The GM's Office: Alex Gordon
April, 26, 2013
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerJames Shields has embraced the role as the Royals' staff ace.Call it early, call it April, tell me there are still 143 games left in the 162-game schedule, but the fact is that the Kansas City Royals have developed into a legitimate wild-card contender.
They’re off to a relatively fast 11-8 start. They sit perched atop the American League Central. Some might say they’re just keeping the seat warm until the Detroit Tigers figure out their closer situation and Victor Martinez starts to swing the bat.
Well, if the Royals aren't a first-place team yet, they sure can play with the second- and third-best teams in any division of the AL, which means they’re good enough for a possible wild-card berth.
Why am I so confident that this team, which has produced only one above-.500 season since 1995, can actually make the playoffs this season? They finally have pitching.
Amazingly, they’ve had this start while most of their top young hitters have struggled. Third baseman Mike Moustakas is hitting just .154. Both first baseman Eric Hosmer and catcher Salvador Perez have yet to hit a home run; designated hitter Billy Butler, a career .299 hitter, is batting an uncharacteristic .254.
The Royals’ offense has been here before to start a season. But their rebuilt starting rotation is the main reason the Royals are in first place.
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November, 30, 2012
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireJim Bowden thinks the New York Mets will end up trading R.A. Dickey at the winter meetings.
Despite my being a veteran of countless winter meetings, baseball's annual gathering still manages to surprise me. Whether it's a blockbuster trade or an out-of-the-blue free-agent signing, the winter meetings always provide a handful of happenings.
However, experience does offer me a little insight into what could happen. Last year, we saw the Los Angeles Angels reel in Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, and the Miami Marlins signed Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Heath Bell. And, well, we know how that turned out. So here are my five bold predictions for the winter meetings:
1. The New York Mets will trade R.A. Dickey
With the Mets extending third baseman David Wright for eight years for about $138 million, I expect them to then turn around and trade right-hander R.A. Dickey to the Kansas City Royals or the Los Angeles Dodgers or Angels for two good prospects. Wright is the face of their franchise, their version of Chipper Jones or Derek Jeter, and it was essential they get him locked up. With the Tampa Bay Rays’ extension of Evan Longoria this past month and the Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman sewn up, as well, this was a relatively simple negotiation for general manager Sandy Alderson. In regards to Dickey, it’s more about selling high on an overachieving pitcher and being realistic on when the Mets will be ready to contend. Although the public thinks it could be sooner, realistically, the Mets won’t be contending until at least 2015.
2. The Cleveland Indians will make more trades than any other team
The Indians are waiting for the top free agents to sign. Once that happens, teams that lose out will be calling them to make deals. The Indians have the highest-quality tradable players currently on the market. Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo is one of the most underrated right fielders in baseball. He’s a complete player and is about to enter his free-agent walk year. He is represented by Scott Boras, which means it’s unlikely he’ll sign a contract extension before testing the open market. Therefore, once Josh Hamilton, Cody Ross and Nick Swisher have inked deals, the clubs that missed out will attempt to trade for Choo.
Several teams are pursuing shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics. If anyone of those teams puts together the right package of young starting pitching, it might be able to pry him loose. Closer Chris Perez is well respected throughout the game as a straight shooter who speaks his mind without filter, which is fine unless you’re always bashing the ownership, the front office and the fans. His trade value is at an all-time high, and now is the best time to get the best return. With starting pitching always at a premium, the Tribe also will listen to offers for Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez. The bottom line is the Indians will be an interesting team to watch in Nashville.
3. The Miami Marlins will sign a free agent and give him a full-no trade clause
The Marlins’ trades of Buehrle, Reyes and Bell this offseason have left agents with such a bad taste in their mouths that many of them are saying they won’t even talk to the Marlins on behalf of their clients. Interestingly, a year ago, the Marlins all but had Albert Pujols signed, but their refusal to include a no-trade clause allowed him to make the right choice and sign with the Angels. If he had signed with the Marlins, he probably would be with the Toronto Blue Jays today. The Marlins are under scrutiny from the commissioner’s office and the players' association to spend rather than pocketing what look to be significant revenue-sharing gains the next few years. The Marlins need to step up and surprise baseball by adding a significant free agent and will have no choice this time but to change their policy and give a full no-trade clause so players they sign won’t have to worry about being dealt in a year.
4. The Royals will finally trade for an elite starter, and fans will rebel
Royals general manager Dayton Moore is in a Catch-22 situation. Royals fans have been begging for the team to trade for a top-of-the-rotation starter instead of their continued plan of back-of-the-rotation innings eaters such as Jeremy Guthrie, Bruce Chen, Ervin Santana and Luke Hochevar. But it will cost Moore one of the young, talented position players he has. Moore definitely feels the pressure and is doing everything possible to make such a trade this coming week in Nashville. Even though I think the best move would be to sign a free agent such as Kyle Lohse or Anibal Sanchez and keep his position players intact, I predict that the Royals are going to trade Wil Myers, Alex Gordon or Eric Hosmer to get their top-of-rotation young starter. If and when they do this, Royals fans will show their disapproval. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
5. The Texas Rangers will re-sign Josh Hamilton to a four-year contract
Some believe Hamilton and Rangers definitely will part ways, but I'm making the bold prediction that he'll stay. Despite all the reports that the Rangers won't go more than three years on a deal for Hamilton, I fully expect them to give him a fourth year with a club option for a fifth at an average annual value of approximately $23 million. There has been interest in Hamilton from several teams, including the Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, and Baltimore Orioles.
His family lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and plans to stay there regardless. Having been to two World Series in the past three years, Hamilton and the Rangers have unfinished business of bringing a world championship to Rangers fans, and both parties know the best way to accomplish that is for them to try again together rather than apart.
November, 1, 2012
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireDavid Wright is the face of the Mets, but it's feasible that he could be somewhere else next season.After the New York Mets picked up David Wright's $16 million club option for 2013 earlier this week, the club is officially on the clock. The Mets have exactly one year of control left to lock down the face of their franchise. In essence, Wright is to the team what Derek Jeter is to the New York Yankees or Chipper Jones was to the Atlanta Braves.
However, Wright’s long-term future in New York is hardly guaranteed.
First, discussions between Wright’s agents -- Sam and Seth Levinson -- and the Mets have been slow and grinding. Most negotiations with this team usually plod along, but the Mets also have shown the same cavalier attitude they demonstrated in the failed Jose Reyes negotiations in 2011. Not a good sign.
Second, for those who think the Mets won’t let the face of the franchise walk away, remember that current Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is the one who said goodbye to future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman while in San Diego. Alderson also allowed then-Padres manager Bruce Bochy to depart for the NL West rival San Francisco Giants, where he would go on to win two World Series titles. In 1992, Alderson also traded Jose Canseco to the Texas Rangers in a blockbuster that was headlined by Ruben Sierra. Arguably the best trade of Alderson’s career might end up being the swap of All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran to the Giants at the July 2011 trade deadline for top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, who should join the Mets’ starting rotation in 2013.
Needless to say, Alderson isn't afraid to trade star players.
That said, I still think the Mets and Wright will have a news conference sometime between now and the winter meetings next month in Nashville, Tenn., to announce a seven-year extension in the range of $18 million per season. If the Mets aren’t willing to commit, they don’t need to worry because most other teams will be. To trade Wright, the assignee club would have to ask for a window to sign him first because no team will fork over top prospects to the Mets without the assurance that Wright will sign a long-term deal.
Just in case the negotiations fall apart with the Mets, here are five trade partners that would make sense for Alderson.
The Red Sox have money off the books after trading Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez to the Los Angeles Dodgers in August. Wright’s swing would be ideal for Fenway Park, and he would instantly change the culture with his leadership ability. He would give the Red Sox a new, fresh franchise face to go with Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. The discussion by Alderson would have to start with young third-base prospect Will Middlebrooks and one of Boston's top starting pitching prospects, such as Allen Webster, who recently was acquired from the Dodgers, or Matt Barnes, the Red Sox’s first-round selection in 2011 out of the University of Connecticut.
This conversation would have to commence with top first-base prospect C.J. Cron, a middle-of-the-lineup bat who was the Angels’ first-round selection in the 2011 draft out of the University of Utah. Cron possesses incredible power and has a chance to be an impact bat with the ability to drive in 100 runs. The second player in the deal would have to be fleet-footed outfielder Peter Bourjos, who became expendable with the emergence of Mike Trout. Bourjos has Gold Glove defensive ability with special range. However, how much he’s going to hit is still debatable. Of course, with a deal like this, the Mets would then have to try to trade incumbent first baseman Ike Davis for another need.
The Diamondbacks have tremendous depth in young starting pitchers. The roll call is impressive: Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Cahill, Patrick Corbin, Daniel Hudson, Wade Miley and Ian Kennedy. Therefore, they might be willing to make former No. 1 pick Trevor Bauer available for Wright, especially given that some of the Arizona field staff is frustrated with Bauer’s stubbornness and work plan.
Bauer has struggled with his command and control in the zone, and it might take time before he reaches his full, unlimited potential. To acquire an arm of this caliber and team it with Matt Harvey and Wheeler would establish an impressive young rotation capable of competing with the Washington Nationals’ elite young starters. The Mets should ask for a second player, as well, possibly center fielder Adam Eaton, a player who’s not blessed with special tools but can hit and really play the game with blue-collar grittiness.
The Royals could use a veteran leader in the clubhouse to develop all of their great young players such as Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon. Wright would bring them that leadership. Alderson could start the conversation asking for young third baseman Mike Moustakas, who could give the Mets a minimum of 20 home runs and 80 RBIs at third base for minimal cost.
However, a second player in the deal would be the key. Although Kansas City can’t afford to trade any of its top young pitching prospects or top position prospect Wil Myers (unless it was getting front-line pitching back), the Royals might be willing to include Cheslor Cuthbert or 2010 first-rounder Christian Colon to make a deal like this. However, given that the Royals’ only real need is starting pitching, it is doubtful they would want to spend this type of money -- or trade this kind of talent -- on anything but starting pitching.
I know this does not look like a fit because the Rangers already have the best overall third baseman in baseball in Adrian Beltre. However, if Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli leave in free agency, Texas will have to add another impact bat for the middle of its lineup. The Rangers have never been afraid to ask players to change positions -- just ask Michael Young -- so it’s probably worth making the phone call to see whether they would consider a Mike Olt, Derek Holland and Craig Gentry type of deal for Wright. Olt would solve third base; Holland would improve the rotation; and Gentry would give them a tremendous defensive center fielder with blazing speed and a bat that is still developing.
To be sure, the possibility of any of these five trade ideas actually coming to fruition is slim. Indeed, 98 percent of all deals that are discussed are never made, but the Mets must do their due diligence and Alderson must do himself that favor and explore all possibilities to maximize Wright’s value and price tag. If Wright’s value is highest by returning to the Mets -- and I think he'll re-sign when all is said and done -- you can count on that price tag to be in the neighborhood of seven years and $126 million.
And for Mets fans, who can’t stand the thought of the face of their favorite franchise in another uniform, that’s a bargain.
May, 5, 2011
Getty ImagesA change of scenery has done wonders for Russell Martin and Lance Berkman.One of the great storylines of the 2011 season has been the comeback stories across both leagues. Often called "reclamation projects" when they are signed, these comeback players can make a general manager look brilliant if they succeed.
Comeback players can return to success for myriad reasons, including but not limited to: finally getting healthy; mechanical adjustments; a change of scenery; a weightlifting or conditioning program; getting a second chance from off-field problems; taking a year off and wanting to come back; or even improvements in their personal life like a marriage or birth of a child.
When a general manager signs a player with the intent of him becoming a Comeback Player of the Year candidate, he normally has a reason behind it. Here are some of those guys, plus a couple who didn't change organizations.
1. Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals
Berkman had spent his entire career with the Astros, averaging 30 home runs, 110 RBIs and a .410 on-base percentage over a 12-year career as one of baseball’s top OPS guys. However, at 34 years old, he saw it all crumbling down last season, in which he hit just .245 with 13 HRs and 49 RBIs before being traded to the Yankees. Once he arrived with the Yankees it got worse, as he finished the year batting .255 with just one home run in 106 at-bats. His lower half looked old. His legs were slow. His bat was slow. His torque in the middle wasn't the same. He looked finished. He was embarrassed. He also did something about it. Ed Wade, his former GM in Houston, told me this past winter that he ran into Berkman in the Houston area and he had lost 15-20 pounds and looked to be in great shape. He was excited about being able to return to right field with the Cardinals -- a position he hadn’t played in over four years. His hard work in the offseason has paid off early this season, as he’s hitting .390 with nine HRs and 27 RBIs. In the case of Berkman, the reasons he has been able to make a successful comeback can probably be attributed to conditioning, weight training, change of scenery and the wake-up call that he appeared not only in decline but possibly near the end of his career. Whatever the reason, he’s back, and Cardinals GM John Mozeliak is no longer answering questions about why he signed Berkman to a one-year, $8 million deal. By the way, Berkman also has looked impressive in the field, getting good jumps on balls and covering enough ground to be called close to an average defender.
2. Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
The Royals have taken a lot of flak for drafting Gordon ahead of such players as Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki and Jay Bruce, and rightfully so. However, Gordon was always a talented player and most clubs had him in the top five that year. Gordon has had to overcome injuries, positional changes (3B, 1B and now finally a home in LF) and mechanical changes. More importantly, he had to overcome being rushed to the major leagues before he was ready. He really struggled with major league pitching, leaving a lot of evaluators scratching their heads. However, he made a mechanical change this spring that allowed his hands to start further back and higher, giving him the ability to let the ball travel further, and that has put him back on the map as one of the top, young, potential left-handed power hitters in the game. Gordon presently has an OPS of .900 with 20 RBIs.
3. Aaron Harang, San Diego Padres
Harang won 16 games for the Cincinnati Reds in 2006 and 2007 and was considered the ace of the staff. However, after three years of averaging six wins per season, the Reds let him go via free agency at the end of last season. Jed Hoyer, the GM of Padres, took a chance on Harang on the recommendation of pitching coach Darren Balsley, and it has paid off. Harang told me that Balsley changed his leg kick back to where it was in '06 and '07 and changed the timing of his hands splitting. The results added velocity, a crisper breaking ball, a much-improved WHIP and two wins away from Petco Park.
4. Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesAlfonso Soriano has been one of the few bright spots so far for the Cubs.
Last summer, Cubs GM and then-manager Lou Piniella told me Soriano will never be the player he was in Washington. Because of bad knees, Soriano hasn’t hit 30 home runs since 2007, when he hit 33 in his first year with the Cubs. But 2011 is a new season, and Soriano, after spending the winter working on his legs, knees and lower half, is back. He has an NL-leading 11 home runs and is presently on pace to hit more than the 46 home runs he hit for me in Washington back in 2006. Amazing what happens when a talented player gets healthy again. Another good comeback story.
5. Bartolo Colon, New York Yankees
This one’s the hardest one for me to believe. Colon is throwing a 92-96 mph fastball, painting the corners and keeping it down or elevating when needed with a good breaking ball. This can’t be happening, can it? I feel like Michael J. Fox is going to soon tell me we are back to the past. Colon won 21 games in 2005 for the Angels. He won a total of 14 games over the next four years ... four years! The great Branch Rickey once said, "If you see it once, you can see it again." Colon is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA but giving the Yankees important innings in the rotation. The key will be how long can he maintain this; how long can he maintain velocity; how long can he maintain command? A phenomenal story.
6. Travis Hafner, Cleveland Indians
Hafner’s shoulders have been so bad that he hasn't been able to do any offseason weightlifting the past few years. However, this offseason was different. With better health on his side, Hafner worked hard in building up strength and flexibility. The result has been outstanding, as his bat speed is back and so is the thump in his bat. His sweet spot contact is loud again, and his face is smiling. And it should be after starting this season with a .404 OBP, including four home runs. Hafner is presently nursing a sore right foot but fortunately is not heading to the disabled list, according to Indians manager Manny Acta.
7. Russell Martin, New York Yankees
I watched Martin closely the last two years with the Dodgers. He showed no power in games and no power in BP, and questions about the health of his hip and knees never ceased. When the Dodgers decided to non-tender Martin, it wasn’t met with surprise, but rather with understanding. Remember, he hit five home runs in 2010 and seven in 2009. When Yankees GM Brian Cashman signed Martin, he took a lot of criticism. With Jorge Posada, Jesus Montero and Austin Romine, the signing didn’t appear to make sense. However, Cashman is now looking brilliant. Martin already has six home runs and 20 RBIs to go with a .939 OPS and has done an admirable job of calling a game and stopping the running from a defensive standpoint. He is clearly one of the better free-agent bargains of 2011, and the Red Sox and Dodgers should be kicking themselves for not pursuing him more aggressively. This comeback story has as much to do with a change of scenery as health, but both have played a major factor.
Comeback players can make an impact on pennant races and they already have this year for teams such as the Yankees (Colon, Martin and Eric Chavez) and Indians (Grady Sizemore and Hafner).
You can follow me on Twitter @JimBowdenESPNxm, and I look forward to your input, feedback and ideas. Thanks for reading.
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