Manny, Boras, Dodgers still talking: I think this is a brilliant negotiation strategy on the part of Scott Boras, Manny Ramirez has rejected the Dodgers' offer of 2-years and $45 million (with some of it deferred) in favor a similar offer, this time with no money deferred.
Look, Manny absolutely holds all the cards here. He's rich beyond his wildest dreams, still immensely talented, in demand and, most importantly, the biggest key to the Dodgers' success in 2009.
Without Ramirez, Los Angeles' opening-day lineup looks something like this:
1B- James Loney
Now, that's a pretty nice lineup. You've got speed from Hudson, Furcal and Pierre, and power from Martin, Kemp, Ethier, Blake and Loney. However, with Ramirez that starting nine would look much, much more imposing, especially in a relatively weak, albeit improved, NL West.
Put simply: Ramirez immediately makes this team the favorite. He adds one of the five best hitters of this generation, and, as a wonderful bonus, gets Juan Pierre out of the lineup. Sure, Pierre is probably the speediest of the Dodgers, but he just doesn't get on base enough to fully utilize that speed.
Sign the deal, Los Angeles, and stamp your ticket to the postseason.
Santana scratched in Port St. Lucie: That strong breeze you feel is Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, Larry Lucchino, John Henry, Theo Epstein and the rest of the Yankees and Red Sox brass sighing in relief. Johan Santana, the Mets hired gun of 2008, has elbow stiffness and is already in jeopardy of missing his start on Opening Day.
Elbow stiffness: The two scariest words a pitcher can hear, outside of "James Andrews."
Sure, the injury could be nothing, but if it is more serious it already deals a major blow the Mets' hopes of rebounding after two consecutive September collapses. If Santana is to miss prolonged time, the Mets' rotation would look something like this:
1. John Maine
2. Oliver Perez
3. Mike Pelfrey
4. Tim Redding
5. Freddy Garcia/Johnathon Niese/Livan Hernandez
Somewhere, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Co. chuckle.
Of course, the deal for Santana was doubly costly for the Mets, who had to surrender Philip Humber, Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra and Kevin Mulvey in addition to a 7-year, $137.5 million contract for the left-hander.
The Yankees and Red Sox had deals on the table for Santana, with each surrendering a plethora of young talent.
New York would have given up some combination of Chien-Ming Wang, Melky Cabrera, Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes, Mitch Hilligoss and Austin Jackson. Of course, save for Jackson, each player on that list had a disappointing-to-terrible 2008. Point is, though, each still has vast potential and would look like a foolish concession if dealt for a pitcher who suddenly begins to have arm trouble.
The bounty the Twins would have received from the Red Sox looks even more terrifying, in retrospect. Some of the names bandied about were: Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Kalish, Michael Bowden and Justin Masterson.
Now, if I'm a Boston fan, even thinking of thinking of life without the first name on that list makes the hair on my neck stand on end. With the exception of Tim Lincecum in San Francisco, Lester is the best young pitcher today. In fact, there's a good chance he becomes the ace of that staff in short order.
Ellsbury went backward a little bit last year, but Masterson and Bowden both showed promise for either the rotation or the bullpen. A Boston deal for Santana, while satisfying in the short term, would have been positively disastrous a few years down the line.
For the Mets' (and especially general manager Omar Minaya's) sake, they'd better hit their knees and pray that Santana's injury is only a blip on the radar screen and not an overall cloud hanging over their future.
Tantalizing Images in Tampa: In some ways, spring training games can be a bore. After the first few innings the starters are replaced and the lineup becomes a mishmash of washed-up veterans desperately seeking a second chance and Double- and Triple- A players biding their time until they are cut and sent to the minor league complex.
Sometimes, though, seeing the minor leaguers can be half the fun.
Everyone knows that guys like Alex Rodriguez (steroids or not), Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon will hit come April. Seeing what kids can do provides fans who can't attend minor league games a tantalizing glimpse into their team's future.
For instance, in the sixth inning of Saturday's game with the Twins in Fort Myers Andrew Brackman, one of the Yankees' top prospects and their first-round selection in 2007, induced a Minnesota hitter to fly to center field, where the aforementioned Austin Jackson was waiting.
Hearing Twins broadcaster John Gordon describe the action made me wonder if this was but the first of many times I'd hear both men's names called over the airwaves.
A Cruz in Kansas City: In the final section of today's post we learn about one of the final major free agents finding a home.
Reliever Juan Cruz, a 30-year-old right-hander who posted a 4-0 record, 1.26 WHIP and a better than 2:1 K:BB ration in Arizon last season, signed with the Royals yesterday.
His addition helps to patch the gaping holes left by the departures of Leo Nunez and Ramon Ramirez, but not enough to make a Royals' bullpen that also "features" Kyle Farnsworth, Brandon Duckworth, Jimmy Gobble and John Bale anything approaching formidable.