Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer): Follow @chuckbooth3024
I think you can safely say that the off-season has truly begun! I was writing on my computer yesterday when the big trade blew up on twitter. I live in White Rock, British Colombia, Canada, so you can only imagine how excited the whole country of Canada was to talk about baseball on the big media Social Website. Within minutes, it was clear that the Marlins and Jays were talking about a huge deal. There is a remarkable quality that I have admired about Alex Anthopoulos for a few years now. That his organization is pretty tight-lipped about their negotiations with any MLB team, just as it was with the Marlins on Tuesday. I waited a few minutes and then…..WHAM! A Blockbuster trade came right down the PIKE! Here is the trade in case you have been living under a rock for the past 24 hours.
To visit the 2013 Updated Version of the Toronto Blue Jays 2013 Payroll Blog I did click here
To the Blue Jays 2012 Stats:
SS/2B Jose Reyes .287 11 HRs 57 RBI, 86 Runs, 40 SB
4 Million Dollars Cash
To the Marlins:
SP Justin Nicolino:
RP: Anthony DeSclafini:
Wednesday November 14th, 2012
Jake Dal Porto: The New York Yankees are in a bit of a flux. They can no longer buy their way to championships like they did in 2009, for example. Instead, they have a plan in place to get under the $189 threshold by 2014, which certainly limits their spending this off-season. Talk about a change of events. With big names presumably out of the question due to the aforementioned restraint, Hiroki Kuroda becomes their primary focus to resign this winter.
Kuroda is fresh off what was arguably his best season as a pro. He posted a 3.32 earned run average with career-highs in the wins department (16), innings pitched (219.2), strikeouts (167), and ERA+ (126). So in short, his market value is as high as it can probably be which will increase his personal demands greatly.
However, Kuroda is still viewed as a tier two free agent with Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez being the cream of the crop. While he won’t make Greinke type money, it wouldn’t come as a huge shock to sign a deal worth roughly $90 million over a five-year or six-year deal. Whatever Kuroda has in mind, the Yankees must figure out a way to keep him around. Read the rest of this entry
Tuesday November 13th, 2012
Kyle Holland: On Saturday, the Nationals announced that they were re-signing manager Davey Johnson for the 2013 season. With the Nats clearing up the managerial situation it leaves the rest of their offseason for signing free agents. One free agent they will start with is outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher.
Swisher would be a great fit in a Washington uniform. He just recently rejected the Yankees offer of $13.3 million for one more year in New York. With Adam LaRoche declining his qualifying offer from the Nationals, they could let him walk and sign Swisher. Swisher has been known to play first base along with his usual outfield, so he could be a great replacement for LaRoche. Added versatility is always a bonus in today’s game. Read the rest of this entry
Tuesday October 30th, 2012
Jake Dal Porto: This year’s free agent market may be slim on depth, but it does not lack a main attraction with Josh Hamilton set to hit the open market. Hamilton hit a career-high 43 home runs this past season, but a slew of late season miscues have affected his marking price.
While he isn’t the safest of offseason additions, teams will still look to acquire the powerful lefty because of his middle of the order presence which very few others can match.
With the Yankees and Red Sox likely out of the running for the slugger, the Brewers suddenly have a decent chance of bringing in Hamilton.
Here are three reasons why: Read the rest of this entry
Sunday October 28th, 2012
Jake Dal Porto: If you want the concise version of last year’s offseason, there are only two names that you need to keep in mind—Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols. While there were numerous other maneuverings and signings, those two overshadowed them all. And to no surprise, both garnered massive contracts. Fielder inked a 10-year $214 million contract with the Detroit Tigers, and Pujols also was signed to ten years, but $243 million from the Los Angeles Angels.
So, who has proven to be the better signing after year 1?
What Does Fielder Have Going For Him?
Well, let’s think about the obvious. Oh, here it is; the Tigers made the playoffs while the Angels limped to the finish line, falling short of the second Wild Card spot. On the other hand, Detroit swiftly crossed the finish line thanks to a big September. Importance is generally judged by two things by national pundits— overall stats and team’s success. Fielder boasts an edge over Pujols in both categories. Read the rest of this entry
Josh Hamilton: Overcoming the Demons or Reliving his Past? The Future of the Rangers Free Agent Superstar
Tuesday October 9th, 2012
Robert Whitmer: We talked in a previous article about the demons that we carry and how they can affect us. We all have things that we must overcome in order for us to progress and become the person that we were meant to be. For some it is easier to overcome these demons, but for others it can take longer; much longer. What is it about a person that takes one less time to overcome them and others longer? Is it the self-discipline that one has? What about distractions that come up while trying to work on their issues? We all know that Josh Hamilton has had some issues in the past and that he says it is a fight every day of his life to not go back to the behaviors that got him in trouble in the first place. Before I go much further in this article, let me be very clear about one thing. I have never had any type of issue with any type of addiction to any drugs, alcohol or tobacco. I don’t know how it affects people on a daily basis. What I do know is that it is a serious affliction. One thing I do know is that through it all, Josh Hamilton is a strong individual.
Normally when you write something like this you start at the beginning and you work your way to the present day, then project the future. This will not be one of those. I am going to start at the present and work my way to the beginning to see how far the man has come. As of today we are looking at Josh Hamilton the free agent. When the Rangers failed to advance in the postseason, Hamilton became an unemployed baseball player. In a rather lackluster free agent class that doesn’t really have a lot of players that are game changers, the speculation has not been about who Josh Hamilton will sign with- but rather how much he will sign for. Let’s start by looking at the season that the guy had. Out of the 12 position players that made the most money in the majors this year, Hamilton had a better season than all of them except for a guy named Miguel Cabrera, who won some award that hadn’t been won in 47 years named the triple crown. Hamilton made $13 million this year. The Rangers paid him $302,325.58 per home run that he hit (43). They paid him $105,691.06 per RBI that he drove in this year (128). When you are looking at how much you pay a player, you have to look at consistency to make somewhat sure that they are going to be worth the money. Read the rest of this entry
Wednesday September 26th, 2012
Jake Dal Porto: Melky Cabrera went from a legitimate MVP candidate to a lost cause within the matter of a few hours. The Giants were shocked to hear the news, the baseball world was shocked. Then other than shocked, they wanted revenge. Cabrera won the National League the MLB All-Star game MVP. He had the Giants in first place for a while. Simply put, Melky Cabrera made a huge impact on the overall landscape of the MLB.
Thus our question of the day: Should the Giants bring Melky Cabrera back for the playoffs?
He Would Solve The Empty Hole In Left Field
Cabrera’s void was going to be hard to fill anyway. But the fact that he was so productive out of left field made his loss even more difficult for San Francisco. Mainly because the alternatives were slim at that point, and the same can still be said.
The addition of Xavier Nady has helped the Giants. However, he was on the shelf for a little bit more than a week, so his contributions have been marginal thus far. In 29 at-bats, he owns a triple slash of .310/.394/.414. He has also driven in six runs during his short stint. Simply put, his contributions have certainly been beneficial compared to what Gregor Blanco and Justin Christian provided. But Nady on his own can’t nearly match what Cabrera brought to the table. That’s a rather obvious theory too.
Plus, Nady’s defense is questionable. He isn’t the quickest of outfielders, which permits him from catching anything outside of his small circle. In some stadiums he could get by playing sub-par defense, but that’s not the case at AT&T Park.
Melky Would Add Depth To The Giants Lineup
It’s not like the Giants desperately need a jolt, but a jolt definitely wound’t be frowned upon. San Francisco has scored the third most runs in the National League since September 1st. Their Buster Posey led offense also owns the best batting average since September first as well.
If you were to add Cabrera into an already strong offense, then the Giants would be even tougher to beat with their solid pitching staff.
Manager Bruce Bochy had a lineup of Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence, and Cabrera for exactly one day. By mischance, that day just happened to be the day before Cabrera was suspended by the league. Yet, players have stepped up since the suspension. Since August 1st, the Giants have four of the top seven batting averages in the N.L. Buster Posey leads that group with a .361 average, Marco Scutaro is third (.355), Angel Pagan is sixth (.328), and Brandon Belt ranks seventh (.326). It just goes to show how something like a suspension or injury can fire up an entire team.
However, in spite of their success without Cabrera, I’m sure the Giants wouldn’t mind having his bat back in the mix.
Unsettled Issues In The Clubhouse
When Cabrera was ruled out for the remainder of the season, it’s almost like he just disappeared. He didn’t speak to his fellow teammates or apologize in person. It just wasn’t a very classy move on his behalf. In his defense, it has to be hard to speak about a suspension in front of the entire clubhouse, but it’s a step that needs to be taken to clear the air. Some of his teammates recently spoke about his shyness. That could’ve been a factor as well.
But despite all of the factors, he shouldn’t have left the team the way he did. Clearly none of the Giants were pleased, feeling as if he let them down. And this could lead to some internal issues which is the last thing that needs to occur in the playoffs.
Plus, a boatload of attention would be put on the Giants, but not in a good way. Questions from the media wouldn’t be about the team, they would be about Cabrera. It could be just too much to handle when the team is focusing on reaching the World Series.
While Cabrera was among the upper echelon of players before being suspended, there’s no guarantee that he will return to that elite class if the Giants elect to bring him back.
The minor league season ended a few weeks ago, meaning that there isn’t necessarily a place from him to go and work off that rustiness. Yes, there are instructional leagues, but how is that going to prepare Cabrera to face some of the best pitching staffs in baseball?
The NLCS will only go seven games at best, which means that Cabrera has little time to perform and prove that he was worth bringing back.
While Melky Cabrera certainly was a hot commodity in July, the cons outweigh the pros. The Giants have continued to win without his presence, and they should continue with the same players that put them in the situation where they currently are. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. While Cabrera could potentially help the Giants in October, overall there is too much of a risk that he will hurt the team. Given how well the Giants have played since Cabrera’s suspension, that is a chance that the team is just simply unlikely to take.
(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)
Jake Dal Porto is a Baseball Writer with MLB reports and a student from the Bay Area. Jake’s favorite sports moment was when the Giants won the World Series back in 2010. He loves to use sabermetrics in his work. He thinks they are the best way to show a player’s real success compared to the basic stats such as ERA, RBIs, and Wins. Jake also enjoys interacting and debating with his readers. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @TheJakeMan24
Please e-mail us at: email@example.com with any questions and feedback. You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook. 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.Follow @mlbreports
Thursday, September 20th 2012
Alex Mednick: A.J. Pierzynski has undoubtedly done himself a great justice by having a career year in 2012. Given that he plays the sport’s most physically demanding position and is encroaching on his, “golden years” in this game, the veteran catcher will meet free agency in 2013 with a lot going for him. All he has done this year, in his 435 at bats so far, is hit .280 with 26 home runs, 15 doubles and 73 RBIs. Those number are not something to take lightly, and it goes without saying that AJ and his agent are going to have a lot of leverage while negotiating with various front offices this off-season.
The White Sox have had the career .284 hitter as their back stop for 8 years now, including the 2005 season (AJ’s first season in Chicago), when the then 28-year-old played an integral role in the franchise winning a world championship. Since Pierzynski began his tenure in the south side, he has played no fewer than 128 games behind the plate and has been a beacon of consistency. Part of this durability can be attributed to A.J.’s conditioning regiment that he participates in 365 days a year, including after every single game. Pierzynski has been very open with the fact that as he has gotten older, he has put more mind into the importance of staying in great shape, especially being that he is required to remain in a squatting position for over 1000 innings a year. Read the rest of this entry
ATR: Ask the Reports Answers Your Baseball Questions: Chapman, Hamilton, WBC, Billy Corgan and Neiko Johnson
Sunday September 16th, 2012
Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, 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! We love to hear from you- so keep the questions coming every week!
Jonathan Hacohen: I hate being sick. In writing terms, I have been placed on the 5-10 day DL with a chest infection. It actually feels worse than it sounds. I have the cough of George Burns and probably his energy level as well. But the show must go on! ATR appears every weekend and dammit, I’m not letting a little thing like illness get in my way. Write through pain, that’s my philosophy.
Before I get to your questions, I just want to take a quick look at the MLB standings as of this morning:
- The Yankees are hanging onto the AL East by the skin of their teeth, with a 1 game lead over the Orioles. But for all the talk of those two teams, don’t forget about the Rays. They are only 4 GB. The Rays have pulled it off before and if I am placing my wager, I give it to Tampa Bay. Just too much pitching in my estimation.
- As we continue to scan through the standings, I notice that the AL races are far more interesting than the NL ones. I’m not sure if that says much, but perhaps the AL teams will continue to battle each other to a pulp, and become easy pickings for the NL (who enjoys home field advantage in the World Series). Just a thought.
- The White Sox hold a 1 game lead over the Tigers in the AL Central. Yes, I bleed Tigers Blue and Orange. But I will admit that my crystal ball sees this season as the year of the White Sox. Sorry Tigers supporters, its nothing personal. Just business. Adam Dunn is back and as long as Chicago can continue their season long magic for a couple of more weeks, they will be playoff-bound.
- The most interesting division has become the AL West. The Rangers, the 2-time AL champions now hold a slim 2 game lead over the Athletics (after losing to the Mariners and the A’s beating up on the O’s in a key weekend matchup). Chuck Booth and I have called what the A’s are doing as “Moneyball 2″. Let’s consider that when Moneyball the Movie came out last fall, critics were quick to mock Billy Beane and the A’s as being outdated and the movie being a historical piece, with no relevance to the current team. Guess who’s having the last laugh people? That’s right. Billy Beane. The A’s might actually have the guts to pull this thing off and take the division. It would be an incredible shot in the arm for Oakland and a tragedy in Texas. Keep an eye on this race people: if we have learned nothing else this season, the A’s are not going away.
- The AL Wild Card spots are currently held down by the A’s and Orioles, with the Angels (2.5 gb), Rays (3 GB) and Tigers (3.5 GB) all in shooting distance. If we assume that the Rays, White Sox and Rangers end up taking their respective divisions, we are left with the A’s, Yankees, Orioles, Tigers and Angels as the contenders for the Wild Card spots. I see from there the Yankees and A’s taking the wild cards, with Oakland advancing to the ALDS. It is not an exact science, but playoff predictions are sure fun to create.
- In the NL, we start with the Nationals, who enjoy a 6.5 game lead on the Braves. Not out of reach, but the Nats are still likely to take the AL East. They have been one of the best stories in baseball this year. Let’s see how far they go sans their ace.
- In the Central, the Reds have a stranglehold on their division, with a 11.5 game lead over the Cardinals. Dusty Baker and company have a magic number of 6. ‘Nuff said.
- Over in the NL West, the Giants are pulling away with a 7.5 game lead over the Dodgers. Now Clayton Kershaw may need surgery and be out for the season. It looks like the Dodgers’ big ticket items will not pay off until 2013 at the earliest.
- The NL wild card race is messier than an algebra exam. The Braves hold a fairly good lead on the 1st spot, almost assuring Chipper Jones of at least one game of playoff action in his final season. The final spot is held in a tie, between the Cardinals and Dodgers. While there are several teams still in contention for that final spot (Pirates 2 GB, Brewers 2.5 GB, Phillies 3 GB, Diamondbacks 4.5 GB and even the Padres 6 GB). Predicting this spot is like taking a shot in the dark. Many are going with the Phillies, given their strong pitching staff (the three aces). I am not counting out any teams at this point, but I will say keep an eye on the Dbacks. It would not surprise me if they somehow face the Braves in the one-game sudden-death playoff series.
Now let’s get to your top questions of the week: Read the rest of this entry
Was Edwin Jackson The Most Valuable Free Agent Signing During The Offseason? Smart Move By The Nationals
Wednesday September 12th, 2012
Jake Dal Porto: During all the chaos that surrounded Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder during the offseason, the Washington Nationals made a very sneaky addition to their pitching staff by adding Edwin Jackson. The deal was signed in early February, which made it the final piece to their rotation, as Gio Gonzalez was added before Jackson. But this move flew under the radar as Pujols and Fielder garnered most of the media. Obviously that didn’t come as a surprise. Now, Jackson looks like the most valuable offseason signing.
The thing about Jackson, is that he didn’t break the Nationals’ bank. He came at a reasonable $11 million price tag, and compared to the contracts that Pujols (10 Year, $254 Million) and Fielder (10 Year $214 Million) brought in, Jackson’s contract is practically nothing. Simply, he’s a value player. Talent-wise, he clearly isn’t as respected and accomplished as Pujols and Fielder. But that’s not the point.
However, Jackson won’t be flying under the radar for much longer now that Stephen Strasburg is out of the equation. He will have to play a much bigger role in a starting pitching staff that leads the National League in ERA (3.32). Yes, the Nationals have decent alternatives to fill Strasburg’s void. Those alternatives being Ross Detwiler and John Lannan, but Jackson takes an immense step up depth chart pyramid. Gio Gonzalez now assumes the “ace” role, Jordan Zimmerman follows him, and now Edwin Jackson is third option which means higher expectations. It also means that Jackson’s production can’t be taken as a bonus anymore. His production is now crucial for the Nationals to continue to find success on the pitching area of the game. If he depletes, the Nats are suddenly down to two consistent arms— Gonzalez and Zimmerman. That’s no longer intimidating.
Can he thrive under the pressure? Read the rest of this entry
Friday August 24th, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: In the present time, Josh Hamilton is the Texas Rangers’ best player. One of the best in baseball baseball in fact. Hamilton has enjoyed one of the finest seasons of his career thus far, hitting .285 with 34 homers and 102 RBIs. He had a hot stretch at one point that included four home runs in a single game. Players like Hamilton don’t come around often, so if the Rangers are smart, they will extend his contract ASAP.
With Hamilton in the lineup, the Rangers have played in two World Series. He won the 2010 MVP award when the Rangers lost to the Giants in the Fall Classic in five games. If the Rangers wait until Hamilton hits free agency this offseason, they will have to compete with other teams and likely pay more than they would if they offered Hamilton right now. They could also risk losing him to the division rival Angels (this is highly doubtful given the large contracts of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson and a future contract of Mike Trout). This would be the worst possible scenario with the Angels already looking like a World Series-caliber team.
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.
Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): On October 12, 2011, Theo Epstein, former GM of the Boston Red Sox agreed to a 5 year deal worth more than $15M. With the Chicago Cubs. This all comes as no real surprise to anyone, as it had been speculated since the Cubs fired GM Jim Hendry in August that Epstein was their top target. The real surprise is that Epstein and the Boston Red Sox’s falling out happened so swiftly. Within two weeks of the Red Sox collapse, which has been widely discussed by everyone in baseball circles, manager Terry Francona and the team parted ways, as well as, now, their general manager Theo Epstein.
It has been well-documented that Epstein was able to overcome the “Curse of the Bambino” by employing a bunch of “idiots” in the locker room that went on to win a World Series in 2004. This mentality has been a similar mantra of the Red Sox throughout his tenure. Because they won in 2004, and also in 2007, it was completely acceptable for players to do what they pleased in the locker room. Now that the epic collapse took place, the organization needed a change, and true accountability never took place for the Red Sox.
Epstein is a GM of great stature. He is trusted and many people believe in his abilities. He employs a “Moneyball” type strategy, which is also aided by having a large payroll, something he will also have the ability to create in Chicago. Ownership of the Cubs have not been afraid to spend money, and most of the time have put themselves in unfortunate situations.
Two contracts come to mind when I think of the Cubs. Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano. Prior to the 2007 season, Soriano inked a contract worth $136M over 8 years. In 2007, Zambrano signed an extension for the 2008-2012 seasons, with a vesting option for 2013 worth $91.5M. Epstein has a lot of work cut out for him with an aging, mediocre core, but finding a suitor for these two players, or finding a way for them to produce and not be distractions in the clubhouse is paramount.
Another major task for him is to figure out what he wants to do with incumbent manager, Mike Quade. Quade was hired as the Cubs’ interim manager on August 22, 2010, and in October, the interim title was stripped. Quade led the Cubs to a 71-91 record and a 5th place finish in the NL Central, only ahead of the lowly Houston Astros. This record was tied for the 5th worst in all of baseball. When Quade was hired, much to the dismay of Cubs fans, who wanted Ryne Sandberg to take the helm, he was highly regarded as a smart, methodical baseball thinker. Was the year and month enough of a trial, or will Epstein want to bring in his own talent to manage this struggling franchise?
Epstein will also consider bringing in his own front office, using members from his group with the Red Sox. With news breaking that Senior Vice President and Assistant General Manager Ben Cherington will take over as GM in Boston, Epstein will be fighting to bring his favorite guys over with him.
The last thing holding up this deal is compensation for the Red Sox. Since Epstein had one year remaining on his contract with Boston, the Cubs had to ask permission to even speak with him. Epstein had made it known to the organization that he would be leaving after 2012, so the Red Sox allowed talks to run smoothly, as they would have owed him $3M for the season, and a contract bonus of $4M. Cash and/or prospects will easily get the job done.
The deal has not yet been completed due to some of these complications, but should be done by the beginning of next week. Epstein will have a major challenge in Chicago, as they are not even close to competing. Major decisions need to be made, and even with his high level of competency, it will take up to five years for the Cubs to be a major contender in the NL Central.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our 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.***
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Tuesday August 23, 2011
Rob Bland (Intern- MLB reports): The Arizona Diamondbacks are in the middle of a pennant race in the National League West, and yet made a change with their second baseman, Kelly Johnson. Statistics show that Johnson had been underperforming this year, and GM Kevin Towers said he wanted better defense and infield depth. With that in mind, Towers got a hold of Toronto Blue Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos to inquire on super utility infielder John McDonald. McDonald can play 2B, SS, and 3B at an above average level, although he doesn’t do much with the bat. With regular shortstop Stephen Drew lost for the season due to injury, the D’Backs have been forced to start Willie Bloomquist the majority of the games in his absence. That led to talks involving Toronto’s longest tenured player, second baseman Aaron Hill. The end result was Arizona acquiring Aaron Hill and John McDonald, with Kelly Johnson going to Toronto.
Aaron Hill had a terrific start to his career, which so far has peaked in 2009 when he hit .286 with 36 home runs and 108 RBI. He was an All-Star and a Silver Slugger winner that year. He plays good defense and is a well-liked guy in the clubhouse. His contract situation is an iffy one, in that he has 2 option years left worth $8M each. By the end of 2009, it would have been a lock that those options would have been picked up, however, 2010 and 2011 have not been so kind to Hill. Last year he hit .205 with a walk rate of only 7.1%. He at least was able to club 26 home runs, which are numbers he has not been able to replicate this year. Hill in 2011 is walking in 5.4% of his plate appearances, and has only 6 home runs to go along with his paltry .225 average.
McDonald is arguably the most beloved player in Toronto, after Jose Bautista. He routinely gets standing ovations, and this writer can proudly say one of his favourite moments in MLB history was watching McDonald hit a home run in his first at bat after missing a few games. The significance was that his father had just passed away, and McDonald promised to hit a home run for him. So on Father’s Day of 2010, McDonald crushed a home run over the left field wall. The teary-eyed McDonald crossed the plate and was embraced by every member of the Blue Jays. McDonald is a phenomenal defender, often used as a pinch runner in key situations, but doesn’t hit much. In his 13 seasons, he has only 21 home runs, with 12 of them coming in his last 3 seasons. His value comes as a player that will give everything for his team, playing every position imaginable and making highlight reel plays.
Johnson is only a season removed from a .284/.370/.496 slash line, and although scouts often say his defense is sub par, the advanced metrics tell a different story. His UZR was 7.1 last year, and 3.9 this year, where 0 is average. Johnson’s production, like Hill, has fallen off the table. He is still hitting home runs; 18 this year compared to 26 last year. He takes walks, just under 11% for his career. But his main problem has been the strikeouts. This year has been worse than usual, as he has struck out in over 27% of his plate appearances. Johnson’s line drive rate is just a tick below his career numbers, so his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) being 50 points lower than his career average is probably a good indicator of why his numbers are so low.
All three players are free agents at season’s end. McDonald and Hill both said during their press conference today that they are very open to returning to Toronto in 2012. Until then, the Diamondbacks will look to add to their 1.5 game lead over the San Francisco Giants with this move. Should they be propelled to the playoffs, it is likely that an infield of Hill, McDonald, Lyle Overbay, and Ryan Roberts (all former Blue Jays) could face off against another former Jay in Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series.
This deal seems strange from a Diamondbacks perspective, as Hill is a downgrade from Johnson, even with the poor season Johnson has been having in 2011. The amount of upside the Dbacks get from having McDonald over Bloomquist at shortstop is completely negated by this downgrade. However, the Dbacks get two great clubhouse characters, who will surely help the club defensively and in teaching the younger players. For the Blue Jays, this trade makes complete sense. Johnson is currently set to be a Type B free agent at the end of the year, and with a hot streak, could become a Type A. As a Type B, he would net the team a supplemental draft pick if he signs a major league deal with another team. But if Johnson reaches Type A status this offseason, he will also net a first round pick on top of the supplemental pick. The Jays can use this time to better evaluate Johnson, and by showing him what the organization has to offer, Johnson may sign with the team at the end of the year.
Aaron Hill and Kelly Johnson were two players that have been coveted by each team for the last couple of years, but no deal could have been struck. However, with both players struggling so badly this year, both players were in need of a change of scenery. A fresh start could do wonders for Hill as he could get back into the groove he was in before the 2010 season, while Johnson could return to his 2010 form.
So at the very worst, the Jays get an extra draft pick as part of this trade, and in many people’s opinions, they will also get McDonald back in 2012 to be their utility infielder. For the Dbacks, Hill’s production could seriously limit their offense and push them out of a playoff spot. Both teams are facing risks, but I believe Toronto’s level of risk was much lower, as they are not in a pennant race. The upside potential of this trade for the Jays makes them the winner in my books.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, 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.***
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