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{Insider} Gammons article...mentions Backe

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by NJRocket, Dec 5, 2005.

  1. NJRocket

    NJRocket Contributing Member

    Jul 23, 2001
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    DALLAS -- As general managers, agents, club officials, more agents, minor-league operators, job seekers, yet more agents and the media began gathering in the lobby of the Wyndham Anatole by noon Sunday, the first 24 hours were expected to set off a number of chain reactions.


    Once A.J. Burnett, the free-agent market's most desirable starting pitcher, and Rafael Furcal, arguably the market's best position player, are officially signed (both deals could be done by Monday), then other players can begin to move. Furcal appears headed to the Dodgers for three years and $39 million, which would put him back on the market in his prime.

    Once Burnett is signed, then Scott Boras can begin to position his pitching troika of Kevin Millwood, Jarrod Washburn and Jeff Weaver. Matt Morris can boil down his options. Kenny Rogers and Paul Byrd have two-year deals but are looking for three. The Red Sox can see if there is a greater market for David Wells than the Padres, who can't trade Akinori Otsuka if they don't re-sign Trevor Hoffman. Then Arizona GM Josh Byrnes can move on with Javier Vazquez, the Mets with Kris Benson. If Burnett is a Blue Jay, then they can market Miguel Batista.

    Oh yes, and A's GM Billy Beane will sit there and wait for a line to form for Barry Zito, with a requirement of at least two pitchers for entrance to his suite.

    "Billy is in a great position," says one AL GM. "He can go for it in 2006 with Zito, or he can sit and wait until he gets what he wants."

    "There must be 20 teams looking for starting pitching," says one GM. "So the Pirates, who have one or two they can move for bats, will eventually have a big market. So will the Astros, if they decide to move Brandon Backe for a bat."

    Once Furcal has signed, the rest of the shortstop market can move. The Devil Rays can then see what they can get for Julio Lugo, and then everyone named Alex Gonzalez can begin to find out where they will end up.

    If Hoffman does not sign with the Indians, then that may open the door for Bob Wickman to return to Cleveland. Todd Jones waits for Hoffman, Tampa Bay waits holding Danys Baez and the Orioles hold Jorge Julio. And what will Hirotoshi Ishii get as a prime left-handed reliever if the Yakult Swallows decide to post him in what has become a curiously veiled story.

    The one position where there may be more available players than buying teams is catcher. The Mets, Astros, Padres, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies all want catchers. Bengie Molina, Ramon Hernandez and Brad Ausmus are free agents; Paul Lo Duca, Ivan Rodriguez, Johnny Estrada and Toby Hall are available. The Pads had discussed an Adam Eaton deal with Texas for catcher Gerald Laird and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. If the Mets deal for Lo Duca, that badly weakens the market value of Molina and Hernandez.


    Among leadoff-hitting center fielders, Johnny Damon is the best, but Boras is still arguing for seven years. That isn't going to happen, but Boras' best-selling book about Damon did make a very strong case for the fact that Damon is remarkably durable and reliable. Bill Lajoie, Jed Hoyer and Craig Shipley have made it clear that Boston badly wants Damon back, but Boras needs to see if he can get the Yankees -- who may play at four years and $45M -- or someone else from California or Detroit involved. Kenny Lofton, who had a terrific year (.392 OBP in 110 games for the Phillies) is a free agent, as well.

    Available in trades are Darin Erstad, Milton Bradley (Oakland?) and the two most intriguing players, Juan Pierre and Joey Gathright. As of right now, there are eight to 10 teams on Gathright, who, as one baseball official says, "is younger, faster and cheaper" than Pierre. Tampa Bay doesn't have to trade Gathright, but there are enough teams -- like the Dodgers, Rangers and others -- interested because he is a legitimate and cheap way to acquire pitching. OK, Pierre had a rough 2005, but the previous two years he did have a combined .368 on-base percentage, and he is a person of extraordinary energy and character. The Cubs are in, even as they wait on Furcal, and so are the Rangers and Yankees. The latter had been reluctant to move on Pierre because he would bat ninth for them; they want their best five hitters getting the most at-bats. The Yankees have concerns about his arm and defensive routes, but if he were cheap enough ...


    Now that Brian Giles has returned home, the free-agent market is weak, with Jacque Jones the best man standing, looking for $21M for three years. There are some intriguing, well sought-after names, like Kevin Mench, Trot Nixon, Brad Wilkerson and the Cincinnati crew of Austin Kearns, Adam Dunn (Boston requested medical records) and Wily Mo Pena.

    But the big names are Manny Ramirez and Bobby Abreu. They are not going to be swapped for one another, but their names could get linked in multi-team deals. At this point, since Cliff Floyd has Boston on his no-trade list, even the Mets don't seem capable of putting together a package for Manny. They may try to do a multi-team with the Angels if Artie Moreno so directs GM Bill Stoneman, or they can do something with the Rangers, who may eventually spin Alfonso Soriano to the Mets (though $10 million as a fifth-year arbitration case makes Soriano pretty untradeable). Abreu is out there to get pitching. Boston loves him and would consider a deal for Nixon and Matt Clement, but if they trade Clement or Wells, they have to get pitching back.

    Mike Piazza and Frank Thomas are intriguing cases. The Twins and A's are two teams interested in Thomas, and while there are several who have kicked the tires on Piazza, one GM says "he takes so much pride in his catching that he still wants to get behind the plate as much as possible." Carl Everett is still a viable DH/outfielder who brings fire to any team.

    Troy Glaus is a major piece with a big contract. Aubrey Huff is very available. So is Sean Casey, who intrigues the Red Sox if they don't get too left-handed dealing Ramirez. The Brewers will trade Lyle Overbay for pitching. The Pirates will move Craig Wilson for a corner bat. The Nationals will discuss Nick Johnson or Wilkerson for the right center fielder or pitching, and GM Jim Bowden does not come to these affairs to stand in the lobby and talk.


    Hank Blalock was in the Rangers deal for Josh Beckett, but he would cost a lot. Soriano is another story. Bill Mueller (Dodgers, White Sox, Twins) and Nomar Garciaparra (Indians, Pirates, Orioles) will end up playing third base and somewhere, respectively.

    Free agents Mark Grudzielanek and Tony Graffanino have quite a bit of interest; both seek two-year contracts. The Cardinals are not supposed to offer Grudzielanek arbitration, which will make him more appealing to the Mets, Red Sox and others who have called, if he doesn't return to St. Louis. Rich Aurilia had a good year in Cincinnati and is a one-year second base option for a team like Boston. Todd Walker can be had. And so can Gold Glove winner Orlando Hudson, but he will cost a corner bat or frontline pitcher for the Jays to move him.

    What has been frustrating for the Orioles is their inability to get players to take their money. What should be encouraging to their fans is that Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette have been aggressive but have not panicked and overpaid in terms of years for pitchers. They will not go to three years on Byrd, for instance, or two years at $6 million for Todd Jones.

    What adds to the Orioles' frustration is that the AL East landscape is so different now because Toronto is closing ground on the Yankees and Red Sox. And now that Tampa Bay is under new management, the Devil Rays are pointed in the right direction. The team that was fifth in the league in runs scored last season will be extremely dangerous in just two years.

    The Blue Jays have already added closer B.J. Ryan, and if they can get Burnett and another bat, they will be a threat to the Yanks and Red Sox next season. More important, they are close to re-establishing the franchise as a major power. When GM J.P. Ricciardi took over with owner Paul Godfrey, the club had $71 million in debt; now there is none. They had to build with $50 million payrolls to do so. Remember when the Jays were world champions in 1992 and 1993, they had the highest payroll in the game, at, yes, $50 million. But now they'll go up to $75 million. Canada's economy, which had tumbled, is on the rise.

    Then look at the new Rays with Andrew Friedman, Gerry Hunsicker and Joe Maddon, arguably the best managerial hire of the offseason. They have Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli, with B.J. Upton and Delmon Young coming. So they can trade Huff, Hall, Gathright, Lugo, Baez and others only if they get back appropriate young players, especially pitchers. It is tricky because they have to be careful about trying to build -- or rebuild -- their minimal fan base. But they know what it takes to be very good in two years.

    For instance, they don't want to trade Lugo, who is a very good player. But if they can get good 2007 value, they'll sign a temp to play shortstop until Upton is ready. Friedman realizes that Upton has not been developed well and that the kid's greatest value is as a shortstop, so they will leave him there, let him open the season in Triple-A and continue to have Ozzie Smith work with him. Not only that, but they hired Jimy Williams, one of the best infield teachers on the planet.

    They may make some mistakes, but this appears to be a good time to be a Tampa Bay fan. And if baseball realigned financially and put the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Phillies and Orioles in one division and the Braves, Nationals, Blue Jays, Devil Rays and Marlins in another, we'd be looking at a whole different view of optimism in Toronto and Tampa.


    Look for new Dodgers GM Ned Colletti to build that club around Jeff Kent and Eric Gagne. Colletti has never forgotten how Kent left his blood and soul on the field throughout his career. That might mean Kent could end up at first base sometime if L.A. gets Furcal and Cesar Izturis moves to second when and if he comes back from Tommy John surgery, but at this point, Kent is very close to a Hall of Famer. Not to mention one of the most misrepresented players of his time. Colletti is expected to take on the White Sox and Twins as a major player for Mueller. Needless to say, the Dodgers were very disappointed to lose out on Giles, but no one in L.A. would begrudge a man for being close to his two daughters.

    The White Sox said they were interested in Vazquez, but the Diamondbacks wanted to tie Glaus to him. Baltimore had interest in Glaus, but Arizona continues to ask for Eric Bedard, whom the O's feel is a future No. 1 starter. Two GMs on Saturday insisted Arizona's acquisition of Lo Duca from the Marlins is essentially done.

    One reason the Mets are eager to move Benson is Anna Benson's potential Playboy spread that could hit in spring training. "Between that and her radio show," says a GM, "the Mets just want her out of town." Somehow Anna Benson and annabenson.net doesn't play in some middle-America markets.

    Boston has a 26-person contingent arriving in Dallas. Larry Lucchino will continue his GM search, which to his credit has played out to ensure the best choice, not to expedience or he who leaks the most to the parent Boston Globe. There have been some comical suggestions, but Hoyer is older than Epstein when Theo got the job, more experienced and has been Epstein's right-hand man for his tenure as Boston GM. He also understands the requirements of owner John Henry, who is a great boss and not going to allow the franchise to drift to mediocrity.

    One AL GM felt the Marlins did very well getting Travis Bowyer for Luis Castillo, whose speed (stealing 10-of-17 attempts is unacceptable) and offensive skills have declined. Bowyer can be a big-league closer with better command. They know what they're doing.

    The Baseball Prospectus VORP ratings of starting pitchers are very accurate ranking performance. For instance, Roger Clemens, Johan Santana, Andy Pettitte, Chris Carpenter, Dontrelle Willis and Pedro Martinez were the top six in 2005. Of the free agents, Millwood was 13th statistically in '05, Washburn 18th and Esteban Loaiza 24th, one place in front of Zito and five in front of Tim Hudson. Burnett did not make the top 30.
  2. NJRocket

    NJRocket Contributing Member

    Jul 23, 2001
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    I wonder if we have any contact with Molina. I think he would be a great fit here.
  3. Joe Joe

    Joe Joe Go Stros!
    Supporting Member

    May 3, 1999
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    I heard the Astros had contacted Molina, but I can't remember which media source it was from.
  4. NJRocket

    NJRocket Contributing Member

    Jul 23, 2001
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    Not too many catchers can hit....and he is one of them...not to mention he has a cannon!
  5. Nashvegas

    Nashvegas Contributing Member

    Jan 16, 2001
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    what about Pudge? Didn't he sign like a 4 year $40 million dollar deal a couple years back with the Tigers?
  6. EddieWasSnubbed

    EddieWasSnubbed Contributing Member

    Feb 6, 2002
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    Quote:The Pads had discussed an Adam Eaton deal with Texas for catcher Gerald Laird and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

    Quote: Lyle Overbay will be moved for pitching.

    Send Brandon Backe for one of these.

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