Archive for June, 2014

Athletics Must Make a Move

Flags fly forever.

We hear this axiom repeated often. You could call it the baseball version of Al Davis’ famous battle cry, “Just win, baby!” Championships endure, we’re told. Teams on the brink of contention should always push their chips to the center of the table, they say.

But raising a flag is difficult. And so some teams are content to be merely good enough to contend — especially when that roster is cost-efficient.

For a long time, the Oakland Athletics have been such a club. But this year is different. This year, it seems, Oakland should go for the jugular.

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Anthony Rizzo, Superstar

At some point in the next few weeks, the Chicago Cubs are going to blow up what has surprisingly been a very good starting rotation (by at least one measure, the best), continuing the cycle of accepting present-day pain for potential future gain. Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel will likely head elsewhere via trade, to be replaced for now by the likes of Chris Rusin and Tsuyoshi Wada, and the pitching will suffer for it. Almost certainly, the season will end with the Cubs in fifth place in the NL Central for the sixth consecutive year.

If that sounds like it’s painting a bleak picture for Cubs fans, it shouldn’t. The Cubs are already seeing the fruits of last year’s deadline trades in the big leagues thanks to Jake ArrietaJustin GrimmMike Olt and Neil Ramirez, and potential Hammel/Samardzija trades should only bring in more talent. In the minors, third baseman Kris Bryant has done nothing but destroy baseballs, continuing to test the organization’s otherwise reasonable assertion that he won’t see the bigs until 2015.

That might not make another 90-loss trip to last place any easier to watch as fans continue to hear about “the future,” but this should: Right now, in 2014, the best first baseman in baseball might just be wearing Cubbie blue. Read the rest of this entry »


Don’t Sell The Farm For Samardzija

Another year, another Chicago Cubs starting pitcher on the trade market. As was the case with Ryan Dempster in 2012 and Matt Garza and Scott Feldman in 2013, the Cubs again have a desirable starter available to trade in Jeff Samardzija, who could very well be moved by the July 31 deadline.

Though the argument exists that the Cubs might be best served by signing Samardzija to an extension and having him around as their enviable collection of young hitting prospects arrives, it seems more likely they are looking to trade him to add more youth.

Samardzija is in the midst of the best season of his career, and he and David Price are the two best pitchers who are seemingly available this summer. That being the case, some team is going to pay dearly to obtain him — contenders in Oakland, Toronto, San Francisco, Atlanta, Baltimore and Anaheim — among others — could all use a rotation boost, and since Samardzija is controlled through 2015, the price will be even higher. Think about the bounty Chicago extracted from the Texas Rangers last season for two months of Garza — the one that Rangers GM Jon Daniels admitted already regretting earlier this year — and go up from there.

Then again, Samardzija isn’t the only pitcher likely to be available this summer, and the biggest purchase isn’t always the best one. In fact, there are a few other seemingly available National League pitchers who can put up similar production to Samardzija at a fraction of the cost. Read the rest of this entry »


Oakland’s Young & Unique Arms

On May 24, the Oakland Athletics gave the final inning of a 5-2 loss in Toronto to Jeff Francis, a 33-year-old veteran of 10 big league seasons who had been claimed off of waivers from the Cincinnati Reds six days earlier.

That lone inning was just one of thousands in a major league season, one that no one other than Francis himself likely remembers anything about. It’s less notable for the impact it had on the game than for what it says about the structure of the Athletics, the American League’s best team: It’s the only inning pitched all season by an Oakland pitcher beyond his age-31 season. (And, since 30-year-old Jim Johnson’s June 27 birthday falls just before the traditional July 1 cutoff for what defines a player’s seasonal age, Francis is, for the moment, the only Oakland pitcher to have seen his 31st birthday.)

The A’s don’t have the youngest pitching staff in baseball — their average of 27.8 years is older than that of Miami, St. Louis and Atlanta, and is essentially even with those in Cleveland, Anaheim and Houston — but they do have one of the best. Oakland has the lowest ERA in the game and the seventh-best fielding independent pitching (FIP). And, as usual, the A’s are doing things their own way. Read the rest of this entry »


Nats Need to Be Dealing

Each season, a number of teams end up stuck in the middle. The teams that can clearly navigate themselves out of that middle are often rewarded, but the teams that do nothing (looking at you, Philadelphia Phillies) often just remain trapped in their mediocrity. As the July 31 trading deadline begins to appear at the horizon of our road trip through the season, there are four teams that should be looking to be buyers. Here they are, plus lists of the players each should be targeting.

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How To Fix The Red Sox Outfield

In 2012, absolutely nothing went right for an injury-riddled Boston Red Sox team, which lost 93 games and finished in last place in the AL East. In 2013, absolutely everything went right — rebound seasons, unexpected health — as they won their third World Series title in a decade. With most of the championship roster returning in 2014 (minus a key contributor or two), plus a full season from top prospect Xander Bogaerts and the exciting potential of a Grady Sizemorecomeback, the Red Sox seemed positioned to contend again.

Instead? Through 50 games, the 2014 squad was actually five games behind the pace of the 2012 disaster. Through Thursday, the Red Sox were in fourth place, eight games behind theToronto Blue Jays. Maybe this won’t be their year, but there’s no indication that the Red Sox are ready to pack it in, as evidenced by last week’s move to bring back Stephen Drew. Unlike what’s happening in Texas, this isn’t an injury-fueled disaster that can’t be overcome, and despite how impressive the Jays have been, the AL East looks to be as weak as it has been in years.

If the Red Sox can merely get some of their bats to bounce back to long-established career norms, and possibly figure out what’s ailing Clay Buchholz (easier said than done, of course), this is still a talented team that can contend.

Well, except for the outfield, which absolutely cannot go on as it is.

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