Should I Really Have Been Surprised About Strasburg?

Ryan Zimmerman finally has some star-studded company in Washington

Ryan Zimmerman finally has some star-studded company in Washington

Late last night, the Nationals signed Stephen Strasburg to a four year contract worth over $15 million. This despite lots of talk that he wouldn’t sign and then maybe play in the independent leagues or Japan until next year’s draft and then get taken by another team. Presumably, one that would pay what he and agent Scott Boras wanted, and also be closer to winning than the Nationals currently are. On the other hand, this year’s worst teams (who will ultimately pick at the top of the 2010 draft) don’t really include anyone whom you can classify as “free spending,” unless you really believe he would fall all the way to the Mets in the middle of the top-10. Forget the conspiracy ideas of him becoming a foreign national so that he could be signed as a free agent like Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman. This would have cost him too many years of his potential big league career to get to that point. Otherwise, you know Boras would’ve tried it.

The Nationals knew all of this. They also knew that they needed another cornerstone player besides Ryan Zimmerman and some #2/3 caliber young starting pitchers- Strasburg should be an ace. And as we saw, they offered $15 million, no strings attached. More than the Cubs gave Mark Prior (although the deals aren’t structured the same), who was actually a #2 overall pick behind Joe Mauer… oops. If he pitches up to the hype, the deal expires without buying out any arbitration-eligible years, so his salary could quickly skyrocket.

Tom Boswell sees this much as I do. The Nationals may finally have some credibility as an organization, and the cost of being wrong on Strasburg over the next few years probably pales in comparison to what it would be if they yielded his rights and saw him thrive somewhere else in two years.

Still, I figured that the Nationals wouldn’t pull the trigger on this big a financial commitment to someone who hasn’t yet played in the Majors, or that Boras and Strasburg might gamble on what could happen next year. Instead, the two parties determined that they really did need each other- if only until 2015. As Keith Law puts it, a potential win-win for all sides– assuming Strasburg delivers on the field!

Stephen Strasburg will soon be wearing red, white, and gold for his home games.

Stephen Strasburg will soon be wearing red, white, and gold for his home games.

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Deadline Day has Come

A semi-live blog of today’s MLB deadline day stuff. The usual mix of confirmed developments and any near-instant reaction I find. Plus some of my own thoughts, as warranted.

11:10- First, a recap of yesterday’s moves, including George Sherrill going to the Dodgers, more Pirates abandoning ship, and a couple of other deals. Also, Freddy Sanchez joined San Francisco on Wednesday (as we hinted at in that day’s blogging) for a potentially steep price, pitching prospect Tim Alderson.

11:21- Ken Rosenthal and FOX reported this morning that a Victor Martinez deal was unlikely, but Jayson Stark previously said Cleveland and Boston could pull off a three-way deal. Clay Buchholz would be Cleveland’s primary return on a trade, while the third team would take Adam LaRoche (and probably some minor leaguers). No real updates on Stark’s report, so we’ll see about this…

11:31- It does seem, however, that the Red Sox are still looking seriously at Adrian Gonzalez, but it’s clear that he is not likely to come without paying a steep price. In the Daily News article linked here, we also find out that the Yankees were interested in lefty-pitcher Jarrod Washburn, but that is not going to happen as Detroit just swooped in and got him.

11:45- The Daily News also has this gallery of not-so-great Yankees and Mets trades or free-agent signings, both at the deadline and otherwise. Ah yes, Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps and Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano. Gotta love it.

11:50- Looks like a couple of prospects headed to the Mariners for Washburn. Here are some details on them. Good move for Detroit, as it gives some protection for the rotation behind Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson in case rookie Rick Porcello wears down under the strains of a late-season pennant drive. Plus, Comerica (national) Park might be an even better place for southpaw hurlers than Safeco Field. A 2.64 ERA could go even lower, and if so, Washburn figures to be in for a nice payday once he reaches free agency this winter.

11:55- Not much else cooking right now, but we have until 4:00 ET, so I’ll be back a little later!

2:15- A little bit has changed since we last spoke. The Brewers traded for Claudio Vargas. Minnesota got Orlando Cabrera for basically a bag of balls. Jeremiah Graves likes it, since Cabrera is better offensively than what they previously had at short (aside from not walking very much), and his glove is solid. The Brewers may just be taking a cautious wade in the “go for it pool.”

2:23- Washburn reaction. Good deal both ways says Blogging About Baseball. Rob Neyer sees it as a wiser move for Seattle, as does Geoff Baker, while Keith Law thinks Washburn could be golden in October. Ken Davidoff thinks the Tigers are going for it this year, if only to keep attendance up despite the economy. Seems a bit cynical, especially since Mike Illitch is an owner who flat out wants to win. John Lowe in the Detroit Free Press worries about whether or not the Tigers will give Washburn enough run support, something he manifestly lacked in Seattle (and Lowe notes that Detroit has let down Edwin Jackson several times this season).

2:30- Fan bloggers mostly praised the Tigers’ decision, apparently including a (reluctant) Yankees fan. I can’t say I’d have given up top prospects for Washburn, which is supposedly what Brian Cashman was told he’d have to do. Of course, Detroit arguably ended up getting him for less, perhaps somewhat by default. This Mariner fan is happy, since the Mariners at least build up some pitching depth for someone they likely wouldn’t have been able to re-sign.

2:44- A Red Sox blogger wishes the Yankees had gotten Washburn (figures), but seems happier about a possible Victor Martinez trade that might be getting closer

2:45- Detroit apparently wants Luke Scott from Baltimore. That definitely would help the offense a little bit.

2:50- MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo hints on his Twitter page at whom Boston might deal for V-Mart. No Buchholz apparently, which could make this deal almost as good as the one Philly made for Cliff Lee. In fairness, Cleveland is looking for longer-term potential, which Nick Hagadone and Justin Masterson may have.

3:05- A Victor Martinez trade means it would likely be “we hardly knew ye” for Adam LaRoche in Boston. Just one hour until the deadline, and rumor is Atlanta may be interested in acquiring him (they actually had LaRoche a couple years back and then dealt him to Pittsburgh for closer Mike Gonzalez).

3:23- And what do you know? Adam LaRoche is headed to Atlanta, per Gordon Edes (seen here and here). He should provide some extra offense.

3:28- The Yankees won’t quite let the deadline pass quietly. They’ve acquired Jerry Hairston, Jr. from Cincinnati. As with the Phillies getting Ben Francisco in the Cliff Lee deal, Hairston’s not spectacular but he will give them a right-handed bat off the bench with a little power (eight home runs so far this year). He can also play multiple positions in the field.

3:32- Boston gets Casey Kotchman in return for Adam LaRoche, per NESN. Kotchman was the Braves’ first baseman, but as the report notes, he’d be competing with V-Mart and Kevin Youkilis for playing time. On the other hand, perhaps Martinez would just rotate between catcher and DH.

3:34- Colorado upgrades the bullpen with a deal for Joe Beimel, late of the Nationals.

3:36- The Boston Globe’s trade deadline blog confirms details of the Martinez trade.

3:42- The Marlins will apparently stand pat and either get the wild card or nothing on what they have now.

3:45- Reports that Scott Rolen has been traded to the Reds. He does have to waive his no-trade clause first. He’d be a nice addition going forward, although the Reds are unlikely to win the NL Central this year (they’re just not better than the Cardinals or Cubs). No, I haven’t forgotten about Roy Halladay, but it’s pretty clear that he won’t be dealt today. No indication that the Jays have been in any serious talks over him this afternoon.

4:00- And there it is! The deadline is upon us.

4:04- The dust may not settle for another hour or so as teams and MLB confirm all the paperword/medicals/issue press releases. Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi at FOX say Edwin Encarnacion will go to Toronto in return for Rolen, who is expected to waive his NTC. He’s signed through next year. Reds also deal a couple of others- nobody of particular note- per Yahoo! Sports. Also, in a milder surprise, the Marlins will, in fact, acquire Nick Johnson from Washington for a prospect. This should give Hanley Ramirez some protection in the batting order.

4:06- Yahoo!’s live blog says that the Blue Jays did not ask Roy Halladay to waive his NTC. If true, this confirms that he’s staying in Toronto, at least until the end of the season. Also, the Yankees gave a minor league catcher (but not Jesus Montero) for Hairston, Jr.

4:10- From earlier, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale says San Diego is not trading reliever Heath Bell (unless he clears waivers during August). Minnesota balked at the high price, as other teams did with Adrian Gonzalez.

4:12- River Ave. Blues likes the Hairston trade for the Yanks. Was Watching with a light-hearted nostalgia flashback. Boogie Down says the Yanks were smart not to make trades just for the sake of them today. That said, I do think Boston improved themselves by getting Victor Martinez and Casey Kotchman.

More Baseball Stuff

First and foremost, it doesn’t look like Roy Halladay’s going anywhere. His trade value may have plunged with the Cliff Lee deal concluded. Boston apparently is reluctant to get involved, per MLB Trade Rumors and the Herald.

Pittsburgh and Seattle made a hefty trade. The Mariners get Jack Wilson to give them solid defense at shortstop (and an expensive option on his contract for next year), while the Pirates will see if Jeff Clement can finally live up to his #3 pick hype, plus they get Ronny Cedeno and some pitching prospects. Veteran Pittsburgh reporter Dejan Kovacevic says the Pirates are actually paying much of Wilson and pitcher Ian Snell’s remaining salary for this year. Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron, as well as Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus like what the Pirates are getting, while Rob Neyer says the Mariners’ end of the deal is in three parts– whether or not Snell, a formerly touted prospect, can get back to the Majors and blossom as a pitcher (in a great pitcher’s park), whether or not the Mariners can win the AL West this year or next (a product, at least in part, of Wilson’s defense), and that Pittsburgh is paying some of the freight. Fellow ESPN writer Keith Law again finds little to love in the deal other than the defensive possibilities for Seattle, and Pittsburgh building up its supply of young pitchers.

The Pirates may also trade Freddy Sanchez and/or others today. Stay tuned on that one.

The great Ken Rosenthal has a rundown of other stuff. He thinks George Sherill may go, but Adrian Gonzalez probably won’t. Rosenthal also says Boston is unlikely to get Victor Martinez, but MLB Trade Rumors quotes Buster Olney with sourced info that indicates Martinez is going somewhere.

More later.

Not Halladay, But…

Still a nice deal for the Phillies. They get Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco from Cleveland for four prospects, not bad ones at all, but none of whom is Kyle Drabek or J.A. Happ. All of this is pending medical formalities. You may recall that the Fightin’ Phils absolutely wouldn’t trade both for Roy Halladay (and were only prepared to deal one because it was Roy Halladay). Even if the Indians’ new prospects develop nicely, this is still a coup for Philadelphia. Lee may not like the hitter-friendly nature of Citizens Bank Park, but he should still benefit from switching to the weaker National League (The Good Phight has numbers confirming my point), especially the NL East. Assuming the Phillies pick up his team option for next year, he’d hit the open market in the same year as Halladay, and would have plenty of suitors, but it’s really too early to get into the “will he sign long-term” stuff. Ben Francisco, by the way, might help Philly too, as he gives them some outfield/bench help, and he’s right-handed in a team loaded with lefties. Getting back to the prospects, Swing and a Long Drive notes that three were blocked by established major leaguers, while pitcher Carlos Carrasco had obviously fallen below Drabek and Happ in the pecking order (his stats bear that out, and Philadelphia tried to include him in some Halladay proposals). Bottom line? Philadelphia becomes the favorite to win the National League again, unless the Dodgers get Halladay (which they won’t unless they give up Clayton Kershaw- not happening). Not to say that LA couldn’t win a best-of-seven with the Phillies, but I wouldn’t pick them to do so right now. Not with the Phillies’ loaded starting rotation.

Phillie fans seem happy with this deal, and as I said, they really should be. “All Shall Rejoice,” screams 4DaysRest. Red Pinstripes are Cooler asks a good question about who goes to the bullpen or exits town if Pedro Martinez has anything left and so is added to the rotation at some point in August. Fire Ruben Amaro may have to change its name. This blogger gives Philly a “B+” for the deal (you can also see his grades on other moves leading up to tomorrow’s deadline). Intial reaction from Cleveland’s perspective isn’t favorable to the Tribe’s haul, which is understandable given that they probably expected a price similar to Halladay’s. Yesterday, they traded Ryan Garko to San Francisco for a pitching prospect who has shown flashes of potential. Keith Law thinks he’s probably going to make it as a reliever, assuming he ever does.

Friday Links

No, I’m not hitting the golf course today. Can’t remember the last time I actually did pick up clubs and try to play (emphasis on “try,” of course). But maybe a haircut or trip to the gym…?

So here goes…

Rick Klein’s daily Note with everything you need to know from the Capital and beyond.

Yesterday’s news that the Senate won’t finish up its healthcare debate before a scheduled recess will apparently trigger a multimillion dollar interest group war in the weeks to come. Lovely. Get the popcorn ready! Or youtube…

Cillizza also thinks that despite Republicans still have an uphill climb as far as gaining seats in the Senate next year, even though President Obama has clearly taken some hits lately and his party will most likely lose some seats in the House (especially in districts which voted for John McCain last year). On the other hand, the GOP may find it easier to hold some of the seats that conventional wisdom held might be tough ones because of all the swing-states which Obama won or narrowly lost last year (especially Ohio, Florida, and Missouri).

The President hasn’t given up hope on a speedy resolution to healthcare (and he insists he won’t be ‘broken’), as he’ll meet with two very important senators today. Probably won’t be able to goad either Max Baucus or Harry Reid that much, the Senate tends to do things in its own sweet time, and was, after all, designed to be a deliberative, federalist body. At least President Obama can still bask in the glow of Mark Buehrle’s perfect game, and DeWayne Wise’s spectacular catch to preserve it. Buehrle was actually on the mound for a little over 30 minutes, and didn’t need more than 3 minutes for any one hitter. Amazing.

Apparently, New York does not have a monopoly on corruption and greed at the local levels of government. You only have to cross the Hudson River for evidence

California’s budget crisis is getting closer to resolution. It’s not going to be pretty for anyone.

The federal minimum wage officially goes up to $7.25 per hour today (states are allowed to set higher minimums if they wish). For workers in a few states, the increase could be worth $1,400 or more over the next 12 months- which could really help with paying debts or stimulating local economies-, but some economists worry that it could kill jobs for businesses lacking strong profit margins. I don’t think the wage has gone up so much in recent years that it’s going to be a huge problem yet. But we should keep an eye on the small businesses most affected by minimum wage laws, because they do provide a lot of jobs when put together.

This won’t happen, but I think it would be nice for cooling off our political discourse and providing voters with competitive elections.

Michael Phelps returns to action this weekend. What can he possibly do for an encore? In fact, it might really be a second encore considering he took home quite a few medals in the 2004 Athens games.

Michael Vick may also be back soon, but he will apparently face a suspension to start the new NFL season. Oh, and he has to find a team. Obviously, Vick hopes that a definite decision on his future will lead one or more teams to show real interest.

Roger Federer now has twins to go along with all of his trophies. At least one oddsmaker is already taking bets on whether or not his daughters will win tennis majors.

Nike is no longer trying to suppress videos of LeBron getting dunked on. Not that what we saw turned out to be much of a big deal. Nor is it really that big a deal that he apparently tried marijuana while in high school.

Monday Morning Links

Let’s start with some props to this guy, who legitimately won the 2009 Open Championship on the links of Turnberry by making some putts down the stretch, including a non-gimme on the 72nd hole of regulation. Then, he made a good par save on the first playoff hole and from there played nearly flawless golf. Take nothing away from how well Tom Watson played this week, don’t let a bogey on his last hole, followed by an ugly display in the playoff, fool you into think his carriage turned into a pumpkin. Mark Herrmann agrees, as did Rick Reilly in his closing essay on the ESPN telecast. If it’s any consolation to Watson, he took a big leap in the latest World Golf Rankings. Stewart Cink, meanwhile, has a career-altering victory which validates his consistently excellent play on Tour– something his relative lack of wins might have hidden for a while. By the way, check out Cink’s photos on the twitter feed I linked to, which includes the photo seen in today’s first post. Plenty of commenters already, while the family and fans back in Georgia are quite proud too. As Mark Bradley indicates, hopefully we will all appreciate Cink’s accomplishment eventually, rather than just dwell on what might have been for Watson.

Elsewhere in sports, we find some Roy Halladay trade rumors. This store caught fire leading up to the All Star Game when the Blue Jays indicated that they’d consider a deal if they were blown away by an offer. Doesn’t look like anything’s too close though. The Orioles also may deal some veterans, but are being pretty coy about it to try and drive up the price. The Brewers did make a move, getting Felipe Lopez from Arizona for a couple of minor leaguers. He should immediately become the second baseman, and might also be their leadoff hitter. They still need more pitching, however, to keep pace with the Cardinals and Cubs in the NL Central.

In other news…

Man walked on the Moon 40 years ago tomorrow, and HowStuffWorks posted a film commemorating the legendary Apollo 11 and its journey. Newsday has a photo gallery, as do other media outlets. I’m sure there is or will be even more content out there. The astronauts themselves say that Mars needs to be our next mission. They’ll be at the White House today. Kind of ironic that this anniversary occurs just after Walter Cronkite’s death. Cronkite was quite an admirer of space exploration. He was a giant of journalism, and we will all miss him.

Speaking of the White House, I’m going to try and get back to posting some political stuff- legitimately fair and balanced, of course. Mike Allen has some other tidbits on today in Washington, including a state visit from India’s Prime Minister in November. Also, the healthcare issue is still vexing, and the President has plenty of critics who smell blood. The public polling numbers, to the extent they will actually influence Congress, are not on President Obama’s side. Not sure if I think Bobby Jindal offers many alternative solutions to those which likely would be in any eventual reform. Naturally, President Obama intends to fight back. But can he really get the Senate’s Finance Committee to put a bill on the table this week, as Jake Tapper reports? Deliberative is probably a better approach here. The government gets one chance to do this even close to correctly.

Various other political perspectives, on the left, right, and in the middle, can be found through links here and here.

Monday Monday…

So the Red Wings and USA both get it turned around on Saturday night, and how! No newsworthy, funny, or otherwise photos this morning because the computer I’m typing from seems to have a problem uploading them right now…

Plus the Yankees record another come from behind win and finally beat the Rays at home, this time in front of Sarah Palin, there as a guest of uber-fan Rudy Giuliani during her visit to New York. Ken Davidoff adds that it was arguably a bit of a statement win for them. We’ll see. They’ve got another one tonight, followed by three with Boston in Fenway, but frankly, with about 100 games to go, the real statement games don’t come until after the All Star Game, to put it kindly. Off the field, the Yankees could become the first team to stream games online within their regional market, if you’re willing to pay for the privilege.

The Magic had Game 2 of the NBA Finals in their grasp twice, and couldn’t finish the job, writes Mitch Lawrence, who uses the “cursed” word by reminding us of Nick Anderson’s missed free throws in 1995. They paid for it in OT and are now in big trouble, especially since to win the series, they now must go back to LA for a potential Game 6 (unlike the earlier playoff rounds, the NBA uses a 2-3-2 for the Finals). You can ask if Pau Gasol got away with goaltending at the end of regulation, but I think the Magic shouldn’t be making any rationalizations for badly missing a very makeable shot.

Lots of other good sports action this weekend. I went to Belmont for the first time, which I’ll elaborate on later and hopefully be able to post a picture or two. Bottom line, I didn’t fare well but at least I didn’t wager much in the first place! Props to Kent Desormeaux for an outstanding ride, culminating in Summer Bird’s explosive final surge evocative of what Calvin Borel on Mine That Bird (they both have the same sire, Birdstone, but different dams) did to blow away the field in the Kentucky Derby.

More later…