Pieces of the Puzzle?

The old cliche….pitching and defense wins championships. The lack of fundamentals in today’s game has changed half of that. Of all the rumblings this off-season, the word defense has not been in any of the conversations. Pitching and offense is what all of the teams are focusing on….especially the Cubs. Aramis Ramirez is capable of fielding both offense and defense for the Cubs….if he decides to return. Ramirez showed how good he can be last season and if the Cubs pony up the rumored $15 million per year for the next 5-7 years….he better make sure he plays every game to the best of his ability or if not he can guarantee the Faithful will let him hear about it every time they can.

While the off-season is usually about the players, Barry Rozner brought up the possibility of the Cubs returning to the Wrigley Family. The top two free agents in this year’s crop….Barry Zito and Alfonso Soriano will set the market for pitchers and position players. Five more filled for free agency to bring the total to 148 of a possible 200 and here is the latest from the mill….

6-year free agents and Rule 5 draft players will help teams fill out their rosters. Buck Martinez was talking about the shortage of quality position players throughout the Minor League system. He feels that if an organization has a good young prospect they are already at the Major League level or will be next season. Martinez feels that a majority of the team’s top prospects are pitching prospects and because of that mediocre position players are going to receive good contracts this off-season.

Daisuke Matsuzaka…. Matsuzaka continues to be the hot topic of conversation. He announced on Wednesday that he will be playing in the Major Leagues in 2007. The rumors surrounding what it will take to acquire the rights to negotiate with him once the Lions post him are becoming more outrageous as every day passes. The $20 million that was rumored last week seems to be a thing of the past, most are starting to think that the posting fee will start at $30 million now. There are also reports that Scott Boras will be seeking a contract worth between $13-$15 million per year for at least 5 years. Signing any pitcher for that long of a contract is not the wisest business decision for any team when that much money is involved.

Matsuzaka has logged a lot of innings in his short career. He threw a 17 inning complete game once that required 250 pitches. He has devastating stuff….no doubt. Matsuzaka throws in the upper 90’s and has 4 unhittable breaking balls. According to Jayson Stark he has a number one starter mentality and auroa. According to a report on Mariners.com, Seattle’s GM, Bill Bavasi, confirmed on Wednesday that the team will not be bidding for Matsuzaka.

Gary Matthews, Jr…. Matthews is now considered to be the top free-agent centerfielder on the market according to the Star Telegram. Matthews is in line to win his first gold glove (the AL gold glove awards will be announced on Thursday) and most think because of his defense and power at the plate he is a better option than Juan Pierre. The Cubs are one of the teams that are rumored to be very interested in Matthews according to the Dallas Morning News. Matthews turned down a 2-year contract extension from the Rangers that was offered last season.

Jeromy Burnitz…. According to a report on CBS Sportsline, the former Cub could retire after the Pirates declined his option. The Pirates declined to pickup the $6 million dollar option for 2007 and paid him the $700,000 buyout.

Alfonso Soriano…. According to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer the Phillies have targeted Soriano and are prepared to offer him a 5-year, $80 million dollar deal. The Washington Post broke the story earlier in the week that he is seeking a 7-year, $119 million dollar deal. Apparently Soriano is looking to land with the Mets according to the New York Post. Soriano still has an apartment in New York and has told friends that is where he would like to play.

Nomar Garciaparra…. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Giants have contacted Nomar’s agent about the possibility of playing third for them next season. That same report mentioned the fact the Giants are interested in Gary Matthews, Jr., Juan Pierre, Dave Roberts and apparently every other free agent on the market.

Guillermo Mota…. Take him off of the free agent list. Mota was suspended on Wednesday for the first 50 games of next season for violating MLB’s drug policy. According to Jayson Stark, ESPN knew that Mota tested positive during the playoffs but they had only one source and no way to confirm the story.

Woody Williams…. According to a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Williams has told friends he wants to return to the Cardinals. The same report mentions the Cardinals have interest in Matsuzaka.

Dusty Baker…. According to a report on MLB.com, Dusty Baker will interview for the San Diego Padres managerial opening on Monday. The Chicago Tribune is reporting the same.

Gary Sheffield and Carlos Lee…. According to a report in the Star-Ledger the Astros are interested in trading for Gary Sheffield but are likely to sign Carlos Lee instead.

Michael Barrett was on USA Today.com and here is the transcript.

Here is a Q&A with Donald Veal from Baseball America.

Well, that’s the news and rumors and I’m sticking to it!!!!

Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax