Baseball News Source Wed, 17 Sep 2014 21:15:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Jake Arrieta Emerges as an Ace for Chicago Cubs Wed, 17 Sep 2014 21:15:31 +0000 cubs-arietaJake Arrieta dominated the Cincinnati Reds Tuesday night. The Chicago Cubs hurler threw his first career shutout, surrendering just one hit and one walk while fanning 13 hitters. It was the best performance in what has been an excellent season for the 28 year-old right-hander.

Arrieta broke into the major leagues with the Baltimore Orioles in 2010. In parts of four seasons with the O’s, he authored an ugly 5.46 ERA in 358 innings. He did show some promise in 2012, as he displayed a 22.0 percent strikeout rate and 3.65 xFIP despite a 6.20 ERA. However, after five ugly starts in 2013, in which he allowed 19 runs and walked 17 hitters in just 23.2 innings, the Orioles sent him to the Cubs along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

He made nine starts with the Cubs in 2013, and was mediocre. Though his 3.66 ERA was solid, he had a pedestrian 17.4 percent strikeout rate and his walk rate of 11.3 percent was one of the higher marks in the majors. 2014 has been a different story. While he hasn’t thrown enough innings to qualify, his adjusted ERA is 11th best among hurlers that have thrown at least 140 innings, and his adjusted FIP is second best. Only Clayton Kershaw has been better on a per-inning basis.

Overall Arrieta has an enviable 26.7 percent strikeout rate to go with a solid 6.8 percent walk rate. He’s got a sparkling 2.65 ERA and an even better 2.30 FIP. While he didn’t pitch in a major league game until May 3rd, he has been consistently good since then.

Arrieta started grabbing everyone’s attention with a three start stretch from June 18 to June 30. First of all, he dominated the Miami Marlins, fanning 11 hitters in seven innings of one run ball, issuing just one walk. He followed that up with a strong performance against the Reds, notching nine punchouts in seven innings, while allowing two runs. Then, he faced off against the Boston Red Sox, and came within four outs of getting a no-hitter, adding in ten strikeouts.

Arrieta has emerged as a legitimate ace. His ZiPS and Steamer projections are on par with those for Oakland Athletics hurler Jeff Samardzija, who the Cubs traded away. The big right-hander has relied heavily on a cutter/slider. After throwing it on just 15 percent of his pitches last year, he’s nearly doubled his usage to 29 percent this year. It’s whiff rate is a strong 14.7 percent. That’s not too big a jump from prior seasons, but by throwing it more often, Arrieta has effectively complemented his mid 90s fastball. On a per pitch basis, it’s been one of the best breaking pitches in baseball.

The Cubs have found that one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure. They’ve scooped up pitchers such as Feldman, Arrieta and Jason Hammel for pennies on the dollar. They flipped Feldman and Hammel in trades, and Arrieta has emerged as an ace. With a host of talented young position players, this team could be very dangerous in 2015.

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Do the Oakland Athletics Have Enough Pitching? Wed, 17 Sep 2014 03:33:56 +0000 lesterThe Oakland Athletics got off to a very strong start, and on August 9 they had a four game lead on the Anaheim Angels. Their 72-44 record was the best in baseball, and after acquiring Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs, they had recently traded for ace pitcher Jon Lester from the Boston Red Sox. From that point, the A’s have a woeful 11-22 record. While they are all but assured of a playoff spot, it’s a wild card berth they are looking at, rather than home field advantage all the way through.

Despite all the pitching the A’s have acquired, there are some big questions about their rotation. Lester has been as good as advertised. In nine starts he’s authored a 2.30 ERA with strikeout and walk rates of 22.7 percent and 5.6 percent. He’s one of the top starters in the American League.

Samardzija has also been very good, and while his ERA hasn’t been spectacular, his park-adjusted xFIP is actually better than Lester’s. He’s attacking the zone more than ever before, and has a minuscule 3.4 percent walk rate over 13 starts with the A’s. With a big ballpark, he’s pounding the zone with confidence.

However, the A’s have some issues beyond those two pitchers. Sonny Gray appears to be tiring. After striking out over 20 percent of hitters in the first four months of the season, his K-rates have dipped to 17.1 percent and 16.3 percent in August and September. The 24 year-old has seen his fastball velocity decline in that time. He’s already thrown more innings than last season, and may be running on fumes.

Oakland A'NewsLikewise, teammate Scott Kazmir has seen his second half strikeout rate drop seven percentage points to 16.4 percent. In the same time, his walk rate has climbed from 5.9 percent to 8.8 percent. His fastball velocity is also dropping. Kazmir hasn’t thrown more than 152 innings since 2007, so there’s understandably some concern at this point. Right now he’s at 173.2 innings, and is making his 30th start for the first time in seven years.

Hammel, who was excellent with the Cubs, has imploded with the A’s. He’s authored an ugly 4.76 ERA in 11 starts, with an even worse 5.76 FIP. Right now it looks like the A’s bought very high on half a season of a pitcher that has a career ERA- of 108 in over 1100 innings. The right-hander is unlikely to have a spot in the A’s postseason rotation, meaning they will have to rely on the tiring Gray or Kazmir.

Of course, the A’s may not be so fortunate to have to deal with the issue of who makes their postseason rotation. They won’t catch the Angels, and as a result will have to focus on holding off the Kansas City Royals or the Seattle Mariners for the top wild card spot. They might have some magic left, but their position is much weaker than it was just five weeks ago.

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Ian Kinsler Proving to be Key Acquisition for Detroit Tigers Mon, 15 Sep 2014 23:16:03 +0000 kinslerThe Detroit Tigers currently enjoy a 1.5 game lead on the Kansas City Royals in the American League Central. With just 13 games remaining, the Tigers odds of winning the division sit at 75 percent, and they are virtually assured of a playoff spot. Though they endured an extended rough patch, this team should be dangerous in the playoffs.

The Tigers have plenty of star power. Their pitching staff features Max Scherzer, David Price, Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello. Meanwhile on the other side of the ball they have the slugging Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, who is having a fantastic year. However, the contributions of second baseman Ian Kinsler cannot be overlooked.

Kinsler was acquired from the Texas Rangers this offseason in exchange for Prince Fielder and his bloated salary. He was coming off two consecutive seasons of decent, but less than stellar production. While Kinsler’s offensive production hasn’t rebounded to its 2010-11 levels, he’s having a very good year. His 4.8 fWAR leads the Tigers, though it’s just fractions ahead of Cabrera.

Kinsler is batting .278/.311/.418. That comes out to a 102 wRC+ which is average overall. It’s significantly better than second basemen as a whole, who are batting .251/.309/.364. He’s no slouch with the bat, and his 11.4 percent strikeout rate makes him a tough out, but his contributions are more subtle.

The Tigers second baseman has long held a reputation as an excellent baserunner, and this season is no different. He only has 15 steals in 18 attempts, but he’s phenomenal at taking the extra base. His +9.2 base running runs is just a shade behind Ben Revere, and ahead of speedsters such as Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton.

Furthermore, he plays very good second base defense. Per Ultimate Zone Rating, only Dustin Pedroia has been a better fielding second baseman. While the Tigers are still a below-average defensive team, Kinsler has helped them improve significantly.

While Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski has been deservedly criticized for not doing enough to upgrade the bullpen and getting a mediocre return for Robbie Ray, the trade for Ian Kinsler was a great move. In one move the Tigers helped to address their deficiencies in defense and baserunning. Meanwhile, Fielder suffered a major neck injury after only 42 games.

On a team with three Cy Young winners and two MVP winners, Kinsler might not be getting the attention he deserves. But, he’s been just as important to the Tigers success as any of the big ticket names on this team. Despite all of their struggles, the Tigers have the second-best world series odds of any team in baseball, behind only the Washington Nationals. Kinsler won’t appear on any MVP ballots, but he’s very important to this team.

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Jordan Zimmermann Having Career Year in Loaded Nats Rotation Mon, 15 Sep 2014 18:16:41 +0000 ZimmermanThe Washington Nationals starting pitchers have had a remarkable year. Their 14.5 fWAR leads the National League. Stephen Strasburg is among the league leaders in strikeout rate, Tanner Roark has a sub 3.00 ERA, Doug Fister has accumulated 3.5 RA-9 WAR despite missing a large chunk of the season, and Gio Gonzalez has a strikeout rate just shy of 25 percent. However, the best performance has come from Jordan Zimmermann.

The 28 year-old Zimmermann broke into the major leagues in 2009. But, he suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, and he missed the remainder of that season and most of 2010. He returned to full strength in 2011, and from 2011-13, he authored a 3.12 ERA with 10.2 fWAR. Zimmermann relied on a strikeout rate that was in line with the major league average and a 4.9 percent walk rate that was one of the lowest in MLB.

This season Zimmermann has managed to cut his usually low walk rate to a miniscule 3.8 percent. At the same time, he’s boosted his strikeout rate to 22.6 percent, which is a solid four percentage points higher than the previous year. As a consequence, he’s dropped his ERA to 2.93, and his xFIP to a career low 3.07, which is nearly half a run lower than his previous best. His 4.3 fWAR is a career-high, and he ranks 11th in the major leagues in that category.

Zimmermann has made two significant changes. First of all, he is throwing his fastball more often. At 69.5 percent, only five qualified starting pitchers utilize their heater more frequently than Zimmermann. With an average velocity of 94 miles per hour, only ten pitchers have a harder fastball. He’s getting more whiffs with the pitch. It’s missing bats at an 8.3 percent clip as compared to 6.2 percent, and he’s also getting more infield pop flies.

Also, Zimmermann is throwing his slider harder. Zimmermann’s slider has long been his best secondary pitch, and he usually throws it around 86 miles per hour. This year he has bumped that velocity up to 87.5 miles per hour and as a result he’s getting more swings and misses. Batters have a whiff rate of 18.5 percent on Zimmermann’s slider, as compared to 16.3 percent the prior year and 13.9 percent in 2012. In addition, they are chasing the pitch nearly half the time when it’s located out of the strike zone, a big jump from past seasons.

Thanks to the fastball and the slider, Zimmermann’s overall whiff rate has increased from 8.7 percent to 10.2 percent. Interestingly enough, while his first-pitch strike rate and walk rate have improved, his zone rate is down. He’s been able to get ahead of hitters and then use his slider to expand the zone. Jordan Zimmermann has been a very good pitcher for the last three seasons, but the increase in whiffs has helped turn him into an ace.


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AL Cy Young Candidates: Chicago White Sox Chris Sale Fri, 12 Sep 2014 20:13:20 +0000 salePitchers have dominated in 2014. The average ERA for a major league starting pitcher is just 3.86, and strikeout rates are just a shade under 20 percent. A host of pitchers are having excellent seasons, including Felix Hernandez, Corey Kluber and Jon Lester. One pitcher that might be getting overlooked in the American League Cy Young conversation is Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale.

Sale was dominant in his first four starts of the season, allowing only seven runs in 27.1 innings, with 29 strikeouts. However, he suffered an elbow injury, and missed more than five weeks of the season. He came back with a vengeance, racking up 10 strikeouts while allowing just one hit in six shutout innings in his first start since getting off the disabled list.

Since then Sale hasn’t missed a beat. While he’s notched about 50 fewer innings than Hernandez and Kluber, he’s accumulated 5.4 fWAR, which is only a few tenths behind those two hurlers. His 30.3 percent strikeout rate leads the American League, as does his 24.9 percent K-BB rate.

Opposing hitters are managing a woeful .197 batting average against Sale. The White Sox left-hander has a 1.99 ERA which is the lowest in the AL. After factoring his hitter-friendly home park, US Cellular Field into the equation, his ERA is on par with that posted by Clayton Kershaw.

Sale has always possessed a good fastball, and this year his average velocity is up to 94 miles per hour. From his low arm slot, his sweeping slider is nearly unhittable for left-handed batters. Righties struggle with the pitch as well. Overall the slider has a 14 percent swinging strike rate, and when hitters offer at sliders outside the zone they’re coming up empty on 55 percent of their swings.

However, the changeup has perhaps become Sale’s favorite secondary pitch. He’s effectively traded sliders for changeups. Last year he threw his slider 29 percent of the time, and his changeup 19 percent of the time. This year those rates have been reversed.  The changeup has a swinging strike rate of 20.5 percent, a solid increase from the previous year. Hitters are offering at 45 percent of the changeups Sale throws outside of the strike zone, and they’re whiffing on half of those swings.

All those extra whiffs means that Sale’s swinging strike rate is up to 13 percent, from 10.8 percent in 2013. By throwing more changeups, he’s giving his arm a better chance at staying healthy, and he’s been more effective to boot. While Sale hasn’t received the same acclaim that Kershaw has, his season has been nearly as impressive. King Felix has been a tough act to follow, and Kluber and Lester are also deserving of the Cy Young award. But, Sale has put together a resume that is at least as impressive.

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Jose Bautista Keeping Blue Jays in Wild Card Race Fri, 12 Sep 2014 13:00:51 +0000 bautistaThe Toronto Blue Jays got off to a hot start in the 2014 season. One June 6 they owned a 38-24 record and enjoyed a six game lead in the American League East. As late as July 2 they were in sole possession of first place. However, things have unraveled from there.

The Baltimore Orioles have all but clinched the division, while the Jays are clinging on to slim hopes in the Wild Card race. At 76-69, they are 3.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers for the second wild card berth.

One player that has helped the Jays stay in the race is right-fielder Jose Bautista. The 33 year-old has stayed mostly healthy for the first time since 2011, and is having a fantastic season. He’s posting a .286/.398/.529 slash line that comes out to a 156 wRC+, which ranks 6th in the major leagues. Along with Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez, he’s one of two players that has walked more than he’s struck out.

Bautista burst onto the scene in 2010, mashing 54 home runs for the Jays and posting a .617 slugging percentage. Previously he had hit just 59 home runs in parts of six largely mediocre seasons. He followed up his remarkable 2011 season with an even better 2011 year in which he hit 43 home runs while walking in an astounding 20.9 percent of his plate appearances. His .447 on-base percentage led baseball.

While on the field, Bautista was a productive offensive player in 2012 and 2013. However, his wRC+ marks of 137 and 133 were not on the same level as his 2010-11 performances. Injuries hampered him and he missed over 100 games in that span.

Bautista isn’t quite the same hitter now as he was in 2010-11. While he still brings a lot of power to the table, his .243 isolated slugging percentage doesn’t jump off the page like his .300+ marks. But, he’s compensated by bringing his strikeout rate down to 14.5 percent in a time when league strikeout rates are hovering around 20 percent. His contact and plate discipline skills are exceptional, particularly for someone that swings with the ferocity that he does.

In nine September games, Bautista has mashed the ball to the tune of a .324/.390/.622 slash line with three home runs. The Blue Jays have not made the postseason since 1992. Along with Edwin Encarnacion, he’s formed a very formidable duo in the middle of the Jays lineup. With 3.5 games to make up and only 17 games remaining, they are a long shot. Bautista is doing all he can to get them there.

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Pittsburgh Pirates Offense Is Carrying Them Towards the Playoffs Tue, 09 Sep 2014 21:46:29 +0000 McCutchenAfter enduring a difficult start to the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have fought their way back into the second Wild Card spot. At 75-68, they have a 1.5 game lead on the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers for the last playoff berth. A big reason for their success has been their offensive prowess.

In terms of runs scored, the Pirates rank ninth in the major leagues, and third in the National League. by wRC+, a park-adjusted batting metric, the Pirates 107 mark is third-best in the major leagues. However, the fact that they carry a near-automatic out in their lineup puts them at a significant disadvantage relative to the two teams ahead of them, the Los Angeles Angels and Detroit Tigers. If the inquiry is limited to position players, the Pirates have a team wRC+ of 115, which is three points higher than the Angels mark.

Centerfielder Andrew McCutchen is having another sensational year at the plate. He leads the Pirates in the traditional categories of home runs, runs, and runs batted in, and his 163 wRC+ is the best mark on the team and the top mark in the NL. A huge surprise has been the outstanding play of utility man Josh Harrison.

After three years of part-time play in which he topped out at a .290 on-base percentage and .409 slugging percentage, Harrison has been one of the most productive hitters in baseball. In 124 games he owns a slash line of .315/.348/.513. He’s drilled 53 extra-base hits and stolen 17 bags while playing outfield, second base and third base.

Catcher Russell Martin is also having a great year. While injuries have limited Martin to 96 games, he’s managed to accumulate 4.6 fWAR. He owns a .287/.408/.409 batting line and is playing his usual strong defense. Second baseman Neil Walker is also having a career year. Walker has ripped 19 home runs and possesses a .278/.349/.465 batting line.

Starling Marte is reprising his strong 2013 season with a .279/.348/.438 slash line. He’s also contributed a team-leading 25 stolen bases. Even retread Travis Snider is having a good year at the plate with a .255/.324/.411 line that rounds out to a 109 wRC+. With rookie outfielder Gregory Polanco not progressing as quickly as the Pirates have hoped, Snider has been a valuable piece in the outfield. Ike Davis and Pedro Alvarez have low batting averages, but they represent the 7th and 8th Pirates batters with a wRC+ of over 100.

The Pirates pitching staff has struggled in a big way. Closer Mark Melancon leads the team with 1.6 fWAR. Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton are all a shade over +1 fWAR. No other pitcher has reached that mark, and arms such as the departed Wandy Rodriguez, Jason Grilli and Ernesto Frieri have all contributed negative value.

Despite the struggles of their pitching staff and injuries to key players such as McCutchen and Martin, the Pirates are in strong shape to make the playoffs. This is a very deep lineup that also possesses star power. It should give opposing pitching staffs fits.

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Buster Posey Riding Extended Hot Streak for Giants Mon, 08 Sep 2014 22:03:45 +0000 poseyThe San Francisco Giants have a three game lead on the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first Wild Card spot. With 19 games remaining, their playoff odds sit at a cool 94 percent. Buster Posey has been instrumental in helping to lead the Giants to October.

Posey started off the season slowly. On June 13, the 27 year-old catcher and first baseman was hitting a rather pedestrian .267/.329/.401. Those are decent numbers to be sure, but far below his career standards. Considering that he posted a .244/.333/.310 line in the second half of 2013, fans and analysts alike were concerned.

Posey has allayed their fears over his last 70 games. In that span he owns a remarkable .342/.390/.565 slash line. He’s popped 34 extra-base hits, including 12 home runs. After displaying a lack of power in 2013’s second half that continued through the first 2.5 months of the 2014 season, Posey has posted the second-best full season isolated slugging percentage of his career.

In the last 30 days, Posey has been even hotter. He’s batting .382/.407/.686 for a 211 wRC+. He’s hit seven of his home runs and owns baseball’s highest wRC+. Also, his 2.0 fWAR leads baseball. If there was any doubt t

All in all, Posey has produced a .300/.362/.492 batting line with 20 home runs. That comes out to a 143 wRC+, which is a better mark than any other catcher this season. He’s totaled 5.2 fWAR, and that doesn’t include pitch-framing, an aspect of the game in which Posey excels. According to StatCorner, he’s been worth 13.3 runs above average in that department, which is the 7th most in baseball.

Posey is bringing back shades of his fantastic 2012 campaign with this extended hot streak. In that season he .336/.408/.549 for a 164 wRC+ and 7.7 fWAR. Given that he’s been a bona fide star since 2010, when he helped lead the Giants to the World Series title, it’s easy to forget that Posey is only 27.

In the 2012-13 offseason, the Giants wisely locked up Posey nine year deal worth $167 million. For a stretch it might have looked like the Giants had made a poor investment. However, that’s all it was, a stretch. Posey is demonstrating once again that he is one of the best handful of players in the National League. He’s an outstanding defensive catcher who is also one of the top hitters in baseball.

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AL Cy Young Candidates: Cleveland Indians Corey Kluber Sun, 07 Sep 2014 16:00:22 +0000 Indians KluberCleveland Indians pitcher Corey Kluber turned in a dominant performance Saturday night, hurling a complete game against the Chicago White SoxKluber registered eight strikeouts without issuing a walk, and allowed one unearned run on five hits. It was the latest in a string of dominant performance for Kluber, who has posted a 1.49 ERA in the second half, with a 28.6 percent strikeout rate.

While Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez has seemed to have a death grip on the Cy Young award, Kluber is a legitimate challenger. Hernandez has struggled as of late, and with Saturday’s performance, Kluber now has 5.7 fWAR, which leads AL pitchers. Of course, that’s not the end of the story, and Hernandez’ ERA is nearly three-tenths of a run lower.

Cleveland’s big right-hander is having a fantastic season. However, this shouldn’t be totally unexpected. The 28 year-old showcased some very impressive stuff in 24 starts in 2013. While his 3.85 ERA didn’t stand out, he had excellent strikeout and walk rates of 224. percent and 5.4 percent, respectively. This year, Kluber has improved on those numbers.

This season Kluber has increased his strikeout rate to 27.0 percent, while maintaining a low walk rate of 5.6 percent. He’s also boosted his ground ball rate to 48.9 percent. His park-adjusted xFIP of 72 is tied with David Price for the second-best mark in the AL, and is just four points behind Hernandez.

Last year home runs and hits on balls in play were Kluber’s achilles heel. Slightly over 12 percent of the fly balls Kluber allowed left the yard, and opponents hit .329 on balls in play. Pitchers generally have less control over these aspects of the game than strikeout, walk and ground ball rates. This year, only eight percent of fly balls have left the yard against Kluber, and opponents are hitting .307 on balls in play.

2014 has been a phenomenal season for Kluber, who has relied heavily on his slider. The pitch has quickly become one of the best offerings in the major leagues. It’s had almost equal effectiveness against left-handed and right-handed pitchers. Along with his curveball and changeup, which he uses seldomly, Kluber has three offerings with a swinging strike rate of at least 19 percent.

The Indians found a diamond in the rough in Kluber, who was originally drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 4th round back in 2007. They acquired him in 2010 as part of a three-team trade in which they gave up veteran Jake Westbrook, who would have one more solid big league season before retiring this year.

With the Indians Kluber has blossomed into a legitimate ace. Hernandez is still the favorite for the AL Cy Young award, but Corey Kluber is just as deserving. The last few starts for each could be the difference. Either way, it’s been a great year for the right-hander who didn’t even make the All-Star team.

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Josh Donaldson Solid AL MVP Candidiate Sat, 06 Sep 2014 16:16:15 +0000 donaldsonThe Oakland A’s have hit a bit of a rough patch after dominating the American League West for most of the season. At six games behind the Los Angeles Angels, their sights appear to be set on the first Wild Card spot. While it’s faltered as of late, their deep roster has given opposing pitchers fits for most of the season.

The A’s feature several solid players, and one bona fide superstar in Josh Donaldson. A former catcher, Donaldson made a name for himself with a sensational 2013 season. In his first full season in the big leagues, the A’s third baseman put together a .301/.384/.499 slash line. He totaled 7.7 fWAR, which was the most in the American League besides Mike Trout. Miguel Cabrera took home the MVP award, but Donaldson had a solid claim as the better all-around player.

After surprising everyone in 2013, Donaldson is back at it again this year. His slash line isn’t quite as impressive, but it’s a very good .253/.343/.461 nonetheless, which comes out to a 130 wRC+. Already this year he’s hit 26 home runs, which is two more than the previous year. As usual, he’s playing fantastic defense at third base. All told, he has 5.6 fWAR, which is the third highest total in the American League.

Despite being one of the best players in baseball over the last two years, Donaldson doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t have great traditional numbers. His .253 batting average doesn’t jump off the page. The slash line is solid on paper, but considering that he plays half of his games in the pitcher-friendly Oakland Coliseum, it’s that much better.

Because he’s sold out for power by hitting more fly balls, his average is down, but he’s been a very potent hitter regardless. Donaldson’s on-base percentage is strong due to a solid 11.0 percent walk rate. In addition, much of his value is tied up in his defense, which doesn’t get the same attention offensive prowess does.

The 28 year-old Donaldson is the A’s best player. Their roster features a lot of moving parts, as the A’s have relied on maximizing the platoon advantage. However, Donaldson finds himself in the lineup every day. Like the majority of the A’s roster, he was acquired via trade. After moving out from behind the plate, his offensive game has taken off. He’s attained star billing a little later in his career, but it’s time that the rest of baseball recognizes just how good Josh Donaldson is.

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Kyle Seager Having a Career Year for Seattle Mariners Fri, 05 Sep 2014 20:31:54 +0000 Seattle MarinersAt 76-63, the Seattle Mariners entered play Friday just a half-game behind the Detroit Tigers for the second Wild Card spot. If they can squeeze in, this would be their first playoff appearance since 2001, when they won 114 games. Most of the attention has surrounded Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano, and both players are having excellent years. Hernandez is the front runner for the AL Cy Young award, and after a somewhat slow start, Cano is playing up to the 10 year, $240 million contract he signed this offseason.

However, third baseman Kyle Seager is also having a noteworthy season. The 26 year-old has already tied his career high in home runs, and currently owns career-best marks in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. His 5.4 fWAR ranks sixth in the major leagues, and places him in a virtual tie with Cano.

Seager was a third-round pick by the Mariners out of UNC Chapel Hill back in 2009. He made short work of minor league pitching, and spent 53 games in the big leagues in 2011, hitting a respectable .258/.312/.379. The following season he established himself as a solid regular. His average and on-base percentage remained virtually unchanged, but he popped 20 home runs, boosting his slugging percentage to .423 and his wRC+ to 108. Combine the improved offensive numbers with strong third base defense, and the durability to appear in 155 games, and he produced 3.6 fWAR.

Seager had an almost identical season in 2012. Once again he was very durable, missing only two games. His batting average and slugging percentage were nearly the same, but he improved his walk rate to 9.8 percent, which lifted his on-base percentage to .338. Defensive metrics gave him slightly below average grades at third, and his fWAR was the same at 3.6.

This season Seager has taken off. After an early season slump that saw him hitting a woeful .156/.280/.219 in the Mariners first 20 games, he’s hit .296/.354/.517 over their last 116 contests. Overall he owns a .278/.345/.477 slash line. His defensive numbers are fantastic, and only Josh Donaldson of the Oakland Athletics has a higher UZR.

Though Safeco Field isn’t known as a hitters’ park, Seager has thrived at home. In home games he owns a .324/.390/.575 batting line for an eye-popping 175 wRC+. As a team, the Mariners have fared far better on the road, with a 40-27 record, compared to 36-36 on the road, but Seager has been the exception. It’s hard to say how much predictive value that has going forward, but it’s interesting to note, particularly considering that the M’s will likely travel if they should reach the one-game playoff.

It’s been an exciting season for the Mariner’s who struggled to a 10-14 record in April and again to an 11-14 record in July. Much of their starting rotation has missed significant time with injuries, and they’ve given large chunks of playing time to marginal outfielders such as Endy Chavez, James Jones, Abraham Almonte and Stefen Romero. Nevertheless, Seager, along with Hernandez and Cano have been the mainstays of this team. Right now they’re at coin-flip odds of making the playoffs, which is more than could be hoped for in April.

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Michael Wacha Returns to Rotation for Cardinals Fri, 05 Sep 2014 19:42:43 +0000 top ProspectsAfter missing nearly three months with a shoulder injury, Michael Wacha returned to the St. Louis Cardinals rotation on Thursday night. He was limited to three innings, over which he allowed one run on three hits with one walk and three strikeouts. Rookie pitcher Marco Gonzales three 2.1 innings in relief of Wacha, helping to bridge the gap to the back of the bullpen. With the victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cardinals increased their lead in the NL Central to four games.

Losing Wacha was a big blow for the Cardinals. The 23 year-old right-hander had picked up where he left off last postseason. Last October Wacha burst onto the scene, allowing just nine runs in five postseason starts with 33 strikeout and 12 walks. He won four of those starts. Wacha was named MVP for his performance in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, a series in which he hurled 13.2 shutout innings with 13 strikeouts and two walks.

Before landing on the disabled list, Wacha had made 15 starts. Over 90.1 innings, he had authored a 2.79 ERA with strikeout and walk rates of 22.6 percent and 7.0 percent, respectively. Opposing hitters had managed a meager .222/.286/.317 batting line against the big right-hander. In addition to his low to mid 90s heat and devastating changeup, Wacha was mixing in a much improved curveball, with positive results.

The return of Wacha is key for the Cardinals, whose starting rotation ranks just 18th in baseball in fWAR with 8.7. Ace Adam Wainwright has a nice 2.69 ERA, but his strikeout rate has dropped by more than three percentage points to 19.7 percent. As a consequence, his park-adjusted xFIP has risen to 94. Lance Lynn is having a very good year, but beyond that, the Cards rotation has been in flux.

Shelby Miller has been a disaster, and his 4.79 FIP is the 3rd highest among qualified starting pitchers. Jaime Garcia impressed for seven starts before his shoulder issues flared up again. Carlos Martinez has electric stuff, but no weapons with which to go after left-handed hittes. Tyler Lyons and Marco Gonzales are not yet ready for starting duty. Joe Kelly was traded away, and John Lackey represents an upgrade. The newly acquired Justin Masterson was disastrous and is now in the bullpen. Overall, the Cardinals have used 11 different starting pitchers.

The Cardinals won’t rush Wacha. He threw just 35 pitches in his only rehab appearance, and they limited him to three innings Thursday night. They will attempt to build his pitch count over his remaining three regular season scheduled starts. If he’s fully healthy they will be in prime shape to head into October with a rotation that features Wainwright, Wacha, Lynn and Lackey. That’s a daunting task for opposing hitters.

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Koji Uehara May Get Shut Down by Red Sox Fri, 05 Sep 2014 15:49:37 +0000 Red Sox RumorsBoston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara gave up two home runs in the ninth inning last night to allow the New York Yankees a come-from-behind win, and has allowed 10 runs  in his last 4 2/3 innings of work.  Coupled with the fact that Uehara  is 39 years old, the team may just decide to shut him down for the rest of the season, or at the very minimum limit his appearances over the last three weeks of the season.

 Red Sox manager John Farrell would not make an announcement before talking to his All-Star closer,  but did leave the door open to that possibility, according to Alex Speier of WEEI.

Anytime you give up a lead in the fashion that we did, those are tough games to take.We’€™d given Koji eight days off, got him an inning of work the other night and still the lack of finish of his split is what allowed a couple pitches to the middle of the plate for a couple home runs,” Farrell told reporters.

and added “From viewing it and even talking to Koji, it’€™s the finish, whether it’€™s the intensity behind the delivery of the pitch’€¦ on occasion he showed it, the first one had good depth to it on the swing and miss, but the consistency to it, which he’€™s been so good with, that’€™s lacking.

“How the team uses Uehara going forward will be a situation where I’€™ll talk with Koji first, what our plan will be, whether that’€™s extended rest, whether that’€™s the potential of shutting him down, that, we just walked off the field and out of respect to Koji, respect for what he’€™s done for us after two outstanding years, we’€™re not in position to announce that right now.”

Uehara  as pitched 61 1/3 innings this year, with an ERA of  2.64 and has blown five saves in 31 opportunities this year.

With the team securely and last-place in the American League East with a 61-79 record,  there doesn’t seem to be much reason to keep running the veteran right-hander out there.

]]> 0 Kevin Towers, Arizona Diamondbacks GM Fired Fri, 05 Sep 2014 14:43:05 +0000 Arizona Diamondbacks rumorsThe Arizona Diamondbacks have dismissed general manager Kevin Towers after nearly 4 years on the job,  according to published reports.  In May the Diamondbacks hired Tony LaRussa as a chief baseball officer to oversee Towers and the baseball operations department.  Since that time there has been widespread speculation on whether or not Towers would be retained.

Towers was hired on Sept. 22, 2010, with the D-backs mired in last place for a second consecutive season. Josh Byrnes had been dismissed as GM on July 1, and Towers replaced interim GM Jerry Dipoto. There was no word on the future of  Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson.

2011 was the most successful  season under Towers’ watch when the team won 94 games and the National League West.  however since then the team is finished 500 in each of the past two seasons. This year the team has been devastated by injuries losing number one starter Patrick Corbin to Tommy John surgery before the season began. Paul Goldschmidt, Mark Trumbo, and AJ Pollock were also lost to injuries.

The Diamondbacks traded away many starting pitchers over the past two seasons, including right-handers Ian Kennedy, Trevor Bauer and Jarrod Parker and left-hander Tyler Skaggs.  Unfortunately, the players Arizona and received in return have not lived up to expectations perhaps forcing the team to make a change

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NL MVP Candidates: Andrew McCutchen Thu, 04 Sep 2014 00:57:11 +0000 McCutchenLast season, Andrew McCutchen led the Pittsburgh Pirates to their first playoff appearance in 21 years. The Pirates centerfielder produced a .317/.404/.508 batting line, drilled 21 home runs, stole 27 bases, and played excellent defense. Overall he totaled 8.3 fWAR, the most in the National League. Only Mike Trout had more. For his efforts, McCutchen was named the NL’s Most Valuable Player.

Despite missing time with a rib injury, McCutchen is having another great year. Through the first two months of the season he hit just four home runs. In May he went homerless. However, he enjoyed a spectacular month of June, hitting .343/.410/.686 with 20 extra-base hits and eight home runs. His ISO is currently a career-high .229, and with 58 extra-base hits, he could surpass his total of 66 in 2012.

All in all the 27 year-old is hitting .303/.396/.530 for a 160 wRC+. Offensively his numbers are a slight improvement on 2013. Only Jose Abreu and Mike Trout can claim a higher wRC+. Even though his defensive ratings are down from last year and he’s missed 13 games with an injury, he’s among the NL leaders in fWAR with 5.1.

The Pirates are 2.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for the second Wild Card spot with 23 games remaining. They’re scrapping hard for the last playoff spot. McCutchen isn’t at full strength after suffering a rib injury, but he’s in the lineup nevertheless. While he was on the disabled list, the Pirates went 5-8. Over the remainder of the Bucs season he’ll play an important role in deciding their playoff fates.

Their pitching staff is dead last in baseball in fWAR. Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano missed significant time with injuries, and Wandy Rodriguez was an absolute disaster. They’ve utilized Brandon Cumpton, Vance Worley and Jeff Locke as fill-ins. Last year’s closer, Jason Grilli, was a disaster before losing his job to Mark Melancon and being traded to the Los Angeles Angels. Along with Melancon, Tony Watson has helped to carry the Pirates bullpen.

Top prospect Gregory Polanco has been underwhelming and Pedro Alvarez has been below replacement-level. However, as a whole their offense has been stellar. McCutchen has carried this team, and Josh Harrison and Russell Martin are having phenomenal seasons.

It took a major surge just to put the Pirates in the playoff picture. McCutchen has played a huge role in getting them to this point. A strong performance down the stretch combined with a Pirates playoff appearance could put him in prime position for what should be a very crowded NL MVP race.

There are plenty of good candidates, as Giancarlo Stanton is having a phenomenal season, Jonathan Lucroy has combined excellent catcher defense with prime offense, and Clayton Kershaw is having a season for the ages. With so many strong seasons, the last few weeks of the season could separate McCutchen from the rest of the pack.

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AL MVP Candidates: Mike Trout Leads Deep Angels Lineup Tue, 02 Sep 2014 19:59:04 +0000 Angels News

Photo By Keith Allison

Following a four game sweep of the Oakland Athletics, the Los Angeles Angels own a commanding 4.5 game lead in the American League West with 26 games to play. A season-ending injury to ace pitcher Garrett Richards has not slowed the Angels down. While the Angels are lacking in pitching depth, their lineup is stacked from top to bottom. A familiar face, Mike Trout, has been the star of the show for Los Angeles.

After posting consecutive seasons of at least +10 fWAR in his age-20 and 21 seasons, Trout is having another phenomenal year. The Angels slugger is producing a batting line of .290/.374/.560 for a 165 wRC+. He won’t reach +10 fWAR this season, but at 6.5 fWAR, he’s leading all of baseball, and should finish in the vicinity of +8 fWAR.

Trout has altered his game in his third full season. He’s striking out more frequently and stealing fewer bases while hitting more home runs. His strikeout rate has increased from 19.0 percent in 2013 to 25.1 percent this season. At the same time, his walk rate is down from 15.4 percent to 11.5 percent. Meanwhile, he’s stolen 13 bases after nabbing 82 in the past two seasons. Defensively, his ratings in the outfield are not at the elite levels they were the previous two seasons.

However, Trout has accumulated 72 extra-base hits, including 31 home runs. Only four hitters have hit more home runs, and Trout’s .270 ISO is more than 30 points higher than the previous two years. He still has great speed, though he doesn’t belong in the conversation for fastest player in baseball. But, he’s matured into one of the game’s premier power hitters.

Besides Trout, the Angels have a plethora of solid hitters. While he’s not producing at peak levels, Albert Pujols is turning in a solid season with a .276/.332/.469 slash line and 24 home runs. Josh Hamilton missed a significant chunk of the season with a wrist injury, but he’s hit well when on the field.

Chris Iannetta has been an offensive powerhouse behind the plate, with a .265/.380/.431 batting line, and Kole Calhoun is making a name for himself in his first full season. Further down the line are middle infielders Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick, both of whom have been above-average at the plate. Colin Cowgill has chipped in nicely, as has C.J. Cron. All together, the Angels hitters have a .260/.324/.405 batting line, which ties them with the Detroit Tigers for a major-league best 110 wRC+.

After a disappointing 2013 season, the Angels own the best record in baseball. Barring a collapse, they’ll avoid the Wild Card game and host the divisional series. Spectacular as it has been, 2014 hasn’t been Trout’s best season, but it should be the year he wins the American League Most Valuable Player award.

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American League Cy Young Candidates: Jon Lester Thu, 28 Aug 2014 21:23:38 +0000 lesterJon Lester couldn’t have asked for a better year heading into free agency. The 30 year-old workhorse enjoyed a phenomenal 2013 postseason, as he helped lead the Boston Red Sox to a World Series title. Despite Lester expressing his desire to stay in Boston long-term, the Red Sox were not able to come to terms with the left-hander on a contract extension. Thanks to his performance this season, he’ll earn far more in free agency.

In 21 starts with the Red Sox, Lester posted a shiny 2.52 ERA, which was almost three-quarters of a run lower than his previous best mark, set in 2008. His strikeout rate jumped to a gaudy 25.7 percent, and he trimmed his walk rate to a stingy 5.5 percent, easily the lowest rate of his career. However, the Red Sox suffered through extended slumps from several players and poor performances from young players Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, which put them well out of playoff contention.

As a consequence, the Sox sent Lester to the Oakland Athletics at the July 31 trade deadline in a deal that saw them receive slugger Yoenis Cespedes. Since joining the A’s, Lester has quickly established himself as the ace of the staff. In five starts with Oakland, he has a 2.60 ERA, with strikeout and walk rates of 23.5 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively.

Overall Lester has produced career-best marks in several categories. Felix Hernandez is the front-runner for the American League CY Young award, but Lester has put himself within striking distance. Among AL pitchers he ranks third in fWAR with 5.5, behind Hernandez at 6.2 and Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber, who has accumulated 5.8 fWAR. His adjusted ERA is the fourth in the AL.

With six starts remaining, there’s an opportunity for Lester to surpass Hernandez and Kluber or the other candidates who could throw their names in the mix such as Chris Sale. Only once in history has the CY Young award been handed out to a pitcher that was traded midseason. That distinction belongs to Rick Sutcliffe, who began the year with the Indians before being swapped to the Chicago Cubs. C.C. Sabathia finished 5th in the NL CY Young voting in 2008 despite making only 17 starts for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Unlike either of those players, Lester has spent the entire season in the American League. A’s General Manager Billy Beane is pulling out all the stops in an attempt to get the A’s to the World Series for the first time during his tenure. Lester has certainly lived up to his billing after the A’s dealt away their top outfielder to acquire him. He’s set to receive a huge payday this offseason. The Red Sox may very well regret their inability to sign him to an extension after he led them to the World Series.

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Adam Jones Leads Baltimore Orioles Towards October Wed, 27 Aug 2014 17:59:24 +0000 jones2014 wasn’t supposed to be the Baltimore Orioles year. The Boston Red Sox were coming off a year in which they won the World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays returned a very strong roster, and the New York Yankees went on a spending spree over the offseason. However, the Rays suffered an early season collapse and the Red Sox quickly fell apart and subsequently made a series of trades at the deadline. Meanwhile the Yankees infield has been predictably unproductive and they were dealt a major blow as ace Masahiro Tanaka was lost to an elbow injury.

130 games into the season, the Orioles are owners of a 75-55 record and enjoy a 7.0 game lead in the American League East. Only the Washington Nationals, with a 7.5 game lead, have better odds of winning their division. It’s been a team effort for the Orioles, who lost catcher Matt Wieters early in the year and recently saw third baseman Manny Machado suffer another knee injury, which will likely sideline him for the remainder of the season.

The biggest contributor for the Orioles has been centerfielder Adam Jones. He’s already surpassed his previous career high with 4.5 fWAR. The 29 year-old veteran has posted a .288/.316/.477 slash line for a 119 wRC+. Despite a 2.8 percent walk rate that is the second lowest in the major leagues, his wRC+ is the second-best mark of his career.

As usual, Jones has been very durable. After playing in 162 games in 2012 and 160 games last year, he’s played in every game in 2014. His power numbers are solid, with 24 home runs and 25 doubles, he owns a .190 isolated slugging percentage. Though his stolen base numbers are down from the past couple of seasons, his overall base running value has remained steady.

While Jones’ defense has often been the subject of controversy, advanced metrics have given him positive grades this year. Despite winning three Gold Gloves, both UZR and DRS have rated him as below average in each season from 2009-13.  This season he’s coming out as above-average in both systems.

Jones has been a remarkably consistent player for the O’s. He’s been worth at least +4 fWAR in each of the last three seasons. Though he rarely draws walks, his power production makes him a solid offensive player.  Thanks to improved defensive ratings, he likely end up with at least +5 fWAR this season.

The Orioles have overcome injuries to Wieters and Machado and very substandard performance from Chris Davis. Jones and J.J. Hardy along with surprise contributions from Steve Pearce and recently, Caleb Joseph have helped them out to a commanding division lead. Much of their success has come from great performances in the clutch, which is a shaky foundation.

This isn’t a team with the offensive depth of the Los Angeles Angels or the Oakland A’s, but they should coast to the AL East title and the Divisional Series. Jones doesn’t have the resume of Mike Trout or Felix Hernandez, but he will likely receive consideration for the AL MVP.

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Alex Gordon Leading Surging Royals in Hunt for October Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:09:40 +0000 gordonThe Kansas City Royals last playoff appearance occurred in 1985, when they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series. That gives them the longest active playoff drought among the four major American sports. As of Tuesday, they are owners of a 72-58 record, which gives them a 1.5 game lead over the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central. Their playoff odds sit at 63 percent, with the division race being a coin flip between them and Detroit.

The Royals have been helped by a phenomenal defense. They have the fewest home runs, the fewest walks, and the fewest strikeouts of any team in the major leagues. As a whole, their offense isn’t very threatening. However, left fielder Alex Gordon has been rock-solid. The former No.2 overall pick is having one of the best seasons of any player in the major leagues.

Gordon was drafted out of the University of Nebraska in 2005, and made his major league debut two years later. Baseball Prospectus’ No. 1 overall prospect had an underwhelming rookie year, hitting .247/.314/.411. The first four seasons of his major league career were less than inspiring. With a .244/.328/.405 line over more than 1600 plate appearances, the bust label was being applied to Gordon, and not without justification.

The 30 year-old outfielder broke out in a big way in 2011. He compiled 6.6 fWAR and his batting line of .303/.376/.502 was good for a 140 wRC+. Since 2011, Gordon ranks fourth among all big league outfielders in fWAR with 21.4. Over that time frame, he’s produced a .286/.357/.457 slash line for a 124 wRC+. In addition, he plays excellent defense in left field where he’s led the AL in outfield assists for three consecutive seasons. He has three Gold Gloves to his name and appears to be well on his way to a fourth in 2014.

Gordon’s offensive numbers are strong, and his .281/.355/.447 line and 126 wRC+ fall right in line with his production from recent years. However, his defensive value has been off the charts. While defensive metrics have always rated Gordon’s as one of the game’s best defenders, his numbers this season stand out. Among all outfielders, only Juan Lagares of the New York Mets has a higher UZR, and among corner outfielders, Jason Heyward has a marginally higher UZR.

As a result, Gordon has 5.6 fWAR, which puts him behind Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout by just the slimmest of margins. Because Gordon has neither the reputation or the offensive numbers of these two stars, this has led to considerable controversy. While defensive metrics aren’t quite as reliable as offensive ones over the course of one season, regressing Gordon’s numbers still places him among the ten best position players in baseball. It’s unlikely that he will get serious MVP consideration, but Gordon is having a phenomenal year nonetheless.

After 28 years of missing out on October, the Royals are in the driver’s seat with just 32 games remaining. The prowess of Alex Gordon, both at the plate and in the field has helped lead them to this point. He doesn’t have the traditional numbers of an MVP candidate, but he’s been just as valuable.

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Rick Porcello Is Helping to Stabilize a Detroit Tigers Rotation in Flux Mon, 25 Aug 2014 19:55:14 +0000 porcelloThanks to a post All-Star break skid and a surge by the Kansas City Royals, the Detroit Tigers playoff odds are in jeopardy. Their rotation is missing Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander only just returned from the disabled list. As a consequence, rookies Robbie Ray and Buck Farmer have been thrust into starting duty. One rotation member who has helped keep the Tigers‘ heads above water is Rick Porcello.

Despite being in the midst of his 6th big league season, Porcello is just 25 years of age. Prior to this season, his lowest ERA was 3.96, which came in his rookie year. For several years, he’s posted solid peripheral numbers, but high HR/FB ratios and in-play batting averages combined with low strand rates conspired to inflate his ERA.

Last season represented a breakthrough for Porcello. Though his 4.32 ERA was nothing to write home about, he boosted his strikeout rate to 19.3 percent, and jump of more than five percentage points from the 2012 season. His walk rate remained a low 5.7 percent, and his ground ball rate was a typically high 55.3 percent.

This year Porcello has trimmed his walk rate to an even lower 4.9 percent. He hasn’t kept all of the gains in his strikeout rate, but at 15.2 percent, it would be the second highest mark of his career. The most significant changes have been in his HR/FB ratio which has dropped to 8.8 percent from 14.1 percent in 2013, and his opponents in-play batting average, which has dipped to .276.

All told, Porcello has a 3.10 ERA, which is more than a run lower than his career 4.28 mark. He’s hurled three shutouts, including a three-hit gem against the Tampa Bay Rays which came in his last time out. Those are the first three shutouts of his career. Only Henderson Alvarez of the Miami Marlins has three shutouts.

The Tigers will have an interesting decision to make with Porcello, who is entering his fourth and final time through arbitration this offseason. It appears that ace Max Scherzer will depart via free agency after the Tigers failed to negotiate an extension with the right-hander. Locking up David Price long-term is an expensive proposition, and there is still three years remaining on Sanchez’ five year, $90 million deal. Most likely the Tigers will have to choose between Porcello, who will be less expensive, and Price who has a much longer track record of major league success.

The Tigers are in the midst of a heated battled for the American League Central, and Porcello is playing a big role. He’s putting himself in line for a big arbitration payout this offseason. If the Tigers don’t manage to sign him to an extension, he will be in high demand next offseason.

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MVP Candidates: Miami Marlins Giancarlo Stanton Mon, 25 Aug 2014 19:50:53 +0000 stantonDespite losing pitching phenom Jose Fernandez to season-ending elbow surgery, the Miami Marlins are still hanging around the fringes of the National League Wild Card hunt. At 64-65, they are just four games behind the San Francisco Giants for the second Wild Card berth. While their .465 rest-of-season projected winning percentage doesn’t inspire much hope, this season has been much more successful than most baseball analysts predicted.

A big reason for why the Marlins are still in the hunt is the performance of Giancarlo Stanton. The Marlins 24 year-old slugger is having a career year. He’s currently leading NL position players in fWAR with 5.5, and his 32 home runs trail only Jose Abreu and Nelson Cruz, both of whom play in favorable hitters parks. Overall, Stanton is hitting .299/.405/.562 for a 163 wRC+.

Those marks are a big improvement on last season, which was a disappointment by Stanton’s lofty standards. He played in just 116 games, and hit .249/.365/.480 for a 135 wRC+ that was his lowest mark since his debut season in 2010. He totaled only 2.3 fWAR in 2013 after tallying 5.6 fWAR in 123 games in 2012.

Stanton is a unique player. As his career 28 percent strikeout rate suggests, there’s a lot of swing and miss in his game, and this season is no different. He’s striking out in 26.1 percent of his plate appearances. However, Stanton is also drawing walks at a career-high 14.8 percent rate. In addition, his .263 isolated slugging percentage is the 5th best mark in baseball. When Stanton does make contact, he punishes the baseball. Besides his numerous tape-measure home runs, he owns a .369 in-play batting average.

Furthermore, Stanton has improved his outfield defense relative to 2013. Defensive metrics don’t love Stanton, but he is earning significantly better grades than last season, where he was a liability in right field thanks to a hamstring injury that limited his mobility.

All in all, Stanton is one of the game’s most feared hitters. He’s a special talent, and is just 24 years of age with two years of team control remaining. If the Marlins do decide to place him on the market this offseason, he should command a massive return. Potential suitors need not apply unless they have a wealth of prospect talent and the resources to sign Stanton to a long-term deal.

It’s rare that the MVP award goes to a player on a team that doesn’t reach the playoffs, but Stanton could make a serious push even if the Marlins aren’t around in October. Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw are having fantastic seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and even with a recent injury, reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen is third in the NL in fWAR.

Don’t count out Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez, who are carrying the Milwaukee Brewers atop the NL Central. But, Stanton is a dark horse MVP candidate. If the Marlins do snag a Wild Card spot, all bets are off.

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Chris Archer Stepping up for the Tampa Bay Rays Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:28:46 +0000 "<strongIt’s been something of a lost season for the Tampa Bay Rays. They got off to a terrible start, and at one point owned the worst record in baseball. A mid-season tear gave them a distant shot at playoff contention, but they went on a skid just prior to the trade deadline and sent ace pitcher David Price to the Detroit Tigers in a three-team deal. In a season where they were expected to content for the American League East title and possibly the pennant, the Rays will struggle to finish at .500.

However, there have been bright spots to this season, and third-year pitcher Chris Archer is one of them. Archer, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs in the Matt Garza deal, has always had excellent stuff, but routinely struggled with his control in the minor leagues. He received cup of coffee with the Rays in 2012, and made 23 starts for the big league club in 2013.

Over those 23 starts, Archer acquitted himself well, posting strikeout and walk rates of 19.2 percent and 7.2 percent, respectively. His peripherals weren’t as impressive as his 3.22 ERA, but they were solid nonetheless. With a fastball that averaged 95 miles per hour and a wipeout slider, Archer dominated right-handed batters, holding them to a .174/.237/.218 batting line. In the offseason, the Rays locked him up with a $25.5 million deal for six years with two team options.

Archer has rewarded the Rays confidence in him with a strong 2014 campaign. He ranks 18th among qualified starters with 3.2 fWAR, which sandwiches him between Hisashi Iwakuma and Cole Hamels. While his walk rate has risen to 9.3 percent, Archer has offset that by striking out 22.1 percent of hitters. The 25 year-old right-hander has also managed to limit the long ball.

In 150.1 innings, he’s surrendered just six home runs, after allowing 15 home runs in 128.2 innings the year prior. That’s been a big factor in dropping his FIP by nearly a full run from 4.07 to 3.08. Looking forward it’s almost sure that his 4.9% HR/FB ratio will rise, but the increase in strikeouts and the big bump in infield fly balls will help him keep the ball in the park.

Archer is a two-pitch guy, as he throws his changeup only about one in every 20 pitches. However, with a fastball that sits in the mid 90’s and a devastating slider, those two pitches are enough to make him a solid starter. There’s no replacing Price, but with Archer locked up for the long term, and Alex Cobb establishing himself as a premier starter when healthy, the Rays won’t be lacking for pitching.

2014 has been a frustrating season for the Rays and their fans. Injuries and slumps derailed the first half of their season, and the subsequent surge was too little, too late. But, with Archer progressing as expected, and new young talent in Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin, the Rays are in shape to be contenders in 2015.

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Jhonny Peralta is Having a Career Year for the Cardinals Tue, 19 Aug 2014 21:44:40 +0000 peraltaThanks to a recent surge, the St. Louis Cardinals are in position for the first wild card spot. They sit in second place in the National League Central, 2.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers. Though the team has the fewest home runs in the NL, shortstop Jhonny Peralta has supplied power to the Cards lineup.

Peralta had an excellent year for the Detroit Tigers in 2013. He hit .303/.358/.457 for a 123 wRC+ with 3.6 fWAR. However, his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal earned him a 50 game suspension, and he appeared in just 107 games. When he returned for the playoffs, rookie Jose Iglesias played shortstop, and Peralta saw time in left field.

The Tigers declined to make Peralta a qualifying offer, and most analysts predicted he would received something in the range of two years and $15-20 million. Some teams considered him for an outfield spot, thinking the 32 year-old shortstop would not be able to handle the position. But, the Cardinals swooped in and signed Peralta to a four year deal worth $52 million, with the intention of having him replace the punchless Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso.

Peralta has been a godsend for the Cardinals. Last season their shortstops combined to produce a .226/.282/.314 batting line and -0.4 fWAR. This year Peralta has produced a .266/.340/.453 line for a 124 wRC+ and 4.4 fWAR. With the exception of Troy Tulowitzki, who is undergoing season-ending hip surgery, there isn’t a shortstop that has been more valuable than Peralta.

This season Peralta has trimmed his strikeout rate to 17.3 percent while also drawing walks at a 9.2 percent clip. Busch Stadium isn’t a hitters’ paradise, but Peralta has hit very well at home. His .187 ISO is his best mark since the 2008 season, and he leads the Cards with 16 home runs. In August, Peralta is hitting .349/.397/.540, which has helped the Cardinals to a 10-7 record. With Yadier Molina out and Matt Holliday struggling to hit for power, his offensive contributions have been vital for the Cardinals.

Besides producing solid offensive numbers, Peralta is an underrated defender. With his stocky frame, he doesn’t look the part of a shortstop. Before he was traded to the Tigers, the Cleveland Indians had moved Peralta off shortstop to third base. He transitioned back to the middle of the field with the Tigers, and defensive metrics have consistently graded him as one of the premier fielders in baseball.

While defensive metrics don’t have the same type of reliability as offensive or pitching metrics, there’s a four year sample indicating that Peralta is an excellent fielder. His range is better than his physique might suggest, and he has very good hands.

The Cardinals decision to commit four years and $52 million to a player coming off a 50-game PED suspension was widely panned. To this point it’s worked very well, and their front office deserves credit for making the move.

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Los Angeles Angels’ Garrett Richards Emerges as an Ace Tue, 19 Aug 2014 00:23:27 +0000 Angels RumorsEntering play on Monday, the Los Angeles Angels are locked in a tie with the Oakland Athletics for the best record in the American League East and all of baseball. Mike Trout captures most of the headlines for the Angels, and the 23 year-old is the best player in baseball. A huge reason for the Angels success has been the dominant performance of 26 year-old right-hander Garrett Richards.

Richards has always possessed elite fastball velocity. Prior to this season, his fastball has averaged just under 95 miles per hour. However, over his first three big league seasons he pitched to a mediocre 4.42 ERA. Over that time frame, his strikeout rate was just 15.7 percent, hardly a number befitting a hurler who regularly touched the upper 90s.

There were signs of improvement in 2013, as Richards threw a career-high 145 innings between the bullpen and the starting rotation. His ERA dropped to 4.16, and his peripherals were better. His ground ball percentage rose to 57.9 percent. Still, his strikeout rate was only 16.3 percent.

Richards has taken off in 2014. His 4.4 fWAR places him in the top ten among major league pitchers, and ahead of bona fide aces such as David Price and Adam Wainwright. He boasts a 2.58 ERA, and opposing hitters have batted just .195 against the Angels ace.

The biggest change has been Richards’ strikeout rate. That number has jumped to 24.6 percent. He’s now throwing his slider on 30 percent of his pitches, and it has garnered a 17.6 percent swing and miss rate. When batters have swung at his slider outside the strike zone, they’ve made contact just a little more than one-third of the time.

In addition, Richards is pumping in his fastball harder than ever. This year the heater is averaging 96.3 miles per hour. Among qualified starting pitchers, only Yordano Ventura has thrown harder. His velocity is trending up as the season has gone along.

Despite the fact that Richards relies primarily on a fastball and slider with the occasional curveball mixed in, he hasn’t exhibited a platoon split. In fact, he’s actually had a little more success against left-handed batters. His K-BB% is 17.5 percent against left-handed hitters, compared to 16.5 percent against righties. Righties have hit .204 against Richards, and lefties are batting .188.

Thanks to a harder fastball and an improved slider, Garrett Richards has been one of baseball’s best pitchers. It’s been a great season for the Angels, who have had the season everyone expected them to have last year. Their position players, led by Trout, are leading the major leagues in fWAR. Their rotation doesn’t have the depth that the A’s or Detroit Tigers do, but with Richards at the helm, they will be a formidable force in the playoffs.

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Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy Keeping Brewers atop NL Central Mon, 18 Aug 2014 13:56:28 +0000 gomezIn one the season’s biggest surprises, the Milwaukee Brewers are enjoying a three game lead in the National League Central division. While 2014 was supposed to be the St. Louis Cardinals‘ year, Milwaukee’s convincing lead makes them the favorite to take home the division crown. The Brew Crew has been lead by two MVP candidates, Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy.

The 28 year-old Gomez has been in the major leagues since 2007 when he made his debut for the New York Mets. In his first five seasons, he managed just a .243/.291/.357 batting line. Starting in 2012, Gomez has blossomed as a power threat. Gomez possesses a .277/.331/.486 slash line with a wRC+ of 122 that is 50 points higher than his 2007-11 mark. In addition he has slugged 62 home runs.

This season Gomez is hitting .284/.346/.483 for a 131 wRC+. Add in his strong centerfield defense and speed on the bases and he’s tallied 4.4 fWAR. That places him in a tie for 5th in the National League, but he’s only half a win behind Giancarlo Stanton. That’s a minor difference, and given the Brewers surprising success, Gomez is a legitimate MVP candidate.

lucroyLucroy was a third round pick in the 2007 MLB Draft. The 28 year-old made the big league squad three years later and spent the first season of his big league career splitting time with Gregg Zaun and George Kottaras. He earned the starting role the following season, but hit a rather pedestrian .265/.313/.391 for a 92 wRC+. Since 2012, Lucroy boasts a .297/.357/.478 batting line for a 128 wRC+ which is on par with Yadier Molina and behind Buster Posey.

The Brewers backstop is turning in his best year yet. He’s bumped his walk rate to a career-best 9.6 percent while keeping his strikeout rate to a low 11.6 percent. Overall he’s slashing .302/.369/.481 for a 136 wRC+ which is easily the top mark among catchers. With Molina injured and Posey having an ordinary year by his standards, Lucroy has been the premier catcher in baseball.

While Lucroy doesn’t possess a cannon arm, he’s one of the best in the game at blocking pitches in the dirt. Also, he’s an exceptional pitch-framer. StatCorner ranks him second in baseball in that category. Pitch-framing isn’t included in the WAR models. Still, Lucroy also has 4.4 fWAR. Combine that with his pitch-framing prowess, and there’s a strong argument to be made that Lucroy has been the best position player in the National League.

It’s been a remarkable season for the Brewers, and one that stands a good likelihood of continuing into October. Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy have been the top contributors to this squad, and their performances deserve serious consideration when the time for MVP voting rolls around.

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MVP Candidates: Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig Emerging in Los Angeles Thu, 14 Aug 2014 15:18:10 +0000 "<strongWith a 69-53 record, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a commanding five game lead in the National League West. While the San Francisco Giants got off to a red-hot start, the Dodgers have surpassed them and now have a 92 percent chance of winning the division. The performances of two stars, Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig, have been key in propelling the Dodgers to the best record in the National League.

Despite missing six weeks with a back injury, Kershaw leads all NL pitchers in fWAR with 5.0. The 26 year-old left-hander was dominant last year, posting a 1.83 ERA. This season he’s improved his strikeout rate by six percentage points, dropped his walk rate by two percentage points and increased his ground ball rate by nine percentage points.

Overall, he has the best strikeout rate in the major leagues at 31.8 percent, and the best K-BB% at 28.1 percent. His slider has a swinging strike rate of 31 percent, which is a nine point increase from the previous year.

Earlier in the year, Kershaw had a scoreless innings streak of 41. With the exception of a disastrous start on May 17 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Kershaw has a 1.34 ERA. It’s rare for pitchers to be serious contenders for the MVP award, and his relatively low innings total will be an obstacle. But, Kershaw’s phenomenal season deserves consideration for the award.

puigAfter a sensational debut season in which he batted .319/.391/.534, in 104 games, Puig has showed no signs of dropping off. He currently owns a .306/.391/.517 batting line that is eerily similar to what he posted last year. His plate discipline and propensity to swing and miss were criticized last year. However, he’s shored up those areas of his game.

The 23 year-old has boosted his walk rate from 8.3 percent to 10.8 percent and cut his strikeout rate from 22.5 percent to 19.2 percent. Meanwhile, he’s dropped his chase rate from 37 percent to 27 percent. His base running scores have improved as well.

Puig is maturing as a player, and with his immense physical talents, he’s become one of the most fearsome hitters in baseball. Going back to last year, only Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera and Andrew McCutchen have a higher wRC+ than Puig’s 159 mark.

Puig’s 4.4 fWAR ranks 11th among all position players and fourth in the NL. With McCutchen going on the DL with a rib injury, Puig could overtake him in the voters’ minds. It’s been a sensational year for Puig, who’s had a meteoric rise to stardom after the Dodgers signed him as an international free agent in June of 2012.

With Puig and Kershaw leading the way, the Dodgers are rolling towards a division title and a possible No. 1 seed in the NL. McCutchen is the reigning MVP, and he deserves a lot of credit for the Pittsburgh Pirates surge. Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy are having excellent seasons for the Milwaukee Brewers who are surprising the rest of baseball atop the NL Central. But, Kershaw and Puig are the frontrunners for the NL MVP.

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Anthony Rendon Key to Washington Nationals Success Wed, 13 Aug 2014 14:42:12 +0000 RendonThanks in large part to a catastrophic slide by the Atlanta Braves, the Washington Nationals own a five game edge in the National League East. Their odds of winning the division sit at 94 percent, and they have the best World Series odds of any team in baseball. A big reason for their success has been the superb play of second-year infielder Anthony Rendon.

Following a standout career at Rice University, the 24 year-old Rendon was the 6th overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. Injuries limited Rendon to 43 games in his first professional season, but he compiled a solid .233/.363/.489 batting line in 2012. He had his way with minor league pitching in 2013, producing a .319/.461/.603 slash line in 33 games in Double-A. Rendon played just three games in Triple-A before being called up to the big leagues.

Rendon’s first big league experience was solid if not spectacular. In 98 games and 394 plate appearances, he hit .265/.329/.396 for a 100 wRC+, spending most of his time at second base. However, the Nationals dealt with injuries and a disappointing start to the season and despite a late surge, they ended the year on the outside looking in.

In 2014 Rendon has been the Nats best player, and one of the best players in baseball. His batting line of .276/.331/.469 comes out to a 123 wRC+, and he’s been an excellent base runner and provided quality defense at second and third base. Rendon’s 4.4 fWAR ties him with Jose Bautista for 14th among position players. In addition, his positional flexibility has allowed the Nationals to deal with injuries to Ryan Zimmerman and the struggles of Danny Espinosa.

At the plate Rendon combines good contact skills with plus power. He’s striking out in only 15.2 percent of his plate appearances, which is significantly lower than the major league average of 20.3 percent. Furthermore, he has 16 home runs and a .192 ISO which is 55 points higher than the MLB rate.

Rendon’s performance isn’t a fluke. He got off to a blazing start in the first month of the season, ripping the ball to the tune of a .316/.352/.544 line. In May pitchers treated him differently. Opposing hurlers threw only 49 percent of their pitches in the strike zone after attacking him with a 55 percent zone rate the prior month. He batted just .212/.292/.323 in May. Since then he’s made an adjustment, and he’s posted at least a 107 wRC+ in each month.

The Nationals have an impressive collection of talent. Their rotation features Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark, who owns a 2.86 ERA. On the other side of the ball, they have Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, Denard Span, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman. Strasburg and Harper get the lion’s share of the attention, and few players in baseball can do what they do. However, Anthony Rendon is quietly having a better season than any of them.

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Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano Leading Mariners’ Playoff Push Tue, 12 Aug 2014 23:48:24 +0000 hernandezThe Seattle Mariners own a 63-55 record, which puts them just one game behind the Detroit Tigers for the second wild card spot. Their playoff odds sit at 36.5 percent. It would be their first playoff berth since 2001, when they won an American League record 116 games. That squad featured Bret Boone, Ichiro Suzuki, Mike Cameron and Edgar Martinez, with Freddy Garcia leading the pitching staff. This M’s team is led by pitching star Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano.

Hernandez currently leads the major leagues in fWAR with 6.2. He’s made 16 consecutive starts of at least seven innings while allowing two runs or fewer. Overall he possesses a 1.95 ERA with strikeout and walk rates of 28.3 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively. In addition, he’s boosted his ground ball rate to 56.1 percent, which is his best mark since 2007.

After several seasons of seeing his fastball velocity decline, Hernandez has added a little more heat. He’s averaging 92.5 miles per hour with his fastball, up a little more than a mile per hour from last year. King Felix was devastating with a lesser fastball, with the added velocity, he’s that much more difficult to hit. His best pitch however is his changeup, which he throws in the 88-90 range. The change owns an 18.8 percent whiff rate, and when batters do make contact, 68.5 percent of the balls in play have been hit on the ground.

With the recent exception of Justin Verlander in 2011, pitchers are rarely considered as serious MVP candidates. With his outstanding season, a possible M’s playoff berth and string of “Super Quality” starts, King Felix might change that. This was supposed to be the year Mike Trout finally brought home the MVP, but Hernandez’ remarkable season might get in the way.

canoCano got off to a rather pedestrian start to the season. Through the first 44 games of the season the second baseman had just one home run. His .322 batting average and .372 on-base percentage were very good, but the M’s expected more than a .408 slugging percentage in the first year of a 10 year deal worth $240 million. Since May 20, Cano has been on an extended tear. The 31 year-old second baseman owns a .340/.421/.521 batting line with nine home runs.

Overall Cano is having an excellent year. He ranks 6th among position players in fWAR with 4.8. Cano is 3rd in batting average and 4th in on-base percentage. His ten home runs might not be much to speak about, but his .333/.402/.476 batting line comes out to a 144 wRC+, which is a shade higher than the 142 mark he posted with the New York Yankees last season. Projections have Cano finishing with a little more than 6 fWAR. It’s been a different kind of season for Cano, who hit at least 25 home runs in every season from 2009-13, but he’s made up for the lower home run rate by trimming his already low strikeout totals and posting a .357 in-play batting average.

The Mariners are running a stars-and-scrubs model. They have three of the top players of 2014 in Hernandez, Cano and Kyle Seager. At the same time, they’ve given significant playing time to Endy Chavez, Abraham Almonte and James Jones. Acquiring Austin Jackson at the deadline will give their lineup more depth, but Cano and Hernandez are carrying this team.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Tigers Interested in Ian Kennedy or Joaquin Benoit Sun, 10 Aug 2014 17:08:06 +0000 KennedyThe San Diego Padres moved third baseman Chase Headley and closer Huston Street prior to the July 31 trade deadline. Still, they declined to move two key pieces in Ian Kennedy and Joaquin Benoit, both of whom were in high demand. With the recent hiring of A.J. Preller as the General Manager, an August trade could be in order. It figures to be at least a couple years before the Padres will be in a position to contend, and Benoit and Kennedy become free agents after the 2015 season.

The Padres picked up Kennedy from the Arizona Diamondbacks at last year’s deadline. Kennedy was in the midst of a rough year with Arizona after having three good years with the D’Backs, and the Padres got him for pennies on the dollar. He’s rebounded nicely this year, posting a 3.51 ERA with better peripherals. His strikeout rate of 25.5 percent is a career-high, and he’s lowered his walk rate from 9.2 percent in 2013 to 8.2 percent this season. Overall the 29 year-old right-hander has posted 2.4 fWAR and a career-best 90 xFIP-.  Going forward he projects as a solid starter, and his 2015 arbitration salary figures to be around $6 million.

benoitBenoit, who the Padres signed to a two-year deal worth $14 million, is having a second straight excellent season. His strikeout rate is sitting at 30.2 percent, and he owns a stingy 1.71 ERA. At age 37 he’s exhibiting a career-best average fastball velocity of 94.7 miles per hour, and his changeup and slider are both formidable weapons. His 18.0 percent swinging strike rate is higher than Craig Kimbrel. While the Padres have expressed an interest in keeping Benoit around, there’s a great opportunity to get a good return in trade for the veteran reliever.

The Detroit Tigers will test the waters if Kennedy and Benoit are available. They recently sent starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez to the disabled list with a pectoral strain, and the recently acquired Joakim Soria joined him with a left oblique strain. Their bullpen has struggled greatly this season, and Benoit is a familiar face who had a lot of success in Detroit from 2011-13. With the surging Kansas City Royals just 1.5 games back, the Tigers are in danger of slipping to wild card contention and the dreaded one game playoff.

This is a big year for Detroit and their 85 year-old owner Mike Ilitch. They made the biggest trade yet by dealing away Austin Jackson, Drew Smyly and prospect Wily Adames to get David Price. Now, they have a hole in their rotation with Sanchez on the disabled list. Robbie Ray, who they acquired in the Doug Fister deal this winter, made three starts earlier in the year, but he’s had blister issues and has mediocre numbers in Triple-A. Drew VerHagen made a spot start in July, but both he and Ray project for ERAs above 5.00. Meanwhile, the bullpen has a 4.49 ERA. Only the Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies have fared worse.

Their farm system has been thinned with the Soria and Price trades, but there are still pieces available should they seek to make a deal with the Padres. The Tigers are all in for 2014, and the Padres should be looking to sell. There might be another big deal left this trade season.

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August Trade Candidates: Tampa Bay Rays Ben Zobrist Thu, 07 Aug 2014 14:30:38 +0000 zobristAfter months of speculation, the Tampa Bay Rays finally traded David Price just hours before the July 31 deadline, sending him to the Detroit Tigers in a three-way deal that netted them Wily Adames, Nick Franklin and Drew Smyly.

Since the trade, their already slim playoff chances have dipped below five percent. More trades could be on the way for the Rays. One player that could be dealt is 33 year-old super utility player Ben Zobrist, who is under contract for $7 million this year with a $7.5 million team option for 2015 that includes a $500K buyout.

Zobrist’s contract is a bargain, but for the cost-conscious Rays it represents a significant dent in their payroll, hence their possible willingness to deal him. Thanks to a red hot second half where he is hitting .333/.416/.545, Zobrist is having a very solid year all-around.

While his power numbers are down again, he owns a .278/.363/.426 batting line that rounds out to a 127 wRC+, which is eight points higher than his career average.

Combine that with his usual solid defense, and Zobrist has tallied 4.0 fWAR. Despite his age and rather mediocre first half numbers, he’s on track to produce another +5-6 WAR season.

Zobrist has long been one of the game’s best players. Since 2009, only Miguel Cabrera has more fWAR. Second base is his best position, but he can also play corner outfield or shortstop and third base. Though his 20+ home run days are probably behind him, his strikeout rate has dropped to 12.6 percent.

Looking to the rest of the season, ZiPS and Steamer forecast a batting line in the neighborhood of .270/.360/.420, which is approximately 25 percent better than the major league average. Over the remaining 50-odd games, he could contribute +1.5 fWAR.

One team that had a lot of interest in Zobrist before the July 31 trade deadline was the San Francisco Giants. Second base has been a black hole for the Giants, who gave significant playing time to journeyman Brandon Hicks before releasing him.

They picked up Dan Uggla, who they recently released after he was predictably unproductive. Currently the position is being manned by Ehire Adrianza and Joe Panik. The Giants are within shooting distance of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and avoiding the one-game playoff is very important.

As Zobrist is more than a rental, and carries a bargain-priced option for the 2015 season, the Giants would have to give up a significant prospect to pry him away from the Rays. The Jake Peavy trade depleted a farm system that was far from loaded. Kyle Crick, a hard-throwing 21 year-old in Double-A is their top prospect. He’s striking out hitters at a very high rate, but is also issuing walks at an alarming rate. Other prospects such as Adalberto Mejia and Christian Arroyo have underperformed.

Of course, the Rays are in position to compete for the American League East in 2015. As such, they won’t feel pressure to trade Zobrist. It will take a big offer by the Giants or any other team to make a deal work. If they want to deal Zobrist, they can wait until this winter to drum up interest in a trade.

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August Trade Candidates: Texas Rangers Alex Rios Wed, 06 Aug 2014 16:16:36 +0000 Trade RumorsIt seemed likely that Texas Rangers outfielder Alex Rios would be dealt before the July 31st trade deadline. The Rangers have been out of contention for some time, and while Rios’ numbers have declined this season, he’s only two years removed from an excellent 2012 campaign where he clubbed 25 home runs. Furthermore, his 2013 season resulted in a solid 3.1 fWAR.

Last season the Chicago White Sox sent the 33 year-old Rios to the Rangers in exchange for a player to be named later, which turned out to be Leury Garcia. He’s under contract for $3.75 million over the remainder of the season with a $13.5 million team option for 2015 which includes a $1 million buyout.

It’s a high price tag for an older outfielder whose skills appear to be in decline. The Rangers recently placed Rios on revocable waivers.

Rios has a .296 batting average this season, but in the meantime his power output has dipped significantly for the second consecutive season. After he posted a gaudy .212 ISO in 2012, he’s dropped to .154 last season and .120 this year. Overall he owns a .296/.326/.416 batting line.

Much of that is buoyed by an in-play batting average of .352 which is well above his career rate. In addition, his stolen base success rate has declined.

Last season he swiped 42 bags in 49 attempts, contributing eight runs on the bases. This year he’s stolen 16 bases in 25 attempts, and has added virtually no value on the basepaths. Defensive metrics indicate his outfield defense has dropped of as well.

Looking to the rest of the season, ZiPS and Steamer project similar lines for Rios. His projected slash line is .280/.315/.420. After an adjustment for a favorable home ball park, that is just a hair below the league average. As far as projections go, Rios isn’t an impact player.

However, an acquiring team could hope to catch lightning in a bottle as the New York Yankees did when they acquired Alfonso Soriano from the Chicago Cubs last season. Though his best seasons are behind him, it’s possible that Rios could go on a tear for 40-odd games and help propel his team toward a playoff berth. Of course, the same could be said of almost any major league regular.

Prior to the trade deadline, the San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds were among the teams that expressed interest in Rios. Seattle acquired Austin Jackson, and the Giants got Gerardo Parra from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Indians, Royals and Reds could still be interested as neither of these teams made significant moves at the deadline.

Kansas City has stated that they are looking for a right-handed hitting outfielder, and Rios fits that mold. Meanwhile, the Reds are giving lots of playing time to Chris Heisey and Ryan Ludwick, and the Indians have not received more than 0.4 fWAR from any outfielder other than Michael Brantley.

Rios’ salary is a lot for any of these smaller market teams to take on, but he shouldn’t cost more than a low-level prospect. Finally, the Yankees could be in play as well, as Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner have been their only productive outfielders and the recently acquired Martin Prado might see time in the infield.

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Pittsburgh Pirates Andrew McCutchen Headed to DL Tue, 05 Aug 2014 14:14:10 +0000 McCutchenThe Pittsburgh Pirates are expected to announced that All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen will be placed 15-day disabled list due to an oblique muscle injury, according to the  the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

McCutchen may miss up to a month of playing time, significantly impacting the Pirates run at a playoff spot.

The injury occurred during Sundays game with the Arizona Diamondbacks during an eighth inning at bat.

McCutchen  has never been on the disabled list in his Major League career. He’s played in 843 of 868 games since his debut on June 4, 2009.

The Pirates are currently 1 1/2 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central. Last years National League MVP, McCutchen is hitting .311 with 17 home runs and 67 RBIs this season.

Left fielder Starling Marte is the likely choice to replace McCutchen in center field, which leaves a hole in left field.

Josh Harrison and Travis Snider would likely be the replacements there.

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August Trade Candidates: Philadelphia Phillies Chase Utley Tue, 05 Aug 2014 13:11:48 +0000 Trade RumorsThe Philadelphia Phillies stood pat at the July 31st trade deadline, and many pundits felt this was a missed opportunity for the club to sell. They have a firm hold on last place in the National League East.

With an aging roster and a minor league system that is short on impact talent, a rebuild is in order. While they didn’t make any deals at the deadline, several Phillies players could be dealt in August.

One of those players is second baseman Chase Utley. The 35 year-old Utley is under contract for $15 million this season, and at least $10 million next season with $5 million kicking in if he spends fewer than 15 days on the DL with a knee injury.

In addition, there are vesting options for the next three seasons at $15 million if he reaches 500 plate appearances the prior year. Though Utley isn’t the offensive force that he was from 2007-09, he’s still a very good player.

Utley’s power numbers have declined, and he’s managed just nine home runs with a pedestrian .142 ISO. Overall though his .280/.345/.422 slash line comes out to a solid 112 wRC+. He plays strong defense and runs the bases well, and as a result he’s accumulated 3.5 fWAR this year.

ZiPS and Steamer each project slightly more than +1 fWAR over the remainder of the season. Age and injury history are concerns, but he’s played in almost every game this year, and he’s been above +3 fWAR every season since 2005, and that includes the 2012 season when injuries limited him to just 83 games.

The San Francisco Giants desperately need an upgrade at second base. They recently signed Dan Uggla, who has been a disaster over the past two seasons. Seven different players have started at second base for the Giants, and Brandon Hicks, who was designated for assignment in July, has the most fWAR with 0.3. Utley would be a big upgrade for a team that is trying to catch the Los Angeles Dodgers and avoid the wild card game.

The Toronto Blue Jays were widely criticized for not making a move at the deadline. With Brett Lawrie returning, they won’t have to play Steve Tolleson or Munenori Kawasaki quite so much, but Adam Lind is out at designated hitter, and Juan Francisco could move into more of a platoon role with Lawrie playing more third base when he comes back.

Utley would be a big addition for either of these teams. Furthermore, he’s not just a rental. $15 million is a very reasonable price for his 2015 season, and the following options won’t come into play unless he’s healthy and plays well enough to receive 500 plate appearances.

It appears that the Phillies have been difficult to deal with, but a reasonable asking price for Utley would be a good prospect and perhaps some filler. Chase Utley has been a mainstay with the Phillies, but the time has come to trade him to a contender and rebuild.

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August Trade Candidates: Los Angeles Dodgers Carl Crawford Mon, 04 Aug 2014 13:47:44 +0000 crawford2The July 31st trade deadline has come and gone, and the Los Angeles Dodgers still have a glut of outfielders. Yasiel Puig is one of the best hitters in baseball, Matt Kemp is swinging the bat very well, and Scott Van Slyke has posted very impressive numbers in just 179 plate appearances. Top prospect Joc Pederson is tearing up Triple-A Albuquerque.

Meanwhile, high-priced outfielders Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford have performed poorly.

With his hefty contract that pays him $20 million per year through 2017, Crawford is a candidate to be traded this month. If the Dodgers put him on waivers, it’s unlikely that another team will try to block a trade by putting in a claim.

If they do want to trade him, the Dodgers will have to eat a big chunk of his salary or in the alternative send a quality prospect along with Crawford to sweeten the pot.

Crawford, who turns 33 this week, doesn’t possess the speed he once did. After averaging 50 stolen bases a year in his eight full seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, Crawford hasn’t topped 18 steals since. Also, injuries have taken their toll, and he’s reached 500 plate appearances only once. This season he possesses a meager .230/.267/.338 slash line in 217 plate appearances, good for a 71 wRC+. He has only 12 extra-base hits.

Still, an acquiring team could look to his 2013 season for encouragement. Despite the fact that injuries limited him to 116 games, Crawford produced 2.9 fWAR with a solid .283/.329/.407 batting line. While he stole only 15 bases, he had +5 base running runs and played solid outfield defense. Those aren’t star numbers, and they don’t justify his $21 million salary, but it’s good all-around production.

Looking forward, Crawford’s projections aren’t favorable. ZiPS forecasts a .257/.297/.392 batting line for a 95 wRC+. Steamer is slightly more optimistic, with a .270/.313/.407 projection for Crawford. Unless some team is hopeful that he can product like he did in 2013 or in his prime years with the Rays, Crawford is a platoon outfielder.

He’s struggled mightily against left-handed pitching over the course of his career, and his splits have been more pronounced in the last two seasons. He’s owed $62 million between 2015-17, and at least half of that is dead weight.

Unless the Dodgers are willing to part with a large amount of cash or deal one of their top prospects, which they appear reluctant to do, Crawford will likely occupy a spot on their bench. They have two very expensive outfielders which are essentially platoon players in Crawford and Ethier, and another very expensive one which should be a designated hitter in Kemp.

While they would like to part ways with at least one of those players, if any team can afford to keep them around it’s the Dodgers.

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Madison Bumgarner Gem Leads Giants In Rout of Mets Sun, 03 Aug 2014 20:31:51 +0000 baumgarnerSan Francisco Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner twirled a two-hit gem and Hunter Pence homered twice to lead the San Francisco Giants to a 9-0 rout over the New York Mets.

Bumgarner struck out 10 and walked one in his second career shutout, tossing just 94 pitches.

Mets starter Bartolo Colon (10-9) was going for win No. 200 allowed six runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings.

Pence’s two-run shot in the third was a line drive that went off the railing above the moved-in fence in left field and homered again in the ninth.

Bumgarner helped his own cause when he singled and scored his first of two runs on Pence’s double in the fifth.

With the win, only their third in the last 10 games, the Giants remain three games behind the first place Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West.

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MLB Trade Rumors: 10 Players that Could be Traded in August Sat, 02 Aug 2014 14:20:45 +0000 Dodgers NewsThe July 31st trade deadline has come and gone, and there was a flurry of activity. However, impact trades frequently occur after the waiver deadline. The mechanics of an August trade are a little more complicated, as players have to clear waivers, but don’t think general managers have put down the phones yet. Here are a few players that could be moved this month.

Matt Kemp

"<strongThe Los Angeles Dodgers are stilling shopping outfielder Matt Kemp. With his hefty contract, Kemp is a good candidate for an August trade.

As of late, Kemp has been a potent force with the bat. He’s the owner of a .284/.351/.458 slash line for a 131 wRC+. Even so, he’s a poor defensive outfielder, and the Dodgers would have to eat a lot of cash to move him.

Alex Rios

Trade RumorsAlex Rios is under contract through 2015 and while the 33 year-old outfielder’s skills are on the decline, he’s still a useful player.

He has just four home runs in a hitter-friendly park, but with his .300 batting average and the 7.4 fWAR he totaled from 2012-13, a contender would claim him if the Texas Rangers placed him on waivers.

Marlon Byrd

"<strongMarlon Byrd did not get moved, as interested teams worried about his $8 million vesting option for the 2016 season, when he will be 38.

However, after having one of the best years of his career in 2013, Byrd is hitting .271/.319/.481 with 21 home runs this year. He’s a lock to be claimed if the Philadelphia Phillies place him on waivers, but they have been difficult to deal with the last two years.

Cole Hamels

"<strongCole Hamels is owed $90 million through the 2018 season, and the Phillies are supposedly asking for multiple top prospects. While his contract doesn’t have the potential for much surplus value, he’s throwing the ball very well, and could make an impact this year and beyond.

The Phillies might be unrealistic about their chances of competing, and appear inclined to hold onto the left-hander.

Neal Cotts

cottsNeal Cotts is posting a high strikeout rate for the second straight season after not seeing big league action from 2010-12.

A bevy of relievers tend to change teams in August, and Cotts is a strong candidate to be one of them.

Joaquin Benoit

benoitIt looked like Joaquin Benoit was going to get moved before the deadline. If the San Diego Padres place him on waivers, you can be sure the Dodgers will put in a claim, as they are in need of relief help.

For some reason or another, the Padres have expressed reluctance to deal Benoit within the division.

Josh Willingham

"MinnesotaJosh Willingham is a right-handed hitter with some power, and he’s owed $2.3 million over the remainder of the season.

The 35 year-old outfielder has a low .223 batting average, but he carries a 16.1 percent walk rate and a .463 slugging percentage.

Byrd might be drawing most of the interest, but Willingham is a good option that doesn’t come with a multi-year commitment.

Gordon Beckham

beckhamGordon Beckham could be an option for the San Francisco Giants if they can’t find a second baseman.

He’s heading towards being non-tendered, and hasn’t been worth more than +1 fWAR since his rookie year, but the Giants are looking anywhere at this point.

John Danks

"<strongJohn Danks is owed $14 million in each of the next two years. Making a trade would require the Chicago White Sox to eat some cash.

Several teams have expressed interest in Danks, who was very good from 2008-11.

Adam Dunn

"ChicagoAdam Dunn is in the last year of his contract, and the White Sox still owe him $5 million this year. He has an astronomical strikeout rate but still hits for power and draws walks.

He owns a solid 125 wRC+, and if a contending teams such as the Toronto Blue Jays or Baltimore Orioles sees a designated hitter go down, Dunn might draw interest.

The bulk of the activity has already occurred, but significant trades are still in the works. Don’t be surprised if several of the names from this list change teams before the end of the month.


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For Boston Red Sox, 2015 Begins Now Fri, 01 Aug 2014 19:09:03 +0000 cheringtonIn the wake of a dizzying trade deadline day, 2015 begins now for the Boston Red Sox.

Over the span of hours yesterday, the club reshaped its present and future with deals that included left-handed ace Jon Lester, durable right-handed starter John Lackey, right-handed hitting outfielder Jonny Gomes, dominant left-handed reliever Andrew Miller and the expendable Stephen Drew.

In return, the Red Sox received power-hitting outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig, right-handed starting pitcher Joe Kelly and a highly regarded 21-year-old left-handed prospect in Eduardo Rodriguez, veteran utility player Kelly Johnson along with a competitive balance round draft pick (from Oakland in the Lester deal).

Including the trade earlier in the week that sent left-hander Felix Doubront to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later, and the transaction that shipped Jake Peavy to San Francisco earlier in July, Boston has dealt away 28 percent of its opening day roster in a matter of days.

Red Sox fans and players alike did not want to see Lester traded. The 30-year-old veteran of nine Major League seasons established himself as one of the top starters in baseball, and his 0.43 ERA in three World Series starts significantly contributed to Boston’s World Series titles in 2007 and 2013. Yet the Red Sox ownership group is reluctant to offer more than a five-year deal to a player who is already in his 30s.

Since it is likely Lester requires six or seven years, general manager Ben Cherington was tasked to yield a return beyond the draft pick Boston would have received had it extended a qualifying offer in the offseason.

It became apparent that the Red Sox were concerned that Lackey would not be happy with the $500,000 Major League minimum salary he is slated to receive in 2015, which was triggered by a contract clause when he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the 2012 campaign.

The 29-year-old Miller has developed into one of the best set-up men in baseball. He is eligible to become a free agent at season’s end, and the Red Sox reportedly plan to pursue him in the off-season.

Getting Rodriguez, who was No. 65 on Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list entering the 2014 season, further bolsters Boston’s enviable pitching depth at Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. Left-hander Edwin Escobar and right-hander Heath Hembree – the prospects Boston received from the Giants for Peavy – add to the depth.

Trading Drew was necessary. The Red Sox have a logjam on the right side of their infield with current Major Leaguers Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt, and Will Middlebrooks along with top prospects Deven Marrero and Garin Cecchini at Pawtucket. Johnson, who can play multiple positions, is a free agent when the season ends.

At 48-60 and stripped of three veteran starters, the Red Sox are no longer contenders for a post-season spot, but the remainder of the 2014 campaign is critical for determining 2015 and beyond.

Here are key questions the Red Sox must answer in the final 54 games.

Is Will Middlebrooks the third baseman of the future?

Red Sox NewsAugust and September are key months for the 25-year-old Middlebrooks, who club officials believe has 30 home run, 100 RBI potential. He has shown flashes of power, but the athletic right-handed slugger has also struggled with pitch recognition and injuries.

Next season, Middlebrooks could be the team’s starting third baseman, or he could be dealt in the offseason. The Red Sox have Cecchini, who is a more patient hitter, at Pawtucket.

If the team believes that the defensively steady Marrero is the best option for shortstop, then Bogaerts can move to third and Cecchini or Middlebrooks to the outfield.

Is Xander Bogaerts a shortstop or a third baseman?

Red Sox ProsepctsThe Red Sox envision the 21-year-old Bogaerts as a fixture for the long-term future, but will it be at shortstop or third base? Bogaerts prefers shortstop, but he has the athleticism to play third base, though he has 16 errors this season, including several throwing miscues from the hot corner.

Drew’s departure paved the return to shortstop for Bogaerts. August and September are important months for the rookie to show he can be a run producer and a steady defensive presence.

Where does Brock Holt fit?

Boston’s version of Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist, Holt has carved a niche as a do-it-all player who is valuable for the present and the future.

Now that Cespedes and Craig have arrived, Holt will likely see little time at the corner outfield spots. He will likely see most of his action at all four infield positions, giving a breather to the regulars while keeping his bat in the lineup on a consistent basis.

How will the young arms react to their chance in the rotation?

Undoubtedly, the Red Sox will pursue frontline starting pitchers in the free agent and trade markets this off-season. They will try to bring back Lester, likely inquire about James Shields and attempt to acquire Cole Hamels with an enticing package of prospects.

World Series titles are not won with promising young arms, but the Sox have a plethora of high-ceiling starting pitching prospects that will give them a deep and talented rotation when combined with at least two veteran frontline starters. August and September are months when the club will get a long glimpse at Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman, Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo (who was summoned from Pawtucket to make his Major League debut tonight against the Yankees).

The Red Sox just promoted left-handed starting pitching prospect Henry Owens to Pawtucket, and fellow left-hander Brian Johnson will likely get some time at Triple-A before the season concludes.

Some of the aforementioned names will etch a spot in the rotation in 2015. Others will fill bullpen roles or serve as trade chips in the off-season. Thus another reason why these final 54 games are worth watching.

Will Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly be part of the plans in 2015?

Red Sox NewsAt times over the course of his eight-year Major League career, Buchholz has looked like a formidable frontline starter. Other stretches have seen him struggle to remain in the rotation. This year is a prime example.

At 29, Buchholz is now the elder statesman of the rotation. He is signed for $12 million next season, and then the club has a $13 million option or a $245,000 buyout before the 2016 campaign.

The remainder of this year is critical for Buchholz. Though the Red Sox will need to acquire at least two frontline starters this offseason, Buchholz could be expendable if he continues to flop this year.

As for Kelly, the 26-year-old right-hander represents a potential long-term middle of the rotation option. He is under team control through 2019 and posted a 10-5 record with a 2.69 ERA in 37 games (including 15 starts) for the Cardinals last year. He limited the Red Sox to two runs and two hits over 5.1 innings in his lone World Series start.

Is Jackie Bradley the answer in center field?

Red Sox RumorsThe Red Sox suddenly have a crowded outfield with Cespedes, Craig, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr.  The most pivotal player in this group is Bradley, since the Sox must determine if he is the long-term answer in center field. Betts is also an intriguing prospect who can play all three outfield spots and second base.

On defense, Bradley is one of the best in baseball. He has speed, range and a powerful throwing arm. At the plate, the left-handed hitting Bradley produced at every level of the minors, recording a .297 average and a .876 OPS in 893 at-bats. He has now shown consistency in the majors so far, hitting .224 with a .604 OPS in 313 at-bats. July was his best month as he registered a .278 average in 72 at-bats, but Bradley has scuffled over the last 10 games with a .156 mark (5-for-32).

Victorino is under contract for $13 million in 2015. Cespedes is signed through 2015 as well. Likely, the Red Sox will retain Cespedes, Craig, Nava and Victorino for next season, unless a trade for someone like Giancarlo Stanton changes the outfield composition. Because of his exceptional defense, Bradley has appeal, but he must show he can consistently hit Major League pitching to serve as the long-term center fielder in Boston. If not Betts could be the answer.

Who will emerge out of the bullpen?

With Miller and Doubront traded; and Burke Badenhop and Craig Breslow eligible for free agency and not likely to be retained; there will be multiple openings in the Red Sox bullpen next season.

The club plans to bring back Koji Uehara, even if it takes paying him around $15 million by extending a qualifying offer. Junichi Tazawa is under team control. Edward Mujica is under contract for $4.75 million for 2015, but the Sox will probably trade him this off-season, even if they have to eat part of his remaining salary.

Workman, De La Rosa and Webster are guys whose futures could be as late-inning relievers. The Sox called up left-hander Tommy Layne to replace Miller, and Layne could carve a spot for 2015. Escobar is a potential closer, though he has opened his Red Sox tenure in the Pawtucket rotation.

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Cleveland Indians Send Asdrubal Cabrera to Nationals Fri, 01 Aug 2014 02:52:18 +0000 Indians RumorsThe Cleveland Indians and Washington Nationals agreed on a deal that will send infielder Asdrubal Cabrera and cash from the Indians in exchange for minor-league shortstop Zach Walters.

Cabrera, 28, is batting .246/.305/.386 (96 OPS+) in 97 games for the Indians this season. Across parts of eight big-league seasons, the two-time All-Star owns a slash line of .270/.331/.410 and is in the final year of a three year $21.05 million contract.

Walters, 24, has an OPS of .797 in 52 major-league plate appearances. In the minors, Walters has hit .280/.327/.479 in 2,101 plate appearances.

The move will help the Nats account for Ryan Zimmermans absence who is on the DL.

“He’s battle-tested,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said of Cabrera. “He’s been in the playoffs before. He’s been through pennant races. He’s a terrific two-way player. He’s a great defensive middle infielder.”

Nationals manager Matt Williams called Cabrera an “everyday player” who’ll see the majority of his time at second.

For Cleveland the trade opens the door for top prospect Francisco Lindor at Triple-A to make the move to the big leagues

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Yankees Acquire Martin Prado, Stephen Drew, at the Deadline Thu, 31 Jul 2014 23:33:41 +0000 "<strongShortly before the 4:00PM Eastern time trade deadline, the Yankees managed to give its infield a makeover in exchange for a stopgap, designating a veteran for assignment and one solid prospect. New York parted ways with Kelly Johnson in a straight up deal for Red Sox middle infielder, Stephen Drew, designated  Brian Roberts for assignment and then traded 23-year-old catching prospect, Peter O’brien, for utility player, Martin Prado, from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

For the Yankees, the deals make a lot of sense just as Chase Headley‘s did last week. New York and Boston alike are playing for this season and next season simultaneously (albeit one competing for a division and the other competing for a top draft pick) and both did their  jobs on Thursday.

The Yankees are not quite out of the AL East race this season and Prado (.270/.314/5/42) and Drew (.370 OBP his last two weeks as he acclimates to the season after being signed late by the Sox) are almost certainly upgrades over Johnson (.219/.304/6/22 and Roberts (.253/.284/2/17).

Drew will play second base replacing Roberts for the duration of 2014 and then will likely shift over to shortstop if he is resigned in 2015, replacing Derek Jeter and maintaining Brendan Ryan as a backup, who is signed through 2015. It’s an $8 million dollar increase but Drew represents an upgrade this season and a hot lead for next year.

Martin Prado can pretty much play anywhere and may very well split time between 2B (when Drew is off), 3B (when Headley is off) and RF, which is where he will play the majority of the time as an upgrade over Ichiro Suzuki, relegating Carlos Beltran to a full-time DH role for the remainder of his contract.

Prado is signed just as long as Beltran, through the 2016 season, which is very likely not a coincidence. The Yankees now have the entire outfield and DH roles signed through 2016 and beyond in addition to catcher and first base.

Next season, New York will have Headley under contract, and the potential return of Alex Rodriguez and Drew, plus Ryan and Prado already under contract as well. All of a sudden a very thin infield has turned into an infield with a few different options and much needed depth in 2015.

The Yankees sacrificed Johnson and Roberts, neither of which are signed beyond this season or who were long-term plans and gave up the aforementioned O’Brien.

O’Brien has hit 23 HR in just 294 AB in AA Trenton this year and was one of the brighter bats in the farm system. It’s very likely O’Brien will grow out of catcher at 6’3″ and move over to first base, but either way he is blocked at the major league level. Brian McCann is the catcher for at least another year and Teixeira will be at first base until at least 2016.

With Beltran holding down DH most likely full-time, there wasn’t a lot of space for O’Brien to begin with and he’s not even the Yankees‘ top catching prospect (Gary Sanchez) or hitting prospect (Aaron Judge).

So suffice it to say the Yankees improved today, which was the goal all along, and added plenty of depth into the 2015 season, giving up one blocked but promising prospect in the process.

New York currently sit 5.5 games out of first place in the AL East and will resume action Friday night when Stephen Drew quickly faces his former teammates in a Yankees-Red Sox show down.

Drew Rumors

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Detroit Tigers Get David Price In 3-Team Deal Thu, 31 Jul 2014 21:41:12 +0000 Tampa Bay David PriceAs it turns the Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners had the players the Tampa Bay Rays wanted for David Price. The deal completed just short of the 4PM trade deadline sends Price to the Tigers in a three-team deal, that left many Rays fans scratching their collective heads.

Tigers center-fielder Austin Jackson will head to Seattle. Tampa Bay will get infielder Nick Franklin from Seattle, left-hander Drew Smyly and 18 year old shortstop prospect Willy Adames from Detroit.

The Rays former Cy Young winner, Price is 11-8 with a 3.11 ERA in 23 starts with the Rays so far this season.

It could be argued that Price is or was the face of the franchise.

The Rays brought him back this year at nearly $14 million in hopes of making a run at the World Series. With a salary of $20 million or so due next year, it was only a matter of time before he was dealt.

For Detroit, Price joins a rotation that features Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello. Scherzer may be allowed to walk after the season and the Tigers would look to extend Price.

Detroit is one of a handful of teams in Major League Baseball with that capability.

The Mariners add Jackson who immediately becomes the everyday center-fielder in Seattle. Jackson is hitting .270/.330/.397 and is eligible for final arbitration year for 2015.

The Mariners had been looking for an outfielder throughout the summer.

Smyly, 25, will likely join the Rays‘ rotation after posting a 6-9 record and 3.77 ERA in 20 appearances (17 starts) on the year. He is under team control through 2018 and that is not an issue to be taken lightly in the Rays way of building baseball teams.

Franklin was thought to be the second-baseman of the future for Seattle, that is until Robinson Cano was signed in the off-season blocking his path to the major leagues for the next 10 years or so.

Franklin hit .225/.303/.382 in 412 plate appearances in 2013 and has spent most of 2014 in AAA slashing .294/.392/.455 and has been assigned to AAA Durham for Tampa Bay.

The switch hitting Franklin may become an eventual replacement for Ben Zobrist, the do everything player for the Rays.

Adames, 18, has hit .269/.346/.428 with an 8.9% walk rate in low A ball and has been turning scouts heads this season. At 6-1 6-feet-1 and 175 pounds, some of those scouts think he could move to third base in the future. Adames was called a “fast-rising shorstop prospect” by Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. 


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Brewers Acquire Gerardo Parra From Diamondbacks Thu, 31 Jul 2014 18:16:20 +0000 Dbacks Rumors

The Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks have agreed to a deal that will send outfielder Gerardo Parra to the Brewers for Double-A outfielder Mitch Haniger and left-hander Anthony Banda.

Parra, 27, is hitting .259/.305/.362 in 440 plate appearances this year. Parra had a mostly successful six-year run in Arizona, winning Gold Glove Awards for his defense in 2011 and 2013 .

Rated as the third best prospect in the Brewers system Haniger, 23, is hitting .255/.316/.416 in 271 plate appearances this year.

Banda, 20, is a left-handed pitcher who was most recently with Low-A Wisconsin, where he was 6-6 with a 3.66 ERA and posted an 11-13 record with a 4.40 ERA over three minor league seasons. He has struck 171 batters in 186 innings while walking 87.

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Red Sox Trades Continue: Lackey To Cardinals For Kelly, Craig Thu, 31 Jul 2014 17:46:07 +0000 "<strongThe Boston Red Sox made another trade on the heels of the blockbuster deal that sent Jon Lester to the Oakland A’s . This time starter John Lackey was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals for right-hander Joe Kelly and outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig .

Lackey, 35, is 11-7 with a 3.60 ERA in 21 starts and 137 1/3 innings this season two years removed from Timmy John surgery. Last year he went 10-13 with a 3.52 ERA in 189 1/3 innings.

Lackey’s is under contract for only $500,000 next season significantly raising his trade value.

Kelly is 2-2 with a 4.37 ERA in seven starts and 35 innings this year having had most of 2014 cut short with a hamstrung injury. Kelly is 17-14 with a 3.25 ERA in 38 starts and 30 relief appearances over three MLB seasons.

Craig, 30, is hitting .237/.291/.346 (78 OPS+) with seven home runs in 97 games this season.

The Cardinals added Justin Masterson earlier this week form the Cleveland Indians and have added starting pitching without giving up any of its prized prospects. Lackey will join Masterson, Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller in the rotation. 

The Red Sox have now dealt 4 of the 5 opening day starters from their rotation in that last week, in Lackey, Jake Peavy, Lester and Felix Doubront.

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Twins Send Sam Fuld Back To Oakland For Tommy Milone Thu, 31 Jul 2014 16:30:08 +0000 A's RumorsYou had to know the Oakland A’s were not finished dealing today. After sending Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox in a blockbester deal for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, the team has reacquired Sam Fuld from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Tommy Milone.

Milone has been a starting pitcher without a spot since the A’s acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The chance for him to start got worse after the Lester deal.

Milone has pitched to a  3.55 ERA with 5.7 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 38.4 percent fly-ball rate in 96 1/3 innings of work this year.

Fuld returns to Oaklnad where he started the season. Minnesota claimed him on waivers from the A’s after the team designated him for assignment this past spring.

Fuld is hitting .274/.370/.354 with a homer, and six stolen bases. He will likely platoon in left field with Gomes.

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Red Sox, A’s Trade Analysis: Red Sox Trade About Future, A’s About Now Thu, 31 Jul 2014 14:57:16 +0000 lester_gomes_cespedesOver the last few years, a debate that stoked wide-ranging comments circulated around New England and across baseball about Jon Lester. Is he a legitimate ace or a solid yet unspectacular No. 2 starter?

Perhaps Oakland general manager Billy Beane extended the most powerful answer this morning when he traded left fielder Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes. Beane is taking a monumental risk consdering that Lester is eligible for free agency at season’s end and he will undoubtedly command a contract north of $125 million, and the power-hitting Cespedes is 28 and under team control through 2015.

In Boston, Lester has provided an undeniable answer to the “ace” question.

If you study his post-season numbers – especially in the World Series – the answer points to “ace” status. The 30-year-old left-hander is 6-4 with a 2.11 ERA in 13 appearances, including 11 starts. In the Fall Classic, he is 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in three starts, including two wins in which he surrendered a total of one run over 15.1 innings against St. Louis last October.

Overall, Lester is 110-63 with a 3.64 ERA over nine Major League seasons, including a 10-7 mark with a 2.52 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP this year. A second round pick of the Red Sox in 2002, Lester is 5-1 with a 1.54 ERA over his last 10 starts.

Though it is unpopular among many Red Sox fans, the trade makes sense for the club. Boston’s ownership group has made it clear that it is unwilling to offer long-term deals to players who will be older than 35 at the end of their contracts. Jacoby Ellsbury is a prime example.

It is not yet known the number of years that Lester wants for his new deal, but chances are it is six or seven, and committing $20 million plus a season to a pitcher who is in his mid-30s is a risky proposition. Lester will be 31 in January. Will he produce his present-day numbers when he is 35? Perhaps. But likely not.

The Red Sox do not want to find themselves in the predicament that the Yankees have with CC Sabathia, who is in decline and now is sidelined for the remainder of the season with a knee injury. Sabathia is 34 and is receiving $23 million this year. He is set to get $23 million in 2015, $25 million in 2016 and there is a vesting option for $25 million in 2017.

Moving forward, the Red Sox must find a legitimate frontline starter if they do not re-sign Lester in the offseason. The club has a plethora of high ceiling starting pitching prospects (Henry Owens, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes and Brian Johnson) and young arms already in the majors (including Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman and Allen Webster), but a rotation centered around youth does not generate World Series titles.

The Red Sox have the premium prospects that could pry Cole Hamels away from Philadelphia. The 30-year-old Hamels is appealing to Boston general manager Ben Cherington and the ownership group because he is a proven frontline starter and is signed through 2019 (when he will be 35) at $22.5 million per season (and $20 million in 2019 if his vesting option is triggered).

If Lester does not  sign a new contract with Boston this offseason, the sting of losing him will be lessened with the presence of Cespedes, who can serve as a middle of the order bat for the long term. Should Lester return to the Red Sox, then the club will have an ace and a middle of the order bat by renting Lester to the A’s in the latter part of a season where the Red Sox were not formidable contenders.

As for the A’s, Beane has seemingly added a piece that could get him his long-desired World Series championship. Lester is a proven winner in October – the type of pitcher who can hoist a team on his back. For that reason, the trade is worthwhile, even if Lester departs when the World Series parade is over.

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Oakland Gets Jon Lester from Red Sox for Cespedes, Gomes Thu, 31 Jul 2014 14:19:02 +0000 "<strongThe Oakland Athletics have acquired Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes from the Boston Red Sox for Yoenis Cespedes. Oakland is also sending a competitive balance draft pick to the Red Sox in the trade, and the Red Sox will be sending cash to Oakland.

Lester has been the talk of the trade rumors of late and a number of teams were reportedly interested in acquiring the Red Sox ace, including the Baltimore Orioles, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Miami Marlins to name a few.

Oakland traded for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel earlier this month to join Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir.

The A’s will get Lester for essentially the last two months of the season and the post season. Lester becomes a free-agent at the end of 2014 and could end up back in Boston, where he  has publicly stated he would like to play.

Lester, 31, was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2002 and has spent his entire career in Boston. Lester is 10-7 record with a 2.52 ERA and 149 strikeouts over 143 innings pitched spread out over 21 starts in 2014. He was also named an All-Star for the third time in his career this year.

Gomes will return to Oakland. The 33-year-old veteran has played for five different teams in his career and is batting .234/.329/.354 for a .683 OPS with 32 RBI and six home runs this season and was an integral part of the Red Sox 2013 World Championship team.

The Red Sox have wanted to add a right- handed power bat to the line-up and Cespedes certainly qualifies.

Cespedes has hit 17 home runs and driven in 67 runs this season to go along with a .256/.303/.464 slash line for a .767 OPS. The 28-year-old was named to the All-Star team for the first time this season. He will become a free-agent after the 2015 season.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Los Angeles Dodgers Looking for Relief Help Wed, 30 Jul 2014 21:51:08 +0000 dodgersThe Los Angeles Dodgers have reportedly backed off their pursuit of a starting pitcher and are looking for relief help instead. Of course, there’s a good reason to take any statements about a team’s plans with a grain of salt at this time of year. However, the Dodgers would benefit more from adding a good reliever or two than from adding a big name in their rotation.

As things stand, the Dodgers have the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw, two very good arms in Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu and veterans Josh Beckett and Dan Haren, one of which could fill out a postseason rotation. Beckett hasn’t pitched as well as his 2.74 ERA would indicate, and Haren has seen his strikeout rate dip. Still, adding a top notch starter for ten starts plus a postseason run would not represent a huge upgrade given the Dodgers already formidable rotation. In addition, adding Jon Lester or David Price would result in a significant cost in terms of prospects.

On the other hand, the Dodgers have relied heavily on relievers such as Brian Wilson and Chris Perez. Both have been terrible this year and project as replacement level pitchers. Kenley Jansen is sporting a higher ERA than last season, but his strikeout and walk rates are excellent and he’s been near unhittable as of late. J.P. Howell and Brandon League have shiny ERAs, but both project poorly.

Beyond that, nobody in the Dodgers bullpen has totaled more than 0.1 fWAR. Clearly they could use an upgrade in that area. With the extra off days in postseason play, relievers tend to pitch a much higher percentage of the innings than they do in the offseason. Thus the Dodgers could benefit significantly from picking up a quality bullpen arm or two.

The San Diego Padres have stated that they are reluctant to deal Joaquin Benoit within the division. This is a curious statement, as Benoit is only under contract through 2015 and the Padres aren’t close to contending. Perhaps it is just posturing. The 37 year-old is having another excellent season and boasts a strikeout rate of 31.1 percent. At just under 95 miles per hour, his average fastball velocity is the best of his career. Benoit could slot into a setup role for the Dodgers. Furthermore, he won’t cost the Dodgers one of their top prospects.

Neal Cotts of the Texas Rangers and Oliver Perez of the Arizona Diamondbacks would also improve the Dodgers bullpen. Cotts didn’t pitch in the big leagues from 2010-12, but he’s been very good since last season. He currently owns a 25.4 percent strikeout rate, and the southpaw has had success against right-handed bats as well. Perez revitalized his career in the Seattle Mariners bullpen, and he’s continued to pitch well with the D’Backs. The left-hander has a herky-jerky delivery and a sweeping slider that makes left-handed hitters very uncomfortable, but like Cotts, he’s had a good deal of success against righties as well.

If the Dodgers are willing to pony up some cash, they could acquire Jonathan Papelbon from the Philadelphia Phillies. Papelbon still has 1+ year left on his four year, $50 million contract, and there’s also an option for 2016. He doesn’t bring the heat that he used to, and as a consequence, his strikeout rate has dipped to 23.3 percent. Still, he’s managed to pitch quite well this year, and would be a big upgrade on what the Dodgers have right now. If they can get the Phillies to eat some cash, a Papelbon deal might be attractive.

There’s likely to be a flurry of activity in the next day or so as the July 31st deadline approaches. The Dodgers appear to have backed off their pursuit of front end starters. Relief help isn’t as splashy, but it might be just what the doctor ordered for the Dodgers.

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Cardinals Make Trade to Acquire Justin Masterson Wed, 30 Jul 2014 18:29:24 +0000 Indians NewsThe St. Louis Cardinals and Cleveland Indians have agreed on a deal that will send RHP Justin Masterson to the Cardinals for prospect James Ramsey according to Peter Gammons.

Baseball News Source speculated the Indians would be inclined to move Masterson earlier this week.

Masterson had excellent 2013 season, pitching to a 3.45 ERA with a 58 percent ground ball rate. Furthermore, he bumped up his strikeout rate from 17.6 percent to 24.3 percent.

Currently in the disabled list Masterson has had his usual ultra-high ground ball rate and a solid strikeout rate of 20.6 percent, but a very high 12.4 percent walk rate in 2014, contributing to a higher 5.51 ERA.

Ramsey is hitting .300/.389/.527 at Springfield with 13 home runs. He came into the 2014 season as the Cardinals #10 prospect and was a first round draft pick out of Florida State in 2012.

Ramsey is described as a hard-nosed defender with above-average speed. Miscellaneous injuries have slowed his 2104 season.

The Cardinals have been linked to David Price and Jon Lester of late in trade rumors.

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Could the Colorado Rockies Deal Carlos Gonzalez? Wed, 30 Jul 2014 01:39:22 +0000 MLB RumorsIt’s been a rough year for the Colorado Rockies. They got out to a nice start, but things have been downhill from there. As of now they own a 43-62 record, which puts them in last place in the NL West. While they have several attractive trade chips, the front office and ownership are seemingly at odds with regards to whether or not they should be traded.

Carlos Gonzalez has been mentioned in trade rumors. The 28 year-old outfielder has been affected by injuries this season and is hitting only .244/.293/.437 for an 86 wRC+, far below his career norms of .295/.352/.522 and a 121 wRC+. He’s under contract through the 2017 season and will be owed a total of $53 million from 2015-17.

While this has been a disappointing year, Gonzalez is still an attractive player. ZiPS forecasts a .275/.338/.506 line with a 118 wRC+ for the rest of the season, and Steamer is slightly more optimistic, giving him a ten point boost in each of the triple-slash categories. Despite dealing with injuries and averaging only 129 games per season from 2010-13, Gonzalez totaled 16.5 fWAR and a gaudy slash line of .311/.370/.556. Even after adjusting for hitter-friendly Coors Field that comes out to a 134 wRC+.

Poor season aside, Gonzalez would be an interesting option both as an upgrade for the stretch run and as a long-term asset. Of course he doesn’t provide much on the defensive side, and there’s concerns about how he would hit after moving away from Coors. He does have a solid track record on the road. From 2010-13, he produced a 114 wRC+ on the road.

Since he’s more than a short-term rental, the Rockies would ask for a solid return in exchange for Gonzalez. The New York Mets might be interested in Gonzalez. Short of a near-miraculous stretch run, they aren’t in contention this year. But, with the possible return of Matt Harvey and an impressive array of young pitchers, the Mets could be a team to watch out for in 2015.

The Rockies could use some pitching help. Even after adjusting for Coors Field, they have the lowest fWAR of any starting rotation in the major leagues. Meanwhile, the Mets have a bevy of intriguing young arms.

Understandably, they are loath to deal Noah Syndegaard, unless the Rockies were willing to talk a Troy Tulowitzki trade. Still, there’s Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom, who are both having success at the big league level, and Rafael Montero has had a cup of coffee as well. In addition, young catcher Travis d’Arnaud is coming around at the plate, and Kevin Plawecki could be major league ready by next year.

Young starting pitching is always in demand, and the Mets have plenty of prospects that fit in that category. If they have the desire to swing a trade with the Rockies, a deal could be in the works. Perhaps the Rockies don’t want to deal Tulo or Cargo during the season, but if they stick around, talks could heat up in the offseason. The Rockies could use a rebuild of sorts, and the Mets could be shaping up for playoff contention next season.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Indians Could Deal Cabrera or Masterson Wed, 30 Jul 2014 00:55:30 +0000 Indians NewsThe Cleveland Indians are in a tough spot. At 52-53, they are in the mix for a playoff berth. Cool Standings gives them a 24 percent chance of reaching the playoffs. However, most of that is tied to a second wild card berth.

There’s very little chance of catching the Detroit Tigers, so at best they would be playing the Los Angeles Angels or Oakland Athletics on the road in a one game playoff. Accordingly, it seems likely that they will hedge their bets and focus on smaller moves.

Two players that the Indians could move are Justin Masterson, who will become a free agent after the season and Asdrubal Cabrera who will also hit free agency this offseason. Both are useful players, but won’t move the needle too much in either direction with regards to the Indians playoff chances.

Masterson, a 29 year-old right-hander, is currently on the disabled list with a knee injury, but will return Friday to face the Texas Rangers. He had an excellent 2013 season, pitching to a 3.45 ERA with a 58 percent ground ball rate. Furthermore, he bumped up his strikeout rate from 17.6 percent to 24.3 percent.

Before hitting the disabled list, he had his usual ultra-high ground ball rate and a solid strikeout rate of 20.6 percent, but a very high 12.4 percent walk rate. In addition, batters were hitting .350 on balls in play, a much higher rate than the league average. As a consequence, Masterson had a bloated 5.51 ERA.

Looking forward, Masterson projects for an ERA around 4.00. He’s probably a slightly better option than Jake Peavy, who the Boston Red Sox traded to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for two viable prospects.

With the Tampa Bay Rays looking less inclined to deal David Price, and the Philadelphia Phillies seeming loath to part with Cole Hamels, the pitching market is thinning. The Indians might be able to pick up a solid prospect or two from a team that’s willing to settle for a less flashy upgrade.

The 28 year-old Cabrera is carrying a .249/.309/.392 slash line for a 98 wRC+. He’s not a great defensive shortstop, but can hold his own at the position. After managing just 0.5 fWAR last season, he’s totaled 1.2 fWAR thus far.

Like Masterson, he’s not a game-changing upgrade by any means, but several teams could be in need of his services. Since 2009 he’s been a shortstop exclusively, but before then he played more than 1300 innings at second base.

The A’s might be on the lookout for a middle infielder. For all their success, their second basemen have been barely above replacement level. Cabrera would be an upgrade over Nick Punto or Eric Sogard, and he could spell Jed Lowrie at short as well.

Also, the Toronto Blue Jays might be looking for a second baseman. Brett Lawrie is currently on the disabled list and when he comes back, they might want him to play more third base in place of Juan Francisco. There are plenty of places to put a switch-hitting middle infielder, and several teams would welcome Cabrera’s versatility.

He won’t bring back a big prospect, but with Francisco Lindor in the wings, he’s not in the Indians long-term plans.

The Indians would like to be able to sell off veterans who are becoming free agents without killing their wild card chances. These are the types of moves teams in the hunt for a wild card spot should make.

It’s not wise to sell the farm for a shot at a one-game playoff, but smaller and less costly transactions can have short-term impact without mortgaging the future.

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Red Sox Trades Could Come Fast and Furious Tue, 29 Jul 2014 02:08:39 +0000 Red Sox RumorsLiterally and figuratively, the Boston Red Sox aren’t the Houston Astros. Nor are they the Chicago Cubs.

Though the 2013 World Series champions are mired in the American League East basement and could remain there by season’s end, they will be in prime position to emerge as a formidable World Series contender in 2015 because of their deep farm system, a group of talented core players and enviable financial flexibility to accompany an ownership group that is willing to spend to fill holes.

These factors are why the Red Sox could still be buyers and sellers this week as Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline nears.

Boston landed promising pitching prospects Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree from San Francisco for free agent-to-be right-hander Jake Peavy last weekend. According to a myriad of media reports, outfielders Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp; relievers Andrew Miller, Craig Breslow, Edward Mujica and Burke Badenhop; shortstop Stephen Drew; swingman Felix Doubront and the premium prize, Jon Lester, could be traded.

Veteran closer Koji Uehara has also found his way into trade rumors, but it appears that the Red Sox would like to retain him next season, even if it takes extending a qualifying offer and paying him around $15 million for another year of service.

Boston’s deep farm system, which is now richer with Escobar and Hembree, is another reason why the club will be buyers and sellers this week. The Red Sox have an array of prospects they must place on the 40-man roster or risk losing in December’s Rule 5 Draft.

Top prospects like catcher Blake Swihart, right-hander Matt Barnes, infielder Sean Coyle, first baseman Travis Shaw, right-handed reliever Noe Ramirez, right-handed starter Luis Diaz and outfielder Keury De La Cruz are the most highly regarded names eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. The Sox will likely place some on the 40-man roster this offseason or include a few in trades this week or in August.

The Sox could also deal a few names already on the 40-man roster to free space for some of the aforementioned names. Catcher/first baseman Ryan Lavarnway, outfielders Alex Hassan and Bryce Brentz and right-handed reliever Alex Wilson are candidates fitting that description.

If they are not traded during the regular season, Drew, Gomes, Breslow and Badenhop will undoubtedly not be brought back. Lester could be in another team’s uniform next season as well. Doubront, Carp and Mujica will likely either be traded or non-tendered. That would open as many as 12  spots on the 40-man roster.

Miller is eligible for free agency and will get a generous raise, but the Red Sox might be willing to offer him an extension. Uehara, as mentioned, is someone the Red Sox would be willing to “overpay” on a one-year deal via a qualifying offer since there is no clear-cut closer to replace him.

Veteran catcher David Ross can also become a free agent, but Boston will likely bring him back for another season to mentor promising rookie Christian Vazquez, who has shown he is ready to claim the starting catcher’s role.

Off-season trades will also dictate how the 40-man roster is composed when December arrives. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington will be aggressive on upgrading the lineup, and that could mean a significant package of prospects offered to the Miami Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton or even Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzski.

If they are not included in deals, current Red Sox youngsters Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Vazquez and Brock Holt along with pitchers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster will occupy the 40-man roster. So will the versatile Mookie Betts; right-hander Brandon Workman; and top pitching prospect Anthony Ranaudo and the intriguing knuckleballer Steven Wright. All of those names are already part of the 40-man roster.

Two benefits of a deep and talented farm system is inexpensively filling holes at the Major League level internally, and using some prospects as trade chips to acquire difference-making players from outside the organization. Those factors will contribute to shaping what Cherington does through the end of August and this offseason leading to the Rule 5 Draft.

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