Tag:Jim Johnson
Posted on: February 10, 2012 10:59 am
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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: December 11, 2011 6:35 am
 

Homegrown Team: Baltimore Orioles

Erik Bedard

By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

The Orioles haven't had a winning season since 1997, and part of that has been the team's inability to draft, sign and cultivate its own players. Even the teams with the biggest payrolls, like the Yankees and Red Sox, have learned the lesson that you need to have a steady crop of homegrown players, not only to keep costs down, but also to have the commodities to trade if needed. The Orioles' Matt Wieters emerged as an All-Star in 2011 and Brian Roberts has had a solid career, but the team has still struggled to produce a consistent pipeline to the majors, and when those players have gotten there, they've often disappointed.

Lineup

1. Brian Roberts, 2B
2. Mike Fontenot, SS
3. Nick Markakis, RF
4. Jayson Werth, 1B
5. Matt Wieters, C
6. Nolan Reimold, LF
7. Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
8. Willie Harris, DH
9. Darnell McDonald, CF

Starting Rotation

1. Erik Bedard
2. Zach Britton
3. Jake Arrieta
4. Brad Bergesen
5. Brian Matusz

Bullpen

Closer - David Hernandez
Set up - Arthur Rhodes, Jim Johnson, Koji Uehara, Jason Berken, Pedro Beato, D.J. Carrasco

Notable Bench Players

Eli Whiteside is the backup catcher, and a pretty good one. But other than that, the Orioles' bench is thin. Brandon Snyder? Ryan Adams? That's about all the team has to offer.

What's Good?

The middle of the lineup -- Markakis, Werth and Wieters is solid and the bullpen is deep. Other than that? Not much.

What's Not?

Take your pick -- the rest of the team's lineup isn't up to snuff. The rotation, minus Bedard, is similar to the real team's rotation in 2011. And then there's not much depth, either in the rotation or the lineup.

Comparison to real 2011

Only the Astros, Twins and Mariners had a worse record than Baltimore's 67-95 mark in 2011, and this team could be even worse. The rotation is about the same and the offense isn't as good without J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds. The Orioles once were known for throwing money at free agents and not developing their own players, now they just don't develop their own players. A team of homegrown Orioles could challenge the 100 loss mark and maybe even the worst record in baseball.

Next: Washington Nationals

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 21, 2011 12:30 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 12:45 pm
 

Report: Two clubs interested in Huston Street

By Matt Snyder

This just in: Rockies closer Huston Street is on the trade market. Yeah, you've heard that before. So let's dive right into the latest rumor.

The Orioles and Blue Jays are taking a look at the right-handed closer, according to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com. Rosenthal also throws Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie in the mix as a possible match. It's worth noting there are likely a lot more than two teams interested in Street, but we're just talking about this particular rumor for now.

The Blue Jays' name being here is pretty obvious. They don't have an established closer and are looking like they have a shot at contending in 2012. So let's just focus on the Orioles part.

Hot Stove
The O's do have Jim Johnson and Kevin Gregg in house. But Orioles manager Buck Showalter reportedly wants Johnson in the rotation and it's very reasonable to believe the Orioles don't want to leave Kevin Gregg as the closer. It was pretty stupid to sign him in the first place, but what's done is done and it's a new administration. Moving forward, Street could help the Orioles fill a need, if Johnson is indeed moved to the rotation.

Street, 28, saved 29 of 33 chances last season with a 3.86 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. He's been one of the better closers in baseball a few seasons, but consistency has been an issue. Still, he's better than Gregg, there's no question about that.

Johnson, 28, was a valuable member of the Orioles' bullpen last season, saving nine games with a 2.67 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 91 innings.

Meanwhile, the Rockies could use starting pitching help and Guthrie is a fit. He has thrown at least 200 innings in each of the past three seasons. He's had a good ERA three of the past five seasons, but his win-loss record is awful due to playing for the Orioles. On a good team, he's definitely got the chance to be a serviceable middle-of-the-rotation guy. And if the Rockies deal Street, they feel comfortable with Rafael Betancourt as the closer.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 11, 2011 4:53 pm
Edited on: November 12, 2011 2:01 pm
 

Closer look at all 30 closing situations



By C. Trent Rosecrans
 and Matt Snyder

It appears the first domino in closer market has fallen (at least, we're pretty sure this time), but that leaves Heath Bell and Ryan Madson as the top relievers still available. But who needs a closer? Here's a look at the closing situation for all 30 teams.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gregg is still under contract -- much to the chagrin of new general manager Dan Duquette's chagrin. Gregg will make $5.8 million in 2012, not exactly ideal for a guy with a WHIP of 1.642 last season and an ERA of 4.37 while picking up 22 saves. Jim Johnson recorded nine saves and threw just 91 innings, but doesn't exactly miss a ton of bats. The Orioles could move Johnson to the rotation.
Possibilities: Gregg, Johnson, Bell, Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Broxton.

Red Sox: Well, obviously Papelbon is gone. Papelbon was the Red Sox closer for the last six years, recording the final out of the 2007 World Series among other memories. Still, As untouchable as he was in his first four years as the closer (1.74 ERA and 0.917 WHIP from 2006-2009), he had a 3.43 ERA and 1.104 WHIP over the last two seasons. Daniel Bard is unhittable at times, but struggled in the last two months of the season (which certainly wasn't uncommon among Red Sox), posting a 6.95 ERA in 21 games in August and September.
Possibilities: Bard, Madson, Bell.

New York Yankees: Mariano Rivera. Enough said.

Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays let the Yankees overpay for Rafael Soriano and then picked up Kyle Farnsworth off the discard pile, signing him to a two-year, $6 million deal. In retrospect, it was genius -- Farnsworth had 25 saves with a 2.18 ERA in 2011 and the Rays will keep him another year and let someone else overpay him for 2013.

Toronto Blue Jays: Frank Francisco was the team's closer for much of 2011, but he's a free agent and the team could be looking to spend some money on a  closer.
Possibilities: Madson, Bell, Cordero, Rodriguez, Casey Janssen.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox: Right-hander Sergio Santos converted 30 of 36 save opportunities, liming batters to just a .181/.282/.314 slash line and he should be in line to keep his job in 2012. If he falters, Addison Reed has a chance to take over.

Cleveland Indians: Chris Perez is on solid ground as the team's closer, picking up 35 saves in 2011.

Detroit Tigers: The Tigers picked up the $9 million option on Jose Valverde.

Kansas City Royals: The Royals picked up the $6 million option on Joakim Soria and have options for 2013 and 2014.

Minnesota Twins: The Twins declined their $12.5 million option on incumbent Joe Nathan, but have expressed interest in bringing him back. Although his overall numbers -- 4.84 ERA, 1.164 WHIP, 14 saves -- weren't too impressive, he did convert all 11 of his saves in the second half of the season. Left-hander Glen Perkins had two saves in 2011 and struck out 65 batters in 61 2/3 innings. If the team doesn't sign a free agent -- or trade for someone -- Perkins would have the best shot.
Possibilities: Nathan, Perkins, Jon Rauch, Broxton.

AL West

Los Angeles Angels: Jordan Walden recorded 32 saves as a rookie and made the All-Star team. He did blow 10 saves last season, so it wouldn't be a complete shock if the team looked for an upgrade, but it's not expected, especially with tight purse strings this winter. The team could bring in a veteran for cheap that could close if Walden falters.
Possibilities: Walden, Scott Downs, Broxton, Rauch.

Oakland Athletics: Andrew Bailey is the team's closer, but a trade is always possible with Oakland.

Seattle Mariners: Brandon League had 37 saves and a 2.79 ERA in 2011.

Texas Rangers: The Rangers could be a wild card in the free agent closer market if they decided to move Neftali Feliz to the rotation. The Rangers tried that last spring but decided to keep Feliz in the bullpen. If they bring in a big-name, that would mean they believe Feliz can make the move. If not, there's still a chance of Mike Adams taking over for Feliz. Or they could bring in a low-cost veteran to have in reserve in case Feliz does work in the rotation.
Possibilities: Mike Adams, Madson, Cordero, Rauch, Broxton.

NL East

Atlanta Braves: Craig Kimbrel. Period. 

Miami Marlins: While the artist formerly known as Leo Nunez gets his name issue sorted out, the Marlins have a gaping hole at closer. The current members of their bullpen combined for four saves last season. Do the Marlins try to go with an internal option like Edward Mujica or make a splash on the free agent market (as they've been connected to several huge names already)? 
Possibilities: Nunez, Mujica, Madson, Cordero, Rodriguez, Bell.

New York Mets: If they stay internally, which is entirely possible, it looks like Bobby Parnell. But he wasn't awesome by any stretch when given save chances last season. The Mets have spent big on a free agent closer before (K-Rod), so would they be gunshy in doing so again? It's possible. But it's also possible they try to land someone like Ryan Madson. 
Possibilities: Parnell, Madson, Bell.

Philadelphia Phillies: Papelbon. 

Washington Nationals: Drew Storen closed 43 of 48 games in 2011, his first full season in the majors. One would think that would be enough to earn him at least another year on the job, but Storen's name keeps popping up in trade rumors and the Nationals have been reportedly interested in Madson. The Nats have plenty of money, so if they wanted to ink a big-name closer and deal Storen as part of a package for a center fielder (Denard Span, perhaps?), they would be able to do so. 
Possibilities: Storen, Madson, Bell, Cordero.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: It's probably going to be Carlos Marmol again, but he better get himself in gear. Not only did he blow 10 saves, but his once-astronomical strikeout rate lowered a bit in 2011 and control continues to be a serious problem. With new brass at the helm, 2011 will likely be his last chance to get things fixed. 

Cincinnati Reds: Cordero had a great four-year run with the Reds, amassing 150 saves with a 2.96 ERA, but he's a free agent now. Fireballer Aroldis Chapman is ticketed for the starting rotation and Nick Masset seems to be awfully inconsistent. The Reds don't have the money to spend in free agency, so would they make a trade for, say, Huston Street or Andrew Bailey? Seems unlikely. Either Chapman doesn't make it as a starter and sticks as closer or someone internally (23-year-old Brad Boxberger?) gets a shot. This one is totally up in the air. 
Possibilities: Cordero, Chapman, Boxberger, Bailey, Street, Broxton.

Houston Astros: Mark Melancon saved 20 games with a 2.78 ERA last season. There are far bigger problems with this team to believe they'll try hard to make a change here.

Milwaukee Brewers: John Axford and his award-winning 'stache.  

Pittsburgh Pirates: All-Star Joel Hanrahan nailed down the job last season. 

St. Louis Cardinals: Jason Motte was never officially named closer by the stubborn Tony La Russa, but he did more than enough down the stretch and in the playoffs to earn the job for 2012, closing nine of 10 saves during the Cardinals' late run and five more in the postseason. 

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks: It will again be J.J. Putz with David Hernandez filling in if (when?) Putz falls injured.

Colorado Rockies: Street is reportedly on the trading block. If he's is dealt, look for Rafael Betancourt to take over. He collected eight saves with a 2.89 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning in 2011. 

Los Angeles Dodgers: Rookie Javy Guerra came on to save 21 games in 23 chances with a 2.31 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings in 2011. That's enough to have nailed down the job for the 2011 season, one would think. 

San Diego Padres: Bell is a free agent, but the Padres may just offer him arbitration, and he actually might accept it. If he does stay, the choice is obvious. If Bell leaves, there's a decent internal option in Chad Qualls. Qualls, 33, has 51 career saves. As far as free agency, if the Padres want to pay for a closer, they'll be paying for Bell. 
Possibilities: Bell, Qualls.

San Francisco: The Beard. 

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Posted on: September 21, 2011 11:41 am
Edited on: September 21, 2011 11:43 am
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Baltimore Orioles

By Matt Snyder

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Baltimore Orioles
Record: 64-90, 29.5 games back in AL East
Manager: Buck Showalter
Best hitter: Adam Jones -- .283/.324/.466, 23 HR, 80 RBI, 63 R, 25 2B, 11 SB
Best pitcher: Jeremy Guthrie -- 9-17, 4.28 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 128 K, 202 IP

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Orioles haven't been in playoff contention since 1997. Following that season, they finished fourth nine times and third once. They're now headed for their fourth consecutive last-place finish.

2011 SEASON RECAP

Things appeared to be looking up early in the season for the Orioles. They started off 6-1, and this wasn't against pushovers. They swept the Rays, took two of three from the Tigers and then beat the Rangers. Of course, it was too good to be true. They proceeded to lose eight straight. They did battle back to .500 twice and lingered close to .500 until being buried by an awful stretch, when they went 6-23 from June 11-July 15. That would end any hope of breaking through, as the Orioles wouldn't be closer than 20 games in the AL East after July 22.

The Orioles did get younger in trading Derrek Lee, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez, and there were some positive signs. They now have a decent offensive core of catcher Matt Wieters, third baseman Mark Reynolds, shortstop J.J. Hardy and outfielders Nick Markakis and Adam Jones (any of the four could have been picked as the "best hitter" above). None of those players are older than 28. Of course, none are younger than 25, nor do any appear to be superstar material. On the mound, the Orioles saw enough from rookie Zach Britton to believe he's one of the pieces of the future, but Brian Matusz had a disaster of a season. Jim Johnson is showing himself the answer at closer and Pedro Strop -- who was acquired from the Rangers in the Gonzalez deal -- is throwing the ball very well in front of him.

2012 AUDIT

The outlook would be a lot more sunny in a different division. The fact of the matter is that the Orioles are set up to improve their on-field product, but probably not be drastic enough to translate into more wins next season -- because the AL East is so good. The Yankees, Red Sox or Rays don't appear to be getting much worse any time soon and the Blue Jays are pretty well set up to take some significant steps forward. That means that even if the Orioles get better, they're still behind the 8-ball, so to speak.

One area where they can improve is from simple progression from all the young players. Matusz can't possibly be worse, so long as he stays mentally balanced, healthy and works hard in the offseason. Tommy Hunter has good enough stuff to be a part of the rotation, too, just as Jake Arrieta does. Chris Tillman is still too young to give up on. Shifting to the position players: Brian Roberts will still only be 34 and should be healthy, so there's hope he comes back with a productive season. Luke Scott and Nolan Reimold are fine pieces of a supporting cast and we already mentioned the offensive core. Also of note: Wieters is becoming a great defensive catcher. That matters.

FREE AGENTS

Cesar Izturis, SS
Vladimir Guerrero, DH

OFFSEASON FOCUS

They need to quit trying to make a patchwork lineup (Lee, Guerrero) for the short-term and instead use some money looking long-term. You aren't competing in the AL East by filling holes with washed-up vets. Here are five big things I'd do to improve the Orioles with the eyes on the future.
  • Sign Prince Fielder. Whatever it takes. I mentioned above the offensive core is good, but lacking a centerpiece. Prince ties it all together. The top seven in the lineup would go something like: Roberts, Markakis, Fielder, Jones, Hardy, Reynolds, Wieters. That looks pretty good, no? Fielder might not want to head to the worst team in the AL East, but money talks. Blow him away. Worried about his durability due to weight? He's only 27 and hasn't played less than 157 games in a season until this year (and he's at 155 and primed to surpass that mark again). He just doesn't miss games. After the big splash signing, try to keep everything else in-house and see what other holes definitely need to be filled after '12.
  • Move Mark Reynolds to DH permanently. He's an absolute butcher at third, but his power and on-base abilities are helpful to the offense.
  • Let Josh Bell and Chris Davis compete for the third base job. Both players have upside, so the Orioles could strike gold here and make the lineup even stronger.
  • Trade Jeremy Guthrie. He's going to be 33 next season and -- as long as you can ignore the high-loss totals his Orioles have saddled him with -- isn't a bad pitcher. He could give a contender 200 decent innings as their fifth starter. Thus, he'll get something like a mid-level prospect back, but the main reason is the Orioles need to see what they have by giving extended looks to the young pitchers who have already seen time in the bigs. Go into the season with a rotation of Britton, Matusz, Hunter, Arrieta and Tillman and give it an extended look. By midseason, if one or two aren't working out, it's time to dip into the minors for others. If three or four aren't working out, more drastic measures will have to be taken in the offseason.
  • Stick with the Strop-Johnson duo at the end of games. There's no reason to go out and grab another retread like Kevin Gregg again. Trade Gregg if they could, but it's doubtful much comes back. Whatever, let him pitch in non-save situations.
This wouldn't make them a contender in 2012, but they'd be better and would have the chance to evaluate where everything stands with the young players after the 2012 season. You have to take babysteps to get back to respectability after finishing fifth four straight times.

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Posted on: September 20, 2011 10:16 am
Edited on: September 20, 2011 10:22 am
 

Pepper: Harwell statue vandalized



By Matt Snyder


Evidently nothing is sacred to the masses.

A statue of late, legendary Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell outside Comerica Park in Detroit was vandalized recently. His likeness is now without glasses, and it appears someone needed to use a crowbar in order to pry the glasses off the statue. The Tigers are going to have new glasses put on the statue, but that doesn't mean they can prevent some dregs of society from taking them away again.

"We're going to attach them as strongly as possible," says Omri Amrany of the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany in Fort Sheridan, Ill. (Detroit News), "but if somebody has a crowbar and a little persuasion, you cannot keep the glasses on anybody. Anything that can break a car can break a statue."

I wish I could say I was surprised to read this, but I wasn't. Going into some tirade about society's ills would be misplaced, though, because one bad egg doesn't mean everyone is sick. It's just amazing the kind of things that some of these losers think are cool. What are you possibly going to do with some bronze glasses? Get a life.

Must-read story: Earlier this season, Marlins pitcher Chris Hatcher gave a ball to the son of a U.S. soldier who was about to go back out to Kuwait. Hatcher just received a neatly-folded American flag in the mail from the soldier and plans to proudly display it at his home. The entire story -- at Fish Tank blog -- is definitely worth a read.

Favorites for Prince: Jon Heyman of SI.com runs down a list of who he believes will be the favorites to land Prince Fielder in free agency this coming offseason. Here is the list, in order of likelihood (according to Heyman): 1. Orioles, 2. Cubs, 3. Rangers, 4. Nationals, 5. Dodgers, 6. Brewers, 7. Mariners, 8. Cardinals, 9. Marlins.

Yankees, Red Sox most popular: Judging simply from the number of Facebook "likes," the Yankees and Red Sox have the most fans. Yes, I know, this is shocking. The Cubs check in at No. 3, followed by the Giants, Phillies and Braves (Biz of Baseball).

Hanson's chance: Braves starting pitcher Tommy Hanson hasn't started since August 6, but there's a chance he'll get one more outing this season. He'll throw in an instructional league game Friday, likely around 65 pitches, and if there are no setbacks, the Braves might start him on the final game of the regular season. One caveat, though, is that if a playoff berth is on the line, the Braves will start Tim Hudson, not Hanson (AJC.com). Still, this is good news for the Braves in terms of possibly having Hanson back for the playoffs -- should they hold on.

Puma's honesty: You ever hear players saying it's not all about the money? Yeah, at least 95 percent of them are lying. Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman is telling the truth now, though, as his negotiations with the Cardinals have slowed. "It's always about money," Berkman said (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). "No matter what people say, it's always about the money."

Someone call "People" magazine: Brad Pitt has a new love. Sorry Angelina. Pitt feels "a little bit romantic about the A's," after starring in "Moneyball" and meeting Billy Beane. (SFGate.com)

Papi's pitch: The Red Sox has serious depth issues in the starting rotation due to injuries and John Lackey's underperformance. Meanwhile, Alfredo Aceves has a 2.82 ERA in 102 innings this season and is pitching very well out of the bullpen. At least one Red Sox player believes this is out of whack. "To be honest with you, the way things are going, he should be starting," David Ortiz said (MLB.com). "Simple as that. Give it a shot."

White Sox have failed: According to first baseman Paul Konerko, it's playoffs-or-bust every single season for the White Sox. So 2011 is "a failure." (Chicago Tribune)

Manuel's bat: Indians slugger Jim Thome was recently presented with a game-used Charlie Manuel bat. Manuel mentored Thome all the way back in the minors in 1990 and then managed him on the 2005 Phillies. In fact, Manuel is the one who urged Thome to use his famous bat point (toward the pitcher) as a timing mechanism. "It's pretty awesome," Thome said of Manuel's bat (MLB.com). "It's going in my office at home."

Bauer, Cole updates: Former college teammates (UCLA) Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole were two of the top three picks in the 2011 MLB Draft. Cole went first overall to the Pirates while Bauer went third to the D-Backs. Cole will likely pitch in the Arizona Fall League, his first competitive pitching since the draft (MLB.com). Bauer has gotten some work in at the Double-A level, but he's been knocked around a bit (7.56 ERA in four starts), so he won't make the bigs this season, as had previously been rumored (MLB.com). Expect both to challenge for rotation spots at some point next season.

New closer: The Orioles have obviously changed closers from Kevin Gregg to Jim Johnson, even though manager Buck Showalter hasn't said so. Johnson has five saves in September to Gregg's one. (Orioles Insider)

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Posted on: July 21, 2011 4:43 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2011 5:07 pm
 

Trade Deadline Primer: NL East

By Eye on Baseball team

Leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the National League East has an actual race -- as well as a team with a bloated payroll and no hope -- which leads to a great chance of some pretty interesting trades to and from the division. Here's a look at the five teams in the NL Eeast:

Philadelphia Phillies

Status: Buyers

Needs: Bullpen, RH bat

Notes: Manager Charlie Manuel said he'd love a right-handed bat (Philadelphia Daily News), probably in the outfield, but this is the Phillies and expect the team to focus on pitching -- at least that's what history tells us. And because their rotation is pretty good (you may have heard about some of these guys), they focus on relievers, likely ending a streak of five years of adding a starter midseason. The team is likely one of the many suitors for Padres closer Heath Bell, although some suggest the Phillies prefer Mike Adams. Padres owner Jeff Moorad has reportedly told Adams he won't be traded. However, according to Tom Krasovic of Inside the Padres, the Phillies are willing to give up Class A first baseman/left fielder Jonathan Singleton in return for Adams.

Another bullpen trade partner could be the Orioles, CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler said. The Phillies could be interested in Jim Johnson or Koji Uehara.

MLB Trade Deadline

As for the right-handed bats, the Phillies are in on the same folks everyone's chasing -- Ryan Ludwick, Carlos Beltran, Hunter Pence and maybe Jeff Francouer. The biggest hurdle of all for the Phillies is money, as in they've already spent it and they're worried about the luxury tax. The team has just between $2 and $3 million to spend and avoid the luxury tax.

According to Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com, the Phillies and Royals have already exchanged names in a possible Melky Cabrera trade. Cabrera is a cheaper, younger switch hitter for those who fall short in the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes.

Now, if they're going big and bold, Buster Olney of ESPN.com, tweeted the Phillies could go for Pence, centering the deal around right-hander Vance Worley.

Atlanta Braves

Status: Bargain shoppers

Needs: Right-handed bat

Notes: The Braves need a right-handed bat like Roy Halladay needs air conditioning. Atlanta looks like the front-runner for the National League wild card, but don't have much money to spend. The biggest issue right now for Atlanta is its inability to hit left-handed pitchers. Braves hitters are hitting just .211/.285/.337 against lefties, with Jason Heyward, Nate McLouth and Jordan Schafer all below the Mendoza line against southpaws. That's why Jon Paul Morosi's report of the Reds' Jonny Gomes drawing the interest of the Braves makes sense, Gomes kills lefties to the tune of a .340/.446/.547 slash line this season and .281/..377/.510 in his career. There's also the regular names such as Ludwick and Beltran.

To make room for more payroll, the team could trade right-hander Derek Lowe, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien wrote. The Tigers could be interested in Lowe, but would have to take up the rest of the $20 million he's owed through 2012.

New York Mets

Status: One-stop shopping

Needs: Young talent under team control; pitching

Notes: Outfielder Carlos Beltran is the top position player on the market, but his future is clouded by the number of teams that could use an upgrade in the outfield and the fact that he's not for sale, he's for rent. Whatever team gets him won't even get compensation picks if he leaves as a free agent after the season.

The Mets would reportedly rather pay Beltran's salary and get a good young player or top prospect in return. They could unload him to a team willing to pay the roughly $8 million left on his contract, but then they wouldn't get much in return. The Mets would prefer big-league ready pitching talent. New York seems confident it can re-sign Jose Reyes, meaning they're not ready to throw in the towel and go full-on rebuilding anytime soon. 

Beltran, however, does have a no-trade clause. According to Tim Brown of Yahoo!, Sandy Alderson gave Beltran a short list of teams interested -- the Phillies, Red Sox, Braves, Giants, Brewers and maybe the Yankees -- and Beltran hasn't ruled any of them out.

It's pretty certain now that the Mets won't deal Reyes, but it appears they may be holding on to Jason Isringhausen, too, Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman tweets.

Washington Nationals

Status: Listening to all offers

Needs: Leadoff man/center fielder of the future

Notes: The Nationals have pieces to deal -- from catcher Ivan Rodriguez to relievers Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, Todd Coffey and Sean Burnett, plus starters Jason Marquis, Livan Hernandez and Tom Gorzelanny. In short, they're open for business, with GM Mike Rizzo saying no player is "untouchable" -- but then following that up with "we're not going to touch our core." That means, "after a while, they don't ask for [Danny] Espinosa," Rizzo told the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore. Ryan Zimmerman is also likely untouchable, as well as catcher Wilson Ramos.

One name to watch is shortstop Ian Desmond, but that would take quite the return for the team to move the 25-year-old.

More likely to go are some of the team's relievers. The Nats are deep in the bullpen and it's a position that's always in demand. The top tier would be Clippard or even Storen, but that would require Washington receiving a leadoff-hitting center fielder in return, someone like B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn, Colby Rasmus or Denard Span, FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal writes.

Florida Marlins

Status: Sellers

Needs: Third baseman, starting pitchers

Notes: The Marlins have starting pitchers that would interest many teams, but they may not part with them. Next year they rename themselves the Miami Marlins when they move into a new stadium and ownership would like a competitive team on the field when that happens.

Ricky Nolasco is the top starter to be had, but Knobler says they'd have to get a younger, cheaper starter in return for the 28-year-old right-hander.

The one the team may part with is Javier Vazquez, but it's not really their decision. Vazquez has a full no-trade clause and isn't in any hurry to leave South Florida. There are few places he'd accept a trade.

Sure to be gone is closer Leo Nunez. The Phillies are interested in Nunez. The other teams desperate for bullpen help -- like the Cardinals and Rangers -- are likely to at least inquire what it may take to get him.

Randy Choate has been verbal this week about his problems with current manager Jack McKeon and could get shipped off for not being a good soldier.

Also on the block are free-agents-to-be Greg Dobbs and Omar Infante. Infante's value is a lot less than it was a year ago.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: July 14, 2011 4:11 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 6:18 pm
 

Ortiz, Gregg receive four-game suspensions

By Evan Brunell

OrtizSuspensions and fines were handed down on Thursday for the Red Sox-Orioles brawl just before the All-Star break, with aggressors Kevin Gregg of Baltimore and David Ortiz of Boston receiving four games apiece. Gregg's suspension is set to begin Thursday and Ortiz's on Friday unless they appeal, which is expected.

Gregg, the closer, threw three inside pitches to Big Papi in a telegraphed attempt to hit him. Ortiz vented his displeasure after the third high pitch, then flew out. Gregg informed Ortiz not so nicely to run the ball out and then head back to the dugout, at which point Ortiz charged the mound and sparked a bench-clearing incident.

 "I'll let the process go out," Gregg, told the Associated Press, adding that the fine was a significant number. "The four-game is a pretty hefty suspension. I get the right to meet in New York with some people, tell them how it went down, what happened, get to say my side of the story."

Orioles reliever Mike Gonzalez was also suspended three games for intentionally throwing at Ortiz two games later, while the Red Sox's John Lackey was fined for intentionally throwing at Derrek Lee Saturday. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia of the BoSox and reliever Jim Johnson of Baltimore were also fined for their actions.

 "I definitely think they need to go back and do their homework," Gonzalez said, displeased with the league officials' decisions. "I think they need to go back and go through the whole series as opposed to just going through one game and seeing how everything fell into place."

Skipper Buck Showalter will sit out Thursday's game as he was suspended one game for Gonzalez's actions. He is unable to appeal.

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