Posted on: August 19, 2010 7:19 pm
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Posted on: August 15, 2010 8:56 pm
If you care even a little bit about the baseball draft, then you'll hear the words "above slot" plenty in the hours leading up to Monday night's midnight signing deadline. As in, "Team A beat the deadline by agreeing to sign their first-round draft pick by going above slot on the bonus."
What it means is fairly simple: While baseball doesn't have an official slotting system for draft-pick bonuses, it has in recent years tried to institute an unofficial system. Since it's unofficial, the smart teams (or smart owners, anyway) have more or less ignored it, and thus benefitted by signing better players than they should have gotten, based on where they were drafting.
And here's why you should care:
Cliff Lee vs. David Price, Monday night at Tropicana Field, that's why. Two of the leading candidates for the American League Cy Young Award, two of the best teams in baseball, and two teams who wouldn't have those pitchers if they hadn't gone "above slot."
The Rays drafted Price first overall in 2007. Baseball had designated a $3.6 million bonus for that slot, according to research by Baseball America . To sign Price, the Rays had to give him a six-year major-league contract, including a $5.6 million bonus.
And Lee? The Rangers were able to trade for him only because they could offer Justin Smoak to the Mariners. The Rangers paid Smoak a $3.5 million bonus in 2008, well above the $1.99 slot figure recommended by baseball (again, according to Baseball America ).
It's the same thing the Tigers did to acquire Miguel Cabrera, who might have been the American League's Most Valuable Player this year if his team hadn't fallen apart around him. The Tigers got Cabrera only because they went above slot to sign Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, who became the two key pieces in the trade with the Marlins.
According to Baseball America , of the 15 first-round signings that had been announced by early Sunday evening, only three were above slot (and none of the three were far above slot). But the strong assumption is that most of the remaining 17 first-rounders will sign by the deadline, and that all that do sign at the last minute will get more than what baseball recommends.
The most interesting case, of course, involves top pick Bryce Harper, whose contract with the Nationals -- if he agrees to one -- will be for much more than the $4 million slot recommendation.
You don't need to understand all the details to know that you want your favorite team to buck the system. A partial list of above-slot signings from the last three years includes not just Price and Smoak, but also all these guys whose names you might recognize (thanks to Baseball America for help with the research):
Stephen Strasburg, Jason Heyward, Mike Stanton, Buster Posey, Mike Leake, Mike Minor, Rick Porcello, Matt Wieters, Jake Arrieta, Pedro Alvarez, Brian Matusz, Gordon Beckham and Madison Bumgarner, among others. Go back a few more years, and you can add in Mark Teixeira and Jon Lester, among others.
On to 3 to watch:
1. Lee vs. Price could be a Game 1 playoff matchup, and not just the matchup in Rangers at Rays, Monday night (7:10 ET) at Tropicana Field , in the first of a three-game series. The Rangers just got done playing the other two top teams in the American League East, splitting two games with the Yankees and winning two of the three from the Red Sox. We've long contended that the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox are the three best teams in the league, and maybe in all of baseball. The Rangers are in the process of proving they belong in that group, too.
2. Johnny Damon plays at Yankee Stadium this week for the first time since the World Series, and Austin Jackson plays there for the first time ever. If the Yankees didn't have baseball's best record (and if the Tigers hadn't slipped badly out of the race in the American League Central), the homecoming would bring on massive second-guessing of the Yankees' offseason strategy. Curtis Granderson, who was traded for Jackson and basically brought in to take over for Damon, is having a poor season (his OPS ranks 28th among the 33 major-league outfielders with 350 or more plate appearances). While Damon, Jackson and Granderson will be the week's focal point, the series also includes an interesting pitching matchup of Justin Verlander vs. CC Sabathia, in Tigers at Yankees, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium .
3. Every visiting team hated the Metrodome, but the White Sox may have hated it more than anyone else. They definitely wouldn't have liked the idea of going there this week, down three games to the Twins in the AL Central race. But are they any better now that the Metrodome is gone, heading into a series that includes White Sox at Twins, Thursday night (8:10 ET) at Target Field ? Perhaps not. The Sox are 2-4 at Target Field, and Thursday starter Mark Buehrle lost his only start there (despite giving up just three runs in an eight-inning complete game). Buehrle is 0-5 in six starts in Minnesota since the start of the 2008 season.
Posted on: August 1, 2010 9:23 pm
Cliff Lee lost his first start for the Rangers. Dan Haren not only lost his Angels debut, but he was knocked out of the box by a line drive.
Roy Oswalt lost his first Phillies start.
Yeah, it's great to trade for a starting pitcher, isn't it?
You make the deal with hopes that it will go the way it did for Lee last year, when he won his first five starts for the Phillies, then took them all the way to the World Series. You remember that CC Sabathia went 11-2 down the stretch with the 2008 Brewers, and changed the story of a franchise by taking them to the playoffs.
You remember Doyle Alexander (9-0) with the 1987 Tigers. You don't remember Jarrod Washburn (1-3) with the 2009 Tigers.
A starting pitcher traded at midseason doesn't get that many chances to affect the pennant race. Lee made just 12 regular-season starts for the Phillies last year; even Sabathia, who was dealt before the All-Star break and famously pitched on three days' rest down the stretch in September, started only 17 regular-season games for the Brewers.
The best deals make a difference, but with so few starts, each one is precious.
Oswalt makes his second Phils start this Wednesday in Florida. Haren makes his third Angels start Wednesday in Baltimore. Lee, who lost to the Angels in Anaheim on Sunday, will face the A's this weekend in Oakland.
Meanwhile, three other teams show off new starters this week, as you'll see in 3 to watch:
1. The Cardinals no doubt would have rather had Oswalt, but the guy they got was Jake Westbrook, who has come back well from Tommy John surgery. Westbrook's first start will come in Astros at Cardinals, Monday night (8:15 ET) at Busch Stadium . Westbrook is a career American Leaguer. He was 6-7 with a 3.56 ERA in 27 interleague games against National League teams. His opponent Monday is Brett Myers, the guy a lot of teams would have liked to have traded for; the Astros instead signed him to a contract extension.
2. The Dodgers were seven games out of first place at the deadline, and 4 1/2 games behind in the wild-card race. But the Dodgers obviously still believe they can win, as they picked up four players in the last week, including starter Ted Lilly, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. Lilly gets a tough assignment in his debut with his new team, facing Mat Latos in Padres at Dodgers, Tuesday night (10:10 ET) at Dodger Stadium .
3. Edwin Jackson keeps moving from team to team, impressing everyone with his stuff and his makeup, but never making enough of an impact that anyone decides he's indispensible. Will that change with the White Sox, his fifth team in an eight-year career? We'll find out, beginning with White Sox at Tigers, Wednesday night (7:05 ET) at Comerica Park . One interesting note: Jackson lost his final two starts for the Tigers, both against the White Sox last September. One reason he did, according to a source, is that he was tipping his pitches then and the White Sox had picked it up. Jackson is an interesting deadline pickup, anyway, because his career ERA after the All-Star break is 5.09, more than half a run worse than his pre-break ERA of 4.47.
Posted on: July 30, 2010 10:42 am
Edited on: July 30, 2010 11:14 am
The White Sox are closing in on a deal to acquire starting pitcher Edwin Jackson from the Diamondbacks.
The deal could be completed later today, sources confirmed to CBSSports.com. Arizona would receive pitcher Daniel Hudson and other prospects in the deal.
The White Sox have been searching for a hitter, but they've also been looking for an upgrade over Hudson in their rotation. Jackson, acquired by the Diamondbacks from the Tigers last winter, is just 6-10 with a 5.16 ERA for Arizona, but would still be considered an upgrade over Hudson.
The Nationals have also been interested in Jackson, and there has been some speculation that the White Sox could use him to get Adam Dunn, who has been one of their targets for weeks.
Hudson had been scheduled to start for the White Sox tonight. The Sox plan to have reliever Tony Pena make a spot start instead.
Posted on: July 27, 2010 2:07 pm
Teams that have spoken to the Nationals about Adam Dunn believe there's a good chance Dunn will be traded by the end of the week.
They also think that the price Nats GM Mike Rizzo is asking for Dunn right now is ridiculously high. Rizzo has been telling teams that to trade Dunn, he would need to get a young starting pitcher who is either major-league ready or close to it.
How ready? Well, according to a source familiar with the talks, last week the Nationals asked the Rays for Matt Garza.
Obviously, that wasn't happening, even before Garza threw the first no-hitter in Rays history on Monday night against the Tigers.
While there's no way for them to know for sure, rival teams believe that Rizzo plans to move Dunn, who is in the last year of his contract. Because of that, they believe that Rizzo's asking price will eventually drop, and that a deal will get done.
The Rays and White Sox have shown interest in Dunn, but a scout from another American League team said he thinks it would be a mistake for an AL team to trade for him. Dunn has said many times that he has no interest in being a designated hitter, and the scout believes that Dunn wouldn't be happy with an AL team.
The Giants, who have also checked on Dunn, would seem to be a better fit. But Giants GM Brian Sabean has been reluctant to move any of his best pitchers, and it's hard to believe he would include them in a move for a rental player like Dunn.
In other trade talk Tuesday, opposing teams increasingly believe that the Phillies want to move Jayson Werth. The asking price for Werth has been similar to what Washington wants for Dunn: a young starting pitcher. Werth will also be a free agent this winter, and while there's believed to be little chance he'll re-sign with the Phillies, one scout said: "He should never leave that ballpark." . . . Other teams still don't count out the Phillies in the Roy Oswalt sweepstakes, even though it's well-known that Oswalt would prefer to be dealt to St. Louis, Atlanta or Texas. The Cardinals have interest, but some people who know Astros owner Drayton McLane don't believe he would send Oswalt to the Cards -- or to the Rangers. And the Braves have not shown interest.
Posted on: July 16, 2010 10:33 am
This time, the schedule-maker got it right.
On the night the Yankees honor George Steinbrenner, baseball gives us Yankees vs. Rays. In the first game the Yankees will play since Steinbrenner's death on Tuesday morning, the Yankees will play the team that Steinbrenner always insisted they beat.
Yes, of course, he insisted they beat every team. Yes, of course, the series with the Red Sox and the series with the Mets always held special relevance to him.
But so did the series with the Rays, even back when they were the awful Devil Rays. Even when it was a solitary meaningless game in spring training.
Tampa was Steinbrenner's adopted hometown. Tampa was where he spent most of his time. He was not going to have his Yankees lose to any team from Tampa (or even St. Petersburg).
Yankees-Rays games are no longer meaningless. The teams enter the second half of the season separated by just two games in the American League East standings, with the Red Sox and the AL Central contenders close enough behind so that a wild-card berth isn't guaranteed to the team that fails to finish first.
The Yankees and Rays will meet 13 times during the second half. And the first meeting kicks off this first post-All-Star edition of 3 to watch:
1. In other places, you can argue about Steinbrenner's legacy. In the Bronx, especially in the moments leading up to Rays at Yankees, Friday night (7:05 EDT) at Yankee Stadium , you can be sure the focus will be on the championships won and the successes celebrated. The Yankees will have a double-tribute, honoring both Steinbrenner and longtime public address announcer Bob Sheppard, but they've pushed the video tribute to Sheppard to Saturday (which is also Old-Timer's Day). Friday's ceremony will concentrate on Steinbrenner -- who, if he were still here, would be concentrating intensely on Friday's game.
2. Sometime just after Stephen Strasburg's stunning debut, I vowed to include every Strasburg start in 3 to watch, until further notice. It doesn't feel right to end it just yet, not so soon after an All-Star Game that judging by the low ratings could have used Strasburg's star power. Instead, Strasburg will try to awaken a little baseball interest in South Florida, in Nationals at Marlins, Friday night (7:10 EDT) at Sun Life Stadium .
3. When Justin Morneau went on the disabled list last September, it was supposed to mean the end of the Twins. Instead, they went 17-4 in the 21 games he missed, including the memorable Game 163 win over the Tigers that sent them into the playoffs. Now Morneau is out again, on the DL while recovering from a concussion suffered on July 7 in Toronto. The Twins fell into third place the day Morneau was hurt. They're 1-4 since then, more because of poor pitching than because of the Morneau-less offense. The one win came from Carl Pavano, who starts again, in White Sox at Twins, Saturday night (7:10 EDT) at Target Field .
Posted on: July 11, 2010 7:37 pm
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- You could call it the Summer Meetings.
Not the All-Star Game, because so few baseball executives show up for it anymore. But Sunday's All-Star Futures Game might be the biggest gathering of baseball people outside the Winter Meetings.
Here's what some of them were talking about Sunday:
-- How well did the Mariners do in Friday's Cliff Lee trade? That depends what you think of first baseman Justin Smoak, the acknowledged centerpiece of the package that the Rangers sent to the Mariners. And among a handful of baseball people surveyed Sunday, the reviews on Smoak are decidedly mixed. "He's not [Mark] Teixeira," one veteran scout said. "They think they're trading for a batting champion. I'm not sure he's that." Other scouts were much more positive, one going so far as to say he has no questions about Smoak's value. And this was a decidedly top-heavy package, in part because that's how the Mariners asked for offers to be made.
-- While New York newspapers quoted some Yankee officials as being upset with the way the Mariners handled the Lee talks, officials from other teams scoffed at the idea that the Yankees could be upset. "The Yankees?" one official asked. "How can they say anything. They held up [last winter's three-team trade] by insisting that Curtis Granderson first get his eyes checked and then insisting that [Granderson] agreed to wear contact lenses."
-- The Rangers were among the teams that scouted Dan Haren on Friday night in Arizona, although by the time that game began they had completed the Lee deal and no longer needed to trade for a pitcher. Could the cash-poor Rangers have afforded Haren, who makes $12.75 million each of the next two years? Only in the highly unlikely event that their long-delayed sale is completed by the end of this month. The Rangers were able to afford Lee because the Mariners kicked in $2.25 million to help pay his salary, but also because they spent less than usual on things like Latin American scouting, specifically so they could make a trade like this one.
-- As one scout said, the group watching Haren included all the usual suspects, the teams still in need of a top starting pitcher. The White Sox, Phillies, Reds, Cardinals and Angels were all represented. So were the Yankees, although it's unlikely they would be interested in trading for Haren.
-- The Twins never had a real chance to get Lee, because while they have depth in prospects, they didn't have anyone Seattle would accept as a centerpiece of the deal (as Smoak was with the Rangers, and as Jesus Montero would have been in the proposed deal with the Yankees).
-- One thought on Roy Oswalt, whose $16 million contract for 2011 is a big obstacle for teams thinking about trading for him: A team, such as the Twins, could acquire Oswalt with the idea of trading him away after the season. Oswalt has a full no-trade clause, though, so he still needs to approve any deal, now or in November.
-- While the Yankees are still the best bet to sign Lee as a free agent this winter, don't discount the possibility that the Rangers could try hard to keep him. Rangers officials believe their chances at retaining Lee would hinge on two necessities: First, obviously, the ownership situation would need to be resolved. Second, the team would need to win, which would generate both the revenue and good feelings needed to get a deal done.
-- On Friday morning, the Rangers had given up on the idea of getting Lee, because the Mariners told them they were moving on a deal with the Yankees. But while the Rangers were deciding what to do next, Zduriencik sent word that there was "a window" in which he would field other offers. That's when the Rangers decided to offer Smoak and the package that got the deal done, replacing a four-player package that didn't include Smoak (but which some Rangers people considered superior).
-- Cubs people say the Ricketts family, which took over ownership of the team last winter, are committed to spending money. But they also say that money may not show immediately in spending at the major-league level, because the new owners plan to concentrate first on upping the budgets for scouting and player development.
Posted on: June 18, 2010 9:30 am
Lakers-Celtics is a rivalry.
Dodgers-Red Sox? Not exactly, but at least the presence of Manny Ramirez at Fenway Park makes you think that interleague play is worthwhile.
For three more days.
Do you realize that we've got another full week of interleague play coming? Another full week of Royals-Nationals, Rangers-Pirates and Mariners-Brewers.
It's not going away, not for another week and not for another few decades. Bud Selig is convinced that fans love every minute of it, and he'll cook up the numbers to prove it.
So what that at least three teams felt the need to stage bobblehead nights this weekend to boost interleague attendance?
Part of the problem is that the interleague schedule no longer makes any sense. When baseball began interleague play in 1997, the idea was that it would be division vs. division, with each team in a division playing basically the same schedule, and with opponents rotating year-to-year. Every six years, the theory went, you'd get to see each team from the other league twice, once at home and once away.
That system didn't last, and now teams seem to be drawn together at random. The Phillies went to Yankee Stadium for an interleague series last year, and went right back there this week. The Tigers and Diamondbacks seem to play every year.
This year, the Red Sox play four of their six interleague series against teams that were in the 2009 playoffs. The Rays play none of their six against playoff teams.
The system is broken.
To fix it, I'd build off a suggestion Ken Davidoff made this week in Newsday . Ken wants interleague play shortened to one week, with an NFL style schedule that would have first-place teams play first-place teams, second-place teams play second-place teams, and so on.
Good idea, but it's not realistic to eliminate the traditional-rivalry games (Yankees-Mets, Cubs-White Sox, Twins-Brewers, etc.), as Ken would do. These games still draw fans, they still draw interest, and they're still worth it.
So work out a plan that preserves those matchups (one series a season), and still gives us one week of interleague games under a system that makes sense.
And while you're working it out, here's this weekend's 3 to watch:
1. No, we haven't gone back on last week's vow to feature every Stephen Strasburg start. Not at all. In fact, when I got to Penn Station this morning, I almost got on the southbound Acela, headed towards White Sox at Nationals, Friday night (7:05 EDT) at Nationals Park . But even Strasburg III couldn't keep me away from Mannymania.
2. How do you know interleague play lasts too long? When both Fox TV and ESPN pass on a Subway Series, that's how. The funny thing is that this weekend's series in the Bronx feels worthwhile, now that the Mets are winning again (thanks in part to a kind interleague schedule that sent them to Baltimore and Cleveland, while their rivals were stuck playing powerhouse teams). And Mets at Yankees, Saturday afternoon (1:05 EDT) at Yankee Stadium , features a pair of young nine-game winners, in Mike Pelfrey and Phil Hughes.
3. For all the talk about how Manny is hated in Boston, when he left town on July 31, 2008, after the trade to the Dodgers, people came up to hug him at Logan Airport on his way out of town. They hate him, and they love him, and they'll likely do both again, in Dodgers at Red Sox, Saturday afternoon (4:10 EDT) at Fenway Park . Manny is 6-for-26 with eight strikeouts in his career against Tim Wakefield, but the last of those at-bats came 10 years ago.