Tag Archive | "Minor Leaguer"

Biogenesis: Is ACES To Blame?

By now baseball fans are very familiar with the word “Biogenesis” and the subsequent suspensions being handed down to players as a result of their involvement with the company.  A shocking similarity is starting to form when looking at the players being suspended and the agency that has represented them.

NelsonCruz

As of this morning, MLBTradeRumors is sharing reports from various sources claiming twelve players have accepted suspensions handed down by Major League Baseball for their involvement with Biogenesis.

The list currently: Nelson Cruz – Texas Rangers, Jhonny Peralta – Detroit Tigers, Everth Cabrera – San Diego Padres, Antonio Bastardo – Philadelphia Phillies, Jordany Valdespin – New York Mets, Sergio Escalona – Houston Astros, Francisco Cervelli – New York Yankees, Jesus Montero – Seattle Mariners, Cesar Puello – New York Mets (Minor Leaguer), Fautino De Los Santos – San Diego Padres (Minor Leaguer), Fernando Martinez – Houston Astros, Jordan Norberto – Oakland Athletics

Nelson Cruz announced this morning that he had changed agencies from ACES to Wasserman Media Group, a move that is not uncommon and normally does not raise any flags.

However, that agency – ACES – has been popping up a lot lately.

They were the agency that represented, and were accused of assisting in a cover-up for, Melky Cabrera.  They are also connected to Gio Gonzalez, who has been linked to Biogenesis but not named in the suspension list as of yet.  Add to those two names Jhonny Peralta, Jesus Montero, Fautino De Los Santos, Jordany Valdespin, Antonio Bastardo, Sergio Escalona and Cesar Puello and you’ve got a staggering number of clients being accused of using performance enhancing drugs.

What does all of this mean?  It may not mean anything at all.  ACES is a large agency with a fairly large amount of clients (107 baseball players are listed in MLBTR’s Agency Database as represented by ACES).  Maybe it suggests that the clients were brought together by a common event.  Maybe it suggests that someone at ACES has planted the seed that Biogenesis could help their clients.

Either way, I would guess that Major League Baseball may further investigate the agency before all the smoke clears.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can talk baseball with him on Twitter or read more of his St. Louis Cardinals analysis on Yahoo!.

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St. Louis Cardinals in bind after Michael Wacha demotion

The St. Louis Cardinals had their choice of two pitchers to send to the minor leagues Friday when righthanded starter Jake Westbrook returned from injury. Their decision was sure to have a short-term effect regardless, but it has suddenly put them in a tough situation that could linger until at least the All-Star break. MichaelWacha3 Rookie left-handed starter Tyler Lyons stayed, while rookie right-handed starter Michael Wacha went to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. Wacha and Lyons joined the starting rotation in May as the Cardinals struggled to put together a healthy rotation. Westbrook went on the disabled list May 12 with elbow inflammation and Jaime Garcia’s season ended with a shoulder injury a week later. Rookie left-hander John Gast originally filled Westbrook’s spot and Lyons stepped in Garcia’s spot. Gast, however, suffered a shoulder injury May 26, which forced the Cardinals to bring up Wacha on May 30 to face the Kansas City Royals. Wacha was great in that first game. He struck out six Royals hitters through seven innings and didn’t allow a single baserunner until centerfielder Lorenzo Cain hit a double in the fifth. Lyons was equally as good in his first two starts. He allowed one run through seven innings May 22 against the San Diego Padres and had the same stat line May 28 against the Royals, but his performances have gone downhill since. He hasn’t gone more than 6.1 innings or allowed fewer than four runs in his last three starts, including a six-run, eight hit outing Sunday against the Miami Marlins. The Cardinals gave him that start while Wacha returned to Memphis for his second stint as a minor leaguer despite the “I’m here to stay” proclamation he made when he first arrived in St. Louis a month earlier. The Cardinals thought Wacha, their most prized prospect, would benefit more from pitching in the minors since he was still just a year removed from pitching in college at Texas A&M. Lyons, who the team drafted in 2010, is a seasoned veteran with less upside by comparison, and the Cardinals hoped he would be able to fill a role similar to the one Joe Kelly filled in 2012, one that wasn’t spectacular but kept the team in most of the games he pitched. Lyons could be a stable No. 5 starter the team might be able to nurse through the bulk of the season, but after Sunday’s debacle, the Cardinals are stuck. Lyons could just have hit a three-start rough stretch and will stabilize into a pitcher the Cardinals can rely on every fifth day. But if he doesn’t, the team will have yet another important decision to make about its rotation. The Cardinals have a few of options if Lyons can’t be the No. 5 starter, but none is very good. The quickest decision would be to bring Wacha back to the big club and send Lyons to the minors. Wacha has more talent anyway, which could help him navigate the bulk of a rookie season, but it could also be the start of a convoluted mess if Wacha doesn’t pitch well and the team ultimately decides he truly does need a full season in the minors before he is ready to pitch in a Major League Baseball rotation. Cardinals officials said early in the season they didn’t want Wacha to jump back and forth between the majors and minors. They would prefer that once they called him up, he would be a big-leaguer for good. Well, that didn’t happen, and now the Cardinals could be in a position where they have to move Wacha up and down as short-term solutions if Lyons isn’t going to be a reliable starter. But if the Cardinals really do want to keep Wacha in the minors, they could bring back rookie right-hander Carlos Martinez, who has worked as a starter for Memphis the past three weeks after a monthlong stint in the Cardinals bullpen when he gave up four runs across seven appearances. Also, the Cardinals could also bring Kelly out of purgatory in the bullpen and have him be the No. 5 starter. Kelly started 16 games for the team in 2012 and had a 3.53 earned-run average in 24 outings, overall. He was also in contention for the No. 5 spot out of spring training, but the Cardinals chose to give that spot to rookie right-hander Shelby Miller instead. Kelly has been awful out of the bullpen so far this season. He’s given up at least one run in nearly half of his appearances and has a 5.19 ERA. However, he was terrific in his one start June 5 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He breezed through 5.2 innings in 80 pitches while allowing one earned run on four hits, but manager Mike Matheny didn’t want to extend him to far since he had pitched out of the bullpen exclusively up to that point. So the Cardinals have options to fill the No. 5 spot in their rotation, but none are ideal, which makes this a problem that could follow the team through much of the rest of the season. Of course, pitchers such as Cliff Lee might be on the trading block in the next six weeks and Chris Carpenter could still come back, but those moves would create plenty of worries on their own, such as who the Cardinals would trade or if Carpenter truly is healthy enough to pitch. In the end, that’s just life as a Major League Baseball organization. Even the best team in baseball is far from stress-free through the course of a 162-game season.

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The Curious Case of Matt Carpenter

Entering the season, the 2012 emergence of Matt Carpenter was thought to have created only one dilemma for the upcoming year: a battle for who would get more time at second base between himself and Daniel Descalso. Yet just barely two months into the season, Carpenter has put that debate completely to bed and is now working on changing the much bigger picture of the organization going forward.

matt-carpenter

The 27-year-old has changed the entire impact of the club this season. From taking ownership of the second base role, to surprising becoming one of the most productive leadoff hitters in baseball, he’s changed the dynamics of the team in a very immediate sense. Coming into today, he’s in both the top 10 in the National League in batting average (.323) and hits (17), as well as leading it in doubles with 18. These are totals that truly bloomed after he was moved into the leadoff spot. After that early May transition, his average from the leadoff position has sat at .336. It is a role he has entrenched himself in the role since, and given the Cardinals production in a spot in the lineup they have struggled to maintain an answer at for several years.

All the while, he has maintained the versatility that made him the weapon he was a year ago. He has made starts at four different positions this season, yet ironically, with his increased production, the long-term questions about his permanence in a role are beginning to set in. And they are questions are proving to have no easy answer.

Since he was drafted two years ago, Kolten Wong has been “next” in the long-term plans at second base. And by hitting .306 in his first two summers as a pro, he’s done nothing to dispel that. Yet Carpenter’s play has put a new factor in play at second base, which doesn’t create the same urgency that Daniel Descalso and Skip Schumaker’s presences created at the position when he entered the system. In a similar fashion, Carpenter’s way was delayed as a minor leaguer by the rise of David Freese, who he has outperformed in the early going of 2013; a time that has created yet another “who’s the odd man out” scenario for the uber-deep Cardinals roster.

Yet this time around, the answers aren’t as simple. In many other cases before, there has been an ascendency that has solved the issue. Shelby Miller takes over for Kyle Lohse. Lance Berkman fills in for Albert Pujols, who then Allen Craig ultimately fills in for him. Eventually, Oscar Taveras is slated to take over for Carlos Beltran. These have all been situations where an aging or expensive player is succeeded by versatile presence or a waiting in the wings youngster.

Yet in this case, there is no easy answer. All of the involved parties have two things in common: they are proving their worth regularly and are cost controlled. Carpenter himself isn’t arbitration eligible until 2015, and won’t see the open market until 2018. He is perhaps the most attractive player in the entire scenario: a versatile fielder and bat, that is low cost and still trending up as a proven Major Leaguer. And for as long as he continues to be the igniter for the Cardinals, he has also surprisingly made himself one of the most likely to stay long-term Cardinals of them all.

There will likely come a time when all three are teammates. There will also come a time when a decision has to be made about who stays, and who goes. But if the last five months have proven anything, betting against Carpenter in any scenario could be fool’s gold. He’s creating quite the career of taking best laid plans, and shattering them.

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Matt Adams turns potential into reality for St. Louis Cardinals

When the St. Louis Cardinals waged their annual war with injuries last season as Allen Craig and Lance Berkman went on the disabled list within weeks of each other in May, the Cardinals needed a replacement, and their first choice was minor leaguer Matt Adams.

MattAdams

Adams looked the part. He’s 6-foot-3-inches tall, weighs 260 pounds and hit 82 homeruns in his four years in the minor leagues while compiling a .318 batting average. But that wasn’t the player who showed up in the Cardinals lineup in 2012. Adams hit .244 with two homeruns and 13 RBIs in his 27-game stay with the big-league club.

So where was this power potential that made him the Cardinals first choice to fill-in while two players with power bats sat on the disabled list? Apparently it had left Adams’ right elbow.

Adams and the Cardinals didn’t know it at the time, but he had been hampered by a bone spur in his elbow and eventually had surgery to repair it last season after the Cardinals sent him back to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds.

And it turns out that injury made a huge difference because the 2013 version of Adams is much more in line with the stories of his powerful approach to hitting and why the Cardinals considered him a top prospect..

Adams crushed the ball throughout spring training. He hit three homeruns and led the team with 17 RBIs in 28 games. He has carried that success into the regular season so far, and at times carried the team.

He got the Cardinals their first extra-base hit of the three-game series last weekend against the San Francisco Giants when he hit a two-run, ground-rule double into right-centerfield in the fourth inning Sunday against Giants ace Matt Cain. He also carried his hot bat into the Cardinals first home series of the season, a three-game set with the division-rival Cincinnati Reds.

The Cardinals trailed the Reds 1-0 in the sixth inning Tuesday against Reds starter Bronson Arroyo, who to that point in the game had not allowed a hitter to reach base. But Adams, who entered the game as a pinch hitter, waited on one of Arroyo’s trademark slow breaking balls and crushed it into the rightfield seats for a two-run homer.

Then he did the same thing in the sixth inning Wednesday against Reds pitcher Homer Bailey as the Cardinals cruised to a 10-0 win behind a stellar complete-game performance by starter Jake Westbrook.

Adams is in such a groove right now he has the look of a hitter who could hit almost any pitch out of the ballpark. He is getting healthy cuts on pitches he misses, and most of his foul balls have been smashed into the seats down the rightfield line.

That’s the type of hitter the Cardinals management saw in the minor leagues, and it’s the type of hitter who will likely play a very important role for the team throughout the season.

Craig is still the starting first baseman, and he is in no danger of losing that job. But Craig will also have to play rightfield on a fairly regular basis to give 35-year-old Carlos Beltran enough days off to make it through the season, and that could give Adams enough opportunities to be a large part of the Cardinals offense this season.

Even if he is primarily used in a bench role, it’s always nice to have a player who’s hitting over .600 ready to take an important at-bat late in a ballgame.

Sure, Adams won’t continue to hit .600 or better throughout the season, but the Cardinals now have a power hitter who can change the tone of a game immediately.

The Cardinals thought Adams could provide that aspect of the game when he came up in 2012. Now they know he can in 2013.

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St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak might be best in MLB

In just four years, St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak has done just about everything an organization could ask out of that position, and he has done it in steady, yet stunning fashion.

JohnMozeliakBillDewitt

Mozeliak was promoted to the general manager position in 2008 after the Cardinals fired long-time GM Walt Jocketty, who had helped lead the organization through one of its most successful stretches in team history.

Since, Mozeliak took a team that was in the midst of a two-year hiatus from the playoffs and helped turn it into a team that has won a World Series and made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons despite losing arguably the best player in the game, Albert Pujols, at the end of 2011.

Mozeliak made some shrewd moves to reach that success, and he took avenues that weren’t necessarily glamorous, but they were vitally important to the success of the Cardinals.

For example, the only big signing he’s made since taking over as general manager was the seven-year, $120-million contract he gave Matt Holliday after trading for him midway through the 2009 season. Other than that, Mozeliak has deftly made trades that didn’t make major headlines, but paid off huge for the team in the long run.

In one of his first moves, Mozeliak traded Jim Edmonds to the San Diego Padres leading up to the 2008 season, and the Cardinals received a minor leaguer by the name of David Freese in return. At the time it looked as though the Cardinals had given up a fan favorite at the end of his career for a player who had potential but hadn’t had a stellar minor-league career.

But Freese has gone on to hit .296 in his four seasons with the Cardinals to go along with a .345 postseason batting average that includes the most famous hits of the 2011 World Series, a ninth-inning triple in Game 6 to tie the Texas Rangers, who were one strike from winning their first championship, and an 11th-inning homerun to win the game that sent the Cardinals to their championship moment the next evening.

Mozeliak has also added a great mix of veterans and young players. He signed Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran in back-to-back seasons, and both had their best seasons in recent memory. But he also has developed a farm system that is cranking out big-league caliber players who are on the cusp of stardom.

In just the past two seasons, Freese, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Jason Motte and Trevor Rosenthal have filled critical roles for the Cardinals throughout the regular season, and in the team’s deep postseason runs.

Baseball America also recently ranked the Cardinals minor-league system as No. 1 in baseball. That is quite an honor for a system that the same organization ranked last in 2005. The organization is currently stocked with exciting prospects such as outfielder Oscar Taveras, infielder Kolten Wong and pitcher Carlos Martinez.

The combination of all of those factors is what makes Mozeliak the best general manager in baseball. He hasn’t had incredible amounts of money to throw at free agents to try and buy a winning team, as so many organizations have done. The New York Yankees, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are just a few examples.

Those teams can overcome poor decisions by throwing money at the problem. Others, such as the Toronto Blue Jays this year, trade for a bunch of high-priced talent all at once and hope it all mashes together to create a winning team.

The Cardinals don’t solely use either of those approaches, but they take pieces from each. They are an organization that has developed a near-perfect combination of developing young talent while maintaining the flexibility to add key outside pieces to the puzzle of a big-league roster. The Cardinals are sort of a balance between the Tampa Bay Rays, who rely almost solely on home-grown talent, and the big market teams that spend a ton of money.

Granted, general managers are often viewed as good or horrible based on the flexibility their owners give them. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was viewed as a genius when the Yankees spent loads of money each offseason, but this year his reputation has taken a hit because the Yankees don’t want to spend as much money. That’s not fair, but it is something that comes along with the job.

Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels is probably the closest to Mozeliak in terms of his ability to build a consistent winning team without breaking the bank on free agents. The Rangers had the No. 1-ranked minor-league system in 2009 and followed it with two consecutive World Series appearances.

San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean is another who does an excellent job, and Jocketty is also building a strong foundation with the Cincinnati Reds by applying the same principles he used during his successful 13-year run with the Cardinals that included seven playoff appearances and a World Series championship.

Mozeliak has taken those principles to the next level and built a team that is capable of winning a World Series now, as well as a team that should consistently compete for championships in the foreseeable future.

Given the Cardinals’ recent success and the projections that similar success lays ahead, Mozeliak deserves to be called one of the best, and quite possibly the best, general manager in Major League Baseball.

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Dayton Moore, You Genius!

I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day.

What looked just a couple of weeks ago like a disastrous roster move is starting to look like a resume builder.

Last off-season, Dayton Moore dealt away the National League’s second leading hitter and in exchange got a pitcher who posted a 7.76 ERA and a 2.044 WHIP. You really can’t do much worse than that trade.

But sometimes life is stranger than fiction.

Now the Royals have in their rotation one of the hottest pitcher in the game (with a chance to sign him to a contract extension) and the San Francisco Giants have… nothing.

For any of you who haven’t been paying attention, what transpired is this: KC traded Melky Cabrera after a bounce-back season, and acquired from the Giants Jonathan Sanchez and a minor leaguer named Ryan Verdugo.

The whole thing blew up in Moore’s face in a career-threatening manner. In short, Cabrera was great for the Giants, Sanchez was a complete disaster for KC.

Things couldn’t have gone any worse if the Royals were breaking mirrors and walking under ladders. But what happened next belongs on an episode of CSI.

Maybe the Royals were just due for some good luck. It seems every move they make flops. Every attempt to trade for pitching has proved a disaster (see a detailed list of such trades here).

The good luck came when the Colorado Rockies were actually willing to trade veteran starter Jeremy Guthrie for Sanchez. You think Rockies fans aren’t ticked off about that move? Bad as Sanchez was in KC, he’s been worse in hitter-friendly Colorado – 0-3 with a 9.53 ERA and a 2.294 WHIP. All Guthrie has done recently is throw 22 consecutive scoreless innings.

Cabrera’s saga, on the other hand, defies summation. Not only has he turned out to be a cheater, he’s turned out to be a creepy pharmacologist. He’s also become a despised new character in the juiced-ballplayer era. While there seems to be forgiveness for some of the dopers and enhancers of history, Cabrera seems to have no apologists.

After failing a drug test, Cabrera actually created an elaborate ruse to mislead investigators – what he did may turn out to be criminal. Cabrera is suspended for the rest of the season, and it’s hard to believe the Giants will want him back.

Perhaps Moore just got lucky. But we don’t know all that he was thinking when he traded Cabrera last November after the outfielder’s languishing career had a one-year renaissance.

Do you think maybe Moore suspected something was up with the resurgent Cabrera? Did he suspect Cabrera was doping while in KC? Or did he just think he was playing with house money and decided to move Cabrera before the bottom dropped out?

How Moore got Colorado to take Sanchez at all is remarkable. Maybe Guthrie’s luck will run out and it will wind up nothing more than a trade of two rotten pitchers.

But right now, Moore looks like a genius. Hollywood couldn’t produce a better script than what’s just taken place with Cabrera and Guthrie.

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Concluding The WAR On The Trades Of The GMDM Era

In the final piece of this series, we use the WAR data to finish taking a look at the trades that Dayton pulled off in 2010, and try to determine what all of this really means.

August 13, 2010: The Kansas City Royals traded Jose Guillen to the San Francisco Giants for a player to be named later and cash. The San Francisco Giants sent Kevin Pucetas (minors) (October 14, 2010) to the Kansas City Royals to complete the trade.

By this point in Jose Guillen‘s tenure with the Royals, they were just looking to get rid of him and unload a portion of his salary.  Guillen was in the last year of his deal, had (obviously) cleared waivers, and it was time for the Royals to get a look at some of the guys who had a chance to be part of their future.  And if they could get something in return, well all the better.  Along came Brian Sabean and the San Francisco Giants, who were in the middle of a pennant race and needed a bat.  Pucetas is a 27 year old career minor leaguer, who is unlikely to ever crack the Big Leagues.  However, this trade has to be considered a huge success for Moore considering their desperation to unload Guillen at the time.  It is telling that in Guillen’s almost 3 years with the Royals, he managed to post a cumulative WAR of -1.0.  That’s what $36 million of David Glass’ money bought the Royals in 2007.  Guillen did little after going to the Giants and was not even included on their playoff roster, which was the year they won the World Series.  I’m not sure if Jose has officially announced his retirement, but it is safe to say he is done.

Guillen: -0.7 WAR with Giants (2 months of 2010)

Pucetas: 0.0 WAR (has yet to reach Majors)

Royals win trade by 0.7 WAR

November 10, 2010: The Kansas City Royals traded David DeJesus to the Oakland Athletics for Justin Marks (minors) and Vin Mazzaro.

Yikes!  While DeJesus had a down year in 2011, he did not come close to falling on his face with the fervor that good ole Vinny Mazzaro did.  Royals fans likely have one memory of Mazzaro from the 2011 season and it is this:

IP     H     R    ER    BB   SO   HR   HBP
2.1   11   14   14     3      2      1        0

That was his line as he appeared in relief against Cleveland on May 16.  At least he didn’t hit anyone.  While Mazzaro did appear for the Royals a few more times before the 2011 season came to an end, it is that game and that game alone that Royals fans remember.  It is still unclear what exactly it was that Moore saw in Mazzaro when making this deal.  He showed very little in 2 seasons with the A’s, and managed to make that look amazing compared to what he did in 2011.  As for Justin Marks, he is a 24 year old pitcher who logged a 3.98 ERA in Wilmington, the Royals’ Single A affiliate last year.  Considering how much of a pitcher’s league the Carolina league is known to be, along with his age, it is unlikely he ever has any meaningful impact on the big league roster.  The Royals were shopping DeJesus at the time, and one would have thought they could have gotten more than they did.  So either the market was much softer for him than first thought, or Billy Beane somehow pulled yet another fast one on the Royals.  I would tend to believe the latter, considering that even after an extremely down 2011 season for DeJesus, the Cubs still decided to invest $10 million in him over 2 years to make him their Opening Day right-fielder.  After consistently putting up WAR’s in the 3′s with the Royals (with a 4.4 in 2005), he regressed to a 0.6 WAR in 2011.  I expect DeJesus to rebound nicely in Chicago.

DeJesus: 0.6 WAR with A’s (2011)

Mazzaro: -0.7 WAR with Royals (2011)

Marks: 0.0 WAR (has not reached majors)

A’s win trade by 1.3 WAR

December 19, 2010: The Kansas City Royals traded Yuniesky Betancourt, Zack Greinke and cash to the Milwaukee Brewers for Jake Odorizzi (minors), Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jeremy Jeffress.

Moreso than any other trade analyzed in this study, time will tell whether this one will work out in the Royals’ favor or not.  And if this trade ends up working out well for the Royals, the impact of it will trump the impact of all of the aforementioned failed trades combined.  But for fun, we will take a look at how it worked out in the 2011 season.

After Zack Greinke‘s 2009 Cy Young campaign, it appeared the Royals had their staff ace that would lead the starting rotation into the youth movement we are watching today.  But in 2010, Greinke was not the same.  At times he would show the stuff that made him so electrifying in 2009, but overall he looked disinterested.  Royals fans were in denial about it at the time, but looking back, it was very clear that with 2 years left on his deal, Zack no longer wanted to be in Kansas City.  So the Royals were faced with a decision: keep an unhappy Zack Greinke around in a clubhouse full of young impressionable players and worry about his negativity rubbing off on them, or trade him.  In hindsight, it is clear that trading Greinke was Moore’s only option.  It is even more clear after reading the following quote from Greinke.  When asked, in Feb. 2011, if he ever asked the Royals for a trade, Zack replied:

“I guess I kind of did right before the Trade Deadline last year because we were trading all our players. … When I signed, I was led to believe we were building around the guys we had, and we were getting rid of all of them,” he said. “So I sort of did then. Then at the end of the year, I sort of did again. And then during the offseason, I sort of did again. And then the media got the one where I think my agent must have said it somehow. … So I guess I sort of did about four times.”

Hence, in December of 2010, the Royals and the Brewers came to agreement on this deal.  Greinke proceeded to go to Milwaukee and pitch (and act) like Greinke.  First, he hurt himself playing basketball during Spring Training and missed the first month of the season.  Then he comes out in May and posts an out of this world K/W ratio while somehow managing to have an ERA hovering around 5.  Eventually though, he settled down and pitched like a Cy Young candidate the rest of the way for the NL Central Division Champion Brewers.  Betancourt, who was a throw-in in the deal after the Royals received Escobar in return, actually had a solid season for the Brewers in 2011. And now, ironically,he will wear a Royals uniform in 2012 albeit as a utility infielder.

As for what the Royals received in return, so much is tied up in the future.  But in just last year, it became clear that Escobar is something extremely special with the glove.  While he wasn’t useless with the bat, he is still a light hitter.  If this part of his game can continue to come around, you have yourself an elite ballplayer.  Cain came up for a quick audition at the end of the year and did fine.  The Royals clearly believe he is ready to take over as the everyday centerfielder, as they have traded away Melky Cabrera to the Giants to make room for an everyday role for Lorenzo.  Jeffress began the season on the big league roster, and while he displayed a very live arm and the ability to strike batters out, he struggled badly with his control and was sent down for the majority of the rest of the season.  It remainst to be seen what his role might be in 2012, but it is likely he begins the season in Omaha.  And after all of that, we have not even discussed the player who was stated to be the biggest grab in this trade for the Royals, 21 year-old righthander Jake Odorizzi.  Odorizzi spent last season split between Single A Wimington and Double A Northwest Arkansas.  He figures to begin this season either in Northwest Arkansas or Omaha, with a chance at a September callup to Kansas City.  So while the Royals clearly gave up a bit of production in the short term in this trade, the long term looks extremely bright.

Greinke: 1.7 WAR with Brewers (2011)

Betancourt: 0.7 WAR with Brewers (2011)

Escobar: 2.0 WAR with Royals (2011)

Cain: 0.1 WAR with Royals (23 September 2011 plate appearances)

Jeremy Jeffress: 0.0 WAR with Royals (2011)

Jake Odorizzi: 0.0 WAR (has not reached majors)

Brewers win trade by 0.3 WAR

So…what does all of this mean?

Strictly looking at WAR, Dayton Moore has clearly come out on the short end of the trades that he made in the years of 2006-2010.  Overall, these trades negatively impacted the Royals performance of the Royals through the 2011 season.  However, having reviewed all of these trades, it is very difficult to find one anywhere that set the fanchise back in the long term.  There are no atrocities such as Johnny Damon for Roberto Hernandez, Jermaine Dye for Neifi Perez, or Carlos Beltran for John Buck and Mark Teahen.  Granted, there weren’t any Damons, Dyes, or Beltrans on the roster when Moore took over.  But the point is that it is clear there was a strategy.  Until the Greinke trade, there is a very conservative theme to the trades that Moore has made.  And it is this Greinke trade that will be the biggest indicator as to whether Moore will be able trade effectively when he needs to.  When Dayton took over the job in June 2006, he stated this his primary mission was to rebuild the farm system so as to get to a point where the majority of the big league roster is homegrown talent.  It has taken awhile, but the Royals are now just about there.  Moore should be applauded for not taking his eye off of the ball.  The Royals are almost there.  “The Process” is almost complete.

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Keeping It All In Check

The day has finally arrived. Pitchers and Catchers are required to report to Spring Training Saturday with the first official workouts of the preseason scheduled for Sunday. Anticipation is high, and so are expectations. The St. Louis Cardinals’ 2012 season and the defense of their World Series Championship begin now. But don’t forget some of the lessons that 2011 team taught us.

Just a few days into the 2011 Spring Training campaign, the Cards lost Adam Wainwright for the season. Wainwright was the team’s de facto ace. He looked like a lock for better than 200 IP, better than 200 K, and another sub-3.00 ERA but it vanished just like that. With him, the Cardinals were a team that looked to be in the mix atop a crowded NL Central. Without him, well…how does a team replace that kind of production and become a winner?

By the end of October 2011, it was a distant memory.

Just a few games into the 2011 regular season, Ryan Franklin looked to be finished. The Cards’ closer looked like anything but; he was as ineffective as ineffective could be. It wasn’t long—though many would probably argue it was still too long—before he was benched, and then sent packing before the season had reached the All Star Break. So not only had the Cards ventured into the season without their ace, but they then were going through a revolving door in the ninth inning too.

But by the end of October 2011, that also seemed like eons ago.

Just before the trade deadline, GM John Mozeliak moved the enigmatic Colby Rasmus, two lefty relievers in Brian Tallet and Trever Miller, and the perennially underperforming PJ Walters to the Toronto Blue Jays for Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Mark Rzepczynski, and Corey Patterson. Over the next couple of weeks, Mozeliak would also sign journeyman lefty Arthur Rhodes and trade minor leaguer Alex Castellanos to the LA Dodgers for Rafael Furcal. In all, the Cards turned over six players on their roster and, at the time, only one (Rzepczynski) was under team control beyond the end of the season. Talk of “win-now mode” ran in parallel with suggestions of not getting enough for Rasmus and betting on aging, short-term talent.

Does anyone want do-overs on any of those moves now?

On August 25, 2011 the Cardinals were 10.5 games out of the playoffs. On October 28, 2011 they became World Series Champions.

The lessons here are plenty. Injuries happen, but they are not the end of the world. Don’t give up on the team because of one loss, whether on the field or off it. Also, don’t give up on a team until they are truly, completely, 100% eliminated. Trust that the people getting paid to make big, difficult decisions about the team actually know what they are doing. Sometimes players work out, sometimes they don’t…but they all deserve a chance to make it happen. Baseball has no clock—so until they make their 27th out, any team has a chance…even down to their last strike (twice). Unless your house is on fire or a family member is dying, never ever EVER leave (or turn off) the game early. Because it ain’t over until it’s over, and anything is possible, and as long as they mathematically have a chance, the St. Louis Cardinals can repeat as World Champions in 2012. After what we all witnessed last year, no argument to the contrary holds water.

It begins now.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter at @birdbrained.

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A New Era Begins At First

When the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals begin defense of the title they won in one of the most exciting postseasons in recent memory, it might be easy to focus on who isn’t around anymore. They’ve had to replace the winningest manager in franchise history, Tony La Russa, as well as one of the greatest players to ever wear a Cardinals uniform, Albert Pujols.

If you were searching for the ideal replacement for Albert Pujols, then move along, because you won’t find it. There is only one Pujols, and he’s gone.  Albert Pujols had manned this position full time for the past eight seasons. But he is now with the Los Angeles Angels, and Lance Berkman moves from the outfield to a spot where, at 36, he’s better suited for. Berkman earned NL comeback player of the year honors by hitting .301 with 31 homers and 94 RBI last season. When he needs a day off, Carlos Beltran and even Yadier Molina will be there to help.

Brian LaHair, Cubs. The long-time Minor Leaguer was last up in the bigs back in ’08 with the Mariners. In his latest go-round, the 28-year-old has made an impression on manager Mike Quade, batting a blistering .500 with a .950 slugging percentage. While too old to be considered a prospect, LaHair launched 38 homers and drove in 109 for Triple-A Iowa this season and could provide some decent power returns over the final few weeks of the season.

Joey Votto, Reds. Votto is still one of the best players in the National League, and obviously the best first baseman in the league. His 14.2 fWAR over the last two years leads all NL first basemen, and the reigning 2010 MVP isn’t just one of the best in the NL, but in all of baseball. Votto will be heading to free agency after 2013, but he’ll be 30 at that point in time, and probably won’t get as crazy of a deal as Fielder and Pujols. But he should still get a solid contract, if not from the Reds, then from another team that needs a first baseman.

Carlos Lee, Astros. Lee’s behemoth contract comes to an end after this season, but after a pair of down years, Lee had a really good campaign in 2011, though one that wasn’t worth his eight figure salary. He hit .275/.342/.446, and walked nearly as much as he struck out. He won’t be getting $18.5 million in 2013 from another team, but he’s a guy that could actually hang on for a few more years like Jim Thome has, as a DH that occasionally plays first base.

Mat Gamel, Brewers. Milwaukee still doesn’t have a replacement for Prince Fielder at first, and it’s generally believed that Gamel will be taking over there this season. He’s no longer a young, studly prospect at 26 years-old, and in his only extended tour in the majors in 2009, he OPSed .760 in 148 plate appearances. He’s spent parts of the last four seasons at AAA Nashville, and has hit well there, tallying a .310/.372/.540 line there last year with 28 homers. Milwaukee needs to find out what they’ve got with him, and 2012 would be the best opportunity for him and the Brewers to see what they have here.

Garrett Jones, Pirates. Jones’s splits last year were startling: he had a .460 OPS against lefties, and an .808 OPS against righties. If Pittsburgh plans on starting him, they’ll need a platoon partner. One option would be former top third base prospect Pedro Alvarez….who has the same deficiency against lefties that Jones has. It could be a rough year for the Pirates if they roll with Jones as their starter.

Lance Berkman, Cardinals. Berkman will be taking over at first base for the Cardinals this season following the departure of Albert Pujols after a fantastic 2011 season that saw him OPS .959, hit 31 homers (his highest total since 2007), and accrue 5.0 fWAR. His defensive inadequacies should be masked at first base, and if his health holds up, Berkman could be a great replacement for Pujols (though not nearly as good overall as the former MVP). But remember, injuries have been an issue for Berkman lately, missing 66 games in 2009 and 2010.

By the time 2012 is said and done here is how I see things shaking out amongst the NL Central second basemen

  1. Joey Votto
  2. Lance Berkman
  3. Carlos Lee
  4. Garrett Jones
  5. Bryan LaHair
  6. Mat Gamel


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Going To WAR On The Trades Of The GMDM Era- Part 5: 2010

On we go, with our analysis of the trades of the Dayton Moore era as General Manager of the Kansas City Royals.  When combined together, the results up until 2010 have not been altogether flattering.  As was mentioned in the previous piece, as we get closer in years to the present day, the data becomes less reliable as many of the players involved in these trades are still in the minor leagues so there are no statistics with which to come up with their WAR.  Due to the number of trades made in the 2010 year, this year will be split into 2 columns with the next and final piece also including the conclusion to this evaluation.  So without any further ado, the GMDM trades of 2010:

May 1, 2010: The Kansas City Royals traded Carlos Rosa to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Rey Navarro (minors).

In 2 forgettable seasons with the Royals, Rosa compiled a 0.3 WAR, which is right around replacement level.  He was clearly expendable, and was out of baseball after the 2010 season.  Navarro spent last season in Double A Northwest Arkansas, and at best, projects out to be a slick-fielding utility infielder who can’t hit.  He will likely spend 2012 in Triple A Omaha.  So while Arizona technically wins this trade on WAR, the Royals have a chance to come out on top still.

Rosa: 0.1 WAR with Diamondbacks (2010)

Navarro: 0.0 WAR (has yet to appear for Royals)

Diamondbacks win trade by 0.1 WAR

July 22, 2010: The Kansas City Royals traded Alberto Callaspo to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for Will Smith (minors) and Sean O’Sullivan.

At the time this trade was made, the consensus was that the Royals sold high on Callaspo and made out well.  O’Sullivan was pegged as a solid, young back of the rotation starter, and Smith was a lower level minor leaguer with a little more upside.  A year and half later, the consensus is that O’Sullivan isn’t very good, Smith is still a few years away, and Callaspo has continued to be an effective player for the Angels, sporting a stellar .366 OBP and 4.5 WAR (near all-star level) in 2011.  However, at the time he was traded, the Royals needed to find a way to get Wilson Betemit in the lineup, and knew they had Mike Moustakas coming up soon, so Callaspo needed to be dealt while his stock was high.  While O’Sullivan has shown some flashes, he has been more bad than good.  He is however, still just 24 years old so it is possible he could turn the corner and become a useful major league pitcher.  Smith is just 22 and pitched at Northwest Arkansas in 2011.  He will likely make the jump to Omaha in 2012.  He is not currently on the 40-man roster, but is slated to be a non-roster invitee to spring training.  Just going by the numbers and the productivity that each team has received at the major league level up to this point, this trade qualifies as the single biggest fleecing of the Dayton Moore era…and not the kind of fleecing you want to see if you’re a Royals fan.

Callaspo: 5.0 WAR with Angels (1/2 of 2010 and 2011)

Smith: 0.0 WAR (has yet to appear for Royals)

O’Sullivan: -2.0 WAR with Royals (1/2 of 2010 and 2011)

Angels win trade by 7.0 WAR

July 28, 2010: The Kansas City Royals traded Scott Podsednik to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Elisaul Pimentel (minors) and Lucas May.

When Moore signed Podsednik as a free agent prior to the 2010 season, the best case scenario would have been for Pods to play at a high level for half a season, allowing the Royals to flip him at the deadline for some useful pieces for the long-term.  And that is exactly what happened.  Podsednik, at the age of 34, was in the midst of putting up statistically the second best season of his lengthy career with a line of .310/.353/.400.  Moore then predicatbly found a taker for him at the deadline in the Dodgers.  In return the Royals received Pitcher Elisaul Pimentaul and Catcher Lucas May.  Pimentel spent 2011 at Double A Northwest Arkansas and has yet to establish himself as anything more than organizational depth.  May appeared with the Royals in 2010 for an uninspiring 39 plate appearances, before being dealt in 2011 to the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Podsednik did little for the Dodgers after this trade, but judging off of WAR, the Royals once again came out on the short end.

Podsednik: 0.0 WAR with Dodgers (1/2 of 2010)

Pimentel: 0.0 WAR (has yet to appear for Royals)

May: -0.6 WAR with Royals (1/2 of 2010)

Dodgers win trade by 0.6 WAR

July 31, 2010: The Kansas City Royals traded Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth to the Atlanta Braves for Gregor Blanco, Jesse Chavez and Tim Collins.

What was said above about best case scenario for Podsednik, can also be applied to the signing of Rick Ankiel.  However, it ends there as Ankiel was far from effective in his half-season with the Royals.  In fact, at times it seemed he might be attempting his best Juan Gonzalez impersonation with all of the time he spent on the DL.  It was a miracle the Royals were able to unload him on anyone.  Farnsworth was brutal in 2009, his first year with the Royals.  However, in 2010, he bounced back in a big way making himself a very attractive chip at the trade deadline.   Of the 3 players the Royals received in exchange for these 2, Tim Collins is the only one still with the Royals and will be battling for a spot on the 2012 opening day roster pitching out of the bullpen.  With him being the only player in the entire trade still on the roster of the team they were traded to, this trade could get even better for the Royals as time goes on.

Ankiel: 0.3 WAR with Braves (1/2 of 2010)

Farnsworth: -0.3 WAR with Braves (1/2 of 2010)

Blanco: 0.4 WAR with Royals (1/2 of 2010)

Chavez: -1.0 WAR with Royals (1/2 of 2010 and 2011)

Collins: 1.1 WAR with Royals (2011)

Royals win trade by 0.5 WAR

Please come back next week for the conclusion of this evaluation.  So far, it is not looking good for Dayton…

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