Hot Stove League: Manny Still Team-less

Among all the moves, be they trades or free agent signings, the biggest non-signing of the MLB Hot Stove off-season has been that Manny Ramirez remains without a team. Actually he hasn’t even had an offer besides the Dodgers’ two-year, $45 million offer back in November. But last night, the Dodgers and beleaguered outfielder Andruw Jones (*) parted ways, freeing up some more money on their payroll to offer Ramirez. Manny fits well on that team and with Joe Torre’s easy demeanor. And he can loaf a bit more in between raking the ball all over Dodger Stadium. We’ll see, but with the Yanks signing Mark Teixeira, and the Angels focusing on their bullpen by signing Brian Fuentes, there are less attractive options for Manny other than remaining in La La Land.

In addition to the Teixeira Fuentes signings, Randy Johnson was inked by the Giants. This works out well for the Big Unit, who wanted to play in California and can easily reach 300 victories since he currently has 295. If only Barry Zito started pitching like Oakland Barry Zito, this staff would be looking damn good right now.

So one of the problems with the stalled Jake Peavy to Chicago trade talks was that the Padres wanted infielder Mark DeRosa and Cubs’ GM Jim Hendry balked at that. Well, Hendry had no problem shipping DeRosa to Cleveland for three minor leaguers, did he? I think there is more to that Peavy story than what we’re being told. I don’t know what, but somebody doesn’t like somebody somewhere, and my guess is there is an agent in that conversation.

So Derek Lowe doesn’t want to pitch for the Mets at three years, $36 million? Are you kidding me? How is that guy worth more than $12 million per season at 35 years old? Dude apparently wants a four or five year, $90 million deal. Good luck with that, Derek. Meanwhile the Mets are turning their attention back to in-house free agents Oliver Perez and Pedro Martinez, as well as less expensive options like Jon Garland or Randy Wolf.

* Omar Minaya, if you are reading this, DO NOT invite Jones to spring training. I know the Dodgers are paying his way in 2009, but the guy can’t hit his way out of a paper bag (the stats don’t lie…..158 batting average with 76 strikeouts in just 209 at-bats). Thank you for your attention to this matter.

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Top 10 Worst MLB Free Agent Signings recently ranked the top 10 worst MLB free agent signings of all-time.

Chan Ho Park#1 Chan Ho Park Signed by Texas in 2002, five years, $65 million.
Coming off 18-10 and 15-11 seasons in the pitchers’ heaven that is Dodger Stadium, Texas gave Park one of the most lucrative contracts ever given to a pitcher at that time. Injuries limited his workload, which wasn’t a bad thing considering his ERAs with the Rangers: 5.75, 7.58, 5.74, 5.66, before he was finally unloaded to San Diego in 2005.

#2 Juan Pierre (signed by Los Angeles in 2006, five years, $44 million) and Andruw Jones (signed by Los Angeles in 2007, two years, $36.2 million).
You know it’s a really bad signing when the team inks someone a year later to play the same position, and he does even worse. Pierre took his below-league-average on-base ability and minuscule power into the offensive void of Dodger Stadium with predictable results: .664 and .655 OPS in his two seasons so far. Andruw Jones received a raise off his worst season in 2007, and demonstrated that bad year in Atlanta was no fluke, batting .158 with three home runs in 209 at bats in 2008. The Jones signing also shifted Pierre to left field, where his wretched bat for a centerfielder would be an even greater liability. By the end of the season, the Dodgers recognized their CF answer had been there all along, in the person of Matt Kemp.

#3 Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle – Signed by Colorado in 2000; Hampton for eight years, $121 million, Neagle for five years, $51 million.
The vertiginous problem of pitching in Colorado led to some terrible decisions. Even though importing a free agent had failed in the case of Darryl Kile (ERAs of 5.20 and 6.61 in his two seasons before he was traded to St. Louis), the Rockies tried again in the 2000-01 offseason, giving $172 million to two lefthanders. Hampton was hampered by injuries and ineffectiveness in his two seasons in Colorado, going 21-28 with ERAs of 5.41 and 6.15 before being shipped off to Florida (and then on to Atlanta); his free-agent contract finally expired last year. Neagle was a decent 31-year-old pitcher with a 105-69 record and 3.92 career ERA when the Rockies elevated him to the front of their rotation; he gave them three seasons of 19-23, 5.56, before earning his release with two years left on his contract.

I’m a little surprised Barry Zito didn’t make the list, but I guess people are willing to give him one more year of brutal pitching before really laying the hammer on the massive free agent bust.

Introducing Andre Ethier: The New Face of the Dodgers

Andre EthierAfter getting called up to the big leagues in 2005, Andre Ethier was immediately traded from the Oakland Athletics to the Los Angles Dodgers, in exchange for Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez. Though the Dodgers gave up a formidable talent in Bradley, they saw something special in the minor-league right fielder. Simply stated, it was potential. When new general manager Ned Colletti was given the reins in 2005, he focused on creating a starting lineup that depended on its youngsters. Since then, he’s been brutally criticized for signing former stars to bulky contracts that have failed to pan out. However, he should be credited for completing what he set out to do way back in 2005. By dipping into his farm system instead of his check book, Colletti has made Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, James Loney, and Andre Ethier into everyday players.

At times, it’s tough to be a Dodger fan. Besides the Yankees, the Dodgers make more transactions involving blue chip players than any other organization. Their starting lineup one day may be completely different the next, as a smorgasbord of future hall-of-famers and one-time greats jump in and out of the lineup. Colletti has taken huge risks in spending enormous sums on big-name players. Manny Ramirez is proving to be his first untainted success after the unfruitful acquisitions of Andruw Jones, Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, Juan Pierre, Jason Schmidt, and Brad Penny. Colletti is paying each of these guys at least $5 million a year and is hearing about it every day.

Then there’s Andre Ethier. After signing a one-year $425,000 deal for the 2007-08 season, Ethier has quickly matured into the Dodgers’ most economic star. Actually, forget “economic.” He is the Dodgers’ best all-around player and will soon become the face of their organization if Colletti plays his cards right. Keep in mind, Ramirez came aboard more than two-thirds into the season. At 36 years-old, Manny is a future hall-of-famer with only a few years remaining. As much as the Dodgers and their fans would love to keep the free-spirited slugger, his contract is up at the end of the season, and all signs point to Manny in pinstripes.

Ethier is only 26 and just finishing his third professional season. He has an unbelievable arm, can hit for both power and average, and has avoided injury. On a roster that contains five capable outfielders—Ethier, Jones, Kemp, Ramirez, and Pierre—Ethier has undeniably earned a starting slot. He leads the Dodgers in homeruns (20) and batting average (.299), is tied with Matt Kemp in doubles (36), and is second in RBIs (71) and triples (6). Ethier is a free agent at the end of this season and, as these numbers show, he’s proven more valuable than those other cash cows.

The Dodgers are finally breaking away from the Diamondbacks and are running a blue streak towards the pennant. This current success can be found in the bats of the veteran Ramirez and the youngster Ethier. Next year, the Dodgers are likely to look much different. (Manny Ramirez, Jeff Kent, Nomar Garciaparra, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Russell Martin, James Loney, Matt Kemp, Greg Maddux, Chad Billingsley, and Derek Lowe are all up for contract renegotiation.) Hopefully, Ned Colletti will follow those same instincts he had in 2005 and focus on youth by re-signing Andre Ethier.

Top 10 Active MLB Windmills

Many power hitters in baseball also have a penchant for swinging and missing. While batters have evolved over the years into more complete players, and Dave Kingman types aren’t the norm anymore, there are quite a few that we can classify as “windmills.” Here is a list of the Top 10 active players in strikeouts in baseball today.

1. Jim Thome, Chicago White Sox (2155)—Even though Mr. High Socks has a career batting average of .280, his 533 home runs are tempered by the air created when he swings and misses. Thome has struck out 2155 times in his 17-plus seasons, or roughly 30 % of his at-bats. Yikes.

2. Carlos Delgado, New York Mets (1701)—Sitting comfortably behind Thome is Mets’ first baseman Carlos Delgado, who is a cool 454 strikeouts behind Jimmy. Delgado has clubbed 457 home runs, but he has now struck out 100 or more times for the thirteenth straight season.

3. Ken Griffey Jr, Chicago White Sox (1669)—Around the time Griffey was tearing up the American League in the late ‘90’s with 209 home runs over four seasons, he also tallied 454 strikeouts. And with 1669 career windmills, Griffey strikes out about as often as he smiles.

4. Jim Edmonds, Chicago Cubs (1656)—Edmonds has quietly amassed 378 career homers, and has also compiled 1656 career strikeouts. But he’s currently in one of the two places (other than Colorado) where his power more than makes up for his K’s.

5. Manny Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers (1643)—Will someone tell me how a career .313 hitter averages 102 strikeouts per season? Wait, let me guess — Manny being Manny?

6. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees (1614)–$22 million for a guy that fans 107 times per season and doesn’t produce in the postseason? Am I missing something?

7. Mike Cameron, Milwaukee Brewers (1605)—Mike Cameron is a six-tool player—speed, average, power, glove, arm, and a penchant for missing the ball with his bat. That’s a very odd combination.

8. Jeff Kent, Los Angeles Dodgers (1515)—Ripping on Vin Scully? In Los Angeles, that’s like the priest ripping on the pope. Yeah, Jeff….you are 40, and even though Manny Ramirez now hits behind you, you still have almost as many career K’s on the scorecard as he does.

9. Andruw Jones, Los Angeles Dodgers (1468)—Seriously, now…..three of the current top ten windmills play for the L.A. Dodgers. No wonder this team can’t seem to catch the Diamondbacks.

10. Frank Thomas, Oakland Athletics (1394)—Mr. Thomas has 521 career homers, and though he’s only struck out more than 100 times three times in his career, he has landed here mainly because of his longevity (currently in his 19th season).

Source: Baseball Reference

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