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Monday, October 27, 2003

LET THE RUMOURS BEGIN

Well, I may not know what I'm talking about, but I've got to give myself props for at least trying to validate McKeon's controversal decision--which, in case you haven't heard, worked out brilliantly. I think McKeon and Beckett got a little lucky (I would have never in a million years predicted a complete game--Beckett somehow got himself out of the kind of late inning jams that undid Zito, Prior, and Martinez), but as I wrote before, it was a fundamentally sound decision. Meanwhile, the holy trinity of daily/weekly scribes, Rob Neyer, Joe Sheehan, and King Kaufman, were all harshly criticial of McKeon before the game, thus, dear reader, only the stunning insight exclusively available at Some Calzone for Derek could offer you a window into the brilliant mind of Jack McKeon. My only regret is that the Yanks lost 2-0. It would have been so much sweeter if they could have somehow mustered a single run, and thus all Yankeedom could place the blame squarely on Derek Jeter's shoulders. (Really, folks, he's just not that good a shortstop.)

OK, enough of that.

Niles has a good piece about the free agent market, and I think he's right that position players will generally see their salaries decline, but starters might see a relative raise. You want an idea how much top pitchers will command? Colon reportedly turned down $36 M over 3 years from the White Sox to become a free agent. Like Colon and his agent, I have little doubt somebody (or maybe the White Sox) will eventually pay him more. (I'll be quite shocked if Guerrero ends up making more than $75 M over 5 years--mostly because I don't think he'll end up in New York.)

Here are some of the crazier rumours already starting to circulate:

* the Devil Rays are interested in acquiring Mike Cameron (hey, don't you guys already have a good, cheap CF?)

* former Indian manager Charlie Manuel is among those rumoured to be in the hunt for Grady's now-vacant job. Wait, that's not the crazy part. This is: Manuel is currently toiling as a roaming coach for the Phillies--god forbid the Phillies should consider promoting him first to their top coaching job.

* I've read more than a couple "Trade Soriano!" decrees from writers in Yankeedom (most popular trade idea--Beltran for Soriano). If Big Stein's thinking the same way, he's as good as gone.

I'll keep you posted.

COLLUSION OF SORTS: AN OFF-SEASON PREVIEW

The San Francisco Giants announced that they will be cutting payroll this season. I don't look at this as a cost cutting measure but rather as a sign that Brian Sabian is well aware he is now in a buyer's market.

The Giants will work with a 75 million dollar payroll next season, down ten million, and already have 50 million committed for next season. That leaves them with 25 million or so to play with and 25 million dollars goes a lot further these days than it did just a couple of years ago.

Let's have a look at how the well has started to dry up the last three years by looking at three comparable big name players.

2001 Manny Ramirez 20 Million/per season
2002 Jason Giambi 17 Million/per season
2003 Jim Thome 14 Million/per season

That's a drop of about 3 million every year since 2001 and there's nothing to suggest this trend won't continue. (And for middle to low level players it seems clubs are hesitant to sign them beyond one or two year deals.)

This off-season and the next will have one of the richest crop of free-agents (especially pitching) in a long long time. The fact that there will be such an abundance of talent up for grabs will only further drive the price down. I can't get Miguel Tejada for 10 million a season? I'll just move on to Orlando Cabrera then. Can't get him? Well what about that Japanese shortstop then?

Making matters even worse for free-agents looking for the big contract are the lack of clubs actually looking to spend. The influence of Beane economics is a bad thing for labor; a few clubs (Toronto, Minnesota) are convinced that they don't have to spend big to win big and a many others are obviously being at least partially influenced by Beane's practice of fiscal responsibility*. (Boston, Cleveland perhaps.) But most clubs won't be looking to spend because they've already shot themselves in the foot with ill-advised long and expensive contracts. It will either not be worth the risk or it just won't be possible until they clear out their current contracts. Another Bush economy doesn't help matters.

Last year's collective bargaining agreement will also make teams wary of approaching the luxury tax mark. And don' t think that any of the teams receiving revenue sharing (the Brewers come to mind) will bother spending it on payroll. They won't.

A lot of agents are going to cry collusion but with all the other factors conspiring against the players the owners won't even have to think about resorting to that measure.

Let's have a look at the short list of clubs that might be spending big this off-season.

Anaheim
I didn't think this team would be looking to spend but they have new ownership and I keep hearing crazy things about them wanting to sign Miguel Tejada. It would be out of character.

Baltimore
I'm not sure of management's current stance but from the sounds of it, despite being burned in the past, they will be looking to add a big name or seven.

Boston
All indications are they are going to need to worry about signing Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciappara.

New York (AL)
Yep. If Vlady Guerrero doesn't mind playing in a big market this could be his new home. They should also think about signing Mike Cameron to patrol CF. Bernie can't do it anymore. I guess this all depends on the size of the shit Steinbrenner is going to take. It'll be a big nutty one.

Philledelphia
They added Jim Thome last year but they'll lose Kevin Millwood to free-agency this off-season unless they re-sign him, a highly doubtful situation with Larry Bowa alienating, I mean managing, the team. Moving into the new ballpark I imagine they'll be looking to replace Millwood in the rotation with another good arm.

New York (NL)
They are a)rich b)crazy c)in need of outfielders. Another possible home for Vlady if he doesn't mind the Big City.

San Diego
There's been a lot of talk of them signing a big free-agent pitcher now that they are moving into a new home. But I think the late-season acquisition of Brain Giles was pretty much it. The smart money is that they will go with their young pitching and add a no.2 or 3 type starter.

Los Angeles
Not sure about the team's new ownership willing to spend but this team needs to add some offense. (Duh?) If there is any truth to the Beane or DePodesta rumors it'll mean they'll look for other ways to add offense rather than signing a big name or two. Or maybe not. It'll be interesting to see what one of these two would do if they are given decent payroll to work with. I have a hunch Gary Sheffield won't be returning though. Orlando Cabrera would be a good signing for them.

Florida
I have no idea what Jeffrey Loria intends to do in the off-season but if he does decide to spend I'm sure re-signing Pudge will pretty much blow their budget.

San Francisco
As I mentioned they are going to have 25 million dollars to spend. Sheffield makes the most sense as it would make both him and Bonds happy. Teaming Felipe Alou with Vlady again makes some sense too but I think of the two, Sheffield and Guerrero, that Sheff will come a little cheaper because of his more advanced years.

And that's pretty much it. It may seem like a long list but it's really not considering that I would venture that only the Yankee's and Orioles are locks to increase payroll significantly. I can't however factor in crazy owners, but even with a Tom Hicks or two thrown in the mix I still don' t think we'll see significant spending.

My Guess is that Vladimir Guerro will get the biggest off-season contract somewhere in the range of 15 million over five years. Roughly what Jim Thome got. Pitching should command the bulk of dollars given the dearth of quality arms in MLB right now.

Let the conjecture begin.

*As a side note I find it interesting that the people I know that would consider themselves more liberally minded people seem to root for the A's (and sometimes the Expos) while those who would consider themselves more conservative seem to like the Yankees or the Red Sox. If you are for conservative spending you should be rooting for the A's not the Yankees and vice versa.

NOSTREDUMBASS: WS PREDICTION UPDATE

Once again, I picked the winner of the series right but was wrong about the length of the series, I said seven, and the pick for WS MVP, I went with Mike Lowell.

I was pretty accurate when I mentioned that I was skeptical about NY getting by with their bullpen of one. "WEAVA!" And I certainly wasn't surprised by Beckett's performance.

Two things I didn't expect were that Brad Penny would perform that well and the Yankees offense would be that bad. I guess one is partly the product of the other.

From the ALCS and NLCS on I correctly predicted the winner of each series. (I didn't make any wagers on the NLDS and ALDS series.) Eerie, isn't it?

My next prediction is that Grady Little will be dancin' for quarters come next season. "NO WAY!", you say. "But he's like the best manager ever!" It's true I tell you! It is my gift. It is my curse. Nostredumbass.

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