Results tagged ‘ Jeff Niemann ’

What can the Angels get for Kendrys Morales? …

Kendrys MoralesThe ideal chip for the Angels’ next, seemingly inevitable trade for a starting pitcher is Kendrys Morales.

It’s hard to deny that. Morales is coming into his final season before free agency and — given his representation (Scott Boras) and his desire to be more than a full-time DH — will leave after 2013.

Trading him now would give the Angels an outfield foursome of Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo (with Vernon Wells‘ contract probably still lingering). Trout, Bourjos and Trumbo are still in their pre-arbitration years and all four are under club control until at least 2016. Trout (probably left field), Bourjos (center) and Hamilton (right) would make up one of the game’s best outfields — offensively and defensively — and would give the Angels somewhat of a revolving door at DH. Trumbo would get the most reps there, but his versatility would allow Hamilton and Albert Pujols, who need to stay on the field to maximize their nine-figure contracts, can start there, too, when needed.

But what kind of starting pitcher can Morales bring back?

The Angels will seemingly be selling pretty high on the 29-year-old switch-hitter. He’s coming off his first healthy season since 2009, batting .273 with 22 homers, 73 RBIs and a .787 OPS. Morales, who missed almost two full seasons with a couple of ankle surgeries, even proved he can still handle first base. Then there’s the belief that he’ll be even better in 2013, with the motivation of an expiring contract and a full season under his belt. That’s a pretty good package for a guy who will make about $4 million next year, and teams desperate for power — particularly from the left side of the plate — would no doubt love to have him.

Still, though, his market is limited, because you’d be hard-pressed to find a National League club willing to gamble on him as their everyday first baseman and because we’re at a point in the offseason when most teams no longer have big holes to fill. Of course, the Angels would love to move Wells, but I can’t imagine them getting back any significant starter for him, even if they eat the vast majority of the $42 million owed to him the next two years. They’ll also keep listening on Bourjos and Trumbo, and may pull the trigger if blown away by a top-tier, cost-controlled starter. But as Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com wrote on Twitter recently, the priority is to deal Morales for an innings-eater.

Who can they get?

Here are three potential (and purely speculative) AL fits …

Rays: I know, it’s the first place everyone goes. But Tampa Bay always seems like an ideal match because they’re (still) rich in starters and could always use offense. Right now the Rays have James Loney at first base, with somewhat of a platoon at DH with the right-handed-hitting Ryan Roberts and the left-handed-hitting Sam Fuld. Morales would give them a big upgrade, and someone who can protect Evan Longoria. But he wouldn’t get the Angels Jeremy Hellickson or Matt Moore, or probably even Alex Cobb. Maybe Jeff Niemann, who’s under club control for two more years and would cost about $3 million in arbitration in 2013? The Rays did pick up some flexibility for the rotation by signing Roberto Hernandez on Tuesday.

Orioles: They still seek a middle-of-the-order bat, have a spot open at DH and seemingly have some pitching they can afford to part ways with. Righties Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman, and lefties Zach Britton and Brian Matusz are all young with upside, but with the exception of Tillman, they all struggled last year. Would the O’s be willing to part ways with the 24-year-old Tillman, one of few bright spots in an eclectic starting staff that ranked ninth in the AL in ERA last year? And given his past inconsistencies, can the Angels do better?

Indians: They’re trying to woo free-agent outfielder Nick Swisher, but could always use more offense, and Morales could split time at DH and first base with the right-handed-hitting Mark Reynolds. What about Justin Masterson, who had a rough 2012 season but has topped 200 innings the last two years and is signed for two more years? Well, he isn’t an ace, but he’s listed as Cleveland’s No. 1 pitcher, so they’d probably be very hesitant to give him up for K-Mo. Here’s another intriguing name: Ubaldo JimenezHe’s been a shell of himself the last couple years, but he’s been relatively healthy, will make $5.75 million in 2013 and has an $8 million option for 2014. Perhaps working with his old catcher, Chris Iannetta, can get him back on track.

The important thing to ask yourself is whether any of these guys would be an upgrade over the 24-year-old Garrett Richards, who has yet to start a full season in the Majors but has a lot of upside. Adding another starter would likely push Richards to Triple-A, with Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton making up the rest of the staff, and Jerome Williams likely returning to the long-relief role. The Angels’ front office will have some important decisions to make before Spring Training (and perhaps they’ll linger beyond that). Do they hold onto Bourjos and Trumbo, keeping their position-player roster deep but not improving the rotation a whole lot? Or do they trade one of those two — or both, or more — to land the impact starter they could still use?

Alden 

Postseason breakdown: American League

MINNESOTA — The Rays, Yankees, Twins and Rangers are all different heading into the postseason, but they all have a lefty at the top of their rotations, solid eight- and ninth-inning guys and, come Wednesday, they’ll all be 0-0 and 11 wins away from World Series glory. 

With the start of the American League Division Series now less than two days away, here’s a team-by-team glance at what we’ve got. 

(And a prediction that’s hopefully more successful than my regular-season picks.) 
Rays (96-66)

Potential lineup

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Ben Zobrist, RF
Carl Crawford, LF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Carlos Pena, 1B
B.J. Upton, CF
Willy Aybar, DH
Jason Bartlett, SS
Sean Rodriguez, 2B

Potential rotation

David Price, LH

James Shields, RH
Matt Garza, RH
Wade Davis, RH
Key relievers

Rafael Soriano, RH (CL)
Joaquin Benoit, RH
Randy Choate, LH 
Grant Balfour, RH

Key reserves

Kelly Shoppach, C
Dan Johnson, 1B
Reid Brignac, INF
Matt Joyce, OF

Why they’ll win: The Rays have a potential (or favorite?) Cy Young winner in Price, they have a back end of the bullpen that makes the late innings a nightmare — with Benoit in the eighth and Soriano in the ninth — and their speed element — led by Crawford and Upton — is as unique as it is excruciating to defend. Tampa Bay finished 2010 first in the AL in relief pitcher ERA, third in fielding percentage and, despite an inconsistent offense, third in runs. All big keys to success in my book. 

Why they won’t: As threatening as they are on the basepaths, the Rays’ offense has been rather inconsistent this season, because those surrounding Longoria (fully recovered) and Crawford have been very streaky. The big key will be Pena, the power-hitting first baseman who hit just .122 since the start of September. The importance of Pena to the offense is matched by the importance of Shields to the rotation. Joe Maddon surprised me by naming him the No. 2 starter behind Price, despite his 7.59 ERA in his last six starts. He’ll need to be “Big Game James” and give this up-and-down rotation another solid option if the Rays are to make a return trip to the World Series. 

Yankees (95-67)

Potential lineup

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Nick Swisher, RF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Lance Berkman, DH
Jorge Posada, C
Curtis Granderson, CF
Brett Gardner, LF

Potential rotation

CC Sabathia, LH
Andy Pettitte, LH
Phil Hughes, RH
A.J. Burnett, RH

Key relievers

Mariano Rivera, RH (CL)
Kerry Wood, RH
Joba Chamberlain, RH
Boone Logan, LH

Key reserves

Francisco Cervelli, C
Ramiro Pena, INF
Marcus Thames, OF
Austin Kearns, OF

Why they’ll win: Because they’re the Yankees. They’re the defending champions, the payroll monsters and the ones with all the mystique. Their lineup is loaded with dangerous hitters from top to bottom and sprinkled throughout with gritty postseason performers who know what it takes to win this month. So does their ace, Sabathia, and their closer, Rivera. With names like those, along with A-Rod, Jeter, Teixeira, Posada and Cano, the potential MVP, it’s hard to ever bet against the Yankees. Wood has also been a key addition and makes the Bombers yet another team in these playoffs with the eighth and ninth pretty much locked down. 

Why they won’t: Because the starting rotation won’t let them. That’s the only glaring weakness I see for the Yankees in this postseason (though, granted, it’s a big one). Joe Giradi has been mum on who follows CC in the rotation — and maybe he doesn’t even want to think about it. Seriously, who do you go with? Burnett has been awful this season, especially lately. Hughes has been up-and-down and has far-exceeded his previous career-high innings mark. Pettitte isn’t far removed from a long stint on the shelf (and he’s 38). And Vazquez’s struggles have pretty much exiled him from the postseason rotation. 

Twins (94-68)
Potential lineup
Denard Span, CF

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Orlando Hudson, 2B
Joe Mauer, C
Delmon Young, LF
Jim Thome, DH
Michael Cuddyer, 1B
Jason Kubel, RF
Danny Valencia, 3B
J.J. Hardy, SS
Potential rotation
Francisco Liriano, LH
Carl Pavano, RH
Brian Duensing, LH
Nick Blackburn, RH
Key relievers
Matt Capps, RH (CL)
Brian Fuentes, LH
Jon Rauch, RH
Jesse Crain, RH
Key reserves
Drew Butera, C
Nick Punto, INF
Alexi Casilla, INF
Jason Repko, OF
Why they’ll win: In their previous five appearances in the postseason, the Twins have advanced past the first round just once. But this time, they’ll start with home-field advantage in their beautiful, brand-new ballpark — Target Field — and a resilient team will play on it. Their bullpen is one of the best in the bigs, and though the starting pitching and offense isn’t flashy, the Twins find a way to get the job done in those areas, too. 

Why they won’t: Because the injuries will just be too much to stomach. The Twins have already dealt with the long-term losses of closer Joe Nathan and main run producer Justin Morneau. But Ron Gardenhire‘s club may have to overcome more, if Mauer’s knee and Thome’s back prove troublesome throughout the playoffs. Also, is Liriano the type of ace that can match up with the front-line lefty starters of the other three teams? 

Rangers (90-72)

Potential lineup


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Michael Young, 3B
Josh Hamilton, LF
Vladimir Guerrero, DH
Nelson Cruz, RF
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Bengie Molina, C
Julio Borbon, CF

Potential rotation

Cliff Lee, LH
C.J. Wilson, RH
Colby Lewis, RH
Tommy Hunter, RH

Key relievers

Neftali Feliz, RH (CL)
Darren Oliver, LH
Darren O’Day, RH
Alexi Ogando, RH

Key reserves

Matt Treanor, C
Jorge Cantu, INF
David Murphy, OF
Jeff Francoeur, OF

Why they’ll win: The Rangers have it all in this postseason — a potent lineup, a solid rotation, a deadly relief corps and a wealth of depth. The biggest cause for concern heading in was the health of Hamilton, but the MVP candidate dismissed that by looking good in the regular season’s final weekend. Now, he can nestle into a lineup that boasts Guerrero, Young, Cruz and Kinsler. Rotation-wise, the Rangers knew they’d have an ace in Lee — who proved last year his regular season success translates to the playoffs, too — but it would’ve been hard to predict the rotation behind him would be as solid as it has been. 

Why they won’t: I think the Rangers are the best, most complete AL team in this postseason. But that’s only if Hamilton and Lee are performing the way we all expect. Can we be sure they will? Hamilton, as you know, missed about a month with two fractured ribs. Lee, as you may not, struggled mightily in August, a month that saw him post a 6.35 ERA in seven starts. Also, Ron Washington is the only skipper in these playoffs with no previous postseason managing experience. 
AL CHAMPION: Rangers. 

– Alden Gonzalez

* Look for the NL version tomorrow, and follow @Alden_Gonzalez for coverage of the Yankees-Twins ALDS. 

Rays, Marlins, umps agree: Vuvuzelas out of place

MIAMI — The concept seemed like almost a no-brainer for the Marlins’ marketing department: Schedule a noise-making giveaway in June as part of their Super Saturday Concert series that would tie into the World Cup. 

But after 11 innings of a 4 1/2-hour game on Saturday, it was hard to find supporters in either clubhouse regarding the miniature vuvuzelas (pictured; The Associated Press) handed out to the first 15,000 fans at Sun Life Stadium.
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In fact, after his club’s wild 9-8 victory, Rays manager Joe Maddon said those blowing horns that created a deafening moaning sound at the ballpark all game long “should be banned from Major League Baseball.”
The next morning, he wasn’t softening his stance.
“They’re annoying,” he said. “I mean, there’s cool things and there’s very non-cool things. That’s a non-cool thing. … It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla, in particular, was sporting earplugs. So was Rays third-base coach Tom Foley. And so did the umpiring crew.
“I couldn’t really hear myself talk,” Rays right-hander James Shields said.
“When you’re in the game, you don’t hear it, but it was loud on the bench sitting there,” Rays Saturday starter Jeff Niemann added. “I definitely noticed it, for sure.”
The vuvuzelas — made popular by World Cup soccer fans in South Africa — may have also caused confusion, an out and an ejection in one strange play in the bottom of the ninth. 
In a 5-5 tie, Marlins reserve infielder Brian Barden led off with a walk. But while he was trotting to first base, Maddon approached home-plate umpire Lance Barksdale and pointed out that the Marlins were batting out of order.
Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez pleaded his case before getting thrown out, and afterward said it was Barksdale who “screwed it up.” Perhaps the droning moans of the vuvuzelas that reverberated from the announced crowd of 23,242 caused a miscommunication. 
“It could have,” Barksdale said. “It was the most uncomfortable baseball I’ve been a part of in a long time because of that. Whether that had anything to do with it, I don’t know, but it could have. When’s the last time you heard something like that at a baseball game? Never.”
The Marlins disallowed vuvuzelas in their Sunday game because noise-making items are never allowed to be brought into the ballpark. 
Here’s how Marlins vice president of marketing Sean Flynn explained the decision to give away vuvuzelas: “The air horns are part of our regular pregame interactive giveaway for Super Saturdays. We try to create either a sound or visual giveaway. … We also looked at the timing and knew this would be in the heart of the World Cup. We knew the vuvuzela would be a pig part of the World Cup in South Africa.”
But the home team wasn’t happy with the giveaway, either.
“This isn’t soccer,” Uggla said. “I know the World Cup is going on, but this is baseball. We don’t want to hear horns or anything like that. We want to hear the crowd cheering. We want to hear the crowd getting behind us, not horns.”
– Alden Gonzalez

6 Divisions in 6 Days: AL East

With this being the final week of Spring Training (crazy, right?), I figured it’d be justified to take a look at all 30 clubs and examine where they stand, what they need and where it looks like they’ll finish heading into the 2010 season. So, leading up to Opening Night between the Red Sox and Yankees, I’ll touch on one of the six divisions each day Monday-Saturday. Today, Day 2, we look at the American League East …


Yankees: They added Javier Vazquez to a starting rotation that was already one of the best; they still have the automatic Mariano Rivera in the back end of a bullpen that will only 

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benefit from one more year in the setup role for Joba Chamberlain (it seems inevitable that he’ll be the eighth-inning man); and despite not having Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui, that offense is still one of the scariest. But that’s also the place that nurses my only real concern. The loss of Damon makes me question that top of the order. Derek Jeter did a great job at the leadoff spot last year, but I don’t like somebody his age being counted on to play the physically demanding position of shortstop and lead off. At the two-spot, Nick Johnson reminds me of Bobby Abreu because of his ability to take pitches and get on base. But he can break down any day. Plus, the loss of Matsui has them without a true No. 5 hitter to complement Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira and round out the middle of the order. (Are Curtis Granderson or Robinson Cano real forces there?) But let’s not complicate this: The Yankees have the pitching to shut down any lineup and the offense to light up any ace. Yeah, the defending champions are great again. 

Red Sox: With the addition of ace John Lackey, their rotation is up there with the Yankees as the best in baseball. And they’re now at the top of the league defensively, too, with Adrian Beltre and Mike Cameron in the mix. But the question among Boston fans is, Can they hit for power? My question is this: Do they even have to? They have power threats in Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Victor Martinez. But, yeah, they need David Ortiz to somewhat resemble the Big Papi of old. Maybe not the 54-homer guy, but definitely better than the .238-batting-average guy. Still, with a rotation that includes, Lackey, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, a bullpen that’s still among the best in the league, premium defensive players at every position and several high-on-base guys in the lineup — add Marco Scutaro, Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew to that mix — the Red Sox are a force once again. 

Rays: It’s too bad the Rays don’t play in another division (I think they’re champs in the AL Central, AL West and National League West). I like this team — a lot. Kudos to the young Andrew Friedman for fielding a quality 25-man roster with that payroll. That starting rotation — with Matt Garza, James Shields, Jeff Niemann, David Price and Wade Davis — is legitimately five-deep. The lineup is nice with Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria and two very underrated guys — Jason Bartlett and Ben Zobrist. And Rafael Soriano is a significant upgrade over J.P. Howell in the ninth inning. They’ll need B.J. Upton to figure it out, and I think he will, making Tampa Bay solid in every aspect. Better than the Red Sox and Yankees? Unfortunately for fans of the underdog, probably not. 

Blue Jays: Alex Anthopoulos has made some progress in his first year as general manager, but there’s a whole lot that needs fixing if this team is going to be considered any kind of threat in the toughest division in baseball. Priority No. 1: Get rid of that horrible contract that belongs to Vernon Wells. He’s owed $98.5 million over the next five years and coming off a .260 batting average and 15 homers in 2009. They’ll need a solid season from Wells if they want to find somebody who would take on that contract without forcing the Jays to eat up almost all of
it. Anthopoulos did manage to move the salary of
Roy Halladay — though he’s still paying him $6 million this year — and got some nice prospects in return, like Kyle Drabek and, eventually, Brett Wallace. As for this year? Well, they have the same problems most rebuilding teams face. They don’t have an ace, there’s no legit closer in the back end of the bullpen — though there may be two or three nice options — and that lineup is less than formidable. (Jose Bautista as the leadoff hitter?) I don’t know that they’re the worst team in baseball, but considering the 25-man roster they sport and the division they play in, this may be the worst team record-wise when it’s all set and done. 

Orioles: They’ll be better, that’s for sure. After losing 98 games last year to sport the worst record in the AL, they may even improve to the .500 mark. But they won’t really compete yet, so let’s start with the future. It’s getting there. Corner infielders Josh Bell and Brandon Snyder, plus current young studs in center fielder Adam Jones, catcher Matt Wieters and right fielder Nick Markakis means that offense is not far away from being very legit (don’t forget Brian Roberts is locked up through 2013, too). Pitching-wise, guys like Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz and potential closer Jim Johnson (we’ll see) give the staff promise. In the mean time, GM Andy MacPhail did a nice job of getting some stopgap guys to make sure they don’t reside in the basement of the AL once again, with Kevin Millwood, Miguel Tejada and Mike Gonzalez. Yeah, things are getting better in Baltimore. Just be patient. 
AL East champion: Yankees
AL Wild Card: Red Sox

– Alden Gonzalez
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