Showing posts with label New York Yankees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New York Yankees. Show all posts

Friday, August 4, 2017

'Why Todd Frazier can't hit anymore'

Todd Frazier (21)
One of the mildly interesting things about blogging on Google: You can look at the analytics and find out how people are hitting your website.

For example, somebody hit this blog this week by Googling the phrase "Why Todd Frazier can't hit anymore."

I chuckled to myself, knowing it was probably a frustrated New York Yankees fan who is just now finding out what White Sox fans already know -- Frazier is in severe decline and pretty darn close to being done at age 31.

Since the seven-player trade between the Sox and Yankees on July 19, Frazier has appeared in 14 games for New York and made 53 plate appearances. He has a grand total of one extra-base hit. (It was a homer.) That's not what you were hoping for, is it Yankee fans?

Frazier has compiled a slash line of .182/.321/.250 with the Yankees. I know, the usual caveats about small sample sizes apply, but I hate to tell you New York folks that this really isn't unusual for Frazier. His slash line for the season is .204/.327/.407, so while I think Frazier still will hit a few home runs between now and the end of the season, if you're waiting for more consistent production, none is forthcoming.

This isn't really a slump for Frazier. Rather, it's a continuation of struggles that have occurred ever since the veteran third baseman moved from the National League to the American League. He's slashing .218/.311/.444 since he was traded to the White Sox from the Cincinnati Reds before the start of the 2016 season.

Last year, I looked by Frazier's .225 batting average to some extent, because he clubbed 40 home runs and drove in 98 runs for the Sox. Sure, he didn't have a lot of hits, but at least there were some big hits, and there was some decent run production.

This year, I didn't feel as though many of the 16 home runs Frazier hit for the Sox mattered much, and obviously, he will not be reaching the 40-homer plateau this season.

It's too bad Frazier stinks now. I've heard good things about the kind of guy he is, and my impressions of him from SoxFest the past couple years were positive. They say he's good in the clubhouse, and I have no reason to doubt that's true.

However, Frazier's on-field performance was disappointing during his tenure with the Sox, and I expect that to continue in New York.

I saw the Yankees held him out of the lineup Thursday in their 5-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Probably smart, because Frazier can't hit Corey Kluber worth a damn anyway (2 for 23 lifetime). But the sad reality is Frazier can't hit most guys anymore, and it's for the best that the Sox have moved on from him.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

White Sox trade Todd Frazier, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle to Yankees

David Robertson
The seven-player trade between the White Sox and the New York Yankees was a foregone conclusion by the time it was announced late Tuesday night.

Todd Frazier was seen giving teammates goodbye hugs before the Sox played the Los Angeles Dodgers, and neither David Robertson nor Tommy Kahnle were summoned from the bullpen in the high-leverage relief situations that arose in the Sox's 1-0 loss.

After the game, it was announced that Frazier, Robertson and Kahnle were dealt to the Yankees in exchange for outfielders Blake Rutherford and Tito Polo and pitchers Ian Clarkin and Tyler Clippard.

Here's a summary for each of the players the Sox received:

Rutherford: This is the best prospect in the deal. He was the Yankees' first-round draft pick in 2016, and he's ranked 36th on Baseball America's midseason top-100 prospect rankings. He was hitting .281/.342/.391 at Class-A Charleston with 20 doubles, two home runs and 30 RBIs in 304 at-bats.

Clarkin: The 22-year-old left-hander has been frequently injured since he was drafted out of high school in 2013, but he's managed to stay healthy enough to post a 2.61 ERA over 72.1 innings for Class-A Tampa this season.

Polo: The 22-year-old outfielder has split time between Class-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton this year, and has hit .298/.358/.446. He's also got 25 stolen bases in 31 attempts.

Clippard: The 32-year-old veteran reliever is 1-5 with a 4.95 ERA in 40 appearances with the Yankees this year. He's got an expiring contract, and the Sox will use him to close games in Robertson's absence, on the rare occasion where they actually have a lead going into the ninth inning. Hey, somebody has gotta pitch.

This deal is almost like two trades in one. The way I see it, Robertson and Kahnle were traded for the three prospects. Robertson is owed about $20 million until his contract is up at the end of the 2018 season. The Yankees are taking all that salary on, so he alone wouldn't have been enough to net a top-50 prospect such as Rutherford. Throw Kahnle into the deal, and now the Yankees add two quality pieces to their bullpen, and they are willing to part with a better quality young player.

The other part of the deal is basically Frazier for Clippard. Two underperforming veterans on expiring contracts. Basically, you have each team saying to the other, "Go ahead and take this guy, and maybe he'll do better for you than he did for us."

Clippard takes Robertson's spot on the roster. The leaves two other openings. One is going to relief pitcher Brad Goldberg. The other is going to some young infield prospect named Yoan Moncada. You might have heard of him.

Friday, June 30, 2017

White Sox likely to have more representation in Futures Game than All-Star Game

Yoan Moncada
White Sox fans will have a reason to watch this year's Futures Game. The rosters were announced Thursday for the annual midsummer showcase, and three Sox prospects made the list: second baseman Yoan Moncada, pitcher Michael Kopech and catcher Zack Collins.

It appears likely the Sox will have more representation in the Futures Game than they will in the All-Star Game itself, with right fielder Avisail Garcia and first baseman Jose Abreu the only two legitimate All-Star candidates on the big-league roster.

Moncada will play for the World team, and will try to defend the MVP honor he won in the Futures Game last season when he still was a member of the Boston Red Sox organization.

This season, Moncada has hit .281/.381/.454 with 10 home runs, 29 RBIs and 15 stolen bases for Triple-A Charlotte. He spent some time on the disabled list with a thumb injury about a month ago, and struggled when he first returned, but he's had a solid season overall and has lived up to the billing as the Sox's No. 1-ranked prospect.

Kopech, the fireballing right-hander who was acquired along with Moncada in the Chris Sale trade, is 4-5 with a 3.72 ERA in 15 starts at Double-A Birmingham. Kopech has demonstrated that he has the raw ability to be an elite pitcher -- he's fanned 97 hitters and allowed only 51 hits in 75 innings for the Barons. However, his control remains a work in progress. He's walked 49, and that's what has prevented him from earning a promotion to Charlotte, despite being selected to the Double-A All-Star Game, and now, Team USA in the Futures Game.

Collins also is on the Team USA roster, and his selection is a little more of a surprise. He's a had a rough season at Class-A Winston-Salem, although he has 10 home runs and leads the league with 56 walks. But his.206/.362/.399 slash line qualifies as a disappointment, and so do the 82 strikeouts in 233 at-bats. However, they say catching is the fastest path to the big leagues, and perhaps there aren't many good catching prospects out there. This is Collins' first full year in pro ball, so there's plenty of time for him to get his career on right track.

Sox salvage split with Yankees

Thanks to the rainy conditions here in Chicago, Thursday night's game didn't end until after 1 a.m. local time, but it ended happily, with the Sox picking up a 4-3 victory over the New York Yankees.

I've been critical of James Shields (2-1), so let's give credit to him for a respectable outing. He fired 6.1 innings of three-run ball and left the mound with the 4-3 lead intact. The big hit of the game came from Willy Garcia, whose two-out, two-run double in the fourth inning put the Sox ahead for good at 4-2.

The Sox bullpen combined to throw 2.2 innings of shutout ball. Closer David Robertson earned his 12th save, striking out New York slugger Aaron Judge with a man on base for the final out.

It's been a tough homestand so far, even with Thursday's win. The Sox are 2-5 with three games to come this weekend against the Texas Rangers.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Will Todd Frazier get his batting average above the Mendoza Line?

Todd Frazier (right) with Daryl Boston
There was an unintentionally humorous moment in the second inning of the White Sox game Tuesday night. Broadcaster Ken Harrelson was talking about how Todd Frazier had put on quite a display of home run power during batting practice, and how that was evidence that Frazier was feeling pretty good about his swing.

Naturally, on the next pitch from Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer, Frazier was totally fooled, made an excuse-me swing and hit a slow roller to first base for an easy out. It was an embarrassing result, and it went counter to what Harrelson had just said.

But give Hawk credit. He quickly recovered to note that Frazier "won't feel good about that swing."

That said, Frazier did make a good swing in the ninth inning, when he blasted a 430-foot solo home run to center field off Tampa Bay reliever Ryan Garton. That provided the final run in a 4-2 Sox victory that snapped a five-game losing streak.

The 1-for-4 night raised Frazier's batting average to a still unsightly .196. The Sox third baseman got off to a terrible start this year. He didn't get his first hit until the fourth game of the season, and the high-water mark for his batting average this year is .200.

He's reached that plateau twice, once May 2 and again May 20. Alas, both times Frazier couldn't sustain anything resembling a hot streak, and his average plummeted back into the .170s on both occasions.

I can't say Harrelson is wrong with his comments. Frazier has five hits in his past three games, and he has homered in two games in a row. In the ideal world, the Sox would trade Frazier in July and take an extended look at Matt Davidson at third base the second half of the season. But for that to happen, Frazier needs to sustain some sort of competence with the bat over the next six weeks.

There isn't a big market for a player who hit .225 last season and is off to a slow start this year. But, you take a look at the American League East, and you see a tight race developing that could involve three or four teams. And you see the two teams at the top, New York and Boston, having question marks at third base.

Might those two clubs see Frazier as an upgrade over Chase Headley or Pablo Sandoval, respectively? Could the Sox create somewhat of a bidding war among the two AL East powers? Possibly. All Frazier really needs to do is hit .240 with power, and he's better than those two guys.

The question is, can he still hit .240? He hasn't done it yet since he's been with the Sox, and he needs to do it soon if there's going to be any demand for him in July. If he isn't traded, he becomes a candidate for reduced playing time the second half of the year, as the Sox will need to look at younger players during a rebuilding season.

Friday, November 18, 2016

New York Yankees trade catcher Brian McCann to Houston Astros for two prospects

Brian McCann
Cross Brian McCann off your list of available catchers.

The New York Yankees made the first notable trade of the offseason Thursday, sending the veteran to the Houston Astros in exchange for pitching prospects Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman.

McCann, who will be 33 when the 2017 season starts, has two years and $34 million remaining on his contract. The Yankees will send the Astros $11 million -- or $5.5 million a season -- to absorb some of that cost.

The left-handed hitter provided 20 home runs or more in each of his three seasons with the Yankees, but his slash line was a mediocre .235/.313/.418 over that same span. He was, essentially, a league-average hitter, and he was losing playing time in New York to 23-year-old Gary Sanchez, who took the American League by storm with 20 home runs in just 229 plate appearances after an early-August promotion.

Sanchez finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting. He is both the present and the future behind the plate for the Yankees. McCann saw the writing on the wall and agreed to waive his no-trade protection to join the Astros.

From Houston's perspective, the Astros need a catcher because they are likely to lose defensive-minded Jason Castro in free agency. Despite McCann's declining numbers, he still represents a clear offensive upgrade over Castro, who hit .210 with a .684 OPS in 2016.

Houston parts with two live arms in Abreu, 21, and Guzman, 20. Abreu was ranked as the Astros' No. 7 prospect, and Guzman has at times topped 100 mph with his fastball. The Yankees are continuing a trend they started in the middle of last season, trading high-profile, high-priced veterans for prospects. McCann joins Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran on a list of notable players to be dealt out of the Bronx over the past few months.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports is reporting that the Astros are not done. Apparently, Houston is on the verge of signing free-agent outfielder Josh Reddick to a four-year deal worth $52 million.

The Astros had a disappointing 2016 in which they finished 84-78, in third place in the AL West. They came into the year with much higher expectations after winning the AL wild card game in 2015 and pushing the eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals to five games in the ALDS. Clearly, they are adding veterans to try to push their way back into the postseason next year.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Michael Pineda stinks with two outs; White Sox take advantage

Michael Pineda
Here's an unusual stat: With two outs in an inning, opposing hitters have posted a .366/.414/.710 slash line against New York Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda.

The White Sox took advantage of Pineda bizarre inability to close out innings Wednesday in a 5-0 victory over the Yankees.

Pineda retired the first two hitters in the Sox's second inning with little difficulty, but then the wheels fell off.

Brett Lawrie singled and advanced to second on a passed ball. Pineda walked Dioner Navarro on four straight pitches, which I thought might have been a pitch-around with the struggling Avisail Garcia on deck, but then Garcia burned Pineda with an RBI single that scored Lawrie.

J.B. Shuck's ground-rule double plated Navarro to make it 2-0, and Tim Anderson followed with a two-run double down the left-field line on an 0-2 pitch.

What started out looking like a harmless inning for Pineda ended with the Sox leading 4-0. These struggles are obviously a trend for the New York pitcher, but it seems to be one of those hard-to-explain things in baseball.

The Sox added one more run in the sixth, and that was more than enough for starter Miguel Gonzalez, who upped his won-loss record to 2-4 with one of his best starts of the season. He went seven shutout innings, allowing only five hits. He struck out three and walked one.

Zach Duke and David Robertson combined for two inning of scoreless relief, and the Sox (44-41) finished off their fifth consecutive series win. The Sox haven't been able to sweep anybody during that time, mind you, but an 11-5 record over the past 16 games is pretty good.

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.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

James Shields prevails against C.C. Sabathia in matchup of declining pitchers

C.C. Sabathia
Seven or eight years ago, a pitching matchup between James Shields and C.C. Sabathia would have been marquee material.

On Monday, it was just another game, featuring a 34-year-old right-hander with an ERA near six and a soon-to-be-36-year-old 300-pound left-hander with bad knees.

Who would win this battle of titans?

Fortunately for the White Sox, it was Shields, who fired six innings of two-run ball to help the South Siders to an 8-2 win over the New York Yankees.

Neither starter was on solid ground in this game. Shields put the Sox in an early 2-0 hole when he gave up a two-run homer to Chase Headley in the top of the second inning. Sabathia surrendered the lead when Tim Anderson took him deep for a two-run homer to tie the score in the third.

The game remained tied at 2 at the halfway point, and there was a definite feeling that both teams should have had more runs.

The Sox got two men on in the first inning, but didn't score. They loaded the bases with one out in the third after Anderson's homer, but couldn't tack on any runs. They stranded a man at third in the fourth.

The Yankees had runners at second and third with one out in the fourth, but couldn't cash in. They got a runner to second base with one out as the result of two Sox errors in the fifth, but failed to score.

This came down to which pitcher was going to crack the third time through the batting order, and it was Sabathia. The Sox touched him up for three runs in the fifth. Brett Lawrie's sacrifice fly scored Todd Frazier, who had doubled, and Dioner Navarro's two-run homer put the Sox ahead, 5-2.

Shields once again walked the tightrope in the sixth inning, but the Yankees failed to score after placing runners at first and third. The Sox right-hander escaped that situation by getting Aaron Hicks to fly out to right field.

Shields' final line: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 Ks, 2 BBs, 1 HR. That was good enough for his second win in a Sox uniform.

The Sox tacked on one in the seventh and two in the eighth. Four Sox relievers combined for three innings of scoreless relief, and for a change, David Robertson's services were not needed to close out a victory.

Dan Jennings allowed two base runners in the top of the ninth, but finished off the six-run win in comfortable fashion.

The Sox enter Tuesday's play having won 10 of their past 14 games. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Yankees acquire closer Aroldis Chapman at a bargain price

The New York Yankees made an unexpected trade Monday, acquiring closer Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for four minor-league players.

The move is surprising because Chapman is under investigation by Major League Baseball for an alleged domestic violence incident that involved gunshots and the choking of his girlfriend. No criminal charges were filed, but that does not mean Chapman will not be suspended under MLB's domestic violence policy. One might argue a suspension is likely, in fact, and that cloud of suspicion nixed a trade of Chapman to the Los Angeles Dodgers in early December.

Given the circumstances, it was assumed that Chapman would be impossible for the Reds to trade, but the Yankees are willing to take the risk. There are three reasons why New York would make this deal:

1. The price in prospects was not high. The Reds acquired right-handed pitchers Caleb Cotham and Rookie Davis, plus infielders Eric Jagielo and Tony Renda. Raise your hand if you've heard of any of them. I have not. These are not blue-chippers. The Yankees did not have to give up any of the crown jewels of their farm system to acquire a 27-year-old closer who has accumulated 145 saves over the past four seasons.

2. The Yankees now have a devastating back end of the bullpen that rivals, and perhaps betters, that of the world champion Kansas City Royals. Baseball's top three relievers in strikeouts per nine innings during the 2015 campaign were Chapman (15.74 Ks. per 9 IP), Andrew Miller (14.59) and Dellin Betances (14.04). All of them now play for New York. If all three of those guys are healthy and effective, how many games do you suppose the Yankees are going to blow in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning? Probably not too many.

3. New York also might luck into an extra year of team control with Chapman. Right now, the left-hander is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2016 season. But, let's say he is suspended for 40 games for the domestic violence incident. He would lose that service time, and accordingly, his free agency would be delayed until the conclusion of the 2017 season. Sure, the Yankees would lose him during the suspension, but they'd still have him closing games for the next season and a half once the suspension is over.

This trade isn't the most PR-savvy thing for the Yankees to do. They will be rightfully criticized for acquiring a player with as much off-the-field baggage as Chapman, but you can see why this move could be a steal from a purely baseball perspective.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

White Sox agree to four-year deal with closer David Robertson

The White Sox moved late Monday night to shore up a glaring weakness, agreeing to terms on a four-year, $46 million contract with closer David Robertson, multiple sources said.

Robertson, 29, took over the closer's role in New York last year from Mariano Rivera and went 4-5 with a 3.08 ERA and 39 saves for the Yankees. He has a 2.81 career ERA in seven seasons.

The Sox were a disaster in the bullpen in 2014, so while this move might be an overpay, it is something the South Siders absolutely had to do.

Their closer by committee approach last year totaled just 36 saves, which was better than only five major league teams. Their 4.28 bullpen ERA ranked 28th out of the 30 teams in baseball. Only the Colorado Rockies and Houston Astros were worse. A big move was necessary. The signing of Robertson qualifies.

What's to like about Robertson? He strikes people out.

For his career, Robertson has struck out 12.0 batters per nine innings pitched. As the New York closer last season, he fanned 96 men in 64.1 innings pitched. That's a rate of 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings. He struck out more than 37 percent of the batters he faced in 2014. If opposing batters can't put the ball in play, they can't get hits. That's a trait you like in any closer.

About the only concern I have with Robertson: He gave up seven home runs last year. That's a little high, but considering what the Sox had last year in the bullpen, I'll take my chances.

You figure Robertson, left-hander Zach Duke and right-hander Jake Petricka now make up the back end of the Sox' bullpen. I wouldn't be surprised if we see another relief pitcher or two added before the offseason is over. The Sox are believed to be targeting Park Ridge native Luke Gregerson, who has pitched previously with the San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Adam Eaton returns; Jordan Danks caught in numbers game (again)

White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton is set to return from the disabled list in time for Tuesday's game against the Cleveland Indians. This is good news for everyone associated with the Sox organization.

Well, it's good news for everyone except Jordan Danks, who was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte for the umpteenth time in the past three years to make room for Eaton on the 25-man roster.

Danks' demotion is not based upon poor performance. He has done everything he has been asked to do. He has started 11 of the past 13 Sox games in Eaton's place, and has caught every ball you would expect a center fielder to catch. Offensively, his .289/.317/.368 slash line over that same span is plenty good enough for a player who was providing above-average defense at an up-the-middle position.

This isn't the first time Danks has been demoted for reasons other than performance. He batted .333 with five home runs during spring training this year. He did everything possible to snag a major league roster spot as an extra outfielder. But in March, as he is now, Danks was caught in a numbers game.

There are two reasons for his demotions: 1) He's considered the fifth outfielder on a team that only wants to carry four outfielders, and 2) He has an option remaining. Fairly or not, players who have an option(s) remaining are more likely to lose their roster spot than those who do not.

Eaton and Avisail Garcia are healthy at the same time for the first time since the second week of April. Those two outfielders are part of the Sox' present and future. If they are available, they are going to play. The third outfield spot remains a question mark. At least until the Sept. 1 roster expansion, when Danks will be recalled and Moises Sierra will come off the disabled list, the Sox appear to be going back to the left field plan they started the season with: a platoon with Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo.

The thing that's interesting about all this is that the coaching staff plays Danks frequently when he's available to them.

Garcia has been back from his four-month stint on the disabled list for eight games, and the most common outfield combination we've seen during that stretch is De Aza in left field, Danks in center field and Garcia in right field.

Manager Robin Ventura had the option of going with Viciedo in left, De Aza in center and Garcia in right, but he only used that combination just one time in those eight games. Danks started the other seven games in center field. Viciedo started just three of those eight games.

With Garcia, Danks, Viciedo and De Aza all available, the coaching staff seemed most comfortable with Danks on the field and Viciedo on the bench. Yet when Eaton becomes available, the guy who has been sitting on the bench (Viciedo) hangs around, while the guy who is playing center field (Danks) is packing his bags for Triple-A.

It makes you wonder if there's somebody in the front office who doesn't want to give up just yet on Viciedo and his tantalizing offensive potential. As we've mentioned before, Garcia's injury gave Viciedo a second chance to prove himself as an everyday player this season. Viciedo has squandered it. We know he's a horrible defensive player. His outfield gaffe on Sunday in New York cost Sox ace Chris Sale and the team a win against the Yankees. He has to hit to justify his roster spot, and his .233/.279/.397 slash line doesn't make the grade.

Viciedo has had 1,705 plate appearances in a White Sox uniform, including at least 470 in each of the past three seasons. Of those three seasons, this is his worst of the three. Much like Gordon Beckham, he's regressed despite receiving ample opportunity to right the ship. Maybe the coaching staff has recognized this, and that's the reason Viciedo was the guy who lost playing time upon Garcia's return. At some point, a player goes from having tantalizing offensive potential to being a bust. The White Sox might be at that stage with Viciedo.

I don't think Danks is an everyday outfielder by any means. He's not a good enough hitter. However, I think he's more likely than Viciedo to stick in the majors as a reserve on the basis of his ability to effectively play all three outfield positions. That versatility is a quality you want in a backup player. Viciedo can't play effectively anywhere on the field, and despite his potential, his offensive results are too marginal to keep him around.

Next year, Danks will be out of options. They won't be able to put him on the Triple-A shuttle again. The next time the Sox are faced with a "Viciedo or Danks" decision, whether that comes in the offseason or next spring, would it be out of line to suggest they keep the player who can handle center field and catch the ball? 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

San Francisco Giants become first team to win protest in 28 years

The San Francisco Giants on Wednesday became the first team in 28 years to win a protest filed with Major League Baseball.

On Tuesday night, the Cubs were leading the Giants 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning when a localized downpour caused the game to be delayed for more than four hours after the Wrigley Field grounds crew could not get the tarp on the field quickly enough.

The rain stopped, but the game could not be completed after umpires deemed the field conditions unplayable. The game was official, so the Cubs were awarded a rain-shortened victory.

The Giants, who are in playoff contention, were understandably unhappy and protested under the provisions of Rule 4.12 (a) (3), which states a game can be suspended due to a "malfunction of a mechanical field device under the control of the home club."

In this case, the "mechanical field device" is the tarp, which MLB determined had not been put away properly after its previous use. That's the home club's fault.

Therefore, the protest was upheld, and the game will resume at 4 p.m. Thursday with the Cubs batting in the bottom of the fifth inning and leading 2-0. The two teams have a regularly scheduled game at 7 p.m.

How rare is it for a protest to be upheld? The last time it happened was June 16, 1986.

The Pittsburgh Pirates were trailing the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-1, in the top of the sixth inning when umpires called the game after a pair of rain delays that spanned 17 and 22 minutes, respectively.

National League regulations required that umpires wait at least 75 minutes during an initial weather delay and 45 minutes during a second one before calling a game.

The umpires didn't do that, so the Pirates protested. The complaint was upheld. The game was resumed, and the Pirates lost anyway, 4-2.

The most famous upheld protest, of course, was the "Pine Tar Game," which was played on July 24, 1983, at Yankee Stadium.

The Kansas City Royals were trailing the New York Yankees, 4-3, with two outs in the top of the ninth inning when George Brett connected for a two-run home run to put Kansas City ahead, 5-4.

New York manager Billy Martin argued that Brett had too much pine tar on his bat. Umpires agreed and called Brett out. That was the third out of the top of the ninth, so the game ended with a Yankees win and a Brett tirade for the ages.



The Royals protested. The league office reversed the call, declaring that Brett's home run should count and ordering the game to be restarted from that point. Nearly a month later, on Aug. 18, Kansas City finished off a 5-4 victory.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Can Chase Headley jump-start the Yankees in the AL East race?

The New York Yankees have a mediocre 51-48 record and a minus-30 run differential, and 80 percent of their projected starting rotation is on the disabled list.

Nevertheless, the Yankees still believe they have a shot to win this year, and they signaled as much on Tuesday when they acquired third baseman Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres in exchange for infielder Yangervis Solarte and minor-league pitcher Rafael De Paula.

You can't blame the Yankees for believing they have a chance. The AL East is no longer the strongest division in baseball. Despite its uneven play, New York sits just four games back of first-place Baltimore entering Wednesday's action.

But can Headley make an impact? The numbers suggest he will not. He has experienced a steady decline since his career year in 2012.

2012: .286/.376/.498, 31 HRs, 115 RBIs
2013: .250/.347/.400, 13 HRs, 50 RBIs
2014: .230/..296/.353, 7 HRs, 33 RBIs

There's nothing about Headley that suggests he will ever repeat his numbers from two years ago. That was a career outlier. His career slash is .266/.346/.409. He's perhaps a better hitter than he's shown this year, but it's folly to think he'll ever slug close to .500 again.

Headley has been floundering on some awful San Diego teams. He has no help in that lineup whatsoever, so there is some chance he will be resurgent in New York where he will no longer be counted upon to carry an offense. Some have noted Headley's numbers might be hurt by the pitcher-friendly confines at Petco Park. Yankee Stadium, of course, is a hitter-friendly ballpark.

However, an analysis of Headley's splits this year shows no difference in his slugging percentage home and away:

Home: .250/.301/.354, 2 HRs, 19 RBIs
Road: .209/.290/.353, 5 HRs, 14 RBIs

Headley has been a slightly better offensive player at home, in fact. I'm skeptical he'll be the game-changer the Yankees are looking for.

What New York really needs to do is add a front-line starting pitcher. The Yankees have had horrible luck this year with Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda all on the disabled list. The latter three are on the 60-day DL. Brandon McCarthy has made two good starts since coming over from the Arizona Diamondbacks, but the Yankees are at least one arm, if not two, short in the starting rotation.

There are rumors the Yankees are interested in White Sox left-hander John Danks. I would think, though, that New York needs a top-of-the-rotation starter, like Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels. Danks is nothing more than a mid-rotation guy pitching with a surgically repaired shoulder at this point.

Even with Headley, I don't think New York is going to win the AL East as presently constructed. I think the Yankees need that guy to lead their pitching stuff, or else they'll be lucky to stay in the hunt for the wild card in a mediocre American League.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Chris Sale dominates Yankees in return from disabled list

Under normal circumstances, you get excited when a pitcher from your hometown team is throwing a perfect game or a no-hitter.

That wasn't the case for me Thursday night as I watched Chris Sale retire the first 17 men he faced, including nine strikeouts, in his return from the disabled list against the New York Yankees.

Sale was on a strict pitch count, although Sox manager Robin Ventura refused to say what it was. But you knew Sale was approaching that predetermined figure when Sox reliever Zach Putnam was warming up in the bullpen with the Yankees batting in the top of the sixth inning and nobody on base.

I knew if Sale made it through six innings without allowing a baserunner, Ventura would remove him from the game and then we'd have the meatheads lighting up the phone lines and rioting in the streets, screaming about a missed opportunity at a perfect game. The meatheads wouldn't understand that Sale hadn't pitched a game in over a month, and it's incumbent on the Sox to be careful with their ace -- who is still without question the most valuable player the team has in its organization. No way you're going to leave a pitcher who is just back from the DL out there for 100-plus pitches in pursuit of a no-hitter. No way.

I wanted to avoid listening to that moronic debate, so I was actually relieved when New York left fielder Zoilo Almonte singled sharply to center field with two outs in the sixth inning, ending Sale's run at perfection. The Sox lefty finished off the inning with a strikeout of Jacoby Ellsbury, and that cleared the way for Ventura to go to the bullpen without any controversy about pulling a pitcher who had a perfect game going.

Putnam, Daniel Webb and Ronald Belisario combined to cover the final nine outs. The Sox beat the Yankees, 3-2, and Sale improved his season record to 4-0.

Sale's final line: Six innings pitched, 10 strikeouts, no runs, one hit, no walks, 86 pitches, 54 of them for strikes. Sale threw first-pitch strike to 13 of the 19 men he faced. He had command of all of his pitches, and New York had little chance to score while he was on the mound. Aside from Almonte's single, there was maybe one other ball hit hard against Sale the whole night.

Best of all, Sale left the mound healthy and feeling good, which is the most important thing for the Sox moving forward.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Masahiro Tanaka: Some first impressions

I finally got a chance to watch New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka on TV for the first time on Wednesday afternoon. The highly regarded Japanese import started the first game of a day-night doubleheader against the Cubs at Yankee Stadium, and I have to say I was impressed.

Tanaka fired eight shutout innings in New York's 3-0 victory. He struck out 10 and walked just one, while surrendering only two hits. And, oh, both those hits were bunts. That was the extent of the Cubs' offense on this day. Tanaka threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 27 batters he faced, and had only two 3-ball counts the entire afternoon. He was simply overpowering.

Some scouts have said Tanaka has the best split-finger fastball they've ever seen. I'm in no position to argue. He had Cubs hitters swinging and missing at that pitch all afternoon. They couldn't hit it, nor could they lay off it. For the most part, Tanaka was starting his splitter at the bottom of the strike zone, enticing the Cubs hitters to swing at it, but it would fall out of sight before it reached home plate.

I also was impressed by Tanaka's ability to change the hitter's eye level. He wasn't afraid to pitch up in the zone with his fastball. A few of the Cubs hitters took belt-high fastballs that were right over the plate. They were probably looking for the splitter and got out-guessed. Tanaka also showed he could grab a first-pitch strike by using his slider. He got ahead in the count against almost everybody, and that made for a long afternoon for the Chicago hitters.

Tanaka reminded me a bit of the late 2005 version of Jose Contreras, when his split-finger was overpowering opposing hitters. Tanaka doesn't have as much heat on his fastball as Contreras did, but his slider is probably better. And the two pitchers are similar in the sense that you could tell a hitter the splitter is coming, and they still wouldn't be able to do anything about it.

Through the first 22 innings of his major league career, Tanaka has struck out 28 and walked just two. He's allowed six runs (five earned) through his first three starts, and all of those runs were scored in either the first inning or the second inning. From the third inning on, he has allowed nothing in each of his three outings.

When it comes to ace pitchers, they always say you better get them early in the count, and you better get them early in the game, otherwise you aren't going to get them. Tanaka has been an example of that thus far. 

All that said, it is worth noting that the Cubs' offense stinks. The North Siders were blanked 2-0 by Michael Pineda and three New York relievers in Wednesday's nightcap. The Cubs, who fell to 4-10 on the season, are not swinging the bats well right now and are hardly the toughest test Tanaka will face.

There are some good hitters in the AL East. Boston and Baltimore, in particular, have strong lineups when all their players are healthy. The more you face an opposing pitcher, the more you know, and it will be interesting to see how the AL East hitters adjust the second, third or fourth time they see Tanaka as the season moves along. That will be the true test to see just how good this guy is.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Does anyone want these five MLB free agents?

Ubaldo Jimenez
Does your favorite team still need a starting pitcher? Well, there are two free agents out there who might interest you. Both of them had ERAs of 3.30 or better last season -- in the American League, no less.

How about a middle-of-the-order hitter? There are two free agents available who can almost certainly give your team 20 home runs and about 75 or 80 RBIs.

Need defense? The starting shortstop from last year's World Series championship team is available, too.

The Super Bowl is over, and it's almost time for spring training to begin. However, pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana are without contracts. Also without a job are first baseman Kendrys Morales, outfielder Nelson Cruz and shortstop Stephen Drew.

All five players were given qualifying offers to return to their 2013 teams on a one-year, $14.1 million deal. All five declined and elected free agency. Here on Feb. 4, the waiting game continues for each player.

Why? Phil Rogers explained it in a recent column on MLB.com. Any team that signs one of these five guys would have to give up a first-round draft pick to that player's former team.

These days, teams are a little slower to part with those draft picks. Remember when the St. Louis Cardinals lost Albert Pujols in free agency? Don't cry for the Cardinals because they used the compensatory draft pick they received from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to select pitcher Michael Wacha, who was last seen helping the Cardinals to the 2013 NL pennant.

And don't cry for the Angels either. When they lost Mark Teixeira in free agency after the 2008 season, they received a compensatory draft pick from the New York Yankees and used it to select outfielder Mike Trout, who is probably the best young position player in the sport today.

So, if you're wondering why decent major league players like the five listed above are still looking for work, look no further than the rules about compensatory draft picks. GMs are now figuring the loss of a valuable draft pick into the "cost" of signing these free agents, and accordingly, they aren't willing to give as much money to guys like Ervin Santana. Clubs are going to wait until the last minute to sign these players, once the price comes down to bargain levels.

Eventually, these five players are going to get a contract with somebody. You won't need to cry for them either, because they won't go hungry. But they probably aren't going to get the money they believe they're worth, and they may not even get the $14.1 million they could have had by staying with their 2013 teams.

Most -- if not all -- of these players would already be signed if they weren't tied to draft pick compensation. But this is the gamble they took when they refused those qualifying offers, and here they sit on Feb. 4.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Teams should be more willing to include opt-out clauses

A prominent feature of both of the massive contracts given to pitchers this month is an opt-out clause.

Left-handed Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw accepted the richest contract ever given to a pitcher, but can choose to become a free agent after five years. Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka was guaranteeed $155 million by the Yankees, but can similarly tear up the rest of his deal after four seasons to hit the market again.

At first blush, this might seem like an awful deal for teams willing to climb on the hook for millions of dollars six or seven years down the road. If either player suffers a career-ending injury this year, their teams will still have to pay them millions of dollars for years after. If they pitch well and the free agent market keeps yielding huge contracts, either guy could opt out for a richer deal than what they have in hand, denying the Dodgers or Yankees the opportunity to collect value on the back end of these risky contracts.

That's the wrong way to look at the opt-out.

To the first fear I'll just say that if you're not offering a player like Kershaw or Tanaka six or seven guaranteed years, you're not really in the game as far as bidding for their services. Opt-out or no, they'll get those years guaranteed when they reach the open market. And opt-out or no, if a player gets hurt in Year 1 of a long contract, the team that signed the player is left holding the bag.

As for getting value on the back end of a huge contract, I have a hard time believing any team that signed a player to deal longer than five years expects to be getting a good value beyond that point. Perhaps Tanaka is an exception, because he's hitting the market as a 25-year-old, but these days teams enter into these massive contracts expecting to be overpaying for what the player is by the end of the deal.

Teams do that because they get a good value on the front end. If Tanaka pitches like an ace for the Yankees, they will be very happy to have paid him just under $90 million for four years, plus a posting fee that doesn't count against the luxury tax.

They might be unhappy to have to negotiate a new deal in four years, one that might be in excess of $200 million if Tanaka lives up to some expectations. But if there's that much money still rolling into baseball to spur that kind of salary growth for players, the Yankees are surely a team that can afford to retain Tanaka if they desire. Or if at that point the Yankees decide to spread their financial risk out a different way than on the right arm of a pitcher entering his 30s, they can do that, too.

In other words, if everything goes as planned, the Yankees have the opportunity to say goodbye to Tanaka when, theoretically, his best days will be behind him.

Where teams have been burned by opt-out clauses hasn't been by including them in the original contract. It's been by signing the player once the clause has been exercised.

White Sox fans around in the 90s can probably remember Albert Belle receiving a clause that allowed him to opt out if he wasn't among baseball's highest-paid players. When salaries escalated quickly in the late 90s, Belle took advantage of that clause to leave the Sox two years into a five-year, $55 million deal that once made him baseball's top-earning player.

Did the Sox regret losing Belle's services? Not after seeing him sign a new five-year, $65 million deal with the Orioles. Belle gave Baltimore one good year, then one poor year before degenerative osteoarthritis in his hip ended his career, though not his steady stream of paychecks.

If the Yankees need a reminder of what second-time buyer's remorse looks like, they just have to look at their payroll right now. After giving CC Sabathia seven-year, $161 million contract with an opt-out after three years, they saw the left-hander exercise that clause. Instead of being satisfied with three years and 705 innings of a 3.18 ERA and a 59-23 record, they chose to give Sabathia a five-year, $122 contract that has yielded a 29-19 record with a pedestrian 4.09 ERA through the first two years.

And of course there's the defamed Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees inherited the opt-out Rodriguez had built into his then-richest-ever-for-baseball $252 million contract he signed with the Rangers. After trading for Rodriguez -- with the Rangers picking up part of the tab -- the Yankees got a .303/.403/.573 batting line with 173 home runs from the shortstop-turned-third baseman over four seasons.

When Rodriguez opted out, the Yankees weren't happy with the house money they could have left the casino with in their pockets. So instead they signed him to a new record-setting deal, 10 years and $275 million. For that money they've gotten an often-injured player with a diminished .279/.369/.498 line who instead of collecting career milestones on the way to the Hall of Fame is instead sitting out this upcoming season as part of a cloud of steroid scandal that's rendered his once-incredible career meaningless to most fans.

For me, the moral of the story isn't that including the opt-out automatically makes things peachy for teams. It didn't make it that way with Vernon Wells' contract.

To state the obvious, signing any player to a massive contract involves risk for the team agreeing to the pact. No matter the player, no matter the team.

Something just as obvious is that signing the same player three or four years later to a massive contract is just that much riskier. So is crossing your fingers and hoping the next three or four years of a massive megadeal go as well as the first three or four.

Short of simply offering free agents higher annual salaries for fewer years, the willingness to include an opt-out clause might be the best chance for teams to avoid the years of these free agent contracts when they become an albatross.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Clayton Kershaw expected to make more than entire Atlanta pitching staff

I pulled this nugget out of the Jan. 27 edition of Sports Illustrated:

Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw will make an average of $30.7 million annually over the life of the seven-year contract he just signed.

By way of comparison, the Atlanta Braves' 12-man pitching staff is expected to make $27 million combined in 2014.

I know you've probably heard or read statistics like that before. People are quite fond of pointing out that Alex Rodriguez makes more than the entire Houston Astros' roster, for example.

But here's the thing: The Astros aren't even trying to win right now. They stink. They had the worst record in the league last year at  51-111. I tend to dismiss the Astros as a Triple-A team, so of course they are making Triple-A salaries.

The Braves, in contrast, won the NL East with 96 wins in 2013. Not only that, they led all of baseball with a 3.18 team ERA. Atlanta has a very good pitching staff that happens to be inexpensive as well.

It's hard to say Kershaw doesn't deserve his money. He's won two of the last three Cy Young Awards in the National League. He's the best left-handed starter in baseball.

But, the Braves example shows you don't necessarily have to throw around millions upon millions of dollars to build a successful pitching staff, or a successful team. Keep that in mind when people try to tell you the New York Yankees are a lock for the 2014 World Series after they spent almost half a billion dollars this offseason on free agents Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka.

The Yankees have won the offseason for sure, but there is no special prize handed to the team that spends the most money or collects the most big-name players.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Masahiro Tanaka agrees to seven-year deal with Yankees

The team that needed Masahiro Tanaka the most was the team that signed him: the New York Yankees.

On Wednesday, the Yankees and Tanaka agreed on a seven-year, $155 million contract. The deal contains an opt-out clause after the fourth year. The Yankees also must pay Tanaka's Japanese team, the Rakuten Eagles, a $20 million posting fee.

I'm sure the Yankees have more than enough money to cover that, and I think their desperation to sign a potential No. 1 starter sent them to the front of the line in the Tanaka sweepstakes.

New York had already spent $283 million this offseason to bring in free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. However, there was no way the Yankees were going to overtake the Boston Red Sox in the AL East with a declining C.C. Sabathia and 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda heading up their starting rotation. The Yankees' presumed No. 3 starter, Ivan Nova, has shown flashes been has never been both consistent and healthy for a full season. New York had to sign an ace-quality pitcher.

With Tanaka in the mix, each of those other three pitchers gets moved down a peg, and the Yankees have a better chance to win in one of baseball's toughest division. Of course, the key to the whole deal is Tanaka living up to the hype. Sure, he went 24-0 in Japan last year, but how will that translate to the United States? We shall see.

Both the Cubs and the White Sox were listed as finalists in the Tanaka race. Obviously, both teams came up short. I don't think there will be much shock on the South Side. I can't recall the White Sox ever giving a pitcher more than a five-year contract. I'd be surprised if the Sox would have been willing to give Tanaka six years, let alone the seven the Yankees gave him. Also, the Sox are not expected to contend in 2014, and perhaps that was a factor in Tanaka's decision.

The rebuilding Cubs also were in no position to offer Tanaka the chance to play for an immediate winner. I'm pretty sure the North Siders would have been willing to ante up for six or seven years, but it's questionable whether they would have been able to match or exceed the Yankees' offer. But even if they did, if you're Tanaka, who are you picking? The Yankees or the Cubs? I'd pick New York and go play for a winner.

David Kaplan tweeted today that the Cubs were "runner up" in the Tanaka bidding. If true, it's a little surprising the Cubs were ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it really doesn't matter. You know what else the Cubs were runners-up in? The NLCS in 1984 and again in 2003. There is no prize for finishing second.

As far as Tanaka goes, the Cubs are in the same boat with the Sox, the Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. They made their pitch and they lost out to the Yankees. End of story. For some, it might be disappointing, but it's not even slightly surprising.

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.