Jerry Crasnick* wrote an interesting article over on ESPN.com today about seven major questions facing teams this offseason. He asked 28 baseball executives their thoughts. It’s a good read; I encourage you to go check it out.
* The most underrated writer on ESPN, and it’s not even all that close.
As always, Crasnick’s article gives me a great starting point for my own post. Here are my thoughts on each of the seven questions he raised:
1. Which free-agent first baseman, Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, will provide the best value over the life of his next contract?
20 votes for Fielder, 3 votes for Pujols, and five abstentions.
There was on point that was lost in the shuffle with all the talk of Albert Pujols having a bad season last year: Albert Pujols didn’t have a bad season last year. He had an ugly .245/.305/.453 line through April, but that was mostly because of a ridiculous .211 BABIP. That won’t happen again. Pujols will be Pujols.
And I get all the talk – Pujols is 32 and he might actually be older, because he was born in the Dominican Republic. Sure, Pujols may be older than 32. But Prince Fielder actually is fat.
Which leads me to the real inspiration for this post: a quote from an anonymous AL scout, dismissing concerns over Fielder’s weight: Fielder has “been fat since he was born, so he knows how to play with fat.”
Not only is that a dumb, meaningless thing to say, but that is some seriously dangerous logic coming from a scout. Let’s count down the ways that this quote is insanely stupid:
1. At first I thought that quote has meaning. It was certainly presented as a coherent thought. Don’t be fooled: of course he knows how to play with fat. He is either the first or second most coveted free agent on the market, and there really is no third place. But what in the world does that have to do with a free agent contract?
2. How exactly does someone play fat? The argument against being fat is that your joints wear down faster because you are carrying weight. Maybe Prince knows some sort of magical way to think the joint pain away. If so, I hope he reads this and calls me, because every day I age, I get a little sorer climbing out of bed.
3. Let’s play with that quote a little bit. If I’m missing something logically, let me know, but these all seem to be the same:
- Mark Prior has been throwing in that motion since he was born, so he knows how to throw in that motion;
- Rocco Baldelli has been playing with mitochondrial abnormalities since he was born, so he knows how to play with mitochondrial abnormalities; and most importantly
- Cecil Fielder has been fat since he was born, so he knows how to play with fat.
4. Which vacant managerial job poses the toughest challenge: Boston, St. Louis or the Chicago Cubs?
Responses from the scouts: Boston 20, St. Louis 5, Chicago 3. I get the argument: Boston has a far more intense fanbase, while St. Louis will be less anxious after their World Series win and the Cubs are the Cubs – but I disagree. For me, it has to be the Cubs.
The Red Sox are still insanely talented. The manager doesn’t have that hard of a job. Besides, there’s a reason why managers tend to last five years or less: sometimes a team just needs a new leader. The circle of baseball life, if you will. It doesn’t even matter who the leader is.
Unlike the Cardinals and Red Sox, the Cubs suck. They had the sixth highest payroll in baseball last year and I couldn’t begin to tell you how that happened. I look at their lineup and it looks like the lineup of a team that would finish 71-91. They didn’t underachieve.
Then there’s the Theo Epstein issue. I like Theo and I hope he does well. But he came right out and told Ryne Sandberg that he wasn’t a candidate for the job. Cubs fans flat-out LOVE Sandberg. No other manager would draw anywhere close to as much fan enthusiasm.
So why didn’t Theo consider him? It has to be ego. I can’t think of any other rational explanation. Theo simply doesn’t want a manager overshadowing the work he intends to do to turn around the Cubs. And that is why the Cubs’ job will be the toughest.
5. Which lefty starter, 31-year-old C.J. Wilson or 32-year-old Mark Buehrle, is the better bet to perform over the course of his free-agent deal?
14 scouts voted for Buehrle, eight for Wilson, and six undecided.
Tough call. Buehrle’s the sure thing, while Wilson could be anywhere from great to terrible. I’d take Buerhle, but I could also see an argument either way.
With Buerhle, you know you’re getting a solid number two starter, nothing more, nothing less. And given that the Yankees lost Games 2 and 5 in the ALDS, I’d take the sure thing.
6. Which 2011 September-collapse team has a better chance of making the playoffs next year: Boston or Atlanta?
The scouts picked Boston and I’d agree. This team had no business missing the playoffs this year and they shouldn’t miss it next year. Furthermore, I don’t think Atlanta can win the NL East over the Phillies, so they’d have to rely on the Wild Card. The Red Sox, on the other hand, can win the AL East. Advantage: Boston.
7. Which young pitching phenom would you rather have: Yu Darvish, Stephen Strasburg or Matt Moore?
The respondents gave the slight edge to Moore with 13 votes to Strasburg’s 12. The other three respondents called it a coin flip between Moore and Strasburg.
Poor Yu Darvish. This is completely Dice-K’s fault. Dice-K flames out, and all of a sudden people forget how great Darvish is. Here’s a little secret: whoever gets Darvish is going to get a ridiculous bargain.
Now I’m not going to pretend that Dice-K wasn’t a really, really good Japan League pitcher. But in his best season, he finished with a 2.13 ERA and 200 strikeouts in 186.1 innings pitched. Darvish’s highest season ERA in the last five years was 1.88 ERA. Last season, he finished with 276 strikeouts and a 1.44 ERA in 232 innings. That’s insane.
I think Moore is going to be great. I hope Strasburg will be great, because he was awesome to watch before Tommy John surgery. But I’m going to be contrarian here and go with Yu Darvish. I think he’s being unfairly dismissed because of past Japanese flameouts. I have faith in the Yu!