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Free agent season is officially open. Well over 200 players who have filed can now talk to other teams, and there will probably be a hundred or more non-tendered players added to the mix on December 20. Plus you have some very interesting and tradeable guys in their walk years. It will be a very busy offseason, and with the general managers getting together in Phoenix this week, there could be early activity. Last year, J.P. and his pal Beane made the Cory Lidle trade at these meetings.
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Here's the wire story. Flame away, fans.
Time for another Hall of Names installment. This is a good Hot Stove activity... and something quick for me to post from work. :)
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Kelvim Escobar will be going straight out to test the free-agent market next week, says JP Ricciardi, one of the items contained in Jeff Blair's excellent preview of what should be a very interesting off-season. Blair has accurately sensed the downturn in the market, and says that only Guerrero and Sheffield are going to get Jim Thome money this off-season. I think that's right, although I can see some team with money to burn going too long and too expensive on a Kevin Millwood or even an Escobar; pitching almost always seems to sell above its real value. Todd Helton's available, if anyone feels like taking on the $100M+ still owed to the John Olerud of Colorado. The Astros were smart to clean out the Phillies and save $9M in the process of the Wagner trade; that may end up being the best haul of the winter. Money, which was no object as recently as two years ago, is now the scarlet letter for many useful ballplayers who are simply too expensive to keep or to acquire. The barometer is dropping in baseball, and everyone is suddenly realizing how far in debt they've gone. By the time this off-season is over, the financial landscape of the game may have changed for good.
It's the season of change, and not just in Manchester (seriously, who names their team after a month-long quadrennial event?). The San Diego Padres, who once wore uniforms directly modelled on those sported by McDonald's employees, unveiled their splashy new look yesterday, just in time to bring Trevor Hoffman back as their closer. Hoffman's injury was a massive blessing in disguise; it allowed the team to buy out the ridiculous $10M option in his contract for $2M and bring him back instead for one year at just $2.5M. Speaking of good money after bad, the Pat Meares Era in Pittsburgh finally came to an end as well, as the worst contract extension in history expired along with the running feud between the useless ballplayer and the idiots who signed him. And hey, get your hot stove cranked up: the GM meetings, the annual precursor to baseball's transaction-filled winter meetings, start Monday In Phoenix.
A short interlude from Jays baseball to comment on the sports world at large. If you're looking for the latest odds on a Cy Young for Doc Halladay or a clarification on the waiver rule that will bring David Wells back to Toronto in 2004 -- there, that got your attention -- then frankly, there's nothing to see here.

It will have changed by the time you read this, of course, but right now as I look at the front page of, I find myself ... a bit sad.
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There's no asterisk beside this honour. Voting for the Hall of Fame's prestigious Ford C. Frick Award, "presented annually to a broadcaster for major contributions to the game of baseball," is open to the public for the first time. Fans will select three of the 10 nominees on the final ballot, and you can vote once per day until December 1, selecting up to three candidates.

Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth are on the ballot, which is restricted to active or retired broadcasters with at least 10 years of continuous service. So Dan Shulman and Buck Martinez aren't there yet, but Dave Van Horne, Don Chevrier and even (gasp) Fergie Olver are on the long list, which features a brief biography of each candidate. I wish there was a way to vote for Tom and Jerry as a partnership; it seems unthinkable to split them up, but I'd also like to mention Van Horne on my ballot. Remember, every vote against Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan counts.

I'm definitely voting for Jon Miller, who deserves to join the previous recipients including Mel Allen, Red Barber, Ernie Harwell, Vin Scully and other legends. Bob Uecker was last year's winner. Remember, every vote against Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan counts.

As Mick alluded to in his article, Reds OF Dernell Stenson was shot and killed in a bizarre, mysterious, terrifying and tragic murder in Chandler, AZ yesterday.
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You like Win Shares? We got Win Shares. We got a whole lotta stats and rankings based on them too, all courtesy of the good folks at Baseball Graphs.
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Aaron Gleeman has been examining the free agent crop all week. His first two installments dealt with outfielders, then infielders and catchers. Even though the Jays aren't shopping in those aisles, except for a clearance sale on a shortstop, I've been enjoying the series. Today, in The Meat Market (Part Three: Pitchers), Aaron takes a look at Toronto's #1 need. He calls Kelvim Escobar the potential sleeper among available starters, and is bullish on another soon-to-be-ex-Jay, Cory Lidle.

I think the thing that really hurt Lidle last year was his defense. In Oakland, he had one of the best defenses in the league at converting balls in play into outs playing behind him. In 2003, the Blue Jays finished 11th in the AL in "defensive efficiency" and Lidle allowed a hit on 30% of the balls put in play against him. I think he's a good bet to bounce back in 2004 and at least be a league-average pitcher.
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This isn't an Onion-like satirical headline; it's the truth!
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As Spencer Fordin points out on the Jays' MLB Website, the organization's six representatives in the Arizona Fall League aren't having a great time. Pitchers Pete Bauer, Cam Reimers and Jordan DeJong, along with position players Russ Adams, Dominic Rich and Tyrell Godwin, have had their ups and mostly downs so far. Keep in mind, though, that we're talking about a very small end-of-season sample size (Adams, for example, was brutal his first ten games but has been sizziling his last seven), and that AFL stats don't necessarily project the future very well. Gabe Gross, meanwhile, is having a terrific stint with Team USA, continuing his strong play at New Haven and Syracuse; playing with other elite US prospects can only help Gross going forward. Spencer promises updates on Gullermo Quiroz and the Venezuelan Winter Leagues later this week, which I'm looking forward to: VWL news is often hard to come by.
As RBillie noted in another thread, the Blue Jays have made some coaching changes in their farm system. There's already some controversy over the choice of new Syracuse pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, who was fired by the Marlins along with Jeff Torborg earlier this year, a parting that did not go well: GM Larry Beinfest accused Arnsberg of being "abusive ... clearly unprofessional ... bordering on violent" when he received the news (Arnsberg denies the last part at least). He was associated, some say wrongly, with the overwork of the Marlins' young staff under Torborg, but most of his young pitchers have nothing bad to say about him. Arnsberg is apparently a fiery guy who builds close personal bonds with his pitchers and demands the utmost from them. He'll now be in charge of developing and protecting three of the organization's most important assets: Dustin McGowan, David Bush and Jason Arnold.

Also of interest, but generating less attention, is the promotion of New Haven manager Marty Pevey to manage Syracuse. This is no mere organizational shuffle: he did an excellent job developing the tremendous talent at Double-A in 2003, delivering a division championship. Pevey's regarded as one of the top coaching talents in the minors and as a future big-league manager. He's a name to add to the list of potential future Jays managers and someone to keep an eye on.
The AL Gold Gloves were announced today, congratulations to all the winners.

Vernon Wells - or possibly Carlos Beltran - was robbed absolutely blind. I don't know what kind of magic pixie dust Ichiro sprinkles over people, but if you think Ichiro (who is a good outfielder) is as good an outfielder as either of those guys then we should do business.
Two very important baseball games are being played tonight and tomorrow night in the Estadio Nacional in far-off Panama City, Panama.
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