How the Houston Astros succeeded by tanking

In 2011, the Houston Astros won 56 games. Their last season as a member of the National League, 2012, they won 55. When they moved over to the AL in 2013, Houston regressed even more, going 51-111. In their horrific 2013 season, the Astros ranked dead last in hits, on base percentage, slugging percentage and second-to-last in batting average and runs.

Led by Manager Bo Porter, the Houston Astros won 51 games in 2013. (Sports Illustrated)

From 2011-2014, Houston’s opening day starters, in order by year, were Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris and Scott Feldman. Minute Maid Park was empty, as no fans wanted to see this abomination.

In 2017, the Houston Astros won 101 games and are playing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. The Astros finished first in the AL in runs, hits, batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage

Wait what? Yeah, tanking in baseball actually works.

 

Started from the bottom

So how exactly did the Astros pull this off? In 2013, the Astros threw a team on the field worth $22 million, which was good for dead last in terms of MLB payrolls. To put this into perspective, the Tampa Bay Rays, who ranked 28th that year, had a payroll of close to $58 million. The only player on the Astros roster earning more than $1 million was the 34-year-old lefty, Erik Bedard.

Carlos Correa and Bud Selig, moments after being selected first overall in the 2012 June Draft (MLB.com)

The obvious keys to building a championship team are good draft picks, smart trades, players performing, and a little luck. After their disastrous 2011 season, Houston received the number one pick in the June Draft in 2012. With this pick, the ‘Stros selected a 17-year-old shortstop from Puerto Rico, Carlos Correa. In the history of the MLB, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Correa are the only two shortstops to have at least 390 hits, 80 doubles, 60 home runs, 200 runs and 240 RBIs before turning 23. I think they made the right choice.

The next season, Houston again wound up with the first pick in the draft. The Astros selected Mark Appel, a pitcher from Stanford, who would end up getting traded in a deal for, current Astros closer, Ken Giles.

In 2014, for the third year in a row drafting first, Houston selected Brady Aiken, a top ranked, left-handed, pitching prospect. Due to injuries and contract disputes, Aiken became the first number one overall pick, since 1983, to go unsigned when the July 18th deadline came around. Originally, Aiken was offered a $6.5 million signing bonus, pending his physical.

 

Trust the Process

Once Houston saw his physical, which showed a smaller than normal UCL, they ended up offering Aiken $3.1 million. This was the minimum they could offer and still be granted a replacement pick if Aiken declined. Thankfully, Aiken declined their final offer, which rose to $5 million, and enrolled into a postgraduate school.

Houston was now set up with the second and fifth overall picks for the 2015 draft. With the second overall pick, Houston selected Alex Bregman, who in case you didn’t know, hit a home run off Clayton Kershaw in Game one of the World Series. In the regular season, Bregman hit .284 with 19 home runs and 71 RBIs. The Astros used the fifth overall pick on Kyle Tucker, who, at 20 years old, hit 25 home runs, stole 21 bases, and knocked in 90, while playing a mix of High-A and AA baseball.

Also in 2015, Houston had a later first round pick, 37th overall, and selected outfielder Daz Cameron. Cameron, along with a pair of other minor league players, was later sent to the Detroit Tigers for Justin Verlander. Since joining Houston, the former Cy Young and MVP winner is 9-0 with a 1.23 ERA.

 

Luck mixed with Skill

It should also be noted that former Houston GM, Ed Wade, acquired Jose Altuve, George Springer and Dallas Keuchel. Altuve was originally cut by the Astros after his tryout in Venezuela, mostly due to his height, or lack of. He would attend the next tryout session, and, in 2007, Houston signed him as an undrafted free agent for a $15,000 signing bonus. Altuve has been to five All-Star games, and just became the first player ever to lead to AL or NL in hits for four straight seasons.

George Springer and Jose Altuve. 5 Tool Players. (Zimbio.com)

Dallas Keuchel, who was drafted by the Astros in the 7th round of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft, was actually on the pitiful 2012 and 2013 Houston squads. In 2012, Keuchel went 3-8 with a 5.27 ERA, and the following year, at age 25, went 6-10 with a 5.15 ERA. Since then, Keuchel has been to two All-Star games, and won the AL CY Young Award in 2015.

In 2011, with the 11th overall pick, Houston selected an outfielder from Connecticut, George Chelston Springer. In 2016, while playing all 162 games, Springer hit 29 home runs and scored 116 runs. This past July, Springer was named a starter for the AL in the 2017 MLB All-Star Game. He would finish the regular season hitting .283, with career highs in home runs (35), and RBIs (85).

 

Patience

Houston rolled the dice on a 5’6” teenager, and stuck with a pitcher who posted a 5.20 ERA in his first two seasons. This past offseason, Houston signed Charlie Morton, who had never had a winning season in his career and was used as a reliever in 2016. Miraculously, Morton went 14-7 for Houston, and was lights out in Game 7 of the ALCS. Marwin Gonzalez, whose previous top WAR season was an abysmal 1.2, hit .303 with 23 home runs and 90 RBIs in 2017.

While they may appear flawless in their rebuild, don’t forget that this is the same Houston Astros team that released JD Martinez in 2014. Anyone that says this was just luck is ignorant. Luck is part of life. Just look at the opposing dugout in the World Series. Justin Turner is a superstar who was designated for assignment by the Baltimore Orioles, and hit .265 in 301 games for the Mets. Chris Taylor did not even make the Dodgers Opening Day roster in 2017.

 

Current Tank Jobs

A team similar to the Astros is the Chicago White Sox. In 2013, they ranked top-10 in payroll, but now sit at 28th. They have not eclipsed 78 wins since 2012, but have traded big name players in order to receive top prospects. Chicago traded Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Adam Eaton, Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, which got them young studs like Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez, Eloy Jimenez, and Blake Rutherford.

Kopech, Moncada, Giolito (Youtube)

In the 2017 Draft, Chicago drafted third basemen Jake Burger, who scouts believe has serious potential. They have Tim Anderson and Carlos Rodon locked up for years to come. In May they signed Cuban outfielder Luis Robert, who hit .310 in the 2017 Dominican Summer League. Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia are both free agents after 2019, but could easily resign. I don’t mean to pull a Sports Illustrated or anything, but the Chicago White Sox will win the 2020 World Series.

Nonetheless, you have to tip your cap to the Houston Astros for proving that tanking really works.

Featured image by ABC13 Houston

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Netting

There is no excuse: Baseball needs to extend protective netting

Todd Fraizer’s reaction says it all. It is simply not worth it.

Frazier was batting in the 5th inning when he yanked a ball foul and the ball proceeded to strike a young girl. Play was put on hold for a few moments while the young fan was tended. Many of the Yankees and Twins players knelt with anguished looks of concern and dread. This is not something that needs to happen.

Manfred is reluctant to enforce his authority

Netting

Rob Manfred is not doing enough to ensure fan safety (CBS Sports)

In an interview with the New York Daily News, Rob Manfred stated, “I think the reluctance to do it on a league-wide basis only relates to the difficulty of having a single rule that fits 30 stadiums that obviously are not designed the same way”.

This blatant disregard for safety demonstrates the problems that the league is facing right now. Is the safety of the fans that pay to watch these teams not worth a slightly obscured view? With all of the money that baseball teams put into their stadiums, is it really not worth it to extend the netting past the dugout so there is no risk of a young girl getting struck by a 100 mph baseball?

Anytime you go to a baseball game you will see and hear the stadium warning fans to pay attention when the ball is in play, which is fair. However, a disclaimer on the back of a ticket doesn’t absolve the team from moral responsibility for protecting their fans. There was nothing that could have been done for that little girl to avoid that ball.

There are 10 teams in the major leagues that have realized that balls hurdling at fans at 100 mph is a problem. Because of that, they have extended the netting beyond the dugout in order to protect fans that are so close to home plate they don’t have time to react.

What is so difficult about that? Who would ever say that architectural design is a reason to not protect fans? That’s right, the commissioner of Major League Baseball would. The game of baseball is so resistant to any sort of change that they will hardly lift a finger to protect a young fan from getting hit by a foul ball.

The players have had enough

Don’t think that the players on the field have any issue with extending the netting. They see on a daily basis how fast these baseballs can go.

Eduardo Escobar of the Minnesota Twins was rattled after yesterday’s incident. He told reporters, “I just saw blood coming out of this girl’s face, a ball like that could have killed a kid…It could have killed her”.

Escobar is right. A ball going that fast can kill someone. Should fans have to worry about that when they buy diamond level seats to a baseball game? Should the players have to worry about striking a fan anytime they hit a ball foul? Absolutely not.

Todd Frazier, the player who hit the foul ball, believes there should be netting up in all stadiums to protect the fans. He emphasized after the game that it is all about safety.

Frazier is right. If the league is concerned about safety enough to put up some simple netting, then why should fans bother to go to the game. Baseballs are flying into the stands every game and in most cases they are good at avoiding the ball. However, one instance of a fan getting hospitalized from a baseball should be enough to warrant netting.

The players have simply had enough. Matt Holliday and Brian Dozier were both in tears when this happened. Dozier called for MLB to extend the netting. There is never going to be a good enough reason to prevent these kind of things from happening.

This is not a new problem

Netting

Fans react to young fan being carried out of the stands (Pioneer Press)

In 2014, Bloomberg did an analysis of foul balls and found that roughly 1,750 fans are struck by foul balls during the regular season. Many of the instances are minor and the fan will usually only walk away with a bruise. It is another story for kids at the ball park though.

According to an article done by the Boston Globe, there was a 2010 incident where a 6-year old girl needed surgery for a shattered skull after being struck at a Braves game by a foul ball. In 2008, a 7-year old needed surgery to relieve brain swelling because of a foul ball.

The same article cites foul ball statistician Edwin Comber, who says 73 percent of all foul balls go into the stands. That may include a pop fly, a long ball down the line, or a grounder that gets scooped up. Every once in a while though there is going to be a scorcher that lines into the stands where you won’t be able to avoid it, no matter how much you are paying attention to the game.

Foul balls aren’t the only problem either. In 2015 a female spectator was carted off due to a broken bat flying into the stands. Bats flying into stands are not nearly as common as the foul balls. However, it is another reason why the netting is necessary.

Hockey is the only other major American sport where projectiles are flying through air at alarming rates. What does the NHL do to protect the fans from these projectiles? They put up boards and netting to ensure their fans safety when attending their events. Simple enough, right? Well, apparently not simple enough for Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball.

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Deadline

Dodgers, Cubs, others make big moves at trade deadline

One hour before the 4 P.M. MLB trade deadline, nothing was happening. There were rumors and whispers here and there. Some decent names had been moved but nothing that we have been looking for over the past few weeks. All of a sudden news broke that the Yankees would be acquiring Sonny Gray from the Athletics. Would this be the first domino to fall?

As the hour went on nothing else seemed to be happen. Everyone was expecting the Dodgers to make the big move they needed but nothing was coming. Is Los Angeles really going to stay put with the roster they have? Every World Series champion in recent memory had made moves at the deadline to bolster their team. Are the Dodgers really that good that they don’t have to go out and get anyone?

When 4 P.M. hit it seemed like that was the case. After about 20 minutes the news started to break however. The Dodgers acquired Yu Darvish from the Rangers in the blockbuster trade we were expecting. This trade also punctuated a trading season that emphasized pitching and had very little movement with hitters.

This was a very interesting deadline to track. There were some surprises as well as moves that we expected. Here are some of the notable teams that were making moves at the deadline.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Acquisitions: Yu Darvish, Tony Cingrani, Tony Watson

Los Angeles bolstered its bullpen with two solid left-handed relievers in Watson and Cingrani. These guys are a great compliment to Kenley Jansen and it takes a lot of pressure off of the starting rotation, especially seeing that Kershaw will be out for the coming weeks.

Yu Darvish has been expected to go to Los Angeles for the last month. Most were surprised that no news had broke when the 4 P.M. deadline approached. I was ready to criticize the Dodgers for their lack of improvement. When the news was announced, it immediately became World Series or bust for this team.

Darvish provides the same sort of punch to the rotation that Zach Greinke provided when he was in LA with Kershaw. These pitching acquisitions may make the Dodgers the most complete team in the majors now. They filled their pitching needs and left their offense alone which has been fantastic. What might be the one of the biggest upsides from this trade season is that the Dodgers did not give up any of their top three prospects for Yu Darvish.

The Dodgers know that they will be making the postseason. These trades were specifically for October because they know that it is now or never if they want to break their 30-year championship drought.

Houston Astros

Acquisitions: Francisco Liriano

The Astros currently have the best record in the American League. Going into the deadline, it was obvious that Houston needed to bolster its pitching staff. Dallas Keuchel has been dealing with injury issues and may not be the same pitcher he was when he won the Cy Young. Lance McCullers has also not been consistent. On top of that, the Astros are in much need of bullpen help.

Houston acquired Liriano from Toronto, but this was not the attractive pitcher that many were looking for them to go out and get. They needed a pitcher to fill into a rotation that looks a bit shaky. However, Liriano will not be in the starting rotation and will be filling in the bullpen.

This had to be disappointing for Houston fans because they did not make the improvements that other contenders made. Even though they are sitting comfortably in first place in the West and are a sure thing for the playoffs, they may be sweating a bit.

Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and George Springer are all on the DL right now. The Astros must be comfortable with the injuries since they didn’t make any moves. However, the gap seems to be closing between them and the Yankees and Indians.

New York Yankees

Acquisitions: Sonny Gray, Todd Frazier, Jaime Garcia, David Robertson

The Yankees made a big move a couple weeks ago acquiring Todd Frazier and David Robertson from the Chicago White Sox. Robertson really helps out a bullpen that needed some help and Frazier is a bat the Yankees needed to fill a hole in the lineup.

Deadline

The Yankees got one of the most valuable pitchers at the deadline in Gray (Getty Images)

The big news from Monday was the Yankees acquiring Sonny Gray from Oakland. This was a trade that made a lot of sense for the Yankees because it helps answer questions in their rotation for 2018 and 2019 as well.

The Yankees may lose the majority of their rotation after this year so getting this deal done is a big deal for New York. For this year though, Gray provides a big punch in the rotation for October seeing that the young pitcher already has postseason experience.

Starting pitching was one of the biggest question marks for the Yankees. Boston made a solid move in getting Addison Reed, but the excellent job at the deadline by Brian Cashman may make the Yankees the better team.

Look for the Yankees to separate themselves from Boston and give Houston some trouble in the postseason potentially.

Chicago Cubs

Acquisitions: Jose Quintana, Justin Wilson, Alex Avila

The Chicago Cubs did exactly what they needed to do in order to finally separate themselves from the rest of the NL Central. They addressed a rotation issue, a bullpen issue and a catching issue.

Deadline

Quintana is the highlight of the deadline for the Cubs (Sporting News)

Quintana was a get for the Cubs that was way ahead of the rest of the field at the deadline. Chicago knew what they needed and got a pitcher in the prime of his career that will be under team control for the future.

The rotation has been underperforming for the most part and Quintana provides a spark that has gotten the rest of the team going. With the potential this team has, they may be one of the best teams built for the postseason after the acquisition of Quintana.

Alex Avila adds experience at the catching position that the Cubs really needed. Miguel Montero was sent to Toronto after he ragged on the pitching staff for the Cubs’ shortcomings. He was the veteran presence that the pitchers need behind the plate.

Wilson Contreras has been very productive with a bat in his hands but he does not have the skills needed to call a good game in the playoffs. He is a converted infielder that is still learning the craft, so Avila provides the presence that the Cubs needed.

Theo Epstein went out and addressed the exact problems that needed addressing. Cubs fans should be happy with how he approached the deadline. The only downside is that the Cubs now have no prospects in the MLB Top 100. Much of their talent is at the big league level so that is a big reason for that. However, their talent has been underperforming this year.

The Cubs are hoping that their players play to their potential. If they do, then they are as good as anybody in the league.

Washington Nationals

Acquisitions: Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle

The Nationals’ bullpen has pretty much been a joke this year. It is by far their biggest weakness, so much so that a fan ripped on the bullpen in his obituary.

Deadline

Scherzer got the bullpen help the rotation desperately needed (Getty Images)

Washington has one of the best hitting trios in baseball with Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy. They also may have the best starting pitcher in the game in Max Scherzer.

However, they were not taken as seriously to compete with the Dodgers in the postseason because of how important relief pitching is these days.

Sean Doolittle has been struggling this year, but he is still a step in the right direction for Washington. However, Ryan Madson has been a very reliable reliever and Brandon Kintzler was an All-Star this year. Kintzler has converted 28 of 32 saves this season and also provides reliability at the back end of the bullpen.

Relievers were a hot commodity at the deadline this year. The Nationals knew that relievers are what they needed in order to win their first playoff series in franchise history. Mike Rizzo did a good job of getting these guys in order to be a threat in October.

Chicago White Sox

Deadline

Jimenez is the 7th ranked prospect in the majors (Baseball America)

Acquisitions: Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Blake Rutherford, AJ Puckett, Andre Davis, Tito Polo, Ian Clarkin, Dylan Cease, Matt Rose, Byrant Flete, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez

As you can tell, the White Sox had a busy trade season. They traded away many major leagues such as Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera. Even though it is pretty apparent that you could say the White Sox are tanking, fans have to be happy with general manager Rick Hahn’s job this past month.

The White Sox now have two of the top 10 prospects in MLB, and eight in the top 70 according to MLB.com. Chicago is the only team on this list that are not contenders this season but they may have had one of the best months in the league.

The benefits from the past month will not show this season or next season. In a few years though the success of the front office will be apparent.

This may be a slight overreaction, but there is a possibility that we could see a Cubs-White Sox World Series down the road. That may be a bit dramatic but wouldn’t it be exciting to see a Chicago championship series? The only thing I would be concerned about is whether or not the city would still be standing in the aftermath.

Final thoughts on the deadline

The most glaring detail of this trade deadline was the emphasis of pitching. Outside of J.D Martinez, there were no major position players that were moved this year. Yes, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera were moved as well. However, all of the big trades were centered around pitching.

It seems that many teams are content with the hitting they have. It may not be a coincidence that major league players are hitting home runs at one of the highest rates in history. Bullpen and rotation help is the attractive thing these days. Especially considering how difficult it is to close out a game in today’s game.

By no means is the 2017 season decided already. There is still a long way to go in the season and anything can happen in October. Championship teams do look back to the trade deadline though to see what they did right at that time. Monday was a pivotal point in the season, but baseball is a crazy game so it will be fun to see how these moves pan out.

 

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Todd Frazier David Robertson trade

Fantasy impact of the Todd Frazier and David Robertson trade

On July 19, the Chicago White Sox traded former All-Stars Todd Frazier and David Robertson, along with reliever Tommy Kahnle, to the New York Yankees. In return, Chicago received the 29th ranked prospect by MLB.com Blake Rutherford, struggling reliever Tyler Clippard and two prospects: Former first round pick Ian Clarkin and outfielder Tito Polo.

For the Yankees, they are in clear win now mode after moving one of their top five prospects in a deal to bolster both their lineup and bullpen.

On the other hand, the White Sox are continuing their fire sale. According to MLB.com, they now have 10 prospects within the top 100: Yoan Moncada (1), Eloy Jimenez (8), Michael Kopech (11), Luis Robert (23), Lucas Giolito (28), Blake Rutherford (29), Reynaldo Lopez (35), Carson Fulmer (58), Dylan Cease (62) and Zack Collins (67).

Todd Frazier

fantasy impact Todd Frazier David Robertson trade

Todd Frazier (Photo by the New York Times)

Frazier, who was surrounded by trade rumors all season, has finally been dealt to the New York Yankees.

Coming off of a 40-home run year in 2016, it is fair to say Frazier has been quite a disappointment this season. The 31-year-old is currently batting .201 with 16 home runs and 44 RBIs.

He will presumably bat in bottom third of the order in New York, which doesn’t bode well for his fantasy value, although his BABIP is a minuscule .209, so some positive regression in his batting average seems inevitable. Also, his discipline at the plate is improved from 2016, as he is striking out less and walking more.

Frazier’s value is trending upward, but not necessarily because of the change in scenery.

David Robertson

fantasy impact Todd Frazier David Robertson trade

David Robertson (Photo by the NY Daily News)

The Yankees’ bullpen was in desperate need of a dependable arm, as closer Aroldis Chapman currently has his highest ERA ever with 3.65 while setup man Dellin Betances is walking an astronomical 7.29 batters per nine innings.

Robertson will be a perfect fit in the seventh or eighth inning in between Betances and Chapman. He will also presumably be second in line for save opportunities. The 32-year-old is heading back to New York after departing during free agency in 2014.

If your league only counts saves, Robertson will lose a significant amount of value, although if your league counts holds, Robertson value will be increased as he is now in a setup role for a contending team.

Yoan Moncada

fantasy impact Todd Frazier David Robertson trade

Yoan Moncada (Photo by Getty Images)

With Todd Frazier heading to New York, Chicago opted to fill the void with the number one ranked prospect in the MLB. Moncada made his White Sox debut on July 19, playing second base and batting sixth.

The 22-year-old seems to be heavily overvalued in fantasy terms, as he was striking out at a 28 percent clip in Triple-A and was only batting .282 with a .379 BABIP. Moncada’s potential is duly recognized, although I can’t see him being relevant in standard redraft formats this season.

In dynasty and keeper formats, his value is much higher as he is a five-category producer that is sure to improve his strikeout rate over time.

Blake Rutherford

fantasy impact Todd Frazier David Robertson trade

Blake Rutherford (Photo by The Greedy Pinstripes)

The 18th overall pick in the 2016 draft is making his way to Chicago to join the most talented minor league system in the MLB.

As a 19-year-old, Rutherford batted .351 in rookie ball. In 2017, he was called-up to Single-A and batted .281 with 30 RBIs in 71 games. If he continues to find success, it shouldn’t be long until he reaches the Double-A level.

He has drawn comparisons to David Justice because of his size and skill set, as he stands 6-foot-3 weighing 195 pounds, while also possessing raw power and speed. He will be a highly sought after fantasy asset as he climbs the minor league ladder.

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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MLB trade deadline: What AL contenders must do to stay in first

Baseball is back and the second half push to the playoffs begins. The MLB trade deadline comes in the second half as well and is Christmas in July for baseball fans. Strategy, money and moves galore (hopefully).

This period is a chance for teams to either sell off parts in order to rebuild or make the trades necessary to help their squad make it to the playoffs and an eventual push for the World Series. These are the moves the teams currently in first place for their respective divisions need to make to remain in first by July 31.

Boston Red Sox

If you follow baseball or this team at all, then you know their weakest position currently is at third base. Pablo Sandoval has been anything but useful or even available and has been designated for assignment. Also they traded away Travis Shaw who is having an excellent season for another first place team.

While everyone believes Todd Frazier is the best and only option available for trade, I would like to look at another in Nick Castellanos.

MLB trade deadline

Courtesy of: Bleacherreport.com

The Detroit Tigers are having a very disappointing season and will most likely be sellers during the trade deadline for the first time in a long time. They also have arguably one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Most of their top players are in Double-A ball and below which means they have a long time to wait to see if they develop.

To speed up the process of their inevitable rebuild, they could and should be looking to trade away as many players as possible.

Castellanos is only 25 and is under team control until 2020 which means Detroit could ask a decent return. So why would the Red Sox make this trade?

To start, they would get a solid everyday third baseman that could grow with the young players they are building around now like Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and more. Rafael Devers is still at least one or two years away and wont be able to help them win now. It is unlikely they would have to part with him to get Castellanos as well.

Castellanos has been in the league for four full years now. You know what you are going to get out of him, whereas you never truly know with a prospect. He has experience, making playoff runs with the Tigers and still has room to grow.

The Red Sox would most likely only have to give up two of their top 25 prospects, most likely ones in the teens and below. They may also throw in a PTBNL or just an extra pitcher to sweeten the deal.

Nick Castellanos would solidify the Red Sox third base problem not only for now but also for the future. Todd Frazier on the other hand may cost only one top 25 prospect but he would also be a free agent at the end of this year and has seemed to have trouble batting for average ever since he was traded to the White Sox.

Cleveland Indians

It took the Indians awhile to catch up to the Twins, but they have taken hold of first and wont let it go for the rest of the season. This team can hit and is being led by its young superstars Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor while getting help from players like Edwin Encarnacion who struggled mightily to start the season but has figured it out.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: Sportsblog.com

Another strength of the World Series runner-ups is their bullpen. Their weakness? Outside of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and surprisingly Mike Clevinger, this team’s starters have struggled. Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Josh Tomlin all have ERAs over 5.

There are many attractive options on the market for the Indians. The question will be how much are they willing to give up in order to get the starting pitching help they need?

Last year, they traded away Clint Frazier and a multitude of other prospects in order to get their stalwart setup man, Andrew Miller. That being said the Indians still have some pieces that they could trade. I highly doubt they will trade Bradley Zimmer as he is with the club now and making a solid contribution.

There are a multitude of options for the Indians to help make their second World Series run in as many years. I like Sonny Gray, but I think his asking price will be too high considering how he has pitched in the last two seasons. This leaves two options: Gerrit Cole and Johnny Cueto.

Both the Pirates and Giants respectively have been under-performing and it looks like they will have to be sellers. While Gerrit Cole is better, he and Sonny Gray have a similar problem. They are going to cost more than the Indians are willing to give.

That is why they could trade for Cueto. He has won a World Series and has been in Cy Young contention, but the Indians could get him for a bargain. He has not pitched extremely well this season and the Giants are desperate (or should be) for prospects as they have one of the worst farm systems in baseball.

The Indians could give up one top 25 prospect not named Zimmer or Mejia and two others right outside their top 25 for Cueto. He would be a great pickup and if he could find his form again, he could be a top of the rotation guy to help the Indians try to make it back to the World Series.

Houston Astros

The Astros were my World Series pick back in January and I am glad that they have yet to let me down. Their lineup can hit from 1 to 8 and Keuchel and McCullers make up an amazing top of the rotation.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: SFgiantsrumors.co

Brad Peacock is finally living up to his potential, whether he is in the bullpen or the rotation. While most are looking at the rotation, and they could improve there, Peacock may actually be a legitimate option that will help them keep their first-place standing. Also, Colin McHugh should be coming off the DL soon and can help to solidify the rotation.

The Astros are missing another reliable bullpen arm. We saw how important they were in last year’s playoffs and right now the Astros have a pretty good bullpen. But if they are going to want to make a real run, they need a great bullpen.

They won’t give up what teams gave up to get pitchers like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last season. Instead, they will go for options that are a small step down.

In steps another Giants player and someone who has been a crucial piece in their bullpen for a long time, George Kontos.

Kontos has a career ERA under 3 and he has been in many high-pressure situations, including helping the Giants win multiple World Series. While he is not a flashy pickup, he is a reliable one, and should be relatively cheap, as he’s still under team control until 2020.

The Astros would not have to part with any of their major prospects. They could easily throw the Giants one of their lower top 25 prospects and some cash or another lower level prospect with high potential.

Kontos would solidify the bullpen as the Astros head into October. His experience would help the younger Astros team and again he would cost a lot less than someone like Sonny Gray or David Robertson.

Conclusion

The trade deadline is an unpredictable time and has a major affect on the way the rest of the season and future seasons will play out. Look out for what first place NL teams needs to do in order to stay in first place.

 

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AL Central Weekly: 5/9-5/15

Todd Frazier had big power numbers this week. Photo courtesy mlb.com.

  1. Chicago White Sox, 24-14

The White Sox only had two wins on the week, by dropping two out of three games to both the Yankees and the Rangers. They are still tied for the most wins in the American League with 24 wins and only behind the Orioles in win percentage. Todd Frazier heated up by hitting .333, with four home runs and 12 RBI. He also had an unfortunate injury by diving into the stands while going after a foul ball. Frazier is fine, but it was a scary moment nonetheless. Chris Sale was the best pitcher of the week once again for the White Sox, picking up another win with a 1.00 ERA.

Upcoming games: vs. Houston (3 games), vs. Kansas City (3 games)

Kipnis has started to heat up. Photo courtesy cbssports.com.

2. Cleveland Indians, 17-17

Cleveland also had a tough week by losing two out of three games to the Astros and Twins. Jason Kipnis got off to a cold start to the season, but really turned it on this week by getting eight hits and three RBI. The offense needs Kipnis to keep on producing if they want to stay in the AL Central race. Joba Chamberlain pitched well this week, giving up no earned runs in three appearances, while holding opposing hitters to a .100 average.

Upcoming games: vs. Cincinnati (2 games), at Cincinnati (2 games), at Boston (3 games)

Lorenzo Cain has been a bright spot for the Royals’ offense. Photo courtesy kansascity.com.

3. Kansas City Royals, 18-19

The defending World Series Champions are struggling to get above .500. Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer are both carrying the offense lately, as they both hit over .300 on the week. Cain added 8 RBI to lead the Royals. The pitching needs to get better, but three bullpen pitchers did well. Danny Duffy, Luke Hochevar and Peter Moylan all didn’t allow an earned run.

Upcoming games: vs. Boston (3 games), at Chicago White Sox (3 games)

Kyle Ryan had a great week in relief for the tigers. Photo courtesy of mlb.com.

4. Detroit Tigers, 16-21

Detroit is slowly slipping further below .500. They lost five of their seven games to the Orioles and Nationals, making it another forgettable week. Victor Martinez hit over .500 on the week, with 13 hits, but only 3 RBI. This is mostly a factor of the rest of the offense not doing so well. Kyle Ryan had four appearances this week and gave up no earned runs, while picking up a save.

Upcoming games: vs. Minnesota (3 games), vs. Tampa Bay (3 games)

Plouffe is one of the few players stepping up for the Twins. Photo courtesy cbssports.com.

5. Minnesota Twins, 10-26

The Twins lost three out of their five games on the week, with one game against the Orioles postponed due to rain. Trevor Plouffe and Danny Santana both hit over .300, but Joe Mauer had a down week, hitting .250. Tyler Duffey threw seven scoreless innings and picked up a win in his only start of the week.

Upcoming games: at Detroit (3 games), at Toronto (4 games)

Victor Martinez has put the Tigers’ offense on his back. Photo courtesy washingtontimes.com.

Player of the Week: Victor Martinez

Martinez hit over .500 on the week, and could have had better numbers if the rest of the team had stepped up.

 

AL Central Weekly: 5/2-5/8

  1. Adam Eaton has been great at the top of the order for the White Sox. Photo courtesy usatoday.com.

    Chicago White Sox, 22-10

The White Sox dropped two out of their first three games of the week to the Red Sox, but swept the Twins to maintain the best record in the American League. Melky Cabrera and Adam Eaton both had good weeks at the plate with .333 averages, but Chicago really needs Todd Frazier to get his .194 average on the season up. Frazier does have eight home runs to lead the team. Jose Quintana picked up two saves on the week, while David Robertson finished with two saves to secure a great week for the White Sox.

Upcoming Games: at Texas (3 games), at New York Yankees (3 games)

Francisco Lindor has been producing from the shortstop position in the Indians lineup. Photo courtesy baseballfam.com.

2. Cleveland Indians, 15-13

Cleveland leads the tightly competitive battle for second place in the AL Central following an impressive week. The Indians swept the Tigers and then took two out of three from the Royals to stake their second-place claim. Offensively the Indians were led by their two shortstops, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, who both hit over .400 on the week. Michael Brantley has returned in a big way by hitting .389 in his first full week of action. The bullpen has been the unsung hero for this team, but Corey Kluber also helped the team out by picking up a win in his one start on the week, with no earned runs allowed.

Upcoming Games: at Houston (3 games), vs. Minnesota (3 games)

Ian Kennedy has been a solid starter for the Royals this season. Photo courtesy kansascity.com.

3. Kansas City Royals, 15-15

The Royals continued to struggle early on this season by losing two out of three to the Indians and Nationals. Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar all had good weeks by hitting over .350, with Hosmer adding six RBI. Ian Kennedy picked up another win by allowing no runs, which brings his season record to 4-2. The rest of the starters will need to be better next week for the Royals to make a push to the top of the standings.

Upcoming Games: at New York Yankees (4 games), vs. Atlanta (3 games)

Nick Castellanos heated up for the Tigers this week. Photo courtesy zimbio.com.

4. Detroit Tigers, 14-16

Detroit surely is glad that the week is over, as they failed to win a game in the past seven days. Nick Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera were the only ones on the Tigers who hit above .300, while the next highest average on the team was .269. Castellanos had a .429 average and six RBI to be the ultimate offensive force. Buck Farmer, Blaine Hardy and Drew VerHagen each had good weeks in relief by not giving up any earned runs, but the rest of the pitching staff had terrible weeks, to cement them in fourth place.

Upcoming Games: at Washington (3 games), at Baltimore (3 games)

5. Minnesota Twins, 8-23

After starting the week with a win, the Twins lost five straight to end the week. Brian Dozier hit .545 and had six RBI in only four games. Jose Berrios got the only win of the week for the Twins, while Brandon Kintzler and Trevor May didn’t give up any runs in relief.

Upcoming Games: vs. Baltimore (3 games), at Cleveland (3 games)

Brian Dozier is the player of the week in the American League Central. Photo courtesy aarongleeman.com.

Player of the Week: Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins

The Twins may not be having the best of seasons, but Brian Dozier had a great week for only playing in four games. His six RBI and .545 batting average were huge for the twins this past week.

AL Central Weekly: 4/18-4/24

  1. Melky Cabrera has been a huge piece to the White Sox offense. Photo courtesy usatoday.com.

    Chicago White Sox, 13-6

The White Sox won two out of four from the Angels and then swept the rangers for five wins this week. Chicago is playing really good baseball and is at the top of the American League Central. Melky Cabrera hit .333 for the week to lead the offense. His two home runs were second on the team behind Todd Frazier who had three home runs this week. Mat Latos has continued his bounce back season and improved to 4-0 with a 0.74 ERA. Chris Sale is also 4-0, but has a 1.80 ERA.

Upcoming games: at Blue Jays (3 games), at Orioles (4 games)

Wade Davis is the best pitcher in one of the best bullpens in the league. Photocourtesy foxsports.com.

2. Kansas City Royals, 12-6

Kansas City took two out of three from the Tigers and Orioles this past week. Mike Moustakas has heated up hitting .375 and two home runs this week. Jerrod Dyson added a .368 average and two stolen bases to bolster the offense. Wade Davis picked up two saves in the last seven days to continue to lead one of the best bullpens in baseball. Yordano Ventura had two starts and two wins for a weak starting rotation.

Upcoming games: at Angels (3 games), at Mariners (3 games)

Francisco Lindor has turned into an offensive star for the Indians. Photo courtesy ohio.com.

3. Cleveland Indians, 9-7

The Indians lost two out of three to the Mariners, but then swept the Tigers. Francisco Lindor hit .409 and added 5 walks for the offense. Carlos Carrasco has had a great start to the season and this week went 1-0 in two starts with a 1.00 ERA. The bullpen has pitched really well, which includes great efforts from Joba Chamberlain, Ross Detwiler, Jeff Manship and Zach McAlister.

Upcoming games: at Twins (3 games), at Phillies (3 games)

Ian Kinsler has used his heady play to keep the Tigers competitive. Photo courtesy zimbio.com.

4. Detroit Tigers, 8-9

Detroit lost two out of three to the Royals and then got swept by the Indians in a rough week. Ian Kinsler was far and above the best player at the plate for the Tigers. He hit .320 with two RBI. Jordan Zimmerman got the only win for the Tigers with 6.1 innings pitched and no runs allowed.

Upcoming games: vs. Athletics (4 games), at Twins (3 games)

Byung Ho Park hit .455 for the Twins this week. Photo courtesy wtsp.com.

5. Minnesota Twins, 5-14

After taking two out of four from the Brewers, the Twins were swept by the Nationals. The Twins had a great offensive week with Byung Ho Park, Kurt Suzuki, Eduardo Nunez, Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario all hitting above .300. Ricky Nolasco had one of the two wins for the Twins this week with a 1.42 ERA.

Upcoming games: vs. Indians (3 games), vs. Tigers (3 games)

Todd Frazier has increased his power numbers this week. Photo courtesy gettyimages.com.

Player of the Week: Todd Frazier, 3B, White Sox

Frazier hit .292 with three home runs this week to get his season back on track.

2016 American League Central Preview

Photo courtesy cnn.com.

The American League Central Division is likely going to be one of the most competitive divisions in all of baseball. Five out of the last 11 years a team from this division has represented the American League in the World Series, which is the most by any division. The 2016 season looks like it will be another great season for the AL Central, and could include another team from the division taking a trip to the World Series. Here are where the teams will finish in the division:

Yordano Ventura has the potential to be an ace. Photo courtesy denverpost.com.

  1. Kansas City Royals

The reigning World Series champions will be the front-runners in this division. Kansas City has appeared in the last two World Series and can easily make it a third straight appearance this season. The Royals return almost all of their starters from their World Series Championship team. The lone starter from last season that isn’t returning is Alex Rios, who is still a free agent. They also lose Ben Zobrist, who was acquired from Oakland to help with their playoff push last year. Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain in the middle of the Royals’ lineup  Their offense will likely have very similar numbers to last year, when they were tied for the second best batting average in the league and the seventh most runs scored. The Royals will need their offense to carry their team once again as the pitching staff won’t be great. Edinson Volquez, Chris Young, Yordano  Ventura, Ian Kennedy and Kris Medlen will be the starting rotation. They are all decent starting pitchers, but this team lacks an ace at the top of their pitching staff. Johnny Cueto, who was acquired from the Reds last July, left for the San Francisco Giants in free agency. Cueto struggled while pitching for the Royals, so they got by without a true ace, but may not be able to do so this year. Another deadline trade for a good starter may be in store again this season for the Royals. The bullpen should be one of the best in the league for Kansas City. The key reliever for the Royals is Wade Davis, who proved last season he is one of the best closers in baseball.

Impact Player: Yordano Ventura SP

Without a true ace on the Royals, Ventura could really help by returning to the form he had in the 2014 season. He is only 24 years old so the sky is the limit for his progression.

Jordan Zimmerman will have to pitch well for the Tigers this season. Photo courtesy freep.com.

2. Detroit Tigers

Detroit should be back in contention again this season after having a down year last season. The Tigers still have one of the best hitters in all of baseball in Miguel Cabrera. He has had some injury problems, but says his goal is to play 160 games this season. With Ian Kinsler hitting in front of him and J.D. and Victor Martinez hitting behind him, the middle of the lineup will be tough. Detroit hit .270 last season, which led the league. The key for this team is going to be the pitching. Last season the Tigers only had one pitcher who started more than 25 games, and that was Alfredo Simon, who has since rejoined the Reds. Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez will have to stay healthy in order for this team to succeed. The Tigers added Jordan Zimmerman to their pitching staff this off-season, who is a good pitcher, who is less likely to get injured than Verlander and Zimmerman. The bullpen could be an issue again this season, but Detroit signed Francisco Rodriguez, which will help them a lot in end of game situations.

Impact Player: Jordan Zimmerman SP

Zimmerman was acquired to pitch well, but also make all of his starts. If he does so Detroit will have a much improved pitching staff this season.

Todd Frazier has to produce good power numbers this season. Photo courtesy wcpo.com.

3. Chicago White Sox

The White Sox had some excitement and buzz around them going into this season. Then Adam LaRoche’s son wasn’t allowed in the clubhouse anymore and it showed the divide that exists in this team. Chicago still has a team that should be able to compete in this division. Their offense was sub-par last year, but have added some players who should help that this season. Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie will most likely hit in the middle of the lineup and provide a spark for this offense. Frazier will likely hit behind Jose Abreu a lot, which will protect him and give him pitches to hit. Abreu will have a career year if Frazier does a good job behind him in the lineup. The bottom of the lineup might not be the best, but if the middle of the lineup can produce like they can, it won’t be an issue. Chicago has one of the best pitchers in Chris Sale. He is a leader in the locker room, which may be a huge need this season. His location of his fastball makes him really hard to hit. Carlos Rodon has the potential to be a starand should take a step forward this season. The bullpen could also be a weak point for the White Sox. Closer Dave Robertson blew seven saves last season and has a tendency to give up home runs. The rest of the bullpen may have trouble holding leads and keeping the White Sox in games.

Impact Player: Todd Frazier 3B

Frazier will have to protect Jose Abreu, which means hitting for power and driving in runs are what is needed of him.

Francisco Lindor looks like he will be playing shortstop for the Indians for years to come. Photo courtesy cbssports.com.

4. Cleveland Indians

The Indians’ offense should be average once Michael Brantley returns from his shoulder surgery that he had this off-season. The problem is they may not be able to generate much offense with him out of the lineup. If they can weather the storm without Brantley, who is looking like he might be in the lineup sooner than originally expected, they might be able to compete. Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana will have to pick up the slack on the offensive end with Brantley out. The pitching staff has two top of the line starters in Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. Kluber will be competing for the Cy Young award this season. The rest of the starters had good years last season and will need to continue their success. Cody Allen has been a good closer for the Indians and can even improve in the next few seasons. The rest of the relievers make up a bullpen that is above average this season.

Impact Player: Francisco Lindor SS

Lindor looks like he can be the Indians’ shortstop for years to come and will have to shoulder some of the offensive load without Brantley in the lineup to start.

Byron Buxton needs to improve his stats at the plate. Photo courtesy startribune.com.

5.Minnesota Twins

Minnesota is a team that has a lot of young players that need to develop. While this shouldn’t be an awful season for the Twins, they won’t be contending for the playoffs this season. Joe Mauer will lead the offense as he has for the past decade for the Twins. Brian Dozier should produce runs at the top of the lineup as well. Minnesota will need Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano to improve upon their numbers last season to have a good offense. New-comer Byung Ho Park from South Korea can also be a difference maker as he hit 105 home runs over the past two seasons in the Korean League. The starting pitchers finished right on the American League average era of 4.14 and should end the season around their again, which is impressive considering they don’t have a true ace. Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana and Kyle Gibson should be solid, but not elite. The bullpen was below average last season and shouldn’t be much better this year. Glen Perkins was great in the first half of last season, converting all 28 saves, but was injured in the second half of the season and didn’t do so well. Kevin Jespen should be a great set up guy for Perkins, but the rest of the relievers will have to perform better this season.

Impact Player: Byron Buxton OF

Buxton is a great prospect, but needs to improve at the plate this season to help the Twins’ chances.

The One Player That Can Save The Reds’ Offseason

Courtesy of, leageez.com

Courtesy of, leageez.com

The Cincinnati Reds have had a terrible offseason so far, and that is probably putting a positive spin on it. There have been failed deals, domestic violence disputes and trades that not many people agree with.

Sadly this is the nature of a rebuilding team. You trade away players that you love and hope that the young players you get in return can someday help your team win a championship.

Where the Reds have gotten extremely young is in their pitching staff. Last year to start the 2014 season the Reds had a starting rotation of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, and Alfredo Simon. Only one of those 5 remain, Homer Bailey, and he will be recovering from Tommy John surgery until sometime in May or June. That means that there will be 5 relatively inexperienced starters coming out of Spring Training for the Reds if the team stays as is.

I will not be putting my predictions of the rotation for the Reds until they have finished making most of their big moves. As of now the Reds are in full rebuild mode and that means try outs for everyone. This also means that there is a lot of uncertainty for the coming season for the team overall.

Because they are moving most of their veteran players, the Reds lack of experience will put this team in the position to have a lot of growing pains. This will hurt the attendance and excitement of one of the most loyal fanbases in baseball.

With all of the negativity and loss of star players like Todd Frazier, Johnny Cueto, and Aroldis Chapman the Reds front office will have problems convincing the fans to come spend their hard earned money to watch young players develop.

There is one player who is on the free agent market who can help bring some fans to the stadium, be another face alongside Joey Votto (assuming that he is not traded), and he can help be a veteran presence for the young Reds pitching staff.

This player is Bronson Arroyo.

Courtesy of, www.sportsworldreport.com

Courtesy of, www.sportsworldreport.com

Rumors have said that Arroyo would be interested in returning to the Reds. While in Cincinnati the man was beloved by the fans and he seemed to love the city back.

The Reds traded for Arroyo in 2006 when they sent their power hitting outfield Willy Mo Pena to the Red Sox. Arroyo had come off of a decent season with the Red Sox, 14-10 with a 4.51 ERA. These number were not stellar but, he had over 200 innings and this would become something that he would be known for in Cincinnati.

The next season he made his first and only All-Star game in a season where he went 14-11 with a 3.29 ERA, 3 complete games and 240.2 innings which was best in the Major Leagues that year. He was known as a work horse who would give you 200 innings and who would start every 5 days.

Bronson did have his struggles. He was known for giving up the long ball. This was especially true in 2011 when he gave up 46 home runs in one season. While this was a down year he still reached 199 innings, which was his only season that he did not reach at least 200 innings.

Bronson was not only known and loved on the field though. He was also always interacting with the fans.

Reds Fest is a giant party the Reds organization throws for their fans in which they get to meet with the players. They are able to get pictures, win prizes and even play games like poker with some of their favorite players. Bronson Arroyo was almost always at these events and he would normally pick up his guitar and sing for the fans.

He became a fan favorite over the years that he was here. He was the work horse on the field and the laid back, guitar playing, long blonde haired bro off it.

The Reds need a player like Arroyo who can come back and fulfill some of the many needs that they have. He can be a veteran presence for the young pitchers on the field. This will be important because it will allow them to develop more quickly. With Arroyo and Bryan Price leading these young pitchers it would not surprise me if they became one of the better rotations in baseball in a couple years.

Bronson can also help to mend many of the broken hearts of Reds fans. They have already watched Todd Frazier, arguably the most beloved player in recent memory get traded. They have also lost the most exciting closer in baseball, Aroldis Chapman, in a trade to the Yankees. Bringing back a fan favorite would start to help the wounds heal.

The Reds could bring him back on a reasonable deal as well. I could see him getting a contract with similar money that Ryan Vogelsong just got. Maybe 2 million or 3 million per year with incentives. I would also expect a 2 year contract with the second year being a team option.

The Reds have said that they wanted to make sure Bronson was healthy before talking with him, and by all accounts he is healthy. I think that they need to sign him and do it soon. The fan base is already starting to lose hope and things are not going to get any easier for the Reds. For them to do a complete rebuild players like Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce will most likely be traded away sooner rather than later.

Bronson Arroyo would benefit in coming back to a team and city he is familiar with. He would be given the opportunity to help rebuild the franchise and in the future potentially come back as a coach or assistant with the Reds.

If you would like to discuss this then please comment below, tweet at me @roberthaness, or go to our new forum page in the menu and post on there!

Stats courtesy of, Espn.com and Baseballreference.com