Daily Dose: Jays cut Ryan, eat $15 million

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Earlier this year Scott Downs emerged as Toronto’s closer thanks to
B.J. Ryan’s struggles and Wednesday the Blue Jays welcomed him back
from the disabled list by releasing Ryan. Ryan has been a mess, posting
a 6.53 ERA with 17 walks and just 13 strikeouts in 20.2 innings while
displaying decreased velocity, but the move still comes as a surprise
given that he’s owed $10 million for 2010.

While his days as a dominant closer may be over it wouldn’t be
shocking if Ryan got things together enough to be a capable middle man
or left-handed specialist, yet the Blue Jays are eating the $15 million
remaining on his contract rather than stashing him back on the DL or in
a mop-up role. And they’re doing so less than 24 hours after saying
that they had no plans to let Ryan go. Something is fishy.

While the Blue Jays learn the dangers of handing five-year contracts
to relievers, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Demoted to Triple-A less than a month ago, Manny Parra is
scheduled to rejoin the Brewers’ rotation Thursday afternoon against
the Cardinals. Parra wasn’t all that great in four starts at Triple-A,
posting a 2.92 ERA and 19/13 K/BB ratio, but with Seth McClung coughing
up seven runs in his last outing Milwaukee decided to reverse the
rotation switch that was made last month.

Parra definitely has the stuff to thrive in the majors and went 9-2
with a 3.68 ERA through mid-June last year, but since then he’s 7-14
with an ugly 5.77 ERA and 1.69 WHIP in 156 innings. Plus, while he has
just 44 career starts under his belt Parra is quite a bit older than
his experience level and actually turns 27 years old in a few months.
He still has upside, but even NL-only teams should be cautious.

* General manager Tony Reagins said Tuesday that Kelvim Escobar
still feels “a deep ache” in his surgically repaired shoulder and
hasn’t picked up a baseball in weeks, leading to speculation that he’s
unlikely to pitch again this year. “We’re not writing him off, by any
means,” Reagins said. “We’re going to move forward cautiously. If we
get him back, great. If we don’t get him back, then we don’t.”

* Jose Contreras earned a mid-May demotion to the minors by going
0-5 with an 8.19 ERA, but he’s been a new man since returning a month
ago. Contreras held the Indians to just one run in 6.1 innings
Wednesday, making him 4-2 with a 1.94 ERA and 38/6 K/BB ratio in 44
innings spread over six post-demotion starts. He’s not suddenly an
elite starter, but the solid 4.50-ERA guy from 2005-2008 is back.

Note: I’ll be live blogging this afternoon’s games over at NBCSports.com.

AL Quick Hits: David Ortiz homered and knocked in four runs
Wednesday … Joe Mauer went 3-for-5 with a homer and a double off the
wall Wednesday … Carlos Guillen (shoulder) is hoping to start a rehab
stint this weekend … David Aardsma blew a three-run lead Wednesday as
all six batters reached … Scott Rolen went 3-for-5 with a double
Wednesday to extend his hitting streak to 25 games … Tim Wakefield
celebrated his first All-Star selection by becoming the AL’s first
pitcher to 11 wins … Scott Kazmir was rocked for seven runs in 6.1
innings Wednesday, but escaped with a no-decision … David Hernandez had
his third straight Quality Start on Wednesday and should stick in
Baltimore’s rotation … Jim Leyland said Wednesday that he plans to
platoon Magglio Ordonez and Clete Thomas in right field … Moving up a
day thanks to Glen Perkins’ illness, Anthony Swarzak failed to make it
out of the fifth frame Wednesday … Andruw Jones homered in each of his
first three at-bats Wednesday, but then popped out and struck out.

NL Quick Hits: Manny Ramirez went deep Wednesday for the second
time in five post-suspension games … Raul Ibanez (groin) is hoping to
come off the disabled list Friday … Wandy Rodriguez totaled 11
strikeouts in a complete-game shutout Wednesday, slicing his ERA to
2.96 … General manager Mike Rizzo has made it clear that the Nationals
won’t deal Adam Dunn … Oliver Perez returned from the DL by handing out
seven walks in five innings Wednesday … Rafael Soriano has overtaken
Mike Gonzalez as the Braves’ closer, picking up his fourth save of the
month Wednesday … Chris Volstad threw a complete-game shutout Wednesday
after going 1-5 in his previous seven starts … Homer Bailey turned in
his second straight good start Wednesday and may finally be in the
majors for good … Dave Bush (biceps) is slated to begin a rehab
assignment Friday at Single-A.

Magic Johnson says the Dodgers will win the World Series

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Baseball, as we so often note around here, is unpredictable. Especially when it comes to the playoffs. You can be the best team in the land for six months but a few bad days can end your season once October hits.

In 2001 the Seattle Mariners won 116 games in the regular season but lost the ALCS to the Yankees, four games to one. In 1906 the Cubs won 116 games in a 152-game season and lost the World Series. In 1954 the Indians won 111 games in a 154-game season and lost the World Series. In 1931 the Philadelphia A’s won 107 games and lost the World Series.

More recently, with the advent of expanded playoffs, the chances for the team with the best record to win the World Series have been pretty dang terrible. Since the beginning of the wild card era, only five times has the team with the game’s best record gone on to win the World Series: The 1998 and 2009 Yankees, the 2007 and 2013 Red Sox and the 2016 Cubs. That’s it.

At the moment, the Los Angeles Dodgers have baseball’s best record. They’re 71-31 and sit 12 games up in their division. Their playoff chances are almost 100%. The above examples notwithstanding, if you had to make a prediction as to who might win the World Series, it would not be unreasonable to pick the Dodgers. Sure, you’d want to make sure they got Clayton Kershaw back by early September or thereabouts to make it a safer prediction, but it’d be a totally defensible pick. Maybe even the one most people make.

But it’d be the utmost in magical thinking to presume that one could make such a prediction with any degree of certainty, right? The Los Angeles Times, however, passes along some Magical thinking:

Magic Johnson called his shot Thursday night, and he wasn’t shy about it. The Dodgers’ co-owner did not hesitate when he predicted how the team would finish this year.

“The Dodgers are going to win the World Series this year,” Johnson said. “This is our year.”

The headline calls it a “guarantee.” I don’t know if I’d call it that — I think it’s more of a confident prediction — but it is a bold statement whatever you call it.

If I had to pick one team at the moment — and we could assume a healthy Clayton Kershaw — I suppose I would make them my World Series favorites too. And, yes, if I had an ownership interest in the Dodgers, I’d probably say what Johnson said.

But given the example of history, I think “field” would be a much safer bet.

Mariners trade Steve Cishek to the Rays for swingman Erasmo Ramirez.

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The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired reliever Steve Cishek from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for reliever Erasmo Ramirez.

Cishek had appeared in 23 games this season for Seattle after recovering from major offseason hip surgery. He’s 1-1 with a 3.15 ERA, with a 15/7 K/BB ratio in 20 innings. He’s a setup man right now, but he has experience as a closer, saving 25 games for Seattle last year and as many as 39 back when he pitched for the Marlins in 2014.

Ramirez has appeared in 26 games for the Rays and has started eight games. He’s 4-3 with a 4.80 ERA and a 55/16 K/BB ratio in 69.1 innings. This will be his second stint with the Mariners, having played for them from 2012-14.

Sort of a surprising deal given that both Tampa Bay and Seattle are competing for a wild card spot, but needs are needs.