Tag Archive | "Tampa Bay Rays"

Is The Price Right….or Wrong?

The rumor mill regarding the Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price is spinning at a nearly 24 hour a day pace now as the trade deadline approaches. And has always with potential blockbuster deals, the true reality and details regarding them are always tough to gauge at face value. However, one thing is for certain: the team has not had a clearer and more present need to swing a major move than it does now in several years.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Tampa Bay Rays

More so than any other team that is in the ‘Price Sweepstakes’, the Cardinals have the ability to deal from the top of the deck of their prospect pool, with little impact to their long-term Major League forecast. While any such trade would certainly require them to move some portion of their everyday talent, such a move could feasibly be made without blowing too many crucial bricks out their considerable foundation and still remaining an immediately competitive Major League team.

Yet that is what John Mozeliak and company has to negotiate internally (and have shown resistance too in the past): is it finally time to move potential for a quick, impact return? And is this the year where there is no other option to create needed distance, regardless of how promised the future is with that acquisition…yet again?

For months now, the relationship between any potential Price/Cardinals match has simply been a game of connect the basic dots. Small-market team with big money player has to make move to get value for soon-to-be untenable asset. The Rays value prospect value in return, and all of the low-budget control years such properties bring.

Meanwhile in St. Louis, there is a team with expectation that is only met by winning its recently elusive, yet within grasp, World Series ring. It is an organization stocked with the type of young, yet ready to contribute talent that is the hallmark of the Rays’ organization and can afford expenditure without gutting itself in the process. All things considered, it is a reasonable and realistic match that is the simple type of situation that can get even the most one-sided fan stirring (and even banking upon).

Yet it was not until this past weekend that it seemed to really gain momentum to the point where the word around both clubs from officials, columnists, beat writers and even Price himself began to match what fan bases have been rumbling about for months. Along with the Dodgers, Mariners and Giants, the Cardinals have been placed firmly in the midst of the potential acquisition buzz for the biggest in-season pitcher swap since the Cliff Lee deal of nearly five years ago.

But it is no surprise that the Cardinals would find themselves here. They approach the deadline with a talented, but uncertain rotation. Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn are mainstays; they are the lone safe bets in stock. Joe Kelly is returning from injury, while Shelby Miller has struggled and is currently on an R&R stint in the bullpen. Carlos Martinez has been up and down in the returns he has given since joining the rotation and Michael Wacha will not be cleared to attempt to comeback from a bone spur issue in his shoulder for another two weeks. All things considered, if the Cardinals want to pull themselves away from the pack in the NL Central, a power move that adds to the rotation is becoming increasingly clear as the only way to do so.

It was not too long ago that the club found itself in a similar place as well. In August of 2009, with a talented, yet top heavy, lineup in need of a boost to pull away from the pack, the club swung a 3-for-1 deal to bring the year’s top free agent to be bat to town in the form of Matt Holliday. Holliday responded by turning in a .355 average for the club down the stretch and helping them win the NL Central by nine games. A gamble for sure, yet goal was to do what it took to win then, which they achieved concisely.

The situation this summer mirrors that one. The team is solid, yet not much more than any other team within their own division. There is a clear area to upgrade in and to gain an upper hand. Price is without a question the best player on the market, and a member of a team that is running out of time to get a return on him before he is forced out of their expense range. Unlike in 2009, the Cardinals stash of minor league-to-young Major League talent is a treasure trove that they can deal from without the worries of leaving themselves completely bare down the line. Sure, they would lose some of the precious cost-controlled assets that this team has been smartly constructed around, but they have all of their impact players either under long-term deals or within arbitration control range as is, so the risk is not as severe of being left exposed, even if they fail to resign Price long-term if a deal is able to be reached.

Yet the economics of making a potential win-now move have to be respected, as does the concern about if he is worth it as well. It seems asinine to consider the chance to pair together two of the game’s top arms in Price and Wainwright as a bad thing, caution should be observed, because as there is with everything, every action has a cause and ripple effect.

Price’s next deal will certainly be greater than any deal that the Cardinals have ever underwritten before. Currently, Adam Wainwright’s $97.5 million extension pays him at a rate of $19 million per season, which is a steal on the pitching market today, yet is still the largest deal in club history. Holliday’s seven year, $130 million deal that he took to return to St. Louis was a mind numbing deal at the time, and stood as significantly the largest deal in club history. And as was the case, it essentially made the team pick make some very tough choices down the road (Pujols, Lohse). This time around, a $150 million deal over six or so years is completely reasonable for Price, but that would impact the ability to retain some combination of Wacha, Miller, Lynn, Trevor Rosenthal or Matt Adams over time. The last time the club by passed on a massive deal that was before them, the rewards down the road included extensions for Wainwright, Molina, Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig—essentially, a bulk of the core of the team was enabled to be retained.

There is a decision to make—which sum is greater?

The Holliday pact came after a period where the team rolled the dice and won in the open market—which seems to be something the club wants to avoid this time around. It has been said that the team would want certain financial assurances that Price would agree to an extension as a contingency of any deal, which seems to be both an awkward request and potentially a stopping gap in a deal being reached while time is ticking down towards the deadline.

The Dodgers and Mariners both especially would seem less inclined on such a safety belt arrangement. Because money is power at all times, whether it is in the moment or down the road. And both clubs have more spending power than the Cardinals do to potentially retain the star that should command a very substantial deal that comes in the wake of the Clayton Kershaw landmark deal, as well as the forthcoming contract that will find Max Scherzer, another former 20-game winning, Cy Young winner like Price.

Yet on the same accord, there comes a time where living in the moment also overrules living for an uncertain future. Basically, a calculated risk that pushes the limit and changes the face of the team is taken. That is certainly what the Cardinals have the ability to do in a swap for Price, which would give them one of the most intimidating starting rotations in baseball, regardless of the status of Wacha, Miller or Martinez going ahead. And that is certainly an alluring scenario.

But the reality of the other edge of the sword is there as well too. If 2014 has shown anything, it is that nothing is forever. The slump of Craig, the slow start of Oscar Taveras, the less-than desirable returns from Peter Bourjos, the injuries to Molina and Wacha and even the unpredictable nature of Rosenthal, all of these issues have dawned at different times throughout the season and due to the depth of talents of all sorts the club has at its expense, it has been able to take the scenic route back towards the top of the NL this year.

So the simple science of it all is what’s worth it? If winning the 2014 World Series is the absolute goal, and the idea is that paramount over everything else, go all in and worry about the rest later. But the great strength of the team has been its practiced patience over the years with its assets. All things considered, this season needs a booster shot and Price certainly is a perfect fit with the team, but there are plenty of other elements to consider as well. Too large an asking price is possible, and while it can be met if decided, could it all be for nil if his reward for his talent too large a ransom for the team to meet later…or within a comfortable timeline.

As it always, blockbuster are far from hastily, or small magnitude developments.

 

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The Kansas City Royals Did Not Lose The Trade

The Kansas City Royals trounced the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday. We got to watch Wil Myers play. Which brings up the one thing that will always be associated with Myers to baseball fans and especially KC baseball fans. The trade.

JamesShields

The common wisdom about the James Shields for Wil Myers trade was that The Royals were making a huge mistake. Without any of the players yet to have played for their new teams, it was deemed a failure for Kansas City. It was also immediately speculated that the only reason Dayton Moore even made the trade was to save his job by throwing away the future to squeak out a .500 season.

Here is a Yahoo Sports article that came out immediately after the trade that heralded it as a failure for The Royals. Now I also cringed when the trade was made. More for what Myers could be plus I had to watch Jeff Francoeur start another season (without realizing at the time the blessing of his release was in the future). I remember before the trade saying that if they were to do it, Matt Moore better be in the package. But as we all know now he wasn’t. It was James Shields with Wade Davis thrown in.

So now as we’re over three-fourths of the way through the season, with only a little over a month  left, I wanted to look at what has transpired and what is possible for the rest of the season. While looking over the evidence it occurred to me, so far this trade hasn’t been that bad for the Royals. I want to use the doom and gloom of the Yahoo article to compare to what has happened and to come to this conclusion:

It may turn out to be a good trade for the Royals for these reasons:

Wil Myers is not Mike Trout (yet)

Myers hit .314/.387/.600 with 37 homers with 140 strikeouts in 591 plate appearances at Class AA and AAA. He’s a blue chip prospect who turns 22 on Monday. Myers might turn into Ryan Braun. He also might turn into Josh Willingham, which would be OK for the Rays. Or he possibly could flame out like Joe Charboneau. If he’s like Braun, Royals fans will rue his loss for 20 years. And then into eternity after he retires.  – Yahoo

And yes that is all true. All of those different random things could happen, but none of it has happened yet. Including this year, Myers first full year in baseball. Can you imagine the pain we would have felt if he did what Trout or even Harper did last year? Of course rookie years mean nothing, as even Ken Griffey Jr had a rough rookie year. But at least he has not torn the league apart yet like those guys have. This year he is hitting .302/.356/.472 with 9 homeruns. Many players on The Royals are trumping that.

Not only is he not better than Trout or Harper, he’s barely better than Lough

Francoeur was the obvious replacement player for Myers. But since baseball is a beautiful game, David Lough has stepped up and surprised everyone in right field. With Myers’ aforementioned slash, he has a WAR of 2.o. Lough, comparably, has a WAR of 1.8 regardless of his weaker slash of .287/.307/.408. How is he doing it? With phenomenal defense. Those paying closer attention to the stats will see that with a strong final month of the season, Lough could steal the Rookie of the Year award away from Myers. How good will that feel to KC?

Plus, with Lough being a rookie, who’s to say he can’t continue to improve and put up a career comparable to Myers?

The Underrated James Shields

Shields has pitched 14 complete games, has six shutouts and has 448 strikeouts over the past two seasons. That’s all great, but his career 3.89 ERA is barely above-average in quality, and he’s logged 1,454 2/3 innings, which is a little concerning. He’s not as good as David Price, and he probably won’t be as good as Matt Moore going forward. The Royals are getting the Rays’ third-best pitcher.  –Yahoo

I don’t care his record is 8-8. I don’t care his ERA is a respectable 3.22. I don’t care his WHIP is a respectable 1.27. What I care about is he is an innings machine and has done this over 181 innings. Which is why his WAR is 2.9. I don’t get why this is hard for people like the author of the Yahoo article to understand. It’s like when you do cardio at the gym. You can get your heart rate up to 160 for 10 minutes. That’s good and all, but if you can sustain a lesser 140 heart rate for 40 minutes, you are getting a better workout. His WAR in 2012 was 3.9. 2011 was 4.5.

Shields is the 140 heart rate for 40 minutes pitcher. And yes, he is an ace.

Shields May Re-Sign

Though he is due $9 million in 2013 and a $12 million team option in ’14 — very reasonable — Shields will be a free agent after that and the Royals are a small-market team, if you hadn’t heard. If they are to make use of his skills and what he represents, they’ll have to make the playoffs in the next two seasons. They have not done so since 1985. Kansas City has finished with one winning record this millennium, in 2003.  –Yahoo

The Yahoo article contradicts itself. It warns to be careful of decline from Shields because of the amount of innings under his belt, but claims he is entitled to a large contract in spite of his innings count. Regardless, I consider Shields to be about the same level as Gil Meche when he signed with KC. Shields seems to be happy in KC and has made comments about resigning.

So on the surface, The Royals get him for 2 years. But this can be like McGwire trade for The Cards. Where it was for a few months, but turned into the rest of his career. Don’t take the Shields-for-two-years talk as gospel. He could easily be a Royal in 2015. Especially if they keep winning.

The Royals need a .500 season

Everything about that sentence kills me. It’s not the way I look at the game. You either win or you don’t. You either make the playoffs or not. But since The Royals haven’t been .500 in ten years and haven’t made the playoffs since 1985, this may be the exception to the rule (along with The Pirates).

The Royals are a black hole of signing players. It’s been widely reported that they are one of the teams players just don’t want to go to. A big reason is their history of losing. A .500 season, as this year may bring, would be good for both the fans and the future. And may be worth bringing Shields in alone.

Davis is not as bad as everyone says.  Odorizzi, on the other hand…

But funnily enough, you just hear people complain about Davis. Yes Davis is just okay. 6-10 with a 5.67 era. But the amount of innings he’s thrown is impressive. His FIP is much lower though. Opponents BABIP is ridiculously high against him to the point where it should be taken with a grain of salt as an outlier. And his WAR is still 1.5.

Odorizzi however, for The Rays, has an era of 6.00, a WHIP of 1.44 and has generally been crushed. Yet the media just talks about Davis.

The Royals Need To Win Games, Not The Trade

Even if Myers takes off, Lough regresses and Shields leave The Royals, it doesn’t matter if the The Royals can end over .500 and do something next year. Kansas City needs a shot at the playoffs. The Royals need a World Series. Myers could be the next Ted Williams. The Royals could have let the next Williams go. But keep in mind, Ted Williams never won a World Series. But with Shields and the talent shown in the second half by The Royals, it could all be worth it next year.

Because prospects come and go, but flags fly forever. And the trade being a failure for The Royals is still just wild speculation.

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What to do with Wade Davis?

When the Royals made a splash this off-season by acquiring James Shields and Wade Davis from the Tampa Bay Rays, they figured they were getting two above average Major League pitchers that would solidify their rotation right away.

Shields and Davis

Shields has been as advertised, but Davis has quite frankly been terrible.

Davis’ ERA is approaching 6.00 (5.92) and his record has dropped to 4-8. In 97.1 innings pitched, Wade sports a 1.80 WHIP.

It’s not that Davis isn’t talented enough to be an effective starter. He posted respectable numbers in two seasons as a starter with the Rays. In 2010, he started 29 games and went 12-10 with a 4.07 ERA. In 2011, Davis also started 29 games, with a 4.45 ERA and an 11-10 record.

When you compare the numbers from those two seasons as a starter, there are a few alarming trends. Most notably, Davis’ hits per nine and walks per nine are way up. This season, Davis is allowing a whopping 12.2 hits per nine and 4.1 walks per nine.

Davis spent all of 2012 as a reliever for the Rays, and was great. In 54 appearances, Davis was 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA and a career-high 11.1 K/9.

So the question for the Royals becomes, do you leave Davis in the rotation and hope for the best, or do you make a switch and move him into a bullpen that is already very deep?

It’s not an easy question to answer. He has proven that he can be an effective reliever and with the Royals needing to make a move in the standings, they may not be able to stomach many more of his bad starts.

The Royals have two good candidates to take Davis’ spot in the rotation in rehabbing starters Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino. Duffy is further along in his rehab than Paulino, but whenever they are ready they could challenge for Davis’ starting gig.

Both Duffy and Paulino still have hurdles they need to climb before returning to the majors, but once they return it would make sense to move Davis back into the bullpen.

Until they return though, Davis has an opportunity to turn around his season and make a case that he still belongs in the rotation.

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Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays Announce Makeup Date

KCRoyalsPressRelease

KANSAS CITY, MO (June 21, 2013) – The Kansas City Royals announced today that the makeup game with the Tampa Bay Rays, which was postponed due to inclement weather on May 2, has been rescheduled for Monday, August 26 at 1:10 p.m. The game will be carried live on 610 Sports Radio and the Royals Radio Network.

School Day at The K ticket purchasers:

The original School Day at The K pre-game program on Thursday, May 2nd was rescheduled and performed on Wednesday, June 12th.  Any remaining School Day tickets from May 2nd are still good for the official make-up game on Monday, August 26th vs. Tampa Bay.  There will be no pre-game School Day program on Monday, August 26th.   If you are unable to attend the game on Tuesday, August 26th, you can exchange your original ticket from May 2nd to any future Royals home game during the 2013 regular season.

How to Exchange Your Tickets:

If you purchased your tickets from a Royals Group Sales Department and would like to exchange them for the August 26th game or another mutually agreed upon game as a group, please contact your Royals Group Sales representative.

All other May 2nd tickets can be exchanged for the August 26th game or any other regular season home game by visiting the Kansas City Royals Box office to exchange your ticket(s).

Please Note:

All seating is subject to availability at time of exchange.  The Royals will make every effort to provide seating as close to your original seat(s) as possible.  If seats in your seating category are unavailable for your game of choice, the Royals will make accommodate you in comparably priced seats.

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Triple Play: Evan Longoria, Carlos Beltran, Texas Rangers

Welcome to a Father’s Day edition of the Triple Play. This week, we take a closer look at a first-time dad on a hot streak, a team that has picked a bad time to slump, and our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch. Off we go:

EvanLongoria

Who’s Hot?

Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

Longoria, who became a father a few months ago, is on an impressive hot streak. In the past two weeks, the Rays’ leader has slugged five homers, driven in 11, scored 9 runs and batted .333/.375/.725. For the season, Longoria has accumulated 14 home runs, 42 RBI, 46 runs scored, putting him on pace for over 30 home runs, 100 RBI and 100 runs scored – elite numbers from one of the best third basemen in baseball. Thus far, Longoria is slugging a career-best .556, and his park-adjusted OPS+ is a career-best 155. What’s even more impressive is that he has been on this tear while dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot (that same injury has nagged at Albert Pujols for years), which has limited Longoria to designated hitter duties this past weekend. After enduring an injury-shortened 2012, fantasy owners are hoping that the foot pain doesn’t send Longoria back to the disabled list. There was some good news Sunday for Longoria owners (and, really, all fantasy owners): top prospect Wil Myers is finally being called up, presumably to play every day for the Rays. Adding one of the top five hitting prospects in the game should bolster a Tampa Bay lineup that has had trouble scoring runs at times this season. Longoria should see a benefit regardless of whether Myers ends up batting before or after the Rays third baseman.

Who’s Not?

Texas Rangers

How do you know your team has issues? When they’ve been swept by the Toronto Blue Jays. At home. In a four-game series. Outscored 24-4. Shut down by a pitcher who is on his third organization in the past year. That pretty much sums up where the Rangers are after this past weekend. Only a father could love this team right now. Sunday’s loss to Toronto was the Rangers’ sixth loss in a row – all at home. It’s a team-wide slump. A starting pitcher hasn’t won a game since Derek Holland (who was knocked around by the Jays on Sunday) was credited with a win on May 31. Yu Darvish has continued to pitch well, but he hasn’t won a game since May 16. In June, the team is slugging a ghastly .359, with 39 runs scored in 15 games. The team desperately misses first baseman Mitch Moreland, who was hitting .288/.338/.561 with 12 homers and 29 RBI when he was injured. Primary DH Lance Berkman, so good in April, is mired in an awful June, batting just .182/.294/.250 with one home run. Left fielder David Murphy, who was touted by a national baseball writer just last week for always being a “tough out,” has actually been one of the easiest outs in the lineup this month (.143/.250/.265, one home run). Now that the Blue Jays are headed out of town, the Rangers can look forward to their next opponent: red-hot division rival Oakland, which has surged into the division lead during the Rangers’ skid. When the Athletics last visited Texas (just before Memorial Day), Oakland took two of three, but still trailed the Rangers by 5 ½ games. Things will be a little more urgent for the home team this time around.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .232/.286/.357, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 5 SB, 27 runs
Player B: .284/.341/.346, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 1 SB, 8 runs

Player A is Josh Rutledge, recently called back up by the Rockies following the injury to Troy Tulowitzki (more on him below). Player B is utility infielder Jonathan Herrera. Both players have started at shortstop for Colorado since Tulo’s injury. Suffice it to say that they eagerly await the return of their MVP-caliber shortstop.

Player A: 1-1, 6.25 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 24 Ks
Player B: 3-7, 3.79 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 72 Ks

Player A is Matt Garza of the Cubs. Player B is Miami’s Ricky Nolasco. Garza’s stats aren’t very pretty in his five starts since being activated from the DL, but he spun seven shutout innings Sunday against the Mets. Nolasco’s game Sunday was a little more impressive, holding the powerful Cardinal lineup to one run over seven innings to pick up the win. Both pitchers are expected to be dealt before the July 31 deadline. Both pitchers would provide a boost to a pitching-needy team in the playoff hunt (Rockies, Padres, Giants, Yankees, Orioles, Pirates, Diamondbacks). Which pitcher gets traded first? Or will Cliff Lee be dealt before either?

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Adam Wainwright pitched 37 consecutive innings before issuing his first walk of the season. All season long, we are keeping track of how few free passes are handed out by the Cardinals’ ace. After 14 starts, Wainwright has walked nine batters in 103 innings (two intentionally). Twice, he has walked two batters in a start. Each of those games included an intentional walk and the following batter was retired. Those two IBBs have dropped his K/BB ratio a bit, but at almost 11-to-1, he still leads the National League.
  • Thursday, June 13. That’s the date that Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki landed on the disabled list after diving for a routine ground ball and breaking a rib. It’s also the date the Rockies will point to as the date the season fell apart. Or will it be the date that they galvanized themselves to overcome the latest injury to their team leader? Rockies management has raved about the leadership skills of rookie manager Walt Weiss – here is his first big test.
  • Carlos Beltran, 2012: 32 HR, 97 RBI, 83 runs, .842 OPS. 2013: 16 HR, 44 RBI, 34 runs, .889 OPS. If there has been a bigger bargain free-agent signing the past several years, I don’t know who it is.
  • Don’t look now, but the San Diego Padres are above .500 for the first time since the final day of the 2010 season. If Chase Headley ever gets it going, the Padres could challenge for the NL West title.
  • Congratulations to Zack Greinke, who successfully made it through an outing without plunking an opposing batter, being plunked himself, or being body slammed to the field.
  • News: Yovani Gallardo and three relievers combine on Milwaukee’s first shutout of the season Saturday night. Views: the fact that the Marlins, Mets, Astros and Rockies all tossed shutouts before the Brewers this year tells you all you need to know about how hideous their pitching staff is.
  • I know Albert Pujols isn’t the same guy he was when he was with the Cardinals, come on now. Bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, facing Mariano Rivera – that was still must-see TV.
  • Here’s hoping that Rays starter Alex Cobb is able to come back with no ill effects from the line drive that struck him in the head Saturday. It was reported that the ball’s velocity at impact was 102 mph. Absolutely terrifying.
  • Finally, on this day after Father’s Day, a personal note: over the weekend, I played catch with my kids, who are 12 and 10. You always see fathers playing catch with their sons in the movies, but I’m here to tell you that it is every bit as great with daughters.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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

Triple Play: Domonic Brown, Justin Upton, Wainwright Walk Watch

Welcome to this week’s Triple Play. This week, we turn our focus to an outfielder finally meeting expectations, a one-time red-hot slugger who has cooled WAY off, and more – including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch. Off we go:

ChrisDavis

Who’s Hot?

Domonic Brown, Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies finally are finding out what Brown can do for them. In what is becoming a dismal slog of a season in Philadelphia, Brown has been the brightest spot. After a scorching two-week stretch, during which he hit .400/.423/1.060, Brown has taken over the NL home-run lead with 16 (along with 40 RBI). Many fantasy analysts are saying “it’s about time,” but it’s easy to forget that Brown is just 25. During auditions in the 2010-12 season, Brown was never given much of a chance to get comfortable, never compiling more than 212 plate appearances in a season. Here, in early June, Brown has already exceeded that total and has entrenched himself as an everyday player for the Phillies. I do wonder, though, if the power binge is sustainable. Brown became the first player to hit at least 10 homers and draw zero walks in a calendar month. That tells me that the plate discipline isn’t quite there yet. Pitchers will adjust to Brown’s power stroke, and then he will need to adjust to them. Also, Brown has stolen only four bases so far this season. For a player with above-average speed, as Brown possesses, that number needs to improve. However, fantasy owners shouldn’t complain too much yet. This month-long surge has allowed Brown to meet or exceed most season projections for Brown that I have seen. It’s always a welcome surprise for fantasy owners when a late-round pick like Brown can offer them more than they expect. It will be interesting to see how much more he can deliver this season for Phillies fans and fantasy owners.

Who’s Not?

Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves

It’s always hilarious to read baseball articles making “bold” proclamations – in April. I recall one such article, in which Atlanta’s front office was lauded for fleecing the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Justin Upton trade. The article mocked Arizona for trading away a superstar player for what amounted to spare parts. I didn’t agree with that article at the time – and I still don’t. Arizona traded from a position of strength – outfield talent – to shore up areas that were weak (infield, pitching). For the season’s first month, it may have looked like a monumental blunder – Upton smashed 12 home runs and won the NL Player of the Month award, but look now. Upton launched just two long balls in May and has fallen into a ghastly slump. Including his three-hit day Sunday against Washington, Upton has hit only .175 over his past 10 games with no homers, one lone RBI and two steals. He may still be on pace to hit 40+ home runs, but the projected RBI total is now below 90. Stolen bases? Forget them. He’s on pace to pilfer just 12 bases. Are those the numbers of a mega-star outfielder? Arizona obviously didn’t think so. Atlanta fans may have thought they were the beneficiaries of a modern-day Brock-for-Broglio trade, but the numbers say otherwise. Fantasy owners may want to send out some feelers to see what they could get for the junior Upton brother, but don’t sell low. He’s not as good as he was in April, but he’s also not as bad as he was in May.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: ..305/.361/.527, 10 HR, 34 RBI, 38 runs, 0 SB
Player B: .319/.392/.529, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 31 runs, 2 SB

Player A is Evan Longoria of the Rays. Player B is Oakland’s Josh Donaldson. As you can see, their stats are very similar. Longoria, of course, was a high draft pick in fantasy leagues, despite a lengthy injury history. Donaldson was, um, not a high draft pick, due to a history of not being a very effective player. Look at them now. Longoria is on pace for 30 HRs, 100 RBI, close to 100 runs scored – all numbers of an elite fantasy third baseman. Donaldson is on a similar pace in those three categories. Is this to say that Donaldson is Longoria’s equal as a player? Well, no. Longoria has established a track record as one of the best third baseman in either league. Donaldson, however, is in his age 27 season – when many a player enjoys his breakout season (incidentally, so is Longoria). Is it within the realm of possibility that the Donaldson we are seeing now is for real? Sure. It’s also within the realm of possibility (and much more likely) that Donaldson is on an extended hot streak, with a big regression coming. One positive on which to focus is that his walk rate is up, while his strikeout rate is down. That’s a sign of an evolving hitter, one who is providing his fantasy owners with more bang for the buck than Longoria. That is not to say Longoria has been a disappointment. On the contrary, given good health, Longoria could challenge his career-high numbers set in 2009. But fantasy owners paid for Longoria, whether it was with an early draft choice or big bucks at their fantasy auctions. Donaldson has been a revelation for fantasy owners thus far in 2013. The only question is if he will continue to be.

Player A: 17 saves, 31 strikeouts, 2.01 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 12.5 K/9 ratio
Player B: 22 saves, 41 strikeouts, 1.05 ERA, 0.66 WHIP, 14.4 K/9 ratio

Player A is Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel. Player B is Jason Grilli of the Pirates. This is Exhibit A for why you should not use high draft picks or use big auction dollars on closers in fantasy baseball. Kimbrel was the clear-cut top closer (especially in NL-only leagues) coming into the 2013 season. Grilli was handed the closer’s job in Pittsburgh after Joel Hanrahan was traded to Boston. Prior to that, Grilli had a grand total of five saves in his career. So far this season, he is 22-for-22 in save chances, with 41 strikeouts in 25 2/3 dominating innings. Kimbrel, who has saved 17 games for the Braves, was the first closer off the board in two of my fantasy leagues; Grilli wasn’t drafted in my mixed league and was a late-round $1 pickup in the other (not by me, unfortunately). Now, is Grilli going to continue to be this untouchable for the entire season? Probably not. Relievers in their mid-30s don’t generally become shutdown closers. But you shouldn’t dismiss Grilli as a fluke, either. His WHIP and K/9 ratios have been excellent since joining the Pirates in 2011. Kimbrel should continue to excel as a closer, but that’s to be expected by his owners, who paid market value for his services. Grilli was a golden ticket plucked off the scrap heap. Once again, this is why it has become conventional wisdom to say “never pay for saves.”

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: all season long, we are looking at how many free passes the Cardinals’ ace is NOT issuing to opposing hitters. After his most recent gem of a start, a complete-game manhandling of the San Francisco Giants in which he allowed one run and struck out 10, here are Wainwright’s stats: 84 strikeouts, 6 walks, 2.33 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 8-3 record, three complete games in 12 starts. The 14-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is so far beyond ridiculous I can’t even quantify it. He’s on pace to walk 18 batters this season (or, as many batters as Jason Marquis walks in three starts).
  • The American League version of Wainwright is Oakland’s Bartolo Colon. Through 11 starts, Colon has walked only four batters in 11 starts (70 1/3 innings), albeit in about three fewer games than Wainwright. The thing is with the 40-year-old Colon: you just don’t know how much more he has in the tank. Can he hold up, or will he blow?
  • Follow-up to last week’s column: after the Rockies’ painful-to-watch loss to the Giants in extra innings on May 25, on Angel Pagan’s walkoff inside-the-park home run, I noted that Colorado has had a long history of letting such gut-wrenching losses affect them for days. That loss was no exception. The Rockies promptly lost the next game to the Giants (thereby losing the series), then followed that up by dropping three of four to the Quadruple-A Astros. They did manage to take two-of-three from the last-place Dodgers, but lost closer Rafael Betancourt to the disabled list.
  • Some baseball fans and analysts were pretty rough on the Nationals for their extra-TLC approach with Stephen Strasburg last season. Seems to me they should really be on their case this season for their bungled handling of Bryce Harper. After his collision with the Dodger Stadium outfield wall in mid-May, Harper should immediately have gone on the DL to allow his knee to heal. Instead, the offense-starved Nationals kept running him out there in hopes that he could spark the offense. Finally, Harper was placed on the DL last Saturday and we discover that he also was injured in another outfield-wall crash (in April against the Braves). If you’re going to coddle a prized pitcher with innings limits, shouldn’t you also take some precautions with a prized outfielder who is blossoming at age 20?
  • Garrett Jones of the Pirates becomes the second player (and the first in 11 years) to launch a home run into the Allegheny River on the fly. Distance measurement was an estimated 463 feet. Yowza.
  • Speaking of yowza, Chris Davis is on pace for 55 home runs, 150 RBI and 120 runs scored this season.
  • Who am I? I am the only regular active starter in the majors who has more walks than strikeouts. Despite this being only the second season in which I have made more than 6 appearances, I am developing a reputation as a me-first guy on a team that should have no “me” guys whatsoever (as reported by Ken Rosenthal). Who am I? I am Lucas Harrell of the Astros.
  • A day after Shelby Miller and Wainwright absolutely dominated the Giants and swept a doubleheader by a combined score of 15-1, the Cardinals are shut down by 62-year-old Chad Gaudin, who hadn’t started a game since 2009, when he played for the Yankees. Baseball is a really strange game sometimes.
  • As further evidence of this deep observation, I offer you the New York Mets. From the penthouse of a four-game, home-and-home sweep of the Yankees to the outhouse of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Miami Marlins. Gotta be tough to be a Mets fan these days.
  • Josh Hamilton is getting lots nominations for “worst free-agent signing” award. Here’s another candidate: Edwin Jackson. Since signing his $52 million-dollar deal with the rebuilding Cubs, E-Jax has put together a 1-8 record with a 6.29 ERA. The Cubs could have paid someone the major-league minimum salary to do that. I’d be willing to wager that thought has crossed Theo Epstein’s mind a time or two.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Early returns on the Shields trade

This off-season, the Royals wanted to shake things up and they were willing to ship off their top prospect to do so.

JamesShields3

Desperate for proven Major League pitching, Kansas City swung a deal for two quality big league arms. On December 9 of last year, the Royals and the Tampa Bay Rays agreed on a deal that sent James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City in exchange for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard.

Shields and Davis immediately earned a spot in this year’s Royals starting rotation–Shields as the ace and Davis as the third/fourth starter.

Meanwhile, all four players acquired by Tampa Bay would start the 2013 season in the minors.

For Kansas City, this was a win-now move. They believed they had the talent to compete in the AL Central this year and some reliable starting pitching could put them over the top. The Rays, on the other hand, had enough starting pitching and talent on the big league team that they could let the four players acquired in the deal develop in the minors.

It is never too early to examine a big trade like this so let’s dig in and examine how the trade has worked out so far for both teams.

The Royals Righties

Shields has pitched like an ace, though he doesn’t have the record to show for it. After 11 starts, the big right-hander is 2-6 with a sparkling 2.96 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. The Royals haven’t scored many runs for Shields, giving him only 3.39 runs per start and the team is just 3-8 overall in his starts.

On Monday, against a good Cardinals lineup, Shields gave up six runs over six innings, the first time all season he allowed more than four runs.

His numbers this season are consistent with those he compiled in Tampa Bay and his H/9, K/9, HR/9, ERA and WHIP are all better this year than the seven he spent with the Rays.

The only glaring difference is the win-loss record. In seven years with the Rays, Shields pitched to an 87-73 record. The Rays were a much more competitive team than the Royals are this year. As a means of comparison, the Rays gave Shields 4.57 runs of support per game in 2012.

Wade Davis has struggled so far this year, with a 5.71 ERA and a 1.86 WHIP. His record is 3-4 and the Royals are 6-4 in his starts. His numbers are considerably worse than Shields’, yet he has one more win, largely because he is backed by 5.22 runs per game from the offense.

Davis’ numbers are cause for concern for Royals’ fans. As compared to his four years with the Rays, his hits/9 innings has jumped from 8.6 to 12.6. His HR/9 and BB/9 have also increased considerably and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is significantly lower.

Struggling with his control, Davis has walked at least two batters in his last seven starts.

The Rays’ Haul

Wil Myers, the #4 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America, is starting to heat up at Triple-A Durham.

Myers started off the season relatively slowly, but in his past six games he is sporting a .393 average with 5 homeruns, 15 RBI, and a crazy 1.034 slugging percentage.

On Tuesday, Myers blasted two two-run homers, to help the Durham Bulls to a come-from behind win.

Overall, the highly-touted outfielder has a .266 average with 9 HR, 40 RBI and a .346 OBP and .473 slugging percentage.

Given his recent power surge, he may get a call-up from the Rays as soon as the Super Two deadline passes in mid-June.

Jake Odorizzi was recently promoted to the MLB club by the Rays. He started two games and ended up with two no-decisions.

On May 20 against Toronto, Odorizzi pitched five innings, allowing three runs and recording six strikeouts. On Monday against Miami he had a rougher outing, lasting only four innings, giving up six runs while striking out two.

The Rays sent Odorizzi back down to the minors on Wednesday. At Triple-A Durham, Odorizzi, Baseball America’s #92 prospect, has a 4-0 record with an ERA of 3.83 in eight starts. He has 47 strikeouts in 44.2 innings.

Mike Montgomery, a first-round pick by the Royals in the 2008 draft, has battled injuries early this season and, as a result, has made only three starts for Durham. The talented southpaw is 1-0 with a 5.27 ERA in 13.2 innings.
Patrick Leonard currently plays for the Bowling Green Hot Rods of the Midwest League. The infielder is batting .174 with just one homerun and 15 RBI in 43 games.

The Aftermath

There is no question that the Royals gave up an incredible amount of talent in this deal. Myers is one of the top hitting prospects in baseball. Odorizzi and Montgomery have considerable upside, which has left the Rays stacked with young pitching.

The Royals on the other hand are really struggling. The thinking was that the infusion of starting pitching would turn around a middling franchise. They expected the overhauled pitching staff to produce results immediately. They felt the AL Central or one of the two Wild Card spots was there for the taking. However, that optimism has quickly taken a turn for the worse. Kansas City is now 21-29 and has lost eight straight games.

It is still early in the season and things can quickly change for better or worse. The real effects of this trade may not sort out until a couple of years down the line. But the Royals believed this trade would bring instant results and, at this point, that just hasn’t been the case.

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Batter Up: Fans Guide To Spring Training

Batter Up: The Fan's Guide To Spring Training Source: Sports Management Degree Hub

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To Start Or To Relieve: Wade Davis

James Shields was the “big name” in the Shields/Wade Davis trade, but the success or failure of the trade hinges on Davis. Shields is the Kansas City Royals’ ace, but he’s a free agent after the 2014 season. Whether he pitches well or not, it’s likely he’s gone after two years. However, Davis is under team control until 2016. The Royals believe Shields will improve the team now. As for Davis, the Royals believe he will develop into a two or three starter and be a part of the starting rotation the next few seasons.

wadedavis2013springtraining

This spring, the Royals plan to give Davis every chance to make the starting rotation as their 3-4-5 starter. From 2009-2011, Davis started 64 games for the Tampa Bay Rays. But last year, Davis stayed in the bullpen, appearing in 54 games. During Spring Training, the Rays gave Davis a shot as their fifth starter, but he lost out to Jeff Niemann. And when Niemann went down with a broken ankle, the Rays promoted Alex Cobb to the starting rotation, leaving Davis in the bullpen.

So is Davis a better starter, or a better reliever? Let’s see what the stats say:

Year ERA G GS IP ER WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2009 3.72 6 6 36.1 15 1.266 8.2 0.5 3.2 8.9 2.77
2010 4.07 29 29 168.0 76 1.351 8.8 1.3 3.3 6.1 1.82
2011 4.45 29 29 184.0 91 1.375 9.3 1.1 3.1 5.1 1.67
2012 2.43 54 0 70.1 19 1.095 6.1 0.6 3.7 11.1 3.00
4 Yrs 3.94 118 64 458.2 201 1.315 8.6 1.1 3.3 6.7 2.04
162 Game Avg. 3.94 44 24 171 75 1.315 8.6 1.1 3.3 6.7 2.04
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/20/2013.

Davis prefers a starting role, but his stats say he’s a better reliever. He had a much lower ERA, and over nine innings gave up fewer hits and struck out more batters. However, he did walk more batters over nine innings, which isn’t good if you’re a reliever. And with the Rays talented starting rotation last year, Davis stayed in the bullpen.

But how does Davis as a starter compare to the 2012 Royals starting rotation? Here’s the stats of the top five Royals starters:

Rk ERA G GS IP ER WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
1 Bruce Chen* 5.07 34 34 191.2 108 1.367 10.1 1.5 2.2 6.6 2.98
2 Luke Hochevar 5.73 32 32 185.1 118 1.419 9.8 1.3 3.0 7.0 2.36
3 Luis Mendoza 4.23 30 25 166.0 78 1.416 9.5 0.8 3.2 5.6 1.76
4 Jeremy Guthrie 3.16 14 14 91.0 32 1.132 8.3 0.9 1.9 5.5 2.95
5 Will Smith* 5.32 16 16 89.2 53 1.606 11.1 1.2 3.3 5.9 1.79
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/20/2013.

If you take Davis’ worst year, 2011, he had a better ERA than the Royals rotation, save Jeremy Guthrie and Luis Mendoza. The Royals rotation had more SO/9 than the 2011 Davis and except for Mendoza and Will Smith, the Royals rotation had a better BB/9 ratio than the 2011 Davis. If Davis was in the Royals starting rotation last year, he would likely be the number three starter behind Guthrie and Mendoza.

So what does this mean? Well, Davis is a good middle of the rotation starter, but is a better reliever. If Bruce Chen and Mendoza regress, Luke Hochevar pitches like Luke Hochevar and Davis pitches like he did in 2010, he’ll be in the starting rotation. But if Chen, Mendoza or Hochevar have a great Spring Training, Davis might end up in the bullpen.

But that’s not likely, despite what happens this spring. The Royals will give Davis every opportunity to make the starting rotation, just to show the Shields/Davis trade wasn’t a bust like some Royals fans and pundits think it is. If Shields and Davis are starters, the trade doesn’t look bad. The team got two quality starters to improve their rotation. But if Shields is a starter and Davis is a reliever, then the trade looks like the Royals got an ace for only two years and another bullpen arm in an already strong bullpen. Not bad, but not that good either.

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Who Is Number Two In KC Rotation?

The Kansas City Royals took huge measures this offseason to fix their number one on-field issue, the rotation.  The addition of James Shields gave them a legitimate ace pitcher at the front of their rotation.  The rebuilt rotation looks stronger but leaves the question open: Who’s number two?

Rotation

Throughout 2012 the opinion around the Royals fanbase was very similar.  Many people felt that the team was full of pitchers that projected as the fourth or fifth best pitcher in a rotation.  There was no clear cut “ace” nor was there anyone that the fans felt confident in taking the mound to stop a losing streak.  The team had major league quality pitching, it just was not elite.

Dayton Moore seemingly set out to fix that during the end of 2012 and into the offseason.  A three year contract was reached with Jeremy Guthrie, who had pitched very well after joining the Royals during the second half of 2012, and trades were made for Shields, Wade Davis, and Ervin Santana.  The fifth spot is up for grabs this spring and eventually Danny Duffy will join these four to round out the starting five.

Shields obviously will head line the starting rotation for the Royals and is the type of pitcher that would headline most rotations across baseball.  Last year was a team full of rotation guys that projected as four and five starters, this year, it appears that the rotation may be full of guys that are top-three style pitchers.

Looking at the four starters that are set into the rotation this season, where will they rank at the end of 2013?

Wade Davis: Number Four
WadeDavis
Davis has been a solid Major League pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays.  In four seasons he has proven to be a durable starter and a reliable relief pitcher.  The Royals brought him in as insurance and an upgrade over the pitchers they currently had, but he was never projected to be near the top of the rotation.  Davis will provide some inning-eating starts throughout the summer and be serviceable in his role, but ultimately will remain as a lower-rotation starter that may end up back in the bullpen before long if other pitchers are pitching well when Duffy returns.

Ervin Santana: Number Three
MARINEROS-ANGELINOS
Santana is the pitcher that the Royals most hope can realize his potential.  In eight seasons of starting pitching for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Santana has won 16 or more games three times in his career.  He has also lost 12 or more games three times as well.  An up-and-down career has seen moments of brilliance and frustration for Santana.  The Royals will hope that Dave Eiland can work with Santana on mechanical flaws in his delivery and help him regain his top-of-the-rotation form.  Santana should be able to be the number three starter when the smoke clears, though Kansas City may be hoping he is better than that.

Jeremy Guthrie: Number Two
JeremyGuthrie
Looking at past performance of all three starters would rank Guthrie much lower in this conversation.  However, in recent interviews Guthrie has talked very openly about a renewed confidence, a satisfaction with management and coaching and overcoming a mental block that he felt kept him for being a better pitcher in Colorado.  He has spoken to the fact that Kauffman Stadium is a pitcher friendly environment and that he feels that he has one of the best defenses in the league behind him.  The confidence shows in his statistics from last season, with nearly all of his stats showing best in his career type numbers.  He is pitching to contact, keeping the ball in the park, and letting his defense do the work.

By the time the smoke clears on the 2013 season, the Royals will be looking at a rotation that will feature top-tier players at most of the slots.  Jeremy Guthrie has every opportunity to become a great part of that rotation for the next three years.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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