The Misguided Cuban Rush

The Misguided Cuban Rush

How Cuban Players Have Cashed-In on Desperate Ownership

Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig shocked the baseball world with their defections and domination of Major League Baseball in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Both players finished in the top 15 in MVP votes and second for Rookie of the Year in their debuts. At the time, both players signed life-changing deals for themselves, as Cespedes signed with Oakland for four years and $36 million, while Puig signed a seven-year, $42 million deal with the Dodgers. However, despite Cespedes receiving $110 million over the next four years this winter, he was forced into a deal with an opt-out to prove himself worthy of such a deal, while Puig faces an uphill battle to reclaim value after two down seasons, potentially sharing time with Andre Ethier in right field for Los Angeles.

Cespedes earned a huge raise, but had to do so thanks to hesitation from clubs that isn't present for "new" signees Courtesy: CBS Sports
Cespedes earned a huge raise, but had to do so thanks to hesitation from clubs that isn’t present for “new” signees
Courtesy: CBS Sports

Why do these things matter? Because MLB teams have sunk millions of dollars into contracts for unproven Cuban-born players, seeking the “lightning-in-a-bottle” that Cespedes, Puig’s rookie season, and Aroldis Chapman‘s left arm have provided for their teams. The only problem with all of these sunken costs is that teams don’t appear willing to dump such drastic amounts of money into any other international market, despite the significant failures of recent Cuban signings, such as:

Yasmany Tomas: six years, $68.5 million

Alex Guerrero: four years, $28 million

Yoan Lopez: $8.25 million signing bonus

Erisbel Arruebarrena: five years, $25 million

Hector Olivera: six years, $62.5 million

Rusney Castillo: seven years, $72.5 million

While teams seem willing to outbid each other for these players, they seem unwilling to make the same commitment to Korean and Japanese League players. Certainly, MLB clubs don’t have to worry about posting fees for players from Cuba, but the guaranteed money in baseball contracts that several of the aforementioned players received outweighed those fees for any players this side of Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Are there any real reasons why clubs are so willing to shell out millions of dollars in gambles, or, better yet, why MLB allows clubs to spend so freely on these types of signings, while being so strict on signing bonuses for young players from the Dominican Republic, creating a pool for international signings for many of the 16 and 17-year-old kids from Latin America?

Castillo: Could he be looking for the punchline in the joke that is his contract?  Courtesy:
Castillo: Could he be looking for the punchline in the joke that is his contract?

Obviously, there have been more signings and appearances of Cuban-born players than those who have bombed, as Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hernandez, Jose Contreras, and, more recently, White Sox 1B Jose Abreu, have had success, as well; however, the investments in players like Yoan Moncada, who cost the Boston Red Sox $63 million (due to the 100% penalty for going over their international pool allotment after signing him with a $31.5 million signing bonus), just to see him dealt for Chris Sale this winter, seems confusing when Boston could lock-up players who are proven commodities. Imagine if the club had $130 million in the bank to lock-up Mookie Betts to a long-time deal to continue his career in Boston…

The gamble seems downright absurd.

Major League Baseball has a lot of money in the game. While Rob Manfred spends his time trying to find ways to speed up the game, it continues to bank on its digital media platform and the rich revenues that allow owners to throw money away in the millions. Unfortunately, it is time that the commissioner finds ways to speed up common sense in front offices. It is dangerous to have so many millions of dollars in dead money, leaving teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks handcuffed by the idiotic contract that Dave Stewart and Tony LaRussa tied them down with by signing Tomas.

No, baseball doesn’t need to go the route of non-guaranteed contracts like the NFL, but they should consider finding ways for clubs to have a level playing field when it comes to signing these highly-coveted international players, as the recent failures in this international signing lottery has so clearly demonstrated.

The failures of the league in controlling the overspending in Cuba cries for the league to develop an international draft. Major League Baseball has a level of parity when you see a team like Cleveland in the World Series, but the super contracts that teams are giving to unqualified players is not good for the game.

Baseball teams don’t need to be desperate to be great. Baseball needs to save the teams from themselves and end the insanity of massive contracts going to unproven players. Not all of the Cuban-born players are as good as the cigars.


2017 Top 100 MLB Prospects

Below is a list of the top 100 prospects in MLB, as compiled by a non-scout. With spring training starting up, what better time to begin prospecting for your fantasy teams than right now. Click on the links below to view each player’s Baseball Reference page. Brief writeups for top 25 only. Enjoy, comment, and share…share a lot!

He has filled out and will fill up the stat sheets in 2017 Courtesy: Boston Herald
He has filled out and will fill up the stat sheets in 2017
Courtesy: Boston Herald

1. Andrew Benintendi, OF, BOS: Added muscle to an already incredibly talented skill-set could lead to immediate stardom in 2017.

2. Alex Reyes, RHP, STL: Suspensions are behind him. It won’t be long until he’s 1b behind Carlos Martinez.
3. Lucas Giolito, RHP, CHW: Remember the elbow issues and the babying. He’ll get a grasp on location and he’ll take off.
One of several pieces from the Sale trade, Moncada is a freak Courtesy: Zimbio
One of several pieces from the Sale trade, Moncada is a freak
Courtesy: Zimbio

4. Yoan Moncada, 2B, CHW: Freak athlete. The numbers from a 2B will make fantasy players drool.

5. J.P. Crawford, SS, PHI: Don’t expect Jimmy Rollins in his game. He’ll begin to impress as soon as he gets his first shot due to a solid approach and all-around game.
6. Dansby Swanson, SS, ATL: Atlanta will be better in their new stadium. Swanson will be one of the reasons why. Getting him for Shelby Miller will be the Braves’ version of the Jeff Bagwell deal.
7. Rafael Devers, 3B, BOS: Power potential for days. He’s going to be special.
8. Gleyber Torres, SS, NYY: The power is coming. At 19 in A+, he had 11 HR and 29 doubles. It’s a race to SS between Torres and Mateo in NY.
9. Brendan Rodgers, SS, COL: There is a lot more swing and miss in his game than Troy Tulowitzki’s, but he’ll be compared to him his entire career – and for good reason.
10. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, PIT: The control can still be an issue, but Glasnow has the right pitching coach to make him an elite arm.
Robles is still in the Nats' organization for a reason Courtesy:
Robles is still in the Nats’ organization for a reason

11. Victor Robles, OF, WAS: A gifted athlete with a crazy contact rate (especially for a 19-year-old in A+), he’ll utilize the entire field and be a threat on the bases.

12. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, LAD: He has nowhere to play until Adrian Gonzalez leaves after the 2018 season, but he’s nearly ready. Maybe they’ll make room for him in the OF.
13. Austin Meadows, OF, PIT: All of the McCutcheon rumors will lead to a lot of focus on Meadows. He won’t be a star but can do a lot of things well.
14. Bradley Zimmer, OF, CLE: The strikeouts are a huge concern but Zimmer is a unique talent and brings a skill-set that will improve an already impressive roster in Cleveland.
The Reds need a quick moving power bat. He's the guy Courtesy:
The Reds need a quick moving power bat. He’s the guy

15. Nick Senzel, 3B, CIN: Think of Ryan Zimmerman when you think of how quickly a player can reach the majors here. He could also produce at the same level…hopefully without the injuries.

16. Anderson Espinoza, RHP, SD: There are still a lot of things that can go wrong (he doesn’t turn 19 until March), but there are so many things that are already intriguing here.
17. Lewis Brinson, OF, MIL: Making contact consistently is a concern, but, when he does, Brinson is capable of superstardom in Milwaukee.
18. Eloy Jimenez, OF, CHC: 40 doubles at 19 in the midwest league. He’s going to turn those into HR in 2017 and he’ll be a top 5 prospect in 2018.
19. Manuel Margot, OF, SD: His numbers won’t pop and he may never lead the league in any statistic, but Margot is a smooth baseball player. He can do it all.
20. Josh Bell, 1B/OF, PIT: He never showed the power potential he was supposed to have in the minors, but he’s still a work in progress – one with an approach beyond his years.
Frazier will be an asset for the Yankees, even if it hurt to give up Miller Courtesy:
Frazier will be an asset for the Yankees, even if it hurt to give up Miller

21. Clint Frazier, OF, NYY: The hair may be what many know him for right now. The ability will make others wish that they had curly red hair.

22. Kyle Tucker, OF, HOU: As this guy grows into his 6’4″ frame, he’s going to be a monster. He had 41 XBH and 32 SB while reading A+ at 19 in 2016.
23. Michael Kopech, RHP, CHW: He throws really hard and he’s on a team that is going to give him an opportunity sooner than later. If for no other reason than these, he’s an intriguing prospect. He’s also very good.
24. Willy Adames, SS, TB: He’ll make the David Price trade look silly at some point when he debuts in 2017. He is extremely talented and will quickly become one of the Rays’ top players.
25. Francis Martes, RHP, HOU: Strikeouts jumped a bit (as did the walks) in AA last year, a wonderful sign for a 20-year-old. He throws extremely hard and is capable of becoming a frontline starter.
26. Amed Rosario, SS, NYM
27. Ian Happ, 2B/OF, CHC
28. Ozzie Albies, 2B/SS, ATL
29.  Kyle Lewis, OF, SEA
30. Mickey Moniak, OF, PHI
31. Franklin Barreto, 2B/SS, OAK
32. Francisco Mejia, C, CLE
33. Jose De Leon, RHP, TB
34. Corey Ray, OF, MIL
35. Hunter Renfroe, OF, SD
36. Brent Honeywell, RHP, TB
37. Josh Hader, LHP, MIL
38. Jason Groome, LHP, BOS
39. Jeff Hoffman, RHP, COL
40. Tyler O’Neill, OF, SEA
41. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, CHW
42. Kolby Allard, LHP, ATL
43. Raimel Tapia, OF, COL
44. Mitch Keller, RHP, PIT
45. Blake Rutherford, OF, NYY
46. Braxton Garrett, LHP, MIA
47. Jorge Alfaro, C, PHI
48. Yohander Mendez, LHP, TEX
49. Anthony Alford, OF, TOR
50. Carson Kelly, C, STL
51. Luis Castillo, RHP, CIN
52. Yadier Alvarez, RHP, LAD
53. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., 3B/OF, TOR
54. Jorge Mateo, SS, NYY
55. Leody Taveras, OF, TEX
56. Riley Pint, RHP, COL
57. Dominic Smith, 1B, NYM
58. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, TOR
59. Nick Gordon, SS, MIN
60. David Paulino, RHP, HOU
61. Amir Garrett, LHP, CIN
62. Aaron Judge, OF, NYY
63. Triston McKenzie, RHP, CLE
64. Kevin Newman, SS, PIT
65. Alex Verdugo, OF, LAD
66. Nick Williams, OF, PHI
67. Zack Collins, C, CHW
68. Delvin Perez, SS, STL
69. A.J. Puk, LHP, OAK
70. Grant Holmes, RHP, OAK
71. Brady Aiken, LHP, CLE
72. Robert Stephenson, RHP, CIN
73. Jesse Winker, OF, CIN
74. Erick Fedde, RHP, WAS
75. Willie Calhoun, 2B, LAD
76. Dylan Cease, RHP, CHC
77. Jake Bauers, 1B/OF, TB
78. Luke Weaver, RHP, STL
79. Justus Sheffield, LHP, NYY
80. Sean Newcombe, LHP, ATL
81. Matt Manning, RHP, DET
82. Brock Stewart, RHP, LAD
83. Max Fried, LHP, ATL
84. Derek Fisher, OF, HOU
85. Ian Anderson, RHP, ATL
86. Chance Sisco, C, BAL
87. Forrest Whitley, RHP, HOU
88. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, MIN
89. Kevin Maitan, SS, ATL
90. Matt Chapman, 3B, OAK
91. Tyler Jay, LHP, MIN
92. Cal Quantrill, RHP, SD
93. Bobby Bradley, 1B, CLE
94. Christian Arroyo, INF, SF
95. Mike Soroka, RHP, ATL
96. Isan Diaz, SS, MIL
97. Ramon Laureano, OF, HOU
98. Tyler Beede, RHP, SF
99. German Marquez, RHP, COL
 100. James Kaprielian, RHP, NYY

MLB: New Rule – Quit Changing

elfHere I am, two months after saying that I was hoping to write more often, finally putting fingers to keys again. And why am I here now, you ask? Because I’ve finally had enough of baseball changing.

Major League Baseball is going to try putting a runner on second base to start extra innings, testing it out in the lower levels of the minors. They are also interested in speeding up intentional walks, rather than making a pitcher throw four balls, decreasing that all-important pitch count.  ESPN’s Karl Ravech went so far as to say that the game should be shortened to seven…yes, SEVEN innings! Get him off the air…and get these idiotic changes away from my game!

The issue that I have with all of this nonsense is that MLB is making changes to make games shorter, trying to get people who aren’t interested in the game to pay more attention to it. In a culture that thrives on instant results, a game that requires 27 outs is just too much for these space cadets who can’t focus for more than 30 seconds before needing to post a picture of their latest meal, a picture of themselves, or some other self-indulging, self-centered stupidity.

smartMaybe those folks shouldn’t dictate the future of a game that is loved by so many the way it is. It isn’t like football, which takes three hours or more for all of their games, is losing viewers. Instead of seeking out fans who don’t like the pace of the game, why not find better ways to allow the game to be more affordable for fans? Why not find ways to incorporate the game into the lives of youths, providing equipment to young people and building the game in more than just the inner-cities and third-world countries? The game is growing everywhere but the United States. Get kids in the stadium with their families for less than $250 for a family of four and, perhaps, you wouldn’t need to seek out people who don’t have the attention span for the game.

Baseball is a game. It has been the same game forever. If someone wants to make a change, allow Vince McMahan to come out with XLB and watch it crumble like the XFL did. Keep the changes away from baseball, and quit trying to cater to the people who aren’t fans! It would be like the NFL trying to get men who enjoy antique shopping on Sundays to give up their favorite way of spending a weekend to watch men collide in a cloud of dust. It doesn’t need to happen.

27 outs. 9 innings. 25-man rosters. Best record gets home-field advantage. Keep it simple. Keep it the same.

Diamondbacks Fans: Give Thanks for Hazen

New Arizona VP and GM, Mike Hazen Courtesy: Fox Sports
New Arizona VP and GM, Mike Hazen
Courtesy: Fox Sports

Over the last several years, the Arizona Diamondbacks have had several people involved in running the organization into the ground. They’ve been through managers, having seen Kirk Gibson fired in 2014, Alan Trammell as interim, Chip Hale hired and fired, and, now, having first-year manager Torey Lovullo starting the 2017 season. The instability for this organization doesn’t just start and finish on the field, though. Since 2010, we’ve seen Josh Byrnes, Jerry DiPoto (interim), Kevin Towers, Dave Stewart, and newly-hired Mike Hazen, formerly with the Boston Red Sox, in the general manager role. After winning the 2011 NL West, the Diamondbacks have failed to finish over .500, though they have finished right at .500 twice during that span.

Still, all of the changes at the top have played a major role in the struggles of the organization. No one seemed to know which direction the club was actually heading. About three years ago, I wrote about Towers and his strange deals. When he dealt Justin Upton, Trevor Bauer (along with Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers), and Tyler Skaggs for Mark Trumbo, Didi Gregorius, Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, and a slew of fringy minor leaguers, the team never really cashed-in on anything, and most of those players are now long-gone from the organization or aren’t a large part of their future – a strange concept for a team that is still rebuilding

Last night, Hazen put his stamp on where this club is heading with a “blockbuster” (if you’d call it that), by dealing Jean Segura (the 22nd most valuable position player in baseball, based on WAR), Zac Curtis, and Mitch Haniger  to the Seattle Mariners for Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte.

Segura is on to his 4th organization Courtesy:
Segura is on to his 4th organization

Segura, 27 on Opening Day, will be replaced at shortstop by Marte, who was rushed to the majors by Seattle at the age of 21 in 2015 out of desperation to fill their shortstop hole with just 377 at bats above AA. He’ll play the 2017 season at the age of 23 and he won’t be arbitration-eligible until after the 2018 season. Segura had much more pop in his bat than Marte ever will, but Marte puts the ball in play and has solid speed, which is basically what Segura was in 2014 and 2015 before he had his second breakout season – if that is a thing – in 2016.

Hazen saved some money at shortstop, while acquiring Walker, a potential ace, for his pitching staff. Walker, long labeled full of potential, could make this deal look silly for Seattle if he actually reaches or fulfills that potential; however, we’ve been waiting on that for a few years now, even though Walker will be just 24 on Opening Day. If he can overcome injuries and become more consistent, a familiar statement for young pitchers, this is an easy win for the Diamondbacks, and Mike Hazen has already proven himself worthy of the job. If it crashes and burns, who cares? The Diamondbacks went 69-93 while Segura was a star in 2016, so it was worth the gamble.

Can Walker reach his potential in Arizona? Courtesy: Seattle Times
Can Walker reach his potential in Arizona?
Courtesy: Seattle Times

Mike Hazen had a lot more money to work with in his time with the Boston Red Sox. He may need to be a little more creative in landing talent in the desert, but the 40-year-old has a lot of respect in the game and will continue to put the Diamondbacks in a position to be successful, as long as ownership gives him the time necessary to turn it all around.

Be thankful, Diamondback fans. Mike Hazen finally has a plan for your team.

Random Baseball Thoughts: 11/23

It Has Been a LONG Time

To say that the last three months, since I last wrote on this blog, have been miserable would be the understatement of my lifetime. Personal issues aside, I can easily say that the 2016 World Series was the best that I’ve ever seen. As a former writer on an Indians blog, I adopted them as my team – and was forced to do so after the MLB.TV blacked out my local team. Watching the Tribe all season, off-and-on due to the above issues, was truly exciting. The Tyler Naquin inside-the-parker and celebration, the year-long smoothness of Francisco Lindor up-the-middle, and the dominance by Corey Kluber were impressive to cling to during my own struggles; however, the Indians making it to the World Series and getting that 3-1 lead was what I thought would bring me out of the funk of life.

They did it.
They did it.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way, but…WOW! Rajai Davis‘ home run, the ups and downs of the whole series, and the hope that came along with it…It didn’t get much better than that. Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs and the 108 years of futility that their fans had to endure for their majestic comeback. It is scary to think of how good they could be over the next several years as Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez blossom in their dynamic lineup.

Now…onto some other things…

Potential Lockout

Of course, the owners want to take this time of great celebration and success for the entire league to leap into their demands. Sure, the International Draft and all of the international signings need to have some sort of reform. The punishments of signing money and draft picks haven’t seemed to do enough damage to the clubs that continue to shell out the millions needed to sign the top international teenagers. A draft would “even the playing field” and allow the worst teams to get the best players. Isn’t that similar to the amateur draft, though? Are the best players going in order in the draft, or are the teams using their bonus money and the demands of the bonus babies to still play a role in who they take? This is a problem, sure, but all player acquisition options seem to be that way in MLB. People didn’t like the way that the Houston Astros lost and stockpiled players. The Cubs did something similar and found the results that they did in 2016. Are the Cincinnati Reds next to go down the hundred-losses path to find eventual success, or will the owners cry foul on that, as well?

There are all kinds of other options that need to be adjusted, but equality and fairness in dollars, which comes along with a salary cap, will only go so far if stupid people are in charge. The Indians ranked 24th in MLB payroll on Opening Day last season, while the Cubs were 14th, just behind my hometown Reds, who went 68-94, just 35.5 games back of those Cubbies. The owners, the billionaires, want more money coming towards them, which makes the International Draft and a salary cap so endearing to them. The players, the millionaires, want more money in the only league that has fully guaranteed contracts – just imagine what would have happened to a Ryan Howard contract in the NFL!

greedOnce again, it could be the game and the fans who lose out while these rich people banter over their money. The game continues to grow globally, with another World Baseball Classic this spring, but all of the positivity that comes from that jubilance could be crushed. So, here’s my take: get over yourselves and take better care of the game, and don’t ruin this amazing high that fans are on after an incredible postseason with arrogance and greed!

Big Contracts for Small Names

Cecil cashed in - not bad for a setup man. Courtesy:
Cecil cashed in – not bad for a setup man.

After watching Andrew Miller dominate down the stretch and in the playoffs, the St. Louis Cardinals dove into free agency with what could be a huge belly flop, signing Brett Cecil for four years and $30.5MM to get the ball to last season’s surprise closer, Seung-hwan Oh, who was dominant after replacing Trevor Rosenthal last season. Cecil is an interesting investment. After faltering as a starter for Toronto, he was moved to the bullpen full-time in 2012. In his four seasons of serving only out of the ‘pen, Cecil has managed a 2.90 ERA (2.73 FIP), 1.17 WHIP, and 11.5 K:9 over 205 IP and 243 appearances. If you compare Cecil’s four seasons to Miller’s first three as a reliever, they are pretty similar, as Miller posted a 2.57 ERA (2.37 FIP), 1.05 WHIP, and 13.3 K:9 over 133.1 IP and 163 appearances. Miller, of course, signed with the Yankees for four years and $36MM after the 2014 season, becoming more dominant since then (1.72 ERA (1.90 FIP), 0.76 WHIP, and 14.8 K:9 over 136 IP and 130 appearances). It appears that Cecil was able to successfully attach himself to Miller’s coattails, riding them to a huge payday.

That's a lot of money. Courtesy:
That’s a lot of money.

Jumping to the outfield, the Astros added to their’s by signing Josh Reddick to a four-year, $52MM deal. It seemed like a strange addition when you consider that the Astros have George Springer in right, the position that Reddick has played for most of his career. Still, with Jake Marisnick in center and Nori Aoki in left, the outfield was an area of need this winter. After going from Wild Card winners in 2015 to 3rd in the AL West in 2016, the Astros needed to continue to push towards their winning window with their solid core of talent. Reddick, however, may not be worth $13MM per season, having seen his best season way back in 2012. It seems like a lot of money for someone who posted a 1.2 WAR in 2016, but it appears that Houston believes his thumb injury played a larger role in his lack of offensive prowess last season. This looks a lot like the deal that the Yankees gave to Jacoby Ellsbury, banking on his insane 2011 season after a couple of average seasons in 2012 and 2013. He hasn’t lived up to the contract, unless you’re paying $20MM per year for past performance, which Houston appears to be doing, as well, this offseason.

I’ll try to write more often. Get back on my bandwagon and I’ll tell you wonderful things about baseball and life. America needs me right now, so I’m back.

Second Half Scorchers

Nearly a month removed from the All-Star Game, there are several players who have seen drastic changes to their approaches and results over the last 30 days. While some players are in contention for a division title or wild card spot, others are helping their team to avoid the worst record in baseball. Take a look at these impressive results, as you get into the forgotten part of the baseball season – thanks in no small part to ESPN jamming NFL games that don’t even count down our throats.

Votto will continue to carry a putrid supporting cast...again.
Votto will continue to carry a putrid supporting cast…again.

Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds

Last 30 days: .442/.550/.663, 221 wRC+, 1.7 WAR, 20.7% walk rate

Votto limped through the first two months of the season, hitting an ugly .213/.330/.404 through the end of May; however, there were signs that this would turn around, including his 13.2% walk rate and incredibly low .252 BABIP (.357 career). He has certainly had better luck since the beginning of June, hitting .366/.500/.574 with a 21.4% walk rate and a .430 BABIP. As the Reds continue to sit at the bottom of the wins column in the NL Central, Votto is doing his part to keep them somewhat entertaining in the midst of their horrifically run rebuild.

Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins

Last 30 days: .313/.349/.696, .393 ISO, 1.5 WAR, 10 HR, 25 RBI, 20 R

Dozier has been a useful second baseman for a number of years, though, due to the Twins struggles, he may not be as well-known as he should be. After all, he has averaged 23 home runs, 35 doubles, 71 RBI, and 16 steals between 2013 and 2015. This season, however, Dozier seems certain to eclipse those averages and eclipse career-bests in several categories, including batting average, which currently sits at .264, which is probably why he isn’t as beloved by stat and fantasy nerds as he should be. Over the last month, Dozier has been on fire, and after another first half of solid production but a queasy .246/.335/.450 line, he has jumped all the way up to the total above (see last 30 days) and his robust 1.045 OPS. The Twins have a lot of talented middle infielders and Dozier is signed through 2018 for just $15MM, so it will be interesting to see what his potentially awesome second half – if he continues like this – could land them in an extremely weak free agent market this winter.

Jose Ramirez has been more valuable than Votto, Bryce Harper, and Addison Russell (based on WAR) in 2016 Courtesy:
Jose Ramirez has been more valuable than Votto, Bryce Harper, and Addison Russell (based on WAR) in 2016

Jose Ramirez, INF/OF, Cleveland Indians

Last 30 days: .365/.415/.573, 19 R, 12 RBI, 7 SB,  4 HR

Ramirez has been a blessing to the Tribe, taking control of third base after watching veteran-signee Juan Uribe struggle, up to his release, at the hot corner, while he was taking the pain away from the seemingly year-long injury to Michael Brantley prior to taking on third base full-time. Ramirez, just 24 in September, has been an intriguing prospect for a number of years to anyone who closely follows the Indians, as his speed, versatility, and contact skills looked like a reason that he would end up playing elsewhere with Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor around up the middle. Ramirez, though, has proven that he can be productive and valuable anywhere on the diamond. While he may fill a super-utility role and be viewed as a Ben Zobrist-y kind of talent, he may create a future for others to be very Jose Ramirez-y, instead.

Danny Duffy, LHP, Kansas City Royals

Last 30 days: 5-0, 6 games (6 starts), 42.2 IP, 44:8 K:BB, .195 BAA, 2.32 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 1.3 WAR

Duffy has been Cy Young-contender good since the start of the 2nd half. Since moving into a full-time starter role on May 27th, Duffy is 9-1 with a 3.00 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and a 109:18 K:BB over 99 IP and 15 starts. The Royals have dealt with some regression, inconsistencies, and ineffectiveness from their rotation throughout the year, and the defending world champions will have a rough time earning a wild card spot (they’re 6.5 games out as I write this), but Duffy, who is under team-control through next season, could be earning a lucrative extension with his recent efforts.

Verlander can be happy for many reasons this season Courtesy: CBS Sports
Verlander can be happy for many reasons this season
Courtesy: CBS Sports

Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers

Last 30 days: 4-0, 6 games (6 starts), 43 IP, 50:10 K:BB, .174 BAA, 1.67 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 1.5 WAR

When Justin Verlander led the league in earned runs allowed in 2014, many thought that he had lost it and wouldn’t ever be the same. It happens with pitchers, and we haven’t seen many power pitchers this side of Roger Clemens have long-term success. After battling through some injuries in 2015 and regaining some semblance of himself in the ERA column, the 2016-version of Verlander looks an awful lot like the annual Cy Young-contender that we were all used to seeing, as he is back to striking out more than a batter per inning this season. Maybe it is his engagement to Kate Upton, maybe it is an adaptation to pitching with what he has, but the Tigers, who are back in the hunt in the AL Central (they’re 1-11 against Cleveland but have 7 games remaining against them), are surely happy to have their ace back.

Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

Last 30 days: 3-0, 5 games (5 starts), 32 IP, 27:6 K:BB, .231 BAA, 1.13 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 1.0 WAR

Odorizzi was one of the many Rays’ starters who were mentioned to be on the move at the trade deadline, however, only Matt Moore headed out of town and Tampa Bay has Odorizzi under control through 2019. If he continues his impressive run, Odorizzi could bring quite an impressive package of talent this winter, but the Rays could continue to build their offense around a rotation centered around Odorizzi, Chris Archer, Drew Smyly, Blake Snell, and the soon-to-return Alex Cobb. Just 6-5 in 24 starts, the 26-year-old right-hander is frustrating to own in fantasy, but his nice run over the last month may have flown under the radar due to the Rays last place standing in the AL East.

Tim Lincecum: This is the End

Is this it for Lincecum?
Is this it for Lincecum? Courtesy: Fox Sports

On Saturday afternoon, the Los Angeles Angels designated RHP Tim Lincecum for assignment, just one day after allowing six runs on nine hits in just 3.1 innings against the Seattle Mariners. At just 32, and after having been ineffective since 2012, he has probably thrown his last pitch in Major League Baseball.

From 2007 to 2011, Lincecum was undeniably the top pitcher in the National League. While sharing the spotlight with the prime years of Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, and Cliff Lee, Lincecum, who could never look the part of an ace when lined up against those four, still was just as dominant. Lucky for him, he was the only one in the NL for all five of those seasons, which resulted in his two Cy Young awards (2008 & 2009), which were obviously earned with his incredible overall numbers.

2007 23 SFG 7 5 4.00 24 0 0 0 146.1 122 70 65 12 65 150 112 3.63 1.278 7.5 2.31
2008 ★ 24 SFG 18 5 2.62 34 0 2 1 227.0 182 72 66 11 84 265 168 2.62 1.172 7.2 3.15
2009 ★ 25 SFG 15 7 2.48 32 0 4 2 225.1 168 69 62 10 68 261 171 2.34 1.047 6.7 3.84
2010 ★ 26 SFG 16 10 3.43 33 0 1 1 212.1 194 84 81 18 76 231 114 3.15 1.272 8.2 3.04
2011 ★ 27 SFG 13 14 2.74 33 0 1 1 217.0 176 74 66 15 86 220 127 3.17 1.207 7.3 2.56
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2016.


Lincecum was nicknamed “The Freak” due to his absurd mechanics, which resulted in his 5’11” frame somehow striding 7.5 feet towards home during his delivery. The torque and motion resulted in this small man being capable of throwing a baseball in the high-90s. During all of his success, so many questioned his size, in the same way that others questioned the likes of Bob Feller, Johnny Cueto, and even future Hall of Fame closer Billy Wagner, something I looked into further over 2.5 years ago. Mechanics are a difficult thing to question, given that even those with perfect mechanics – I’m looking at you, Mark Prior – can still manage to get hurt. Lincecum proved many people wrong for several years, but it is, most likely, his small stature and workload that resulted in his struggles since the start of the 2012 season.

The Giants, unfortunately, paid Lincecum $75MM from 2012 through 2015 for him to post a 4.68 ERA and 1.40 WHIP over 113 appearances (106 starts) and 615.2 innings, while he posted a WAR of 3.2. Not quite the bargain. It isn’t likely that the Giants knew that Lincecum’s final six starts of 2011, when he posted a 4.03 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, was going to become the “norm” for their four-time All-Star. The club signed him in January 2012 to a two-year, $40.5MM deal to avoid high-priced arbitration years and buying out those two years of arbitration prior to free agency. They then re-signed him to a two-year, $35MM deal, just a few days after he pitched out of the bullpen in helping to lead the Giants to their second title in three seasons.

Lincecum's mechanics - helping Carter Capps have a career
Lincecum’s mechanics – helping Carter Capps have a career

Maybe Brian Sabean missed something…maybe he was still high from the champagne. Still, Lincecum’s career in San Francisco was a two-part movie, where the sequel wasn’t worth seeing. His incredible run from 2007 through 2011 resulted in his being able to stick around up to this point, but he truly doesn’t have much left to offer as a starting pitcher.

Because of Lincecum’s struggles with the Angels, this will be it for him.

The first time through the order this season, teams are hitting .394/.457/.676 with six home runs in 81 plate appearances. If you thought for one second that he could still be a reliever, that is all that you need to know.

Tim Lincecum was an absolute freak, which made his nickname well-earned and well-placed; however, once he lost a tick on his fastball and had to learn to get people out by pitching alone, he wasn’t very successful. It is sad to see someone fall so far from the top so quickly, but at least he was there for a long enough time to have etched a memory into the minds of baseball fans of this generation forever.