Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More Marquis Moves in MLB

Here's my take on a few free agent signings and trades that have gone down over the past 48 hours or so.

Jason Marquis signs 2-year, $15 million contract with the Washington Nationals

The veteran righthander went 15-13 with a 4.05 ERA in his only season with the Colorado Rockies who went on to win the NL Wild Card. Marquis had a very strong first half winning 11 of those games before the All-Star Break en route to making his first NL All Star team.

Don't count on Marquis to win 15 games for the Nationals in 2010. But if he wins 10 games in '10 he will have accomplished something. John Lannan led the Nationals in wins in '09 with 9. In a rotation full of twenty somethings, the 31-year-old Marquis will serve as an anchor and mentor to Nationals young pitching staff. Marquis has pitched in the NL his entire big league career that has included stops with the Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs before pitching in Denver this past season.

Darren Oliver becomes a Ranger for the third time

Veteran southpaw Darren Oliver has signed a one-year contract worth $3.5 million. The 39-year-old pitched with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the past three seasons and was a crucial part of their bullpen. Oliver has the versatility to pitch both short relief and long relief and can start a game if the occasion calls for it.

Oliver made his major league debut with the Rangers back in 1993. He pitched with the Rangers until the middle of the 1998 season when he along with Fernando Tatis were traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Todd Stottlemyre and Royce Clayton. Now that's going down amnesia lane.

Oliver returned to the Rangers in 2000 where he would pitch the next two seasons before being traded to the Boston Red Sox for the controversial Carl Everett. He went on to pitch with the Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, Florida Marlins, New York Mets before joining the Angels in 2007. Oliver pitched in the post-season in each of the last four seasons (once with the Mets and thrice with the Halos.) Although I don't think that's where the Rangers will be headed in 2010.

OF Coco Crisp signs a 1-year, $4.5 million contract with the Oakland Athletics

Of course, I got see Crisp play up and close during his three seasons with the Boston Red Sox before he was traded at the end of 2008 to the Kansas City Royals for relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez.

Crisp did not have a good '09 campaign in Kansas City. He hit only .228 in 49 games before undergoing season ending shoulder surgery. Originally drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, Crisp made his MLB debut with the Cleveland Indians in 2002. Despite winning a World Series ring with the Red Sox in '07, Crisp's best seasons were with the Tribe.

But if the 30-year-old outfielder is healthy he still possesses very good speed and can play some spectacular defense. Although he does have a tendency to dive for balls he has no chance of catching. Nonetheless, Crisp should be the Athletics starting centerfielder in 2010.

Atlanta Braves trade pitchers Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan to the New York Yankees for outfielder Melky Cabrera and pitcher Mike Dunn

The big names in this deal are Vazquez and Cabrera. Logan and Dunn are two lefty relievers with comparable ability.

Vazquez went 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA in his lone season in Atlanta. His 238 strikeouts were second in the NL. Only NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum had more with 261. Originally with the Montreal Expos, Vazquez pitched with the Yankees in 2004 going 14-10 with a 4.91 ERA. However, he had a weak second half and was demolished in the ALCS by the Boston Red Sox. In fact, he gave up two home runs to Johnny Damon in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. But perhaps a World Series in '09 with Damon as a major contributor has erased those old wounds.

Entering the 2010 season, Vazquez is 6th amongst active pitchers with 2,253 strikeouts. At 32, it is not out of the question for him to reach 3,000 strikeouts. However, his career won loss record is barely above .500 at 142-139. After one season in pinstripes, Vazquez was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Randy Johnson. Prior to the 2006 season, Vazquez was traded to the Chicago White Sox where he spent three seasons before being dealt a year ago to Atlanta. Strangely, Boone Logan was also involved in that deal.

Look for Vazquez to be the number four starter in the Yankees rotation behind C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. With a starting rotation of Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson and Kenshin Kawakami, the Braves wanted get more offense and shed some payroll. Vazquez becomes a free agent at the end of 2010.

Cabrera has been a Yankee his entire professional career. He made the big club in 2005. Cabrera reminds me of slightly less powerful Manny Ramirez. He can be absolutely spectacular or look absolutely awful especially with the glove. Cabrera might benefit from a change of scenery and at 25 perhaps the best is still yet to come. My guess is that he will play left field with the Braves with the Gold Glove caliber Nate McLouth patrolling centerfield and Matt Diaz in right. I'm sure Jordan Schafer will figure in there somehow especially if Cabrera stumbles.

Despite Vazquez's good '09 campaign there's no guarantee AL hitters will be anymore accommodating to him than they were during his previous stint in the Bronx. Melky Cabrera could hit 40 home runs next year or hit 4 home runs next year. This trade is a gamble for both clubs but especially the Braves.

Two Brandons

I believe this is the first time in MLB history that two players named Brandon have been traded for each other. The Seattle Mariners sent pitcher Brandon Morrow to the Toronto Blue Jays for pitcher Brandon League and a minor leaguer.

It is interesting to see how Morrow has fallen out of favor in Seattle. Morrow was the Mariners number one draft pick in 2006 and made the Opening Day roster in 2007. A year ago he was considered untouchable. In 2008, Morrow became the Mariners closer when J.J. Putz got hurt. But later in the season he was sent down to the minor leagues to be converted into a starter. A month later, in his first major league start, Morrow threw 7 and two thirds innings of no-hit ball against the New York Yankees.

But by the beginning of 2009, Morrow was the closer again before he went on the DL with tendonitis in his biceps in early May. David Aardsma took over the M's closer and never looked back. When Morrow came off the DL he was made a starter but struggled with his control and was sent back down to Triple A Tacoma.

The Mariners simply couldn't make up their minds as to whether they wanted Morrow as a starter or reliever and hopefully the Blue Jays won't make that mistake. Yet, at the moment, it is not clear whether the Jays are going to do with Morrow. For me, it makes more sense to have Morrow close. Morrow is a diabetic and has expressed a preference for relief work. Jason Frasor led the Jays in saves with 11 in 2009. The Jays and the Cleveland Indians were tied for the fewest saves in the AL in '09 with 25. Unless the Jays are going to sign Jose Valverde, Fernando Rodney or Matt Capps then Morrow should be their closer in 2010.

Brandon League is similar to his fellow Brandon in that he throws very hard but often lacks control. But when he is on he is nearly unhittable. I've seen him pitch both in the majors and the minors. While League has pitched for the Jays each of the last six seasons, he spent most of 2007 in the minors after developing shoulder trouble. Late that season, I saw him pitch with the Double A New Hampshire Fishercats.

The Hawaiian League has a very colorful personality and I'm not talking about his tattoos. It will be interesting to see how League gets on with Milton Bradley. If League can harness his control on the mound he would be an ideal 8th inning set up man for Aardsma. The Mariners game could be seven innings and then over once turned over to League and Aardsma. So Chone Figgins, Cliff Lee, Bradley and now League. The Mariners are looking more and more like the team to beat in the AL West next year.

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