Archive for the 'AL East News' Category



MLB Rumour Round Up – November 19, 2013

A few notable items from around the majors according to MLBTR:

-Josh Johnson has narrowed his decision down to three or four teams, agent Matt Sosnick tells Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and the Pirates are among the finalists. A deal could be done “in the short-term,” Sawchik adds, reminding that Johnson is seeking to rebuild his value on a one-year deal (Twitter links). Last night, Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Johnson reached out to the Padres and Giants early in the offseason to inform the teams that they were his first choice.

Johnson, 30 in January, posted a bloated 6.20 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 81 1/3 innings. Sabermetric stats such as xFIP (3.58) and SIERA (3.73) feel that Johnson was victim to some bad luck, and his .356 BABIP and 18.5 percent homer-to-flyball ratio would back that line of thinking up.

QUICK TAKE: Well what a bust for the Blue Jays.  They got absolutely zero value out of Josh Johnson.  I wouldn’t have offered him the qualifying offer but I really thought he would feel some obligation to give the Blue Jays at least one decent season.  My guess is he bounces back in San Diego in a much better league and ball park.

-The Red Sox have had “serious dialogue” with free agent oufielder Carlos Beltran, hears Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald (Twitter link).  Boston has been said to have interest in the veteran, but the Yankees, Orioles, Royals, Indians, and Mariners are also said to have interest.

QUICK TAKE: Beltran is a player I really wished the Blue Jays were able to sign two years ago however the turf at Rogers Centre played a factor apparently in his refusal to sign with Toronto.  I would still like him as a DH type but probably not for the money he will eventually settle for.

-The Orioles have some interest in free agent right-hander Gavin Floyd and have been monitoring his progress as he recovers from elbow surgery, industry sources tell Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.

-Corey Hart told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (Twitter link) that his agent has talked with the Brewers, Red Sox, Rays, and Rockies amongst other interested teams.  Hart added that he won’t officially get 100% medical clearance until December 3rd when he visits his doctor in Los Angeles, but he’s fully healthy (link).

A Few Thoughts On Jose Bautista For Domonic Brown Rumours

Sometimes a rumor comes out of nowhere and surprises you a little bit.  When I read that the Blue Jays and Phillies were potentially discussing a Joey Bats for Dominic Brown trade (that has since been debunked) my initial thoughts were, “that’s all we could get?”.

Brown is a fine player, only 26 years old and coming off a breakout season where he swatted 27 HRs and slashed a respectable 272/324/494.  Over 139 games Brown had a .351 wOBA and was worth 1.6 WAR.  Pretty solid but I think the notion that he is about to become an ‘elite’ slugger are probably misplaced.

Bautista had another “off” year yet still slugged 28 HRs, slashes 259/358/498 and in only 118 games was worth 4.2 wins.  In other words Bautista is still a monster when factoring offense, defense, arm and positional diversity.  Brown offers little to no defense, can only play left field and isn’t an on-base machine.  Brown also has a pretty one-sided platoon split as he doesn’t hit lefties that well.

Basically, Bautista is still a monster under a reasonable contract and I think the Blue Jays could do  a lot better if they actually were to move him.

Dave Cameron made some great points in his piece today:

A common criticism of Jose Bautista’s future value is that he’s 33 and is trending the wrong way. Both of these statements are true. Over the last three years, Bautista’s wOBA has gone from .443 to .378 to .372, driven primarily by a significant reduction in power; his ISO actually declined for a fourth consecutive year, and has now gone from .357 to .309 to .286 to .239 since the start of the 2010 season. If you just extrapolate the line on its current path, Bautista begins to look much more like like an ordinary player over the next few years rather than the star he has been.

However, extrapolating trends into the future is often completely incorrect, because the reality is that performance often regresses back towards the average of a larger sample performance rather than continuing to move further and further away from a peak. Or, put another way, players who are labeled as “trending downwards” often have a very good performance in their recent history which should continue to inform our opinion of what they will do in the future.

Just like old players can have “fluke” seasons, so can young players, only when a young player has a fluke season, it’s usually called a breakout instead. Maybe Domonic Brown really did take huge sustainable steps forward last year, but history suggests that it’s probably more prudent to expect him to maintain or regress than it is to improve yet again. Just like Bautista shouldn’t be expected to linearly trend downwards, taking Brown’s 2013 performance and forecasting upwards from there is also a mistake.

As stated previously the Jose Bautista rumor season is just starting.  Stay tuned.

MLB Rumour Round Up – November 12, 2013

Here is the latest and greatest from MLBTR, including more action involving the Toronto Blue Jays.

-The Blue Jays‘ priority is improving the rotation, but they’re also keeping an eye out for help at second base and catcher, writes Heyman.  It’s no surprise to hear that they’re interested in Robinson Cano, but his price tag will probably prove to be too much since they need to direct their bucks towards starting pitching.

QUICK TAKE: Never say never but it would be a pretty big surprise if the Toronto Blue Jays actually landed one of the games best overall players.  Saying that the Jays roster has many Dominican connections and stranger things have happened.  If this occurred, WOW.

-With uncertainty over Alex Rodriguez and the future of Robinson Cano, theYankees have contacted free agent Kelly Johnsontweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Johnson has primarily played second base over the course of his career but he also offers experience at left field and saw some time at third base in 2013.

-It’s not a huge surprise, but teams are inquiring on Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (on Twitter).  Whether they are willing to move him is another story.

-Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Beltran are targets 1 and 1A for the Yankees, a person familiar with their thinking tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  Fellow outfielderJacoby Ellsbury sits a hair behind the other two stars.

-Veteran infielder Mark DeRosa is set to retire this offseason, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos tells Shi Davidi of Sportsnet (via Twitter).  Toronto exercised their $750K option on the veteran late last month.  Toronto has confirmed the news via press release.

-The Astros are receiving significant interest in catcher Jason Castro, and interest could pick up once big free agents like Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia go off the board, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  Their interest in trading Castro isn’t known, but Houston is said to like catching prospect Max Stassi very much.  Heyman sees the Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Angels, Rockies, and Twins as teams that could possibly have interest if Castro is on the block.

MLB Rumour Round Up – November 11, 2013

Let’s have a look at the juicier rumours making the rounds on MLBTR.

–The Tigers have told teams that they’re open to trading either Max Scherzer or Rick Porcello, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).  Scherzer has been involved in trade whispers for the last few weeks as the Tigers are considering their options in the event that they can’t hammer out a new deal before he hits the open market after the 2014 season.

-It appears the New York Mets plan to be aggressive and have been linked to Jhonny Peralta, Corey Hart and Curtis Granderson.

The Mets have plans to meet with Curtis Granderson‘s agent this week, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post (on Twitter).  The outfielder is turning down the Yankees’ $14.1MM qualifying offer.

-Just hours after announcing that Joe Mauer will be transitioning to first base full-time in 2014, the Twins have already started looking into out-of-house options at catcher.  Minnesota is showing preliminary interest in free agent Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a baseball source tells Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.

The 28-year-old Saltalamacchia enjoyed his best season in 2013, batting .273/.338/.466 with 14 home runs in a career-high 470 plate appearances.  Not only is he one of the best catchers available, but he is one of the youngest free agents on the market this offseason.

-The Rangers and Cardinals remain strong potential trade partners with the Cards wanting Jurickson Profar or Elvis Andrus and Texas liking Shelby MillerOscar Taveras, and Matt Adamstweets Jim Bowden of ESPN.com.

-Almost everyone sees Robinson Cano staying put with 19 votes for the Yankees, one vote for the Dodgers, and one for the Cubs.  Nearly everyone sees Cano getting a seven- or eight-year deal worth $160MM-$230MM and no one expects him to approach the $300MM figure he was asking for from the Bombers earlier this year.  It should be noted that the GM that picked the Cubs said that he has no inside info to support that pick.

-Nine execs see Masahiro Tanaka landing with the Dodgers while six chose the Yankees.  All but a handful of those surveyed think his payout will exceed the $60MM Yu Darvish got from the Rangers.  Tanaka is ranked as the top available pitcher by MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes.

-When asked to pick the best pitcher between Matt GarzaErvin Santana, andUbaldo Jimenez, ten execs chose Garza.  Most seemed to agree that the lack of quality starting pitching available will lead to all three being overpaid.  One American League scout seemed to like Jimenez on some level but was skeptical of him long-term.  “Ubaldo has the best chance to give you impact in the short term, but I am not buying him over the course of 3-4 years,” the scout said.

-The Orioles are intrigued by free agent starter Tim Hudson and have discussed him internally, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.  The 38-year-old righty fits the Orioles’ profile, and the O’s have Braves connections in recent hires Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti.

AL East Rumour Round Up – November 8, 2013

This is the month that last year Alex Anthopoulos really reshaped the Toronto Blue Jays roster, and it was done pretty much out of the blue.  So expect the unexpected.  However at this time I am not seeing many free agent or trade rumours involving the Jays.  I read the Jays may have interest in Dan Haren, but nothing concrete in terms of an actual offer pending.

Here are a few making the rounds involving AL East teams, as per MLBTR:

-The Yankees are planning to make Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka a “top priority” this winter and are considered the team to beat in bidding for the 25-year-old, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Writes Passan: “If re-signing Robinson Cano is priority No. 1 for the New York Yankees this offseason, securing the rights to Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka is No. 1a.”

QUICK TAKE: I am not convinced Tanaka will warrant Yu Darvish type money that is being rumoured as the starting point to win the posting.  He should be steady but I don’t think his strikeout numbers in the Japanese leagues have looked all that impressive.  I do not see the Jays being in this race.

-Free agent, right-handed starters Ervin Santana and Ricky Nolasco are both looking for five-year deals, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The former hopes to earn a $100MM guarantee, while Nolasco is asking for $80MM, sources tell Rosenthal.

Of course, it is still early, and players’ agents are probably still feeling out how baseball’s revenue increases will translate to free agent dollars. The pair of durable thirty-year-olds, who were born within a day of each other, just put up respective 3.0 fWAR campaigns. For Santana, his 3.24 ERA over 211 innings for the Royals was a marked improvement on a terrible 2012. Throwing for the Marlins and Dodgers, Nolasco’s 3.70 ERA across 199 1/3 innings was his best since 2008. Santana is still weighing a qualifying offer, though there is little doubt he’ll reject it, while Nolasco was ineligible due to his mid-season trade.

QUICK TAKE: Wow.  $100 million for Ervin Santana?  #comeonman

-Multiple reports indicate that the Red Sox are interested in Carlos Beltran, though the extent of that interest is somewhat up in the air. George A. King III of the New York Post reports that Boston is “aggressively” pursuing Beltran but are receiving early competition from the Yankees and Orioles. Elsewhere, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo tweets that the Red Sox do indeed have interest in the eight-time All-Star, but a team source tells him they haven’t been very aggressive to this point.

-Barring a trade of Dempster or Peavy, WEI.com’s Alex Speier figures that the Red Sox will have just over $32MM to spend and still successfully avoid this year’s $189MM luxury tax threshold. That number, theorizes Speier, could be the reason that the Red Sox couldn’t afford to gamble on making qualifying offers to all three of Mike Napoli,Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Saltalmacchia, of course, was the odd man out and didn’t receive a qualifying offer.

-There has been no recent movement in negotiations between the Yankees’ front office and Cano’s representatives, reports Dan Martin of the New York Post (hat tip to Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues). Martin also explains that Cano has yet to get a read on what other teams might be willing to pay.

-If the Yanks lose Hiroki Kuroda and/or fail to land Masahiro Tanaka, power pitchers could make up the backup plan, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman wrote yesterday. Sherman notes Josh Johnson and Dan Haren as possibilities, while his Post colleagueGeorge A. King III says that the club could be in on Ubaldo Jimenez.

Screw Yu Too Koji – How Another Japanese Hurler Got Away

Blue Jays fans will certainly remember the winter and offseason of 2011 when it was announced that Yu Darvish would in fact not be joining the Toronto Blue Jays.  Despite weeks of speculation and the death of one Jays “insider” on Twitter the Texas Rangers came away with Yu Darvish.

The rest as they say is history.

In 378 career MLB innings Darvish has a 3.38 ERA, 3.16 xFIP, 11.1 K/9, 1.16 WHIP and a .204 BAA.  He has been worth 9.4 wins over that same period and to quote the great Homer Simpson on the general feelings of losing out on him “DOHHH”.  Well fast forward to the winter and offseason of 2012 and another Japanese star pitcher slipped through our hands, though this time at the request of the player.

I was excited when I learned the Toronto Blue Jays had landed Japanese reliever Koji Uehara from the Texas Rangers.  I was consequently very disappointed when it was learned Koji would use his no-trade protection to block the move.

The Blue Jays bullpen in 2013 has been very solid and it is doubtful that Koji would’ve made any difference to our playoff chances (unless we landed both he and Darvish) but he is also having one of the greatest seasons a reliever has ever had.

His WHIP currently sits at a ridiculous 0.57 and ERA is 1.08.  Read that again, it is not a typo.  I ran a search at Fangraphs to see who has the best single-season WHIP for a relief pitcher since 1950 (50.0 minimum innings).

Season Player                 WHIP   ERA   FIP   ERA- 
2013 Koji Uehara 0.57 1.08 1.68 26
1989 Dennis Eckersley 0.61 1.56 2.19 43
1990 Dennis Eckersley 0.61 0.61 1.34 16
2012 Craig Kimbrel 0.65 1.01 0.78 26
2008 Mariano Rivera 0.67 1.40 2.03 32
2003 Eric Gagne 0.69 1.20 0.86 30

I know WHIP isn’t a trendy statistic but I really like it as a down and dirty number to see who is effective at keeping runners off base.  Koji Uehara is in some pretty insane company and his overall statistical line is just as impressive.

2013 ERA   WHIP   BAA   K/9   BB/9 K/BB  HR/9  xFIP  WAR 
Koji Uehara 1.08 0.57 .127 12.5 1.2 10.3 0.68 2.05 3.0

Given those insane strikeout numbers coupled with an eye-popping 18% swinging strike rate one would assume that Uehara is a flame-thrower however you would be mistaken.  His average fastball velocity in 2013 is 89.2 MPH and in fact he only throws the heater 46.3% of the time.  The major equalizer and perhaps one of the best pitches in baseball is his splitter, thrown 81.1 MPH and 47.7%.

I wanted to search again on that same list of top WHIP seasons to see if the lack of big time velocity for Koji was indeed an outlier among the top relievers.

Here are the results as per Fangraphs data:

Season Player WHIP FB% (Velo) K% SwStrk%
2013 Koji Uehara 0.57 46.3 (89.2) 39.1% 18.2%
2012 Craig Kimbrel 0.65 67.6 (96.8) 50.2% 19.2%
2008 Mariano Rivera 0.67 82.0 (92.8) 29.7% 12.0%
2010 Joaquin Benoit 0.68 65.0 (94.0) 34.6% 14.8%
2003 Eric Gagne 0.69 55.8 (95.2) 44.8% 22.3%
2007 JJ Putz 0.70 77.6 (94.7) 31.5% 13.3%

First off, I guess steroids can help pitching as much as hitting – look at those Eric Gagne numbers in the absolute prime steroid era.  That 22.3% swinging strike rate is crazy (only Brad Lidge in 2004 – 25.0% is better).

This list does not encompass the hundreds of amazing relief seasons but among the very best WHIP seasons of all-time it is clear that Uehara attacks hitters in a completely different manner.  Koji Uehara trails some of these flame throwers by 5-6 MPH on fastball velocity making his current 2013 campaign that much more special (for me anyway).

While he might not have helped the woeful Blue Jays in 2013 at the very least it would have been fun to see this relief samurai work day in and day out.  I think I can safely say that Koji Uehara would’ve been beloved by Blue Jays nation if only he would’ve given us a chance.

Oh well, at least some of our prospects are working out.   Check out Andrew Stoeten’s latest piece highlighting the Jays system might not be quite as bad as many believe.

Mission ’13: Death Rays and Other Irritants

Game three of the TOR-TBR series was a good one. The starters, Todd Redmond and Chris Archer, pitched exceptionally well, yielding only one run each.  A 1st-inning homer by Evan Longoria was matched by Edwin Encarnacion’s 7th-inning chicken wing. Longoria’s homer was a beaut, but there was some controversy; Edwin hit a mistake pitch by Chris Archer. If you missed this game, do what you can to see a replay of it somewhere, somehow.

One comment by Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler caught my attention. Providentially they made the same comment several times, so I was sure I hadn’t misheard it. The comment was that ‘these teams always play good games against each other; there aren’t any blowouts’. Aside from Tampa dominating the series since 2009, when they finally became a good team, I wasn’t sure what they meant. You know how people are: give them enough time and JP Arencibia will be a shoo-in for Cooperstown. I was reasonably sure that Buck and Pat were ‘mis-remembering’, but I wasn’t positive. That being the case, said I, let’s check.

I keep my laptop in front of me while I follow a game. I don’t know why commentators don’t do it—it’s a great way to check things out between innings, on the fly, or whatever as the game progresses. Anyways, I’m pretty sure that Buck and Tabby don’t do it. So while the Jays and Rays headed into extras in what has been a good series I did some digging.

In 2009, years of futility gave way to an excellent season by the re-christened Rays. It’s as if the name change from Devil Rays to Rays signified a change in franchise fortunes. Joe Maddon was entering his 3rd season as manager, his first 2 seasons having been forgettable. For the most part, the Rays have maintained the level of success they enjoyed in ’09. The Jays, even though they have declined steadily since 2010, have made significant changes on a regular basis that should have put them in the mix. The 2009 season, therefore, became my cut-off point for looking into the head-to-head records.

Including today’s game—Jose Lobaton just hit a walk-off homer against Brad Lincoln in the bottom of the 10th inning—these teams have played each other 88 times since the start of 2009. Tampa has won 60 of those 88 games (.682). That gives us an average head-to-head record of 12-6 in favour of the Rays. The disparity by itself suggests very strongly that blowouts have played a significant role in this match-up. Here’s their head-to-head record since ’09, keeping in mind that this season isn’t finished yet:

Season

Team Wins

Tampa Bay

Toronto

2009

14

4

2010

10

8

2011

12

6

2012

14

4

2013

10

6

Total

60

28

The next problem was how to define the somewhat amorphous term ‘blowout’. I’ve seen a 5-run differential used but I thought a 4-run differential would define our parameters adequately. This isn’t pretty. If you’re a Jays’ fan, you might want to grab some Gravol® or a bucket. Here it is, in all its glory:

Season

Blow out wins by team

Tampa Bay

Toronto

2009

5

2

2010

5

2

2011

4

2

2012

7

2

2013

2

1

Total

23

9

Armed with this information, what am I supposed to think? Since 2009, the Rays and Jays have played each other 88 times and Tampa has won 60 of those contests, leaving the Jays with 28 wins. 32 of those 88 games (36.4%) have been decided by 4 runs or more and several of them have been real laughers for one team or the other. The Rays have blown out the Jays in 23 or their 60 wins, or 38.3% of the time. That’s slightly more often than 3 times every 8 wins, on average. Conversely, the Jays have blown out the Rays 9 times in their 28 wins, or 32.1% of the time. But look at 2012: there were 9 blowouts in 18 games. In other words, half the games were decided by 4 runs or more.  This happened last season, not last century.

This series isn’t “close” in any sense of the meaning. It’s not close geographically. It’s not close historically.  It’s not close financially. It’s not close competitively. When the Rays and the Jays play one another, there’s a really good chance that Tampa will not only win the series, but they’ll blow the Jays out at least once while doing so.

Consider this: in this terribly-lopsided series, where one team wins more than 68% of the time, the dominant team has outscored the subordinate team 460-310. The Rays score an average of 5.23 runs to the Jays’ 3.52 runs. The run differential almost equals half of my somewhat-arbitrary 4-run differential for a blowout.

Maybe Buck and Tabby were simply referring to 2013. After all there have only been 3 blowouts in 2013 with only 2 games remaining against each other this season. Otherwise they need to brush up on their series facts. If the Rays and Jays played each other 162 times, the Rays would win 110 games. That’s how completely they dominate the Jays. This match-up is the exact opposite of what they said: it’s neither good nor close.

Wes Kepstro


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