Quan Cosby is a bad, baaaaad man. My goodness.
Hearty kudos go out to Fiesta Bowl television play-by-play announcer Matt Vasgersian for atoning for the near-entirety of one of the more discombobulated and downright awkward FOX Sports presentations I can ever recall watching with that single reverberating, spine-tingling touchdown call.
It didn't take particularly long for major league front offices to get right back into the swing of things following two holiday-filled weeks of relative inactivity, and two reigning division champions that experienced post-season success to dramatically varying degrees last October were kind enough to jump-start a largely dormant free-agent market with a pair of headline-grabbing signings on Monday, as the Chicago Cubs unsurprisingly reached an agreement in principle with free-agent outfielder Milton Bradley on a three-year, $30 million contract, and the defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays locked up Pat Burrell with a two-year, $16 million commitment.
One quickly gets the sense that the Cubs might have bent over just a bit too far backwards to accommodate Bradley's healthy salary; flush as he might be with elite-caliber offensive talent and competent as he might be range-wise in right field (when he's not languishing in the ballpark infirmary, that is), the level of production he supplied the Rangers with in 2008 is virtually beyond replication -- almost an anomaly, if you will.
Texas was exceedingly fortunate to coax 500 plate appearances out of Bradley, whose day-to-day injury status became progressively more tedious to monitor as the season dragged on, and that threshold was reached only by proactively protecting Bradley from the physical rigors of everyday work in the outfield by regularly employing him as a designated hitter.
I can't speak to how favorably (or unfavorably) the quality of Wrigley Field's outfield grass compares with Rangers Ballpark in Arlington's Bermuda Tifway 419 playing surface, and thus it's possible that this move back to the Senior Circuit will prove beneficial to the tenuous long-term health of his troublesome knees (and perhaps even permit him to assume defensive duties in center field in a pinch, though that would really be pushing it); nevertheless, this is a huge gamble on the part of the Cubs, largely predicated on the hope that he'll hit well enough in those 350 to 400 plate appearances he does log to fully earn his eight-digit salary.
Moreover, Bradley posted career-best totals in the following peripheral categories in 2008: walk percentage (16.2 percent), batting average on balls in play (.396), and homer-to-fly ball ratio (21.2 percent), with his line drive percentage (24.7 percent) being his best since 2003. It's certainly within the realm of possibility that he can sustain his superb 2008 walk rate going forward as a Cub, but he's not going to post a BABIP on the brink of .400 again, and probably won't mash in excess of one-fifth of his fly balls over the fence again, and all of that is going to contribute to a measurable decline in offensive value. One can only presume that Chicago already took all of this into account long before now.
Dumping Mark DeRosa -- for what is being perceived in many baseball circles as pennies on the dollar, mind you -- just to further enable the signing of Bradley, however, makes this an indubitably questionable commitment, to the extent that you almost wonder if the 97-win Cubs wouldn't have been better off just standing pat, or perhaps pursuing a far less expensive option in the vein of Marlon Byrd (whom, by the way, was mentioned as a continued trade possibility for the Red Sox by Sean McAdam in today's edition of the Boston Herald).
We talked at length about Burrell's fair-market value and his potential utility to the Rangers roughly a fortnight ago, and as a result I don't really have much else to say about his individual abilities, although I will readily admit that he's a good value at an average annual salary of $8 million (albeit not a "tremendous" value relative to the market), and on a one-year commitment sans the presence of presumptive Opening Day designated hitter Hank Blalock, he would have definitely made sense for Texas on a certain level.
The purported movability of Blalock's $6.2 million contract for 2009 is appearing increasingly suspect, however, and there was never any doubt in my mind that Burrell would snag a multi-year deal, and it was for those reasons that a match was never remotely realistic. There's also concern that the 32-year-old slugger may not age too gracefully, given that he is equipped with what are traditionally characterized as "old-player skills," but he presumably has at least two good years left in him.
Of course, the real joke may end up being on new Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., who has understandably incensed the stat-oriented sector of the reigning World Series champions' fan base by downgrading in projected value from Burrell to Raul Ibanez (who snagged his own cool three-year, $30 million deal last month) while paying an exorbitant fee for the privilege of doing so -- and, perhaps worst of all, forfeiting what would have been a pair of compensatory first-round draft picks in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft by declining to offer Burrell salary arbitration, as well as coughing up the 28th-overall pick to the Mariners as compensation for signing Ibanez.
● Aside from the absurd Manny Ramirez-to-Texas rumor that is presently being proliferated across the Internet, the Rangers are "looking into" bringing back free-agent right-hander Eric Gagne, have been fielding offers on Vicente Padilla (whom has notably drawn interest from the Braves), and have received multiple inquiries on Michael Young's availability, who evidently has $62 million left remaining on his five-year contract extension that kicks in this season (Jon Heyman, SI.com)
[This is where I would insert that grain of salt image that Jamey Newberg loves to employ so often. Gagne was awful in Milwaukee last season and would be difficult to take a big chance on again, and Young's still untradable, so I don't surmise that any of those third-party inquiries were truly serious in nature.]
● The Red Sox have no interest in trading for Michael Young, and remain dissatisfied with the price on the trade front for long-term catching solutions; Boston could opt to go to spring training with a projected backstop duo of Josh Bard and George Kottaras in an attempt to enhance its trade leverage (Nick Cafardo, Boston Globe; Sean McAdam, Boston Herald)
● In the wake of Bradley's defection to the Cubs, general manager Jon Daniels has said that "[Nelson] Cruz will get the opportunity to show he’s capable of helping the club win" as the Rangers' 2009 right fielder (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
● Free-agent southpaw Andy Pettitte has rejected the Yankees' one-year, $10 million offer, but could yet return because some in the New York hierarchy want him back (Tyler Kepner, New York Times)
● Free-agent outfielder Bobby Abreu is seeking a three-year, $48 million contract (Tim Brown, Yahoo! Sports)
[Well, yeah, and I want a solid gold Cadillac, but we can't always have what we want, can we?]
● Baseball America's Jim Callis has deemed Rangers minor league first baseman Justin Smoak the 19th-best prospect in baseball in his personal Top 50 prospects list for the 2009 Prospect Handbook (Jim Callis, Baseball America)
● Direct quote: "Voted the best defensive catcher in both the Double-A Texas League and Triple-A Pacific Coast League, Teagarden has a solid case as the best defensive catcher in the minor leagues. He rarely allowed a passed ball and committed only two errors in the minors. He has all the tools scouts look for in a top-flight defensive catcher: an outstanding arm, quick pop times, good hands, athleticism and strong blocking skills" (Ben Badler, Baseball America)
[Don't forget his exceptional game management skills!]