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Buyer’s Remorse: The Failed Joel Hanrahan Experiment

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 Thursday May.16/2013

It seemed like everyone was so much more excited about Hanrahan joining the Red Sox this offseason than any of their other acquisitions. Turns out his time in Boston was not only short, but memorable for all the wrong reasons. Where is Mark Melancon when you need him...Oh wait.

It seemed like everyone was so much more excited about Hanrahan joining the Red Sox this off-season than any of their other acquisitions. Turns out his time in Boston was not only short, but memorable for all the wrong reasons. Where is Mark Melancon when you need him…Oh wait.

By Ryan Dana (MLB Reports Writer and Red Sox Correspondent): 

While some people in Red Sox Nation have had concerns about the team’s offense recently, it is clear that the major worry at the moment is the bullpen.

Their starting rotation is no longer at the top of the league statistically, but it has still been good, and the offense is still at the top of the league in most categories. The Sox are 4th in the MLB in Runs Scored, and 2nd in Doubles, AVG, OBP, SLG, and OPS. They’re also 1st in Triples.

The Bullpen was supposed to be a strength for the Red Sox entering the 2013 season, but it has been in shambles recently. At the forefront of the mess is Joel Hanrahan who I will talk about in-depth in a moment. First let me run through some of the other pitchers.

The Red Sox are 26th in the Majors with a 4.47 ERA from their relievers. Their BAA is .250 which is 23rd in the Majors, and they have 6 blown saves which is tied for 6th most in the MLB.

Read the rest of this entry

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Three Veteran Closers Searching for Bounce Back Seasons

Thursday November 8th, 2012

Sam Evans: When it comes to closers, 2012 was the year of the injured veteran reliever. A couple of teams probably would have had different postseason success had they been able to use their reliable ninth-inning man. From Mariano Rivera to Sergio Santos, the list of closers that missed the 2012 MLB season goes on and on. Here’s an early glance at some of these pitchers hoping to rebound from their respective off years in the upcoming season.

Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees: Mariano Rivera is the best closer in the history of baseball and probably the best relief pitcher as well. Even as a forty-one year old in 2011, Rivera was forty-four for forty-nine in save opportunities. That was his ninth consecutive season with thirty or more saves. Unfortunately, Mariano Rivera missed almost all of the 2012 season due to a torn ACL he suffered while shagging fly balls. Read the rest of this entry

Jose Valverde: Ready to Rejoin the Houston Astros?

Friday November 2nd, 2012

Kyle Holland:  Although postseason baseball is a wonderful time for baseball fans everywhere, the end of the World Series becomes a devastating time. The start of November means no more major league baseball for almost 5 months. Ironically enough though, some fans love the offseason. They enjoy seeing where some of their favorite players will go and who their favorite team will get.

One prime example of these players during the this 2012-13 offseason is the ex-Detroit Tigers closer, Jose Valverde. He enjoyed great success during the 2011 season closing 49 out of 49 save opportunities. The 2012 season wasn’t nearly as impressive, as Valverde “only” saved 35 games. Then September and the postseason rolled around and he just wasn’t himself. On October 10th in game 4 of the ALDS, Valverde blew a 3-1 lead in the ninth against the Oakland A’s. On October 13th in game 1 of the ALCS, although not a save opportunity, Valverde blew a 4-0 lead against the New York Yankees before being pulled.

Jose Valverde became a free agent on October 30, two days after the Tigers got swept by the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. The Tiger publicly announced they are not going to make an attempt to re-sign Valverde. Now the question becomes: where will Jose Valverde end up for Opening Day 2013? Read the rest of this entry

ATR: Ask the Reports Answers Your Baseball Questions: Special World Series Edition

Saturday October 27th, 2012



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

Jonathan Hacohen: In a few short hours, Game 3 of the World Series will be played from one of my fave parks in baseball, Comerica Park in Detroit. It has been a very interesting season and playoffs for me. While I readily admit that I bleed blue and orange, I did not pick the Tigers to make the playoffs this year. That fact usually stuns other Tiger fans. “How can you support the team and not pick them to win the World Series”…that is a question that I am often asked. The answer is simple: while I enjoy Comerica and have a soft spot for the Tigers, I am first and foremost a baseball writer. Baseball fandom is not something that one can turn on and off like a light switch. But if one is going to do their job properly, they need to stay fair and impartial. So while my heart wanted the Tigers to win the AL Central, my brain said that the White Sox were this year’s team of destiny. Goes to show that you never know what will happen in baseball. 

As the Tigers kept winning, I kept doubting them further. So just to prove a point, Detroit swept the Yankees in the ALCS and made it to the World Series as the favorites. At that point, I saw the Tigers beating the Giants, likely in 5 games to win the World Series. But then a couple of pitchers named Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito came along. They proved that the Giants had a ton of fight in them, They also proved that I had no business trying my hand at any predictions during the 2012 playoffs. The Giants are up 2-0 in the series, with Ryan Vogelsong taking the mound against Anibal Sanchez. My heart and brain are saying that the Giants will win big tonight and jump out to a 3-0 lead. Does that mean that the Tigers will win one and get back into this series?  We will find out very shortly.

A great pitching matchup tonight, with Ryan Vogelsong and Anibal Sanchez as the probable starters. Sanchez has enjoyed a great run as of late for the Tigers, while Vogelsong has been solid for the most part. I am seeing here a big win for Vogelsong. He is a great success story for the Giants, their version of R.A. Dickey. Having watched Sanchez implode on too many occasions, I have a hard time trusting him. Although he is batting for the almighty free agency contract, so perhaps he has a quality start in him. If the Tigers don’t pull it off, they have the near impossible task of facing Matt Cain on Sunday down 3-0. Max Scherzer will take the mound tomorrow night for the Tigers. He could be helping the Tigers even the series 2-2, or watch the Giants sweep their way to another World Series championship. In a short series, anything can happen.

Given the amount of World Series questions that we have received this week, I decided to feature the most popular questions surrounding the Tigers and Giants. If these guys can make it to the finals, the least we can do is discuss/analyze them.

Now let’s get to your top questions of the week: Read the rest of this entry

Should The Reds Convert Aroldis Chapman Into A Starter?

Sunday September 23rd, 2012

Jake Dal Porto: When people discuss dominant pitchers, usually Aroldis Chapman enters that discussion rather quickly. And for good reason. His zipping fastball and wicked slider to back it have paved a path of success for Chapman in 2012. The southpaw owns a 1.60 ERA and has picked up 35 saves in 40 chances. It’s safe to say that he’s been all of what the Reds thought he was going to be to-date…and more.

However, rumors have been floating around for quite some time now that he could make the transition into a starter in the future. This would be foolish on the Reds’ behalf. Read the rest of this entry

Your Saves Savior: The Closing Strategy for Your 2013 Fantasy Baseball Team

Tuesday September 18, 2012

Peter Stein:  

The following stat is the most telling about the roles of closers from a fantasy baseball perspective: 47 players have recorded 5 or more saves and a total of 61 have record 3 or more in 2012. The dispersion of saves throughout baseball reaffirm the old fantasy adage to never overpay for saves, demonstrating just how volatile the closing position is… and the difficulty of predicting saves.

A look at the top-five save leaders tells us even more:

Fernando Rodney (0.66 ERA, 0.78 WHIP 43 saves)

Jim Johnson (2.82 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 43 saves)

Rafael Soriano (2.07 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 40 saves)

Chris Perez (3.48 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 36 saves)

Craig Kimbrel (1.14 ERA, .0.67 WHIP, 36 saves) Read the rest of this entry

San Francisco Giants: Do They Miss All-Star Closer Brian Wilson?

Saturday September 8th, 2012

Jake Dal Porto: When Brian Wilson was ruled out for the remainder of the season more than four months ago, the Giants’ hearts sunk, their fans’ hearts sunk, and anyone that was involved with the organization found themselves in despair. Wilson was and still is the heart of the Giants. He was one of the many pieces that led San Francisco to the their championship in 2010. But since throwing that final 3-2 pitch to Nelson Cruz to clinch the title, his right arm has experienced some serious ramifications to throwing over 60 innings during that magical 2010 season. Signs of fatigue often appeared in 2011 when he only pitched 55 innings and collected 36 saves. For Wilson, those numbers aren’t nearly the norm.

As a result, he was shut down in September with arm issues. That was the last of Wilson the baseball world saw in 2011, and 2012 has basically just been the same string of events. After supposedly feeling great during spring training, his elbow flared up once again very early in the season, and after pitching just two innings, he was done for good. Now, he is currently rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery, the second time he has endured the infamous surgery over the course of his seven-year career. While Wilson continues to rehab, the Giants continue to lack the closer’s presence that he brought to the table. Read the rest of this entry

Top MLB Saves Leaders At the All-Star Break

Sunday July 8, 2012

Bryan Sheehan (MLB Writer): The All-Star Break is now upon us, so now is a good time to start looking at stats for the first half of the season. One of the most important statistics in the game of baseball is the “save,” and the mammoth contracts that relievers are signed to every year in free agency are proof that teams are hungry for a strong closer capable of providing saves. In fact, a third of the league’s closers are making at least $4.5 million in 2012, while eight are raking it at least $7 million. This does not include the huge salaries of Ryan Madson ($8.5 million), Mariano Rivera ($15 million), Brian Wilson ($8.5 million) or any other that may have been injured or otherwise removed from their role as closer. But salary does not always equal success: six of the top eleven saves leaders are earning less than $2.75 million (keep in mind that the MLB average is just about $3 million). This top eleven, all of whom have recorded 19 saves or more, is not as predictable as you might think: Heath Bell of the Marlins serves as a surprise member of the list while his NL East counterpart Jonathan Papelbon, while more consistent in terms of ERA and opportunities converted, falls just shy. So who else is on the list? You’ll have to read on to find out. Read the rest of this entry

The Milwaukee Brewers: Planning for 2012 and Beyond

Friday June 15th, 2012

                                                                                                                                      

Image Courtesy of MLB.SI.com

Brendan Henderson: 

                The Milwaukee Brewers are currently sitting in fourth in the NL Central division with a sub-par 28-33 record. Yes, that’s a decent record but I mentioned that it was “sub-par” because baseball fans are used to seeing the Brewers with a better record, but the Brewers lost Prince Fielder to free agency and they lost Alex Gonzalez this year due to injury.

                The Brewers are still in good shape to finish the year near the top of the NL Central, which is why I think they will be buyers at the trade deadline. As I mentioned above the team lost their shortstop, Alex Gonzalez for the season, the team had Cesar Izturis playing shortstop but he also got injured and he is currently on the 15 day DL. So the Brewers currently have Edwin Maysonet playing shortstop. Izturis was batting for a .216 in 31 games played and Maysonet is currently batting .200 in 23 games so there isn’t much difference in offense production between the two, in my opinion the Brewers need to get some offense production from their shortstop which is why I think the Brewers need and will go after a shortstop at the trade deadline. The teams ahead of them in the divison standings (Pirates,Reds, and Cardinals) are all not unbeatable teams. They still have a chance to make a playoff run, which is why I think they need to be buyers at the trade deadline. The Brewers need some more offense fire power if they want to make a run. Read the rest of this entry

Brandon is Out of His League as Seattle Changes Closers

Tuesday May 29th, 2012

Ryan Ritchey (Baseball Writer):  There is bad news in Seattle and that is Brandon League has been taken out of his ninth inning role for the Mariners. League who has been struggling to get the job done lately, hasn’t lost his closer’s role permanently. He just needs to work on his command for the time being in non-save situations. League has blown 4 saves in 13 chances this season and the Mariners want to work with him to see if they can change that. The same thing happened last season with League, when he was taken out of the closer role to work on mechanics. He ended up finishing the year with 37 saves. For a closer that is what you call a successful season.

The Mariners aren’t naming another closer because as manager Eric Wedge put it: “Brandon is our closer. We’ll match up with what we think works”. The Mariners only have 7 guys in the bullpen and they could end using up to 6 of them, depending on the situation, in the ninth inning. Using the closer by committee could help the Mariners while League works on command, or it could end up putting them in a worse hole to dig out of in the West. We will just have to see how long it takes League to get back to his game saving ways.

The Mariners are doing everything they can to get League’s command back, as he threw an extended bullpen yesterday. With this being said, League should be back in the closer’s role in a couple of weeks. He is doing everything he can to regain his command and that is all Wedge is asking of him. “The same thing happened last year”, Wedge said. This is nothing new for League- so it should be a quick fix.

The candidates for the job in League’s absence are Tom Wilhelmsen, Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge. Wilhelmsen is going to see the most attempts. This should be a great few weeks for him to get a chance to show what he’s got in the ninth and maybe become trade bait come July. Good luck to Brandon League on regaining his form. The Mariners are counting on League to become once again a valuable trading chip at the deadline, with League looking to cash in during the free agency the coming offseason. We hope to see League back in the ninth inning soon.

Ryan Ritchey is a Baseball Writer for MLB reports. I am a high school senior, play second base and plan on studying sports journalism in college. I am a huge fan of Barry Larkin and Brandon Phillips. Have been a baseball fan my whole life and have been writing about baseball since freshman year. You can reach me on Twitter (@Ryan13Ritchey)

Please e-mail us at: mlbreports@me.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitterand become a fan on Facebook.  To subscribe to our website and have the Daily Reports sent directly to your inbox, click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Fantasy Baseball Report: Week of May 28th

Monday May 28th, 2012

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports):  In this week’s fantasy focus, I take a look at a group of hitter who have improved significantly in one category and as a result have seen a tremendous increase in their overall value. While some of these guys are legit, others should be traded while their value is at a peak. Also, do not miss the “Closer Corner”, as the saves category has been as frustrating and hard to predict as any in 2012. 


Martin Prado
has always been a serviceable infield option, although now only eligible at third base, due to his ability to hit for average and decent power and production. However, his average took a hit in 2011 (.260) and his career highs in home runs (15) and stolen bases (5) leaves a lot to be desired. In 2012, Prado has made an effort to be more aggressive on the base paths and has already stolen 7 bases in 8 attempts. Even 15 stolen bases would tremendously increase his overall value. I expect him to approach 20, especially as he is getting on base more with an even 21:21 walk to strikeout ratio. His average is a robust .333 (career .297) and his new approach at the plate could have Prado ending the year with a line looking something like this: .310/14/80/20.

After crushing 21 home runs in 2009, Billy Butler has disappointed many owners by hitting 15 and 19 home runs in his follow-up seasons. He is an OPS machine and the power seems to be developing in 2012, as he already has 11 home runs. Due to his size, 240 pounds, people expected the power to develop right away, but we cannot forget that he is only 26 years old. Guys typically do not reach their full power potential until their late twenties. While we know we can expect a .300 average from Butler, is appears that he will at least come close to approaching 30 home runs in 2012.  The fact that he hit 13 of his 19 home runs in the final three months of the 2011 season is even more promising for Butler owners. The only discouraging thing about Butler is that he is only eligible at the DH position in most leagues. Read the rest of this entry

Kerry Wood and the Unfulfilled Career

Wednesday May 23, 2012

Bryan Sheehan (Baseball Writer): When he first came into the league, there were comparisons drawn to Nolan Ryan. Not just, “hey look, both of these guys are from Texas and play baseball!” comparisons, but predictions by some that their career numbers would shine in a similar fashion. But, after 14 years in professional baseball, Kerry Wood has decided to retire from the league, falling far short of the media’s once lofty expectations. Read the rest of this entry

Mike Gonzalez to Nats: Washington is Gearing Up For the Playoffs

Tuesday May 22, 2012

Ryan Ritchey:  With injuries to both Drew Storen and Brad Lidge the Nationals had to go out and find more depth to their bullpen. That is what they did by going out and getting Mike Gonzalez as a free agent, who last pitched for the Texas Rangers. Mike Gonzalez has playoff experience and has the stuff to carry this bullpen until Storen gets back in May. Fortunately for the Nats, they have a fairly deep pen despite loss of Storen and Brad Lidge to injuries. Henry Rodriguez was locked in as the closer, but it now appears that Washington will go with a bullpen by committee. Apparently Craig Stammen will see the bulk of the save opportunities at this point. With Storen coming back around the All Star Break, Gonzalez could continue in a setup role. Until then, perhaps Gonzo may even take over the closer job and give the Nats some needed 9th inning stability. It is looking like the Nationals are making a push for a playoff spot as they are noticing that the Phillies are struggling. They smell opportunity and are jumping in at the right time. If they are going to make a push, they will need a lock-down pen.

The big question is whether going out and getting Gonzalez was a good move… I believe it is. This is a team with tremendous starting pitching that needs a deep pen to shut down games and get wins. I see Gonzalez quite capable of filling in for Storen until he comes back,  and perhaps taking the closer’s job in the interim. The biggest thing for this Nationals team is staying atop the National League East through the All Star Break, to give them confidence for the rest of the season. In my opinion the Nationals go to the playoffs if they are within three games of the National League East leader.

Could it be that the Nationals front office wants to put people in the seats? That is a possibility, but I believe this team wants to win and wants to win now. Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg are in the majors, this could be a great chance for them to get to the postseason. You put the Nationals in the postseason and baseball ratings go through the roof. Every time the Nationals are on national tv, my twitter feed is filled with Harper tweets. The kid is taking over baseball right now, no doubt about that. 2012 could be a big year in Washington, as the Nationals move to contenders from pretenders.

Ryan Ritchey is a Baseball Writer for MLB reports. I am a high school senior, play second base and plan on studying sports journalism in college. I am a huge fan of Barry Larkin and Brandon Phillips. Have been a baseball fan my whole life and have been writing about baseball since freshman year. You can reach me on Twitter(@Ryan13Ritchey)

Please e-mail us at: mlbreports@me.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.  To subscribe to our website and have the Daily Reports sent directly to your inbox, click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Mariano Rivera’s Injury: What Does it Mean to You?

Thursday May 10th, 2012


Rob Bland:  Last week, there was a bit of a disruption in the baseball world.  At first, I saw on Twitter as a few beat writers reported that Mariano Rivera fell to the ground during batting practice before a game against the Kansas City Royals.  They said it looked bad, and that three guys carried him to a stretcher to get carted off the field.  It seemed like the entire Yankees fan base collectively held their breath while awaiting news of their closer’s future.

Rivera had an MRI during the game on Thursday May 3rd, where it was discovered that he had torn his ACL in the freak accident.

I will admit that I am not a Yankees fan.  I am a fan of a team with far less championships and a smaller fan base in the same division as the mighty Yankees.  But reality is that the most storied franchise in all of baseball, and probably all of sport, lost one of their true greats. A sad moment for any fan of the game.  However, the good news is that even at 42 years old, Rivera has vowed that he would pitch again in 2013 after surgery and a grueling rehabilitation process. Mo will return. Read the rest of this entry

Cubs and Angels Closers: Who Deserves the Job?

Wednesday May 9th, 2012

Sam Evans: Today’s two franchises haven’t been able to find a consistent pitcher to close out games this year, and it has resulted in sub .500 starts for both teams. The Cub’s headed into this year with their closer since 2009, Carlos Marmol, expected to have another season closing out games for their team. Jordan Walden, the twenty-four year old who closed out thirty-two games for the Angels last year, was named the Angels’ closer early in Spring Training. Now, only about thirty games into the season, and both of these pitchers have lost their jobs. Both teams secretly want their former closers to regain the job, but neither pitcher has had a successful year so far. Let’s look at what went wrong for these two pitchers and who took their place.

Carlos Marmol has always had the potential to be one of the best closer’s in the history of the game. His repertoire features a 93 MPH fastball, a changeup that he throws at around 86 MPH, and one of the best pitches in the game, his slider which is anywhere from 80-83 MPH. These pitches, the slider in particular, have led Marmol to record some the highest strikeout rates the game has ever seen. In 2010, Marmol’s 16 K/9 set a MLB record for a single-season (for pitchers with more than fifty innings pitched). However, Marmol has always had one thing holding him back from being the best closer in the league, walks.

In 2010, Marmol walked fifty-two in seventy-seven innings. In 2011, he walked forty-eight in seventy-five innings. In 2011, Dan Haren threw 238 innings and only walked thirty-three batters. Marmol has never seemed to realize that if he would let hitters put the ball into play, he would become a much better pitcher. Especially late in ballgames, walking insane amounts of hitters isn’t going to help you close games, no matter how much movement your pitches have. Read the rest of this entry

MLB Closer Report: Where Does Your Team Stand?

Sunday May 6, 2012

Bryan Sheehan (Baseball Writer): Seeing Mariano Rivera go down with a torn ACL is like driving by a car accident and reflecting on how easily it could have been you in that accident, or in this case- how it could have been your team’s closer cringing in pain on the warning track. And this is the year of the injured closer: from Boston’s Andrew Bailey to San Francisco’s Brian Wilson, closers across the league have been dropping like flies. Other closers, like the Angels’ Jordan Walden, have stayed healthy but haven’t played well enough to keep their coveted ninth inning role. Even though there has only been a month of baseball so far, much has changed for some clubs.

Today, I’ll be taking a look at every team’s closer situation, and breaking down how it got to be the way it is: Read the rest of this entry

Crow and Broxton Will Save the Royals Bullpen and the Rotation Starts to Take Form

Monday April 16th, 2012

Ryan Ritchey:  As I mentioned in my article a couple of weeks ago, Joakim Soria has gone down with Tommy John Surgery and will be out for the rest of the 2012 season. Now the Royals are playing closer by committee until they find a solid candidate to fill the position for the rest of the year. In my opinion the Royals are not going to contend in the AL Central, so they can give some of their young talent a chance to close.

The best pitcher in the bullpen for the Royals in my eyes is Aaron Crow. He is a young kid with a lot of upside and this is the season that he can get better against some of the best offenses the game has ever seen. Crow is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA but that will change as the season goes on and his arm gets stronger. His last two appearances have been great- with 2 strikeouts, no walks, no hits and a 0-0 record. Crow has recorded one save this season as part of the closer by committee. Read the rest of this entry

Ask the Reports: ATR Answers Your Baseball Questions – April 15th, 2012

Sunday April 15th, 2012



Jonathan Hacohen:  Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@me.com, message us on Twitter and post on our Facebook Wall!

Let’s get to your top questions of the week: (there are MANY great ones this week…better jump right in!)

 

Q:  How many triple plays were turned last year?  Wayne

MLB reports: Nice way to start off ATR Wayne. Four. Can you believe it? Four triple plays turned last year. Three in 2010, five in 2009, two in 2008 and four in 2007. Surprised? Me too. I thought they were more rare! Last year’s triple plays took place as follows:

(1) Indians turned a 3P against the White Sox on April 3rd

(2) Brewers turned a 3p against the Dodgers on August 15th

(3) Red Sox turned a 3p against the Rays in the 2nd game of a DH on August 16th (a day later!)

(4) The miracle Rays came back on September 27th to turn their own 3p against the Yankees.

 

Q:  Is it worth picking up Aroldis Chapman as a third reliever?!?  William

MLB reports:  Without a doubt. Yes. Are you kidding me? Grab him. Right now. Don’t wait. Now. Right now! As you can tell, I am high on Chapman. Long term, I see him as a starter. But for now, he is a reliever. I see him having some great save opportunities this year. Madson is done for the year. A ton of money is invested in Chapman and he has been nothing short of brilliant this season. In 4 games he has a 0.00 ERA. 11 strikeouts. 0 walks in 6 innings. Yes. As a third relieve, you cannot go wrong with Chapman. He has already vultured 2 wins. He can help you in so many ways. There will be ups-and-downs this year with Chapman, no doubts. But with pitchers around baseball dropping like flies, when you have a talented pitcher with huge upside, make sure he can find his way onto your team. (more…)

The Latest on the 2012 Red Sox Bullpen

Sunday April 15th, 2012

Sam Evans: The Boston Red Sox are in trouble. The A.L. East looks as strong as ever with four out of the five teams talented enough to make the playoffs. The Red Sox will have problems keeping up with the rest of the East due to some crucial injuries that they’ve suffered. First, the Red Sox just lost their best outfielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, for who knows how long. Also, Carl Crawford might be out until May. Maybe longer. A shaky bullpen is suffering from the loss of Jonathan Papelbon (free agency), Daniel Bard (moved to the rotation), and Andrew Bailey (injury), which does not help the Red Sox stay in contention. Some of their relief pitchers as a result need to step it up.

Other than the abysmal Orioles, the Red Sox have the worst bullpen in the A.L. East. The majority of their relief pitchers are unproven pitchers who don’t belong in a top-tier bullpen. Currently, the Red Sox plan to have Alfredo Aceves closing out games. Aceves has been considered a long reliever for most of his career and this past offseason, the Red Sox even contemplated trying Aceves out in the rotation. Read the rest of this entry

Gregg Olson Interview: Talking Ball with One of the Greatest Closers in MLB History

Friday April 6th, 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: As a big fan of baseball cards growing up (weren’t we all), one of my favorite memories was opening up my first pack of 1989 Donruss. For those of you that never saw that particular baseball card set, it is longer considered one of the ugliest cards of all time. The choice of colors was interesting to say the least. But for those that grew up with it, the cards were beautiful to us and we loved it! In that first pack of cards, I got a Gregg Olson “rated rookie”. The set featured many great rookie cards, including Griffey, Sheffield and Tom Gordon. But the Olson was my fave. The close-up on his wind-up. The intense competitor’s face. That card was forever burned in my mind. I became a huge Gregg Olson fan and watched his career from his MLB debut in 1988 and ROY season to follow in 1989. It all started though from that first pack of baseball cards. Thank you Donruss…wherever you are…

Being based in Toronto, I had the pleasure of watching Gregg Olson pitch on many occasions as a member of those Baltimore Orioles squads. From 1989-1993, Gregg rang up 160 saves in one of the dominant runs I had ever seen from a MLB closer.  The most saves at the time for a closer under 27-years of age. In 1989, Gregg won the AL Rookie of the Year award and finished 6th in CY Young voting. He was named an AL All-Star in 1990 (the only All-Star game nod in his career). Elbow issues unfortunately set back his career and Gregg did not get the chance to jump back into the closer’s role in 1998, while a member of the Diamondbacks. After 14 years in the big leagues and 217 career saves, Gregg Olson had a career that most players could only dream of. Had things played out differently health-wise, we would have seen him in Cooperstown one day, along with the other top closers of the modern-day, including Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera.

Known for his fastball and devastating curveball nicknamed “Uncle Charlie”, Gregg Olson was as good as they get in his prime. It was very difficult in my mind to see him outside of a Baltimore Orioles jersey, but so goes the business of baseball. Gregg ended up playing for 9 major league teams, with a playoff appearance with the aforementioned Diamondbacks coming in 1999. Today on MLB reports, we had a chance to catch up with the Baltimore Orioles Hall-of-Fame pitcher and talk some great baseball. Gregg was at home watching the Masters, but was kind enough to take some time for us. Following his retirement, Gregg Olson has been one busy cat. A Scout for the San Diego Padres. Published Author of the baseball book “We Got to Play Baseball”. Part Owner and President of “Toolshed Sports“- a leading manufacturer of high performance undergear. Gregg has his hands in many facets of the game of baseball! He spoke to us about all parts of his career, from getting drafted and playing with the Orioles to his current ventures and roles (and everything in-between). Gregg is a great personality to speak with. He is funny, sarcastic and extremely knowledgeable. He tells it like it us and doesn’t hold back. Much like the dominant closer in the 9th inning that went straight after top hitters in tight ballgames- Gregg Olson approaches life with the same vigour and intensity. One of my personal favorite baseball players of all-time, baseball fans are in for a treat as I spoke exclusively one-on-one with one of the greatest closers in MLB history.  Today on MLB reports, I am proud to feature my conversation with the one and only, Gregg Olson:


Welcome to MLB reports Gregg.  First question: A 1st round pick (4th overall) in 1988.  Did you expect to go that high in the draft? Did you always know you would be heading to Baltimore?

I actually did. I was told that it was down to Andy Benes and myself for the 1st pick, so it was going to be 1-5. Baltimore wanted me- so it was either going to be San Diego or Baltimore.


It didn’t take you many games- only a handful until reaching the majors in 1988.  How did you get the call? Tell us about that experience.

I really don’t remember how I was told. I had it in my contract that I would be there by September 1st. So it wasn’t a surprise. I do remember flying from Charlotte to Seattle with Curt Schilling (my roomie) for our first trip as big leaguers. Read the rest of this entry

2012: The Year of the Tommy John Surgery

Thursday March 29th, 2012

Ryan Ritchey (Intern Candidate:  MLB reports):  The 2012 season hasn’t even begun and we are already talking extensively about Tommy John surgery. As a baseball fan, it is sad to see players go down and require this surgery. It is a long recovery back to the big leagues and sometimes the players are never the same. This is an injury that happens mostly to pitchers, because of how much stress they put on their elbows. This year is no different.

We are two weeks away from opening day and several pitchers have gone down with elbow injuries, both needing Tommy John. Two of those pitchers are Ryan Madson of the Cincinnati Reds and Joakim Soria of the Kansas City Royals. Madson who just signed with the Reds this offseason is hoping for a speedy recovery back to the bigs to make an impact in Cincy. For Joakim Soria, it’s a totally different story. This is his second go around with Tommy John Surgery (2003). (more…)

Joakim Soria to Undergo a 2nd Tommy John Surgery: The Aftermath of the Loss of the Royals Closer

Saturday March 24th, 2012

Jonathan Hacohen:  I was digging in the MLB reports archive this morning, thinking about the recent news on Joakim Soria‘s seasoning ending injury. The inevitable story came out yesterday, as Joakim Soria is facing a second Tommy John surgery. A visit to Dr. Andrews confirmed it. With “definite damage” to the elbow, as was reported from Soria’s initial prognosis, it was only a matter of time till this announcement was made. So the Royals lose Soria for the season, their top closer facing a long road to return after the reconstructive elbow surgery he is about to face. Did the Royals take too much of a risk by hanging on to Soria this offseason? As a result, what is the Royals bullpen going to look like in 2012? Read the rest of this entry

Chad Cordero Interview: Closing In On A Major League Comeback

Thursday March 22nd, 2012

(Photo courtesy of Scott Ableman- click here for link to Scott’s photographs)

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: When you are discussing the terms “closer” and “saves”, this name will always come in conversation at some point. One of the top closers in baseball for several years, this man really needs no introduction. But he will get one anyways…because he is that damn good. As far as superstar closers go, Chad Cordero has been there. Between 2004-2007, Chad was one of the game’s elite. 2005 was his shining moment, as Chad led the league with 47 saves in Washington- the first year of the Nationals. Consistent and a bulldog on the mound. Injuries and a personal tragedy all made the last few years very difficult for Chad and his family. But like on the mound, Chad Cordero in life is not one to give up. He battles on.

I had the honor of speaking with Chad recently as the MLB season began to approach. Where did we speak? Amazingly enough, while Chad was getting a tattoo. Apparently talking baseball helped numb the pain.  If nothing else, it made for an interesting interview experience! We got to discuss many topics, centering around baseball and life in general.

Despite his stardom and popularity, Chad Cordero remains very grounded and focused. After taking the time to heal his body and family, Chad is back with renewed energy and confidence. Despite reports last year of his retirement from the game, I am happy to report that Chad Cordero is far from finished. He is working hard and training for his MLB comeback in 2013.

We covered many topics during our conversation. From closing in College, playing in Montreal and Washington, reaching major league success,  and recovering from the loss of his daughter to SIDS, Chad was very candid in this interview. I even discovered the secret behind the straight-brim hat! Today on MLB reports, we feature one of our favorite closers of all-time – on the comeback trail with the man they called “The Chief” – Chad Cordero:

Read the rest of this entry

Daniel Bard: Future Red Sox Ace?

Thursday March 15, 2012

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer):  With most of Red Sox Nation knowing that big time closer Jonathan Papelbon would be leaving the team via free agency after the 2011 season, many thought that it would be a seamless transition to throw Daniel Bard into the mix as the closer for the foreseeable future.  However, new Red Sox GM Ben Cherington surprised many when he announced that Bard would be stretched out as a starter in the spring.

Now, it’s not the first time a good reliever has been turned into a starter, and many of them have turned into useful starters.  C.J. Wilson is just one of these successful conversions, having been the Texas Rangers’ closer from 2007-2009, then shifting into the rotation for 2010 and 2011.  Wilson earned 46 saves in those 3 seasons, and after his move to the rotation, he went 31-15 and accumulated 10.5 WAR, putting him in the upper echelon of starters.

This year, another closer for the Rangers will be shifting to the rotation in Neftali Feliz.  Many believe that he will struggle. But if C.J. Wilson, who was a decent reliever can do it, why not Feliz?  Why not Bard?

Bard has an electric fastball, averaging over 97 mph over his MLB career.  He also has a solid slider that sits around 84 mph.  Bard has induced ground balls at an extremely high rate; 48.6% over 197 IP.  Bard has lowered his walk rate, as well as HR/FB while maintaining an extremely low BABIP over the last two seasons, .215 and .224, respectively.

Bard hasn’t started a game since 2007 when he was in single-A ball.  He threw 75 innings of 7.08 ERA, striking out 47 and walking 78.  Obviously a lot of those control issues are behind him, as evidenced by his shrinking BB/9; 4.01, 3.62, and 2.96 in 2009, 2010, and 2011, respectively.  Bard has been able to get guys out with a fastball that touches 100 mph, and a plus slider.  The problem here is that he only ever threw one inning at a time, and thus rarely needed a third pitch.  According to brooksbaseball.net, in 2011, Bard threw his change-up 83 times, which is only 7.5% of all his pitches, in contrast to 64% on his fastball, and 25% on his slider.  He also threw 46 sinkers, around 4.1%.

In such a small sample size of changeups, one should definitely not get too excited over the results.  However, in 2011, Bard fared pretty well with his change-up.  He was able to induce swings on 48.19% of his changeups, and 25% of those were swing-and-misses.  His changeup was put in play 23% of the time, and had a ground ball rate of 63%.

In no way does this mean it is a good changeup. However, it does seem promising.  It is also possible that Bard just throws them at the most opportune time, and delivers when necessary.  It could also mean that he is incredibly lucky.

With Bard having to throw 6+ innings every 5th day, how will his arm hold up moving to the rotation?  Most relievers have a limit in their first years starting as to how many innings they will throw.

Brandon Morrow was moved to the rotation full time when he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, and was shut down after 146 innings in 2010, and threw only 179 innings in 2011. This year, there will be no limitations on the hard throwing righty, whose profile closely fits that of Bard.  Morrow can get his fastball in the upper 90s as well as having a devastating slider.  His success has been only moderate due to mediocre offerings in his curve ball and changeup.

Bard’s development as a starter rests mostly on the development of his changeup.  If he is able to use it more often and maintain success with it, he could be a solid starter this year and going forward.  The other extremely important thing to look at is whether new manager Bobby Valentine will limit his innings, or let him go for the full season, as the Rangers did with Wilson in 2010 (204 IP).

I see Bard throwing somewhere around 170 innings this year, and performing fairly well, getting acclimated to throwing every 5th day.  His changeup is developing, and if he harnesses it, he could be a deadly addition to a rotation that includes Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz.


***Today’s feature was prepared by Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: mlbreports@me.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on FacebookTo subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

The Aroldis Effect: What’s In Store for the Game’s Hardest Throwing Pitcher?

Thursday February 16th, 2012

Sam Evans: In the history of baseball, no pitcher has ever thrown a baseball faster than Aroldis Chapman. In 1876, when the National League was founded, Alexander Graham Bell made the first ever telephone call. The athleticism of baseball players and overall talent in the league has improved significantly since then, but it is amazing that we now have over four hundred Major League pitchers that have an average fastball speed that’s at least 90 MPH. Aroldis Chapman is a phenomenal talent, who with the right coaching, has a chance to make more than a few All-Star teams. Read the rest of this entry

The Future of Alfredo Simon

Sunday January 29th, 2012

Sam Evans: Alfredo Simon has not had the Major League career that most people grew up dreaming about. He’s never maintained success in his four years in the big leagues, plus he was accused of murdering a man during the last offseason. Luckily for Simon, he has a chance to be a starter in Baltimore’s talent-deprived rotation. He is still a promising player with a good build and a fastball that can touch up to 95 MPH.

Simon should be an inspiration to all minor league players. He spent seven years in the minors before he ever reached the majors. During those seven minor league years, he played for the Rangers, Orioles, Dodgers, Phillies, and the Giants. Simon never posted amazing minor league numbers and had problems with his offspeed pitches. What kept Simon on teams was his fastball in the upper 90’s and positive veteran influence. In 2008, Simon finally got his chance. The Orioles called him up to the majors and gave him a chance to showcase his abilities against major league hitters.

When Alfredo Simon signed with the Phillies over ten years ago, he claimed to be almost two years younger than he was, as he went by the name Carlos Cabrera. This wasn’t a huge deal, but eventually the information about Simon’s name and age was released to the public. Little did Simon know, this was just the start of his legal issues. Last year, on New Year’s, Simon was accused of killing Michel Castillo Almonte and wounding his own brother. As the story was told, the locals were all bringing in the New Year at a huge party, with Simon celebrated by firing his gun into the air twice. I’m not a lawyer, but this seems very suspicious. If Simon was firing his gun up into the air, how did he kill someone? I don’t speak very fluent spanish, but according to a Dominican news telecast, Simon was at a street block filled with hundreds of people, away from Almonte at the time of the murder.

The justice system in the Dominican Republic is far from perfect. Simon could have just paid off people to cover this up after he actually did murder Almonte.  Or this could have been a misunderstanding or tragic accident. However, the court found indisputable evidence that Simon was not the murderer. He had approximately three hundred witnesses testifying his innocence. What I find amusing is that almost all of them showed up for the court appearance, dressed in Orioles gear and Simon’s jerseys. On November 8th, Simon was acquitted of all charges of involuntary manslaughter.

Back to baseball, Simon has never been able to maintain success for long periods of time in the majors. He has shown glimpses of being an electric closer at times. He’s also had moments where he looks like a potential innings-eater starter. Nobody, even Simon, knows where this talented veteran will fit into the Orioles roster. Whether it’s as a starter, or as a late-inning bullpen arm, Simon could be a breakout player in 2012.  Or he could end up on waivers.

Simón can still heat up the radar gun, even now at age thirty. Last year, his average fastball was 94.4MPH. He threw his fastball almost 1 MPH faster in 2010, but that’s likely because he was used out of the bullpen. Speaking of 2010, that was the year when Orioles fans got to see the potential of this 6’6” giant. Due to a Mike Gonzalez injury, and a dreadful Orioles bullpen, Alfredo Simón was name the O’s closer. Simon took complete advantage of the situation and he finished with 17 saves in 21 chances.

Simon’s peripherals suggest that he has been consistently getting lucky during his time in Baltimore. He has a 5.23 career FIP, but only a 4.19 career SIERA (Skill-Interactive ERA). Simon is starting to look like another pitcher who consistently outperforms what their sabermetrical numbers suggest they should be. Sabermetrics are far from perfected statistics always and they could be misleading, in terms of Simon’s production.

In 2011, Simon returned to starting pitching. He had sixteen starts and he threw more innings in one year (115.2), than he’d thrown since 2007. He still missed time due to hamstring issues, but overall, Simon threw some quality ballgames for Baltimore. Eight of his sixteen starts were for six innings or more. If Simon can perfect his offspeed pitches better, I could see him having a Carlos Silva in 2004-esue year. That’d make him one of the Orioles best pitchers and he would then be due for a payday in 2013.

Recently, both Manager Buck Showalter, and General Manager Dan Duquette, have made it clear that they want to have players competing in Spring Training for a spot in the Orioles rotation. According to Orioles beat writer, Brittany Ghiroli, Simon has lost ten pounds this offseason and he’s been preparing to be a starter. There will be approximately eleven players competing for five spots in the Orioles rotation this spring. Fortunately for Simon, the majority of them are not very good.

If the Orioles coaching staff can ameliorate Simon into a starter who goes deep into games, without losing his velocity or blocking a younger prospect, then they will have gem of a pitcher at a fraction of the cost of most top starting pitchers. I really do believe in Simon’s capabilities. He has the potential and given that he has a good opportunity coming up this spring, I don’t see any reason why he can’t spend the entire year in the Orioles rotation (health permitting).

If starting doesn’t work out for Simon, he can still be an effective late-inning arm. The Orioles need to develop their pitchers better and stop messing with their roles. They can tell Simon if they want him to be a starter, or a reliever, but the worst thing they can do is have him switch back and forth. For Simon’s career, it’s now or never. 2012 will be the most important year of his career and the Orioles need him to produce at the Major-League level so that they don’t have to rush their young prospects any further.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us onTwitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click hereand follow the link at the top of our homepage.

What to do with the Red Sox Bullpen?

Wednesday January 4th, 2012

Sam Evans: The Red Sox new management has already made a lot of moves to bolster their pitching staff this offseason. The one main idea that new General Manager Ben Cherington has brought to the Sox this year is competition. The Red Sox are looking for as many players to compete not only for a rotation spot, but for a chance to be the Red Sox closer in 2012.

My first reaction to hearing that Boston wanted to move Alfredo Aceves to the rotation was very negative. Aceves is a 29 year-old reliever who throws a fastball in the low nineties. Last year, Aceves threw 114 innings and had a 2.61 ERA. Going into Spring Training, the Red Sox are going to try out Aceves in the rotation. There is no way to know whether or not this move is going to work, but it’s a risky move for sure. Nonetheless, if the Red Sox only have Aceves throw one hundred and fifty innings this season, his workload would not be dramatically increased from 2011.

This past Wednesday, the Red Sox and A’s confirmed a five player trade which sent 2009 AL Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey to Boston. The Red Sox made it clear that they acquired Bailey to be their closer, and only that. Bailey has a lengthy injury history which is not good for a 27-year-old. He made the 2009 and 2010 All-Star teams but in 2011, he struggled due to his injuries. The Red Sox can always move Bard back to the closer spot if needbe, but for the time being it’s Bailey’s job to lose.

Daniel Bard was always waiting to take Jonathan Papelbon‘s closer role. Now, with Papelbon signing a 4- year, $50 million deal with the Phillies, one would think that Bard would slide into the back-end of the bullpen. With the Bailey acquisition, the Red Sox have made it crystal clear that Bard is heading to the rotation. In my opinion, this is not a great idea because Bard always struggled as a starter and doesn’t appear able to handle the workload. If everything goes wrong for Bard as a starter during Spring Training, he will take to becoming the Sox setup man. However, if Bard’s nasty slider can propel him to a successful spring, then he will replace the injured John Lackey and take over as Boston’s fifth starter.

The Red Sox haven’t improved much, if any at any other position other than their bullpen this offseason. I don’t like the trade that the Red Sox made, trading Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland for Mark Melancon. But Melancon is a nice piece to have in your bullpen. The former Yankee took advantage of Houston’s sparse bullpen last year, collecting twenty saves with a 2.78 ERA. If Bard stays in the rotation, Melancon will be the setup man. Otherwise, he will probably slide into the 7th inning role. Keep in mind that GM Ben Cherington and new manager Bobby Valentine have not ruled out the possibility that Melancon could close in 2012.

The Red Sox have other options in their bullpen, but none as strong as the previous four. Franklin Morales is a young one-time Baseball America top-ten prospect that has never had success with any breaking pitches. Bobby Jenks is due to make six million dollars in 2012, but he’s fallen off a cliff since 2009. Maybe the Sox saw the Yankees looking victorious with their big man, (C.C. Sabathia) and they took a chance on Jenks. Matt Albers, Scott Atchison, and Alex Wilson could all see time in the bullpen this year, but none pose a serious threat to take over the closer job.

Overall, the Red Sox have shown great effort this offseason to improve their bullpen. Despite losing their most valuable relief arm, the Sox have improved the quality of their bullpen across the board. The Red Sox have a big year coming in 2012, and with the recent additions to the their bullpen, it’s starting to look like they’ll be back in the playoffs once again.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Ryan Madson: A Free Agent Closer with no Job?

Thursday December 8, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  With the Winter Meetings at an end, players/teams/agents are left standing to look over the game of musical chairs and who is left standing.  A particularly interesting position was closer- with more eligible players than open positions.  In the past few weeks, we have seen many signings and trades in this area.  Jonathan Papelbon to the Phillies.  Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays.  Huston Street to the Padres.  Francisco Rodriguez accepted arbitration from the Brewers.  Heath Bell to the Marlins.  Joe Nathan to the Rangers.  Andrew Bailey is openly being discussed in the trade market as leaving the A’s.  Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch joined the Mets.  As a result, one big name is left standing with no dance partner.  Ryan Madson is still on the open market with few promising prospects ahead.

As the story goes, Madson was supposed to re-sign with the Phillies.  A reported 4-year, estimated $44 million contract was put on the table by the Phillies early in free agency.  Player and agent (Scott Boras) happily accepted and a Philadelphia return was in order.  Not so fast.  There are conflicting stories on what transpired.  Needless to say, there was never a firm deal in place and the Phillies moved quickly to sign the top closer on the free agent market, Jonathan Papelbon.  Since then, there has been little discussion on Madson.  There have been reports throughout the process linking him to the Jays, Marlins and Red Sox.  Well…the first 2 teams have filled their vacancies.  The Red Sox have Daniel Bard as the incumbent set-up man who could get a look at the closing position- although he may end up in the rotation.  Other than that, there seems to be little hope for Madson.

Last night, Madson chose not to the K-Rod route and accept salary arbitration.  As a result, he remains out in the market waiting for his next contract offer.  Francisco Cordero is in the same boat, although he is still likely to go back to the Reds on a 1-2 year contract from the whispers around the league.  But even if the Reds do not retain Cordero, it is unlikely that they will sign Madson- especially given the young players they still need to lock-up to extensions.  So what other options exist for Madson?  Perhaps the Orioles.  Maybe the Rays.  The options are getting bleak.

This is one of the few times that you will see Scott Boras caught “with his pants down” so to speak.  For an agent that is well known to be able to create and stimulate markets and demands for his clients, Boras has come up short for Madson.  The perception is that the Phillies did what was best for them in signing Papelbon, which left Boras outraged and in a bind.  With little to no teams looking for closers, Boras essentially only has the Red Sox to work with.  At this point, he may need to take a 1-2 year deal for Madson, in the $7-10 million range to rebuild his value and try again on the open market in the future.  A risky proposition, but with few options- Madson may have no other choice.

I was actually quite surprised that Madson didn’t take the Phillies offer of arbitration.  Based on his stellar 2011 numbers, he could have expected a strong 1-year contract at least.  Now Boras and Madson are left to take their chances on the open market.  For a closer with only 1 full year on the job, time is not on Madson’s side.  A proven closer like Francisco Cordero knows that he find a contract soon.  Heck, even K-Rod knows that he just needs another solid season under his belt and his next deal will follow shortly after.  Madson was in line for his first and only big payday this offseason.  If he gets hurt or becomes ineffective in 2012, that dream vanishes. Scott Boras better work overtime to get the Red Sox biting on his closer client.  Otherwise, it may not turn out to be a very Merry Christmas in the Madson household this year.

 

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

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Time Has Come For the Royals to Trade Soria

Tuesday November 15, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  With the free agency season in full swing, some teams may not be happy with the sticker prices on available players.  Especially when it comes to pitching, including closers.  Jonathan Papelbon recently grabbed $50 million from the Phillies and reports have Ryan Madson looking at a deal in the $40 million range.  These figures make existing closers signed to reasonable deals an attractive trade commodity, despite the amount of available relief pitchers on the market.  There may be a quantity of closers, but certainly not quality.  Outside of Mariano Rivera and Papelbon, there are few sure-fire closers currently in baseball.  Enter Joakim Soria of the Kansas City Royals.

A 2-time All-Star, Soria has put up some impressive numbers in his 5 seasons in Kansas City.  Two seasons of 40+ saves, Soria has a career 2.40 ERA and 1.043 WHIP.  Soria will only be 28 next year and could theoretically be a building block for the next few seasons in Kansas City.  However, closers are generally considered to be foundational players.  Soria is no exception.  2011 was his most difficult seasons in the majors, as he did save 28 games but put up a 4.03 ERA and 1.276 WHIP (all career worsts).  Soria is signed for $6 million this coming season and has 2 more team options at roughly $8 million per season.  The Royals are faced with a decision: hold onto their star closer, or cash in while his market is at its peak.

The Royals are on the way up.  No doubt about it.  Mike Moustakas, Erik Hosmer, Wil Myers, John Lamb and company are expected to come together at the same time to make the Royals the next powerhouse squad.  By my estimation, they should be World Series contenders by 2015.  But with a couple of more seasons of growing pains ahead, can they afford the luxury of Soria?  My argument is no.  Soria’s salary in 2012 is still considered a “deal”, but from 2013 go-forward at $8 million, the Royals would be wise to spend their salary dollars in other areas.  There are still holes to fill on the squad, including 1-2 more bats and starting pitching.  The team will also need to lock up some of its young star players early to avoid unaffordable contract demands down the road.  Joakim Soria can bring back a nice haul to fill needs and stock the team for a future championship.  The team needs to be realistic of where it is today, where it is going in the future and the players it needs to get there.

The Royals also have options to replace Soria.  Aaron Crow (if he is not moved into the rotation) and Tim Collins could all get a shot.  Luke Hochevar, who has been hot/cold during his career in the rotation may eventually settle into the bullpen.  Options are there.  Heck, the Royals plunked Soria from the Rule-5 draft and transformed him from a Padres outcast into a star closer.  With the risk of injury and ineffectiveness always hanging over closers, the Royals may be gambling if they hang onto Soria much longer.  Another season like 2011 could severely damage his trade value, while he could bring in a nice crop of 2-3 prospects if traded this offseason.  The Royals need to do some soul-searching and realize that Soria is worth more in a trade than on their roster.

Teams will surely line-up if Joakim Soria is made available.  The Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Angels, Tigers, Rangers, Nationals and Cardinals would all surely inquire as to his availability.   From all reports, the Yankees and Blue Jays are the strongest contenders to land the Royals closer.  Don’t get me wrong- I am a Joakim Soria fan.  I believe the kid is immensely talented and has the talent and determination to remain a top MLB closer for another decade (health permitting).  But on a losing ballclub that is rebuilding, Joakim Soria is a luxury that the Royals simply cannot afford.  If the team has to trade a Moustakas or Hosmer given their budget but retain Soria, that would be a big mistake in my estimation.  The team needs to build for 2015- not 2012.  This offseason represents a golden opportunity for the Royals to continue to replenish its roster and fill more holes.  The Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez was that type of step in the right direction.  If Melky was a Prince, it is time for the Royals to flip their King for a pair of Wild Cards.  It could prove to be their ultimate winning hand.

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

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Phillies Sign Papelbon Over Madson: The Stare Arrives in Philadelphia

Saturday November 12, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  The Philadelphia Phillies seemingly fooled everyone this week.  Earlier in the week, reports indicated that the team had locked up its incumbent closer, Ryan Madson for a 4-year, $44 million contract which could climb all the way up to a $57 million deal with an additional option year.  Reactions were for the most part negative, as the baseball world could not believe that the team would pay (overpay) for a reliever coming off his first season as a full-time closer by handing out one of the largest contracts ever to a non-starting pitcher.  At that money, people began to wonder why the Phillies did not seek out the best closer on the market and one of the best overall in the game, Jonathan Papelbon.  The Red Sox closer, after endless 1-year pacts with Boston was in his first free agency period in 2011.  But then something interesting happened.  The Madson deal, which required the approval of the team’s higher brass all of a sudden was delayed and then fell apart.  A couple of days later, Papelbon became a Philly!  At 4-years and $50 million, Jonathan Papelbon finally received the long-term deal he has craved all of these years and Philadelphia signed a lock-down closer.  But what happened?  How did the Phillies switch to Papelbon mid-stream after coming so far along in negotiations with Madson?

The marketing term for what the Phillies did is called a “bait and switch”, meant when a retailer will advertise a discounted product and will then offer you a higher priced replacement when you arrive at the location to find that the advertised good has mysteriously sold out.  Often, that discounted good was never actually available, but was a merely a ploy to get the consumer to first get to the store and secondly, buy a more expensive product.  In the case of the Philadelphia Phillies, I do not believe that the team ever planned on signing Ryan Madson to the reported high-end contract.  While being groomed to be a future for many seasons, the team was never completely sold on his true sustainability at the position.  While Madson received the occasional closing opportunities in his 8-year career leading up to 2011, he actually converted only 20 saves going into this season.  But something funny happened this season.  Madson became solid.  So solid, that he saved 32 games with a 2.37 ERA and 1.154 WHIP.  With Scott Boras as his agent, the Phillies knew that Madson would not come cheap.  But the Phillies faithful for the most part loved Madson and would mourn his departure.  The Phillies needed to secure themselves at the closer position while softening the blow of not signing Ryan Madson.  The team’s actions this week were a stroke of genius and the team played its cards perfectly.

The plan for 2011 was to have Brad Lidge close for 1 more season, with Ryan Madson as the set-up man and fill-in closer.  In the offseason, the Phillies were going to target Jonathan Papelbon and sign him to a  large pact.  But Lidge was injured and ineffective in 2011, forcing the Phillies to use Madson as their primary closer for most of the season.  The reliever that they were hoping to sign for a reasonable 3-years, $21-$24 million deals was about to cost them almost double to retain.  But how could the team sign another reliever and let their incumbent closer go?  Simple.  Propose a deal with Ryan Madson and float the scenario out to the public to record and evaluate the reaction of the public.  The possibility existed that the fans, writers and analysts would applaud the deal, in which case the Phillies could consider actually proceeding with it.  But in all likelihood, the team knew that the outcry would be against the deal.  By then pulling the Madson deal and reaching out to sign Papelbon, the approval rating would be through the roof.  It is almost the same as proposing a 20% tax hike and then only increasing taxes by 5%.  Throw out a worst-case scenario and set expectations low- then substitute a better plan and watch people jumping for joy.

The Phillies in my estimation used Ryan Madson as a pawn.  While Scott Boras has been the master for years at playing teams against one another to benefit the pocketbook of his clients, the Phillies in this case used Boras and Madson to get what they wanted.  If the Phillies had gone out right away at the start of free agency to sign Jonathan Papelbon, fans and critics would have blasted the team for overpaying and proposing that the team should have kept Ryan Madson at a hometown discount.  The Phillies were able to eliminate such sentiments by showing that Madson would have cost them top dollar to stay put.  At an additional $1.5 million per season for the same 4-year contract, the Phillies replaced a closer with 1 full year of closing experience with a closer (Papelbon) who is the same age (31), has 6 full years of full-time closing experience in one of baseball’s biggest and highest pressure markets (Boston) of 30+ saves per season, to go along with an almost perfect postseason resume.  The Phillies traded in a solid Buick for a Mercedes, with still plenty of mileage to be driven.

For those of you that may doubt the “conspiracy theory”, just take a close look at the Phillies rotation.  Since Spring Training, I have been calling for the Phillies to sign Papelbon.  The team has shown to seek out the best pitchers on the market and bring them on board.  Roy Halladay.  Cliff Lee.  Now Jonathan Papelbon.  When the Phillies go shopping for pitching, they do not shop in the bargain bin.  Aside from obtaining Mariano Rivera, the team signed the best available closer for their staff.  So while Ryan Madson would have been a nice luxury to keep on the staff for insurance and to set-up, the team knew it would be seeking Jonathan Papelbon all the way.  The plan would have worked to have both Papelbon and Madson on the team, had Madson not closed out so many games this past season.  As a middle reliever setting-up, his contract would have been affordable.  But an outstanding closing record in 2011 along with Scott Boras as his agent, meant that Madson was priced out of the Phillies budget.  With Papelbon set to come on board, there would be no room for Madson.

The Phillies faithful have to be pleased today.  While they will miss Ryan Madson, most will know that there was no guarantees he could duplicate his numbers over the life of a 4-5 year contract.  At the numbers that were tabled for him to stay in Philadelphia, the team by all accounts did the right thing to sign the superior Papelbon.  While he will cost the team its 2012 first-round pick, a pick should be recovered, along with a supplemental pick, when Madson is signed by another team.  The cost/benefit of this move was essentially a no-brainer.  The Phillies went with more of a sure-thing by signing Papelbon.  While there are no guarantees in baseball, especially with pitchers (arm problems) and especially closers (who can lose their jobs at a moment’s notice), Jonathan Papelbon is as money in the bank as they come.

A couple of last points that helped trigger the change of closers.  By continually signing 1-year deals in Boston, many expected Papelbon to bolt once he was eligible for free agency.  The team could not lock the player down to a long-term deal and with the max-exodus of players during this past offseason, it seemed that Papelbon was another candidate to seek a change of scenery.  But some people may not remember that not too long ago that Ryan Madson’s wife, Sarah, making negative comments on Phillies fans.  At the time, it seemed like a ticket out-of-town for Madson, but his success this season seemingly made the comments disappear.  Except that the Phillies brass did not forget and the publicity that surrounded the event at the time was one that likely set a chain reaction for the plan for Madson to leave at the end of the season.  Baseball is a game of short-term memories, but not for all.

When I floated the idea of a Jonathan Papelbon signing all season long, Phillies fans did not have one positive comment back to me.  Their fans, as well as most in baseball, had very negative things to say about Papelbon.  Outside of Boston it seems, many were unable to or refused to recognize his talent.  But while Papelbon was beloved in Boston until now, those sentiments will transfer over to Philadelphia by next season.  The stare, as it is known, will become one of the most famed times in Philadelphia Phillies history as the team and its fans get revved up watching Jonathan Papelbon close out games for the next 4-seasons.  There is a changing of the guard in Philadelphia.  The Phillies have Halladay, Lee and Hamels to start things off and now can rely on Papelbon to close them out.  The stare now makes its residence in the city of brotherly love.  Another World Series may not be far behind.

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

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