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 These seven teams made the right moves

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PostSubject: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 05, 2009 12:31 am

Baseball Notes
The most improved players
These seven teams made the right moves
boston.com
By Nick Cafardo
January 4, 2009

Here's the consensus from a half-dozen scouts, general managers, and other officials concerning which lucky seven teams could improve in 2009:

1. Yankees - Money doesn't buy them a championship, but it's almost always bought them the postseason. They might have ensured that with the signings of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira, and I doubt they're through.

There's still room to do something about center field by dealing one of their outfielders, Xavier Nady, Johnny Damon, or Melky Cabrera. We doubt it will be Damon, who was instrumental in recruiting Burnett and Teixeira.

Their up-the-middle defense is suspect, so they certainly are not flawless.

2. Tigers - So many prognosticators selected them to win in '08 (I was one of them) and couldn't have been more wrong. But there's optimism, especially from manager Jim Leyland, who said, "I like our team a lot. I never saw last year coming because of the talent we have on the field. We have that talent still."

They have improved their defense with Brandon Inge returning to third and Adam Everett at shortstop, with Carlos Guillen moving to left.

Leyland feels Justin Verlander is a much better pitcher than he showed, as is Jeremy Bonderman. Armando Galarraga exceeded expectations with 13 wins. They will incorporate a power arm in Edwin Jackson, obtained from Tampa Bay, hope Nate Robertson bounces back, and Dontrelle Willis finds himself.

One guy to watch: Gary Sheffield.

"I'm healthy and ready to go," said Sheffield. "I'm looking forward to putting last year out of my mind."

"They need to find bullpen help," said one NL scout. "Fernando Rodney as a closer and depending on Joel Zumaya for a healthy season is sketchy at best, but this team is better than last place."


3. Indians. On paper, they addressed two huge needs in closer Kerry Wood and set-up man Joe Smith. Mark DeRosa should stabilize their third base situation.

Travis Hafner must rebound from a horrible season (.197, 5 homers, 24 RBIs in 57 games) and there are rotation issues. Cliff Lee had a great year, but is it reasonable to assume he'll have another? Look for GM Mark Shapiro to pluck a low-cost veteran starter (Carl Pavano?) off the free agent heap.

"I don't know if they're the Tampa Bay Rays of 2009," said a National League GM, "but if they can add another starting pitcher, this could be a team that rebounds in '09 and maybe gets back to what they were in 2007."

4. Athletics - In any given year or half-season they could be rebuilding, but now they're definitely building. The addition of Matt Holliday should bolster a weak lineup, and there looms the possibility that they'll add Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, or Garret Anderson.

"The A's were so smart grabbing Holliday even if they don't keep him," said an American League GM. "Look at free agent hitters for 2010 and Holliday is pretty much on an island by himself. The A's have positioned themselves well."

A healthy Eric Chavez is a huge factor. Starters Justin Duchscherer, Dana Eveland, and Sean Gallagher don't do much for you? The A's are likely to add a free agent pitcher or two, and they may force up promising youngsters Vincent Mazzaro, Brett Anderson, and Trevor Cahill.

5. Giants - They are quietly assembling a very good pitching staff, adding Randy Johnson to a mix that includes Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Barry Zito. Lefty Noah Lowry is still rehabbing.

They added lefty Jeremy Affeldt to the bullpen and signed shortstop Edgar Renteria, which is a questionable move, though Renteria is said to be rededicating himself to his conditioning. What they need is a bat, and we'll see if these swirling rumors about their interest in Manny Ramirez pan out, because it's a team in desperate need of a centerpiece offensive player. They are exploring free agent Joe Crede for third base.

6. Reds - "A dark horse in the NL Central," said an NL scout.

Oh, they've lost Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey, and they could use another offensive force; GM Walt Jocketty is trying to fill that void, discussing names such as the White Sox' Jermaine Dye and free agents Pat Burrell and Rocco Baldelli. But he's building around pitchers Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto and hitters Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce. He recently signed free agent Willy Taveras, who stole 68 bases last season in Colorado, plus veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez and lefty reliever Arthur Rhodes.

"I like the way Walt is building the team," said a rival NL GM. "He's not done yet. He could trade one of his veteran starters like Aaron Harang or Bronson Arroyo and get the offense he's looking for."

7. Mets - As they continue to ogle Derek Lowe - and they are likely to raise their three-year, $36 million introductory offer - the Mets have impressed their rivals by adding Frankie Rodriguez and J.J. Putz to the back end of the bullpen.

One scout said, "What a piece Manny Ramirez would be. It's shocking they haven't been involved."

For now they haven't been, though it would seem they would like to upgrade in left field and possibly behind the plate. But GM Omar Minaya's efforts now appear to be focused on the starting rotation.

continued...
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PostSubject: Re: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 05, 2009 5:33 pm

I don't agree with the Tigers moves one bit

Nor are they the right ones


They should have went after a closer


And tried to get Pudge back
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PostSubject: Re: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 05, 2009 5:34 pm

Never should have traded Joyce
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PostSubject: Re: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 05, 2009 7:33 pm

Too bad we couldnt get Trevor Pryce...
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PostSubject: Re: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 05, 2009 7:57 pm

So, the Tigers improved?


bow Z. Miner
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PostSubject: Re: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 05, 2009 8:04 pm

I think the infield did. No more Rent-a-wreck. (Watch him do great this year, he has been working out so he would do better in Detroit, so we got rid of him.)

Now if they can get together a good bullpen! Several guys are gone... they better have farm team guys ready to come up, or sign some more good pitchers!


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
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PostSubject: Re: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 05, 2009 8:18 pm

GoGetEmTigers wrote:
I think the infield did. No more Rent-a-wreck. (Watch him do great this year, he has been working out so he would do better in Detroit, so we got rid of him.)

Now if they can get together a good bullpen! Several guys are gone... they better have farm team guys ready to come up, or sign some more good pitchers!


Watch Renteria have an All Star Season in 2009 rant rant


Not saying Tigers should have kept him


But they got whipped in that trade in the first place
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PostSubject: Re: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 05, 2009 8:26 pm

gs78 wrote:


But they got whipped in that trade in the first place

And I think Atlanta knew it all along!
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PostSubject: Re: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 05, 2009 8:27 pm

I wouldnt have even traded JJ. He would have been worth so much this year. We would have wone at least 15 more games.
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PostSubject: Re: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 05, 2009 8:28 pm

GoGetEmTigers wrote:
gs78 wrote:


But they got whipped in that trade in the first place

And I think Atlanta knew it all along!


Worst trade with Atlanta since Smoltz
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PostSubject: Re: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 05, 2009 8:31 pm

Maybe we could sign Smoltz to a closing role...
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PostSubject: Re: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 05, 2009 8:37 pm

Be nice
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PostSubject: Re: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 05, 2009 8:47 pm

yeah, then I wouldnt have to weep as much about Jonesy being gone.
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PostSubject: Re: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 05, 2009 8:52 pm

gdennis59 wrote:
Maybe we could sign Smoltz to a closing role...

Smoltz wants to start, sign him as a starter, and move him to closer!
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PostSubject: Re: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 05, 2009 8:53 pm

Yeah. What she said! I think if he starts though, he would end up getting hurt again.
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PostSubject: Re: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 05, 2009 9:02 pm

Did I say to actually use him as a starter??? whistle


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PostSubject: Re: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 05, 2009 9:10 pm

No. But its senseless of him to want to be a starter.
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PostSubject: Re: These seven teams made the right moves   Mon Jan 26, 2009 6:45 pm

Monday, January 26, 2009
Leaning left: Tigers address last season's defensive holes
Lynn Henning / The Detroit News

There was the occasional inning during 2008 that seemed never to end when the Tigers were on defense.

A groundball hit toward the hole between third base and shortstop often rolled into left field. A double play that might have been turned had Brandon Inge been at third base, cutting off a hot shot to his left, instead became another single, or perhaps an infield hit.

Pitches in the dirt that might have been vacuumed by an earlier version of Pudge Rodriguez instead bounced to the backstop. And in left field, well, it depended who was playing left field as the Tigers' merry-go-round circled and circled, but balls hit to left often were an adventure.

The Tigers' defensive problems were a team effort. But no area more embodied Detroit's challenges than the left side: shortstop, third base, left field and, to the extent it was a shared responsibility, catcher.

Better defense by itself could not have rescued a pitching staff that had even greater ills. But a pitching staff that too often was forced to get four, or even five, outs in an inning felt the sting of bad fielding and how it can sap a staff and a team.

"If you're going to win at the major league level, you've got to pitch and play defense," said Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers president and general manager. "We didn't play good defense in 2008. There was no split in focus.

"We needed to improve our pitching and our defense."

With that, the Tigers made bold changes in philosophy in building their 2009 roster.

Laird behind plate

They got busy with the post-Rodriguez era by acquiring a catcher known more for his defense and handling of pitchers than for his offense: Gerald Laird.

They decided Inge would return to third base, where in all of baseball since 2006 his defense has been ranked as second only to Seattle's Adrian Beltre. They then made the previous tenant, Carlos Guillen, their new left fielder, and outfield coach Andy Van Slyke believes Guillen will thrive there.

They also said goodbye to a major accomplice in last year's breakdowns, shortstop Edgar Renteria, and signed light-hitting Adam Everett, who in his last full season, 2006 with Houston, ranked first among shortstops in making plays beyond the league average.

Those plus-minus ratings are part of compelling research done by scouts and video analysts for John Dewan, president of Baseball Info Solutions, and author of The Fielding Bible, a data-rich evaluation of major league defense that is carried by such Web sites as www.billjamesonline.net .

Dewan's research joins with such indicators as Major League Baseball's "Range Factor" index to help determine a fielder's true effectiveness. The statistics are broader and deeper than the somewhat deceiving statistic known as fielding percentage, which states only how many balls a player reaches that are successfully turned into putouts.

Dombrowski talked about defense as coverage during Saturday's TigerFest at Comerica Park.

"A lot of guys can make the stationary play, but they have no range to their left or right," Dombrowski said. "(Those balls) are base hits, not outs. Brandon Inge and Adam Everett get not only the stationary ball hit at them, but they have range."

Much more range, in fact, than their predecessors, Guillen and Renteria. In plus-minus rankings by Dewan that document how many more, or how many fewer, ground balls are gathered by a particular fielder, Renteria was 28th among shortstops in 2008.

Guillen, who was being asked to adjust to his second new position in one season, was 23rd among third basemen.

Dewan's analysis does not assess catchers in the same fashion, but Laird's acknowledged sharpness explained why the Tigers put him at the top of their offseason acquisition list.

Inge back on the corner

Although it was decided when Rodriguez was traded last July that Inge would settle in at his original big league position, catcher, it became clear to the Tigers that finding a new catcher and returning Inge to third would be a way to boost two positions.

"We thought our No. 1 need was at catcher," Dombrowski said, reflecting on October's postseason organizational meetings. "Dusty Ryan (a rookie who played in 15 games for the Tigers) is a good young catcher, but we can't tell you he's ready.

"Who do you use to win a championship? We didn't have anybody.

"One of our scouts said, 'If you're going to improve your pitching, you better start with your catching.' And the top guy on our list was Gerald Laird."

Guillen's move to left field could end up as another upgrade (Marcus Thames was ranked 31st by Dewan among left fielders). Scouts are more tentative about Guillen's transition. Although he began his professional career with Seattle as a right fielder, Guillen has played only a couple games in left. He is 33, with a history of knee and back problems, and will be asked to cover one of the deepest left fields in all of baseball at Comerica Park.

"There's more space to run for the ball," Guillen said. "And I think it's better for my knees and back.

"We need to fix that thing (defense). It's one of the most important things in baseball."

Guillen nodded and said, almost defiantly:

"I want that ball hit to me."

The Tigers appreciate his spirit -- and the unwitting motto Guillen might have just written for their team-wide, defensive approach in 2009.

You can reach Lynn Henning at lynn.henning@detnews.com
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