Jim Thome's stake in the playoff chase.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
BALTIMORE -- In a city of row houses, it makes sense that the Orioles' success this year has been built game by game, at-bat by at-bat, pitch by pitch, brick by brick. They have one pitcher with more than 20 starts, a staff with one complete game and a bullpen that has contributed more than 500 innings. At the start of this season, their leadoff hitter was in Pittsburgh, their designated hitter was a pinch-hitter in Philadelphia and their third baseman was a shortstop in Bowie.
They had lost a few games this week, on Sunday to the Boston Red Sox and on Monday and Tuesday to the Toronto Blue Jays, shaving their lead for a wild-card berth enough to fuel anxiety. Deion Sanders was at Camden Yards on Wednesday to visit his old minor league manager, Buck Showalter, and to take some batting practice. When Showalter was asked whether Sanders' appearance might provide a needed distraction to lighten the mood, Showalter disagreed but acknowledged it was a fair question.
The Orioles needed a little jump-start, especially after falling behind 2-1 in the first 4½ innings against Carlos Villanueva, and it was Jim Thome who seemed to provide it.
Having faced Thome in the past, Showalter felt that the slugger would make needed adjustments pitch to pitch. A pitcher who stayed in a discernable pattern would become more vulnerable, because Thome would change when necessary.
And Villanueva had consistently pitched backward to the Orioles in the first innings Wednesday -- that is, throwing off-speed pitches in ball-strike counts when hitters might usually look for fastballs. Some hitters, who have made a lifetime of feasting on fastballs, struggle to adapt.
But in Thome's second at-bat, leading off the bottom of the fifth, he looked for a changeup and crushed it over the right-field wall for his 612th career homer. Thome explained after the game how Villanueva had been throwing so much off-speed stuff and how they talked about it in the Orioles' dugout, the type of group thought that can work.
Three batters later, Manny Machado -- who wasn't born until 10 months after Thome made his major league debut -- had a 2-1 count, and he jumped another non-fastball, a changeup, for the Orioles' third homer of the night. (Nate McLouth had homered in the first). Before the inning was over, Chris Davis -- who had seen nothing but sliders -- hammered a slider for a three-run homer.
Showalter mentioned after the game, after the Orioles finished with seven homers, how Thome had changed a lot in this victory with his adjustment.
Pitch by pitch. At-bat by at-bat. Brick by brick.
From Elias Sports Bureau: Thome and Machado homered in the same inning for the Orioles on Wednesday. This is the second-largest disparity in age between teammates who homered in the same inning. On June 14, 2005, Julio Franco (46 years, 295 days) and Kelly Johnson (23 years, 112 days) both homered in the fifth inning for the Braves against the Rangers. Thome was 42 years, 30 days old. Machado was 20 years, 82 days.
The Orioles have had only one pitcher with more than 20 starts this season, Wei-Yin Chen, who has 31. No team has ever made the playoffs with only one pitcher making more than 20 starts in a full season. (The Rockies had that in 1995, which started late because of the players' strike.)
• The Chicago White Sox are in a standings free fall, and they lost again to the Cleveland Indians. And while the Detroit Tigers will play the Kansas City Royals on Thursday and then the Minnesota Twins this weekend, the White Sox have to play the red-hot Tampa Bay Rays.
Andy Dirks saved the Tigers on Wednesday. The division is there for the Tigers' taking, writes Tom Gage.
• The Mariners lost and Felix Hernandez's Cy Young chances seem lost, writes Geoff Baker. A month ago, I thought Felix would roll to the award. Now, I think he's behind David Price, Justin Verlander and others.
• Omar Vizquel on what he's going to do once he retires this fall: "I'm going to listen to stories. Not tell them; listen. I'm going to drink them in." He was talking about spending more time with his kids, ages 17 and 5. Vizquel said he'd like to start down the path to becoming a manager or coach in the future.
• Dusty Baker is coming back for the final series of the season.
• CC Sabathia is on a roll again, and Joe Mauer says the left-hander was the best he has ever seen him on Wednesday, in the 190th victory of Sabathia's career.
From ESPN Stats & Info, how Sabathia beat the Twins:
A) Sabathia pounded the strike zone, leading to season highs in strikes (89), pitches in the zone (67), called strikes (29) and foul balls (26).
B) Sabathia was able to locate his pitches everywhere against Twins left-handers, throwing 19 pitches up, middle and down to them. Twins lefties did not record a hit against Sabathia, finishing 0-for-15 with seven strikeouts and seven ground outs.
C) Sabathia's slider was excellent, as he recorded 12 outs on the pitch, the most he has gotten with it since Aug. 3 (eight starts). Sabathia recorded seven called strikes with his slider, as many as he got with it in his previous three starts combined.
Most games for a Yankee with 10 K's and one or fewer BB (single season, since 1920)
5: Sabathia, 2012
5: Mike Mussina, 2001
4: David Cone, 1998
3: David Wells, 1998
This was the guy the Yankees signed up for, writes Joel Sherman. This was a really good sign, writes Bob Klapisch.
• The St. Louis Cardinals are saving their biggest celebration for when they beat the Atlanta Braves, says Adam Wainwright.
• Bobby Valentine doesn't have regrets, and he expects to be back as the Red Sox manager.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Information
9: Sliders the Blue Jays threw Chris Davis, who hit a pair of home runs off the pitch, countering his 2012 struggles against the pitch.
15: Number of two-strike pitches outside the strike zone by Paul Maholm that the Marlins swung at.
89: Strikes thrown by CC Sabathia against the Twins, a season high.
1,420: Number of hits for David Wright, which gives him sole possession of the most hits in Mets history.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Houston Astros have picked a manager. The hiring of Bo Porter makes sense: He's young, upbeat and energetic, and the team can grow with him as it develops in the years ahead. Plus, the Astros don't have to pay him much, and he'll be more open to the heavy dose of sabermetric tonic prescribed by the front office than a lot of more established managers would be.
2. It's unclear where Joe Mauer will get most of his playing time next year.
3. The Chicago Cubs will focus on rotation help this winter. They will be active in the free-agent market, says Jed Hoyer.
4. The Pirates won't be making major front office changes.
Dings and dents
1. Yu Darvish's neck won't prevent him from starting in the next few days.
2. Ubaldo Jimenez has been shut down.
• The Braves know they will host the wild-card game after their shutout victory Wednesday.
• Jayson Werth got a hit that gave the Washington Nationals some breathing room, writes Adam Kilgore.
• David Wright reached a milestone, and R.A. Dickey will be going for a milestone Thursday.
• In a season of lows, the Miami Marlins had a low point, writes Clark Spencer.
• The Cardinals had no answers against Bud Norris.
• Shaun Marcum was The Man for the Milwaukee Brewers, who picked up a game in the wild-card standings.
• Bronson Arroyo had another tough game, writes John Fay.
• The San Francisco Giants are tuning up for the playoffs, and Buster Posey collected his 100th RBI, writes John Shea.
From ESPN Stats & Information, how Matt Cain beat the Diamondbacks:
A) Cain was excellent on the rare occasions he had to work out of full counts. Cain threw five pitches in a full count, all of them strikes, and struck out all three batters. Cain has now struck out 38 batters in full counts, sixth most among all starters. His strikeout percentage in full counts, 37.3 percent, is third in baseball behind Francisco Liriano (39.
and Cole Hamels (41.4).
B) Cain got his outs in different locations depending on the type of hitter he was facing. Cain generated seven fly ball outs to right-handers and seven ground ball outs to left-handers. The only comparable start for Cain this year came on May 27 against the Marlins, where he got 72.7 percent of lefties outs on the ground compared to just 22.2 percent of righties. That game came in the middle of his eight-game win streak.
C) Cain threw more than 50 percent of his pitches to righties on the outer third, giving up one hit and recording seven outs. Right-handed batters are batting just .156 against Cain on pitches on the outer third this season, which leads all NL starters.
• Drew Pomeranz showed promise, writes Patrick Saunders.
• The Los Angeles Dodgers aren't dead yet; Matt Kemp helped keep them alive with a game that looked like something from the early season.
• The Rays extended their winning streak to seven games, but they were unable to gain ground, Marc Topkin writes. And then they laughed at their rookies, who put on a show.
• Yunel Escobar is set for his first Toronto start since his suspension, writes Brendan Kennedy.
• Jon Lester pitched OK but lost.
• The Indians rallied and changed the standings.
• The Rangers' lead over Oakland is down to three games after a blowout loss.
• The Athletics are taking days off the calendar, edging closer to a wild-card berth, and they came up with a huge win on Wednesday despite setting a record for strikeouts. Thursday is the final day of a challenging stretch in which the Athletics played 17 of 20 games on the road, and after the game against the Rangers, they'll go home to finish their season.
• It's official: Oakland has been doing this with nothing but rookies in its rotation.
• Torii Hunter continues to be extraordinary for the Los Angeles Angels, who are two games behind the Athletics for the last wild-card spot; he had a very clear thought after the Mariners intentionally walked Mike Trout to get to him. Hunter has been crushing the ball.
• Justin Smoak has been on a home run binge.
Peavy's uncertain future in Chicago.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
CHICAGO -- Jake Peavy was among just a handful of players remaining in a quiet Chicago White Sox clubhouse Thursday night when he was asked whether he had given any thought to the idea that he might just pitched his last game in a home Chicago jersey. Peavy -- who had been cussing and screaming at himself as he battled the Tampa Bay Rays -- politely said that no, that really hadn't crossed his mind.
But in less than a week, Peavy's impending free agency could the front-burner issue for the right-hander, if the White Sox can't crawl back into the race in the next 125 hours.
The White Sox hold a $22 million option for 2013 on Peavy, and presumably, the team will decline that. Peavy has had bounce-back season, but that kind of salary would represent about 20-25 percent of the team's payroll, and it wouldn't be good business for the team to pay him at that rate.
But Peavy is going to get paid this winter, nicely, whether it's with a renegotiated deal with the White Sox or as a free agent, because he is one of the relatively small group of second-tier pitchers ready to hit the market.
Zack Greinke is going to be the highest-paid free agent pitcher, the only pitcher who might land a nine-figure deal, and behind him are Kyle Lohse, who turns 34 next week and is coming off a strong season with the Cardinals, Edwin Jackson, Ryan Dempster, Shaun Marcum, Francisco Liriano, Anibal Sanchez, Brandon McCarthy, and Dan Haren, whose $15 million option with the Los Angeles Angels may well be declined.
Peavy's resume stacks up well in that group, and because he had a lot of success at a young age, he is probably younger than most casual fans would realize. At 31 years old, he has proven this year that he's recovered from the groundbreaking surgery that he had, by making 31 starts and racking up 211 innings. This was his first year of more than 200 innings since 2007.
Peavy pitched his home games in a park that is not well-suited to him as a fly ball pitcher -- only three pitchers had a higher ratio of fly balls this season -- but he succeeded anyway; Peavy posted a 3.10 ERA in his home games. He was extremely consistent, month to month, and it will help Peavy that he has an excellent reputation as a teammate and a clubhouse leader. Other White Sox players say he has been a strong influence in the development of Chris Sale.
At the beginning of this season, the idea that Peavy would get another contract of more than a year seemed almost far-fetched, given the nature of his surgery and his recent history. But now Peavy has proven himself, and executives expect that there will be some crazy money at play this winter, now that the labor deal is signed and the draft restrictions are in place.
The Kansas City Royals are looking for a rotation anchor, and their ownership has indicated a willingness to spend. The Cubs have money to spend, and so do the Dodgers, the Red Sox, the Blue Jays (who have been aggressively scouting prospective free agent starters), the Angels, the White Sox, etc. It should be a seller's market in play this winter, and Peavy has demonstrated this year that he's got the goods.
Does this mean Peavy will get a two-year deal? A three-year deal? For something in the range of $12 million a year? We'll see. A year ago, there was no thought that Mark Buehrle would get a deal approaching $60 million, but the Marlins -- desperate for help at the time -- outbid the Nationals by $20 million, in giving the left-hander a four-year, $58 million.
All it takes is one bright-eyed bidder, and once Greinke signs his next deal comes off the free agent board, Peavy will have a lot of eyes on him.
From ESPN Stats and Info: Peavy allowed two earned runs in a no-decision for the White Sox in their 3-2 loss to the Rays. It is the 14th time this season Peavy has allowed three earned runs or less and not won the game.
Most Losses/No Decisions allowing 3 ER or less (AL starters)
Jeremy Hellickson 16
C.J. Wilson 16
Jake Peavy 14
Matt Moore 14
• The Rays' win here was their eighth in a row, and afterward, the celebration music and players' collective clapping thumped through the clubhouse door, as if this was a frat house on a Saturday night. Tampa Bay pulled off a miracle to make the playoffs last year and it's evident that the Rays think they can do it again.
• Ben Zobrist has played well enough as a fill-in at shortstop in recent weeks that the Rays may leave him there for 2013, depending on how the other elements of the team fall into place.
• The Rays won after the other two principals in the race for the second AL wild card berth had lost -- the Athletics, who finally played their last road game in what has been an excruciating stretch of games, and the Angels, who were hit hard by the Mariners.
It was a really tough loss for the Angels, writes Landon Hall.
Almost a year to the day after Evan Longoria hit the home run that put the Rays into the postseason, he hit another dramatic home run.
This was a huge win, James Shields said.
The White Sox are fading, writes Daryl Van Schouwen. The White Sox had it right in front of them again, says Jake Peavy, and they couldn't get it done.
Doug Fister had a record-setting performance, writes Jeff Seidel.
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Fister struck out nine in a row:
A) Fister finished off seven of the nine at-bats with a fastball. Six of the seven fastball strikeouts were preceded by an offspeed pitch (4 sliders, 1 curve, 1 change). All six pitches were strikes.
B) Seven of the nine strikeouts were on pitches up in the zone or above. Fister had seven strikeouts on pitches up in the zone or above in his last three starts combined.
C) Six of the nine strikeouts were on pitches looking, which is a season high for Fister.
• Manny Acta was fired, having lost his clubhouse, and Sandy Alomar, Jr. is the interim manager. The Indians will go through the process of interviewing candidates, but Alomar is the favorite to get the job, at this point. Manny Acta has no regrets. Acta is far from the Indians' only problem, writes Bill Livingston.
• R.A. Dickey picked up his 20th victory and Gio Gonzalez got his 21st. Here's the only thing we know about the Cy Young picks in both leagues: If you're looking for black-and-white choices, forget it.
In the National League, you could make a compelling case for four different pitchers -- R.A. Dickey, who is second in ERA and first in innings and strikeouts; Gio Gonzalez, who has the most wins; Clayton Kershaw, who leads the league in ERA; and Craig Kimbrel, who is having arguably the best season for any reliever in history, with 111 strikeouts and 14 walks and a 1.04 ERA.
In the American League, you could make sound arguments for David Price, for Justin Verlander, for Jered Weaver, for Fernando Rodney.
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Dickey won:
A) Dickey struck out a season-high 13 with his knuckleball, 12 of which were on swings and misses. The Pirates missed 23 Dickey knuckleballs on 62 swings (37.1 percent, season-high).
B) Dickey threw a season-high 66 pitches up in the zone or above, resulting in 13 outs (8 by strikeout). The 8 strikeouts up in the zone or above were also a season-high.
C) Dickey picked up five outs (three strikeouts) in at-bats against righties ending with a knuckleball inside. The Pirates righties were 3 for 12 with a home run in at-bats ending with a knuckleball down the middle or outside.
R.A. Dickey is the first pitcher to win 20 games who regularly threw a knuckleball since Joe Niekro, 1980 Astros, and he's the third-oldest player to record his first 20-win season (Mike Mussina and Jamie Moyer were older) and he also becomes just the 3rd National League pitcher in the last 30 seasons to win 20 games on a losing squad.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Ben Cherington clarified remarks about a managerial search. Within the sport, it's regarded as a fait accompli that Bobby Valentine will be fired, but the Red Sox have followed through with the statements of Larry Lucchino and John Henry that Valentine would be the manager through the end of this season.
2. Jason Varitek was official named as a special assistant in Boston.
3. Dejan Kovacevic feels like nobody is being held accountable in Pittsburgh.
4. Mark Kiszla wonders if Jim Tracy and the Rockies are right for each other.
5. Stephen Drew could test free agency, writes Susan Slusser.
6. Bo Porter was formally announced as the Astros' manager. He says he won't let this hire distract him from his current duties as the third base coach of the Nationals.
His new bosses are confident in his abilities. His challenge is turning the roster of young players into a contender, writes Zachary Levine.
Dings and dents
1. A couple of Royals suffered injuries.
The Yankees have had a lot of good things happen with their rotation in the last two weeks, but Ivan Nova continues to struggle, as David Waldstein writes. Alex Rodriguez is prepared for backlash if he doesn't hit in the postseason.
Dan Connolly asks the question of whether the Orioles' lack of postseason experience is a good thing, or a bad thing. Peter Schmuck looks ahead at a possible Orioles' postseason berth.
The Royals couldn't finish off a comeback.
The Rangers' magic number is down to three, after Texas pulled out the final game of their series against the Athletics. Yu Darvish is on course to start Sunday. Joe Nathan got $300,000 for his save, as Gerry Fraley writes.
Franklin Gutierrez made a game-saving catch.
Dan Uggla had a really good day, as David O'Brien writes.
The Phillies' future is filled with questions, writes Phil Sheridan. There is still no word when Chase Utley will play third base.
Michael Morse flexed his muscles.
The Marlins' losing streak has reached seven.
The Cardinals can see the finish line. They are three games up with six games to play, and while they will close out their schedule against two playoff teams in Washington and Cincinnati, both of those clubs are preparing for the playoffs.
The Reds finished off their home schedule with a dramatic walk-off.
The Brewers are still hoping for a miracle, and they'll need one, after having their guts ripped out again. This loss was a crusher, writes Tom Haudricourt.
Travis Snider made a great catch, but the Pirates lost.
The Cubs were swept by the Rockies, completing a weird sort of accomplishment.
The Dodgers are still alive, and they won Thursday, getting bruises to show for it.
Bruce Bochy confirmed the Melky Cabrera decision. Barry Zito picked up his 14th win.
Kirk Gibson is quiet when discussing the Diamondbacks' drop-off.
The Rockies closed out their home schedule with a sweep.
By The Numbers: From ESPN Stats and Info
7: Oakland A's hitters who have hit at least 30 HR at age 25 or younger after Josh Reddick hit two in a 9-7 loss to the Rangers. The others are Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Reggie Jackson and Sal Bando
9: Consecutive Royals hitters struck out by Tigers starter Doug Fister, setting a new AL record. It is one behind Tom Seaver's record 10 consecutive strikeouts.
20: Wins for R.A. Dickey, the first Mets pitcher to that many wins since Frank Viola in 1990. Dickey is the sixth Mets pitcher to 20 wins in a single season.
21: Wins for Gio Gonzalez, setting a Nationals/Expos single season record. Gonzalez is the first pitcher to win 21 games while pitching fewer than 200 innings (199 1/3).
An alternate AL universe.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Driven by deep data sets, sophisticated technology and collaboration between skilled statistical and scouting staffs, major league teams have become increasingly adept at projecting player performance. In some respects, assembling a roster is the easy part of building a winning team.
The hard part is making sure that roster remains intact. Speaking at Internet Week in New York earlier this year, Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane stressed the importance of predicting and preventing injuries:
"The biggest indicator now -- for a sports team -- of whether you're going to be successful or not is whether or not you stay healthy. The health of baseball players, the health of football players, is going to be a better predictor of a team's performance. And the guy who gets his arms around that is going to be the wealthiest man in the world."
It's easy to see why Beane -- who has spent the past 15 years trying to make the most of Oakland's modest payroll -- would ascribe such importance to health. According to Baseball Prospectus' injury database, 20 teams have spent $10 million or more on injured players this season, led by the Boston Red Sox at $49 million. As a group, major league teams have spent more than $3 billion on player payrolls this season, and almost 16 percent of that total, roughly $480 million, has gone to players who were unavailable due to injury. The percentage is even higher if you exclude players with major league contracts who aren't on 25-man rosters and released players still being paid by their former teams. That's a lot of cash that could have gone to good use elsewhere.
The impact of injuries goes beyond the bottom line. It's also felt on the field. When starters are injured, more playing time goes to less talented replacement players, and team performance suffers. A team's financial and on-field fates are intertwined. The more prospects a team loses to career-ending injuries, the more it has to pay for free agents to fill holes. The more time a team's established starters miss, the more it has to spend on the players who take their places.
The less success a team has in the standings, the more its attendance will suffer, the smaller its season-ticket base will be and the less revenue it can expect to receive from merchandise sales and broadcast contracts. The ramifications from those missed opportunities to make money are often felt far in the future. The less money a team takes in now, the less it can afford to pay players later, which can lead to even harder times ahead.
Until Beane's "wealthiest man in the world" discovers the secret to preserving players, teams will have to accept that some seasons hinge on who stays healthy. Here are a couple divisions that could have looked different this season had injuries not intervened.
Four American League teams rank among the top 10 in WARP lost to injury, a number arrived at by determining each injured player's average WARP per plate appearance from 2010 to 2012 and multiplying by plate appearances missed this season. The Red Sox lead baseball with 8.3 WARP lost.
More talented teams tend to have higher WARP lost totals, since their players tend to produce more when healthy, but Boston also ranks second in days missed to injury and fourth in percentage of payroll lost.
Given the distance in the standings between the Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, injuries probably only partially explain their fourth-place position.
AP Photo/Eric Gay
Injuries to Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have greatly affected the Yankees' season.However, injuries could prove decisive for the teams toward the top of the division. The New York Yankees have lost roughly 6.6 WARP due to injuries to position players Brett Gardner, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, among others, as well as prominent pitchers CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte -- and that's without counting the potential contributions of Michael Pineda, who suffered a season-ending injury in spring training and was never on the active roster. Had the Yankees enjoyed better health, they might have a larger lead over the Orioles than 1½ games. Then again, the Yankees have by far the oldest team in baseball, so they might have been lucky not to have dealt with more injuries than they have.
The Baltimore Orioles have lost just 2.7 WARP to injuries, compared to 5.4 for the third-place Rays. Evan Longoria's injury, which robbed the Rays of an estimated 2.6 WARP, accounts for the difference between the two teams' WARP lost totals.
The Detroit Tigers lead the Chicago White Sox by one game. They have also lost roughly 1.2 WARP to injury. If the two teams are separated by a similar margin at the end of the season, a slightly better health record might deserve some credit for salvaging Detroit's season.
It would be ironic if the White Sox missed out on October because of injuries, since the White Sox have long excelled at keeping their players in uniform. Even this season, the Sox have lost just 8 percent of their payroll to injuries, the same percentage as last season and the fourth lowest in baseball.
However, not counting Victor Martinez, who was never on the active roster and whose injury prompted the Prince Fielder signing, the Tigers have lost just 4 percent of their payroll to injury, the lowest figure in baseball. If Detroit's season ends in disappointment, the team won't be able to blame bad health. In the other divisions, the leads are large enough to have held up had injuries affected every team equally.
Injuries aren't always random. Some teams do a better job of avoiding them, whether by managing potential health problems more effectively or by targeting players who are less likely to get hurt. And some teams do a better job of constructing rosters with greater redundancy, putting good players in a position to step up if starters go down, as Todd Frazier has done for the Cincinnati Redsthis season.
The WARP lost totals don't account for how a team filled its holes, only that it had them. Still, Beane's quote hits home. Once a season starts, few factors are as likely to affect where a team finishes and how much money it makes as how healthy it is compared to the competition.
Rumors.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Part-time play for Ethier?
AM ETAndre Ethier | Dodgers Recommend0Comments0EmailLos Angeles Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly would not commit to Andre Ethier's role in 2013 and hinted that he could sit versus left-handed pitching.
Ethier does just fine against right-handers but is batting just .214 versus southpaws, .236 for his career.
"I can say all day long that I think he's capable of hitting against lefties, but if the numbers keep telling us that maybe he can't, then we have to go a different route," Mattingly said.
If the club does plan to use Ethier primarily against right-handed pitchers, they could be in the market for a platoon partner this winter.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Los Angeles Dodgers, Andre Ethier
New outfield for NYM?
AM ETNew York Mets Recommend0Comments2EmailWhile the New York Mets aren't likely to release left fielder Jason Bay, it doesn't appear they will aggressive in terms of chasing big-name free agent outfielders, either, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.
Martino specifically names Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton and Shane Victorino -- all centerfielders -- but a any of the one-year ilk could be in play.
Among the possibilities include Juan Pierre, but it's more likely the club checks the trade route to avoid spending big dollars.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Juan Pierre, Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino, New York Mets
Potential Cubs targets
AM ETChicago Cubs Recommend0Comments1EmailTop free agent startersZack Greinke, RHPEdwin Jackson, RHPHiroki Kuroda, RHPRyan Dempster, RHPJeremy Guthrie, RHPShaun Marcum, RHPFrancisco Liriano, LHPDaisuke Matsuzaka, RHPAnibal Sanchez, RHPThe Chicago Cubs are planning to vastly improve their starting pitching this coming offseason and could spend big on a free agent or two. Any of the top free agents -- see right -- could be in play as the club has significant payroll flexibility.
Team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer could also look to the trade route where right-handers Josh Johnson and James Shields, and Phillies southpaw Cliff Lee could be available.
Additional free agents could hit the market if their current clubs decline 2013 options, including Jake Peavy and Dan Haren.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Chicago Cubs, Anibal Sanchez, Josh Johnson, Cliff Lee, James Shields, Shaun Marcum, Francisco Liriano, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda, Zack Greinke, Jake Peavy, Dan Haren
Drew's options may include A's
AM ETStephen Drew | Athletics Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Oakland Athletics don't typically spend money on free agents but in a way, they could do just that with Stephen Drew, writes Susan Slusser.
Drew's 2013 option is worth $10 million, which Slusser points out would be the highest salary on the club next season. But a healthy Drew may be well worth the one-year commitment, as he's displaying at the plate the past week or so.
Drew's option is of the mutual variety, however, so if the shortstop wishes to test the free agent market, he'll be allowed to do so. Considering the lack of shortstops available, the 28-year-old could cash in on a multi-year contract, perhaps as much as the deal Baltimore handed J.J. Hardy a year ago -- 3-years, $22.5 million.
If Drew bolts Oakland after the season, Cliff Penning becomes the club's top option at shortstop, unless they check the trade and free agent markets for additional help.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Oakland Athletics, J.J. Hardy, Cliff Pennington, Stephen Drew
Extension for Dickey?
AM ETR.A. Dickey | Mets Recommend0Comments0EmailNew York Mets right-hander R.A. Dickey is signed through 2013, but he just picked up win No. 20 and the knuckleballer may win the National League Cy Young Award in November, suggesting his next contract will bring greater riches.
Dickey will make just $5 million next season, but he believes his leverage has improved, and with the way he's pitched this year, he's probably right.
Dickey will turn 38 this fall, but his knuckle ball doesn't require youth for long-term success, as prior knuckle ball specialists can attest. The Mets are again likely to attempt to stay with a two-year deal, but Dickey could hit the open market 13 months from now.
Dickey also said this week that the club's approach to keeping David Wright will weigh heavily on his decision to stay or test free agency.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:R.A. Dickey, New York Mets, David Wright
New CF for Seattle?
AM ETFranklin Gutierrez | Mariners Recommend0Comments0EmailCenter Field OptionsB.J. Upton -- Free AgentDenard Span -- Minnesota TwinsChris Young -- Arizona DiamondbacksJuan Pierre -- Free AgentShane Victorino -- Free AgentJacoby Ellsbury -- Boston Red SoxMichael Bourn -- Free AgentAngel Pagan -- Free AgentThe Seattle Mariners may feel the need to find a new centerfielder for 2013 and beyond, despite the fact that Franklin Gutierrez is under contract through 2013.
Gutierrez, who has played in just 130 games combined over the past two seasons, injured himself again Thursday crashing into the outfield wall in Anaheim. The M's removed Gutierrez from the game as a precaution, but the 29-year-old said he feels fine after experiencing some dizzy spells.
Gutierrez has suffered a concussion this season, along with heel and a pectoral injuries that delayed the start of his season. He also missed nearly half of 2011 with a stomach ailment, though that appears to be under control.
He's owed $7 million guaranteed for 2013 and the Mariners have an option on 2014 for $7.5 million, but they can exercise a buyout for a half million.
Seattle is thirsting for offense, but perhaps even more so need reliable veterans and Gutierrez doesn't fit that bill. Don't be surprised if GM Jack Zduriencik looks for a relatively inexpensive centerfielder over the offseason. One who can serve as a fourth outfielder or slide into left field should Gutierrez again grab hold of the job and fly.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Seattle Mariners, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, Juan Pierre, Chris Young, Angel Pagan, Peter Bourjos, Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton, Denard Span, Seattle Mariners, Franklin Gutierrez
Limits for Darvish?
AM ETYu Darvish | Rangers Recommend0Comments0EmailYu Darvish, who had his last start skipped due to neck stiffness, appears to be on track to make his next one Sunday, tweets Anthony Andro. Darvish would then on track to start one of the first two games of the league division series.
Matt Harrison, the club's most consistent starter, may go in Game 1, leaving Game 2 for the first-year major leaguer.
Darvish could be on an abbreviated pitch count for Sunday, just to make sure he's not pushed too far after the crick in his neck, and also to keep him fresh for the postseason.
He's used to a heavy workload, however, and there has been no word on any kind of limitations.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Texas Rangers, Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish
Scherzer out a while?
AM ETMax Scherzer | Tigers Recommend0Comments0EmailDrew Smyly will start for Max Scherzer Friday, tweeted Bob Nghtengale Thursday, robbing the Detroit Tigers of an opportunity to take another step toward the postseason with their best possible starter on the mound. There's no word on how long Scherzer will be out but there is time for him to make one more start in the regular season.
The club, however, isn't sure when Scherzer will return and Lynn Henning tweets that privately the team is concerned the right-hander will miss more than just a start or two.
If the Tigers make the postseason and Scherzer is unavailable, the club may go with three starters -- likely a trio of Justin Verlander, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez -- and if they need a fourth they could choose between Rick Porcello and Smyly. Smyly is no sure thing to make the postseason roster, however.
An MRI earlier this week revealed no structural damage in Scherzer's shoulder, so it appears the issue is short-term.
- Jason A> Churchill
Tags:Drew Smyly, Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
Mauer's position in 2013
AM ETJoe Mauer | Twins Recommend0Comments0EmailJoe Mauer, an all-star catcher with well above average defensive skills, has played first base 30 times and served as the DH some this season. If that trend leaks into 2013, the club's winter to-do list is likely to be different than if Mauer was to go back to catching, say, 125 games, opines Tom Powers.
If the Twins plan to use Mauer at all three spots next season, GM Terry Ryan may be on the lookout for a third catcher to rotate with Mauer and Ryan Doumit. Doumit is not a strong defender, but his bat is valuable and needs to remain in the lineup.
With Justin Morneau climbing back into form, there may not be 30 games available for Mauer to play the position next year, unless the club fields calls on Morneau, whop will be entering the final year of his contract, and could conceivably become trade bait this winter.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Ryan Doumit, Minnesota Twins
September 27, 2012Trading Masterson
PM ETJustin Masterson | Indians Recommend0Comments1EmailJustin Masterson has had a rough year after posting career bests in ERA (3.21) and wins (12) a year ago. The right-hander has reverted back to his struggles with control, suggesting perhaps a role change is in order. He's also arbitration eligible again this offseason, which could prompt the Indians to try and trade him.
Masterson could earn between $5 million and $7 million next season after making $3.825 million this year. He's long been thought by some scouts to be more of a reliever due to his control issues and the lack of a weapon versus left-handed batters.
The Indians, therefore, may have a tough time trading Masterson and could end up non-tendering him to avoid the hefty salary. If that occurs, he'll be a free agent at which time several clubs could jump into the fray.
Masterson could be dominant as a right-handed reliever, facing primarily right-handed batters whom he's held to a .617 OPS this season.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Cleveland Indians, Justin Masterson
September 27, 2012Managerial candidates for Tribe
PM ETCleveland Indians Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Cleveland Indians have announced that Manny Acta has been relieved of his duties as manager of the club, putting in motion their search for his replacement.
The search is likely to span several candidates, perhaps including former Red Sox manager Terry Francona and Indians' Triple-A skipper Mike Sarbaugh.
Sandy Alomar, Jr., who has taken over the helm for the rest of the regular season, could also be a legitimate candidate for the long-term.
Torey Lovullo, Jose Oquendo, Joe McEwing and Tim Bogar could also me on the Indians' list to interview, among many other possibilities.
Last week, ESPN Insider's Jim Bowden wrote about 10 managerial candidates, including Ryne Sandberg, Pat Listach, Dave Martinez and DeMarlo Hale. Others to consider include Joey Cora, Pete Mackanin, Chris Maloney and Tom Runnells. Mackanin and Maloney have been finalists before, as have Hale and Martinez.
- Jason A. Churchill
September 27, 2012Berkman's status
PM ETSt. Louis Cardinals Recommend0Comments0EmailThe St. Louis Cardinals are not optimistic that they will be at full strength or the postseason, reported Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier this week, with veterans Rafael Furcal and Lance Berkman not likely to return this season.
General manager John Mozeliak said "time is not on our side," with either player. Furcal's elbow injury could linger into next season if he ultimately needs surgery and Berkman, who may consider retirement, just began swinging a bat during his recover from knee surgery. He is still aiming to return before next week's regular season finale.
The Cardinals are using Allen Craig at first base and a combination of Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso at shortstop, and it appears that will be the alignment during the postseason, too.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:St. Louis Cardinals, Pete Kozma, Daniel Descalso, Lance Berkman, Rafael Furcal
September 27, 2012Izzy leaning?
PM ETJason Isringhausen | Angels Recommend0Comments1EmailHe's 40 years old and has made just four appearances in September, which may be feeding Jason Isringhausen's decision to retire, reports MLB.com.
The right-hander said there's a 70 percent chance this is his last season, citing his family as a big reason why he'd call it quits.
Isringhausen's departure wouldn't impact the Halos bullpen much, as he was being used in low-leverage situations, but he's pitched well enough to expect some team to make him a minor league offer should he decide to play one more year.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Los Angeles Angels, Jason Isringhausen
September 27, 2012A's rotation without Anderson
PM ETOakland Athletics Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Oakland Athletics are in good position to lock up a playoff berth and if they do, their starting rotation is a bit up in the air.
Their ace, Brandon McCarthy, is out, their veteran horse, Bartolo Colon, may be able to return at some point next month and contribute and lefty Brett Anderson is dealing with an oblique strain.
Without those three, the A's playoff rotation likely will consist of Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Tom Milone and Dan Straily -- all rookies. Anderson, however, is working his way back and appears to be on target for the league division series, if the A's get that far.
Whether or not Anderson starts or is used in relief remains to be seen -- he's also coming off Tommy John surgery -- but if he does the most likely candidate to be shifted out of the rotation is Straily.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Bartolo Colon, Brandon McCarthy, Oakland Athletics, Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Tommy Milone, Brett Anderson, Dan Straily
September 27, 2012Scherzer update
PM ETMax Scherzer | Tigers Recommend0Comments0EmailUPDATE: Smyly will start for Scherzer Friday, tweets Bob Nghtengale, robbing the Tigers of an opportunity to take another step toward the postseason with their best possible starter on the mound. There's no word on how long Scherzer will be out but there is time for him to make one more start in the regular season.
The Detroit Tigers appear to have dodged a bullet with Max Scherzer, who lasted only two innings in Tuesday's start against the Athletics with right-shoulder fatigue.
An MRI revealed no structural damage and 28-year-old will be reevaluated in a few days. The righthander says he can make his next start, although that's not guaranteed.
Any absence would be devastating for the Tigers, who are three games off the pace in the AL Central. Scherzer, the major league leader in strikeouts (224), entered the game 8-1 with a 2.61 ERA since the All-Star break and has settled in as the No. 2 starter behind Justin Verlander.
Left-hander Drew Smyly would likely move into the rotation if Scherzer needs to miss a start.
ESPN.com's Eric Karabell has more on Scherzer's early exit:
- Doug Mittler
"Scherzer, the major league strikeout leader and 19th among starting pitchers on the Player Rater, added four strikeouts to his total but his fastball velocity was noticeably down. No structural damage was found in Scherzer's shoulder, but don't be surprised if he misses his weekend outing against the Twins."
Tags:Detroit Tigers, Max Scherzer, Drew Smyly
September 27, 2012SF without Melky for postseason
PM ETMelky Cabrera | Giants Recommend0Comments1EmailThe San Francisco Giants, who appears headed for the playoffs again, will not activate Melky Cabrera, reports Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com.
Instead, the Giants will use an outfield alignment of Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco and Hunter Pence, plus either Xavier Nady, Justin Christian or Aubrey Huff, or even two of the above.
The Giants, who enter play Wednesday 25-12 without Cabrera, figure to play matchup with the left fielder, but Blanco figures to get most of the time when defense is the goal.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Henry Blanco, Aubrey Huff, Xavier Nady, Justin Christian, San Francisco Giants
September 27, 2012Winter trade candidates
PM ETFuture Trade Candidates Recommend0Comments8EmailWhile several names rumored to be on the trade block this summer that didn't get moved may again be shopped this offseason, there are likely to be new names surfacing once the 2012 season is over and clubs look to reshape their rosters.
Denard Span, Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham, Josh Johnson, Matt Garza and Justin Upton could again be available, but so could Kansas City's Billy Butler, as the Royals search for impact starting pitching, as well as Cleveland's Shin-Soo Choo and Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury, two names that were mentioned but talks reportedly did not go very far in either instance.
Both Choo and Ellsbury will be a free agents after 2013, while Butler is signed through 2014 with a club option for 2015. The Royals could entertain offers for Gordon rather than Butler, especially if rivals hold out for a more valuable player -- Gordon can play the field well while Butler is relegated to DH duties -- in return for pitching. Prospect Wil Myers could replace Gordon in the field and eventually as a productive bat, if not right away.
Hunter Pence, who was traded to the Giants last month, could be on the move again as his 2013 salary figures to be north of $13 million via arbitration.
Jed Lowrie could also be shopped over the winter, as could fellow shortstop Yunel Escobar, Arizona outfielder Gerardo Parra. A player such as Upton, Butler, Gordon or Baltimore's J.J. Hardy, could be candidates for trade next summer if things fall just right, including health, performance and the development of players behind them.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:J.J. Hardy, Gerardo Parra, Jed Lowrie, Justin Upton, Shin-Soo Choo, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kansas City Royals, Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles
September 27, 2012Impact of Valverde hiring Boras
AM ETJose Valverde | Tigers Recommend0Comments2EmailJose Valverde has hired Scott Boras just weeks before he hits the free agent market, reports John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press. The move could very well change the closer's fortunes this offseason.
Valverde has not had a great season, posting 31 saves in 36 chances and a 4.02 ERA. He'll be 35 before the 2013 schedule begins and relievers flood the free agent market, as always.
As a result, Valverde, Boras client or not, may have to settle for a one-year deal this winter. Boras has been known to hold out for the extra year or the extra dollar, so his new client may be on the market beyond Christmas.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers
September 27, 2012Cubs winter wish list
AM ETChicago Cubs Recommend0Comments4EmailThe Chicago Cubs have stood pat in terms of player acquisitions since Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein have taken the reins, instead choosing to lay low and wait for the right time to pounce. There may be indications that the club is ready to do so.
Courtesy of Carrie Muskat of MLB.com, Hoyer says that the Cubs have payroll flexibility and "we'll obviously be active in the free agent market. That's a big part of our research and work now is evaluating free agents. We have some money to spend and we'll focus on it heavily."
The Cubs are likely to begin with starting pitching but also could seek answers at third base, catcher and second base, as well as the bullpen.
- Jason A. Churchill
September 27, 2012Ramos or Suzuki in '13?
AM ETWashington Nationals Recommend0Comments0EmailWashington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo says the club;s No. 1 catcher will remain the injured Wilson Ramos in 2013, but that there will be plenty of playing time available for Kurt Suzuki.
Suzuki was acquired from the Oakland Athletics this summer and turned his season around with the Nats. Since the trade, the 28-year-old has batted .271 with a .322 on-base mark and five home runs, all significant improvements over his time in Oakland this season.
Ramos has been on the disabled list almost the entire season, but he's expected to recover fully in time for spring training.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Washington Nationals, Wilson Ramos, Kurt Suzuki
September 27, 2012Sanchez on KC's radar?
AM ETKansas City Royals Recommend0Comments0EmailAnibal Sanchez blanked the Kansas City Royals Tuesday, striking out 10 and yielding just thee hits. After witnessing such domination, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star wonders if the Royals didn't just get shut out by a future member of their starting rotation.
Sanchez will become a free agent after the season and his recent run of strong starts can only help his case. The Royals, however, appear ready to spend on the right starting pitcher.
Other options for GM Dayton Moore's club include right-hander's Kyle Lohse, Shaun Marcum and perhaps Dan Haren if the Angels declne their options -- which they are expected to do.
Sanchez is likely to draw interest from several teams and the Detroit Tigers may consider re-signing him.
- Jason A. Churchill
Tags:Anibal Sanchez, Kansas City Royals, Shaun Marcum, Kyle Lohse, Detroit Tigers
September 27, 2012Starting pitching market
AM ETFree agent starters Recommend0Comments6EmailFree Agent Starting PItchersZack Greinke, RHPHiroki Kuroda, RHPEdwin Jackson, RHPBrandon McCarthy, RHP Anibal Sanchez, RHP Ryan Dempster, RHPColby Lewis, RHPFrancisco Liriano, LHPKyle Lohse, RHPShaun Marcum, RHPDaisuke Matsuzaka, RHPRoy Oswalt, RHPJeremy Guthrie, RHPEvery offseason starting pitching is among the very hottest commodities. Clubs are trying to trade for it and the top names are being pursued by most teams looking to make a serious run at the World Series the following season. This year's free agent crop isn't as deep as some in recent years, but if some teams decline options on key names, it could become a buyer's market.
Among those with options that aren't sure things to be exercised by their respective clubs include right-hander Jake Peavy of the Chicago White Sox and Dan Haren of the Los Angeles Angels, as well as left-hander Paul Maholm of the Atlanta Braves. Braves veteran Tim Hudson may also be in such a position.
The Sox, Angels and Braves could decline the options and look to bring back their pitchers on multi-year deals -- Peavy's option for 2013, for example, would pay him $22 million, Haren's would pay him $15 million -- in attempt to save on the average annual value.
Greinke is likely to be coveted by many, including both L.A. teams, and perhaps the Orioles, Yankees and Reds, and Kuroda has done nothing but improve his stock from last winter with a strong year in the Bronx.
One club that may be a few starting pitchers away from jumping back atop their division is the Milwaukee Brewers, who dealt Greinke in July. They figure to lose Marcum to free agency, but they could make a play for a few No. 2 or 3 starter types.
Dempster's free agency should be entertaining; the Dodgers tried to get him at the deadline and he reportedly wanted to go there, so it's conceivable he could land there over the offseason.
The Rays are not likely to decline their option on James Shields, but could entertain trade offers for the right-hander. The White Sox and Angels have options to consider on Gavin Floyd and Ervin Santana, too.
- Jason A. Churchill
Fangraphs.com | Dave Cameron
Tough call for Angels?
"Before the season, this looked like a lock to be picked up, but Haren has struggled with back problems that have led to reduced velocity, and in turn, his worst season since his rookie season in 2002. However, an offseason of rest could solve all of his issues, and he's had stretches of effectiveness this season, including his most recent few starts in September. However, Haren's strikeout rate has been trending in the wrong direction for four years now, and even early in the season, he wasn't the same front-line starter he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks. At a net cost of $12 million, the question for the Angels will really come down to whether they can afford to keep both Haren and free-agent starter Zack Greinke, or if they need to choose between them. If picking up Haren's option stands in the way of retaining Greinke, then paying the buyout and hoping to bring him back at a lower salary seems like the best bet. If they don't believe they can re-sign Greinke, however, then they can allocate a few million that would have gone toward keeping him to picking up Haren's option, making sure they don't lose two starters in one fell swoop this winter. Verdict: Decline if they can re-sign Greinke, exercise if they can't."
Tags:Detroit Tigers, Anibal Sanchez, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, Paul Maholm, Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, Ervin Santana, Dan Haren, Shaun Marcum, Francisco Liriano, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Ryan Dempster, James Shields, Zack Greinke
September 27, 2012Aardsma's role for NYY
AM ETDavid Aardsma | Yankees Recommend0Comments0EmailThe New York Yankees could get a boost from David Aardsma, who joined the team in Minnesota and expects to be activated soon, reports Jeff Bradley of the Newark Star-Ledger.
Aardsma, who recorded 32 saves for Seattle two years ago, has recovered from Tommy John surgery and is looking to get on the mound for the first time in more than two years.
If he proves fully healthy, or close to it, Aardsma could be a key addition for the Yankees over the season's final 10 days, and possibly in the postseason, providing a chance to rest David Robertson, David Phelps, and even Rafael Soriano.
There's likely to be some soft landings for a short while, but if he handles them well, Aardsma could be an option late in games next month.