Monday, November 24, 2008

Odds, Ends (11.25.08)


  • I Love the '80s.  In efforts to - I don't know - honor the Metrodome the Twins have announced that all Saturday home games in 2009 the Twins will don retro jersey commemorating the initial season indoors.  For those that cannot recall the 1982 Dome break-in season, don't worry, you aren't missing much.  It was Billy Gardner's first season as the team's manager and his young squad (averaging just 25 years old) finished the 60-102 - a distant 33 games out of the American League West - and the .370 winning percentage easily the worst since the move from the Nation's capital.  Even with a new stadium centrally located in Downtown Minneapolis, impervious to the outdoor whether conditions, the team struggled to draw 1 million visitors and finished dead last in attendance in the AL.  The roster was constructed with promising yet unproven talent with the likes of Kent Hrbek (22), Tom Brunansky (21), Tim Laudner (24), Gary Geatti (23), Brad Havens (22) and Frank Viola (22).  Fans expected and received very little out of them.  Still, Hrbek and Geatti displayed power of much older men, slugging .485 and .443 respectively with a combined 48 home runs.  Hrbek would experience the first of two voter-inflicted injustices (the later coming in 1984 when he finished second for the AL MVP) being tagged as runner up for the Rookie of the Year while hitting .301/.363/.485 in 532 at-bats while playing for a 100+ loss team.  Instead, ballots would be casted for Cal Ripken Jr who would hit .264/.317/.475 in 598 at-bats though playing for a team with 94-wins.  The franchise would make several significant personnel moves as well.  In April, the Twins packaged 29-year-old Roy Smalley to the Yankees for closer Ron Davis, Paul Boris and future shortstop Greg Gagne.  A month later catcher Butch Wynegar was flipped to the Yankees along with Roger Erickson for John Pacella, Larry Milbourne, Pete Filson and cash.  Though none of the players gained from the Wynegar transaction amount to anything, moving the opening day catcher made room for minor league slugger Laudner.  On the same day, owner Calvin Griffith would ship pitcher Doug Corbett and second baseman Rob Wilfong to California for Brunansky and Mike Walters (along with $400K).  In three moves, the Twins had acquired three integral components of the 1987 World Champion team.  Maybe that is worth commemorating. 
  • More '82.  It should be noted that what burned the Twins the most during this era was their inability to draft successfully in the first round.  According to Kevin Kerrane's book, Dollar Sign on the Muscle, the Twins were one of the frugal organizations that had trimmed their scouting budget in order to partake in the socialized experiment, the Major League Scouting Bureau.  This resulted in uninspired first round draft picks:  Paul Croft (1977 - 15th overall), Lenny Faedo (1978 - 16th), Kevin Brandt (1979 - 11th), Jeff Reed (1980 - 12th), and Mike Sodders (1981 - 11th).  Among the first rounders from '77 to '81, only Faedo and Reed would see the Majors.  In 1982, the team continued this trend.  On the board was the highly touted Tampa high school phenom Dwight Gooden.  All reports indicated that Gooden was going to demand a high bonus so it was evident the Twins were going to passed too. The Twins selected Bryan Oelkers, a left-handed pitcher whose claim to fame is being the first player born in Spain break into the Major Leagues, only threw 34 innings for the team.  With a Gooden/Viola tandem the Twins would have had the potential of being a dynasty from 1984 through 1991. 
  • Twins Aren't Type A Personalities.  Joe Christensen at the Strib reports that the Twins will most likely take a pass on the Type A free agents as to not jeopardize a first-round draft pick in 2009.  This is a fairly evident critic of the organization.  In obtaining a Type A free agent, you are not only committing a large sum of money but you are also losing a draft pick on the opposite end of the pipeline.  Christensen says the Twins have looked at a few Type A relievers, notably Juan Cruz, a hard-throwing relief pitcher for the Diamondbacks, and have stated they have a "Never say never" mentality about it.  The rub is that in the past several offseasons, it has been the Type A reliever that has been the biggest free agent landmine.  For instance:
      • Type A Relief Free Agents in 2006:
        • Denys Baez's A designation came from 112 innings with the Devils Rays, Dodgers and Braves where he accumulated a 90/47 K/BB and a 4.98 RA.  Signed by the Orioles for 3-years and $19 M, Baez did not throw a pitch in 2008 and has contributed only 50.3 innings with a 29/29 K/BB and a 6.44 RA since signing the massive contract.  
        • Roberto Hernandez parleyed a 2005/2006 seasons in which he threw 133.4 innings with a 109/60 K/BB ratio and a good 3.50 RA.  The Indians, desperate for bullpen help, extended him a 1-year, $3.5 M contract that Hernandez threw just 26 innings with a 7.26 RA before the Tribe released him in June. 
        • The 32-year-old Justin Speier had compiled two back-to-back seasons in Toronto where he averaged a 2.89 RA in his 118 innings.  The Angels signed Speier to a four-year, $18 M deal that offseason.  Though his 2007 performance was consistent with his previous seasons, his 34-year-old season swung the opposite way.  Speier surrendered 41 runs in 68 innings of work inflating his Runs Allowed to 4.42 - almost double than was the Angels were paying for.   
      • Type A Relief Free Agents in 2007:
        • Brewers closer Francisco Cordero had two impressive seasons in 2006 and 2007 throwing 138.3 innings with a 170/40 K/BB ratio and a suppressed 3.57 RA.  Cincinnati, in dire need of everything, inked Cordero to a four-year, $46 M contract.  His first season with the Reds was a dominate as ever - almost emulating his previous to with a 3.58 RA in 70.3 innings.  However, at 34 in 2009, Cordero is owed $36 million between now and 2011 as his performance is sure to decline as well
        • At age 29 and 30 Scott Linebrink was dominate left-hander for the Padres and then the Brewers.  He was averaging 3.88 RA and posted a 118/47 K/BB ratio in 146 innings between 2006 and 2007.  In need of bullpen help, the White Sox gave Linebrink $19 M over four-years.  Linebrink's arm broke down and he spent time on the DL, throwing only 46.3 innings in 2008 with his standard 3.88 RA. 
      • Not only does the signing of these player come at the substantial investment to the overall budget and the added shot of losing a high draft pick, but most of the time they are quick to decline.  Though Juan Cruz's power numbers are impressive (33% K% versus 477 batters), he will be seeking a multi-year contract presumed to be worth $4 million a season and is just entering his 30s in 2009.  All this combine indicates that Cruz will command a healthy raise.  On one hand, the Twins have some room to maneuver after decreasing their budget in 2008 but on the other, they are an organization that does not like to be shackled to large contracts.  His previous two seasons merit his Type A status: In 112.7 innings, Cruz had a 158/63 K/BB ratio and a 3.59 RA.  More consistent with the Twins' philosophy is the Diamondbacks closer, free agent Brandon Lyon. In the past two seasons, the 28 year old Lyon has thrown 133.3 innings and possesses a 84/35 K/BB ratio.  Like Cruz, Lyon also has a Run Allowed Average below 4.00 (3.98).  Lyon suffered from an inordinate amount of balls finding gaps (a .355 BABIP) making his numbers slightly worse than they.  After making less than $4 million in 2008, Lyon would be more prone to signing a short-term deal (3 years or less) for a better price.
  • Indian Pirates.  According to the Associated Press, the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed the pair of Indian pitchers I wrote about last week. The Pirates have had troubles in recent years, not having won 70-games since 2004 and have not had a winning season since 1992.  What's more is that the team has had troubles building a solid pitching staff internally - anyone who showed the slightest bit of promise was accelerated to the majors.  When Zach Duke, Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny didn't respond to the rapid development, the Pirates were relegated to trade fixtures Jason Bay and Xavier Nady for more pitching prospects since the minors was void of anyone.  It is obvious that Patel and Singh won't contribute for years to come so the signing represents a shift in front office philosophy - one that does not make a ton of sense.  Here is an organization that cannot properly prepare pitchers that have had years of teaching a various levels from high school and college for the Majors and now they expect to groom two that have zero?  How can you expect to invest in attempting to development two raw players?  As noted, these two are 20 years old that have not yet pitched an inning of organized baseball (some JuCo scrimmages though).  This late start puts them well behind the development curve.  Nevertheless, Pirates GM, Neal Huntington, remains optimistic.  "The Pirates are committed to creatively adding talent to our organization," Huntington said. "By adding these two young men, the Pirates are pleased to not only add two prospects to our system but also hope to open a pathway to an untapped market. We are intrigued by Patel's arm strength and Singh's frame and potential."
  • San Francisco Geriatrics.  The best thing that might happen to the Detroit Tigers this offseason is that the San Francisco Giants do indeed sign Edgar Renteria away from Motown.  Rumored by WFAN-AM to have a deal in place with the Bay Area team, the Tigers would get two compensatory draft picks as Renteria received Type A status.  In a season in which he hit .270/.317/.382, Renteria did nothing to persuade analysts that he is unable to hit in the American League.  After a brutal offensive season with the Red Sox in 2005, Renteria slinked back to the National League where he began hitting again.  Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski shipped pitcher Jair Jurrjens and Gorky Hernandez to the Atlanta Braves for the 33 year old shortstop with a shakey track record in the AL.  As the Tigers pitching staff disintergrated during the 2008 season, the Braves extracted 188 innings with a 139/70 K/BB and a 13-10 record.  The Giants, meanwhile, are looking to replace their 41-year-old shortstop Omar Vizquel.  Since the Tigers declined Renteria's 2009 option (at $12 million), the estimated signing price is around $9 million for his services.  Even if Renteria contributes enough to reach 8 win share above bench (as he did in 2007), the Giants would be paying $1.125 million per added victory.  At 34-years-old Renteria would be a free agent landmine - even if he is able to resurrect his 2007 output.  To replace Renteria, the Tigers are attempting to strike a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates for defensive extraordinaire, Jack Wilson. 

  • Non-Baseball.  A man tries to use a drawing of a spider as legal tender. Hilarity ensues.  

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Minnesota Underground: Seth Stohs' Prospect Handbook Review

If you have spent any amount of time trolling the Intertubes for Twins blogs, you are probably aware that Seth Stohs, the purveyor of the seminal Twins website, has assembled a compilation of the entire Twins organizations’ cadre of minor leaguers.  When he made his announcement to the Twins blogosphere writers early on, I was immediately infatuated.  Music lovers are enthralled by the no-name bands that perform in no-name bars, listening to them long before there is ever a record deal.  Technophiles love gadgets that haven’t even hit the mainstream markets, reading all about the forthcoming iPhones months in advance of their release and attempting to be an early adapter.  In this fashion, baseball fans are captivated by minor leaguers.  Prospects, much like a new band or touch-interface gizmo, represents the future.


In his inaugural edition of his Prospect Handbook (2009) Stohs delivers detailed accounts of players, providing background that goes beyond the nuts-and-bolts of statistics.  Unlike many of the diatribes found here at Over the Baggy expounding on a strikeout rate to gauge a player’s ebb and flow in the Twins’ minor league system, Stohs has frequently admitted in various forums that statistics aren’t necessarily the tell-all when it comes to prospects.  True to his word, this manual's premise hones in less on those numbers than it does on the player’s recent development.  The handbook covers the entire system from Allen (comma Michael) to Yersich (comma Greg), providing insight for players not only on Baseball America’s radar, such as Ben Revere and Aaron Hicks, but also those players that only their immediate families are familiar with. 
Though the tendency might be to flip to the top prospects or the dividends of the Johan Santana trade, the book is filled with enough tidbits of the lesser known players to capture an average fan's attention.  For example, Czech Republic native Jakub Hajtmar was given 85 at-bats with the Gulf Coast League Twins, twenty of which resulted in strikeouts.  Stohs gave him precisely 38 words but the last six might be the most telling: "In October, the Twins released Hajtmar."  Blink and you would have missed the Hajtmar Experience.  On the other hand, the Twins also have two left-handed pitchers in the lower ranks, both of the last name Lobanov, both hailing from Moscow and both with a good likelihood of coming back in 2009.  This begats more questions.  Such as just exactly how much are the Twins budgeting on scouting Eastern Europe?  Can a former Communist really throw a curveball? 
Similar to his website that avoids overly negative reports, the Handbook too veers away from highlighting obvious transgressions in a blunt manner.  Stohs has a knack of isolating any potential upside.  Whereas a standard write up from Baseball Prospectus might blatantly state that a former first round draft pick Matt Moses should have “failure” tattooed on his forehead, Stohs provides evidence that there were some flickers progress prior to drawing the conclusion that there is zero chance of seeing Moses in the Metrodome besides as a paying customer.  Although some experts have begun to question centerfield prospect Joe Benson’s status, Stohs peppers his analysis with silver-lined words, noting that Benson is still young for the Midwest League dispite his disappointing season and should expect to rebound in the Florida State League. 


Stohs has numerous invaluable sources in a myraid of levels throughout the organization and uses them to help lend credence to his analysis.  One source told him that Ben Revere resembled Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Howie Kendrick - a glowing review in any language.   Likewise, emerging talent Mike McCardell, a right-handed pitcher at Beloit, was given a rave review by a scout from another organization, suggesting that McCardell has enough stuff and "moxie" to become a major league starter.  It is the addition of these nuggets packed within the write-ups that help mentally project the raw statistics. 


An fan avid of ranking prospects, Stohs adds the rankings from other notable bloggers like Twinkie Town's Roger Dehring, Taylor's Twins Talk's Josh Taylor and Josh's Thought's Josh Johnson among others.  This bonus feature provides a comparison from across the Twins community, a sort of wisdom-of-the-crowd approach to the top prospects.  Naturally, the Top 40 from is included though Stohs provides Sleeper Watch and a brief description to a handful of players that didn't perform well enough to crack the Top 40 but have the tools to possibly contribute at the Major League level.
There is room for improvement as the Handbook looks towards its second edition in 2010, such as supply more league-oriented context (what do the numbers mean in comparison to the league average?) and projections (provide a specific ETA, if any?), but the initial offering to what should be an annual update is strong.  In all, this is an very useful collection of analysis that should adorn any Twins fan coffee table or desktop for quick reference on anyone in the system. 

For further information on how to order or purchase a copy of the Seth Speak's Twins Prospect Handbook (2009), please visit

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Odds, Ends (11.17.08)

  • In what was the worst kept secret in baseball, the Twins officially announced that the team and manager Ron Gardenhire have agreed on a two-year extension.  Though the announcement might be meet with ire in certain circles, Gardenhire has been one of the winningest managers in baseball since assuming the helm of the Twins.  His .543 winning percentage ranks 23rd all-time among managers and that is currently third among active managers - trailing just the Angels' Mike Scioscia (22nd .551) and the Braves' Bobby Cox (17th, .557).  According to Cot's Contracts, Cox, the long time Braves' manager, is on a one-year contract for $3 million while Scioscia is under contract through 2010 (with an option for 2011) worth $1.75 million a year.  Gardenhire's prior contract was worth $2.5 million for two years ($1.25 per), so the current contract is believed to be similar to Scioscia's annual compensation. 
  • In the wake of Pat Neshek's revelation that he will indeed undergo Tommy John surgery, missing the entirety of the 2009 schedule, it propels the necessity of acquiring a reliever pitcher that much further up the Twins' needs list.  This, of course, is easier said than done.  In 2008, the Twins had used 26% of their payroll to supply their bullpen.  In order to maintain a budget that is within reason, the Twins must not participate in inflated contracts to mediocre relievers in a time of desperation.  It is forgone conclusion that Dennys Reyes' spot in the bullpen will be accommodated by Craig Breslow and Jose Mijares leaving Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain to assume the role of right-handed setup men in the 6th and 7th innings.  The bridge between those pitchers and Joe Nathan (in his second year of a contract with a AAV of $11.25 million) is undefined.  Rumor-mongering websites suggest that the Twins would target Juan Cruz, a 30 year old right handed reliever with the Diamondbacks who struck out 71 in his 51 innings of work last year.  While a strikeout oriented set-up man would bode well for the Twins, Cruz is a Type A free agent coming at the expense of not only a large three-plus year contract but also two draft picks.     
  • The Yankees and White Sox completed a five-player deal that sends Nick Swisher to the Bronx.  Swisher, despite his unmitigated swagger, never fit in to Chicago's lineup very well.  He is not a centerfielder while Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye have him blocked at first base and right field, two positions he is more apt to handling.  The White Sox organization also cited his .219 batting average as reason that he was not suitable for the team.  Whether or not the front office actually believes this to be the explanation for shopping Swish, it should be noted that Swisher had an extremely suppressed batting average on balls in play (.266) in comparison to the rest of the league (.302).  His walk rate was also down from his past two seasons, sinking his on-base percentage, but for the most part his BB-to-K was consistent with the past two seasons as well.  It just appears that bad luck caught up to him.  Expect that Swisher's 2009 season resembles 2007 rather than his 2008 numbers. 
  • The White Sox landed Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez for Swisher and Kanekoa Texieria.  Betemit has never had a full-time role to truly define if he is a wash as a prospect.  His tenure with the Yankees, Betemit played all four infield positions, but mostly handled first base.  The left-handed Betemit has hit the righties well (.799 career OPS) but has been stymied by his counterparts (.636 career OPS).  Betemit will probably be asked to man third (along with Josh Fields) and, at times, first to reprieve Konerko from some right handed pitchers.  General Manager Kenny Williams told the Chicago Tribune that he believes that Betemit will perform better after he adjusts to his prescription goggles.  More likely, Betemit will assume the Juan Uribe role of playing whenever an injury arises.  Marquez was a name bandied about during the Santana negotiations last offseason.  After a strong showing in AA in 2007, Marquez was sidelined for a significant portion of the 2008 season.  He was rumored to be hitting the low-90s with a sinking fastball that was inducing groundballs (47% in AAA).  After a half-season or full-season of adjustments in AAA in 2009, Marquez should be a good replacement for Javier Vazquez in the rotation as Gavin Floyd and John Danks accept their rightful place as number one and two starters for the Sox. 


  • Phil Rogers reports that the Royals have hired Mike Arbuckle, an advanced scout for Philadelphia, to fill the role of assistant GM.  When the team passed Arbuckle over for Ruben Amaro Jr when Pat Gillick stepped down, Arbuckle accepted the offer to be Dayton Moore's number two man.  During the Phillies World Series run Arbuckle did an interview with a Philadelphia daily in which he recollected his time as one of the advanced scouts for the Braves during the 1991 World Series.  What information did he provide?  He told the Braves to run on then-Twins catcher Brian Harper.  The offensive-minded catcher (who batted .311 in 1991), only threw out 28-of-126 base stealers that year (22% caught stealing rate).  In legendary Game Six, with the score knotted at three, Rick Aguilera was starting his second consecutive inning in the top of the 11th.  The Braves' Sid Bream led off with a single and Bobby Cox sent Keith Mitchell into pinch run for the first baseman.  During the regular season in 48 games, Mitchell had successfully stolen three bases in four attempts.  Based upon Arbuckle's report, Cox put Mitchell in motion in hopes of gaining scoring position in the pivotal game.  Harper's throw to second baseman Chuck Knoblauch cut Mitchell down for the inning's first out and Aguilera retired Brian Hunter and Greg Olson in order.  In the bottom of the inning, Kirby Puckett would launch his iconic game-winning home run. 
  • The Tigers are targeting Trevor Hoffman, according to the Detroit Free Press's Jon Paul Morosi.  The 41 year old Hoffman would supplant the incumbent Todd Jones of equal age who decided to retire following an injury plagued 2008 season.  The Tigers are searching for a interim closer that would sign a one-year contract as the asking price of free agent closers Francisco Rodriguez, Brian Fuentes and Kerry Wood have grown by astronomical proportions.  A collegue of Morosi at the Free Press, Jamie Samualson, posted a piece suggesting that one of the reasons to avoid signing Hoffman was his decrease in innings pitching.   While there are plenty of reasons to not sign the landmine of a free agent in Hoffman, the decrease in innings pitch is probably the last.  After all, the Padres won just 63 games in 2008 limiting the number of save opportunities available to deploy a closer.  Hoffman's velocity has leveled out at 86-mph on his fastball, but his devastating changeup still possesses enough of a difference (74 mph) to retire the majority of batters faced.  More importantly, his ability to get left-handed batters out has been more pronounced in the past two seasons.  In 2007, lefties held a .799 OPS versus the right-handed .492 OPS.  This past year Hoffman held righties to a .466 OPS while the lefties increased their output to an .873 OPS.  If the Tigers indeed do sign Hoffman, expect Mauer, Morneau and Kubel to make closing games against the Twins a hair raising experience for Tiger fans.  
  • The Marlins are in an active makeover mode.  The South Florida franchise is attempting to improve on a 84-win season (+3 over their Pythagorean record) in a very tough NL East by A) selling off Mike Jacobs for Royals reliever Leo Nunez, then B) trading Scott Olson and Josh Willingham to the Nationals in exchange for a handful of players including utility infielder Emilio Bonifacio and finally C) trading Kevin Gregg to the Cubs for a highly touted relief prospect. 
    • A) Unloading Jacobs is a smart move for a small budget team.  Jacobs has very good pull power but the Marlins have loads of lumbering power hitters that can't get on first base consistently.  In AA, the 24 year old Gaby Sanchez has pieced together a solid minor league pedigree.  Like Jacobs, Sanchez would be an inexpensive addition to the team.  Unlike Jacobs, Sanchez has found other ways to achieve first base besides simply clubbing the ball.  In 1,677 minor league plate appearances, Sanchez possesses a 205/200 BB/K ratio.  Nunez, meanwhile, provides the Marlins with an option in the bullpen with his mid-90s fastball (94.4).  In 2008, the Marlins milked a satisfactory performance out of the aging Joe Nelson but need to supplement the bullpen with something else. The former Royal improved on his control in 2008 by throwing in the zone 68.8% of the time on the first pitch.  This is more than a 10% improvement from his 2007 season. 
    • B) Doing business with the Nationals organization is like bartering with Old Mother Hubbard for food: the cupboards are bare.  This trade then was focused on clearing room on both the roster and a potential raise to Olsen and Willingham.  Dave Cameron at (and USS Mariner) takes a good look at the trade assembled around the pair of Fish.  Most will view this as a steal for the Nationals as Olsen just accumulated 200+ innings in 2008 and the right-handed batting Willingham just posted an OPS of .835.  Those unfamilar with the left-handed Olsen should know that he has a history of run-ins with players and his own coaching staff - another edition to the all-head-case roster that Jim Bowden is trying to assemble in Washington along with Elijah Dukes and Lasting Milledge.  The Marlins do not have a current need for a second baseman in Bonifacio (unless they unload Dan Uggla) and his isn't really strong at either the plate nor the field.  The other two minor leaguers seem destined to do just that: be in the minor leagues.  Willingham was nearly 30 and is probably past whatever productive output he was going to provide a team. 
    • C) Finally the Cubs grabbed the overvalued 30 year old closer in Kevin Gregg, who made $2.5 million in 2008, for minor league prospect Jose Ceda.  Chicago netted themselves the market inflated arbitration eligible Gregg, who experts believe will make more than $4 million in 2009 and whose K/BB ratio took an odd turn this past season.  In 2007 Gregg managed to compile a 87/40 K/BB ratio.  This past year, Gregg had a 58/37 K/BB ratio.  Want another oddity?  His groundball rate swelled from 29% in '07 to 45% in '08.  This probably has more to do with his employment of the split-finger fastball but it would look as though he is pitching to contact - a recipe for disaster for closers (especially in the confinements of Wrigley).  If the Cubs are serious about implementing Gregg as a closer (as opposed to using Carlos Marmol), the results will be like that of Joe Borowski, another closer who pitched to contact after his fastball started to decline.  Ceda, meanwhile, resembles a relief prospect that will help in the Marlins bullpen as soon as next year.  Splitting time between A+/AA last year, Ceda threw 84.2 innings with a solid 95/42 K/BB ratio and allowed just two home runs.  This will be a regrettable trade for the North Siders. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Is India the Next MLB Market?

You know that cliched bit in movies like the Mighty Ducks (or the reverse of that concept in the movie The Cutting Edge) where the coach concocts a crazy scheme in which two figure skates are converted to hockey players because, you know, they can skate?  And since they can skate their skills must be transferable to hockey (or in the case of The Cutting Edge visa versa)?  Well, Jeff Bernstein, Barry Bonds's marketing agent, is attempting to do the same thing only with cricket players from India
Makes perfect sense, right?  Their country is known for providing inexpensive labor to Steve Jobs's organization, why not Billy Beane's?  Hell, isn't the entire country of India viewed to the Western world as one big market inefficiency? 
Bernstein's endeavor was a contest dubbed "The Million Dollar Arm" which had local boys trying to throw as hard as they can, for as many strikes as they can.  The winner was Rinku Singh, a 19-year-old right-hander who threw consistently at 87-mph, and was awarded $100,000.  The runner up, Dinesh Patel, actually threw harder but had more difficulty with accuracy.
Major League scout Ray Poitevint was then brought over to assess the top talents.  "I certainly had my doubts,"said Poitevint, "I took a 21-hour flight to see every pitcher who could throw over 80 mph. They had such funny motions, the way they ran to the mound and jumped, but I couldn't believe how hard they'd throw.  You saw that raw ability, and you wondered if that could be molded. I don't wonder anymore."
Poitevint and Bernstein identified Singh and 19-year-old Patel, a left-hander, to fly to America to workout with current University of Southern California baseball coach and former Rangers pitching coach, Tom House, in the efforts to harness their extremely raw talent.  It sounds as if Singh as the more prototypical pitcher frame, listed as 6-2 and 195 pounds, while Patel is more of your Tim Hudson type at 5-11, 185 pounds.  During the initial workouts in SoCal, they were both clocked at 85+, reaching 90 on occasion.  

"If you go back 25-30 years, tell me how many Dominicans were playing and being scouted," Poitevint said. "There are a lot of athletes in India, athletes that are equal to or better than the ones that Dominicans had 25 years ago. This is not a publicity stunt. When you're scouting you need to take all kinds of shots and use your imagination. And then maybe ... three, four, five years later you see a guy who reminds you of someone with whom you've had success in the past. We're in the business of trying to develop baseball players and eventually if it works, we'll be signing someone from India."

Former Twins pitcher Casey Daigle (also the lessor half of the Daigle-Jenny Finch marriage) took the opportunity to run through workouts with the pair while training with House this offseason. 

"These guys are wonderful to be around," says Casey Daigle, "It's fun because they're like sponges. A few months ago, they didn't even know what a baseball was. What's great about them is that they are so determined to pitch in pro ball, and when you're around them, you can't help but root for them."

Following there brief introduction to pitching fundamentals state-side, Super-agent Jeff Borris enlisted several GMs - the majority of whom were in California for the annual General Managers' meeting - to witness the duo firsthand. 
Borris arranged for a Steve Nebraska-like work out, undoubtedly hoping to secure what could be lucrative contracts in the future.  Cleveland Indians' general manager Mark Shapiro may have indicated how much interest they have in their pair of hurlers from subcontinent Asia.  The Indians sent their Player Personnel Director to scout the, ahem, Indians.  "It's not like you're going to send all of your scouts over there to watch, but you never want to be left out, either. You never know what will happen. It's a country that's been unexplored."  Shapiro commented.
During the audition, both pitchers velocity were significantly lower than the reports from the USC facility, both cited the mound as reasons for the discrepancy - .  Borris, who is representing them along with Bernstein after watching their USC workouts, immediately told the press following the Tempe audition that he expects "multiple" offers from Major League teams, according to the Canadian Press.  Do the baseball minds feel the same as Borris?
In the video located on USA Today's website, House, who also co-wrote one of the seminal books on baseball along with statistician Craig Wright titled 'The Diamond Appraised', indicated that the interest in these players among Major League organization will be limited.  Candidly, House noted that the ones that will show interest are the ones that have very solid player development programs, ones that could appropriately train someone with little technical skill. 
Scouts who attended the Tempe, AZ-based showcasing also echoed the same sentiment as House.  Ted Heid, the Mariners special international project coordinator, told the Arizona Republic that "You can't really make a judgment based on this. There's an awful lot of players further along.  There would need to be an organization to continue the experiment."  Likewise, Ron Schueler, a San Francisco Giant senior scout, said "I didn't know what to expect. You've got two athletes who had never picked up a baseball before. Obviously, they're very crude. The fact that the one kid touched 90, that's stuff to work with.  Their country should be proud of them."

The question is whether this is a historic breakthrough, highlighting yet another geographic region of the world that has not been invaded by scouting tracks or just a novelty ploy by two high-priced agents?  Bernstein has stated that he is organizing another Million Dollar Arm contest in the near future in the hopes of extracting more arms from the nation of India.  Patel and Singh have proven that the raw talent is there.  Now a club has to make the investment in harnessing these abilities. 


Thursday, November 06, 2008

What Could Have $50 Million Bought Your Team? Part Four

Finally you are done to the filler part of your roster.  On Monday we detailed the parameters of why you are only able to spend $50 million and also reviewed the starting eight.  On Tuesday we went through your starting rotation.  Yesterday we looked over the bullpen.  All of that has left you with $8.7 million to purchase backups and role players.  Though in most seasons this would be filler and padded with minor league players developed from within, you need to make sure your backups can contribute as the majority of your starters are raging question marks.  
You manager is the type that likes to play the odds early in the game, sending up a pinch hitter in the first quarter of the game if necessary to take an advantage so you want to stockpile him with the weapons that will give him the edge.  In an offensive-minded team, you are not afforded the luxury of a late-innings glove man.  Your team's philosophy has been to outscore and outlast your opponents - playing emphasis on scoring early and then handing the ball over to a stable bullpen. 
You know that you can jump out to 5-0 leads every game and that the majority will be hard-fought contests that will require a well-timed pinch hitter in critical situations.  You and your staff scour the market trying to allocate just such resources with your minimal budget.
4OF/DH | Fernando Tatis | 8 WSAB | $560k
"Fernando Tatis." One of your advanced scouts recommended at a meeting.  Your mind immediately went to the scene in Major League when the front office was reviewing the list of player's invited to spring training and one staff member quipped, "Half of these guys I haven't heard of and the ones I do know are way past their prime."  You lump Tatis in with the latter group.  Here is a guy that has been trudging the past two seasons in AAA - hitting the ball fairly well in 2007 mind you, as evident by his 44% xbh% - but he is 33 years old.  What the hell, offer him a minor league contract, you say.  He might be able to play some corner infield in a pinch too.  Tatis responded by hitting .311/.393/.415 off of lefties in 147 plate appearances in those times platooning for Gerut in left per the instructions to the field manager.  What surprises you more is that in 159 plate appearances against right-handed pitching, Tatis does even better, hitting 10 of his 11 home runs and slugs .545 with a .409 OBP.  After the 2008 season, you promoted that advanced scout to director of scouting. 

C | Miguel Olivo | 3 WSAB | $2.5 M
You presented Olivo with a rather hefty offer considering that you paid what ended up being your starting catcher, Rod Barajas, a million less.  The fact of the matter was you were not sure which catcher was going to win the starting spot.  What probably is most telling about this is that under Olivo's Baseball-Reference page, his top comparable batter is none other than Rod Barajas.  When it become apparent that Barajas's bat emerged as the everyday type while Olivo would succumb to providing Barajas with a breather during weekend day games.  Olivo finishes the season emulating his historical stats with a rather pathetic on-base percentage (.278) thanks to his just seven walks in 317 plate appearances.  His 12 home runs provide some pop to your lineup but is brutishly awful against right-handed pitching (2/58 BB/KK).  Defensively, he throws out nearly 40% (38.7%) of attempted base-stealers and allows just four passed ball - a feat that is looked upon as a great revelation as Olivo allowed 26 passed balls in the past two years combined.
3B/1B/PH | Russell Branyan | 3 WSAB | $500k
When you saw Branyan on the market, you knew you had to get him.  He is the perfect weapon in to have on the bench in a pinch against right-handed pitching.  You just wish there was a way to give him more plate appearances.  Your manager was convinced he was able to handled left-handed pitching as he had been pigeoned holed with for his entire career.  Over the course of 11 seasons, Branyan had accumulated over 2,319 plate appearances and just 7% of those were against left-handed pitchers.  It was like that everybody was convinced that Branyan couldn't hit left-handed pitching that they didn't even let him attempted to prove otherwise.  And 2008 was no exception despite your pleas to the field staff.  He was hitting a home run every 12.6 plate appearances, why not let him try to swing against the port-siders?  Right-handed pitchers were better off pitching around him as in 138 match-ups, Branyan slugged .653. 

OF/DH/PH | Cliff Floyd | 3 WSAB | $3 M
Floyd's asking price of $3 million was a lot for a man that had played in 108 and 97 games in the past two seasons.  You figured that you were going to need a "professional" hitter no matter how limited a role he winds up playing.  There were plenty that still admired him approach to the plate and his ability to get on base as well as hit for power.  With your finances dwindling, you and Floyd reach a deal.  Like Branyan, you know that Floyd's role in this organization would be to face right-handed pitchers and right-handed pitchers only.  In 272 match-ups against righties, Floyd hits 11 home runs and slugs .466.  Next to Kaz Matsui's 4 WSAB for $5 million, Floyd's 3 WSAB for $3 million was about the least cost efficient.  
INF | Omar Infante | 3 WSAB | $1.4 M
You needed a super-utility player and you turned your sights to Omar Infante.   In 2004, Infante popped 16 home runs as a shortstop/second baseman for the Detroit Tigers and finished the year batting .264/.317/.449.  Because of his high strikeout rate and his inflated batting average on balls in play, this production was not sustainable and he came crashing to earth quickly.  Each passing season his role was demished a bit further until he was only given 178 plate appearances in 2007.  You liked that he could man just about every position good, but none great.  After his pitiful 2007 campaign where he hit .271/.307/.355 that to a bad 9/29 BB/K, he rebounded to hit .293/.338/.416 with a 22/44 BB/K along with 30 extra base hits in 317 at-bats. 
OF | Reggie Abercrombie | 2 WSAB | $400k
This one time top prospect for the Marlins never materialized in their organization, mostly because of his propensity to, you know, not get on base.  He had shown power in his early development and then stalled out as other elite prospects passed him by.  He was the epitome of the Peter Pan prospect: the one that never grows up.  His 2007 season in AAA Albuquerque showed some flicker of hope as in 353 at-bats, Abercrombie had 49 extra base hits.  You signed him to a minor league deal and call him up to pinch hit and provide a body for when others are injured.  In his small sample size, he hits .309/.339/.509 despite his horrendous 1/29 BB/K ratio (thankfully, your manager is smart enough to not be fooled by the numbers, the walks mean everything and keep him to a pinch hitter extraordinary).  On 13 occasions, Abercrombie is asked to pinch hit, where he deposits two home runs and one double among his four hits.  Too bad he never realized that patiences is a virtue. 

Your bench costs you $8.36 million and leaves you with a surplus of just $340,000 from your original budget.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What Could Have $50 Million Bought Your Team? Part Three

On Monday and Tuesday, you showed how you spent $32.27 million of your $50 million budget on eight position players and five starting pitchers.  Today, you are going to detail what is often a team's hardest portion of the payroll to control.  At this moment you have $17.73 million remaining to acquire six or seven relievers AND somehow assemble a bench.  This was certainly not an easy task. 
In 2008 the Milwaukee Brewers used nearly that amount of money on just three members of the bullpen: closer Eric Gagne ($10 million), set-up man David Riske ($4 million) and Salomon Torres ($3.2 million).  These three combine for 21% of the team's total payroll for the season.  For $17.2 million, the front office of the Brewers had purchased 168.6 innings of work and a 4.48 ERA (2 Win Shares Above Bench).

Smarter organizations have learned to approach their bullpens with more fiscal responsibility.  The American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays had a budget of almost half of the Milwaukee Brewers yet managed to piece together one of baseball's best bullpens.  Troy Percival ($4 million), Dan Wheeler ($2.8 million), Trever Miller ($2 million), Grant Balfour ($500K) and J.P. Howell ($397K) were compensated $9.69 million combine, exactly 21% of the team's payroll.  By investing 43% less than their National League counterparts in Wisconsin, the Rays were able to acquire - either through a trade or free agent signing - five members of the bullpen that accounted for 302.9 innings and a 2.91 ERA (not to mention 20 Win Shares Above Bench). 
With your limited finances, you had to tailor your approach to follow the Rays model and ignore the "brand-name" relievers that were on the market. 
Long Man/Middle Relief | RHP | Chad Durbin | 4 WSAB | $900K
For you, the signing of Chad Durbin was an insurance policy.  While with the Tigers, Durbin was used both as a starter and reliver.  The idea was that, if necessary, Durbin could start in a pinch.  Your pitching coach, however, decided to tinker with him in the spring.  He instructed Durbin to rely on that slider of his.  In 2007, Durbin was throwing it only 18% of the time.  Your coach said to increase the usage, which he did, to nearly 38% in 2008.  As a result, Durbin was able reduce the number of flyballs and witnessed a gigantic shift in the amount of home runs surrendered (21 to 5).  Because of the improvement, your manager began to use him in higher leverage situations as the season wears on.  He throws nearly 90 innings and posts a 3.77 FIP in 2008. 
Middle Relief | RHP | Joe Nelson | 4 WSAB | $400K

Joe Nelson was your long shot for making the team.  Long in the tooth (33 years old), Nelson had been a career minor leaguer running through the Braves, Red Sox, Cardinals, Devil Rays and Royals before you came upon him by accident.  In 2006, the Royals gave Nelson 44.7 innings of relief that was mediocre at best (106 ERA+).  Again to suppress the cost of your bullpen, you extended a minor league contract to Nelson who ended up closing games for your AAA affiliate before being recalled in late May.  Nelson was a heavy fastball (65.2%) and changeup (32.7%) user which lead to a 60/22 K/BB ratio.   
LOOGY | LHP | Arthur Rhodes | 4 WSAB | $500K
Older than Methuselah, there wasn't much use for this 38 year old that did not pitch at all in 2007 because of elbow injuries.  You recognized his value as someone that would appreciate a role that was focused on retiring just one batter per appearance and accept a minor league contract.  In that context, Rhodes outperformed expectations.  In 81 plate appearances against left-handed batters, Rhodes held them to a .157 batting average thanks to a 91-mph fastball complimenting a devastating slider that runs away from left-handed batters - this lead to a 2.23 FIP.  Rhodes will most certainly explore the free agent market for the 2009 season and inevitably land a contract that overpays for his services.  His performance lands you a compensatory draft pick because he is deemed a Type B free agent.  You smile bigger than a Cheshire cat. 
Right-Handed Set-Up | RHP | Doug Brocail | 4 WSAB | $2.5 M

One of the biggest reasons that you extended a large sum of money for a 41 year old set-up man was that your pitching coach noted something.  Per the video that you had accumulated on players throughout the years, the pitching coach saw that Brocail's weakness was that he insisted on throwing his looping curveball (76-mph) as his secondary pitch (20.8% of the time).  Persuaded to implement a cutter (88-mph, 19.5%) in 2008, rather than his curveball, Brocail had a resurrection of sorts as a striking out pitching - averaging 8.39 in 2008 up from 5.05 in 2007.  He throws 68.7 innings and has a 64/21 K/BB ratio with a 3.83 FIP. Like Rhodes before him, Brocail's performance is greatly inflated by the Elias Ratings and he winds up a Type A free agent, netting your organization two compensatory draft picks. 
Left-Handed Set-Up | LHP | Tim Byrdak | 2 WSAB | $400K
Byrdak was signed as the cheap version of the left-handed 7th or 8th inning guy but wound up being interchangeable with Rhodes.  There was no reason for acquiring Byrdak besides his historically solid statistical evidence that he was effective against left-handed batters (.206/.297/.379 in 359 plate appearances versus left-handed batters on his career).  He throws 55.3 innings for you with a 47/29 K/BB ratio and a 5.46 FIP which would have been much better had your manager listen to your specific instructions to NOT LET HIM FACE RIGHT-HANDED BATTERS.  Allowed to face 138 right-handed batters, Byrdak is smoked.  He has a 17/20 K/BB ratio and opponents hit .289/.397/.614 off of him.  Almost like an alternate universe, left-handed opponents hit .135/.222/.247 with a 30/9 K/BB ratio. 
Closer | RHP | Kerry Wood | 6 WSAB | $4.2 M
With your current position, you have the advantage of going out on limbs.  Mark Prior spurned your attempts at signing in the hopes of a comeback season, but you were able to convince Wood that this was the location for him to rekindle his career as a closer.  He does this with velocity (94-mph) on his fastball that he hasn't seen since 2005.  Wood throws 66.3 innings with a phenomenal 84/18 K/BB ratio and a 2.32 FIP.  Though you would like him to return to close for you in 2009, his market value just skyrocketed and he will net you two more draft picks for being awarded Type A status. 
You commit 17.9% of your payroll to your bullpen and for good measure:  Your starting rotation is filled with unanswered questions that one area of your staff should have stability.  This core contributes 357.6 innings and 24 Win Share Above Bench for $8.95 million (not to mention five draft picks once their contract expired).  You now have $8.78 million leftover to sign six bench players. 

Monday, November 03, 2008

What Could Have $50 Million Have Bought Your Team? Part Two

Yesterday, you had outlined your plan as to how you acquired a solid starting lineup when your entire organization had died in a freak plane crash in the Andes Mountains shortly after the 2007 season's conclusion and you were allotted $50 million by the Commissioner's Office for hush money. 
The 2008 free agent class of starting pitchers was a weak one in every one's opinion.  The selection included the likes of Carlos Silva, Kenny Rogers, Jeff Weaver, Josh Fogg and whatever is left of Tom Glavine's arm.  These are not exactly your cream-of-the-crop, front-of-the-rotation arms.  This why so many quality arms were traded during the offseason (Santana, Garza, Haren, Bedard) at a king's ransom.  There was jacksquat on the open market.  Unlike your competitors who had a vast surplus of minor league arms and bats to offer in trade, you have nothing.  You must resort to scouring the leftovers in hopes of building a serviceable rotation - an act that felt like scraping the top of old Domino's pizza boxes in the efforts to make a semblance of a slice. 
What's more is that after allocating $21.4 million on your starting eight in the field, you must divvy the remaining cash ($28.6 million) wisely enough to purchase not only the five starting pitchers but six (or seven) relievers and four (or five) bench players.  Now it is time to analyze the starting five you secured.
The Rotation:

1 | RHSP | Kyle Lohse | 9 WSAB | $4.25 M
     Kyle Lohse led the charge by throwing 200 innings with a solid 119/49 K/BB ratio and 3.89 FIP.  You did consider making a play for Carlos Silva but realized that his asking price wasn't going to configure into your budget.  Lohse wanted similar money at first but when the months passed without offers from other teams, his agent panicked and began calling around looking for employment.  He graciously accepted your very reasonable offer and outperformed your expectations. 
2 | LHSP | Randy Wolf | 4 WSAB | $4.75 M
    The Lohse acquisition was followed by the left-handed veteran Randy Wolf.  Wolf, creeping into his 30's, would spend substantial time on the disabled list from 2004-2007 making him a somewhat unreliable signing but in the time that he was healthy, he tossed 376.1 innings and boasted a healthy 288/72 K/BB ratio.  A low-risk, one-year deal was offered and Wolf responded by throwing 190 innings with 162 strikeouts.  His 4.17 FIP suggests that he performed a bit better than his 4.30 ERA. 
3 | RHSP | Jorge Campillo | 6 WSAB | $400K
    After Wolf, your pitching coach noted that the third best starter in the bunch might be minor league free agent acquisition, Jorge Campillo.  The Seattle Mariners had originally signed Campillo away from the Mexico City Tigres.  "He's not a thrower as much as he changes speeds, has command," then Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi said. "He's probably average-fast, maybe a little bit below, but he can get above when he needs to." In several short stints with the Mariners, his fastball was barely cresting 85-mph when he had to have reconstructive surgery on his elbow and miss significant playing time.  The Mariners gave up on him after 2007 so you jumped on the chance to see if he was healed.  During spring training, he attacked the strike zone enough with his assortment of pitches that you took him north.  There, he pitched 159 innings with a 107/38 K/BB ratio and a decent 4.00 FIP.
4 | LHSP | Jorge De La Rosa | 3 WSAB | $1.025 M
    You nab journeyman left-hander Jorge De La Rosa for a $1.025 contract despite not being sure where to put him: in the rotation or the bullpen.  But that flexibility is why you decided on him in the first place.  His fastball tops 90-mph on average so you think he could be a decent left-handed arm in the bullpen if you cut him loose, but your coaching staff suggests that he is capable of handling more innings.  He gives you 130 good innings, racking up 128 strikeouts and a 4.06 FIP as your team's #4 man. 
5 | RHSP | RA Dickey | 1 WSAB | $450K
    This was suppose to be slotted for Mark Prior.  You offered him $2 million plus incentives but no dice.  Prior and his agent countered with $4 million...guaranteed. It was well known that Prior had wanted to play in warm weather and despised both the size of your team's city and the cold weather in the spring.  Fine, Mark, you say.  Enjoy San Diego. You moved on to the less discriminating pitchers and decide on Robert Allen Dickey.  The one time first round draft choice had a floundering career with the Texas Rangers before he decided to pick up the ball with his fingernails and float the ball in the direction of the plate rather than throwing it.  His 13-6 season with Milwaukee's AAA affiliate looked promising.  He struck out 119 in 169 innings and only walked 60, an indication that he has command over the hardest pitch to harness.  Though his introduction as a full-time knuckleballer was far from great (5.25 FIP, 58/51 K/BB) he did throw 112 innings working both as a #5 man and a long man out of the bullpen. 

    What did $10.87 million buy you for a starting rotation?   One that compiled 3.54 Runs Allowed (RA) cumulatively average in 791 innings of work.  Not completely terrible.  You have $17.73 million left to acquire six/seven relievers and four/five bench players. 

Sunday, November 02, 2008

What Could Have $50 Million Bought Your Team? Part One

    Let's say you are the general manager of a baseball team whose entire organization was on Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 flying from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile in November of 2007.  The reason for cross-navigating South America?  The Commissioner's office has tasked your team to assist in spreading Major League Baseball throughout the Southern Hemisphere by touring your franchise to play local teams.  This is a seemingly blackmail situation since the Commissioner was kind enough to lobby on your team's behave to a state in order to get public funding for your new $500 million stadium, your owner feels obligated to accept this request.  You are ordered to have your traveling secretary assemble logistics plans.  Because your organization is notoriously thrifty, your traveling secretary cuts corners whenever possible to save money, notably flight arrangements.  While en route to Chile from Argentina, the team's 1972 twin turboprop's pilot mistakenly banks right too soon and crashed your ballplayers into the side of an Andean mountain, left forever to parish in the crisp Chilean snow caps. 
    Thankfully, because of your miserly budgeting, these players were all ambiguous and nameless "replacement players" - the personification for the Baseball Prospectus's statistic, VORP.  Not one of them would be missed. 
    The Players' Union insurance company sees it a different way. Their view is that your organization is at fault because of the secretary's frugality in procuring what is determined to be an insufficient method of travel.  The organization is forced into paying all the existing contracts upfront, ranging from the lowly Rookie ballers to the underpaid Major Leaguers.  This all but bankrupts your fiscally tight team. 
     Because Major League Baseball knows they coerced your team into the barnstorming tour and do not want any more negative attention, the league provides the team's owner with $50 million dollars to shop for enough free agents to field a baseball team thus keeping the franchise alive until the current owner can find a buyer.  Looking to recoup some money in this tragedy, the owner tells you that you will field a team in 2008 and to begin scouring the open market using your $50 million in hush money. 
      This payroll amount gives you an advantage over just four other teams:  Pittsburgh Pirates ($49.3 m), Oakland A's ($47.9 m), Tampa Bay Rays ($43.8 m), and the Florida Marlins ($21.8 m).  Unlike these ballclubs, you do not have the advantage of dipping into your farm system for inexpensive talent as all of those players were on board of the tragic flight as well (maybe the crash had something to do with cramming 200-odd men into a plane designed to hold 50...).  In order to level the playing field for you, the Commissioner allows you to have free reign over the free agent pool before all of the other teams are allowed to sign players.  Who would you have targeted to remain in that budgeted amount of $50 million?
The Starting Lineup:
RF | Milton Bradley | 14 WSAB*  | $5.75 M | 2.4 WSAB per $1
Your scouts loved his swing from both sides of the plate and recognized his versatility of power and patience.  So you signed him based on that rather than his personality disorders which served you well.  During the 2008 season, he would chew up 509 plate appearances for your squad while setting a career-high in home run (22) thanks to your hitter-friend ballpark and led the league in on-base percentage (.436). 
Not a bad "get" for you with $44.75 million left to spend.
CF | Mike Cameron | 9 WSAB | $7 M
Big money spent on a player that would miss 25 games for failing MLB's drug policy.  Fortunately, Cameron would play stellar defense and finish as the 8th overall best defensive centerfield (+8 according to John Dewan's Fielding Bible), ahead of notable centerfielders such as Torii Hunter, who would later land a hefty contract when he wouldn't configure into your tight budget.  In addition to his glove, Cameron would deposit 25 home runs and hit .243/.331/.477 in 508 PAs. 
Cameron's acquisition would leave you with $37.25 remaining.  Looks like frugality time.
LF | Jody Gerut | 7 WSAB | $700k
Wow, you are a risk-taker of epic proportions.  Here you see value in a player that was not only was accused of having an unnecessary knee surgery in 2006 but also hasn't played an inning major or minor league ball.  After one of your scouts witnessed him in the Venezuelan Winter League mashing the ball, hitting .390/.488/.567 with 14 extra base hits in 141 at-bats, you take out a minor league contract on him - mostly to displace Cameron when he is serving his suspension.  Boy are you glad you did. Though a centerfielder by nature (+12, 5th best on the list of centerfielders in 2008), you use Gerut to patrol your spacious left field.  Unlike your two other outfielders, Gerut didn't strike out that much (14% k%) and smacked 14 home runs finishing .296/.351/.494 in 356 plate appearances. 
$36.55 left in the coffer.  
3B | Jorge Cantu | 6 WSAB | $500k
There was something that intrigued you about Cantu, especially in his 2005 season with the Devil Rays when he hit 28 home runs and compiled a .211 isolated slugging average.  In both 2005 and 2006 he was hitting line drives on nearly 20% of the balls in play.  When he washed out in 2007 with both the Devil Rays and then the Reds, people said "bust".  In 2007 he hit only 4 home runs in 300 at-bats split between the majors and AAA.  You reviewed his past minor league numbers carefully that show no indication that he is who he was in 2005 and 2006.  Strikes out a ton; walks about as much as a quadriplegic.  Then again, a consistent near 20% line drive rate each year of his career?  Might be worth the minor league flier - toss him aside if his spring training numbers don't show signs of life.  Against your statistical judgement, you sign him.  The power returns.  For pennies on the dollar, you end up nabbing a guy that hits 29 home runs and 41 doubles with an ISA of .204.  Cantu doesn't come without his faults.  He is atrocious at third (-11, 29th overall at third) and has actually accumulated 478 outs, the 7th highest in the league.  You'd pay half a million for that production again any day.       
Now, with $36.05 remaining, your sights are set on possible the hardest position to fulfill on the free market, shortstop.
SS | Jerry** Hairston | 8 WSAB | $500k
In 2007 while with the Texas Rangers, Hairston hit .189/.249/.289 in 192 at-bats.  What's more is that he hit even worse at the best hitter's ballpark in baseball - .172.  Plus he is tainted by the Mitchell Report.  Clearly this isn't the time to decide if you are a morally bankrupted organization as you had already signed Mike Cameron who would be serving a suspension.  If you wanted a holy and divine team you would have perused John Smoltz, Josh Hamilton or hire Gary Gaetti as your hitting coach.  In order to win, you have to become the Dallas Cowboys of baseball and grab inexpensive talent anyway you can.  Hairston, despite his shortcomings as a fielder, actually performs higher than expectations at the plate hitting, batting .326/.384/.487 in 297 plate appearances. 
Since Hairston is a brutal hack at short, better find a second baseman with range to their left to cut those grounders off up the middle with the remaining $35.55.
2B | Kaz Matsui | 4 WSAB | $5 M
With a thin second base market, you finally breakdown and sign someone to a 3-year deal that you figure won't damage your budget too much.  You ignore his statistics in Coors Field, assuming they are inflated by the high altitude and suspect that there will be decline and mostly focus in on his defense, but are pleasantly surprised when Matsui bats .293/.354/.427 in 422 at-bats.  As a bonus PR department enjoys the frequent press releases focusing on Matsui's early season surgery due to "anal fissures". 
$30.55 left and we haven't even gotten to first base or the pitching staff... 

1B | Doug Mientkiewicz | 4 WSAB | $750k
Like the second base position, first base was also a challenge to find worthy candidates on the market.  Mientkiewicz's agent wouldn't stop harassing you though.  He has become like Drama on Entourage, you think to yourself, desperate for work. The persistence paid off as you inked him to the one-year with an incentive laden contract for large amounts of bubble gum for every Web Gem.  Plus with all of the offensive-minded players in the infield, someone is going to have to be able to gobble up all their errant throws across the diamond.  His defense ends up being muddling at best, but his sudden rekindling of patience not seen since his Minnesota days astonishes your front office.  He walks 44 times and strikes out just 28 in 334 plate appearances.  You're criticized heavily for playing a guy with a .379 slugging percentage at first base - a position where the league average first baseman hit .479 - but you are happy with your selection for his discounted rate. 
$29.8 remaining...
C | Rod Barajas | 11 WSAB | $1.2 M (+ option year)
Ask any Philadelphian at the end of the 2007 if they were had by the Ballpark at Arlington factor when they signed Barajas to a one-year, $3-million dollar contract only and they would undoubtedly prattled off an endless stream of profanities.  Barajas would visit the DL list and finish the season batting .230/.352/.393 in 146 plate appearances, getting passed in playing time by Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste.  Gillick would later tell you that felt like he was solidifying the defense of the team by signing Barajas.  You know that Barajas's career on-base percentage was low (.289) and you assumed that his career slugging percentage (.409) was probably created in that statistical mirage in Arlington that has led many a baseball executives astray.  On the other hand, the class of free agent starting catchers are Barajas and Jason Kendell.  The problem with signing Barajas is that you are quite confident you will have to find a stellar back-up catcher as well.  You exhale painfully and offer Barajas a contract since his agent was willing to go lower than Kendell.  A one-year, $1.2 (with an option year) contract is extended and he accepts.  In 2008, his presences on-base is so rare (.294 OBP) that your first base coach tastefully quips that Jenna Jameson was more likely to show up at first during a Barajas plate appearance.  The power that was zapped in Philly, however, has a small resurgence for Barajas in your lineup as he gathers in 34 extra base hits and slugs .410 (well above the MLB average for a catcher of .390).  Furthermore, he allows just two passed balls in 785 innings behind the plate providing stability for your pitching staff to throw to. 
You had spent just under half of your budget on your starting eight regulars.  You are left with $28.60 to sign five starters, seven relievers and four bench players. 
** Originally read "Joey Hairston".