Leaving the nest? (con't)
Posted: Sunday January 27, 2008 9:48PM; Updated: Monday January 28, 2008 2:07AM
Theories on the Santana delay
One competing executive opined that Twins GM Bill Smith may be "scared'' to pull the trigger on a Johan Santana deal, in that talks have dragged for months, and others are hinting at similar sentiments. "He was outdone by Billy Beane, who went out and grabbed the players he wanted,'' another executive said, speaking of the A's trade of Danny Haren to the Arizona for several top prospects.
Smith is a rookie on the job. But it may be too early to blame him for not taking the less than eye-catching offers of the Red Sox and others and holding out for more for perhaps baseball's best pitcher. It was logical for him to retain some hope that even though the Yankees appear to have retreated in these talks in recent weeks, there still may be a chance for new Yankees boss Hank Steinbrenner to change course and go harder for Santana. Hank's done it before.
The Mets' prospect-heavy proposal of outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Deolis Guerra, Phil Humber and Kevin Mulvey is solid but may be no better than the Boston packages leading with pitcher Jon Lester or outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Should the Mets enhance their bid by adding outfield prospect Fernando Martinez, who's only 19, the Twins are likely to go for it. But to this point, the Mets are reluctant to add Martinez.
This Bud's for them
Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) weeks ago called for Bud Selig's ouster before backing down and tossing 82 mph, belt-high softballs Selig's way in Congress. While Selig takes shots for baseball's steroid mess, Shays may have realized that it's hard to build a serious case for his ouster. It should come as no surprise that baseball owners recently gave the commissioner a three-year extension though 2012.
Thanks to winning innovations such as the wild card, the expanded playoff format, a supremely successful digital arm (MLB.com), 17 new stadiums (the two news ones in New York and new one in Minnesota will make it 20), and what will be 16 straight years of labor peace (the current CBA expires in 2011), baseball's revenues are up from $1.8 billion when Selig took over in 1992 to more than $6 billion now.
The question is whether the steroid debacle overshadows all that's good, and while there's no doubt it's a black mark, and even if you conclude that it does, it's still hard for anyone with a long memory to fault Selig now. It's true he was slow to press for strong steroid penalties (he didn't want to risk a second halt to the game after the sad 1994 World Series cancellation), but it's also hard to think of anyone who faulted him at the time for such a stance. And not a soul said a thing back in 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were powering baseball back to good health.
Around the majors
If the Mets don't get Santana, look for them to pounce on either Kyle Lohse or Livan Hernandez -- two of several pretty good arms still left on the free-agent market. Hernandez has been a favorite of Omar Minaya's in the past, but Lohse may be the more likely alternative. Some believe he will thrive given a full season in the NL -- though to date, Lohse's two biggest wins have come in salary arbitration hearings.
Signing stars early in their careers is a good percentage play, and the Twins (Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer), Yankees (Robinson Cano), Rays (Carlos Pena) and Rockies (Troy Tulowitzki) took advantage. Cano's deal, which is a preliminary agreement for $30 million over four years and will be OK'd once contract language is finalized and he passes a physical, could cover his first two free-agent years and be worth $56 million, and it's hard to knock young guys for playing it safe.
But giving up the free-agent years could cost Cano millions. Still, Tulowitzki's deal looks to be the most team-friendly deal of them all. It's reminiscent of Nomar Garciaparra's first multiyear deal with Boston that saved the Red Sox tens of millions of dollars.
The A's' decision to rebuild probably worked against Barry Bonds, whose legal entanglements are apparently overshadowing a 1.000-plus OPS.
The Cubs have spoken to Rangers about Matt Murton (for Marlon Byrd in a swap of center fielders) and to the Padres, also regarding Murton.
Kevin Towers' two-year extension, through 2010, should come as no surprise. Now, anyway. Some originally thought Padres president Sandy Alderson, an intense intellectual, and Towers, whose outgoing, confident air can remind one of a fraternity president, made for an odd couple. But Towers, with the help of a solid Padres scouting staff, has been an effective trader in the mold of "Trader Jack'' McKeon, a past Padres GM.
One Cardinals official told me that Tony La Russa erred by publicly denigrating Scott Rolen, who this official described as "a solid guy and a good guy,'' thus driving down his trade value. Under those conditions, new Cardinals GM John Mozeliak may have done OK to get Troy Glaus for him.
Our best to Don Mattingly, who left Joe Torre's staff in Los Angeles after a separation from wife, Kim, and remains one of the true gentlemen in the game. I still hope he gets a chance to manage some day and believe he'd be successful because he commands so much respect in very clubhouse he enters.
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