Posts tagged ‘Wandy Rodriguez’

Wednesday: 07.6.2011

Practicing Patience: How Much Is Enough?

Being patient has got to be the most difficult trait for a fantasy baseball manager to exhibit year in and year out.  The difficulty is born out of the internet age where you have instant access to every single pitch going on in any game and with that the ability to alter your lineup on a daily basis (in many leagues, there are still plenty of leagues that limit teams to weekly moves).  Of course just because the opportunity is there doesn’t mean you have to take it, but still many fantasy managers see their team wallowing near the bottom of the standings on Tax Day and feel the only appropriate measure is to start tinkering or worse, making wholesale moves.

Others think they have exhibited enough patience if they wait until the calendar at least flips a month over to May.  Still some have a mid-May mark mapped out while some use Memorial Day as a demarcation point.  How long do you wait on a struggling player?  The answer, unfortunately, is that there is no universal answer.  One guideline that has gained steam comes from Cory Schwartz over at MLB Network and MLB.com and it is to take the 26 weeks of the season, subtract the player’s round you drafted him in and that is how many weeks you should wait into the season before even considering a cut.  It’s not a hard and fast rule, but for those who struggle with an exact date, this is a quick measure that can help you make the difficult choice.  There are far too many variables at play to give a definitive answer.  Another major factor is your league’s free agent pool.

Often to roster a new guy, somebody has to leave.  There will invariably be roster-worthy guys in your free agent player pool whether they went undrafted and have now acquired some playing time that they are doing well with or they have been called up from the minor leagues and have the talent to make an impact.  Every team has those last few rounds worth of picks that are often fliers and sleepers and they should probably be your first gone if you feel you *must* take a chance on a waiver player hoping that he is the next Jose Bautista.  But even that isn’t always a great idea.  More on those types later.

What I really want to focus on right now is the good players and how much patience they deserve in a given year.  In most cases, 80-85% of your early round picks (say 1-12 or 1-15, assuming 12 team leagues here) are spent on guys with significant track records spanning three-plus years of work.  How long do these guys deserve to be rostered before you cut bait for a flavor of the week? Waiting until mid-May or Memorial Day sure feels like a long time, but is it?

Through Memorial Day of this season Nick Markakis had a .249/.316/.324 line with four home runs, 17 RBIs and four stolen bases.  As a career .297 hitter, he was well below expectations in the category you expect him to excel in.  He was starting to turn up on a lot of waiver wires.  An outfielder hitting .249 with mediocre production everywhere else just isn’t that enticing.  But is that really a large enough sample to turn your back on a 9th round pick?

His home run totals have declined yearly since 2007 and at 27 years old there likely isn’t about to be a massive turnaround for him in that area.  His pace after May 31st was 14 which is actually an increase from last year so that wasn’t on the list of reasons to drop him.  If you had misguided expectations about his power, that is on you.  Meanwhile his 14 stolen base pace would actually mark a four-year high.  The major issue, without question, was that he wasn’t delivering in his best category.

But do you cut a guy with 3202 at-bats (his total after Memorial Day 2011) because he has underperformed his career mark in batting average for 7% (213) of them and that 7% just happens to be at the beginning of a baseball season making it look worse?  Looking at it on a season-only level, he had expired about 33% of his expected at-bats with a .249 average.  Again, it feels like a lot, but he still had two-thirds of the season to get back on track.  He would need to hit .322 over his remaining 67% of at-bats to reach the career mark of .297, does that sound feasible for a guy with 3341 at-bats of .297 batting average under his belt?

Many of you probably realize how this is turns out.  Markakis hit .351 in June with 12 multi-hit games (out of 25), a 19-game hitting streak from June 8th-30th and just four hitless games in the month.  Only two of his five games in July have been hitless while the other three are all multi-hit games including a 5-for-5 effort on July 3rd.  He is hitting .294/.340/.386 while still pacing for 14 home runs and stolen bases.  He’s the 34th rated outfielder at ESPN despite runs scored and driven in paces that don’t reach 70.

In 10 and 12-team leagues, the waiver pools are deep and while I often encourage fantasy managers to practice extreme patience, especially with their studs, it would have been tough to blame someone who gave Markakis one more week after Memorial Day before making a decision.  That was his only lull in the month with all four of his hitless games coming in that week as he went 3-for-24 pushing his average down to .236 for the year.  I bet he was cut a lot in the eight day period from May 31st to June 7th, just before he went on his torrid pace.  Can you blame somebody, though? According to Schwartz’s guideline, with Markakis going anywhere between the 8th and 10th rounds, he should’ve been held until the 15th-17th week area.  Memorial Day week was only week nine, way too early to even consider a cut.

For me, he is this year’s Wandy Rodriguez.  Last year Rodriguez just didn’t look good through mid-June.  He posted a passable 3.65 ERA in April, but that came with 5.1 K/9 and 1.8 K/BB rates.  The strikeouts ticked up a bit in May and June (6.5 & 6.8), but his strikeout-to-walk rates held firmly below 2.0 at 1.8 and 1.6 for the months.  After a June 18th start against Texas during which Rodriguez was ripped for six runs in three innings, his ERA was at 6.09 (the worst since his second start when it was 6.10) in 75 innings.

Overall, 75 innings isn’t a major sample, but it was 38% of his expected inning total and in the “Year of the Pitcher”, Wandy managers watched as several viable starters were picked up by their leaguemates while they held onto the struggling Rodriguez.  A friend of mine asked if he should cut Rodriguez (I honestly don’t remember for who) after that June 18th start.  He is chronically impatient and I encouraged him to hang on through May and early June, but after that implosion I gave him my blessing figuring he had waited long enough.  Whoops.

Rodriguez would allow more than three runs just once in his remaining 18 starts as he posted a 2.03 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 9.5 K/9 and 3.7 K/BB in 120 innings as one of baseball’s best pitcher.  His season ERA landed at 3.60 which was an increase from 2009’s 3.02, but in the grand scheme it was about eight extra earned runs which is negligible for a nine man fantasy staff.  Did my friend and other fantasy managers who cut bait in mid-June wait long enough?  Rodriguez wasn’t an elite arm of the Halladay-Lincecum class coming into 2010, but he was certainly in that second or third tier depending how strict you are with your #1s.  Using the Schwartz Method, he should have been held until week 16 or so.  June 18th was in week 11.

Obviously given his league format, a 10-team mixed league, I thought he was patient enough.  I think I would have green-lit his move in a 12-team league, too (by the way, the Schwartz Method is tailored to standard 12-team mixed leagues).  This is why there isn’t one standard answer.  It all depends on league size, league rules and who is available.  This is more of a thought exercise than a piece filled with answers.  My stance is and always will be to error on the side of too patient, especially with your better, more proven players (i.e. guys with legitimate three-plus year track records).

It isn’t just about being patient with your best, though.  What about your sleepers?  You spend all winter crafting your lists and poring over the numbers to find your late round gems only to dispatch them to the waiver after a slow month.  I understand they are more expendable than someone like Markakis or Rodriguez because they were your 20-something round pick, but why even draft them if you aren’t going to give them a reasonable chance to prove you right?

Take James McDonald for example.  He had a strong second half with his new team last year after a midseason trade and many (including myself) liked him for a breakthrough season under the radar in Pittsburgh.  He was available very late in just about any league (even NL-Only leagues unless you encountered an owner or two who felt the same way and pushed the bidding or draft position up a bit).

He was toting a 7.66 after April with more walks than strikeouts.  Even allowing for the fact that his stretch run in 2010 was a sample size of just 64 innings, it was still much larger than the 19-inning sample many used as grounds for cutting him after his April 21st start where he was bombed out for eight runs in just three innings.  He has a 2.95 ERA in 73 innings since April 27th.  In fairness, the WHIP is very high at 1.49 due mostly to his walks, but he has delivered a strong 7.2 strikeout rate.  He was almost certainly your final pitcher selected so it wouldn’t have tanked your season to see things through for more than 20 innings or even ideally at least 60-65.

What about Erik Bedard?  It has never been about talent with Bedard, only health.  You knew the Mariners were going to ease him into things in an effort to get as much out of him as they can considering how injury-riddled his Seattle tenure has been thus far.  He didn’t go more than five innings in any of his first four starts and carried a 7.71 ERA into his April 27th start.  Home runs were destroying him (seven allowed in four starts including two in each of his first three).  His HR/FB rate was 16%, odd for a guy who only once topped 9% in his career (12% in 2007).

Over the next two months, from April 27th to June 27th, he posted a 1.77 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 8.6 K/9 and 4.5 K/BB in 71 innings.  You took a flier him obviously recognizing his talent and the low cost on draft day.  Why not see it through more than four starts at the beginning of the season?  I am not saying everyone cut him, but I can speak to his availability being significant because he featured in Trolling the Wire for his May 8th, 25th, June 1st and 5th starts and I don’t recommend anybody that isn’t widely available (50% or more) at all three of the major outlets.

So we have run the gamut here.  From star-level players to young sleepers to injury risk talent and the one conclusion I think we can come to is that Tax Day, May 1st and May 15th are all out as viable “patience points”.  Tax Day was never viable… never, ever, ever, but I guarantee you some names will hit the wire two weeks into next season that will end up being major contributors for a different team in your league.  As for May 1st and May 15th, I just don’t know how you can reasonably say that they are legitimate samples from which to make a decision as large as cutting a player.

Your league format will play a role, but even then I think only May 15th should be the only those three early dates to come into play because if your league’s waiver wire is that deep, it is still going to have talent in mid-May so you can least hold out that long before making major cuts that could come back to hurt you.  What everyone needs to understand is that even mid-May or the end of May simply might not be long enough when you are dealing with all single digit and early double digit round picks.  That should sound like “no duh” advice, but playing in a wide variety of leagues year in and year out, I see guys released who have no business being on waiver wires before the first day of summer.

Just this year I saw a fantasy manager, who prides himself on being patient, cut Markakis on June 9th to get out in front of the latest prospect, Anthony Rizzo.  Guess who that idiot was?

 

Me.

Monday: 06.20.2011

Sunday Twidbits: June 19th

Here are this week’s MLB Sunday Twidbits which is something I’ll be doing every Sunday throughout the baseball season.  It’s an exercise whereby I tour the league giving a statistical tidbit per team on Twitter feed (@sporer).  Sometimes a team or two will get more than one if I have more than one nugget I really want to share, but every team will be represented at least once.  Check the sidebar on the right for previous editions of Twidbits.

Det – Det bullpen had 6.03 ERA on 5/22; now at 4.65 after a rebuild. In June: 2.92 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.2 K/9 , 2 K/BB in 46 IP.

Col – Charlie Blackmon has shown speed right away w/5 SB in 12 G, but he has some pop as evidenced by .572 AAA SLG. Think Shane Victorino 07-09.

Pit – Garrett Jones is hitting .394 in June (13-33) & has started 6 of last 8 GP. Might finally have his job back; cheap pwr source

Pit2 – Why is Jones doing a French Stewart impersonation in his ESPN pic? http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/_/id/28763/garrett-jones

Cle – Carlos Carrasco is on fire the last month: 2.8 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 5.8 K/9, 2.4 K/BB. High GB% mitigates low K. Also 7 K/9, 3.4 K/BB in last 3.

Tor – Since breaking his L-streak, Jo-Jo Reyes is 3-1 w/3.21 ERA. Don’t be fooled though, 1.32 WHIP & 1.5 K/BB thanks to ugly 4.8 K/9.

Tor2 – Reyes was better when he was losing: 6.8 K/9 and 2.9 K/BB in first 49 IP of season. Avoid for now.

Cin – Preached caution w/Johnny Cueto few wks back for a few reas. incl. low K/9. Still lucky, but 6.5 K/9 & 3 K/BB in last 4. Still sell, but less worried.

LAA – Angels have a league-worst 4 (!) HR in June so far. 28 players have 4+ HRs. It’s a small miracle that they’re even 5-10 this month.

NYM – Jonathon Niese has allowed >2 ER just once since April 14th (2.65 ERA in 71 IP, 6.9 K/9) after allowed 5+ in 2 of his first 3 starts.

NYM2 – Need a cheap RP fill-in? Bobby Parnell has been excellent since returning from the DL: 1.17 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 12.9 K/9, 5.5 K/BB in 8 IP.

Tex – Thru May Neftali Feliz had 9/14 K/BB in 19 IP w/10 SV. In June so far, he has 8 K, 1 BB in 7 IP w/4 SV. Appears to have course-corrected himself.

Atl – If you took both Jonny Venters & Craig Kimbrel to lock up ATL SVs, you’d have a 1.73 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 101 K, 6 W & 21 SV in 78 IP.

Atl2 – Vent/Kimb cont. That’s as many Ks as Tim Lincecum, better ERA than any SP, a WHIP equal to Dan Haren & 4th-most Ws… oh and most SVs in MLB.

Bal – Adam Jones is having a strong yr, but perennially wears down w/12 & 14 of his 19 HR the last 2 yrs in the 1st half. Has 10 so far. Sell?

Was – Michael Morse‘s Apr: .211/.253/.268 & cut in many lgs. Whoops!! Since: .364/.418/.729 w/12 HR, 33 RBI & 24 R. DON’T give up after 1 month.

Mil – Randy Wolf is the ultimate matchup guy w/8 starts of 65+ game scores & 6 sub-50s. Some of his best: Pit, Hou2x, Chc, Phi; worst: Cin, StL

Bos – Marco Scutaro is worth a pickup, espec. w/Jed Lowrie on the DL. He’s hitting .371/.421/.486 in June since returning. Nice Runs Scored option.

Flo – All but 3 regulars are at .254 or below in June for the Marlins; only 1 SP w/an ERA below 4.82 and that’s how you get a 1-17 record.

TB – Alex Cobb struggled in 1st 2 MLB starts w/7 ER & 8 BB in 11 IP, but he’s looked sharp since: 1.96 ERA, 1.2 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 3.0 K/BB in 18 IP.

TB2 – Johnny Damon‘s pace of .277 AVG, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 16 SB, 74 R is somehow not good enough for Y! (54%) & CBS (80%) leaguers. Check your wire.

SD – I don’t care if he has 2 W all yr, how is Tim Stauffer so avail. (C 57%, Y! 40%, E 17%)? On pace for 207 IP w/7.1 K/9 & 3.2 K/BB. Buy NOW!

Min – No Twins pitcher w/5+ IP has an ERA over 3.27 in June. Francisco Liriano‘s last 33 IP (thru Sun.) 1.91 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, 2.5 K/BB.

KC – Alcides Escobar is hitting .431/.453/.569 in last 14 G w/7 SB. Cheap speed at thin position if you need someone: E 47%, C 33%, Y! 19%.

StL – Since his Coors Collapse on 5/28, Jaime Garcia has 2.96 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.8 K/9 & 4.5 K/BB in 24 IP. In other words, it was a blip.

Hou – Wandy Rodriguez allowed 4-5-7 in 3 of 1st 5 GS (5.40 ERA). Since: 1.31 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 3.1 K/BB in 48 IP; 8 K/9 in last 26 IP.

Hou2 – Wandy (cont.) He’s not 100% rostered at any of major outlets, so don’t assume he’s owned in your league: E 95%, C 90%, Y! 77%

Hou3 – Not sure why Mark Melancon is so avail. He’s been great & Brandon Lyon is now out for yr: E 77%, Y! 50%, C 41%. Free saves!

LAD – Only 1 Dodgers SP has an ERA below 4.41 (Kuroda) & only 2 are below 5.52 (Lilly) thus a 5-11 June record for the tm.

LAD2 – One elite, one brand new, but I’d buy either Clayton Kershaw (5.95) & Rubby de la Rosa (5.52) if any was selling based on June swoon.

SF – Madison Bumgarner had a 7.79 ERA & 2.06 WHIP on 4/23. Since then he’s been among MLB’s best: 2.03 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 4 K/BB in 67 IP

SF2 – MadBum (cont.) Not 100% owned at 3 major outlets: E 92%, C 88%, Y! 67%. Check your lg to be sure. 3-8 W-L may offer discount via trade

Oak – A perennial 2H player, Coco Crisp is on pace for 47 SB along w/modest but useful 77 R, 50 RBI & 5 HR.

Oak2 – Crisp (cont.) Career .276 hitter, hit 8 HR in 75 G last yr. could surge in midsummer. Still available in many lgs. Buy even if just for the SBs.

Phi – Good SP is infectious as Vance Worley‘s 3.41 ERA is highest in the non-Blanton division of Philly SPs. Hamels-Halladay-Lee have 9+ K/9. Sick

Sea – Ichiro coming out biggest slump of his career? 7-game hitting streak w/6 multi-hit gms: .467/.484/.667 and 4 SBs. Could be in for absurd 2H.

CWS – Alexei Ramirez needed 6-for-13 rally at end of Apr. to finish .265/.318/.382. Rarely does well early. Since: .318/.380/.468.

CWS2 – Alexei (cont.) Know who you’re drafting. Career OPS in Apr: .580; only other month below .780 OPS is Sept at .705, he hates cold weather.

Ari – Daniel Hudson had 5.64 ERA in Apr; skills said much better. Skills win! Since: 7-1, 2.67 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 4.5 K/BB. 6+ IP every GS.

NYY – Curtis Granderson‘s career yr is fueled by improvements v. LHP: .277/.337/.651–career .221/.281/.376. 20 HR v. LHP in 1st 5 yrs; 9 in ’11.

Chc – Carlos Marmol since 6 ER in 0.3 IP disaster: 1.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 13 K/9, 4.3 K/BB in 9 IP. Was a blip, but nothing to worry about at all.

Chc2 – Is Doug Davis a home spot starter? 2.70 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 6.9 K/9 in 23 IP incl. start v. Yankees. The 3.9 BB/9 suggests some caution.

 

Tuesday: 05.24.2011

Fixing the Contenders – American League

As we near Memorial Day (less than a week away) and turn the calendar to June, we usually see the MLB standings start to stratify a bit with the contenders separating themselves from the rest of the pack.  That may not happen in the 2011 season, at least not for a while.  Right now there are just three teams who are 10+ games out two of which are the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox, a pair of teams many still refuse to bury given the uncertainty of the Cleveland Indians and the expectations on those two teams coming into the season.

The other is the Houston Astros who were out of it before the season started.  Only three other teams are more than five games away from .500 (Padres, Dodgers and Cubs) so there could be a dearth of sellers as trading season in the MLB heats up.  Nobody really thought Seattle was going to be much of anything this year, but alas their rotation is running five deep headlined by two aces (Felix Hernandez & Michael Pineda; Erik Bedard, Jason Vargas & Doug Fister round out an impressive rotation) meanwhile Jamey Wright, David Pauley and Aaron Laffey have been nails out of the pen masking the fact that they still have a completely horrible offense.  The pitching has them just one game below .500 and a game and a half out of the division lead.

Similarly, expected bottom-feeders Arizona (23-23), Pittsburgh (22-24), Kansas City (22-24) and Baltimore (21-24) continue to linger.  While the league lacks a truly great team, there are still a group of contenders to be found within the 30, teams that should be focusing their attention on 2011 and doing what they can, whether internally or through trade, to get those October playoff tickets printed as soon as possible.

Today, I will go through the contenders who are ripe for a trade and identify the potential move(s) they could make.  I have seven teams on the list.  There are eight other contenders who I didn’t feel needed to make a significant trade because they are either getting some significant pieces back from injury and/or have the available talent in their minor leagues to fill their holes.  Or, at least in one case, I simply didn’t see a move to be made.  That doesn’t mean that it is a perfect team, just that their path to improvement is either a minor trade or sticking with what they have already.

Cleveland Indians (30-15)

Team Needs: 3B, SP, RP

Let’s start with the league’s best team record-wise.  Wow, that reads weird when in reference to the 2011 Cleveland Indians, but you can’t deny the fact that they have the best record in the baseball after 45 games.  If this team stays as is, I can’t see them holding on for 162.  I just don’t buy in the pitching outside of Justin Masterson, and he isn’t without his flaws (lefties still destroy him).  I think Masterson can be a solid pitcher, but their “best” pitcher to date, Josh Tomlin, will not hold up at all, in my opinion.  The 1.2 HR/9 will soon bite back in a big way and the 4.5 K/9 is just too low for this kind of success.

Jack Hannahan’s hot start (hitting .284 w/.837 OPS on May 3rd) has bought Lonnie Chisenhall some time to try and iron out his issues against southpaws (.208 in 48 AB), but now Hannahan has returned to Hannahandom (.238, .691) and it is time to give Chisenhall a shot.  It actually works out where they wouldn’t have to throw him in the fire right away against lefties as Hannahan is actually crushing them with a .387 average and 1.135 OPS in 31 at-bats.  They could run a straight platoon and improve their lineup.  Currently rated 4th or better in runs, average, on-base and slugging, the Indians lineup is performing beautifully to date, but you can never have too much offense.

To fix their starting pitching, I think they need to focus on someone who can miss some bats. With Alex White and his team-best 7.8 K/9 headed to the disabled list for up to three months with a finger injury, Masterson is the leader with a 6.7 K/9.  That is barely above the AL average of 6.5 among starters, so they should call up the Astros and inquire about a trade for an arm.

TRADE: Prospects Joe Gardner and Zack Putnam to the Houston Astros for Wandy Rodriguez – A pair of upper minors arms who ranked 9th and 17th in the org. list from Baseball America for the 32-year old lefty.  With two years left on his contract plus a 2014 option, Wandy won’t come cheap, but given his age the Astros should be open to trading him as he won’t be a part of their next great team.  Their minor league system is disgustingly low on talent so it’s time to start replenishing in earnest via trade.

They might still need to shore up the bullpen a little bit, too.  But that may be handled internally with the recent call up of Josh Judy, who struck out 20 in 17 innings at AAA prior to his call up.  Elsewhere, Nick Hagadone, their #10 prospect, has recently hit AAA after striking out 24 in 23 innings at AA and he could be there to shore up the relief corps early in the summer.

Moves:

  1. 3B – Promote Chisenhall up to platoon w/Hannahan
  2. SP – Trade Gardner & Putnam for Rodriguez, W
  3. RP – Judy recently called up; Hagadone en route

New York Yankees (25-21)

Team Need: SP

The Yankees are having the exact issue that everyone thought they would back in Spring Training with C.C. Sabathia as their top starter and a giant question mark after that.  Bartolo Colon has been a godsend with a strong ERA (3.77) and WHIP (1.20) and great skills (8.8 K/9, 3.7 K/BB) backing the rates up, but how long will it last for the 37 year old?  A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova have been up and down while Freddy Garcia, filling in for Phil Hughes, has been better (3.12 ERA) than his skills suggest as a 34-year old journeyman.

There is nothing at the AAA level that stands to be any better than what they have and Manny Banuelos in AA has gone more than five innings just once in his eight starts so he isn’t the savior that fans want him to be after seeing him excel in Spring Training.  That leaves the trade markets.  And while delusional fans might think Felix Hernandez is available, he’s not.  But they should venture out for a trade.

TRADE: Prospect Adam Warren to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Hiroki Kuroda – The 36-year old veteran is a free agent after this year so despite how well he has pitched since coming over to the States in 2008, he won’t net the Dodgers an overwhelming return of prospects.  That said, Warren was just outside of the top 10 on org. lists and the Yankees system is a deep one so that’s not chopped liver.  He has struggled with his control at AAA (27 K, 24 BB in 45 IP), but he is still just 23 years old and the Yankees have moved him aggressively (just 54 IP in AA).

The Dodgers system has a crap-ton of pitching and while you can never have too much, they might opt for a bat instead and I could see a toolsy, raw bat like Melky Mesa being dealt for Kuroda.  Mesa has 16 extra-base hits out of just 30 (.204 avg in 147 AB), seven stolen bases but also caught seven times and 16 walks aiding a solid 83-point AVG-OBP split, but also 50 strikeouts (34% K rate).  The 24-year old has been much better lately (.290/.372/.507 in May) after a horrid April (.129/.209/.256) which may elevate his trade stock a bit, though front offices focus more on pure talent & projectability than stats when it comes to prospects.

The Yankees might need more than one starting pitcher so they could also be in for someone like Jon Garland, Livan Hernandez, Aaron Harang or Francisco Liriano, too.  Again, they have a remarkably deep system so trading for a second level arm like one of the above (can you believe Liriano is now regarded as a second level arm?!) as well as a bigger impact arm would be doable.

Moves:

  1. SP – Trade Warren or Mesa for Kuroda
  2. SP2 – Trade David Adams for Harang

Detroit Tigers (24-23)

Team Need: RP

Relief pitching was supposed to be a strength of the 2011 Tigers after signing super-setup man Joaquin Benoit and pairing him with Jose Valverde at the back end of the bullpen.  The constant stream of power arms drafted and traded for recently was supposed to fill any gaps from starter to Benoit with guys like Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth, specifically.   Al Alburquerque has been a pleasant surprise with a 15.3 K/9 in his 15 innings, but walks have been a problem (11) for the rookie.

Chance Ruffin is doing well in his debut season as a pro, but he is just 22 and in AA, so the chances of him as a savior are slim.  Plus, the bullpen is young enough already.  Charlie Furbush was just called up from AAA and thrown right into the fire on Monday night after a Phil Coke injury in the fourth inning left the Tigers scrambling.  He responded admirably with 3.7 shutout innings striking out three and walking one.

He has been huge strikeout guy as a starter in the minors (9.5 K/9 career, over 10 the last two years) and he has a legitimate shot to keep those kind of rates in short stints out of the pen.  But with no reliever toting a sub-3.00 ERA, the Tigers will need more than one arm to cure those bullpen woes.

Thankfully for the Tigers, relief pitching is usually one of the most plentiful items in the trade market year in and year out.  And oftentimes, it is the cheapest commodity to acquire, too.  The Padres seem like a great trade partner as I count five arms that could (and should) be up for trade ranging from ace closer Heath Bell to the reborn Pat Neshek.

TRADE: Bruce Rondon and a throw in C-rated (or lower) prospect to the San Diego Padres for Mike Adams – Rondon is a 20-year old flamethrowing reliever (14.6 K/9), but control is a big time issue right now (8.6 BB/9).  He is allowing next to nothing when it comes to hits (1.6 H/9), though, so he has a 1.62 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.  Adams is 32 years old and a free agent after this year.  Plus he comes with loads of injury risk having never put together back-to-back full seasons.

As such, I’m not sure the Padres could really ask for too much from a prospective trade partner even given how great he is when he does pitch, especially this year with his otherworldly 10.5 K/BB in 22 innings.  His 8.7 K/9 is pretty good, but it’s the disgusting 0.8 BB/9 that is powering his insane season.

Luke Gregerson is five years younger, but also a free agent after the season.  He might draw a little more in return than Adams, but he hasn’t been the Gregerson from 2009 and 2010 so far this year.  His strikeout rate has seen a precipitous drop from 10.2 to 6.0 and he has become a lot more hittable allowing 10.3 H/9 (after 5.4 last year).

I can’t see the Tigers trading for Bell as the cost would be too much and Valverde isn’t going anywhere while Neshek would be too much of an injury risk having pitched just 34 innings since 2008 including his 12 this year.

Moves:

  1. RP1 – Promoted Furbush
  2. RP2 – Trade Rondon + PTBNL for Adams, M

 

Oakland A’s (22-25)

Team Need: Bats… about nine of them.

I covered the A’s a good bit last week specifically tied to them addressing their need of a bat (or several!) so I won’t do an entire re-hash.  Internally, I think Jemile Weeks should be called up soon because he is healthy for once and hitting really well in AAA while Mark Ellis is not.  Ellis had a stretch where he had multi-hit games in three out of six (10-for-24) and it moved his average up to a blistering .208.  That wouldn’t cut in 1968 much less now (OK, it might cut it in ’68… but it really doesn’t in ’11 even with the down hitting).

If they don’t want to try Weeks out just yet, then they should look to Adrian Cardenas, who continues to hit well having raised his batting average yearly since 2007 up to .357 this year while finally adding some pop, too, with a career high slugging percentage of .478.  He has shown a strong eye at the plate throughout his career as well, especially at the high minors with 136 walks to 150 strikeouts in 306 games at AA and AAA.  One of the two prospects deserves a look to jumpstart their anemic offense if they want to realistically contend this year.  I also think a trade is in order as they match up really well with another team in contention.

TRADE: Andrew Bailey to the Cincinnati Reds for Yonder Alonso – I covered this in great detail in this piece about Bailey a week ago.  Assuming he comes up back healthy and as good as we’ve seen him, this is a great fit for both teams involved.  Alonso doesn’t really have a future in Cincinnati being blocked by Joey Votto, Chris Heisey and Jonny Gomes and the Oakland bullpen is stocked.  Alonso can move directly into Daric Barton’s spot at first or into the outfield which would allow Josh Willingham to take Barton’s place.  Either way, Barton’s vomit-inducing .280 SLG has to get out of the everyday lineup.  They just can’t expect to win with that lack of production at a power position.  Hell, you can’t really take it on at any position, but especially first base.

The A’s could make another move closer to the deadline, but it would hinge on Brandon McCarthy and Tyson Ross coming back from their recent injuries to pitch like they were before getting hurt and recently returned Josh Outman to pick up where he left off in 2009 (which he showed he might do on Monday night with 7 strong innings).  That would give them some rotation depth which they could flip for another bat.

TRADE: McCarthy to the Detroit Tigers for Brennan Boesch – Starting pitching isn’t a primary need for the Tigers, but you really can’t have too much and the back end is tenuous with Phil Coke (who left his last start injured) and Brad Penny, meanwhile their outfield has developed some depth with Casper Wells and Andy Dirks joining the club.  Plus Magglio Ordonez will be back at some point which would give them six outfielders plus Don Kelly for three spots (DH is locked up by Victor Martinez most days).  This one would really be contingent on McCarthy’s health, of course.

Boesch isn’t tearing the cover off of the ball or anything, but David DeJesus has been awful and Boesch has at least shown the capability for some power in his time as a major leaguer.  McCarthy was a million dollar flier for the A’s and netting a 26-year old outfielder with some potential would probably be much more than they truly expected when they took the gamble on the former top prospect pitcher.

Moves:

  1. Bat1 – Trade Bailey for Alonso
  2. Bat2 – Trade McCarthy for Boesch

That covers the American League contenders.   I left out the Rays, Red Sox, Rangers and Angels, all of whom are contenders in my eyes, but don’t have an obvious trade scenario for a high-impact move.  The Rays, Red Sox and Rangers have pretty deep systems to attack needs or can be expected to play better once their current set of 25 begins to meet expectations (Evan Longoria, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford; Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz returning from injury).

Meanwhile the Angels don’t have a glaring flaw they can attack via the market.  There aren’t any major first basemen available that would be a huge upgrade over Mark Trumbo.  If Vernon Wells performs anything like expected upon his return from the DL, he will help their power woes and they could shore up their pen via trade, but Scott Downs, Rich Thompson and Jordan Walden give them a solid trio and they can probably manufacture one more reliable arm without having to make a move.

Next up, the National League contenders.

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