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Phillies Avoid Paying Top Dollar for Pence

July 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

The Trade:

Philadelphia Gets:

OF Hunter Pence

Houston Gets:

SP Jarred Cosart

1B Jonathan Singleton

P Josh Zeid

PTBNL

Philadelphia's Perspective:

The Phillies decided for the third straight year to make a major deadline deal, to strengthen their team, and looking at it, you can't really blame them. The Phillies have gotten very little production from their corner outfielders this year, and in fact their offensive production has been down across the board. The Phillies lineup has also gotten to be very left handed centric, which should allow Pence to help make LH relievers and starters less effective against the Philly lineup.

Pence is a good but not great hitter, who at 28 is still in the prime of his career. He has solid 20-25 HR power, that should play up in Philly. He typically hits for a high average, and is currently at a .308/.351/.471. Which on the Phillies makes him quite valuable, as his .828 OPS would rank 3rd on the Phillies, and be over .120 higher than LF Raul Ibanez's.

The real question for the Phillies is will they do the smart thing and sit Ibanez down and let Pence take over LF duties. As it stands now they are playing Pence in RF over Dominic Brown, when they should look to play him in LF (his best position). Pence is a slightly below average right fielder, but he should be about average if not better, in left. That bodes well for the Phillies, considering that Ibanez is the worst every day left fielder in baseball. Which is pretty sad considering that Philadelphia has a pretty small ballpark, he isn't exactly patrolling Petco Field. Ibanez supporters will point to his 14 home runs and 20 doubles, but that is all he has going for him as his slash line is at .245/.291/.418. That is a 50+ point jump in batting average and slugging percentage and a 60 point bump in on-base percentage between Pence and Ibanez. While Pence upgrades the production in RF as well, it isn't nearly as drastic, especially when you figure in defense.

Now the Phillies didn't make this deal for the NL East race, as they are all but assured a playoff spot, but they wisely made this move for the postseason. Once Philly starts having to play series baseball, they were going to need to rely on more than just their impressive pitching staff. Adding a good offensive piece like Pence, should ensure that Philly isn't one dimensional. The Phillies also benefit in that Pence is not just a rental player, as he has two more years of team control after this season. Grade B+

 

Houston's Perspective:

The Astros are rebuilding plain and simple, and while Pence is a good player in his prime, they had the choice either let their best trade chip inch his way to free agency and get nothing in return when he leaves, sign him to a long-term extension (which he might not even want to do given the state of the franchise), or trade him and add some much needed talent to their depleted farm system. While it wasn't a great deal for them they did add serious value.

Jarred Cosart has the stuff to be a front line pitcher in the big leagues and at age 21, has a bright future ahead of him. He has had some command and injury issues, but not enough to really concern the Astros that he can't be apart of their future big league rotation. He automatically becomes the Astros new top prospect and should offer the most return for Houston long term.

Jonathan Singleton is a pretty good secondary prospect in this deal, and he very well could be the Astros number 2 prospect going forward. He was tried in LF this year, but he really is a 1B only. While he is locked into one position he is actually pretty mobile there and should project as a good defender. Add that to his 30 HR power, and the Astros could have a nice future piece.

Josh Zied doesn't look like more than an AAAA player, but he could be a cheap reliever for the Astros going forward. He won't ever be more than a middle relief guy, but it makes more sense to pay him league minimum than sign some guy for $1 million dollars. While it is unclear who the PTBNL is the rumor is it isn't anyone significant.

In reality this deal is Cosart and Singleton for 2 and a half years of Pence. I think that is a quality return for the Astros, but by no means do I think they fleeced the Phillies. Those are two very good prospects the Astros acquired, but both appear to be at least 3 years away meaning a lot can happen between now and when they get to the majors. The Phillies did well not to add another top prospect to this deal, and that keeps the Astros return from being great. Grade: B-

 

Trade Deadline Heating Up 3-Team Deal Sends Rasmus to Toronto

July 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

Now this not finalized yet but it appears to be a 3 team blockbuster. Here's how it looks to be breaking down-

White Sox get:

RP Trever Miller (from Cards)

RP Jason Frasor

SP Zach Stewart

Blue Jays Get:

CF Colby Rasmus

RP Brian Tallet

RP P.J. Walters

UTL Mark Teahen

Cardinals Get:

SP Edwin Jackson

RP Octavio Dotel

RP Mark Rzepczynski

OF Corey Patterson

White Sox Perspective:

I know many are questioning why the White Sox gave up Edwin Jackson at a time when they are just 4.5 games out of first place, but I really like this move for them. Edwin Jackson has pitched very well for them, but they have the pitching depth and can afford to deal a player who is going to leave them via free agency this offseason. This deal also gets Mark Teahen and the $7 million+ that is owed to him over the next year and half off the team and away from the Sox lineup card. Teahen has become a major hole in the White Sox lineup, yet still kept finding ways to get his name penciled in. This allows far better hitters to get at bats for Chicago, while at the same time clearing up the White Sox payroll for the rest of this season and even into next year.

This wasn't a straight salary dump for Chicago as they got quality pitching in Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart. Frasor is a good middle reliever and can further improve the White Sox's bullpen for the stretch run. He's also affordable next year on a team option (or they could decline and possibly get a pick back as a Type-B Free Agent), and could always be flipped next season if necessary. Stewart also adds some good potential for Chicago as he projects as a solid number 3, and could be ready by next year.

Whether this move was meant to clear salary and at bats for another move, or just a regular deal on its own I think the White Sox got better here (mainly from moving Teahen). Given that I give Chicago a B- for this deal.

Cardinals Perspective:

Wow!! The Cards simply put got ripped off. They will try to spin it otherwise, but this is a bad deal for them. I realize that they have (and by they I mean Tony LaRussa) done everything in their power to kill Colby Rasmus's trade value, but this is ridiculous.

Rasmus has elite 5-tool potential and while he might not be playing at that level now, the Cards only have themselves to blame (ahem…LaRussa). While I didn't expect them to get a great deal, I did think they'd get some decent value. And I just don't see it in this deal.

Edwin Jackson is a good but not great pitcher (though he should play up in the N.L.), but he is a free agent after this year, and the Cards have bigger free agent worries than him. Sure they might get a supplemental pick for his services, but that pales into comparison to the value that Rasmus will bring the next 3 years that he is under team control.

As for the rest of the haul it is extremely unimpressive. Dotel has basically pitched as well as Miller, so that is a wash, except that Dotel is more expensive. And while Mark Rzepcynski is better than Walters, he doesn't project to anything more than an average RP/ spot starter. And Corey Patterson is nothing more than a defensive replacement for the Cards down the stretch.

I know the saying is 'flags fly forever', but I don't know if this move really makes the Cards that much better contenders this year. They are still in a tight 4 team race in the Central. And if they make it to the playoffs they will have to win two series against Phillies, Braves and Giants, to even get the chance to face off with an A.L. team. Jackson is a nice addition and Dotel is a slight improvement, but I don't know if it is enough. Especially since you are subtracting Rasmus's offensive value.

And if the Cards don't win it all this year, they will have given up Rasmus for essentially a Supplemental pick and a spot starter. They should have been able to do far better than that (in particular with the money they take on in this deal). And I would grade this as an F for them.

Blue Jays Perspective:

What a steal! Credit the Blue Jays for doing some wheeling and dealing here, and coming out of this deal with a young player with TREMENDOUS upside. Rasmus has elite talent and at 24 is a good bet going forward. He obviously needed the change of scenery and the Jays landed him for not too much.

To land Rasmus the Jays traded one good but slightly older pitching prospect in Zach Stewart, a pair of decent 30+ year old middle relievers and one young reliever. That is highway robbery and the Jays should be very happy about what this means for their future. Sure they had to take on Mark Teahen's bad contract, but it's not like it is a horrible deal, it is just $7 million through next season, which is affordable to them (though I'd recommend cutting him as soon as possible so as not to waste any at bats). Part of the money owed to him will be made up in what Frasor and Dotel would have made, so it really isn't a huge salary increase.

Even if Rasmus doesn't reach his ultimate potential this is a good deal for them and one that could help make the Blue Jays contenders in the coming years. This is an A+ deal for Toronto.

1st Half Awards

July 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

We are well over the half-way point in the baseball season, but it is the All-Star break so now is a good time to look at our 1st Half award winners:

American League:

MVP: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays

Yes I know there are a number of good candidates on winning teams (basically all in the AL East above Toronto), but I don't believe winning is a sole prerequisite for winning this award. Bautista is simply dominating right now and no one is even close. His .702 slugging percentage is amazing as no one else is even at .600. And to top it all off Bautista doesn't have the lineup protection that hitters from the Yankees and Red Sox have.

CY Young: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

This is a close one as you can make a case for 5-7 players. To me though Verlander has a slight edge. He is first in innings pitched and WHIP, 2nd in ERA and batting average against, 5th in K/9 innings and 6th in BB/9 innings. For me the fact that he is dominating so many categories it gives him the edge over Weaver who has an ERA under 2.00.

ROY: Michael Pineda, Seattle Mariners

There are a few other interesting pitchers and one or two hitters who are 'in the discussion', but really this is Pineda's award. He has been flat out dominate since joining the majors and he is only hurt by having his innings limited on a bad team. It might be the best for him long term, but it has led to just an average 8-6 record. His other numbers though are of an All-Star variety so he runs away with this award in my book.

Manager of the Year: Manny Acta, Cleveland Indians

Yeah you can make a case for Terry Francona for rebounding from a bad start (but that start is also his responsibility as well) or Joe Maddon for keeping the Rays in it despite the roster turnover, slashing $30 million from the payroll and the Manny Ramirez debacle, but this has to go to Manny Acta. I always hesitate to assign to much credit to a manager, but I can't argue against this. The Indians have 47 wins right now and are in 1st place, two things I would have never predicted. I considered the Indians to be a team that had a chance to lose 100 games this year and were likely going to be in the cellar of the AL Central. While they might not maintain the division lead the fact that they have been in it this long is impressive.

National League:

MVP: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

Alright you could say this is an agenda pick, but it really isn't that far fetched. Sure Jose Reyes is a great choice, and Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun have been great as well, but McCutchen is probably the best all-around player in the game right now. Now I know people will say that is crazy but look at some of the numbers. Despite Reyes having a .065 advantage in batting average (.354-.289) he has just a .007 advantage in OBP. While Reyes has an insane .529 Slugging %, McCutchen isn't too shabby at .495 (just .002 below Pujols). Their wOBA (weighted on-base average) are both in the top 8 and are separated by just .016 points. The big difference for me is defense. Both play tough defensive positions, but while Reyes has been just above average, McCutchen has been down right incredible. He is at a Gold Glove standard (and deserving it as well). That advantage in defense has saved a ton of runs this year and has helped put the Pirates in playoff contention.

CY Young: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies

Pick a Phillie any Phillie and you will probably find your Cy Young winner. Right now though Halladay has separated himself from the pack. He is dominating everyone right now and I don't think this race is too close.

ROY: Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals

There are a couple interesting names including fellow Nationals teammate Wilson Ramos, but Espinosa is best rookie so far this season. While his average has been lower than you want it to be, he is showing great pop. Espinosa has 16 HR's so far this season, plus an additional 19 other extra base hits. He is playing great defense at 2nd base and has been efficient on the basepaths getting caught just twice in 14 tries. Espinosa is quickly making a name for himself in the league and right now is arguably a top 5 2B and a borderline All-Star.

Manager of the Year: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates

You can make a case for a few guys, including Jim Riggleman who is no longer coaching, but I think it has to be Hurdle. The Pirates last year had the worst record in baseball with just 57 wins, they already have 46 this year. What makes this single season turnaround even more impressive is the fact that the Pirates didn't bring in any big name free agents, just a number of role players who they thought could play. Also, this isn't just a one year issue. The Pirates haven't finished above .500 since before Bill Clinton was elected president (Oct. 1992). Right now the Pirates are 3 games above .500 and just one game out of the division lead, and for that Hurdle gets my vote.

Cardinals and Pujols Taking a Risk in Returning Too Soon

July 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

With reports coming out of St. Louis that star 1B Albert Pujols is nearing a return from the D.L. I begin to question if this is a good idea or not. Not only for the Cardinals, but for Pujols's long term future.

Obviously the Cardinals have missed Pujols as evidenced by their 5-7 record in his absence, but I'd be concerned about pushing him too soon. St. Louis just got 3B David Freese and 2B Nick Punto back from the D.L. so their lineup has been strengthened already. While it is tempting to bring Pujols back to really take advantage of this strong order, St. Louis should know that they can survive the next 2-4 weeks without him.

Pujols himself shouldn't push himself as he is about to embark on free agency after this season, and rushing back from injury is something that can't be undone. Now I'm not saying that his impending FA status eliminates his concerns to his team, but you can't ignore that impending FA period either.

I'm no doctor, but two weeks seems like an incredibly short time period for him to return. That looked like a bad injury from the replay, and while it apparently happened in a good spot a wrist fracture is still a wrist fracture. I have a hard time believing that it is fully healed and that he isn't risking more serious injury. Which if it occurs not only ruins the Cardinals season, but could set back Pujols in free agency. For my perspective, nothing is really gained by bringing him back now instead of a couple weeks from now. I hope the Cards are right on this, but it will be something to watch out for.

What do you guys think? Would you bring Pujols back this week, or would you play it safe and wait a couple weeks?