Hired Guns – Who Will Load Up in the AL?

As we approach the halfway point of the 2018 season, this is when contenders start to separate themselves from pretenders. These contenders then look to the pretenders to see where they can shore up weak-spots via trade before the July 31 deadline for non-waiver trades. Most deals will involve players who are set to become free-agents after the season or from teams looking to shed payroll.

Today we will take a look at contending teams in the American League to see where they could use some help via trade. We will start with teams in the American League East and work our way through the Central and the AL West. We will look at the National League in an upcoming entry.

AL EAST

New York Yankees – The Yankees, sitting atop the AL East, don’t have many holes to fill. GM Brian Cashman is actively seeking a starting pitcher, (Cole Hamels‘ name has frequently been mentioned) and that’s their only real need. That said, rookies Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga are more than filling the need, especially German. The bullpen has been in lock-down mode all year, but they could use another situational LOOGY, because Chasen Shreve is shaky at best.

Boston Red Sox – The Red Sox are sitting two games back of New York, and could use help behind the plate, where the platoon of Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon get on base barely more than a quarter of the time. If somehow GM Dave Dombroski could pry Salvador Perez from the downward spiraling Kansas City Royals, he would be a great fit in Boston. Otherwise, Jonathan Lucroy of the Oakland A’s would be an upgrade, and has a reputation for working well with his pitchers. Jackie Bradley, Jr. has a slash-line of .181/.278/.292 in center-field, but is still only 28 years old and plays stellar defense. He may not win a game with his bat, but he usually won’t cost you the game with his glove-work.

AL CENTRAL

Cleveland Indians – The 1st place Indians are currently five games ahead of the Tigers and six above Minnesota. They could really use another starting pitcher with Danny Salazar out until at least September and Carlos Carrasco a concern with an elbow contusion. Beyond the solid trio of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger, the Tribe has been relying on the likes of Josh Tomlin, Adam Plutko and currently Shane Bieber in the rotation. The 23 year old Bieber worked seven scoreless innings tonight in his third MLB start against the Detroit Tigers. A lefty addition such as the aforementioned Hamels, J.A. Happ or Derek Holland would help balance Cleveland’s all righty rotation.

Minnesota Twins – The Twins sit in 3rd place in the Central, six games behind the Indians and are currently five games under .500.

There is a lot of good talent on this Minnesota Twins team. Steve Pearce or Lucas Duda would serve well as an upgrade from first baseman/DH Logan Morrison (.191/.297/.340). Jorge Polanco is expected to be reinstated from his 80-game suspension for PED use on July 2, and Byron Buxton is currently on rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester and will soon be ready to rejoin the parent club. The addition of Polanco and Buxton will add instant offense for the 2nd half. The team could also use an inexpensive lefty starter (Derek Holland again comes to mind) to balance the rotation. Say a few Hail Mary’s for closer Fernando Rodney..

AL WEST

Houston Astros – The Astros are poised for another run to the players, hoping to repeat as World Series champions.

Their starting rotation appears to be bulletproof with Justin Verlander leading the way. Houston also has a deep bullpen, although closer Ken Giles can be shaky when off-kilter. Their lineup is solid from top to bottom, their weak-link currently is CF Jake Marisnick (.176/.200/.321) but minor league prospects Derek Fisher and Kyle Tucker will soon be on the horizon. The Astros could stand to get younger behind the plate, and trading for Kansas City Royals backstop Salvador Perez would set them up for the next several years. A package involving prospects including Tucker, Forrest Whitley, Yordan Alvarez and J.B. Bukauskas could help entice Royals GM Dayton Moore into pulling the trigger.

Seattle Mariners – The Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since God was a baby (Okay, since Lou Piniella was at the helm, seven managers previous), but GM Jerry DiPoto and current manager Scott Servais are pushing to get back in the postseason.

This team is talented! DiPoto fleeced the Dbacks when he acquired OF Mitch Haniger and SS Jean Segura for Tijuan Malker and Ketel Marte. The weak-spot in the offense has been catcher Mike Zunino, who is struggling at .202/.266/.424 but he’s too good to not rebound. Dee Gordon slid into his much more familiar spot at 2nd base when Robinson Cano was suspended 80 games for performance enhancing drugs. To the credit of this team, the Mariners have won 23 of their 35 games since Cano’s suspension was announced. DiPoto traded for Denard Span and Alex Colome from the Tampa Bay Rays to shore things up. The M’s have a lefty-heavy rotation and could use another righty starter for additional depth. Someone like San Diego’s Tyson Ross would be a nice fit, if DiPoto opts to add another right-hander.

Next time, we will take a look and see who could be “hired-guns” in the National League.

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Yankees Can Use Another Starter, But Who?

UPDATE (6-5-2018):  It was announced this afternoon that Jordan Montgomery will undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his 2018 season and probably the majority of 2019 as well.

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It’s almost Memorial Day, and we are almost 50 games into the regular season. The New York Yankees are one game behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East division. The next closest team (Tampa Bay Rays) is nine games back, and the Rays just traded Alex Colome and Denard Span to Seattle for minor league pitchers. It appears the AL East will likely become a two-horse race between Boston and New York.

Both the Red Sox and the Yankees are displaying a potent lineup that can overpower opponents. A stark difference between these two clubs is starting pitching. Chris Sale and David Price are perennial Cy Young Award candidates, and Rick Porcello won the AL Cy Young Award in 2016. All three can easily get deep into games every time out, and ease the strain Boston’s bullpen.

The Yankees have Luis Severino whom they can count on to give them innings and get deep into the game, but he’s the only one who has pitched consistently well. Masahiro Tanaka can be lights out when he is on his game, but he can also easily get pounded and is extremely home run prone. CC Sabathia has pitched well at times and doesn’t give up much hard contact, but he is averaging five innings per start, has allowed 15 runs in his last three starts and will be 38 years old soon. Sonny Gray has been very inconsistent with location, walking too many hitters and is also averaging five innings per start. Young Domingo German dazzled in his May 6 start against the Cleveland Indians, allowing no hits over six innings before leaving because he was on a pitch-count. Since then, he has allowed 12 runs in his following two starts, covering 8.2 innings. That’s not going to work when your rotation already isn’t getting deep into games.

With Jordan Montgomery out for at least another month or two, and with the lack of consistency in the current rotation, it would be interesting to see if Brian Cashman might swing a trade to acquire another proven starter to help shore things up. There are several starters who will be (or potentially could be) free-agents after 2018. Let’s take a look at a few of them:

 

Gio Gonzalez (WAS) – The 32 year old southpaw is set to be a free-agent after 2018. He has pitched well this season in Washington (5-2, 2.38 ERA, 1.32 WHIP), but has had bouts of inconsistency with location. Gonzalez walks an average of 4.1/9 IP and routinely reaches 100 pitches after five innings. That wouldn’t fit well with a team who desperately needs a starter who can give length. Plus the Nationals are a contending team who likely wouldn’t look into making a trade unless their season went off the rails.

Fit for Yankees? Unlikely.

 

Lance Lynn (MIN) – The 30 year old righty has a reputation as an consistent innings-eater from his days with the Cardinals, but he’s been anything but in Minnesota. He signed a one year/12 million dollar deal late in spring training, and didn’t have much time to get in shape. To date, Lynn’s numbers are terrible (2-4, 6.34ERA, 1.86 WHIP) and is walking over 6 batters per nine innings.

Fit for Yankees? Not likely.

 

Patrick Corbin (AZ) – The 28 year old Corbin, a Syracuse native, grew up a Yankees fan. He’s pitched to the tune of a 4-1, 2.60 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and is averaging 6.2 innings per start. His walk rates are down and strike-out rates are up from last season, and he’s allowing a paltry 5.6 hits/9 innings. I think he’s probably the best choice of all the soon to be free agents, and Yankees GM Brian Cashman has made several good deals with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the past.

Fit for Yankees? TRADE FOR HIM ALREADY!

 

Brandon McCarthy (ATL) – Back in July 2014, Cashman swung a trade with Arizona to acquire McCarthy from the Dbacks for Vidal Nuno. It ended up being a steal, as McCarthy pitched very well in his three months in the Bronx, helping them stay in the playoff hunt until the last part of the season. The tall righty will be 35 in July, but still appears to have plenty in the tank. On the surface, McCarthy’s numbers aren’t great (5-2, 4.67 ERA, 1.57 WHIP), but two very ugly back to back starts in early May have skewed the numbers. I would think the Braves would gladly take a lower-level prospect or two for McCarthy, especially if they start to drop in the standings.

Fit for Yankees? Yes, as long as he stays healthy (which could be problematic).

 

Matt Harvey (CIN) – On May 8th, the 29 year old Dark Knight was swept out of Queens when the Mets traded Harvey to the Cincinnati Reds, ending his tumultuous stint with the Metropolitans. He hadn’t been the same since the end of 2015 due to injuries and his well documented problems with the team and it’s management didn’t help his cause. Since the trade, Harvey is 1-0, 2.57/0.93 WHIP, and his fastball velocity has rebounded, touching 97 mph in his May 22nd start against the Pirates. His 2018 overall stats still look ugly, but maybe this trade was the wake-up call he needed. If Harvey pitches well for the next two months, the Reds could easily flip him to a contending team looking to shore up it’s pitching. You know, like the Yankees.

Fit for Yankees? I don’t see it happening, given what’s happened over the last couple years in nearby Flushing, but stranger things have happened.

 

Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – Kershaw has an opt-out in his contract that could enable him to become a free-agent after the season, which should have some teams looking for Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi’s phone number. Currently on the DL with biceps tendonitis, Kershaw has missed time with various injuries in four of the last five seasons. When healthy, he’s pitched as well as ever, and at 30 years of age, is still in his prime. Kershaw’s stat-line (1-4, 2.86 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) shows how useless win-loss records are, and he’s still racking up strikeouts at close to his normal rate (9.8/9 innings). It makes for fun speculation, but I don’t see Kershaw leaving LA, whether he becomes a FA after this year or next.

Fit for Yankees? OF COURSE, but I don’t see it happening.

 

Bartolo Colon (TEX) – He just turned 45 yesterday, but Colon is still painting like Picasso! Granted, he didn’t look all that great against the Yankees on May 21, but for all things considered, he’s eaten innings pretty effectively. Colon (2-2, 3.51, 0.92 WHIP) would come cheaply if the Texas Rangers found a suitor for him.

Fit for Yankees? Possible, but not probable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Long Season, Yankees Fans

After yesterday’s 14-1 shellacking that the Boston Red Sox laid on the New York Yankees, I saw a lot of folks on Twitter in despair over the team’s 5-6 start.

I agree with half of Mr. Dunham’s tweet. The season is a marathon, not a sprint. There are 26.2 miles in a marathon. If you divide 162 by 26.2, you get 6.18. 6.18 games are the equivalent to a mile of the baseball season. Tonight’s Yankees game is the 12th game of the season, and with that we are just a hair under two miles of the 26.2 mile “marathon” of the 2018 season.

In 2009, the Yankees won the World Series, but that team also started the season 15-17 before they jelled and started winning regularly. In the year 2000, the Yankees won it all, but they were 38-36 at the end of June. The 1996 team started slowly, winning six of their first 13 games in Joe Torre‘s first season as Yankees skipper.

Don’t despair, Yankees Universe — this team will be fine. The weather will warm up (I hope!) and so will this team. Then we will see the balls of the bats of Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and yes, Giancarlo Stanton carrying deep over the walls at Yankee Stadium.

Big League Umpshows Need to Stop

Umpires in Major League Baseball have a thankless job, as do umpires in the minor leagues, college, little league and so forth. Usually the only time you hear of them are when things go awry for one or both teams when calls are missed.

Last night was no different. In an interleague contest between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, home plate umpire Chris Segal called time just as Cards righty John Brebbia began his delivery. The ball sailed wildly because he attempted to stop his pitch, but just released the ball anyway. St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina immediately got up out of his crouch and began loudly voicing his displeasure with umpire Segal, as neither Molina nor Red Sox batter Eduardo Nunez called for time. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny quickly intervened to save Molina an early shower, pushing him back away from Segal. Matheny began arguing with Segal, and soon was boisterously thrown from the game by the young umpire. The Cardinals lost the game a few minutes later when Mookie Betts hit a two-run double, giving the Red Sox a walk-off win.

Back to Segal, who looks barely old enough to shave. It was bad enough that he called time when John Brebbia began his delivery, which could potentially cause an injury. More upsetting, Segal’s explanation for calling time was because “I needed a break”.

Really? Sheesh, that’s brutal.

In his postgame interview, Matheny said he told him, “Nobody is here to watch you.”

This isn’t a good look for MLB umpires. From the naked eye, it seems Segal is defiant and possibly trying to further bait Matheny and Molina.

In the past few weeks, umpires have been making headlines around Major League Baseball, and not for the right reasons. On July 26, Gerry Davis, normally a well-respected umpire, threw future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers out of their game that night because he moved the on-deck circle.

Umpire Davis told Beltre to move over to the on-deck circle because he didn’t like where he was standing. Beltre’s reason for being where he was, was to be in a safer spot to avoid being hit with a foul ball or a fragment of a broken bat. Needless to say, Beltre’s ejection didn’t go over well in the baseball world.

The next afternoon, July 27, the Blue Jays faced up against the Oakland A’s in Toronto. Home plate umpire Will Little tossed out manager John Gibbons for complaining about his inconsistent strike-zone in the top of the 5th inning. Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman walked the next batter. After he got the ball back, he stepped off the rubber, and as he was rubbing up the ball he glanced at umpire Little, quickly ejected Stroman — apparently for looking at him. Jays catcher Russell Martin no sooner turned around to protest this and was also booted. Both Stroman and Martin were incredulous and had to be restrained before leaving for the clubhouse.

Did you think I wasn’t going to mention Angel Hernandez? Don’t be silly. Three days ago, Detroit Tigers 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler was batting against Martin Perez of the Rangers, when Hernandez ejected him in the middle of an at-bat — because he looked back at him after the second pitch.

Kinsler thought the first pitch of the at-bat, a very low pitch called a strike by Hernandez was a poor call (It was). Kinsler didn’t like the call but certainly didn’t make a scene. After being thrown out, Kinsler had his say, as did Tigers manager Brad Ausmus.

After the game, Kinsler was quoted by the Detroit Free Press as saying of Hernandez: “It has to do with changing the game. He’s changing the game. He needs to find another job, he really does.”

Stinging comments, but he’s right. If you look, there is data supporting Hernandez’s poor performance over more than 25 years of umpiring at the major league level.

Major League Baseball really needs to reign in some of these guys and explain to them that fans don’t pay to watch umpires call games. No one is there to see them. I agree with what Ian Kinsler said, that games are being unnecessarily being altered.

I have always thought that the best umpires are ones fans never hear of. MLB would be better off if they weed out the “big names” and replace them with guys we don’t know of.

Related: Not a Good Night for MLB Umpires

$86,000,000 Mistake?

In a past article, I wrote about New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and the great moves he has made. I continue to have faith in his deals and the future of this team.

I am not sure signing Aroldis Chapman to a 5 year/86 million dollar deal is one of them. After last night’s loss to the Boston Red Sox, many Yankees fans were shaking their heads after a tough defeat. Chapman entered the game in the top of the 9th inning and quickly disposed of Hanley Ramirez on three pitches – fastballs clocked at 100, 102 and 102.

The next man up was 20 year-old rookie sensation Rafael Devers. Chapman, ever so proud of his heater, pumped two fastballs by Devers. By this time, the excited crowd at Yankee Stadium was buzzing, as all of Chapman’s pitches were 100 mph and above. The third pitch, also a fastball — a 102.8 mph fastball — was right down the middle and the baby-faced rookie barreled it up well enough to put it over the wall to tie the game. The excited crowd quickly grew quiet, like letting the air out of a balloon.

Chapman finished the inning without further problems, and went back out for the tenth inning. After quickly striking out Mitch Moreland, Jackie Bradley, Jr. was hit by an errant fastball and the following batter, Eduardo Núñez walked and by that time, Joe Girardi came out to hook Chapman. Reliever Tommy Kahnle later gave up a hit to score JBJ with the deciding run.

Illustrated below are Red Sox hitters’ numbers vs. Chapman in 2017. The numbers aren’t pretty. An on base percentage of .484, nine walks and six strikeouts.

Screenshot (111)

As Dennis Eckersley might say, “YUCK!” I’m pretty sure Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi and all Yankees fans didn’t have this in mind when Chapman put his signature on that five year contract. A top-flight closer is supposed to lock down games against division rivals in the heat of a pennant race, not wilt like flowers in a dry, hot summer. But Girardi reiterated in his postgame interview, “Chapman is my closer”.

As if his performance alone wasn’t bad enough, it appeared Chapman smirked in response to a reporter’s question asking how frustrating this stretch of less than ideal outings has been for him. It’s roughly around the 1:10 mark in the video in the link below, courtesy of YES Network.

I can understand that players might find some questions dumb, annoying and any other adjective you want to use. In my humble opinion, losing a tough game to a division opponent is not a great time to laugh/smirk/whatever. I guess we better get used to it, because Chapman is here for the duration.

Yankees Youth Movement is in Overdrive

After the New York Yankees played their 60th game of the season, the team was on a roll with five consecutive wins and sported a 37-23 record. In those five straight wins, against the Red Sox and Orioles no less, they outscored them by a mind-numbing 55-9. Aaron Judge went 4-4 in that 60th game of the season and crushed a 496 foot home-run that you most certainly have seen by now, unless you are living under a rock.

Everything was going right with the Bronx Bombers, right up until the team boarded the plane for California. The Yanks beat the Angels in Anaheim to start the road-trip and promptly lost the next two games. They traveled north and were swept by an Oakland A’s team that is currently 35-43. Making things worse, Yankees players started dropping like flies. Since the beginning of the road trip, they have lost Adam WarrenCC SabathiaAaron HicksStarlin Castro and Matt Holliday to injuries and in Holliday’s case, illness. Greg Bird had been on rehab assignments in Tampa and Scranton, but pain has returned in his problematic right ankle and hasn’t responded well to a cortisone injection.

With all the injuries, a number of kids we saw in Spring Training have been promoted. Tyler Austin, who himself was injured, was recalled from Scranton. Young pitchers Tyler Webb, Ben Heller and Ronald Herrera were called up to help in the bullpen. Tyler WadeMason Williams and Miguel Andujar (who had a big night in his Yankees debut) have already made contributions. Dustin Fowler is reportedly headed to Chicago to join the Yankees today.

Not only have these kids been called to New York to fill the void of injured players, they have contributed and excited Yankees fans and management alike. The Yanks are still only 5-11 since June 11, but the kids are playing well enough to give Yankees fans optimism now and for the future.

See you next time!

Charlie

Not a Good Night for MLB Umpires

Last night was not a banner night for MLB umpires. The ongoing abomination that is the Baltimore Orioles vs. Boston Red Sox series continued to provide more drama last night. In the bottom of the 2nd inning, Kevin Gausman hit Xander Bogaerts in the fanny with a 77 mph curveball and was quickly ejected by home-plate umpire Sam Holbrook.

I am not sure what Sam Holbrook was thinking, because he’s been an umpire for many years and he wasn’t made a crew-chief by accident. There’s no question him and his crew needed to be on “high alert” (as Holbrook claims) given the recent animosity between the two clubs, but ejecting Gausman without so much as a warning is absurd at best.

Unfortunately, there was more to come for umpire Holbrook. In the top of the 5th inning, Adam Jones was tossed out of the game for voicing his displeasure with a called strike on a high curveball from Boston starter Drew Pomeranz.

Given everything Jones endured during this series, I think Holbrook should have just let him have his say, and he was already walking back to the dugout when he ejected him. Holbrook should have just let it go, given the circumstances.

Meanwhile, shoddy umpiring wasn’t confined to Fenway Park last night. In the Bronx, home-plate umpire Bill Welke didn’t have his finest night. It wasn’t as rough a night as Sam Holbrook, but it’s enough to warrant mentioning.

Throughout the game, Welke’s strike-zone was inconsistent and roughly the size of a postage stamp. He heard from both New York Yankees players as well as the Toronto Blue Jays.

The normally very mild-mannered Brett Gardner took exception to a called strike by Welke and destroyed a dugout recycling bin after his 6th inning at-bat.

 

Yankees manager Joe Girardi got the boot for voicing his displeasure over Welke’s inconsistency. All in all, the evening of May 3rd, 2017 wasn’t the finest day in baseball history for MLB.