MLB News & Views @ MLBRT 7/27

This week’s questions…

1) The L.A. Dodgers have a very capable 6-deep pitching staff, that includes the arguably best in the game in Clayton Kershaw. In fact, the Dodgers staff leads MLB in ERA. 

However, pitching can be very fragile and suddenly their closer Kenley Jansen gives up three runs in a game and has an ERA over 4.00 in July, and two starters, Kershaw and Brandon McCarthy, are on the DL.  

Jansen should be fine, despite his “poor” July and McCarthy’s problem is just a blister and he should also be fine… but Kershaw is the big question mark… he has a history of back problems and is the “anchor” to the starting staff. 

With the July 31st trade deadline approaching, if the Dodgers think Kershaw will be out indefinitely should they go out and pull the trigger on a trade now? Or, should they just hold tight and play what they have and hope for the best with Kershaw? 

Clayton Kershaw ‘not optimistic’ after another back injury will send him to disabled list

Joe: Right off the bat… I am from the school of thought that says “You can never have too much pitching,” so if an opportunity presents itself to a team to get a decent pitcher for a reasonable price… or a price the team is willing to pay… then do it.

As for the Dodgers and their Kershaw dilemma…  yes, they do have to hope for the best as far as him being able to recover from his  latest back injury so he can pitch late in the season and hopefully into the playoffs.  But, I also think that back of his will only get worse rather than better in the long run, and they need to think about life after Kershaw sooner rather than later.

I’m not saying burn all their prospects for any old starter that is available… frankly, I ain’t exactly all head over heels over the ones available right now… but they need to see if they can find another starter to (1) fill in the void for the time Kershaw is out and (2) start thinking if the guy they get is not a long term solution then this offseason they best start thinking about finding that long term solution.

If it all turns out that Kershaw’s back is fine and he winds up pitching another 5, 6  or more years? It’s all  good. If they do get that other “ace ‘ stater they are even that much stronger.

Steve: Kershaw is out 4-6 weeks, and this is going to sting. However, he got hurt last year as well, and the Dodgers still won the division by a comfortable margin. I think another solid starter would help them not only for the regular season, but also in the playoffs, where they have shown that they cannot win the big one and their best starters seem to falter. Another low 2 to high 3 starter may be that one piece the Dodgers need to really compete for a World Series, and make a deep run in the playoffs.

2) The Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg left his most recent game after throwing 51 pitches and walking three in two innings. The Nats are downplaying the start as just tightness in his arm and nothing serious. However Strasburg’s MLB history is a track record of injuries… at least eight DL stints, including Tommy John surgery. The Nats’ starting staff, though very good (3rd in rotation ERA) is arguably not as deep as the Dodgers staff.  

Do the Nationals need to make a trade for a starter before the July 31st deadline? 

Stephen Strasburg diagnosed with nerve impingement.

Joe: I don’t think they necessarily need a starter, but if you go back to question one and read the first part of  my answer there… the same thing applies. If a pitcher is available at a price a team is willing to pay then go for it. However… like I said,  I don’t think they need another starter; what they need is a closer. And, if they can work out a deal for one of the closers available, they should do it and slightly over pay for one. If, I were them I would be checking in with all the teams to see if any closers might be available. I would be banging on Brain Cashman’s hotel room door morning, noon and night trying to make a deal for one of their three closers.

Steve: No, because Strasburg should be fine with a little bit of rest. They have enough of a cushion over the Braves, that I don’t think their lead in the East is in jeopardy. They have such a solid offense, and still one of the best rotations in the National League without Strasburg. I think they need more bullpen help, even though they have already made some moves. 

3)With the emergence of rookie outfielder Clint Frazier, both offensively and defensively, the pending return of Aaron Hicks from the DL, along with Aaron Judge and Bret Gardner, 34-year old Jacoby Ellsbury is no longer a starter in the Yankees outfield and is probably 5th on the depth chart. That makes him a late inning replacement, pinch hitter or pinch runner who is owed approximately $21.2 million for the next 3 years with a buyout of $5 million for year 2021. Although he has a “no trade clause,” it might make sense for him to waive that clause if he wants a chance to go play on some other team every day or at least more regularly than it appears he will with the Yankees.  

The question… is there any possible way the Yankees could trade Ellsbury’s bad contract for another team’s bad contract and somehow turn it into acquiring a player who helps the Yanks? 

Jacoby Ellsbury for Justin Verlander?

Joe: If they can find any way to get rid of Ellsbury without eating the entire contract? Then yes, jump at it.

Short of DFAing him and then sending him to the minors when no team wants to trade for him… which he could refuse to do as a vested veteran but he would relinquish his guaranteed money and he wouldn’t do that, and I also don’t see the Yankees “insulting” him like that either… I just don’t see any other bad contracts out here worth acquiring… except, maybe one… the Tigers’ Justin Verlander.  He’s 34 right now. He has a contract for the next 3 years at $28M for 2018 and 2019 and then for $22M for 2020. He isn’t  exactly  having a Verlander vintage year, but he is probably better than most of the Yank’s other starters… he would slot in at least as the number 3 guy in their rotation in all likelihood.

Ellsbury is owed 21.1M for 12018, 2019 and 2020 plus he has can be brought out for $5M in 2022.

If, the Yanks  add in a mid-level prospect to sweeten the pot, then they might have something there.

Steve: They would have to eat a lot of his contract, and they would have to get something of value in return for them to make this deal.

If it can help them with their long term plans, then go for it, and eat the cash. However, if you cannot get much in return, it is not worth the risk.

Rafael Devers

4) The Boston Red Sox just brought up top prospect Rafael Devers to play at third base… Baseball America ranks Devers as the sixth-best prospect in all of baseball.  Devers’ name has been brought up frequently in trade rumors all month… possibly for an established 3rd baseman. 

Are the Red Sox now willing to give Devers a shot to end their third base miseries or are the Sox showcasing him in lieu of a bigger deal before the trade deadline? 

Joe: Considering the damn Red Sox traded for the Giants 3rd baseman Eduardo Nunez the other day… I am inclined to say “Nope.”

But, I have also heard they still might keep Devers at third and use Nunez all over the place… he has experience at all four infield positions. So, I guess I gotta straddle the fence on this  one and say only time will tell what the heck the damn Red Sox will do. 

Steve: If he does well at third, then give him a shot. Why not?

You have nothing to lose, and anything is an upgrade over Sandoval. The Sox need to look at their future as well as the present. Devers could be that key guy to lead the Red Sox over the next five years.

5) Things sure did change in a hurry in the AL… suddenly Kansas City and, Tampa Bay, who at one point were being labeled as sellers are now suddenly back in the thick of things and could be buyers at the trade deadline. In fact, not including teams from the AL West where Houston with its ginormous lead is the only team over .500, the fight for four possible playoff spots appears between the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Indians, Twins, and Royals… with the Angels and the Mariners as dark horse possibilities. 

In your opinion, which of these teams are the best candidates for postseason play?  

Can 3 teams from AL East make the playoffs?

Joe: As bad as the Yankees have played in losing their lead the AL East to the Red Sox… as of Wednesday morning, they were up in the loss column by a game,with three games in hand as the Sox have already played 3 more wins than the Yanks.

The point?

The AL East is far from over… this will be a three team barn burner right down to the final week… maybe the final game… in my opinion, because the Rays are going to be right there, too.

Having said all that… here’s how I think it all winds up… Yanks, Houston and the Indians win their divisions… the Red Sox, Royals and the Rays take the wild cards.

What? There is only two wild cards? Yep.. we got a play-off to get to the the wild card play-in game.

Steve: I think Boston will be there in the end, they have such great pitching, and a pretty potent offense. I think they will win the East. The Yankees despite their struggles as of late, I think will rebound and led by Aaron Judge, they will get a wild-card berth.

I like the Royals chances in the Central but still think the Indians will sneak in the back door into the playoffs, and the Royals will miss the wild-card by a game or two.

That leaves the Rays, I think with their starting pitching, that will propel them into the Wild Card game against the Yankees.

It should be a good time down the stretch though, with some interesting late season games.

Extra Innings…

To say Todd Frazier’s first AB as a Yankee at Yankee Stadium didn’t exactly go as ideally planned is probably more than a slight understatement…

Frazier came to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out for his first home at-bat at Yankee Stadium. But instead of a heroic grand slam for his homecoming, Frazier ended the inning.

Frazier grounded a 3-1 pitch from Reds pitcher Luis Castillo to shortstop Jose Peraza, who stepped on second for the first out of the inning. He then fired to first base, getting Frazier.

Didi Gregorious, who was on second base when the play started, got caught up between second and third. The Reds forced the rundown, and Gregorious was called out for running outside the base-path BUT not before Matt Holliday was able t s core from third base.

Frazier didn’t receive an RBI for his work, but the 6-6-3-3-5-6 triple play is not something usually seen on many MLB scorecards.

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