Orioles and Gallardo Agree

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The Baltimore Orioles have signed Yovani Gallardo to a 3 year/35 million dollar deal. This is a deal that the Orioles desperately needed with their lack of rotation depth and quality. Gallardo will quickly become the ace of this team. This could be a signing that has a lot of impact in the A.L. East.

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Are the Padres N.L West contenders?

So far through the offseason, the most improved teams are the Chicago White Sox and the San Diego Padres. It’s safe to say that both of these teams have surprised the baseball universe and made trades and signings that have improved their ball clubs. This post will look at if the Padres and if the moves they have made so far in the offseason will give them an opportunity to compete with the Dodgers and Giants in the N.L. West.
The first big move they made was acquiring Matt Kemp from the Dodgers at the Winter Meetings, a deal which did not get completed until this week. The second move they made was trading for Outfielder Will Myers from the Tampa Bay Rays. They also made a deal with the Oakland Athletics, who I cannot figure out what they are doing, to acquire catcher Derek Norris. The last big move, which happened today, was acquiring power hitting outfielder Justin Upton. All of these major moves have completely changed the roster and the outlook of a team that finished 8 games under .500.

Kemp, Myers, Norris, and Upton will add a lot to a team that finished last in the big leagues in runs scored (535). Kemp is the big player that was acquired because he has 6 years remaining on a deal that he signed with the Dodgers. The Dodgers sent 32 million dollars of the remaining 107 millions along with Kemp and could turn out to be a steal for the Padres. If Kemp can show any signs of the player that finished second in the MVP voting in 2011, it will indeed be a steal. Will Myers is another interesting story because he won the A.L. ROY in 2013 but missed most of the 2014 season with a wrist injury. He still has 6 years on team control and will get the Padres some much needed power in their lineup. Norris is a 25 year old catcher who was an all-star in 2014. His offensive WAR was 3.2 but his defensive WAR was .5 so maybe a position switch is in Norris’s future. The only questionable move for the Padres was trading for Justin Upton. Upton will be a free agent at the end of the 2014 season and it will be difficult for the Padres to keep him in San Diego. So I ask, are the Padres trying to win in 2015?

One key aspect about this team is that with all of these moves, San Diego did not have to trade any of their talented pitchers that are in the big leagues. Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, and Ian Kennedy are still a part of a rotation that had a 3.55 earned run average in big Petco Park. With all the additions on offense, there is a good possibility that the Padres pitchers could be pitching with leads rather than trailing by one run and having to be perfect.

The N.L. West is still the Dodgers division to lose but the Padres have made a huge step in the right direction towards being competitive. The Giants are likely to take a step back after winning the World Series due to a sketchy rotation and losing their third baseman Pablo Sandoval. The Diamondbacks and Rockies both appear to be rebuilding their teams. The off-season is still young but the Padres have made vital moves towards helping them make a playoff push in 2015.

Some are Late Bloomers

 

 

It seems like when starting pitching prospects get called up to the big leagues, they are expected to be successful almost immediately upon their arrival no matter how young they are. If they don’t figure it out within two or three years, organizations often lock them in their farm system until they figure it out or look to trade them. Not every pitching prospect has the make up to be a starter in the big leagues, whether it is repeating mechanics for 7 innings, or the ability to navigate through the opponent’s lineup more than twice without becoming predictable. Relievers Andrew Miller and Wade Davis are prime examples of being top starting pitching prospects but taking more than a couple of years to figure things out at the big league level.

Andrew Miller has figured it out as a reliever for the Boston red sox but it has not been an easy road for the former 6th overall pick in the 2006 draft. The Tigers drafted the former North Carolina Tar Heel with the hope of finding a dominant starter for years in the big leagues and it didn’t work out and was traded to Florida in the Miguel Cabrera deal. Unfortunately for Miller, he did not see any success in Florida as his lowest era in his 3 years in Florida was 4.84. The Red Sox acquired Miller in 2010 for pitcher Dustin Richardson, turning out to be a great deal. In 2011, Miller was starting with the Sox and went 6-3 with 5.54 ERA and a 5.68 walk rate.  I remember Miller would have innings where he could dominate and then innings where he couldn’t find the strike zone. For Miller, it all came down to the ability to repeat a herky jerky motion, something that if you watch miller pitch is difficult for him to do. 2012 was Miller’s first time relieving and made 53 appearances with a 3.35 ERA and a walk rate of 4.46. The results were starting to show and now Miller is one of the best left handed relievers in baseball. Not only do lefties struggle against him (.161 avg.) but righties struggle just as much (.181 avg.). In 45 appearances this season, Miller has a 2.13 ERA and has a 14.45 strikeout percentage but only a 2.84 walk percentage. Miller isn’t that front end starter that many believed he could have been but the Red Sox took a gamble on him and the gamble has paid off.

Wade Davis is another pitcher who took a few extra years and a change of scenery to figure it out at the big league level. Davis was selected to his first all-star team this season and has become one of baseball’s best setup men. Davis broke into the big leagues with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2004 as a 3rd round draft pick. He made his debut 5 years later and made 6 starts in 2009. In those 6 starts, he had a 3.72 ERA to put him in 4th place in the ROY voting. Davis saw his ERA jump each of the next 3 years as a starter and in 2013, he had a 5.32 Earned Run Average. Davis was a part of the Will Myers and James Shields trade and the Royals tried him as a starter in 2013 but saw him really struggle over the course of the season. This season the Royals moved him to the pen and the move helped his velocity jump up to 97-99 and his strikeout percentage went from 7.58 in 2013 to 13.72 this season to go along with his 1.11 ERA. Davis is 7th in the big leagues in holds with 17, which sometimes those setup men have tougher tasks than the closers depending on who they face in the order. The move to Kansas City played an important role in the transformation of Wade Davis but moving to the bullpen has made him a valuable pitcher.

There will always be those top pitching prospects that don’t turn out to be the pitchers that everyone predicted they would be but there are also a handful of young pitchers that may take more time to learn how to be successful in the big leagues. Not every pitcher has the makeup to be successful as a starter but sometime it takes a few rough years to figure out where they are most valuable. Andrew Miller and Wade Davis are two recent examples of pitchers who took a few extra years to discover themselves and have turned out to be outstanding relievers. Teams may want to look at these 2 pitchers as examples of what young prospects can become even if they do not succeed as starter.

Tigers Acquire Soria as Insurance

The Detroit Tigers are in the final stages of a deal that will bring Joakim Soria to Detroit in exchange for 2 pitching prospects. This deal will provide Detroit insurance in case the struggling Joe Nathan cannot turn his season around. More on this move in the next couple of days.

First Half Review

The All-Star break is ending and that means the real fun is just about to begin. Teams will be making their postseason pushes and others will become sellers and start building towards 2015. The craziest day of the baseball season is only 2 weeks away in the Trade Deadline and this year we could see some big names being dealt, like David Price. Now I know the All-Star break is not the exact half way point through the season but it’s the only time during the season where there is a 3 day break in the action. Here are my top 5 stories of the first half, along with my mid-season awards.

1. Year of the Pitcher
During the coverage of the All-Star game festivities, Red Sox manager John Farrell said in an interview that this season has been “The year of the pitcher” and if you look at the stats, it has been all about the pitchers. Heading into the break, 22 pitchers have an ERA under 3.00. Clayton Kershaw is this generation’s Sandy Koufax and he just came off a streak of 41 consecutive scoreless innings. It will be difficult to pick the CY Award in both leagues as there are multiple candidates worthy of winning the award.

2. Youth Taking Over the Game
It seems like every night there is a 21 year-old or 22 year-old making their major league debut. Manny Machado, Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Salvador Perez, and Bryce Harper are well known players that are all under the age of 25 years of age and all have been an All-Star selection at least once in their careers. This season we have seen rookies like Jose Abreu, Gregory Polanco, George Springer, and Masahiro Tanaka make their major league debuts and take the game by storm. Every year it seems like the game of baseball is becoming more of a young man’s game.

3. Number of Teams Still Alive
Heading into the second half, 4 divisions have only a game or a game and a half separating the first and second place teams. In the American League Wild Card hunt, 4 teams are within 3.5 games back from making the one game playoff. In the National League, 4 teams are within 3 games of making the Wild Card Game. The Tampa Bay Rays are 9.5 games back in the American League East and many analysts believe they are still in the mix. With a little over 2 months remaining in the season, any team is one run away from making a serious postseason push.

4. The Tommy John Plague
37 pitchers in the big leagues and minors have had Tommy John Surgery this season. That’s right, 37! It’s a terrible epidemic that I do not foresee changing anytime in the near future. It may have to be accepted that if you want to be a professional pitcher, you may have to miss a full season of your career and undergo TJ Surgery. Everyone wants to see pitchers like Masahiro Tanaka, Jarrod Parker, and Jose Fernandez dominate on the mound but unfortunately their arms cannot handle throwing 95+.

5. Big Free Agent Signings Struggling
Shin-Soo Choo: (7 / 130 M) .242 / .362 / .376
Brian McCann (5 / 85 M) .239 / .294 / .377
Ricky Nolasco (4 / 40 M) 5-7/ 5.90 ERA / .325 opp. AVG.
Ubaldo Jimenez (4 / 50 M) 3-8 / 4.52 ERA / 13.7 BB %

These four players were big targets entering the off-season and have struggled to find their previous forms with their new ball clubs. It is only half a season so it is not fair to judge them as a failure for their contract but it may be a sign to future teams that going after the players that demand big contracts may not be the best move for a team.

My Mid Season Awards:

American League                                                                    National League
A.L. MVP: Mike Trout                                                 N.L. MVP: Andrew McCutchen
A.L. CY: Felix Hernandez                                          N.L. CY: Clayton Kershaw
A.L. ROY: Jose Abreu                                               N.L. ROY: Gregory Polanco
Biggest Surprise: Angels                                          Biggest Surprise: Brewers
Biggest Disappointment: Red Sox                           Biggest Disappointment:Diamondbacks

Rumors about Teams Interested in Napoli

Rumors have started about teams being interested in Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli. Napoli would be a very good fit on teams that are looking to add a power bat in hopes of securing a spot in the postseason. Not only would Napoli help a team this season but he also has another year on his contract for the 2015 season for 16 million dollars. Some teams that I could see being interested in acquiring Napoli are Seattle, Milwaukee, and Toronto, although I could not see Boston trading Napoli within the division. It would take a nice package of young prospects for the Red Sox to even think about parting ways with their first baseman.

In my opinion, I think it would be unwise to trade a power bat, something that the Red Sox do not have on this year’s roster. The Sox are 13th in the American League in home runs with 68 and taking Napoli off the roster would be difficult to imagine. The Red Sox are having a disappointing season but with Napoli signed through next season he still is an important piece of Boston’s future. He was one of the most important pieces on the 2013 World Series champions and he is one of the most popular players in the Red Sox clubhouse. Not to mention he provides protection for David Ortiz, who has admitted that he feels more comfortable hitting when Napoli provides protection.

If the Red Sox were to trade Napoli, it would undoubtedly open the door for Will Middlebrooks at first base. The young prospect saw success in his rookie campaign before breaking his wrist but has struggled to find his swing and stay on the field. The Red Sox still believe that Middlebrooks can be a 30 homer guy but right now doesn’t have a spot on the roster. With the Sox signing Drew and moving Bogaerts to third base, Middlebrooks appears to be stuck in AAA for the time being.

I really cannot see Napoli being dealt before the trade deadline because of his contract situation. He is a valuable right handed power bat and there seems to be so few of them in today’s game. I expect the Red Sox to listen to offers as they should for many players on their roster but I do not expect Napoli to be leaving Boston before his contract is up.

Red Sox Finally Sign Drew.

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Yesterday, the Boston Red Sox decided to sign last year’s shortstop Stephen Drew to a 1 yr / 10 M dollar deal. The Red Sox have not been solid defensively and have not gotten any production from the third base spot, which I would assume Xander Bogaerts would take over once Stephen Drew is ready.

The Sox decided that Stephen Drew was not worth the long term contract in the offseason as they offered him a qualiftying offer that they knew he would not accept. The Red Sox were fine with letting Drew go because they felt that Bogaerts was ready for shortstop and they would receive a compensation pick from the team that signed him. It was clear that once Spring Training started and Drew was still without an employer, that he would not sign until after the 2014 MLB Draft so that the team who signs him will not lose a draft pick.

Things have not gone as expected in Boston through the first 44 games as the team has struggled offensively and defensively. In Bogaerts first full season in the big leagues and first season at shortstop, his fielding percentage is 22nd among shortstops in the big leagues. If you are a Sox fan like I am, you have noticed that his range seems limited as he cannot get to a lot of balls to his glove side. Looking at last season, Stephen Drew had the 3rd best fielding percentage among shortstops and was a vacuum at shortstop in the postseason.

The most surprising aspect of this year’s Red Sox has been their offense. Last season, the Red Sox had baseball’s best offense as they led of all baseball with 853 runs. This season, they rank just 16th in runs scored. The Sox have been dreadful against RHP this season hitting .242 as a team. Last season, Drew hit .284 against RHP with a .377 OBP. A big factor in the decision to sign Drew was the production from Will Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks had a solid rookie season but has not been able to find his swing in the past two seasons and is hitting .197 with 23 strikeouts in 71 at-bats. Middlebrooks is also on the DL for the second time this season and the Sox cannot afford going another 15 games with back-ups at third base. The one-year deal with Drew does not mean that the Sox are giving up on Middlebrooks and Bogaerts as a MLB shortstop but with the Sox on their first 5 game losing streak since 2012, something had to be done.

Stephen Drew will be placed on the Red Sox 40 man roster today and will go to AAA Pawtucket to get a couple of games before joining the big league team. It could be 7-10 days until Drew is ready but if the Sox continue to struggle, look for Drew to be forced into action.

 

Other Sox Notes:

Felix Doubront left Tuesday’s start with should fatigue and could land on the disabled list. Doubront has struggled this season as he is 2-4 with a 5.12 ERA. The Red Sox have a plethora of young arms in their minor league system and I expect Allen Webster or Ruby De La Rosa to get the nod for Sunday’s start.