Tag Archive | "Shortstop"

MLB Trade Rumors Center Around St. Louis Cardinals Shortstop Pete Kozma

Trade rumors begin to swirl as spring training nears completion in Major League Baseball.  As Opening Day draws near, teams begin to identify their needs as well as their surpluses.  The St. Louis Cardinals, who have found themselves actively involved in the market for shortstops around the league over the last few seasons, suddenly find themselves with a player to offer to the market.

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Pete Kozma is the odd man out in St. Louis, and general manager John Mozeliak hopes to benefit from that.

According to Adam Rubin of ESPN, the Cardinals have been shopping Kozma around the league, letting other teams know that the young shortstop is available:

The reasons for trade rumors surrounding Kozma are obvious.  The Cardinals signed Jhonny Peralta during the offseason, Daniel Descalso offers a backup option who can play multiple positions and the team needs the room on the 40-man roster.

All of this could lead to a trade for a low-level prospect in exchange for the man who played 143 games for the Cardinals last season.

Joe Strauss of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out another need that the Cardinals may wish to address with the rumored trade of Kozma based on the recent reassignment of relief pitcher Tyler Lyons.

“The Cardinals can option Kozma or keep him as Peralta’s backup. Having optioned Tyler Lyons to Memphis on Wednesday, the club could survey the market for long relief. No obvious internal candidate currently exists,” according to Strauss.

That option would not alleviate the roster restriction that exists but is a fair trade rumor as it fulfills both the team’s need and surplus at the same time.  The argument against a long reliever in return is based more on the value that Kozma holds.

Ben Humphrey of Viva El Birdos breaks down the value of Kozma on the market and what fans should expect in return.  Ultimately, Humphrey comes to the conclusion that a trade involving Kozmawould likely resemble the trade of Brendan Ryan in December of 2010.  In that trade, the Cardinals received relief pitcher Maikel Cleto, a low-level prospect with a lively arm.

The Cardinals will do their due diligence in shopping Kozma around to see if there is a trade that makes sense.  If the past can tell us anything, it is that Mozeliak will only move Kozma if he feels that the Cardinals will clearly benefit from the return.

Meanwhile, the trade rumors will continue to circulate.

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com.
Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things baseball throughout the season.

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The Cardinals Will Have a Strong Left Side of the Infield for Years to Come

AledmysDiaz

 

Over the last week, the Cardinals have made two moves that have locked up and solidified the left side of the infield for years to come. It has also, for the first time in years, guaranteed strength at two positions that have not always been the strongest positions on the team.

The Cards have had a sort of rotating door at shortstop for years. For the short period when Rafeal Furcal was healthy, the team was getting production. But when he was hurt, they had to rely on the likes of Ryan Theriot and Pete Kozma. Those experiments did not pan out and SS has remained a weak spot on the lineup.

Somewhat similarly at third base, David Freese has been good when healthy, but Cardinal fans are very privy on his health issues and it became impossible to rely on a full season from Freese, regardless of what kind of production he gave when he was at a hundred percent.

Last week, the Cardinals signed Matt Carpenter to a 6 year, $52 million dollar extension. The contract particulars per year include:

  • 6 years guaranteed
  • $52 million guaranteed (including a $1.5 million signing bonus)
  • 2014:  $1 million
  • 2015:  $3.5 million
  • 2016:  $6.25 million
  • 2017:  $9.75 million
  • 2018:  $13.5 million
  • 2019:  $14.5 million
  • 2020:  Club option for $18.5 million or $2 million buyout

Last year, Carpenter put up MVP numbers. He is 28  years old and his current contract will carry him until he is 34 years old. Those are some prime years the Cards will get from the third baseman, and hopefully some career stats will come with it.

Along with the extension, the Cards signed Cuban free-agent shortstop Aledmys Diaz to a 4 year, $8 million dollar contract. Diaz is a very promising signing, but isn’t quite the guarantee that Carpenter is. There are some major questions surrounding him. Can he stick at SS? Is his bat good enough to transfer to another position? Where does he start next season?

The signing is ultimately a good risk for the Cardinals, and in comparison to other recent Cuban defectors, is a bargain for the team.

Another benefit of the Diaz signing was the prior signing of Jhonny Peralta in the off-season. By signing Peralta to a 4 year, $52 million year contract, they have locked up the position for years to come. And that hasn’t changed at all. It does make the Diaz singing slightly confusing. But it is definitely a good problem for the team to have.

Other safety nets on the left side of the infield

Greg Garcia

The minor leaguer has been in the wings for years, waiting for his chance to come up. Last year with Memphis he hit an impressive .281/.386/.403. The high on base pct and the ability to steal bases positions Garcia to be a solid top-of-the-order player.

Pete Kozma

Most Cardinals’ fans would be happy to never see Kozma be a regular-day starter again. But desperate times may call for desperate measures. And with DL stints inevitable, Kozma could fill in at times. He is also still young, so development and improvement are possible.

Oscar Mercado

Mercado was drafted 57 overall last year by the Cards. The 18 year-old is a slender 6’2, 175 pounds. He is an option later down the road, but has promising upside. A Bleacher Report scouting report ranks him on the 80-point scale at:

Hitting: 35/55

Power: 30/40

Speed: 50/50

Defense: 45/60

Arm: 50/55

So a lot of questions remained unanswered. But they are good questions to have. Along with having two proven All-Stars at third and shortstop next year, the Cardinals also have many more options in the future.

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“Drew” The Right Thing: Why Stephen Is Best For Cards

The rumor mill around the Cardinals search for an upgrade at shortstop has hit red alert levels of speculation. Yet while the names of nearly every player in the game at the position has crossed the lips of one person or another about what direction the team could go in, the easiest way to solve the problem will require some sacrifice—in the form of a contract to Stephen Drew.

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Drew is not the sexiest option on the table; those honors go to Troy Tulowitzki and Elvis Andrus. Likewise, he is not as potent of an offensive threat as Jed Lowrie or Jhonny Peralta, or even the pure fielding genius that Pete Kozma was. Over the past three years, the 30-year old has played for three different teams and never hit over .255 at any stop. What’s more, the 124 games he played in this past season in Boston, while hitting .253 with 13 home runs, 67 RBI and 112 hits were all high marks that he had not touched since 2010.

None of that sounds too great, does it? Not when there are numbers floating around like Tulowitzki’s five years of 24 or more home runs, or Andrus’ 40 steal summer are in the mix. Add in the fact that it is going to cost in the neighborhood of $13 or so million a season for his services (with negotiations overlooked by Scott Boras of all people), and a pursuit of Drew sounds like a full-fledged ride on the Crazy Train.

But stepping back from the surface level of it shows that the investment into Drew is perhaps the safest route of action for the team. For one, the cost of acquiring any of the numerous players that could be explored on the trade market is heart stopping strong. Teams are going to sift through the plethora of cost-controlled, Major League proven, sub-25 year old talent that the Cardinals have built the core of their team around. This is a group that includes Shelby Miller, Matt Adams, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez and Joe Kelly among others at the MLB level (it has been stated that Michael Wacha is not available under any circumstances), and could stretch into inquires around Oscar Tavares and Kolton Wong at the next level. A combination of any of those players is a tough pill to swallow, for any player and dents what allows the Cardinals to consistently compete at the level that they do: having high-talent, low cost returns throughout their middle market salary capabilities.

Despite the notion that he “has” to move some of them, especially considering what seems to be a logjam off starting pitchers; John Mozeliak has repeatedly stated that he is not keen on moving his young arsenal of talent. And there is good reason to see why he feels this way. The rotation is ever evolving and outside of Wainwright, there is no proven year in, year out presences in the mix yet. Basically, the time is now, but the picture is still developing and making a brash move while the incubation stage is not quite finished yet could be a leap of faith off the wrong cliff, even if the return is an elite talent at another spot.

So in the end, how do you remedy this situation, while still bringing in as much improvement at the club’s biggest need position still? Pay the price for Drew. Market value often gets tied to numbers, but it is almost always determined more by being in the right place, at the right age, at the right time. Drew is likely to command in the neighborhood of $52 million over the next four years, and quiet honestly is worth it. Yes, he’ll get more than he is worth, and will therefore become prone to inherit the crown of thorns that Matt Holliday has so expertly won in the court of public opinion over the past four years. But the simple truth of it is every deal can’t be one that the team wins. Meaning that cost for a plus shortstop is not going to be a fair one; it is a high demand position that can name its own price within reason. The good thing is that money isn’t an obstacle for the Cardinals, who cleared over $35 million dollars from its 2012 roster between the departures of Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal, Jake Westbrook, Edward Mujica and Carlos Beltran from its ranks.

And speaking of Beltran, it is his original purpose that a Drew acquisition most closely replicates. No, he will not hit 30 home runs or even be guaranteed to make two All-Star Games in as many years as Beltran did. Realistically, the team does not need that from its shortstop. But what he will be able to do is fill a major void in place that has to find an answer at, which is exactly what Beltran was acquired to do in December of 2011 on the heels of the Pujols departure. He came to town with a big dollar figure, and an injury prone reputation, but in return he gave the team everything it needed and erased what was a briefly a gaping hole.

That is what Drew represents, an instant replenishment that does not create a new one via acquiring his presence. Look past the numbers and see the truth; the smartest move does not always have to be the cheapest one, rather it should be the most comprehensively effective one.

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Royals September call-ups playing a different role this season

From September 1 to the end of the season, Major League Baseball allows teams to expand their rosters from 25 to a maximum of 40 players. Teams call up players from the minors to give them major league playing time, or to add depth for a team’s potential playoff run. For many years, the Royals were out of the playoff hunt by September. So to make games somewhat interesting, the team called up minor league prospects to give them a taste of the majors and give fans a glimpse of the future. But this year, things are different.

Johnny-Giavotella

The Royals called up eight players from the minors this week: Catcher Brett Hayes, pitchers Francisley Bueno, Louis Coleman, Wade Davis and Donnie Joesph, and infielders Johnny Giavotella, Pedro Ciriaco and Carlos Pena. Except for Ciriaco and Pena, the others spent time on the Royals roster this season and only Joseph could be considered a prospect. But these players aren’t with the team to just get some playing time and audition for a roster spot next season. They’re with the Royals to provide depth on the bench and the bullpen and help the Royals win games down the stretch.

Hayes provides catching depth while Bueno and Joseph join Tim Collins and Will Smith as the Royals lefty relievers. Coleman shuttled between Omaha and Kansas City this season, giving the team solid outings while the struggling Davis is in the pen to regain his consistency. Giavotella will play second base as Chris Getz recovers from a possible concussion. Ciriaco will backup Alcides Escobar at shortstop. Pena signed with the Royals last week and played a few games for Omaha before joining the major league club. He provides a power bat off the bench and lets Eric Hosmer DH and Billy Butler play at first if needed.

With 23 games left in the season, each player will make the most of their playing time to help the team and to help themselves. And barring injuries by the starting players, their role will be to provide depth from the bench or the bullpen. How they play this month may decide if the Royals make the playoffs, or finish above or below .500. Whatever happens, it’s good to see the Royals play meaningful games in September.

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Pete Kozma is the new Yadier Molina?

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This Labor Day weekend I was doing what I do pretty much every weekend during the season, watching baseball. I was listening to Dan McLaughlin and Ricky Horton call a Cardinals/Pirates game, which oftentimes is a chore. Now I realize the play-by-play guys are not there to get too analytical about what’s right and wrong with the Cardinals. I understand they are there to entertain and help add something to the game for people who just want to watch baseball. If you are reading this article, or any article online that you had to search for because you have a longing to learn more about baseball, you probably do not find the broadcasters of any team to be particularly deep. So I’m not picking on them. I understand their role. But regardless, they kept repeating something about a certain player that I found to be especially appalling. The same player who I cringe at when I hear any defense for.

Pete Kozma.

I don’t get Kozma. More so, I don’t get what St Louis feels it owes him. I was one who wanted The Cardinals to go after Stephen Drew in the off-season, as Rafael Furcal was aging and becoming too injury prone. After Drew signed with The Red Sox, and a few months later Furcal was reported to miss the entire ’13 season, the general consensus seemed to be that The Cardinals would be okay with Kozma at shortstop.

The season starts and the talking point with McLaughlin and co. was that he was going to surprise everyone, he was going to be better than we expect and any production we get from him will be a benefit (whatever sense that makes). Kozma started off relatively hot, and his defenders felt justified. But soon after, reality caught up. His numbers started plummeting. But, if you squinted, they at least weren’t  completely horrible. Then the talking point from McLaughlin and co. was that he was a number 8 hitter and his numbers were in line with other number 8 hitters, so what do you expect? Stop complaining. They basically made it clear that if anyone complained about him, they were picking on the poor guy.

But of course his numbers kept getting even worse and worse. Writers such as Bernie Miklasz of The Post-Dispatch (who has anyone noticed he is going through a full transformation into a sabermetrician this last year?) decided they were done defending him. The die-hard Cardinal fans decided that he was slumping too much to defend. Everyone was done with the guy. What he did late last year and in the post-season was fine and all, but he has squandered all goodwill he earned. There finally was a universal consensus:

Pete Kozma is absolutely terrible.

Except for McLaughlin and group who decided they were going to still defend the guy with a hail mary pass of a defense. They decided that:

“Pete Kozma was Yadier Molina from a few years ago.”

They claim he is a high defense, low offense player who will get better. They compare Molina’s poor 2006 season to this year for Kozma. The implication is that if The Cardinals stick with Kozma and continue to start him, he will became what we have now with Molina.

My jaw dropped when I heard this. And every time they repeated it, my jaw dropped even further. After the game, I went online to see if anyone picked up on it. Viva El Birdos jumped on it before I did. I was originally going to not write about it after I saw they covered it, but decided I still wanted to because I want to add to what they said. And it’s such an egregious statement, it needs to be covered even further.

There are so many things wrong with comparing Kozma to Molina. For instance:

Kozma is not Molina defensively, no one really is. 

Molina is just incredible at catcher. He is the best defensive catcher in baseball today, and makes an argument for the best of all time. Kozma is a decent defensive shortstop. Compared to his hitting, it’s his strength. But compared to other players in the league, he’s slightly above average. To even compare the two is a joke. In 2006, Molina’s Fielding Runs Above Average (based on UZR) was 6.3. And that was especially weak for him, as in 2005 it was 9.0 and in 2008 it was 10.0. But even in a weak year for Molina, it still trounces Kozma. This year his FRAA is 2.2. Comparatively, the best shortstop in baseball defensively, Brendan Ryan, posted a 13.8 last year (he’s only played 86 games this year).

In all honesty, I kind of wish we still had Ryan. As he is probably a much better comparison to Molina than Kozma is.

Molina was good prior to 2006, this is probably the real Kozma

In the Viva article, comparing both player’s minor league stats, points out:

In the majors, this year, Pete Kozma is hitting .215/.272/.272 in a league that’s hitting .251/.315/.390. In 2012, he hit .232/.292/.355 in a league that hit .278/.345/.430. 2011 was undoubtedly worse than 2013: .214/.279/.289 in Memphis while the Pacific Coast League hit .286/.359/.448

Yadier Molina, as a 20-year-old in the AA Southern League, hit .275/.327/.332. That’s not a .700 OPS, either, but it did come in a league that hit .255/.329/.374, and that struck out 19 percent of the time while he struck out 11 percent of the time. The year before that, as a 19-year-old in full season ball, he hit .280/.331/.384 in a league that hit .251/.325/.363, and that was, in aggregated, 21-and-a-half.

At 21-and-a-half, Molina was called up to the majors and hit .267/.329/.356 in 51 games.

Their article stops at that, but I would even extend it to his first full year on the team. In 2005, Molina hit a pretty bad .252/.295/.358 with a WAR of 1.2. But in comparison to Kozma this year who is hitting .212/.268/.268, Molina looks like a slugger. His slugging pct is still almost 100 points higher than Kozma’s. Even in 2006, Molina’s slugging is .321, much higher than Kozma’s.

Even when Molina hit rock bottom offensively, he was better than what Kozma seems to be as a player.

Molina was an anomaly, you should not count on that.

What Molina has done is incredible. He has gone from being a defensive ace with no speed and no bat to a hitter battling for the batting title. It’s unbelievable and rarely happens. So the idea that you should count on it at all is silly. Because how many players have come up and weren’t very good, worked endlessly with their hitting coach, never improved and left MLB forever? A majority of replacement level players. Even the aforementioned Brendan Ryan was a project of former hitting coach McGwire that didn’t produce the results of Molina. To say that anyone can do what Molina has done is both a logical stretch and a minimization of what Yadi has done.

At this point, The Cards are stuck with Kozma on the team for the rest of the year. Maybe Ryan Jackson comes up with the September call ups and takes over at short. Maybe Descalso. Maybe in the off-season, The Cardinals get another player. Maybe with Jose Iglesias playing so well for The Red Sox, Stephen Drew will be available again. Or maybe not.  But whatever happens, we cannot physically stand another season of Kozma.

He is not a major league shortstop. I wish he was, but he’s not. And he definitely is not Yadier Molina.

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Fernando Salas could be St. Louis Cardinals most important reliever in late-July

St. Louis Cardinals right-handed reliever Fernando Salas returned to the team Friday to start the second half of the regular season after a 56-day stint on the disabled list.  The results of his first outing weren’t pretty but the Cardinals need Salas to pitch well possibly more than any pitcher in their bullpen.

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Salas allowed a run on two hits and a walk in the eighth inning Friday in a 9-6 win over the San Diego Padres in his first appearance since he went on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation May 22 after the Cardinals finished a three-game series against the Padres in San Diego.

Up to that point, Salas had plenty of less-than-stellar performances. He took a 3.86 earned-run average to the disabled list with him, and that was his lowest ERA of the season. He allowed runs in three of his first four outings but then settled down to become positive part of the bullpen.

He needs to pitch to that form to help the Cardinals in the second half of the season, but he could also be a valuable trade chip if he pitches well in the next two weeks.

The Cardinals had the best record in the Major League Baseball at 58-36 heading into play Saturday but still have room to make some improvements. They could use another starter or a shortstop, but any team on the other end of the deal is almost certainly going to ask the Cardinals to part with one of their dominant, young pitchers.

Whether it’s Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist, Michael Blazek, Michael Wacha or Keith Butler, the Cardinals have an incredible stockpile of pitching talent in their organization that could keep the team competitive for years to come, or the Cardinals could use it for short-term gains that could be the difference in a run toward the 2013 World Series championship.

The Cardinals would likely have to part with at least one of those afore-mentioned pitchers to complete a trade for a top-tier player such as Philadelphia Phillies left-handed starter Cliff Lee or Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubel Cabrera, but Salas might provide enough value to lessen the load of young pitchers the Cardinals would have to give up in a trade.

Although Salas has been a valuable part of the Cardinals bullpen for the past three seasons, he does not have the potential of nearly all of the Cardinals rookies who could be the core of one of baseball’s best pitching staffs since the Phillies loaded their rotation with Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.

And the Cardinals group would have youth on their side. None of the six rookie pitchers are older than 24 years old. Right-handed starter Shelby Miller is just 22 years old, but he and 23-year-old right-handed reliever Trevor Rosenthal have made so much of a positive impact already the Cardinals would be very unlikely to make either available in a trade.

Salas is 28 years old and hasn’t ever shown the dominant stuff many of his younger teammates bring into a game on a regular basis, but he has been a solid reliever for the Cardinals throughout his career and even saved 24 games in the 2011 season that ended with a World Series title.

But it was Jason Motte who closed out games in the World Series, the postseason and much of the final month of the season when the Cardinals made their remarkable comeback from 10.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the wild-card spot with about six weeks to play.

What was true then is true now. Salas pitches well more often than not, but the Cardinals have more talented pitchers around him. And that makes him expendable.

The big question is if any team would find Salas to be a quality piece to a trade. He almost certainly isn’t valuable enough to warrant a one-for-one trade. The Cardinals would probably have to add him into a trade with one of the other young pitchers.

Whether or not they decide to make that type of move will be one of the most intriguing storylines of the next 10 days.

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Minus Wigginton & Boggs, Cardinals Clean Out Their Closet

Give John Mozeliak credit, he isn’t shy about admitting his mistakes. In two sweeping moves on Tuesday afternoon, he rearranged the Cardinal roster by removing two of the most debated presences in the Cardinal organization, in Ty Wigginton and Mitchell Boggs. And with the two moves, the Cardinals brought a resounding end to two of their biggest annoyances of the year.

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Not much was required to add to the Cardinals after last season, as a vast majority of the roster that finished one game short of the World Series returned. And where there wasn’t carryover, there were replacements from within waiting to slide into place. The most notable external additions the team made were role players in corner infielder Wigginton and shortstop Ronny Cedeno, as well as left-handed reliever Randy Choate. Now, just half a season later, two-thirds of that trio is out of the uniform with a half of a week until the All-Star Break begins.

While Cedeno’s early struggles saw him never even make it out of the spring, Wigginton stuck with the team despite a similarly bad start. After struggling mightily in the spring, he never shook off that start, hitting only .158 through 57 at-bats that came mostly as a pinch hitter.  The reasoning of adding the 35-year old was to add a right-handed hitting presence to a fairly light hitting bench collection. But the fact that he could not perform in the role that he was his primary function (all but 14 of his at-bats came as a pinch hitter), as well as the fact he added nothing defensively, made his presence on the team a non-factor.

From the beginning, the two years and five million dollar total he was signed for was an eye brow raiser, especially for a player that hadn’t hit over .270 for four years, and was rated the worst player by win shares in baseball the previous year. In the end, the club decided that eating crow on the financial side of it wasn’t as big of a problem as carrying dead weight on the roster, and released Wigginton. In his place, veteran catcher Rob Johnson was promoted from Memphis, where he was hitting .236 with seven home runs. With the promotion of Johnson, backup catcher Tony Cruz is free to serve in the role of right-handed bench bat/utility infielder, a role that Mike Matheny wasn’t comfortable in using him in previously due to him being the only other capable catcher in case of emergency.

Cutting loses on Wigginton was a simple decision in comparison to the other move of the day, which saw the end of the turmoil filled season of Mitchell Boggs in St. Louis. The team traded the maligned reliever to the Colorado Rockies, bringing to an end his six year tenure with the club. Boggs’ implosion was swift, and seemingly unending. After opening the season has the club’s first fill-in closer, he quickly was disposed from the role after posting an ERA over nine, and ended at a gruesome 11.05 after his final outing with the club on May 30th, when he surrender a game-tying home run vs. Kansas City Royals in another late game situation. He attempted to pull it together in Memphis as a starter over the past month, but in the end, a combination of having completely lost his way and purpose in St. Louis moving ahead, as well as a quickly plummeting value on the trade market, forced Mozeliak to make what seemed like an improbable move just a few months ago.

Boggs was the best eighth inning pitcher in the National League a year ago, leading the circuit in holds with 34 and posting a 2.21 ERA in 78 games. He was selected to the US offering for the World Baseball Classic and was comfortably slid into the ninth inning role when Jason Motte’s injured elbow ended his year. Yet it became clear he wasn’t the man he previously was, and fell out of place with the club as quickly as he had risen. In return for him the club gained the Rockies international signing bonus slot, to allot towards international bonus money signings.

Often, the question is what can be added to a club around this time of the season. Yet, in many cases, less can be more. In an organization that that is brimming with young talent looking for a shot, perhaps Mozeliak’s removal of the failed experiment of Wigginton and the end of the fall from grace of Boggs, will add more to the club, than anything else could bring in.

Nothing wrong with balling up a bad plan and tossing it into the waste can. There is still plenty of time to make a good one.

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Triple Play: Michael Cuddyer, Jeff Francoeur, Lance Berkman

This week’s Triple Play finds us at the half-way point of the season. As the All-Star break comes into view, we look at a record-setting Rockies outfielder, the end of an error in Kansas City, our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch, and more. Off we go:

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Who’s Hot?

Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies

At first glance, it looks like Cuddyer picked a perfect time to go on an extended hot streak. With shortstop and team leader Troy Tulowitzki injured and not expected back until mid-to-late July, Cuddyer has set a Rockies franchise record for longest hitting streak (27 games). During that time, he has put up a .344/.370/.563 batting line, with five home runs, 14 RBI, and 15 runs scored. If you look a little closer, though, you see that Cuddyer has been hitting well all season:

  • April – .313/383/.563, .946 OPS
  • May – .396/.441/.660, 1.101 OPS
  • June – .352/.381/.593, .975

For the season, Cuddyer has mashed 14 home runs, 48 RBI, scored 38 runs and even swiped six bases. After injuries contributed to a disappointing 2012, Rockies fans are seeing why the team was willing to sign Cuddyer to a three-year, $31.5 million dollar deal before the 2012 season. He hasn’t just been a Coors Field hitter, either; he has more extra-base hits and RBI in road games. With the Rockies’ historical propensity to struggle on the road, that has been a godsend for the team. Cuddyer’s history (lifetime .275/.344/.462 hitter) suggests that he will not continue this pace, but given how the Rockies have scuffled without Tulo (6-10 while on the DL), they have to be thrilled with what Cuddyer has given them this season. If you own him in your fantasy league, it might be time to consider selling high; his value will never be higher.

Who’s Not?

Jeff Francoeur, Kansas City Royals

Royals fans rejoice! Your team has finally seen the light. You will no longer have to suffer through watching Jeff Francouer bumble his way through another terrible at-bat, as he was designated for assignment Saturday. Maybe it was the batting average (.209). Maybe it was the complete and utter lack of production since May 1 (2 HR, 6 RBI, 9 runs). Whatever the case, Frenchy’s time in Kansas City is over. Royals fans can look forward to watching David Lough and Jarrod Dyson share duties in right field for the remainder of the season (barring a trade, of course). For the season, Francoeur has tallied just 3 homers and 13 RBI in 182 at-bats over 58 games. As June went on, the Royals began to play Lough more and more while Francoeur found himself on the bench. Once the fleet-footed Dyson was activated from the DL, the choice became clear: the team would be far better served by giving extended playing time to the 27-year-old Lough and 28-year-old Dyson instead of the 29-year-old Francoeur. Seeing that Frenchy is only 29 made me do a double take. Doesn’t it seem like he has been around for about about 15 years? Maybe that’s just how it feels to watch him flail away helplessly at the plate night after night.

In any case, it has become clear that he does not belong in the major leagues. Naturally, the New York media immediately speculated that the Mets may be interested in bringing Francoeur back. Considering that the Mets’ outfield Saturday consisted of Eric Young Jr, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Marlon Byrd (and their signing of Rick Ankiel already this season), one can never be sure.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: 31 HR, 80 RBI, 60 runs, .329/.408/.724, 201 OPS+

Player B: 25 HR, 82 RBI, 64 runs, .373/.463/.676, 202 OPS+

Player A is Chris Davis. Like a certain commercial character, Davis just keeps going and going and…..well, you get the idea. After belting two more home runs in Saturday’s win over the Yankees, Davis became the first player in baseball history to belt at least 30 home runs and 25 doubles by the end of June (according to the Elias Sports Bureau). In addition to 50 doubles, he is on pace for 60 homers, 158 RBI, 118 runs scored and a .333 batting average. As it is, Davis has already met or exceeded many of the SEASON projections analysts forecasted for him. If things continue this way, the Davis/Tommy Hunter-for-Koji Uehara trade is going to go down as one of the greatest in Orioles history.

Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera (Player B) has been so ridiculously good for so long now that we take it for granted. Going into Sunday’s games, Cabrera led the American League in the following categories: hits (118), runs scored, RBI, walks (48), on-base percentage, OPS (1.139), and park-adjusted OPS+. He is on pace for a 49-166-129-.374 batting line this season, which would actually surpass his Triple Crown-winning season in 2012. Watching these two players slug it out for the rest of the season is going to be great fun.

Player A: .324/.428/.351, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 SB, 9 runs

Player B: .466/.578/.889, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 5 SB, 11 runs

Player A is the Yankees’ Robinson Cano, generally considered the best second baseman in the American League (particularly in fantasy baseball). Player B is Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis. Over the past two weeks, nobody in baseball – not Chris Davis, not Miguel Cabrera, not Pedro Alvarez, not Michael Cuddyer – has been hotter than the Tribe’s 26-year-old middle sacker. Cano is on pace for a 30 HR-100 RBI-10 SB-90 run season, which is elite territory in fantasy baseball for second baseman. Kipnis is on pace for 25-105-39-90, which would better Cano in every category except home runs. Considering the dearth of speed in fantasy baseball these days, the extra steals give Kipnis a bump in value over Cano. At 26, Kipnis figures to only get better. As a fan of Kipnis going into the 2012 season, I’m calling it now: by the end of 2013, he will end the season as the top-rated fantasy second baseman in the American League. That’s not a knock on Cano, who remains the top power-hitting second baseman in either league. But a player who can offer 25-homer/40-steal potential is worth top dollar – and Kipnis is that guy.

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Adam Wainwright pitched 37 innings this season before walking his first batter. Since then, he has continued to be the stingiest starting pitcher in baseball when it comes to issuing free passes. As such, we are tracking his total for the 2013 season. Saturday night, Wainwright rebounded from a couple of tough starts to handcuff the Oakland A’s in a 7-1 victory. The Cardinals’ ace fanned eight batters, allowed five hits and walked a pair while improving his record to 11-5. For the season, Wainwright has punched out 114 batters while walking just 12; that 9.5 ratio is still tops in the National League, although it has dropped from the double-digit ratio it had been throughout the season. In the American League, only Bartolo Colon has a similar walk total (13), but Colon has struck out barely half the hitters as Wainwright. The American League leader in K/BB ratio is Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma, at 5.94. That measure tells you just how in control Wainwright has been this season.
  • Scheduled pitchers for St. Louis against the Angels this week are Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, and Wainwright. Wainwright vs. Pujols will be some must-see TV on Thursday. Get your popcorn ready.
  • Pittsburgh is the first team in 2013 to win 50 games, marking the first time that has happened since 1960. You might recall that the season ended pretty happily for the Pirates and their fans that year.
  • Speaking of the Pirates, here’s an idea: trade for Cliff Lee. The Phillies aren’t going anywhere this season and need to rebuild. Pittsburgh has a deep farm system and a real chance to play October baseball for the first time in 21 years. Lee would represent a huge financial commitment for the Pirates ($25 million per season through 2015) and would probably require the Pirates to surrender two or three of their best prospects. Yes, that is an exorbitant price. But it’s been 21 years. An entire generation of Pittsburgh fans has no idea what it is like for the local baseball team to be good. Acquiring Lee to anchor the rotation would send a message that there will be no collapse like 2011-12.
  • Incidentally, for those of you wondering why Dustin Pedroia wasn’t included in the Kipnis/Cano note above about the best second basemen in the AL, it’s very simple: you all get back to me when he has more home runs than Brian Dozier and we’ll talk. The laser show has gotten pretty lame.
  • There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground in a Derek Holland start. It’s either the penthouse or the outhouse. You either get the complete-game, two-hit shutout version like the Yankees saw last Thursday night, or you’re stuck with the version that allowed a combined 20 baserunners in 10 1/3 innings and eight runs earlier this month versus the Blue Jays and Indians. I’m sure Ron Washington wishes he knew which one he would get every fifth day.
  • All the Alex Rodriguez drama has overshadowed the Yankees’ tailspin. Since June 1, when New York was one game back in the AL East, they are 11-16 and have lost five in a row. They find themselves two games away from the division basement. Is that where they will be when Derek Jeter returns to the field?
  • The Giants are in trouble as well. After being swept by Colorado, the defending world champions have sunk to fourth in the NL West, only one game ahead of last-place Los Angeles. Guess who is headed to the bay for a weekend series?
  • Sunday’s win over the Rockies notwithstanding, the Giants’ offense has been putrid since losing outfielder Angel Pagan to injury. Buster Posey can’t carry the team by himself.
  • In related news, Francoeur’s agent already has called Giants’ GM Brian Sabean (NOTE: I have no more evidence of this than any other baseball writer).
  • Despite not playing since May 26, Bryce Harper ranks 2nd on the Nationals in home runs, 4th in RBI, and 5th in runs scored. No wonder Washington is 14th in the NL in hitting. Safe to say he’ll be welcomed back this week with open arms.
  • Lance Berkman Is A National Treasure, Volume 58: the Big Puma evidently slipped and fell down the stairs of the Rangers’ charter plane after returning home from New York last week, making for a sore knee and some missed games. A reporter asked Berkman if it was just a freak accident. “No,” Berkman replied, “Premeditated.”  How great is that?

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Yahoo: Is The Time Right To Trade Freese?

Recently, I took the time to look into the scenario of trading hometown hero David Freese while the time is right for the St. Louis Cardinals.

MLB: NLCS-San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals

To say the idea is not well received, especially by Yahoo fans, would be an understatement.  However, the reasons to move now are compelling and the idea seems to be a popular one around the internet these days.  In the article, I explain:

The Cardinals have a few needs as they enter the second half of the season. While the bullpen has seemed to calm down and settle into their roles quite nicely, the rotation has been battered by injuries and could use an inning-eater of a pitcher to help hold it down. In addition, despite his ability to hit with runners in scoring position, the team could utilize a substantial upgrade at shortstop over Pete Kozma. A combination of Freese and a prospect could yield a starting pitcher and above-average shortstop in most scenarios.

The team wants to upgrade at a few spots as they enter the second-half of the season.  If you expect to get something in return, you will have to give something up.  Freese may be the right piece given all the variables.

Do I want to see Freese traded away? No.

Am I willing to entertain the idea if it improves this team? You bet.

Read the Yahoo piece here and feel free to use the comments there or here to let me know your thoughts.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can follow him on Twitter by 
clicking here.

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How to be an Educated All Star Voter and a Loyal Hometown Fan (Part 2)

AllStarGame

 

 

In part one, I analyzed First Base and Second Base to figure out how egregious it would be to vote for the Cardinal or Royal player at that position over the current leader in votes. This time I analyze Shortstop and Third Base. It breaks my heart that Moustakas is so far out of contention, both by votes and statistically. I didn’t expect him to be Miggy, but it’s becoming sad how hard the adjustments to the big leagues are coming for him. Saying all that, I still have some faith in him.

Freese is also struggling at third. His slugging is so low and is slowly going from a St Louis hero to the player they groan about when the fans see him in the lineup.

Shortstop

Royals: Alcides Escobar .247/.273/.333. WAR: 0.7

Escobar is great on the bases and of course on defense. So his paltry offensive numbers are masked some in his overall performance. I also think his offense isn’t quite as bad as is being indicated this year. Last year his obs was .333 (though his wOBA was a less impressive .265). Regardless, he is better than his numbers show so far.

AL Leader: JJ Hardy – .267/.307/.461. WAR: 2.0

Hardy’s offensive numbers are kind of pathetic to be in the lead. His defense is saving him. But I still don’t understand why he is in the lead, as I don’t imagine the average voter to be overly savvy about defensive stats. His 13 homeruns are, I guess, what makes the Sportscenter highlights (they must forget to mention he only has 14 doubles and zero triples), but it still seems weird he’s in the lead. Peralta is probably the player who deserves it the most.

If you vote for Escobar: MILDLY UNACCEPTABLE. With Hardy in the lead, everything seems out of whack. I don’t get it. So since the leader is a player with an obs barely over .300, I don’t think it’s the end of the world if Royals fans want to vote for Escobar instead.

Cardinals: Pete Kozma – .253/.302/.320. WAR: 0.9

Kozma’s pretty bad. And I can’t mention him without mentioning that I don’t understand why The Cardinals won’t just start Jackson instead. But, regardless, he is our horse in this race. And since there is another player named Tulowitzki in this conversation, everything I’m about to type seems so futile.

NL Leader: Troy Tulowitzki – .347/.413/.635 (!) WAR: 3.9

This guy is good.

If you vote for Kozma: IT MAKES THE ROYALS FANS WHO VOTE FOR GETZ LOOK LIKE SCHOLARS.

Yet he is in 4th place somehow. Good for him.

THIRD BASE

Royals: Mike Moustakas – .183/.246/.279. WAR: -0.4

I’m not going to shock anyone by telling them that Moustakas has been underachieving badly this year. It’s almost unfair to compare him to other AL third basemen as he’s fighting for the job just on the Royals alone. I don’t know if he will ever be what was expected of him, but he will definitely be better than this someday.

AL Leader – Miguel Cabrera – .358/.451/.638. WAR: 4.3

Remember how I said you can defend voting for Perez by voting saying you didn’t vote for Getz? Well if for some unknown reason you did vote for Getz, you can try to defend that by saying “At least I didn’t vote for Moustakas!” It’s impossible to analyze this, as Cabrera is infinitely better this year than Moustakas and all of the rest of the league.

If you vote for Moustakas? IT’s TOO INCONCIEVABLE TO IMAGINE ANYONE WOULD DO THIS IS SO IT’S TOO HYPOTHETICAL TO ANSWER.

Look, if for some reason you did decide to vote for Moustakas, you could try to defend it by saying he’s just struggling but has a bright future in front of him and he needs to be in the spotlight. You can maybe say Cabrera is getting luckier with a high BABIP of .381, while Moustakas is getting extremely unlucky with a BABIP of .194.

Cardinals: David Freese – .290/.362/.403. WAR: 0.5

Freese is struggling, even though his OBP is pretty high. His fielding has been detrimental. But he still has name recognition for doing what he did on the national scene 2 years ago. That will help him, but shouldn’t be a real reason you should vote for him.

NL Leader – David Wright – .300/.384/.502. WAR: 3.6

Mix Freese’s sub par season with Wright’s consistently stellar season, and you have your answer. I just hope Wright can win this over whatever is going on in San Francisco that allows them to get so many votes for Panda. Last year Sandoval undeservingly beat Wright (and then ironically had the biggest hit in the game). But this year, with the game being played in Queens, it just has to be Wright.

If you vote for Freese? DON’T DO IT, JUST VOTE FOR WRIGHT. IF YOU CARE ABOUT BASEBALL, HE DESERVES TO REPRESENT THE NL. Seriously, remember being a kid and watching the All Star game? Remember how excited you were to see your favorite player play? Now imagine the kids of NYC going to see Sandoval start. Undeservingly. Just tell yourself Freese is having an off year. Because he is. Vote for Wright

Next up: Catcher and Outfield.

Posted in Cardinals, I-70 Baseball Exclusives, RoyalsComments (0)