Saturday, January 19, 2008

AL Central Round-Up. 1/19/08.

Chicago White Sox

  • Yet another former Royals reliver is ready to sign with the White Sox. This time it's the 34-year-old Octavio Dotel. In attempts to rehab a combustible bullpen, Sox General Manager Kenny Williams has been rumored to offer a two-year, $11 million dollar contract to the righty. In the previous season, Williams tried to pacify relief troubles presented at the end of 2006 with the power-arms of Mike MacDougal (Royal), Matt Thornton, David Aardsma and Andrew Sisco (another Royal), which only led to a bullpen in 2007 that finished 19-25 with a 5.47 era. The lone bright spot was closer Bobby Jenks who finished with a 2.77 era and a batting average against of .198. Dotel, who split 2007 between Kansas City and Atlanta, finished the year with a 29.7% strike out rate and a 8.7% walk rate in 33 appearances. However Dotel can be spanked hard. In that span, Dotel allowed 29 hits and 41.3% of them when for extra bases.
  • Like Cleveland after 2006 who signed Keith Foulke and Joe Borowski, the front office of the White Sox have determined that they need to fortify the bullpen, unfortunately for Williams, through the expensive reliever free agency. After signing former Brewer Scott Linebrink to a four-year, $19 million dollar contract, the Sox have turned to Dotel who will make $11 million for half the years as Linebrink. The allocation of $10.25 million in two players next season just highlights how important a pipeline of pitchers developed from within is to an organization. While Joe Nathan of the Twins stands to make $5.25 million in 2008, for the price of Linebrink/Dotel - two underwhelming relievers - the Twins have Nathan, Juan Rincon, Jesse Crain and Dennys Reyes. For just a year's worth of Dotel, the Twins can deploy Matt Guerrier, Glen Perkins and Pat Neshek and still have change left over. Keeping a steady flow of pitching prospects ready to substitute for anyone in your bullpen with the same results is the best route when trying to keep your budget down. The Sox, meanwhile, have been trading away a good amount of prospects this offseason including pitchers Gio Gonzales and Fautino de los Santos. Gonzales lead the organization with 185 strikeouts while de los Santos was the tops in era (2.65) and opponents average (.163).
  • Joe Crede will return to US Cellular for at least part of the year after avoiding arbitration by signing a one-year, $5.15 million dollar contract. The media has speculated with the emergence of Josh Fields (who is making $400k this season), Crede has been deemed expendable. After injuries sidelined him after 167 plate appearances, it was obvious that Crede's power was depleted after finishing with a .101 isolated power average while hitting about the .200 mark in 2006 and 2005. Crede flashes very good leather so he will make an excellent trade candidate for those seeking glove love at third as evident by his revised zone ratings. In the two seasons prior to his back injury, Crede finished 3rd and 5th among AL third baseman in RZR category and also was displayed range as seen in his Out of Zone numbers. He also supports his glove by carrying a strong bat as well. Provided that his back is fully healed from surgery, Crede should attact plenty of suitors interested in an affordable third baseman. While I am not dismissing Mike Lamb's abilities just yet, it would be nice to have a well-rounded third baseman who can add both offensively and defensively to the line up.

Brandon Inge (Detroit) .780 49 .776
Mike Lowell (Boston) .765 43 .814
Joe Crede (Chicago) .760 57 .828
Adrian Beltre (Seattle) .721 61 .792
Eric Chavez (Oakland) .717 37 .786

AL - 2005




Eric Chavez (Oakland)




Bill Mueller (Boston)




Brandon Inge (Detroit)




Melvin Mora (Baltimore)




Joe Crede (Chicago)




Cleveland Indians

  • The Cleveland Plain Dealer has an excellent profile on Indians prospect Jordan Brown. First baseman Brown has won two consecutive league MVPs. In 2006, at high-A Kingston, Brown finished .286/.349/.469 while gaining extra bases in 36.0% of his hits coupled with a solid walk rate (9.6%) and a low strike out rate (11.1%). For an encore, Brown was moved up to double-A Akron in 2007 where he improved to .333/.421/.484, hit for extra bases in 30% of his hits and significantly improved his plate discipline (12.5% bb%|9.9% k%). Brown has been drawing comparisons to Sean Casey and Mark Grace for his plate approach, but his Casey comparison might be the most telling. Like Casey who found himself blocked by mighty Jim Thome, Brown is currently blocked by Ryan Garko, Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez. He will begin 2007 with Buffalo but could be relocated to another club when/if the Indians begin needing help in other positions.
  • Weird fact: Koreans apparently do not use a pitch count. Indians Tommy John recovering outfielder Shin-soo Choo said that his ligament damage could have been traced back to his pitching days in Korea where in one stretch, Choo threw 44 innings in five games in one week. That's an average of 8 innings for those 5 games.
  • The Dealer's columnist Paul Hoynes who answers readers questions in his column 'Hey, Hoynsie!' recently responded to this inquiry:

Q: Hey, Hoynsie: Would the Indians have any interest in Kevin Mench? His career seemed very promising, but has really dropped off. - Richard Foderaro, Parma.

A: Hey, Richard: Let me get this straight, you want the Indians to acquire a player that's on the downside of his career?

OK, I got that out of my system. Several years ago the Indians had interest in Mench. I'm guessing that has cooled like his power production.

  • To me, the answer begs the question: what are you basing "power production" on? Again, as someone who is biased for the acquisition of a guy like Mench who can absolutely mash left-handed pitching, my view may be some what skewed. If you are looking at his standard numbers like rbis and homers, yes, it appears that he is in a decline. However when you look closer at the quality of the at-bats and hits provided, you see a different story. First, Mench's strikeout rate went from 12.0% in 2006 to 6.8% in 2007. Secondly his power did decline slightly in 2006 but rebounded in 2007. In 2005, Mench hit for extra bases in 41.4% of his hits. In 2006, split between Texas and Milwaukee Mench hit for extra bases in 32.5% of his hits. Last year, he improved to 40%. Both Trot Nixon and David Dellucci finished behind Mench in these areas.

Detroit Tigers

  • I don't know if I would refer to it as an ill-advised signing, but once again this indicates the necessity of being able to develop left-handed starting pitching internally to avoid high-payouts to mediocre pitchers like Nate Robertson. 30-year-old Robertson inked a three-year, $21.25 million dollar deal avoiding arbitration. He stands to make a modest $4.25 in 2008, but will earn a substantial amount more in the next two seasons: $7 million in 2009 and $10 million in 2010. In the previous three seasons, Robertson has yet to finish above .500%. ESPN describes his "best" season as the one where he finished 13-13 with a 3.84 era in 2006 - a season where he was accountable for 20% of the losses. His walk rate is typically right around league average while his strike out rate is slightly below average. This means that he is heavily reliant on his defense to make plays. In the "best" season, his low era was reflective of a low babip (.282) which had been consistently above .300 and his FIP (4.77) was nearly a run higher than the era (3.84). The 2008 salary might be a bargain, but the subsequent $17 million might prove to be a burden when trying to unload a pitcher when he fails to produce at the 2006 season levels.
  • Detroit Free Press's (and Baseball America contributor) John Paul Morosi has revealed his list of Top 10 Tigers prospects, highlighted by rhp Rick Porcello who has yet to have any professional experience. Five of which were added AFTER the trades with Florida and Atlanta.

Kansas City Royals

  • Nothing of substance has emerged from Kansas City, except several rumors tying free agent pitcher Bartolo Colon to Kauffman. USS Mariner analyzed the potential of signing a player like Colon who had missed significant time in 2007 and called him the "hidden gem of the free agent pitching" market. A deal that could be reasonable considering his recent stretch on the disable list that has scared other suitors away and would put him within the Royals' price range. Colon in the rotation along with Gil Meche and sophomore Brian Bannister could give the Royals one of their better three starting combinations in the rotation since Gubicza, Saberhagen and Liebrandt 20 years ago in 1988. It still wouldn't make the Royals a contender, especially when considering the league that they are in, but it does give a reason to go to the K before renovations start.
  • Avoided arbitration with Gload, Buck and de la Rosa. The fans rejoice.

Minnesota Twins

  • The broken arm of Jose Mijares is going to sideline him for four-to-six months. The lefty had superficially good season for New Britain where he went 5-3 with a 3.57 era in 46 appearances. Mijares is a bit wild and would have had to have shone up his control had he wanted to advance to Minnesota. He had a 17.5% walk rate which he did offset with a 27.3% strikeout rate. Rochester would have been a more obtainable goal in 2008.
  • Avoided arbitration on Morneau, Kubel and Rincon...still waiting on Cuddyer and Guerrier.
  • Joe Christensen tries to context the Santana saga by rehashing the Chuck Knoblauch trade.
  • Seth has an interview with Kevin Slowey.