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ATR: Ask the Reports Answers Your Baseball Questions: Hamilton Leaving Texas, Valentine’s Future, Crawford’s Return and More!

Saturday October 13th, 2012



Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@me.com, message us on Twitter, post on our Facebook Wall and leave comments on our website! There are many ways to reach us and we will get to your questions from all social media outlets!

Jonathan Hacohen: Today is one of those days where I am going to mix things up slightly. Go in a different direction- use a new style. Heck, it is playoff time! I got thinking last weekend after talking to one of our favorite readers. Lonnie Collins love Cincinnati. He eats, breathes and sleeps the Reds. But despite the love of his team, he is an overall baseball fan. Players of old and new- any team- anytime, Lonnie is up for baseball talk. When we were chatting on twitter the other day (Lonnie’s handle is @aplayatobenamed), he sent me a rapid fire list of questions. Bang bang bang…one after the other. He covered off such an interesting and diverse list of topics, that he got me thinking. Gosh, this man loves baseball!

So in honor of the great baseball fan Lonnie Collins, this week’s edition of ATR is devoted exclusively to his questions. 

Lonnie, thank you for your readership and support. The whole MLB reports team appreciates it! 

Now let’s get to Lonnie’s top questions of the week:

 

Q:  Where does Melky (Cabrera) go?

JH:  Melky is an interesting case. Once upon a time, he was going to get a $50 million+ deal in my estimation. Now, he will be lucky to get a 2-3 year deal. Where does he go? Certainly not back to San Francisco. But someone will give him a chance. That’s for sure. As long as a player has talent, teams will always turn a blind eye to indiscretions. If I’m a betting man, I could see the Rays grabbing him. This marriage would be a perfect fit. The Rays love to take a chance on buy-low hitters, while Melky needs a chance to rebuild his value. Melky will sign for a 1-2 year deal, or a 1-year deal with an option. Rays will be pay him $5-7 million. Pretty good money, but not a multi-year deal at $10-12 million per year.  

When you break the rules, you pay the price. And Melky will learn it the hard way. Not only did he break the rules, but he tried to cover it up. That part makes him look even worse. Now his agents are being investigated and losing clients. This is not a good situation. The Giants went out and got Hunter Pence- but did they do it knowing that Melky would get suspended? We will never know. The Giants did make the playoffs without Melky, and even played well after he departed the team. Too many hard feelings for Melky to return. And too many doubts for teams to throw big money at him. The Phillies, Orioles, Blue Jays, Tigers, Indians, Brewers, White Sox, Royals, Twins, A’s, Mariners, Rangers, Cubs, Mets and Pirates will all take a look at him as well. But when all is said and done, I see the Melk Man heading off to Tampa Bay.

Q:  Who do you have winning the World Series?

JH:  My pick (believe it or not) is your team, the Cincinnati Reds. I am writing this answer on Thursday night, after the Reds lost their 2-0 lead and head to a game 5. After 2 straight losses to the Giants, my pick is not looking to hot right now. In a few short hours, my pick could be eliminated. But from the preseason, I really liked this team for many reasons. They have an incredible pitching staff, even with Johnny Cueto hurting. A deep offense, led by Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips. Great D and an excellent bullpen. Their manager, Dusty Baker…whether you love him or hate him, you have to respect him. He has been there before and is due for a ring very soon. To reach the World Series, I figured that the Reds would face the winner of the Tigers/A’s. But to get there first, the Reds must get through the Giants and then the winner of the Cards/Nats. With St. Louis holding a 2-1 series lead, the defending champs are a good bet to make it to the NLCS. If there is anything that will hold back this Reds team, I would say it is their manager. From his choice of starters, to juggling his bullpen and lineup, Dusty Baker can be very hit or miss. If the Reds are to go all the way, he better be more hit than miss over the next few weeks.

Q:  Do you see (Carl) Crawford doing anything for the Dodgers next year?

JH:  For all the abuse that he endured in Boston, Crawford will still only be 31 years of age come opening day. From the moment he landed in Boston, he proved to be a poor fit. Perhaps he felt pressured by his contract. Maybe he didn’t get along with the media and/or fans of Boston. Whatever the reason, Crawford regressed from the moment he left Tampa Bay. Now Crawford did have an amazing year in 2010. Not surprisingly, his free agency year. Let’s take a look at the year before to get an idea of what the Dodgers could realistically expected from CC. Assuming that he heals quickly from Tommy John surgery (as most position players do), he will hopefully be ready to go for opening day 2013. In 2009, Crawford played in 156 games for the Rays. He hit 15 home runs, scored 96 runs, drove in 68, walked 51 times, struck out 99 times, hit .305 with a .364 OBP and .452 SLG. What I don’t expect to see is 60 stolen bases as he had in 2009 (with 16 times being caught stealing). A 12-15 home run season with 15-20 steals is realistic, perhaps better. Crawford should be relaxed in LA and enjoy playing for the Dodgers and Don Mattingly. Imagine though: Carl Crawford will earn $20+ million each year for the next five years. At that kind of money, the Dodgers hope they will have a solid player in return. While he may never live up to the contract, Crawford should prove to be very good for the Dodgers. As long as you keep your expectations in check and not look for a superstar, Crawford should be good to go for 2013 and beyond.

Q:  Will Bobby V get another shot at coaching in MLB?

JH:  I hate to say this as a Bobby Valentine supporter, but the answer is no. Not enough after the Boston circus that took place this season. Unfair or not, Bobby V will have the scarlet letter on his forehead following this episode. The Marlins were apparently close to signing him before putting Ozzie Guillen in charge. Even if Ozzie is let go, I can’t see the Marlins going in the Bobby V direction. They will want to go to a completely type of manager. Bobby V is a smart manager and is highly considered in the industry. But while he experienced great success in Japan, his time away from managing in the majors led him to face a tough uphill battle in Boston. He had a difficult relationship with his players and endured a power struggle all season long. The Red Sox did not hesitate to fire him right at the end of the season. Given what happened, it is likely for the best. There are many reasons for the Red Sox difficult year, starting with the reasons for the team’s collapse back in September 2011. Bobby V walked right into the fire, into a no-win scenario in my book. 

A great broadcaster, I can see Bobby Valentine returning to that role. He is charismatic, personable and fun to watch. Even if given the chance, I’m not sure if he would even want to deal with another managerial job. He may have had enough. And if he does want the opportunity, I am not sure that it will be there for him. I sincerely doubt it. Television loves Bobby V, and Bobby V loves Television. That is where his future lies. Period.

Q:  How long will it take for Terry Francona to get the Indians in the playoffs?

JH:  In the words of Jim Morra:  Playoffs? Playoffs??!!! You talking playoffs??!! They just want to win games. Playoffs???? All kidding aside, there is truth in Morra’s words. Taking a look at the standings this year, the Indians were painful. A 68-94 record, second last in the AL Central is terrible. 20 games out of 1st. 37-44 at home, 31-50 on the road. It doesn’t get much worse than that. At this point, Terry Francona’s job is just to bring the Indians back to respectability. A .500 finish at this point would be considered a “good” season. It’s not like the Indians don’t have parts. Justin Masterson, Chris Perez, Carlos Santana and all their other young players could bring this team to new heights. It will be a question of how quickly their prospects develop, while team’s management tries to bring in more veteran reinforcements through trades and free agent signings. That could take some time.

If I had to take an educated guess, I would say that the Indians would be lucky to make the playoffs once during Francona’s initial 4-year contract. I see Francona lasting longer in Cleveland, with the playoffs taking approximately 5 years. I know many people throw out the 5-year timeline, but in this case, the Indians will need it. They have a strong Tigers and White Sox teams to contend with, while the Royals will become a real force in another couple of years. Heck, the Twins will come around eventually. So I do see the Indians becoming better under Terry Francona. But unless he can hit and pitch, all he can take is what he is given and mold them into winners. For a team that will keep its payroll low (one of the lowest home attendances in the majors), this team will take time. It will be painful- but will be fast-tracked under Francona. I could see the playoffs happening as early as 3 years from now. But if I am forced to lay down a bet, I am saying 5 years. Francona got spoiled during his time in Boston, as the Red Sox spent whatever it took to give him an All-Star team to work with. The Indians will be far different and offer Francona a rude awakening. If he wanted a challenge, he certainly got it. The man is a strong manager. But a manager is only as strong as the talent level he has to work with. This one will take a while.

Q:  Texas keep Josh Hamilton?

JH:  Nope. I can’t see it happening. With all the negative feelings and words being thrown around since the Rangers were eliminated, I can’t see Hamilton returning. While he loves playing in Texas, I’m sure that he didn’t appreciate the end-of-season boos. I believe that Hamilton would have also appreciated getting re-signed to a nice big contract at the start of the year. Now that he is almost at free agency, he will definitely be testing the waters. The Rangers have a variety of reasons to be nervous about signing Josh Hamilton to a long-term deal for big bucks. He will be 32 come May. He comes with a long list of injuries and off-the-field issues. Heck- one more strike and he will be banned for life. Let’s not forget his previous failed tests. While his stats were incredible this season, Hamilton also had his share of slumps in the 2nd half. He also disappeared largely at the end of September when the Rangers needed him most. The team failed to win the AL West and then were defeated by the Orioles in the Wild Card Playoff Game. A terrible ending for the team and a poor reflection on Hamilton.

Consider that this year, Hamilton played in 148 games. He played in 156 in 2008, his first season in Texas. Then 133 in 2010 and 121 in 2011. Of his 6 MLB seasons, 3 were outstanding and 1 was very good. He has never been one to walk much, with a career high 64 walks in 2008. But it is alarming to see that he set a new career high in strikeouts this season with 162. People in the game are getting nervous that his bat might be starting to slow. Without a patient eye at the plate, Hamilton could easily see his average and home runs decline over the next few years. Is he worth 5+ years at $100+ million? Not in my book. I wouldn’t take that kind of chance on such a risky player. I have heard everything from a 1-4 year deal for him. I see ultimately that the Rangers will offer him 3 years at approximately $60 million. If he waits long enough, he will get at least 4 years and I think he will get his sought after $100 million contract. Will it come from the Orioles? Phillies? Rockies? Giants? Cubs? We were throwing out many names the other night on Twitter. Dmitri Young (former MLB player) went with the Cubs as his selection. I think on the other hand, that the Phillies will grab him. They have a very limited window to win and putting Josh Hamilton into the heart of their lineup could be the difference maker. On the same token, the Orioles have the payroll room and the need for his bat. That name was discussed quite a bit and I could see them being in the Hamilton hunt.

So while I would love to see Josh Hamilton stay put, realistically, it is unlikely to happen. The Rangers have a great core of players, with more uber-prospects coming up the ranks. The team’s greatest need is for pitching, so their resources may be directed in that area. While the team appreciates all of Josh Hamilton’s contributions over the years, they are likely to cut ties now- rather than to get stuck with a huge unmovable contract. Remember: it’s not personal. It’s business. The Rangers may like Hamilton the person, but they ultimately need to build a World Series winner. Will that be with Josh Hamilton? I say that there may be a 20% chance of that happening. Stranger things have happened before, but Hamilton to the Rangers is one that I just don’t see happening this offseason.

 



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Jonathan Hacohen is the Founder & Lead Baseball Columnist for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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About Jonathan Hacohen

I practice daily yoga. Most foods are organic. If you catch me in the supermarket, it will be in the produce aisle. Warrior 1 Yoga was born from my wish to help people be healthy and happy. I preach the 4 key's to life: nutrition, exercise, water and sleep. This is my journey - I am hope to meet you along the way to share a similar path!

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