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Jon Lester Is the Next Casey Fossum

It irks me when I hear about unproven players “holding up” deals because teams are unwilling to trade them. I understand the thought process for most teams — if you drafted a player, your franchise has invested in him, therefore you want to reap those benefits. For most GMs, it’s not easy to trade someone you believe to be a jewel in your farm system. More often than not however, these prospects don’t develop. There’s a reason why even a guy like Jose Guillen is a multi-millionaire; established talent is a sought after commodity since rookies hardly ever make it. Which brings me once again to the Johan Santana trade possibilities.

A lot of the talk out there is that the Red Sox are unwilling to trade Jon Lester or Jacoby Ellsbury for Johan Santana, that they’re sticking points. I have to wonder what Boston’s thinking. If you’re New York, I can understand being reluctant or unwilling to deal Joba, Hughes, or Kennedy. They’re looking to get younger with their pitching staff, and those three arms are highly valued. For Boston, acquiring Santana could mean two or three more World Series in the near future. Johan, Beckett, Dice-K and Clay Buchholz? Wow.

Aside from that luster, Ellsbury and Lester strike me as players whose value has peaked. I don’t expect Ellsbury to be anything more than Coco Crisp (with whom the Red Sox are not happy), and I think Jon Lester is a Casey Fossum clone. Last year, Lastings Milledge could have netted a top pitcher from Oakland. This year he’s dealt for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. A lot of trading isn’t necessarily what you do or don’t do, it’s about when you do it. Trading Lester or Ellsbury now is the right time to do it, especially if the Twins are dumb enough to take them. By the way, anyone know what Casey Fossum’s up to these days?

History Is Made: Player Chooses Tampa Bay Rays over NY Yankees

Yes, a headline that will literally make you do a double take. In case there was ever a question, Troy Percival most certainly is not in it to win it. The man already has a ring from his days with the ’02 Angels and apparently he’s not looking to get his other fingers fitted. The recently retired closer who made a comeback mid-season last year, has reportedly spurned the Yankees for perennial AL East cellar-dweller, the Rays (doesn’t feel the same not being able to say Devil anymore). Much more than winning and making the playoffs, it seems like ego is the biggest factor at hand for Percy.

Troy Percival is signing a two-year deal worth $8 million, and possibly up to $10 million with escalators, according to Ken Rosenthal. The decision by Percy “reunites” him with former Angels bench coach, and current Rays manager, Joe Maddon. No doubt that was a key factor for the man. Most importantly, Rosenthal says Percival chose the Rays because they are going to let him close, while the Yanks were asking him to setup for Rivera. Alright Troy, as the first known man to spurn the Yanks in favor of the Rays, I have to guess two factors are at play: ego, and, well, I guess ego. We’ll see how Troy does, considering Al Reyes was pretty damn effective last year. Think he’ll be regretting his decision when he’s trying to get out Jeter, A-Rod, and Matsui next year? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Would You Trade Johan Santana?

Now that the whole A-Rod contract is kind of sorted out, and there’s nothing new on the Miggy front, I guess Johan Santana would be the top chip on the trading block. He’s a free agent at the end of the season, which puts new GM Bill Smith in the toughest of spots. Does he trade Johan now, during the season, or not at all?

You’re likely to get more for him now than you would during the season because the team that acquires him will have a full season of Santana starts, rather than a half-season. But letting Santana goes is the same thing as flushing the season down the drain. Trading him at the deadline would net you a lot in return because he could easily put any contender over the edge, and even mean win a World Series win for the right team. But trading him at the deadline also means you’re giving up on the second half of the season, which could be a mistake, given what the Rockies showed us this year.

I think I would hang onto Johan as long as possible if I’m Minnesota. With Francisco Liriano coming back this year, the Twins have the potential to be a contender. If Liriano’s anywhere near his form of two years ago, you’re talking about winning 50-55 ballgames that he and Johan start. Adding in Matt Garza, Boof Bonser, and maybe Kevin Slowey to the mix, you’re dealing with a pretty good staff. Sure they lost Hunter and their offense took a step back last year, but it won’t take many runs to win games with those pitchers on the hill.

I’ll say this much for Minnesota: trading Johan now isn’t the end of the world. It would only mean the end of playoff contention for the Twins for the next three to four years. Hunter’s gone, Johan soon to follow, and Nathan shortly thereafter. Maybe Minnesota only has the money to keep Mauer. They have a new ballpark opening soon, but what will be playing in it? The future does not look bright for the Twins. Keep Santana this year — it’s now or never.

$90 Million for Torii Hunter? What Are the Angels Thinking?

Under no circumstance can I envision the Angels spending $90 million on Torii Hunter being a good deal. The reason why it caught everyone off-guard, Hunter included, is because the Angels grossly overpaid, and because Hunter probably never dreamed he would get that much. The Twins supposedly offered 3 years for $45, while the White Sox supposedly offered 5 for $75. That’s about right. I thought, and still believe, that Hunter is only worth around 5 for $65. So what makes this deal so horrible? Well, as Ben and I discussed at Obscure Sports Quarterly, it makes no sense on many levels. Let’s begin.

First of all, the Angels have set the free agent market extremely high, screwing many other teams, themselves included, for the future. Now Andruw Jones, Aaron Rowand, and Mike Cameron are probably going to cost a million or two more per year because of the Angels. When the Angels need to re-sign players, or go after other players, Hunter’s contract will be a future benchmark. If I were another GM, I’d be pissed the Angels inflated the market. When Ichiro was extended during the season this year, what’d he get? 5 years for $90 million. Sorry to say it, but Hunter is nowhere near as good as Ichiro, meaning the Angels had no business having Hunter’s contract match Ichiro’s.

Second of all, the Angels now have $130 million, and around $28 million annually allotted for two center fielders. That’s absurd. I can think of hundreds of ways to better spend $130 million. All those rumors about the Angels going after A-Rod? Even as the most expensive player in baseball at $27 million a year, pair him with any guy making the minimum and it’s still better value than Matthews plus Hunter.

Third, it’s like the Angels are just trying to appease the media. Media members say the Angels need a bat to protect Vlad in the order. Sure, sounds great. But one good bat isn’t enough to protect Vlad; they need another top 10 bat to properly protect Vlad. Hunter couldn’t even protect Morneau and Mauer. He batted behind Michael Cuddyer in Minnesota. Yet he’s supposed to protect Vlad? Give me a break. First line of the AP story, Angels now have protection for Vlad. So the media gets what it wants, but the Angels don’t get much better. Even with $90 million on Hunter, the Angels still don’t have as good an offense as Boston, New York, Cleveland, Detroit, or probably Seattle and Toronto.

The Angels covered one mistake (Matthews) with an even bigger mistake. I seriously wonder whether or not Juan Rivera wouldn’t match Hunter’s offensive production on his own. Matthews is probably as good in center as Hunter, or at least close to it, so what are you really gaining? Now there’s a huge log jam in the outfield that will probably be sorted out by trades. But it doesn’t change that the Angels overpaid Hunter, screwing up the market. People ask me why I care, arguing that it’s not my money. Well, I am a forward thinker. If the Angels have $90 million tied up to Torii, how will they afford to re-sign Miguel Cabrera should they acquire him, and how will they re-sign Franky Rodriguez when he comes up, John Lackey when he comes up, and same with Escobar?

How will they have the money to throw at better free agents when the ’08 class comes up? Johan, Sabathia, and Sheets will all be available. Wouldn’t the Angels be better served going after one of these pitchers instead? I certainly think so. Under no circumstance does this signing make sense, and what’s worse, the Angels inflated the market ruining things for themselves and other teams. Your comments and opinions are welcome.

Why Are the Red Sox so Likable?

This week marked the second occasion over the offseason that a player elected to re-sign with the Red Sox for less than his market value. The first instance was shortly after Boston won the World Series when Curt Schilling agreed to a one-year deal at a base salary of $8 million plus several millions more in incentives. As Schilling said, and I agree, he could have easily signed for $15 million on the open market, and probably double that in a two-year deal. The second instance was when third baseman Mike Lowell signed for three years at $37.5 million.

Much like Schilling, Lowell left an extra year on the table, as well as millions more. Most notably, the Phillies were apparently offering four years at $50 million, and I’m guessing other teams would have been in the same ballpark. In contrast, the Yankees gave A-Rod the largest deal in baseball history, are about to make Mariano Rivera the highest paid closer in the game, and gave Jorge Posada a fat contract. While I had no problem with what the Yanks gave Posada (there aren’t any other sufficient catchers on the market), and approve of the A-Rod deal, I can’t believe they’re giving so much to an aging, less effective closer in Rivera.

The Yankees desperately want to win but their players won’t have the cost come out of their pockets. Rivera and Posada were always said to be “true Yankees,” but even they’re out to get paid. So if the Yanks are trying to get to where the Red Sox are, how come it’s the New York players cashing in on fat deals instead of the other way around? I suppose the easy answer is because the Yanks will pay it, which is a fair point. But I’m still left to ask the question: what makes the Red Sox so likable that players are taking paycuts to remain with the team? I’m not sure what the answer is, and I’m not sure whether or not there’s a right or wrong answer. I’m just pleased that we’re beginning to see more examples of players choosing comfort and familiarity (Kenny Rogers, Tom Glavine, Schilling, Lowell), over fatter contracts.

Is Scott Boras Losing Power?

First we had A-Rod go back to the Yankees sans Boras to negotiate his contract, per Yankee demand. True, it’s the largest deal in baseball history, but it had to be somewhat of a blow to Boras’ ego to be left out of the room, even if he did get the last laugh and wound up negotiating it. But getting fired by Kenny Rogers could not possibly have been on ol’ Scotty’s wish list for the Holidays.

This sure isn’t the first time an agent has ever been fired, but it’s a sign that Boras’ realm of power is somewhat smaller. There are teams out there that flat-out refuse to negotiate with Boras and players he represents. Boras banks on the idea that there is still always one team that will cave to his demands (the Yankees were the most recent), but maybe players are learning that it’s not always in their best interest to be represented by Boras. Rogers could be case in point.

If Boras takes the attitude that it’s his job to get his players the most amount of money possible — in turn resulting in the most money for himself — then is he always servicing his players’ best interest? Perhaps not. And rather than make an extra million or two on the free agent market, maybe Rogers just wants to be in Detroit where he’s happy. Money isn’t always everything — but it seems like it is to Boras, yet not to Rogers.

Barry Bonds Is a Lucky Man

If you were down with LBS going back a few months, you know that I was all over the upcoming indictment of Bonds. I said the feds were getting close to indicting him back in July, and also speculated that President Bush could have had something to do with it. For quite some time, I’ve had the inkling that Bonds was going to get indicted, and that Major League Baseball knew it was coming as well. All those questions about Bud Selig being reluctant to attend Barry’s record-breaking game? It’s because Selig didn’t want to be associated with a player guilty of federal crimes.

So if Bonds is facing several charges of obstruction of justice and perjury, how can he be lucky? That’s easy: MLB allowed him to break the record. I have no doubt that they waited until the offseason to indict Barry. They could have brought these charges about in the summer before Barry broke the record. In fact, parts of me (OK fine, all of me) wanted them to indict Barry on his way to the batter’s box, stuck on 755. They were generous for holding off on the indictment until now. They got their investigation extended months ago, meaning they had a strong case all along. So why wait until now? Because they didn’t want to mar the season. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate ending to Bonds’ career. And yes, unless he goes to the Independent Wild Things, he’s done forever. Alas, justice may be served!