Archive: November 19th, 2008

What About Kerry Wood?

Here’s a fine idea for the Mets’ 2009 closer: Kerry Wood.

After trading for Kevin Gregg for the purpose of pushing Carlos Marmol into the closer role, the Cubs more or less have decided that Kerry Wood does not fit into their 2009 plans. Per Cubs GM Jim Hendry:

“Because of our relationship, you never close the door for life with somebody like Kerry Wood. But honestly, we feel for his own good and for the good of him and his family, there’s going to be a longer and more lucrative deal somewhere else than there would be here now, and it would be unfair to keep it dangling for another month or so. …

“We don’t have to get into how [highly] I think of him. Everyone knows that. But I don’t think we can do for him right now what he deserves and what I think he’ll get going elsewhere.”

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After saving 34 games, and striking out 84 in 53 innings, Wood would appear to be high on the Mets’ wish list. And though many pundits have surmised that would be the case, all we keep hearing from Flushing is that the Mets are ready to offer multiyear, lucrative deals to Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Fuentes.

What’s going on here?

K-Rod is a top target for obvious reasons, so I get that. I’m concerned about his sharp drop in velocity, and don’t feel he should get a five-year contract, but still, it makes sense to put him at the top of the list. Why in the world Brian Fuentes would be more desirable than Kerry Wood, however, defies logic.

First of all, Fuentes is 33 years old and looking for a four-year deal at Billy Wagner money. We can all agree he’s nowhere near Wagner’s talent — even at his best — and therefore not worth that kind of commitment. Furthermore, his low arm slot and sling-like delivery suggests an elbow injury is on the way. But most importantly, he is just one year removed from being demoted from the closer role during the heat of a pennant race. If Fuentes can’t cut it in Colorado, how the heck is he to handle New York? Especially if he signs a huge contract and is expected to fill Wagner’s shoes as an ace reliever?

On the other hand, Kerry Wood is two years younger and likely would accept a two-year deal for less money. His shoulder problems are a concern, for sure, but he seems finally to have found a role in which he can remain healthy, and showed no issues last year. Either Wood or Fuentes is a risk, and I’d rather take a two-year risk than a four-year risk. In fact, because of his shoulder woes, Wood could be signed at a bargain price, with incentives built in to protect the Mets from disaster.

And although Chicago is the “second city”, it still is a much bigger stage than Denver. Chicago is one of the top three baseball cities in terms of rabid fans and media scrutiny, and Wood has coped well ever since storming onto the scene as a 21-year-old rookie. That history would suggest he’ll be well-equipped to handle the pressures of playing a big role in New York City. In addition, if by chance he did sign for a less-expensive deal, the pressure would be less burdensome than someone else coming in on a monster deal.

If history is any indicator, the silence from the Mets regarding Kerry Wood may be a good thing. In offseasons past, the Mets have made some “out of nowhere” signings (i.e., Scott Schoeneweis, Yorvit Torrealba) so perhaps Wood is indeed on the radar — but they’re keeping that fact close to their vest. He may not be the best reliever available, but he could be best bargain.


Buzz Around Burnett

The Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, Phillies, Orioles, and Blue Jays are all in pursuit of A.J. Burnett, according to various sources.

Supposedly, the Yankees are going after Burnett fairly hard, and would like to sign both him and C.C. Sabathia this winter — and may also extend an offer to Derek Lowe. I for one wouldn’t put it past the Bronx Bombers from signing all three of the top starting pitchers available on the free agent market. They can certainly afford it.

Buster Olney believes a guaranteed fifth year will seal the deal for Burnett. Ken Rosenthal thinks the Red Sox are interested, perhaps to keep him from pitching against them.

I’m not sure any team will give Burnett five years, based on his injury history. As for Boston’s interest, that may have waned since this morning’s trade of Coco Crisp for Ramiro Ramirez. Obtaining Ramirez means they can move Justin Masterson to the rotation. The Bosox already have four strong starters returning in Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester, and Tim Wakefield, in addition to youngster Clay Buchholz. Of course, a team can never have enough pitching, so perhaps they will be after a free agent starter such as Burnett or Derek Lowe, who reportedly would like very much to return to Boston. Further, one of those returning arms could be used as trade bait — such as in a deal to the Rangers for Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

The Cubs’ retention of Ryan Dempster suggests that they will be less active in their pursuit of a big-name starter — and increases the demand for Burnett and the other starters still available.

Where do the Mets fit in on all this?

So far, no buzz has suggested interest in Burnett by the Mets, probably due to his injuries and possibly also the fact that until 2008, he was a .500 pitcher. Fishy, isn’t it, A.J.’s best season came in a walk year?


Coco Crisp Traded to Royals

The Red Sox have dealt centerfielder Coco Crisp to the Royals for reliever Ramon Ramirez.

Who knew the Royals had such a surplus of quality bullpen arms?

The trade is the second made by Kansas City this offseason. A few weeks ago they traded reliever Leo Nunez for first baseman Mike Jacobs.

A few things to glean from this transaction, the first being, wow, the cost of a decent, young, middle reliever is a starting centerfielder. I realize Coco Crisp isn’t exactly an All-Star, but centerfielders who can play strong defense and provide some offense are in strong demand right now. Crisp would probably start for at least half the teams in MLB. That said, if the Mets want to trade for a good, young reliever — i.e., Huston Street — they might have to part with someone like Ryan Church.

Second, how many more arms do the Royals have out there in the cornfields? Do they have one to spare for the Mets? It seems strange that a team that won only 75 games last year could have so much quality pitching depth.

By the way, this deal was probably done a few days ago, but the Red Sox wanted to wait until after the AL MVP was announced, so that the attention given to Dustin Pedroia would not be diluted. Further, Peter Gammons hinted at the Red Sox trading Crisp for a middle reliever on Monday, suggesting that Boston wants to move Justin Masterson into the starting rotation.


Ryan Dempster Re-Signs with Cubs

Ryan Dempster has re-signed with the Chicago Cubs, accepting a 4-year, $52M contract.

The righthanded starter-turned-closer-turned-starter enjoyed the best season of his career (huh, in a walk year, no less), going 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA in helping the Cubs get to the postseason. Despite those excellent numbers, Dempster’s availability didn’t draw nearly the excitement of other big names such as A.J. Burnett, Derek Lowe, and C.C. Sabathia. Which is strange, when you think about it. Besides his strong year, Dempster has also been remarkably durable. He made all 33 of his starts in 2008, the fourth time in his career that he took the ball at least 33 times as a starting pitcher in a season.

Although there was some buzz that the Mets and other teams were interested, it appears that Dempster was fairly set on staying in Chicago.

“Was there more money on the open market? I’m sure there probably was. Who knows? Maybe there was five years. You never know,” Dempster said.

“That’s a question that I’ll never be able to answer, but truthfully I don’t really even care to know because I’m happy with what I have. It’s more money than I could ever dream of getting when I was a kid growing up playing baseball.”

Refreshing words, wouldn’t you agree?