Fantasy Fix for 6/15: Who to Target and Avoid

As we get further into the season, the sample sizes of players has become a little more realistic. For those who say that players will correct themselves and hit “to the back of the baseball card.” That is the case for some players, while others actually breakout or stay in funks all season. Based on the “norms” of players, this should help you decide who to trade or sell high, who to target, and who to avoid like the plague.

Who to Target

Frazier has struggled, but he is still mashing and is a player to target.
Frazier has struggled, but he is still mashing and is a player to target. Courtesy: CBS Sports

Todd Frazier, 3B, Chicago White Sox

Frazier is sporting a pretty dreadful .206/.301/.466 line over 272 plate appearances. His average is driven down by his .185 BABIP, worst among qualified batters in MLB. If you’ve owned Frazier before, you know that the batting average isn’t what makes him valuable, but that number should certainly increase over the rest of the season, especially as Chicago heats up and the ball flies out of U.S. Cellular. Additionally, Frazier’s 19 bombs are 2nd in MLB and he has a .261 ISO and the highest walk rate of his career (11.4%). It should be a good summer for the Toddfather.

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies

You should have probably targeted Arenado at the top of your draft, but, if you can deal for him, you need to find a way to get him on your team. He is tied for most homers in baseball after his shot on Wednesday afternoon and the 25-year-old could see additional growth over his 42 home run/130-RBI 2015 season. How is that possible? Well, his .260 BABIP is bound to increase closer to his career .287, and Arenado is striking out at the lowest rate of his career (10.5%) and walking at the highest rate of his career (10.5%). With Carlos Gonzalez slugging alongside him, at least until the trade deadline, the sky continues to be the limit for this young star.

Wacha looks pumped about being on this list. Courtesy: Washington Times
Wacha looks pumped about being on this list.
Courtesy: Washington Times

Michael Wacha, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

Wacha may fly under the radar because he won’t strikeout 200 batters per season in fantasy leagues, but he will win games (#killthewin) and post solid ERA and WHIP numbers. At least, that has been the case prior to this season. There’s nothing to say that he can’t get back on track. With a 2-6 record, 4.91 ERA and 1.45 WHIP, Wacha has many owners frustrated. However, his 3.48 FIP says that he can get things back on track. The fact that he plays on a perennial contender may help, but the Cardinals aren’t really the class of the NL Central any longer with the Cubs 9.5 games up going into Wednesday’s games. Grab Wacha from someone who is selling low and reap the benefits of reading my website. Thank me later.

Dallas Keuchel, LHP, Houston Astros

Last season’s AL Cy Young winner has struggled thus far, going 3-9 with a 5.54 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. He leads MLB in hits allowed and earned runs. It’s hard to say that he can improve on that line, but it appears that he may be able to do so. He does have a 3.82 FIP and he is still striking out a little over eight per nine innings; however, he’ll need to get his walks down in order for his overall numbers to improve. The Astros are still very good, despite their 31-35 record, and you don’t win 20 games and a Cy Young without some skills. Trust in his beard and abilities.

Players to Avoid

Call me a #hater if you want, but that BABIP makes Marte someone I wouldn't trust. Courtesy: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Call me a #hater if you want, but that BABIP makes Marte someone I wouldn’t trust.
Courtesy: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

Marte is having an excellent season, hitting a robust .335/.376/.502, with 26 extra-base hits and 19 stolen bases. At the age of 27, he is in the midst of the “Bill James prime” and has always been a gifted athlete; however, he hasn’t always been this lucky. Marte has a .416 BABIP, 56 points higher than his already impressive .360 career BABIP. He could certainly be “breaking out”, but this type of elevated statistic isn’t easy to keep up with all season. If you’re in a one-year re-draft, you may want to cash him in at this peak value.

Doug Fister, RHP, Houston Astros

Fister’s success is a feel-good story after battling through injuries and ineffectiveness in 2015 for the Nationals. The 32-year-old has a 7-3 record to go along with his 3.26 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. He’s back to his old self, like when he won 30 games over the 2013 and 2014 seasons, right? Wrong. His 4.75 FIP, 81.8 left on base percentage, .254 BABIP allowed, and career worst walk rate, scream regression. He has proven peripherals wrong for a number of years, due to his low strikeout totals, but he would need to prove it for another month before I’m buying. If you have him, sell high.

Walker has so much potential, but that is all that he has right now. Courtesy: Seattle Times
Walker has so much potential, but that is all that he has right now.
Courtesy: Seattle Times

Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners

Walker still has a lot of prospect hype surrounding him, but, at some point, the results need to catch up to that potential. To this point, the 3.69 ERA and 1.15 WHIP have hidden some ugly numbers for the 23-year-old. The 4.61 FIP is what screams regression, while the 18.4% FB:HR rate is terrifying as we enter the warmer months, especially when you consider the teams in the AL West and the way the ball flies out of those parks in the summer. Over his last seven starts, Walker is 1-4 with a 5.12 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, allowing a whopping 11 homers in 38.2 innings. His solid overall numbers are the result of his first six starts – when he was 2-2 with a 1.97 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, which he allowed just three home runs over 32 innings. He may be injured or the league made an adjustment. Either way, Walker isn’t as good as his statistics show right now – unless you can store him on your bench while he figures it out – if he ever does.

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The Hot Stove Has Caught On Fire

It certainly hasn’t taken long for teams to begin dishing out large contracts that they’ll probably regret in a couple of years with free agency well under way. However, the last 24 to 48 hours have supplied the greatest number of gifts, with a lot of examples of “huh”, “why”, “seriously”, and “come again” worthy reactions.

The Trades

The Doug Fister Trade

Detroit Tigers get: 2B Steve Lombardozzi, LHP Ian Krol, and LHP Robbie Ray

Washington Nationals get: RHP Doug Fister

FisterIt has to be called the Doug Fister trade because no one really cares about any of the players that the Tigers got back, right? If this wasn’t a total salary dump, I don’t know what it was, as the “prize” return for the Tigers is Ray, who was a 10th round pick in 2010 and had a 6.56 ERA in 2012 in his first attempt at High-A Potomac before bouncing back and having a solid season between High-A and Double-A in 2013, really doesn’t seem like a tremendous prospect; though, we have been proven wrong by Dave Dombrowski before. After the Tampa Bay Rays received one of the top young prospects in baseball, Wil Myers, in return for two controllable seasons of James Shields, you would think that the Tigers could have received more for Fister, who had managed to post an impressive 32-20 record to go along with a 3.29 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 440.2 innings with Detroit. Fister now joins Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, and Gio Gonzalez within the Washington rotation, making the Nationals strong contenders for first-year manager Matt Williams in 2014.

Winner: Washington Nationals.

Smelling Fowler

Houston Astros get: CF Dexter Fowler

Colorado Rockies get: RHP Jordan Lyles and OF Brandon Barnes

Fowler1Fowler seemed to be on the trading block for some time, but he was finally dealt on Tuesday. The Astros get two affordable seasons (two-years, $11.6 million) of Fowler while they wait for George Springer to prove himself ready, or…they just acquired a nicer trade chip than what they gave up. Jordan Lyles may still be just 23 years old, but he hasn’t put it together in 377 major league innings, posting a 5.35 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and a 6.2 K/9, and it seems very unlikely that shifting to Coor’s Field is going to assist his progression to sudden success. Brandon Barnes has some ability, but it isn’t as an everyday player, as his atrocious 127:21 K:BB and .635 OPS over 445 plate appearances goes to show. Barnes could be a fourth outfielder for the Rockies, with Carlos Gonzalez sliding over to center and Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson battling it out for the left field job, or Colorado could look to free agency to upgrade in center. This deal didn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Rockies unless they saw something in Lyles and didn’t feel that Fowler would ever live up to his hot start from 2013, when he posted a 1.032 OPS and then fell off of the face of the earth. Even if Fowler doesn’t live up to those numbers, he is the most valuable piece in the deal.

Winner: Houston Astros.

The Unimpressive Three-Way

Cincinnati Reds get: LHP David Holmberg.

Tampa Bay Rays get: RHP Heath Bell and cash from Arizona, and C Ryan Hanigan from Cincinnati.

Arizona Diamondbacks get: RHP Justin Choate and a PTBNL

The Rays are always viewed as a smart club and they were able to land another potential closer after losing Fernando Rodney to free agency, leaving the club with Heath Bell and Juan Carlos Oviedo to battle it out for the gig. On top of that, they received an excellent framing catcher in Hanigan, who has proved to be quite valuable to Cincinnati over the last several years in game-calling, while inking the backstop to a three-year extension upon the completion of the deal. The bad part, though, is that both Bell and Hanigan weren’t very good last season, with Hanigan, in particular, looking like a nightmare offensively, posting a .198/.306/.261 line over 260 plate appearances, leading to the Reds leaning on Brayan Pena, who was signed to a two-year deal earlier this winter, and Devin Mesoraco, the young, power-hitting catcher who will finally get a full-time look in Cincinnati. The Diamondbacks dumped some salary while dealing Bell for a young, breathing body. Choate pitched in the New York-Penn League in 2013 at the age of 22 and he isn’t much of a prospect. The Reds dumped Hanigan, who was arbitration-eligible, while getting a 22-year-old left-handed starter, who posted a 2.75 ERA in 26 Double-A starts in 2013 with a 116:50 K:BB in 157.1 innings. While Holmberg wasn’t as sexy as Tyler Skaggs or Archie Bradley within the Diamondbacks system, he could become a solid back of the rotation arm or a Sean Marshall-like relief pitcher for the Reds. The good news for Cincinnati is that Mesoraco gets his shot and Holmberg adds some near-ready pitching depth after the likely departure of Bronson Arroyo via free agency.

Winner: Everyone looks like a winner here, as the deal worked well for all three teams, but the Rays received the most help in assisting the team win in 2013.

Why Did Beane Make That (Michael) Choice?

Texas Rangers get: OF Michael Choice and 2B Chris Bostick

Oakland A’s get: OF Craig Gentry and RHP Josh Lindblom

ChoiceThis seemed like an odd deal for Oakland and GM Billy Beane, as Gentry is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and Lindblom has been pretty terrible since being traded from the Dodgers to the Phillies in the 2012 Shane Victorino deal, as he has posted a 5.10 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over 54.2 innings since leaving Los Angeles (2.91 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 77.1 innings prior to the trade). Maybe a return to the west coast is what Lindblom needs to be a useful reliever, but by getting the elite defensive skills and increasing salary of the light-hitting (.280/.355/.366 in 763 plate appearances), 29-year-old Gentry, and giving up the potential that still exists in the bat of Michael Choice, who is 24 and isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2017, Beane showed that he may be looking beyond three years from now and that he could be putting the A’s in win-now mode. Bostick is a nice second base prospect, having posted a .282/.354/.452 line over 555 plate appearances as a 20-year-old in Low-A in 2013, but the Rangers have quite a few young, up-the-middle prospects (Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, and Luis Sardinas) and they don’t seem to have a need there, while the A’s have run Jemile Weeks out of town in a trade with Baltimore and Eric Sogard was very…meh…in 2013 at the major league level. Winning now is important, but it doesn’t seem like the A’s really acquired anyone who can really help them in 2014 to get over the hump.

Winner: Texas Rangers.

The Free Agent Splashes

The Yankees Spend Like Crazy…Again.

Who They Signed: C Brian McCann (five-years, $85 million); OF Jacoby Ellsbury (seven-years, $153 million);

McCannWhy It Matters: Notice that the Yankees have committed nearly $240 million after having been rumored to be on a mission to avoid the $189 million threshold of the payroll luxury tax, while not having signed their All-Star second baseman, Robinson Cano, just yet. And, don’t forget, the team is rumored to be interested in signing Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who could be had at a lesser amount after the posting fee was limited to a maximum $20 million bid on Wednesday. McCann is a huge upgrade over the combined .213/.289/.298 triple slash that Yankees’ catchers posted in 2013, while Ellsbury provides great defense and speed as the Yankees try to move on from all of the injuries that suffocated their success this past season. Even if the Yankees are done with the big name signings, including Cano, they should be a better team in 2014.

Twinkies Filled Their Rotation

Who Minnesota Signed: RHP Phil Hughes (three-year, $24 million); RHP Ricky Nolasco (four-year, $49 million);

Why It Matters: The Twins starting pitchers posted a 5.26 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in 2013, worst in the majors, and the ERA was a whopping 0.45 points higher than the Toronto Blue Jays’ starters (4.81), who finished 29th. Hughes still has youth and potential, but he needs to start tapping into that potential after posting a horrific 5.19 ERA over 29 starts and 145.2 innings. Shockingly, Hughes’ numbers would have made him a solid number three starter for the Twins in 2013…they were that bad. Adding Nolasco was special, but he isn’t an ace. He will likely be the Twins’ Opening Day starter in 2014 by default and he should make the rotation slightly better; although, it couldn’t get much worse.

Kazmir Rejuvenates and Cashes In Athletically

Who Oakland Signed: LHP Scott Kazmir (two-year, $22 million)

Why It Matters: Signing Kazmir to a lucrative contract could lead to another movie about the Oakland A’s after the success of Moneyball. While Kazmir’s resurgence was quite surprising, an eight-figure deal, after making all of one total appearance in the majors in 2011 and 2012 due to severe shoulder woes, was even more surprising. Possessing a mid-90’s fastball and a left arm appears to be all that it took to find a big deal. Kazmir’s story is worthy of attention and praise, but it is a story that needs to be monitored to see if he can maintain the same success in Oakland over the next two seasons. His presence will allow the A’s and Beane to shop LHP Brett Anderson at the winter meetings next week, which could net the club some additional win-now resources.

The Tigers No Longer on the Prowl for a Closer

Who Detroit Signed: RHP Joe Nathan (two-year, $20 million)

Why It Matters: Detroit needed a lockdown closer after shuffling through Jose Valverde, Phil Coke, Jose Veras, and Bruce Rondon at closer before Joaquin Benoit took over and did a nice job over the rest of the season. They got their man after signing Joe Nathan away from the Texas Rangers. Nathan closed 80 games out the last two seasons, while posting a 2.09 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, and at 38 years of age, he doesn’t look to be slowing down after missing the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery. After dealing Prince Fielder to improve at second base with Ian Kinsler, moving Miguel Cabrera back to first, and plugging Drew Smyly into the rotation (after dealing Fister), the Tigers will have a completely new look in 2014. With their strong rotation, Nathan’s shutdown ability makes them quite dangerous.

Fish Hook Their Catcher and the Red Sox Snag Another

Who Miami Signed: C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (three-year, $21 million)

Who Boston Signed: C A.J. Pierzynski (one-year, $8.25 million)

Why It Matters: With a lot of focus heading towards catcher defense and framing, highlighted by the Rays commitments to Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan this winter, other clubs continue to look towards offensive-minded catchers, and the Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox locked down their backstops this week. The Marlins seem to have very little hope for a quick turnaround and Saltalamacchia isn’t going to be the other piece to help Giancarlo Stanton and Miami to an NL East title, but it is a start…as long as they don’t trade him before the 2014 season starts. Pierzynski will be on his fifth organization and, despite being hated by some of his competition, he could be a tremendous asset to the character and chemistry that existed within the Boston World Series clubhouse. I guess he is better to have on your team than to play against him.

 

 

Why Trading Max Scherzer Makes Sense

Scherzer1
Detroit Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer

After his start on June 6, 2012, Max Scherzer was 5-4 with a 5.88 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, and was allowing an OPS of .861 to opposing batters over the first 64.1 innings of the 2012 season, while posting an 80:24 K:BB (3.33) . Since that point, Scherzer has gone 32-6 with a 2.80 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, while allowing a triple-slash of  .207/.267/.339 (.606 OPS) over 337.2 innings, posting a 391:92 K:BB (4.25). He won the 2013 American League Cy Young award with some incredible numbers, but heading into 2014, Scherzer will be in the last year of team-control for the Detroit Tigers, arbitration-eligible for the final time after earning $6.725 million in 2013, and he is estimated to earn roughly $14 million.

Certainly, Scherzer will be in line for a huge raise, especially with all of the insane numbers that he has posted while taking the reigns as the Tigers’ best pitcher from Justin Verlander. However, after posting the numbers that he has, would it be best to deal Scherzer right now, when he is viewed as one of the elite pitchers in all of baseball? There are several reasons why such a deal would make sense for Detroit.

Can Scherzer Maintain Success?

Scherzer has posted his incredible numbers over the last year and a half, but what was he doing before that? The first three-plus seasons of his career, Scherzer logged 617 innings and had a 3.92 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP, and while he posted an 8.7 K/9, his inconsistency was baffling for someone with such tremendous stuff. To be fair, it doesn’t always happen right away. Justin Verlander, in all of his greatness, had a 4.11 ERA and 1.33 WHIP over his first 600 innings, posting a 7.2 K/9 before being selected for the All-Star game every year since 2009 and winning a Cy Young and an MVP award; however, Verlander’s breakout came in his age-26 season, not the middle of his age-27 and all of his age-28 season. Now, at 29, will he continue his success?

In 2013, according to Pitch F/X, Scherzer introduced a curveball, which he threw about 6.5 percent of the time, while increasing the use of his changeup to 20.1 percent (up from the 17.5 percent that he threw it in 2012, though he did use it more earlier in his career). Once the league picks up on how he uses those pitches, will they make adjustments?

Additionally, Scherzer has dealt with seven cases of shoulder fatigue or stiffness dating back to his days pitching at Missouri, with fatigue setting in as recently as October of 2012. Even winning a Cy Young in 2013, Scherzer only reached 214.1 innings, his first season eclipsing the 200 inning threshold in five full seasons, so were there concerns from the Diamondbacks and Tigers as to how his workload would impact his previous shoulder issues? After all, the horses and ace-like pitchers in the league, like Verlander, typically reach between 220 and 250 innings in a season, as Adam Wainwright (241.2) and Clayton Kershaw (236)  proved in 2013.

After huge progress over the last 18 months, has Scherzer proven anything or does he need to maintain his 2013 success an additional season prior to worthily achieving the ace label?

The big issue appears to be the raise that Scherzer could earn through arbitration and he only has one year remaining of team control. Should the Tigers cash him in or trade another starting pitching option and ride out Scherzer for one more year?

The Tigers’ Other Trade Options

Fister
Detroit Tigers right-hander Doug Fister

Detroit has a luxury right now, possessing five outstanding starting pitchers in Scherzer, Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, and Rick Porcello. Verlander’s huge contract and “down year”, if you can call it that, don’t really make him as expendable as Scherzer. Sanchez proved his worth in the first year of his free agent deal, and he appears to be someone that the club will build around as their No.2 starter – behind Verlander. This would leave the Tigers to deal from Fister or Porcello to clear salary to afford Scherzer and acquire prospects.

Fister will be due around $7 million in his second year of arbitration after earning $4 million in 2013. He has been a tremendous addition to the Tigers staff since being acquired in 2011 from the Seattle Mariners, going 32-20 with a 3.29 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 440.2 innings over 70 appearances (68 starts). He turns 30 years old in February but after seeing what James Shields was worth with two years of team-control last season, when he was entering his age-31 season, why wouldn’t the Tigers look to deal him? While Fister doesn’t have the strikeout numbers that Shields’ produced, he would make for a fine No.2 starter on another club.

"Detroit

And what about Porcello? It hasn’t always been pretty for the young right-hander, who has five full seasons under his belt and will still be just 25 on Opening Day. His career 4.51 ERA and 1.39 WHIP appear hideous, but there are a few bright spots. The 2013 season was a huge leap forward for Porcello, as he posted a career best WHIP (1.28), strikeouts per nine (7.2), and strikeout to walk ratio (3.38), while getting a career-best groundball rate (55.3 percent) as he dramatically increased the use of his curveball, used his changeup at the highest rate of his career, and went away from his slider in 2013. Not to mention, his 4.32 ERA came along with a 3.19 xFIP, so what would he do without Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta on the left side of his defense? Due to the major league contract that he received after being drafted in 2007, he was rushed to Detroit, logging just 125 minor league innings before his major league debut in 2009, but that early debut also makes him expensive through arbitration. Porcello, like Fister, has two years of team control remaining, but after earning $5.1 million in 2013, he could earn around $8 million in 2014, without the success that Fister has shown in his service time. Porcello had ace potential when he was selected out of a New Jersey high school over six years ago, but he hasn’t truly tapped that level and may never reach that level, but the slight increase in his stats in 2013 show that there is still potential in his arm.

Why Scherzer (and Others) Are Expendable

"Detroit

One name has seems to make the Tigers capable of dealing a starting pitcher this weekend: Drew Smyly.

Smyly dominated in 2013 out of the bullpen, posting a 2.37 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 76 innings with an 81:17 K:BB (4.76). Smyly has been very good since reaching the majors, and while he was fantastic in relief, he hasn’t been much worse as a starter:

I Split W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
as Starter 4 3 3.79 18 18 0 0 0 0 95.0 89 45 40 12 26 88 1.211 8.3 3.38
as Reliever 6 0 2.69 68 0 9 0 0 2 80.1 66 24 24 4 24 87 1.120 9.7 3.63
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/16/2013.

Smyly lost his starting job in 2012 when the team acquired Anibal Sanchez from the Marlins while he was on the disabled list for a right intercostal strain, which came shortly after he was on the disabled list due to a blister on his middle finger of his left (pitching) hand.

Smyly has allowed a .235/.291/.385 triple-slash (.676 OPS) since arriving in Detroit, he has a 1.17 WHIP (ranking in the top 30 in MLB since the start of the 2012 season), his 24.3 percent strikeout rate is 10th among all pitchers with at least 150 innings pitched since the start of the 2012 season, and his 3.50 K:BB rate is also within the top 30 since the start of the 2012 season.

There will be some risk in relying heavily on Smyly in a starting role if the club was to trade Scherzer, Fister, or Porcello to make room for him. He threw his changeup, a pitch nearly every starter needs, in just 3.2 percent of his pitches (according to Pitch F/X) in 2013, while throwing a cutter at a much higher rate out of the bullpen. Although, according to FanGraphs, his changeup may have been misunderstood as his curve or slider, as well:

Courtesy: FanGraphs.com
Courtesy: FanGraphs.com

You can see in the blurred photo above that FanGraphs and Pitch F/X seemed to have a difference on the pitches that Smyly was using in 2013, but he does have more than two pitches, regardless of whether he was using a fastball, two-seamer, cutter, and one or more different breaking balls. He was pretty effective for most of the 2012 season as a starter, as well, posting similar numbers (3.79 ERA and 1.21 WHIP) to what Scherzer did in 2012 for Detroit (3.74 ERA and 1.27 WHIP).

So, Why Trade Scherzer?

Smyly may not replace the dominance that Scherzer showed in 2013, but the Tigers will likely have more effective seasons out of the remaining three starters if they were to deal their Cy Young winner this winter. After all, if Justin Verlander returns to form in 2014, we could see much more of the September Verlander (2.27 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 10.89 K/9) than what we saw over most of the 2013 season.

By dealing Scherzer, the Tigers could acquire several young pieces to build around. They do have Nick Castellanos ready to take over in the outfield in 2014, but their farm system is likely in the bottom half of Major League Baseball, with only Jonathan Crawford, a 2013 1st round pick, as impact prospects within their current system, as the remainder of the group looks more likely to fill utility roles or back-end starters or relief pitchers.

Dealing Scherzer for young talent would allow the Tigers to stockpile their system with more impact prospects. With Torii Hunter, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Victor Martinez all getting up there in age, the Tigers need to prepare themselves with much better athletes, arms, and bats as those aging veterans begin to regress.

While dealing Fister or Porcello would likely provide some value, as well, the Tigers can be players in the American League Central in 2014 with a Verlander, Sanchez, Fister, Porcello, and Smyly rotation due to their strong offensive talent. By slashing the payroll that comes along with a huge arbitration raise for Max Scherzer, the Tigers could add a better defensive shortstop, like Stephen Drew, to assist their poor infield defense, while possibly leaving them with enough wiggle room to re-sign Omar Infante at second base. (NOTE: Jose Iglesias…how did I forget that? Maybe Drew at second and Iglesias at short could form one of the top up the middle defenses in baseball with Austin Jackson in center, if they don’t re-sign Infante, but they don’t need a shortstop with Peralta leaving to free agency with Iglesias around)

ScherzerWith the free agent market likely to see absurd amounts of money thrown around due to the new television contract revenue, the Detroit Tigers need to determine if paying Max Scherzer $20 million or more per season on a nine-figure contract is more valuable than the near-ready prospects that they can receive for him now, or, worse yet, the lone compensatory pick that they would receive if he received that mega-contract from another team after the 2014 season.

The Tigers need to trade Scherzer while his value is at its peak – after winning a Cy Young. The deal that the Toronto Blue Jays provided to the New York Mets – Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and a couple of other spare parts – would be a tremendous starting point for Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski.

Are the Royals Good Enough to “Go for It”?

ShieldsKansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore apparently thinks that his team is good enough to win within the next two years. That has to be the case after Moore traded one of the best prospects in baseball, Wil Myers, with RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery, and 3B Patrick Leonard to the Tampa Bay Rays for two years of RHP James Shields and RHP Wade Davis.

For whatever reason, the Royals looked like they were going to go with Jeff Francoeur in right field in 2013, despite Myers ripping 37 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012. Was Myers expendable at the cost of playing Francoeur, who, after posting a .665 OPS in 2012, is in the final year of his contract in 2013?

While Kansas City has Wade Davis under contract through 2017, one has to wonder if he is really a starting pitcher. Davis posted a 2.43 ERA over 54 appearances and 70.1 innings, posting an 87:29 K:BB pitching only out of the bullpen in 2012. Prior to last season, Davis was 25-22 with a 4.22 ERA in 64 career starts, posting a 254:138 K:BB in 388.1 innings for the Rays.

While James Shields has a 31-22 record and a 3.15 ERA over the last two seasons, posting a 448:123 K:BB in 477 innings, Davis will be the wildcard in this deal, especially considering the amount of young controllable talent the Royals gave up in the deal.

Beyond the trade is the makeup of the current Royals roster. Is it championship caliber? Can the Royals compete with the Tigers, who have reloaded the pitching staff by re-signing Anibal Sanchez, teaming him with Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, and Max Scherzer to form one of the top pitching staffs in baseball, while still packing the Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera punch?

The Royals will need more than a couple of dynamic seasons out of Shields and Davis to make it work. Moore acquired Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles Angels, while committing $25 million over three years to journeyman Jeremy Guthrie. Can Shields, Davis, Santana, Guthrie, and Will Smith, Luke Hochevar, or Bruce Chen be enough to become a contender?

The answer will lie in the bats of the young stars on the Royals roster. Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, and Eric Hosmer have shown glimpses of superstardom, while mixing in a lot of inconsistencies. Shortstop Alcides Escobar looks like he is heading towards becoming a star, while catcher Salvador Perez looks to be on the same track. Designated Hitter Billy Butler is the leader of the team and all he does is hit. If the team gets a little consistency out of Moustakas, Gordon, and Hosmer, while hoping that Lorenzo Cain stays healthy in center and Francoeur looks like a baseball player again (like he did in 2011 when he posted an .805 OPS), the Royals may have enough to compete.

However, the Royals are a small-market team. If the team is able to create extreme revenue with a new TV contract, then this type of trade makes sense, but it is unlikely that the team will have the cash to re-sign Shields after the 2014 season, if he is even worth re-signing at that point. Is that worth the seven years of Myers, Odorizzi, and Montgomery?

The Royals have positioned themselves well by acquiring a lot of veteran arms to upgrade their rotation; however, Davis, Guthrie, and Santana aren’t models of consistency. If each of their starters reach their peak levels of performance, they could very well become a true force in a weak AL Central. They will need a lot of help from their young position players, though.

The Royals will be good enough to compete with the Detroit Tigers if Mike Moustakas hits like he did in the minors, if Eric Hosmer hits like he did in his rookie year, if Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez continue hitting like they did in 2012, if Lorenzo Cain and Jeff Francoeur do anything, and if Billy Butler keeps hitting like the All-Star that he is.

Those are a lot of if’s.

myersBecause of all of those if’s, the Royals are going to regret the trade of Myers, Odorizzi, and Montgomery. While we’ve seen many Brandon Wood, Brandon Larson, and Corey Patterson-types get hyped and fail, we’ve also seen the Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Miguel Cabrera-types get hyped and exceed expectations. For a team who can’t land the top free agents, dealing away all of that potential for two years of a reliable arm and five years of a wildcard is and will be a huge mistake.

Some teams just need to remember who and what they are. With so many teams banking on revenue streams increasing, MLB could have parity like the NFL in coming years…but they could also have owners who are shy to spend due to the market limitations. Kansas City has been shy to spend for so many years that they can’t be counted on to start anytime soon. They weren’t close enough to a championship to make a deal like the one that they did with the Rays.

daytonThat will be Dayton Moore’s legacy…unfortunately.

World Series Preview

With the Giants Game 7 win on Monday night in San Francisco, the world prepares for its series, with Game 1 on Wednesday night at AT&T Park. The Giants get home-field advantage with that awesome Bud Selig, All-Star Game idea, as the National League won the mid-summer classic in July.

Some things to look forward to:

Pitching:

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The Tigers’ starting pitchers are 5-1 with a 1.02 ERA in nine postseason games, covering 62 innings, while posting a 66:19 K:BB. That stat includes the absolute domination of the New York Yankees in the ALCS, where Tigers’ starters were 3-0 with a 0.66 ERA. The Tigers have the luxury of setting up their rotation for Game 1, which would allow them to start Justin Verlander in Game 1, 4, and 7; however, Jim Leyland has penciled in a four-man rotation in the World Series, with Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, and Max Scherzer slated to toe the rubber for the Tigers.

The Giants taking the St. Louis Cardinals to seven games and losing Matt Cain is sort of devastating for the outlook on the series. Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy could surprise people with what he does, especially after moving Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum around from the rotation to the bullpen already within this postseason. If Bochy keeps his NLCS roster, the Giants could start Tim Lincecum in Game 1, followed by Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong, and Cain in Game 4. Due to Lincecum’s struggles in Game 4 of the NLCS, could the “rest” that Bumgarner received allow him to jump back into the rotation, after Bochy said he was “tired” after his Game 1 loss to the Cardinals?

However the Giants rotation shapes up, the spacious ballparks involved in this series will allow for success from the least likely of candidates. The power that lies in the arms of the Tigers’ starting pitchers could make for some high strikeout totals, while the blend of power and finesse in the Giants rotation could lead to some very low scoring games.

Power:

Power in the throwing arms is evident but the greatest asset that the Tigers possess are the two bats in the middle of their order, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. Those two are capable of changing the game with one swing, and while the Giants have power in the bats of Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence, and Buster Posey, they aren’t nearly as productive, historically and recently, as the portly sluggers on the Tigers.

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While Comerica Park and AT&T Park can sap the power in both lineups, both teams have enough on-base and speed guys (see Austin Jackson and Marco Scutaro) to manufacture runs. However, one swing of the bat can change everything, just ask Cincinnati fans, who saw the grand slam by Posey in Game 5 of the NLDS destroy their lives. While the advantage lies with Fielder and Cabrera, the Giants, so long thought to be ineffective offensively, have enough to win this series.

Passion:

There is nothing better than postseason baseball. Watching the fans in San Francisco the last two nights is what makes baseball special. While they were there for all of the 81 home games in the 2012 regular season, the fire and excitement over the last two nights fueled the Giants to an amazing comeback from a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS.

The Tigers are showing the passion of a city in the middle of a rebirth. While there were times of weakness, the strengths of Detroit came out to conquer those moments, establishing the franchise as a legitimate juggernaut, just as Detroit has done with the rebound of the American car manufacturing companies.

The pitching is going to make the “normal baseball fan” bored, but this series is exactly what the die-hard fans enjoy. The team that makes the first mistake in each game will lose, and the scores will look lower than a Tiger Woods scorecard before his man-whorishness was made public.

What to Expect:

The Giants will enjoy their home-field advantage in Game 1, continuing the momentum that drove them to a tremendous comeback over the Tigers, but due to the opening game loss, Jim Leyland will run Justin Verlander out for Game 4 and again in Game 7, which the Tigers will win with another Verlander shutout.  Max Scherzer becomes the Tigers’ version of Trevor Rosenthal, making several appearances but totally shutting down the opposition.

Tigers in 7. Justin Verlander will be the World Series MVP. Brian Wilson‘s beard is still better than Sergio Romo‘s, however, it’s still a distant second to Peter Griffin’s.  

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