Agent Scott Boras created a stir last week when he said his client, free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, performed at levels “commensurate” with Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Paul Molitor from ages 25 to 31.
Hey, it’s that time of year.
As the general managers meetings begin Monday in Orlando, with trade and free-agent discussions growing in intensity, the sales pitches will only grow stronger.
Well, my favorite sales pitch is coming not from an agent, but from the similarity scores at baseball-reference.com.
The player to whom Carl Crawford was most similar to statistically — through ages 26, 27 and 28 — is none other than Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente.
The scores, introduced by Bill James, reveal a player’s closest statistical twin. James’ system is point-based — and no gimmick. Crawford’s slash line through age 28 is indeed quite similar to Clemente’s.
Such comparisons are never perfect. Clemente’s numbers are more impressive considering he competed in a less offensive era. He also played right field and had a much stronger arm than Crawford, who plays left. Crawford, on the other hand, is a far more accomplished base stealer.
The real question is whether the rest of Crawford’s career will be as impressive as the final nine seasons of Clemente’s. From 1955-63, Clemente’s OPS was .776. From 1964-72, it was .892.
Crawford will need to improve both his on-base and slugging percentages to follow Clemente’s career arc. He established career highs last season in home runs and slugging. His on-base percentage was just eight points off his previous best from the year before.
The next Clemente? That might be a stretch. But Crawford’s at least in the discussion, and that’s a start.
BREW CREW OPEN FOR BUSINESS
No, the Brewers aren’t going to trade left fielder Ryan Braun — “with that contract,” one executive says, referring to Braun’s eight-year, $45 million deal that runs through 2015, “you’d have to get six players for him.”
The Brewers, though, are open to trading any of their other top offensive players as they try to upgrade their rotation — second baseman Rickie Weeks, third baseman Casey McGehee and especially first baseman Prince Fielder.
Both Weeks and Fielder are free agents after next season — and Weeks, represented by Greg Genske, might not be any more willing to entertain an extension than Fielder, who’s represented by Boras. At the very least, Weeks might want to wait on the outcome of the Marlins’ negotiations with Dan Uggla, who’s eligible for free agency at the same time.
The Brewers’ problem is they don’t want to trade for Nos. 4 and 5 starters, and teams are unwilling to trade their Nos. 1-2-3. The Braves, for example, won’t trade right-hander Tommy Hanson. They might be open on righty Jair Jurrjens, but only for the right deal.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post raised the possibility of the Brewers trading Fielder for White Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd — if the White Sox strike out on a left-handed slugger in free agency.
Floyd, though, remains affordable through 2013, and he produces above-average results in the AL in a hitter-friendly park. Fielder likely would amount to only a one-year rental for the White Sox, whose GM, Ken Williams, rarely makes big deals with Boras.
GONZALEZ: STILL IN DEMAND
The Padres continue to receive calls on first baseman Adrian Gonzalez even though Gonzalez recently said he’ll be unable to swing a bat for four to five months after undergoing right shoulder surgery.
One reason teams might not be discouraged by the uncertainty: Gonzalez underwent surgery with the idea of putting up monster numbers next season before hitting free agency.
Gonzalez, forced by his injury to use a lighter bat in the second half of last season, was disappointed by his diminished power — he hit only 10 of his 31 homers after Aug. 1.
If his recovery proceeds smoothly, his shoulder no longer should be an issue.
THE CASE AGAINST DUNN AS A CUB
The Cubs, accustomed to strong first-base defense in the past from Derrek Lee, might prefer a stronger fielder than Adam Dunn — particularly given the makeup of the rest of their infield.
Advance metrics portray second baseman Blake DeWitt and third baseman Aramis Ramirez as below-average defenders, while shortstop Starlin Castro will be only 21 next season and still prone to mistakes.
Dunn’s made clear his distaste for a designated hitter’s role, but he isn’t about to rule out AL clubs, who comprise nearly one-half of his market. He could seek a longer term in exchange for accepting full-time DH duty.
MAYBIN: THE PADRES’ MR. MAYBE
The Padres assumed the greater risk in obtaining center fielder Cameron Maybin from the Marlins for relievers Ryan Webb and Edwin Mujica.
Maybin, 23, could benefit from a change of scenery and lower expectations, but questions persist about his concentration, instincts and ability to hit breaking balls.
The Padres, whose center fielders combined to hit only .234 last season, figure that Maybin, even with only marginal improvement, will be better than what they had.
The Pads also are gambling that Maybin could develop late, following the pattern of several other athletic center fielders — Torii Hunter, Mike Cameron, Angel Pagan and Franklin Gutierrez. People forget, but Hunter was optioned to the minors two months before he turned 25.
Look for the Padres to continue trying to infuse athleticism into their organization — they’ve also spoken multiple times to the Brewers about Double-A second baseman Brett Lawrie.
The Brewers are willing to discuss trading Lawrie for young pitching. Eric Farris, another of their second-base prospects, is batting .379 in the Arizona Fall League and is an outstanding defender with base-stealing ability.
RED SOX’S DOUBRONT: GOING, GOING …
At least two GMs are highly skeptical that left-hander Felix Doubront will play a major role in the Red Sox’s bullpen next season.
Doubront, they say, is more likely to be traded.
The Sox frequently offered Doubront in past trade discussions, and the departure of pitching coach John Farrell to the Blue Jays deprived the pitcher of his leading advocate in the organization.
One GM says of Doubront: “It’s guaranteed he’s traded by next July 31, and probably this offseason.” A second adds: “They would part with him in a heartbeat to upgrade.”
Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, however, refutes the idea that Doubront is likely to be traded.
"That report couldn’t be further from the truth," Epstein said. "We value Felix tremendously. He has a definite future. We see him as a starter long-term, and he could impact our bullpen or rotation in 2011."
METS, METS, METS
Former A’s and Brewers manager Ken Macha could emerge as a candidate to join the Mets’ coaching staff, perhaps even as bench coach, if the team hires Terry Collins as its next manager. Macha and Collins were teammates in the Pirates minor league system in 1972-73. Macha knows the NL from managing the Brewers the past two seasons. Collins hasn’t managed in the majors since ’99.
No word yet on the future of former Mets GM Omar Minaya, who was fired with two years left on his contract. Minaya will meet with new GM Sandy Alderson to discuss a potential role, but no decision’s expected before the holidays. The Mets would benefit from Minaya returning to his scouting roots and helping the team with his ties in Latin America.
Add the Mets’ Carlos Beltran to the list of potential OF/DH solutions for AL clubs such as the White Sox and Rangers. To trade Beltran, the Mets would need to assume a significant portion of his $18.5 million salary for 2011. Beltran, 33, has a full no-trade clause, but probably would jump to play in a hitter-friendly park in his walk year.
AROUND THE HORN
Free agent Victor Martinez figures to land at least a four-year contract, and at least one GM thinks a deal of that length would be a mistake. Martinez, who turns 32 on Dec. 23, is a below-average runner and below-average catcher. No doubt, he’s an outstanding hitter and teammate, but his numbers, if he were a full-time first baseman, would rank him only slightly ahead of say, free agent Adam LaRoche.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe mentioned Orioles right-handers David Hernandez and Chris Tillman as potentially available in trades, but actually every O’s young pitcher could be in play for the right bat, sources say. A trade might be the best option for the Orioles, who’ve struggled in recent years to attract free agents. A hitter such as first baseman Paul Konerko would consider the O’s only if he lacked better options.
Don’t be surprised if the Marlins attempt a reunion with free-agent right-hander Carl Pavano if they trade second baseman Dan Uggla. The Marlins would use the savings from an Uggla deal to sign at least one free agent. Pavano, who pitched in Florida from 2002-04, continues to enjoy a close relationship with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. The Marlins’ other principal need is at catcher. Free agent John Buck is a prime target with or without Uggla. Yorvit Torrealba, who lives in Miami, also could be a fit.
Speaking of the Marlins, a post-Uggla lineup that included Emilio Bonifacio at second and Chris Coghlan in center field would raise significant questions. Bonifacio’s problem is on the offensive side — his career on-base percentage is .306. Coghlan, meanwhile, is coming off surgery on his left knee last August. It’s a stretch to imagine him as the team’s Opening Day center fielder.
Brewers pitching coach Rick Peterson, who’s under contract for one more year at $450,000, is unlikely to remain with the club. New manager Ron Roenicke is leaning toward hiring his own pitching coach, sources say. He also wanted Rob Picciolo to join his staff before the Angels named Picciolo to replace Roenicke as bench coach.
Shrewd move by the A’s claiming Edwin Encarnacion from the Blue Jays for $20,000. The A’s can now choose between Encarnacion and Kevin Kouzmanoff, leveraging one arbitration-eligible player against the other. Kouzmanoff, the superior defender, likely is the team’s preference.
Good luck to the Diamondbacks, by the way, in trying to trade their own third baseman, Mark Reynolds. The A’s, lacking power, seemingly could be a fit for Reynolds despite his low batting average and high strikeout rate, but the A’s have zero interest in Reynolds, multiple sources say.
The Rockies again are drawing heavy interest in infielder Clint Barmes, but only figure to trade him or non-tender him if they’re unable to sign him to a multi-year deal. Barmes, entering his final year of arbitration, could make sense for teams looking for help at either second base or shortstop. His possible suitors include the Cardinals, Reds, Giants, Twins and Orioles.
Giants left-hander Javier Lopez, like outfielder Cody Ross, is a strong candidate to receive a multi-year deal to stay in San Francisco. Jeremy Affeldt, the other veteran left-hander in the bullpen, has only one year left on his contract. Lopez is entering his final year of arbitration.
As expected, Indians catcher Carlos Santana is further along than center fielder Grady Sizemore in their respective recoveries from left-knee surgery. Sizemore underwent a more complex micro-fracture procedure and could be slightly behind entering spring training. Santana should be 100 percent by then. The Indians could end up the youngest team in baseball. None of their starters are older than 26, none of their relievers older than 28. Designated hitter Travis Hafner, 33, is their only position player older than 28.