bat will be among the best at the position. The best-case scenario seems to be a Mike Piazza situation, where Montero’s bat more than makes up for indifferent defensive skills.

Unlike the Yankees, luring a free agent hitter to Safeco Field is a challenge for the Mariners. With Felix Hernandez under contract, Danny Hultzen on the horizon, and a number of interesting arms rounding out the rotation, the Mariners definitely dealt from a position of strength for a pressing need.

With Noesi, the Mariners hope they have received a pitcher who can match Pineda’s 3.74 ERA from 2011. Noesi is a command and control guy whose stuff plays up due to precision, so he should find the transition to Safeco a friendly one.

If you’re looking for a quick and dirty scouting report, Mark Anderson of Baseball Prospect Nation does a nice job summarizing the players involved. He also links to a full write-up on Montero. John Sickels also provides his usual awesome reports.

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Comments

  1. Nick Fleder said...

    “Given the injury and history of inconsistency, could it be possible that the Rays are getting too much credit for this move? Think about it from another perspective. If the Royals signed Scott to the same deal (let’s pretend they don’t have Billy Butler for a second), what do you think the reaction would have been like?”

    I see your point, but the fact is that Scott may well help the Rays to victory, whereas he would be a placeholder on the non-competitive Royals. Sure, Scott has the same potential return-on-investment, but the fact is—can the team actual use that ROI and will it help them win? For the Rays, yes, for the Royals, no.

  2. Brad Johnson said...

    That’s a fair point.

    I think it’s fair to say that the Rays aim to pay something on the order of $2.5 mil per win. And I have trouble buying Luke Scott as a 2 win player coming off a shoulder injury.

  3. Nick Fleder said...

    Interesting. I failed to consider the fact that the Rays might pay only $2.5 mill per win, rather than the typical $5 mill.

  4. Ariel said...

    Oh, Madson! Why did you have to leave us? We loved you so! Oh, well. On to the next one. smile Thanks for the posting!

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