Tag:Matt Snyder
Posted on: February 13, 2012 6:23 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2012 6:41 pm
 

AL West will be the new AL East



By Matt Snyder


The AL East has been pretty widely regarded as the best division in baseball for a while. And with good reason, as the numbers don't lie. In the past 15 years, the AL wild card has come from the AL East 11 times. The best record has also come from the AL East 11 times. The American League World Series representative has come from the AL East nine times, while the World Series champion was an AL East team six times. Also note the '96 Yankees won it all, 16 seasons ago. Simply, it's a dominant division.

But with the events of this offseason, we're liable to see a shift in power to the west coast. Monday's Yoenis Cespedes signing for the A's wasn't a seismic shift type deal, but it shows they're focusing on winning within the next four years. Also note that the extensions of general manager Billy Beane and club president Michael Crowley are a true sign the A's will eventually get their new stadium in San Jose. When that happens, they'll start to have some extra revenue. So things should be looking up for the A's in the next few years, right? Well, not so fast.

AL West offseason
In fact, the A's might be looking like the AL West's version of the Baltimore Orioles. Since 2000, the Orioles haven't finished better than third -- which happened only once -- and have come in last the past four seasons. They've also had a payroll of at least $72 million seven of the past 11 seasons. They aren't poor by any means. They just can't keep up in the monster of a division that is the AL East.

Let's see what's in store for the A's in the next decade or so, in terms of their divisional competition.

• The Angels have an owner who just shelled out over $300 million to land Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson in free agency. It probably didn't seem like much of a big deal to Arte Moreno, considering he's looking at a local TV contract of 20 years for $3 billion. Plus, the Angels play in the mega-market that is Los Angeles. They aren't going away.

• The Rangers paid over $50 million just for the right to negotiate with Japanese phenom Yu Darvish and then paid him over $50 million more to sign. The have a front office and ownership group that can compete with anyone in terms of brains and most teams in terms of dollars. The Dallas area is a large market and the fan base is continuing to grow after two straight World Series appearances. They aren't going away, either.

• The Astros are moving to the American League West, and while it's gonna be a few years before they can compete, remember they have a new owner, Jim Crane, who likely didn't pay $680 million to own a doormat of a baseball team. Plus, Houston is one of the largest markets in America -- and the Astros had a nine-figure payroll in 2009. Don't discount how they'll play in this division come 2015 or 2016. They can spend, and will have to in order to keep up.

• The Mariners are in the 12th biggest market in MLB, which isn't bad at all. But they'd be at risk of falling far behind if not for a lucrative TV deal in their near future. Last week, a USA Today report noted the Mariners are among a handful of teams ready to cash in with a mega-TV deal like the Angels just did. Prior to the 2015 season, the Mariners can opt out of their current local TV deal with Root Sports and hit the open market. The Seattle Times also pointed out that the Mariners have trimmed their bottom line to the point that the only long-term investment is the reliable ace Felix Hernandez. So they could be positioning for a major strike within the next few years, after landing the aforementioned lucrative TV deal.

The process is going to be gradual, especially and obviously with the Mariners, Astros and A's.

Just don't be surprised if a decade from now the AL West is viewed as the best division in baseball. The resources are all falling into place for a westward move in the balance of league power.

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Posted on: February 13, 2012 5:24 pm
 

Cespedes discusses A's, Marlins, coming to USA

By Matt Snyder

Cespedes to A's
The big news in the baseball world Monday was the signing of Cuban import Yoenis Cespedes. He ended up with Billy Beane's Oakland A's, not the Miami Marlins, Chicago Cubs or Detroit Tigers.

Cespedes is a 26-year-old outfielder. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Cespedes hit .333/.424/.667 with 33 homers, 99 RBI, 11 steals and 89 runs in 90 games last season in Cuba. He hit .458 in six games during the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

After the signing Monday, Cespedes spoke to MLB.com about his new deal to play in America. Here's what he had to say, again, via MLB.com:
"I am super happy because it's been a dream of mine for a long time," Cespedes said. "To leave my country and play in the big leagues is what the goal was. My family is really happy, too. They are living their dreams through me."

"My first goal is to make the team and stay healthy all season, and little by little, I'll make more goals," Cespedes said. "I've been preparing every day for this and I 100 percent believe that I am ready for the Major Leagues. I have a lot of international experience and experience at a high level. I'm very confident in my abilities."

"Miami was a great visit," Cespedes said. "I had a good time. I ate with the team president and other people in front office. They were nice and it was a great experience, but the A's were for me."

"It was a great process, training and working out for teams," Cespedes said. "It was difficult decision to leave Cuba, but I'm really excited with how things worked out. I saw a bunch of teams and they saw me, too, but Oakland was the best for me."
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Posted on: February 12, 2012 11:46 am
Edited on: February 12, 2012 3:45 pm
 

Update on Burnett-to-Pirates trade talks

By Matt Snyder

This past week, trade talk connecting maligned Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett to the Pirates picked up. Here's the latest, via CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman.

The Yankees and Pirates are still talking and there's been "progress and continuing optimism" on getting a deal done. One obvious snag to this point has been money, as Burnett is due a whopping $33 million for the next two seasons. The Pirates are willing to take on more than $10 million while the Yankees would prefer a 50/50 split, but there are indications of a compromise on the horizon. Next, the Yankees are seeking "at least a reasonably decent prospect" in return, but the Pirates are actually more willing to compromise on the money issue than prospects.

Pirates, Yankees talk trade
Burnett, 35, was 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 173 strikeouts in 190 1/3 innings last season for the Yankees. He led the majors in wild pitches, one season after leading the majors in hit batsmen. He's currently ticketed to be the Yankees' fifth starter, but shedding his salary would help free up some extra money to sign a left-handed designated hitter like Raul Ibanez, Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui.

If the proposed trade comes to fruition, Burnett would probably bump Jeff Karstens from the Pirates' rotation, joining Erik Bedard, James McDonald, Kevin Correia and Charlie Morton. Of course, Morton's health is in question to start the season and Bedard's health is pretty much always in question, so there would be a great bet that all six of the pitchers would get a good amount of starts.

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Posted on: February 10, 2012 3:46 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2012 4:59 pm
 

Former college QB Mustain signs with White Sox

By Matt Snyder

The Chicago White Sox have signed Mitch Mustain to a minor-league contract as a pitcher, according to the Associated Press. In other words, the dude who started for USC against Notre Dame in football during the 2010 season is now in the White Sox organization.

In and of itself, a football player signing as a baseball player isn't altogether that shocking. Just to piggyback on the Notre Dame mention above combined with the Chicago angle, Cubs reliever Jeff Samardzija was a wideout for the Fighting Irish. And my colleague C. Trent Rosecrans posted about how many NFLers tried their hands at baseball this past weekend.

But Mustain's case is interesting, odd and kind of funny.

Like, for example, the fact that he hasn't pitched since he was a sophomore in high school. Yes, back in the spring of 2004 -- eight years ago!

Since then, Mustain has been a quarterback for Arkansas, a quarterback for USC, a quarterback for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (CFL) and then signed with the Georgia Force (Arena Football League).

So how did this come together? Apparently Mustain has a friend who played in the White Sox organization who arranged for a scout to watch Mustain pitch at the University of Arkansas.

Next, from LATimes.com:
“He hit me up on a Friday and said the scout could be here the next Friday,” Mustain said. “So I went out on Tuesday and played long toss to stretch out my arm.”

A few days later, he was on the mound in tennis shoes touching 90 mph on the radar gun.

“I was hitting my spots and my curve ball was on,” he said.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Mustain signed a contract this week and the White Sox sent him a throwing program the next day.

“I’m hoping to eventually get to 94 or 95 [miles per hour],” he said. “I’m excited to see where it goes.”
Now, the White Sox are an easy target here. After all, their farm system is ranked near the bottom by everyone who does that sort of thing -- several, like ESPN.com's Keith Law, rank it dead last. But this couldn't possibly have less risk. They likely aren't counting on much from him and if anything develops, it's gravy.

Still, the biggest takeaway of this news is that the White Sox just signed a guy who hasn't thrown an organized pitch since he was facing high schoolers in 2004. Even White Sox fans would have to admit, that just sounds funny.

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Posted on: February 10, 2012 1:15 pm
 

Report: Orioles sign reliever Luis Ayala

By Matt Snyder

The Baltimore Orioles have added yet another pitcher. The club has reached an agreement with right-handed reliever Luis Ayala, reports Roch Kubatko of MASN. As I noted in the AL East spring position battles article, the O's have a ton of pitchers competing for spots in camp this year, but Ayala should figure as a shoo-in in the bullpen along with Jim Johnson, Matt Lindstrom and Kevin Gregg.

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Ayala, 34, had a good season for the Yankees in 2011. He had a 2.09 ERA and 1.27 WHIP with 39 strikeouts in 56 innings after missing all of 2010 with an injury. He previously had Tommy John surgery back in 2006.

Ayala has pitched in the geographic area before, having made 174 appearances for the Washington Nationals from 2005-08 before being traded to the Mets.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: February 10, 2012 10:59 am
 

Spring position battles: American League East



By Matt Snyder


Here we are for the fifth of six installments of spring positional battles. This one is the mighty AL East, the most polarizing and probably best division in the majors.

Previous spring position battles: AL West | NL West | AL Central | NL Central

New York Yankees
Designated Hitter: Andruw Jones vs. Russell Branyan vs. Free Agent vs. Revolving Door

I still feel like the Yankees will sign either Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez or Hideki Matsui -- any of whom likely nails down this job full-time. But it's undecided as of right now, and wide open. Will Andruw Jones or Russell Branyan hit well enough to justify being the full-time DH? Maybe, or maybe they platoon -- as Jones hits from the right side while Branyan is a lefty. Or maybe the Yankees use bench players like Eduardo Nunez, Bill Hall and Chris Dickerson in the field while using starters like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher at DH a few times a week in order to keep guys healthy and in tip-top shape.

Tampa Bay Rays
No. 4-5 starters: Jeff Niemann vs. Wade Davis vs. Matt Moore vs. Six-man rotation

Talk about a nice "problem" to have. The Rays obviously have David Price, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson as the top three in the rotation. While there isn't a big problem with either Niemann or Davis, it's time to find a place in the rotation for Moore and I'm certain they will. The 22-year-old left-hander was awesome in his limited time in the majors last year, including a stellar outing against the Rangers in Texas for Game 1 of the ALDS. Moore's already received the type of team-friendly contract Evan Longoria got when he was a rookie -- as Moore is signed through 2016 with club options running all the way through 2019. So the question is, do the Rays demote either Niemann or Davis to the bullpen or trade one of them? Niemann would be the trade candidate, as Davis also has a team-friendly contract with club options that take him through 2017. And I doubt this happens, but the Rays could always go with a six-man rotation. Seeing how this plays out will a big spring storyline.

Boston Red Sox
Shortstop: Nick Punto vs. Mike Aviles vs. Jose Iglesias

After trading both Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie this offseason, the Red Sox are left with what appears to be Mike Aviles against Nick Punto at short. Punto had a good offensive campaign by his standards last season, when he hit .278 with a .388 on-base percentage. He only had six starts at shortstop, though, and his career numbers don't indicate he's worthy of an everyday gig at shortstop. Aviles also only started six games at short last season, and he only hit .255/.289/.409. He did hit well for the Red Sox, but it was a small 107 plate appearance sample. So the choice between Punto and Aviles is dubious defensively and neither is a good offensive option. Enter Iglesias, the dazzling defensive prospect. He's a dreadful hitter -- his line in Triple-A was .235/.285/.269 last season -- but it's not like Aviles or Punto are going to be confused with Troy Tulowitzki or anything. Maybe the Red Sox just plant Iglesias in the nine-hole and enjoy the exceptional defense?

Corner Outfield spots: Cody Ross vs. Ryan Sweeney vs. Carl Crawford and his health

Crawford is said to be questionable for the start of the season after undergoing minor wrist surgery a few weeks ago. If he's healthy, he starts in left easily while Sweeney and Ross battle it out for the right field job. If Crawford can't start the season, Ross and Sweeney are the corner outfielders, yet still fighting for the right field job for when Crawford returns. At some point, Ryan Kalish will return from offseason shoulder surgery and could eventually fight for playing time in right field as well.

Toronto Blue Jays
Outfield logjam: Colby Rasmus vs. Eric Thames vs. Rajai Davis vs. Travis Snider

We know who mans right field, but these four guys are competing for the other two spots. Thames in left field and Rasmus in center seem the most likely, but Davis will get a shot at either spot and Snider is in the mix for left.

No. 5 starter: Dustin McGowan vs. Kyle Drabek

This may bleed up into the No. 4 starter as well, but I'll give Brett Cecil the nod for now, since he is left-handed. The top three are Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Henderson Alvarez. So, for now, I'll guess the last spot comes down to McGowan and Drabek. McGowan was once a very promising young arm. He went 12-10 with a 4.08 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 144 strikeouts in 169 2/3 innings back in 2007, when he was 25. He then made 19 starts before falling injured in 2008 and finally just resurfaced late last season -- two shoulder surgeries and one knee surgery later. Does he have anything left? He was good in 12 minor-league starts in 2011, but had a 6.43 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in the small sample of 21 innings pitched for the Blue Jays. Drabek was a top 30 prospect each of the past two years, according to Baseball America, but he fell flat last season for the Jays. He had a 6.06 ERA, 1.81 WHIP and more walks than strikeouts for the big-league club. Even worse, he was knocked around for Triple-A Las Vegas, to the tune of a 7.44 ERA and 2.03 WHIP in 75 innings. Walks, again, were an issue with Drabek issuing 41 compared to 45 strikeouts. Prospects Deck McGuire and Drew Hutchison could also figure in the mix eventually, but this feels like Drabek vs. McGowan heading into March.

Baltimore Orioles
The entire pitching staff: Johnny Wholestaff vs. Joe Allstaff

So let's see ... the following pitchers might have a chance at the starting rotation: Zach Britton (very safe bet), Jason Hammel (safe bet), Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Dana Eveland, Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada, Alfredo Simon and Tommy Hunter. That's quite a mix of pitchers to sift through, but the job isn't overwith yet, because we have to look at the bullpen.

Three pitchers -- Jim Johnson, Matt Lindstrom and Kevin Gregg -- will compete for the closer job, with Troy Patton, Pedro Strop and Darren O'Day also being part of the bullpen mix. Of course, guys like Simon, Hunter and Bergesen will get a shot in the bullpen if they miss out on the rotation, too. There are more (Willie Eyre, Armando Galarraga, etc.), but I already named 17 pitchers vying for 12 spots.

We could probably move Simon and Hunter to the bullpen while eliminating Eveland from the starting mix, but that still leaves eight guys in competition. In the bullpen, Johnson seems the best bet to win the closer gig, with Lindstrom and Gregg setting up. Add Strop, Patton, Simon and Hunter and you have your seven. But, again, we've thrown out Eveland and there would still be three extra starters along with O'Day, Eyre et al on the outside looking in.

I'll say one thing: Orioles manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair won't be bored this spring. Maybe frustrated, but definitely not bored.

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Posted on: February 8, 2012 6:27 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 6:53 pm
 

Minor signings: Branyan, Suppan find homes

By Matt Snyder

We're coming up on the start of spring training, so these last several days will see plenty of minor-league signings. Wednesday, veteran pitcher Jeff Suppan and veteran slugger Russell Branyan were signed. The Yankees inked Branyan to a minor-league deal while the Padres locked up Suppan with a minor-league deal of their own.

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Branyan, 36, will get $750,000 plus incentives if he makes the team, reports CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, and could prove to be a pretty interesting signing for the Yankees. He's left-handed and has good power. He hit 31 homers in 116 games for the Mariners in 2009 and then hit 25 bombs in 428 plate appearances in 2010. Now, last season Branyan hit just .197/.295/.370 for the Diamondbacks and Angels. Still, with the short porch in right field and the Yankees having a possible need at DH (Andruw Jones is probably the best bet to get most DH at-bats right now), this has a shot at paying off. Then again, if the Yankees sign Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon or Raul Ibanez, Branyan's chances of making the club plummet.

Suppan, 37, will get $950,000 if he makes the Padres, per Heyman. Suppan spent the entire 2011 season in Triple-A, going 11-8 with a 4.78 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 165 2/3 innings. He last pitched in the majors in 2010, where he split time between the Brewers and Cardinals. He hasn't really been a productive pitcher since 2006. The good news for the Padres is he's simply organizational depth. Tim Stauffer, Clayton Richard, Edinson Volquez, Cory Luebke and Dustin Moseley appear to be the rotation with Micah Owings next in line.

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Posted on: February 8, 2012 5:42 pm
 

Reyes' hair sells for $10,200 on eBay

By Matt Snyder

How much money would you spend for someone's hair? What if I told you the person in question was a Major League Baseball superstar and the proceeds were going to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation?

Well, someone would have answered that question with: Ten Thousand, two hundred dollars.

Because that just happened. Reyes' hair sold for $10,200 on eBay Wednesday afternoon.

Reyes had to cut his long hair because the Marlins have a policy in place that forbids long hair. It's probably a bit antiquated, but whatever, they are paying Reyes over $100 million for the next six seasons. The haircut was broadcast on MLB Network last Friday.

In all, it's good that five figures are going to a great cause. I just can't believe someone paid any amount of money for hair, much less five figures, but to each his own.

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Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com