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Just to further the off-season trade talk that fills the restless days until the GM meetings -- here's a piece from Ken Rosenthal's latest column:

Blue Jays CF Jose Cruz Jr. is drawing trade interest from the Giants, Astros, Rangers and Diamondbacks. Cruz hit 83 homers the past three seasons but likely will earn below $5 million in 2003.

The Giants possess the young pitching the Blue Jays crave. The Astros aren't sure it would be a good idea to pair Cruz with his father, Jose Cruz Sr., the team's first base coach. The Rangers and Diamondbacks could turn to Cruz if they fail to sign free-agent CF Steve Finley.

First, the usual provisos about any trade rumour circulated by a sportswriter, even if his initials aren't PG. Until verified by at least one more source, this is 100% speculative. That stated, here's a few thoughts arising from this item:

- Does anyone have any idea why a pairing of Cruzes Sr. and Jr. might not be a good idea? This is the first I'd heard of this. I don't like speculating on anyone's family situation from afar (or from a-near, for that matter), but it does add a potentially interesting angle to the enigma that is Jose Jr.

- Of the teams mentioned, the Giants would appear to be the best fit, but I frankly can't see Brian Sabean giving up any of his best prospects -- Foppert, Ainsworth or Williams -- for a guy coming off the worst season of his career. I would think these teams' interest in Cruz is genuine, but so is their interest in buying low. I'd be pleasantly shocked if Jose commanded a great deal on the market right now. In July, though? Maybe a different story.

- Kent and I spoke about Cruz the other day, and he believes strongly that Jose was injured or just plain hurting for most of 2002 and didn't show near what he was capable of. I tend to agree; the problem is that as a result, Cruz is not going to draw the same attention now that he might have drawn following his 30-30 year. The best solution might be to put him in right field in April, pray he stays healthy and performs as he's capable, and see if he attracts more attention come the trade deadline. It's not like Jayson Werth is ready for 600 ML plate appearances.

- Visiting the Blue Jays fanhome thread, there was a lot of talk about a Russ Ortiz-Jose Cruz straight swap. Opinion was divided among those who would take that deal in a second (my initial reaction) and those who think Ortiz has been overpitched by Dusty Baker and that his plummeting K/IP ratio foreshadows serious problems (my subsequent conclusion). It's too bad, since I've always liked Ortiz as a mid-rotation stalwart, but he may have shot his bolt.

- Y'know, trade rumours are just plain fun. Ninety percent of 'em come to nothing, and those that are legitimate involve considerations that even well-informed fans aren't aware of. But this is still one of my favourite off-season (and in-season, really) pastimes.
Cruz Control? | 16 comments | Create New Account
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_Kent - Monday, November 25 2002 @ 09:09 PM EST (#102010) #
Rosenthal isn't usually as irresponsible as some other scribes, but his unsubstantiated hint that "the Astros" think two Cruzes may not be better than one is baffling, not to mention shoddy journalism. I was under the impression that Houston tops Jr.'s wish list. Maybe "the Blue Jays" will send us an e-mail :)

The Giant we really want is Boof Bonser. The big fella can pitch, and that's an awesome name. Imagine... it's the 2005 pennant race and this monstrous closer sprints in from the bullpen to a chorus of "Booooooofs." If he's still a starter, the "Who let the dogs out?" chant works after K's: "Boof! Boof! Boof!"

All kidding aside, San Fran is one place where Jose might be an upgrade in CF, which we know he prefers. And if the Jays do their homework, unlike certain Brewers' assistant GMs, and Russ Ortiz is deemed healthy, it's an absolute steal. Elsewhere in Rosenthal's column he compares KC righty flamethrower Mike MacDougal's "violent delivery" to Rob Dibble's; I would include Bartolo Colon in that camp. Ortiz, more of a "pitcher" than a "thrower," isn't as likely to break down. He's still young, hasn't missed a start in four years, usually gives his team a chance to win, and I suspect will be effective even when his fastball loses a foot or two.

Jordan correctly points out that Sabean's no fool (although Neifi Perez makes you wonder) so my guess is he's trying to get Cruz, but for Livan Hernandez, and unless he caves, this rumour, too, shall pass.
_Sean Whittaker - Monday, November 25 2002 @ 09:39 PM EST (#102011) #
As I alluded in the Walker thread, it would seem that the Blue Jays and the Giants have several needs that coincide with surplus depth in the other organization. They all revolve around swapping Blue Jay hitters--whether Orlando Hudson or Jose Cruz Jr.--for some of the Giants starting pitching. I'm less convinced that Ricciardi should be in the market for Bonser, name games aside, if he projects as a closer. As I've said before, I'm all for a deal where Ricciardi can land one of the Giants' big three SP prospects, preferably Jerome Williams or Kurt Ainsworth. I certainly wouldn't turn up my nose at Russ Ortiz if his health is vetted properly. Unlike, say, Mike Sirotka's, as you so nicely hinted Kent.

Brian Sabean surely recognizes what a gaping hole CF has been for his club, and isn't (Neifi Perez maneuverings notwithstanding) ready to re-up Kenny Lofton as a full-time player in CF. Cruz's disappointing season doesn't erase 3 years of respectable play, as his power-speed combination is still intact. The Giants need to make short-term moves to shore up their unbalanced offense at key positions; if the Jays can benefit from this pressing agenda, so much the better for 2004 and 2005 in TO.

Similar sentiments apply to possible deals with Houston--I am not current with the Astros' pitching prospects at the moment--or the other teams that were mentioned (although I have a hard time believing that the Rangers and D-backs have the young pitching Ricciardi needs).
_Richard - Tuesday, November 26 2002 @ 12:25 PM EST (#102012) #
I believe the Cruz family dynamics issue revolves around Jose Sr's penchant for being his son's "unofficial hitting coach".I can remember this being an issue when Jose Jr. first came up.Apparently Jr. only listens to his dad on hitting techniques.This I imagine could be quite a problem if they were physically on the same team.
_Kent - Tuesday, November 26 2002 @ 03:28 PM EST (#102013) #
Thanks, Richard. Many big-leaguers listen to parental advice; few admit ignoring their coaches. However, if Cruz & Son aren't in the same park, that hardly prohibits communication between them. I'm assuming there's more mutual interest in Arizona, Texas and San Francisco, and let's hope the return is based on J.C. Jr.'s 2001 value, not last year's.

Despite my concern about Durazo as a reluctant and immobile RF, trading him for Cruz makes sense for Phoenix if they don't meet Steve Finley's outrageous asking price. Better still for the Jays would be Snakes' RHP John Patterson. Texas, always richer than they are smart, and supposedly interested in Finley, might consider Cruz instead; John Hart has given up better prospects than Blalock and Teixeira before, and the Rangers also have a couple of almost-ready-for-prime-time lefty starters. But my gut (which can hardly be ignored) says SF is the frontrunner. I'd welcome another Jerome Williams to the Toronto sports scene, but I'll be just as thrilled if it's Ortiz, and happy with Ainsworth. As a possible throw-in, giant Giant Damon Minor looked like Babe Ruth at SkyDome, hitting .636 (7-for-11) with homers in all three interleague games and a calculator-busting 2.237 OPS.

Unrelated note from the same Sporting News column as the Cruz rumours:

Rangers LF Rusty Greer underwent the first of a minimum four surgeries, and his rotator cuff was torn worse than initially believed. The recovery time will be at least 12 months, and during that period Greer probably will undergo ligament-replacement surgery on his elbow. Knee and hip operations would follow. Greer is unlikely to return before 2005, if at all.

Rusty will also get a hair transplant, laser eye surgery and a facelift, and is using Raffy's Viagra. He expects to feel like a new man when it's all over.
_Sean Whittaker - Tuesday, November 26 2002 @ 04:19 PM EST (#102014) #
Refresh my memory, but has John Hart really ever traded away a prospect as highly touted as Blalock or Texeira?

I'd be more than able to name a couple of deals that went drastically awry for Hart (eg. Giles for Rincon), but not one where the young player that he gave up was as highly regarded *at the time* as either of these two Ranger 3b.
_Jordan - Tuesday, November 26 2002 @ 05:44 PM EST (#102015) #
has John Hart really ever traded away a prospect as highly touted as Blalock or Texeira?

Well ... Richie Sexson had long been heralded as the Next Big (literally) Thing when he was shuffled off to Milwaukee for the Bob Wickman Special. There were some who thought he'd turn out as another Russ Branyan, but his 1999 season was good enough that Hart shouldn't have given him up for so little. It's hard to say whether he was as highly touted as Blalock or Texiera, though, let alone Giles. In one sense, it was a very different environment in the Brian Giles era: even back then, the depth of knowledge and hype about minor leaguers was nowhere near what it is today. I don't think it's possible for a team to steal a Giles or a Fred McGriff anymore, because there's no such thing as a sleeper these days.

In addition to Giles and Sexson, Hart's other big giveaway was Jeromy Burnitz for Kevin Seitzer, back when Burnitz was productive. The big fella was on his second team at that point, though, since the Mets had given up on their one-time prospect already. And in Hart's defence, he did acquire Danny Graves for John Smiley and made other good moves. But he has certainly been guilty of overpaying for replaceable talent with stud prospects who he clearly undervalued. With the pressure from Tom Hicks and his dire need for pitching, I could see him pulling the trigger on a Gilesian deal. My guess, however, is that Grady Fuson has Teixeira and Blalock bolted to the floor and Buck Showalter is blocking the doorway.

Giles for Rincon --- man, that's got to rank up there with Cone-for-Hearn as one of the worst trades of this generation.
_Sean Whittaker - Tuesday, November 26 2002 @ 06:45 PM EST (#102016) #
But to mention my other favourite sport--the one I actually play well, as I learned to skate at age 3--John Hart has stiff competition from the Vancouver Canucks' ownership in the horrible trade department: they forced Harry Neale to unload Cam Neely (and a #1 pick who turned out to be Glen Wesley, who is *still* playing in the NHL as a serviceable defenceman) for Barry Pederson.
_Kent - Tuesday, November 26 2002 @ 10:04 PM EST (#102017) #
Sean, I like Jordan's point about the "hype factor" escalating in recent years; enough people "knew" how good Giles was that it's hard to believe his GM didn't. As recently as last winter, Hart showed no qualms about shipping out Carlos Pena, who had a huge reputation at the time, for a package of questionable value. I'm not predicting he'll do it again with Blalock and/or Teixeira, but can't think of a more likely GM to give away his top prospects. Jordan rips another one into the gap by mentioning that Fuson and now Showalter might have enough input to overrule their boss, who made a strong impression in his first year in Texas, though not a positive one.

Though this isn't the Penalty Box, I do love hockey. The Olympic gold medal game was incredible, but the NHL regular season leaves me cold. Too many games, too many teams, way too many playoff spots. After a relatively meaningless, ridiculously expensive "exhibition" season -- 82 games to determine home-ice advantage? -- 16 of maybe 20 teams who had even faint playoff hopes advance. Then the goons stop fighting and (except for a few faint-hearted types who disappear) the other players rev up their games, and finally, it gets exciting for a couple of months.

Baseball is a year-long final exam. If a team doesn't "try hard" in April and May, they're likely to miss the postseason, and if you "try harder" as a pitcher, batter or fielder in "big" games, you'll probably fail. My only quarrel with the MLB playoffs is the short first round; play seven there, and if anything, extend the World Series to a best-of-nine. And eliminate off days -- it's not the train-travel era, and I don't think it's a true test of 25-man teams when two superstar pitchers can start five (or even six) games between them in a 7-game series. That's the Whitey Herzog coming out in me.
_Sean Whittaker - Tuesday, November 26 2002 @ 11:55 PM EST (#102018) #
I can't disagree with your observations too much, Kent, although I would argue that the NHL has a higher calibre of play than you're willing to admit to. Specifically, fighting is reaching an all-time low in frequency, so the drop-off in the playoffs is less noticeable than ever; regular-season games are more intense this year than I've seen in a fair bit (my Canucks are certainly riding quite the winning streak!); and arguing about too many teams is an open invitation to revisit BP and Primer labour arguments, which I'd like to avoid--although as a young lawyer graduating tomorrow from UBC Law, I'm quite fascinated with many legal aspects surrounding professional sports leagues.

With regards to John Hart's behaviour with seems to me that the Rangers organizational focus under Hicks' ownership is in a very peculiar state. They face considerable internal and external pressure to compete for the championship immediately once they acquired Alex Rodriguez. Yet the success cycle was doomed to a downward spiral as a gap exists between the Rangers surplus of excellent young hitting prospects replace older stars (Pudge and Juan Gonzalez; Palmeiro will have to slow down soon; Greer, etc.) while their woeful pitching staff needed a complete overhaul. So while I would argue that Texas could afford to deal away a hitter such as Pena, considering their embarassment of riches with Texeira and Blalock as blue-chip IF corner prospects, it's the return of a mythical pitching prospect that needs to work out for Hart's move to succeed. Otherwise, A-Rod's MVP-level accomplishments, much like those of Barry Bonds in years past, will cease prior to October through no fault of his own.
Craig B - Thursday, November 28 2002 @ 08:49 AM EST (#102019) #
More lawyers (or lawyers-to-be)? Wow. Congrats on your graduation, Sean.

Do you know Julia Cornett and/or Jennifer Leach? They graduated from UBC Law in the spring, so they'd be a year (half a year?) ahead of you... they both are articling at my firm. In fact, they are both just down the hall from me.

Back to baseball : the Rangers are in an odd position. They have a few blue-chip prospects (Hafner, Teixera, Blalock) ready to help anyone, immediately, but not a ton of depth on the farm. A bad 2001 draft didn't help.

What do you do with that kind of farm system? The Expos recently found themselves in a similar position, and they traded away that front-line farm talent to land immediate big-league help. It left the team with possibly the worst farm system in the major leagues, but (combined with some young players getting better) has dragged the big-league team to the edge of contention.

The Rangers' problem is that they don't need a couple of front-line talents, they need upgrades all over the place. And first base, where Hafner plays, actually doesn't need an immediate upgrade. Trades have to be the way to go, but Hart's problem is that everybody knows he has to make deals sooner rather than later (given the pressure on him) and so no one will give him fair market value.

What would I do? I think instead of trading for established players, I would trade one or two of Hafner, Blalock, or Teixera to another rebuilding team, in exchange for other prospects. This kind of swap might be done at close-to-market value. It's worth a shot... the Rangers have three pretty well-defined holes right now, plus a whole pitching staff to replace. Filling two of the holes at 2B, C, or CF would enable the Rangers to focus their efforts on turning around some pitchers.

On an unrelated note, anyone else see Richard Griffin in the Star today blasting the Red Sox for hiring Epstein? Wotta blowhard. He blasts the Sox for not hiring Dave Stewart, or Tim "Richard Griffin's personal leak" Wilken, or the awesome David Wilder (the man responsible for that awesome Brewer farm system), and then says "personnel decisions are being handed over to rotisserie dweebs".

Then, I SWEAR TO GOD, Grifin says "The Red Sox are proving it's not what you know, it's who you know." That's right, he actually charges that "the Ivy connection" and his illustrious family got him the job. This was EXACTLY the joke theme that Bartlebooth mentioned on Primer when the Epstein hiring was first posted. Check out that thread (the post is at #9).

Too funny for words.
_Jordan - Thursday, November 28 2002 @ 11:06 AM EST (#102020) #
More lawyers! Woo-hoo!

Craig raises a good point about the Rangers. It's not like they're going to seriously contend next year, nor probably the next -- not in that division -- so why not set about laying the foundation of the team you want? In a way, this is what they tried last year with the Oakland trade, dealing from a position of strength (1B Carlos Pena) for two positions where they needed help (OF Ryan Ludwick and P Mario Ramos). Not that it worked out terribly well: Ludwick barely had a decent season at Oklahoma (.285-15-52, 38/78 BB/K, though maybe his defence made up for it) and Ramos was ripped (3-8, 7.40, 121 IP, 162 H, 53 BB, 75 K), demonstrating once again that Billy Beane rarely deals away the guys he really likes. Grady Fuson probably doesn't like to discuss that trade a whole lot. Still, hindsight is 20/20, and this is the kind of thing they need to do. And of course, both of these guys are still capable of turning things around.

Interestingly, the Rangers' best trading partner might be the team we've been talking about lately: the Giants. San Fran has a serious hole to fill at 3B and a dire need to get younger. The Rangers need pitching, pitching and more pitching. Hank Blalock for Kurt Ainsworth? Mark Teixiera for Jerome Williams? A deal like these would seem to make sense from both sides. The Giants are in an enviable position if they get competing offers for their young studs, which wouldn't be great news from Toronto's perspective. In any event, it'll be fun waiting and watching to see what shakes out next weekend in Tennessee.

I feel sorry for the Toronto baseball fans whose only perspectives on the game belong to Richard Griffin and Bob Elliott. We're gonna have to start promoting Batter's Box to these poor huddled masses. I wonder how much that advertising bar behind home plate at Skydome rents for....
_Sean Whittaker - Thursday, November 28 2002 @ 01:03 PM EST (#102021) #
Thanks for the good wishes, Craig.

As matter of fact, I know both Julia Cornett, and especially Jenny Leach, reasonably well. I went to school with the latter from grades 5-12. What firm do you all work for?

With regards to possible trades by John Hart to remake the's fairly obvious that Brian Sabean can play the field to get the best deal that he can. If he could pry Blalock loose for Kurt Ainsworth, I'd do it in a second.

It'll be quite interesting to speculate just how much input Grady Fuson has into major deals like this, depending on what course of action the Rangers ultimately take. My bet is that one of Blalock of Texeira will ultimately be moved.
_Kent - Thursday, November 28 2002 @ 02:44 PM EST (#102022) #
All you lawyers are Canadians, right? Do you know "Office Glenn?"

Griffin hates all GMs that aren't him, and he'll resort to praising the guys he used to trash if it "supports" his current flimsy rant. Dave Stewart? The guy who starts fistfights in the bullpen, quits on his teams mid-season and has never made a good personnel decision? Or the Eurythmics guitarist? Hard to say which one would do less damage in a big-league front office.

Jordan, you're officially in charge of Batter's Box marketing as long as you don't send me the bills.
Craig B - Friday, November 29 2002 @ 12:36 PM EST (#102023) #
Sean, Jennifer would like to hear from you... she's at Told me a funny story about you coming into her Grade 5 class; I guess since you had come from Ontario it seemed to them like you were from Mars.

We work for Torys.

Kent, I used to know Office Glenn but he died.
_Sean - Friday, November 29 2002 @ 01:15 PM EST (#102024) #
Thanks for the info, Craig. I've sent Jenny a quick email.

Were we posting to each other on BP about the '94 Expos? If so, thanks for correcting my faulty memory. I still think they would have held off the Braves for the title.
_Orin - Friday, November 29 2002 @ 02:43 PM EST (#102025) #
The real question, based on discussion here and on BP is:

What did lawyers do before computers?

(Yeah, I'm another Canadian lawyer)
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