Chris Sale Rumors

Rosenthal On Playoff Format, Hunter, White Sox, Rays

How long will the Wild Card playoff format be a one-game elimination? The running gag among baseball executives, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, is until the Yankees are eliminated in a such fashion. That possibility is looming larger as the Yankees and Orioles are tied for the AL East lead with four games to play. The Yankees currently have a one-game lead over the A's in the Wild Card race. However, if the two teams finished with identical records, the Yankees would have to travel to Oakland because they tied in the season series and the A’s currently own the next tiebreaker – a superior record within their own division. It will make for an interesting finish to the season. Also from Rosenthal's column:

  • In response to the likelihood the two AL Wild Card teams will have a better record than the AL Central Division champion, Rosenthal suggests the playoff qualifiers with the two worst records meet in the Wild Card game. Rosenthal admits winning a weak division would be less meaningful, but such a team hardly would be in position to argue since it would be lucky to reach the playoffs in the first place.
  • Angels owner Arte Moreno recently acknowledged the fans' desire for the team to re-sign Torii Hunter, but Rosenthal says he may have competition from a division rival. The Rangers have long had interest in Hunter, who lives in a Dallas suburb. With Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli free agents this winter and Nelson Cruz a free agent next offseason, the team almost certainly will look for offensive help. Rosenthal believes a trade for a younger slugger such as Arizona's Justin Upton is more likely than a short-term signing of Hunter. But at the very least, the Rangers could pursue Hunter to drive up the price for the Angels.
  • Despite the recent slump that may cost the White Sox a playoff berth, Rosenthal claims this has been a successful season for the South Siders. Rosenthal points to highlights like Robin Ventura establishing himself as a manager, Chris Sale developing into an ace, a number of rookie pitchers emerging as valuable parts, and bounce back seasons from Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, and Jake Peavy
  • Rosenthal credits the Rays' recent resurgence to manager Joe Maddon's decision to make batting practice optional and allow players to arrive at the park later, which resulted in the players becoming more relaxed.

Rosenthal On Yankees, Playoffs, Sabermetrics

The Yankees enter play today with a one-game lead over the Orioles and four games over the Rays. And, it's a good thing this isn't your father's Yankees, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com. If George Steinbrenner was alive today, Rosenthal believes he might have fired manager Joe Girardi after blowing a ten-game lead in the AL East and replaced him with the likes of Lou Piniella. Hal Steinbrenner is almost the polar opposite of his father. So much so that, when Rosenthal asked Brian Cashman of the potential fallout that might occur if the team fails to reach the playoffs, the Yankees' GM said, "We have objective, patient ownership." Also from Rosenthal's column:

  • The new schedule hasn't been a cure-all for small market teams like the Rays. Rosenthal suggests one way to mitigate the Rays’ disadvantage would be to scale revenue sharing so they would receive a greater percentage than a low-revenue club such as the Indians, who compete in a division with lower payrolls.
  • A criticism of the new playoff system is Wild Card teams who have better records than division winners are penalized in the seeding of the Division Series. Rosenthal's solution is to wait until after the Wild Card game to seed the Division Series.
  • The AL CY Young Award voting will be a test of how accepted advanced statistics are by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Rosenthal points out the last eight AL pitchers to either lead or tie for the lead in those categories, like the RaysDavid Price this year, each have won the award. The Tigers' Justin Verlander meanwhile leads in wins above replacement and Chris Sale of the White Sox leads in ERA+. Price is tops, however, in quality of opponents faced, based on the rankings of Vince Gennaro, president of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
  • Larry Bowa's interview for the Astros' managerial vacancy is a good sign, as rival executives have worried that GM Jeff Luhnow is surrounding himself with too many like-minded sabermetric types rather than building a diverse baseball operations department.
  • The Marlins may have difficulty in sticking with their plan to keep Emilio Bonifacio in center field, play Donovan Solano at second, and make the acquisition of a third baseman their top priority. Rosenthal points out the market for third basemen is bare, so one alternative for the Marlins is to acquire an outfielder and move Bonifacio back to third base.
  • Look for the Rays to exercise their $2.5MM option on Fernando Rodney. Rodney is bidding to become only the second reliever in history (Dennis Eckersley in 1990) to have a season of 40 or more saves and an ERA under 1.00. Rodney leads baseball with 43 saves and his ERA is 0.66.
  • The Cubs will look again this offseason to move Alfonso Soriano, who is one home run and one RBI shy of his first 30-homer, 100-RBI season since 2005. If the Cubs fail to receive a sufficient offer, they could always bring back Soriano, owed $36MM over the next two years, and try to move him at the deadline again. Rosenthal cited the example of Carlos Lee of how it is easier to deal an overpriced player the closer he gets to the end of his contract.

Updates On Converted Relievers Now Starting

Building a rotation through free agency can be expensive and frustrating, so teams are understandably open to alternatives. One way for teams to avoid free agent salaries and long-term commitments is to move relief pitchers to the starting rotation. Yet few relievers have the repertoire and durability to succeed in the rotation, so it's not uncommon for converted relievers to flop as starters. 

Here’s a mid-season update on four pitchers who jumped from the ‘pen to the rotation this year. None of the pitchers below had started more than three MLB games in a season before 2012 and all of them were big league relievers last year:

  • Daniel Bard – Bard walked more batters than he struck out and posted a career-high ERA as a starting pitcher before being optioned to the minor leagues in early June. The right-hander saw his fastball velocity (93.1 mph) and swinging strike rate (7.9%) dip as a starter. He's now pitching out of the bullpen at Triple-A, and the results have been mixed. This attempted transition has been a disappointment.
  • Neftali Feliz – The Rangers have successfully converted C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando to starting roles under Ron Washington and Mike Maddux in recent years, but Feliz's conversion didn't go nearly as well. He will miss the rest of the season and much of 2013 to undergo and recover from Tommy John surgery. Feliz's injury may be unrelated to his change in roles, but it doesn't make the reality of his elbow issues any more pleasant for the Rangers. The 24-year-old started just seven games before hitting the disabled list, and the results were acceptable, if not overwhelmingly positive: a 3.16 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9.
  • Jeff Samardzija – Credit the Cubs for putting Samardzija in the rotation this spring. He's enjoying a breakout season with a 4.19 ERA, 9.0 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 120 1/3 innings (he recovered from an ugly month of June to string together some strong starts in July). The 27-year-old has maintained his fastball velocity, averaging 95 mph with his heater. Among MLB starters only Cole Hamels and Tim Lincecum generate a greater percentage of swings and misses (12.0%).
  • Chris Sale – Sale has pitched to a 2.61 ERA through 124 innings with a 114K/31BB ratio and impressive hit and home run rates. The 2012 All-Star has lost some zip on his fastball (now 92.1 mph), but he continues to generate lots of swings and misses. A major success for rookie manager Robin Ventura, pitching coach Don Cooper and the White Sox.

Note: Though Lance Lynn, Anthony Bass and Felix Doubront pitched in relief last year, they also started in the minors for much of the 2011 season, so I don’t consider them converted relievers. Advanced stats via FanGraphs.



Updates On Converted Relievers Now Starting

One way for teams to avoid building their rotations through free agency is to move relief pitchers to the starting rotation. Few relievers have the repertoire and durability to succeed in the rotation, but teams are understandably tempted by certain promising bullpen arms. After all, starters have the potential to limit the opposition for 180-200 innings, while relievers might pitch 60-70 innings.

The Rangers have successfully converted C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando to starting roles under Ron Washington and Mike Maddux in recent years, but some conversions don't work out quite as well. For example, Phil Coke and Kyle McClellan started the 2011 season in the rotation, before returning to relief roles.

Here’s an early season update on four pitchers who jumped from the ‘pen to the rotation this year. None of the pitchers below had started more than three MLB games in a season before 2012 and all of them were big league relievers last year:

  • Daniel Bard – Bard's walk rate has spiked, his strikeout rate is down and he's generating fewer ground balls. His average fastball sits in the 93-94 mph range, down from 97.3 mph out of the bullpen, but he continues to generate swings and misses. A dropoff is expected from relievers who move to the rotation, and Bard showed promise against the White Sox last week. 
  • Neftali Feliz – Feliz's 3.81 ERA is a little deceptive. He has 18 strikeouts against 14 walks, partly because he's generating fewer swings and misses. He has also been lucky on balls in play, as his .194 opponents' BABIP indicates.
  • Jeff Samardzija – The strikeouts are up, the walks are down and the peripheral numbers suggest this may well be sustainable. Samardzija's fastball continues to average 94.7 mph and batters are swinging and missing more than ever. So far, Samardzija's conversion has been a major success, especially relative to pre-season expectations. To his credit he has faced the Cardinals — the NL's top offense — twice.
  • Chris Sale – Sale's transition to the rotation is going smoothly. Though his fastball velocity has dipped to 92.4 mph and his strikeout rate is down, he's limiting walks and averaging more than six innings per start.

Note: Though Lance Lynn, Anthony Bass and Felix Doubront pitched in relief last year, they also started in the minors for an extended period of time, so I don’t consider them converted relievers. Advanced stats via FanGraphs.


White Sox Notes: Danks, Sale, Ramirez

The White Sox have many appealing trade chips, including Carlos Quentin and Gavin Floyd, so GM Kenny Williams will likely be fielding all kinds of inquiries in Dallas at next week's Winter Meetings. Here's the latest on the White Sox…

  • The White Sox haven’t offered John Danks a long-term deal recently, according to Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com. The White Sox were rebuffed not too long ago and are now more likely to trade the left-hander, according to Padilla. However, the team hasn’t given up on working out a new contract with Danks.
  • Teams have asked the White Sox about Chris Sale and Alexei Ramirez, but the price for either player would be "sky-high," according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).
  • White Sox manager Robin Ventura told reporters, including Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, that he's like to get 30 starts out of both Danks and Floyd while playing Quentin in right field on a regular basis (Twitter link). However, the new manager realizes it may not work out that way in 2012.

White Sox Notes: Trades, Quentin, Sale

Recent White Sox notes…

  • GM Kenny Williams won't rule out the possibility of trading both Gavin Floyd and John Danks, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. The White Sox GM said he's continuing to lay the groundwork for next month's Winter Meetings, but that some of his fellow GMs are employing a more direct approach this week (Twitter link).
  • "We're not going to make moves unless we get an impact player or impact-type prospects, guys who are close to being ready," Williams explained to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune.  Williams has received at least one surprising trade proposal in Milwaukee at the GM Meetings.  Danks, Floyd, and Carlos Quentin could be hot commodities around the game.
  • Quentin is fully recovered from a late-season shoulder injury, agent Brodie Van Wagenen told Gonzales.  The 29-year-old right fielder is under team control for one more year, and we project him to earn around $6.6MM in 2012.
  • Chris Sale will be a starting pitcher next season, Williams confirmed to reporters.  The team's 2012 rotation is shaping up to have Jake Peavy, Philip Humber, Sale, and Zach Stewart, with the status of Danks, Floyd, and Mark Buehrle in question.  Buehrle has been very popular so far this offseason.

White Sox Notes: Quentin, Reed, Sale

The White Sox will select 13th in next year's draft after finishing the 2011 season with a 79-83 record. Here's the latest as they begin an offseason that will include their first managerial search since the 2003 season ended…

  • GM Kenny Williams told Peter Gammons of MLB Network that the White Sox are "going to let the kids play" next season (Twitter link). Gammons expects the White Sox to be younger in 2012.
  • Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com wonders if Williams' comments signals that the White Sox would trade Carlos Quentin in the right deal. They could get by without Quentin if they play Brent Morel at third, Dayan Viciedo in right and Adam Dunn at DH.
  • Addison Reed, the 22-year-old right-hander who posted a 12K/1BB ratio in six relief appearances this year, could begin the 2012 season in the Major League bullpen, according to Padilla.
  • Williams told MLB.com's Scott Merkin that Chris Sale will "be given every opportunity in the rotation" next year (Twitter link).

Odds & Ends: Waivers, Lowell, Taschner, Sale

Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th home run today off Shaun Marcum.  A-Rod is now the seventh player in MLB history to reach the milestone; up next is Sammy Sosa at 609.  Links for Wednesday…


Amateur Draft Signings: Tuesday

Here's the round-up of today's mass signings and individual agreements between teams and players from the 2010 Amateur Draft.  The list of first-rounders and supplemental round picks to sign can be found here.

  • Pittsburgh has signed 14th-rounder Bryce Weidman and 22nd-rounder Adalberto Santos, reports Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com.
  • John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the Reds have signed two more of their picks.
  • Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times tweets that the Dodgers signed their second and seventh round selections — namely, right-hander Ralston Cash and right-hander Ryan Christenson
  • The Cubs agreed to terms with five draft picks today, according to a team press release.  Third-rounder Micah Gibbs was the highest-drafted player amongst the new Cubs.
  • Corey Brock of MLB.com tweets that the Padres signed fifth-round pick Rico Noel and eleventh-rounder Brian Guinn.
  • A Padres team press release confirmed the signings of Noel and Guinn, and also announced that the club had agreed to terms with six other draft picks.
  • Anthony Andro of the Dallas Morning News reports that Texas agreed to terms with sixth-rounder Brett Nicholas.
  • According to an Angels press release, the team has signed second-rounder (81st overall) Daniel Tillman, a right-handed pitcher from Florida Southern College.
  • Chris Sale passed his team physical and thus his contract with the White Sox was officially announced by the club today, via press release.

Odds & Ends: Sale, Astros, Shealy, Orioles

Links for Sunday night..

  • Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune points out that even though Sale signed for less than anticipated, a quick promotion to the majors would start his service time clock sooner.
  • Jim Callis of Baseball America tweets that more teams should be willing to test the resolve of college juniors, like the White Sox were with Chris Sale.
  • The moves the Astros made earlier this evening will make them younger, faster, and possibly better defensively, writes Alyson Footer of MLB.com.
  • Ryan Shealy believes that his new club will afford him a better opportunity to make a big league roster, writes Paul Kenyon for The Providence Journal.  Shealy was signed by Boston and placed in Triple-A after exercising his opt-out clause with the Rays.
  • O's scouting director Joe Jordan is hopeful that the club's agreement with fourth-round pick Trent Mummey will get the ball rolling for the rest of the team's top draftees, writes MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli.  Baltimore has now agreed to terms with 26 of their 49 selections.