2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 245
Re-energized is an understatement for Han Ram. Doing his best with Matty to take the division but I don't think the Dodgers' pitching fends off SF.
Shields. Meh. Don't feel like he's a big enough upgrade. Throw in Zobrist and we can probably get something figured out.
I still think there's a lot of upside in Perez's arm and I'm not ready to give up on that yet. Might be wrong, maybe should sell if the deal is right, but I just love the kid a lot...
And yeah, Cru, Emilia Clark. <3
I agree with Pro that Shields' 2010-2011 season was a fluke, a mere aberration. He lets up too many homers on a regular basis for my taste. Tampa will get someone else to bite as they build around Price and Moore.
I'm curious how Texas paves the way for Profar because many think he's MLB-ready right now. Shocking, I know. I still like the idea of Andrus/Additional Piece for J. Upton. Then letting Josh walk if he likely asks for far too much money. Do you agree with Nolan that he truly gives away at-bats?
Love my "Game of Thrones" as well. Books are captivating. Can't wait for the show's return in March. Enjoying Oona Castilla Chaplin (Charlie Chaplin's granddaughter), who plays Robb Stark's love interest, Talisa Maegyr.
And he keeps whining about getting booed and everything getting in his head and just all sorts of BS. Talking about last night he would pray for all the people who were booing him.. Um... Just start hitting the baseball again and shut up.
They finally gave him a day today to sit and try to get his head right. Hoping they'll sit him tomorrow too and bring him back for the Angels on Monday. If the gap hadn't closed so much between them and the A's/Angels, I'd almost be fine with a DL trip to just sit for a couple of weeks and clear his head.
And yeah, I'm knee deep in GoT.. I'm trying to decide if I want to move on to the 4th book right now or let it marinate a while and move on to some other stuff... Can't wait for the Season 2 BD to drop so I can run through them again.
"GoT": Book 3 was my clear favorite. 4 is pretty good. I'm stuck on 5 currently, lost some interest at the moment. Martin splits certain characters between Books 4 and 5. So some of the events are occurring simultaneously even though we're technically discovering Book 5's events later as readers.
They'll either trade Andrus or move Kinsler around to accommodate Profar. If they could find a way to rid themselves of Michael Young this offseason, that's be fantastic.
And I just can't see them making it back a third time around at this point. Damn they're playing terrible baseball. They really could use an impact bat and arm, but there's no way they get both. At this point, the guy I want most and have heard rumored around here is Carlos Gonzalez... Go do it. Now.
Greinke on the mound lets get it.
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But an underlying factor that makes it more difficult for the Twins to trade Span has nothing to do with OPS or defensive metrics: His contract is valuable.
At this time of year, some players, such as Alfonso Soriano, are available because of their contracts. In the case of Span, his deal makes him almost invaluable. "It's really hard to place a value on a contract like that," said one GM. "It makes it tough to trade a player [in that circumstance], because you almost have to get overpaid to walk away from that deal, or there's something else going on."
One of the best moves that Bill Smith made in his tenure as Minnesota's GM was to lock up Span to a long-term deal. Span is earning $3 million this year, and he will get $4.75 million next year and $6.5 million in 2014. The Twins hold a club option for 2015 at $9 million, with a $500,000 buyout.
That's relatively modest cost certainty for a young and productive player. For an organization that has about $150 million remaining in obligation to Joe Mauer, there is real value in that. At the time Span signed the contract as a very young player, it guaranteed him $16.5 million, making it a great deal for him. And now, as he progresses through the deal, the Twins get the payoff on their investment.
Consider the case of Yunel Escobar. He is a productive player, and the Toronto Blue Jays say that in spite of his reputation as being very difficult, he has been a good team guy for them.
His contract is arguably the most team-friendly deal in the majors: Escobar is making $5 million this year and will make $5 million next year, and the Jays hold club options of $5 million for 2014 and 2015.
Think about it: The Blue Jays have a talented middle-of-the-diamond player and know that his salary will remain at $5 million for the next 3½ seasons. If Toronto is willing to move him, with that kind of contract, it could say a lot about how workable the staff finds him to be.
The Twins got a couple of minor leaguers for Francisco Liriano. It wasn't a great haul, but Liriano is not a great pitcher, and there was no way Minnesota was going to offer Liriano a qualifying offer of $12.5 million in the fall. So at the very least, the Twins got some organizational depth in return for a pitcher who had no future with them.
The deal made sense for the Chicago White Sox, too, because they are in a dogfight to win the AL Central -- Saturday's win increased their lead to 2½ games -- and they need rotation help, and they don't have the kind of farm system required to land a big name such as Zack Greinke or James Shields.
Liriano could come in and provide a nice jolt for the White Sox, writes Mark Gonzales.
From ESPN Stats and Information, more on Liriano:
Liriano and new teammate Chris Sale rank second and third in the league, respectively, in strikeouts on sliders this season. Liriano's 150 strikeouts on sliders in 2010 are the most by a pitcher in any season in the past four seasons, and his 296 strikeouts since the start of the 2010 season are the most in baseball. This season, CC Sabathia leads baseball with 79 strikeouts on sliders. Liriano has 78.
Liriano and Sale are the only two pitchers with 11 or more slider strikeouts in a game this season. The most slider strikeouts in a game this season:
July 13: Liriano, 12
May 28: Sale, 11
April 20: Sale, 10
May 10: Colby Lewis, 10
June 18: Sabathia, 10
Liriano was sent to the bullpen in early May and then returned to the rotation on May 30. His slider has really improved since his return.
Liriano's slider this season in his first six starts (and past 11 starts)
Opp BA: .364 (.134)
K/PA percentage: 33.3 (55.3)
Miss percentage: 35.7 (47.5)
Line drive percentage: 19.0 (9.
• There is interest in Shields, and if the Tampa Bay Rays are motivated to trade the right-hander, they can do so. One factor that will enter into the decision will be the condition of Evan Longoria, who is on a minor league rehabilitation assignment. If all goes well, Longoria could be back in the Tampa Bay lineup in a week as the team's designated hitter -- there is no timetable for him to return to playing third base -- and so the Rays could hold together their pitching, including Shields, to make a run at the playoffs during the last two months.
But some rival executives believe the Rays will trade Shields before Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET trade deadline. The Rays say they're only talking about possible deals, writes Mark Topkin.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has had a couple of good days in Anaheim; Matt Moore shut down the Angels on Saturday.
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Moore beat the Angels:
A. Moore matched a career high with six outs with his curveball. He would have had seven outs with it if not for an error.
B. Ten of the 17 balls in play against Moore (59 percent) were hit on the ground, the second-highest percentage in a start in his career.
C. For only the second start of his career, Moore did not allow a hit off his fastball. He also didn't allow a hit off his curveball; all four Angels hits against Moore came against his changeup.
• The center of the scouts' universe today is Miami, where Josh Johnson will take the mound.
Sources say the Miami Marlins are not especially motivated to move Johnson, and if they don't get the multiprospect package they seek, they'll just hang onto him. Johnson says he's not worried about the trade rumors, Clark Spencer writes.
• Matt Garza won't pitch before the Tuesday deadline, which means that it'll take a leap of faith for a GM to make a deal for him without being able to tell his bosses when Garza would be able to take the mound again. So any team being aggressive in proposing deals for the right-hander would be acquiring him probably more for 2013 than for 2012. The Blue Jays might fit that description.
In the end, the Cubs might keep Garza and look to deal him in the winter.
The market has narrowed for the Cubs, writes Dave van Dyck.
• Rafael Betancourt might be dealt, writes Troy Renck.
Last year, the trade market was saturated with relievers, but this year there has been relatively little talk about the bullpen guys. Besides Betancourt, the relievers who might draw the most interest are Jonathan Broxton of the Kansas City Royals and Grant Balfour of the Oakland Athletics. Oakland has a surplus of pitching from which to deal.
• Yoenis Cespedes doesn't have the numbers to win the AL MVP, but he should get some top-10 votes if the Athletics somehow make the playoffs. He's been right in the middle of a lot of their big moments this year -- including Saturday's victory.
• Gordon Edes writes of fractures in the relationship between the Boston Red Sox and their manager. It was a typical bipolar day for Bobby Valentine's bipolar boys. You can tell Valentine is burning below the surface, writes Tyler Kepner.
I've read and heard this particular line many times this summer: Bobby Valentine is not getting a chance to be himself, to manage the way he wants.
What does that mean, exactly?
What would have to change to make that happen? A total makeover of a team with one of the highest payrolls in baseball, including the jettisoning of some of the best-paid players? The firing of coaches? The dismissal of some members of the medical staff? A complete restructuring of the chain of command?
Every day, there are 25 players and 27 outs to manage, hundreds of opportunities to make decisions and communicate thoughts and to manage.
Oh, sure, there are challenging circumstances in place, as there are for every manager. Don Mattingly stoically dealt with an ownership mess. Joe Girardi copes with the largest media following daily and has fostered one of the most cohesive clubhouses in the majors. Ron Washington works with Josh Hamilton daily, in his star's day-to-day struggles. Charlie Manuel isn't best friends with some of the folks he works for. Joe Maddon works within the modest roster means he is provided. Brad Mills' five highest-paid players have all been traded. Jim Leyland works for a demanding owner who wants to win a championship yesterday.
Buck Showalter took over as manager of a team that hadn't won in years and was part of a search committee to find his new boss -- and despite all of that, there has been progress.
Terry Francona dealt with a lot of the same parameters as Valentine: A team of temperamental veterans, a sometimes dysfunctional ownership, a progressive front office, an intrusive media. He lasted nine seasons, and the Red Sox won a couple of championships.
Managers manage, no matter what they have. No organization places its priorities on a tee for the manager.
Pedro Ciriaco helped the Red Sox win Saturday.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Marlins are likely to promote Jacob Turner to the big leagues sometime in early August.
2. Kris Medlen is replacing Jair Jurrjens in the Atlanta rotation.
3. Oakland is acquiring a catcher.
4. Casper Wells is getting some playing time in right field.
5. It looks like Alexi Ogando could replace Colby Lewis in the Texas rotation.
6. The Cleveland front office must make a decision.
First and foremost: Anything the Cleveland Indians do now will be designed to help them in 2013, as well as in 2012. It makes no sense now to devote resources at a time when the Indians are on the fringe of the playoff race and they're not playing well.
7. Ruben Amaro has a chance to start reloading for 2013, writes Bob Brookover.
8. Lew Ford has been called up.
Dings and dents
1. Mike Moustakas is getting an MRI for his knee.
2. Giancarlo Stanton is making progress.
3. Juan Nicasio's season is over, but he hopes to pitch this fall.
4. Bryce Harper is dealing with dizziness.
AL West notes
• Kevin Millwood gave a hat tip to shortstop Brendan Ryan with the trade deadline looming.
• C.J. Wilson finished out a rough July with a loss.
• The Texas Rangers keep losing and their hitters keep struggling. After the latest defeat, the Texas lineup got together to talk. Josh Hamilton got a day off.
AL Central notes
• Leyland made it clear that some of the Detroit hitters need to be a little better.
• The Royals have become a soul-crushing mess, writes Bob Dutton.
• Justin Masterson had a really bad day.
AL East notes
• The chances of the Blue Jays making the playoffs are not good, but they've had a remarkable season to this point, playing through injuries; after their latest win, Toronto is over .500 again.
• Mark Teixeira got the best of his nemesis, but a Curtis Granderson misplay cost the Yankees.
NL East notes
• Nate Eovaldi impressed in his first outing for the Marlins.
• Mike Minor was The Man for the Atlanta Braves.
• Jordan Zimmermann threw great.
• The Phillies' charmless season may be unofficially dead, but Joe Blanton did throw well, writes Matt Gelb.
• Ike Davis had a huge night for the New York Mets, but otherwise, there was no help.
NL Central notes
• Wandy Rodriguez and the Pittsburgh Pirates found a way to win.
• The Cincinnati Reds are just about unstoppable, and on Saturday, Johnny Cueto was the beneficiary of the run support.
• The St. Louis Cardinals were taken down by a bunt.
• The Houston Astros have played music in their clubhouse after games only twice since June 27. That's 25 losses in their past 27 games, and a club-record 12 straight defeats.
• Randy Wolf got hurt by the long ball.
NL West notes
• The San Francisco Giants were blown out.
• Matt Kemp silenced the crowd in San Francisco.
From ESPN Stats and Info: In the first two games of the Dodgers' series with the Giants, only five of the 37 pitches Kemp has seen have been inside (13.5 percent). Only two of the inside pitches have been in the strike zone, and those are the only two inside pitches Kemp has swung at. Both of those were in Saturday's game; one resulted in his home run and the other in his first double of the game.
From the Elias Sports Bureau: Kemp went 4-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs Saturday afternoon in the Dodgers' win against the Giants. Kemp has 15 homers and is hitting .342 in 50 games this season. Only two other players in Dodgers history hit at least 15 homers with a batting average of .340 or better through his first 50 games of a season: Roy Campanella in 1955 (.342, 17 HR) and Manny Ramirez in 2008 (.398, 17 HR).
• The most dangerous team that started Saturday's play at .500 or below is the Arizona Diamondbacks, and they won again.
• Ross Ohlendorf had a good start, but it wasn't enough.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats and Info
3: Pitchers in Braves history with consecutive 30-save seasons after Craig Kimbrel saved his 30th game of 2012 on Saturday; Mark Wohlers and John Smoltz are the other two.
4: Starts in his past five against the Red Sox in which Sabathia has allowed at least six earned runs.
19: Quality starts this season for Jordan Zimmermann, two more than any other pitcher in baseball.
1,274: Combined distance, in feet, of Ike Davis' three home runs Saturday, the highest combined distance in a three-homer game in the past two seasons.
Is James Shields an ace or innings eater?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
After the Rays' 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday, Tampa Bay is 51-49, and the New York Yankees are almost out of sight, nine-and-a-half games away. The Rays are three-and-a-half games behind the front-runners for the American League wild card.
Their slide in the standings has not been through an improbable burst of losses, but through a steady decline. In early May, Tampa Bay was 19-8. Since then, the Rays are 32-41, and they haven't played well. Their defense has been surprisingly poor and by AL East standards, their offense has been woeful; Tampa Bay has scored two runs or less in about 30 percent of its games since Evan Longoria went down with an injury.
The Rays' chances for making the playoffs are not great, but this is a team that was miles out of contention at the beginning of last September. The memories of a comeback for the Tampa Bay players are more than fresh; they probably see more opportunity than most teams in their situation.
There is another murky issue right at the heart of the Rays' opaque situation -- and in the decisions made by other teams, in what to offer Tampa Bay for Shields: How good is James Shields, exactly? What is he, exactly?
Is he a front-line starter? Is he a plow horse -- a middle-of-the-rotation innings eater?
If relieved of the burden of pitching in the AL East, could he be better? Are his recent performances signs of things to come over the last two-and-a-half seasons of his current contract, or just a blip?
Last year, Shields had the best season of his career, going 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA and racking up a career-high 225 strikeouts in 249.1 innings. He held opponents to a .217 batting average, walked just 65 hitters and finished third in the voting for the AL Cy Young Award. The Rays chose to keep him through last year's trade deadline and into this season, rather than deal him.
But this year, Shields' ERA is more than a run and a half higher, at 4.52. His WHIP has climbed from 1.04 to 1.46, and he never has had a higher ratio of walks per nine innings than his current 2.9. These numbers are in line with what he did in 2010, when he posted a 5.18 ERA.
Is he a Cy Young candidate? Or is he a No. 4-type starter?
The answer to that has no bearing on the fact Shields' contract makes him more attractive. The Rays hold club options for $9 million in 2013 and for $12 million in 2014, and for Tampa Bay or any team that acquires Shields, this structure greatly diminishes risk. Even if Shields is more of a plow horse than an All-Star, an innings eater on a one-year, $9 million deal is good value. The Rangers could trade for the 30-year-old Shields and have confidence that at the very least they could be adding someone much like Colby Lewis -- except more durable.
Friends of Rays general manager Andrew Friedman say he is unsure of how to handle this situation and what is the right course of action. "I wouldn't be at all surprised if he trades Shields," another GM said. "But if you told me that Shields was still with [the Rays] after the deadline, that wouldn't surprise me, either."
The interest in Shields has ramped up, writes Marc Topkin.
It's so far, so good for Longoria in his rehabilitation assignment.
The same kinds of questions are likely being asked by rival evaluators about Josh Johnson: How good is he? How significant an injury risk is he? Johnson, who is owed about $19 million for the next season and a half, is coming off a strong outing against the Braves, but Johnson is also having the worst season of his career.
It's worth noting that Friedman and Texas GM Jon Daniels are good friends, but they have never made a trade; they are very similar in how they negotiate, which could make it more difficult for them to work out a deal.
• The Rangers continue to talk about Shields and Johnson, writes Jeff Wilson.
• The Rangers weren't willing to part with either of their top position player prospects for Zack Greinke, writes Richard Durrett.
• The Rangers lost on Friday, and Josh Hamilton was booed.
• Matt Garza isn't scheduled to pitch until after the trade deadline, a major hurdle for the Cubs in their effort to get trade value.
• The pressure on the Rangers to add a starting pitcher has been ramped up after the Angels' acquisition of Greinke. You can imagine Angels owner Arte Moreno throwing his wallet on top of a massive pile of chips, raising the stakes, and now we'll see if Nolan Ryan and the Rangers choose to match Anaheim by adding another starting pitcher for themselves.
If Moreno is on a victory stage in October and hoisting a trophy, the Greinke deal will make sense, in 20-20 hindsight. But it could be that by the first weekend of October the investment in Greinke will feel like a flushed investment. As of Saturday morning, the Angels are four games behind the Rangers, and gaining ground. If they wind up settling for the wild-card berth, however, they could be looking at a one-game playoff -- with Oakland, as of now -- and a quick knockout would cause some buyer's remorse.
But rival evaluators don't think they gave up any blue-chippers in the deal with the Brewers. Jean Segura is projected by several teams not involved in this trade as an everyday player -- but as a second baseman, in the end -- and he is very aggressive at the plate. "A hacker," said one official, noting how few walks Segura has drawn in his professional career -- just 122 in more than 1,700 plate appearances.
John Hellweg, the better of the two pitching prospects Milwaukee received, has a powerful arm, but rival evaluators report that his command is very suspect.
• The Brewers like what they got, as Tom Haudricourt writes.
• Greinke had to go, writes Michael Hunt.
But even if the Angels don't play deep into the playoffs, the Greinke deal makes sense, given the club's level of investment in the 2012 season with the addition of Albert Pujols and the meteoric rise of Mike Trout.
From ESPN Stats & Information, a next-level look at what the Angels are getting:
FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is essentially an estimate of what a pitcher's ERA should be, based on his strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed.
Lowest FIP this season
Zack Greinke 2.50
Stephen Strasburg 2.52
Chris Sale 2.68
Gio Gonzalez 2.69
R.A. Dickey 2.94
Greinke averages 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings, 2.1 walks per nine innings, and 0.5 HR per nine innings, good for a FIP of 2.50, which ranks as the best in MLB (his ERA is 3.44).
Greinke's the only pitcher who ranks in the top 25 in strikeout rate, walk rate and ground ball rate.
Zack Greinke in 2012
K/BB/GB Rate MLB Rank
Strikeout rate 24.2 12th
Walk rate 5.6 21st
Ground ball rate 54.2 14th
The Angels made their move, writes Vincent Bonsignore.
The Braves whiffed on Greinke, and this trend is getting old for Atlanta, writes Jeff Schultz.
By the way, rival officials believe the Angels have a really good shot at retaining Greinke -- although it's possible that they will wind up in a whopper bidding war with the Dodgers, who have millions to burn. The Angels could have some flexibility with their rotation, given that they hold a $15.5 million option on Dan Haren for 2013 (with a $3.5 million buyout). If Haren throws well down the stretch and remains healthy, the decision to retain him on a one-year deal will be a no-brainer. However, if he pitches poorly, or if his lower back problems flare again, the Angels could use the money that has been devoted to Haren and aim it at a Greinke investment.
• Haren pitched well again Friday, shutting down the Rays.
• Hanley Ramirez looks very comfortable with the Dodgers, and he mashed a decisive home run against the Giants on Friday.
• As the Phillies continue to fall in the standings, and the Reds continue to look for a leadoff hitter, Philadelphia continues to be one of the best possible sources in Cincinnati's pursuit of someone who could hit at the top of its lineup. Shane Victorino could be a fit, so could Juan Pierre, who has fared very well against right-handed pitching this year; Pierre is hitting .338 in 222 at-bats against righties this year with 14 walks and 12 strikeouts.
• For now, all is quiet for the Reds, writes John Fay.
Two teams to watch as the deadline approaches in the conversation about Chase Headley: the Baltimore Orioles and the Phillies. Headley would cost Philadelphia a good package of prospects, but he would give the Phillies an everyday third baseman under team control through 2014, and on a team loaded with enormous salaries he'd be relative cheap, for something in the range of $6 million next year.
For the Orioles, Headley would provide help for the franchise's effort to make the playoffs in 2012, but also a long-term solution at third base.
Oakland and Pittsburgh are among the other teams interested in Headley.
• Oakland pulled out a rousing victory, rallying in the ninth inning, as Susan Slusser writes, but they did get a big scare from Josh Reddick.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Giants traded for Marco Scutaro. He gives them protection, which is needed because of the uncertain status of Pablo Sandoval.
2. Yunel Escobar doesn't want to be traded, writes Mike Rutsey.
3. Jim Pohlad wants Terry Ryan to be his permanent GM.
Dings and dents
1. Joba Chamberlain is very close to rejoining the Yankees' bullpen.
2. Matt Wieters was out with a biceps issue, writes Everett Cook.
3. Placido Polanco went to the disabled list with a bad back.
4. Jaime Garcia continues to make progress, as he turns from his arm issue.
5. Lorenzo Cain says he's playing at 80 percent.
6. The White Sox are speeding up the timetable for John Danks.
By The Numbers, from ESPN Stats & Info:
6: Consecutive games this season for Brian McCann with a home run against the Phillies; according to the Elias Sports Bureau, he's the first player ever with a home run in six consecutive games against the Phillies.
10: Home runs for Curtis Granderson on pitches at least 93 mph, the highest total in the league, after his grand slam Friday night.
13: Earned runs allowed for Jim Johnson since the All-Star break after he allowed six Friday night; he allowed just five earned runs in the first half of the season.
451: Distance, in feet, of Kevin Youkilis' home run Friday, his longest since tracking began in 2006.
• The Diamondbacks had a big day at the plate.
• The Giants lost ground in their lead, as they lost in extra innings.
• The Astros continue to be indescribably awful: They blew two leads and extended their losing streak to 11 games. They have tied a team record, as Zachary Levine writes.
• The Pirates rallied in the ninth inning.
• The Cardinals obliterated the Cubs with a bunch of home runs.
• The Reds' winning streak has reached eight games.
• Travis Wood was roughed up.
• The Braves just keep rolling, and so does Ben Sheets, as Carroll Rogers writes.
From ESPN Stats & Info, how Sheets beat the Phillies:
• All four of Sheets' strikeouts came with his curveball.
• Sheets held the Phillies to 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Over his three starts, opponents are 0-for-15 in those situations. With runners in scoring position Friday, Sheets threw his curveball 35 percent of the time, up from 25 percent in his first two starts. Five of the six balls the Phillies put in play against Sheets with runners in scoring position were groundouts.
• The Phillies put 11 of 20 balls in play (55 percent) on the ground; Sheets had induced eight ground balls combined in his first two starts.
• The Nationals had a bad day.
• Cole Hamels had a really ugly outing, as Matt Gelb writes.
• The Phillies need better starting pitching, says Charlie Manuel.
• Jon Niese was hit hard.
• Carlos Zambrano unraveled.
• The Mariners took advantage of the Royals.
• Chris Sale's fastball velocity was down, but the White Sox still won.
• The Tigers lost Friday; Anibal Sanchez is set to make his Detroit debut Saturday. Miguel Cabrera hit his 25th homer of the season, his fifth straight season with at least 25 home runs with the Tigers.
Most consecutive 25-HR seasons w/ Tigers
Source: Elias Sports Bureau
PLAYER Span Seasons
Cecil Fielder 7 1990-96
Miguel Cabrera 5 2008-12
Tony Clark 4 1996-99
Hank Greenberg 4 1937-40
Lance Parrish 4 1982-85
• A Twins pitcher threw great.
• The Indians were wrecked.
• The Yankees crushed the Red Sox in Ichiro's pinstriped debut at Yankee Stadium.
From ESPN Stats & Info: Granderson's grand slam came on a 93.7 mph fastball from Mark Melancon. It was Granderson's 10th home run this season on a pitch 93 mph or faster. His 10 home runs on such pitches are two more than any other player in baseball.
Most HRs on pitches 93-plus mph
PLAYER This Season
Curtis Granderson 10
Jose Bautista 8
Mark Trumbo 8
Ryan Braun 7
Andrew McCutchen 7
• For the Red Sox and Aaron Cook, it was an embarrassing loss.
• Saturday's start is really crucial for Jon Lester.
• Jim Johnson had the kind of inning that can wreck a reliever's ERA.
• The Jays are hanging in there: Their victory Friday pushed their record over .500.
The expendable Alex Rodriguez.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
In A-Rod's place, facing Boston left-hander Felix Doubront, will likely be Jayson Nix, an infielder who joined the Yankees in November on a minor league contract. The very same Nix who's played for five major league clubs during the past five seasons. The same Nix who entered play Saturday hitting .211/.281/.374 in about 1,000 career plate appearances. The same Nix, that is, who's more or less a living, breathing definition of freely available talent.
And here's the thing: Rodriguez's absence won't matter that much -- not to the outcome of this game, not to the outcome of the Yankees' season.
While it might come as a surprise to A-Rod's numerous critics over the years who've questioned (mistakenly so) A-Rod's performance in the clutch and claimed he lacks that certain quality that allows one to become a True Yankee, Rodriguez has been remarkable on the field. Since 2004, when he arrived in New York, Rodriguez has compiled 50.5 wins above replacement (WAR) -- the third-highest total of any major leaguer during that period, trailing only Albert Pujols (66.2) and Chase Utley (50.7). He's won (and deserved to win) two AL MVP awards while with New York. He even outhit Derek Jeter during the Yankees' postseason run in 2009, which ultimately led to the club's first World Series championship since 2000.
While clearly exceptional, those accomplishments are just as clearly in the past. In order to get the Rodriguez of the mid- and late aughts, the Yankees were forced to sign him through 2017. What the Yankees have in 2012 is a good, but not great, player who just happens to be outearning the league. In a sense, actually, this is good news. Replacing Rodriguez is an easier task for Yankees manager Joe Girardi in 2012 than it would have been for predecessor Joe Torre in, say, 2005.
But the question remains: What does A-Rod's absence actually mean to the Yankees in terms of wins -- and in terms of the playoffs?
Al Bello/Getty Images
Eric Chavez will handle third base when the Yankees face right-handers.
Indications thus far are that Girardi will deploy a platoon at third base in A-Rod's absence, with the aforementioned Nix facing left-handers such as Doubront and Eric Chavez getting the starts against right-handed pitchers.
Using a methodology employed by Matt Klaassen in a post for FanGraphs from 2010 -- which builds off Tom Tango's excellent work on platoon splits from "The Book" -- we can estimate the "true" platoon skills of both Chavez and Nix. With that established, we can compare the likely production of that two-headed Chavez-Nix monster to the production A-Rod would have likely provided during the six or eight weeks he'll be absent from the Yankees' lineup.
There's a little bit of math to be done here -- and it's not particularly exciting, probably -- but the basic concepts are easy enough to understand. Here are some rules of thumb, as far as estimating a player's platoon skills are concerned:
• Estimating platoon skill is all about regression. Merely looking at what a player has done in 50 or 100 or even 500 plate appearances is insufficient. To reach even a "halfway" point for regression against a left-handed pitcher, a left-handed batter needs 1,000 plate appearances; for a right-handed batter, it's 2,200 plate appearances.
• Left-handed batters naturally demonstrate a greater platoon split -- which is to say, generally speaking, they're suited more specifically to hit righties more than right-handed batters are suited to hit lefties.
• Projection systems are very helpful in this endeavor. In this case, to estimate something like a player's current "true talent" level, the rest-of-season ZiPS projections hosted at FanGraphs have been used.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
Jayson Nix completes the hot-corner platoon while Alex Rodriguez is out.
Using the methodology proposed by Klaassen and Tango, the numbers suggest that, against right-handed pitchers, Chavez is likely to post a .311 wOBA (about four points below the current league-average wOBA); against left-handers, the righty-batting Nix has a "true talent" .307 wOBA. Assuming that the Yankees face a league-average split of righties and lefties while Rodriguez is out -- about 75 percent of plate appearances against righties -- they would have about a .310 wOBA out of third base in A-Rod's absence, compared to A-Rod's .357 wOBA projection for the rest of the season.
Knowing both Rodriguez's wOBA and the platoon wOBA of Chavez and Nix, we now estimate the number of runs Rodriguez would have produced above and beyond his replacements. The advantage of wOBA is that's it's easy to convert into run values. Using the process developed by Tango (and outlined by Dave Cameron at FanGraphs) for doing just that, we find that A-Rod is worth about 0.04 runs per plate appearance more than the Chavez-Nix platoon.
This, of course, just leaves us with determining the number of plate appearances Rodriguez is likely to surrender to injury. The Yankees have just three days off in the next six weeks, giving A-Rod about 40 missed games if he came back on the early side of his diagnosis. They have five off days during the next eight weeks, meaning Rodriguez would miss approximately 50 games if his injury were to linger on to the eight-week mark.
Noting that Rodriguez has averaged about 4.3 plate appearances per game in 2012, we can estimate that he'll lose somewhere between 170 and 220 plate appearances to injury. Using the 0.04 runs per plate appearance figure, A-Rod's absence leaves the Yankees with a deficit of somewhere between seven and nine runs during the course of his injury -- or fewer than one win (about 10 runs equals one projected win). That's not a nonissue for any team, but for a club such as the Yankees -- one that enters play Sunday with an 8.5-game lead in the AL East -- it's also not a particularly immediate threat.
Given the substantial lead the Yankees have been able to establish in the AL East -- and the adequacy of their third-base platoon -- they will likely barely even notice the absence of the game's highest-paid player for the duration of his injury.
Carson Cistulli writes for FanGraphs.
Breaking down the Zack Greinke trade.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Greinke has changed his approach since his 2009 Cy Young Award-winning season, when he was working primarily fastball/slider and had great success with both pitches. He's now using a broader pitch mix, adding a two-seamer with a little late tail, and a cutter (new this year) with late break down and slightly in toward left-handed hitters, which helps the four-seamer play up a little because hitters can't time the pitch without considering which pitch type it is. His slider -- more like a hard curveball -- has very sharp downward break but not a lot of lateral movement, and lately he seems to prefer throwing his slower mid-70 mph curveball, although in any one game you're likely to see all five of these pitches plus a few changeups. He has outstanding control and above-average command as well as a very good idea of how to set hitters up and change speeds on them. He also has a history of success, including missing bats, in the American League, which I imagine gave the Angels some comfort over acquiring a pitcher who'd never worked in the superior circuit. He helps their club substantially, even though the cost was significant for someone who is just a rental.
The Brewers get three prospects who started the year in the Angels' top 10 in infielder Jean Segura (No. 2 in their system, No. 44 overall), right-handed starter John Hellweg (No. 4 in their system, No. 81 overall) and right-handed starter Ariel Pena (No. 10 in their system and my "sleeper" prospect for the Angels for 2012).
Segura and Hellweg both have seen their stock slip a little this year, although Segura deserves credit for what is, so far, only the second fully healthy season of his pro career. Segura has played shortstop since the start of 2011 and has a chance to stay there despite a thick lower half that limits his lateral quickness; he is an above-average runner and gets good enough reads on the ball for average range right now, with enough arm for the position. At the plate, Segura has a short, direct swing that produces hard line drives, but no power, and he's been impatient this year, with just 20 unintentional walks in more than 400 plate appearances. The best-case scenario for Milwaukee is that Segura becomes a solid, average defender at short who can hit .300 because he makes so much contact. He also could add value through 20 to 30 net steals a year.
Hellweg has top-of-the-rotation stuff with bottom-of-the-rotation command. He seemed to have turned a corner in the second half of last year after returning to the rotation but was very wild again for the first 2 1/2 months of this year. He has walked 13 in his past 47 innings with 37 punchouts and continues to get ground balls, although as I said, we've seen this from him before in short stretches. Hellweg will pitch at 95-98 mph with good life and has a hard curveball at 83-84 with huge, almost slider-like tilt, showing a moderate platoon split because his straight, hard changeup remains a below-average pitch. He is listed at 6-foot-9, 210 pounds, and like many taller pitchers, he has had trouble keeping his delivery together. He's a good prospect to acquire, but his ultimate role could be anywhere from No. 2 starter to closer to Brad Pennington redux.
Pena had the worst outing by any pitcher in the history of the Futures Game this year, although that's probably not the ideal way to judge him. He will pitch at 90-94 mph but has touched 97 and has a hard changeup, 82-86 when I saw him start, with a ton of tailing action. His slider also is in the mid-80s but has taken a step back this year. There's potential for a three-pitch, midrotation starter here if he improves his fastball command and can tighten up the breaking ball. In total, it's only marginally less than the Brewers initially gave up for two years of Greinke, but it has a lot more risk, as all three of the prospects involved have fairly low floors.
Scouting Matt Harvey's debut.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
He was casting his curveball early in the game but did throw several sharper ones, all 83-85 mph and when it was on, it was not only tough to hit but a pitch he could also throw for strikes. I've never seen Harvey throw this hard or with a slider this sharp, so he may have just been amped up for his first big league start, but if this is the 'new' Matt Harvey, Mets fans should be even more excited than they were before.
Harvey's delivery, a major weakness of his before his junior year in college, is even cleaner now than it was when he was drafted. He stays over the rubber longer than he did then, still gets out over his front side very well and gets his arm, always quick, into perfect position when his front foot lands. He did lose his arm slot in the sixth inning on Thursday and was no longer able to command the fastball, which the Mets' coaching staff picked up on pretty quickly, letting him face one more right-handed batter before pulling him.
• All-Star Wade Miley pitched for the Diamondbacks, working 90-92 mph and throwing a ton of strikes, concentrating on the lower half of the zone, especially down and away with the fastball. His slider at 81-83 mph was mostly short, but he varied the shape and tried to get it in to right-handed hitters with varying success. His delivery is cross-body, creating deception but generally not good for long-term durability. On Thursday, Mets hitters seemed to have a good plan of attack, diving in to get to the fastball away, and Miley wasn't able to establish himself on the inner half enough to keep them from making contact.
• Mets reliever Josh Edgin was pretty impressive in a short stint, mostly 94-95 mph with a sharp slider that should be a wipeout pitch against left-handed batters.
Arizona Rookie League
• Cincinnati's first-round pick this year, prep right-hander Nick Travieso, made his pro debut on Sunday, throwing one inning against the Cubs. He was 89-93 mph and threw a pair of changeups, not enough for a full evaluation of his stuff; given how other pitchers have fared out here in his debuts, I wouldn't be surprised if he's into the mid-90s in his next few outings. His delivery has some effort to it, and he pronates his pitching arm pretty late, which is probably why many (but not all) scouts thought he'd be a reliever in the end.
• A's right-hander Michael Ynoa, recipient of a $4.25 million signing bonus in 2008, is back and pitching regularly out here, looking more or less as he did before the surgery. Last Saturday, he was 89-93 mph with a slow curveball at 71-74 mph with good depth, showing a loose and very easy delivery and plenty of projection. It began raining during his outing, after which he seemed like he couldn't maintain his grip on the curveball. He's Rule 5 eligible this year, so the A's will have to add him to their 40-man roster to protect him.
• Shortstop Addison Russell has one of the best swings I've seen out here, short to the ball with good hip rotation and some loft in the swing for future power. I didn't see him challenged at shortstop, but his body is in excellent shape, trimmer than he was when I saw him last summer, athletic enough for him to stay at the position, for which he's always had the hands and the quickness.
• The Cubs' first-round pick this year, Albert Almora, made his pro debut this week, showing off a very easy, simple swing of his own, homering on Monday but struggling a little bit with his timing after almost two months away from facing live pitching.
• Chicago's third-rounder, Ryan McNeil, debuted on Tuesday night, working at 89-91 mph in one inning. Sandwich-rounder Paul Blackburn threw that night as well, showing better stuff across the board than he had in his first outing, and his arm looked looser as well.
• Cleveland's second-round pick from last year, Dillon Howard, pitched that night and was very disappointing, working at 87-90 mph, and his arm looked slow or tired. He was substantially better than that as an amateur.
• Finally, Jorge Soler has now homered twice in the AZL, both times with me in the ballpark, one a huge bomb out to left-center that traveled 420-430 feet, the other a hard line drive that landed halfway up the berm at HoHoKam between the left-field fence and the scoreboard. His hands just explode when he swings, but there is some cost, as I've seen him swing under a couple of high fastballs that he's going to have to learn to let pass.
Under-the-radar trade targets.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Yunel Escobar, SS, Toronto Blue Jays
Escobar hasn't hit well for the Blue Jays this year, slumping to just a .250/.299/.342 line that adds up to just a .283 weighted on-base average (wOBA), but he could still be a major upgrade for several teams in the race. His career history suggests that he's got more offense in his bat than he's shown the last few months, as his career line of .285/.357/.393 is actually quite good for a shortstop, and ultimate zone rating (UZR) has rated him as an above-average defender at the position every year since 2008. A strong finish to the year is certainly possible, but even without a huge rebound, Escobar could still represent a vast improvement for both Bay Area teams. The Giants are currently leaning on Brandon Crawford and his .269 wOBA, while the A's have had to suffer through Cliff Pennington's .245 mark.
ZIPS projects that Escobar will be worth +1.2 wins above replacement (WAR) over the remainder of the 2012 season, a full win better than the +0.2 WAR projection for Crawford and a half-win improvement over what the system sees for Pennington down the stretch. He's not just a rental, either, as he's under contract for $5 million in 2013 and then any team acquiring him would hold team options for both 2014 and 2015 at that same $5 million salary, so Escobar could provide both a short-term boost and an answer for the next several seasons at a position that isn't easy to fill. While his reputation in Atlanta wasn't the best, there simply aren't many shortstop options available, and if Escobar hits like he has previously, he could be the bargain of the trade deadline.
Paul Maholm, SP, Chicago Cubs
While all the talk has centered around the Cubs dealing Ryan Dempster and/or Matt Garza, Maholm may actually be the value buy out of the Cubs starters. He doesn't rack up strikeouts like his rotation mates (just 6.02 K/9), but his combination of strikes (2.38 BB/9) and ground balls (50.0 percent GB%) make him a very solid innings-eater. He could be a perfect fit for a team like the White Sox that just need a solid, league-average pitcher at the back of their rotation to stabilize things for the final two months of the season.
Maholm isn't a guy that you want to give the ball to in Game 1 of a playoff series, but he's more than capable of giving a team six quality innings every fifth day and shouldn't require the same kind of commitment in terms of prospects as the more high-profile arms on the market. That makes him a great fit for the White Sox, who don't have many good prospects to trade to begin with, and the club option for 2013 at $6.5 million would give them insurance in case they don't have confidence in John Danks returning to full health. Maholm would be a legitimate improvement over Philip Humber and give Chicago a better shot at keeping pace with Detroit, and Kenny Williams may be better off with Maholm than trying to outbid everyone else for Zack Greinke.
Oliver Perez, RP, Seattle Mariners
Yes, that Oliver Perez. The guy who was last seen walking 42 batters in 46 innings with the New York Mets has resurfaced as a left-handed reliever in Seattle and looks nothing like the guy who earned the scorn of everyone in Queens. His fastball has averaged 93.8 mph this year, up a staggering 5.8 mph from his last season in New York. The average velocity has also brought a newfound ability to throw strikes, as 72 percent of the pitches he's thrown for the Mariners have been strikes -- in 2010, that number was just 56 percent.
His track record means that buyers are going to be wary of paying too high a price to acquire Perez's services, but it's hard to argue that he's the same guy he was earlier in his career. The command might not stick around, but in throwing 94 out of the bullpen from the left side, Perez has a chance to be a real weapon in relief for any contender, and last season the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals both showed how important bullpen depth can be in October. A team like the Braves -- who don't know what to expect from Jonny Venters -- would be a good fit, though in reality, every team in the playoff race should be evaluating Perez before next Tuesday.
Chris Denorfia, OF, San Diego Padres
While the Padres disappointed potential suitors for Carlos Quentin when they re-signed him earlier in the week, there's another outfielder in San Diego who could provide real value as a strong role player and should come at a much lower cost. The highly underrated Denorfia is quietly having a very strong season, hitting .294/.356/.431 while splitting time between all three outfield positions. Like most Padres hitters, his offensive line is being dragged down by the offensive black hole known as Petco Park, as he's hitting a spectacular .330/.375/.491 on the road.
He's not going to hit that well in a new home park, but Denorfia has over 1,100 big league plate appearances and a .331 wOBA that is 10 percent above league average. It's about time that he got a chance to show what he can do with increased playing time. At 31, he's not young enough to be a long-term solution, but he's probably the best fourth outfielder in the game today and could start for a handful of contenders with question marks in the outfield.
Pittsburgh might be an ideal landing spot for Denorfia, as he wouldn't cost them a vital part of their farm system and would give them depth behind newly recalled prospect Starling Marte, allowing them to have a necessary safety net who is already used to serving as a part-time player.
Dave Cameron covers baseball for ESPN Insider. He is the managing editor of FanGraphs, where he has worked since 2008, and has been covering baseball since he founded USSMariner.com in 2003. He has written for The Wall Street Journal since 2009. You can find his ESPN archives here and follow him on Twitter here.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
AM ETStephen Drew | Diamondbacks Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Arizona Diamondbacks joined the deadline sweepstakes Sunday with a deal for Houston's Chris Johnson, but it's not a slam dunk that shortstop Stephen Drew will be shipped out of town.
Ken Rosenthal hears the D-backs brain trust is deciding whether to give the bulk of playing time at short to Drew or Willie Bloomquist. If the nod goes to Bloomquist, then Drew will be traded.
The Oakland Athletics have been linked to Drew as well as Toronto's Yunel Escobar.
Drew's value may have taken a hit after batting just .203 in 23 games since returning from ankle surgery, and the D-backs may be relucant to deal him at a discount.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Arizona Diamondbacks, Stephen Drew
Victorino trade likely
AM ETShane Victorino | Phillies Recommend0Comments0EmailShane Victorino's hours with the Philadelphia Phillies may be numbered. The Phillies have too many trade options for Victorino "to fathom that he'll stay put," tweets ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports voices a similar sentiment, noting the center fielder has joined Ryan Dempster and Jonathan Broxton as "a must-go free agent."
The Dodgers, Reds, Pirates and Giants are among the teams linked to Vitorino, who makes $9.5 million this season and becomes a free agent in a few months. After being swept in a three-game weekend series in Atlanta, the Phils are likey to sell.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Shane Victorino, Philadelphia Phillies
A's eye Escobar, Drew
AM ETYunel Escobar | Blue Jays Recommend4Comments0EmailThe Oakland Athletics had strong interest in Hanley Ramirez before the Miami Marlins shipped the infielder to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a blockbuster deal. The A's have moved on and appear to have set their sights on Yunel Escobar.
Susan Slusser reported Thursdau that Escobar remains an option for the A's, adding the Jays are believed to have strong interest in pitcher Brett Anderson.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports Monday the A's are searching for a shortstop and their top choices are Escobar and Arizona's Stephen Drew.
The Jays could be willing to deal Escobar given they have highly-touted Cuban prospect Adeiny Hechavarria waiting in the wings. Escobar is under contract through 2013 with club options for both 2014 and 2015 at affordable rates.
FanGraphs' Dave Cameron breaks down how Escobar would help the A's (or the other Bay Area club):
- Doug Mittler
Escobar would give A's a lift
"His career history suggests that he's got more offense in his bat than he's shown the last few months, as his career line of .285/.357/.393 is actually quite good for a shortstop, and ultimate zone rating (UZR) has rated him as an above-average defender at the position every year since 2008. A strong finish to the year is certainly possible, but even without a huge rebound, Escobar could still represent a vast improvement for both Bay Area teams. The Giants are currently leaning on Brandon Crawford and his .269 wOBA, while the A's have had to suffer through Cliff Pennington's .245 mark." - Dave Cameron
Tags:Arizona Diamondbacks, Stephen Drew, Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland Athletics, Yunel Escobar
Padres hesitant on Headley?
AM ETChase Headley | Padres Recommend0Comments0EmailThe San Diego Padres were expected to shop Carlos Quentin and Huston Street, but instead worked out extensions with the two core players. Could Chase Headley remain at Petco Park as well?
The Padres may be growing leery of dealing Headley, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Headley was linked to the Yankees after Alex Rodriguez broke a bone in his hand that will sideline him for six to eight weeks.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports the Padres expect to decide Monday whether to deal Headley, who carries a high price since he is under club control for two more seasons.
ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney, who reported last week the asking price for Headley is a significant package of prospects, also tweeted that the A's are among those interested in Headley.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Chase Headley, San Diego Padres
Rangers looking for a reliever?
AM ETTexas Rangers Recommend0Comments0EmailWe've been saying for the past week that the Texas Rangers are in the market for an elite pitcher, but their options have dwindled after Cole Hamels re-signed with the Phillies and the Brewers traded Zack Greinke to the Angels.
The need to add a starter increased even more with word that Neftali Feliz was scratched from Sunday's rehab start for Triple-A Round Rock because of discomfort in his right elbow.
But with the hours ticking down toward the deadline, the Rangers may have interest in adding a reliever, which would allow them to put Alexi Ogando into the rotation, reports Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. That could put the Rangers in the market for a reliever such as Kansas City's Jonathan Broxton and Tampa Bay's Wade Davis.
As for a starter, the Rangers could hold out hope that the Phillies are willing to trade Cliff Lee, who thoroughly enjoyed his time with the Rangers in 2010.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Cliff Lee, Wade Davis, Jonathan Broxton, Texas Rangers
Reds looking at Pierre
AM ETJuan Pierre | Phillies Recommend0Comments1EmailThe Cincinnati Reds are the hottest team in baseball - even without the injured Joey Votto - extending their winning streak to 10 games Sunday in Colorado. That doesn't mean they will stand pat by Tuesday.
The Reds, looking to add a lefthanded bat, are interested in the Phillies' Juan Pierre, says Jim Salisbury.
The names of Shane Victorino and Denard Span also have been linked to Cincinnati, but Pierre, whose base salary is a mere $800,000, would come at a more reasonable price tag. Our Buster Olney told ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" on Monday morning that he expects the Phillies to be among the most active teams by the deadline, perhaps increasing the chances of a deal for Pierre.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Juan Pierre, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds
Bucs shopping Correia
AM ETKevin Correia | Pirates Recommend0Comments0EmailWe mentioned last week the Pittsburgh Pirates, having picked up left-hander Wandy Rodriguez from the Houston Astros, were letting clubs know that right-hander Kevin Correia is available.
The odds of a deal may be gaining steam. Correia is unhappy about being demoted to the bullpen and GM Neal Huntington is open to a deal, reports Michael Sanserino in Monday's Post-Gazette. The Pirates are in the market to add a bat and Correia could be adequate bait.
Correia is owed just over $1 million for the rest of the season and will be a free agent at season's end. The Dodgers could have interest if they are unable to complete a deal for Ryan Dempster.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Kevin Correia, Pittsburgh Pirates
Could Pence land in SFO?
AM ETHunter Pence | Phillies Recommend1Comments0EmailThere was some buzz late Sunday night that Hunter Pence was on his way from Philadelphia to San Francisco, with KPIX-TV reporting a deal was in place, pending ownership approval.
The report was quickly shut down, with Giants VP Bobby Evans telling Andrew Baggarly there was no truth to the rumor. Others chimed in with similar reports that disputed any deal.
That doesn't completely eliminate the chance of a deal. The Giants are believed to be interested in Pence if he is available, tweeted Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com over the weekend.
Jim Salisbury wrote Sunday that Pence could be traded, but GM Ruben Amaro would have to be "blown away" by any offer.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, Hunter Pence
Deal for Choo unlikely
AM ETShin-Soo Choo | Indians Recommend0Comments0EmailUPDATE: Buster Olney tweets that a deal for Choo is unlikely. "They'd need the perfect offer to make it happen," Olney says.
The Cleveland Indians have now lost three straight games and may be leaning toward selling over the next few days after fading to 5 1/2 games back in the American League Central and five full games back in the Wildcard race with six teams to catch. One of the club's most sought after pieces is right fielder Shin-Soo Choo.
Choo, who will hit arbitration one more time this offseason before being free-agent eligible after 2013, is likely to be drawing interest from several clubs, including those that are out of the race, such as the Seattle Mariners or New York Mets. Those most interested this month, however, are likely to include contenders such as the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and perhaps the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals.
Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com says the Pirates have expressed interest in Choo.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com tweets Sunday evening that the Indians want a good major leaguer not yet eligible for arbitration. If they stick to their guns on that, Choo may be more likely to stay in Cleveland beyond Tuesdays deadline.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants
Hairston happy in Queens
AM ETScott Hairston | Mets Recommend0Comments0EmailThe New York Mets would seem to have a valuable trading chip in outfielder Scott Hairston, who is hitting .315 (39-for-124) with nine homers and 26 RBIs against left-handed pitching this season after collecting two hits against Arizona's Joe Saunders on Sunday.
While plenty of teams are interested, those clubs have offered nothing better than marginal prospects in return, says Andy Martino. Hairston could a nice fit in Pittsburgh, which is looking to add a bat at an affortable price.
Hairston is making only $1.1 million before being eligible for free agency again this offseason. After Sunday's game, Hairston tells Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com he would be happy to remain a Met.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Scott Hairston, New York Mets
Masterson being shopped
AM ETJustin Masterson | Indians Recommend0Comments0EmailAfter being swept by the Twins in a three-game series, the fading Cleveland Indians are willing to deal Opening Day starter Justin Masterston, reports Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com.
Knobler says the Red Sox and Rangers had scouts watching Masterson Saturday in Minnesota, where the righthander did little to enhance his value, allowing eight runs and 10 hits in 5 2.3 innings.
The Cardinals and Orioles also could be interested in Masterson.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Cleveland Indians, Justin Masterson, Boston Red Sox
Sox trying to dump Beckett?
AM ETJosh Beckett | Red Sox Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Boston Red Sox may be looking to unload former ace Josh Beckett
One executive tells Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com the Red Sox are looking to "dump" the righthander, but doubts any team would touch the righthander without a deep discount.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. tweeted Sunday the Sox have called the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves about Beckett.
Beckett, who hasn't been the top-of-the-rotation starter he once was in at least a few years, is owed more than $37 million over the next two years and two months and it's believed the club would have to eat a portion of it to move him.
Passan adds, also via Twitter, that the Dodgers could have interest in Beckett, though the Bostonians have yet to reach out to their cross-country brethren.
Beckett is a Texas native and has full no-trade rights due to his 10-5 status, hence the inclusion of his home state team in the Rangers.
Stay tuned on this front, because it appears the Red Sox are determined to move Beckett if it's possible, and if they chip in enough cash, even clubs such as the St. Louis Cardinals and Baltimore Orioles could show interest.
- Doug Mittler and Jason A. Churchill
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
But cracks in that relentless offensive attack have appeared this season, which goes a long way to explain why Texas has built a moat around its two top position-player prospects, Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt.
The days when the Rangers will need offensive help -- when Profar is perhaps the shortstop and Olt is manning first base or right field -- is probably not as far as we realize.
Josh Hamilton's slump has been well-documented, and noted by team president Nolan Ryan, a slide that only complicates the Rangers' decision about how much -- and how many years -- to offer Hamilton if and when he reaches free agency. Hamilton is swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone than ever, and he's missing more than ever, as these numbers from FanGraphs show.
Mike Napoli's batting average is down 93 points; his OPS has dropped more than 250 points. His contract talks with the Rangers were among those greatly impacted by the Yadier Molina deal, and so there's no guarantee that he'll be back next year or that he'll hit the rest of this season.
Nelson Cruz won't be a free agent until after next year, but he is extraordinarily streaky. He was the most dangerous hitter in the Texas lineup for a stretch in the postseason last year, and this year he went more than a month with a home run. And Cruz is 32 years old.
Michael Young is 35 years old and perhaps the most popular player in Rangers history other than Ryan. His batting average this year is 34 points below his career average, and his on-base percentage is down 82 points. What will he provide in August and September and October and next year in the final year of his contract? It's uncertain.
The 30-year-old Ian Kinsler is among the youngest regulars in the Texas lineup, and he is signed through 2017. But there has been a decline in his performance, as well.
Maybe Kinsler will bounce back. Maybe Hamilton and Nelson and Napoli will. Maybe Young will have a resurgence.
But the Rangers' front office must plan for the possibility that they need to turn over a significant part of their lineup in the next calendar year, and Profar and Olt are the best internal options.
It didn't feel good for the Rangers to see Zack Greinke go to the Los Angeles Angels, and while Texas could really use an upgrade in its rotation -- especially with the chronically underrated Colby Lewis out of action -- the deadline might pass without the team adding a starting pitcher.
Within two years, Profar and Olt might serve as backbone pieces in the Texas lineup, and while the desire to get the last strike in the last inning of the World Series burns within everyone in the Rangers' organization, hanging onto those two was prudent and the best-possible big-picture decision.
The Rangers had been willing to talk about Leonys Martin in a trade proposal for Josh Johnson, but they are said to have backed off after Johnson's erratic outing Sunday.
The Rangers are among the teams talking about Rafael Betancourt.
Other trade stuff
1. It would be a shocker if the San Francisco Giants didn't add an outfielder between now and the trade deadline.
2. The Boston Red Sox are very unlikely to trade Josh Beckett, given the $36.5 million owed to him through the end of the 2014 season.
3. The Cleveland Indians don't think they'll end up trading Shin-Soo Choo, given their high asking price. Here's more from Paul Hoynes.
4. The Philadelphia Phillies are expected to be the most active team in the next 30 hours. It's time for the Phillies to focus on 2013, writes David Murphy.
5. Kevin Correia may be traded.
6. Kenny Williams is going to add more.
7. The Minnesota Twins are likely to focus on 2014, writes Charley Walters.
8. Ryan Dempster's trade saga is all about time.
9. Joe Maddon thinks the Tampa Bay Rays will stand pat.
10. The Astros keep getting younger.
11. Kevin Towers is looking for a pitcher.
12. The San Diego Padres signed pitcher Huston Street.
Dings and dents
1. Brian Roberts is having surgery.
2. Andy Pettitte is on schedule to come back in September.
3. Rafael Furcal is hurting.
4. Logan Morrison could miss the rest of the year.
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Phillies fans? Pro? Anyone?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
So, acquiring an impact player makes sense given the Angels position in the standings and their desire to win in the short term, but in looking at the specifics of the Angels roster, I wonder if they won’t realize a smaller improvement than one might expect from a team acquiring a top flight starter.
Before the trade, the Angels rotation consisted of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, and Garrett Richards, with Jerome Williams serving as a sixth starter and insurance for the first five. Greinke’s acquisition pushed Richards to the bullpen for this week’s series against the Rangers, but if Santana has another disaster start, he could be the one losing his job. Neither Richards or Santana have pitched particularly well this year, so replacing either with Greinke is a legitimate upgrade.
But, to be honest, the Angels could have already replaced either Santana or Richards if they didn’t perform all that well down the stretch. While Jerome Williams required a DL trip with “breathing issues” that he related to asthma and anxiety, he’s pitched pretty well since returning and has been a pretty effective starter for the Angels over the last year. Dating back to the beginning of August last year, Williams has thrown 145 innings with a 4.29 ERA/4.23 FIP/4.06 xFIP, a perfectly acceptable performance from a back-end starter. He doesn’t do anything amazingly well, but he’s solid across the board, and the Angels simply could have used him to replace Santana or Richards if they felt that was necessary.
Of course, Williams could have only replaced either Santana or Richards, so Greinke is still taking the place of the other, which means that they will have a much better pitcher on the hill once every five days than if they had stood pat. Using the ZIPS rest-of-season projections, we see that Greinke’s expected ERA over the final two months of the season is 3.28, while Santana comes in at 4.83 and Richards at 5.79. Even adjusting that for the move to the American League, a 1.0 to 1.5 run gap on a per-nine-inning basis can really add up, even over a period as short as two months.
Greinke will likely make 12 starts for the Angels in August and September, and he averages about six innings per start, so you can pencil him for around 70-75 innings going forward. At a 3.50 or so ERA level, he’d allow 27-29 runs in those innings. If we assume that the Santana/Richards hybrid would combine for a 5.00 ERA, that would equal 39-42 runs, so Greinke looks like about a +10 to +15 run improvement in the regular season. In other words, this move adds around a win to the Angels expected ledger, and if Greinke pitches really well, maybe even as many as two wins. That’s about as large of an upgrade as you expect to get at the deadline.
However, that’s the regular season. The Angels clearly acquired Greinke with the intention of playing in October and putting a devastating playoff rotation together that could carry them deep into the playoffs. With Weaver, Wilson, Haren, and Greinke, the Angels certainly have the best rotation of any AL contender, and perhaps the best rotation of any club fighting for a postseason berth in either league. Here, though, is where the significance of this upgrade seems to be diminished.
In the best-of-five Division series, only the Game One starter is asked to take the ball twice, and even in the best-of-seven League Championship Series and World Series, the team’s #4 starter only makes one start no matter how long the series goes. In fact, a #4 starter in the playoffs is effectively marginalized by the schedule to the point that it’s one of the least important positions on a playoff roster. And this is the position that Greinke effectively upgrades in October.
This acquisition essentially pushes Dan Haren into that #4 spot, meaning he’ll get just one start in each playoff series, while Weaver/Wilson/Greinke will be lined up to potentially make two starts each if the LCS/WS go seven games. But, while Greinke’s a good pitcher, the upgrade over Haren is much smaller than the upgrade over Santana/Richards. In fact, due to the playoff schedule, the impact of the #4 starter is fairly heavily marginalized. While Haren has struggled this year, pushing him into a lesser role for October isn’t nearly as impactful as pushing a poor player off the roster entirely.
While Greinke is likely to help the Angels make a push for the AL West, they probably could have gotten by in October with either Williams or a lower cost trade acquisition (such as Paul Maholm) in the #4 spot. Given who they already had in the rotation, the Angels probably needed Greinke less than just about any other contender.
That doesn’t mean this deal wasn’t worth doing, however. They still gain significant value from their increased odds of winning the division, especially since they also kept him from going to Texas by acquiring him themselves. And, reports suggest that Greinke had Anaheim high on his list of potential suitors, so they may end up getting him signed before he even gets to free agency, and perhaps at a price that helps justify the price they paid to acquire him. Given the Angels situation, trading future talent for present talent makes sense, and this was probably a good deal for the franchise as a whole. However, given that they already had three pretty good starting pitchers, I don’t know that this deal is going to do that much to improve their chances of going deep in the playoffs.
Houston Finds Value in Return for Replaceable Part.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The approach being utilized by Houston is an excellent one. The organization does not have highly-sought-after commodities to trade (Carlos Lee, Brandon Lyon, Wandy Rodriguez, Johnson) so they’re seeking former highly-regarded prospects that have fallen in value but remain promising.
From Arizona, Houston acquired two outfielders that were taken within the first 64 picks of the 2009 amateur draft: Bobby Borchering (16th overall) and Marc Krauss (64th). Neither player is a sure-fire big league regular but both should see time with the Astros and the 27-year-old Johnson is not a regular third baseman; he didn’t play the hot corner, he played a lukewarm corner.
Borchering, 21, was selected out of a Florida high school with a lot of potential but he’s struggled to make contact and handle breaking balls. The third baseman-turned-outfielder has struck out less than 27% in a season just once in his four-year career but he continues to show impressive raw power.
Houston won’t have to add Borchering to the 40-man roster until after the 2013 season and will then have three option years to burn through. That will give the organization plenty of time to try and work with him and tap into his potential. He’ll be more of a priority prospect for the Astros than he was with the Diamondbacks so the added attention could pay off. I ranked him as Arizona’s seventh best prospect entering 2012 after having him in the sixth slot the year prior.
Krauss did not make Arizona’s Top 15 prospect list in 2012 but he was the No. 5 prospect prior to ’11 after a strong Arizona Fall League showing. The University of Ohio alum disappeared in ’11, though, and was forced to repeat the level in 2012. He’s done well, raising his wRC+ from 109 to 159 and should move up to triple-A immediately with the Houston organization.
He possesses almost zero defensive value and is limited to left field. Krauss, though, could carve out a nice MLB career as a part-time player and powerful left-handed bat off the bench; his OPS against right-handed pitchers in 2012 is .944. Overall, Krauss’ isolated slugging rate is at .225 and he off-sets his +20% strikeout rate with a high walk rate (16.9% in AA). The 24-year-old prospect should be ready for his first taste of the Majors within the next year.
The Houston Astros organization had an outstanding run of contention from 1994 to 2006 and it’s going to be a few ugly years in Texas. But the good news is that Luhnow and his front office crew, along with new owner Jim Crane, are trying to build a team that will have sustainable success for another long stretch of time. The organization was picked over and left for the buzzards when previous owner Drayton McLane Jr. entrusted the organization to former General Manager Ed Wade who neglected the minor league system and thumbed his nose at the amateur draft.
Fans seem to still have faith in the Astros. In the midst of one of the worst losing stretches in the history of the organization, and with the smoke from the fire sale fully visible from space, the club still managed to draw more than 34,000 fans to the game on Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Their loyalty will be tested over the next few years but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Third-Place Diamondbacks Buy Chris Johnson.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
But, given the fact that the wild card slots are not full playoff spots, maybe it was a little silly for the team to buy Chris Johnson from the Astros today. For the team to give up two legitimate prospects for Johnson, they must see him as a longer-term solution at the position.
Third base has been a problem for Arizona since Mark Reynolds left town. Ryan Roberts was great for them last season, but that kind of a break-out season at the age of 30 isn’t usually sustainable, and it turned out the power was a bit of a mirage. Without that power, league-average offense was probably out of reach, and third base isn’t normally a position you can hold on to with your glove. So the Diamondbacks shipped Roberts to Tampa Bay.
Then the team looked inward for a solution at third base. Their top prospects actually provided them a few options. They called up Ryan Wheeler, who might have been a first baseman faking it at third but was also ripping up Triple-A to the tune of a .351/.388/.572 line. But the defense is a question, and the power hasn’t always been as nice as he’s shown so far this year. Behind Wheeler, the team had two prospects coming up at the position in Bobby Borchering and Matt Davidson. Davidson just hit Double-A and could probably cut the strikeouts a little more — but is finally showing the power they wanted from him. Borchering has shown more power, but way more strikeouts and also less glove.
Now Borchering is gone, included in a trade for Chris Johnson. Included in the deal was also Marc Krauss, and the short prognosis for both players is that they have a few questions with regards to contact, and neither has the glove or the legs to play a premier defensive position. So they’ll have to really hit to make it as corner outfielders. Maybe one will, and the Astros had no reason not to take that bet.
Well, if you believe Johnson can maintain a batting average on balls in play around .350, then maybe they had a reason to not take the bet. The two seasons in which Johnson has shown a BABIP that high, he’s been better than league average with the bat. In those seasons, his problems on defense have taken a back seat, his power has been just enough, and he has shown the potential to be an under-control, league-average, two-win player on the infield.
When Johnson had a lower BABIP last season (.317), though, he looked every bit the below-replacement player that he was. He didn’t walk, he struck out too much, he didn’t show league-average power, and his glove was bad. That Chris Johnson is not worth two lottery tickets in the corner outfield.
Given their place in the standings and the possible trap of going after the wild card, it seems significant that Johnson is under team control until 2016. If Wheeler doesn’t shore up the glove, or Davidson doesn’t continue to show good power, then the Diamondbacks have a Guy at the position to hold down the fort. If those two do prove they need to be in the major leagues, Chris Johnson won’t keep them down. It’s a minor buy-now move with some positive depth implications for the future.
The Diamondbacks better hope neither Krauss nor Borchering make it, though — if they do, and Johnson’s BABIP drops back down to league-average levels, this trade will look terrible for them.
White Sox Acquire Liriano For Stretch Run.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Greinke would have solidified the White Sox hold on the division by giving them another top starter to go along with Chris Sale and Jake Peavy.
Williams was so entrenched in Greinke trade talks that he even searched for a third team to get involved after it became clear that his farm system wouldn’t get the job done. No deal was struck and Greinke was dealt to the Angels. The White Sox weren’t done shopping and turned their attention to a starter they have seen quite a bit over the past several seasons: Francisco Liriano. Williams acquired the 28-year-old on Saturday from the division-rival Minnesota Twins for prospects Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Hernandez. The White Sox didn’t deal away all that much, so even if Liriano is nothing more than a two-month rental, the move was well worth it based on what he could provide the rest of the season.
Liriano is a free-agent after the season and has modest salary requirements the rest of the way. He also won’t net the White Sox any compensation picks, given the rules set forth in the new collective bargaining agreement.
But he does upgrade the White Sox rotation, especially in the context of injuries: Gavin Floyd has battled tendinitis and John Danks remains on the disabled list. And if Liriano continues to pitch the way he has after getting put back into the rotation, this could look like even more of a deadline steal.
Liriano’s season can be broken down into different segments, as he pitched atrociously in the rotation to start the season, was relegated to bullpen duty from May 14 to May 25, and re-joined the rotation on May 30. While the breakdown below could certainly be viewed as fun with arbitrary endpoints, Liriano has pitched very well in the past two months. Still, he was so bad at the season’s beginning that his overall statistical line still causes concern.
4/7 – 5/7: 6 GS, 26.2 IP, 9.45 ERA, 19 BB, 21 K
5/14 – 5/25: 6 GP, 7.1 IP, 4.91 ERA, 7 BB, 9 K
5/30 – 7/23: 11 GS, 66.0 IP, 3.68 ERA, 29 BB, 79 K
Liriano allowed seven runs over 2.2 innings in his most recent start against the White Sox, but prior to that outing, Liriano had a 2.84 ERA and a 77/28 K/BB ratio across 10 starts since rejoining the rotation. He has simply been a different pitcher lately. He produced 1.2 WAR in June and July, compared to his -0.2 tally from April and May. ZiPS is still heavily influenced by his terrible start to the season — and perhaps rightfully so — but Liriano’s terrific improvement over the past two months shouldn’t be ignored.
While the kneejerk reaction is to assume that pitching coach Don Cooper will fix Liriano like he has so many other starters, it’s quite possible that he doesn’t need much fixing. Based on his recent performance, Liriano seems to have corrected his early problems — and he’s well on his way toward reducing the erratic aspects of his starts while sustaining a higher strikeout rate.
The White Sox rotation will now feature Sale, Peavy, Liriano, Jose Quintana and Floyd. When Danks returns, Quintana is probably the odd man out, and he has pitched well over his first 13 appearances. Acquiring Liriano helps in many ways, in part because his acquisition bolsters depth when everyone is healthy and could potentially allow the White Sox to shop other pitchers at the trade or waiver deadlines.
But based solely on swapping two essential non-prospects for a high-strikeout lefty who has thrown much better recently, this deal has the potential to provide the White Sox with a great deal of value.
Greinke would have basically guaranteed that the White Sox got an ace-level performance over the rest of the season. Liriano could pitch to a very similar level if his June-July improvement is legitimate, and he costs a great deal less. He carries far more risk than Greinke, but Liriano isn’t a bad consolation prize. The White Sox just got better in an area of need and the team gave up next to nothing to make it happen.
Zack Greinke in His New Home.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Was it a “good” trade? Well, the Brewers are not going anywhere, and Greinke is going to be a free agent who will be expecting a big payday, especially with Cole Hamels now off of the market. The Angels gave up some decent prospects (even if none of them looks likely to be a future superstar), but they are obviously built to win right now. If the standings remain the same (which is a big “if,” even for a good team like the Angels), Los Angeles will be in the playoffs. Greinke gives them even more gas in the rotation. What all this means for the “fairness” of the trade is something for others to sort out. I want to briefly take a look at how Greinke might fit in in the Anaheim and how imposing the Angels’ rotation looks for the playoffs.
On Friday I posted that 2009 was a long time ago. Greinke’s 2009 AL Cy Young campaign was an incredible year, but it was obvious even at the time that it was a career year. Of course, regressing from a nine-win season still leaves plenty of room to be awesome. While Greinke’s 2010 in Kansas City was relatively disappointing, and his ERA has never quiet matched his FIP, he still projects as an excellent pitcher. ZiPS projects his true talent ERA to be around 3 as of this writing (late Friday night/Saturday morning), with a projected FIP of 2.63. The only starter in the majors with a better ZiPS projected FIP as of this writing is Stephen Strasburg. So, yeah, Greinke is pretty good.
In the past, Greinke has had occasional problems with the longball, even if he has increased his ground ball tendency over the last few seasons. Park factors are difficult to compare between leagues, but they can still tell us something. While both the Brewers’ and Angels’ home parks both slightly favor pitchers compared to league average, their component profiles are different. The relevant difference here is that Miller Park inflates home run rates by about six percent compared to the average (the “103″ listed in the table is already adjusted to account for the team playing half of it games away from home), and Angels Stadium deflates them by about six percent. That should help Greinke with the dingers.
I will leave aside commenting on having Mike Trout rather than Ryan Braun playing left field. It should be said that Greinke will also face some challenge moving back to the American League — even aside from the AL’s overall superior talent level, not getting able to pitch to pitchers any more will probably hurt him a bit, so the shift is not all rosy for him.
While I am not one to place too much emphasis on the impact one player can reasonably be projected to have on a team in the playoffs, putting Greinke alongside the rest of the Angels’ rotation pretty clearly makes it the best one going forward. That assumes they make it in, of course, and there is still plenty of time for someone to go on the DL. But adding yet another “ace”-level pitcher means that the Angels are now much better equipped to deal with an injury to one of their starters if that should happen.
Even if one excludes Haren because of his performance and injuries this season, this trade arguably gives Los Angeles three ace-level pitchers. While neither Jered Weaver‘s nor C.J. Wilson‘s projections see them as being as good as their 2012 performance to date, adding Zack Greinke to a rotation already having two pitchers with ERAs under three is pretty nice. Even with Haren’s problems, when he is the team’s number four, that is a heck of a rotation, quite likely the best in the American League at the moment.
Of course, the Phillies never made the World series with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels all in the rotation, so, yes, we have to remember that the playoffs are a very much a game of chance. If one thinks about that at length, one might wonder whether this trade is really worth it for the Angels if they are going to go to the playoffs anyway. However, they are not in yet and injuries (especially to pitchers) are always lurking. And finally, once again: the Angels did not exactly hide their desire to win big and win now during their off-season spending spree. In for a dime, in for a dollar.
Zack Greinke’s Strange Brew: Prospect Package.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Segura, 22, was recently promoted to the majors for the first time in his pro career and was one of the Angels’ top prospects — if not their best, with the graduation of MVP candidate Mike Trout — but the system is also among the bottom 10 in baseball (and now possibly is one of the five worst). Milwaukee — another bottom-feeder, in terms of their minor league system — moves up a couple of slots with this deal that also included Double-A pitchers John Hellweg and Ariel Pena.
I won’t dwell too long on Segura because I wrote about him earlier this week when the Angels recalled him. The infielder played decent ball in Double-A (114 wRC+) prior to his promotion after missing a good portion of 2011 due to injury. His game is tied around his speed, but he also hits for a decent average and has suprising gap power for his size.
He played a lot of shortstop this year but is probably a long-term second baseman where his play is above-average, as opposed to his average defense at his current position. Even if he struggles a bit during his rookie year, Segura should be a significant upgrade over Cesar Izturis and Cody Ransom (both of whom are filling in for the injured Alex Gonzalez who is on the 60-day DL and a free agent at the end of the year).
I ranked Segura as the fourth-best Angels prospect entering 2012 in part because he was coming off an injury and also because he had played little shortstop at that time. His value has increased since that time when he snuck onto the back end of my Top 100 prospects list at No. 91.
Hellweg is the second most value prospect obtained in the deal. The right-handed hurler stands 6’9” and has the high heat to match – pitching in the mid-to-upper 90s. He also shows a wipeout slider at times. Hellweg has done a much better job of inducing ground-ball outs during his past two seasons after being more of a fly-ball pitcher earlier in his career. The knock on the 22-year-old is his lack of command and control. He struggles to spot his fastball and he’s also wild at times; he’s walked 60 batters in 119 innings so far this year.
Hellweg is still a long way away from realizing his full potential and he needs to develop his changeup if he wants to realize his ceiling of a No. 2 starter. At worst, though, he possesses intrigue as a high-leverage reliever with his dynamic combination of the fastball and slider. Prior to the 2012 season, I ranked Hellweg as the Angels’ sixth-best prospect. He instantly becomes one of the Brewers’ best pitching prospects.
The third player in the deal — and someone who I left off the Angels’ pre-season Top 15 prospect list — is Pena. I’m definitely not as high on him as some prospect analysts. I see him as more of a seventh- or eighth-inning reliever with the potential to spend a little time at the back end of a big-league starting rotation.
The 23-year-old Dominican has a decent fastball that sits between 91 mph and 94 mph, and his slider flashes plus potential at times but is inconsistent. His changeup is rarely used. He has a nifty 2.99 ERA in 114.1 innings but his FIP is a full run higher. His control has been a big issue in the past but Pena’s walk rate has dropped more than one per nine innings in the past year in High-A ball.
Greinke is a free-agent-to-be at the end of the year, but it’s said that the Los Angeles Angels were one of his preferred destinations so the club may have a good shot at signing him at the end of the season (if they have the finances to do it). If he becomes a long-term Angel then this was a fair package. If the club ends up losing him, they will have given up quite a bit for a short-term rental.
If you’re an Angels fan, though, you probably really like the deal; I don’t think the team gave away a player who’s going to end up being a future all-star, although Segura could surprise me.
Matt Harvey’s Dazzling Debut.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Harvey started the season slow, allowing 12 runs in his first three starts, and never making it past the fifth inning. He did manage to strike out nine batters in those first 13 innings, but he also walked eight. In his fourth start though, he announced his presence, with the first of his three 10-strikeout games for Buffalo, as he set down 10 across six innings. Starting with that outing, and ending with his start on July 16th, the Connecticut native compiled a 2.74 ERA and struck out 97 batters in 92 innings. In those 16 starts, he never allowed more than four runs, and he only did that once. Then, on Saturday, he got knocked around a little bit, allowing six runs in five innings. But rather than taking a hard line with their prized prospect — Harvey was ranked 26th by FanGraphs’ Marc Hulet before the season, and he moved up to 22nd in the midseason rankings — they rewarded him. Sure, Harvey wasn’t his sharpest in his last Triple-A outing, but Mets manager Terry Collins and Triple-A manager Wally Backman basically admitted that Harvey was bored. And after last night’s start, it’s no wonder that he was.
Last night, the opposing Diamondbacks started what was basically a normal lineup — Gerardo Parra played center instead of Chris Young, but it’s not like Parra is a stranger to regular duty. Also, Ryan Wheeler started at third base, but with Ryan Roberts no longer with the team, that position is currently in a state of flux. Other than that, it was all the regulars. And while Arizona is one of the more strikeout-prone teams in the majors, the game was also in their ballpark, where they score on average, the second-most runs in the National League. And Arizona has been hot too. Before being held in check by Jeff Francis and the Rockies on Wednesday, the Diamondbacks had scored six or more runs in seven straight games, five of which came at Chase Field. So for Harvey to go out and dominate such a lineup was more impressive than normal, especially for his major league debut.
Not only was the start impressive because of the trying environment, but also because of how he pitched. This wasn’t just rare back and fire. While Harvey did have excellent velocity, he showed that his breaking pitches can be weapons as well. Four of his 11 strikeouts — two curves, two sliders — came on breaking pitches, and all four were swinging strikeouts. He also spread the love around, as he struck out six of the starting position players, with Parra and Justin Upton striking out twice and Paul Goldschmidt striking out three times. Goldschmidt was the only player who struck out looking, everyone else went down swinging. And while strikeout totals are often inflated by the opposing pitcher, Wade Miley was only victimized once on the evening. In all, Harvey struck out at least one batter in all six innings he worked.
Of course, it wasn’t a perfect outing. As Marc Hulet noted yesterday, walks have always been an issue for Harvey, and when he walked two of the first three batters in the sixth, he was pulled quickly. He will have to keep working on that aspect of his game, but obviously the early returns were overwhelmingly positive.
The long-term outlook for the Mets’ rotation is just as positive. Assuming Dillon Gee is recovered in time for the 2013 season, New York’s opening-day rotation could feature five pitchers capable of posting sub-4.00 FIPs. Actually, if Jonathon Niese’s home-run rate deflates as it should, sub-4.00 might be conservative. In R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana, Gee, Niese and Harvey, the Mets have five guys who can rack up the strikeouts and put their team in a position to win on a regular basis. Harvey’s start last night only tied for the 20th-best Mets start of the season by game score (70).
Last season, when the Mets acquired Zack Wheeler, he was looked upon as the potential savior of the team’s rotation. Fast forward 12 months, and you can envision a scenario where the Mets may have to trade someone — likely Santana if they ate enough of his contract — just to find Wheeler a spot in the rotation. Matt Harvey has only thrown 5 1/3 innings in a big league uniform, so we should count those chickens for a little while longer before we let them hatch, but after such a dazzling debut, Mets fans can be forgiven if they are starting to dream big.
2009 Was a Million Years Ago.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
That is all a prelude to saying that 2009 “feels” pretty recent to me. I am not sure why. Maybe because when I first started blogging (for the dearly-departed SB Nation site Driveline Mechanics) around that time. “Pretty recent” is itself a vague description — it is not “objectively” a correct or incorrect description. But it really has been a while since 2009. It was three birthdays ago. Looking at the changing perceptions of particualr baseball players is one way of measuring how much time has passed. Without giving a full recap of the year, here are a few things from 2009 that drove home the reality that, in fact, 2009 was a “million” years ago.
* Back in 2009, Grady Sizemore played only 106 games, and hit for a disappointing .343 wOBA. It seemed like simply a down year for a young player (who was only 26 at the start of the 2009 season) who had been one of the most valuable players in baseball the previous four seasons. Three years and numerous DL stints later, Cleveland would be thrilled to get a .343 wOBA and 106 games from Sizemore, or that sort of offense from any other outfielder not named Shin-Soo Choo, for that matter.
* Back in 2009, Jason Bay had his first full season with the Red Sox and was one of their better hitters on the way to the playoffs. Matt Holliday had his first major-league season in which Coors was not his home field, and while he “struggled” (relative to his past performances, and in a small sample) a bit in Oakland, he hit well after a trade to St. Louis, with whom he had a memorable playoff gaffe in the field. Both left fielders were free agents after the season, and back in 2009, there was actually a fair bit of discussion about who was better. In 2012, the debate has, shall we say, died down a bit.
* Back in 2009, Joe Mauer did his usual thing — walked more than he struck out, hit for a good average, and was a solid defensive catcher. Oh, his ISO also rose from .123 the previous season to .222 as he hit 28 home runs (his previous single-season high had been 13), he hit 43 doubles, and by “good average” I mean “he hit .365.” Yeah, it’s just batting average, but .365 is insane, especially given how non-empty it was. Mauer had been a tremendous player before that, but the added power and his age (26) made it seem like he really had reached a new level. A catcher who his for average, walked, and had very good power? It really didn’t bother people (other than maybe me) that Mauer got the MVP award that should have gone to Zack Greinke.
In 2012, Mauer is still an excellent hitter. However, after 2009, not only did his batting average regress to previous levels (which most expected), but the power did, too. Moreover, injury problems have pushed Mauer to pretty much being a half-time catcher. You may also have noticed fewer “boy, Mauer staying in Minnesota sure is great for baseball” columns recently. This is not to deny that Mauer is very valuable. But we have come a great distance in our perception of Mauer since 2009.
* Back in 2009, Tim Lincecum completed his second straight National League Cy Young campaign, and looked poised to dominate for years to come. His 2012 season obviously is much worse than his 2010 or 2011 seasons, and it is far to soon to say “Lincecum was great, not he is terrible,” the 2009 Lincecum seem eons ago, doesn’t it? Whatever we expect from his going forward, I doubt many see him as ever being the same pitcher he was only (or is it “only?”) three seasons ago.
* Back in 2009, Paul Konerko looked like he was nearing the end of a nice career — there just isn’t much of a place for an incredibly slow and unathletic first baseman who hits .240/.344/.438. In 2012, Konerko is working on his third straight year of awesome hitting, easily the three best offensive seasons of his career. The three-year contract he signed after 2010 now seems like a bargain.
* Back in 2009, A.J. Burnett was a key part of a playoff team, and while he was not dominating, he was very good. In 2012, A.J. Burnett is… uh…
Well, maybe the real lesson here is “the more things change…”
That is just a small sample (sorry), I’m sure others have their own signposts for measuring the existenial passage of time in baseball fandom. Maybe this was boring for everyone else, but it was something of a cathartic exercise for me. Hey, I didn’t even mention the greatest off-season in the history of whatever. I must be growing.
Breakout Impossible: Don’t Compare Jose Bautista to Others.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Since the start of the 2010 season, Bautista has accumulated more than 18 WAR. In the history of baseball, only 38 hitters* have reached that kind of production during their age-29 to age-31 seasons. The most amazing part of Bautista’s statistical climb is how it was totally unpredicted.
In his three previous seasons before Bautista reached his 54-home-run year, he accumulated just a bit more than 3 WAR. To put that into perspective, of the 38 players who had 18 or more WAR from age 29 to age 31, here are the lowest WAR totals for players from their age-26 to age-28 seasons:
Jose Bautista 3.3
Ryne Sandberg 9.7
Jason Giambi 10.0
John Olerud 10.0
Roy Campanella 11.1
Joe Torre 12.6
Nellie Fox 13.2
Brian Giles 13.4
Craig Biggio 13.5
Sammy Sosa 13.5
The next-lowest player, Ryne Sandberg, had a WAR total almost three-times that of Bautista’s. The 38 batters averaged just less than 19 WAR for those three seasons.
Besides the WAR totals, Bautista’s home run totals also are unprecedented. In his age-29 to age-31 seasons, he’s hit 124 home runs. Only eight other players have ever reach that home run total during the same age range. They are:
Name HRs (Ages 29-31) HRs (Ages 26-28)
Alex Rodriguez 137 140
Albert Belle 127 124
Albert Pujols 126 118
Sammy Sosa 179 112
Jim Thome 138 103
Mike Schmidt 124 97
David Ortiz 136 92
Ted Kluszewski 131 69
Jose Bautista 124 43
Ted Kluszewski was the closest to having a breakout similar to Bautista’s, but he was still averaging more than 20 home runs per season before his breakout. Bautista, on the other hand, was closer to 14 home runs per season. This group of players is rather small, so I decided to expand the list out to include all the players who hit 110 home runs from ages 29 to 31** (29 players). Here are the 10 sluggers with the lowest home run totals from their age-26 to age-28 seasons:
Jose Bautista 43
Carlos Pena 46
Roy Sievers 57
Ted Kluszewski 69
Brian Giles 72
Vinny Castilla 75
Jason Giambi 80
Frank Robinson 89
Jeff Bagwell 91
David Ortiz 92
More players, like Carlos Pena and Roy Sievers, are at the lower end of the spectrum. But Bautista still has the lowest home run total.
It’s pretty obvious that Bautista’s breakout is unique. He was close to being a replacement-level player in the three years before became the game’s best home-run hitter. And it has been a great breakout. In fact, it’s so extraordinary that any other offensive surge that a hitter experiences shouldn’t be compared to Bautista’s.
*Joe Morgan, Willie Mays, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Mike Schmidt, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Jason Giambi, Jeff Bagwell, Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Brooks Robinson, Rod Carew, Eddie Mathews, Chase Utley, Cal Ripken, Frank Robinson, Albert Pujols, Willie McCovey, Mickey Mantle,Roberto Clemente, Gary Carter, Carlos Beltran, Carl Yastrzemski, Roy Campanella, Craig Biggio, Ken Boyer, Brian Giles, Harmon Killebrew, Todd Helton, Richie Ashburn, Sammy Sosa, Ryne Sandberg, Yogi Berra, Joe Torre, Pete Rose, John Olerud, Nellie Fox
**Alex Rodriguez, Albert Belle, Albert Pujols, Sammy Sosa, Jim Thome, Mike Schmidt, David Ortiz, Ted Kluszewski, Jose Bautista, Babe Ruth, Manny Ramirez, Carlos Delgado, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza, Dale Murphy, Alfonso Soriano, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Mark Teixeira, Willie McCovey, Jeff Bagwell, Frank Robinson, Jason Giambi, Vinny Castilla, Brian Giles, Roy Sievers, Carlos Pena
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Theo and Jed hoyer puttin in work. I am really interesting in this young pitcher cubs just got Arody Vazicano from the braves. he coming off Tommy John Surgery. Should be ready by 2013 spring training.
Its time to get rid of Dempster and Soriano now. I kinda wanna keep Garza.
i really dont see teams dealing for cliff lee. price tag is expensive.
Analyzing the Braves-Cubs deal.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Atlanta gets marginally better for this year with the additions of Maholm and Johnson, but the Cubs land the best prospect they're likely to obtain in this year's trade market in exchange for two players they didn't need.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Maholm has a 3.69 ERA over the last two seasons.Maholm is a back-end starter with a great track record of durability, and is on pace to qualify for the ERA title for a seventh straight season. He has compensated this year for the slight decline in his ground ball rate with a slight drop in his walk rate and a boost in his strikeout rate, the latter coming from increased use of a slider/cutter that he uses to attack the outer half of the plate against right-handers.
He's a big improvement over Jair Jurrjens, who was leaving the rotation anyway; Maholm should provide more innings than Kris Medlen, who isn't stretched out to handle a starter's workload yet, but also provides insurance in case Ben Sheets gets hurt, which he has a habit of doing. The net gain for Atlanta is probably an extra win over the rest of the season, and Maholm has a reasonable club option ($6.5 million) for 2013. Johnson is a capable extra outfielder who can fill in at any of the three spots and who has a long history of mashing against left-handed pitching -- which I fear may mean we see Jason Heyward pulled for matchup purposes late in some games.
The price for Atlanta, however, was too high. I had Vizcaino ranked as the 14th-best prospect in baseball coming into 2012, but an elbow ligament he partially tore in 2010 flared up again in March, leading to Tommy John surgery that ended his season, although he should be back for spring training.
When healthy, Vizcaino throws 92-96 mph as a starter, with an out-pitch curveball, showing slider velocity but with two-plane action and depth. He has good arm speed on his changeup and was very effective against left-handed batters in the minors in 2011, a testament to that pitch given his arm slot, which is a little below three-quarters. (Pitchers with lower arm slots are easier to pick up for opposite-handed hitters.)
His arm is very quick, but he has been a little fly-ball prone in the minors. Atlanta seemed ready to pigeonhole him in a relief role due to the lingering injury, but the Cubs have to let him prove he's not a starter, given his repertoire and history of throwing strikes.
Chapman is an organizational arm who could end up a back-end reliever. Vizcaino alone is a tremendous return for what the Cubs gave up, a shot at a No. 2 or better starter in exchange for an extra outfielder and a pitcher anyone could have signed for $5 million last winter.
It was a busy night for the Cubs, who also flipped catcher Geovany Soto to the Texas Rangers for right-hander Jacob Brigham. Soto gives the Rangers a capable backup catcher who is a better defender than starter Mike Napoli and can draw the occasional walk; he's under contract for 2013, so if he remembers how to hit (.623 OPS this year) I suppose he could give the Rangers an option to replace Napoli if the latter leaves as a free agent.
Brigham has a plus fastball and power breaking ball but lacks the command and the third pitch to start; lefties have lit him up for a .287/.388/.503 line in 412 plate appearances since he reached Double-A.
The two sides of Danny Hultzen.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On Saturday, he showed flashes of what I'd consider his "normal" self, attacking hitters aggressively in the strike zone, but problems staying online to the plate in the first and his last two innings led to all seven runs he allowed.
Hultzen worked from 88-93 mph with his fastball, but mostly sat 89-91, and his command of the pitch to his glove side came and went over the course of the outing because his landing spot varied. Hultzen has always cut himself off slightly when he lands, meaning that his front foot comes down a little bit on the first-base side of the rubber (because he's left-handed) instead of "online" to the plate, on the imaginary line from the rubber to home plate itself. The three innings (two through four) when he was effective, the cutoff, which can create some deception because the pitcher is then throwing slightly across his body, was mild, but in the first inning and in his last inning and two-thirds, he was cutting himself off more severely, and as a result couldn't command anything to his glove side.
His changeup, long his best pitch, had good downward fade, mostly at 81-82, and I think if he's landing more consistently that's going to be a plus pitch that keeps him in the majors for a very long time. His slider, normally short and around the zone, was bigger, 76-79 mph, and often well below the zone.
If you'd walked into the stadium in the second inning and left after the fourth, you'd be quite optimistic about Hultzen's future; not only was he commanding the ball to both sides of the plate, his changeup flashed plus, and he was aggressively attacking left- and right-handed hitters. I believe that once he gets himself landing more consistently with less cross fire in his delivery, that's the type of pitcher he'll be.
• I wouldn't be surprised to see minor league journeyman Jason Ray, a right-handed reliever for Tucson, get a cup of coffee with the San Diego Padres this season; he was 92-95 on Saturday with a hard slider/cutter at 87-88 mph, cutter velocity but with the bigger tilt of a slider. His fastball is hard but very flat, so he'll likely be too homer-prone for anything more than middle-relief work, but in Petco Park, he could probably handle that reasonably well.
• Tucson starter Andrew Werner posted very solid stats for Double-A San Antonio (3.23 ERA in 103 IP) before his promotion last week, but his stuff is below-average, and I have a hard time seeing him succeed even in Triple-A.
Deadline buyer beware.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
It's easy to get caught up in the speculation and ride the high, but the uncomfortable reality is that embarrassing mistakes are going to be made. It happens all the time: Scott Kazmir bombed out for the Angels, Ken Phelps became a sitcom punch line, Eric Gagne struggled down the stretch for the Red Sox, and on and on.
Which big names on the trade market this year should teams be wary of? Here are players rumored to be on the block of whom potential buyers should beware.
Hunter Pence, RF, Philadelphia Phillies
When the Phillies traded for Pence a year ago, they were acquiring a player enjoying his best season and who was more than just a rental. Now Pence is expensive, as next year he's due for an arbitration raise from his 2012 salary of $10.4 million, and having his worst season. His .781 OPS is the worst of his career despite playing his home games in Citizens Bank Park, which is more hitter-friendly than Houston's Minute Maid Park. His outfield defense also has fallen off this season. He still has a good arm, which has saved four runs, third best among right fielders this season, but focusing on an outfielder's arm can mask a lot of range issues. According to our plus/minus range metrics, Pence's range has been 10 runs below average.
James Shields, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Shields isn't having a great season, but he is only a year removed from a 2.82 ERA in nearly 250 innings pitched, and he has the "Big Game James" moniker. It's easy to dream on him rediscovering that elite form in a new home, but that would be a mistake. Like Jason Vargas, Shields is unlikely to duplicate that performance away from the Rays' defense and home ballpark. His big 2011 came in front of the best fielding team in baseball; the Rays' 85 defensive runs saved (DRS) gave them a 31-run advantage over the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks. Also, his road ERA in 2011 was a run greater than his home ERA, as Tropicana Field is a pitcher-friendly park.
Alfonso Soriano, LF, Chicago Cubs
It's not an uncommon thought: Player X has had a strong first half of the season, repairing his trade value. Now Player X's team can get something back for him at the July deadline. Soriano fits this description perfectly. He's enjoying a mini-resurgence this season, hitting .274/.324/.503 (BA/OBP/SLG) and playing above-average defense in left field for the Cubs. He has three DRS more than what an average left fielder would provide, including five assists. If it's possible to play your way into some trade value, Soriano probably has done it. But this is still the same 36-year-old who is owed $36 million over the next two years and whose outfield defense was 37 runs below average from 2009 to 2011, including having the most defensive misplays (73) and the most errors (25) of all left fielders during that time frame. Only teams with the steeliest of nerves need apply.
Jason Vargas, LHP, Seattle Mariners
Nobody is claiming Vargas is an ace, but he does have 11 wins and a 3.76 ERA for a bad Mariners team this season. There are two reasons those numbers are deceiving. First, he pitches in one of the most notoriously pitcher-friendly ballparks in baseball. His home ERA is 2.63, but his away ERA is 4.67, and he has given up home runs almost three times as frequently away from the spacious American Northwest. Additionally, the Mariners might be mired toward the back of the American League standings, but they have been a fantastic defensive team. Their 35 DRS is second in baseball in 2012, and they have not been below average defensively since 2007. Vargas pitching in front of a lesser defense, in a more hitter-friendly ballpark, will see his ERA inflate.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers
The 34-year-old could be seen a solid option in a third-base market with lots of buyers and few sellers, but inquiring teams would be wise to be wary. Ramirez is owed $30 million after this season and is in his decline years offensively; his .827 OPS this season is good, but a serious step down from the years when he was consistently above .900. He has long been one of the worst-fielding third basemen in the game and has cost his teams a combined 36 runs on defense since 2010. Only Houston's Chris Johnson has been a worse third baseman in that time frame.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
AM ETCliff Lee | Phillies Recommend3Comments11EmailThe odds of Cliff Lee being traded before Tuesday's deadline appear to be a long shot, at best, as clubs dropped out before truly being involved. ESPN.com's Jayson Stark told ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" on Tuesday morning that the chances of Lee being dealt are "remote."
Lee is owed $25 million per year through 2015 with a big option year attached for 2016 that also comes with a buyout of $12.5 million, or the price of a solid starting pitcher on the open market.
The Phillies' talks apparently broke down with the Rangers unwilling to deal top third base prospect Mike Olt. There is some buzz about the Diamondbacks looking to add a premier pitcher like Lee, as Rumor Central's Jason A. Churchill reported early Tuesday morning.
Our Buster Olney gives his take on the odds of a deal for Lee:
- Doug Mittler
Can a deal for Lee get done?
"Lee, 33, is 1-6 with a 3.95 ERA,but evaluators believe he's a better pitcher than he?s shown, and there is interest in him. The question today, in the last hours leading up to the trade deadline, is whether the Phillies can cope with the cost of a divorce. For example: Lee could fit other teams on paper, like Arizona or St. Louis, but Lee's $25 million salary would represent about a third of the Diamondbacks' payroll of $75 million. The Phillies presumably would have to eat a whole, heaping helpin' of what Lee is owed to make a deal work."
< Tags:Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies
Dempster, Soriano to LA?
AM ETLos Angeles Dodgers Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Atlanta Braves officially exited the Ryan Dempster chase after landing Paul Maholm Monday night, which would seem to clear a path for Dempster to finally end up with the Los Angeles Dodgers, his first choice all along.
Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com says the Dempster talks have intensified over the past 24 hours but adds an unexpected twist: Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano could be part of the deal.
Soriano is in the sixth year of an eight-year contract that still has $44 million in remaining payments. How much of that financial burden the Cubs are willing to eat could determine whether Soriano ends up with a new home.
Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune says the Cubs are likely to accept a "less-prominent prospect" from the Dodgers if a deal is completed.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Dempster, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs
Sweeney off the trading block
AM ETRyan Sweeney | Red Sox Recommend0Comments0EmailBoston outfielder Ryan Sweeney apparently is off the trading block. The outfielder injured the pinkie finger on his throwing hand after punching a dugout door in frustration after grounding out Monday against the Tigers.
Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reports the Red Sox have abandoned any plans to trade Sweeney and will instead place him on the disabled list.
The Cincinnati Reds, who are looking to add an outfielder, were believed to be interested in dealing for Sweeney.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Ryan Sweeney, Boston Red Sox
Masterson being shopped
AM ETJustin Masterson | Indians Recommend2Comments1EmailTuesday is the three-year anniversary of Justin Masterson being traded from the Red Sox to the Indians. Could the Tribe's Opening Day starter end up relocating again by 4 p.m. ET?
After being swept by the Twins in a three-game series, the fading Indians are willing to deal Masterson, reported Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com on Sunday. Knobler says the Red Sox and Rangers had scouts watching Masterson Saturday in Minnesota, where the righthander did little to enhance his value, allowing eight runs and 10 hits in 5 2.3 innings.
A National League executive tells ESPN.com's Jayson Stark that Masterson "is definitely on the market, no matter what they're saying."
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Boston Red Sox, Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians
Beckett deal unlikely
AM ETJosh Beckett | Red Sox Recommend5Comments2EmailAfter reports surfaced over the weekend that the Red Sox may be looking to dump Josh Beckett, the righthander will not be traded by Tuesday afternoon's deadline, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reported late Monday night.
Edes says the Red Sox tried to find a potential trading partner for Beckett, with the Texas Rangers at the top of list. But the Rangers' interest was "lukewarm at best" for a pitcher who is owed more than $36 million for the remainder of his contract.
Don't forget that Beckett is just 5-9 with a 4.57 ERA, so teams won't overpay.
CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam wrote Monday that the Braves and Dodgers have called the Red Sox about Beckett.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers
Blanton to O's deal hits snag?
AM ETJoe Blanton | Phillies Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Baltimore Orioles appeared to be closing in on a deal for Joe Blanton following a report on MASNSports.com that the Phillies sent the righthander's medical records to O's orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens.
Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun cautioned late Monday that the negotiations may have hit a snag over money. The Phillies are open to getting a mid-level minor leaguer in the deal providing the Orioles pick up what remains on Blanton's $8.5 million contract -- which is approximately $3 million.
The O's - at least for now - are balking about paying that price for someone they view as an innings-eater.
One report says the Phillies are interested in minor league infielder Jon Schoop, but Connolly says it's unlikely the Orioles would give up that high a prospect for a two-month rental.
Others the O's have reportedly expressed interest in include Seattle's Jason Vargas and Kevin Millwood, Arizona left-hander Joe Saunders and Pittsburgh's Kevin Correia.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Joe Blanton
Schierholtz denies trade demand
AM ETNate Schierholtz | Giants Recommend0Comments0EmailGiants outfielder Nate Schierholtz is denying a report on CBSSports.com that he has formally asked for a trade. "I haven't said one thing about anything other than baseball in two weeks," Schierholtz tells Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com.
The speculation regarding Schierholtz heated up two weeks ago when he told Henry Schulman he was unhappy with his current role and was open to a trade.
Baggarly says "it's not a stretch" to consider Schierholtz as part of a deal for Philadelphia's Hunter Pence if GM Brian Sabean goes that route.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Nate Schierholtz, San Francisco Giants
Increased interest in Garza?
AM ETMatt Garza | Cubs Recommend0Comments1EmailWith Matt Garza battling a triceps injury and out until after the trade deadline, the expectation became that the right-hander would not be traded. Not so fast, reports ESPN.com's Jayson Stark.
Stark tweeted Monday night that the Toronto Blue Jays have been "bearing down" on Garza, even though he hasn't pitched since July 21 and had to leave the game early.
Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com also mentions the Blue Jays as well as the Rays as Garza suitors.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports the Reds are also in talks with the Cubs for Garza's services.
Garza is under contract through next season, however, suggesting the interest isn't necessarily about 2012.
Garza hasn't pitched since July 21, when he left a start in St. Louis after three innings because of discomfort in his right triceps. A Sun-Times report says Garza pitched well in a bullpen session Monday, making a deal more likely.
- Doug Mittler and Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays, Matt Garza
Impact of Maholm to ATL
AM ETAtlanta Braves Recommend4Comments0EmailThe Atlanta Braves are likely out of the market for Ryan Dempster after acquiring Paul Maholm from the Chicago Cubs, along with Reed Johnson.
Braves general manager Frank Wren confirmed the team traded right-handed pitchers Arodys Vizcaino, a top prospect who had season-ending Tommy John surgery in April, and Jaye Chapman to the Cubs. The Braves also got cash in the deal.
Maholm likely takes the rotation spot from Kris Medlen, who is slated to go Tuesday versus the Miami Marlins.
With Maholm in the fold, Medlen can head back to the bullpen and serve as insurance in case of injury or if the surging Mike Minor begins to struggle again.
ESPN Insider's Keith Law has more on the deal:
- Jason A. Churchill
The price for Maholm
"The price for Atlanta was too high. I had Vizcaino ranked as the 14th-best prospect in baseball coming into 2012, but an elbow ligament he partially tore in 2010 flared up again in March, leading to Tommy John surgery that ended his season, although he should be back for spring training. When healthy, Vizcaino throws 92-96 mph as a starter, with an out-pitch curveball, showing slider velocity but with two-plane action and depth. He has good arm speed on his changeup and was very effective against left-handed batters in the minors in 2011, a testament to that pitch given his arm slot, which is a little below three-quarters. (Pitchers with lower arm slots are easier to pick up for opposite-handed hitters.) His arm is very quick, but he has been a little fly-ball prone in the minors. Atlanta seemed ready to pigeonhole him in a relief role due to the lingering injury, but the Cubs have to let him prove he's not a starter, given his repertoire and history of throwing strikes."
Tags:Paul Maholm, Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs
Possible desert blockbuster
AM ETArizona Diamondbacks Recommend1Comments1EmailWith just hours remaining until the trade deadline, word comes out via Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com that the Arizona Diamondbacks are working on a mega deal to acquire a premium starting pitcher.
The identity of the pitcher is unknown, Rosenthal adds, but the name Justin Upton is certainly one to note in any major trade scenario involving the D-Backs. General manager Kevin Towers also has young arms such as Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin and other prospects such as A.J. Pollock to offer in return.
Among the possible targets include Miami Marlins ace Josh Johnson and Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee, though trading for a 33-year-old starting pitcher making $25 million per season doesn't seem to fit Towers' style or fit what the Diamondbacks are doing payroll wise.
Rosenthal adds it is unclear whether Lee can block a trade to the D-backs. His contract with the Phillies allows him to veto trades to 21 teams.
Other possibilities could include Ubaldo Jimenez, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Yovani Gallardo, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Garza, and James Shields. Shields has been rumored to be on the block all season, but with the Rays in the thick of the Wildcard race they may decide to hold onto Shields until the offseason.
The blockbuster of all blockbusters would be Seattle's Felix Hernandez, whom the Mariners have been saying all along is not available.
- Jason A. Churchill
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
For once, Guillen’s comments will come in handy. When asked why Zambrano was being moved to the bullpen, Guillen explained “”I want to see why he pitches one, two innings and then he lost it.” That quote can mean many things. Zambrano might implode after just one or two innings, or maybe he’s losing his stuff as he goes deeper into games.
A look at Zambrano’s splits reveals that while Guillen may have a point, it’s still unclear whether this is the right decision. Zambrano’s performance from inning-to-inning has been puzzling this season.
Inning IP SO/BB Avg OBP SLG tOPS+
1st 20 1.14 0.237 0.376 0.316 94
2nd 20 0.83 0.254 0.398 0.352 111
3rd 18.1 1.43 0.254 0.324 0.463 121
4th 17.1 0.73 0.233 0.367 0.283 83
5th 17 3.20 0.222 0.290 0.349 79
6th 13 1.86 0.250 0.357 0.500 140
7th 6.2 0.20 0.174 0.321 0.174 39
8th 1.2 - 0.286 0.286 0.286 61
9th 1.0 - 0.333 0.333 0.333 87
Both theories are correct with Zambrano. He hasn’t had major issues in the first innings, but things start to unravel in the second. During the third inning, Zambrano has been prone to the long-ball. Four of Zambrano’s nine home runs have come in the third inning this season. But after the third, he’s settled in. His 83 tOPS+ and 79 tOPS+ during the four and fifth innings indicate that those have been Zambrano’s best innings this season.* But things taken a turn for the worst during the sixth, which has been Zambrano’s worst inning according to tOPS+ this season.
*I excluded the seventh, eighth and ninth innings here since the highest sample was just 6.2 innings.
Zambrano has rarely gone past the sixth inning this season because of his struggles. And perhaps Ozzie Guillen didn’t see the value in having Zambrano throw five decent innings before pulling him. With his recent struggles, moving Zambrano to the bullpen might even be defensible. He wasn’t getting the job done lately, and he wasn’t going deep into games all season, so there’s no point in leaving him there.
Problem is, Zambrano is not all that likely to pay off as a reliever based on his performance by inning. Since Zambrano tends to experience some struggles in the second and third innings, he may not have a ton of value as a long-reliever. Guillen can choose to make Zambrano just a one inning guy, and maybe he’ll perform well in that role, but it seems like a bit of a waste. Zambrano is still a guy that can pitch five effective innings, and even though that isn’t necessarily desirable, it’s much more valuable than being a one-inning reliever.
But it’s not like the move is going to hurt the Marlins. The team is not going to compete this season and should be looking at their future. Zambrano is 31, and in the final year of his contract. He’s not going to trigger his 2013 option with his performance. While Wade LeBlanc is nothing special, his move to the rotation is likely to be temporary. The team acquired Jacob Turner in the Anibal Sanchez trade, and there’s a good chance he’ll finish out the season as the Marlins’ fifth starter. Moving Zambrano to the bullpen allows the team to get a look at Turner. While that makes the move defensible, it’s probably not the best way to employ Big-Z.
Did Alex Anthopolous Just Make a Bad Trade?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Both players’ value is highly dependent on the strikeout, which is appropriate considering it might be a whiff of a trade for one of the general managers.
That’s a more obvious statement for the pitcher. Lincoln was moved to the pen this year, and gained over a mile per hour on his fastball in the process. Throwing over 93 instead of around 91 has been good for his strikeout rate — his 25.1% so far this year is a career high (he’d never topped 21.8% at any level). He’s always had good control, and that has continued so far this year, but if the strikeouts are dependent on his gas and therefore his role, the fastball/curveball is more useful piece than former first round pick ready to finally perform as a starter in the toughest division in baseball.
Strikeouts are hugely important to your valuation of Travis Snider as well. The outfielder has struck out in 27.2% of his 914 career major league plate appearances to date. Among players with more than 500 PAs before turning 24 since free agency began, that strikeout rate ranks 24th-worst. Strikeouts are correlated with power, however, and the list is littered with sluggers. If Snider had shown better than a .181 isolated slugging percentage, maybe the Blue Jays would have been more excited about their young outfielder. Only seven of those 24 players had a worse ISO than Snider, and their names don’t inspire confidence: Jared Sandberg, Chad Hermansen, Pedro Alvarez, Benji Gil, Michael Saunders, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Nick Esasky. Add in Shane Andrews, and you’ve got all eight players that didn’t show a .200 ISO along with their strikeouts. Not a great group.
There’s always time to turn it around if you debut at 20 years old as Snider did. If you look at his record since he debuted, there are some medium-sample highs and lows that catch your eye: A .123 ISO in 202 MLB PAs in 2011; A .208 ISO in 391 MLB PAs in 2010; A 24.8% strikeout rate in that same year; and a 35.1% strikeout rate in 37 MLB PAs so far this year. The power and the strikeouts are yo-yo-ing, and one GM is betting on the highs, one’s taking the lows.
Huntington is dreaming on his most recent performances, in a way. This year in Triple-A, Snider has shown a .263 ISO and a 17.1% strikeout rate in 246 PAs, and that’s the best combination of the two that he’s ever shown. It’s added up to a .271/.344/.480 major league equivalent line (.355 wOBA) according to Brian Cartwright and his OLIVER system. Some scouts have praised his work and think he’s turned the corner. The player himself credits being fully healthy after a wrist injury, and also talks of making mechanical adjustments to his swing.
Anthopolous might be fretting about the context of that performance. It’s Snider’s third shot at Triple-A, and he’s 24 and finally age appropriate for his level, and his best work has come in Las Vegas in the PCL, perhaps the most hitter-friendly situation in the minor leagues. He’s shown nice strikeout rates in the minors before (15.9% in 277 Triple-A PAs in 2011) only to lose those gains in the bigs (27.7% strikeout rate that same year in 202 MLB PAs). His swinging strike rate, sampled from over 3400 pitches so far, is well worse than average (12.9%, average is around 8.5% most years). And even though he’s walked in the minors (10.7% career MiLB), he hasn’t managed the same feat in the majors (7.4%).
Given the fact that manager John Farrell has already confirmed that Lincoln is headed to the Jays’ pen, your opinion of the trade hangs directly upon your evaluation of Snider. If he can’t walk or make more contact in the majors, then you like it for the Jays. If he’s destined for more work that looks like his career .247/.305/.429 line, which has been about 6% worse than league average so far, then you’ll take what you can get for him — his glove and baserunning in the corner outfield would not carry a below-average offensive line.
But if you think that 24-year-old Travis Snider can trim the strikeouts while keeping the power (or even showing a little more than he has so far), then you might feel that Alex Anthopolous just made a bad trade.
Kenny Williams Makes Delicious Chicken Salad.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
However, Williams has the White Sox winning again this year, and it’s due in large part to one aspect of the game that he seems to be exceptionally good at — grabbing good players from other teams at the absolute nadir of their value. Or, to borrow from an old cliche, Kenny Williams seems to be better than anyone else at turning chicken $&*# into chicken salad.
Look at this White Sox roster. Their best position player has been Alex Rios, who has raced up +2.9 WAR and is probably going to finish the year as a 20-20 outfielder. Williams claimed Rios off waivers in 2009, just a year and a half into a 7 year, $70 million extension that Toronto gave him and then immediately regretted. Rios has had his ups and downs in Chicago as well, but he’s currently one of the more productive right fielders in baseball, and Williams got him for nothing more a willingness to take on the remainder of his salary.
He did nearly the same thing with Jake Peavy, who was acquired from the Padres for a pu-pu platter of pitching prospects, the best of whom has turned out to be Clayton Richard. Again, he was able to acquire a talented player without sacrificing talent by absorbing the remainder of a large contract, as Peavy had three years and $52 million left on the extension San Diego had granted him a few years earlier. Peavy’s at +3.4 WAR this year, and his success is one of the main reasons the White Sox are contending.
Then, a month ago, Williams pulled off an even better trick, acquiring Kevin Youkilis from the White Sox for Brent Lillibridge and Zach Stewart — a couple of bit pieces that the team didn’t need — while getting Boston to pay all but $2 million of the remainder of Youkilis’ contract. In this deal, he filled a gaping hole at third base without surrendering talent or taking on money. He basically just saw an opportunity to get a formerly good player for free and took it.
And now, over the weekend, Williams picked up Liriano from the Twins in the pitching version of the Youkilis deal, only this one may be his best yet. While Liriano was horrible early in the season, he’d already turned back into a good player even before Williams acquired him, posting a 2.7 K/BB ratio over 11 starts since moving back into the rotation on May 30th. Usually, Williams bets on the player returning to prior form after getting to Chicago, but in this case, Liriano has already gotten good again, and yet the White Sox still got him for a couple of marginal prospects and no long term commitment in salary.
Rios, Peavy, Youkilis, and Liriano were all unwanted by their previous employers, and Williams used those situations to add talent to his roster without giving up any in return. These kinds of acquisitions aren’t risk free — Rios was terrible last year while Peavy spent good sized chunks of 2010 and 2011 on the DL — but they are moves that have propelled the White Sox into the top spot in the AL Central despite Williams having fewer chips to deal with than anyone else in baseball.
When we talk about dumpster diving, we usually think about Billy Beane or Andrew Friedman looking for some kind of undervalued asset in the International League and turning them into a useful role player. But, in reality, Kenny Williams might just be the master of the dumpster dive, as he keeps going into other team’s discard piles and coming away with quality players simply by buying low on guys who have track records that suggest better things could be in store going forward.
There’s probably no GM in baseball that operates under the “buy low” mantra more than Williams, and his willingness to take risks on guys who aren’t performing up to their established standards has allowed him to once again put a winning team on the field. It’s an unconventional approach, but right now, Williams looks like something of a genius. In Youkilis and Liriano, he’s made two significant upgrades without giving up any talent or taking on any real money.
No GM is going to do more to help his franchise this summer than what Williams has done for the White Sox. By being aggressive in taking on unwanted talent, Williams really has turned out a delicious batch of chicken salad.
A Hypothetical Rangers Trade for Cliff Lee.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
A notable difference between Lee and most other players whose names are invoked at the trade deadline, is that Lee isn’t in the last year of his present contract — isn’t anywhere close to it really, having signed five-year, $120 million deal with Philadelphia before the 2011 season. Lee still has a balance of $75 million remaining for 2013-2015, plus a $27.5 million club option for 2016 (or $12.5 million buyout).
Indications are that, despite a season in which Lee has recorded just a single win in 17 starts, that his contract could still be entirely reasonable — not only in that Lee might very well be worth ca. 5.0 WAR over each of the next three seasons (which is roughly what $75 million would be paying for on the open market), but that the value of a marginal win is worth a great deal to a team like the Rangers, who are looking for the security of a playoff berth earned by winning the division.
In terms of the sort of prospects which Lee might yield from the Rangers, we must first consider at least two factors — both (a) what needs, if any, the Phillies have and (b) what prospects within the Rangers’ organization are comparable to those we’ve seen traded in other, similar deals.
To better guess at what the Rangers might consider their areas of need, let’s consider which players might be reasonably expected to occupy something like a starting role entering 2013 and the last year under which each of those players, respectively, is likely to be under contract. (As with Milwaukee, Philadelphia has little in the way of impact talent on the farm — apart from a pair of starting pitchers and maybe catcher Sebastian Valle and outfielder Larry Greene. This is borne out by the organization’s below-average ranking in Marc Hulet’s preseason minor-league systems rankings.)
Here’s the team’s likely construction in 2013, with last likely contract year of team control:
C - Carlos Ruiz, 2013
1B - Ryan Howard, 2017
2B - Chase Utley, 2013
3B - Placido Polanco, 2013
SS - Jimmy Rollins, 2014
OF - Domonic Brown, 2017?
OF - Hunter Pence, 2013
Outside of Howard and Brown, the Phillies have little in the way of long-term control over position players, suggesting that the only sort of prospect they wouldn’t actively pursue is a first base-type. Given the presence of Valle and the possibility that Ruiz could receive an extension, it’s likely that the Phils would less aggressively pursue a catcher. Polanco has a mutual option of $5.5 million for 2013, although he might not be a starter anymore on a championship-level team.
Looking at the Rangers’ farm system, then, we will privilege second base, third base, and outfield (with emphasis on a center fielder, owing to the possible departure of Victorino to free agency this winter). We will also look for ratings that were similar to the ones of the prospects netted by other elite starters in recent seasons. It appears to be the case — again, as we discovered a couple weeks ago — it appears to be the case that a typical package will include a fairly large group of minor leaguers (all the deals considered in that piece, for example, consisted of four prospects exactly), with one or two of those in the high-B range and another pair in the low-B or C-range. The Angels package for Greinke was more or less in line with this precendent, although included just three, and not four, prospects.
All this considered, here’s a hypthetical prospect package from the Rangers system (Sickels’ notes on which you can read here).
• Mike Olt, 3B, B (although, who’s likely more of a B+ now, given his rating in Sickels’ midseason prospect list)
• Leonys Martin, OF, B
Plus two from:
• Cody Buckel, RHP, B
• Justin Grimm, RHP, B-
• Luis Sardinas, SS, C+
Finally, if the Phillies were to acquire Martin and not Olt, it’s possible that they’d acquire third baseman Christian Villanueva as a fourth player in the deal.
This, of course, is a game that anyone can play at home using prospect ratings (link). The idea is that, with some kind of framework established for what a front-line starter can yield, we’re at least capable of playing the game a bit more realistically.
Blanton is NOT the rental arm that the Os need...he wouldn't make the rotation any better. We're probably a year or two away from having Bundy in the rotation, and the farm system isn't anything great to begin with. We don't have the pieces to make a blockbuster type of trade w/o givng up Bundy or Machado - which they absolutely shouldn't do.
I'd much rather target Joe Saunders. Blanton is basura.