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Posted on: August 17, 2009 4:53 pm
 

Boras Clients Just not Worth It

The deadline to sign draft picks is upon us, and yet again we are reminded of the effect of Scott Boras. Boras controls six players who were drafted in the first round this year, and all remain unsigned. It is no surprise that several teams have decided not to draft Boras’s clients by choice. Other small market teams are not able to draft his clients due to financial reasons, often allowing a player that would have been drafted higher to drop to a large market team.

Drafting a Boras Client comes with significant risk; a team will be investing a large amount of money in a completely unproven player.  In 1996 Scott Boras found a loophole that gave free agency to four first round picks.  One never reached the majors; another was the Diamondbacks first big draft pick, Travis Lee, who featured career batting average of .256 in his eight year career that spanned four different teams.

In 2004 the Diamondbacks drafted another Boras client, shortstop Stephen Drew, and again in 2007 with pitcher Max Scherzer.  Both were signed literally minutes before they would have missed the signing deadline and reentered the next year’s draft.  That shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone as Stephen’s brother and fellow Boras player, JD Drew, refused to sign with the Phillies a few years prior and reentered the draft the following year.

Not only are Boras draft picks signing at very high figures, but also his free agent clients.  Looking at the past few years and several notable signings it appears that more often than not the team that signs his clients is overpaying.  Many of his clients either immediately under perform when they get their contract or never live up to the hype that Boras creates.  Below are a few examples of his clients along with their salaries and recent achievements to earn those salaries.

Rick Ankiel: 2009 salary, $2.8 million, current batting average .234                        
Adrian Beltre:  2009 salary $13.4 million, has never hit above .290 except 2004, his free agent year.
Johnny Damon:  2009 salary $13 million, current batting average .283.  Since 2006, the year that he signed with the Yankees, he has hit over .300 only once.
J.D. Drew: 2009 salary $14 million, since 2005 when his salary jumped from $4.2 million to $9.4 million he has not hit over .300
Daisuke Matsuzaka: 2009 salary $8.3 million, career ERA 4.11.
Oliver Perez: $12 million career ERA 4.48
Jeff Weaver 2007 salary 8.3 million (2009 salary unknown), career ERA 4.68                             
Barry Zito 2009 salary $18.5 million, since 2007 has not had an ERA under 4.

The lack of success of so many of his clients begs the question, why would anyone even bother signing a Boras guy?  The player you get most likely won’t earn the money he’s being paid.  Sure there are a few players that he represents that are among the best in baseball, such as Mark Texeira and Prince Fielder, but for the most part they are mediocre players with inflated salaries.  The money that he gets for his players show that he is probably the best at what he does, it’s too bad the players he represents can’t say the same.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 13, 2009 12:42 pm
 

Diamondbacks Fun Again

Watching the Diamondbacks is starting to get good again.  It appears that players taking the field actually care and are playing at full speed.  Even though the Dbacks have no shot of winning the division or making the playoffs the games are at least exciting to watch, thanks in large part to a group of young and not so young recent call ups.

 

Trent Oeltjen has been a man possessed since he was called up last week.  He has 12 hits in 29 at bats, he is stretching singles into double, doubles into triples, and has already appeared in the Web Gems segment of Baseball Tonight for his play in the outfield.  It appears that playing in the minors for nine years will motivate someone to hustle once they make it to the majors.  Alex Romero has also been making the most of his recent call up, hitting .393 in the last seven days.   

 

Due to injuries, trades, released players, and players sent to the minors a lot of guys are getting an opportunity that they normally would not have, and they join a team that is now looking like they are not that far away from being competitive.  During the lean months of April, May, and June not only was the team losing but they were playing sloppy uninspired baseball.  They were getting booed nightly at Chase Field and becoming one of the worst teams in baseball. 

 

July 3 was the crescendo of their ineptitude, sparking the Mark Reynolds diatribe, and July 4 was their independence day.  They were declaring themselves free of the losing ways and attitudes that had been so prevalent the previous two months.  Since July 4 the team is 21-14, a .600 winning percentage.  Not too shabby for a six week period.  No one expects them to keep that pace up for the rest of the season by any means, but at least it shows that they have it in them.

 

Trent Oeltjen and Alex Romero will cool off and come back down to Earth, but it sure is fun watching them tear it up right now.  Finally, it is good to be a Dbacks fan again.

Posted on: August 10, 2009 4:44 pm
 

2009 NFC West Preview

Cardinals

The Cardinals offense remains poised to pick up where they left off in 2008, with the only notable loss being running backs Edgerrin James and JJ Arrington.  The Cardinals filled the void at running back by drafting Chris Beanie Wells in the first round with the hopes that he can improve their running game, which ranked 32 last year.

The passing game is still in tact with both Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin returning to provide Kurt Warner with same viable targets that led to the Cardinals potent passing game in 2008.  In addition, Steve Breaston gives them a strong back up or third receiver when the need arises.

The defense lost corner back Eric Green and defensive end Antonio Smith but gained cornerback Bryant McFadden, who has been making a name for himself in Cardinals camp in Flagstaff.  The trio of Darnell Docket, Karlos Dansby, and Adrian Wilson provide the Cardinals with potent players at the line, linebacker, and secondary.  Rookie standout cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie enters his second season looking to build on the progress he made in 2008 and become one of the better players at his position in the league.

Prediction 10-6

Seahawks

If quarterback Matt Hasselbeck can stay healthy this season the Seahawks should show a marked improvement on last years 4-12 record and a passing game that ranked 29 in the league.  Hasselbeck gets some much needed help with the addition of WR TJ Houshmandzadeh and a healthy Nate Burleson and Deion Branch.  Running back Julius Jones will need to improve for the Seahawks to have a successful ground game.

The Seahawks defense got a boost with first round draft pick LB Aaron Curry.  Curry will join current defensive stand outs Patrick Kerney and Lofa Tatupu as Seattle tries to improve on their 2008 ranking of thirtieth in yards per game allowed.

Prediction 7-9

49ers

The 49ers offense enters the 2009 season with question marks.  The starting quarterback job is up for grabs and it looks like former first overall draft pick Alex Smith may end up as the backup to Shaun Hill.  Frank Gore has established himself as a dominant runner in the league, and if the 49ers offense is to have success it will be on his back. 

2009 first round draft choice WR Michael Crabtree is threatening to sit out the season and reenter the draft in 2010, leaving the team thin at the receiver position, something that was an area of weakness last year.  If tight end Vernon Davis can build on a disappointing 2008 season, where he had only 358 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns, it will fill some of the need with the passing game.

 The 49ers and coach Mike Singletary will certainly look to improve on a mediocre defense that ranked 23 in points per game.  The team got corner back Dre Bly to add depth in the secondary and Demetric Evans to add strength to the line. 

Prediction 6-10

Rams

New coach Steve Spagnuolo looks to return the Rams to some form of respectability after a dismal 2-14 record in 2008.  That will be no easy task with the loss of WR Torry Holt and offensive tackle Orlando Pace.  Quarterback Marc Bulger’s options are limited as it appears the teams number one receiver will be Donnie Avery, so the team will be heavily reliant on RB Steven Jackson to have a big year.

The defense, which ranked 30 in 2008, will need to get results from newly aquired safety James Butler and Adam Carriker. Unfortunately it looks to be another long year for Rams fans. 

Prediction 3-13
Category: NFL
Posted on: August 6, 2009 12:22 pm
Edited on: August 6, 2009 12:22 pm
 

The Ryan Roberts Experiment

Is Ryan Roberts the future starting 2B of the Arizona Diamondbacks?  It’s looking more likely.  Ryan Roberts has been on an offensive surge the last seven days, batting .417.  Since July 20, the day Felipe Lopez was traded to the Brewers, he has raised his average from .257 to .288.  He’s had at least one hit in 9 of the past 13 games. His recent performance has brought about murmurs that Roberts may be the Diamondbacks every day second baseman for the 2010 season, but there are also questions of whether or not Roberts can be an every day player.

Roberts has never played more than 10 games in a season until this year and was the last man added to the Diamondbacks roster coming out of spring training.  There is not a lot of prior history to judge Roberts on.  He’s not a six year veteran who has hit .260 on his career and then suddenly hits .300 and parlays that into a $30 million dollar, three year contract extension.

Any decision made on Ryan Roberts will be made somewhat blindly due to the lack of past history, but looking at the free agent second baseman available next season Roberts may be the best option.  If he finishes the year batting around .270 and continues to play solid defensively (he has a fielding percentage of .989) he most likely will be the starting second baseman on opening day.

Below is the list of 2010 free agent second baseman, minus players who have previously played for the Diamondbacks, i.e. Hudson, Lopez, Eckstein, and Counsell.  When comparing Roberts’s $400,000 salary and his season stats to this list it will be hard for the front office not to at least take a chance on him.

Ronnie Belliard (35) salary $1.9 million, season BA .206
Jamey Carroll (36) salary, $2.5 million, season BA .287
Alex Cora (34) salary $2 million, season BA .256
Mark DeRosa (35) salary $4.75 million, season BA .251
 Jerry Hairston Jr. (34) salary $2 million, season BA .257 
Adam Kennedy (34) salary $400k, season BA .289
Mark Loretta (38) salary $1.25, season BA .234
 Placido Polanco (34) salary $4.6 million, season BA .263
 Juan Uribe (31) salary $1 million, season BA .279

Roberts is 29, and assuming he keeps his batting average up he will be younger, cheaper, and just as good as or better than anyone on this list.  He also has a very respectable SLG % for a 2B, .458.  Among NL 2B only Chase Utley has a higher SLG.  There are still two months of baseball to be played, and Roberts only has 153 at bats on the season, about 40% of what an everyday player would have, so his stats fluctuate more easily.  He should get about 200 more at bats through the end of the season, so there will be a decent base to judge his stats on.  For a team fighting to keep salary low, Roberts is looking like a very attractive option.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 5, 2009 12:28 pm
 

The Steroid Band Aid

Hank Aaron has stated that all the names on the 2003 steroid list need to be released for baseball to move forward and I completely agree with him.  To have another name come out every six weeks or so only brings the issue to the forefront of people’s minds just as it was starting to subside.  We are at the point where everyone probably has a good idea of who will be on the list and short of a few names there will be little surprise.

There was an unconfirmed list floating around the internet a few weeks back.  Not only was every player on that list not a surprise, but there were connections between most of the players, such as confirmed names Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.  Most players had at least one or two teammates on the list.  There were a few Giants, a few Cubs, a few Blue Jays, a few Dodgers, etc.

With the exception of a handful of players everyone on the unconfirmed list was a notable or recognizable name.  Not necessarily all super stars like Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, but players that most fans who follow the game somewhat closely would know. 

While that list may be unconfirmed, in my opinion it is probably pretty accurate.  When I read the list about a month ago both Manny and Ortiz were on it.  Now they are confirmed. There was also one player on the list who is an Arizona product that was a known user among Arizona community college players. The information is out there.  Baseball would behoove itself by taking care of the problem with one big blow.  There are no real surprises and only people benefiting from the gradual release of the names are the people who are selling that information piece mail to the media.  Just like in a twelve step program the first step to baseball’s rehabilitation is admitting they had a problem and condemning the guilty players.

If baseball was smart they would recognize that they have a great group of exciting and talented players who have come up in the last three years and can bring baseball out of the steroid era.  These players deserve to compete in an environment that is devoid of steroid suspicion.  Players like Ryan Braun, Jason Bay, and Tim Lincecum can give baseball the fresh start that they need.  Releasing the list could also relieve suspicion that is now surrounding its best hitter, Albert Pujols, who was not on the unconfirmed list, and allow him to pursue the Triple Crown with the genuine support of fans.

Posted on: August 3, 2009 11:09 am
 

The Real Moneyball

The trade deadline has passed, effectively ending the hopes of many teams for another year as they come to the realization that they are better off dumping their players than trying to compete.  The Pirates, as usual, traded anyone of any value.  The Orioles, Indians, and A’s were also again on the seller’s side of the ledger.  The rich continued to get richer, with the Dodgers acquiring George Sherill, the Phillies dealing for Cliff Lee, and the White Sox getting Jake Peavy.

It is obviously frustrating for fans of teams like the Pirates, who continually give away their players year after year, but it is also frustrating for fans of teams competing with the trade deadline gluttons.  If you are a fan of a mid or small market team that is in the division race but not necessarily a buyer, and a rival team gets an impact player at the deadline, it is very deflating.  Especially when they seem to do it every year, as is the case for the Red Sox and Dodgers.

In the AL Central the Twins are only two games behind the Tigers, who just obtained Jarrod Washburn, a great addition to their rotation.  Meanwhile teams like the Rockies, Rangers, and Twins are forced to stand pat and try and wedge their way into the playoffs with what they have.  They compete every night and battle all season only to have the teams around them get a giant shot in the arm with two months to go.

It is fortuitous that baseball has the wild card though, because it does give teams in secondary markets an opportunity to make the playoffs.  Right now there are no division leaders that are in mid or small markets, and no division leaders with a payroll below $100 million.  In 2008 there was only one smaller market team that won their division, the Tampa Rays; the other division winners were representing Chicago, Philadelphia, and LA. 

In addition to every division being led by a $100 million team, there is only one $100 million dollar that is even under .500, the Mets.  The $100 million dollar teams include the Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox, Tigers, Mariners, Angels, Phillies, Astros, White Sox, and Dodgers.  The statement the rich got richer definitely rings true, as six of those teams made major acquisitions

If you don’t think that money equates to winning consider this.  Four of the past five World Series have been won by teams in the $100 million club.  It doesn’t mean that the team who has the highest payroll always wins, but it does mean that to win you do have to pay.

Posted on: August 3, 2009 11:08 am
 

Breaking News from Ashland, Ky re: Brandon Webb

Everyone knows what a media hub Ashland Kentucky is right?  You know, Ashland, KY, population 22,000, 12 square miles, the city that never wakes up.  No surprise that the local paper there was the one to break the story on Brandon Webb having surgery.  They were the first to know, the reporter probably had talked to Webb’s dad at the coffee hour after church on Sunday.  But who was the last?  None other than Webb’s “former” team, the Arizona Diamondbacks.  After all, why do they need to know, it’s none of their business.

Josh Byrnes and co. got the news the same way the rest of the general public does, via the general media. Not firsthand from a call from Brandon Webb or his agent as one might expect, prior to everyone else.  If this is not the writing on the wall that Brandon Webb now considers himself a free agent I don’t know what is.

I think everyone was doubtful that Webb would remain a Dback after last week’s news on his progress, but now it seems an almost certainty.  It is very, very, unfortunate that this is the way it ends.  A homegrown pitcher who dominated the past three years is now cast aside, his usefulness for the team now expired.  But in all reality the Diamondbacks have little choice but to not pick up his option.  A cash stapped team struggling to compete paying $11 million to a useless outfielder cannot afford to pay another $8 million to a pitcher who wouldn’t even be able to pitch again until next August.  It just isn’t feasible.   

I think that every Diamondback fan wishes Webb the best of luck, and just prays that he doesn’t follow the footsteps of other scorned players and sign with the Dodgers.

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 31, 2009 1:54 pm
 

Bad News for Brandon Webb

The Diamondbacks received more bad news in an already miserable season as it was discovered that Brandon Webb is not making progress with his rehabilitation.  He is going for another consultation today to determine if surgery is needed, which is looking more and more inevitable for the Cy Young winner.

The Diamondbacks have Brandon Webb’s option for next season and are faced with a decision, pick it up for $8 million or buy it out for $2 million.  The decision would have been much easier had Brandon Webb been able to pitch in September like he was hoping to.  That would have given the team some indication of how he would perform, either giving them confidence to offer an extension or giving them the marketability to trade him.

Now the Diamondbacks will most likely have to make a decision sight unseen.  There are primarily two schools of thought.  First, Webb is done as a pitcher for the Diamondbacks; the team can’t afford to pay $8 million to a pitcher that they don’t know can still pitch or what his recovery timetable might be.  Dwindling attendance revenues and lack of success on the field make it crucial to utilize every dollar of payroll to the fullest.

The second opinion is that the Diamondbacks owe it to Brandon Webb to pick up his option for his years of service to the team.  He has been one of the best pitchers in the game the past three years and has become a fan favorite. He’s been here during a few bad years and the team would not have won the division in 2007 without him.

However, to say that a team owes a player anything may be a little overreaching.  The team pays, he plays.  Brandon Webb was drafted by the Diamondbacks and played under a contract.  He’s never had the opportunity to play anywhere else, to assume that he has an unyielding loyalty for the Diamondbacks is somewhat misguided.  If he was offered a contract by the Yankees that was more than what the Dbacks were offering he may very well take it.

All the Diamondbacks can do at this point is speculate.  Will Webb be healthy, and if so will he be as effective as he used to be.  The first scenario is that they do pick up his option, he’s not able to come back next year and play at the level he used to, and the team wastes $6 million that they could have used elsewhere.  The second scenario is that he comes back, once again is the Brandon Webb we all know and love, he signs an extension with the Diamondbacks, and he and Dan Haren are the 1-2 punch that leads the team to many future division titles. The third scenario is that he comes back, is the Brandon Webb of old, but the team is unable to resign him and he plays somewhere else in 2011.

As much as I like Brandon Webb, it seems less and less realistic that he will be a part of the Diamondbacks future going forward.  He had a contract extension worked out and then the team pulled it off the table after he failed the insurance company’s physical.  If he did have some feelings of loyalty toward the team they have most likely eroded at this point.  The team is probably looking at a lose-lose situation with Webb.  He’s good, he’s gone next year, he’s bad, and then they are out a pitcher.  The happy, happy, joy, joy scenario probably isn’t going to happen.

There are a lot of quality free agent pitchers that will be on the market this off season that will probably be in or under the $10 million price range;  Jarrod Washburn, Erik Bedard, Rich Harden, Jason Marquis, Joel Pineiro, John Lackey, and Brad Penny to name a few.  These players aren’t the quality that a healthy Brandon Webb was but they are definitely serviceable in a rotation that carries Dan Haren as the ace.  The Diamondbacks cannot afford to make decisions on emotion any longer, they just don’t have the payroll to waste.  Eric Byrnes anyone?

Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com