Results tagged ‘ Curtis Granderson ’
Another season has finished and with only ten teams having successful, playoff-bound seasons, it is time for the other 20 teams to look forward to the 2014 season. After 162 games, you probably have a pretty good idea of what your team needs. Below, you’ll find a list of upcoming free agents. Who would you like your team to sign? Comment away!!!
Robinson Cano, 2B, 31: Although ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that Cano wants a ten-year, $305 million deal, it would seem nearly impossible for the middle infielder to get anything close to that, even when considering all of the television money coming in for clubs. How far are the Dodgers willing to go over the luxury tax threshold? Are the Angels willing to shell out more money to 30-plus year olds after watching Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols not live up to expectations? Everyone knows that the Yankees are trying to slim down their payroll…it just doesn’t seem likely. After watching Cano hit like a corner outfielder while playing second base over the last nine years, he is clearly the top talent available in the entire free agency market.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, 31: Choo showed his worth by getting on base exactly 300 times in the 2013 season (162 hits, 112 walks, and 26 HBP) while reaching the 20 home run/20 stolen base level for the third time in his career, helping solidify a Cincinnati lineup that had been seeking a strong leadoff hitter for what seems like decades. He proved that he was at least capable of handling center field in Cincinnati, but his defensive metrics have been pretty miserable over his entire career wherever he plays, although, Choo can make up for it at times with his strong arm. Shin-Soo Choo will be highly coveted by outfield-needy clubs this offseason and those clubs will likely get several solid seasons out of the South Korean-born, on-base machine.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, 30: Ellsbury had a fine season, leading MLB in stolen bases (52) while being a tremendous defensive center fielder. He will likely get paid huge dollars for his 2011 season (32 HR, 105 RBI, .928 OPS), even though his next best season was the 2013 season, when he hit nine home runs, drove in 53 runs, and posted a .781 OPS. More Michael Bourn than Matt Kemp, Ellsbury will be an asset due to his speed and defense as a strong outfield option, and while he doesn’t have the on-base skills that Choo possesses, he is a fine leadoff hitter.
Brian McCann, C, 30: McCann is going to be a rich, rich man. With the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Texas Rangers seeking help at catcher, he’ll have plenty of suitors. After reaching 20 home runs for the seventh time in eight full seasons despite playing in just 102 games, McCann has proven that his shoulder woes are behind him and that he can continue to be an offensive asset to a club going forward. Still pretty weak behind the dish (24-percent caught stealing this season and the same for his career), McCann’s bat will carry him and utilizing him in the American League at DH will do wonders for his career and whoever signs him.
There are some solid options available at catcher, here. McCann is obviously the top option with Saltalamacchia as the next best option. Navarro seems to have been around forever and the Cubs got a lot out of him this season while using him sparingly, posting an .856 OPS and 13 home runs over just 266 plate appearances, making him a somewhat attractive, cheaper option. The rest offer solid veteran depth, which has tremendous value with so many good young catchers in the league.
Abreu is the highly-coveted Cuban defector, full of power and mystique, who will likely get a Yasiel Puig-like contract, maybe better. Several solid veterans are available who can handle first base, many of them (Hart, Napoli, and Morneau, in particular) having some injury concerns. With the right type of deal, any of these players could provide tremendous value to a club seeking leadership, while having enough talent remaining to be productive as platoon options, starters, or multi-position use (1B/DH primarily).
Best Available Middle Infielders
Cano is the true treat here, but former All-Star talents exist, although several of them have been and will continue to be risky due to injury histories. Like many of the corner infielders that are available this winter, there are several players who could provide solid production, but it could come with a limited role as a platoon player while providing the old phantom value that comes with being a strong veteran with clubhouse presence.
Carlos Beltran, 37; Marlon Byrd, 36; Choo; Nelson Cruz, 33; Rajai Davis, 33; Ellsbury; Jeff Francoeur, 30; Curtis Granderson, 33; Corey Hart, 32; Raul Ibanez, 42; Mike Morse, 32; Juan Pierre, 36; Grady Sizemore, 31; Delmon Young, 28;
There could be tremendous value in the outfield this winter, as teams will be able to get aging veterans like Ibanez (if he comes back), Beltran, or Byrd, all having excellent 2013 seasons, at an affordable, short-term deal. At the same time, Cruz, Granderson, Hart, and Young could post numbers that would make them equals to the top players available (Choo and Ellsbury) if everything breaks right.
Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs.com held a chat on Monday. In it was this gem:
With Shin-Soo Choo eligible for free agency after the season, the Reds could be looking at other options in center field, just in case Choo were to get an offer from, say, the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, or another deep-pocketed club; however, whatever team doesn’t sign Choo will likely be all over the slightly younger Ellsbury as another option.
As I wrote in another recent article, there are plenty of options out there as options in center(Curtis Granderson, Chris Young, or cost-effective, homegrown talent in Billy Hamilton), but would the smartest investment for Cincinnati be the current Red Sox center fielder or attempting to re-sign their current leadoff star?
When looking at the careers of Choo and Ellsbury, they are both solid leadoff hitters:
There is some give and take for both players, but considering that both are represented by Scott Boras, is this worth taking time and effort for Cincinnati given their eventual need to extend Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, and Aroldis Chapman over the next three seasons?
Ellsbury is 29 years old, turning 30 in September, while Choo turned 31 in July. Outside of their relatively close age, they are drastically different players.
Choo, who would be wise to market himself as a leadoff hitter (even though he has had very productive seasons hitting in the middle of the order for the Cleveland Indians), is an on-base machine, currently sporting a .412 OBP (2nd to teammate Joey Votto in the NL), while possessing enough speed (16 stolen bases) and power (46 extra-base hits) to be considered an extremely valuable, all-around player. While his defense in center is borderline inappropriate (last among qualified CF with a UZR/150 of -17.9), he still possesses an above average arm and his experience in right allows for a bit of roster and positional flexibility, though the Reds wouldn’t need much help in right, barring a Jay Bruce injury. After making $7.38 million in his final year of arbitration, he will likely command between $13 and $15 million per season on the open market, especially after Boras refers to Nick Swisher‘s four-year, $56 million deal as a starting point.
Ellsbury is a peculiar player, having busted out in 2011 with 83 extra-base hits (including 32 home runs) while leading MLB in total bases (364), while following that season up with all of 11 home runs over his last 909 plate appearances. It seems as though Ellsbury will be able to present himself as a speedster with gap power and above average defensive skills at a premium position, as he is currently 4th among qualified CF in UZR/150 (12.4) while leading MLB in stolen bases (47) and racking up 44 extra-base hits (he leads the AL in triples with eight and has seven home runs). Similar to Michael Bourn in his skillset since the 2011 outburst, Ellsbury will likely get a slightly better contract than the Indians’ center fielder, who signed a four-year, $48 million deal this past offseason, if only because Scott Boras can play into the fact that Ellsbury had such a dramatic 2011 season as a selling point.
While Ellsbury is slightly younger and could, potentially, be a little cheaper than Choo in the free agent market, who is the best option for the Reds?
With a need for top of the order speed, on-base skills, and defensive skills, Ellsbury, in my opinion, would be the best option for Cincinnati; however, the question remains – should the club consider locking up a big-money, free agent center fielder when the club needs to be concerned with the costs of Homer Bailey and Mat Latos in arbitration?
- Looking Ahead: The 2014 Cincinnati Reds (thebaseballhaven.mlblogs.com)
- 5 Thoughts From 2014’s Free Agent Crop (baseballrevival.wordpress.com)
- Jacoby Ellsbury Looks Poised for Second-Half Power Surge After Going Deep Again in Win Over Yankees (nesn.com)
- 8 Upcoming Free Agents Who Have Made Themselves Irreplaceable in 2013 (bleacherreport.com)
- Red Sox Would Like to Keep Jacoby Ellsbury, According to John Henry (nesn.com)
While I write about as much of baseball as I can, I always come back to my hometown Cincinnati Reds, a team that I grew up watching that I continue to root for. I’m fairly certain that the 2013 season will end in some sort of playoff appearance, likely a one-game playoff with the St. Louis Cardinals or Pittsburgh in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, but I am also not too confident in the club reaching the World Series this season, either. You can say that I am a “doubting Thomas” if you want, but with the talent in St. Louis, Atlanta, and Los Angeles this season, I just don’t see the Reds going very far. For that reason, I wanted to take a look ahead to the 2014 season to see what the club could look like.
The club has a lot of money invested in Joey Votto going forward, but the $20-25 million annual salaries won’t start until 2016. Below is the payroll breakdown for 2014, featuring expected arbitration figures (courtesy Baseball Reference):
|Shin-Soo Choo||Shin-Soo Choo traded to/from Cleveland Indians||-$3.5M|
|Ryan Madson||Ryan Madson buyout||$2.5M|
|Signed||Players With Guaranteed Contracts (does not include players with options)||*27||11|
|Dollars Committed||Value of Guaranteed Contracts (no options are exercised and includes buyouts)||*$104.1M||$76.6M|
|Contract Options||Players with any type of option|
|Option Values||Maximum value of options if all are exercised|
|Arb Eligible||Number of arbitration eligible players (1st-2nd-3rd-4th, “Arb” players = 3rds)||2-3-2-0|
|Arb Costs||Rough estimated value of all arbitration cases (uses 3-year averages for 1st yr, 2nd,..)||$19.3M|
|Other Players||Additional Players Needed to Fill 25-man (no options exercised)||7|
|Other Costs||Estimate of Remaining Players Costs (based on 1-year avg of all pre-arb players)||$3.5M|
|Payroll (no options)||Est. Total Payroll w/o Options (Guaranteed + Arb + Other)||$99.4M|
|Payroll (options)||Est. Total Payroll w/ Options (Guaranteed + Options + Arb + Other)||$99.4M|
With the depth that the club has in starting pitching, barring another lost season from supposed ace Johnny Cueto, the Reds can afford to let Bronson Arroyo walk via free agency, unless, of course, he is willing to take a dramatic pay-cut in his age-37 season. How does the club look as far as depth overall?
Based on the current 40-man roster:
Relief Pitchers – (13) – Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton, Nick Christiani, Justin Freeman, JJ Hoover, Sam LeCure, Kyle Lotzkar, Logan Ondrusek, Curtis Partch, Josh Ravin, Alfredo Simon, and Pedro Villareal (has been pitching in relief recently).
The loss of Shin-Soo Choo is pretty dramatic considering the skills that he has provided as the leadoff hitter for the Reds, as he is 2nd to Votto in on-base percentage in the National League. His production will have to be replaced, but who can provide the same skills. The Reds were likely hoping for another excellent season from Billy Hamilton, one of the team’s top prospects, in Triple-A Louisville this season, but, while he has stolen 73 bases, he is hitting just .259/.311/.347 after stealing 155 bases and hitting .311/.410/.420 in 2012 over two levels. If the Reds aren’t going to be in on Choo in free agency due to costs, it is also unlikely that they would make a play for Jacoby Ellsbury or Curtis Granderson. However, the club could look to a reclamation project in center to pair with Hamilton, such as: Chris Young (who has an $11 million option with a $1.5 million buyout, coming off of an unspectacular season but still possessing plenty of skills), Franklin Gutierrez ($7.5 million option with a $500,000 buyout, coming off of another injury-filled season but still a solid defender with occasional right-handed pop), or, my wife’s favorite, Grady Sizemore (a player well on his way to a Hall of Fame career before knee injuries stole his ability to stay on the field). Certainly, the club has had decent production, at times, out of Paul, Heisey, and Robinson this season, as they platooned in left field and kept the Reds in contention when Ludwick was out for several months, but they would need to upgrade from that group in center to come close to replacing Choo’s production.
Due to the recent elbow surgery that Jonathan Broxton had to undergo and Sean Marshall‘s inability to pitch for most of the 2013 season, the Reds may need a couple of back-end bullpen arms to pave the way to their shutdown closer, Aroldis Chapman. Bullpens are tough to predict and it wouldn’t be a good idea to invest in another large, multi-year deal (as they did with Broxton) this offseason. Some relievers who will become available may include: Javier Lopez, Rich Hill, J.P. Howell, Jamey Wright, LaTroy Hawkins, Jason Frasor, and Joe Smith.
Additional items the Reds may want to address this coming offseason:
- Lock up Mat Latos to an extension. Latos is due $7.25 million in 2014 and will be arbitration-eligible for the final time in 2015 prior to reaching free agency prior to the 2016 season. Would the Reds be willing to commit to Latos at five-years, $65 million and is that enough to keep Latos in Cincinnati?
- Due to Tony Cingrani relying so heavily on his fastball, what can the club do to enhance his secondary pitches so that he can have extended success as a starter? Is he a relief pitcher long-term? With Broxton and Marshall coming off of injury, would it be wise to commit to Cingrani in a set-up role?
- Should the club re-sign Bronson Arroyo to a one-year deal to keep a rotation spot warm for Robert Stephenson or should they gamble on Cingrani, Carlos Contreras, or Daniel Corcino next season as the No.5 starter? If they look elsewhere in free agency, are pitchers like Colby Lewis, Jason Hammel, Phil Hughes, Josh Johnson, or Ubaldo Jimenez (if he voids his $8 million option) better options than Arroyo?
- Who is the catcher? Should the Reds truly commit to the offensive potential within the bat of Devin Mesoraco or continue to share the duties between Mesoraco and Hanigan at nearly 50-50?
Cincinnati has a pretty bright future, having locked up Votto, one of the top 15 players in baseball, to be the cornerstone of the franchise, while having solid pieces within the rotation and plenty more talent on the way. Hamilton, Stephenson, Jesse Winker, Phil Ervin, and Michael Lorenzen are going to rise quickly through the organization, just in time for the Reds current 2015 championship window.
Ian Kennedy has posted some pretty solid numbers over his career, going 46-30 with a 3.76 ERA over 112 games (110 starts). Having been around since 2007, when he came up with the Yankees, it is easy to forget that Kennedy is just 28 years old, with a lot of time left to become a useful pitcher, whether that is in real life or fantasy baseball. The only issue is, which Ian Kennedy is the real Ian Kennedy?
As a New York Yankee farm hand, Kennedy was totally lights-out, going 19-6 with a 1.95 ERA over 46 games (43 starts), posting a 273:77 K:BB in 248.2 innings. In 2007, Kennedy jumped to the majors for three starts in September, going 1-0 with a 1.89 ERA over three starts and 19 innings. Kennedy wasn’t so good in 2008, going 0-4 with an 8.17 ERA over 10 games (9 starts) before being banished to the minors (all the way to the Gulf Coast League), where he worked on some things and earned a start on August 8, which didn’t go very well. Kennedy would make just one more appearance in the majors with the Yankees before a blood clot, which needed surgery, was found in his throwing shoulder. He was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks, as part of a three-way trade with the Detroit Tigers, on December 8, 2009 in a deal involving Curtis Granderson, Max Scherzer, and Edwin Jackson.
Once with Arizona, Kennedy’s career took off. In 2010, Kennedy stayed healthy, starting 32 games and tossing 194 innings while going 9-10 with a 3.80 ERA and 1.20 WHIP and posting a 168:70 K:BB. Then, 2011 was the breakthrough…
Kennedy went 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP over 222 innings, posting a 198:55 K:BB. Kennedy finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting (behind Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee), while earning MVP votes, finishing 14th. At the age of 26, Kennedy was poised to take the step to become one of the top pitchers in Major League Baseball…
Only in 2012, things weren’t as positive for Kennedy, as he went 15-12 with a 4.02 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP, while posting a 187:55 K:BB in 208.1 innings.
While Kennedy’s 2011 season was a great step towards stardom, is he the pitcher that he was then or what he was in 2012…or somewhere in between, such as 2010?
Take a look at some statistics:
Kennedy’s ERA, WHIP, xFIP, HR/9, and LOB% were all at career bests in 2011. In 2012, Kennedy’s BABIP was higher than the league average, which is .300, but is that enough to say that he was unlucky or was he just lucky in earlier years in Arizona?
If 2011 was an aberration, then Ian Kennedy is more likely to post a 3.90 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP over 200 to 220 innings. But…if Kennedy maintains his strikeout rate and his BABIP falls to his career average, .280, could Kennedy return to the 2011 form, or at least post an ERA closer to 3.00 than 4.00 and a WHIP closer to 1.10 rather than 1.20 or 1.30?
At 28, Sabermetrics guru Bill James sees Kennedy as more of the 2011-version, having the right-hander go 13-10 with a 3.49 ERA over 214 innings in his projections. Based on Baseball Reference’s Similarity Scores, Kennedy is most similar to Tommy Hanson, Clay Buchholz, Mark Prior, and Mat Latos. Due to some injury concerns for a few of those players, fans of the Diamondbacks certainly hope that Kennedy can come up with a new group of pitchers to be ranked with, and if he has another season like 2011, he could do that pretty easily.
The Yankees wanted Curtis Granderson to play centerfield for them after he averaged 29 doubles, 13 triples, 23 home runs, 16 stolen bases, and 103 runs over four full seasons for the Detroit Tigers from 2006 to 2009. Granderson had a pretty team friendly, five-year, $30.25 million deal from 2008 through 2009, with a team option for 2013 for $13 million or a $2 million buyout, which only sweetened the deal for New York.
The Yankees were getting a nice power and speed outfielder, but little did they know that Granderson was capable of erupting for the 84 home runs and 225 RBI that he has produced the last two seasons. However, Granderson’s total meltdown in the ALCS and the entire postseason makes you wonder what one player is worth, especially as the Yankees head home after being swept by the team that they acquired Granderson from.
Granderson was traded from Detroit to New York in a three-team deal on December 8, 2009. The Tigers traded Edwin Jackson to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Curtis Granderson to the Yankees. The Yankees gave Arizona Ian Kennedy, who has gone 45-26 with a 3.55 ERA in 98 starts since the trade. In return, the Tigers received Austin Jackson and Phil Coke from the Yankees and Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth from the Diamondbacks.
While the deal was centered upon Curtis Granderson and the Yankees receiving another dynamic talent, how much influence did the players that the Tigers received in the deal have on the postseason in 2012?
- Max Scherzer: 1-0, two starts, 11 IP, 5 H, 0.82 ERA, 18:3 K:BB
- Phil Coke: 7 games, 7.1 IP, 4 H, 0.00 ERA, 2 saves, 5:2 K:BB
- Austin Jackson: .297/.350/.514, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBI
- Daniel Schlereth: Did Not Play; DL
It’s only been nine games for the Tigers this postseason, but with the lack of depth in the New York Yankees rotation the entire season, how nice would Ian Kennedy have looked in there? And, while Granderson provides power and produces runs, Austin Jackson has become a fantastic player. How different are the two players?
- Player A: 314 runs, 61 2B, 21 3B, 108 HR, 292 RBI, 47 SB, .843 OPS
- Player B: 296 runs, 85 2B, 35 3B, 30 HR, 152 RBI, 61 SB, .761 OPS
Considering his position in the middle of the order, Granderson, Player A, dominates in the power categories, which drives up his OPS, HR, and RBI numbers. However, since Austin Jackson is the Tigers’ leadoff hitter, he, Player B, has also impressed by posting a higher average (.280 to .247) and on-base percentage (.346 to .337) than Granderson the last three seasons.
The moral of the story here is that the Yankees gave up Austin Jackson, Coke, and Kennedy, and the Diamondbacks gave up Scherzer and Schlereth, all so that the Yankees could get Curtis Granderson.
When you go all-in for an individual talent and watch the players you gave up beat you…ouch.
Granderson finished the postseason 3-for-30 with 16 strikeouts, one run, one home run, and a lot of questions leading into the 2013 season, especially after being relegated to pinch-hitting duties the last game of the ALCS.
Keith Olbermann reported on his MLBlog on October 17 that the New York Yankees and Miami Marlins are already discussing a deal involving Alex Rodriguez once the season is over. This is big news due to the struggles of Rodriguez during the postseason, 3-for-23 (.103) with 12 strikeouts, and that fact that the quickly aging veteran is due another $114 million over the next five seasons.
Alex Rodriguez is taking a lot of heat for his struggles, as if he is the only player currently struggling during the club’s rotten postseason. Mind you, Robinson Cano is 3-for-36 (.083) and Curtis Granderson is just 3-for-29 (.103) with 15 strikeouts, so what is the deal with the hatred for the game’s highest paid player? The Yankees have bigger issues, including, how are they going to rebuild the franchise if the potential trade of Alex Rodriguez actually does happen?
Moving Alex Rodriguez would signify a possible change in philosophy. While the Yankees have spent many hundreds of millions in payroll over the last decade, could this be the end of “buying” the talent, all because of an apparent very quick regression in some of their talent?
The Yankees have some things to look at with their current roster:
- Ichiro Suzuki, Russell Martin, Nick Swisher, Mariano Rivera, Freddy Garcia, Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez, and David Aardsma are free agents after the 2012 season.
- Robinson Cano ($15 million or $2 million buyout), Curtis Granderson ($13 million or $2 million buyout), and Pedro Feliciano ($4.5 million with $0 buyout) have options for 2013, with Cano and Granderson nearly guaranteed to be picked up, if only to allow for a trade to get value in return for those players.
- Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, and David Robertson are eligible for arbitration, so they will earn raises for the 2013 season.
- Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Clay Rapada, Eduardo Nunez, Chris Stewart, and Austin Romine are all pre-arbitration, so they could be renewed at or near the league minimum.
After that, the Yankees have some payroll concerns:
- Alex Rodriguez, as mentioned before, is owed $114 million over the next five years.
- C.C. Sabathia is due $119 million (counting his $25 million 2017 option) over the next five years.
- Mark Teixeria is going to make $90 million over the next four seasons.
- Derek Jeter will make $17 million in 2013 and either $8 million in 2014 or a $3 million buyout.
- Rafael Soriano is guaranteed $14 million in 2013.
The problem with trading Alex Rodriguez is that the Yankees would have to eat a huge portion of the $114 million that he is owed. Since 2007, A-Rod’s OPS has gone from 1.067 (his MVP season) to .965, .933, .847, .823, and finally .783 in 2012. At the age of 37 (turning 38 next July), why would anyone give anything of value for the declining future Hall of Famer?
Dealing Rodriguez to the Miami Marlins for Heath Bell and Logan Morrison would be a solid deal, even paying $50-70 million of his deal, so that the team gets more bullpen help and a potential replacement in an outfield corner with Swisher and Ichiro both headed to free agency. However, that deal probably would not sit well with fans.
Should the club let all of their free agents depart, will they go after Josh Hamilton in free agency? Could Hamilton’s previous off-the-field issues, which he still admits to battling, become a huge issue in the largest media market in the world?
Should the club trade Granderson and/or Cano on top of dealing Rodriguez, just to allow the franchise to make a fresh start, like the Boston Red Sox deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which included the contracts of Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez?
For what it is worth, dealing Alex Rodriguez would open up third base in one of the weakest years for free agent third base in recent memory, including: Miguel Cairo, Mark DeRosa, Alberto Gonzalez, Brandon Inge, Maicer Izturis, Jose Lopez, Scott Rolen, Drew Sutton, and, if their options aren’t picked up, Ty Wigginton and Kevin Youkilis.
Would the club really go into the season with Eduardo Nunez at the hot corner? General Manager Brian Cashman would have to look in the mirror and commit to a potential rebuilding mode if that is the case.
While Alex Rodriguez has struggled and his value and stock has plummeted, the unfortunate facts are that the Yankees would be and will be better with him at third base in 2013 than they would be by making a trade. Unless the Bronx Bombers were able to trade Robinson Cano to Baltimore for Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado after trading Rodriguez, starting to make trades to change the structure of the team just does not make sense.
Cashman would have to make several trades involving star players and huge contracts, just to fill the several holes that would remain from the various deals. If you trade Rodriguez, he would need to trade for a third baseman. If he traded Cano, who would play second? If he traded Granderson, he could possibly get Hamilton, but what if the Red Sox or Rangers outbid him?
You can’t rebuild the New York Yankees. Brian Cashman is in a situation where he needs to win, in a market and a fan base that wants to win – see the attendance in the ALCS. The club will rebuild by reloading, like they have done, through free agency. They will acquire a top-tier or solid starting pitcher and a solid outfielder, and they will be right back where they were. They will probably have the veterans mentioned in potential deals, as well, because it is not worth the potential hassle of dealing the contracts and taking so much less in value, just to make a change.
Joey Votto has been one of the top players in MLB in 2012, posting an absurd .362/.485/.657 slash with 27 doubles, 12 home runs, 44 RBI, and a 49:52 K:BB in 213 at bats. Brandon Phillips is finally hitting, posting a .441/.472/.735 over his last eight games, with one double, three home runs, and nine RBI. In doing so, Phillips has increased his triple-slash from .259/.314/.392 on May 24 to its current .292/.338/.454 level. With Votto still mashing and getting on base and Phillips finally hitting, are the Reds capable of being the best team in baseball over the rest of the season?
Some will argue that the Detroit Tigers have the lineup to beat due to Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Others say that the Yankees lineup with Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixiera, Robinson Cano, and Alex Rodriguez is the greatest of them all. Others will argue that it is Ike Davis and Jason Bay, and we will mock them ferociously; however, the Reds seem to have what it takes to win. The rotation can be thin at times with the inconsistencies at the back-end, but look at the front-end of that group…
Johnny Cueto has established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball, compiling a 16-8 record, a 2.36 ERA, and a 1.12 WHIP over his last 37 starts. Mat Latos may not have great stats in 2012 (5-2, 4.64 ERA, 1.37 WHIP), but the Reds are 8-2 in his last ten starts. Latos is also in the middle of the season, especially from May to July, where he is now 21-6 with a 2.90 ERA over his career during the early summer months.
What does all of this mean? The Reds were as many as five games back and they were up as many as 3.5 games. Now, they are three games up on both the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals. The Reds have gone 25-16 since April 15. It’s too bad they aren’t the Chicago Cubs because they are 17-8 in day games after Thursday’s 12-5 stomping of the Cleveland Indians.
The Reds have a solid rotation and enough offense to matter. The American League is filled with punishing offenses, but the National League has…good pitching? With the dramatic decline of the Philadelphia Phillies lineup, the Cincinnati Reds are in an elite class in the National League.
The Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Francisco Giants are the only other teams in the National League with the rotation and lineups that can match the Reds. Bryce Harper is the real deal and the Nats will, at least, ride Strasburg to the limits of his innings, not his talent. The Dodgers have had issues with injuries in the rotation and to Matt Kemp, but they’ve managed to hold on thanks to Andre Ethier’s redemption season and Chris Capuano’s best Clayton Kershaw impersonation. The Giants have had some success from their rotation and offense, definitely not from Tim Lincecum, though, and with the return of Pablo Sandoval from injury, they will be that much better.
However, if Votto and Phillips are clicking like they are right now and the Reds have the 1-2 punch of Cueto and Latos going, then they can sit back and hope that the likes of Zack Cozart, Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake take the steps necessary to keep the team in contention while infusing youth in the every day lineup. With smart baseball, like Mesoraco plowing into Lou Marson for defensive interference and a free run (see here), and mediocre production from the spare parts, the Reds are a team to be reckoned with.
What a difference a weekend makes, huh? When the Yankees were showcasing a starting rotation that looked just a little better than the dung that the Red Sox call a rotation, with Ivan Nova, Phillip Hughes, A.J. Burnett and Freddy Garcia behind C.C. Sabathia, it looked like they were heading in the wrong direction, as well. Suddenly, the Yankees traded super-prospect Jesus Montero to Seattle for Michael Pineda and they signed Free Agent Hiroki Kuroda, then you’re wondering what role two of Burnett, Hughes, and Garcia will have with the club in 2012. The roster is still aging, and the contracts that were forced to Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter will probably come back to bite them in the buttocks, but they still have one thing going for them. Money…and lots of it. Here is a look at the current 25-man roster:
2 Catchers: Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli
1B: Mark Teixeira
2B: Robinson Cano
3B: Alex Rodriguez
SS: Derek Jeter
LF: Brett Gardner
CF: Curtis Granderson
RF: Nick Swisher
DH: Andruw Jones
Bench: Eduardo Nunez (INF), Ramiro Pena (INF) and Chris Dickerson (OF)
Starting Pitchers: C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda, and Freddy Garcia
Relief Pitchers: Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, Corey Wade, Phillip Hughes and A.J. Burnett
You have Garcia, who can’t be traded until June due to his contract, at the back of the rotation to build value. He could be bumped for Burnett, who still has two-years and $33 million on his deal, to see if they can get something out of their investment. He could be bumped for Hughes, who will need to show something to become a part of the Yankees future. It’s a nice “problem” to have, especially after looking lot a hot mess just a week ago.
The offense is an interesting blend. They have a young, speedy left fielder in Brett Gardner (28). They have the future of the organization, their best and most valuable asset, Robinson Cano. They have a slugger in his prime who has changed his swing and become a menace to pitchers around the league, Curtis Granderson. Then, they have the declining stars: Jeter, Rodriguez, and Teixeira. Why is Teixeira’s name there? He’ll be 32 in 2012 and his OPS since joining the Yankees in 2009: .948, .846 and .835; however, people tend to focus on Jeter’s decline and A-Rod’s decline because it has been so obvious. When Rodriguez opted out of his contract after the 2007 season, did they really think that a 10-year deal for a 32-year-old was a good idea? Well, do the numbers 138, 124, 137, and 99 mean anything to you? Those are the number of games Rodriguez has played since 2008. Not to mention his OPS has dropped from Good luck with Pujols, Angels. Jeter will be 38 in 2012 and he has declined since 2009; however, not as drastic as some would think. He did have a .297 AVG and .355 OBP in 2011, but it’s the .388 SLG that is killing his “value.” His WAR was a career worst 0.7 in 2011. He still has value…he just isn’t driving the ball and his range stinks. Jeter certainly isn’t worth the 3-year, $51 million deal he got before 2011. Public relations can be a bitch.
So, what can the Yankees do from here? They could get a DH. Rumors have Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Jorge Posada and Lou Gehrig returning to the Yankees…Actually, add Carlos Pena, Raul Ibanez, and Vladimir Guerrero to the list of “legendary” Yankees. All of these guys can get coffee for $1 at McDonald’s all day (old…), but they could be had for pennies on that dollar. Due to the left-handed power alley, I’d take Carlos Pena. Pena is also a solid defender at first, so he could spell Teixeira there on occasion. The Yankees could then put Jones into a reserve outfielder or right-handed platoon at DH-role, utilizing his power and strengthening the bench. Chris Dickerson is a decent 4th outfielder, and suddenly, the Yankees are just as poor as the Red Sox and can’t pay a luxury-tax. Cry me a river big market. Welcome to reality! They’ll settle with Dickerson there.
The rotation is set, the bullpen is loaded, and you have depth with Hughes, Burnett, and/or Garcia in the pen. I wonder when over-working kills Robertson the way that it killed Scott Proctor, but ride him while he’s there. The Yankees are basically locked in at this point with the roster. A DH is about all you’ll see them reach out for, and they should be able to get a veteran that wants to win a championship to sign on the cheap to fill that role. So, this is the new roster based on my simple moves:
2 Catchers: Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli
1B: Mark Teixeira
2B: Robinson Cano
3B: Alex Rodriguez
SS: Derek Jeter
LF: Brett Gardner
CF: Curtis Granderson
RF: Nick Swisher
DH: Carlos Pena
Bench: Andruw Jones (DH/OF), Eduardo Nunez (INF) and Chris Dickerson (OF)
Starting Pitchers: C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda and A.J. Burnett
Relief Pitchers: Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, Corey Wade, Phillip Hughes and Freddy Garcia
One floating knuckler from Wakefield to Boone, one “shot heard ’round the world” from Bobby Thomson, and one leaping, game saving catch by Granderson. Baseball. One game. One play. One champion. We sit around all year, many of us bored to death by the constant statistics and uber-long season, only to be lifted up by the wonder of what October brings. New hero, new legend, new superstars. In football, mistakes can be fixed, like Revis making a pick to even out Mark Sanchez stinking. That floating knuckler that Wakefield mistakingly threw to Boone can’t be brought back. That foul ball that was taken away from Moises Alou by Steve Bartman can’t be brought back. That is what makes baseball so different. It is a story that has the ending on the last page and you just need to sit back and read the first 300 pages before taking a look. Some people have put it down and never come back and they are really missing out right now. Just ask those who came back and saw the Rays and Cardinals take over for the Braves and Red Sox on the last day, or those thousands of fans who showed up at Tropicana Field for game four of the ALDS yesterday after not being there all season. It all matters now. And…one play is all it takes to win your heart back or to win the championship.
If you haven’t seen “the catch” or catches that Curtis Granderson made on Tuesday night, the link is above. To say that after 162 games that one play can prove to make your season is an understatement. Bases loaded, two outs, A.J. Burnett just about to implode and the first inning jumping catch saves the season. With Don Kelly’s speed, that could have been an inside-the-park homerun, at least a base-clearing triple that would have put the Tigers up 3-0.
Needless to say, Burnett may have allowed another 2-4 runs after the implosion was finally complete, but he can thank Granderson for the effort and look in the mirror today and see a man who threw 5 2/3 innings in a game that he was a goat to start with. The leash was shorter than Britney Spears’ first marriage and New York and the media was waiting for his eventual failure. Instead, 81 pitches later, they can all breathe a sigh of relief and wait until the next series for that.
Granderson is just looking better and better to those who are going to be voting on the AL MVP. Although I said that Miguel Cabrera should win, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Granderson grab it. He does, after all, garner the spotlight that comes along with the pinstripes. If only the .262 batting average and 169 strikeouts weren’t so damning…
The Yankees live to see another day, and probably another series, as the momentum goes into their favor for game five in Yankee Stadium. Granderson could add to the legend of Yankee centerfielders, following DiMaggio, Mantle and Williams to the greatness of titles and legacies from the position. If nothing else, he did his part this season and in this series.