Showing posts with label Austin Jackson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Austin Jackson. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Random White Sox thought for Wednesday afternoon

Found this tidbit in an article over at

The White Sox have Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Adam Eaton, Carlos Rodon, Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Miguel Gonzalez, Tim Anderson and Nate Jones set to make just $50 million combined for the 2017 season.

Given the production of those nine players, that's an amazing value, is it not? That's what is so aggravating about the Sox's continuing struggles: There is clearly a core of quality players already in place, yet the losing carries on unabated.

The article also notes the $10 million owed to James Shields is the only significant contract liability.

If the Sox opt to try to contend next year -- and I have no reason to believe they won't try -- shouldn't they have plenty of money to spend to supplement this core?

I would think so. Of course, I thought that last year, yet the most significant free agent contract handed out by the Sox was the one-year, $5 million deal signed by mediocre outfielder Austin Jackson.

If the Sox aren't going to rebuild, it's time to stop the excuses and open the wallet already. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Carlos Rodon's disappointing first half ends with a dud; Alex Avila heads back to DL; Chris Sale an All-Star

Carlos Rodon
Carlos Rodon is far from the worst player on the White Sox, but he might be the most disappointing.

Many people, including me, thought the young left-hander was poised for a breakout season after a strong finish to his rookie campaign in 2015. Instead, the first half of this year has represented a step backward.

Rodon was shelled in a 9-0 loss to the New York Yankees on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. He lasted only five innings, giving up a season-high six runs (five earned) on a season-high 12 hits. He struck out just three and walked two. The only inning in which he did not allow a run was the first, and he was fortunate to escape a bases-loaded situation in that inning.

Right now, Rodon is consistently behind in counts. He cannot throw either of his offspeed pitches for strikes consistently. Opposing hitters know the fastball is the only pitch Rodon can get over the plate, and they are feasting on it.

Rodon is going to continue to struggle until he can establish either his slider or his changeup as a pitch that hitters have to honor. In the meantime, his record is 2-7. He hasn't won since May 22. His ERA is up to 4.50, and the Sox are just 5-11 in the 16 games he has started.

Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka silenced the Sox bats Tuesday, so Rodon would have had to have been awful good to have a chance to win this game. However, it's hard for a pitcher to claim non-support when he fails to pitch into the seventh inning and fails to keep his team within striking distance of the opposition.

Avila headed back to disabled list

Sox catcher Alex Avila left Tuesday's game after the fifth inning with a right hamstring strain. Reports after the game indicated Avila is headed back to the 15-day disabled list. This is the same injury that caused Avila to be disabled in late April and into early May.

Avila will have plenty of company on the disabled list, as he joins teammates Austin Jackson, Justin Morneau, Zach Putnam, Jake Petricka, Daniel Webb and Matt Davidson on an increasingly crowded shelf.

The Sox will have to dip into their minor leagues for another catcher before Wednesday's series finale against the Yankees. Kevan Smith (back injury) remains on the DL at Triple-A Charlotte (sensing a theme here?), and the only other catcher on the 40-man roster is recently acquired Alfredo Gonzalez, who is currently in Birmingham and has never played about Double-A.

Omar Narvaez, who was in big league camp during spring training, has been getting the majority of the playing time recently at Charlotte and is another possibility.

Sale headed to All-Star Game

On a brighter note, Sox ace Chris Sale was chosen to represent the American League in the All-Star Game for the fifth consecutive season.

Sale leads the league with 14 wins against just two losses in his 17 starts. He also leads the league in innings pitched (120) and WHIP (0.98) and ranks third with a 2.93 ERA.

It would be surprising if Sale does not get the nod to start the game, although American League manager Ned Yost has not yet announced his decision.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Jose Quintana continues mastery of Blue Jays

Jose Quintana is 3-1 this season.
Something was going to give Wednesday night. The Toronto Blue Jays hadn't been swept at Rogers Centre since Sept. 10-12, 2013. And White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana was 3-0 in three previous starts in Toronto.

As it turns out, Quintana continued his streak, and the Blue Jays' long run of not being swept at home has come to an end.

The Sox left-hander fired six shutout innings in a 4-0 win. Quintana (3-1) struck out a season-high 10 and stranded a Toronto baserunner in scoring position in four of his six innings. He is now 4-0 with 0.68 ERA in four career starts at Toronto. His season ERA is 1.47 -- fourth-best in the AL -- and he has yet to allow a home run in 30.2 innings this season.

Zach Duke, Nate Jones and David Robertson all pitched a scoreless inning to finish the shutout.

Toronto starter Marco Estrada matched zeroes with Quintana through six innings, but the Sox once again broke through in their favorite inning -- the seventh. Dioner Navarro's two-out, two-strike, two-run triple put the Sox ahead and ended Estrada's night. Austin Jackson greeted reliever Jesse Chavez with an RBI triple to complete the three-run rally.

Avisail Garcia's RBI single in the eighth inning tacked on an insurance run as the Sox won their sixth straight and improved to 16-6.

Comings and goings

A few roster moves over the past couple days:
  • Catcher Kevan Smith was placed on the disabled list with a back problem before appearing in a game. The Sox purchased the contract of Hector Sanchez from Triple-A Charlotte. I wouldn't be surprised if Sanchez gets a start Thursday with John Danks on the mound against Baltimore
  • Pitcher Miguel Gonzalez was optioned back to Triple-A Charlotte, and relief pitcher Daniel Webb was recalled.
  • On a sad note, Robertson had a death in his family, and the closer has been placed on the bereavement list, meaning he will be away from the team for 3 to 7 days. Infielder Carlos Sanchez has been recalled to fill that roster spot. Sanchez was off to a good start at Triple-A Charlotte, with a slash line of .309/.356/.469 with three home runs and six stolen bases in 20 games. With Webb being on the roster, the Sox still have seven relievers available for the Baltimore series.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

White Sox add to Minnesota's early misery; Twins drop to 0-7

Minnesota's Kyle Gibson had never lost to the Sox -- until Monday.
I was hoping the Minnesota Twins would win at least one game over the weekend against the Kansas City Royals. Not so much because I wanted the Royals to lose, but more because I didn't want the Twins to enter their three-game series against the White Sox this week winless.

I figure the longer a streak goes -- either a good streak or a bad one -- the more likely it is to end. The law of averages eventually kicks in.

So, I had a little bit of dismay Sunday when the Royals erased a 3-1 deficit in the ninth inning and went on to beat the Twins, 4-3, in 10 innings. That meant Minnesota would enter its home opener Monday against the Sox with an 0-6 mark. The Twins were sending right-handed pitcher Kyle Gibson to the mound. Gibson had a 4-0 career record against the Sox, including a 2.13 ERA.

The Twins were due for a win, and the Sox were facing a pitcher they never hit well. Gulp.

It turns out I had no reason to worry. Jose Quintana outpitched Gibson, and the Sox beat Minnesota 4-1, sending the Twins to 0-7.

This was a methodical win for the Sox, who improved to 5-2. They took the lead early, added to their lead, and then protected it. Brett Lawrie had an RBI single in the second inning. Austin Jackson narrowly missed a grand slam in the fourth -- the ball hooked just foul -- moments before delivering a two-run single up the middle. Todd Frazier's RBI double in the ninth accounted for the final Sox run.

Quintana fired six innings of one-run ball. Matt Albers worked a scoreless seventh. Zach Duke and Nate Jones combined for an easy eighth. Closer David Robertson worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save of the season. For the Sox, that's how you draw it up.

The Twins, however, did not plan on being 0-7 at this stage. Yes, there are 155 games to go, but history tells us Minnesota is a long shot to get out of this hole.

Of the 10 previous teams to start the season 0-7 in American League history, none have recovered to post a winning record, let alone make the playoffs. The 2008 Detroit Tigers started 0-7 and ended up 74-88. No team has ever reached 75 wins after starting 0-7. On average, teams that start 0-7 end up with 60 wins.

There are three teams in MLB history that have started 0-6 and recovered to make the playoffs: the 1974 Pittsburgh Pirates, the 1995 Cincinnati Reds and the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays. All three of those clubs picked up their first win of the season in their seventh game.

Make no mistake, the Twins are still likely to win one soon. Odds are the Sox will not sweep this current three-game set. But even after that first win comes, Minnesota will be fighting history the rest of the way as a result of its historically bad first week.

Friday, April 8, 2016

I went to Opening Day at U.S. Cellular Field, and it snowed

How's this for baseball weather?:

That was the scene at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday before the White Sox's first home game of the season against the Cleveland Indians. The game resulted in a 7-1 Cleveland victory. More on that in minute, but five years from now, when people talk about Opening Day 2016 the main thing they are going to remember was the bone-chilling cold (temperatures in the 30s, wind chills in the 20s) and snow.

It did stop snowing for a little while, and the ballpark looked great for pregame ceremonies:

And, did I mention this new center field scoreboard is awesome?

On the field, there weren't many positives for the Sox, who fell to 3-2 with their worst performance of the season's first week.  We should have seen it coming. John Danks entered Friday's action with a 5-14 record, with a 5.29 ERA, in 26 career starts against Cleveland.

Make it 5-15 in 27 starts.

Danks gave up seven runs, five earned, over five innings pitched. He sucked the life out of the sellout crowd by giving up three runs in the top of the first inning, plus two more in the second. The "here we go again" feeling that was so prominent in the ballpark during these last three losing seasons of 2013-2015 was back again immediately with the Sox down 5-0 an inning and a half into the home portion of the schedule.

There were physical mistakes (Alex Avila's throwing error in the first inning that cost the Sox two runs) and mental mistakes (Avisail Garcia getting picked off first base with runners on first and second and one out, down 5-0, in the bottom of the second inning). There was an alarming lack of offense -- only three hits all day.

Todd Frazier went 2-for-3 with a solo home run, a single and a walk. Beyond that, the only offense was a single by Austin Jackson. This marked the second straight year the Sox were limited to just three hits in their home opener. Last year's 6-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins was utterly forgettable and sadly a predictor of misery to come.

We can only hope today's performance is an aberration and not a foretelling of another bad season on the South Side.

The only other good thing we can say? Well, Dan Jennings and Zach Putnam combined for four scoreless innings in relief of Danks. If not for that, it would have been worse than 7-1.

Without question, this game was one to forget, unless you're talking about the weather.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

White Sox get gift-wrapped win on Opening Day

Chris Sale got the win in Monday's season opener.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said his team's 4-3 win over the Oakland A's on Monday night "wasn't pretty."

In fact, I'd say Oakland gifted the game to the Sox, who were no doubt happy to accept the charitable donation on Opening Day.

The Sox scored all four of their runs on four hits in the third inning, but two costly Oakland errors (and one egregious misread in the outfield) aided the South Siders' cause.

A's starter Rich Hill walked Austin Jackson with one out, and then made an errant pickoff throw that allowed Jackson to advance to third. Oakland center fielder Billy Burns then misplayed a drive off the bat of Adam Eaton into an RBI triple that produced the first Sox run of the season.

Jimmy Rollins singled to score Eaton, and Jose Abreu doubled to give the Sox runners at second and third with one out. Hill rallied to strike out Todd Frazier, and appeared to be on his way to limiting the Sox to just two runs when Melky Cabrera hit a routine grounder to shortstop. However, Oakland shortstop Marcus Semien's throw was high and wide of the bag, and first baseman Mark Canha missed the ball. Rollins scored easily, and Abreu hustled home to make it 4-0.

That's all the Sox would need, but that doesn't mean it wasn't interesting. Ace Chris Sale handed three runs right back to the A's in the bottom of the third inning. It was an odd performance for Sale, who struck out eight over seven innings and got the win. He was his dominant self in every inning but the third:

Sale in the third inning: 1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 Ks, 34 pitches
Sale in all other innings: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 Ks, 70 pitches

The Sox bullpen closed this one out, but not without some drama. Despite having better options available, Ventura used Jake Petricka to start the bottom of the eighth inning, and Petricka walked the leadoff batter, Jed Lowrie. Zach Duke was then summoned to face left-handed hitting Josh Reddick, and he retired him on a comebacker. Finally, Nate Jones came on to retire two hitters with the tying run in scoring position. Jones struck out Khris Davis on a nasty slider to end the frame, leaving fans to wonder why Jones didn't start the eighth inning in the first place.

Closer David Robertson walked the speedy Coco Crisp to lead off the bottom of the ninth, but retired the next three hitters to earn the save. Brett Lawrie made a nice play on a grounder by Yonder Alonso to secure the final out.

Offensively, the Sox knocked Hill out early, but then could not score in 6.1 innings against the Oakland bullpen. Two baserunners were picked off (Eaton in the first, Lawrie in the ninth), and two hitters (Cabrera and Dioner Navarro) popped out on bunt attempts.

By no means was this a clean win for the Sox, but it's a win nonetheless. A year ago, the Sox started the season 0-4, so it's probably a mistake for Sox fans to complain too loudly today as they woke up to a 1-0 record.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Projected White Sox lineup for Monday's opener vs. Oakland

Robin Ventura
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said the lineup he fielded in Tuesday's 6-2 exhibition win over the Texas Rangers would likely be the one he uses Monday when the season opens against the Oakland A's.

If that's true, here is Monday's lineup:

1. Adam Eaton, RF
2. Jimmy Rollins, SS
3. Jose Abreu, 1B
4. Todd Frazier, 3B
5. Melky Cabrera, LF
6. Avisail Garcia, DH
7. Brett Lawrie, 2B
8. Austin Jackson, CF
9. Alex Avila, C

Chris Sale, P

The biggest questions were who Ventura would use at DH, and how he would align his defensive outfield. Clearly, he's going defense-first here, with the weakest defensive outfielder of the four in the lineup (Garcia) serving as the DH. As long as Jackson is playing, he's going to be in center field. That moves Eaton to a corner spot. If Garcia is the DH, that puts Eaton in right field. If Cabrera gets a DH day, expect to see Eaton in left field with Garcia in right.

The Sox broke camp in Glendale, Arizona, with a 15-13-1 Cactus League record. They hit a major-league best 49 home runs and finished with a winning spring record for the first time since 2004.

The South Siders have two exhibition games in San Diego against the Padres on Friday and Saturday before the opener in Oakland.

One thing to watch this weekend: Mat Latos is slated to start Friday after pitching coach Don Cooper said the team needs more from the right-hander, who has a 12.46 ERA in 8.2 innings this spring. Cooper is looking for Latos to be more efficient and pitch deeper into games.

Latos is scheduled to start the fourth game of the season April 7 in Oakland. He's one of the biggest question marks as the Sox head north.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Who takes Adam LaRoche's spot on White Sox roster?

Travis Ishikawa
Adam LaRoche hasn't officially announced his retirement yet, but we'll go ahead and assume he's played his last game with the White Sox.

What impact will this have on the roster moving forward?

For starters, it likely means a full-time role for recently signed outfielder Austin Jackson. The best guess here is Jackson is the center fielder, Adam Eaton moves to left field and Melky Cabrera replaces LaRoche as the primary DH. Here's the current projected starting nine, assuming Jimmy Rollins makes the club -- and we have no reason to believe he won't:

C: Alex Avila
1B: Jose Abreu
2B: Brett Lawrie
SS: Rollins
3B: Todd Frazier
LF: Eaton
CF: Jackson
RF: Avisail Garcia
DH: Cabrera

The four bench spots? Well, I think I have a good idea on three of them:

C: Dioner Navarro
IF: Tyler Saladino
OF: J.B. Shuck
UT: ???????????

With LaRoche out of the mix, the battle is on for the 13th and final position player spot on the roster. The Sox are now without an obvious choice for backup first baseman. Traditionally, they've had Abreu DH once or twice a week for the sake of keeping him healthy over the course of a long season. I would expect that trend to continue, but who plays first base on those days?

Frazier has 83 games of MLB experience at first base, and Avila has 24. Those two are options. Or, will the Sox consider bringing Travis Ishikawa north with the team? Ishikawa is mostly a first baseman, although he's played some games as a corner outfielder. He doesn't have much pop -- only 23 home runs in 1,050 MLB plate appearances -- but he is a left-handed hitter. Left-handedness is something the Sox are lacking in terms of position players.

Jerry Sands has gotten some playing time at first base this spring, and he has some power -- 151 home runs in eight minor-league seasons. But, the 28-year-old fits the profile of a Quad-A player, and he's an outfielder by trade. It seems unlikely the Sox will come north with six outfielders on their 25-man roster. Further, they already have plenty of right-handed hitters.

What about Carlos Sanchez? He's a good infielder and would provide defensive versatility. However, Saladino provides those things, as well, making the two redundant on the roster. I wouldn't expect Sanchez to come north unless the 37-year-old Rollins gets hurt, or the club sours on Saladino for some reason. That seems unlikely, since the Sox spoke glowingly of Saladino's defense all offseason.

Then, there's Matt Davidson. Were you ready to write him off after two bad years at Triple-A? Me too. But, he's opened some eyes this spring. He hit two home runs -- including a walk-off shot -- in Tuesday's 8-6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is hitting .455/.478/1.045 with four home runs and only two strikeouts in 23 plate appearances this spring. That isn't enough to erase the woes of the past two seasons, but Davidson is suddenly worth keeping an eye on, just in case he pulls off some sort of career Lazarus act.

There also are outside-the-organization possibilities. The assorted rumors about Andre Ethier, Carlos Gonzalez and Jay Bruce become a little more plausible, with the Sox in need of a left-handed bat and suddenly having $13 million in unexpected savings.

Or, maybe they'll kick the tires on Justin Morneau, who is still a free agent and has health question marks. Wouldn't it be odd to see Morneau in a Sox uniform, given the mutual hatred that existed between him and the Sox during his Minnesota days?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Jay Bruce and more silly White Sox narratives from Chicago sports media

Jay Bruce
There has been a lot of discussion -- even some this week -- about the White Sox needing to acquire a power-hitting left-handed bat for the middle of their lineup.

I don't disagree with Bruce Levine when he says the Sox could use that piece, but I am unconvinced that Jay Bruce is the right man for the job -- especially considering that the Cincinnati Reds would most likely want the Sox to take on most of the $12.5 million Bruce is owed for the 2016 season in any deal.

Reports outside Chicago, most notably from MLB Network's Jon Heyman, indicate the Sox and Reds have not had any recent talks about Bruce. Heyman reports the Sox are not seeking a starting outfielder after their recent signing of Austin Jackson. I tend to think Heyman is correct.

That didn't stop the Chicago Tribune's David Haugh from adding to the Bruce talk, and in a bizarre twist, Haugh seems to believe the Sox should acquire Bruce with the idea of pushing Adam Eaton to the bench.


Here's what Haugh wrote:

"The broader big-picture question involving Eaton should be what to do with him if the Sox acquire outfielder Jay Bruce, the left-handed power hitter the Reds reportedly want to trade. Several other teams remain interested in Bruce, scheduled to make $12.5 million in 2016, and WSCR-AM 670 reported two top Reds scouts have been regulars at Camelback Ranch. If Sox general manager Rick Hahn can pull it off, Bruce would join former Reds teammate Todd Frazier in the middle of an increasingly dangerous Sox lineup.

"Trading for Bruce to play right field with Jackson in center and Melky Cabrera in left likely would make Eaton a fourth outfielder and part-time designated hitter -- perhaps platooning with Avisail Garcia -- Eaton's ideal role on a contending Sox team. It also would make Eaton's five-year, $23.5 million contract extension signed a year ago all the more baffling. Bruce offers 30 home-run potential, a capable glove and an expiring contract, which Hahn appears to be collecting."

Again, what? 

I'm not sure if Haugh is expecting us to take this narrative seriously, but let's humor him with some player comparisons. Tell me which of these four 2015 statistical profiles you like best:

Player A: .267/.311/.385, 2.3 fWAR
Player B: .287/.361/.431, 3.6 fWAR
Player C: .226/.294/.434, 0.1 fWAR
Player D: .273/.314/.394, -0.3 fWAR

So, what's your verdict? Who's the best player in the bunch? You gotta go with Player B, right?

Player B has the highest batting average, the highest on-base percentage, the second-highest slugging percentage (only .003 behind Player C) and the best fWAR.

Mr. Haugh might be interested to know that Player B is Eaton, the guy he thinks belongs on the bench.

For the record, Player A is Jackson, Player C is Bruce and Player D is Cabrera.

Eaton, to me, is the third-best positon player on the Sox, behind only Jose Abreu and Frazier. I look at him as a core player, and I can't see any rational baseball reason for him to be displaced from the lineup for a player such as Bruce. Play Eaton wherever you want in the outfield, but he and his .361 on-base percentage need to be at the top of the lineup for the Sox this year. There is no question about that.

Haugh wrote that, "this week's discussion over where incumbent center fielder Adam Eaton plays was cute," and I'm not sure what he means by that.

I'm not being cute at all when I tell you that some members of the Chicago sports media would be well-served to do a little research and maybe watch a few White Sox games before they sit down at a computer and offer their "opinions" about the team.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Austin Jackson agrees to one-year contract with White Sox

Austin Jackson
The White Sox moved to bolster their outfield depth Sunday, signing veteran Austin Jackson to a one-year contract worth $5 million.

Jackson, 29, posted a slash line of .267/.311/.385 with 9 home runs, 48 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 136 games split between the Seattle Mariners and Cubs last year. He's a career .273 hitter, but I don't think offense is the reason the Sox acquired him.

The projected outfield of Melky Cabrera in left field, Adam Eaton in center and Avisail Garcia in right is a subpar one defensively. Jackson will be the best fielding outfielder on the roster the minute he walks through the door. Jackson has produced 49 Defensive Runs Saved in six seasons in center and has a career Ultimate Zone Rating of 11.8 there, according to

Accordingly, Sox GM Rick Hahn has indicated Jackson will spend most of his time in center field.

“Most of, if not all of, Austin’s time will come in center,” Hahn told beat writers, including Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. “Obviously, a high quality defensive player out there and a lot of his value comes from having him in that spot. As I talked about with Adam Eaton at the end of last season and a couple times over the offseason and once again this afternoon, we also view Adam as a very fine defensive center fielder. He was one of the three finalists for the Gold Glove in 2014 out there and we think we’re stronger certainly from a defensive standpoint when we have both Adam and Austin out there in that same outfield. Adam’s expressed a willingness to do whatever we feel makes the most sense on a given day to win a ballgame whether that’s playing center field for Adam or DHing or being on one of the corners.”

Eaton remains the third-best position player on the Sox's roster -- behind only Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier -- so there is no chance he'll be displaced in the lineup by Jackson. If the plan is to play Jackson in center field and move Eaton to a corner outfield spot, that creates a logjam for Cabrera, Garcia and incumbent DH Adam LaRoche. Only two of those three players can be in the lineup if Jackson is in there.

Against left-handed pitching, LaRoche is certainly the odd man out -- the veteran hit just .157 with a .383 OPS against lefties last year.

Meanwhile, Jackson has been a solid bat against left-handed pitching over the past two seasons:

vs. LHP: .290/.345/.408
vs. RHP: .248/.293/.344

It seems like a pretty obvious move that Jackson plays center field against lefties, Eaton moves to right field, the weak-fielding Garcia is relegated to DH duties, and LaRoche goes to the bench.

The more interesting question is what the Sox will do against right-handed pitching. The splits show Jackson is not a good hitter against righties, but will his strong defense be enough for him to be in the lineup every day regardless? We'll assume the highly paid LaRoche will DH against righties, like it or not.

That leaves either the veteran Cabrera or Garcia as the odd man out. Would the Sox allow the 24-year-old Garcia to wither away on the bench? Will they send him to Triple-A Charlotte? Or might they give up on him entirely and trade him? It's a story to follow as the spring moves along.

With Jackson's addition to the 40-man roster, third baseman Mike Olt has been designated for assignment. No surprise there.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Top five remaining free agents going in to March

David Freese
As the calendar turns to March, there are no more remaining free agents who turned down a qualifying offer earlier in the offseason. However, that does not mean there are no decent players left on the market.

Sure, all the high-impact guys have signed now, but there still are some free agents out there who can provide value to a team in the right situation. Here's the complete list of players still available, and let's take a more detailed look at the best of the bunch:

1. David Freese, third baseman -- Freese will turn 33 in April and he's now four years removed from his 20-home run campaign with the Cardinals in 2012, but you would think Freese would have a job by now given that third base often is a hard position for teams to fill. The veteran posted a .257/.323/.420 slash line last year with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs in 121 games with the Los Angeles Angels. I'm a little bit surprised Freese hasn't landed back with the Angels. The Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians also would be good fits.

2. Pedro Alvarez, first baseman/designated hitter -- I can't blame the Pittsburgh Pirates for cutting ties with Alvarez. He's a low-average guy and a lousy fielder, and that makes it hard to justify the eight-figure salary he likely would have gotten in arbitration. Alvarez is a career .236 hitter, and he's struck out at least 118 times in each of the past four seasons. However, during that same span of four years, he has hit 101 home runs -- so about 25 a year. He has value as a designated hitter and fallback option at first base for an American League club. New York? Houston? Cleveland? Maybe Boston if the Red Sox get sick of the Hanley Ramirez show?

3. Austin Jackson, outfielder -- Jackson is a strong defender at any of the three outfield spots, and he has experience, having started in center field for a contending Detroit Tigers team from 2010 through the middle of 2014, when he was traded to the Seattle Mariners. Jackson just recently turned 29, but his OPS of .655 in 2014 and .696 in 2015 seems to be giving potential suitors pause. Jackson's OPS during his time in Detroit was .755, but he's taken a turn for the worse lately. The Angels have a gaping hole in left field, but reports indicate Jackson turned down their one-year offer. Baltimore could be a fit after the Orioles struck out on Dexter Fowler. He also could land in the AL Central, where the Indians, White Sox and Royals all could use some outfield insurance.

4. Matt Thornton, relief pitcher -- Thornton is entering his age-39 season, and his elite years with the White Sox from 2008 to 2010 are past. That said, Thornton still was a competent reliever with the Washington Nationals last year. He posted a 2.18 ERA in 60 games and limited left-handed hitters to a .198/.205/.279 slash line. In today's matchup-obsessed game, you would think some team would want a left-handed reliever who can retire left-handed hitters, no matter the age of that pitcher. There are worse left-handed relievers on MLB rosters than Matt Thornton, that's for sure. Thornton has said he is waiting for a team to show "serious" interest in him. I read that as teams have offered him a minor-league contract and an invitation to big-league camp, but he doesn't want to sign unless someone offers him a major-league deal.

5. Tim Lincecum, pitcher -- The 31-year-old is now seven years removed from his back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009, and he's coming off an injury that limited him to 15 starts last year, when he went 7-4 with a 4.13 ERA with the San Francisco Giants. Supposedly, at least 20 teams have requested Lincecum's medical records, so proving he's healthy would likely lead to a contract offer. At some point in the near future, Lincecum is going to hold a showcase for teams. The Detroit Tigers will be there. Other interested clubs reportedly include Miami, Baltimore and San Diego.

Honorable mention, Ryan Raburn, outfielder -- The Giants are reportedly interested in the White Sox killer, and if you're a Sox fan like me, you're just praying that some team in the National League takes Raburn out of your sight. Raburn had eight home runs last season -- three against the Sox -- and 29 RBIs -- seven against the Sox. Twenty of his 82 career homers are against the Sox, as are 82 of his 322 career RBIs. Eighty-two RBIs against the Sox! His next highest totals are 12 home runs and 25 RBIs against Kansas City. Somebody make it stop.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Denard Span agrees to terms with Giants; outfield market starts to move

Denard Span
Now that Alex Gordon has re-signed with the Kansas City Royals, maybe we'll see some of the other free-agent outfielders come off the board this weekend. There was more movement Thursday, as the San Francisco Giants agreed to terms on a three-year, $31 million deal with veteran outfielder Denard Span.

Hip surgery limited Span to 61 games last year, but he did hit .302 with a league-leading 184 hits for the Washington Nationals in 2014. If healthy, he's a good fit in San Francisco. He'll bat leadoff and play center field, and the Giants can move the oft-injured Angel Pagan over to left field -- and allow Gregor Blanco to slide into the fourth outfielder role, which is where he belongs. With Hunter Pence in right field, San Francisco appears to be in good shape in the outfield.

Other teams, including the White Sox, Baltimore, Detroit, Texas and L.A. Angels, still could use some outfield help, and there remain plenty of useful players on the market.

Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton are the most attractive options for teams seeking an outfielder, but even with Span off the board, there are a few other decent second-tier guys available, including Dexter Fowler, Gerardo Parra and Austin Jackson.

According to a tweet from USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Sox have not changed their stance on free-agent outfielders: They aren't willing to go beyond three years on a contract length for any of these guys. We have no way of knowing whether that's true, or just posturing, but it would be my speculation that the Sox aren't going to land Cespedes or Upton if they are unwilling to give at least a fourth year.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Oakland, Detroit, St. Louis biggest winners at trade deadline

If there's one thing we learned at the MLB trading deadline, it's that GMs believe front-line starting pitching wins in the playoffs. On Thursday, we saw three contenders make bold moves to solidify their respective starting rotations for the stretch drive.

Oakland, Detroit and St. Louis were each willing to include established major-leaguers in trades in order to acquire the front-line starters they coveted. All three of those teams now have a better chance to get to the World Series and win it than they did just 24 hours ago.

Thursday's frenzy started with a blockbuster deal between Oakland and Boston. The Red Sox sent ace pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes to the A's in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.

My initial reaction to this move was shock. How often do you see the cleanup hitter on the team with the best record in baseball (Cespedes) moved at the trading deadline? But the more I thought about this deal, the more I liked it for Oakland.

Cespedes is a big media name and a dangerous hitter, but he's not a great hitter, as his so-so .256/.303/.464 slash line will attest. From the seventh inning on, Cespedes has a slash line of .191/.236/.330 this year. This tells us there are plenty of ways to get him out with the game on the line. Opposing managers can bring in that power right-handed reliever to shut down Cespedes in the late innings. You don't have to fear him. You can pitch to him.

No doubt Oakland GM Billy Beane knows this, and that's why he was willing to part with Cespedes -- especially when the return is a legitimate ace with tons of postseason experience in Lester, who possesses a lifetime 2.11 ERA in the playoffs. During the Red Sox' run to the championship last year, Lester went 4-1 with 1.56 ERA in five starts. His only loss was a 1-0 defeat.

Lester is a money pitcher, and the A's are October ready with him, Jeff Samardzija, Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir in their rotation.

Beane's big move put the pressure on Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski to respond. Respond he did, acquiring Tampa Bay ace David Price just minutes before the trading deadline.

The Tigers paid a price, though, in the three-team swap. The deal cost them two players off their 25-man roster. Center fielder Austin Jackson is now a member of the Seattle Mariners. Left-handed starting pitcher Drew Smyly is now with Tampa Bay.

In a bizarre scene Thursday, the game between the Tigers and the White Sox had to be halted mid-inning so Jackson could be removed from center field at 3:56 p.m. EDT -- four minutes before the deadline.

Jackson is an inconsistent hitter, but make no mistake, the Tigers will not be able to replace his defense in center field. Who is going to play center field in Detroit now? Rajai Davis? Will they ask Torii Hunter to turn back the hands of time and move from right field to center? I don't know.

Maybe the Tigers are hoping fewer balls get hit into the outfield with the addition of Price.

There's no denying Detroit has a monster rotation now: Max Scherzer, Price, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez. The first three on that list are former Cy Young award winners. Think they may be tough to beat in a short series?

Yeah, even with the hole in center field, I think so.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals made the boldest move among National League teams. On Wednesday, they added Justin Masterson to their rotation. They followed that up Thursday by acquiring John Lackey from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for pitcher Joe Kelly and outfielder Allen Craig.

I like this trade for the Cardinals. Lackey has some age on him -- he's 35 -- but he's another guy who shines on the postseason stage (3.03 career ERA in 19 games). St. Louis knows that well, since Lackey shut the Cardinals down in the clinching game of the World Series last October.

Craig and his .237/.291/.346 slash line will not be missed in St. Louis, especially since his departure creates an opportunity for top prospect Oscar Taveras to play every day in the outfield.

Injuries have limited Kelly to seven starts this year. I suspect his 4.37 ERA and 1.457 WHIP also will not be missed in St. Louis.

Even if the Cardinals don't get Michael Wacha back, they have a front four of Adam Wainwright, Lackey, Masterson and Lance Lynn in their rotation. I don't think it makes them the favorite in the National League, but they would at least have a fighting chance in a short series against Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Their chances are certainly better now than they were before these deals.

There were several other deadline deals made on Thursday. We won't analyze all of them. This blog is already long enough. You can find a list of other trades here.

We'll wrap it up by saying Oakland, Detroit and St. Louis were the biggest winners at the deadline. Who will be the biggest winner on the field? We'll find out between now and late October.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

So, trading for Max Scherzer worked out well for the Tigers

I often say it's hard to make snap judgments when a trade is made. You often need three or four years before you can decide whether a particular deal is good or bad for the parties involved.

It's now been four years since the Detroit Tigers acquired right-hander Max Scherzer as part of a three-team deal with the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Arizona gave up Scherzer in that trade, and I'll bet that's a move they still lament to this day. On Wednesday, Scherzer was named the Cy Young Award winner in the American League by a landslide. He received 28 of the 30 first-place votes.

Scherzer, the lone 20-game winner in baseball this year, finished the season 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA for the AL Central champion Tigers. He easily outdistanced second-place finisher Yu Darvish in the voting.

Let's go back and look at that trade from December of 2009.

The Tigers traded pitcher Edwin Jackson and outfielder Curtis Granderson and received Scherzer, outfielder Austin Jackson and relief pitchers Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth.

The Yankees dealt pitcher Ian Kennedy, Coke and Austin Jackson and acquired Granderson.

The Diamondbacks gave up Scherzer and Schlereth and got Edwin Jackson and Kennedy.

If you're an Arizona fan, are you gagging yet?

Edwin Jackson had a brutal year for the Diamondbacks in 2010. He's played for three teams since. Currently, he's the Cubs' problem. Kennedy did have a couple good years in Arizona, including one very good year in 2011, but he's since fallen on hard times. The Diamondbacks traded him to San Diego for spare parts and future considerations in a midseason deal this past summer.

Likewise, the Yankees got a couple good years out of Granderson, but he had an injury-plagued 2013. He's a free agent this offseason and is likely headed elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the Tigers got a legitimate top-of-the-rotation starter in Scherzer and a leadoff hitter and top-notch center fielder in Austin Jackson.

Shrewd move by Detroit. The Tigers have made more good moves than bad over the last five years, and that's why they go to the playoffs every season.

Kershaw wins NL Cy Young

The National League Cy Young Award voting was also one-sided. Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw was a slam-dunk choice, earning 29 of 30 first-place votes.

Kershaw finished 16-9 for the NL West champions, and his 1.83 ERA was the best mark by any qualifying pitcher in the last 13 years.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Detroit roughs up Jake Peavy, evens up ALCS

With his team trailing 2-1 in the ALCS coming into Wednesday night's Game 4, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland shuffled his lineup.

He moved Torii Hunter into the leadoff spot, moved Miguel Cabrera into the No. 2 hole and dropped the slumping Austin Jackson from first to eighth in the batting order.

Was it the right move? Well, you can't argue with Wednesday's results. The aforementioned three Tiger hitters combined to go 5 for 11 with six RBIs as Detroit defeated the Boston Red Sox 7-3 to tie the best-of-seven series at 2-all.

Detroit roughed up Boston starter Jake Peavy, scoring five runs in the second inning and two more in the fourth to take a commanding 7-0 lead it would never relinquish.

I think, though, that the success of Leyland's lineup shuffle was more of a coincidence than anything else. Quite simply, Peavy had a horrible game. I've watched most of the right-hander's starts over the last four years, and normally his strikeout-to-walk ratio is around 4 to 1. On this night, Peavy uncharacteristically walked three batters in the fateful five-run second inning alone, including a bases-loaded free pass to the struggling Jackson. Peavy had no command of the strike zone whatsoever.

I'm not really sold on the idea that the Tigers are out of their slump now. I think they were the fortunate beneficiaries of a terrible performance by a starting pitcher who is normally pretty good.

We'll see what happens in Thursday's Game 5. If Detroit cuffs around Boston ace Jon Lester, then I'll be convinced that Leyland's lineup juggling has actually made an impact.

Dodgers stay alive in NLCS

Speaking of offensive breakouts, Los Angeles finally got its bats going with four home runs Wednesday in Game 5 of the NLCS. Adrian Gonzalez homered twice, while Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis also went deep as the Dodgers stayed alive with a 6-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals still lead the series, 3-2, and the scene shifts back to St. Louis for Game 6 on Friday night.

Despite all the home runs, the most critical moment of this game came in the top of the first inning. The Cardinals loaded the bases with nobody out, but failed to score after Los Angeles pitcher Zack Greinke struck out Matt Adams and induced Yadier Molina to ground into an inning-ending double play. The Dodgers were one mistake away from finding themselves in a big early hole in an elimination game. Instead, they got out unscathed, and you had it feeling it was going to be their day from that point forward.

Los Angeles will send its ace to the mound in Game 6. Clayton Kershaw will try to lead the Dodgers to a series-tying victory. His mound opponent will be Michael Wacha in a rematch from Game 2, which Wacha won 1-0. Should be another great pitching matchup in a postseason full of them.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Chris Sale vs. Max Scherzer

I've said it many times: I'm a bad American. I often don't care about things other Americans care deeply about. And no matter what ESPN says, I can't get excited about a supposedly critical early-season NFC East matchup.

Instead, my eyes were cast toward U.S. Cellular Field on Monday night as the two best pitchers in the American League this year went head-to-head.

White Sox left-hander Chris Sale struck out eight over eight innings and allowed just a solo home run to Victor Martinez and four hits to lead the South Siders to a 5-1 win over the Detroit Tigers and right-hander Max Scherzer (pictured).

Sale's strikeout of Austin Jackson to end the third inning was his 200th of the season. He became the first pitcher in Sox history to record 200 strikeouts before hitting the 200-inning plateau. Previously, Javier Vazquez was the fastest Sox pitcher to 200 Ks in one season. Vazquez recorded his 200th strikeout of the 2007 season in his 207th inning. Sale got there in just 190.2 innings.

This was not a good night for Scherzer (19-3). For the third consecutive start, he was denied in his bid for his 20th victory. He allowed five runs (four earned) and needed 90 pitches to get through four innings. By the fifth inning, he had been removed from the game.

That said, Scherzer is still going to win the Cy Young Award in the American League this year. His team is in first place, and how can you argue with a 19-3 record? He's been awesome. But if you look at the statistics as a whole, the only category Scherzer has a significant advantage over Sale in is the won-loss column. Sale is just 11-12 because, well, the White Sox stink. Sale has posted a quality start in seven of his 12 losses. If he had a real team behind him, he'd have 18 or 19 wins, too, and we'd have a neck-and-neck race for the Cy Young. Let's look at some of the other stats besides the won-loss record:

Sale's ERA is 2.90; Scherzer's is 3.01.

Sale has four complete games this season; Scherzer has none.

Sale has a shutout to his credit; Scherzer does not.

Sale has thrown 195.2 innings; Scherzer has pitched 194.1.

Scherzer has 215 strikeouts; Sale has 207.

Scherzer's WHIP is 0.962; Sale's is 1.037.

Scherzer strikes out 10.0 men for every nine innings pitched; Sale fans 9.5 for every nine innings pitched.

Sale's K/BB ratio is 5.05; Scherzer's is 4.48.

These two men have similar numbers in every category except one: wins and losses. They have both been just outstanding. Scherzer will get to show his stuff in the postseason again this October. It is too bad Sale's brilliant season has gone to waste on the 2013 White Sox.