Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year from 'The Baseball Kid'

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Scott Kazmir signs 3-year deal with Dodgers

It's always been comical to me the past couple years listening to people complain about the White Sox having "too many left-handers" in their starting rotation.

If you think the Sox have too many lefties, take a look at the Los Angeles Dodgers' projected rotation for 2016.

The Dodgers signed free-agent left-hander Scott Kazmir to a three-year deal reportedly worth $48 million on Wednesday, adding him to a group of starting pitching options that includes ace Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Brett Anderson and Hyun-jin Ryu.

Yes, all five of those pitchers are left-handed.

The Dodgers whiffed on their two right-handed starting pitching targets. They failed to retain free agent Zack Greinke, who eventually signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and their deal with Hisashi Iwakuma fell apart after a failed physical. Iwakuma eventually re-signed with the Seattle Mariners.

That left the Dodgers desperate for starting pitching, and they ended up signing the guy who was probably the best available arm remaining on the market at this point. Kazmir had a 3.10 ERA in 31 combined starts with the Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros last year. His stuff should translate well as he switches over to the National League.

The only "problem" for the Dodgers here is that Kazmir is left-handed, just like all their other starters. But to me, that's really no problem at all. I think you have to find five guys who can pitch and go with them, regardless of what hand they use to throw the ball.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Twittersphere full of rumors linking White Sox to Yoenis Cespedes

It wasn't a surprise when senior baseball writer Ken Rosenthal tweeted Tuesday that the White Sox remain active in trying to sign a free-agent outfielder to fortify the middle of their batting order. Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Gordon were named as possible acquisitions.

No new information there, really. That was more confirmation of what we already suspect.

But then there was this tweet from national baseball reporter Jesse Sanchez, which has the Sox and the Baltimore Orioles as the front-runners for Cespedes. The Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers also are in the mix.

An article published Tuesday on Yahoo! Sports has the Sox listed as the No. 2 team (behind the Giants) most in need of signing Cespedes.

There's been so much discussion surrounding Cespedes this week that it feels like he could be making a decision within the next few days. As it stands right now, the Sox's payroll is in the $115 million range for 2016 with the additions of Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro this offseason.

Will they be willing to stretch a little farther to close a deal with Cespedes?

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.

Monday, December 28, 2015

What would the White Sox's 25-man roster look like if the season started today?

Today is Dec. 28, so there still is a long way until the White Sox open the season April 4 in Oakland. But, some offseason moves have been made, and we're a little less than two months away from pitchers and catchers reporting. So, let's take a look at what the 25-man roster might look like if the season started today, which, of course, it does not:
Todd Frazier

Starting pitchers:
1. Chris Sale
2. Jose Quintana
3. Carlos Rodon
4. John Danks
5. Erik Johnson

Relief pitchers:
1. David Robertson
2. Nate Jones
3. Zach Duke
4. Zach Putnam
5. Jake Petricka
6. Tommy Kahnle
7. Dan Jennings

1. Alex Avila
2. Dioner Navarro

1. Jose Abreu
2. Todd Frazier
3. Brett Lawrie
4. Adam LaRoche
5. Tyler Saladino
6. Carlos Sanchez
7. Leury Garcia

1. Adam Eaton
2. Melky Cabrera
3. Avisail Garcia
4. J.B. Shuck

The catching situation and the infield look a lot better than they did at the end of last season. Avila and Navarro figure to be upgrades over Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto.

If Frazier comes anywhere close to duplicating the 35 home runs, 43 doubles and 13 stolen bases he posted with the Cincinnati Reds last season, he's a huge upgrade at third base for the Sox. Heck, if he does even half that, he's a huge upgrade. Lawrie's defense could be hit or miss, but his bat will almost certainly be an major improvement over Sanchez at second base. Right now, it looks like Sanchez and Saladino will compete for the starting shortstop position in spring, unless another move is made.

What do the Sox still need? Well, they need outfield help. Another middle-of-the-order bat is required. Frazier will help provide protection in the lineup for Abreu, but the Sox need another guy to help them push the declining LaRoche to the bench and to the margins of the roster. There has been talk of the Sox being interested in free agent Alex Gordon, who is an elite defensive outfielder, but he's probably not a solution as a middle-of-the-order bat. Two other free agents, Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton, are power-producing outfielders, but it's unclear if the Sox are willing to open the pocketbook for a home run hitter this offseason. They better, if they are serious about winning in 2016.

One other thing the Sox need to do: Add an innings-eating veteran to help the rotation. It's been exciting to watch Rodon's development over the past year and half since the Sox drafted him, but he's still never thrown 200 innings in a big-league season. He'll probably still have an innings limit in 2016. Johnson also is unproven, so it would behoove the Sox to have a fallback option who can make spot starts and work in long relief. There's no need to look for a high-priced pitcher or an ace, just someone who can be signed on a one-year deal. Some pitchers who fit this profile might include Doug Fister, Ross Detwiler, Bud Norris, Kyle Kendrick and Colby Lewis.

We'll see what other moves the Sox might have in store as the calendar turns to January.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Christmas White Sox poem from Tom Braxton

A tribute to Clement C. Moore's iconic poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas."

‘Twas the night before Christmas as evening wore through,
We two fans debated what Rick Hahn should do.
The offseason wish was that springtime would yield
Players who could hit but who also could field.
The cranky South Siders were snug in their thoughts,
Certain that Rick had to fill several spots.

My friend in his hoodie and I in my toque
Had just settled down with a rum and a Coke.
When out on the web there arose such a surge,
My monitor’s pixels all started to merge.
I sprang to my keyboard, preparing to read
And saw that the rumor mill ran at full speed.

The glow on the face of the LCD screen
Gave the luster of late nights with too much caffeine.
When what to my cynical eyes should appear
But suggestions that Cespedes might be next year.
And another outfielder as we collect names,
I saw Justin Upton, among other claims.

But rapid as eagles some names fell away,
And we whistled and shouted and called them by name:
“On Flowers! On Beckham! On Soto! On Shark!
Don’t let the gate slam as you leave the ball park!
Avila! Navarro! Now show off your powers
To make us forget that out-machine, Flowers!”

“To the top of the race! To the wall that is green!
Your numbers will shine on the high-tech new screen!”
So up on my Android the names they all flew,
With holes still agape at base three and base two.
As I drew back my finger and lay off the keys,
Two more names appeared that would cause me to freeze.

A wink of the screen, with its refresh begun
Soon gave us to know that Rick Hahn was not done.
He spoke but few words, quotes just for the press,
And turned to fill third base, and second, we’d guess.
First it was Lawrie, that high-octane scamp,
Then it was Frazier, Home Run-Derby champ.

And laying a finger on top of the screen
And giving a nod, we reviewed what we’d seen.
We sprang to the bar, to the place gave a shout,
And ordered two beers, one lite and one stout.
And they heard us exclaim as we drank and we said,
“Who needs Cespedes? Sign Buehrle instead!”

Thursday, December 3, 2015

White Sox remake their catching situation

Alex Avila
When the 2016 season opens, the White Sox will have two new catchers.

Tyler Flowers' three-year reign as the Sox's No. 1 backstop ended Wednesday when the team opted to non-tender him. Last year's backup catcher, Geovany Soto, signed Nov. 24 with the Los Angeles Angels.

The Sox will turn to longtime Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila as their main guy behind the plate next year. Avila signed a one-year deal worth $2.5 million on Nov. 25.

When Sox GM Rick Hahn announced the non-tendering of Flowers on Wednesday, he said the move was "part of a plan," and that the club saw an opportunity to upgrade the position offensively.

Reports indicate 12-year veteran Dioner Navarro is set to sign a one-year deal with the Sox to be the second catcher.

What do we make of this? Well, assuming Avila is healthy (he played only 67 games last year because of knee issues), this is a platoon system that should work.

Avila, 28, a left-handed hitter, can't hit lefties at all. But if he achieves his career slash of .251/.358/.423 against right-handed pitching, this is a good pickup for the Sox. I don't think anyone would complain about a .781 OPS from a platoon catcher.

Even in a generally lousy, injury-plagued 2015, Avila had a .355 OBP against right-handed pitching. In case you were wondering, Flowers never posted an OBP over .300 in any of his three seasons as a full-time catcher.

Avila can't hit lefties, which brings us to the switch-hitting Navarro. The 31-year-old is a lifetime .255 hitter with a .688 career OPS, but check out the splits:

Navarro vs. LHP: .270/.336/.439
Navarro vs. RHP: .249/.305/.353

So, Navarro has a career .775 OPS against left-handed pitching. Avila has a career .781 OPS against right-handed pitcher. Platoon these guys in matchups favorable for them, and you might see some good things offensively from White Sox catchers for a change.

Flowers has a career .665 OPS, so the bar for improvement is not high. If used properly, Avila and Navarro have a good chance to clear it.