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Wednesday, August 7, 2013
By Nicholas Rossoletti (Yankees Correspondent/Trade Correspondent): Follow @nross56
July 31, 2013 has come and gone. The non-waiver trade deadline is always one of the more interesting times of the baseball year.
Fans become obsessed with the idea of improving their team’s opportunity to win a World Series, whether it be for the upcoming October or in an attempt to rebuild for future seasons.
The question on everyone’s mind now that the deadline is over: how did your team do at the deadline? Did it get better? Did the organization “win” the transaction and will it translate now or later into more wins on the field?
This will end up invariably being a two-part article because of the depth we need to take to look at these moves. Let’s get right into it with the Winners:
1. Boston Red Sox – The Red Sox are a unique team in that they are concerned both with the current championship window for 2013, but also, a larger window they hope to keep open over the next 3 to 5 years.
In an effort to stabilize their rotation over the next 1 and 1/2 seasons, the Red Sox acquired Jake Peavy from the White Sox. Peavy has pitched very well this season.
His 8.55 K/9 and 1.91 BB/9 are both indicators of an elite level starting pitcher. Peavy is not the same ace that he was during his prime of 2004 through 2007, but his current numbers speak to an adequate No. 1 starter or a very strong No. 2 starter.
JAKE PEAVY: THE NEWEST MEMBER OF THE RED SOX
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By Ryan Dana (MLB Reports Writer and Red Sox Correspondent): Follow @ryandana1
I think that one could refer to this time of the baseball season as the “dog days” of the summer.
While much is made of how a team finishes the regular season down the stretch in September, every game counts and August could definitely separate contenders from pretenders.
After ceding 1st place in the AL East briefly, the Red Sox are back where they want to be at the top.
The lead is just 1 game over the Rays currently, but the Red Sox are playing some very exciting baseball including two straight walkoff wins both technically taking place on the 1st of August.
While late July baseball news is usually dominated by trades, the Red Sox took care of some other business before getting involved in the trade scene.
The club signed Second Baseman Dustin Pedroia to a 7 Year $100 Million contract extension.
The deal will take him through the 2021 season, making it increasingly likely that he spends his entire career in a Red Sox uniform.
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Monday July 16th, 2013
Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer): Follow @BernieOlshansky
When the San Diego Padres traded Mat Latos for Yasmani Grandal (among others), the team was hoping they would get a lot more out of him than they currently are. Grandal was suspended for PED use, and has only played in 28 games this year.
Unfortunately he will not play any more games in 2013 due to an injury to his ACL and MCL. In this piece, I will talk about the possible impact that Grandal’s departure has on the Padres.
When the Padres traded for him, they were hoping to get an everyday catcher with production down the road similar to that of Yadier Molina or Buster Posey. So far, it looks like that is very wishful thinking. Grandal is 24 years old.
In his two-year career, he has played in just 88 games. In a few years, the best-case scenario is the Padres looking back on this as a slow start. But for now, it hurts.
Monday December 3rd, 2012
Jonathan Hacohen ( Lead Baseball Columnist): Follow @jhacohen
I was thinking back this week to one of my fave articles from this past year. Being an admirer of the Oakland A’s methods of building a ball team and the “Moneyball Movement”, this past July I published a Billy Beane article - focusing on the modern Moneyball movement. Back in 2011, many critics were quick to jump on Beane and the A’s, mocking the A’s GM and the release of the movie Moneyball. Panned as a historical piece, Beane was viewed as a dinosaur. His methods outdated. The rest of the baseball world had caught on to his sly ways and overtook him. I refused to buy into it and was unwilling to write-off Beane. But nobody, not even the A’s GM himself saw was to come in 2012. We know how the season went down- the A’s slipped in as the AL West champs and make a good run in the playoffs. Nobody was laughing anymore and Beane went from hack back to genius overnight. While in my last article I focused on Beane’s construction of a young and talented lineup, most analysts view Beane’s success in terms of being able to flip pitchers at their peak. Billy Beane is a master of this art and it has led to much success in Oakland. Compare this now to Atlanta, which has essentially lost Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens for almost nothing. Not the Billy Beane way of doing business- and now the Braves will be paying the price. Read the rest of this entry
Tuesday November 6th, 2012
Jake Dal Porto: OK, maybe it’s not big deal that the Boston Red Sox pulled a fast one on the Toronto Blue Jays, in a trade where they acquired ex-Blue Jays’ manager John Farrell. This whole conundrum is minor in terms of the impact it will make on both teams. But the Jays could have done a lot better in terms of the talent they received back, to say the least.
According to multiple reports, the Red Sox craved John Farrell deeply. So with that in mind, you would have to think that they would have gone above and beyond to snatch him from Toronto. Yet, they did not need to use maximum effort to obtain him, trading just Mike Aviles in compensation.
Aviles isn’t an entirely blank asset. He complied a .663 OPS in 2012, including a career-high 13 home runs and 60 runs batted in. On the same note, he is far from a star, which is precisely why the Blue Jays should have set their sights a tad higher. If Boston really wanted Farrell at the helm, they would have probably been willing to exchange a player (or players) with higher ceilings. Or more simply, a player with room to grow, instead of a veteran whose best years are most likely behind him, a la Aviles. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday October 25th, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: Over the past couple of years, Alex Rodriguez has been a Yankee disappointment. For the humongous 10-year $275 million contract that he is signed to, his production should be a lot more than hitting .272 with 16 home runs and 57 RBIs. A-Rod was injured for a bit and played in only 122 games this year, but come on—someone with that type of contract should drive in 100 runs every year. Rodriguez is signed through 2017, so his contract is not one that another team would be excited to take on. Not by a long shot.
The Yankees will likely be paying Rodriguez the majority (or all) of the rest of his contract (no team in its right mind would trade for Rodriguez without making the Yankees pay for him). So at the end of the day, I think the Yankees will keep him. Without a much better option at third base (Eric Chavez), the Yankees will be forced to use Rodriguez. Although there is a lot of pressure put on Rodriguez and the Yankees after getting swept by the Tigers in the ALCS to end the season, the dust will eventually settle. This will provide Rodriguez with the environment he needs to make his comeback.
Monday August 27th, 2012
Robert Whitmer: $250,000,000 is a lot of money. I know for a fact that it is more than I will ever see in my life from all my years of working combined. It is more than 18 countries in the world have in annual gross national product. It is enough money to buy the most expensive house in the world except 2 and still be able to afford the most expensive car in the world. Before we explore what the significance of that $250,000,000, let’s back up to how we came about this situation to even be discussing this obscene amount of money. There was this time in 2004 when something happened that hadn’t happened in 86 years, but three years later in 2007 it happened again. After 2007 and having an even happen twice in three years without it happening in the previous 86, the powers that be wanted to insure that it would continue to happen. To ensure this, the Boston Red Sox decided that they would attempt to buy their way to a championship like the division rival Yankees have done in the past. So the spending spree began, and if there is one thing in the world that is universal and never lies it is numbers. Let’s cover them.
2008 started the decline of the Red Sox team. They made the playoffs in 2008 but lost to the Rays in the ALCS. In 2009 they lost in the first round to the Angels. Here is how I can imagine the conversation going between Theo Epstein the GM and John Henry the Owner of the Sox.
John: So uh, Theo, what happened out there this year?
Theo: I don’t know… we had a good team, I think the injuries got us.
John: Well why don’t we spend money like the Yankees. It seems to be working for them since they just won the World Series. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday August 23rd, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: After the Red Sox cut ties with longtime manager Terry Francona, there were a few options for his replacement. Among those options were former pitching coach for the 2007 World Series Champion team John Farrell, and high-profile former-manager Bobby Valentine. Both seemed to be good options, and the Red Sox signed Valentine. Farrell won the managerial job with the Blue Jays after the retirement of Cito Gaston (Brian Butterfield, DeMarlo Hale, and Sandy Alomar, Jr. were also rumored to be vying for the position). Each team was poised to finish atop or close to the top of the AL East standings. This wasn’t the case for either team.
First I’ll cover the Red Sox. Their main problem was the lack of production. Adrian Gonzalez—who the Sox acquired to help carry the offense failed to produce at the beginning of the season. At the All Star Break, he had less than ten home runs. Jacoby Ellsbury was injured after only a few games, and the pitching was absolutely awful. Carl Crawford took a while to come back from his wrist and elbow injuries, and recently shut his season down to undergo Tommy John surgery. Jon Lester, the number one starter was up and down, and has had an off-year. Josh Beckett received boos after being accused of playing golf in between starts. There was obviously something wrong. The Red Sox fell out of contention fairly early—something that wasn’t expected. A lot of the criticism fell on the manager. Bobby Valentine was accused of demeaning the players, saying something along the lines of “nice inning, kid” to rookie Will Middlebrooks after he made an error. Another of Valentine’s slip-ups was calling into question Kevin Youkilis’ effort. This ultimately led to Youk being traded to the White Sox, ending his successful Red Sox career. Veterans such as Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez didn’t take kindly to this and sent a text to management, spurring a meeting between front office officials and players. The situation in Boston is not good; players are divided into players versus manager and players versus players that support the manager. A change in Boston seems necessary; the pitching coach has already been relieved, and it seems like Bobby Valentine may be next.
Wednesday July 25th, 2012
Sam Evans: The Texas Rangers are currently 57-39, which gives them the second-best record in baseball behind only the New York Yankees. Texas isn’t just playing for this year, they also have enough prospects to acquire anyone they want at the trade deadline. Instead of waiting for young players to develop, the Rangers should recognize their chance to win it all this year, and trade away a couple of those players. If Texas could acquire a top of the rotation starter or a superstar outfielder, they should seriously consider trading some of their finest young prospects.
It will take a lot for the Texas Rangers to miss the playoffs this year. Despite playing in a division featuring an interesting Angels team, and a surging Oakland ballclub, Texas still has the highest playoff odds (99.8% chance) according to Baseball Prospectus. The Rangers could probably start Matt Kata instead of Adrian Beltre at third base for the rest of the season, and still make the playoffs. However, at some point, reaching the playoffs just isn’t enough. The Texas franchise wants to win the World Series this year, and in order to do that, they probably need to make a move at the deadline. Read the rest of this entry
Monday July 23rd, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: As the trade deadline looms, teams are scrambling to make a final buy or sell in order to push toward the playoffs. Some teams are trying to get value out of their soon-to-be free agents while other teams are rebuilding. Here are some of the big deals that have gone down in the past few days:
The Astros are obviously in their rebuilding phase. Last year, they gave up Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, and the year before they gave up Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. Earlier this year, Carlos Lee went to the Marlins for top prospect Matt Dominguez and others. More recently Brett Myers went to the White Sox for minor league pitchers and J.A. Happ went to the Blue Jays along with relievers Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter for Ben Francisco, Francisco Cordero, and other prospects in a ten-player trade. With these deals this year, the Astros have removed virtually all big names from the team. Not to say that J.A. Happ was a big name player, but he was a well-regarded pitcher that the Phillies gave up in the Roy Oswalt trade. Also given up by the Astros is former closer Brandon Lyon. He gave up the closer role to Brett Myers this year, but he does have the capability to serve in the back-end of a bullpen. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday July 19th, 2012
Sam Evans: Over the last five years, Shane Victorino has been a consistent force in the Philadelphia Phillies lineup. Now, playing in his contract year on a Phillies squad out of contention, he has to start to wonder what the future looks like for him. Numerous teams have been seen scouting Victorino, but nobody needs Victorino as bad the Pirates do. Do the Pirates have what it takes to acquire Victorino? Keep reading to see what I think… Read the rest of this entry
Tuesday July 17th, 2012
John Burns: The 2012 season has been one to forget for the Chicago Cubs, as they currently stand in fifth place in the NL Central with a 36-52 record. Chicago has had some pleasant surprises this season so far even though the record doesn’t show it. The All-Star emergence of Bryan LaHair brought Cubs fans something to talk about in the first half. LaHair was never even in anyone’s Top 100 prospect list ever in his career. The 29-year-old was drafted in the 39th round of the 2002 Draft by the Seattle Mariners and has spent a majority of his baseball career in the minors. LaHair is having a solid 2012 campaign and earned himself a trip to Kansas City for the All-Star game. Even though LaHair has slowed down, I expect his name to be swirled around at the trade deadline. Numerous teams could be in on LaHair who is hitting .282, with 14 homers and 31 RBIs. Read the rest of this entry
Friday July 6th, 2012
Sam Evans: Red Sox prospect Lars Anderson went from being an 18th round draft pick, to being in-line for a starting spot on one of the most storied teams in baseball. However, after the Red Sox signed Adrian Gonzalez, Anderson no longer was part of the Red Sox future. Now, in Triple-A, Anderson needs a new team that believes in him. After all, he’s only twenty-four years old and just a step away from the majors.
Lars Anderson was drafted in the 18th round of the 2006 MLB Amateur, draft mainly because teams thought he wouldn’t sway from a commitment to the University of California-Berkley. However, the Red Sox went way over slot to sign Anderson handing him a $825,000 signing bonus. $825,000 was a lot for a second-round draft pick, let alone an eighteenth rounder. Pretty soon, Red Sox nation got excited about this young first baseman/outfielder and his seemingly bright future. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday July 1st, 2012
Jonathan Hacohen: As part of our regular features here on MLB reports, we have a dedicated page to baseball trades. It is not a streaming trade tracker. Rather, it is a highlight of the key baseball trades that take place during the year. We look at the main participants, what was the deal, each team’s logic and deliver a verdict. We call it “Rate That Trade“. Please feel free to bookmark it and check back regularly. If you love baseball deals as much as we do, then we know that you will have your opinion on each respective baseball swap. Leave your comments, send us an e-mail, keep in touch. We love debating baseball deals almost as much as we love reporting and analyzing them.
The big swap on the last day of June went down as follows:
Orioles Logic: This deal makes sense on so many levels for Baltimore. This team spent a great deal of time in first place already this year. Currently in 2nd place, the Orioles are 5 games behind the 1st place Yankees. But watch out, Tampa Bay and Boston are only 1.5 games behind Baltimore for 2nd place. This team needs a push to stay in content. Enter Jim Thome. The 41-year old Thome still carries a big home run bat. He is a solid veteran presence on a young team still trying to find itself. Mark Reynolds and Wilson Betemit simply won’t cut it anymore at DH. Chris Davis is likely to take over as the full-time first baseman. While he is not considered a top defensive player, he has shown enough this year offensively to warrant a permanent lineup position. Thome changes the whole complexion of the lineup. Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis (when he returns), Brian Roberts, J.J. Hardy and Davis are nice weapons on their own. But the team needs a definite clean-up hitter. That’s Thome. While he can’t play every day, he will play enough to make a difference. The pressure will be off Jones to be the big bopper. Thome is also patient, something the young Orioles hitters would be well served to learn. Read the rest of this entry
Wednesday June 27th, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: The end of the road in Boston has finally been reached for third baseman Kevin Youkilis. But why? He was so productive a few years ago and he could have continued to contribute to the Red Sox lineup. Unfortunately for Youk, he simply got passed up.
At the start of this year, Youkilis was all set to start at third and have a productive season. To his dismay, he has been a little bit banged up this year, giving rising star Will Middlebrooks an opportunity to shine. And shine he did, as Middlebrooks hit a grand slam as his first Major League home run and immediately contributed to the struggling Red Sox lineup, with Jacoby Ellsbury out and Adrian Gonzalez not himself. Middlebrooks did everything he could to win himself a lineup spot as he squeezed out Youkilis. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday June 7th, 2012
John Burns (MLB reports Intern Candidate): Kurt Suzuki has been in the Oakland A’s organization his entire career since being drafted in the 2nd round out of Cal State Fullerton in the 2004 MLB draft.
Suzuki is having a rough 2012 season so far, he is only batting .207 with no homers and 15 RBIs. The Athletics have struggled in the hitting department this year, as they are dead last in baseball with a team average of .213. This is one of the main reasons for their 24-31 record to start the year.
As the trade deadline approaches, the last place Athletics will most likely be sellers. The A’s will have to make a hard decision this July on their once called “franchise catcher” Kurt Suzuki. The 28 year-old catcher is signed through the 2013 season with a 2014 option with the Athletics. Butt that does not mean Suzuki is guaranteed a spot with the A’s. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Sam Evans: On Monday, the Nippon Ham Fighters announced that the Texas Rangers had won the posting fee for 25 year-old pitcher Yu Darvish. The Rangers surrendered a record $51.7 million for the rights to negotiate a contract with Darvish. The Rangers are taking an expensive risk on Darvish, who should be penciled into the top of their rotation.
The Rangers now have thirty days from the signing to work out a contract with Darvish. My guess is the contract will be anywhere from four to six years at $35 to $60 million. That is a lot of money for any team to give to a prospect, but given the Rangers new TV deal, they can certainly afford it.
Over the last five years, Darvish posted a 1.72 ERA and struck out roughly one batter an inning in a league known for its pesky hitters. He quickly became a superstar in Japan, unlike any current American baseball player’s stature. He also led Japan to the 2009 WBC championship.
Yu Darvish is not only a Japanese baseball superstar, he is a pop culture icon as well.He is married to a Japanese actress (although reports indicate the couple is splitting), and he has his own blog called “Thoughts Of Yu”. Added pressure shouldn’t be a problem for Darvish because he has gotten used to it ever since cameras started following him around in high school. Realistically, Darvish shouldn’t have as much trouble with the language barrier as previous Japanese players.
Darvish is 6’5” and weighs only 185 pounds. If he were a traditional teenage prospect, then scouts would claim that he would need to “fill out his frame”. However, he is twenty-five and it’s probably too late for him to develop physically much more. Nonetheless, don’t rule it out. There are 255 Chick-Fil-A restaurants in the state of Texas, and hopefully Carlos Lee has left some wholesome American cuisine for Darvish to enjoy.
Darvish throws a four-seam fastball that sits around 94 MPH. He also throws two types of sliders, a cutter, a curve, and a shuuto. A shuuto is thrown around 90 MPH with movement that propels the ball inward on right-handed hitters. From what I have heard, Darvish is very projectable as a number two MLB starter. However, if he were to add a change-up to his repertoire, I think the Rangers could develop him into an ace. Not to mention, Yu Darvish will have the pitcher behind the greatest change-up of all-time, Greg Maddux and pitching coach, Mike Maddux, to work with throughout the season. Also team President, Nolan Ryan, know a thing or two about pitching as well.
If Darvish struggles in 2012, it will be because of command, above other things. Japan has built a reputation for a strike zone much larger than the one in the US, and that might be hard for him to get used to. Additionally, going from playing games indoors to under the sweltering Texas sun, wouldn’t an easy transition for anyone.
The Rangers don’t have the strongest rotation compared to other teams, but they definitely have depth. Assuming that Darvish will seamlessly transition to North America, the Rangers rotation will probably include Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis, and Derek Holland. Still, this leaves out Alexi Ogando, who was one of the Rangers brightest hurlers from last year.
The Rangers could use Ogando out of the bullpen, like they did effectively in the playoffs. Nevertheless, it would be a smarter decision if they traded one or two of their starters. With top prospect arms Neil Ramirez and Martin Perez hanging around in Triple-A, the Rangers have the depth to trade some of their arms.
A reasonable expectation for Darvish’s 2012 would be 180 IP, 3.50 ERA, and 165 IP. That is pretty impressive for a first-year player in the majors. It is questionable as to whether that is worth the 100+ million that the Rangers will likely shell out, but I believe that the Rangers front office management know what they are doing.
Even if everything doesn’t work out as planned for the Rangers with Darvish, the team is so loaded at every position that they can overcome almost any obstacle. Rangers GM Jon Daniels has led the Rangers to two straight World Series, and the Rangers believe that a Darvish acquisition would help them finally get over the hump. With the best pitching prospect ever to come out of Japan leading the way, there is no reason not to believe that the Rangers won’t finally fulfill their destiny and win it all in 2012.
***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***
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Tuesday November 8, 2011
Jeff P (Guest Writer – MLB reports): On Monday, the hot stove just got a bit juicier. The San Francisco Giants sent lefty Jonathan Sanchez and minor league pitcher Ryan Verdugo to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Melky Cabrera.
Melky Cabrera had one of the most successful seasons of his career, hitting a season-high in average for his career (.305), 201 hits, 102 runs, 87 RBIs, 18 homers and an additional 20 stolen bases to his best season in his career. Today, Brian Sabean, has told the Associated Press, that the reason of their high impressions on Melky Cabrera is that he’s breaking out at 27 and has played for several years already, and this breakout leads him on a path to a successful career ahead of him.
Known for his powerful arm, his 13 outfield assists tied for the sixth-highest in the majors. Cabrera played center field in Kauffman Stadium, and is known as one of the most successful players defensively in the major leagues. Cabrera will bring a strong offensive force we’ll need at AT&T Park. The Giants are both excited and joyful of the new force to the team.
After coming off a career-year in 2010, powerful lefty Jonathan Sanchez will soon be in a Royals uniform. Sanchez had some deep troubles this year, as he barely was able to pitch over 100 innings and was deeply bothered by injuries throughout the season. His control was plagued by the injuries, and he is hoping to recover in time for a successful 2012 season at Kauffman Stadium.
Jonathan Sanchez had his moments, including a no-hitter, which helped lead the Giants to the playoffs in 2010 and to succeed through the playoffs, which led to the team’s championship rings. Sanchez dominated and struck out 11 batters in that NLDS, which led to a 3-2 win. However, his success didn’t completely continue, as he gave up three runs throughout six innings in the second game of the NLCS and only lasted two innings in Game 6 of the series. Sanchez pitched in Game 3 of the World Series, which ultimately led to a loss.
Sanchez started off the 2011 season second in the rotation, with expectations to have another year with a near three earned run average. Instead, he posted a 4.26 ERA, much worse than his expectations. He didn’t get run support with the plagued offensive forces of the Giants and he ended finishing off the season with a poor 4-7 record on the 2011 season. His WHIP was high at 1.44, also his strikeout/walk ration was extremely poor, as he had 102 strikeouts compared to 66 walks on the season.
After a frustrating season on the Giants, Sanchez is hoping to continue where he left off the 2010 season with the Royals. Kansas City thinks of him as a solid No. 3 starter, who was on a champion team and help stabilize the rotation. In addition, the Royals also added Ryan Verdugo, another force to their already amazing farm system.
Now I am going to discuss a brief conclusion of this trade and the affections which have been created from this deal:
This trade has been a definite advantage for both teams, as the Giants received a force in their lineup, which is much needed, and the Royals added a powerful lefty to their poor rotation. They have also compared in a burst of successful seasons. Sanchez had a breakout season in 2010, which was unexpected and out of the ordinary. Cabrera also had a breakout season last year, as both teams are taking a risk on this deal, which helps both teams in opposite ways.
The Royals ace, Luke Hochevar, has had a terrible and dreadful year. Even with the recent struggles of Jonathan Sanchez, he is still likely to be in the front of the rotation. Almost all the members of the rotation have been inconsistent for the Royals. The only strong force was arguably Bruce Chen, who had trouble getting past batters as he posted less than 100 strikeouts in the season.
The Giants can now subtract Cody Ross from the lineup, who had a weak average at .240. Melky Cabrera is a powerful lefty who is a force all around and can likely satisfy most of the Giants’ needs through his offensive and defensive abilities. Cabrera is a great addition to the outfield of the Giants.
Overall this deal has helped both teams in separate ways. There was no specified loser in this deal considering each side met their needs and received a potential solid player in return.
***Today’s feature was prepared by Jeff P, Guest Writer to MLB reports. 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 Jeff on Twitter.***
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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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