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Tag:Kerry Wood
Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:02 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 7:57 pm
 

Spring primer: Chicago Cubs



By Matt Snyder


After watching the Cubs go from a 97-win club to a 71-win version in just four seasons, owner Tom Ricketts took serious action in 2011. He fired general manager Jim Hendry and landed his version of a big fish, in former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. Epstein took over as club president then added Jed Hoyer as general manager and Jason McLeod as senior vice president of scouting and player development, among other front office pieces. The new management group then hired Dale Sveum as the big-league manager and started to clean house. It's going to be a long process, but said process has begun in earnest.

Scott Miller's camp report: Cubs Giddy With Optimism | Likes, Dislikes

Major additions: OF David DeJesus, 1B Anthony Rizzo, 3B Ian Stewart, LHP Paul Maholm, RHP Chris Volstad, LHP Travis Wood
Major departures: RHP Carlos Zambrano, OF Tyler Colvin, RHP Andrew Cashner, 3B Aramis Ramirez, 1B Carlos Pena, LHP Sean Marshall, LHP John Grabow

Probable lineup
1. David DeJesus, RF
2. Starlin Castro, SS
3. Marlon Byrd, CF
4. Bryan LaHair, 1B
5. Alfonso Soriano, LF
6. Ian Stewart, 3B
7. Geovany Soto, C
8. Darwin Barney, 2B

Probable rotation
1. Matt Garza
2. Ryan Dempster
3. Paul Maholm
4. Randy Wells
5. Travis Wood

Chris Volstad will also be in the mix, but I gave Wood the nod because he's left-handed.

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Carlos Marmol
Set-up: Kerry Wood, Jeff Samardzija

Important bench players

IF Jeff Baker, C Welington Castillo, OF Tony Campana, OF Reed Johnson

Prospects to watch
There are two here in particular that could make an impact in 2012: OF Brett Jackson and 1B Anthony Rizzo. It's entirely possible both are in the lineup come August. With Rizzo, it's a matter of whether or not LaHair can hit in the majors long-term -- as he could merely be one of those so-called Quadruple-A players. If that is the case and Rizzo is hitting well in Triple-A, the Cubs might well decide to turn to Rizzo. With Jackson, he's blocked all over the outfield, however, center field could easily be cleared in July. If the Cubs fall out of contention prior to the trade deadline -- and let's face it, that's a pretty good bet -- Byrd is a great trade candidate (sorry, I don't think the Cubs can deal Soriano just yet due to his contract). Byrd is in the final year of his contract and can play all three outfield positions, so surely some contender would cough up one mid-tier prospect for him. If that happens, the logical step for the Cubs would be to see how Jackson fared in center field for the final two months to determine if he can stay there or if he needs to be moved to a corner.

Fantasy sleeper: Bryan LaHair
"Usually, when a player in his late 20s puts up eye-popping numbers at Triple-A like a .331 batting average, 38 homers and 1.070 OPS, he's dismissed right away as a Quadruple-A player, but apparently the Cubs' front office thinks LaHair is different -- and not just because of his impressive 59 at-bat stint in the majors last year. The experiment could still be a failure of Kila Ka'aihue proportions, which is why you shouldn't bother with LaHair in mixed leagues, but late in NL-only formats, why not?" - Scott White [Full Cubs team fantasy preview]

Fantasy bust: Carlos Marmol
"If blown saves were Marmol's only problem, it'd be one thing, but the bottom line is he's not the efficient out-getter that Epstein and Hoyer would like their closer to be. His walk rate is as bad as it gets, and as a result, he's always pitching out of jams. Sure, his high strikeout rate helps compensate for it, but if he produces anything short of a best-in-the-league-type hit rate, his WHIP is in the danger zone." - Scott White [Full Cubs team fantasy preview]

Optimistic outlook
The deep pitching staff throws well and pays immediate dividends, as the bullpen improves with much better rest. Plus, behind the changes in right field and third base, the defense is also improved. Even Marmol's control issues drastically dwindle. LaHair and Stewart prove they can hit major-league pitching throughout the season and DeJesus turns out a perfect leadoff man for the suddenly balanced offense. And the Cubs find themselves right in the thick of the NL Central race with the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers until the end of the season, possibly even finishing somewhere in the top three.

Pessimistic outlook
By the end of July, Garza, Dempster and Byrd are all traded as the Cubs have no shot of making the playoffs. The Cubs try to avoid the cellar in a battle with the Astros, but continue the rebuilding effort and look forward to hitting the 2013 free agency class full-steam (less than $40 million is committed to 2013 payroll so far). Really, this is more realistic than pessimistic, because as much as the Cubs' coaches, players and front office say they're trying to win this year, it's obvious this is a two-year plan at the absolute minimum.

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Posted on: February 22, 2012 9:59 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 10:06 pm
 

New Cubs manager Sveum puts together bunt tourney

By Matt Snyder

As the Cubs franchise strives to do a complete makeover, fundamentals have been reemphasized in camp this season. More attention is reportedly being paid to baserunning and pitchers' fielding, for example. Also: Bunting.

And in the spirit of the upcoming March Madness -- watch the NCAA basketball tournament on CBS! -- new manager Dale Sveum has devised a 64-man bunting tournament that will begin Thursday. With there only being 62 players in camp, Sveum threw himself in the bracket along with strength coach Tim Buss (via Chicago Tribune). Tribune beat writer Paul Sullivan has posted a picture of the entire bracket on his Facebook page.

Sveum made setup man Kerry Wood a No. 2 seed -- and if that's an accurate ranking, it's a good thing the Cubs are refocusing on bunting considering Wood hasn't had a big-league plate appearance since 2007 -- and put himself against Wood in Round 1 as a 15.

Sullivan reports the players' consensus is that starting pitchers Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells are the favorites, though speedy outfielder Tony Campana named himself the man to beat.

Having seen many Cubs games the past several seasons, I'd be shocked if anyone beats Dempster -- not that the winner really matters. And my reaction to seeing Alfonso Soriano as a 15-seed? How are there at least four worse bunters in camp?

Two things here do matter, though:

1. The focus on fundamentals.
2. Having fun. It's a long spring training and exercises like these help bring the team together. If you scoff at that notion, note that Joe Girardi had the 2009 Yankees compete in a billiards tournament in spring training as a team-building exercise. Obviously these Cubs don't have the same level of talent as the eventual '09 World Series champions, but the point remains that Sveum has his head in the right place.

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Posted on: January 13, 2012 6:51 pm
 

Wood re-signs with Cubs on 1-year deal

Kerry WoodBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The Cubs have signed reliever Kerry Wood to a one-year deal worth $3 million with a club option for 2013, the team announced at the Cubs Convention in Chicago on Friday.

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Wood, 34, was 3-5 with a 3.35 ERA in 55 games for the Cubs last season, recording a save. He struck out 57 batters in 51 innings, walking 21. Wood was also being pursued by the Phillies, but elected to stay with the Cubs.

Since coming up with the Cubs as a starter in 1998, Wood has transitioned into a bullpen weapon, appearing in 258 games as a reliever over the last seven seasons, going 15-18 with a 3.43 ERA with 294 strikeouts in 254 2/3 innings.  He has 63 career saves, serving as the Cubs closer in 2008 and for the Indians in 2009 and 2010.

The announcement was made at the Cubs Convention and greeted with cheers by the crowd.

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Posted on: January 10, 2012 7:20 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 7:25 pm
 

Quick hits: Madson, Wood, Cubs, more

By Matt Snyder

It's been one of those "slow news days," but there have been a handful of minor moves and reports, so let's just grab a bunch and get them out in the open here.

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• First of all, this is far from minor, but my esteemed colleague Jon Heyman already blogged on it. Go check out his post on Ryan Madson and the Reds' interest -- along with several other teams still in the mix.

• It once seemed like a foregone conclusion that Kerry Wood would finish his MLB playing career with the Cubs after returning "home" last season, but it's at least a possibility that isn't necessarily the case now. From multiple different reports (MLBTradeRumors.com has them), the Phillies and Reds are also in on the bidding for Wood's services with the Cubs. The Reds would be out of the bidding if they sign either Madson or Francisco Cordero. Wood could serve as closer for the Reds with Sean Marshall setting up, while Wood would be a setup man in Philly for Jonathan Papelbon. Brad Lidge would be the other setup option for the Phillies, should they not sign Wood.

It's interesting that the Cubs want Wood back. Any other veteran is being allowed to walk via free agency or traded -- or at least being rumored to be on the trading block. Instead, general manager Jed Hoyer told XM Radio Tuesday that the Cubs have offered Wood a substantial raise to stay put. He is a special case, with his strong ties to Chicago and to the Cubs' organization. Cubs president Theo Epstein recently said Wood has the type of personality the Cubs hope will spread in the locker room. Wood will reportedly make a decision by Friday.

The situation seems to be one of those that is a catch-22 for Cubs fans. On one hand, Wood stands a much better chance of winning a World Series ring if he leaves -- considering the massive rebuild the Cubs are undertaking. On the other, he's a favorite son to fans of the franchise. If he does walk, I'd suggest Cubs fans hope he gets a ring in the next year or two much like Mark Grace got one with the Diamondbacks. If he does stay, that shows how strongly he feels like a Cub.

• Speaking of the Cubs, Alfonso Soriano is likely to open the season as the starting left fielder, reports CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman. Not for lack of trying, of course, it's just that with $54 million left on Soriano's colossal contract, the Cubs can't seem to find any takers willing to take on a decent portion of the remaining salary.

• The Red Sox signed starting pitcher Aaron Cook to a minor-league contract earlier this week. With injury woes in the rotation, this is merely an organizational depth signing and nothing more. There's no way it would preclude the Red Sox from making a trade for a starter or adding someone else -- like Hiroki Kuroda, who the Red Sox have reportedly discussed.

• Backup catcher Koyie Hill has signed a minor-league deal with the Cardinals, according to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports.

Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez has avoided arbitration, signing a one-year deal worth about $2 million, reports Morosi.

• Relief pitcher Aaron Heilman has signed a minor-league contract with the Mariners, the team announced.

As for Prince Fielder, I've got nothing for you (that was done in my best Jeff Probst voice). I guess Prince has to sign with someone eventually, right?

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 4, 2012 4:40 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2012 7:26 pm
 

Epstein talks Zambrano, salaries, Wood, more

By Matt Snyder

New Cubs president Theo Epstein hit the radio waves in Chicago Wednesday afternoon to discuss several different topics. Let's check out the main points, thanks to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com.

• It's pretty easy to understand why many Cubs fans never want to see Carlos Zambrano again (and I'm on their side, by the way), but Epstein hasn't ruled out a Zambrano return. He explained why:

“The Carlos Zambrano of 2011 and years previous can’t fit into the culture that we have here,” Epstein said (MLB.com). “Change needs to happen and change will happen. Either he’ll change and buy in and fit into this culture — and I understand there are a lot of skeptics around about that. I understand that, and frankly, I’m skeptical as well. He needs to prove to us that he can change and be part of this culture or we’ll change the personnel and move forward with people who are proud to be Cubs and treat their teammates with respect, treat the fans with respect and can be part of a winning culture in the Cubs’ clubhouse.”

That's very reasonable. All the Zambrano issues came under Jim Hendry's watch, so Epstein has the right to give him one chance. Without having had any personal interaction with Zambrano before taking the job, Epstein may not feel comfortable just going on what he's read and seen on TV -- especially since it's not easy to unload a $19 million contract. And him making sure to point out that he's skeptical seems like a stern warning to Big Z. (UPDATE: The Cubs have a preliminary agreement in place to trade Zambrano to the Marlins)

• Speaking of albatross contracts, left fielder Alfonso Soriano is still owed $54 million over the next three seasons. Epstein didn't specifically name Soriano, but when asked about highly overpriced players, he said the club has three options:

1. Trade the player and eat a decent portion of the salary.
2. Cut the player.
3. Provide "an infrastructure in which he can improve," per MLB.com.

Cubs offseason
On Soriano, I'm not sure what the Cubs could do without having to eat a ton of money. You play him at first base to eliminate the defensive liability he poses in the outfield, and he's still a first baseman with a .289 on-base percentage who hits around 25 homers. Is that even close to being worth $18 million a year? No. I'd guess the best option is No. 1 and then No. 2 is soon to follow. Either way, that's a load of wasted money.

• As for the recent trade of fan favorite Sean Marshall?

“With what we’re trying to accomplish, which is not just win the World Series in 2012 but build something bigger and more sustainable for the long-term, what’s more valuable to us?” Epstein said (MLB.com). “One season worth of Sean Marshall or five seasons worth of a 25-year-old left-handed starting pitcher [Travis Wood] who can go into our starting rotation … and two prospects we like a lot.”

Well, first of all, he has to say that they are trying to win the 2012 World Series, but they really aren't. Just as I wrote last week, the Cubs aren't going to throw all their chips to the center of the table and try to win immediately just to end some fake curse. They are building a foundation for the future, one that Epstein and company are hoping will provide multiple opportunities for a championship down the road, not just one quick burst.

• He hit on one Wood, so what about the other: Kerry Wood?

“You have a team that really respects a player, wants him back desperately, and you have a player who loves the city, is a huge part of the community here with his family and his foundation and wants to be back,” Epstein said (MLB.com). “If we can’t work this out, we’re doing something wrong.”

• Also, not that it's shocking, but Epstein definitively stated that Bryan LaHair is going to be the Cubs' first baseman in 2012. Now, if he was planning on signing Prince Fielder, Epstein obviously wouldn't say so -- so it's possible the Cubs are still in the bidding. I'm inclined to believe him, though, because of the project nature of this rebuild. And LaHair could possibly be a late bloomer like a Jayson Werth (erase 2011 from your memory, haters, and look at 2008-10) or Ryan Ludwick. LaHair, 29, hit .331/.405/.664 with 38 homers and 38 doubles in 129 Triple-A games last season.

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Posted on: November 27, 2011 11:28 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs



By Matt Snyder


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule of this feature, click here.

When we discuss the Chicago Cubs, no baseball fan is lacking an opinion -- specifically, everyone seems to have some pet theory as to why the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. I've long argued with the people who believe the streak has something to do with a stupid "curse" or somehow now has something to do with playing so many more day games than everyone else. No, the real problem is they've never put a top-to-bottom management system in place that has done the job consistently for more than a small handful of seasons. It's possible current Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has done so with Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, et al (in fact, I'd argue it's likely), but that's a different discussion for a different forum.

For now, we're left looking at one of the worst Homegrown Teams in our series.

Lineup

1. Kosuke Fukudome, RF
2. Darwin Barney, 2B
3. Starlin Castro, SS
4. Tyler Colvin, LF
5. Casey McGehee, 3B
6. Eric Hinske, 1B
7. Geovany Soto, C
8. Sam Fuld, CF

Starting Rotation

1. Ricky Nolasco
2. Kyle Lohse
3. Andrew Cashner*
4. Carlos Zambrano
5. Randy Wells
* - if Cashner fell injured like he did in the real 2011 season, the options would be: Jon Garland, Dontrelle Willis and Casey Coleman.

Bullpen

Closer - Kyle Farnsworth
Set up - Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall, Carlos Marmol, Al Alburquerque, Juan Cruz, Michael Wuertz
Long - Jeff Samardzija, Rich Hill, Sergio Mitre

Notable Bench Players

Robinson Chirinos, Ryan Theriot, Ronny Cedeno, Brandon Guyer, Corey Patterson, Felix Pie, Tony Campana, Lou Montanez. In fact, feel free to grab any of these guys, plug them in the lineup and play around with it. There's really no wrong answer, because it's one marquee player (and he's only 21) amidst a heap of mediocrity at this point. Maybe Guyer proves a good player, McGehee bounces back and/or Colvin becomes a good everyday player, but we have to go on what we've seen up to this point.

What's Good?

The bullpen is really strong. It's well-rounded with righties and lefties, depth, power pitchers and specialists. Of course, there could be an issue with the lack of a reliable closer when it comes to either Farnsworth or Marmol, but a new-age manager might just abandon that idea and use whoever makes the most sense in the ninth.

What's Not?

The starting rotation doesn't have a true ace (or No. 2, for that matter). The infield defense sorely lacks range and the outfield isn't great either. The team speed is minimal, there isn't a good option at leadoff (or in the two-hole, or cleanup, or fifth ... you get the point) and who is the best power hitter? Colvin? Soto? Basically, everything other than the bullpen and Starlin Castro is lackluster.

Comparison to real 2011

You have to give former general manager Jim Hendry credit for scraping together a team good enough to win three division titles in six years, considering this bunch. Then again, he was in charge as the organization was assembling nothing more than a mediocre foundation (Baseball Prospectus now says the minor-league system is "not bad" but is more "depth than starpower."). Let's leave out the excuses, because there are far more bad picks (Montanez at third overall as a shortstop, for example) than there are instances of bad luck (Mark Prior, for example).

The amazing thing is that the 2011 Cubs were 71-91 and I actually think that team was better than this Homegrown unit. When we do the Homegrown rankings in mid-December, expect to see the Cubs toward the bottom. That probably changes in five years, but we're doing this exercise in the present. And this team would probably win somewhere in the ballpark of 65 games. Maybe fewer.

Up Next: Seattle Mariners

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Posted on: November 14, 2011 7:05 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2011 7:07 pm
 

Rookie award may not predict future success

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Rookie of the Year awards are unique among baseball awards in that they are somewhat less about an individual year's performance as much as they are for the hope of better things to come. A Rookie of the Year win is a footnote on any Hall of Fame argument, not a bullet point. Meanwhile, any Hall of Fame argument will start with MVP wins for position players and Cy Young trophies for starting pitchers. If you have those, you have an argument, and if you won Rookie of the Year, that's nice.

Rookie of the Year
Miller
The Rookie of the Year award voting went exactly as Scott Miller predicted.
Read>>
Related links

No, Rookie of the Year is something to dream on -- there's the potential and what a player could become based upon a solid rookie year.

Jeremy Hellickson and Craig Kimbrel may end up being the best players of the 2010 rookie class, but it wouldn't be a real shock if they don't.

With that in mind, I wanted to look back on the past Rookie of the Year winners and what players had the best careers after winning the award and which ones peaked in their first year. Because this particular argument needs time for perspective, I've broken up the last 20 years in five-year increments. Below are the winners of the awards each year for both leagues, as well as their Wins Above Replacement (from Baseball-Reference.com) for both their rookie year and their career, as well as a decision on the best player in retrospect, the worst and the best duo from one year.

 

2006-2010 Rookie of the Year
Year AL ROY ROY WAR Career WAR NL ROY ROY WAR Career WAR
2010 Neftali Feliz 2.3 5.0 Buster Posey 3.1 4.4
2009 Andrew Bailey  3.9 7.2  Chris Coghlan 2.1 2.8
2008 Evan Longoria  3.8 24.1 Geovany Soto 4.1 10.1
2007 Dustin Pedroia  4.3 24.3 Ryan Braun  1.5 21.8
2006 Justin Verlander  3.7 27.2 Hanley Ramirez  5.2 29.3

Best: This is where we need perspective -- and time. Right now it looks like you could go with any of six candidates -- Justin Verlander (AL 2006), Hanley Ramirez (NL 2006), Dustin Pedroia (AL 2007), Ryan Braun (NL 2007), Evan Longoria (AL 2008) and Buster Posey (NL 2010). In 10 years this may be easier to pick, but right now it's just way too close to call. Of the group, Ramirez has the highest career WAR.

Worst: Again, this is still way too early to call, but Chris Coghlan (NL 2009) may take this dubious honor. There's plenty of time for him to turn it around, but he finished 2011 hitting .230 at Triple-A New Orleans.

Best duo: Another toss-up -- 2006 had Ramirez and Verlander, while 2007 featured Pedroia and Braun. Check back in 10 years and this may seem to be an easier choice, but right now it's too close to call.



2001-2005 Rookie of the Year
Year AL ROY ROY WAR Career WAR NL ROY ROY WAR Career WAR
2005 Huston Street 3.2 10.7 Ryan Howard 2.4 23.1
2004 Bobby Crosby 1.4 5.0 Jason Bay  2.2 19.7
2003  Angel Berroa 4.0 3.3 Dontrelle Willis 3.7 13.0
2002 Eric Hinske  4.0 10.3 Jason Jennings 1.7 7.4
2001 Ichiro Suzuki 7.6 54.5 Albert Pujols 6.9 88.7

Best: Albert Pujols (NL 2001). He may be the best player of our generation and best right-handed hitter of all time. With apologies to Ichiro Suzuki (AL 2001) and Ryan Howard (NL 2005), it's Pujols and it's not close.

Worst: Oh, Angel Berroa (AL 2003). Acquired in the deal that sent Johnny Damon and Mark Ellis to Oakland, Berroa last appeared in the big leagues in 2009. The Royals shortstop won the award over Tampa Bay's Rocco Baldelli and Hideki Matsui, earning the scorn of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. 

Best duo: Pujols and Suzuki would be a heck of a Hall of Fame class, not to mention a rookie class. Suzuki won not only the Rookie of the Year in 2001, he also took home the American League MVP.

 

1996-2000 Rookie of the Year
Year AL ROY ROY WAR Career WAR NL ROY ROY WAR Career WAR
2000 Kazuhiro Sasaki 1.5 4.0 Rafael Furcal 3.6 33.1
1999 Carlos Beltran  4.4 60.8 Scott Williamson  2.7 8.2
1998  Ben Grieve 2.5 6.7 Kerry Wood 3.7 24.9
1997 Nomar Garciaparra  5.9 42.5  Scott Rolen 4.5 66.2
1996 Derek Jeter 2.6 70.4  Todd Hollandsworth 1.3 6.5

Best: Scott Rolen (NL 1997) and Carlos Beltran (AL 1999) have had fantastic careers, but Derek Jeter (AL 1996) is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and a baseball icon. Jeter also has the highest career WAR among the group of rookies.

Worst: This one is tough, if you guy by WAR, it's Kazuhiro Sasaki (AL 2000), who had just a 4.0 career WAR. However, Sasaki was 32 when he started in the United States and played just four seasons in the majors. In addition to his Rookie of the Year, he made the All-Star team in 2001 and 2002, recording 129 saves in four seasons. I'm going to take Ben Grieve (AL 1998) slightly over Todd Hollandsworth (NL 1996) based solely on Hollandsworth holding on longer (12 years to nine) and finding his late-career niche as a pinch hitter, while Grieve did appear in the majors after his 30th birthday -- and just 17 after his 29th birthday.

Best duo: How about Rolen and Nomar Garciaparra (AL 1997)? Garciapparra never quite lived up to the rival to Alex Rodriguez and Jeter as the greatest shortstop of his generation, but he was in the conversation for a time there. While each year from 1996-2000 had at least one pretty good pick, 1997 was the only one to produce two players that finished with double-digit career WAR.



1991-1996 Rookie of the Year
Year AL ROY ROY WAR Career WAR NL ROY ROY WAR Career WAR
1995 Marty Cordova 3.0 6.4 Hideo Nomo 4.5 50.6
1994  Bob Hamelin 2.5 2.4 Raul Mondesi  2.2 27.2
1993  Tim Salmon 5.2 37.6  Mike Piazza 7.0 59.1 
1992 Pat Listach  4.5 3.9  Eric Karros 0.3 9.0
1991  Chuck Knoblauch 2.3 41.2 Jeff Bagwell 4.7 79.9

Best: WAR likes Jeff Bagwell (NL 1991), the Hall of Fame will like Mike Piazza (1993). Either way, it's tough to go wrong. Unlike the Hall of Fame voters, I'll take Bagwell over Piazza, but can see both sides of the argument. I"m in the camp that Bagwell is one of the more underrated players of his generation. 

Worst: Yet again, the award goes to a Royal. Bob Hamelin (AL 1994) had a 2.5 WAR in his rookie year and 2.4 for his career. Pat Listach (AL 1992) also has a lower career WAR (3.9) than single-season WAR for his rookie season (3.9), but the be speckled Hamelin did less in his career than Listach, even if most of Listach's value came from his rookie season.

Best duo: Again it comes down to the 1993 choices (Piazza, Tim Salmon) and 1991 (Bagwell, Chuck Knoblauch), with 1991 taking the crown. Knoblauch and Salmon both had good careers, with Knoblauch winning four rings and Salmon one. Knoblacuh was a four-time All-Star, Salmon never appeared in the game. Knoblauch also won a Gold Glove, despite his woes throwing later in his career. Going by WAR, the 1991 duo beats the 1993 pair, 121.1-96.7.

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Posted on: October 22, 2011 3:28 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 4:51 pm
 

Free-agent position rankings: Papelbon leads RP



By C. Trent Rosecrans
 

With the free agent reliever market, it always seems to be buyer-beware, but every year teams overspend for closers and setup men. While not exactly a bumper crop this year, there are some good arms available, even if the top closers would all prefer to stay with their current teams. Still, we all know those preferences can go out the window when a higher offer comes.

Jonathan Papelbon1. Jonathan Papelbon: After a disappointing 2010, Papelbon returned to form in 2011, despite recording his lowest save total (31) since becoming the Red Sox closer. Not only was his ERA (2.94) down from 2010, he had his best strikeout rate (12.2 per nine innings) since 2007 and lowest walk rate (1.40 per nine innings) since 2008. His xFIP was 2.16, the lowest of his career. At 31, he's still an elite closer and the best available on the market. The Red Sox had been said to be interested in bringing him back and they still have the payroll to absorb a high-priced closer. Still, don't expect Papelbon to take a home-town discount.
Possible teams:  Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Phillies

Heath Bell2. Heath Bell: When the Padres decided not to trade Bell during the season, it appeared he would be staying in San Diego. However, when the season ended with Bell not getting an extension, things became less sure. Now, Jed Hoyer is off to the Cubs and Josh Byrnes is in as the new GM. With this much change, things could easily change for Bell, who has said all along he'd prefer to stay in San Diego. The Padres may prefer to spend their money elsewhere. Bell is 34, but coming off his third straight 40-save season. One thing that could be troubling for a team is his falling strikeout rate. After striking out 10.2 per nine innings in 2009 and 11.1 in 2010, he struck out a career-low 7.3 per nine innings in 2011. His strikeout-to-walk ration was a career-low 2.43, although that was due to the lower strikeout numbers instead of more walks. Any team considering spending big money on him will have to seriously think about his age and if he's worth what he may command based on gaudy save numbers. He's also been aided by pitching at spacious Petco Park. The Padres may decide they don't need an All-Star closer and their money could be better spent elsewhere. Bell has said he would accept arbitration if offered.
Possible teams: Padres, Cardinals, Phillies, Mets, Orioles

Ryan Madson3. Ryan Madson: After several attempts earlier in his career to serve as a closer, Madson finally showed the ability to close out games in 2011, finishing with 32 saves in 34 opportunities. He's said he'd prefer to stay in Philadelphia, but that's easy to say during the season. A Scott Boras client, the Nationals have to be considered in the mix for Madson, who struck out 62 batters in 60 2/3 innings, while walking just 16 batters.
Possible teams: Phillies, Nationals, Red Sox

Jose Valverde4. Jose Valverde: The Tigers hold a $9 million club option on Valverde, which is pretty reasonable for a guy who led the majors with 49 saves and didn't blow a single save all season. Valverde's last outing was far from ideal, allowing four earned runs in 1 1/3 innings of Game 4 of the ALCS, but he's still an elite closer (if not exactly the most comfortable guy to watch). Valverde would command big bucks on the open market, but it seems highly unlikely he'll be there.
Possible teams: Tigers

Francisco Cordero5. Francisco Cordero: The Reds probably won't pick up his $12 million option, but he could still stay a Red. Cordero's been a stabilizing influence on the Reds bullpen in his four years in Cincinnati, but for a team like the Reds, it makes little sense to have a closer as the highest-paid player. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty and Cordero have both publicly said they'd like to work out an extension for him to stay in Cincinnati. It's similar to what the Reds did with Bronson Arroyo last offseason. The team is moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, so there's no real in-house candidate to fill in for Cordero if he leaves, so it makes sense to work out a deal. That said, someone could still pop in and make a bigger offer. The Brewers thought they had a deal with Cordero before he left for the Reds, so history could repeat itself.
Possible teams: Reds, Nationals, Mets, Orioles, Blue Jays

Francisco Rodriguez6. Francisco Rodriguez: After being traded to the Brewers, Rodriguez was not used as the team's closer, and said as a free agent, he'd like the opportunity to close again. That's not going to come in Milwaukee, where John Axford has established himself as the Brewers closer. However, after the Brewers' loss in the NLCS, owner Mark Attanasio made sure to point out just how important Rodriguez was to the team's bullpen and how much the club appreciated what he brought to the team. Although he's clearly not going to be the closer in Milwaukee, money talks -- and enough money and he may decide he can set up Axford. Sure, he spoke of being frustrated about not closing in Milwaukee during the year, but seeing the market could open his mind to other propositions.
Possible teams: Brewers, Cardinals, Orioles, Nationals, Phillies

Kyle Farnsworth7. Kyle Farnsworth: Fransworth more than lived up to his one-year deal last season, rewarding the Rays for taking a chance on him with 25 saves and a 2.18 ERA. He struck out 51 in 57 2/3 inning and had a career-best 0.988 WHIP and also his lowest walk rate of his career (1.9 BB/9). He made $2.6 million last season and the Rays have a $3.3 million club option (with a $650,000 buyout). It's basically a no-brainer to pick it up. Even if he doesn't repeat his 2011 numbers, he has the type of arm some team will want at the deadline to fortify a bullpen.
Possible teams: Rays, Mets, Marlins

Joe Nathan8. Joe Nathan: It's unlikely the Twins pick up Nathan's $12.5 million option -- that's just too rich for a guy pitching in just 48 games after missing the entire 2010 season because of Tommy John surgery. Still, both the Twins and Nathan are said to have interest in the closer returning to Minnesota. The 36-year-old has 260 of his 261 career saves in a Twins uniform and it's hard to imagine the two sides not working something out.
Possible teams: Twins

Kerry Wood9. Kerry Wood: The 34-year-old has already said he will either return to the Cubs in 2012 or retire. Count on the former. Wood was steady in the bullpen in 2011, striking out 57 in 51 innings and also showed no need to be the closer. Steady set-up men are something every team needs, and the Cubs as much as any other team. Wood took a below-market deal to return to the Cubs last season, earning just $1.5 million, and he may be open to doing it again. If so, it seems like a no-brainer to bring him back.
Possible teams: Cubs, retirement

Jeremy Affeldt10. Jeremy Affeldt: Affeldt is a left-handed reliever, but he's not just a left-handed specialist. Sure, his numbers against lefties are better (they hit just .144/.206/.200 against him), but he can also stay in and do a good job against right-handers. That versatility adds to his value on the mariet. He's been part of the very good Giants bullpen and expect him to stay there. San Francisco has a $5 million option on him after he earned $4.5 each of the past two seasons. He's earned the pay bump with his solid numbers. If the Giants don't exercise his option, they'll likely work out a multi-year deal with the team.
Possible teams: Giants

Jonathan Broxton11. Jonathan Broxton: Coming off a disappointing 2010, the hard-throwing right-hander appeared in just 14 games and underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in September to remove a bone spur and loose bodies. Once an All-Star, Broxton's first year of free agency will likely end with a one-year, incentive-laden contract. Broxton is just 27, but if he's no longer throwing 99 mph, what exactly is his worth? It's unlikely he'll get a job as a closer, but will have the opportunity to prove himself in the spring. The Dodgers appear ready to wash their hands of Broxton, despite the right-hander's statements he'd like to return.
Possible teams: Anyone but the Dodgers

Arthur Rhodes12. Arthur Rhodes: Rhodes has said he wants to pitch one more season and then retire. Rhodes has pitched for nine clubs in his career, including two this season -- the Cardinals and Rangers. While disappointing in Texas, Rhodes has rebounded with the Cardinals after being designated for assignment by the Rangers. Tony La Russa loves playing matchups, so it wouldn't be a shock to see him stay in St. Louis. 
Possible teams: Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Orioles, Blue Jays

Jon Rauch13. Jon Rauch: Rauch had 11 saves for the Blue Jays, pitching in 53 games for the Blue Jays this season. Toronto has a $3.75 million option on the 6-foot-10 right-hander, which is affordable enough. Rauch gave up 11 home runs, the most he's allowed since 2008. While a former closer, he's not exactly anyone's idea of a closer going forward. 
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Twins, Braves, Nationals

Darren Oliver14. Darren Oliver: The 41-year-old left-hander has said he'd like to pitch one more year. His 2011 proves he can still do it, appearing in 61 games and putting up a 2.29 ERA. His splits against left-handers and right-handers weren't too far off, with only his strikeout rates really spiking against lefties. He had 23 strikeouts of lefties in 94 plate appearances and 21 against right-handers in 121 plate appearances. Righties had an OPS of .594 against him, lefties .587. He's spent 10 of his 18 seasons in Texas in three stints. It seems like a perfect fit for him to return.
Possible teams: Rangers, Cardinals

Jason Frasor15. Jason Frasor: The White Sox hold a $3.75 million option for 2012, but the right-hander struggled after being part of the trade that sent him to his hometown at the trade deadline. Frasor was part of the massive three-team trade that sent Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays and Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel to St. Louis. In 20 appearances for the White Sox, he had a 5.09 ERA, but did strike out more than a batter an inning (20 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings). He had a 2.98 ERA in 44 appearances for the Blue Jays. 
Possible teams: White Sox, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks

Brad Lidge16. Brad Lidge: The Phillies declined a $12.5 million option on their former closer, giving him a $1.5 million buyout. Lidge missed most of the season with a shoulder strain, but did pitch well upon his return, putting up just a 1.40 ERA in 25 appearances, striking out 23 in 19 1/3 innings. Lidge has said he's open to returning as a set-up man, but it appears his days of closing for the Phillies are done, even with Ryan Madson as a free agent. Still, Philadelphia needed several closers to get through the season and having Lidge back could be a good backup plan. Neither side has ruled out a return for Lidge at Citizen's Bank Park.
Possible teams: Phillies, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels

Dan Wheeler17. Dan Wheeler: The Red Sox hold a $3 million option on the right-hander who will be 34 next season. After coming over from the Rays, Wheeler put up a 4.38 ERA out of the Red Sox bullpen. Wheeler spent some time on the disabled list with  a calf strain and then was unavailable down the stretch with forearm stiffness. His health will be major issue Boston's decision to bring him back. If deemed healthy, it would seem he'd have a good chance of returning to the Red Sox. Wheeler had a better xFIP (3.71) than ERA, with a high BABIP (batting average on balls in play) than he did in either of the past three seasons (.272).
Possible teams: Red Sox, Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers, Angels

Frank Francisco18. Frank Francisco: Francisco is a Type B free agent, and the Blue Jays will likely offer him arbitration. The 32-year-old right-hander came over in the Mike Napoli trade and picked up 17 saves for the Blue Jays, putting up a 3.55 ERA in 54 games. He struck out 53 in 50 2/3 innings, walking 18. He's not exactly anyone's first choice for a closer, but he could go into a camp and compete for that job, or at least be a fill-in while some team's closer is injured.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Nationals, Astros, Padres, Phillies

Chad Qualls19. Chad Qualls: San Diego is expected to decline the $6 million option on Qualls. Qualls appeared in 77 games for the Padres in 2011, putting up a 3.51 ERA in San Diego. The Padres are reportedly interested in bringing him back, just not at $6 million. He thrived at Petco Park, earning a 2.09 ERA at home and 5.05 on the road, so it's not a stretch to expect that he would have interest in returning to the Padres.
Possible teams: Padres, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Angels

Matt Capps20. Matt Capps: Just 28, the right-hander is a former closer for the Pirates, Nationals and Twins, but saw his strikeout rate (4.7 per nine innings) and fastball velocity (92.9 mph) drop this year and his ERA rise to 4.25, hardly the way you want to enter free agency. Capps made $7.15 million last season, earning 15 saves for Minnesota. He'll take a pay cut in 2012, likely signing another one-year deal, hoping to re-establish his worth. 
Possible teams: all of them

Free-agent position rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP

Free-agent overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com