Showing posts with label David Price. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David Price. Show all posts

Friday, October 6, 2017

Chris Sale gets rocked in first career postseason start

Chris Sale
Chris Sale spent more than six years in a White Sox uniform and made five All-Star appearances. There are few complaints one could make about his performance on the South Side, but if there is one, it would be this: Sale fades at the end of seasons.

Sale, who was traded to the Boston Red Sox last offseason, always has been strong out of the gate, and that's one reason he's always on the mound for the American League in the All-Star Game. But it's no secret September is the month when he's most prone to having some struggles.

Here are Sale's career ERAs by month:

April: 2.91
May: 2.57
June: 2.66
July: 2.66
August: 3.22
September: 3.78

Granted, a 3.78 ERA is hardly an embarrassment, but it is indicative of Sale going from a nearly untouchable ace to a league-average mortal late in the season. That's always created some questions about how well Sale would perform if given the opportunity to pitch in the playoffs.

As it turns out, Sale looked was quite mortal Thursday in his postseason debut with the Red Sox, giving up seven runs on nine hits -- including three home runs -- in five innings of Boston's 8-2 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the ALDS.

It was the continuation of a bizarre late-season pattern for Sale this year. Including Thursday, he's made 12 starts since Aug. 1, and he was lights out in five of them. Four times he allowed no runs. There was another start where he allowed only one run.

However, he's also had four starts where he has allowed five runs or more, and Thursday marked the third occasion when he has allowed seven runs or more.

Bad Sale appeared at the worst possible time, and that is not going to sit well in Boston. The Red Sox were favorites to win in the 2016 American League playoffs, but they were dismissed in three straight games by the Cleveland Indians, largely because of pitching failures by David Price and Rick Porcello.

Boston acquired Sale in December as a response to that. Keep in mind, the Red Sox were a playoff team without Sale. He wasn't brought in to help them win the division. He was brought in specifically to help them win in the postseason. One game and one start does not a series make, but there is going to be a ton of pressure on Sale to deliver should he be fortunate enough to receive another start in this series against the Astros.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Here's why Boston might not beat Cleveland in the ALDS

Rick Porcello
Most of the experts are anticipating a Boston-Texas ALCS this year, so of course, Cleveland and Toronto both won Thursday in their respective ALDS Game 1s.

The Red Sox have become the popular pick to win the AL pennant going into the playoffs. Maybe it's just sentimental -- I think media members root for the story -- they want that Cubs-Red Sox World Series; they want that "David Ortiz retires on a high note" narrative.

But picking Boston is not without merit. The Red Sox have the best lineup in baseball. They scored 878 runs this season, the most in MLB. The second-highest run total in the AL belongs to Boston's first-round opponent, Cleveland, which scored 777 runs.

Here's the problem with the Red Sox: Their top two pitchers have a track record of stinking it up in the playoffs.

Rick Porcello is a Cy Young candidate this year. He went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA. It was the best year of his career by far. Nobody can take that away from him.

But, he was awful in a 5-4 Game 1 loss to the Tribe on Thursday. He allowed three home runs in the span of nine pitches in the bottom of the third inning. Roberto Perez, Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor all took him deep. Porcello pitched just 4.1 innings, allowing five earned runs on six hits. He put the Red Sox in a hole their powerful offense could not quite escape.

Porcello has no track record of postseason success. He's 0-3 with a 5.66 ERA lifetime in nine playoff games. Granted, only three of those nine appearances are starts, but he's yet to show he can do the job when the bright lights come on.

Boston's No. 2 starter, David Price, is in a similar boat. His regular-season numbers this year were quite respectable, 17-9 with a 3.99 ERA. But in the playoffs, he's 2-7 with a 5.12 ERA in 14 games. And, oh yeah, both his two wins came in relief. In eight playoff starts, Price is 0-7 with 5.27 ERA.

These two guys have got to come through for the Red Sox if they have hopes of winning their fourth World Series title since 2004, and it needs to start Friday when Price takes the ball for Boston against Cleveland ace Corey Kluber in Game 2.

Also, maybe we should be taking the Blue Jays more seriously. They throttled the Rangers, 10-1, on Thursday, and while Marco Estrada is not a household name, he's starting to build a resume as a clutch pitcher. He tossed 8.1 innings of one-run ball for Toronto in Game 1, and he's 3-1 with a 1.95 ERA in four playoff starts over the past two seasons.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tigers gamble on Justin Upton reversing their decline

Justin Upton
Both Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton are better players than Chris Davis. So, after Davis got paid by the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend, you just had a feeling that Cespedes and Upton would soon get their big paydays, as well.

Cespedes still is on the board as of Tuesday afternoon, but Upton agreed on a six-year, $132.75 million contract with the Detroit Tigers on Monday.

Upton hit .251 with 26 home runs and 81 RBIs for the San Diego Padres last season, and he fills the hole the Tigers had in left field.

But does he make Detroit a legitimate contender? I knew the Tigers would make big splashes this offseason. They are coming off a last-place finish in the AL Central, and their owner, 86-year-old Mike Ilitch, has shown that he's willing to spend his millions on trying to build a winner sometime before he dies.

Here's one problem for the Tigers: Several members of their core (Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez) are aging and coming off years where they've spent time on the disabled list, or played through injury issues.

Here's another problem for the Tigers: Despite an active offseason, they won't be entering 2016 with a better roster than the one they had 12 months ago.

Think about it: They have Jordan Zimmermann instead of David Price. They have Upton instead of Cespedes. They have Cameron Maybin instead of Rajai Davis. They have Francisco Rodriguez instead of Joakim Soria. The rest of their core is the same.

Which of these four would you rather have: Price, Cespedes, Davis and Soria? Or Zimmermann, Upton, Maybin and Rodriguez?

It's close, but I think I would take the group with Price and Cespedes. The Tigers had those guys last year, along with Cabrera, Martinez, Verlander, et al., but after an 11-2 start, they slumped badly. They were back to .500 by the first week of June and never got it going again. They struggled so much, in fact, that former GM Dave Dombrowski broke up the band, dealing Price, Cespedes and Soria to contending teams at the July trading deadline.

Dombrowski was ultimately fired for abandoning the win-now mentality that has existed for years under Ilitch. Normally, I'm a proponent of the win-now philosophy, but there's something to be said for a front office that realizes its window has closed. Dombrowski knew that last year, and he changed gears. Just because ownership dismissed him for that decision does not mean he was wrong.

Even with the addition of Upton, I'm looking at a Detroit roster that has significant question marks, and costs roughly $200 million. For that kind of money, a team should probably be a favorite to win its division. But to me, the Tigers (and everyone else in the AL Central) are still looking up at the Kansas City Royals, and frankly, they aren't as close to the top as they believe they are.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Marco Estrada saves the Blue Jays in ALCS Game 5

Marco Estrada was waived by the Washington Nationals in 2010. As a member of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2014, he gave up more home runs (29) than any starting pitcher in the National League. After being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays last offseason, he started 2015 as a relief pitcher.

So, of course, Estrada has been Toronto's best starting pitcher during these playoffs. He turned in the start of his life Wednesday, going 7.2 innings and allowing just one run on three hits as the Blue Jays beat the Kansas City Royals, 7-1, in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.

Estrada featured precise fastball command and a changeup that had Kansas City hitters off balance all afternoon. He faced just one batter over the minimum through 7.2 innings, before Salvador Perez finally got to him with a solo home run to the opposite field. Alex Gordon followed the home run with a single that ended Estrada's day, but the 32-year-old journeyman had done his job.

With the win, the Blue Jays cut Kansas City's series lead to 3-2. Game 6 is Friday night in Kansas City.

This is the second time this postseason Estrada has come up big in an elimination game. He pitched Game 3 of the ALDS, an outing where he allowed just one run over 6.1 innings in a win over the Texas Rangers. He is now 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA in three postseason starts.

The best news for the Blue Jays: Estrada got deep enough into the game to where they only had to use two relievers: Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna. Toronto ace David Price warmed up during the game, but did not pitch.

That is key, because now Price is available to start Game 6. His mound opponent will be Kansas City's Yordano Ventura, in a rematch of Game 2, which was won by the Royals.

Kansas City is in terrific shape in this series. The Royals play well at home, and they've got two chances to win one game to advance to their second consecutive World Series. But, thanks to Estrada's performance on Wednesday, the Royals still have a little work ahead of them.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

White Sox juggle starting rotation for weekend series vs. Tigers

Since we last posted, the White Sox split a brief two-game series against the banged-up Cleveland Indians.

The Sox got six solid innings from starting pitcher Jose Quintana on Tuesday, and relievers Dan Jennings, Zach Duke and David Robertson combined to strike out eight batters in a 4-1 Chicago victory in the series opener.

On Wednesday, a combination of poor infield defense and lack of clutch hitting did the Sox in, as they dropped a 4-2 decision to a Cleveland club that is currently missing three regulars (Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Nick Swisher) from its lineup.

The series leaves the Sox with a 3-5 record, which isn't completely terrible given an 0-4 start, but it's still not an enviable position -- especially since both the Detroit Tigers (8-1) and Kansas City Royals (7-1) are off to red-hot starts in the American League's Central Division.

That makes this weekend's three-game series in Detroit more crucial for the Sox than most April series would be. The South Siders already are 4.5 games off the pace in the division, and it would be bad news if they were to go into Comerica Park and get swept.

No matter how "early" it is, it's hard to feel good if you fall 7.5 games off the division lead just two weeks into the season. That makes it important the Sox squeeze out at least one win, if not two, against the Tigers.

It won't be easy, because the Tigers have David Price, Anibal Sanchez and Shane Greene lined up to pitch the three games. Price and Sanchez are always tough, and Greene hasn't allowed a run in either of his first two starts of the season -- both Detroit victories.

Perhaps sensing the need to match up, Sox manager Robin Ventura has wisely decided to skip Hector Noesi's turn in the rotation for Friday's game. Instead, Jeff Samardzija will pitch, and I think we can all agree he gives the Sox a better chance than Noesi would against Price, the Detroit ace.

That lines up Sox ace Chris Sale to face Sanchez on Saturday. The Sox haven't announced a starter for Sunday's game yet, but they could (and probably should) go back to Quintana on regular rest for the series finale.

With Detroit playing well and the Sox struggling out of the gate, Ventura simply cannot afford to concede any games to the Tigers by putting the erratic Noesi on the mound.

One other thing to keep an eye on in this series: Detroit has stolen an AL-high 13 bases through its first nine games. Meanwhile, the Sox have surrendered a league-high 11 steals through their eight games.

The Sox had better start holding opposing runners closer this weekend.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Max Scherzer agrees to $210 million deal with Washington Nationals

Most White Sox fans will be happy to see Max Scherzer pitching somewhere other than the AL Central this season, after the former Detroit ace agreed to a seven-year, $210 million contract with the Washington Nationals.

More on the AL Central implications of this signing in a moment, but first, let's take a look at what this move means for the Nationals, who had the best record in the National League last year and will likely enter the 2015 season as a favorite to go to the World Series.

First off, the contract isn't as outrageous as it sounds, at least in terms of annual salary. Sources indicate half of that $210 million is deferred, and that Scherzer will be making $15 million a year for each of the next 14 years.

There had been previous speculation that Washington would have to trade either pitcher Jordan Zimmermann or shortstop Ian Desmond in order to add Scherzer and still make its bottom line work. If Scherzer was making $30 million annually, that probably would be the case. But since he's making "just" $15 million a year, maybe the Nationals will be able to hold on to other key players and make an "all-in" push this season.

Zimmermann will be a free agent after the season, and it's unlikely the Nationals will be able to retain him when he hits the open market. But if I'm Washington, I'm not concerned with that right now. I've got Scherzer, Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg at the top of my rotation. I've got Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark as options for the final two spots in my rotation. What other team in the National League can match that kind of depth in starting pitching?

I don't see another team in the NL that strong 1 to 6. The Nationals should forget about Zimmermann's impending free agency, keep him and go for it this year. That acquisition of Scherzer is a "go for it now" move. You have to believe that's their mindset.

As for Detroit, this is a big loss for the Tigers, no matter what public spin they try to put on it. Scherzer went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA last year, after going 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and winning the Cy Young award in 2013. Scherzer has more wins (39) and more strikeouts (492) than any other pitcher in the majors over the past two years. Even if Detroit goes out and signs James Shields to fill Scherzer's rotation spot, that's hard production to replace.

Here is how Detroit's rotation looked at the end of last season: Scherzer, David Price, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello.

Here is Detroit's projected rotation for 2015 today: Price, Verlander, Sanchez, Alfredo Simon, Shane Greene.

Will that rotation be good enough for the Tigers to win the Central again this year? Maybe. That top three is still formidable, but don't you think that first list with Scherzer and Porcello is more impressive than this second list with Simon and Greene? I certainly do.

Scherzer's departure provides hope to all other teams in the AL Central, including the White Sox. In his career, Scherzer is 12-6 with a 2.54 ERA in 23 starts against Chicago. He's tough on everybody, but he's been better against the Sox than he's been against the league overall.

As a Sox fan, I'll take my chances against Simon and Greene. I'd also take my chances against Shields over Scherzer, if the Tigers do indeed decide they need to make another big acquisition for their rotation. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Thursday produces two wins for perceived ALDS underdogs

The prevailing wisdom says the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Angels are on a collision course to meet in the American League Championship Series.

Naturally, the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals have other ideas, and both perceived underdogs threw a wrench in that plan Thursday with Game 1 victories in AL Division Series action.

The Orioles took advantage of Detroit's leaky defense and lousy bullpen by scoring eight runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, breaking open a tight contest on their way to a 12-3 victory.

Meanwhile, third baseman Mike Moustakas hit a solo home run in the top of the 11th inning to lift the Royals to a 3-2 win over the Angels.

Baltimore's rotation: Better than we think?

Anyone else think the experts are underestimating the Orioles? They won 96 games this year. They must have done something right.

I keep hearing Detroit has an overpowering edge in starting pitching. I'll be honest: I disagree with that. Detroit's starting pitchers are all prominent media names, but they haven't necessarily pitched better than the guys in the Baltimore rotation throughout the season.

We saw today how things don't always go the way you might expect. Quite a few observers assumed Detroit ace Max Scherzer was going to own Baltimore's Game 1 starter, Chris Tillman.

That did not happen. Tillman only lasted five innings, but he allowed just two runs and left the mound with his team leading, 3-2. He ended up getting the win.

Scherzer took the loss, allowing five earned runs over 7.1 innings pitched.

Shocking? Not really.

Scherzer had a 3.15 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP this year. In comparison, Tillman had a 3.34 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. Sure, you would have to give Scherzer the edge on paper in that matchup, but not decisively so.

The Game 2 matchup in this series is an interesting one. Detroit's Justin Verlander has the Cy Young awards and the playoff experience. He also has a puffy 4.54 ERA, his worst since the 2008 season. Baltimore's Wei-Yin Chen is unfamiliar to casual fans, but don't underestimate him: He won 16 games this year and posted a 3.54 ERA -- a full run better than Verlander. It's hard to bet against Verlander in the playoffs, but his mound opponent is formidable. Game 2 is hardly a slam dunk for the Tigers.

Looking ahead to Game 3, Detroit will send David Price to the mound against Baltimore's Miguel Gonzalez. Again, Price has a Cy Young award and the playoff experience. But it's Gonzalez who posted the better ERA this year (3.23 to 3.26).

This isn't to say the Detroit starters won't ultimately outpitch the Baltimore starters over the course of this five-game series. They might. But keep this in mind: The Orioles have a great chance to win if their starters are good enough to keep the game close into the late innings.

Here's why: Baltimore has a nasty bullpen. Closer Zach Britton and his power 96 mph sinker totaled 37 saves and a 1.65 ERA this year. The Orioles have a outstanding lefty-righty combination setting him up. Midseason acquisition Andrew Miller had a 1.35 ERA in 23 games with the O's since coming over from Boston. Darren O'Day, the right-handed setup guy, posted a 1.70 ERA this season.

We saw all three of those relievers in Thursday's game. The Tigers found out they are pretty tough to beat.

Two of the relievers Detroit is counting on to work in high-leverage situations, Joba Chamberlain and Joakim Soria, contributed to that eight-run eighth inning meltdown in this opening loss. You better believe the bullpen is a huge concern for the Tigers. Detroit's 4.29 bullpen ERA was third worst in the majors this year.

Yes, Detroit has a bit of an edge in starting pitching, primarily because of all that playoff experience among Scherzer, Verlander and Price. However, I don't believe it's a huge edge. If there's a huge edge in this series, it's the advantage the Baltimore bullpen enjoys over the Detroit relievers.

All the Oriole starters really need to do is keep it close into the late innings. That's what Tillman did Thursday. Baltimore got its desired result.

Can the Royals pull it off? 

If you're looking for a reason to believe Kansas City can upset the 98-win Angels, here it is: Los Angeles has a starting pitching staff that is in disarray.

Jered Weaver is the Angels' lone reliable starter, and he pitched well in Game 1 on Thursday. However, Kansas City's Jason Vargas matched him. The game was tied, 2-2, when the starters left, and the Angels' bullpen blinked first with Moustakas hitting the home run off Fernando Salas.

Los Angeles has burned up its best starter and trails in the series. The Angels will be counting on rookie Matt Shoemaker, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 15 due to an oblique strain, in Game 2. C.J. Wilson is in line to pitch Game 3 for Los Angeles. Wilson has had a terrible second half -- his ERA is 6.05 over his last 16 starts.

The Angels definitely miss ace Garrett Richards, who is gone for the year with a serious knee injury.

Kansas City has a shot if it can take advantage of the iffy Angels starters. The Royals are 65-4 when leading after six innings, so it could be tough for Los Angeles if its pitchers put them behind early in games.

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.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Rounding up Jose Abreu's record-breaking April

White Sox rookie first baseman Jose Abreu went 2-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs on Sunday to lead the South Siders to a 9-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Abreu became the first player in Major League Baseball history to record four games with four RBIs or more during the first 26 games of his career. Abreu has a modest .262 batting average, but as Ken "Hawk" Harrelson might say, "It's a hard .262." Abreu leads the league with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs. Even with three games to go in the month, those figures are for the record books.

The 10 home runs and 31 RBIs in one month are both MLB rookie records. The 10 home runs are the most by a White Sox rookie in any month. The 31 RBIs are a new record for the opening month of the season by any Sox player -- the previous record was 28, set by Paul Konerko in 2002. The 31 RBIs are also the most by any Sox player in the first 26 games of a career. The 10 home runs tie the team record for the most by a Sox player in the first 26 games of a career -- Zeke Bonura accomplished the same feat in 1934.

This indeed has been an historic month for Abreu. He has homered off two former Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and David Price, which shows that he isn't just pounding on mediocre pitchers. He's won a few battles with elite pitchers, too. The cynic would say, "Let's see what happens when the league adjusts to Abreu." And the cynic isn't completely wrong. Opposing pitchers will change their pattern to try to slow Abreu down, and he will have to adjust.

But, let's also remember that Abreu is putting up these monster numbers in the miserable, cold April conditions at U.S. Cellular Field. The ballpark plays smaller and becomes more hitter-friendly when the weather warms up in the summer. Abreu isn't going put up 10 homers and 30-plus RBIs every month. That's just not realistic, but I'd wager he has a pretty fair chance of continuing to produce runs when the ball starts flying in June and July.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Clayton Kershaw to get record-setting deal; David Price also signs

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw is the new richest man in baseball -- at least for now.

According to reports, the left-hander agreed Wednesday to a seven-year, $215 million contract with the Dodgers.

Kershaw, the reigning Cy Young Award winner in the National League, becomes the first player with a $30 million average annual salary.

Previously, the most lucrative deal for a pitcher was the one the Detroit Tigers gave Justin Verlander, $180 million over seven years.

In other pitching news, 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price avoided arbitration by agreeing to terms on a one-year, $14 million contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. The contract is the richest one in Tampa Bay franchise history. Price, who is eligible for free agency after the 2015 season, has been the subject of trade speculation. Since he did not sign a long-term deal with the Rays, I would expect that speculation to continue in the coming days and months.

After seeing the dollars these guys are commanding, it's comforting for me as a White Sox fan to know the team has its All-Star left-hander, Chris Sale, under control through 2019. Sale's five-year, $32.5 million deal with team options for 2018 and 2019 is a tremendous bargain in this marketplace.

I'll be interested to see what the Kershaw contract means for international free agent Masahiro Tanaka. No, Tanaka is not going to command $30 million a year, but the Dodgers have reportedly been major players in that sweepstakes. Are they still major players after committing such a large dollar figure to Kershaw? Or is it now a given that Tanaka is going to the New York Yankees, who are the team most in need of a top-flight starting pitcher?

After Tanaka signs, we should see the other dominoes start to fall among the free-agent starting pitchers. All the major free-agent position players have already signed. Meanwhile, you've still got three high-profile starting pitchers still on the market in Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and Ervin Santana. Look for those three players to be consolation prizes for the teams that lose out on Tanaka.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Scott Boras recently criticized the Cubs ... were his comments fair?

We can all agree the Cubs stink at the major league level right now. They've lost 91 games or more in each of the last three seasons.

Given the circumstances, you would think the Cubs would be at least somewhat active this offseason --especially since we're talking about a big-market team that presumably has money to spend.

But, the Cubs have been fairly quiet so far. Their only free-agent acquisitions have been backup catcher George Kottaras and situational left-hander Wesley Wright. On Thursday, the Cubs traded outfielder Brian Bogusevic to the Miami Marlins for outfielder Justin Ruggiano. Bogusevic was one of three left-handed hitting outfielders on the roster (Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz are the others). The Cubs made the swap for purposes of balancing things out with the right-handed hitting Ruggiano. A sensible move, but hardly one that figures to make a major impact on the Cubs' 2014 fortunes.

The rebuilding process on the North Side is dragging on at a glacial pace. Barring some unforeseen moves in the coming months, the Cubs seem to be tracking toward another 90- to 95-loss campaign next summer.

High-profile agent Scott Boras (pictured), for one, has had enough of the Cubs' methodical ways. Boras criticized the organization at the winter meetings this week, calling the North Side rebuilding plan an "all-day sucker."

“It (a lollipop) takes a long time to dissolve,” Boras said. “The idea is it's going to take some time for them to reach the resolve to say they are going to compete on all fronts.”

Boras went on to say the Cubs are acting like a small-market team.

“It’s just with major-market teams you see a little bit different approach,” he said. “This is more of a customary small-market approach, if you will. … The Cubs have the capacity to sign any player they want at any time. The question is whether it fits their plan and it's good business.”

Obviously, the Cubs don't feel that big spending this year fits their plan. Here are the questions I would pose: Are Boras' comments fair? Has this Cubs rebuilding plan dragged on for long enough? Isn't it time for this regime to start producing at least marginally better results at the major league level?

I agree with Boras, in part, and disagree with him, in part.

I think this year's free-agent crop is weak. I don't blame the Cubs for taking a pass on giving seven years and $150 million to Jacoby Ellsbury, and if I were them, I wouldn't give untold millions to Boras client Shin-Soo Choo either. The Cubs' choice to not spend big bucks in free agency this year is smart and prudent in my book.

What I don't understand is why the Cubs haven't been more active in the trade market. They have prospects to deal, and there's a front-end starter in his prime (David Price) actively being shopped. But I've heard and read little about the Cubs being involved in those discussions. Why not? The Cubs have the dollars to sign a guy like Price to a long-term deal if they acquired him. They seem lukewarm to the idea, for whatever reason.

It's also a little strange that Jeff Samardzija is still on the team, but hasn't signed a contract extension. I think the Cubs should either sign him or deal him this offseason. I'd trade him. The Cubs could fill two or three holes by unloading Samardzija. They might even be able to get a major league ready prospect in the deal, as opposed to the Class A types and reclamation projects they've acquired in some of the other trades they've made involving pitchers.


Boras, of course, wants the Cubs to spend big in free agency. They won't, and nor should they. In that respect, I disagree with Boras. But I do agree with his point that it's kinda silly for the Cubs to just sit on the lousy roster they have now and resign themselves to another season of misery. With the talent they've accumulated in their minor leagues, plus having a movable asset in Samardzija, I think there are some possibilities for them in the trade market that would allow them to improve their team both now and for the long haul.

Why should the Cubs intentionally field another 95-loss roster in 2014? Enough is enough. It's time to at least show some incremental progress. How many more times do fans have to hear about how good Jorge Soler is supposedly going to be in five years?

I've always said, if a GM is waiting for prospects, he's waiting to get himself fired. It's time for the Cubs to add some legitimate major league talent to their roster. On that point, Boras is correct.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Headley not worth Quintana for White Sox

Most rumors that pop up around baseball's Winter Meetings aren't worth paying too much attention. Especially this one that Dan Hayes at CSN Chicago reports: The White Sox are interested in Chase Headley, but not for Jose Quintana.

Hayes does a good job of shooting this one down almost immediately after he presents it, pointing out Headley is a free agent after next season, while Quintana won't be a free agent until after 2018.

It's worth remembering for a minute how good Quintana is. The left-hander just tossed 200 innings with a 3.51 ERA. He did that during a sophomore season where he saw in increased workload (only 136 1/3 innings as a rookie), improved his K-rate (5.3 to 7.4 K/9), his walk rate (2.8 to 2.5 BB/9) and kept his home runs allowed in check (0.9 HR/9 in 2012, 1.0 HR/9 allowed last year).

Among left-handed starters in the American League, only teammate Chris Sale (3.07), the Rays' David Price (3.33) and the Rangers' Derek Holland (3.42) sported better ERAs. If you measure by a statistic like ERA+ that tries to account for Quintana's offense-friendly home ballpark, his adjusted figure of 122 is still way behind Sale (140), but surpasses Price (114) and Holland (120).

Or by a stat that tries to measure pitcher success independent of fielding like FIP, Quintana (3.86) still finishes near Holland (3.44), and a bit farther from Price (3.03) and Sale (3.17), if you can believe any White Sox pitcher was aided to a better ERA by the team's awful defense last year.

Basically in Quintana, the Sox have one of the better left-handed starters in the AL. That's easy to forget because in Sale, the Sox have the best left-handed starter in the league. And Quintana did seemingly come out of nowhere with the Sox acquiring him as a minor league free agent after he washed out of the Mets and Yankees organizations.

Quintana having never thrown more than just over 100 innings during any season in the minors might have been a cause for concern. At this point, I don't think it is -- not after throwing more than 380 combined innings the last two years.

And lets not forget that the last 336 1/3 of those frames all came in the big leagues, where Quintana has shown the last two seasons that he can make adjustments and thrive.

Given that, it's hard not to think Quintana would garner more in trade than a free agent third baseman going into his walk year.

In fact, given the five years of cheap team control remaining on Quintana's contract, the Sox should be aiming for something similar to what the Rays will seek for Price this winter while their lefty has only two years of team control before free agency.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Should the Cubs part with Samardzija?

Maybe the most interesting choice the Cubs face this offseason is what to do with right-hander Jeff Samardzija.

It will be interesting not just because of what Samardzija is -- not really a No. 1 starter, though maybe the best pitcher the Cubs have -- but the choice will signify the team's intent over the course of the next couple years.

Last year the Cubs reached for Edwin Jackson to plug a hole in the rotation, figuring someone had to pitch, so why not Jackson? The free agent had some upside, and teamed with Matt Garza, Samardzija, Travis Wood and a hopefully healthy Scott Feldman, if enough things broke right among the position players on the roster, you could squint at this team and see a contender. Or at least a team that could look competitive in a possibly weak NL Central.

Obviously, not much of that happened as the division was strong, high hopes for guys like shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo sank, and Jackson revealed himself to be the innings eater he is. Nothing more and nothing less.

Samardzija himself took a step back, at least as far as results go with his ERA climbing from 3.81 to 4.34, though advanced stats like fielding-independent pitching indicate his results weren't that much of a drop-off from 2012.

The Cubs should probably expect Samardzija to be what he's been over the last two seasons, which is a right-hander with a big fastball and a lot of strikeouts who is still pretty hittable, maybe walks a few too many guys, but isn't exceptionally homer-happy.

Maybe most people look at that and think Samardzija is a decent No. 3 starter, a pretty good No. 4 or a great No. 5. Maybe some teams look at the increasing ground ball-to-fly ball ratio (0.71 in 2011, 0.81 in 2012 and 0.97 last year) and think he just needs a better defense behind him to close the gap between his actually ERA and his FIP (3.45 last year). Some of those teams probably also look at the big strikeout rate (9.0 per 9 IP), consider the slow start to his baseball career while he played football at Notre Dame, and think he's still got the tools to blossom into a real No. 1 starter as he approaches his 30th birthday.

I don't buy that most optimistic version of Samardzija's future, because you really have to be sold on arguments that can't be made with numbers alone. However, I can see how those arguments might become more convincing to a team that finds itself unable to trade for David Price this winter.

Obviously, the offers the Cubs gets should determine their willingness to pull the trigger on any Samardzija trade. Though the haul for Garza and Feldman was underwhelming when those pitchers were dealt last summer, Samardzija is still under team control for two more years.

If I were the Cubs GM, though, it would have to be a pretty nice package, because just like a piece of the rationale for the Jackson signing, somebody's got to pitch.

The Cubs are not so deep in pitching that they can easily fill Samardzija's spot. They can't count on mining free agent gold like Feldman again. Jackson will be another year older, and any diminishing results from him might lead frustration from those expecting more to boil over into his ouster from the team. For as tough a time as Samardzija has had with his ERA not matching his FIP, Wood has exceeded expectations there by more than half a run each of the last two seasons, and that might not happen again. Other options like Chris Rusin and Jake Arrieta look underwhellming.

In other words, trading Samardzija would mean the Cubs aren't pretending they might start getting things together next year. Not without risking big bucks on a replacement pitcher, or getting an MLB-ready pitching prospect back.

Current Cubs president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have been pretty candid from the beginning that this was going to be a long rebuilding process. While a lot of Cubs fans have accepted that, it's a different matter being asked to suffer though a third straight season of embarrassing baseball. Not when the second straight year led to the manager being fired

So unless the Cubs are offered a package that looks to surely exceed the value of two more seasons from Samardzija, plus a draft pick when he's offered a qualifying offer before free agency, Hoyer and Epstein should elect to keep their hurler for at least one more season.