The Warning Track: The American League Awakens at the Trade Deadline

*all stats are through the beginning of play on August 1st, all contract information provided by http://www.rosterresource.com

Who knew when the Astros acquired Scott Kazmir from Oakland, officially opening the floodgates of MLB trades, we were about to witness one of the wildest flurries of moves in recent memory?

Aces switched uniforms. Clubs on the cusp of postseason contention became World Series favorites. A face of the franchise in the West had to pull out his passport. The balance of power was decidedly shifted to the American League, with seemingly every NL star making the switch.

It all made for an incredibly entertaining week of trades, at least until we get to contracts and numbers. In addition with discussing the short- and long-term effects of the big deals, The Warning Track has also devised its very own unique trade rating; essentially we are adding the “surprise” factor of each trade (from a scale of 1-50) with its “logical” factor on a scale of the same size, resulting in a figure unique to the trade’s initial impact at the deadline.

Make sense? Hey, we said numbers aren’t fun. But we’ll do our best.

The Biggest Impact Trades

Cincinnati sends SP Johnny Cueto to the Royals in exchange for SP/RP Brandon Finnegan, SP John Lamb, SP Cody Reed

Surprise Factor: 18

Logic Factor: 40

Trade Rating: 58

 The team with the best record in the American League – and the second best record in all of baseball – got a much needed boost for their rotation in the form of Johnny Cueto, who is en route to posting a sub-3.00 ERA for the fifth year in a row.

That not only gives a jolt of life to a starting five that ranks 11th in the AL with a 4.35 ERA, but also a legitimate ace and Game 1 starter once October rolls around.

In addition to sending two minor league arms with big league potential to the Reds, Kansas City also shipped Brandon Finnegan, who has a 2.96 ERA in 14 games this season. The 22-year-old will most likely be used to help re-fortify a Reds bullpen that ranks 14th in the NL (4.24 ERA) in the coming years, and he was expendable to the Royals, who boast a bullpen with an MLB-best 2.25 ERA that achieved prominence during the 2014 postseason and hasn’t stopped breaking hitters’ hearts since.

Lamb and Reed will also help bolster a Reds rotation that also traded away Mike Leake to the Giants.

Kansas City took the Giants to Game 7 of the World Series last year, and that was with their ace, James Shields, struggling with a 1-2 record and 6.12 ERA in five postseason starts.

This year, they might not even need to go the distance in the Fall Classic. If peak regular-season Cueto shows up in October, it might have a whole different ending for the Royals, one they were 90 feet away from experiencing last year.

And they’re betting wholeheartedly on it happening; Cueto becomes a free agent following the 2015 season.

Cueto ranked in the top 2 in the NL in 2014 in ERA, wins, Ks, WHIP, BAA, and innings pitched

Cueto ranked in the top 2 in the NL in 2014 in ERA, wins, Ks, WHIP, BAA, and innings pitched.

 Detroit sends SP David Price to the Blue Jays in exchange for SP Daniel Norris, SP Matt Boyd, SP Jairo Labourt

Surprise Factor: 10

Logic Factor: 45

Trade Rating: 55

The Blue Jays are currently in the midst of the majors’ longest active postseason drought, having not had the chance to play in October since 1993. GM Alex Anthopoulos sent a message to the rest of the league over the past week: they’re on a mission to make sure that unfortunate streak comes to an end.

Well, acquiring a legitimate ace in David Price to go along with an MLB-best offense sure seems like a good place to start.

Toronto is lingering one game back of the second wild card in the AL, their MLB-best 5.3 runs/game offset by a pitching staff that ranks 12th in the Junior Circuit with a 3.99 ERA, resulting in a 53-51 record and unfulfilled potential.

The acquisition of Price, who had a 9-4 record and 2.53 ERA with the Tigers this season, changes all of that. Not since the days of Roy Halladay in the 2000s have the Blue Jays had a dependable, consistent No. 1 guy.

It’s possible they acquired Price as a rental – he becomes a free agent at the end of the year, and he is going to be offered buckets and buckets of cash – and they gave up starter Daniel Norris, who had a 2.53 ERA in the minors in 2014, to get him.

But that just legitimizes Anthopoulos’ message: Canada’s team is all in, gunning for home and the World Series, where Price is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA.

 

Colorado sends SS Troy Tulowitzki and RP LaTroy Hawkins to the Blue Jays in exchange for SS Jose Reyes, RP/SP Miguel Castro, SP Jeff Hoffman, SP Jesus Tinoco

Surprise Factor: 47

Logic Factor: 38

Trade Rating: 85  

But Toronto team wouldn’t stop at Price, oh no. Because if you have the MLB’s scariest offense, why not make it even scarier?

In what many deemed to be an impossible task, the club north of the border was able to reel in star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies, as well as veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who had a 3.33 ERA in 26 appearances for Colorado this season.

Almost everyone was shocked when the trade was announced, including Tulo himself, and for good reason. Colorado seemed to be committed to Tulowitzki, as in 10-year-contract-that-runs-through-2020 committed. But he does seem to be taking it all in stride.

In return, Rockies got three young, promising arms, officially going younger to partially remodel their team into one led by Nolan Arenado (25 homers, 78 RBI), Carlos Gonzalez (21 homers, 52 RBI), and now 32-year-old Jose Reyes (.281, 4 homers, 35 RBI), who has become an MLB journeyman over recent years.

With the move, Toronto fully upgraded at the shortstop position, as Tulo’s 2015 season has been superior to Reyes’ in nearly every way (.303 average, 13 homers, 56 RBI), and they have him for a few more years beyond the 2015 season, solidifying them as one of the big winners of the trade deadline.

If the baseball landscape was Westeros, and the Canada-American border The Wall, be prepared, American League…Winter is coming. In the form of the Toronto Blue Jays.  

 

Philadelphia sends SP Cole Hamels and RP Jake Diekman to the Rangers in exchange for SP Matt Harrison, C Jorge Alfaro, OF Nick Williams, SP Jake Thompson, SP Alec Asher, SP Jerad Eickhoff

Surprise Factor: 33

Logic Factor: 44

Trade Rating: 77

It finally happened: the Cole Hamels saga, the question of which contender he would be traded to, finally came to an end this week.

Would he go to the Dodgers, a possible No. 3 starter where he when be the No. 1 almost anywhere else? Would the Yankees land him, in the hopes of being led to their first postseason berth since 2012? Could he be sent to the Cubs as another big piece in the greatest baseball rebirth of the 21st century?

Hamels brings consistency and postseason experience to.....

Hamels brings consistency and postseason experience to…..

Answer D, actually: None of the above. In the end, Hamels, along with relief arm Jake Diekman, was sent to the 50-52 Texas Rangers for a whole bunch of Grade-A prospects as well as Matt Harrison, who has a career ERA of 4.21. The trade puts plans in motion for two franchises in very different stages of their reboots: the Rangers, fighting to stay relevant for next year and beyond in the face of overwhelming underperformance, and the Phillies, who are essentially now where the Cubs were a few years ago.

This is an agreement made solely for long-term interests: the Rangers hope they can contend next year and the Phillies hope they get to that level by 2020.

For Texas, it all comes down to health, seemingly their nemesis of the past two seasons. Their roster is full of stars, both fresh and experienced, and Hamels will boost a rotation that ranks 13th in the AL this season with a 4.44 ERA, as well as adding postseason experience.

Add in the return of Josh Hamilton, who led the Rangers to back-to-back Fall Classic appearances in 2010 and 2011, and the Rangers are hungry to steal some thunder from their upstart division rival Houston Astros…provided they can stay healthy.

Meanwhile, in the Senior Circuit, the Phillies acquired three prospects that ranked in the top five of Texas’ farm system at the beginning of the season, a pivotal cog in the massive reboot that will give the new Star Wars a run for its money.

 

Milwaukee sends CF Carlos Gomez and SP/RP Mike Fiers to the Astros in exchange for OF Domingo Santana, OF Brett Phillips, SP Josh Hader, SP Adrian Houser

Surprise Factor: 20

Logic Factor: 35

Trade Rating: 55

 Many criticized the Astros’ acquisition of Scott Kazmir over a week ago, saying it was their strikeout-prone lineup that needed help, and not their pitching staff that is already second best in the AL.

But Houston wasn’t done dealing, solidifying their status as postseason contender by snagging offensive and defensive nightmare Carlos Gomez from the Mets Brewers in a message that says they’re ready to capitalize on being 2015’s most surprising squad.

Gomez is batting .258 this season to go along with 8 home runs and 43 RBI, and he shines in the field too; he is 11th among active players with a defensive WAR of 11.1, which is tops for his new club.

In addition, Mike Fiers (3.89 ERA in 2015) gives the Astros rotation even more depth and potential to be on shutdown status in the postseason, seeing as they now have two pitchers (Kazmir, Dallas Keuchel) that rank in the top five in the AL in ERA.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee, still recovering from 2014’s second-half meltdown, is getting a plethora of young players in return, including probable Gomez replacement Domingo Santana, who is hitting .256 with 2 homers and 8 RBI in 14 games this season. Kyle Lohse, Francisco Rodriguez and Jonathan Lucroy all become free agents either this offseason or after 2016, so for all intents and purposes the Brewers might be in the beginning stages of a massive, multi-year rebuilding process in the same vein as the Phillies.  

Detroit sends OF Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets in exchange for SP Michael Fulmer, SP Luis Cessa

Surprise Factor: 17

Logic Factor: 45

Trade Rating: 72

Joke’s on you, baseball. Because, for the first time in seemingly forever, it sure isn’t on the Mets.

The same Mets we chided and criticized for years as being the joke of the sport, unable to stand up to the Yankees in the slightest, had an unreal start to the season and haven’t slowed down.

Rather, they’re neck-and-neck with the Washington Nationals for first place in the NL East as the calendar flips to August.

However, they remain one of the most imbalanced teams in the league, led by the third-best pitching staff in the NL (3.26 ERA) but held back by a deeply flawed offense that has scored an MLB-worst 3.54 runs/game.

Solution? Slugger Yoenis Cespedes line. Cespedes is already tops on the Mets with those numbers, as are his 18 homers and 61 RBI. GM Sandy Alderson might be on to something.

It’s a no-nonsense trade for the Mets, but also one that makes complete sense. And the Tigers, who are “rebooting” for next season, didn’t ask for much: two minor league pitchers who probably would never have seen the light of day at Citi Field, what with young phenoms 27-year-old Jacob deGrom and 22-year-old Noah Syndergaard pitching out of their minds, and 24-year-old Steven Matz waiting in the wings of a full-time rotation spot.

Cespedes brings a perennial Home Run Derby contender to Citi Field...among other things, of course

Cespedes brings a perennial Home Run Derby contender to Citi Field…among other things, of course

So be ready, baseball. The Mets have made their intentions knows. Time to start rooting for a Subway World Series, the first since 2000.

Thanks for reading!

 

The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a weekly basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as off-the-field issues like first-time Commissioner Rob Manfred, which players could be headed to new homes, and A-Rod’s latest conundrum. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Warning Track: Week 3

The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a weekly basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as off-the-field issues like first-time Commissioner Rob Manfred, which players could be headed to new homes, and A-Rod’s latest lie. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. 

 

Why ya gotta be so rude?

Early in the week, Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price continued a recent trend by sports figures of questioning media methods and the overall importance of sports journalists.

He didn’t exactly take the Marshawn Lynch route, either. Price went on a red-hot (ha) profanity laden rant in which he used “f***” 77 times during a cringeworthy criticism of a reporter from the Cincinnati Enquirer who was just doing his job, reporting that catcher Devin Mesoraco was unavailable for last Sunday’s game due to injury.

But Price didn’t see it that way. Apparently he’s stuck in the 60s because he confronts the reporter, C. Trent Rosecrans, as if he were a Cold War spy trying to infiltrate the Reds organization for his own nefarious means.

It made for sensational, if not entertaining, news on Monday; a byproduct no doubt of the Reds’ early season struggles – they were coming off a sweep at the hands of St. Louis at the time of the all-time classic rant. It seemed like it was going to follow a familiar script – Price goes off on a victim unjustly and unjustifiably, it makes the rounds on social media, late-night shows crack jokes about it, and Price apologizes the next morning, saying he didn’t mean a word.

It pretty much went that way on Tuesday, except for one thing.

So even after taking a full day to cool off, Price takes us deep into the inner workings of his mind to reveal that he doesn’t understand the basic duty of journalism and its primary loyalties: the truth and the public.

And yes, Mr. Price, that includes “sniff[ing] out every f***ing thing about the Reds and f***ing put[ting] it out there for every other f***ing guy to hear.” Lesson one: that is essence of a journalist’s job.

You’re right; it may not benefit your team, but you’ve got to understand that you’re not the only ones suffering at the torment and unspeakably evil methods of local journalism. Every other professional sports team goes through the exact same thing, and members of those teams understand – I hope – their relationship with reporters and how it must be conducted.

And no, as a matter of fact, whatever Mr. Rosecrans chooses to write and publish does not have to benefit the Reds as you so passionately believe it should. That is not real journalism, that is censorship.

This is baseball, not warfare (well okay, maybe, of a much different kind). Your argument questioning the media’s decision-making on what and what not to write is like Mr. Rosecrans demanding why the Reds aren’t playing during a rain delay because he’d have no story to write.

 

Bryan Price has a couple things to learn when it comes to contributing to local journalism.

Bryan Price has a couple things to learn when it comes to contributing to local journalism.

I’ll cut you the smallest sliver of slack since this is your first year as a manager and, thus, you are in a fairly unfamiliar role. But I suggest you get used to reporters “f***ing blowing it all over the f***ing place” because, win or loss, Spring Training or World Series, that is precisely what they make a living off of.

So be clear on your role, Mr. Price, and the role of reporters like Mr. Rosecrans. He was doing his job just like he was supposed to. You work in a fairly public industry that yields news on a daily basis. Refusing to contribute to it would be neglecting your job as leader of a major league ballclub.

This isn’t “f***ing b*******”, Mr. Price. This is 2015. Get with it.

 

The Kansas City Brawlers

Something interesting has been happening with the Royals lately.

They’ve shown a keen interest in not only winning games this year – they are RECORD – but also making sure they don’t complete nine innings without confronting the opponent in some ways more physical than the unwritten but universal law of baseball dictates.

After getting through a tense series with the Athletics last weekend that feature a couple of ejections and hit batters, the Royals, “led” by Yordano Ventura, once again set off some fireworks against the White Sox this week, leading to some big name players being booted out.

Maybe the MLB’s newfound fastidiousness is getting to them.

This is every baseball fan’s guilty pleasure. In a sport that has been termed “limited-contact” as opposed to rough-and-tumble games in football and basketball, most fans secretly welcome the chance to see some extracurricular activity out of the diamond. I’ll admit it, I do.

C’mon, when have you ever missed a baseball bout and were sorry that you weren’t there to witness it?

But the Royals are taking that to a whole other level, seemingly taking their frustration over a World Series loss out on other teams. Just two weeks into the season they have a culture surrounding them, like a fight between the Royals and their opponent is something to be expected.

And why shouldn’t they be labeled that way? So what if they get on the league’s bad side for having a fire more brightly lit than some other teams? It never leads to any travesty, apart from some bruises on hitters and a couple of ejections and slaps on the wrist.

Whatever motivates the Royals, even if that means the bullpens come rushing in as umpires try to break up a scuffle, I say go for it. Because I’ll be damned if these Kansas City Brawlers and their methods of conducting themselves on the field don’t intimidate future opponents at least a little bit.

Don’t get me wrong. Baseball as a sport shouldn’t become more prone or tolerant of fights occurring regularly. That would ruin the nature of the sport itself.

But i’ll be damned if I don’t respect the Royals a little more than I did two weeks ago. They’ve got the best record in the American League. Why change that culture?

I mean, unless this kind of stuff happens as a result.

 

 

 

Slow Starts or Scarred Seasons?

It’s still the beginning of the season, which means pitcher’s arms are fresh and they’re dominating the competition.

At least, some pitchers are.

Some hurlers that have started out 2015 as expected – Max Scherzer, Johnny Cueto, Sonny Gray and virtually the entire St. Louis Cardinals staff – are tearing up the league, a somewhat traditional way to kick off the baseball calendar. They’re on a level all their own.

Then there’s a middle tier of pitchers who have uncharacteristically been jumped on by opposing batters in major ways, digging holes for their clubs early in games.

That group includes the likes of CC Sabathia, Madison Bumgarner, and reigning Best Player On The Face Of The Planet Clayton Kershaw, who has been almost anything but this season. Their ERAs – between 4.00 and teetering on 6.00 – aren’t quite inflated to disaster but they are scary statistics nonetheless.

Those three players in particular raise different levels of concern.

Sabathia, who actually dropped his ERA by more than a full run with a good last outing against the hot-hitting Tigers, has been prone to struggle recently. He hasn’t been a consistent ace since 2011, when he was a Cy Young candidate, and most of his starts are an extreme hit or miss. So maybe his 14 years in the bigs have finally caught up to him, and his age – 34 – is a telling sign that he may be done.

Note: As i’m editing The Warning Track, Girardi is taking out Sabathia after giving up six runs and nine hits (three homers) against the Mets. Ouch. 

Bumgarner’s a different story – the guy’s ten years younger for starters. He’s pitching to the tune of a 4.63 ERA thus far, way below what we’ve come to expect after consecutive season of sub-3.00, and even more so when you take into account his worst season ERA is an average 3.37 from 2012.

bumgarner sads

However, Bumgarner’s slow start may be more cause for concern than with other pitchers. His struggles thus far are coming at the cost of the Giant’s World Series run last October, in which Bumgarner reached legendary status, due to his pitching an astronomical 52.2 innings, the most in any single postseason in history. There were concerns in the offseason about if his usage in October amounted to overusage, resulting in a down year this season. Thus far, it looks like that may just be the case.

Kershaw presents the most puzzling circumstance of all. He’s young, he barely pitched in October when St. Louis knocked out the Dodgers, and, most importantly, he’s Clayton f***ing Kershaw, to use Brian Price’s language.

Maybe it’s tough for Kershaw to keep improving after having sub-2.00 ERAs each of the last two seasons, but Kershaw simply has not resembled the person immortal deity who has won three of the last four National League Cy Youngs.

He’s failed to get through 7 innings in each of his starts this year, and though his strikeout numbers are there – 9, 5, 12, and 9 through four starts – he also has yet to not allow an earned run. As picky as that is, we know Kershaw is capable of it.

But the most telling stat from Kershaw’s early-season sluggishness? In an April 12th game against the Diamondbacks, he gave up ten hits. He never gave up ten hits at any point last season.

Now we get to the bottom tier, the established veterans and supposed aces who have resembled anything but in the early going. This group includes the likes of Jon Lester and Kyle Lohse, off to some of the most disappointing starts of any player in baseball.

Lester, signed by the Cubs in the offseason to be their ace as they began their long-awaited crusade to October, boasts sports an inflated 6.23 ERA through four starts, giving up at least three runs in each start. He has his moss Lester-esque game in his last start against the Reds on Friday, in which he set a season high in strikeouts (10) and looking fairly comfortable for the first time this season.

Plus, who can argue with how awesome this was?

And maybe the tides really are changing for the new Cubbie. Lester’s Spring Training was cut short due to his experiencing some dead arm, so perhaps his first couple starts were just an extension of getting fully ready for the the rest of the season. One thing’s for sure: If the Cubs want any chance of reaching the postseason in 2015, they’re going to need Lester to be at his best.

Journeyman Kyle Lohse has had a similar script through his first four games. After three straight starts of giving up at least four runs in a less-than-mediocre start to 2015, he finally broke through on Thursday, allowing only two earned runs in seven innings of work to bring his ERA under 10.00 and snap a prolonged losing streak for the Brew Crew. Only time will tell if the consistent Lohse is here to stay.

In an era of pitching dominance, it’s unusual to see so many superstar hurlers struggle against offenses, especially in the National League. Seeing when they break out of their slumps – if they break out of their slumps – will be an interesting storyline to examine over the next few weeks.

 

 

Reunited, but will it feel so good?

In the latest chapter of one of the more fascinating off-field stories of 2015 – albeit for all the wrong reasons – the Angels and Rangers, two teams trending in opposite directions, have agreed on a deal that would send troubled outfielder Josh Hamilton back to Texas, his home from 2008 to 2012.

Getting back with your ex is rarely a great idea, especially when the breakup wasn’t so smooth.

But once in a while, you realize that your life has become so dull that you need to inject yourself with some excitement that has the potential to turn into a better relationship than you had before.

And that’s what the Rangers are betting on. They’re in some bumpy waters for the second straight year, due in no small part to being seemingly cursed with endless injuries. There really isn’t very much team chemistry or momentum that Hamilton, whose past ghosts came back to haunt him in the form of a drug relapse in the offseason, could distort.

Even better for Texas: of the five-year, $125 million that the Angels singed him for in 2012, the Rangers will only be expected to pay around $7 million. Not bad for a former MVP who averages 32 homers a season. It’s virtually a steal for the Rangers, should Hamilton get his life back on track, and his former teammates have said they will do all they can to help him do so. 

This deal is about as win-win as deals go. The Angels, who had a productive but relatively average season from Hamilton in 2013 (he missed half of 2014 with injury), are gunning for the World Series, and they can’t have Hamilton, a walking distraction, taking their mind off of October for one second.

They wouldn’t have made the move if they weren’t content with his replacements, and they already have a couple of in-house options for left field. Matt Joyce, acquired in the offseason, is no doubt a dropoff from what Hamilton provided – his career year in 2011 yielded 19 longballs and 75 RBI to go along with a .277 average – but they also have Grant Green, a career .309 hitter in the minor leagues, waiting in the wings.

As far as what Hamilton brings (back) to the Rangers, he is an astronomical upgrade over Jake Smolinski and Carlos Peguero, who have combined for one home run and four RBI. And once the team gets healthy – because they have to, eventually – and a couple of their stars like Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre get things rolling and playing like the stars that all of major league baseball knows they are, the Rangers might just find that Hamilton is, ironically, the piece they’ve been missing since he left.

As far as reconciling with your ex? Well, we’ll just have to see the kind of reception the fans give him.

 

Other thoughts from the week

  • A pretty cool thing happened this week
  • https://twitter.com/ESPNStatsInfo/status/590995607315226627
  • The Cardinals rotation, so far, is everything the Nationals were supposed to be, and might still be at some point. But between St. Louis staff and bullpen, they’re on a historic pace.
  • The NL West is already contentious, with the Dodgers, Padres and Rockies all at ten wins. With a potentially surprising club in the Diamondbacks looming at 8-8, that division might just be the most exciting in baseball.
  • The Cubs are hanging in there early in the season, 9-7 and in second place in the NL Central. How long can they keep it up?
  • And WHEN will Kris Bryant hit his first home run??
  • Dusty Baker, last with the Reds, is reportedly yearning to manage again. The Miami Marlins’ Mike Redmond is reportedly on the hot seat. Good timing?
  • Snow in a regular season baseball game? Climate change is real, people.

Have a great week, baseball fans. Let’s see if A-Rod can hit two more.

 

 

 

David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at alex.695@hotmail.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. He is a student at the University of New Mexico.