Saturday March 24th, 2012
Jonathan Hacohen: I was digging in the MLB reports archive this morning, thinking about the recent news on Joakim Soria‘s seasoning ending injury. The inevitable story came out yesterday, as Joakim Soria is facing a second Tommy John surgery. A visit to Dr. Andrews confirmed it. With “definite damage” to the elbow, as was reported from Soria’s initial prognosis, it was only a matter of time till this announcement was made. So the Royals lose Soria for the season, their top closer facing a long road to return after the reconstructive elbow surgery he is about to face. Did the Royals take too much of a risk by hanging on to Soria this offseason? As a result, what is the Royals bullpen going to look like in 2012? Read the rest of this entry
Wednesday November 30, 2011
MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: Another reliever is off the market. On Tuesday, the Kansas City Royals announced that they had signed former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton to a 1-year contract. The deal is reported to be for $4 million, with an additional $1 million in incentives. There will be an official announcement once Broxton passes his physical. Given his health over the past couple of seasons, there are no guarantees that this deal will go through. But assuming that Broxton’s elbow has recovered from his September surgery, he should be an official member of the Royals any day now.
There are many significant items to come out of this signing. Broxton was in heavy demand, with at least a dozen teams interested. The Royals did have to pay a premium to land him, considering the state of his health in recent times. Looking at the numbers, Broxton had three solid seasons between 2006-2008 as a middle reliever and part-time closer. He broke out in a big way in 2009, with 36 saves, 2.61 ERA and 0.961 WHIP. Broxton’s slide began in 2010 and he was shut down effectively for most of 2011. The Royals are banking on a return to form for the 27-year old Broxton. At a reported playing weight of 300 lbs., Broxton will need to come in shape to camp and work hard this offseason to be an effective Major League pitcher. He is still young and has the arm. The big variables will be is the health of his elbow and his commitment to conditioning.
Based in Georgia, it is reported that location played a large part in his decision to sign with the Royals. With an up-and-coming Royals team, Broxton could be a good fit as the team looks to be a playoff contender in the near future. At worst, the team will lose $4 million for a season. But the upside could be a very effective setup man or closer at a reasonable rate. A low risk- high reward proposition for the Royals. So now, where does this leave Joakim Soria? The Royals have denied interest in moving their top closer. I would disagree. Regardless of whether the Broxton signing goes through, it is my gut feeling that Joakim Soria will not be a Royal come 2012.
The Royals have set themselves up quite nicely in the bullpen. After Soria and Broxton, the team still has Aaron Crow, Tim Collins and Greg Holland, among others, as setup men and possible closing options. If Broxton were to take over as closer for Soria in 2012, this would allow the other members of the pen to develop and grow. At least one of these bullpen candidates could be groomed into a closer by late 2012 or 2013. The options are there for the Royals. In fact, with so many valuable bullpen arms, the team could even try Aaron Crow into the rotation. I see his fit likely best in the bullpen, but at the least the option is there…and options are a good thing. When I look at Joakim Soria though, I see a valuable chip that can be moved to better the team in the long term.
After four strong seasons in the Royals pen, Soria is coming off a weak 2011 by his standards. He still finished with 28 saves, but also had a 4.03 ERA and 1.276 WHIP. The Royals have to ask themselves a couple of questions. Given Soria’s arm troubles in the past, could he get injured? Also, will 2011 be a blip on the radar or a sign of things to come? Let’s face it: pitchers, especially relievers, are injury risks. To compound possible health issues, closers are at risk to implode at any time and lose their job. Soria has been outstanding for several seasons. Is he the next Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Papelbon? Or another B.J. Ryan or Bobby Thigpen? None of us can look into a crystal ball and tell. But what we do now is that there are only a handful of closers in major league history that were effective long term and consistently reliable for their careers. For every Goose Gossage and Trevor Hoffman, there are hundreds of closers that were strong early in their career and faded. With the Royals about 2-3 seasons away from contending, Soria is a luxury that they cannot afford to keep at this stage.
For a team looking to acquire Soria, he is signed to a very reasonable contract. He will make $6 million in 2012 and has 2 team options for 2013-2014 at approximately $8 million per season. The Royals can choose to keep Soria and perhaps be set at the closer position for another decade. Or they can keep a reliever that can be injured or ineffective in 2012, thus discounting heavily his trade value. They also run the risk of losing Soria as a free agent after the 2014 season. The point is that the longer they wait, the less the Royals will get back for Soria. With Broxton and company in the bullpen, the Royals would easily find themselves a setup man and closer for 2012 without likely missing a beat. But given what Soria can bring back in trade value, this is a move that likely should and will happen.
Despite denials from both the Blue Jays and Royals, some outlets have reported discussions of a Colby Rasmus for Joakim Soria swap. Not a bad move for either team. I don’t see this trade happening, unless the Royals include another prospect bat (i.e. Wil Myers) and the Blue Jays include a top starting pitching prospect. The Blue Jays have a glut of outfielders in their system, including Jose Bautista, Rasmus, Travis Snider, Eric Thames and Anthony Gose. The Jays can afford to move an outfielder to acquire the closer they seek. The top free agent closer at this point is Heath Bell. At 34-years of age, I would not be terribly excited to give him the 3-year contract he seeks. Plus he would prefer to play on the West Coast? Ryan Madson? To come close to the 4-year, $44 million contract that the Phillies reportedly offered him would be ludicrous, given that he only has 1 full season of closing experience. For the Jays, given age, contract and ability, their top target should be Soria. The team was looking at Papelbon before he signed with the Phillies- a sign that they do not want to grab a closer off the scrapheap. They want the real deal.
Rasmus has the potential to be an all-star and top outfielder for years to come. A big price for the Jays to pay. One that I just don’t see happening. Rasmus though will be the price unless the Jays can offer a good package for Soria. I think that they have the will and the ability to make this deal happen. Travis Snider will be the first prospect to be included in the package. He has not shown enough in Toronto and likely needs a change of scenery at this point to thrive. The offensive and defensive potential of this young outfielder are still there. At 23-years of age, the Royals would be acquiring a former 1st round pick who should be major league ready for them in 2012. But what else to include? I could see 1-2 pitching prospects heading to Kansas City. But the name I am stuck on is Brandon Morrow. Acquired from the Mariners for Brandon League, the 27-year old Morrow has pitched two fairly inconsistent seasons in the Jays rotation. He has electric stuff, as shown by his 203 strikeouts in 179 1/3 innings this past season. He is an enigma, much like Edwin Jackson. Some of the best stuff in baseball but unable for some reason to consistently put it together for a full season. The 28-year old Jackson will likely obtain a 3-year deal in the $50 million range this offseason. Considering that Morrow is controllable for another 3 seasons, he could be attractive for the Royals as a potential top starter.
The Soria for Morrow and Snider swap should benefit both the Jays and Royals in the short and long term. Some people may be surprised that the Jays would move Morrow. But given the depth of young starters in their system and perhaps waning confidence in Morrow, the time might be right for him to move on. Thames has already moved ahead of Snider on the depth chart, with Gose likely ready in the next couple of seasons. The time is also right for Snider to find a new home and advance his career. I can see the combination of Moustakas, Butler, Snider, Myers and company pounding out runs for the Royals for many seasons. Joakim Soria, on the other hand, could be signed to a long-term deal by the Jays and become the top closer they have craved for at least the next five seasons. A good old fashioned baseball trade that benefits both teams.
So there we have it folks. Jonathan Broxton is likely to become a Royal very soon. If he does come on board, the Royals are in great shape to move Joakim Soria and fill out some needs in their outfield and starting rotation. But even if the Broxton deal falls through, the Royals have the depth to still trade their closer. The Blue Jays, with one of the top systems in baseball, have the pieces to make a deal with the Royals. Don’t count out Alex Anthopoulos and Dayton Moore. These are two of the sharpest GMs in baseball. Neither one will show their hands until they play their cards. Expect a deal to possibly come as soon as the Winter Meetings. The MLB reports crystal ball appears to be very clear on a deal of this magnitude coming. Stay tuned!
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.
Tuesday November 15, 2011
MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: With the free agency season in full swing, some teams may not be happy with the sticker prices on available players. Especially when it comes to pitching, including closers. Jonathan Papelbon recently grabbed $50 million from the Phillies and reports have Ryan Madson looking at a deal in the $40 million range. These figures make existing closers signed to reasonable deals an attractive trade commodity, despite the amount of available relief pitchers on the market. There may be a quantity of closers, but certainly not quality. Outside of Mariano Rivera and Papelbon, there are few sure-fire closers currently in baseball. Enter Joakim Soria of the Kansas City Royals.
A 2-time All-Star, Soria has put up some impressive numbers in his 5 seasons in Kansas City. Two seasons of 40+ saves, Soria has a career 2.40 ERA and 1.043 WHIP. Soria will only be 28 next year and could theoretically be a building block for the next few seasons in Kansas City. However, closers are generally considered to be foundational players. Soria is no exception. 2011 was his most difficult seasons in the majors, as he did save 28 games but put up a 4.03 ERA and 1.276 WHIP (all career worsts). Soria is signed for $6 million this coming season and has 2 more team options at roughly $8 million per season. The Royals are faced with a decision: hold onto their star closer, or cash in while his market is at its peak.
The Royals are on the way up. No doubt about it. Mike Moustakas, Erik Hosmer, Wil Myers, John Lamb and company are expected to come together at the same time to make the Royals the next powerhouse squad. By my estimation, they should be World Series contenders by 2015. But with a couple of more seasons of growing pains ahead, can they afford the luxury of Soria? My argument is no. Soria’s salary in 2012 is still considered a “deal”, but from 2013 go-forward at $8 million, the Royals would be wise to spend their salary dollars in other areas. There are still holes to fill on the squad, including 1-2 more bats and starting pitching. The team will also need to lock up some of its young star players early to avoid unaffordable contract demands down the road. Joakim Soria can bring back a nice haul to fill needs and stock the team for a future championship. The team needs to be realistic of where it is today, where it is going in the future and the players it needs to get there.
The Royals also have options to replace Soria. Aaron Crow (if he is not moved into the rotation) and Tim Collins could all get a shot. Luke Hochevar, who has been hot/cold during his career in the rotation may eventually settle into the bullpen. Options are there. Heck, the Royals plunked Soria from the Rule-5 draft and transformed him from a Padres outcast into a star closer. With the risk of injury and ineffectiveness always hanging over closers, the Royals may be gambling if they hang onto Soria much longer. Another season like 2011 could severely damage his trade value, while he could bring in a nice crop of 2-3 prospects if traded this offseason. The Royals need to do some soul-searching and realize that Soria is worth more in a trade than on their roster.
Teams will surely line-up if Joakim Soria is made available. The Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Angels, Tigers, Rangers, Nationals and Cardinals would all surely inquire as to his availability. From all reports, the Yankees and Blue Jays are the strongest contenders to land the Royals closer. Don’t get me wrong- I am a Joakim Soria fan. I believe the kid is immensely talented and has the talent and determination to remain a top MLB closer for another decade (health permitting). But on a losing ballclub that is rebuilding, Joakim Soria is a luxury that the Royals simply cannot afford. If the team has to trade a Moustakas or Hosmer given their budget but retain Soria, that would be a big mistake in my estimation. The team needs to build for 2015- not 2012. This offseason represents a golden opportunity for the Royals to continue to replenish its roster and fill more holes. The Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez was that type of step in the right direction. If Melky was a Prince, it is time for the Royals to flip their King for a pair of Wild Cards. It could prove to be their ultimate winning hand.
Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)
Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback. You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook . To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.
Saturday November 12, 2011
MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: The Philadelphia Phillies seemingly fooled everyone this week. Earlier in the week, reports indicated that the team had locked up its incumbent closer, Ryan Madson for a 4-year, $44 million contract which could climb all the way up to a $57 million deal with an additional option year. Reactions were for the most part negative, as the baseball world could not believe that the team would pay (overpay) for a reliever coming off his first season as a full-time closer by handing out one of the largest contracts ever to a non-starting pitcher. At that money, people began to wonder why the Phillies did not seek out the best closer on the market and one of the best overall in the game, Jonathan Papelbon. The Red Sox closer, after endless 1-year pacts with Boston was in his first free agency period in 2011. But then something interesting happened. The Madson deal, which required the approval of the team’s higher brass all of a sudden was delayed and then fell apart. A couple of days later, Papelbon became a Philly! At 4-years and $50 million, Jonathan Papelbon finally received the long-term deal he has craved all of these years and Philadelphia signed a lock-down closer. But what happened? How did the Phillies switch to Papelbon mid-stream after coming so far along in negotiations with Madson?
The marketing term for what the Phillies did is called a “bait and switch”, meant when a retailer will advertise a discounted product and will then offer you a higher priced replacement when you arrive at the location to find that the advertised good has mysteriously sold out. Often, that discounted good was never actually available, but was a merely a ploy to get the consumer to first get to the store and secondly, buy a more expensive product. In the case of the Philadelphia Phillies, I do not believe that the team ever planned on signing Ryan Madson to the reported high-end contract. While being groomed to be a future for many seasons, the team was never completely sold on his true sustainability at the position. While Madson received the occasional closing opportunities in his 8-year career leading up to 2011, he actually converted only 20 saves going into this season. But something funny happened this season. Madson became solid. So solid, that he saved 32 games with a 2.37 ERA and 1.154 WHIP. With Scott Boras as his agent, the Phillies knew that Madson would not come cheap. But the Phillies faithful for the most part loved Madson and would mourn his departure. The Phillies needed to secure themselves at the closer position while softening the blow of not signing Ryan Madson. The team’s actions this week were a stroke of genius and the team played its cards perfectly.
The plan for 2011 was to have Brad Lidge close for 1 more season, with Ryan Madson as the set-up man and fill-in closer. In the offseason, the Phillies were going to target Jonathan Papelbon and sign him to a large pact. But Lidge was injured and ineffective in 2011, forcing the Phillies to use Madson as their primary closer for most of the season. The reliever that they were hoping to sign for a reasonable 3-years, $21-$24 million deals was about to cost them almost double to retain. But how could the team sign another reliever and let their incumbent closer go? Simple. Propose a deal with Ryan Madson and float the scenario out to the public to record and evaluate the reaction of the public. The possibility existed that the fans, writers and analysts would applaud the deal, in which case the Phillies could consider actually proceeding with it. But in all likelihood, the team knew that the outcry would be against the deal. By then pulling the Madson deal and reaching out to sign Papelbon, the approval rating would be through the roof. It is almost the same as proposing a 20% tax hike and then only increasing taxes by 5%. Throw out a worst-case scenario and set expectations low- then substitute a better plan and watch people jumping for joy.
The Phillies in my estimation used Ryan Madson as a pawn. While Scott Boras has been the master for years at playing teams against one another to benefit the pocketbook of his clients, the Phillies in this case used Boras and Madson to get what they wanted. If the Phillies had gone out right away at the start of free agency to sign Jonathan Papelbon, fans and critics would have blasted the team for overpaying and proposing that the team should have kept Ryan Madson at a hometown discount. The Phillies were able to eliminate such sentiments by showing that Madson would have cost them top dollar to stay put. At an additional $1.5 million per season for the same 4-year contract, the Phillies replaced a closer with 1 full year of closing experience with a closer (Papelbon) who is the same age (31), has 6 full years of full-time closing experience in one of baseball’s biggest and highest pressure markets (Boston) of 30+ saves per season, to go along with an almost perfect postseason resume. The Phillies traded in a solid Buick for a Mercedes, with still plenty of mileage to be driven.
For those of you that may doubt the “conspiracy theory”, just take a close look at the Phillies rotation. Since Spring Training, I have been calling for the Phillies to sign Papelbon. The team has shown to seek out the best pitchers on the market and bring them on board. Roy Halladay. Cliff Lee. Now Jonathan Papelbon. When the Phillies go shopping for pitching, they do not shop in the bargain bin. Aside from obtaining Mariano Rivera, the team signed the best available closer for their staff. So while Ryan Madson would have been a nice luxury to keep on the staff for insurance and to set-up, the team knew it would be seeking Jonathan Papelbon all the way. The plan would have worked to have both Papelbon and Madson on the team, had Madson not closed out so many games this past season. As a middle reliever setting-up, his contract would have been affordable. But an outstanding closing record in 2011 along with Scott Boras as his agent, meant that Madson was priced out of the Phillies budget. With Papelbon set to come on board, there would be no room for Madson.
The Phillies faithful have to be pleased today. While they will miss Ryan Madson, most will know that there was no guarantees he could duplicate his numbers over the life of a 4-5 year contract. At the numbers that were tabled for him to stay in Philadelphia, the team by all accounts did the right thing to sign the superior Papelbon. While he will cost the team its 2012 first-round pick, a pick should be recovered, along with a supplemental pick, when Madson is signed by another team. The cost/benefit of this move was essentially a no-brainer. The Phillies went with more of a sure-thing by signing Papelbon. While there are no guarantees in baseball, especially with pitchers (arm problems) and especially closers (who can lose their jobs at a moment’s notice), Jonathan Papelbon is as money in the bank as they come.
A couple of last points that helped trigger the change of closers. By continually signing 1-year deals in Boston, many expected Papelbon to bolt once he was eligible for free agency. The team could not lock the player down to a long-term deal and with the max-exodus of players during this past offseason, it seemed that Papelbon was another candidate to seek a change of scenery. But some people may not remember that not too long ago that Ryan Madson’s wife, Sarah, making negative comments on Phillies fans. At the time, it seemed like a ticket out-of-town for Madson, but his success this season seemingly made the comments disappear. Except that the Phillies brass did not forget and the publicity that surrounded the event at the time was one that likely set a chain reaction for the plan for Madson to leave at the end of the season. Baseball is a game of short-term memories, but not for all.
When I floated the idea of a Jonathan Papelbon signing all season long, Phillies fans did not have one positive comment back to me. Their fans, as well as most in baseball, had very negative things to say about Papelbon. Outside of Boston it seems, many were unable to or refused to recognize his talent. But while Papelbon was beloved in Boston until now, those sentiments will transfer over to Philadelphia by next season. The stare, as it is known, will become one of the most famed times in Philadelphia Phillies history as the team and its fans get revved up watching Jonathan Papelbon close out games for the next 4-seasons. There is a changing of the guard in Philadelphia. The Phillies have Halladay, Lee and Hamels to start things off and now can rely on Papelbon to close them out. The stare now makes its residence in the city of brotherly love. Another World Series may not be far behind.
Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)
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.
Friday November 4, 2011
Jonathan Hacohen: While I get to interview many current MLB prospects and stars on the Reports, it is rare that I have the opportunity to talk baseball with a former great that I watched growing up. As a personal bonus to me, that chance recently came up when I was able to connect with Steve Karsay, former major league pitcher. Steve was originally drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1st round (22nd overall in the 1990 draft). After being a part of the famed 1993 trade to Oakland for hall-of-famer Rickey Henderson, Steve played 11 major league seasons for 5 different squads. Steve played his final season in 1996.
I reflected with Steve Karsay on his career, from his time with the Blue Jays organization, through to his final season. Steve was very candid in his responses and certainly did not hold back. For all the readers that grew up idolizing Steve Karsay and wondering about his future baseball plans- today you will receive your answers.
Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with former Major League pitcher, Steve Karsay:
MLB reports: Welcome to MLB reports Steve. Let’s start today’s interview from the beginning. A 1st round pick in 1990 with Toronto. What was the feeling when you got the call? Did you expect to be drafted by the Jays? Thoughts/feelings at the time?
Steve Karsay: Wow! Going back a few years. That is correct- I was the 22nd pick overall in the 1990 draft by the Blue Jays. What a great time and what a great organization I was drafted by. The Blue Jays and their organization taught me so much to make me the player I was over my 16 year career. I will always be grateful to the Blue Jays organization and the coaches for the years I spent there. I did not know I was drafted until late in the afternoon for the fact that I was playing for my high school championship at Yankee stadium at the time. The feeling when I did receive the call was shock. I was not sure I was going to get drafted in the first round and had my sights set on going to LSU in the fall. But when it sunk in and realized the opportunity that I had and the feeling of shock turned to joy and excitement made the decision to sign and start my career in St. Catharines.
MLB reports: You will forever be linked to hall of famer Rickey Henderson, being traded for him in July 1993. What was your reaction when you learned of the trade? Have you ever spoken to Rickey about it?
Steve Karsay: First being traded at the time for Rickey was a great honor. I was only 21 at the time in 93′ when the trade happened so learning I was traded I had a mix of feelings. I was disappointed because I wanted to reach the big leagues with the team that drafted me. But realizing that I may get my opportunity to pitch in the big leagues faster, I understood that these are the things that happen when the big club is trying to position itself to win a World Series. After the trade I ended up making my Major League debut two weeks later against the Brewers at the Oakland Coliseum. So that is what made the trade worth it. As far as talking with Rickey, we had a brief conversation when he returned to Oakland the very next year.
MLB reports: After being in the Toronto organization your whole life, what was it like joining the A’s and playing for them for three seasons?
Steve Karsay: Being with Toronto for three years and going to Oakland was an adjustment, but for me was an easy transition. I enjoyed the A’S organization very much. Working with Dave Duncan and having Tony La Russa as my first manager was great. They were both mentors and I credit them for helping me transition to pitching in the big leagues.
MLB reports: Injuries took a big toll on your career- especially your surgeries in 1995 and 1996. After undergoing Tommy John, did you think your career was finished? Give us an idea as to what the surgeries/rehabs were like and your road to continue playing baseball.
Steve Karsay: To be quite honest I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew I had had to have Tommy John and back in 1995, it was not nearly as perfected as it is today. So I knew there was a chance that I may never play at the big league level again. The surgeries were lengthy and the rehab tedious, but I always had the drive to get healthy and pitch in the big leagues again. I was never one to give up. It was a long three years but in the end to resume my career and compete at the highest level was an accomplishment in itself.
MLB reports: Your career actually took off when you joined the Indians. Your four years in Cleveland represent some of your finest major league numbers. What was the secret of your success with the tribe?
Steve Karsay: I guess if there was any secret to my years in Cleveland, it was that I was finally healthy. I had gone through some tough years with injuries and rehab and when I finally got traded in 97′ to Cleveland, I felt like I turned the corner and it was just all coming together. In Cleveland they decided to put me in the bullpen and really got into a nice niche of what I was really capable of doing. But ultimately I would have to say that the four years in Cleveland I was as healthy as I have ever been throughout my career.
MLB reports: Aside from the occasional start, you became a full-time reliever in 1998. What was the process like to transition from starting to the pen? After coming up as a starter, how did you feel about becoming a reliever?
Steve Karsay: As a starter you have routines and you know what days you’re going to pitch and who you are going to pitch against. As a reliever you just have to be prepared every day. The transition was fairly easy for me because I had some great mentors when I did it in Cleveland. Mike Jackson, Paul Shuey, Paul Assenmacher, and a few others, so I got to learn from some guys who tough me well. I wasn’t excited at first to become a reliever but it definitely grew on me and felt after having success in the bullpen that is where I was supposed to be. It also gave me a new found respect of how hard the bullpen is.
MLB reports: You finished your career with 41 saves. Looking back, do you wish that you had more 9th inning opportunities- was the “closer” role something that you had in the back of your mind?
Steve Karsay: I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to be a closer for a bit in Cleveland and fill in New York when Mariano Rivera was injured. I always had the “closer” role in my mind but was never what drove me to play. I figured opportunities would present themselves if I pitched well enough. My saying was ”How well you are pitching will determine where you pitch in the game coming out of the pen”. When I signed as a free agent, I had the opportunity to go to a couple other clubs to compete for that job but chose to go to NY to set-up. At that point, winning was more important to me than closing. That was a tough choice I had to make.
MLB reports: Your career ended in 2006, after pitching 9 games with the A’s. Why the decision to hang up the glove at that point? Any regrets?
Steve Karsay: I have absolutely no regrets about my decision to retire in 06′. At that particular point, I was still having problems with my shoulder (after having surgery on my rotator cuff in 03′). I was pitching with pain and I felt personally like I couldn’t compete at that level with an injured shoulder. It was not fun any more coming to the ballpark, and I had always told myself that if I felt that I couldn’t compete at the highest level, I wanted to walk away from the game as a player on a respectable note. After retiring I had one last shoulder surgery to repair my rotator cuff for a final time. I came to realize that I was pitching with my rotator cuff torn the whole time in 2006. So looking back, I felt the choice I made was 100% correct.
MLB reports: You pitched for 5 major league teams (A’s, Indians, Braves, Yankees and Rangers). Favorite team(s) that you played for and why?
Steve Karsay: All of the teams hold a special place in my heart. I had great memories with all of them. I had the opportunity to meet and play with some of the best players in the history of the game over my career. I will always be grateful for the Blue Jays for drafting me and giving me the chance to start my career in professional baseball. Then the A’s for giving me my first shot in the Major leagues. The Indians is where I had my most productive years and had the chance to experience playoff baseball for the first time. Atlanta and playing for the great Bobby Cox. He is a player’s manager and a great man. Also having the opportunity to have great teammates in every spot that I played. Too long of a list to compile, but to name a few of the greats I played with: Mark McGwire, Dennis Eckersley, Ron Darling, Rickey Henderson, Jim Thome, Sandy Alomar Jr., Robbie Alomar, Omar Vizquel, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Mike Mussina. I know I am probably missing many other great ones I played with. Overall, the experiences were priceless. It was the most exciting time in my life with the exception of the birth of my son Kingston.
MLB reports: Do you still keep in touch with many of your ex-teammates- any ones in particular?
Steve Karsay: I don’t keep in touch per say with them, but whenever I get the opportunity to see them when they come into town I always like to stop by the ballpark and say hello.
MLB reports: Growing up so close to Shea Stadium, it must have been a dream come true to play in New York. Were you a Mets fan growing up- did you consider playing for them at one point?
Steve Karsay: Growing up in NY and so close to Shea was great. I was a baseball fan growing up. I liked players more than I did teams. I watched both the Yankees and the Mets. I went to more Mets games as a kid because it was just a short train ride away. I never had the opportunity to play for the Mets over my career, but playing for the Yankees and the tradition of the Yankees was definitely a highlight of my playing days.
MLB reports: Since you left the game, what has been life been like for Steve Karsay? What are you up to these days Steve?
Steve Karsay: Life has been wonderful since retiring in 2006. After being able to have a 16 year career in baseball I wanted to step away from the game for a short time to pursue a few things that I was not able to do while I was playing- like travel and explore different countries. I also became involved in my friend’s company in Aerospace Manufacturing which has been exciting and to say the least interesting. And last but not least, the birth of my son which has been more work than all of the above. With that being said, baseball is my life and I am pursing opportunities to get back in the game in some capacity. The time off was great, but I want to be able to pass along the knowledge of baseball that I learned while I was playing and help young kids fulfill their dreams of hopefully getting to the big leagues.
MLB reports: If you could give one piece of advice to a young baseball player trying to make it to the show, what would it be?
Steve Karsay: My advice would be to work hard, be consistent, and do not take anything for granted because you never know when it will come to an end.
MLB reports: Will we be seeing you in the future in the major leagues in another capacity, perhaps a broadcaster or coach/manager?
Steve Karsay: I hope so. I am pursuing some things as we speak and would love to get back in the game in any capacity, either as a broadcaster, front office or on the field coach. Baseball is my passion and it what I love.
MLB reports: Final question Steve: everyone at the end of the day wants to leave a mark on the game. What do you most want to be remembered for as a professional baseball player?
Steve Karsay: Looking back I would want to be known for every time I stepped between the white lines I gave everything I had and I did not take anything for granted. I wanted to be the best player I could be when I stepped out on the mound. The fire for competition was always burning when I played. If I can be remembered for that, I would be very proud.
MLB reports: Thank you very much for taking your time out of your busy schedule so we can have you with us. Much appreciated!
Thank you again to Steve Karsay for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports. We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Steve. As well, please follow Steve on Twitter (@Steve_Karsay)
Sunday September 25, 2011
Jeff P (Guest Writer – MLB reports): The Yankees entered the season with a troubled rotation, some great bullpen signings from the offseason, and a star-studded lineup.
As the season commenced, the Yankees had immediate troubles in the rotation. The troubles in the rotation started with their former number two starter Phil Hughes, who seemed to be dominant going into the year, yet wasn’t able to play due to a “Dead arm”. The rotation ended up being filled by a rookie (Ivan Nova), C.C. Sabathia, a struggling A.J. Burnett, and two veterans who weren’t very successful in the past few seasons (Colon and Garcia).
The Yankees were up for the challenge, as they not only beat out the nearly untouchable Red Sox in the AL East division race, but also had a season full of historical baseball moments. Derek Jeter, became the first player in Yankee history to reach the 3,000 hit mark, as for Mariano Rivera, who is now the all-time leader in saves in Major League Baseball history.
Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia unexpectedly became huge parts in lifting Yankees until the day they clinched the division spot. As for Ivan Nova, he won 16 games for the Yankees in the “Journey to the playoffs”. Now the Yankees are finished with that chapter and are now on a new journey: the “Journey to the World Series”.
The playoffs are about to start soon, as the Yankees are in the process of last-minute preparations. Unnamed sources have leaked out that Ivan Nova will start game two, and A.J. Burnett will not appear as a starter in the playoffs. The Yankees’ playoff rotation is looking more favorable for Freddy Garcia to be the number three starter, as Bartolo Colon is going through a horrific slump. Colon’s ERA (earned run average) in September is well over a 6.50, resulting in his ERA surpassing 4.00 on the season. Therefore it is probable that Freddy Garcia will be named to start for the Yankees in the 2011 MLB playoffs.
There have been multiple questions concerning Jesus Montero’s spot in the Yankees playoff roster. To date, it seems likely Yankees will proceed to place him on the roster in place of Francisco Cervelli, as he is expected to come back later in the playoffs due to concussion symptoms.
Besides the rotation, bullpen, and the Yankees lineup, backups also take on a big role in the “Key to success”. The Yankees backups are looking extraordinary as the season is nearing an end. The backups will include a trio of Eric Chavez, Eduardo Nunez, Andruw Jones, and either Jesus Montero or Jorge Posada as of now. The backups are looking promising, and can take a big part in the “Journey to the World Series”.
The Yankees have a team full of playoff greats, such as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and others such as Alex Rodriguez, and C.C. Sabathia. There is a debate as to whether the veterans can lift the Yankees this year to championship Number 28. The answer is that the Yankees veterans have the promise playoff strength. Veterans such as Derek Jeter (also known as Mr. November), and Mariano Rivera, among others who have experience and the strength to lift the Yankees in the postseason. However, the Yankees veterans are aging, and as they age, they get less and less reliable. This leaves the backups with a huge role to fill.
The Yankees teams consists of youth, veterans, and a great deal of confidence. The confidence was within the clubhouse on Thursday, as C.C. Sabathia stated in an interview with MLB.com, that if he plays correctly he will win. With the attitude and the strength to do so, the Yankees could go far into the playoff race this year.
The Yankees will most likely play the Texas Rangers, or the Detroit Tigers. There is uncertainty which team as of yet, though each team has their ups and downs, and certain distractions they will have to face. Let’s take a look at the potential matchups:
Detroit Tigers: The Tigers have an outstanding rotation coming into the playoffs. Max Scherzer, is a strikeout master, while Justin Verlander is just about a master of everything. Verlander has produced great success this year, as he is seeking to win the AL Cy Young, and possibly become the first pitcher to win the AL MVP award in the last 20 years.
Doug Fister will be a huge part of the Tigers playoff plans, as his ERA dropped below 3.00 recently. His September stats consist of four wins and a 0.69 ERA. Fister’s streak is looking unstoppable, and will be a hard match for the Yankees. The Yankees pitching isn’t looking very promising as of late, and the Tigers clearly win that category. If the Yankees can’t produce runs against the hard throwing Tigers’ pitching staff, it may be hard to get by them. The Tigers key hitters are Miguel Cabrera, Alex Avila, and Victor Martinez. With the Yankees pitching rotation banged up, the Tigers could prove to be a very difficult opponent.
Prediction: Yankees in five
Texas Rangers: All eyes are on the Rangers banged-up rotation now. C.J. Wilson, who has been having substantial success this year for the Rangers, is facing a problem to think about. As the offseason approaches, so does free agency. Free agency can affect not only the thoughts of players, but how they are playing. Thoughts are a very powerful thing, as on different occasions it can be hard to think about free agency when playing. The pressure is immense. Although in Wilson’s case, the pressure could prove to be a motivator to pitch well.
Alexi Ogando, Derek Holland, and Colby Lewis are among the other probable starters. All of them are decent pitchers, though they occasionally rely on help from their offense for run support, which will prove to be the main problem for the Yankees rotation.
The Rangers lineup includes Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Ian Kinsler in the heart of their lineup. This will be an extremely difficult problem for the Yankees rotation, as Rangers seem to possibly have the best lineup in the majors. The Rangers offense may possibly even be better than the Yankees lineup. If the strength of the Rangers rotation and lineup continue to consume strength, the Yankees could be outmatched.
Prediction: Rangers in five
Assuming the Yankees play the Tigers, and proceed to the second round, with either the Red Sox/Rays (depending on who wins the wild card), or the Rangers, both series will be a close call and consist of exciting games to watch. The Red Sox are in a similar situation as the Yankees, as their pitching staff has averaged a 6.60 ERA in the last ten games played. If we have a Yankees and Red Sox matchup in the ALDS, it will likely go the full seven games- where anything is possible.
The Yankees have made history this year and accomplished feats over the years that no team has ever matched. Most importantly, the team wants to succeed. Success is a big thing for the Yankees organization. The Yankees are survivors, never give up, and always look to come back when down. This year has already been one big accomplishment, as the Yankees surpassed the Red Sox in the standings and possibly in making the playoffs. Now the team is looking for championship rings in the year of 2011.
***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.***
Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.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.
September 6, 2011
Rob Bland (Baseball Writer- MLB reports): The day so many people (namely the entire Washington Nationals organization) have been waiting for is finally upon us. Stephen Strasburg, ultra phenom, who I covered his rehab here last week at the Reports, started against the LA Dodgers. The hype that was produced was incredible, with every major US sporting website having a headline dedicated to Strasburg-mania. The twitter hashtag #MerryStrasmus has been coined and millions of people are tuning in to watch his first start since Tommy John Surgery.
The weather today in Washington DC was wet and dreary, so manager Davey Johnson was close to pulling the plug on the start if the game was even delayed. The Nationals wanted to make sure Strasburg had enough time to warm up and be ready to pitch in the game. When the tarps were taken off the field around 6:45pm, Strasburg was in the middle of his warm-ups.
Dee Gordon led off the game with a double, but after that, Strasburg didn’t see any trouble the rest of the way. Matt Kemp grounded out softly in between fly balls by James Loney and Juan Rivera in the first inning. The second inning was vintage Strasburg, as he threw 3 fastballs between 95 and 97 mph with run and sink, then threw a change-up at 90 mph that Andre Ethier swung over for strike three. Aaron Miles was then disposed of with a 99 mph heater, and Rod Barajas hit a lazy fly ball to center field.
The fourth inning saw Strasburg get two more strikeouts and give up a single to Rivera. Gordon and Rivera’s hits ended up being the only two base runners against Strasburg. His outing ended in the 5th inning after a fly out, ground out and foul out.
Strasburg was dominant. His 4-seam fastball was 95-99 mph throughout his 56 pitch outing, 40 of which were strikes. His 2-seam fastball had great late life, sinking late and inducing ground balls. Only 6 breaking balls were thrown, and although they were pretty sharp and late breaking, it was clearly his 3rd best pitch. Breaking balls are usually the last pitch to come around after Tommy John surgery, because pitchers don’t start throwing it until later in their rehab.
Strasburg’s final line reads as follows:
5IP, 2H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 4K.
My pre-game prediction was:
5IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 9K.
Aside from the strikeouts, I was pretty close. Strasburg is such a rare talent, that a rainy and cold Tuesday night game against a non-contender such as the Dodgers drew over 5,000 more fans than their average season attendance.
Strasburg-mania really hit Washington on a cold, damp Tuesday night. If he continues to pitch like this, the Nationals could be close to contending in 2012, but more likely in 2013 when Bryce Harper could be in the field on an everyday basis.
***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.***
Sunday September 4, 2011
MLB reports: Here is our weekly look at Major League Baseball and the latest news, together with analysis and of course, our opinions:
I am about to finish the latest baseball book that I am reading and will be posting a review this week. “The Fastest Thirty Ballgames”, by Ballpark Chaser extraordinaire, Doug Booth. I don’t want to give away much of my report, that will be saved for the review. Needless to say, the book has inspired me to fulfil my goal of seeing all thirty MLB ballparks. While it takes me ordinarily a couple of days to a week to complete a baseball book, this particular book has taken me much longer. I have read and re-read this book over and over, going back to read favorite sections. For any baseball fan who loves baseball road trips or is thinking of taking one, this book is the perfect travel companion.
One of the biggest topics on the lips of Yankees fans is the contract status of C.C. Sabathia. After Ivan Nova, the Yankees have several question marks as to their rotation going into the playoffs. Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett are all in the mix. But if Sabathia were to hypothetically opt out of his deal and test free agency, the Yankees pitching staff could collapse like a house of cards. It appears that Sabathia has enjoyed his time thus far in New York and plans to continue pitching as a Yankee. Although Sabathia will likely opt out, both player and team will do everything possible to keep the big guy in pinstripes. Sabathia will become even richer on a new deal, as Alex Rodriguez was on his decision to opt out and sign a new Yankees deal. For the team with the highest payroll in baseball, to contend it will re-sign its ace in the offseason.
Rumors are circulating that many MLB General Managers will be wooed to change teams in 2012. Brian Cashman of the Yankees, Andrew Friedman of the Rays and Theo Epstein of the Red Sox are all apparently in demand, as is Billy Beane in Oakland and Mike Rizzo in Washington. From all the best GMs that will be considered for the Cubs position, the only one I could see is Cashman. With his contract up in New York and the Steinbrenner regime exercising control in decision-making (see the Rafael Soriano deal), Cashman may have had enough and makes the move to the Windy City. All of the other GMs are in great positions, with little or no incentive to make the leap. Some have called for the Astros to make a strong play for Friedman, but I see him staying put in a great situation with a strong talent base. Friedman will see his team through to an eventual World Championship.
I had several conversations with baseball people about the World Baseball Classic, with the third edition coming up rapidly in 2013. As discussed in a previous article, there are some changes to the WBC that have been instituted, including a qualifying tournament in the fall of 2012. New countries in the mix include Great Britain, France, Israel and Brazil. In all there will be 12 new countries, together with 4 holdover countries vying for 4 open spots into the tournament. From the 16 existing WBC countries, 12 were granted automatic berths into the tournament. The challenge facing MLB and WBC officials is to have eligible players play for their respective countries. One particular country I discussed was Israel. Imagine a team lead by Ian Kinsler, Ryan Braun and Kevin Youkilis. Quite the powerhouse offense. To have this tournament ultimately succeed, star players that are eligible for new and less known baseball countries need to play for these countries and increase the exposure of the sport in those regions. That is really what the WBC is all about.
For fans in Kansas City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Washington, and San Diego, please be patient. Your teams will be better. It might be hard to believe and some of you must be sick of hearing it, but your teams have great young talent and each will be a contender one day. The only variable against you is time.
With their victory over the Giants last night, the Diamondbacks now hold a six game lead in the NL West. How Kevin Towers remained on the market so long before being hired in Arizona is beyond me. Derrick Hall and company have put together a nice young team, with strong management on the field and in the front office. Towers has put together the team and manager Kirk Gibson has molded them into a contender. It goes to show that a bleak situation can be transformed almost overnight, if you have the right people in place. Baseball, as much as any other sport, starts with the people in charge. A solid management foundation flows through the whole organization and can make or break a major league team. Arizona is the team of destiny in the NL West in my mind and while they will have a very difficult time passing the Phillies if they make the playoffs, just playing in October this year will be considered a huge victory for the team.
Outside of New York and Boston, many baseball fans are apparently sick of talking about the Red Sox and Yankees. For as much as fans may despise the teams, as baseball fans they should still respect them. Baseball, without the history and tradition of the Red Sox and Yankees, would have a large void. During my recent trip to Cooperstown (with a full report on my experiences coming soon), I was fascinated by the Babe Ruth exhibit and all the features on the two powerhouse squads. There are no guarantees that either the Red Sox or Yankees will be in the World Series this year. But having the teams in baseball is a good thing. Attendance figures on the road when either team in town shows the demand. You may hate the Red Sox and Yankees. But you love to hate them. For those of you that are either Red Sox or Yankees fans (can’t be both), you are some of the most passionate and knowledgable fans in baseball and I salute you.
I have been speculating since spring training that Jonathan Papelbon will leave Boston and join the Phillies this offseason. I read some speculation this week that the Yankees may look to add him as the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera. I could only imagine the feeling in Fenway the first time Papelbon would step foot on the mound in Pinstripes. Unlikely to happen in my opinion, but speculating can be fun sometimes. Until I hear otherwise, I am predicting Papelbon to the Phillies.
With the playoff races in baseball almost completed, it is time to turn our attention to October and thinking about the teams that will play in the World Series. My picks at this point are the Rangers and Phillies. Call it a hunch. Call me crazy. I am seeing a Texas Philadelphia matchup and one of the best fall classics in recent history.
Finally, I made a point on Twitter yesterday that the regular season is almost done. If you have not made it a live game yet this year or even if you have gone to twenty or more games, try to attend as many September games as you can. When November hits, the winter can be quite a sad time for baseball fans. Unless you can make it out to Arizona or Mexico, chances are that you will not be able to watch winter ball. With the internet, those games can be found to be viewed on your computer. But as fans can attest, nothing beats a live ball game. Enjoy as many of those games as you can now.
Thursday August 25, 2011
Rob Bland (Intern- MLB reports): Closers are a topic a lot of people ask about, but I never really got around to writing about. Mainly because, in my opinion, it is a position that is completely overrated. While it certainly helps to have a guy that can go in and slam the door and collect saves for over a decade a la Mariano Rivera, it isn’t necessary to have a “closer” to be a contending team. One need only to look at the top 20 leaders in saves in baseball to notice that the Texas Rangers’ closer Neftali Feliz sits 19th with 25 saves, and Philadelphia Phillies’ Ryan Madson is 20th with 23 saves. It also doesn’t guarantee success, as Heath Bell, Drew Storen, Leo Nunez, Joel Hanrahan are all in the top 10 in saves, while their teams are not in playoff contention.
Top 10 Saves Leaders in MLB as of today:
|Craig Kimbrel||Atlanta Braves||40||14.56||3.53||1.70||1.20||3.1|
|John Axford||Milwaukee Brewers||37||10.86||3.32||2.26||2.36||1.7|
|Jose Valverde||Detroit Tigers||37||8.31||4.79||2.72||4.08||0.2|
|Brian Wilson||San Francisco Giants||35||8.72||5.20||3.19||3.40||0.7|
|Heath Bell||San Diego Padres||35||6.79||3.23||2.55||3.07||0.7|
|Drew Storen||Washington Nationals||34||8.03||2.19||2.77||3.48||0.6|
|Mariano Rivera||New York Yankees||33||8.45||0.92||2.20||2.23||1.8|
|Leo Nunez||Florida Marlins||33||8.31||2.88||4.63||4.02||0.1|
|Joel Hanrahan||Pittsburgh Pirates||32||7.85||2.04||1.73||2.17||1.8|
|JJ Putz||Arizona Diamondbacks||32||8.28||2.17||2.76||3.10||1.0|
I look at this list and a few things come to mind:
1) Craig Kimbrel is absolutely filthy.
2) Mariano Rivera is still one of the very best.
3) Closers are more overrated than I originally expected.
4) A lot of saves does not equal success.
5) Craig Kimbrel. Wow.
Craig Kimbrel is having the best year ever for a rookie closer. It isn’t even September and he has 40 saves. Not only that, but he is striking out more than 14 batters per 9 innings. His FIP is a ridiculous 1.20, and his WAR is at 3.1, which is 1.3 higher than any other closer in the Major Leagues. His ground ball rate is 43.7% and has only given up 1 home run in 63 2/3 innings. If the Braves end up winning the Wild Card and have a lead late in games, the shutdown duo of Johnny Venters and Kimbrel should be able to save the game for the Braves in most instances.
John Axford has had a strange way to becoming one of the premier closers in all of baseball. It took him many years to get there, but under the tutelage of Trevor Hoffman, the career saves leader, whom Axford took his job from, he has flourished. In 2010, Axford had 24 saves after taking over for Hoffman mid-season, and this year’s 37 so far are tied for 2nd in the big leagues. Axford gets over 50% ground balls, and keeps the ball in the yard, two main factors for his success.
Jose Valverde is one of the closers whom I find to be overrated. Part of his success can be attributed to a lucky .250 BABIP. He also walks close to 5 batters per 9 innings, which is extremely high, especially when he does not strike out a very high number of batters. Valverde may appear to be very good with 37 saves, but his 0.2 WAR suggests that he is basically a replacement level pitcher. Surely he is not worth the $7M he is being paid.
Brian Wilson is loved by many in the game. He is funny, has a strange personality, (which seems to be perfectly suited for the bullpen) and he has an outrageous beard. Since 2008, he has accumulated 162 saves, so he is very valuable at the back-end of the Giants’ bullpen. He keeps the ball on the ground, with a career 50% ground ball rate, but he walks a ton of batters (5.20/9IP). He gets a lot of save opportunities because the starting rotation is very good, and his team doesn’t score many runs, so there are a lot of close games.
Heath Bell has put up some ridiculous numbers over the last few years, but these numbers come with half of his games played in the cavernous PETCO Park. While his last two seasons had his K rate over 10, he sits at 6.79 for this season. His ground ball rate is also down 5% to 43. Although his ERA is a good 2.55, his xFIP is 3.89, and like Wilson, gets saves because of an anaemic offense that results in his team often being in close games.
Drew Storen is another of the Washington Nationals’ young phenoms. He moved up the ranks, throwing only 53 2/3 innings in the minor leagues before making his debut in 2010. He has been a tad lucky as his BABIP is .241, but he gets a lot of ground balls, so the hits will even out. He also gives up a higher than average home run per fly ball rate at 11.1%. Storen doesn’t walk many, and as he matures, should probably strike out a higher number. When Washington starts winning more games, he will have even more opportunities for saves.
Mariano Rivera is up to his usual tricks. Even at 41 years old, he is carving up hitters with his signature cut fastball. Rivera has a ridiculous 9:1 K:BB ratio, as well as getting ground balls 47% of the time. His WAR sits at 1.8, tied for second best for closers. The only question is when will this guy ever slow down?
Leo Nunez of the Florida Marlins may be the most overrated closer in baseball. Nunez doesn’t get a lot of ground balls, nor does he strike out a ton, as he gives up a ton of fly balls (49%) and home runs (8 in 56 IP). Nunez’s ERA of 4.63 actually looks worse than his 4.02 FIP, so he has been a little unlucky, but still not very good.
Joel Hanrahan has found a home at the back-end up the Pirates’ bullpen, and is thriving there. While his K rate has dropped to 7.85/9 IP from almost 13 last year, he has walked less batters. Hanrahan has been able to induce ground balls on over half of his plate appearances, and only given up 1 home run in 57 1/3 innings. His stellar numbers have allowed him to tie Rivera for 2nd in closer’s WAR this year.
JJ Putz’s resurgence as a closer this year comes as no surprise to many. Last year as a setup man for Bobby Jenks with the Chicago White Sox, Putz’s K rate was just below 11/9IP, while he walked only 2.5 per 9 innings. He hasn’t put up the same strikeout numbers this year, but he is walking less batters. Putz’s WAR of 1.0 puts him towards the top of the list of closers.
Out of the top 30 relievers in WAR, only 9 are full-time closers. Francisco Rodriguez is among those pitchers, but since he does not close games since traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, he was not counted. Although this doesn’t mean that just ANYONE can close games and earn saves, it does show that many pitchers who have not been given the opportunity probably could get the job done.
***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.***
Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.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.
Tuesday August 2, 2011
MLB reports: Back on June 5th, we had the pleasure of interviewing author Howard Megdal. The author of The Baseball Talmud, we discussed with Howard his 2nd literary work, “Taking the Field: A Fan’s Quest to Run the Team He Loves.” You can read our interview with Howard, as well as our review of Taking the Field.
Well, we enjoyed speaking with Howard so much that we asked him back to talk Mets baseball. Guess what…he accepted! We questioned Howard on all Mets topics, including team ownership, drafting and trades. For the best in Mets discussion, we bring you published author, Howard Megdal:
MLB reports: Thank you for joining us back on the Reports Howard. You are our first return interviewee! I enjoyed reading and reviewing “Taking the Field” very much and have received great feedback on it. How have things gone so far with the book for you and what has been the response from the baseball community, particularly Mets fans?
Howard Megdal: Response has been terrific throughout- I’ve really enjoyed the chance to hear what Mets fans think. Contrary to popular opinion, it is entirely possible to get them to sign onto a clear positive vision of how to run the team. Not universally, of course, but that’s what Mets fans want at the end of the day.
MLB reports: Since the ending of your book, new chapters have been written in Mets history so to speak. The names Wilpon, Madoff and Einhorn have been in the news for quite some time. What are your thoughts on the Mets ownership situation?
Howard Megdal: I think it is extremely unfortunate, since in Sandy Alderson, the Mets have the GM they’ve needed for 20 years-and now, the team’s medium-term financial future is in great doubt. Mets fans should be hoping for a speedy resolution here, and that probably means David Einhorn: Majority Owner.
Howard Megdal: I believe Carlos Beltran will be playing outfield for a team willing to give him 3-4 years on a contract. Me, and I’m the biggest Beltran fan there is, I wouldn’t bet a multi-year deal on his knee. As for Jose Reyes, my gut feeling is that ends up a bidding war between the Yankees and Red Sox. I don’t think the Mets have the financial wherewithal to bring him back to Queens.
MLB reports: Many Mets fans have been banging their heads on the wall since Jason Bay joined the team. I had a bad feeling on this signing, specifically that the ballpark and team would not be a fit. How did you view the Bay signing originally and has your opinion changed since?
Howard Megdal: My view of it originally is that it was exactly the wrong thing to do- he wasn’t likely to age well, he brought one skill- power- and that it would probably be an albatross contract by year 3. Never did I imagine he would be so terrible from day one.
MLB report: I suggested awhile back that Jerry Seinfeld should invest in the team. I see him as a strong icon for the Mets that could turn around its popularity and fortunes. Has this been discussed in Mets circles?
Howard Megdal: It has, but it doesn’t sound like Jerry is looking to take on that kind of active role.
MLB reports: Johan Santana. While some say he “might” come back this year, I don’t see it happening. Will the Santana of old ever emerge for the Mets?
Howard Megdal: Who knows? He’s had a complicated shoulder surgery, and the number of pitchers who have returned have varied widely in their subsequent performances. The early signs are good, and I’d be reluctant to bet against a competitor like Santana. What I think he has going for him is that he already knows how to pitch- he isn’t going to need to transition from being a pure stuff pitcher. But could that shoulder give out at any moment? Unfortunately, yes. My guess is he pitches 4-5 starts for the Mets in 2011, and pitches well.
MLB reports: Mets fans must be thrilled with the team’s play of late. Mirage or real?
Howard Megdal: Well, as I told my friends and family who were freaking out over their 5-13 start: “Don’t worry- the Mets are distinctly not terrible.” I stand by that. Had them at 84 wins at the start of the year, and still see them finishing around 80, even without Ike Davis or Beltran for the last two months.
MLB reports: Sandy Alderson and his loyal foot soldiers. Have they been everything that you hoped they would be? Please give Alderson his Mets report card to date and don’t hold back!
Howard Megdal: I am loving the way Alderson runs this team. There are small things I’d do differently here and there- Daniel Murphy playing 2B being the only one I can think of at the moment- but I absolutely adore the LOGIC, TRANSPARENCY and PASSION of his regime. Just wrote a piece on a minor arc that some may miss- but it stands as a companion piece to, well, everything Steve Phillips did. There’s a glorious attention to detail.
Piece is here:
MLB reports: I have thrown around the idea of realignment. In my world, the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and Nationals would all occupy the AL East. Regardless of the exact arrangement, I think a move to the AL to sit in the Yankees division would work well. You?
Howard Megdal: I have long said that if it locks in an end to the Designated Hitter, I’d be willing to consider realignment, though I am attached to the NL/AL breakdown. Will you agree to that? If so, sure.
MLB reports: You will not find a bigger fan of banishing the DH, so agreed!Turning to Francisco Rodriguez, what is his future and does he still have “it”?
Howard Megdal: I think K-Rod is one of the best closers the Mets ever had. That said, Thank goodness they got rid of that ridiculous 2012 option. Even if the team weren’t in dire financial straits, it is a ridiculous waste of resources to pay your non-Mariano Rivera closer $17.5 million.
MLB reports: From what you proposed in “Taking the Field” to where the Mets stand today, have the Mets been following your plan and direction? If you change anything about the current squad, what would it be?
Howard Megdal: See above, the use of Murphy. I don’t get it. With his bat, he’s a top-five MLB 2B, and he’s handled the position well. He is not even average at 1B offensively, and he flat-out cannot play the outfield. But again, outside of that? No, they’ve been fantastic. And because of their decision-making in other areas, I don’t conclude that they are just being ignorant about Murphy- I assume there’s more to know. Certainly the first question I have for Alderson the next time I interview him.
MLB reports: What do you think of Brandon Nimmo, the Mets 1st round pick this year? Was he drafted based on talent or cost? How has his selection been received in New York thus far?
Howard Megdal: TBD, but as I said in the last answer, their overall performance gives me confidence in their individual choices. I think projecting draft picks is a fool’s errand, however.
Howard Megdal: Best-case, he’s Alex Escobar. The guy just can’t stay healthy. I saw him in spring training- he ran like an elderly person. It is such a shame; the guy has tremendous talent, and he works hard. His body just keeps betraying him. Incidentally, I haven’t given up on Milledge, yet. He’s only in his age-26 season. .832 OPS at Triple-A with 18 SB in 24 attempts. It isn’t too late.
MLB reports: Thank you for joining us today on the Reports. You certainly did not hold back in your answers and gave us a great education on Mets baseball. We wish you the best of luck on your latest book and look forward to your next book project.
Monday August 1, 2011
MLB reports: Another hectic MLB trade deadline is in the books. This year’s trade market was just as much about the trades that were not made as the ones that were. For all the speculation leading up to the deadline, star players like James Shields, B.J. Upton, Heath Bell and Carlos Quentin stay put. The trades that did go down included Ubaldo Jimenez, Mike Adams, Doug Fister, Colby Rasmus and much more. Here is a rundown of all the trades that took place in Major League Baseball as part of the non-waiver MLB Trade Deadline, which was 4:00p.m. on Sunday July 31st:
Michael Bourn and cash (Astros) for Jordan Schaefer, Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens, Juan Abreu (Braves): The Braves get a solid leadoff hitter, center fielder and base stealer from the Astros for four average prospects. Without having to give up any of their top prospects and filled a huge hole in their lineup and outfield, top marks goes to the Braves.
Hunter Pence and cash (Astros) for Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Josh Zeid and a player to be named later (Phillies): A win for the Phillies, as they get one of the top outfield bats in the game in Pence, who remains under team control going into next year. I like the return of Singleton, one of the top hitting prospects in the minors. But still, the Astros should have received a higher return for Pence who was the face of their franchise. A win for both squads but give the edge to the Phillies.
Mike Adams (Padres) for Joseph Wieland and Robert Erlin (Rangers): A win for both sides. The Rangers get one of the top relievers in baseball (Adams), who remains under team control after the season. For a team that is a World Series contender, Adams and Uehara give the Rangers a suddenly formidable pen. Wieland and Erlin were two top pitching prospects in the Rangers system and give the Padres much more depth. For a team that acquired what it needed most without giving up any of its top prospects, the Rangers can chalk this trade up to a huge win. The Padres did not do badly either, as Adams was a luxury they did not require and the Padres farm system all of a sudden became much stronger.
Brad Ziegler (A’s) for Brandon Allen and Jordan Norberto (Diamondbacks): A deal that works for both teams. Ziegler is a useful reliever that strengthens the Dbacks pen in a push for the NL West crown. Allen is a highly considered first base prospect who should slot well in Oakland plus Noberto is another arm in the A’s organization. It is too bad for the A’s that the Lars Anderson plus prospect for Rich Harden deal fell through with Boston, but Allen is a good runner-up prize.
Erik Bedard and Josh Fields (Mariners) for Trayvon Robinson (Dodgers) and Chih-Hsien Chiang, Tim Federowicz, Juan Rodriguez and Stephen Fife (Red Sox): Red Sox get Bedard and Fields (the reliever, not third baseman currently in Japan, Mariners get Robinson and Chiang, while Dodgers get Federowicz, Rodriguez and Fife. Confused? Good. This was one of those three-way deals that when all is said and done, you are left scratching your head. The key to this deal is Erik Bedard for the Red Sox. If he stays healthy, and that is a big if, the Red Sox might have a valuable addition to their starting rotation. Fields should also slot in well in the Red Sox pen. Both Robinson and Chiang are considered to be good prospects and should have a very good chance at cracking the Mariners’ outfield. The trade of Robinson came as somewhat of a surprise and the Dodgers have received a great deal of negative press on the deal. The team however was looking for a prospect catcher and believe they have found it in Federowicz and the additional parts in Rodriguez and Fife. The Mariners are the big winners in this deal, while the Red Sox play with fire and the Dodgers likely just got burnt.
Ubaldo Jimenez (Rockies) for Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Joe Gardner and Matt McBride (Indians): What a difference a year makes. The Indians are going for it and have beefed up their rotation with the addition of Jimenez. When on his game, Ubaldo is one of the best in baseball. Further, Ubaldo continues to be under team control, so the Indians don’t simply acquire a summer rental here. The keys to this deal for the Rockies are Pomeranz and White. Considered to be the Indians two best pitching prospects, the Rockies add to their farm while losing their ace. While Pomeranz is considered highly in baseball circles, I would have expected to see the Rockies get more major league ready talent. Considering that they were supposed to get Jesus Montero and Ivan Nova from the Yankees or Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and/or Homer Bailey from the Reds, I give the Indians the edge on this deal. Ace pitchers do not grow on trees and the Indians got one without giving up any of their major league talent or some of their other finer prospects, including Nick Weglarz. Competing with the big boys, the Indians get the prize of the trade deadline and likely a division title as well.
Derek Lee (Orioles) for Aaron Baker (Pirates): The Pirates are going for it and while Lee is an aging first baseman, he is an upgrade offensively over incumbent Lyle Overbay. Baker is a Class A first baseman that is not considered a top prospect. This trade is a draw, as the Pirates beef up for their playoff run and the Orioles auction off an impending free agent to stock their system.
Orlando Cabrera (Indians) for Thomas Neal (Giants): This deal came out of left field, as the Indians are still contending and were expected to hold onto Cabrera. With many young infielders on their roster, the Indians were prepared to sacrifice their utility man for one of the Giants higher rated prospect bats. Speaking to Neal on several occasions, he is one of the nicer young men you will ever want to meet in the game. Considered a great tools player, both offensively and defensively, the Indians have added another piece to their offensive puzzle while sacrificing a veteran that was expandable. The Giants, with injury and offensive woes, took a chance on Cabrera, a good luck charm for each of his respective teams in the postseason. While Neal was a big price to pay, the Giants are in win-now mode. A draw, as both teams will away happy from this exchange.
Koji Uehara (Orioles) for Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis (Rangers): This is a good old-fashioned baseball trade. The Rangers pick up a veteran reliever, who is enjoying his finest campaign in the big leagues and could be a setup man or closer. The Orioles continue to stockpile prospects and add a starter and first baseman to their mix. Davis has one of the most explosive bats in the game when he gets hot and the Orioles could have their cleanup hitter for the next 5-7 years. Hunter should be a good #3 or #4 starter for the team. A draw as both teams achieve their respective goals in this deal.
Mike Cameron (Red Sox) for player to be named later or cash (Marlins): Cameron was not hitting in Boston but could be a valuable veteran presence in Florida. I like this move for the Marlins as Cameron is solid player and person, perfect for their clubhouse.
Felipe Lopez (Rays) for cash (Brewers): Lopez still has pop in his bat and could be useful for a playoff push. There was no room for the Rays on their roster and they will happily take the financial relief.
Jason Marquis (Nationals) for Zach Walters (Diamondbacks): I am a fan of what the Diamondbacks are doing in Arizona, but this trade doesn’t work for me. Marquis will pitch in Arizona, but I don’t see him being the effective starter the team needs to fight the Giants for a playoff berth. Walters is a prospect shortstop who could have been Stephen Drew‘s replacement one day when he left the team. Walters has a good offensive bat and was not worth the price of Marquis. Advantage Washington for adding another prospect to its growing farm while dumping a veteran pitcher that had no place on their roster.
Mike Aviles (Royals) for Yamaico Navarro and Kendal Volz (Red Sox): The Red Sox get some sort of infield insurance, which was unnecessary in my estimation with both Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie on the roster. If Lowrie is out beyond early August as projected, then this deal makes sense. Otherwise, to give up two decent prospects for a player who has struggled this season and is unlikely to hit much in Boston does not equate for me. Advantage Royals for dumping a player who did not fit on the team and continuing to stock their system.
Wil Nieves (Brewers) for cash (Braves): Yawn. An average catcher for cash.
Francisco Rodriguez and cash (Mets) for two players to be named later (Brewers): A good trade for both teams. The Brewers strengthen their pen with the addition of K-Rod, who could close or set up for the team and is a free agent at season’s end. The Mets get salary relief and likely two decent prospects back.
Colby Rasmus, P.J. Walters, Brian Tallet (Cardinals) for Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen (White Sox) for Jason Frasor, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski, Corey Patterson and Zach Stewart, three players to be named later or cash (Jays): The good news with this trade is that I will not have to struggle to spell Rzepczynski anymore. But in all seriousness, this was the first three-way deal of the deadline and probably the most interesting trade that went down. The White Sox shed the contract of Teahen (to the Jays) and acquire Frasor and Stewart. The Cardinals get Jackson for their rotation and Dotel/Rzepczynski for their bullpen, as well as three more PTBNL or cash from the Jays. The Jays get the biggest prize, Rasmus to play center and bat second, as well as Miller, Tallet and Walters for their pen. The Jays in our opinion win out, as they get a rare top prospect bat and only give up three middle relievers. The White Sox did well in getting salary relief, a prospect arm in Stewart and a useful bullpen arm in Frasor. The question marks surround the Cardinals, who give up the top player in the trade and might get left with very little more than adqueate playoff rentals as both Jackson and Dotel might not be with the team in 2012.
Ryan Langerhans (Mariners) for cash (Diamondbacks): A depth player at best, the Diamondbacks hope to get one or two big hits out of Langerhans in the push for a playoff berth. It looks like this was the best the Mariners could do in dumping another salary.
Doug Fister and David Pauley (Mariners) for Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush and a PTBNL (Tigers): For a Tigers team that was considered early in the day to be in the hunt for Ubaldo Jimenez, this one is a bit of a let down. Fister will be a #4 or #5 starter for the Tigers, good but not great. Pauley was having an incredible season for the Mariners in their pen and should do well in Comerica. Wells will likely slot immediately into the Mariners outfield and the rest of the players are prospects to their stock their farm. While I’m not excited about what Detroit received, I am equally not impressed by what they gave up. Call this one a draw. Middle of the road players for players at this point.
Rafael Furcal (Dodgers) for Alex Castellanos and cash (Cardinals): With Dee Gordon in the minors and money woes being an issue, this trade for the Dodgers is about getting younger and saving money in the process. The Cardinals are pushing for a playoff spot and if healthy, Furcal should give the team a spark offensively. Personally, I would not trust Furcal based on his injury history. The Dodgers get back a marginal prospect in this swap. The fact that the Dodgers unloaded Furcal and got the Cardinals to pick up a large portion of his contract, I will label this trade a Dodgers win.
Juan Rivera (Jays) for player to be named later or cash (Dodgers): Considering the Dodgers just released Marcus Thames, I am not sure why they chose to acquire Rivera. They are very similar players, although I would give the edge to Thames for his better defense. A win for the Jays, dumping a player that had no role on their team and was not hitting very much.
Jonny Gomes and cash (Reds) for Bill Rhinehart and Christopher Manno (Nationals): Gomes should be a good bat for the Nationals but with the team out of the playoff picture, it is a little curious why the team would give up prospects at this point. Reds get the advantage as there was no room in their outfield for Gomes, they acquire two prospects and open up space for Yonder Alonso to play everyday.
Carlos Beltran (Mets) for Zack Wheeler (Giants): One of the best trades of the year that will benefit both teams. The Giants get the top bat they so badly needed after Buster Posey went down. Together with salary relief (the Mets will kick in about $4 million), the Mets get one of the top pitching prospects in the game. The Giants had to go for it and could not afford to waste their top pitching rotation without providing offense. With Beltran an impeding free agent, the Mets strengthen their rotation for years to come.
Jeff Keppinger (Astros) for Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel (Giants): The Giants get more bench depth for the playoffs and the Astros get back decent prospects. Another boring but necessary trade for both. Consider a draw.
Ryan Ludwick (Padres) for a player to be named later (Pirates): The Pirates are looking to make a strong playoff run and former Indian Luckwick would fit well in their offense this year. It remains to be seen what the Pirates have to give up, but for a player in as strong demand as Ludwick, as long as it is not too much, give the edge to the Pirates. This one will hinge on the quality of the prospect going to the Padres.
Kosuke Fukudome and $3.9 million (Cubs) for Abner Abreu and Carlton Smith (Indians): This trade is all about the Indians going for it in a year when the AL Central is ripe for the taking. Fukudome, largely considered a disappointment in Chicago, is sent with cash to the Indians for their stretch run. Good to get on base with the occasional pop, the hope is that the change of scenery will do Fukudome good. The prospects the Cubs received back are marginal at best, as this trade was mostly about a salary dump. Credit to Chicago for ridding itself of one its huge mistake contracts, with more such contracts to go. The Indians hope they catch lightening in a bottle, but likely will get only decent production out of their latest Japanese import.
Wilson Betemit (Royals) for Antonio Cruz and Julio Rodriguez (Tigers): The first trade in the deadline dealings, the Tigers upgrade their third base situation over Brandon Inge. The Royals shed a contract and get two decent prospects. We will call this one a draw.
Colby Rasmus and Mark Teahen to Jays, Jason Frasor and Zack Stewart to White Sox, Edwin Jackson and Octavio Dotel to Cardinals
Wednesday July 27, 2011
MLB reports: We first discussed a Colby Rasmus trade to Toronto about a week ago here on the Reports. The trade as we proposed would have included Rasmus to the Jays and Travis Snider and Jason Frasor to the Cardinals. It looks like we got half of the players right, as a Rasmus to Jays deal is complete and ready to be announced. However, in typical Alex Anthopoulos fashion, the trade is a 3-way deal. Going to the Jays is pitcher Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen in return for reliever Jason Frasor and pitcher Zack Stewart to the White Sox. The Jays are then flipping Jackson, outfielder Corey Patterson and relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, as well as three players to be named later or cash to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus, relievers P.J. Walters, Brian Tallet and Trever Miller. From there, Miller may be on the move to the White Sox to complete the Jackson swap.
Here is how the trade breaks down team by team:
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Kenny Williams can never sit on his hands come trade deadline time. As hard as he may try, Williams loves to tinker with his team and this year is no different. Speculation had Williams eyeing Rasmus for himself. But with the need to maintain a strong bullpen, it appears that the White Sox are adding Frasor while keeping Matt Thornton. As the Sox are also deep in the rotation and Jackson was essentially redundant for a team that is unlikely to make the playoffs. Frasor is having a solid year, with a 2.98 ERA and 1.252 WHIP. The White Sox may choose to hold onto him or let him go and receive compensation as a type “B” free agent. Teahen, at one more year and $5.5 million left in salary was an expensive backup at best. Zack Stewart, one of the Jays better pitching prospects, is currently at 24-year old AA starter with a 4.20 ERA and 1.410 WHIP. Stewart, who came to Toronto in a package for Scott Rolen, showed very solid numbers until this year, with a lifetime 3.05 ERA in his minor league career with a 1.343 WHIP over four seasons. The White Sox wanted to stock up their system and Stewart should be a bright addition.
VERDICT: White Sox win their end of the deal. Although the addition of Colby Rasmus would have been nice, he was likely a luxury that the team could not afford. The White Sox end up freeing salary, receiving a useful reliever that could turn into a draft pick and a prospect starting pitcher in a system screaming for prospects, in exchange for two spare parts from their team. They may even get Trever Miller to boot.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Alex Anthopoulos, the Jays wheeling and dealing GM, is quickly becoming the master of the 3-way trade. AA’s first big move was trading Roy Halladay as part a of a three-way move with the Phillies and Mariners, with the Oakland A’s joining in shortly after in the Michael Taylor and Brett Wallace swap. The Houston Astros then traded Roy Oswalt that summer to the Philadelphia Phillies for a package including Anthony Gose, who was then flipped to Toronto for Wallace. Vernon Wells then this offseason went to the Angels and a couple of days later the Rangers were involved in the Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco trade. AA is now back in a big way. With the MLB non-waiver trade deadline a mere four days away, AA has shocked the slow-moving trade market with the biggest swap of the season. Toronto parts with Jason Frasor to Chicago along with Zack Stewart and then move recently acquired Edwin Jackson with relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, as well as outfielder Corey Patterson and three players to be named later or cash to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus, as well as relievers P.J. Walters, Brian Tallet and Trever Miller. Mark Teahen then stays in Toronto from Chicago as a backup infielder.
Breaking down the deal for Toronto, they move three middle relievers in Dotel, Rzepczynski and Frasor. Dotel and Frasor could have either stayed in Toronto next year or been type “B” free agents with compensation picks coming back. Rzepczynski, a former starter has been steady in the Jays pen this season but does not project to be more than a middle reliever. With the Jays having such strong starting pitching at the majors and minor league levels, Jackson was a pitcher who actually would not have been able to crack the Jays rotation. Teahen, whose last decent season in the majors was 2007, is another Juan Rivera salary dump pickup for the Jays who could hang around for season or be cut loose with salary eaten. At the end of the day, the Jays at most have traded away three middle relievers/draft picks, a prospect in Zack Stewart to the White Sox and about $5.5 million in salary to acquire Colby Rasmus. With the logjam in the outfield, Corey Patterson was expandable. We are not sure yet who are the three players to be named later but apparently the Jays may move cash to the Cardinals instead. The three relievers received by the Jays, Walters, Tallet and Miller are all spare parts at best, with Miller apparently on his way to the White Sox. Tallet though enjoyed his best years in Toronto and a Jays reunion may give his numbers a boost.
How good is Colby Rasmus? Best prospect in baseball good before getting the call to the majors. A first round pick of the Cardinals in 2005, the 24-year old Rasmus has not seen eye-to-eye with manager Tony LaRussa for some time and a change of scenery was in order. Once he realizes his potential, Rasmus has Gold Glove and Silver Slugger potential. He is really that good. Under team control for another three seasons, Rasmus gives the Jays the center fielder they have desired for so long and a top of the order bat. Rasmus will perfectly slide into the second spot of the batting order and give the Jays power, speed and the ability to get on base.
VERDICT: If the measure of a trade is by the team receiving the best player available, then the Jays win this trade overall hands down. They have acquired Colby Rasmus, one of the best young outfielders in the game by giving up essentially middle relievers, a prospect starting pitcher and taking on salary. While Zack Stewart may develop one day into a solid number 2 or 3 starter, for a team that is filled with pitching prospects, Stewart was an arm that the team could afford to move. AA could actually get arrested for stealing Rasmus from the Cardinals. This is what you call buying low at the right time. The Jays should thank LaRussa for his recent comments that Rasmus was not listening to the Cardinals coaching staff. Playing for John Farrell, with Jose Bautista as a teammate and Cito Gaston as a Jays advisor, Rasmus should be able to quickly realize his potential in Toronto. Even with the trade of three of their middle relievers, the Jays are still left with Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch in the pen with more call-ups available at AAA. With the Jays bullpen blowing saves at an alarming rate this year, moving some of the relievers for a star outfielder is a no-brainer. This trade will also increase the Heath Bell to Toronto rumors, as the Jays continue to pursue the Padres star closer.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
There aren’t many positives to say here. The Cardinals if they make this move, would be trading away one of their best players for not so magic beans. The 27-year old Jackson, while filled with potential has never performed fully to his capabilities at the major league level. Now on his sixth major league team and eligible for free agency at the end of the season with Scott Boras as his agent, the Cardinals will need to overpay to retain his services. With a 3.92 ERA and 1.422 WHIP on the season, Jackson is as middle-of-the-road as they come. The Cardinals are hoping that Dave Duncan can work his magic but with less than half a season left, there may only be so much that their pitching coach can do. The 37-year old Dotel has also been steady this season, sitting at a 3.68 ERA and solid 1.091 WHIP. The team will also have an option to bring Dotel back next year. Rzepczynski at 25-years of age broke out this year with a 2.97 ERA and 1.093 ERA. He remains under team control for four more seasons. Good numbers, but not enough in my estimation. For a player of the caliber of Colby Rasmus, I would have expected the Cardinals to receive a top starter and closer back. Rather, the Cardinals are esentiallly receiving a number four or five starter and two middle relievers. For a team in dire need of pitching, I would have expected a much greater return. Corey Patterson is at best a fourth oufielder for the Cardinals and the trio of relievers they sent to Toronto, Miller, Tallet and Walters are of little consequence.
Verdict: GM John Mozeliak and manager Tony LaRussa must really dislike Colby Rasmus to be giving him away in this fashion. After both Rasmus and his dad have spoken out by the team in recent years, the LaRussa comments the other day likely sealed the deal. As the team likely does not want to face Rasmus as an opponent, a move to the American League makes sense. One would think that other teams, including the Angels, Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees and Tigers could have offered more. But it appears that Jays GM Alex Anthopolous was in the right place at the right time and is on the verge of acquiring the Cardinals’ outfielder. The Cardinals are the big losers in this trade and it is not even close. In the event that both Dotel and Jackson are type “B” free agents and leave St. Louis at the end of the season, the Cardinals will be left with two months worth of rental players, a middle reliever and two draft picks as compensation. That is all they will have to show for trading away one of the best young hitters in the game. Considering the prospects the Tampa Bay Rays have in their system, if Toronto can pull this swap off, it will be a loss felt in St. Louis for many years to come.
Sunday July 17, 2011
Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports): January 21, 2011 is seen as a bit of a turning point in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays. General Manager Alex Anthopolous traded away long-time face of the franchise, Vernon Wells. Wells had been with the Blue Jays since he was drafted in the first round, fifth overall by the Jays in the 1997 amateur draft. After making his debut in 1999, he played in a Toronto uniform through the 2010 season. His name is littered across franchise record books, and he was a beloved figure in the clubhouse. On December 15, 2006, Wells signed a seven-year, $126 million contract extension, which at the time was the 6th largest contract in MLB history. Over the next few years, Wells’ lack of production and time spent on the disabled list, made his contract “unmoveable”.
That was of course until Alex Anthopolous took the helm as Jays GM, and was able to find a taker for Wells and the four years and $86 million remaining on the contract. Into the picture came Tony Reagins, GM of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It has been said that Reagins approached Anthopolous about Wells. One would think that in order for a deal to work, the Blue Jays would have had to send a large sum of cash to the Angels in order for the deal to go through.
The deal that was finally consummated was to send Wells and approximately $5 million to the Angels in exchange for OF Juan Rivera, and C/1B Mike Napoli. Rivera was seen as a throw-in, as his $4M contract was more than the Angels wanted to pay. Napoli had fallen out of favour in manager Mike Scioscia’s eyes; despite hitting at least 20 home runs in each of the three previous seasons despite receiving limited playing time. Toronto then flipped Napoli to the Texas Rangers for standout reliever Frank Francisco. The Rangers received the powerful, right-handed versatile hitter they coveted, and the Blue Jays thought they received the closer they needed.
It is quite obvious that no matter how any of those players perform, the Blue Jays are the big winner because of the payroll space they have cleared and can use to extend their star players, see Jose Bautista. However, this deal has not been so cut and dry. While Napoli has swung the bat with authority, Juan Rivera has been traded to the LA Dodgers, and Francisco has been awful out of the Jays bullpen.
Let’s take a quick look at each player’s production and how their respective teams have fared so far.
Again performing as a part-time player at three positions, Napoli has been very solid for the Rangers. He has hit 13 home runs and driven in 34 RBI in only 187 plate appearances. While his average leaves something to be desired, he makes up for it in his ability to take walks and hit the ball to the gaps. With his OPS at .906, he has proven that he is a tremendously underrated player. His WAR through half the season is at 1.7, and he is on pace to break his career high of 2.6.
Because he was seen as a salary dump for the Angels, the Blue Jays took him on and saw him as the everyday left fielder and DH out of spring training. He was never able to get it going, and quickly fell out of favour in Toronto. His OPS sat at .666 when traded, with a limited ability to get on base and very little power. This on top of the fact that he played atrocious defense led to his -1.2 WAR. He was traded to the LA Dodgers for a player to be named later or cash considerations on July 12, 2011.
Seen as a pretty successful power arm for the late innings, Francisco was picked up from the Texas Rangers along with cash. He continues to strike out a ton of batters, (10.1 K/9), but he is giving up more hits than he has in the past. However, part of this is due to a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .359. His xFIP is actually almost two runs lower than his ERA, 3.56 as opposed to 5.40. I think that Francisco has been unlucky, and when it all evens out, it will show that he is at least a competent late inning reliever.
Wells was obviously the big fish in this trade. He has the ability to be an MVP-caliber player (see his 2003 and 2006 seasons). He has two gold gloves in center field, as well as three All-Star appearances in his career. He has hit 30 home runs three times and driven in 100 RBI three times. Wells’ production in 2011 has been nothing short of horrendous. He has 14 home runs so far, but other than that, hasn’t done anything particularly well. His OPS is .671 with an OBP of .254. Wells is striking out in over 20% of his plate appearances, and walking in less than 4%. Now, you could look at his BABIP (.228) and think he has been unlucky, but it is that low because of his awful 10% line drive rate. With a flyball rate of 47% and by hitting a ton of infield flies, his BABIP won’t likely rise much. It is unlikely that Wells will ever return to being the player he once was.
Taking a look at these stats, we can see that the Rangers were an instant winner. They gave up an expendable reliever, and gained a valuable bat off the bench. The Angels are the big losers in the deal, as they owe Wells over $60M over the next 3.5 years. That kind of production out of a left fielder is unacceptable for a team trying to contend for the playoffs. Toronto knew that with the trades they made, they would not be as good of a team without Wells. They are in a rebuilding mode, and the money they save can be used on drafting and developing young talent. Francisco could be a Type B free agent at the end of the year, so another draft pick could be theirs.
**The grand winner in this series of moves is the Blue Jays, as with the departure of Wells, they have been able to extend Jose Bautista with a five-year, $65M contract. They have been aggressive in international signings this month as well, and look to pour more resources into the draft. ***
***Thank you to Rob Bland for preparing today’s article on the Vernon Wells trade. You can follow Rob on Twitter.***
Wednesday July 13, 2011
Rob Bland (Intern Candidate for MLB Reports): This year’s edition of the Midsummer Classic, the 2011 MLB All-Star Game, had a record-setting vote-getter. Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays received over 7.4 million votes in fan voting. This game was said to have lost some of its lustre due to the amount of players who elected not to participate. A total of eight players that were voted in by fans or chosen by coaches dropped out due to injury, timing or just plain wanting to rest. For the American League, David Price (TB), Derek Jeter (NYY), Mariano Rivera (NYY), Alex Rodriguez (NYY) and Jon Lester (BOS) all withdrew due to various ailments and injuries. Chipper Jones (ATL), Jose Reyes (NYM), and Placido Polanco (PHI) were the players who bowed out in the National League. One of Major League Baseball’s rules pertaining to eligibility for pitchers is that they must not start on the Sunday prior to the game. Due to this rule, CC Sabathia (NYY), James Shields (TB), Justin Verlander (DET), Felix Hernandez (SEA), Cole Hamels (PHI), and Matt Cain (SF) were ruled ineligible and unable to participate in the game.
Surely not having Price, Sabathia, Shields, Verlander, Hernandez and Rivera hurt the AL. Although he has had an impressive start to the season, CJ Wilson (TEX) probably should not have been pitching when he gave up the 3-run home run to Prince Fielder (MIL). It easily could have been one of those more accomplished aces as mentioned. However, that is the way it turned out, as the National League took advantage early and defeated the American League by a score of 5-1. The MVP of the game was Fielder, because of his huge home run that put the NL on top early and as it turned out, for good.
My pick for MVP was Roy Halladay (PHI), as he started for the National League and was dominant as only the Doc can be. He faced the minimum six batters over two innings, including Curtis Granderson (NYY), Adrian Gonzalez (BOS) and Jose Bautista (TOR); all potential MVP candidates. Halladay managed to throw only 19 pitches as part of his historical pitching performance.
In the 2nd inning, the defensive play of the game occurred when Brian McCann (ATL) hit a towering flyball in foul territory that Bautista caught as he slid into the wall. Aside from being one of the top home run hitters in baseall, Bautista is also an accomplished fielder who is capable of winning a gold glove at either third base or right field.
The scoring in the game started in the top of the 4th inning, when Adrian Gonzalez blasted a Cliff Lee (PHI) cutter over the right center field wall for a solo blast. The AL followed with three straight singles, the last of which was off Tyler Clippard (WAS). Hunter Pence fielded the ball and threw a laser to the plate to catch Bautista who tried to score from second for the third out. In the bottom of the inning, Carlos Beltran (NYM) and Matt Kemp (LAD) hit singles to set up Fielder`s massive bomb.
Jordan Walden (LAA), another player who probably didn`t deserve to play as much as the other big name starters, began to light up the radar gun last night, hitting 100 mph on his first four fastballs. Starlin Castro (CHC) came in to pinch run at first base after Troy Tulowitzki (COL) hit a leadoff single. Castro proceeded to immediately steal second and third base. He then set up another play at the plate, where Walden bare handed a weak ground ball by Rickie Weeks (MIL) and threw Castro out. Weeks stole second and came around to score when Andre Ethier (LAD) hit a single to right field, making the score 4-1.
The scoring continued in the bottom of the seventh inning when Pablo Sandoval (SF) hit a ground rule double over the wall in the left field corner. This scored Hunter Pence (HOU) after his leadoff single and a passed ball that allowed him to move to second base, and eventually score.
Fan favorite Brian Wilson (SF) came in the top of the nineth inning with runners on second and third. A fly out and ground out later, and the game was in the books. Make the final score 5-1, as the National League wins for the All-Star Game for the second year in a row and secures home field advantage for its league in the up coming World Series in the fall.
This year`s All-Star Festivities were enjoyed by so many fans, and continually impressed me. I have had a great time covering the 2011 All-Star Game, everything from the Futures Game, Home Run Derby and of course, the All-Star Game itself. With Major League Baseball now entering the dog days of summer and the secon half of the season, it is time to speculate on trades and the calling up of prospects. Pure heaven for this baseball writer!
***EDITOR’S NOTE: With Chase Field still buzzing, the trade market has already begun. The Milwaukee Brewers announced right after the game taht they had acquired closer Francisco Rodriguez and cash considerations from the New York Mets for two players to be named later. With the Brewers acquiring Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in the offseason, clearly Milwaukee is going for it. Will be interesting to see if Brewers allow K-Rod’s $17.5 million option to vest for 2012, which is based on number of games finished in 2011. If K-Rod finishes 55 games, the option will vest. As he has already finsihed 34 this season, so the option could vest depending on how the Brewers use K-Rod and how close they remain to a playoff berth. It will be interesting to see what prospects go from Milwaukee to New York. Long-term this deal could hurt Milwaukee depending on which top prospects they give up. But in the short-term, this deal will make the Brewers’ fanbase happy and their slugging free agent to be, Prince Fielder, may have more thinking to do before selecting his new team for 2012. The ground work has been set with respect to the trade market. Now we will see if the K-Rod deal has indeed open the trading floodgates for the rest of baseball. ***
W: T. Clippard
L: C. Wilson
S: B. Wilson
|R Weeks 2B||3||1||0||0||0||1||12||.000||.000||.000|
B Phillips 2B
|C Beltran DH||2||1||1||0||0||1||7||.500||.500||.500|
a-A Ethier PH-DH
b-G Sanchez PH-DH
|M Kemp CF||2||1||1||0||1||0||15||.500||.667||.500|
A McCutchen CF
|P Fielder 1B||2||1||1||3||0||0||6||.500||.500||2.000|
J Votto 1B
|B McCann C||2||0||0||0||0||0||8||.000||.000||.000|
Y Molina C
c-J Bruce PH-RF
|L Berkman RF||1||0||1||0||0||0||3||1.000||1.000||1.000|
J Upton RF
M Montero C
|M Holliday LF||1||0||0||0||0||1||7||.000||.000||.000|
H Pence LF
|T Tulowitzki SS||2||0||1||0||0||0||5||.500||.500||.500|
S Castro PR-SS
|S Rolen 3B||2||0||0||0||0||2||8||.000||.000||.000|
P Sandoval 3B
|a-singled to right for C Beltran in the 5th
b-popped out to second for A Ethier in the 7th
c-struck out looking for Y Molina in the 8th
2B: Y Molina (1, C Perez); P Sandoval (1, B League)
HR: P Fielder (1, 4th inning off C Wilson 2 on, 0 Out)
RBI: P Fielder 3 (3), A Ethier (1), P Sandoval (1)
2-out RBI: A Ethier
All-Stars RISP: 3-8 (P Fielder 1-1, J Upton 0-1, S Rolen 0-1, B Phillips 0-1, R Weeks 0-1, A Ethier 1-1, G Sanchez 0-1, P Sandoval 1-1)
Team LOB: 3
SB: S Castro 2 (2, 2nd base off J Walden/A Avila, 3rd base off J Walden/A Avila); R Weeks (1, 2nd base off J Walden/A Avila)
CS: L Berkman (1, 2nd base by D Robertson/A Avila)
E: S Castro (1, throw); J Bruce (1, throw)
Outfield Assist: H Pence (J Bautista at Home).
First-pitch strikes/Batters faced: R Halladay 4/6; C Lee 4/8; T Clippard 1/1; C Kershaw 1/3; J Jurrjens 5/6; C Kimbrel 0/2; J Venters 2/2; H Bell 0/1; J Hanrahan 1/3; B Wilson 2/2
Called strikes-Swinging strikes-Foul balls-In Play strikes: R Halladay 4-3-2-5; C Lee 4-1-3-8; T Clippard 1-1-0-1; C Kershaw 1-1-2-2; J Jurrjens 3-5-3-4; C Kimbrel 1-2-4-1; J Venters 1-2-0-1; H Bell 1-0-0-1; J Hanrahan 1-2-4-2; B Wilson 1-1-1-2
Ground Balls-Fly Balls: R Halladay 3-2; C Lee 4-1; T Clippard 0-0; C Kershaw 2-0; J Jurrjens 2-2; C Kimbrel 1-0; J Venters 1-0; H Bell 0-1; J Hanrahan 0-0; B Wilson 1-1
Game Scores: R Halladay 57
|C Granderson CF||2||0||0||0||0||0||3||.000||.000||.000|
J Ellsbury CF
|A Cabrera SS||2||0||0||0||0||1||6||.000||.000||.000|
J Peralta SS
|A Gonzalez 1B||2||1||1||1||0||0||6||.500||.500||2.000|
M Cabrera 1B
M Young 3B
|J Bautista RF||2||0||1||0||0||0||5||.500||.500||.500|
C Quentin RF
|J Hamilton LF||2||0||1||0||0||0||4||.500||.500||.500|
M Joyce LF
|A Beltre 3B||2||0||1||0||0||0||10||.500||.500||.500|
K Youkilis 3B
M Cuddyer 1B
|D Ortiz DH||2||0||0||0||0||1||10||.000||.000||.000|
a-P Konerko PH-DH
|R Cano 2B||2||0||0||0||0||0||4||.000||.000||.000|
H Kendrick 2B
|A Avila C||2||0||0||0||0||0||7||.000||.000||.000|
M Wieters C
|a-walked for D Ortiz in the 7th|
HR: A Gonzalez (1, 4th inning off C Lee 0 on, 2 Out)
RBI: A Gonzalez (1)
2-out RBI: A Gonzalez
All-Stars RISP: 2-5 (M Joyce 1-1, A Beltre 1-1, H Kendrick 0-1, M Cuddyer 0-1, P Konerko 0-1)
Team LOB: 6
DP: 1 (A Avila-R Cano).
PB: M Wieters.
Outfield Assist: J Bautista (A Ethier at 2nd base).
First-pitch strikes/Batters faced: J Weaver 4/4; D Robertson 1/3; M Pineda 3/3; C Wilson 3/6; J Walden 2/4; C Perez 2/4; B League 3/5; A Ogando 2/2; G Gonzalez 1/1
Called strikes-Swinging strikes-Foul balls-In Play strikes: J Weaver 3-3-0-2; D Robertson 2-1-3-1; M Pineda 3-3-1-1; C Wilson 4-2-4-4; J Walden 2-3-5-3; C Perez 2-2-2-3; B League 1-4-4-4; A Ogando 2-0-1-2; G Gonzalez 2-1-0-0
Ground Balls-Fly Balls: J Weaver 1-1; D Robertson 0-1; M Pineda 0-1; C Wilson 0-2; J Walden 1-0; C Perez 0-2; B League 0-2; A Ogando 2-0; G Gonzalez 0-0
Game Scores: J Weaver 53
***Thank you to Rob Bland for preparing today’s article on the All-Star Game. You can follow Rob on Twitter.***
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We will be compiling a list of your questions from our e-mailbag and posting the responses on Wednesdays.
Wednesday May 25, 2011
Q: Is Jose Bautista’s start for real? Do you think he can keep it up? From Brian,Toronto
MLB reports: Hello Brian. Great choice of topics as Bautista has been the talk of baseball in 2011. Considering his body of work, every day that goes by you have to believe that the Jays slugger is for real. After a great September in 2009, Bautista hit 54 long balls in 2010 and is already up to 19 in 2011. It is mind boggling considering that Bautista has missed several games this season already for personal reasons and neck issues. We prepared a profile on Jose Bautista at the Reports, which you can view here. Jose Bautista appears to be a late bloomer that has discovered his stroke and is here to stay. He is now the face of the Toronto Blue Jays and a home run force for several seasons to come.
Q: What is your favorite major league ball park and why? FromAngela,Vermont
MLB reports: Although I have not been to every MLB stadium, I have definitely seen my fair share. J If I had to select a favorite, it would likely be PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The view of the water, the layout of the stadium and the overall baseball feel is one that is without comparison. I have enjoyed every seat that I have seen in Pittsburgh and would highly recommend seeing the park if you can. A close second is Comerica Park in Detroit. Comerica is a combination of my love of the Tigers team with a beautiful stadium and rich history. That stadium really has it all. But for overall look and feel, PNC wins out.
Q: If you could watch baseball in any country, which would you pick and why? I am thinking Japan? From Larry, San Francisco
MLB reports: You are correct Larry, Japan goes to the top of the list. Clearly you have been paying attention to my tweets! The enthusiasm and energy from a Japan baseball game, as I have seen on television, literally has no comparison in any other country. I cannot wait until the day when I am in Japan and watch a game live at a local stadium. From the food, cheering fans, uniforms, style of play…Japan has it all. I also have Cuba very high on my list. From what I watched in the World Baseball Classic, Cubans take their baseball very seriously and my gut feel is that diehard fans would love watching live baseball in Cuba. Hopefully it works out for me one day, we shall see!
Q: I have been a Cubs fan for 30 years. I think that I’m done suffering and looking to change teams. Are my cubbies ever going to win? From Bruce, Windy City
MLB reports: Bruce…Bruce…Bruce. Stand by your team! I cannot blame you for being discouraged. But if the Red Sox and White Sox can win the World Series, so can the Cubs. If your team goes all the way and you are off the bandwagon, I think you will feel very sorry. Part of a sports fan, especially baseball, is that you will have to suffer for many years sometimes. In your case as a Cubs fan, for a lifetime potentially. But team loyalty is key and stick with your Cubs. They are on the right track in slowly rebuilding the farm system and should be a contender hopefully in the near future.
Q: Will Mariano Rivera ever stop being good? I wish he had signed with the Red Sox when FA. He throws one pitch and is over 40, what’s up with that? From Gene,Boston
MLB reports: The mystery of Rivera and the famous cutter will live in baseball legendary for years to come. How he does it few of us know, but somehow he was able to master one amazing pitch and has used it to build a hall of fame career. You can dream, but Rivera was never going to leave the Yankees. He came up a Yankee and will retire as a Yankee. The Red Sox did make a play for him in his last free agency year, but he indicated all along that he was staying in New York. But despite his magical career numbers which grow with his strong 2011 season, the time is drawing near for the Sandman. I can see Rivera having 1-2 years at most left in the tank. But once age and injuries finally catch up, we will know when he is done. Mariano Rivera is probably the greatest reliever of our generation, if not of all time. It has been a pleasure to watch him and we wish him the best as he writes the final chapters of his storybook career.
Thanks for the e-mails and keep them coming! email@example.com
E-MAILBAG ARCHIVE: Click here for the Archives of Ask the Reports
MLB reports: I get several messages a day on the state of the closers in major league baseball. Questions asking me which players have a closing job, which are about to lose their job and which players are most likely to get save opportunities. In my fantasy baseball days, I used to call it fishing for closers on the waiver wire: waiting for a closer to underperform and/or get injured and lose their job and immediately pick up the heir-apparent to the throne. How are the thirty major league teams doing in the closer department? Let’s take a closer look at each team and find out:
With seven saves in eight opportunities and a 1.93 ERA, Mo is as automatic as they come. Even at his advanced age, Mariano is a #1 fantasy closer, if not the top closer. Rafael Soriano is the next in-line, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
2) Colorado Rockies: Houston Street
Although health is often a concern with Street, seven saves in seven opportunities with a 2.03 ERA is not. Street has really come into his own in Colorado and as long as he can stay healthy, he is becoming nearly automatic out on the mound. Add in fourteen strikeouts and Street is as dangerous as they come. Lidstrom has been spectacular as well to start the year, but with health and performance issues surrounding him in the past, Lidstrom at best is a filler in case of an injury to Street. A solid #2, Lidstrom will form a solid 1-2 punch with Street all season long (on the field and likely on the DL at some point).
3) Atlanta Braves: Craig Kimbrel
The youngsters debate should be over. Six saves in seven opportunities and a 0.96 ERA. 2/14 BB/K ratio. Kimbrel is clearly the man in Atlanta. While Venters is very talented and the next in line should Kimbrel falter, the rope for Kimbrel grows by the day. Atlanta appears to have found its closer for the next decade.
4) Cleveland Indians: Chris Perez
With the hot start of the Indians, Perez has been enjoying the ride. Six saves in seven opportunities and a 2.25 ERA. One area for concern: four strikeouts in eight innings pitched. Although Perez is becoming craftier on the mound, low strikeouts for a closer generally leads to disaster. The Indians have some decent arms in the pen, including Rafael Perez. But the Perez of choice is Chris.
5) San Diego Padres: Heath Bell
The second coming of Trevor Hoffman, Bell is a perfect five for five in save opportunities with a 1.00 ERA. Having Bell on the Padres is like driving a brand new Mercedes while living in a bachelor apartment on the wrong side of the town. An unnecessary luxury in many observers’ estimation. Beware that a hot Bell will have trade rumors surround him all summer long. The Padres have literally 4-5 closing options in the pen, so this situation is far from settled if Bell is dealt. I could see Neshek, Qualls, Gregerson and Adams all getting their shot. For now Bell is a top five closer unless he leaves San Diego. If I had to watch one reliever it would be Neshek, who has come back from injury and could claim the job in the event he is called upon.
6) Los Angeles Dodgers: Jonathan Broxton
Broxton somehow is a perfect five for five in saves but with a 5.19 ERA, the end is likely coming near. The hope for many baseball analysts, including my own, is that Broxton can turn it around and reclaim his form. Kuo, once healthy, is the likely pick to take over the role. My dark horse pick is Mike MacDougal, the veteran who has extensive closing experience. A 1.13 ERA for MacDougal is outstanding, but his 5/6 BB/K ratio is nothing to write home about. Guerrier may also get a look, but Kuo is the consensus pick to take over at some point. I would like to sit here and guarantee that Broxton will recover and return to form, but I can’t promise that. It could happen, but with each passing rocky outing, even I am starting to have my doubts. My plan would be to remove Broxton from the role and let him work out in his kinks. In the interim I would insert MacDougal to steady the ship and then re-insert Broxton in July. That would be my plan, but not necessarily the same script for the Dodgers. Keep a look out as this mess is far from settled.
7) Philadelphia Phillies: Jose Contreras (Breaking News: Now Ryan Madson)
Running an eight inning scoreless run, a perfect five for five in saves opportunities with nine strikeouts, Contreras has become the man in Philadelphia. But running a close second is Ryan Madson, a 1.00 ERA and 2/10 BB/K ratio. The long-term solution is Madson and any hint of a Contreras downturn will insert Madson in the role. I expect this to happen any week now and once Madson becomes the closer, he should keep it until Papelbon joins the team next year (yes, it will happen). Please do not say Brad Lidge though, that story has been written and re-written too many times. Injuries and production problems is the story of Lidge. Hopefully the Phillies are smart and do not go down that road again. The moral of the story: Contreras today, Madson soon and Papelbon next year.
(P.S. As I am writing this, Contreras has been sent to Philadelphia for an exam and is on the DL. Ryan Madson is the closer, funny how quickly things can turn)
8) Kyle Farnsworth: Tampa Bay Rays
Another closer with a perfect five for five saves record, Farnsworth owns a 1.23 ERA and zero walks allowed on the season. I am not sure who this person on the mound is and what he has done with the real Kyle Farnsworth, but whoever this imposter is on the mound I would keep him. All kidding aside, I am a Farnsworth fan and have wished him well for years. But after watching him implode in nearly every stop on his major league tour, I remain somewhat skeptical. Jake McGee, my closer pick has started off slow but with improved numbers down the road could grab the job. Same with Peralta, although walks tends to hurt his value. The Rays will be riding Farnsworth like a rented mule until he cannot close anymore.
9) Neftali Feliz: Texas Rangers
Another five for five in saves opportunities, Feliz with a 1.08 ERA has a stranglehold on the job. Recently placed on the DL with a sore shoulder, the Rangers will turn to some combination of Darren Oliver and Darren O’Day , perhaps even Rhodes, until Feliz returns. Don’t sweat this one, Feliz will be back soon and continuing his climb to the top of the ranks of MLB closers in 2011. Of concern is Feliz’s 5/6 BB/K ratio, which will have to change for Feliz to be ultimately effective as the closer. Walks tend to do very bad things to closers in the 9th but based on the the talent in his arm, Feliz will be the go-to-guy this year again.
10) Brian Fuentes: Oakland Athletics
Fuentes was signed to be a solid lefty in the pen and fill-in closer for the A’s. Five for six opportunities, Fuentes has been steady for Oakland but sports a brutal 4.66 ERA. Just like Jonathan Broxton in LA, Fuentes is likely on borrowed time unless he becomes more automatic on the mound. Add a 5/7 BB/K ratio and the Andrew Bailey watch will continue in Oakland. While I see Bailey getting the job in the short-run, Fuentes will find a way to reclaim the job by the summer and possibly to the end of the year. Don’t look now though but Ziegler has not been scored upon this year and could put up a fight as well. Keep an eye on this situation as it unfolds.
11) Joel Hanrahan: Pittsburgh Pirates
Five for five in saves, 2/8 BB/K ratio and a 2.70 ERA translates to increased job security for Hanrahan. Much like Heath Bell, as Hanrahan performs well he becomes a luxury on a rebuilding Pirates team in need of prospects. Essentially keeping the seat warm for 2010 all-star Evan Meek, look for Hanrahan to be dealt sometime in the summer and for Meek to take over the closer’s role in 2011 and for the foreseeable future.
12) Brandon League: Seattle Mariners
Yet another closer that is five for five in saves, League is holding down the fort until the return of Dave Aardsma. The 3.68 ERA is ok, but three strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings is not. League has shown good control with only one walk, but changes are still likely coming in Seattle. Expect the Mariners to deal Aardsma and/or League during the summer if Aardsma can return and show health. Given that Aardsma is no guarantee, there is a good chance that League can keep the role for the majority of the year. But I would not bet on it given his shaky track record… I actually expect a dark horse to emerge at some point in this race.
13) Carlos Marmol: Chicago Cubs
Five for seven in saves, Marmol has the security of a long-term deal and is clearly the closer in Chicago. His 2.53 ERA is interesting, but more telling is his 7/15 BB/K ratio. Few closers can touch Marmol’s heat and if he could just lower his walks totals, he would become a top-five closer in baseball. But the walks will unlikely go away this year and expect some interesting moments with Marmol as he works towards 30+ saves in 2011. Kerry Wood is the next-in-line in case, think of him as Marmol insurance. Marshall has been steady as well and the one surprise is Samardzija with a 3.65 ERA, but his 14/14 BB/K ratio shows the heat is there but the control is not. But the Cubs are Marmol’s team.
14) Leo Nunez: Florida Marlins
Totals? Five for five in saves, which appears to be a standard at this point in the season. Nunez has a 2.00 ERA and is off to a hot start in Florida. As the summer months approach, I cannot see Nunez sustaining these numbers and a few bad outings could cost him his job very quickly. For a strong run, I appear the Marlins making a trade or picking a new horse for the job. Webb, Dunn and Hensley may all get looks this year, but are unlikely long-term solutions. Until then, the job is Nunez’s to lose.
15) Jonathan Papelbon: Boston Red Sox
For a guy on the heat seat, all Papelbon has done is go five for five in saves, with a 2.16 ERA and a 2/11 BB/K ratio. Papelbon is as automatic as they come and with his first run into free agency on the horizon, do not expect Papelbon’s role to change in 2011. Papelbon has an incentive to be a fantasy closing superstar and the Red Sox will happily ride him to first round picks as compensation in the off-season. While Bard is the heir-apparent with Bobby Jenks always lurking, do not expect this move to happen until 2012, unless injury strikes. Papelbon will look really good in Philadelphia next year. Remember you heard it here first.
16) J.J. Putz: Arizona Diamondbacks
Putz has been everything that Kirk Gibson could have imagined in Arizona and more. Five for five in saves (yes, another one), 1.13 ERA and 0/10 BB/K ratio. Expect Putz to be an all-star this year as he leads a young Diamondbacks team back to respectability. With no plan b’s on the horizon, Arizona will live by the Putz and die by the Putz.
17) Joakim Soria: Kansas City Royals
Ok…ok…ok…. let’s not get too excited people. Soria’s five saves in six opportunities comes along with a 5.59 ERA and a 5/5 BB/K ratio. Add ten hits allowed in 10 2/3 innings and you have some pretty ugly numbers for a top-three closer. With the three-headed monster of Collins, Crow and Jeffress looming, I can foresee some fans starting to call for the head of Soria as the Royals continue to excel. Don’t see it happening. I cannot see the Royals continuing their hot start and I cannot foresee anyone unseating the great Soria. The young Royals pitching squad needs Soria and unless he literally implodes, which I don’t see happening, Soria will be the closer for the next few years. As the Royals build to be contenders in the next 2-3 years, they will rely on a healthy and productive Soria to carry their bullpen. Soria is the Royals closer and do not get any other ideas on the subject.
18) Brian Wilson: San Francisco Giants
The Giants were the feel good story of 2011 and while the “fear the beard” motto was cute in its time, I think this story is done. Wilson has to get away from the beard and concentrate on what he does best: close ball games. Although five for six in saves this year, Wilson sports a brutal 7.94 ERA a pedestrian 4/6 BB/K ratio. The World Series champion Giants will give Wilson a lot of rope and I cannot foresee him losing his job. But with the World Series letdown could come a return to earth for several players, including Wilson. While he will still get 30+ saves, his numbers are showing that a market correct is in order. Wilson needs to get re-focused…he is the only game in town as the closer for the Giants.
19) Brandon Lyon: Houston Astros
The poster boy for mediocre closers, Lyon remains a frustration year-in and year-out. Four for six in saves opportunities, with a 4.32 ERA, 13 hits allowed in 8 1/3 inning and a dismal 2/3 BB/K ratio, Lyon is better suited to middle relief than closing. Lyon is a veteran on a young Astros team and while experience is supposed to help the young pitchers, his stats are hurting the team. With Melancon and Fulchino pitching so well, a changing of the guard is coming in Houston. Right now my money is on Melancon becoming the closer by May.
20) Francisco Rodriguez: New York Mets
Together with Papelbon, K-Rod had many doubters going into the year. Legal troubles and a declining team and numbers looked to spell the end for Rodriguez. His four saves in five opportunities has been great, together with his 2.35 ERA. His 6/13 BB/K ratio is showing that the arm and heat are back, but so is his wildness. K-Rod will get 30+ saves in my estimation, but may not so pretty getting there. Frankie is getting paid the big bucks and will have the job for 2011.
21) Jose Valverde: Detroit Tigers
The king of hot starts, Valverde has been four for four in saves on a very inconsistent Detroit Tigers team in 2011. His 1.04 ERA and 2/9 BB/K ratio have been spectacular. Valverde will have the job this year as he works towards another free agency run at seasons-end. Benoit is the closer in waiting and while he will have the job in 2012, will be the filler when called upon. The Tigers will stick with Valverde, period.
22) John Axford: Milwaukee Brewers
Pitching for a contending Brewers team, Axford’s numbers have not cut it this year. Three for five in saves, 7.36 ERA and a 6/8 BB/K ratio means that Axford is closing on borrowed time. I still expect Axford to get a little more rope to straighten himself out, but not for much longer. While Saito was my pick to take over the role at the start of the season, and poor health and inconsistency have plagued him. Same with LaTroy Hawkins, another failed closer in the Brewers’ pen. The dark horse for the role is Kameron Loe, the former Rangers starter and Japanese baseball survivor. Look for Loe, who has been the Brewers best reliever season to get the role any day now and to run with it into the forseeable future.
23) Drew Storen/ (Sean Burnett): Washington Nationals
I know your first reaction: is Sean Burnett not the closer? A 3.24 ERA, three for four in saves and 0/6 BB/K ratio- is that not closing numbers? Perhaps, but Burnett is like a mirage in the desert. You think you are seeing water, but its all an illusion. Storen with a 0.77 ERA, two for two in saves, six hits allowed in 11 2/3 innings and 4/8 BB/K ratio is the man. Storen has been groomed for the position is whole life and was drafted as a closer to become the Nationals ninth inning stopper. Burnett may still get the occasional opportunity but his saves opportunities are coming to an end. As Storen becomes nearly automatic, the job will be his for the next decade in Washington.
24) Matt Capps: Minnesota Twins
The Twins originally said they would bring Joe Nathan along slowly after missing a year due to surgery. What did they end up doing? Throwing him straight into the fire and destroying his pitching confidence and stats line. With a 9.82 ERA and 6/5 BB/K ratio, do not expect Nathan back in the role for a LONG time. Capps, acquired from Washington for catching prospect Ramos has now taken over the closing duties. Three for four in save opportunities, 4.09 ERA and a 0/5 BB/K ratio shows that Capps is ready to run with the job. Minnesota is well-known for steady starting pitching and I look for Capps to finish with a steady amount of saves. He may not blow hitters away anymore, but with continued control look for Capps to keep the job for most of 2011.
25) Francisco Cordero: Cincinnati Reds
For all the doom and gloom coming out of Cinci for Cordero, he has continued to put up great numbers. Three for three in saves, 2.00 ERA, a stingy five hits in nine innings pitched and 4/7 BB/K ratio. The changing of the guard is coming though for the Reds as you look at Chapman’s numbers. Throws 100+ MPH heat, nine scoreless innings, two hits in nine innings with a 7/9 BB/K ratio. This is another case that unless the incumbent implodes or gets injured, he will retain his role. The Reds rely on the Veteran Cordero and Dusty Baker is very loyal to his foot soldiers. Chapman is still showing wildness and the best course is to let him continue to develop as Cordero keeps saving games. A change is coming in 2012 but until then, Cordero is the Reds closer. If you like to gamble though, Chapman has a decent shot at the job… he is the heir apparent and the first reliever in line if needed.
26) Jon Rauch: Toronto Blue Jays
One of several new additions to the Jays pen, Rauch originally was supposed to keep the role warm for Frank Francisco until he returned from injury. Rauch on the season has a 2.08 ERA and is three for three in saves opportunities. While his 4/6 BB/K ratio is pedestrian, Rauch will have the job for the majority of the year in my opinion. While Francisco has the heat and the strikeout numbers, he has shown to be very inconsistent and erratic in the closers role from his time in Texas. Francisco will possibly get a shot at the role at some point early on this season, my money is still on Rauch. With so many closing options in Toronto including Dotel and Frasor, this situation is very difficult to handicap. At the end of the day, you either believe in Francisco or Rauch as the closer. My gut is saying Rauch.
27) Jordan Walden: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The next, great Angels closer, Walden has taken to the role and run with it. Ten scoreless innings, three for three in saves, three hits allowed in 9 1/3 innings and a 5/10 BB/K ratio are all impressive. Fernando Rodney, the veteran closer will be breathing down his neck the whole season. If not for his 8/7 BB/K ratio, Rodney has a 2.08 ERA of his own and only blown save on the season. As with all young pitchers, Walden will run into some trouble along the way. The question will be how he handles adversity. This is one team that I have faced several arguments on this season. I see Rodney taking back his job while Walden continues to be groomed into the next big thing. For me, experience and knowledge tends to usually win out and Rodney has an advantage in both departments over Walden. The job is Walden’s today and for quite some time, but 2-3 blown saves in a week can change things in a hurry. Another situation to keep an eye on.
28) Mitchell Boggs: St. Louis Cardinals
Where is Ryan Franklin? One for five in save opportunities and with a 7.88 ERA. Complaining about the fans of St. Louis won’t appease Cardinals management either. The 27-year-old Boggs is the newest closer on the carousel, with two saves in two opportunities, 1.59 ERA and outstanding 3/13 BB/K ratio. There are many people jumping on the Boggs bandwagon and for good reason. The kid is apparently coming into his own and has taken the job by the reigns. As is the case with Walden, we do not have enough of a track record to know the long-term potential of the kid. Again, 2-3 blown saves in a week can change the situation in a hurry. I still expect Franklin to straighten himself out and perhaps reclaim the job later in the year. But based on his solid work to-date, the closer in St. Louis is Boggs and the job is literally his to lose. Keep one eye open, just in case.
29) Kevin Gregg: Baltimore Orioles
Pitching in the Brandon Lyon sea of mediocrity, Gregg has been up-and-down this year for the upstart Orioles. Two saves in three opportunities, 4.50 ERA, and 4/6 BB/K ratio are nothing to write home about. Mike Gonzalez with a 10.80 ERA does not appear to be healthy and recovered to be able to compete for the role. Jeremy Accardo has a 2.08 ERA but an alarming 6/4 BB/K ratio. Koji Uehara, with a 1.35 ERA and 3/7 BB/K ratio is my pick for the Orioles closing job when Gregg inevitably begins to break down. The Orioles are lucky to have several options, with Simon originally being my original dark horse until legal troubles slowed down his season. But based on track history, I really like Uehara’s chances to claim the job by June, if not sooner.
30) (Jesse Crain): Chicago White Sox
I certainly saved the worst for last and the White Sox have had their share of bullpen woes in 2011. With one team on the season, Sale and Thornton have not been the saviors that Sox fans were expecting this year. With ERAs north of 6.00, neither one is likely to take the role anytime soon. Ohman and Pena have been fairly weak as well and the last two realistic survivors are Santos and Crain. Much press has been written on Santos, the converted pitcher who has pitched 9 2/3 scoreless innings with five hits allowed a 5/13 BB/K ratio. While many experts are already picking Santos, I am looking at the dark horse, Jesse Crain to take the role. The former Twin had a steady 2010 year and has started this year with a 1.74 ERA and spectacular 2/11 BB/K ratio. Santos is the darling of Chicago with his flame throwing ways, but the more experienced Crain appears to be just what the doctor ordered in Chicago. A situation that is far from unsettled, Thornton or Sale could grab a hold of the job at any time with some steady consecutive outings. But based on current numbers and future outlook, if you want my pick- it will be Crain. With such a strong offense and steady starting pitching, the Sox cannot afford to lose too many games in the 9th if they hope to take the AL Central. That is where a veteran as the anchor will prove to be best solution in the bullpen.
The state of closers is always a heated discussion in baseball circles every year. Probably the most volatile position in baseball, approximately 30% of opening day closers will still have their jobs by years-end. With injuries and failures, closers can come and go on a weekly basis. Today’s failed starters can be tomorrow’s superstar closers. Next week’s stoppers can also be minor league filler by August. All baseball fans, whether fans of teams or fantasy players, all get driven to the point of insanity because of closers. For every Mariano Rivera, there will be three Jordan Waldens, five Jonathan Broxtons and seven Brandon Lyons. I hope that you enjoyed reading the state of the union on MLB closers today. Although situations may have changed while I wrote this article (see Contreras) and even tomorrow, remember to keep an open mind and focus on where the next closers will be. The most effective relievers in the bullpen will usually get the first crack- it is the ones that can succeed under pressure that will keep their jobs.