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baseball

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Firing up the Hot Stove

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Posted: Monday December 07, 1998 11:26 AM

 

Is your head spinning from baseball's offseason madness? In a conversation with CNN/SI, Sports Illustrated baseball writer Tom Verducci offers insight on the latest moves, and tells you what might happen next.

Issue: Toronto ace pitcher/Cy Young-winner-for-life Roger Clemens wants to be traded. Where's he headed?

Verducci says: Four teams have a real good shot at Clemens. In order: Houston, the Yankees, Texas and Cleveland. All four of those teams have the capability of satisfying Toronto's demand: three major-league players who can help them now.

  • Houston: That's Roger's hometown and at this stage in his career it makes sense. That also would satisfy his desire to play for a contender.

  • Yankees: Roger's best shot at getting the ring he's never had.

  • Texas: Also because it's close to home and allows him to stay in the American League.

  • Cleveland: A team that can almost guarantee Roger that he'll be in the postseason.

    Issue: Which team will win Kevin Brown's services?

    Verducci says: It's among the Dodgers, the Cardinals and the Padres. Maybe the Rockies are in there. They're on record saying they won't give him six years, but I think Brown will end up with a six-year contract. Randy Johnson got four years, plus an option, and I think the market for Brown is at least five years, plus an option.

    If he signs with the Cardinals, that makes them a pennant contender. The only thing missing off that team was a front-of-the-rotation pitcher and I like the moves that they've made so far.

    Issue: Who got the best of the Dodgers-Mets-Orioles deal?

    Verducci says: That could actually blow up for every team involved, because there are so many risks.

  • Dodgers: Is Todd Hundley healthy enough to catch every day? We don't know that and we won't know until we get into the flow of the season. The Dodgers desperately needed lefthanded hitting and Hundley can give that to them.

  • Mets: It was a pretty good deal for the Mets, because they had to get rid of Hundley. Armando Benitez has the stuff to be a future closer. The question with him is his maturity; he hasn't shown that yet.

  • Orioles: Charles Johnson became pretty close to an automatic out last year at the plate. Camden Yards will help his power numbers, but the fact is no one is sure if this guy is ever going to hit for average. But they'd be thrilled if he hit .250, because they are getting such an upgrade defensively from Chris Hoiles to Johnson. But the bottom of their lineup is going to be Mike Bordick and Johnson -- not a lot of offense.

    Issue: Which teams have been the offseason winners and losers?

    Verducci says:

    WINNERS

  • Angels: A big winner. They picked up in Mo Vaughn, one of the few players who's also a leader. Gives you a lot of intangibles, besides a terrific bat in the middle of the lineup. It allows them to trade Jim Edmonds to fortify their pitching staff.

  • Diamondbacks: Have helped themselves by spending a lot of money. I have questions about the soundness of these long-term investments. But the fact is if you go down to Arizona for a three-game series you'll see good pitching every game. They're not a contender yet, but the fact that they have starting pitching makes them a difficult opponent.

  • Mets: They've spent a ton of money, but they've spent it well. Ventura was a great pickup. He's a leader in the clubhouse. He gives them one of the best-fielding infields in baseball. They kept Dennis Cook in the bullpen, they have Benitez to set up John Franco. Obviously, they brought back Mike Piazza and Al Leiter, which was the first step in this process. I'm not sure what they'll get out of Bobby Bonilla. They still have a ways to go to make up ground on the Braves, but they are probably the wild-card favorite.

    LOSERS

  • Red Sox: No apparent plan there. They got by with two, maybe three, bats in their lineup and they lost the biggest one (Mo Vaughn). They need help for Nomar Garciaparra quickly and I don't know what's left.

  • White Sox: I don't know what reason there would be now to go out and watch the team play. The team has no chance to compete with the Indians. They have some decent young players, but in a market like that, they should be a lot better than they are.

    Issue: With Vaughn in Anaheim, Jim Edmonds is on the block. Where is he likely to be traded?

    Verducci says: Arizona is a really good fit. The Diamondbacks need an outfielder and they have some pitching to trade. They'd prefer to trade Brian Anderson or Omar Daal, but if the Angels wanted Andy Benes, I'd make that move if I was the Diamondbacks, because Benes can be a free agent after next season and I think Edmonds is one of the top five or six centerfielders in the game. They need his bat and his energy -- more than they need Andy Benes right now.

    Issue: How did Robin Ventura come to choose the Mets over other offers?

    Verducci says: Ventura made it clear that he signed with the Mets because they were a better team that the Orioles; that they offered him a better chance to win. Here's a guy willing to change leagues to go to a team with a better chance of winning. I think that's an indication of where the Orioles are at right now.

    Issue: Why did Rafael Palmeiro spurn a higher offer from the Orioles to return to Texas?

    Verducci says: He had personal reasons for leaving. The Orioles couldn't keep him despite offering more money. Palmeiro didn't like the way he was treated there; on the other hand, there are people in Baltimore who will tell you that he wasn't exactly a great influence in the clubhouse and they aren't all that broken up about him leaving.

    Issue: The owners called an emergency meeting in Chicago to discuss the recent spending spree. What should their agenda be?

    Verducci says: The No. 1 dialogue in baseball right now is the disparity between the "haves" and the "have-nots." The owners have to figure out not just what's happened in the past two weeks, but how to get a harness on the problem, because it's only getting worse and worse.

    Revenue sharing is in place, but that's only a first step. There's not nearly enough money changing hands. What the owners have to do is, they have to find some way to get into the pockets of the Yankees and the Indians and the Orioles and the Braves and spread that money around. Historically, that's been very hard to do, but somehow they've got to share more of that money.

     
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