Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday: Covering the Bases

The Hot Stove League is starting to simmer!

  • The Cubs’ acquisition of Kevin Gregg in a trade with the Marlins means that the Kerry Wood era in Chicago has come to a close. As a result, expect young fireballer Carlos Marmol to assume the closer’s mantle from the departed Wood and Gregg to inherit Marmol’s 7th and 8th inning setup role.

  • Wood’s departure from Chicago, together with Trevor Hoffman’s seemingly inevitable exit from San Diego, further muddles the relief picture throughout baseball. There are currently four closers in the free agent market (Francisco Rodriguez, Brian Fuentes, Wood and Hoffman) and four more reportedly up for grabs via the trade market in Colorado’s Huston Street, Seattle’s J.J. Putz, Arizona’s Brandon Lyon and the White Sox’ Bobby Jenks. With not more than four teams – the Tigers, Mets, Indians and Cardinals – in desperate need of back-of-the-bullpen help, it’s only logical to think that the basic law of supply and demand will result in an overwhelmingly buyers’ market and ultimately cause a downward correction in the dollar amount and tenor of contracts awarded this winter. More specifically, a year ago this time it would have seemed perfectly feasible for Rodriguez to have landed a five-year/$75 million deal from someone. This year, however, he might have to settle for a four-year deal in the neighborhood of $55 million.

  • It’s gone virtually unnoticed, but in Leo Nunez (obtained from the Royals in the Mike Jacobs trade) and Jose Ceda, acquired from the Cubs in the Kevin Gregg deal, Florida has picked up a pair of young, talented right-handed relievers. Ceda is especially intriguing. He’s 6’4” and 275 pounds and combines a mid-90’s fastball with a biting slider. In 30 Double A innings last season his K/9 ratio was better than 12.5. Add Nunez and Ceda to the hard-throwing trio of Matt Lindstrom, Logan Kensing and Renyel Pinto, and it’s easy to envision the Marlins with a shutdown bullpen for years to come….assuming the perpetual South Florida fire sale ends at some point.

  • And speaking of the fire sale, it looks like outfielder Jeremy Hermida will be the next purge victim. Hermida’s talent is unmistakable – throughout his brief major league career he’s displayed the ability to hit for average and power, a cannon arm and above average speed – however, he’s never been able to translate his tools into performance. He looked like he was ready to bust out after hitting .296/.369/.501 in an injury-riddled 2007 campaign, but slipped to .249/.323/.406 in 2008 and by the end of the season wasn’t even playing everyday. The Cubs are rumored to be very interested in Hermida, but Lou Piniella has a poor track record with underachieving youngsters (see Grieve, Ben). Tampa Bay, on the other hand, would be an ideal location for Hermida. The Rays desperately seek an affordable power bat for right field and posses the young pitching that would entice the Marlins to swing a deal. They also have a manager in Joe Maddon who, in just three years, has turned around the careers of Carlos Pena, B.J. Upton, Matt Garza and Dioneer Navarro and could probably do the same for Hermida.

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