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Mike Leake Rumors
Adam Wainwright returned to the mound today and threw a 30- to 40-pitch bullpen session without issue, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Wainwright gave Cardinals fans a bit of a scare last week when he had to return to St. Louis to see a specialist for pain in his abdomen, but he was diagnosed with a strain and merely prescribed some rest. Manager Mike Matheny said his ace will first have to face hitters in a live batting practice session before getting into a game, but he didn’t give reporters a timeline on that next step.
More from the NL Central…
- Matt Holliday said to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports today that he hopes the Cardinals will eventually pick up his 2017 option (Twitter link). Holliday says he’s not concerned with the financial component of the $17MM option, but rather that he likes playing in St. Louis and hopes to remain as long as he can. In reply, Goold tweeted to Heyman that team president Bill DeWitt Jr. has told the Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz that the current intention is indeed to exercise the option. Of course, plenty could change that line of thinking over the next two seasons, especially considering the fact that Holliday is already 35.
- Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review opines that new addition Jung-ho Kang is more likely to eventually cut into the playing time of Jordy Mercer or Josh Harrison than Neil Walker in the short-term. He also tackles recent reports that the Pirates are open to an extension with Andrew McCutchen at a premium price, wondering if such a move would be wise for the Bucs four years in advance of the end of a contract that already runs through McCutchen’s age-31 season. As Sawchik notes, paying for a player’s decline phase rarely proves to be a sound decision for any team, and the team could have younger assets like Gerrit Cole or Gregory Polanco on which to use that hefty sum as they enter their arbitration years.
- Mike Leake tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he’s happy to have survived the Reds‘ offseason with the team, as he and fellow right-handers Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon entered the offseason fully aware that they could be traded. (Latos and Simon, of course, were indeed traded.) Leake hasn’t been approached by the Reds about an extension yet and isn’t expecting them to do so, although he’d like to see them at least try to work out a long-term deal. The 27-year-old former No. 8 overall pick can become a free agent at season’s end and has enjoyed a pair of productive seasons in 2013-14, posting a 3.54 ERA in 406 2/3 innings.
Carlos Villanueva had hoped to throw in a different division before he was contacted by the Cardinals, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. After spending seven of his nine seasons with NL Central teams, Villanueva will look to take a swingman role with St. Louis. Though Villanueva was given no guarantees, Goold says that the club targeted him with hopes he would earn a pen/spot starter slot in camp.
Here are some notes from the rest of the division:
- The time for Welington Castillo with the Cubs is up, says Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Though the backstop has said he still hopes to compete for a job, multi-year commitments to Miguel Montero and David Ross make that exceedingly unlikely. Chicago has continued to discuss trades — and had already started doing so even before dealing for Montero — with the Phillies among the teams in talks, per Wittenmyer. Castillo certainly seems to be bringing a good attitude with him to camp, but the report indicates that Chicago is mostly just waiting for the market to open up.
- Righty Mike Leake, who’ll qualify for free agency after the season, said he would be interested in exploring an extension but that the club has not approached him, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports. “I’ll be happy to stay in Cincinnati, but I’d also be happy to go to free agency,” he said. “I’d like for them to show interest. They haven’t yet. If they don’t have interest, they don’t have interest.”
- It’s all reading tea leaves at this point, but Pirates manager Clint Hurdle gave no indication in early spring comments that Jung-ho Kang is being groomed as an eventual replacement for second baseman Neil Walker, MLB.com’s Tom Singer reports. Per Hurdle, Kang “will get reps at short and third, positions he has played, then maybe second.” While Kang’s potential versatility — like that of Josh Harrison — could well impact the team’s plans for the increasingly-pricey Walker, it seems most likely that Pittsburgh will allow circumstances to dictate how things proceed.
- Of course, Kang has a significant period of transition in store, on and off the field. Global Sporting Integration discusses that and provides an audio link to the proper pronunciation of the Korean star’s name.
An international draft is often pitched as the answer to big-market teams cornering the market on top international prospects, though Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron (writing for FOXSports.com) proposes that a firmer spending cap tied to Major League payroll would be a better solution. The proposal extends so far as to abolish the North American first-year player draft, giving smaller-revenue clubs a clearer path to acquiring young talent and giving prospects more freedom in choosing their future employers. Here’s some more from around baseball…
- During an interview (hat tip to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon) on MLB Network’s “Hot Stove” show, Reds GM Walt Jocketty said that his team is still trying to extend Johnny Cueto. “With Johnny, we’ll never say ‘never.’ We are going to do everything we can to try and come up with some sort of plan to keep him,” Jocketty said. “I’m not sure we’ll be able to, because the numbers are obviously starting to skyrocket and it’s very tough in our market to continue to retain guys at a high price like that. We’ll continue to work on that and see where it comes out.” As last we heard earlier this month, the two sides had reportedly made little progress on an extension that would keep Cueto from free agency next winter.
- Beyond Cueto, Mike Leake is also eligible for free agency after the 2015 season. Jocketty said the Reds kept Leake due to his consistency, and “We’ll see what we can do with him in the future as well” in terms of an extension.
- Ruben Amaro thinks Jonathan Papelbon “probably will” still be a Phillie when Spring Training camp opens, though the GM told Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News that the closer’s status “could change. We’re still having discussions on a couple different fronts with regard to the players we have.” Papelbon has drawn a lot of trade buzz in recent days, with the Brewers rumored to be the favorites to acquire the stopper while the Blue Jays are longer-shot candidates.
- The Diamondbacks haven’t made any progress in negotiations with Mark Trumbo and Addison Reed and it seems like both players’ cases will go to arbitration, GM Dave Stewart tells MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. A $1.6MM gap separates Trumbo and the Snakes ($6.9MM to $5.3MM) while Reed and the team are $900K apart ($5.6MM to $4.7MM).
- Baseball America has released its 2015 ranking of the top ten prospects in each team’s farm system. More scouting information is available to BA subscribers.
Leake, 27, was projected to earn $9.5MM by Matt Swartz’s model. The new deal represents a healthy pay bump for the right-hander, who earned $5.9MM in 2014.
Leake pitched to a 3.70 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 33 starts last season, his third straight campaign with 30+ starts. Advanced metrics such as xFIP (3.49) were kinder to him than ERA last season. This was Leake’s final year of arbitration eligibility and he’ll be able to hit the open market next winter.
- Adding Lester is huge for the Cubs, but they’re at least one more good starter away from contention, ESPN’s Keith Law writes (Insider-only). Brandon McCarthy would be a good fit, Law suggests, or they could trade young hitting for another starter. Even if the Cubs’ core of young hitting needs another year to develop before the team can contend, though, Lester figures to age well and should still be pitching at a high level in 2016.
- The Lester deal gives the Cubs more credibility, new manager Joe Maddon told reporters, including MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. “It definitely makes it more believable to everybody else in that [clubhouse],” Maddon said. “I’ll stand up and make the same speech regardless, but when you have it backed up by that particular kind of presence, it adds to it. … Having people like that in the room definitely helps other guys believe this is possible.”
- The deal is an awkward one for the Red Sox, tweets Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan. They could have offered Lester far less last spring than their losing bid this time around, and he would have accepted.
- The Red Sox still have to upgrade their rotation, and their missing out on Lester by $20MM is a bad sign, ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes writes. It will be hard, Edes writes, for the Red Sox to have a rotation without Lester as good as the one they could have had if they had signed him.
- Lester becoming a Cub shifts the balance of power in the NL Central, and the New York Post’s Joel Sherman wonders (via Twitter) if it will be what causes the Reds to begin rebuilding.
- On a related note, Lester’s contract sets the standard for extension talks between the Reds and Johnny Cueto, who is eligible for free agency after 2015, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. Rosecrans also notes that, with Lester heading to Chicago, the Red Sox figure to be clearly in the market for starting pitching, and there might be a match between the Red Sox and Reds, who could offer Mat Latos or Mike Leake.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that some in the Red Sox organization see Xander Bogaerts as a young Hanley Ramirez. “They are both fun-loving kids who love playing the game,” Red Sox first base/outfield coach Arnie Beyeler said. “I didn’t see Hanley after the Dominican League, but I remember him as a kid who once he got his chance just did things better than everyone else. He ran better, threw better, hit better. It was easy to see that he was going to develop into a very good baseball player. And you see the same things with Xander.” More from today’s column..
- Major league sources tell Cafardo that the Cubs are very serious about Jon Lester while the Giants are becoming more serious about him. Meanwhile, the Yankees are thinking about getting serious about Lester but haven’t committed to doing so. The Red Sox remain interested but it remains to be seen how far they’ll go.
- If the Red Sox sign Jon Lester, Cafardo can see them moving Yoenis Cespedes for a No. 2 or No. 3 starter such as Reds hurlers Mat Latos or Mike Leake. The Reds would have a need for Cespedes’s bat, but they would also probably have a need for shortstop Deven Marrero. Meanwhile, Johnny Cueto would cost Cespedes and maybe two top prospects, but it would be tempting for Boston.
- The Tigers could also be a match in a Cespedes deal. If those talks were to take place, the Red Sox would have more interest in Rick Porcello than Anibal Sanchez. David Price could be a possibility if the Red Sox whiff on Lester, but that would be costly.
- It’s strange to some that the Yankees haven’t re-signed closer David Robertson by now. One rival AL East GM wonders if the Yankees might change direction and go after someone like Andrew Miller, a power lefty, to go along with Dellin Betances.
- It’s hard to tell whether the Nationals are serious about trading Jordan Zimmermann because they have the resources to sign him and he’s their best pitcher. “It doesn’t hurt to listen,” said one NL executive about GM Mike Rizzo’s strategy. “If you get overwhelmed, you do it. If you don’t, you keep him. Pretty simple, actually.” Cafardo writes that the Red Sox, Rangers, and Cubs seem to have the pieces to get a deal done.
- There are teams interested in Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz. “There’s a lot of talent there that hasn’t come out,” one NL scout said.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Andrew Miller | Anibal Sanchez | Boston Red Sox | Chicago Cubs | Cincinnati Reds | David Price | David Robertson | Detroit Tigers | Deven Marrero | Mat Latos | Mike Leake | New York Yankees | Newsstand | Rick Porcello | San Francisco Giants | Texas Rangers | Washington Nationals | Yoenis Cespedes
Reds GM Walt Jocketty is of the mindset that his team will need to either be “all in” or “all out” in 2015, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. In other words, if the Reds decide to trade one of four starters who is eligible for free agency following the 2015 season — Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Alfredo Simon — others may very well follow. Sherman lists Jay Bruce and Aroldis Chapman as names to watch if Cincinnati does elect to go into a full rebuild. Both can be free agents after 2016, though the Reds have a club option on Bruce for the 2017 season.
Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…
- Sherman also tweets that the Cubs aren’t likely to spend big on a closer this winter, which seemingly eliminates a potential suitor for David Robertson. Earlier today, reports indicated that Robertson is seeking a contract comparable to Jonathan Papelbon‘s four-year, $50MM contract.
- The Tigers are willing to listen to offers on Alex Avila, tweets the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Avila has a $5.4MM club option for his final arb year and was projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn the same amount in arbitration. Cafardo notes that the Braves and Red Sox are both looking for left-handed bats. While both have inexperienced catchers (Christian Bethancourt and Christian Vasquez, respectively), adding Avila would limit each team’s ability to get an extended look at how their young backstop handles a full workload.
- John Manuel of Baseball America tweets that the Tigers‘ defense up the middle in 2015 could be special with Jose Iglesias and the newly acquired Anthony Gose. He also notes that Devon Travis, who went to the Blue Jays in the deal, now has a clear shot to Major League playing time that he may not have had in Detroit.
- The Royals could scout Yasmany Tomas in the Dominican Republic next week, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. Royals officials will be in the Dominican Republic on other business anyway and met with Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou, earlier this week at the GM Meetings. The team’s payroll could surpass the $100MM mark for the first time next season, and there’s perhaps room for one significant expenditure such as Tomas, Ervin Santana or Melky Cabrera, McCullough writes.
- Billy Butler is receiving interest from a number of clubs — even one National League club — tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The interest in Butler likely means that a return to the Royals isn’t the best fit, he adds. McCullough reported Tuesday that K.C. doesn’t seem inclined to go beyond two years to retain Butler.
- Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wonders if the Brewers will consider trading a starting pitcher (Twitter link). The Brew Crew needs some payroll flexibility, and the Braves are one team that has been poking around at the GM Meetings.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Alex Avila | Alfredo Simon | Aroldis Chapman | Atlanta Braves | Billy Butler | Boston Red Sox | Chicago Cubs | Cincinnati Reds | David Robertson | Detroit Tigers | Ervin Santana | Jay Bruce | Johnny Cueto | Jonathan Papelbon | Kansas City Royals | Mat Latos | Melky Cabrera | Mike Leake | Milwaukee Brewers | Toronto Blue Jays | Yasmany Tomas
The Cubs weren’t included on Cole Hamels‘ updated 20-team no-trade list, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (Twitter link). The Cubs are known to be looking for top-of-the-rotation arms this winter, and the remaining four years/$96MM on Hamels’ contract would cost Chicago less than what it would take to sign a top free agent starter like Max Scherzer or Jon Lester. On the other hand, the Cubs would have to give up multiple top prospects to obtain Hamels from the Phillies, so they could prefer to just keep their young talent and spend extra to sign a free agent ace. The Red Sox are thus far the only team known to be on Hamels’ no-trade list.
Here’s more from around the NL Central…
- Right field has sadly become an offseason concern for the Cardinals due to Oscar Taveras‘ untimely death, GM John Mozeliak told MLB.com’s Jen Langsoch. “I think it certainly leaves that position in question,” Mozeliak said. “Clearly internally, we have [Randal] Grichuk and potentially [Stephen] Piscotty to fill that spot. I would also say that it does now force us to explore other options, whether it’s the free-agent market or the trade market….I’m not saying it’s a must, but I also think we need to be prudent and make sure that we understand what that landscape looks like.” The Cards will explore both short-term and long-term options in RF, Mozeliak said. Out of respect for Taveras, Mozeliak waited a week after the outfielder’s passing to begin making calls to agents and general managers, Langosch writes.
- The Reds “are listening” to offers for their starting pitchers but ace Johnny Cueto seems the least likely to be moved, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. Cincinnati would probably have to be “absolutely overwhelmed” to deal Cueto, Heyman writes, as the team plans to contend in 2015.
- Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan also hears that Cueto is unlikely to be traded, though rival executives tell Passan (Twitter link) that the Reds are willing to discuss trading Mat Latos and Mike Leake.
- The Reds are “at [a] fascinating crossroads,” FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes in a series of tweets. If the Reds deal Cueto, they might as well deal Aroldis Chapman too as part of a rebuild, Rosenthal opines. Attendance and the fact that they’re hosting the All-Star Game could make 2015 a bit of a “buffer” year for the Reds, though Rosenthal points out that the team might not want to rebuild in a season when they’re hosting the Midsummer Classic. Back in September, I explored Cincinnati’s trade options with their rotation members in a Trade Candidates piece.
- Major League Baseball has opened an investigation into whether or not the Cubs tampered with Joe Maddon when he was still under contract with the Rays, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. The Rays asked MLB to investigate last week. “There was no tampering whatsoever,” Cubs president Theo Epstein told reporters (including ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers). “I’d rather they investigate so we can clear our name and move on from this quickly. We’re giving our full cooperation and we welcome it.”
The Reds’ hopes of challenging in the NL Central were dimmed by several major injuries this year, and this visit from the injury bug was particularly damaging to a team who already faced some big decisions in the offseason. With just over $71MM committed to 10 players on the 2015 payroll, the mid-market Reds may be forced to save some money by moving a starting pitcher. Though Cincinnati’s durable and deep rotation has been a big part of the club’s success in recent years, pitching seems like a natural area for payroll reduction simply due to the fact that three starters will enter their third year of arbitration eligibility.
Two pitchers who won’t be dealt are Homer Bailey and Tony Cingrani. The Reds have already committed to Bailey in the form of a six-year, $105MM extension, and wouldn’t have been likely to move him even if Bailey hadn’t recently undergone forearm surgery. Cingrani has also had injury problems, spending most of 2014 on the DL with shoulder problems. Had Cingrani been able to build off of his impressive 2013 rookie season, the Reds would’ve felt at least a bit better about trading one of their more established starters (Bronson Arroyo wasn’t re-signed last winter in part because the Reds were comfortable with Cingrani).
It’s possible Cincinnati could trade multiple starters, though I’d suspect that the team wouldn’t want to lose too much pitching depth until they know Bailey and Cingrani are fully healthy. The Reds would probably rather not have David Holmberg or Dylan Axelrod as full-time rotation members next year, top prospect Robert Stephenson still needs some seasoning (a 4.74 ERA in 136 2/3 IP at Double-A in 2014) and the newly-signed Raisel Iglesias could still wind up in the bullpen.
The Reds’ other four pitchers are all controlled only through 2015, so the team likely wouldn’t score a truly huge return in a trade but all carry value even as one-year pitchers. The candidates…
Johnny Cueto: The Reds have a $10MM option on Cueto for 2015 that is sure to be exercised given how well Cueto has pitched. After an injury-shorted 2013, Cueto bounced back in a major way by posting a 2.15 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 3.73 K/BB rate over a league-leading 222 innings.
Cueto’s next contract will be in the nine-figure range, and it’s unclear if the Reds would be willing ink another major extension given how much money has been tied up in recent deals with Bailey, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips. Cueto would net the biggest return in a trade, though moving their ace would seem to hint that the Reds are punting on 2015, which I doubt they’re prepared to do. On the other hand, the Reds could trade Cueto for Major League parts (such what the Rays and Red Sox received for David Price, John Lackey and Jon Lester before last July’s trade deadline) and use a Cueto deal to reload rather than rebuild.
Keeping Cueto would give the Reds stability at the top of their rotation, and they could still explore dealing Cueto at next year’s trade deadline if they fall out of the race. If they’re contending and wanted to keep Cueto, Cincinnati could then get a compensatory draft pick via the qualifying offer if he leaves in free agency after the 2015 season.
In a recent Insider-only piece, ESPN’s Buster Olney recently explored Cueto’s trade market and raised the possibility that the Reds could clear some payroll space by attaching Phillips, for example, to Cueto in a trade package. With several notable starters available as free agents this winter, Olney believes some teams might prefer trading for a year of Cueto rather than making an expensive multiyear commitment for an ace on the open market. Also, a contending team that potentially loses their ace in free agency (such as if Max Scherzer leaves the Tigers or James Shields leaves the Royals) could look to Cueto as a short-term replacement to keep their rotation strong for another run in 2015.
Mat Latos: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently cited Latos as perhaps the likeliest of the Reds’ starters to be dealt, as both Latos and Cueto can make a case for commanding an extension larger than Bailey’s deal. While Cueto is two years older than Latos, presumably the Reds would be more inclined to extend their homegrown product than they would Latos, who missed part of 2014 with an elbow injury. Latos has a 3.25 ERA in 102 1/3 IP this year, though ERA indicators show that he hasn’t pitched quite that well (3.64 FIP, 4.00 xFIP, 4.08 SIERA) and both his ground ball and strikeout rates dropped significantly below his career averages. The right-hander’s average fastball velocity also dropped to 90.7 mph, down from 92.5 mph in 2013.
The Reds already tested the market for Latos at the trade deadline, so I tend to agree with Rosenthal that if a Cincy starter is moved, it’ll probably be Latos. His declined numbers could be explained by his elbow issues, and if fully healthy, Latos could be a standout front-of-the-rotation starter for several teams. He earned $7.25MM in 2014 in the last year of a two-year extension, and he’ll be eligible for arbitration for a third and final time this winter.
Mike Leake: Another pitcher with a third arb year remaining, Leake will get a raise from his $5.925MM salary in 2014. The right-hander has been a reliable rotation piece over his five Major League seasons, not missing many bats (career 6.1 K/9) but inducing a lot of grounders (49.8% ground ball rate) and eating a lot of innings, averaging 191 IP over the last three years.
Leake comes with the fewest question marks of any Cincinnati starter, lacking the injury histories of Cueto and Latos but also never pitching nearly as well as those two have at their peaks. While Leake’s ceiling in the bigs may never surpass the “solid” level (he has an even 100 ERA+ over his career), this also means that the Reds could extend him at a much lower price than Cueto or Latos. A Leake extension could look something like the five-year, $65MM deal the White Sox gave John Danks a few years ago, as Leake and Danks are decent comparables in terms of age and career numbers to that point in their careers, plus both had one arb year left before free agency.
The Reds put Leake and Latos on revocable waivers in August, possibly in a move to gauge trade interest for the upcoming offseason. I’d guess there’s a better chance Leake stays in Cincinnati than goes, though the Reds will certainly get interest in the durable 26-year-old.
Alfredo Simon: The big surprise of the group, the 33-year-old Simon moved from the bullpen to the rotation as an injury fill-in and wound up making his first All-Star team. Though his performance has very much come back to earth in the second half, Simon still has a 3.48 ERA through 178 1/3 innings on the season despite a middling 5.9 K/9.
Simon is arb-eligible for the third time this winter and he’ll earn a healthy raise over his $1.5MM salary, though the raise will hardly break the bank. Simon’s age and career track record give him a very modest amount of trade value, so it’s likely he stays with the Reds and competes for the fifth starter’s job (or returns to the pen) if and when a rotation spot opens up via trade.
With this variety of available starters and a wide variance in asking prices for each of the four pitchers, many teams could fit as potential trade partners for the Reds under the “you can never have too much pitching” argument. If the Reds look to deal a starter and fill an everyday lineup hole at the same time, they’ll likely target a left fielder or a shortstop as upgrades on Ryan Ludwick and Zack Cozart, respectively. Ludwick has a $9MM mutual option for 2015 but after two negative fWAR seasons, the Reds might instead buy him out (for a deferred $4.5MM) and look for other options.
Using these needs to speculate about trade partners, the Cubs, Diamondbacks and possibly the Indians stand out as teams with a shortstop surplus. The Red Sox have a glut of outfielders and are known to be looking for starting pitching. The Dodgers could finally solve their long-standing logjam in the outfield and, if it meant getting back Cueto or Latos, would be willing to eat a lot of salary on one of their high-priced outfield bats.
As Ken Rosenthal noted (video link), the Reds could employ some gamesmanship with their starters and perhaps leverage them against each other in figuring out which (if any) pitchers they want to sign over the long term. Between these negotiations and waiting for the free agent pitching market to play out, Cincinnati might wait until January or even February to move a starter. At this point, the only thing that seems certain about the Reds’ 2015 rotation is that at least one of Cueto, Latos, Leake or Simon won’t be on the roster come Opening Day.
Photo courtesy of Joy R. Absalon/USA Today Sports Images
In an excellent piece at Fangraphs, August Fagerstrom looks at the Athletics‘ acquisition of Adam Dunn as the final piece of GM Billy Beane’s playoff roster. Fagerstrom notes that if the A’s play in a Wild Card game — which is very likely — they’ll likely face either Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Shields, Yordano Ventura, Max Scherzer or David Price. Five of the six are right-handed, making Dunn a formidable weapon in such a matchup. Beyond that, Fagerstrom looks at the Athletics’ bench versus a right-handed pitcher and versus a left-handed pitcher, noting that each group is composed of entirely different players (with the exception of Sam Fuld). However, each group will also feature two catchers that can hit reasonably well, an infielder that can play all four infield positions, and a pair of elite defensive outfielders. The balance of the roster is truly impressive, and Fagerstrom’s piece highlights the roster construction particularly well.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- In a lengthy piece for ESPN The Magazine, Tim Keown spoke with Beane at length about his team’s bold moves this season and the competition they’re facing in their quest for the World Series. Beane referred to division rival Mike Trout as “the best player who has ever walked on the planet” and said he doesn’t care for the narrative that the A’s are “all in” this season: “Just assume that every move we make in the front office means we’re all-in. We can’t afford a five-year plan, so every move means we’re trying to win every game we possibly can. All-in — I never liked that term. For one thing, I don’t have that many chips to throw into the middle of the table.” Keown also spoke with Jon Lester about his trade from the Red Sox to Oakland, and his piece also contains quotes from assistant GM Farhan Zaidi and Jeff Samardzija. The entire article is well worth the read not only for A’s fans, but for baseball fans in general.
- Angels infielder John McDonald tells Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com that he may end up retiring following the 2014 season. McDonald says he’s more than aware of his dwindling playing time — he’s received just 81 PA despite appearing in 81 games this season — and knows the market for 40-year-old infielders isn’t great. “I got more out of my career than I ever thought was possible,” said McDonald. “I didn’t think I’d get a day in the big leagues, let alone parts of 16 years.” For the time being, he’s trying not to even think about the offseason, however, as it’s “just too much fun” to go to the stadium every day in the midst of a pennant race.
- In a second Fangraphs piece pertaining to the AL West, Tony Blengino (former special assistant to the GM with the Mariners) looks at Dustin Ackley‘s batted ball data in an attempt to determine whether or not his second-half resurgence is legitimate. As Blengino notes, Ackley’s production has soared on pulled fly-balls, and his line-drive production has trended upward as well. The trade off has been some loss of authority on ground-balls, but as he notes, hitters will gladly make that swap. Blengino concludes that Ackley may never become a star, as his previously excellent walk rate now looks more pedestrian, but he’s capable of hitting .275-.280 with a .310-.310 OBP and a slugging percentage around .425 with solid-or-better defense in left field — an asset that seemed unlikely just a few months ago.
- Also of interest, Blengino discusses how those with the benefit of hindsight may wonder why Trout didn’t go at the top of the draft class when Ackley was selected, but most clubs felt he was too raw to select near the top of the draft despite being an obvious talent. The Mariners had Stephen Strasburg atop their board and Ackley second, and current Reds righty Mike Leake was “likely” their backup plan should anything go wrong with Ackley, whom he says was “considered a pretty obvious second selection back in 2009.”