Posted on: June 4, 2010 10:28 am
Edited on: June 4, 2010 10:30 am

3 to watch: The Nationals league edition

Next week we'll ask whether Stephen Strasburg can transform the Nationals.

Today we're asking whether Strasburg can help change the image of the National League. Because right now, when a guy is struggling (or just plain lousy) in the American League, the common thought is that he might be better in the NL.

Or didn't you read about this week's Dontrelle Willis trade?

Willis has a career National League ERA of 3.78. He has a career American League ERA of 6.86. And instead of saying that his career went downhill after the 2007 trade that sent him from the Marlins to the Tigers -- and, in reality, had started to go downhill in his last two seasons in Florida -- the story when he was traded to the Diamondbacks this week was that maybe a change back to the NL would help.

Nice thought, except the National League scouts we talked to wanted nothing to do with Willis, not at the major-league minimum (which is all the Diamondbacks will be paying).

"I was really surprised that Detroit was fortunate enough to trade him," said one scout who watched Willis this season. "That's a great deal for Detroit, because they get a player [Billy Buckner] back.

"We'd take a chance on a pitcher, but not him. If my general manager would have called, I'd have said no. If he can get you five innings, then he's had a heck of a night. His command and control are just not very good."

In 22 career starts for the Tigers -- that's all they got for their $29 million -- Willis had just two games where he got an out in the seventh inning, and none where he finished seven innings. He averaged 5 1/3 innings a start this season.

Sounds perfect for a team with the worst bullpen in the majors (7.51 ERA).

"Is he going to start for them?" the scout asked. "Well, good for him. Whatever."

With that kind of report, how can we do anything but feature Willis' Diamondback debut in this weekend's 3 to watch:

1. Roy Halladay ended May with a perfect game. But if you take the whole month, Halladay's May ERA of 2.15 ranked just fourth among National League starters, behind Ubaldo Jimenez (0.78), Mat Latos (1.54) and Matt Cain (1.81). And in his first start since the perfect game, Halladay goes up against Latos, in Padres at Phillies, Friday night (7:05 EDT) at Citizens Bank Park . This is probably as good a time as any to remind you that since his perfect game, Mark Buehrle has won just five of his 24 starts. And since his perfect game, Dallas Braden is 0-3 in four starts, with a 4.13 ERA. If Halladay starts slipping, then maybe Armando Galarraga should thank Jim Joyce, after all.

2. The Diamondbacks sent out a mass e-mail on Thursday, filled with positive notes about how well their team is doing. That's a team that just finished an 0-9 road trip, a team that has lost 10 in a row, a team that got walked-off each of the last four games, a team that hasn't scored a run in 31 innings. Sounds like the kind of team that can turn Willis into a winner -- or at least pretend that he's winning. We'll see, when he faces Jhoulys Chacin, in Rockies at Diamondbacks, Saturday night (8:10 ET) at Chase Field .

3. It really is too bad that the Nationals didn't have Strasburg debut this weekend, perhaps on Saturday night against fellow San Diego native Mike Leake (who already has four major-league wins and has helped his team into first place). Instead, they chose to hold him back for Tuesday, against a Pirates offense that might more closely resemble the International League lineups he has been carving up in Syracuse. Oh well. We'll make do with Luis Atilano on Saturday, and Craig Stammen, in Reds at Nationals, Sunday afternoon (1:35 EDT) at Nationals Park . Remember, it's the last game the Nationals will ever play (at least for now) without Strasburg on their roster.

Posted on: May 16, 2010 8:27 pm

3 to watch: The Ignoring the rivalry edition

The Yankees are playing the Red Sox, and you couldn't care less.

The Yankees are playing the Red Sox, and you can't believe that other network is showing them again.

The Yankees are playing the Red Sox, and just as a favor to you, we're not including them in this week's 3 to watch (although, if you must know, the second-place Yankees host the fourth-place Red Sox Monday and Tuesday, before hosting the first-place Rays Wednesday and Thursday):

1. One last Yankee-Red Sox reference: The Yankees lost their first eight meetings with the Red Sox last year, and in the end it meant nothing. So perhaps it means nothing that the Giants have lost their first six meetings with the Padres this year, scoring just eight runs in those six games. They haven't scored in two games against Tuesday night starter Mat Latos, and they've also lost twice to Clayton Richard, who starts in Giants at Padres, Monday night (10:05 EDT) at Petco Park .

2. For all their early-season troubles, the Angels are 2 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West. They just swept three games from one of the teams ahead of them (the A's), and now they get a chance at the other one, in Angels at Rangers, Tuesday night (8:05 EDT) at Rangers Ballpark . Vladimir Guerrero always looked forward to these Angels-Rangers series when he played for the Angels. Now he gets a chance from the other side.

3. Jason Heyward was everyone's preseason pick for National League Rookie of the Year. Mike Leake was nobody's. Heyward has eight home runs and 28 RBIs, so he's got a real chance. Leake is 4-0 with a 3.09 ERA for the first-place Reds, so you've got to say he has a chance, too. All of which should make Reds at Braves, Thursday afternoon (1:05 EDT) at Turner Field interesting.

At least as interesting as Yankees-Red Sox.

Posted on: March 1, 2010 5:16 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2010 11:18 pm

Padres' Gonzalez: 'I'm flattered'

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Adrian Gonzalez is fine with Jake Peavy's campaign to get him to the White Sox.

He's just not going to take part in the campaign himself.

"I'm flattered that he would want me as a teammate," the Padres first baseman said. "But I don't have any control about it. If [the Padres] trade me, they'll let me know after it happens. I don't even want to hear that they're talking about it."

Peavy told CBSSports.com last week that he has already spoken to White Sox general manager Ken Williams about Gonzalez, and that he strongly endorsed the idea of trying to trade for him.

"I want Adrian to be my teammate over here," Peavy said.

Gonzalez watched Peavy go through all the trade rumors, before he was eventually dealt to Chicago last July 31. But unlike Peavy, Gonzalez doesn't have any no-trade rights, so he can't control where he goes.

The Padres aren't talking about trading Gonzalez right now, but some rival executives believe that they will be open to trading him as soon as they fall out of the National League West race this season.

Gonzalez repeated what he said when he reported to spring training last week, that he's fully committed to the Padres. His contract with San Diego runs through the end of the 2011 season.

"When I step into this clubhouse, I'm 100 percent Padres," he said. "When I leave this clubhouse, I'm 100 percent my wife and my family."

He also said today that he believes the new Padres ownership and management team is "moving in the right direction."

As for Peavy, Gonzalez said he has no doubt that his ex-teammate (and maybe future teammate?) will succeed in the American League.

"Obviously, he's going to do great wherever he goes," Gonzalez said. "He could pitch against the Yankees every time out and do good."

Posted on: July 31, 2009 6:30 pm

The deals that didn't get done

The Rangers were hot after a pitcher at the trading deadline -- but it wasn't Roy Halladay.

As the minutes ticked away before 4 p.m. EDT, the Rangers and Angels were both pushing hard in an attempt to acquire Heath Bell from the Padres, according to sources. It's not clear who the Rangers would have given up for Bell, but talks with the Angels centered on pitchers Jose Arredondo and Sean O'Sullivan and infielder Sean Rodriguez.

The Padres also discussed what would have been a monster deal with the Dodgers, one that would have sent both Bell and Adrian Gonzalez to Los Angeles. In one form of that deal that was discussed, the Dodgers would have parted with James Loney, Russell Martin, James McDonald, Blake DeWitt and Ivan DeJesus Jr.

The Dodgers apparently backed away from that trade.

As for Halladay, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reported that the right-hander told the Blue Jays that he wouldn't accept a possible trade to the Rangers, thus abruptly ending talks between the two teams. Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi told reporters that he was never close to making a Halladay deal.

The Red Sox talked about Halladay and Gonzalez, but in the end weren't willing to part with the prospects it would take to get a deal done. It wouldn't be shocking if the Padres and Red Sox revisit Gonzalez talks in the offseason.

Posted on: May 21, 2009 7:57 pm

If Peavy can't take AL, Sox better without him

Jake Peavy has every right to decide he'd rather not pitch for the White Sox. If a player can't exercise a no-trade clause, why have one in the first place?

That said, if Peavy just doesn't like the idea of pitching in the tougher American League and in hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field, well, the White Sox are better off without him.

When the news broke this morning that the Sox and Padres had agreed to a tentative trade for Peavy, White Sox people were understandably excited. The Sox are off to a bad start (even before their 20-1 loss to the Twins today), and a Peavy trade would no doubt energize the team. Besides that, the White Sox have never felt they had a legit No. 1 starter (maybe not since Jose Contreras was at his best in 2005).

There isn't another No. 1 starter on the market right now. There may not be another No. 1 starter on the market all year. White Sox general manager Ken Williams will keep searching for ways to get his team going, but there just isn't another Jake Peavy out there.

"There's not 10 better starting pitchers in baseball," one scout (who doesn't work for the White Sox) told me earlier today.

On stuff, maybe he is. But if I'm looking for an ace, I don't want a guy who has doubts about pitching in the AL -- or about pitching in a ballpark where the ball flies. I want a guy who thinks "I can win anywhere -- and I WILL win anywhere."

Had the trade gone through, the Sox would have been obligated to pay Peavy $15 million in 2010, $16 million in 2011 and $17 million in 2012.

That's reasonable money for an an ace. It's far too much for a guy with doubts.

It's fine for Peavy to say he'd prefer to stay in the National League. Greg Maddux is headed for the Hall of Fame, and he never wanted to leave the NL, either. Cole Hamels said last year that he never wants to pitch in the AL.

It's fine -- but it also suggests that the White Sox are better off without him.
Category: MLB
Posted on: May 21, 2009 10:33 am
Edited on: May 21, 2009 2:37 pm

Padres, White Sox agree to Peavy trade

The White Sox have agreed to a deal to acquire Jake Peavy from the Padres, subject to the pitcher's approval of the trade. Left-handed pitchers Aaron Poreda and Clayton Richard would go to the Padres, along with one or two other pitchers, according to major-league sources.

Peavy's approval isn't a sure thing, and could be contingent on the White Sox agreeing to modify Peavy's contract, possibly picking up a $22 million option for 2013.

Agent Barry Axelrod, who represents Peavy, told CBSSports.com colleague Scott Miller that as of early afternoon Eastern time, he still hadn't spoken to Peavy today.

"I expect Jake to be pitching tomorrow night against the Cubs in San Diego," Axelrod said.

Axelrod dismissed the idea that the deal is completely in Peavy's hands.

"That's a simplistic view of it," he said. "Approval or disapproval is not necessarily in black and white. . . . One thing we've talked about is certain considerations might need to be given should Jake agree to a deal."

In the past, Peavy has said that he would much prefer to remain in the National League. Axelrod has suggested in the past that a new contract, or at least a decision to pick up the 2013 option, could help change his mind on that preference.

Axelrod said he plans to speak with Peavy later today, and he said a resolution could come quickly.

"We have no intention of making this long-term," Axelrod said.

The San Diego Union-Tribune first reported the possible deal in its Thursday editions, saying that Peavy met with Padres manager Bud Black to discuss it after the Padres' 2-1 win over the Giants Wednesday night.

Peavy has spoken with White Sox reliever Scott Linebrink, his former teammate with the Padres, and sources said that Linebrink told him he likes playing for the White Sox.

Peavy has the right to veto any trade, and in the past he has expressed a strong preference for remaining in the National League. Last winter, the Padres twice came close to trading Peavy, first to the Braves and later to the Cubs, but both deals fell through.

It was always expected that Peavy would be the subject of more trade talks as this season progressed, but the White Sox are a surprise suitor. In Poreda and Richard, though, the Sox had the young pitching that the Padres were looking to get back in any Peavy trade.

Poreda, a 22-year-old who was Chicago's first-round draft pick in 2007, has a 2.23 ERA in seven starts for Double-A Birmingham. The 25-year-old Richard has a 4.33 ERA in 14 games for the White Sox, including two starts. The other players involved would also be pitchers, sources said.

The White Sox have struggled in the early part of the season; even after back-to-back wins over the Twins, the Sox are still just 17-22, 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers. While Sox officials still believe that the American League Central race is wide open, but that the next month of games could be critical. Until John Danks beat the Twins Wednesday night, White Sox starters other than Mark Buehrle were 0-8 this month, with a combined 8.11 ERA.

While Buehrle is 6-1 this year and has averaged 15 wins a year over the last eight seasons, most Sox people still don't regard him as a true No. 1 starter.

"We've never had a CC Sabathia or a (Justin) Verlander," one White Sox official said. "Or a Peavy."

Peavy is 3-5 with a 3.82 ERA in nine starts for the Padres, but one scout who saw him pitch recently said he's still a top-of-the-rotation starter.

"There's not 10 better starting pitchers in baseball," the scout said. "He doesn't have quite the velocity he did a couple of years ago, but he's a better pitcher now."

The rotation hasn't been Chicago's only problem. The White Sox are last in the American League with just 157 runs scored in 39 games. But White Sox officials believe the offense could improve as the weather warms up and the ball starts flying out of U.S. Cellular Field. Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye have each homered in the first two games of the Twins series this week, as the Sox won both games, 6-2 and 7-4.

"They're not going to win unless two out of the three of [Jim] Thome, Dye and Konerko carry the load," one scout said.

Another scout's take: "Unless they get Danks and [Gavin] Floyd turned around, they're not going anywhere."

Category: MLB
Posted on: December 11, 2008 7:07 pm

Leaving Las Vegas (with a few loose ends)

LAS VEGAS -- The winter meetings were a blur, and it's not fair to say that nothing got done as scouts and executives paused between games of blackjack and let it ride. The Mets came looking for one closer and found two, the Yankees got CC Sabathia, and the Tigers, a year after stunning the baseball world by trading for Miguel Cabrera, traded for Edwin Jackson in a deal that barely anyone even noticed.

But as the baseball world moved on Thursday, leaving Las Vegas to the usual collection of tourists and hard-core gamblers, the deals still to be done were far more plentiful than the deals that got done.

A look at what's left:

-- Mark Teixeira. Five teams are involved, and the Yankees have somewhat surprisingly reemerged as one of them. The Angels would like to keep Teixeira, but have begun to doubt that they will. The Nationals and Orioles can offer location and money, but not an immediate chance to compete. The Red Sox are still seen as the favorite, but as general manager Theo Epstein left the Bellagio Hotel on Thursday, no deal was done.

Are the Red Sox optimistic?

"Not too many people leave Vegas optimistic about anything," Epstein said, as he headed for the parking garage.

-- A.J. Burnett. What remains for Burnett is a decision that seems pretty straightforward. He can follow the money to the Yankees, who have a five-year, $80 million offer on the table. Or he can take less guaranteed cash and sign with the Braves, for four guaranteed years and about $60 million, with a very attainable vesting option for the fifth year. It's a fairly big gap, but Braves people remain hopeful, in part because they think Burnett favors Atlanta over New York, and in part because tax difference make the gap a little less than it seems.

-- Manny Ramirez. There really wasn't much talk about Ramirez this week, and the feeling among many baseball executives is that he'll eventually end up signing some sort of deal to return to the Dodgers.

"They have to sign him," one National League executive said. "He's the most popular player the Dodgers have had in years."

The Manny negotiations, or non-negotiations, haven't held up the Dodger plans, in large part because general manager Ned Colletti and his aides are barely involved in any Manny talks. Owner Frank McCourt is handling things. No one knows for sure how much money he'll spend, but some people in the organization believe it will eventually be enough to get a deal done.

-- Scott Boras. Teixeira is his. Manny is his. So are Derek Lowe, Oliver Perez, Garret Anderson, Jason Varitek and Pudge Rodriguez. All of them are free agents. None of them signed during the meetings. Needless to say, Boras isn't ready to start his Christmas vacation just yet.

-- The Mets. They got K-Rod. They got J.J. Putz. They also know they're not done, because right now their rotation consists of Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, John Maine and rookie Jon Niese. They need one more starter and maybe two, but their remaining funds are limited, so previous targets like Derek Lowe are basically out. They'll talk to the Cubs about Jason Marquis (as first reported by SI.com), and at some point (if the price drops) they could have more talks about bringing Oliver Perez back. It may not happen soon, but eventually they'll get someone.

-- The Yankees. They're in on Burnett. They're in on Teixeira. They're in on Lowe. They're in on Ben Sheets. And the New York Post reported Thursday that general manager Brian Cashman flew to Texas in an attempt to re-sign Andy Pettitte. They still want two more starting pitchers, and they wouldn't mind adding a center fielder or a first baseman, as well. They've got plenty on their plate, but they always do.

-- The Brewers. They put most of their offseason work on hold, while they waited and hoped that somehow Sabathia would choose to stay with them. He didn't, and Ben Sheets won't be staying, either. They're left with holes in their rotation, and with no money to fill them. They have to dump some salary to afford a mid-level starter, but their first attempt to trade Mike Cameron failed when the Yankees asked them for money. As one Brewers official said, the next couple of weeks could be interesting.

-- The Angels. They went into the winter with money to spend, and twin targets to spend it on. But Sabathia wouldn't take their money, and there's a real chance Teixeira won't, either. The backup plan is Raul Ibanez, perhaps combined with Brian Fuentes and/or a longshot run at Jake Peavy. Everyone says Peavy won't waive his no-trade clause to go to the American League, but the Angels may have no choice but to try.

-- The Cubs. They called off the Peavy trade talks, becoming the second team this winter to become frustrated after dealing with the Padres' dysfunctional front office. They already re-signed Ryan Dempster, so adding another starter wasn't a necessity, but the Cubs have plenty of work to do. Mark DeRosa, who would have gone to the Phillies as part of a three-way Peavy deal, is now being shopped as a third baseman. And the Cubs still have to get an outfielder.

-- The White Sox. They say they don't have to do anything more, but everyone fully expects that they will. The best guess is that Jermaine Dye will eventually be traded somewhere, and also that the Sox will add a short-term starting pitcher. Oh, and maybe a center fielder, too.

That's a lot of loose ends, and that's not even the full list. The Rays still need another bat, the Dodgers still need a shortstop and the Cardinals still need a closer. There are still a slew of unsigned outfielders, from Ramirez and Ibanez to Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell. Rafael Furcal, Orlando Hudson and Orlando Cabrera haven't yet found new homes, either.

So more will happen next week, and even into January. As general manager after general manager said this week, spring training doesn't start tomorrow.


Posted on: September 2, 2008 11:40 am

What's with all the cycles?

Nothing against Stephen Drew or Adrian Beltre. It still means something to hit for the cycle. It's still one of the rarest feats in the game.

It's just not nearly as rare as it once was.

A decade ago, a cycle was nearly as rare as a no-hitter. Through 1999, modern baseball had seen 204 cycles, 202 no-hitters.

Since then: 38 cycles, 12 no-hitters.

I'm not sure it means anything. Sure, we're in an era that favors hitters, but wasn't that also true in the 1990's? And yet, there were more no-hitters than cycles in the '90s (31-24).

A little cycle trivia: The Padres have been playing for 30 years, and yet they've never had anyone hit for the cycle. Neither Tampa Bay nor Florida has had a cycle hitter, either. And the Tigers once went 43 years (1950-93, or George Kell to Travis Fryman) without anyone hitting for the cycle.

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