Monday, November 20, 2006
NFL "Expert" Picks
The Market Says...
Good Monday Morning! Thank you to all that contributed to the Comments and discussion questions last Friday and over the weekend!
I was glad to have a chance to spend an hour (or more) talking to my good friend "Kunza" on Saturday morning. While talking, he made the comment that he likes to check out the transactions every morning just hoping that the Twins finally made a big splash. That just once, it would be the Twins signing the big name free agent for the big money. That the Twins would take a big gamble financially and not worry quite so much about fiscal responsibility. He asked, "When was the last time that the Twins signed a big name free agent?" We decided that it was Paul Molitor, in 1996. I said that if not for Kirby Puckett's career ending glaucoma, the Twins probably could have signed a couple more big names just because they would want to play with him. 1996 was just before the big, big financial boom of the 2000 and especially 2001 offseasons. Dave Winfield, Terry Steinbach and Paul Molitor were the past big name free agents to sign with the Twins, and yet they were all home-town guys. It was an interesting topic, one of many that we had.
But then on Sunday afternoon, I was driving back home, listening to ESPN radio. Their 'SportsCenter' update talked NFL, then college football and the BCS, then even NASCAR. But then their final note was that ESPN 100 in Chicago was reporting that the Cubs had agreed to a contract with Alfonso Soriano for eight years and $136 million, pending a physical. See, I would think that would be fairly large news. The best hitter on the free agent market signs and monstrous contract in terms of both years and dollars, and it was just a side note? I had to wait 20 minutes until the next SportsCenter update to ensure that was what I had heard. That is $17 million a year for eight years!
Now, those who have read this site for awhile know that I am not a huge fan of Soriano's. I think he is a good player, even a great offensive player, but someone who I have always been a little leery of. If we go back to my preseason 2006 Fantasy Update information and projection for Soriano, it said:
CF – Alfonso Soriano
I'm sure a lot of people won't like or agree with this projection. Soriano has not had an OPS below .800 since his first full big league season with the Yankees in 2001. And I project him barely over .700. In his past four seasons, he has averaged 41 doubles, 35 homers and 97 RBI. But there is a lot going against him in 2006. First, moving from hitter-friendly Arlington to the vastness of RFK Stadium is not good. Second, he has terrible plate discipline. Take him away from Arlington, and I fear that he becomes Torii Hunter, if even that! Finally, he has just a horrible attitude. Now, Manny Ramirez can get away with that because he is actually a good overall hitter. It is an interesting year coming for Soriano, especially since it is a contract year for him, his first free agency. The team wants him to play in the OF. As a Corner Outfielder, he is league average, at best. As a 2B, he is one of the elite (not with my projected numbers, but historically). So, I can understand his unwillingness to move.
Player G AB R H 2B 3B HR TB RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
Soriano 148 577 63 146 29 2 21 242 66 36 118 23 6 .253 .297 .419 .716
Well, in that case, I was certainly wrong. His transition from Arlington to RFK was not a problem at all! His plate discipline, with an Isolated Discipline of .074, was better than any other season in his career. He proved that he can be every bit a talent/attitude guy as Manny Ramirez. And, I am certain that the reason he was hesitant to shift from 2B to outfield was a concern in his Value compared to other 2B versus against other Corner Outfielders.
How did he do? Well, let's take a look at these numbers:
Player G AB R H 2B 3B HR TB RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
Soriano 159 647 119 179 41 2 46 362 95 67 160 41 17 .277 .351 .560 .911
In short, I was completely wrong about Alfonso Soriano in 2006!
So, you would think I would learn, right? Last week, in my look at the free agent OF, I wrote this in my Soriano summary, "His 2006 season makes many forget that his production had fallen each of the previous three years." Well, I am guessing that I won't be the only one who says that the Cubs made a big splash, but that it probably was not smart. Soriano clearly is a star and deserved a huge pay day. I will not argue that. However, eight years! In eight years, 2014, Soriano will be 38 years old. Assuming that will be his largest salaried year, as it certainly would be, he would be paid well over $17 million that year. Now, maybe he will still be worth it. Maybe he will continue his power and speed abilities for another eight seasons. However, you would have to assume that he will have lost at least some of his speed by that time, and speed is a big part of his game.
Now, he moved to LF last year with the Nationals. I keep hearing that he had a good defensive season because he had so many assists. Well, people don't run on the truly good outfielders. Now, the Cubs will ask him to move to CF. How will he handle that transition? It should be easier than a corner spot, however, now he will have to play in the wind of Chicago. It could be fun seeing the blooper reels of him out there! Offensively, he has a similar game to Carlos Beltran of the Mets. But defensively, they are like night and day.
The Cubs clearly are being aggressive this offseason. To this point, they have set the market for a number of positions. Soriano's contract sets the market for top outfielders on the market (like Carlos Lee), but for any of the high-end free agents. The Cubs also signed Wade Miller to a $1.5 million contract. So now the market for pitchers who were good four or five years ago and have been injured ever since. Included in that is Kerry Wood who the Cubs signed for $1.8 million. They also set the market for horrible hitting backup catchers by signing Henry Blanco to a two year, $5.5 million contract. They also signed Aramis Ramirez to a five year, $73 million extension, but that isn't a horrible signing.
Finally, this is the Cubs we are talking about. They added these players and manager Lou Pinella. And for what? To disappoint their fans again? To finish in the bottom half of the NL Central? To bog down their salary structure for the next decade!? The fact remains that right now, they have Carlos Zambrano and a bunch of question marks in the starting rotation. Their bullpen, with the possible exceptions of Bob Howry and Scott Eyre, is horrible too. We hear that the Cubs aren't done and will look to add pitching. Maybe they will sign a mid-level guy or two, but we will see.
And really, what has overpaying even done for a big league team? The Yankees overpay several players, giving older veteran types too much money later in their career. When is the last time they won a World Series? So, I find what the Cubs are doing interesting, dumb and comical all at one time.
It is just another reason that I am a Twins fan!
As I mentioned above, I am just an intrigued by the daily transactions and the rumor mill. I wish that the Twins would make a big splash sometimes. But having seen the types of contracts, the length of contracts and the number of dollars being shelled out, I do not want the Twins to be a player in this market. First, there are not really any free agents out there that the Twins should really consider in the first place. I think they could use a lefty reliever, but when Jamie Walker gets a three year, $12 million deal, and 40 year old Mike Stanton gets a two year deal, I just don't think that the Twins need to go in that direction. Likewise, I would like to see the Twins get a decent 3B guy to at least split time with Nick Punto, but then my choice, Wes Helms signed a two year, $5 million contract with the Phillies, and I now think that the Twins should stay away from that position as well.
In terms of free agents, I think it best for the Twins to wait around and let the 'names' get way more money than they deserve. Why handicap yourself with bad deals just because it is what everyone else is doing? No, wait until next spring when there are still some guys out there, guys who by then will be willing to sign a more team-friendly offer sheet. Will they be the impact players like Soriano or Carlos Lee? Of course not, but let's not forget that the Twins offense is already in decent shape.
The other thing that is becoming increasingly obvious is that if the Twins are going to make some changes to the roster, it will have to be done via the trade route. It will be interesting to see what Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt get because they will set the pitcher's market. However, when I hear that the next level, guys like Ted Lilly, Gil Meche and Adam Eaton are likely to get eight to ten million dollars a year for three or four years, I want nothing to do with that! But then when a guy like Jason Jennings of the Rockies becomes available via trade, I am intrigued. Is he a great pitcher? No. Is he a solid #3 type of pitcher. Yes. Just like those second tier guys that are about to get $8-10 million for a few years. Suddenly Jennings' $5.75 million, one year deal doesn't look so bad, does it? First, it isn't huge dollars. Second, it is just one year so if it doesn't work out, the Twins won't have to suffer!
This is another reason that Terry Ryan is a wise man! He has said all along that the free agent market is weak. With about three or four exceptions, he is right. I did think that there were a few guys that the Twins could use and that might fit in the Twins salary structure, but having seen how the market is going so far, even those guys are pricing themselves out of the Twins bracket. Ryan has said that looking creatively at trades is the way to go, and with the Soriano deal especially, I completely agree.
Here's how much this is affecting my thought process... and bear with me... I am almost starting to think that, based on this market, Torii Hunter just might be worth that $12 million that the Twins agreed to pay him in 2007! Brad Radke sure must be considering surgery and a comeback!! Based on what he has done in his career, he could be up for $12-15 million too!
Any thoughts on the free agent market this year? Should the Twins target anyone, or just go after trades? Maybe they're doing just fine with what they have and the prospects they have accumulated! Let me know what you think. E-mail me or leave some Comments below.
Check out the massive stock of Beloit Snappers Game-Used jerseys which will go on sale on Monday (TODAY!!). You will want to check out this link to see how much the jerseys cost and how to get yours!!
There are several diaries on Twins prospects over at John Sickels' site from the weekend.
There is a diary on Alex Romero.
There is also a diary doing a comparison of Erik Lis and Lyle Overbay! That's a nice comparable!
One other discussion is in regard to how Francisco Liriano will perform when he comes back in 2008.
Aaron Gleeman is starting his Top 40 Twins Prospects list with Prospects 36-40.
That's it for today. Check back tomorrow as their will be more! Please feel free to comment or e-mail me on anything. If there are topics you would like covered, or articles that you think I should link to, please make me aware of it. Thanks and have a great day!
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