Friday July 22, 2011
MLB reports: The MLB Non-Waiver Trade Deadline is rapidly approaching. With only nine days to go, MLB teams need to decide if they are buyers or sellers. Right up until July 31st deadline, the baseball world will be buzzing on potential deals. While transactions can occur after July 31st, the respective players will need to first pass through waivers, which makes trades more difficult to happen. Especially in the category of closers, who are sought after by almost every team. Whether to obtain a 9th inning stopper or upgrade their middle relief, the majority of MLB teams are currently on the prowl.
There are some contending teams would love to add a closer, including the Rangers and Cardinals. The host of other teams battling for a playoff spot are ready to take a current closer to pitch the 7th or 8th inning. To win today in baseball, you usually need 2-3 closer-type pitchers in your pen. The Brewers recently added Francisco Rodriguez to compliment John Axford. The New York Yankees signed Rafael Soriano to pitch in front of Mariano Rivera, although David Robertson has since grabbed the role. True closers will always be in demand and teams with playoff aspirations will always find room for these guys on their rosters.
As the line between buyers and sellers becomes less blurry, we take a look today at the top five closer candidates to be traded by the July 31st MLB Trade Deadline:
1) Heath Bell: San Diego Padres
The Rolls Royce of available closers, the Padres are talking to teams on a daily, if not hourly basis on the availability of Heath Bell. Nearly every team has been linked to Bell in the past few days, from the Rangers, Cardinals, Phillies, Red Sox, Jays and Tigers. The prize of the closing market, expect the Padres to demand a king’s ransom for his services. At least two top prospects, with one being major league ready should get this deal done. With 28 saves and a 2.45 ERA, the 33-year old Bell is having another fantastic campaign before his impending free agency. The Rangers and Cardinals are most in need of a closer, with the Rangers the most likely destination based on availability of prospects. The Rangers have the superior farm system and could match up best with the Padres. The Phillies and Jays are the dark horses according to reports and need to decide if they are willing to pay the price.
2) Brandon League: Seattle Mariners
A first time All-Star in 2011, Brandon League has raised his stock this year and given the Mariners an interesting trade chip to work with at the deadline. League has chipped in 23 saves already this year, with a 3.35 ERA and 1.088 WHIP. With a team friendly contract and under team control for another season, League should draw much interest on the market. St. Louis seems like a logical choice, as the Cardinals will be looking for a long-term solution to their closing woes. I cannot see the Mariners dealing in their division and having to face League next year with the Rangers. A top prospect or two middle prospects should make this one happen. With the Mariners far out of contention and in complete rebuild mode, a top closer seems like a luxury that the Mariners cannot afford at the moment. The Mariners need offensive help and need it quickly, with League being one of many candidates likely to leave Seattle by July 31st to replenish the farm system.
If Heath Bells is a Rolls Royce, the Blue Jays are running a used Ford dealership in their bullpen. Frank Francisco is like a used mustang with transmission problems, while Jon Rauch is a pickup truck without the V8 engine. The Jays have assembled a collection of the middle-of-the-road closers and setup men this year in their bullpen. Francisco will likely draw the most attention, despite his mostly awful numbers this year. At 31-years of age and throwing big time heat, Francisco still has potential. Rauch has served as the Jays closer for much of the year and could be in demand as well. Octavio Dotel, the eldest member of the pack, has bounced around during his major league career and could be a useful trade deadline pickup. The most effective reliever though for the Jays has been Jason Frasor and a smart team should consider him. While the Jays are unlikely to offer any true closers to contending teams, there are middle relief candidates to be had. Expect the Phillies to come calling and pickup one of the above.
4) Kevin Gregg: Baltimore Orioles
For those teams that like to play with fire, closers don’t get more dangerous than Kevin Gregg. A 4.00 ERA and unsightly 1.583 WHIP are not numbers that scream out lock-down closer. Gregg has shown though the ability to get hot at times during his career and will be considered by many teams over the next week. Signed through next year, the Orioles will look mainly for salary relief in shedding Gregg’s contract. Personally, I wouldn’t consider Gregg if I was running a team. But somehow he will likely move by July 31st.
5) Leo Nunez: Florida Marlins
Another up-and-down closer in the Gregg mold, Leo Nunez is quietly having a very solid season for the Florida Marlins. Up to 27 saves, with a 3.22 ERA and 1.187 WHIP, Nunez might actually be the best affordable option on the closers market. The Rangers and Cardinals will sniffing around here, as will the Red Sox, Indians and Tigers. As the Marlins and Tigers have matched up well before in trades, I can see this swap happening. The Tigers have the ability to surrender a decent pitching prospect and can use Nunez down the stretch as Valverde insurance. With the Tigers in contention and the majority of their bullpen being fairly unstable for most of the year, Nunez might be a late inning option that the the Tigers can ill-afford to miss out on.
Send us your comments and opinions on available closers for the trade deadline. Other names thrown around have been Joakim Soria, Matt Capps, Joe Nathan, Andrew Bailey and Brian Fuentes. The trading of players, especially closers, is especially reliant on the competitiveness and status of a team in the standings. With so many teams still in their respective races, there are not as many top bullpen arms available at this point in the season. But come August, as more teams continue to drop out, expect to see even more trade activity. Exciting times, as the MLB pennant races continue to heat up, and baseball trade talk is on everyone’s lips.
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.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Rob Bland (Intern Candidate for MLB Reports): Since its inception in 1999, the Futures Game, now sponsored by XM Satellite Radio, has grown steadily in popularity. The players involved are split into two squads: USA and the World team. The rosters comprise of 25 players each, with every MLB organization represented, and no more than two players from each team. This year’s game will be played at Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field on Sunday, July 10th, a day before the MLB All-Star Homerun Derby.
Previous editions of the Futures Game has been littered with immense talent, and this year is no exception. The MVP of the inaugural event was Alfonso Soriano, and in other years it was Jose Reyes (2002), Grady Sizemore (2003), Aaron Hill (2004), and Billy Butler in 2006. Other notable past participants were superstars Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, Robinson Cano of the NY Yankees, and Clayton Kershaw of the LA Dodgers.
This year’s game is no different, as 14 of MLB.com’s Preseason Top 50 Prospects List will be participating in the event. That number could very easily be higher, but more than a dozen of those 50 are currently playing in the MLB. This year’s USA crop is highlighted by Mike Trout, #1 on the top 50 list, (LAA) and Bryce Harper, #3, (WAS) sharing the same outfield. The World team boasts a strong pitching staff, led by Julio Teheran, #10, (ATL) and Henderson Alvarez of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Let’s take a close look at the featured players that will be respresenting this year’s World Team:
Henderson Alvarez – RHP -Venezuela– TOR –New Hampshire Fisher Cats – AA – Eastern League
Alvarez is a right-handed starter who is in his second turn at the Futures Game. He has always possessed plus command, walking only 1.8 batters per 9 innings in his 5 year minor league career. An increase in weight over the offseason has also helped increase his velocity, as he touches 98 mph.
Liam Hendriks – RHP -Australia – MIN –New Britain Rock Cats – AA – Eastern League
Had an appendectomy just days before last year’s game, so this is a reprise for him. Not unhittable, but throws a ton of strikes; just 18 walks in 90 innings so far. Sits in the 87-91mph range with average secondary offerings.
Kelvin Herrera – RHP -Dominican Republic – KC – Northwest Arkansas Naturals – AA –Texas League
Diminutive right-handed reliever who has been almost untouchable this season. Since his call-up to AA early in the season, he has walked 2 batters to 35 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings. He sits around 95-96mph with a plus change-up.
Gregory Infante – RHP -Venezuela – CHISox – Charlotte Knights – AAA – International League
Another flame-throwing righty, he has managed to lower his walk rate and raise his strikeout rate in getting to AAA this year. He gets enough groundouts and doesn’t give up many homeruns. His lack of a consistent second pitch is holding him back, although his curve shows flashes of brilliance in the low 80s.
Jhan Marinez – RHP -Dominican Republic –FLA –Jacksonville Suns – AA – Southern League
Another righty reliever that can touch 98, with an exceptional 2-seamer that sits at 92. His problem, as most young arms, is control. Over his career he has average 6 BB/9, and has so far managed 7.9 BB/9 this year. He has struck out almost 12 per 9 innings though.
Carlos Martinez – RHP – Dominican Republic – STL – Palm Beach Cardinals – A – Florida State League
A Latin pitcher, thin and wiry who sits mid 90s with his fastball which has a good late cut. He has given up only 31 hits in 44 2/3 innings pitched, and is able to induce a lot of ground balls.
James Paxton – LHP -Canada – SEA – Jackson Generals – AA – Southern League
A tall, strong lefty, who didn’t sign after being selected in the supplemental first round in 2009, got a later start on his professional career after three years at the UniversityofKentucky. He sits 92-95mph with an above average curve, a power slider and average change-up. As a starter this year, he has struck out 81 batters in 60 2/3 innings.
Martin Perez – LHP -Venezuela –TEX – Frisco RoughRiders – AA –Texas League
A left handed starter with a fastball that sits around 92mph, his bread and butter is his sharp, hard-breaking curveball. His command is average, as he walks close to 4 batters per 9 innings.
Julio Teheran – RHP -Colombia – ATL – Gwinnett Braves – AAA – International League
It’s not often you see a 20-year old in AAA with his numbers. 9-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 90 2/3 IP. He possess a plus fastball that sits 92-94, with a plus plus change-up with great sink. Projects to be a #2 starter, if not a true ace in the big leagues.
Arodys Vizcaino – RHP -Dominican Republic – ATL –Mississippi Braves – AA – Southern League
Strong, well developed legs allow him to sit in the 91-94 range, topping at 95. His curve and change have yet to fully develop, but show flashes of promise. He has the ability to miss bats, as he has compiled 76 K in 78 2/3 IP.
Willin Rosario – C -Dominican Republic –COL -Tulsa Drillers – AA –Texas League
He possesses 30+ HR power, but lacks discipline and doesn’t walk. He has power to all fields but strikes out in almost 20% of his at bats. If he can learn some patience, he could be one of the top young catchers in the game.
Sebastian Valle – C -Mexico – PHI –Clearwater Threshers – A –Florida State League
Valle is a catcher who has hit at every level so far, yet still lacks patience, which is very common with young backstops. If he can raise his walk rate, and keep hitting the ball to all fields, he could be a special catcher in the Phillies organization.
Yonder Alonso – 1B/OF -Cuba – CIN –Louisville Bats – AAA – International League
Alonso is a very polished hitter. He has begun to play more innings at left field, because the Reds have Joey Votto as a lock at 1B. He hits to all fields, with some pop, and he walks a fair amount, which has led to his .861 OPS in AAA.
Jose Altuve – 2B -Venezuela – HOU – Corpus Christi Hooks – AA –Texas League
Listed at 5’7”, but plays as if he was 6’3”. Altuve is currently hitting .362 with 4 HR and 22 RBI in 31 games in AA after starting the season in A-ball, where he hit over .400 in 52 games. He doesn’t walk much, but when he is hitting everything thrown at him, he doesn’t really need to.
Hak-Ju Lee – SS -South Korea – TB – Charlotte Stone Crabs – A –FloridaState League
He is a plus defender at shortstop with good speed. Lee needs to work on his base stealing to better utilize that speed. He is having the best offensive season of his career, and is really looking like a steal in the Matt Garza trade with the Cubs.
Francisco Martinez – 3B -Venezuela – DET –Erie Sea Wolves – AA – Eastern League
Martinez is a prototypical third baseman with a quick bat and strong arm. Once he fills out his athletic frame, he should develop plus power. He still strikes out too much as he adjusts to AA pitching.
Alex Liddi – SS -Italy – SEA –Tacoma Rainiers – AAA –PacificCoast League
As the first Italian position player to sign a professional contract, he was seen as a bit of a project back in 2005. He has begun to develop his power, bashing 15 HR so far this season, but strikes out a ton; around 30% of his plate appearances end with him walking back to the dugout.
Jeffry Marte – 3B – Dominican Republic – NYM – St. Lucie Mets – A –Florida State League
Marte has good gap power and has a decent eye at the plate, as well as being smart on the base paths. May not be able to stay at 3B long term, but as long as his bat continues to progress, could make it to the big leagues as an outfielder.
Jurickson Profar – SS – Curacao –TEX –Hickory Crawdads – A –South Atlantic League
Premium defender at shortstop, with speed and the ability to drive the ball all over the field. He walks more than he strikes out, and once he fills out his 165lb frame, he could eventually become a 20/20 shortstop in the big leagues.
Jonathan Schoop – 3B – Curacao – BAL –Frederick Keys – A –Carolina League
Possesses the skills to play anywhere in the infield, his long term future looks to be 3B. He has quick feet and a good arm, with a quick bat. As he gets stronger, he could be a 20 HR guy that can drive in a ton of runs.
Chih-Hsien Chiang – OF -Taiwan – BOS –Portland Sea Dogs – AA – Eastern League
After five years of mediocrity in the minor leagues, he seems to have put it together this year. Hitting in the middle of Portland’s line-up, he has not only driven in 58 runs and hit 14 homeruns, but also hit 26 doubles, giving him a .618 SLG. Over half of his hits have been for extra bases, with gap power, he could prove that Boston’s roots in Asia are only getting stronger.
Reymond Fuentes – CF – Puerto Rico – SD –LakeElsinore Storm – A –California League
One of the pieces in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, he should be able to man center field at Petco Park for years to come with his speed. He already has 34 stolen bases, and he gets on base quite frequently. He may never hit for power, but could be a leadoff type hitter in the big leagues.
Starling Marte – CF -Dominican Republic – PIT –Altoona Curve – AA – Eastern League
There aren’t many players in baseball that could push Andrew McCutchen to a corner outfield position, but Marte could be one of them. He possesses the speed to cover a lot of ground, and although his power hasn’t quite developed, he could be a 10-15 HR player with a good OBP if his discipline continues to progress.
Alfredo Silverio – LF -Dominican Republic – LAD –Chattanooga Lookouts – AA – Southern League
Silverio has always seemed ready to be the power/speed combination outfielder the Dodgers envisioned when they signed him in 2003, and almost eight years later, he may finally be hitting his stride. If his discipline can improve, he could be in the big leagues quickly. Lacks a good arm, so he is basically destined for left field.
Dayan Viciedo – RF -Cuba – CHI Sox – Charlotte Knights – AAA – International League
Finally moved to the outfield this year, he has a solid arm for right field, and he flat out mashes. Many see a 30 HR player in the near future, as he uses all parts of the field with a quick compact stroke.
The World team is comprised of players from twelve countries: eight from the Dominican Republic, five from Venezuela, two from Cuba and Curacao, and one each from Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, Italy, Colombia, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.
Stay tuned for analysis on the US roster.
***Thank you to Rob Bland for preparing today’s article on the All-Star Futures Game, preview of the World Team. You can follow Rob 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.