November 16, 2009

Hot Stove Predictions. First up 3rd Base...

There’s a whole lot of talking going on, but not much action of late (unless you’re following the Dodger divorce). All of that will change on November 20 when teams no longer have exclusive negotiating rights to their free agents and the players hit the open market.

As I hear and read all things Hot Stove, it occurred to me that there are three kinds of teams out there.

One is just looking for a warm body to occupy a position. They have a hole to fill, but it’s not necessarily about getting the best player to fill that hole and it’s more about just getting a body in place. Sometimes this guy is just holding the position until a prospect is ready or simply because they have no one else who can play there.

Next are teams actually looking to not only fill a hole, but to find a quality replacement when someone has left via retirement, free agency, trade, etc They need someone who can step in and do the job at least as well as the previous guy. They might not the best available player, but they represent the best they can do based on their budget, while still filling a need. These teams aren’t looking to rock the budget and will mix and match roles and players if necessary.

Then there are those teams looking for someone that can make a significant difference in their team and help them improve. These players might even displace someone on the roster that is occupying a position. These are teams that are looking for ways to improve and return/get to the play-offs and go further next year.

It’s like when the Angels signed Torii Hunter. It wasn’t an expected move because they had Gary Matthews, Jr. already in center field. Hunter was signed to help take the team to the next level. He brought the Angels another much needed offensive bat, a superior glove and top shelf leadership qualities. Another example would be the Red Sox pursuit of Mark Teixeira last year. They did so already having a first basemen. Teixiera would have created the need to move people around or completely out of the organization. Never-the-less, you make room on your roster for guys like this and that’s an important thing to keep in mind as we move through the Hot Stove.

This year’s candidates to be that kind of player include Matt Holliday, Jason Bay and Chone Figgins; although none of them are on the same level as Teixeira (no matter what Scott Boras says).

There are also three kinds of players in the market every year as well. There’s the guy who will tell you that it’s not about the money and then sign with a team that gives him the best offer. There are guys who are just looking to prolong their careers and then there are guys are who looking for a chance to win. Of course sometimes those things overlap, but you get the idea.

Ok, so I’ve already made a few predictions in previous posts but I’m now ready to take the big leap and really think about and venture a guess as to where more free agents will land.

I’ll take it one position at a time. First up, third basemen.

I’ve already predicted Chone Figgins to the Braves to fill a hole soon to be left by the departure of Garret Anderson. Figgins would also provide the Braves with some much needed speed a the top of their lineup and would also represent an upgrade both offensively and defensively. The Braves will look to compete in the NL East next year and Figgins could help them make some noise. I’m hoping the Angels resign Figgins, but if I were a betting man, I’d pick him going to Atlanta.

There is a caveat though; I predict if the Angels fail to resign Lackey, Figgins will be back in Anaheim. No way the Angels let both players walk. By the way, I’m very intrigued by Figgins' foray into free agency. I believe Figgins wants to be close to his family, but I also believe he wants to win. I’ll be surprised if he simply goes for the best offer.

Adrian Beltre is the kind of player that will probably keep GM’s up late at night. They have to be asking themselves; can he be a difference maker or is he simply a guy who can fill a hole and/or possibly upgrade a position? His defense will probably represent an upgrade to most any team. In any case, I see Beltre going to St. Louis, where there is a chance hitting in a lineup with Albert Pujols would elevate Beltre into a significant run producing role. Beltre should be looking to get back to the NL where his numbers could improve just by changing leagues. The Cardinals are a team you can’t ever count of the play-off hunt and Beltre would be just the kind of risk the Cardinals could afford to take.

Now I’ve also read that the Angels could pursue Beltre if they don’t resign Figgins. Personally, I can’t see that happening. I’m fairly certain Brandon Wood could put up better numbers than Beltre had in 2009.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Joe Crede has two strikes against him. He’s oft injured and his agent is Scott Boras. While I predicted he wouldn’t return to Minnesota, I didn’t offer up a prediction as to where he might go at the time of that post. Well, I see Crede in Baltimore. Crede will probably be keeping third base warm for Orioles prospect Josh Bell who could be making the leap to the big leagues very soon, but not likely to start 2010. Crede isn’t going to cost anyone draft picks and even though he’s represented by Boras, he should come at a discounted price. Crede fills the hole created by Melvin Mora’s departure into free agency.

Speaking of Mora, he will be hard pressed to find work in 2010. The 38 year old had one of his least productive seasons even though he’s only one year removed from a 23 homerun, 104 RBI season. There could very well be a team that believes he can be the player he was in 2008, but that team would be fooling itself. Mora is a Type B free agent, which is a plus for him as he’s looking for work since any team signing him isn’t going to give up a draft pick. Look for Mora to return to the team that drafted him in 1991, the Houston Astros. Playing in Minute Made Park could potentially help Mora’s power numbers and help off set the loss of Miguel Tejada, who also ventures into free agency.

Pedro Feliz had a better offensive year than Adrian Beltre. He’s just as good, if not better defensively. The Mariners would do well to sign Feliz in place of Beltre. He will cost less and give them more production, even at 35 years of age. That’s my prediction and I’m sticking to it.

I never thought I’d see the day when Mark DeRosa would actually be in demand. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a nice player, but he seems to be on the radar of quite a few teams. Philly has often been linked to him, but I can see him signing with Detroit, where he would end up playing second base. I will admit, this pick is more about being contrary than anything else.

Speaking of Philly, who’s going to replace Feliz? The Phillies are definitely one of those teams looking for another piece to help them return to the World Series. That’s why I don’t see them signing DeRosa. That being said, there’s not a lot left to pick from. There’s Miguel Tejada… but I don’t see that happening; so, I’ll throw a somewhat wild idea out there.

I predict the Phillies will sign Marco Scutaro and move him to third base. Some experts are picking the Red Sox to land Scutaro. Well, like I said earlier, I like to be somewhat contrary and when it comes to predicting where free agents land, why not? Scutaro had his best offensive year ever. Problem is he’s a Type A free agent and will cost the Phillies a first round pick. I say they do it anyway, after missing out on Chone Figgins and Adrian Beltre.

Miguel Tejada is going to find the market pretty tough this off season. He’s aging, he’s regressing and he’s a Type A free agent. Ouch. I don’t have a prediction for him just yet; besides, he’s technically still a shortstop.

Others… Look for Adam Kennedy to return to the A’s, Juan Uribe to return to the muddied infield that is the San Francisco Giants and Bobby Crosby to find work with the Cardinals where he will compete for a job as their shortstop. This would reunite Crosby with Mark McGwire (the new batting coach) who Crosby worked on his swing with this past off season.

Those are my picks and they’re always subject to change. I'll take a look at another position next time around.

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