Archive for July, 2011

Boston Fortifies Rotation With Bedard

For many pundits, the Boston Red Sox were the clear best team in baseball this year. Ever since a 2-10 start, the Sox have won over two-thirds of their games, with a stellar 64-30 record. They lead the American League in both actual record and first-order (Pythagorean) record, and their 67.8-37.2 third-order record is a full two games clear of the Philadelphia Phillies.

But even the best teams are rarely without weakness, and with Clay Buchholz’s status uncertain, the Red Sox found themselves with some shallowness in their rotation. Sure, John Lackey, Andrew Miller, and Tim Wakefield would have no problem bringing an offense with as much firepower as Boston’s to the playoffs, particularly with an 8.5 game lead on Los Angeles for the Wild Card if they can’t hold their 2 game lead on New York in the East. But in the playoffs, the Red Sox will have to get by potent offenses such as the Yankees and the Rangers, and with Lackey and Miller as the third and fourth options out of the rotation, the Red Sox had a clear need to upgrade.

Upgrade they did, as the Red Sox pulled a three-way deadline deal to add Erik Bedard from the Mariners. To swing the deal, the Red Sox sent prospects C Tim Federowicz, RP Juan Rodriguez and SP Stephen Fife to the Dodgers in order to acquire OF Trayvon Robinson, who was then flipped along with OF Chih-Hsien Chang to the Mariners, bringing RP Josh Fields back as well as Bedard.

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Adams Joins Reformed Rangers Bullpen

After weeks of rumors about the Padres and Rangers being engaged in talks for closer Heath Bell, the teams pulled off a deal… involving setup man Mike Adams.

The Rangers, fresh off of acquiring Koji Uehara on Saturday, sent pitching prospects Robert Erlin and Joseph Wieland to San Diego to bring aboard arguably the best non-closing relief pitcher in the game. Since joining the Padres in 2008, Adams has thrown 217 innings with the following pertinent numbers: 137 (!) hits, 10.0 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.90 WHIP, 1.66 ERA and 2.48 SIERA. He ranks towards the top in each of those categories, and his 5.2 WAR in the span is the highest among setup men and middle relievers in the National League, and second to Matt Thornton across both leagues.

Simply put, Mike Adams is one of the very best relievers in baseball, regardless of whether or not he closes out the ninth inning, and was the top reliever on the market. Right behind him was Uehara, who has been equally filthy over the last two seasons. In acquiring both pitchers, the Rangers fixed a significant deficiency: the bullpen.

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Cardinals Add Furcal to Mix

In an effort to sure up their interior defense, the St. Louis Cardinals agreed to a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, bringing Rafael Furcal back east in exchange for Double-A outfielder Alex Castellanos. The trade was first reported last night, but could not be made official until Furcal – a 10/5 player – waived his no-trade clause to complete the transaction.

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Pirates Add To Outfield With Ludwick

At the outset the Pirates had a solid plan in the outfield. They flanked superstar center fielder Andrew McCutchen with young up-and-comer Jose Tabata in left, and a platoon of Garrett Jones and Matt Diaz in right. It might not have been the heaviest-hitting outfield combination in the league, but it didn’t appear to be a problem area, either. Since then those plans have hit a few snags. Tabata hit the DL, Jones failed to produce even one batting run above average in the first four months, and Diaz has been an unmitigated disaster at the plate. Rookie Alex Presley helped for a while, but he, too, hit the DL. Their need for outfield help persisted until a few minutes before today’s non-waiver trade deadline, when they acquired Ryan Ludwick from the Padres for a player to be named later.

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Oakland Uses Brad Ziegler to Free Brandon Allen

The Athletics traded a reliever and got back a young player that, despite his struggles to date, already has shown more power than anyone on the Oakland roster not named Josh Willingham. Yes, they used Brad Ziegler to (hopefully) free Brandon Allen.

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Bourn Seeks Playoff Identity In Atlanta

The Braves finally got in on one of the most active trade deadlines in recent memory Sunday morning, when they acquired Michael Bourn from the Astros. In doing so, the Braves were able to part with quantity over quality and get a guy who perfectly fits their ballclub.

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Giants Acquire Orlando Cabrera

Not content with Jeff Keppinger and Carlos Beltran as trade deadline acquisitions, the San Francisco Giants added veteran middle infielder Orlando Cabrera to the mix. In exchange for Cabrera, the Giants sent 23-year-old outfielder Thomas Neal to the Cleveland Indians – who had little use for Cabrera after Jason Kipnis was promoted.

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Pirates Acquire Derrek Lee

Just hours after acquiring their potential first baseman of the future (Chris Davis), the Baltimore Orioles shipped off their first baseman of the present – Derrek Lee – to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for yet another young first baseman in Aaron Baker. Selected in the 11th round of the 2009 draft, Baker has produced above-average offensive marks since turning pro. Meanwhile, his age (23) and his level (A+) probably give him an advantage. Although Baker may never turn in to anything more than an organizational soldier, his power potential is worth taking a shot on; especially since the 35-year-old Lee is not in Baltimore’s post-2011 plans.

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Why Did the Rockies Trade Ubaldo?

The Rockies and Indians finalized a deal Saturday night that sent ace Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland in exchange for prospects Alex White, Joe Gardner, Matt McBride and Drew Pomeranz. The rumors swirling around Jimenez were strange from the start, since a team in the Rockies position usually looks to acquire pitchers of that ilk rather than deal them away. However, after learning of the exact return package and assessing the state of the Rockies organization, dealing away Jimenez made more sense than it originally seemed, and might benefit the team more over the next few years.

In Jimenez, the Rockies had a very valuable trade chip if he was ever to be made available. He tallied about 4.5 WAR in 2008, and then sat right around 6 WAR in both 2009 and 2010. Cost-controlled pitchers with that type of resume just aren’t generally made available, since those are the pitchers teams try to build around, not without. Jimenez is currently signed to a four-year, $10 million deal that expires in 2012, with club options for $3.75 million in 2013 and $8 million the very next season. By virtue of his contract, however, he can void the 2014 option if traded.

In spite of the cost control, if a great deal of the budget is already committed and the top prospects within the system — who were going to be relied upon to contribute in the major league rotation before 2013-14 — weren’t developing up to expectations, then there isn’t a whole lot to actually build with. By trading away Jimenez, the Rockies basically admitted one of two things, if not both:

1) They were bearish on Jimenez’ ability to ever reach that 5+ WAR area again
2) They have soured on farmhands like Christian Friedrich and Tyler Matzek, who haven’t developed the way the organization envisioned

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Jimenez Makes Playoffs More Realistic in the Cleve

When authors for, and readers of, FanGraphs gathered at Goodyear Park in Arizona this past March for a panel that included Chris Antonetti, it was apparent that, while the Cleveland GM had legitimate optimism regarding the club’s future, his expectations for the 2010 season were more muted.

Nor would anyone begrudge him this: the team’s two most well-compensated players (Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner), each contending with lingering injuries, had combined for fewer than two wins in 2010. Hitting prodigy and 2010-callup Carlos Santana’s season had ended abruptly with a home-plate collision and subsequent knee surgery (particularly discouraging for a catcher); and the No. 1 starter for the team, Fausto Carmona, was probably more of a No. 3 or 4 starter for a contender. Really, Shin-Soo Choo appeared to be the only thing which one might call an “impact player.”

That, less than five months later, Antonetti and Co. would be making a deadline deal with a view towards securing a postseason berth, seemed improbable.

In fact, that’s precisely what’s happended, as, last night, Cleveland acquired Colorado ace Ubaldo Jimenez from the Rockies in exchange for minor-league pitchers Joe Gardner, Drew Pomeranz, and Alex White and catcher/first base-type Matt McBride.

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