Results tagged ‘ Ubaldo Jimenez ’

Angels fall short (OK, way short) on Tanaka …

MasahiroTanakaThe Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes are over, and after all the speculation and all the anticipation, he wound up with the team that seemed to make the most sense from the onset: The Yankees, who badly need pitching, can spend with the best of them, will hardly have to pay Alex Rodriguez in 2014 and have now abandoned any faint hopes to get under the $189 million luxury tax.

The Angels still hold on to those expectations.

They have roughly $15 million of wiggle room before surpassing that tax threshold, which is enough money to sign a free-agent starting pitcher but ultimately wasn’t enough to even compete for Tanaka. The Yankees got him on a seven-year, $155 million contract, with an opt-out after the fourth year, according to Ken Rosenthal.

The Angels knew Tanaka well and liked him a lot, but for them, any deal in excess of $100 million meant going over the tax. With Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton combining to make $196 million over the next four years, and Mike Trout one year away from making major dollars, another mega contract was just too much of a gamble for them. That’s probably why they didn’t bother to meet with him in California two weeks ago, or why they weren’t among the five teams to reportedly submit an offer; the chances were too slim.

So, what now?

In a word (or two), Matt Garza.

The Angels have targeted Garza ever since Jason Vargas signed with the Royals in late November. The two actually share the same agent, Nez Balelo, who also represents third baseman David Freese, who filed an arbitration number $1.9 million higher than what the Angels filed last week. Small world, right? Garza has always seemed a lot more realistic than Tanaka because the contract and the amount of suitors are smaller, but the Angels still aren’t expected to overpay. Agree with it or not, they don’t feel they have to add another starter after acquiring two young, cost-controlled lefties in Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago for Mark Trumbo, a duo that joins Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards in the projected rotation.

I don’t expect the Tanaka signing to impact Garza’s price. They’re on two completely different stratospheres. But one potential ripple effect is that the Diamondbacks have liked Garza for a while, and they have money to burn after not being able to sign Tanaka or Shin-Soo Choo. A resolution could come soon (you know, since we’re like three weeks away from Spring Training).

If Garza’s price demands don’t go down, then the Angels will move on to the next tier, to the likes of Bronson Arroyo and Chris Capuano and Paul Maholm. Chances are, they’ll add someone this month. But I think they’ll wait for a fair price (and this is the month for fair prices). They still aren’t expected to give up a Draft pick in order to sign Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana.

Nobody wants to hear this, but if they don’t feel comfortable with any of the free-agent-salary demands, they can always keep their remaining funds and wait ’til next year, when Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester will make up a much more talented free-agent crop of starters.

Alden

Do the Angels need another starter? …

tylerOK look, before you freak out by the headline, just keep in mind the Angels probably will get another starting pitcher. If they can’t get Masahiro Tanaka, or they can’t fit Matt Garza into the budget, they’ll likely turn to the likes of Bronson Arroyo, Chris CapuanoPaul Maholm, etc. And chances are they’ll land someone.

But that’s not the point of this exercise.

The question, if given more character space, is something like: Is the Angels’ current five-man rotation already good enough, even without a shiny new free agent?

Impossible to determine, you say. And you’re pretty much right. But thanks to the assortment of reliable projections that exist in this sabermetric age, we can at least come up with some semblance of where they stand among their American League counterparts. For that, I turned to Oliver, which is available subscrition-free via FanGraphs.com (and tends to be a lot more favorable than Steamer). I projected the five-man rotations for each team, and added up the cumulative ERA, FIP, WAR and innings total. For the Angels, I have Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs (pictured).

Before we take a look at where the Angels (project to) stand, some notes …

  • A lot of teams — most, actually — have a fifth spot open. In deciding who to pick as the fifth starer, I chose the guy projected to have the highest WAR.
  • The best teams have quality depth beyond the five starters, and the Angels still lack in that department. That isn’t really reflected in this.
  • Things can change drastically for any team that signs Tanaka, or Garza, or Ubaldo Jimenez, or Ervin Santana.
  • Derek Holland isn’t listed with the Rangers because the projections came out before it was learned that he’d be out until midseason due to knee surgery.
  • THEY’RE PROJECTIONS; NOT FACTS. (Obvious, but worth reminding.)

OK, now, here’s a look at each team individually, in alphabetical order. The first cumulative number is ERA, the second is FIP, the third is WAR and the fourth is IP …

Angels (Weaver/Wilson/Richards/Santiago/Skaggs): 18.27|19.62|9.0|826
Astros (Feldman/Cosart/Oberholtzer/Peacock/McHugh): 21.78|22.3|5.0|736
Athletics (Parker/Kazmir/Gray/Griffin/Straily): 18.27|19.91|9.0|782
Blue Jays (Dickey/Marrow/Buehrle/Happ/Hutchison): 20.85|21.44|8.1|757
Indians (Masterson/Kluber/McAllister/Salazar/Carrasco): 19.41|18.99|9.1|755
Mariners (Hernandez/Iwakuma/Walker/Ramirez/Paxton): 18.05|19.06|11.4|802
Orioles (Gonzalez/Tillman/Chin/Norris/Bundy): 20.03|21.62|7.9|764
Rangers (Darvish/Harrison/Ogando/Perez/Tepesch): 19.3|20.41|10.5|727
Rays (Price/Cobb/Moore/Hellickson/Archer): 17.85|19.12|11.0|848
Red Sox (Lester/Buchholz/Lackey/Peavy/Dempster): 19.38|20.16|12.7|860
Royals (Shields/Vargas/Guthrie/Duffy/Davis): 20.97|21.36|8.6|827
Tigers (Verlander/Scherzer/Sanchez/Porcello/Smyly): 17.01|16.5|19.2|904
Twins (Nolasco/Correia/Hughes/Pelfrey/Worley): 21.23|20.99|7.8|783
White Sox (Sale/Quintana/Danks/Johnson/Rienzo): 19.37|21|8.8|743
Yankees (Sabathia/Kuroda/Nova/Phelps/Pineda): 19.6|20.5|9.9|783

Now, the fun stuff (as if you weren’t having fun already). Here’s where the quintets rank. We’ll start with cumulative ERA (obviously, the lower the number, the better) …

DET
TBR
SEA
LAA/OAK
TEX
CHW
BOS
CLE
NYY
BAL
TOR
KCR
MIN
HOU

Now, FIP (like ERA, the lower the better) …

DET
CLE
SEA
TBR
LAA
OAK
BOS
TEX
NYY
MIN
CHW
KCR
TOR
BAL
HOU

Now, WAR …

DET
BOS
SEA
TBR
TEX
NYY
CLE
LAA/OAK
CHW
KCR
TOR
BAL
MIN
HOU

Lastly, IP …

DET
BOS
TBR
KCR
LAA
SEA
NYY/MIN
OAK
BAL
TOR
CLE
CHW
HOU
TEX

To summarize, the Angels’ current group projects to rank tied for fourth in ERA, fifth in FIP and innings, and tied for eighth in WAR. For comparison’s sake … in 2013, the starters ranked 11th in ERA, sixth in FIP, 11th in WAR and ninth in innings. So, they’re already much better, right? Well, no. Or, perhaps. Who really knows. But Jerry Dipoto has said several times since the Winter Meetings that he’d be perfectly fine with going into Spring Training with this current group, and that may not be just a negotiating ploy.

Some other takeaways from these numbers …

  • Despite losing Doug Fister, the Tigers will probably still be very, very good.
  • Despite adding Scott Feldman, the Astros will probably be really, really bad.
  • If you’re a big believer in FIP, then the Indians are a lot better than given credit for, even without Ubaldo.
  • The Rangers have a lot of talent, but also a lot of health uncertainties, as reflected in their projected innings total.
  • If the Mariners get Tanaka, they can be pretty scary.

Alden

Angels lose Vargas to Royals …

The Angels’ hopes of resigning free-agent starting pitcher Jason Vargas were squashed on Thursday, when the Royals announced they have signed the veteran left-hander to a four-year contract.

The average annual value of Vargas’ new deal, a reported $32 million, is $8 million. The Angels were willing to give him that much, but they weren’t willing to go four years (it would’ve been hard for them to even give him a third year).

And so, the Angels still have at least two holes to fill in their rotation.

Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards are returning, Tommy Hanson is likely to get non-tendered in December and Joe Blanton — if not released this offseason — will not go into the season as a guaranteed member of the rotation. General manager Jerry Dipoto did not tender the $14.1 million qualifying offer to Vargas because he was almost certain Vargas would accept it, and by accepting it the Angels would already be dangerously close to the luxury tax threshold of $189 million.

Vargas was acquired in a one-for-one deal with the Mariners that sent Kendrys Morales to Seattle last December. In his first year in Southern California, where he grew up and briefly attended Long Beach State University, Vargas went 9-8 with a 4.02 ERA in 150 innings in a season that saw him miss two months with a blood clot.

The Angels are expected to use the trade market to bolster a rotation that ranked 11th in the American League in ERA last season, but they may also turn to other free agents to fill Vargas’ void. And while they aren’t expected to go after the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Ricky Nolasco or Ervin Santana, names like Phil Hughes, Dan Haren, Bronson Arroyo, etc., etc., could be enticing.

Alden Gonzalez 

Price Is Right? …

David Price

In August 2009, the Angels acquired Scott Kazmir from the Rays in a four-player trade.

In July 2012, Peter Bourjos was so close to being dealt to the Rays — presumably for James Shields, but that part is unconfirmed — that they basically had his uniform ready in St. Petersburg.

This offseason, perhaps the two can come together again — this time for ace pitcher David Price.

The two haven’t been linked heavily in trade talks — yet — but it’s a pairing that would seem to make sense for both sides. The Rays are believed throughout the industry to be shopping Price this winter. It’s the kind of thing they’d do. The starting-pitching market is thin, which would maximize Price’s value; the 28-year-old left-hander is projected to make about $13 million in his second year of arbitration; and Tampa Bay has a gluttony of young, cost-controlled starting pitching, which could free the front office up to trade Price for the offense that may finally balance out their roster.

Meet the Angels. They’ll spend all offseason looking for pitching via the trade market and are more than willing to dangle offensive pieces to get it. Price only comes with two years of control, which doesn’t exactly meet the profile of cost-controlled arms that Jerry Dipoto specifically targets. But here’s the thing: The Angels don’t just have to improve the rotation. They have to get a lot better. Their staff ranked 11th in the American League in ERA last year, Jered Weaver basically loses a tick or two off his fastball every season, C.J. Wilson can drive you nuts every five days, Garrett Richards is still developing and Jason Vargas (if resigned) is 64th in ERA over the last four years.

This rotation looks a whole lot better if you slide Price at the top and move everyone down a spot.

Heck, it may rival some of the best in the league.

Will it happen? Maybe; most likely not, given how difficult it is to pull off trades this big. But it’s an interesting one to think about at this point. (Even a little fun, no?) Who would the Angels have to give up to get Price, you ask? One guy the Rays may really want — perhaps even demand — is Richards, and I can see that being the difference between real dialogue taking place or this being nothing more than a pipe dream. Besides Richards, Mark Trumbo — who you’d hate to lose, but would probably be willing to give up if it means getting someone this good — is probably a guy who would go to Tampa Bay, since he’d be a perfect fit in the middle of their lineup and first baseman James Loney is now a free agent. Maybe Bourjos gets thrown in there again, perhaps second baseman Howie Kendrick — born and raised in nearby Jacksonville — gets added to the mix, maybe some prospects, maybe all of them.

Two things are certain …

  1. The Angels would face a whole lot of competition, especially if Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka isn’t posted. And the Rays will seek a significant return since they don’t really have to trade Price this offseason.
  2. The Angels may have to take on money, since a big reason the Rays would do it in the first place is to free up some payroll flexibility. (I estimate that the Angels have something in the neighborhood of $15 million of wiggle room for 2014. Parting ways with Trumbo saves about $6 million for next season, while Kendrick saves about $9 million and Bourjos saves about $1.5 million.)

***

Vargas — without the $14.1 million qualifying offer — officially joined the free-agent pool of starting pitchers at 9:01 p.m. PT on Monday, when teams were given the green light to start negotiating with all eligible free agents. The Angels would be interested in bringing him back. And though their best bet to bolster their starting rotation will come via the trade market, the free-agent list is worth looking at nonetheless.

So, with that in mind, below is a categorical look at the unimpressive-but-perhaps-useful pool. Off the bat, I eliminated Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Hiroki Kuroda, the three starters who were tendered the qualifying offer and figure to be out of the Angels’ price range. Also not mentioned are Far East stars Tanaka and Suk-Min Yoon (Korea), who have yet to be posted.

Have a look. (Warning: It ain’t pretty.)

Bartolo ColonProbably Too Steep

Matt Garza
Ricky Nolasco

The Next Tier

Bronson Arroyo
A.J. Burnett
Tim Hudson

Big Names, Big Reclamations

Roy Halladay
Josh Johnson
Johan Santana
Ryan Vogelsong

Reunion Candidates

Bartolo Colon
Dan Haren
Kazmir
Joe Saunders

Phil HughesSteady, Albeit-Uninspiring Veterans

Erik Bedard
Bruce Chen
Jason Hammel
Paul Maholm
Jake Westbrook

Coming Back From Injury 

Chris Capuano
Jeff Karstens
John Lannan
Colby Lewis
James McDonald
Clayton Richard

Potential Minor League Options

Freddy Garcia
Aaron Harang
Ted Lilly
Shaun Marcum
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Roy Oswalt
Barry ZitoTsuyoshi Wada
Chien-Ming Wang

Some Upside Left?

Scott Baker
Scott Feldman
Phil Hughes
Sean O’Sullivan
Mike Pelfrey
Greg Reynolds
Edinson Volquez

Anything Left? 

Jeff Francis
Jon Garland
Roberto Hernandez
Barry Zito

Alden

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 

Game 117: Indians-Angels …

With each loss, the pressure, the questions, the tension continues to mount these days. The Angels have dropped three of their last four games against the Mariners and Indians, two teams they needed to fatten up against while the first-place Rangers play the Tigers and Yankees. The division is now eight games away and, many say, lost. The Wild Card is only 2 1/2 out, but nothing about the way the Angels have played these days would give you any indication that they’re a team that’s ready to go on another season-saving run.

Sometimes, though, those runs can come out of nowhere. The Angels just hope it happens soon. 

“There are some games in some stretches where you don’t think you’re ever going to win another game the rest of the season,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “There are some stretches where you don’t think you’re ever going to lose again. I wholeheartedly believe … that this team is going to turn it around and reach our goal.”

Indians (54-62)

Jason Kipnis, DH
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Shin-Soo Choo, RF
Carlos Santana, C
Michael Brantley, CF
Casey Kotchman, 1B
Jason Donald, 2B
Jack Hannahan, 3B
Ezequiel Carrera, LF

Pitching: RH Ubaldo Jimenez (9-11, 5.25 ERA)

Angels (60-56)

Mike Trout, CF
Torii Hunter, RF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Mark Trumbo, LF
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C

Pitching: RH Zack Greinke (0-1, 5.68 ERA)

  • Pitching coach Mike Butcher was handed a one-game suspension for “aggressively” arguing balls and strikes, MLB announced in a release Tuesday. Butcher will serve the suspension during tonight’s game. Scioscia believes it’s an automatic suspension any time a coach — not a manager — comes out to the field to argue balls and strikes.
  • Scott Downs (left shoulder) threw a bullpen and sim game today. He’ll do it again on Thursday. Scioscia said it “can be” his final step.
  • Jordan Walden (neck, right biceps) pitched a 1-2-3 inning for Triple-A Salt Lake last night, during his second appearance. He’ll pitch again in a couple of days, and Scioscia doesn’t think he needs to go back-to-back before being activated.
  • As part of Anniversary Week, former closer Troy Percival will be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Garrett Anderson will go tomorrow.

Alden

Game 80: Angels-Indians …

Angels (44-35)

Erick Aybar, SS
Torii Hunter, RF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Mark Trumbo, LF
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Peter Bourjos, CF
Bobby Wilson, C

Pitching: RH Jered Weaver (8-1, 2.31 ERA)

Indians (40-38)

Shin-Soo Choo, RF
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Jason Kipnis, 2B
Michael Brantley, CF
Carlos Santana, C
Johnny Damon, DH
Casey Kotchman, 1B
Shelley Duncan, LF
Jack Hannahan, 3B

Pitching: Ubaldo Jimenez (7-6, 4.69 ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • Mike Trout was a late scratch from the top of the Angels’ lineup. The 20-year-old outfielder jammed his right thumb while sliding into second base with a leadoff double in Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays and still felt some soreness while taking BP earlier today. No X-rays scheduled as of now. He’s listed day-to-day.
  • Jerome Williams had a rough outing in Triple-A on Sunday night, giving up six runs (five earned) on eight hits in two-plus innings. He exited after suffering what Mike Scioscia called a soft-tissue contusion in his right forearm. It felt better after icing it, and he’s slated to pitch again Friday.
  • Scioscia on Jordan Walden, who gave up a three-run homer in mop-up duty in Sunday’s ninth inning, and has given up a run in back-to-back outings: “The night where he gave up the one run [on Friday], he was throwing the ball very well … His stuff’s there, and the big picture, if you look at his last 10 outings, his stuff was really good. He’s thrown some better breaking balls. The breaking ball he threw to [Jose] Bautista was fantastic, at the end [on Sunday]. Commanding the ball was something that he had some trouble with yesterday, but overall, I think, he’s made a lot of strides, and yesterday was just a little setback.”
  • Chris Iannetta (right forearm strain) threw from 75-80 feet and felt good; he continues to progress towards a rehab outing.

Some Angels.com links from Sunday …

Some AL West links …

And Ronny Turiaf opted out of his contract with the Heat. I’ll miss his towel-waiving.

Alden

Now for those UNpleasant surprises …

Earlier this week, I wrote about baseball’s most pleasant surprises of the season. Now I thought I should take a look at the other end of that spectrum; the guys we didn’t expect to have down seasons. Take a step back, and you’ll find there’s a lot of star (or star-ish) players that are having bad years.

Here’s a look at the five of the best (or, worst) …

Not-so-great signings: Jayson Werth — $126 million; .230 batting average, .713 OPS. Adam Dunn — $56 million; .165 batting average, 11 homers. Carl Crawford — $142 million; .290 on-base percentage. All were signed in order to get their respective teams over the hump, all have been nothing besides a hindrance so far. If not for a 33-game, season-saving hitting streak, Dan Uggla would’ve been a part of this group, too. Regardless, the cases of Werth (pictured right by The Associated Press), Dunn and Crawford are all head-scratching, and the most troubling is perhaps the situation of Dunn (an unfathomable 3-for-81 versus lefties).

Still not ready?: That’s probably what we can say about Kyle Drabek and Zach Britton, two young guns we thought would compete for the American League Cy Young Award but have struggled this year. Drabek posted a 5.70 ERA through his first 14 starts, prompting a demotion to the Minor Leagues. Now, he has a 6.51 ERA in 13 Triple-A starts. Britton is 7-9 with a 4.54 ERA, was demoted once and missed about two weeks with a shoulder injury recently.

We thought they were on the rise: But Jason Heyward, Carlos Santana, Pedro Alvarez and Brett Wallace only took steps back this year. Heyward, we thought, was a can’t-miss prospect, and he can of course still be a star. But right now, he’s the definition of “sophomore slump.” He’s been mired by injuries, he’s hitting only .220 with 13 homers, and now he’s been supplanted by a man named Costanza (no, not this one). Wallace won the Astros’ starting first base job with a great spring, but hit just .268 with four homers in 101 games before being sent down. He’s 25 now, and has played for four organizations. Will he ever produce like a first baseman should?  Santana, one of baseball’s best young catchers before missing the final two months of last year with a concussion, has 19 homers but is only hitting .241 and can’t even be considered the AL’s best catcher in a year when Joe Mauer is struggling (that title belongs to Alex Avila). And Alvarez not only doesn’t look too adept defensively at the hot corner, but he’s hitting .196 with three homers in 56 games in a struggle- and injury-filled second year.

Stars? Not this year: Hanley Ramirez, Ubaldo JimenezChase Utley and Mauer have all had uncommon struggles. By his lofty standards, Hanley’s 2010 season — .300 batting average, 21 homers, 32 steals — was a down one. This one — .243 batting average, 10 homers and 20 steals through 92 games — is flat-out mystifying. He has caught flak from teammates — particularly Logan Morrison — and now, he’s in Class A Jupiter rehabbing. Mauer missed time with leg weakness, has just one home run in his 70 games this year and has been tried out first base and right field this year. The Twins must obviously consider moving Mauer to a different position so they can keep him on the field, but does his bat play elsewhere? For the last six years, Utley has been one of baseball’s most consistent players and arguably its best second baseman. But knee tendinitis put him on the shelf at the start, and now he sits with just a .278 batting average and nine homers in 78 games. And one year after placing third in National League Cy Young Award voting, Ubaldo  has a 4.71 ERA in 26 starts this season. Many felt his head simply wasn’t in it in Colorado after frustrations over his contract situation, but he has a 5.79 ERA in his first five starts in Cleveland (though he did pitch seven innings of one-run ball on Friday night).

The lukewarm corner: So, who’s baseball’s best third baseman this year? Not Ryan Zimmerman; he has a .299 batting average but only nine homers and has been limited to 72 games. Not Alex Rodriguez; he has solid numbers for anyone else (.292 batting average and 14 homers) but was set back by a recent stint to the disabled list. Not David Wright; he missed almost 60 games with a back injury. Not Evan Longoria; he’s hitting just .237 after also missing time with injury. Nope, it’s none of those guys. Baseball’s best third baseman this year is … Aramis Ramirez, owner of a .311 batting average, 24 homers and 83 RBIs.

Honorable mentions: Ichiro Suzuki (.331 batting average and 224 hits per season in his first 10 years. This year? Career-low .273 batting average and .313 on-base percentage). … Rafael Soriano (Given $35 million to be a setup man; now has a 4.94 ERA as a middle reliever). … Shin-Soo Choo (One of baseball’s best-kept secrets while hitting .302 with 56 homers and 47 steals from 2008-10. This year, he’s hitting just .261 with eight homers in 83 games).

– Alden 

* Also filed this week: Aces’ contract decisions deliver parity

A week of moves — and non-moves

At 2 p.m. ET, as I sat in my seat just before a 2 1/2-hour flight from New York to Chicago (I’ll be covering the Yankees in the South Side this week), I shut off my phone and immediately started thinking about what would await me once I had service again. The non-waiver Trade Deadline was only two hours away. Where would Heath Bell go? What will the Yankees do? Who will land B.J. Upton? Then I touched down at O’Hare Airport, and realized all of that was a non-story.

Bell was the guy that was sure to be pitching elsewhere the rest of this season, the Yankees — as is their custom — were sure to make some sort of splash, and Upton was sure to be dealt after having his name in rumors for so many years. But none of that happened, Hiroki Kuroda didn’t waive his no-trade clause, James Shields stayed put in Tampa Bay, and the White Sox held on to Carlos Quentin.

That’s right, the biggest thing I’m taking away from the Deadline is what actually didn’t occur.

Now, on to the obligatory post-Deadline-winners-and-losers story. I know that in trades there really aren’t supposed to be any “winners” or “losers” (Neither side makes a deal if they don’t feel they’re “winning,” too, right?), but certain teams simply make out better than others.

Here are the three biggest winners and three biggest losers among the contending teams. And as always, we’ll get the bad news out of the way first …

Losers

Yankees: As MLBTradeRumors.com pointed out, this was the first time since 1999 that the Yankees went through an entire July without making a trade. And even though they’re 22 games above .500 and nurse a 6 1/2-game lead in the American League Wild Card race, they needed to add two pieces that they didn’t get: A starter and a lefty reliever.

Perhaps J.C. Romero, currently pitching for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, will work out for them, and veteran relievers can usually be had in August. But I was in the minority in thinking they should’ve dealt their prospects for Ubaldo Jimenez, who they were reportedly in on. I would’ve given up two of either Ivan Nova, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, and one of either Jesus Montero and Austin Romine. Whether or not that  would’ve been enough to get the deal done, I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem the Yankees were willing to come anywhere close to doing that.

The Yankees’ hope is that just one of those three arms becomes the quality of starter Ubaldo currently is, and if you have a chance to get an arm like that now — when he’s expandable, when he’s under club control for a while and when he’s extremely affordable — you do it. Right now, the Yankees have the great CC Sabathia, and then four guys they don’t know what they’ll get out of on a nightly basis. Not good enough.

Diamondbacks: The D-backs have a real shot at winning the National League West, but they didn’t do enough to get it done. Jason Marquis and Brad Ziegler were nice and necessary additions to their rotation and bullpen, respectively, but they needed to upgrade their offense to somehow shorten the gap separating them from the Giants. Instead, San Francisco added a bat, and Arizona didn’t.

I get that the D-backs didn’t expect to compete this year and they prefer to hold on to their top prospects. But had they gone after a big bat, they would’ve had a good shot at superseding the Giants. Now? I can’t see it happening.

Tigers: I understand their hesitancy to give up a prospect like Jacob Turner, but frankly, I would’ve liked to see the Tigers do more for their rotation than just Doug Fister. Maybe one more mid-level starter like that for a team that ranks 14th in the AL in starting-pitcher ERA.

Winners

Cardinals: Fans didn’t seem too happy that they dealt an asset like Colby Rasmus and didn’t really get any long-term pieces in return. And I get that. But I give general manager John Mozeliak a lot of credit for going all in on this season — a year that could be the final one with Albert Pujols at first base and Tony La Russa as manager.

They got a necessary arm in their rotation in Edwin Jackson, who’s an impending free agent who won’t clog up their payroll and, thus, hurt their chances of resigning Pujols; they got righty Octavio Dotel and lefty Marc Rzepczynski for a needy bullpen; and they were able to pluck away from a position where they have a suitable replacement in Jon Jay.

Perhaps they could’ve waited to deal Rasmus — a guy who definitely needed a change of scenery — when his stock rose again, but then they wouldn’t look this good right now. And right now, they look like the best team in the NL Central. The Rafael Furcal acquisition is fine; I’m just not sure how much he has left.

Phillies: There was no more perfect fit for the Phillies than Hunter Pence. With him, their offense now looks on par with that vaunted rotation because they have that right-handed bat that was so critical to their production in years past. This past offseason, the Phillies added Cliff Lee to give them a ridiculous starting staff, but they lost Jayson Werth to the Nationals and missed that right-handed bat to hit behind lefties Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

Now, they have that right-handed bat again in Pence, and they have him in the books until 2013. Pence is having a fine season, and he came into Philadelphia with an .865 OPS. He’ll get plenty more chances with runners in scoring position now. And Phillies fans will love his energy. The Phils had to part ways with their two biggest prospects, but Domonic Brown and Vance Worley stayed put. That’s another positive.

Indians: Yeah, they did give up a big chunk of their farm system to get Ubaldo. But I just love the spirit of this trade, especially from a team that has so far only been known for parting with aces — from Lee to CC. This has been a magical season in Cleveland, and somehow they’re still in it despite a shaky rotation. It doesn’t look so shaky anymore.

The others

Braves: Michael Bourn is the perfect fit for that team; gives them their first leadoff hitter since Furcal.

Brewers: Francisco Rodriguez was a big pickup, and they got some insurance at second base. But they’re crossing their fingers that Rickie Weeks returns to full health soon.

Pirates: They got a couple of bats in Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee — two guys who know the NL Central well — and didn’t give up much.

Reds: Was surprised they were in on some of the big guys, but they have a rather large deficit, and that may have played a part in them standing pat.

Giants: Zack Wheeler is a good prospect, but Carlos Beltran is a good middle-of-the-order bat that should fit in perfectly in due time.

Red Sox: They got a nice rotation arm in Erik Bedard and a utility man in Mike Aviles; not flashy, but effective.

White Sox: I’m just glad they didn’t sell off all their pieces; they still have a shot.

Angels: Did nothing, which was pretty surprising.

Rangers: Got two big pieces for the back end of their bullpen in Koji Uehara and Mike Adams.

– Alden 

** Filed this week: Pence trade fills Phils’ need for a righty slugger; Cards, Giants take on win-now modes with deals. 

Too early for MLB power rankings? …

I don’t think so. 
All the big free agents — minus Rafael Soriano — have signed, and it seems every team is pretty much set for the start of Spring Training. It has been an amazingly surprising offseason, with Jayson Werth signing with the Nationals, Cliff Lee going to Philly, Carl Crawford now with Boston, the Angels missing out on everyone, the Yankees staying quiet, and Dan Uggla getting the kind of money I never thought he would land. 
That means a lot has changed since the end of the 2010 season. 
So, let’s get to it … 
* 2010 records are listed in parenthesis

A-Gonz.jpg1. Boston Red Sox (89-73):
The Red Sox have the best lineup in baseball after adding Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez (pictured right, by The Associated Press), they have a very good bullpen after key offseason additions, and their rotation is very deep. But they’ll have to stay healthy — something that didn’t happen last year. 

2. Philadelphia Phillies (97-65; lost in NLCS): The old saying says, “You’re only as good as your next day’s pitcher.” If that’s the case, put the Phillies in the World Series right now. Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels is arguable the best rotation foursome in baseball history. And their offense is still scary. But the bullpen, as usual, is a question mark. 

3. San Francisco Giants (92-70; won WS): They’re the defending champs, and their pitching staff is as good or better than anybody’s in baseball. But can their spare-parts offense carry them deep like it did last year? Hard to believe they can repeat without a more-consistent bat. 

4. Texas Rangers (90-72; lost in WS): Not being able to get Lee hurts, especially when considering pretty much everybody in that rotation outperformed last year. But their starting staff is still solid, their bullpen is very good and, after the addition of Adrian Beltre, they have one of the best offenses in baseball. 


5. Atlanta Braves (91-71; lost in NLDS)
Filling the big shoes of Bobby Cox is a whole lot easier when inheriting a team like this one. Fredi Gonzalez has a dynamic lineup, especially with the addition of Uggla — though they’ll regret that extension — plus a solid rotation and a really good bullpen.  

6. St. Louis Cardinals (86-76): I expected the Cards to be a lot better than they were last year, and I don’t expect them to disappoint again this year. Lance Berkman could end up being a liability in right field, but if healthy, he can give them a big middle-of-the-order bat. Regardless, two dynamic duos — Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, and Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright — should lead to title contention.  

7. Milwaukee Brewers (77-85):
It took a major toll on the farm system, but the additions of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum give the Brew Crew one of the best 1-thru-5 rotations in baseball. And Prince Fielder is still there. The Brewers will be legitimate title contenders.   

8. Colorado Rockies (83-79)
The Rockies have a bright future with Troy TulowitzkiCarlos Gonzalez and possibly Ubaldo Jimenez — if he agrees to an extension after the 2011 season — locked up. Their present looks very good, too. They have great depth, a solid rotation and a good lineup. Lots to be excited about in the Mile High City.

9. Chicago White Sox (88-74)
Looks like the South Siders are going for it all this year after signing Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko — or perhaps they’re setting it up so that Ozzie Guillen is the main culprit if they don’t win it all in 2011. Regardless, they have a power-packed offense and some nice arms. It’s up to Ozzie to bring it all together.  

10. New York Yankees (95-67; lost in ALCS)The Yankees have issues, yes — they’re aging, they have holes in the rotation and the bullpen is spotty. But they’re still the Yankees. And as long as Alex RodriguezDerek JeterRobinson CanoMark TeixeiraCC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera are there, they’re a major threat.  

11. Cincinnati Reds (91-71; lost in NLDS): The Reds were a surprise team last year, but I don’t think they did enough this offseason to stay on top. Their pitching staff is still deep and talented, but they needed to make bigger moves this offseason — mostly on offense — to take the next step, especially when considering how much better the teams in their division got. 


12. Detroit Tigers (81-81): Victor Martinez and Joaquin Benoit were big pickups, and the Tigers will compete in the American League Central all the way through. But it’s a tough division.  

13. Minnesota Twins (94-68; lost in ALDS)
The Twins always seem to find a way, and they’ll be fine again if they resign Carl Pavano and Jim Thome (as expected). A healthy Justin Morneau will be huge, too. But their bullpen took a major hit, and while the White Sox and Tigers got better, they really didn’t. 


14. Oakland Athletics (81-81):
This is my surprise team of the year. Billy Beane has established a phenomenal young pitching staff and a great defensive team. If only they could’ve acquired a couple of the big bats they needed. (I give their stadium a lot of the blame for that.)  

15. Chicago Cubs (75-87)
The Cubs sure look like they’re going for it by trading for Matt Garza, signing Kerry Wood to a two-year deal and giving Carlos Pena $10 million. On paper, they look good. But that seems to be the case a lot in the Windy City, and somehow it never comes to fruition. Why should I believe otherwise now?  

16. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (80-82): It has been a very disappointing
offseason for Angels general manager Arte Moreno, who lost out on Crawford and Beltre despite badly needing offensive help. They have potential in their rotation and a good bullpen that will be great if they get Soriano. But it seems they took a step back this offseason.  

17. Los Angeles Dodgers (80-82):
The Dodgers still have pieces in that lineup that can do some things, as well as a deep rotation. Don Mattingly will keep them relevant in his first year on the job. 

18. San Diego Padres (90-72):
This was the kind of reality Padres faithful expected, even after a surprising 2010 season that should’ve led to a playoff berth. No Gonzalez, and Heath Bell is a very likely Trade Deadline chip. But they still have a great pitching staff and a very good defensive team. I just don’t know where their offense will come from.  

19. Tampa Bay Rays (96-66; lost in ALDS): It’s a different Rays team now, with no Crawford, Soriano, Benoit, Pena or Garza. But that’s a savvy front office, and their array of young players give them a great future once again. But it’s a retooling year in Tampa Bay. And they won’t be as relevant in the AL East as they have been.  

20. Florida Marlins (80-82): The Marlins needed bullpen help, a catcher and another arm for the rotation this offseason and got all of that. They also have a great bunch of young position players and two franchise-type guys in Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson. But it looks like another .500 year in South Florida. Nothing more, nothing less.  

21. New York Mets (79-83): The Mets have toiled in obscurity this offseason, and maybe that’s a good thing. This is a year about finding out their identity and improving for the future — not competing.  

22. Washington Nationals (69-93): Mike Rizzo lost out on Lee, and he overpaid enormously for Werth. But they vastly improved their defense (with Werth and Adam LaRoche), have a nice lineup and boast a few nice, young pitching arms. D.C. is still on its way to becoming a place where free agents will actually want to be at some point.  

23. Baltimore Orioles (66-96): O’s look to have a pretty impressive lineup, but they need a lot more pitching — especially in the bullpen — to compete in baseball’s toughest division.  

24. Toronto Blue Jays (85-77): They’re another team that had its bullpen get completely stripped, and I don’t expect Jose Bautista and Vernon Wells to equal their 2010 season and keep them competitive. Not a bad rotation, though, and Alex Anthopoulos has made some nice forward-thinking moves thus far. 

25. Houston Astros (76-86): Brad Mills led the Astros to an impressive second half last year, but they have a long, long way to go.  

26. Seattle Mariners (61-101): The M’s were a big disappointment last year, and they will struggle once again in 2011. 

27. Arizona Diamondbacks (65-97): Kevin Towers has gone to work on retooling that dreadful bullpen, but there’s a lot more work to be done in Arizona than that.  

28. Cleveland Indians (69-93): Indians are still waiting for the young players they got back from trading two Cy Young Award winners (Sabathia and Lee) to come through. Until that happens, they’ll go nowhere. 

29. Kansas City Royals (67-95): With the pieces they have in their farm system and in the big leagues, the Royals seem set up to be a competitive team as soon as 2012. But not in 2011. 

30. Pittsburgh Pirates (57-105): The Pirates have issues. Their Major League roster is unimpressive, and their farm system isn’t great. All they can hope to do is avoid another 100-loss season.  

– Alden Gonzalez

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