Random notes with a week to go.
- Shaun Marcum is expected to miss all of 2009 following Tommy John surgery. He's the third young Blue Jays pitcher to require major arm surgery this year, joining Dustin McGowan (shoulder) and Casey Janssen (shoulder). Jeremy Accardo has also missed almost the entire season with a mysterious forearm problem. In 2007, the Jays lost B.J. Ryan, Gustavo Chacin and Brandon League to arm woes. 2005 first-round pick Ricky Romero has also experienced more than his share of problems. This is hardly all bad luck for the Jays. The team is constantly misleading the media or flat-out lying about arm injuries in the hopes that they'll simply go away on their own. McGowan was overworked in the second half of last year and diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff after the season, though the Jays never disclosed that fact until July. A.J. Burnett currently ranks second in baseball in pitches thrown. The pitch counts say Marcum was never overworked, but he was clearly rushed back from his elbow injury this year. He was pitching in games after less than a month, even though he didn't nearly resemble the pitcher who was one of the best in the AL in April and May. Judging from the drop in his velocity and his command issues, he was probably dealing with a torn elbow ligament all along.
Like him or not, pitching coach Brad Arnsberg gets results and that will keep him employed. However, because of the injuries, the Jays have to be worried about the state of their pitching staff entering 2009. If nothing can be worked out with Burnett before or after he opts out, then Jesse Litsch would suddenly be the team's No. 2 starter. Scott Downs would likely be shifted from the pen unless GM J.P. Ricciardi keeps Burnett and adds another starter. Assuming that Burnett is re-signed or replaced and Downs is added to the middle of the rotation, then David Purcey and Janssen could compete for the fifth spot. McGowan can't be completely ruled out for Opening Day, but odds are that he'll miss at least the first month.
- I've railed against the Giants rushing players to the majors in the news, but I don't think I've been able to clearly demonstrate my point there. It's not just that Conor Gillaspie, Emmanuel Burriss, Travis Denker and others have had their development interrupted. In most cases, that's actually the lesser concern. Sure, Brian Bocock had no business beginning the year in the majors, but it's not as though he's likely to be any good in three years, either. The problem is that the Giants have now pushed so many players to the majors that it's likely to have a huge effect on how they do business this winter and could hurt the team in the long run.
Including players on the 60-day DL, the Giants have 43 players on their 40-man roster. Just two of those players -- Rich Aurilia and Omar Vizquel -- are free agents at season's end. Also, it seems like a safe assumption that Scott McClain, Matt Palmer and Eliezer Alfonzo will be designated for assignment. That's it for the easy calls. They can drop Steve Holm, but his spot would eventually have to go to another backup catcher. Tyler Walker, Brad Hennessey and Kevin Correia could be candidates to be non-tendered, but then Barry Zito and Keiichi Yabu would be the only real veteran pitchers on the roster. The team would just sign similar pitchers to replace him. The good news is that Giants are going to have only one or two remaining prospects that they have to worry about protecting in advance of the Rule 5 draft. However, that could get them right back up to 40 players, depending on how they want to do it.
It's going to work out so that practically any free agent signing or waiver claim will potentially cost the club a younger player. The Giants under Brian Sabean aren't all that active when it comes to claiming players anyway, something that has hurt them. They might completely avoid that route of player acquisition this winter. They're likely to add a pitcher or two and one or two veteran infielders through free agency or trade. As is, they have 11 relatively young infielders on their 40-man roster, none of whom are at all guaranteed of performing as quality regulars next year. Without any signings, they'd be stuck with Pablo Sandoval, John Bowker or Travis Ishikawa at first, Eugenio Velez or Kevin Frandsen at second, Emmanuel Burriss at short and either Sandoval or Frandsen at third. Adding a power hitter at one of the spots would seem to be a must if the Giants want to contend next year.
- One clarification from last week's column on free agents: Boston reportedly is off the hook for the buyout of Edgar Renteria's option. That's the word from both the Globe and the Detroit Free Press. The Red Sox would have had to pay $3 million had Renteria's option been declined by the Braves, but it seems the additional trade altered that clause of the deal. Also, because of performance bonuses, the option year is now worth $12 million, rather than the original $11 million. So, the Tigers are left with a $9 million decision on whether to keep Renteria. The 33-year-old is hitting .273/.321/.383 this season, and his defense at shortstop is now clearly below average. It looks like the Tigers will decide to let him go and spend his money on pitching. Unfortunately, the idea of replacing him internally took a hit with the news that Michael Hollimon needs labrum surgery and will miss the start of next year. It would have been easier to justify having Ramon Santiago open the year at shortstop with Hollimon's intriguing bat as a fallback option.
- The assumption is that Erik Bedard will be non-tendered now that it's been revealed that he needs labrum surgery. The one thing the Mariners have going for them is their ability to maintain a top-five payroll, but even if Bedard were willing to accept the same $7 million salary he received in 2008, he'd be a long shot to be worth it in 2009. Also, since he'll have missed so much of the previous two seasons, it's highly unlikely that he'd bring back draft-pick compensation were he to leave as a free agent after 2009. Bedard might prefer to be elsewhere anyway. With Bedard likely gone, the Mariners may have to rethink their plan to avoid top free agents this winter. Their big-money pitching acquisitions haven't worked out at all, but that's because they're always overpaying for modest talents. The Mariners would be crazy to go out and spend $40 million for Kyle Lohse, but they're in better position than most to gamble on Oliver Perez or Ben Sheets.
- It was Nov. 2006 when the Royals informed Mark Teahen that he'd be moving to the outfield to make room for Alex Gordon at third base. One wonders if those two players will be involved in a similar announcement this winter. The Royals put Teahen back at third while Gordon was hurt last month and could decide that they're best off going forward with Gordon at first. If anything, Gordon has regressed defensively since entering the league. Teahen is nothing special at third base, but as ineffective as he has been offensively the last two years, he's probably not even worth playing in the outfield. With top prospect Mike Moustakas already having been moved to third base in the minors, it looks like Gordon's long-term future is at first. The Royals can stick Teahen at third for a year and then decide whether he'll be worth keeping in 2010. Billy Butler would become the full-time DH he's always been destined to be, and Ross Gload can head back to the bench where he belongs. A switch would close off first base for 2008 first-round pick Eric Hosmer, but he's far enough away that it's not worth worrying about right now.
- A quick review of my "Bold Predictions" from this year's Rotoworld draft guide.
2008 World Series - Indians over Diamondbacks
Well, that's not happening.
I had the Red Sox, Yankees, Indians and Angels in the playoffs in the AL and Mets, Phillies, Brewers and Diamondbacks in the NL.
Essentially, I picked the guys who I figured would drive in the most runs for teams that just might sneak into the postseason. It's not like I really expected either player to be the best in his league.
Projection: .314/.386/.584, 38 HR, 117 R, 119 RBI, 3 SB in 599 AB
2008 stats: .295/.354/.543, 36 HR, 83 R, 125 RBI, 1 SB in 587 AB
Projection: .303/.397/.557, 36 HR, 106 R, 126 RBI, 2 SB in 610 AB
2008 stats: .304/.408/.543, 31 HR, 99 R, 117 RBI, 2 SB in 549 AB
I would have ranked Santana over Webb after the trade, but I'm not sure who I would have had replace him in the AL. I had Josh Beckett, Erik Bedard, Fausto Carmona, Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander all finishing with similar win totals and ERAs. Felix Hernandez was right there with them in ERA, but with a weaker win total. I probably would have said Beckett based on the additional win potential.
Chamberlain has the quality, but not the quantity. Both he and Fukudome will finish well back in the voting. It's hard to believe now that Fukudome started in the All-Star Game just two months ago.
Projection: .283/.349/.465, 19 HR, 77 R, 80 RBI, 12 SB in 548 AB
2008 stats: .286/.324/.492, 19 HR, 87 R, 62 RBI, 3 SB in 583 AB
Projection: 15-10, 3.49 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 157 Ks in 214 IP
2008 stats: 16-10, 3.60 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 162 Ks in 202 2/3 IP
Oswalt has gone from true bust to just about matching his projection. He had a better-than-expected strikeout rate even while struggling in the first half.
Random prediction No. 1 - Ryan Howard will be the year's only 50-homer guy.
Still got a shot. Howard is at 46 right now, while no one else has more than 38 homers.
Random prediction No. 2 - Francisco Liriano will be the game's best pitcher after the All-Star break.
6-0 with a 2.05 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP and a 55/18 K/BB ratio in 61 1/3 innings. He hasn't been the best, but he isn't far off.
- A very early guess on how the closing situations will shape up for each team at the start of next season.
The Orioles might as well stick with Sherrill until Ray shows he's all the way back from Tommy John surgery. It will give him a chance to rebuild his trade value.
Two AL Central teams figure to acquire closers, but they're both more likely to be in on Brian Fuentes than Francisco Rodriguez. Also, I could see the Indians trading for Huston Street or Kevin Gregg.
The Angels wouldn't need to acquire a closer if K-Rod leaves, but they also didn't need a center fielder last winter. I doubt they'd go to Shields and Arredondo without exploring all of the alternatives. . If Street stays in Oakland, he'd probably get a chance to win his job back in spring training. However, Ziegler would have to head into camp as the favorite. Devine, if he can stay healthy, is the best long-term bet of Oakland's relievers.
Atlanta - Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano
Florida - Matt Lindstrom, FA/Trade, Ryan Tucker
New York - FA/Trade, Duaner Sanchez, Eddie Kunz
Philadelphia - Brad Lidge
Washington - Joel Hanrahan, Steven Shell, Jason Bergmann
I assuming Wood will remain with the Cubs as a free agent. . The Brewers have to add an outside closer, preferably Fuentes. . The Cardinals might be better off trusting Perez and Motte and investing their cash in starting pitching. Still, it'd be a surprise if they didn't pick up a veteran.
The Diamondbacks probably figured that Rauch would be their 2009 closer after they acquired him up from the Nats, but he's been a disaster so far. I still think he's a better bet for next year than Chad Qualls or Pena. . I'm not sure at all about the Dodgers going with Broxton over Saito, but it seems like the right idea. Saito is sporting a 1.88 ERA in three seasons as a major leaguer, but he's turning 39 in February and he only figures to get more fragile.
- The Padres completely blew it with their three-game sweep of the Nationals over the weekend. Now it's looking like a two-team race for San Diego State right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 talent in the 2009 draft.
Seattle - 57-98
Washington - 58-98
San Diego - 61-95