Tag:Pirates
Posted on: February 1, 2012 1:48 pm
 

Juan Cruz signs minor-league deal with Pirates

By Matt Snyder

The Pirates have signed free agent relief pitcher Juan Cruz to a minor-league contract with a spring training invite, the club announced Wednesday afternoon.

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Cruz, 33, will now join his seventh team in 12 big-league seasons, should he make the team. He spent last season with the Rays, where he had the good fortune of going 5-0 -- which, as a reliever doesn't really mean much -- with a 3.88 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 46 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings. He's been inconsistent season to season in his career, as Cruz was very effective in 2004 and 2008 while being awful in 2005 and 2009, with several other seasons falling in between.

Should Cruz make the roster, he won't be ticketed for a late-inning role. The Pirates have Joel Hanrahan locked in as the closer with Evan Meek and Jason Grilli setting up.

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Posted on: January 9, 2012 5:55 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 9:13 am
 

Paul Maholm agrees to sign with Cubs



By Matt Snyder


Free agent starting pitcher Paul Maholm has signed with the Cubs. The news was broken by, well, Maholm. On his own Twitter feed, following a tweet where he thanked the city of Pittsburgh, Maholm said: "I hope to get to continue some great things when I visit [Pittsburgh] and start some great things as I start my Cubs career."

He also added that he'll be at the Cubs Convention to meet fans starting Friday.

The contract is one year, worth a reported $4.25 million with a $6.5 million club option for 2013 (ESPN Chicago). Maholm had a $9.75 million option declined by the Pirates.

Maholm, 29, has spent his entire seven season career in the NL Central with the Pirates, so he's certainly familiar with the terrain. The left-hander went 6-14 with a 3.66 ERA and 1.29 WHIP last season, fighting off some pretty bad luck in terms of run support -- in 14 of his 26 starts the Pirates scored two runs or less.

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New Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have maintained throughout the offseason they are looking to build organizational pitching depth. Adding Maholm comes on the heels of signing Andy Sonnanstine while also trading for Travis Wood and Chris Volstad.

Then again, Maholm is a big-league starter -- even if you want to just say he's a fifth starter -- and the Cubs already have five in their prospective rotation: Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Volstad and Wood. And Sonnanstine is there to provide a fill-in should injuries arise. So what does adding Maholm on the cheap accomplish? Well, the Garza trade rumors won't go away, so there's probably something to them. Adding Maholm could possibly be a tell-tale sign Garza is headed elsewhere for prospects.

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Posted on: January 7, 2012 12:10 am
 

Under-30 players building Hall of Fame foundation



By Matt Snyder


T-minus two days until the Hall of Fame vote for the 2012 induction is unveiled, so we'll continue talking about the Hall of Fame in this relatively slow time of the year. This time around, we'll take a look at active players younger than 30 who have laid a foundation that makes a run to Cooperstown possible.

Now, make no mistake about it, none of these players are close to having completed their big-league careers nor are they currently close to being locks to the Hall of Fame. Still, some are well on their way and others have started a journey that may push them into the discussion in a decade or so.

Obviously things could change in just one season -- just take a look below at a certain catcher from Minnesota. Or think about how good it looked for Grady Sizemore three years ago at this time before injuries completely derailed him. And we have to understand that just a few seasons of being an elite player doesn't necessarily mean the longevity will be there -- take the cases of Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden, for example. For various reasons, careers can get off track. Still, it's fun to take a look at which young players have built a possible Hall-of-Fame foundation.

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but here are 20 under-30 guys who could be on the right track, in alphabetical order (age in parentheses):

Hall of Fame coverage
Miguel Cabrera (28) - The first name we list might well be the most impressive case on here. In eight full seasons (he appeared in 87 games as a rookie) Cabrera has been an All-Star six times and finished in the top five of MVP voting five times. He's hit .317/.395/.555, which is good for a 149 OPS-plus. Saying Cabrera is just about halfway through his career is probably reasonable and he already has 277 homers and 984 RBI.

Robinson Cano (29) - He wouldn't have appeared on this list until the past two seasons, but Cano has grown into one of the more dangerous hitters in baseball. He'd need to continue this pace for another six to eight years at least before being a Hall candidate, though.

Prince Fielder (27) - Six full seasons -- with 39 games in '05 -- have yielded 230 homers and 656 RBI. Fielder also has an impressive .390 on-base percentage and a whopping .929 OPS (143 OPS-plus). He's already finished in the top four of MVP voting three times. Can his robust body hold up long-term? If it does, he's probably headed to Cooperstown. Baseball-Reference.com's top similar statistical player through age 27 is Hall of Famer Eddie Murray.

Adrian Gonzalez (29) - Did he get started too late? Gonzalez didn't become a full-timer until '06 and wasn't a dominant force until '09. Still, four All-Star Games, three Gold Gloves and two Top 10 finishes in MVP voting. He also has a career .889 OPS (140 OPS-plus) and over 1,100 hits already.

Felix Hernandez (25) - We've seen so many pitchers flame out over the years after huge starts -- I mentioned two in the intro -- but King Felix basically only needs to stay healthy and keep his head on straight. He's already 85-67 with a 3.24 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 1,264 strikeouts. He has one Cy Young and also finished second once. And he could conceivably pitch 15 more seasons. Even conservatively -- assuming health -- you have to say he has 12 more in him.

Matt Kemp (27) - After a runner-up finish in MVP voting this past season, Kemp inked a huge contract with the Dodgers. He could be the face of the franchise for a decade. The power-speed combo (128 HR, 144 steals) along with a Gold Glove shows he can do it all.

Clayton Kershaw (23) - He went 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA, 248 strikeouts, an All-Star appearance and a Cy Young award last season. At 23. Enough said.

Tim Lincecum (27) - Two Cy Youngs, four All-Star appearances and a World Series ring so far. Not too shabby. Like Hernandez, Kershaw and all other great young pitchers, health and avoiding major off-field trouble are the biggest roadblocks. But there is serious foundation and talent here. I wouldn't bet against Lincecum. 

Evan Longoria (26) - He's going to be the face of the Rays for a long time and his arrival coincided with them shedding the laughingstock label. The 2008 AL Rookie of the Year has three All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger. His 136 OPS-plus bodes well. But his average dropped 50 points last season. Harbinger or aberration? I'd guess the latter.

Joe Mauer (28) - Would've seemed a lot more firm here last year at this time. The disaster of a season doesn't erase the amazing good Mauer did through the first six-plus seasons in his career, but it raises health questions moving forward. His bat means a whole lot less if he's playing first base instead of catching.

Andrew McCutchen (25) - He already has 95 doubles, 19 triples, 51 homers and 78 stolen bases. He has an .822 OPS (123 OPS-plus). What if he gets even better and is the driving force behind a complete Pirates turnaround?

Dustin Pedroia (28) - The 2007 Rookie of the Year followed up that act with a 2008 MVP. He's hitting .305/.373/.463 in his six-year career, while he's also won a World Series ring, two Gold Gloves and been to the All-Star Game three times.

Hanley Ramirez (28) - He would've been one of the best bets two years ago, but he's now mired in a two-year decline. Goes to show how quickly things can change. Of course, there's plenty of time to get back to 2007-09 form.

Jose Reyes (28) - In six "full" seasons (we'll say at least 125 games played), Reyes has been among the best players in baseball. There's no questioning that. Can he stay on the diamond enough to make himself a viable Hall candidate? It doesn't look great, but the talent is there.

Troy Tulowitzki (27) - Tulowitzki brings in three straight top-eight finishes in MVP voting and is the premier defensive shortstop in the National League. He really only has four seasons worth counting toward a possible Hall induction so far, though, so he's gonna need about eight to 10 more.

Justin Upton (24) - The potential here is insane. He came in fourth in MVP voting last season and should only get better. Again, there are many ways for younger players to derail, but Upton has all the tools to one day hit Cooperstown. Consider me a believer.

Justin Verlander (28) - Yes, he's only 28. Verlander already has 107 wins, 1,215 strikeouts, four All-Star appearances (that is, he made the team, not pitched in the game), a Cy Young and, yes, an AL MVP. He was already one of the better aces in baseball, but then went into a new stratosphere last season. If that continues, he's a cinch to make the Hall. We'll see.

Joey Votto (28) - In just four full seasons, Votto has made a name for himself as a marquee slugger. He won the 2010 MVP and followed it up with a stellar 2011 campaign as well. His career .955 OPS (151 OPS-plus) is incredible and he added a Gold Glove last season, too.

Jered Weaver (29) - Weaver was quietly really good until last season, and you can now drop the "quietly." He was the All-Star Game starter and could have easily won the Cy Young Award, if Verlander didn't happen to be putting up a historic season in the same league. In six seasons, Weaver is 82-47 with a 3.31 ERA and 977 strikeouts. Considering his age, though, this is a pretty tall order. He'll need another eight years of dominance, I'd guess.

David Wright (29) - I think I would have felt pretty good about him after 2008, but he's fallen off a slight bit since then. Perhaps the change in the ballpark dimensions helps, in addition to some health -- for himself and teammates. Wright does already have five All-Star appearances and a .300/.380/.508 line with 183 homers and 151 steals.



I think my four best bets right now would be, in no particular order: Verlander, Cabrera, Hernandez and Upton. Could be a lot more, could be a lot less. All 20 of these guys have plenty of time to either build a resume or screw it up. History tells us there's no chance all 20 make the cut, and even guessing half of these guys getting to Cooperstown is a big stretch.

Feel free to add more names in the comments, as there definitely isn't a wrong answer in this department.

Coming Sunday: "Asterisk" guys with Hall-type resumes
Monday: 2012 Hall of Fame inductee(s) announced
Monday: Looking ahead at the 2013 first-year eligibles
Monday: Looking at the '14, '15 and '16 first-year eligibles

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Posted on: January 3, 2012 4:57 pm
 

Video: Jack Wilson's kicking prowess

By C. Trent Rosecrans

As a University of Georgia graduate, I know how important a good kicker is -- so with that, I sure hope Jack Wilson has some eligibility left. The free-agent shortstop could always go back to school after 11 years in the big leagues, and maybe even earn a scholarship.

Check out this video of Wilson's kicking prowess:

Several failed baseball players have gone back to school to play football after their baseball careers fizzled, guys like Chris Weinke, Josh Booty, Quincy Carter and Quan Cosby, so why not a guy who has already earned more than $40 million playing baseball? Hey Mark Richt, make the right call this time, and see if Wilson wants to stay in Georgia for the next four years.

H/T: Big League Stew

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Posted on: December 26, 2011 3:31 pm
Edited on: December 27, 2011 3:51 pm
 

Voting for the 2011 MLB Bloggies, Part I



By Matt Snyder


With just a few days left until 2012 brings us a whole new year, it's only fitting to look back at the year that was. Sure, there's an actual baseball season, including spring training, the regular season and the postseason, but things happen nearly every day throughout the entire calendar year. So we're going to create a fake award and call it a Bloggie.

We'll set the table with some nominations and let you, our readers, vote for the winners. This is just Part I. Tuesday, we bring you Part II. Friday, we'll post the winners and our staff picks. Without further ado ...

Best Moment(s) of 2011
No-Hitters: Justin Verlander, Ervin Santana and Francisco Liriano all tossed a no-hitter during the 2011 season, with Verlander doing so for the second time in his career.
10-year anniversary of 9/11: The Cubs and the Mets played the Sunday Night Game on September 11 in New York's Citi Field, with the game itself taking a backseat to the pre-game memorial for the victims and the honoring of service men and women. 
September 28th: Rarely -- if ever -- has the final day of the regular season provided so much drama, as the Cardinals and Rays completed epic comebacks to steal the respective wild cards. Evan Longoria put the cherry on top of an all-around amazing night of baseball with his walk-off home run.
Cooper Stone throws out first pitch: Months after losing his father, Shannon Stone, to a tragic fall, young Cooper Stone threw out the ceremonial first pitch of ALDS Game 1. The catcher? His favorite player, Josh Hamilton, who then embraced Stone just in front of the pitcher's mound.
Game 6: Eleven innings. Nineteen runs. Fifteen pitchers. Beltre and Cruz go deep back-to-back. Freese's triple. Hamilton's homer. Berkman's clutch single. And Freese's walk-off. This was one for the ages in one of the best World Series in recent memory.



Most Historic Milestone
Jeter's 3,000th: On July 9, Derek Jeter hit a home run for hit number 3,000, becoming the 28th player in baseball history to join the elite group.
Thome's 600th: On August 15, Jim Thome went deep twice, the second home run being the 600th of his illustrious career. Only seven other players in big-league history have reached that plateau.
Rivera's 602nd: On September 19, Mariano Rivera locked down the save with ease. It was the 602nd of his career, making him the all-time leader.
Triple Crowned: Verlander led the American League in wins, strikeouts and ERA. Clayton Kershaw pulled off the same feat in the National League. The last time each league had a pitcher take the triple crown was 1924.
Most Valuable: Verlander won both the Cy Young and the AL MVP awards, marking the first time a starting pitcher won the MVP since 1986 and the 10th time in history a player won both the Cy Young and MVP.



Biggest Surprise
The Cardinals: Not only were the eventual World Series champions virtually left for dead in late August, but they went all season without their ace, as Adam Wainwright suffered a season-ending injury in spring training.
The D-Backs: The Arizona Diamondbacks were predicted to finish last in the NL West by nearly everyone. They had finished last the past two seasons, too. But these Snakes came out and won the West by a whopping eight games and took the Brewers to the limit in the NLDS.
The Rays: Yes, the Tampa Bay Rays had won the AL East two of the previous three seasons, but they also lost several key pieces and the payroll was $30 million less than it was in 2010. And the Rays still took the AL wild card from the mighty Red Sox on the final day of the regular season.
Pujols to L.A.: Albert Pujols was a St. Louis Cardinals icon. While he appeared to be flirting with other teams, it only seemed like a ploy to get the Cardinals to pay him more. He wouldn't really leave, would he? Well, he did, signing with the Angels on the final morning of the Winter Meetings.
Marlins' spending spree: For years we've watched the Florida Marlins deal potential high-salary players and be one of the most notoriously frugal clubs around. And then, in less than a week, the newly-named Miami Marlins inked three big-name free agents -- Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle.



Biggest Disappointment -- Individual section
Dunn is done: Adam Dunn has one of the most historically awful offensive seasons ever, and he's a DH. And it was only the first year of a four-year, $56 million contract.
No mo fro? Coco Crisp let his dreads out twice to reveal an incredibly awesome afro. But he didn't stick with it. And, yes, we realize this is a disappointment on a different level, but the Bloggies don't necessarily have to be serious.
Fractured: Marlins bench player Scott Cousins leveled star Giants catcher at home plate, a play in which Posey suffered a season-ending broken leg.
Juiced? NL MVP Ryan Braun failed a drug test and is facing a 50-game suspension, if his appeal is not upheld.



Biggest Disappointment -- Team
Red Sox: You may have heard of a collapse ...
Braves: You may have heard of a collapse ...
Twins: Lots of injuries and underperformance left the two-time defending AL Central champs with 99 losses.
Giants: The defending World Series champs finished eight games back in the NL West and four out in the wild card, sporting one of the worst offenses in baseball.



Most Bush League Moment
Weaver vs. Detroit: Magglio Ordonez watches a home run to see if it's fair or foul. Jered Weaver misinterprets it and thinks he's been shown up, so he has some words for the Tigers. Then Carlos Guillen hits a home run and basically stands still, staring down Weaver. Weaver then threw at Alex Avila and was tossed from the game while screaming at the entire Tigers dugout. You can place blame with Weaver, Guillen or both of them. However you slice it, though, at least one person was far out of line.
Big Z(ero): Carlos Zambrano gets knocked around by the Braves, throws at Chipper Jones -- getting himself ejected -- and then bails on his teammates. Some overheard him talking retirement, but he now is trying to work his way back.
Molina's "spittle:" Yadier Molina may not have intentionally spit on umpire Rob Drake back on August 2, but he did freak out far too much over a called strike and get himself suspended for five games during a pennant race.
Nyjer's mouth: Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan was a polarizing figure all season and that was solidified after the Brewers beat the D-Backs in the NLDS. Morgan was overheard screaming f-bombs right behind a field reporter. OK, maybe he didn't realize it was on live TV. But then when he was summoned for an interview on national TV, he made sure to say it loud and clear right into the microphone.



Worst Call
No pitching inside: Clayton Kershaw was ejected September 14 for (barely) hitting Gerardo Parra with a pitch on the elbow. Kershaw had been seen jawing with Parra the previous night, but he also had a one-hitter going and the pitch wasn't very far inside. It definitely seemed like an overreaction by home plate umpire Bill Welke.
Let's go home: An epic 19-inning game ended on a blown call at home plate by Jerry Meals, calling runner Julio Lugo safe at home and giving the Braves the victory over the Pirates on July 26.
Home run? On August 17, Royals DH Billy Butler hit what appeared to be a double in the gap. It bounced high off the outfield wall, hitting some fencing above padding on the wall. The umpires initially ruled a home run, but the play was put under video review. Replays pretty conclusively showed the ball staying in the park -- even the hometown Kansas City announcers were discussing that when the umpires emerged Butler would be ordered to head to second base. Butler was standing on the top step of the dugout with his helmet on when the umpires emerged and upheld the ruling.
Missed tag: In Game 3 of the World Series, Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler made an errant throw that pulled first baseman Mike Napoli off the bag. Napoli made a swipe tag that very clearly got Cardinals baserunner Matt Holliday in time. First base umpire Ron Kulpa, however, blew the call, opening the door to a big inning for the Cardinals.



Biggest "Can't-Look-Away" Character
These don't really need an explanation, so we'll jump right to the poll ...



Coming Tuesday: Part II, including Boneheaded Moves of the Year, Weirdest Injury and Most Impressive Home Run
Coming Friday: Voting results and staff picks

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Posted on: December 22, 2011 11:53 pm
Edited on: December 23, 2011 12:19 am
 

Homegrown Team roundup: Who is our champ?



By Matt Snyder

Well that was fun. An entire month of Homegrown teams has now been concluded. Now it's time to see how this thing would play out -- and let's avoid any "realistic" talk. Nothing about this is realistic. It's an exercise intended for fun and entertainment.

If you need to review the teams, go check out our landing page, where there's a link to the Homegrown unit from each of the 30 teams.

We'll run through this thing division by division, then the playoffs and then pick a Homegrown World Series champion. I encourage the comments section at the bottom of this post to be used for you readers to do this on your own as well, doing as much as every single divisional breakdown or as little as simply posting your World Series picks. Let's get interactive and discuss, as this is a truly subjective exercise. I also have no doubt some people will post comments telling us we're idiots for predicting the Mariners to win the AL West, for example, thinking this is predictions for the real 2012 season. When that happens, please direct them to this paragraph. Thanks in advance for your help.

[Note: I'll put our staff rankings in parentheses, but those are the average of rankings by three of us -- editor Michael Coulter and bloggers C. Trent Rosecrans and myself. The picks below are only mine, so there could be some differences.]

AL EAST
1. Blue Jays (5)
2. Rays (6)
3. Red Sox (7)
4. Yankees (16)
5. Orioles (30)

We do an exercise like this and we end up right back where reality is: With the AL East having three of the best 10 teams in baseball. Of course, the Yankees aren't included this time, so there is some variety here ... except for last place.

AL CENTRAL
1. Royals (10)
2. Indians (11)
3. Tigers (17)
4. White Sox (24)
5. Twins (27)

The division lacks elite teams and I could see arguments for either the Royals or Indians. Maybe even the Tigers. I ultimately went with the Royals because I like their lineup and getting Zack Greinke back atop the rotation gives a boost.

AL WEST
1. Mariners (1)
2. Angels (15)
3. Rangers (23)
4. A's (26)

I feel like Seattle would have this thing clinched in early September. The other three aren't even close here.

NL EAST
1. Braves (2)
2. Phillies (8)
3. Nationals/Expos (9)
4. Mets (14)
5. Marlins (20)

Very strong division here, as I wrote that the Mets Homegrown unit would challenge for the NL wild card. It's just that three teams in this division (and two more in the West) happen to very clearly be better.

NL CENTRAL
1. Cardinals (13)
2. Pirates (12)
3. Astros (21)
4. Reds (18)
5. Brewers (25)
6. Cubs (29)

Like the AL Central, this is a sub-par division. In the rankings where three of us voted, the Pirates edged out the Cardinals, but I still think the Cardinals' Homegrown team is a bit better and these are my picks. Definitely feel free to do something different in your own picks below -- and I know my boy Trent would. I do think 83-85 wins would take this thing, though, and the winner would be destroyed in the first round of the playoffs.

NL WEST
1. Diamondbacks (3)
2. Dodgers (4)
3. Rockies (19)
4. Giants (22)
5. Padres (28)

Two-horse race here, as both the D-Backs and Dodgers came out ranked in our top four overall. The other three teams in this division aren't even .500 ballclubs in this exercise.

PLAYOFFS

AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays
NL Wild Card: Los Angeles Dodgers

ALDS
Blue Jays over Royals in 3
Mariners over Rays in 5

NLDS
D-Backs over Cardinals in 3
Braves over Dodgers in 5

ALCS
Mariners over Blue Jays in 7

NLCS
Braves over D-Backs in 6

THE HOMEGROWN WORLD SERIES
Mariners over Braves in 7

Can we say it was a pitchers' duel for the ages in Game 7 with Adam Wainwright vs. Felix Hernandez? Sure, why not? This is just for fun anyway.

So those are my picks. Again, make your own below and we can compare.

CONCLUSION

I probably don't have to do this, but I felt like clarifying a few things. First of all, you know how sometimes people leave comments like "it must be a slow news day!" like it's some kind of huge insult? Yeah, it's actually true some of the time -- especially in the offseason. Aside from the whirlwind that is the Winter Meetings -- and this year's version was insane -- the time from Thanksgiving to Christmas in baseball can be a collective "slow news day." And we knew this. So we came up with the idea to run this series, as it would give us something of substance every single day for 31 days (including this recap).

Now, we didn't just do it to kill time. That would be a waste of readers' time. We wanted to do something that was a bit unique, interesting and also fun. Making fictional lineups is pretty fun for any die-hard baseball fan. Think about, is an "All-Star team of players over 30 years old" really worth anything but a fun discussion? No. It's entertainment for those of us who love talking baseball. That's what the Homegrown series was all about. If you aren't a die-hard fan or hate ever thinking about something unrealistic, it's not for you, and that's OK.

Most of the feedback we got was good. Some was really bad, but that's the way things go. No exercise is ever going to be universally accepted, especially when the Internet provides the cloak of anonymity and someone can just type "this is awful, you suck" and then move along to the next page. For everyone who weighed in, thanks for the feedback. We appreciate all comments, both good and bad -- but mostly, we were happy to see that so many did find it interesting and fun. That was the goal.

As for any "flaws" in this exercise, if one was trying to draw some broad, sweeping conclusion, there would be many flaws. The Yankees, for example, are generally always picking in the last few picks of the first round in the MLB Draft and also lose picks frequently as they sign top-shelf free agents. On the other hand, teams like the Rays, Pirates and Royals have enjoyed quite a few chances to pick toward the top of the draft and to also nab supplemental picks as free agents depart. Plus, there's a reason there are real-life trades: Because no team could possibly have enough foresight on how prospects turn out and put together a well-rounded roster from draft/international signings only.

Also, in an effort to avoid inconsistency, we only used the 40-man rosters and major-league free agents. If a player is retired or in the minors and not yet on a 40-man roster, we didn't use him. Several Giants fans, for example, really wanted prospect Gary Brown to be used as the center fielder, but he's not on the 40-man (yet). I understand that if this was a realistic scenario, the ballclub might more quickly promote a guy to fill a hole, but, again, this wasn't meant to be "realistic" in any stretch of the term. And on Brown specifically, he spent 2011 in High-A ball, so he's hardly big-league ready.

We knew all of these so-called "flaws" heading in. I cannot possibly stress enough that the object of this series was for entertainment and nothing more. There's no need to go thinking too hard about it or getting worked up about your favorite team being either over- or underrated. Who cares? This isn't reality. Take the series for what it's meant to be.

Most of all, we thank our readers for taking part in this fun little exercise and encourage each and every one of you to post your rankings or standings or simply pick a World Series champion below. The beauty of it is there's no wrong answer, as it is entirely subjective. Get the discussion going as you sit in the office with nothing to do on the last day before Christmas weekend.

We have had a few requests for possibly doing these again next year -- but instead placing the players on the team they debuted in the majors with. That's definitely something we'll look into. We take all feedback seriously here at Eye On Baseball.

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Posted on: December 16, 2011 11:50 pm
 

Hisashi Iwakuma drawing interest from 5 teams

Hisashi IwakumaBy C. Trent Rosecrans

While we all await official word on who won the Yu Darvish bidding, another Japanese pitcher is getting closer to picking his new team in Major League Baseball. Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma is expected to make a decision sometime around the new year, Iwakuma's agent, Paul Cobbe told Daily Sports in Japan (via YakyuBaka.com).

The Athletics, Twins, Pirates and Nationals -- and another, unnamed west-coast team, are mentioned as teams with interested in Iwakuma.

Last year the A's won the bidding when the Rakuten Golden Eagles posted Iwakuma. However, the two sides couldn't come to an agreement after the thirty-day negotiating period. The A's reportedly won the bidding with a $19.1 million bid, but couldn't come to an agreement. At the time, it was believed Iwakuma was looking for something around $12 million per year, while the A's were offering no more than $5 million. After returning to Japan for 2011, Iwakuma became an international free agent and will be able to chose his team. He has also hired a new agent.

Iwakuma went 6-7 with a 2.42 ERA in 119 innings in 2011 for the fifth-place (of six teams) Golden Eagles, but had some shoulder problems. He struck out 90 batters and walked 19 in his 17 starts. He is 107-69 with a 3.25 ERA in his career. He won Japan's equivalent of the Cy Young Award and the Pacific League MVP in 2008, when he went 21-4 with a 1.87 ERA.

In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Iwakuma started the championship game over Darvish, who closed out the game. Iwakuma finished the tournament with a 1.35 ERA -- the lowest of any pitcher who threw more than 15 innings in the tournament -- and was named to the All-Tournament team.

While not the potential ace that Darvish is, Iwakuma could be a good option for a team in search of help in the middle or back of the rotation.

Iwakuma will turn 31 in April.

Below is a video that focuses on his ground ball rate.



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Posted on: December 12, 2011 9:23 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2011 9:40 pm
 

Brewers deal McGehee to Pirates



By Matt Snyder


On the day they learned Aramis Ramirez would be signing with them, the Brewers have now traded former third baseman Casey McGehee. He is headed to Pittsburgh in exchange for relief pitcher Jose Veras, the Pirates announced Monday night.

McGehee was likely to shift across the diamond and play first base, upon the arrival of Ramirez. Instead, he's out the door and headed elsewhere, and the Brewers will likely give Mat Gamel a full-time look to see if he sticks. He's yet to get an extended chance at the big-league level.

Brewers' offseason
Gamel, 26, hit .310/.372/.540 with 28 homers, 96 RBI and 90 runs in 128 Triple-A games last season. Of course, he's garnered 194 plate appearances over the past four major-league seasons and owns an MLB triple-slash line of .222/.309/.374. It could be that he's one of those "Quadruple-A players," who is really good in Triple-A but can't transition to the bigs, that he just needs time to develop in the bigs or that he's simply going to be one of those late bloomers (like Alex Gordon, though Gordon was much more heavily hyped in his younger years). We'll find out this season, unless the Brewers are able to afford Carlos Pena, which may be possible -- oh, and they're 100 percent out on Prince Fielder.

McGehee, 29, was a great find for the Brewers in 2009 and he had another good offensive year in 2010, but badly faltered last season. He hit just .223 with 13 homers and a brutal .280 on-base percentage. Still, if he rebounds to his 23-homer, 104-RBI form of 2010, this has a chance of helping the Pirates. He provides insurance in case Pedro Alvarez flops at third base again and also gives flexibility at first base, where the Pirates can use Garrett Jones, or play McGehee at first and use Jones in the outfield on occasion.

Veras, 31, is a 6-foot-6 right-hander. He had a 3.80 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 71 innings last season. He struck out 79 hitters, which is a great rate. The Brewers needed an arm in the bullpen after having lost both LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito in free agency.

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