Thursday, July 24, 2014
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THE LATEST

The Yankees have made another one of those “incremental” upgrades that General Manager Brian Cashman has been referring to. The Yankees acquired left handed pitcher Chris Capuano from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for cash considerations. This is the third organization that Capuano will be a part of this year and hopefully for Yankees fans will be his most successful.

Capuano signed with the Boston Red Sox on a one year deal prior to the 2014 season. The deal seemed to be paying dividends in the beginning of the season as Capuano was one of the more effective pitchers in the Red Sox bullpen. However, a rough month of June really roughed up Capuano’s entire stat line and he finished his tenure with the Red Sox with a 4.55 ERA in 31 2/3 innings all while walking about 4.3 and striking out 8.2 batters per nine innings.

After being released, Capuano latched on with the Colorado Rockies and has been pitching for their AAA team. In 19 1/3 AAA innings, Capuano has a 2.79 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 rates. Much improved numbers from his time in Boston and could be a harbinger of things to come. Capuano costs the Yankees nothing but money and could serve an upgrade over longman David Huff or lefty specialist Matt Thornton. Additionally, Capuano can be a spot starter for the Yankees as well. All and all, Capuano can end up being a pitcher who serves many duties for the Yankees during their stretch run, much like a Chad Gaudin in 2009.

 

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Mariners acquire DH/1b Kendrys Morales from the Twins

In a weird twist the Mariners have traded for Twins 1b/DH Kendrys Morales, after he turned down multiple Mariner offers in the offseason. Morales, after sitting out for all of the offseason in attempts to get a contract before signing with the twins in June, is batting .234/.259/.325 with a dismal wRC+ of 57 in 39 games. However he didn’t have a spring training or any time in the minors to get into a rhythm and hit major league pitching. Over the last couple weeks he has shown improvements with a 12 game hitting streak that just got snapped the other day.

In short the deal appears good for the Mariners as he has proven he can hit in Safeco Field and his track record says he should return to being a .270/.320/.450 by seasons end. He will most likely replace Corey Hart in the DH role, who’s struggled mightily this year coming off of surgeries to both knees in 2013. The Mariners will pick up the remaining 4 million on Morales’ contract for the remainder of 2014.

In return the Twins will receive RP prospect Stephen Pryor. Pryor originally was very highly regarded coming up the Mariners system. After showing flashes of brilliance back in 2012 and the beginning of 2013 injuries derailed him. His injury was originally a lat strain, however it healed wrong and eventually led to him needing shoulder surgery last year. He only began pitching again in May of this year and has struggled with the Tacoma Raniers. Obviously it will take time for him to regain his arm strength and command, but he still has good upside and potential to be a very good Major League relief pitcher with 4 years of team control.

The Detroit Tigers have acquired right-handed closer Joakim Soria from the Texas Rangers in exchange for pitching prospects. These right-handed pitching prospects are Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel. The deal was first reported by Kyle Bogenschutz of Scout.com. Tigers GM Dave Dombroski confirmed an email later that current closer Joe Nathan would remain the team’s closer, despite the acquisition.

Detroit had entered the day with the fourth-worst bullpen in the American League ERA a 4.41 ERA. The Tigers has been pursuing bullpen help for weeks now and were also named to have inquired about Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, but now, Papelbon will have to sit tight and wait to see if he gets traded to a contender at the deadline.

Joakim Soria, 30, has pitched in 33.1 innings out of the bullpen and has posted a 2.70 ERA and an outstanding 1.07 FIP, while saving 17 games in his first full season since 2011. He missed all of 2012 and the first half of 2013 following his second career Tommy John surgery. Soria was signed this offseason to replace Joe Nathan, who actually signed with the Tigers, the team he was traded to. Soria’s contract includes a $7 million club option for 2015.

Jake Thompson, 20, was the Tigers’ second round selection in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. In 89 innings spanned over 17 starts, Thompson has a 3.13 ERA with an 8.2 K/9 in 17 starts this year between 16 starts at Class-A Advanced and one at Double-A. Baseball America called him “a potential mid-rotation starter” before the season started.

Corey Knebel, 22, made his major league debut a few weeks back and has allowed seven runs in 8.2 innings in the show. In 64.1 innings in the minors since being the 39th selection in the 2013 draft, Knebel has a 1.26 ERA and an 11.8 K/9. Baseball America called him “a potential closer” before the season.

Analysis from Jeff Lannon:
The Tigers got Joakim Soria today from the Rangers for starter Jake Thompson and reliever Corey Knebel. Knebel was the best reliever prospect for the Tigers and could be a part of an MLB bullpen for years to come. Thompson was a high school second rounder, but in my opinion he had the most potential of any Tigers starter in the system, and if he develops right he could be a solid starter in the Texas rotation in a few seasons. He was impressive in the game I saw him pitch when he was with West Michigan last season, and has only gotten better. The Tigers had to pay a price for Soria, but the Tigers system isn’t very strong and they probably paid a fair price. They still have some guys to help get an arm or bat to help them this year too. I like Andrew Miller, but Antonio Bastardo could work too or maybe even Chad Qualls or Brad Ziegler could work. If the Tigers wanted to go big Benoit is still on the market too, and he should still be targeted by the Tigers. The Tigers are still a good arm in the bullpen away from solidifying it. Soria won’t close in Detroit right away but if Nathan has another cough up, Soria should be the closer for sure. I think if Ausmus handles the situation correctly that there won’t be a set closer and the best guy will be used in the best situation. If Nathan heats up, the 7-8-9 is on lockdown, because Soria has returned to his old form and then some. He’s having a career year, and it shouldn’t stop, even if he has a hiccup or two along the way. This acquisition is way better than the Tigers getting Veras last season. It helps both teams, but Soria’s 7.5 million dollar option for 2015 and if he doesn’t spontaneously combust gives the edge to the Tigers. The Tigers bullpen isn’t fixed, but it’s improved a lot by this acquisition. Soria is the best piece to acquire this deadline. Soria just needs to keep his walk rate down, because his K rate looks sustainable. I think his year has a great chance to continue his success in Detroit.

If I were to tell you that only one player in minor league history has hit for the cycle in their professional debut could you tell me who? It isn’t Miguel Cabrera or Albert Pujols, it’s Grant Kay. Grant is a second baseman in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. Grant attended Junior College and went to Louisville University. Recently, I’ve had an interview with Grant:

Q/A below: Joe Baker(JB) Grant Kay(GK)

(JB) Favorite Color: (GK) Red.

(JB) Favorite Hobby outside of baseball: (GK) I love basketball and hanging out with friends and family.

(JB) Who is your favorite MLB player/role model growing up: (GK) Derek Jeter signed my baseball while on deck at a Roylals game and I have always looked up to him.

(JB) What did you expect going from college baseball to professional baseball:(GK) I expected to completely focus on baseball and continue to improve at all aspects of my game everyday.

(JB) Was the transition easier than you anticipated/are you expecting to have to make adjustments at some point: (GK) I saw a lot of good pitching in college and in the cape cod league making the transition easier. I still have a lot to learn and I know I will do whatever it takes to get better.

(JB) You are the first player to ever hit for the cycle in their professional debut; what was that like: (GK) It was unreal!  I’ve always made good first impressions but nothing like this.

(JB) What are your plans for the off-season: (GK) I really want to focus on getting stronger and faster. I also still have two semesters left to graduate so I’ll take care of that as soon as I can.

(JB) Do you think it’s important for high school players to play college baseball based on your experience: (GK) Yes I do. I learned a lot at my Jr college and at Louisville.

(JB) Most interesting fact about yourself: (GK) I’m from Omaha and got to play in the College World Series in front of my hometown! Not many people have done that.

I would like to thank Grant for doing this interview! It was a pleasure interviewing him and I would like to wish Grant good luck with his future with the Rays. If you’re looking for Grant on twitter his handle is (@Grantkay14) Give him a follow!

 

 

It is that time of the year again. We are getting closer and closer to the MLB trade deadline. The point of the season where teams begin deciding whether they will be selling or buying. With the addition of the second wildcard, it has become harder to guess who will be sellers due to the increased chances of making the playoffs. For example, the Cincinnati Reds are 51-48, but are only three games back of a wildcard berth. This makes the deadline both more and less interesting at the same time.

Yes, there are now more teams that are buyers at the deadline, but now there are fewer sellers as well. Jeff Samardzija, the top pitcher on the market this season, was traded before the All Star break, and now the market for pitching seems barren. There are no more aces definitely on the market anymore. The only stud pitchers that could potentially be traded are Jon Lester, James Shields, Cliff Lee, David Price, and Cole Hamels. Lester is unlikely to be dealt by the Red Sox, since they believe that he could resign him to a long term deal. He also could help them if the team has a strong second half and reaches the postseason. Shields is the same story. Unless the Royals really feel they will not contend in the second half, they would rather keep him and offer a qualifying offer at season’s end. However, Lee, Price, and Hamels are different stories. There is no definite reason why their teams would not at least listen to trade offers at this trade deadline. That being said, which of these three is the best option?

 

3. Cliff Lee

As we progress down this list there is a something that should be noted. Almost every Philadelphia Phillies player that might be traded has a no-trade clause, which makes predictions much harder. Also, the Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. seems like he still does not want to make a fire sale on the team. Even with the outcries of Phillies fans demanding for the sale, the team might sit pat on the issue or “sell” like they did the past few years. The Phillies might have the top piece on the market, and they could get back some top prospects by the time the deadline is over. 2008 AL Cy Young Cliff Lee could be an interesting trade acquisition at the deadline.

Besides superstar Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee has been one of the most dominant and consistent left handers in the game. If he was the same age as Price and Hamels, he would be number one on this list. Although he does not blow the ball by players (his fastest pitch this season is a 92.5 mph two-seam) he does the job he is supposed to, throw strikes. A pitcher never wants to throw a ball right down the middle of the plate, but throwing a ton of strikes is a lot better than walking people. Lee has mastered this art, in 2013 he threw 70.8% of his pitches for strikes, becoming the only person in that year to break the 70% threshold. Throughout 2009-2013 he threw 69.9% of his pitches for strikes, again leading the league. The most amount of walks Lee has given up is 42 in 232.2 innings pitched in 2011, and he has constantly been a league leader in SO/BB (2010,12,13 and BB/9 (2008,10,12,13) in his career. In fact, he has the sixth highest SO/BB rate in MLB history and the highest for a left handed pitcher. Lee’s mixture of strikes and control has given him a great amount of success in the majors.

To find a bad season from Cliff Lee, you have to go back to 2007 where he posted a 6.29 ERA. Ever since then Lee has not posted an ERA over 3.18, and has an ERA of 2.90 since 2008. He has the second most WAR among pitchers since 2008 with 38.5, behind Verlander’s 38.9 (Verlander has pitcher 100 more innings than Lee) Whatever team wants to pick him up, they will be getting a pitcher that is worth his contract (as large as it may be) Of course teams may be unwilling to trade for Lee at the moment due to his recent arm injury, but if he can impress in his two or three starts before the deadline he could net the Phillies a nice return.

The Phillies could also wait until the August deadline to boost Lee’s value. If Lee proves that he is healthy and that the injury has not affected his pitching, the Phillies could receive two or three top prospects; however, after his rough first outing back it will be hard to sell that he is healthy. Lee is the most likely pitcher between him and Hamels to go, since he is older and costs more money. Earlier on On-Base Talk, Mark Suleymanov listed possible suitors for Cliff Lee. Whether Lee would waive his no trade clause for any of these teams remains to be seen.

2. David Price

This might be a surprise, but David Price is not the top pitcher available at the deadline. Shocking as it may be, the difference between Price and Hamels being number one and two is miniscule. Later on I will explain why Price is not the top available pitcher; however, let us look at why Price would be a terrific addition to a team looking to contend.

Price has had the shortest career out of the three pitchers in this list. Cliff Lee started in 2002, Cole Hamels started in 2006, and Price began his career in 2008. Price was called up late in the 2008 season to help a reborn Tampa Bay Rays make the playoffs.The team did so, and made it as far as the World Series where they eventually lost to the Philadelphia Phillies. Ever since that postseason run, Price has enjoyed success in the big leagues. His career ERA is an attractive 3.17 and an impressive 3.34 FIP. He finished second in Cy Young voting in 2010, and actually won the award in 2012 (he also finished twelfth in MVP voting that season). Price has shown in the past that he can have great control, for example he lead the AL in SO/BB (5.59) and BB/9 (1.3) He has continued his dominance this year, as he leads the league in innings pitched (155.2) and strikeouts (173), and has a 3.06 ERA to go along with that. Besides his rookie year in 2009, Price has never had an ERA over 3.49, and that is a consistency that teams will like.

What makes Price so successful? Again, Price does a very good job of keeping his walks to a minimum. Every year Price has improved his SO/BB ratio, and last year he had only 27 walks in 186.2 innings. Maybe not as good as Lee, but Price still limits his walks to keep opponent opportunity down. Another way he succeeds in the pros is that he varies his pitches. Price does not have any overpowered go-to pitch, but he uses the good pitches he has to his advantage.  Earlier in his career Price relied on his fastball a lot, so much that in 2010 136 of his 188 strikeouts were on fastballs. Now he varies his pitches a lot more, therefore keeping the batters guessing every at-bat. A mixture of pitches along with good control can go a long way in the MLB, and Price has enjoyed it so far.

Like Lee and Hamels, Price will most likely have the same suitors. According to Buster Olney (Insider-Edition Only), the Cardinals, Mariners, and Dodgers are the three teams best positioned to acquire Price. Ken Rosenthal thinks that the Cubs would be doing the right thing by trading for Price, and they certainly have the prospect power to do that. The Indians have also had their eye on Price, but the real problem would be their prospect depth. Ken Rosenthal’s sources have told him that the Indians have less than a 1% chance of obtaining the left hander. Whoever wants to grab Price is going to have to give up a large prospect package that satisfies the Rays, one probably larger than the Oakland Athletic’s package to the Chicago Cubs for Samardzija. The Rays have all the leverage at the deadline, since they still have another year on Price’s contract. They can wait until the offseason or even the next trade deadline to make a trade; however, Price’s contract is why I have ranked him at number two.

 

1. Cole Hamels

The main reason I have listed Cole Hamels as the top available is due to his contract length and price (no pun intended). As said before, Price only has one year left on his contract, and then it is a mystery. Who knows how much money or how many years he would want on his contract. Hamels not only has a respectable amount of years on his contract, but a decent price as well. After this year Hamels only has four more years on his contract, at a rate of $22.5 million per year. Not exactly cheap, but in comparison to the contracts that Max Scherzer wants and what Price will most likely want, its a bargain deal. It guarantees Hamels’ team his age 31-34 seasons as well as an option for his age 35 season.

Those are prime years for a pitcher, so Hamels should continue to produce during those seasons. This is the edge that a team would have when acquiring Hamels over Price. They have a definite contract with Hamels as opposed to the mystery status of Price, and it is a manageable one as well. Price would not sign an extension with the Seattle Mariners, and might extend if he was traded to a different team. Acquiring Price would be a gamble, while getting Hamels is a definite investment. This is really the only reason Hamels is over Price in this list, otherwise it is a dead tie.

Hamels has been dominant since his debut in 2006 with the Philadelphia Phillies. This is largely due to his devastating changeup. Growing up in San Diego, Hamels marveled at future hall of famer Trevor Hoffman’s changeup. He loved it so much that he wanted to learn and master the pitch just as much as Hoffman did. Ever since then the changeup has been Hamels’ bread and butter, and Fan Graphs shows this. From 2007-2014 Hamels has stuck out the most batters with his changeup; he has struck out 100 more people with his changeup than his fastball and over 400 more than his curveball. This pitch has most likely guided Hamels to the successful career he has today.

Hamels has a career ERA of 3.39 and a FIP of 3.51. He has been an All Star and in the top 10 of Cy Young voting three times. He has shown in the past that he has the skill to throw 200+ innings and strikeout 200+ batters. In fact, he has done that four times in the past six years (2008, 2010, 2012, and 2013) He has a lot of postseason experience and success, as he has a 3.09 ERA through 81.2 innings of work. That includes the championship run the Phillies had in 2008, where Hamels was the NLCS and World Series MVP. Those credentials, along with his respectable contract make him a big target at the deadline, and it has been rumored many teams are interested in him.

Hamels has a 20-team no-trade clause, which normally would be a problem when trade talks begin; however, the teams that Hamels does not need to give consent are mostly contending teams who could want to acquire him. According to John Morosi, Hamels can be traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, and his native team the San Diego Padres. There has also been a lot of chatter that the Red Sox could want Hamels if they cannot resign Lester, but many speculate this is either false or unwise. There have been conflicting reports as to whether Hamels is even available this deadline. Buster Olney reports that the Phillies are unwilling to trade him, while Nick Cafardo reports that a major league source says if the Phillies receive three top prospects Hamels is gone. Regardless of whether the Phillies want to trade Hamels, I am sure they will get plenty of offers this coming deadline.

Jeter making more history on his farewell tour

On July 22nd, 2014, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter broke yet another Yankee all time record in his last season before retirement. Jeter passed Lou Gehrig for the most doubles in Yankee history Tuesday night; its just another record he can cross off his list. The Captain already leads one of the most storied franchises in Plate Appearances, At Bats, Hits, Singles, Doubles, Stolen Bases, and Games Played.

Don’t write him off yet he can still break one more record as he is second in runs scored (49 behind Babe Ruth). Mr. November is also top 10 in Batting Average, Home Runs, Extra base hits, and RBI’S in Yankee history. The now 40 year old Jeter made it clear before his season began that this will be his last ride, and he has certainly made it a season to remember. Weather its breaking records or making his presence felt in the all star game.

The Yankees are most defiantly in the hunt for the post-season this year and Jeter would love nothing more than to bring the 28th world series title to the Bronx. To end it all tonight, newly-acquired third baseman Chase Headley hit a walk-off single to bring in Brian Roberts in the bottom of the 14th inning to beat the Texas Rangers 2-1.