Analyzing the Cliff Lee trade

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Phillies acquire LHP Cliff Lee and OF Ben Francisco from the Indians for RHP Carlos Carrasco, C Lou Marson, RHP Jason Knapp, INF Jason Donald
Not much figuring out to do here. The only question is whether the Indians got enough in return for the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner.
Lee isn’t looked at as being on quite the same level as Roy Halladay, but he has posted a 3.14 ERA this year without a defense as good as Toronto’s helping him along. Also, he’s far cheaper than Halladay at just over $2 million for the rest of 2009 and $9 million next year. A rotation of Cole Hamels, Lee, Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ would seem to match up pretty well with those of the rest of the NL contenders come playoff time.
Francisco is the right-handed-hitting reserve outfielder the Phillies have been looking for. He’ll replace John Mayberry Jr. and serve primarily as a pinch-hitter. While he was miscast as a regular, he should be a very good reserve going forward, and since he’ll earn the minimum again next year, he’s a fairly valuable property. He was hitting .250/.336/.422 with 13 steals in 308 at-bats for the Indians.
In return, the Indians get four prospects, all of whom I’d rank somewhere between 40th and 80th in an updated top 100 prospects. I’m very surprised that the team didn’t hold out for one from the group of Kyle Drabek, Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor, all of whom would have ranked higher, but they did get four intriguing pieces, three of which should contribute next year.
Carrasco, 22, was 6-9 with a 5.18 ERA for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but his K/BB ratio was still quite strong at 112/38 in 114 2/3 IP. He spent years ranked as the Phillies’ top pitching prospect before being passed by a much improved Drabek early on this year. He has a strong fastball-changeup combo with a curve that still needs improvement — he doesn’t throw it for strikes very often, yet he also doesn’t get hitters to chase it. He hasn’t come as quickly as hoped, but he still projects as a No. 3 starter.
Marson and Donald were both 2008 U.S. Olympians. Marson is a very unusual prospect in that he’s a catcher known for his on-base ability. There was hope that he’d eventually deliver 10-12 homers per season, but he had just one in 211 at-bats while hitting .294/.382/.370 in Triple-A this season. His defense is sound. He doesn’t have the arm to contend for Gold Gloves, but he should have a long career behind the plate. I’m not sure what the Indians will do with him. He could share time with Kelly Shoppach if Victor Martinez follows Lee out the door, but the position should belong to top prospect Carlos Santana as soon as mid-2010. I could see Marson being moved again this winter
Knapp is just 18 and he’s fanned 111 in 85 1/3 innings in the Sally League. However, he’s experienced shoulder problem of late and hasn’t pitched since July 11. The Indians must be convinced that it’s just tendinitis. Many projected Knapp as a future reliever when the Phillies made him a second-round pick out of high school last year, but his performance this year has changed that. He really might have ace potential with his mid-90s fastball and hard slider. However, even the best pitching prospects are no better than 50-50 bets and Knapp faces longer odds given that he’s already experiencing arm issues and he has subpar command.
Donald has struggled this year. He only returned Tuesday after missing nearly seven weeks following knee surgery, and he’s hit just .236/.297/.332 in 208 at-bats in Triple-A. Last year, he batted .307/.391/.497 in Double-A. I see him as a .360-OBP guy with 15-homer ability. However, he lacks the range to last at shortstop and will end up at either second or third. Assuming that they keep Jhonny Peralta at the hot corner, the Indians could have Donald battle Luis Valbuena for the starting job at second next year. Some view him as a future utilityman, but I see him spending several years as a regular.
I think Indians fans are right to be rather disappointed right now. The team had a chance to get right back into contention with Lee and Martinez around in 2010, but this makes another fourth-place finish more likely and there are no probable stars coming back in return. That said, I do like all four pieces here and I’d rather have that group than one from the Drabek-Brown-Taylor tier and only lesser pieces completing the deal.

Settling the Scores: Memorial Day edition

ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 21:  American flags are shown after being placed by members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment at the graves of U.S. soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in preparation for Memorial Day May 21, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. "Flags-In" has become an annual ceremony since the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) was designated to be an Army's official ceremonial unit in 1948  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died in military service. At some point in the past couple of decades, however, it has become an all-purpose flag-waving, patriotism-declaring, civilians-in-camouflage holiday. It’s understandable why this is the case. We, as a country, haven’t always done mourning well. I think it’s part of our national cultural DNA that we don’t and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make days like this difficult.

I feel like the flag-waving and troop-supporting stuff is some sort of subconscious reaction to death. It’s our way of instantly trying to justify those deaths or to explain how they were not in vain, much the same way we might tell someone upon the death of a loved one that they’re in a better place or that they had a full life. Feeling the pain of loss is hard. We want to soften it in any way we can and make our pain serve a larger, better purpose. And so we get today, when Major League Baseball puts its players in camouflage caps and in jerseys with camouflage logos. They’ll sell them too, with proceeds going to good and noble veterans charities. The intent is noble and the ultimate effect of it all is beneficial. But it’s also a little beside the point. Maybe not beside the point as much as mattress sales or big celebratory barbecues which have come to characterize Memorial Day for so many, but still not exactly the purpose of the holiday.

I don’t condemn it. As I wrote last year, the men and women who actually fought and died in wars were hoping that they were, ultimately, making a better and happier world for those they left behind. And they no doubt hoped, among everything else they hoped, that others didn’t have to face what they were facing. They wanted our lives to be happy and our country to be safe and part of a happy and safe country involves 300 million people doing whatever it is they damn please, even if it’s just having barbecues and wearing camo at the ballpark.

I won’t say have a happy Memorial Day because that seems odd. Have any kind of Memorial Day you want, really, even if it includes barbecuing, drinking beer and wearing a cam ballcap. But as you do, please make sure you take some time to think about those who died in military service. And remember that they didn’t get to have as many days like the one you’re having as they were meant to have. And make at least some effort to offset your happy, patriotic or silly pursuits with some mourning and reflectiveness. It’s OK for that to stand on its own.

The scores:

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3
Orioles 6, Indians 4
Yankees 2, Rays 1
Nationals 10, Cardinals 2
Brewers 5, Reds 4
Royals 5, White Sox 4
Cubs 7, Phillies 2
Rangers 6, Pirates 2
Astros 8, Angels 6
Athletics 4, Tigers 2
Twins 5, Mariners 4
Giants 8, Rockies 3
Diamondbacks 6, Padres 3
Marlins 7, Braves 3
Dodgers 4, Mets 2

 

Should Dave Roberts have taken Clayton Kershaw out of Sunday’s game?

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch in the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 29, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will likely be second-guessed heavily during tomorrow’s news cycle. Starter Clayton Kershaw had pitched a terrific ballgame, as is his tendency, but with 114 pitches to his name, Roberts decided to pull him from the game in the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on first base.

Roberts opted not for closer Kenley Jansen, who hasn’t pitched since Wednesday, but for another lefty in Adam Liberatore. He was playing the numbers, with the left-handed-hitting Curtis Granderson coming up. Liberatore, much to Roberts’ chagrin, served up what turned out to be a game-tying triple to Granderson, hitting a rocket to right-center just out of the reach of a leaping Yasiel Puig.

Jansen has, for six years, been one of the game’s elite relievers. Kershaw, though at a high pitch count, doesn’t seem to suffer from the times through the order penalty like most pitchers. Kershaw’s opponents’ OPS facing him for the first time was .525 coming into Sunday. Twice, .597. Three times, .587. Four times, .526 (but this suffers from survivorship bias so it’s not exactly representative).

Furthermore, Kershaw held lefties to a .546 OPS over his career. Liberatore, in 99 plate appearances against lefty hitters, gave up a .575 OPS. Jansen? .560. It seems that, faced with three decisions, Roberts arguably made the worst one. Playing conservative with Kershaw at 114 pitches is defensible, but only if Jansen comes in. If Roberts wanted the platoon advantage, Kershaw should have stayed in.

Luckily for the Dodgers, Mets closer Jeurys Familia didn’t have his best stuff. He loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth on a single and two walks, then gave up a two-run single to Adrian Gonzalez, giving the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Jansen came on in the bottom half of the ninth and retired the side in order to pick up his 15th save of the season.

Royals sweep White Sox over the weekend on three late rallies

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 28:  Brett Eibner #12 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates his game-winning RBI single with teammates in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on May 28, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals won 8-7. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Royals had themselves a pretty good weekend. The quickly fading White Sox, not so much.

On Friday, the Royals fell behind 5-1 after the top of the sixth. They would score once in the bottom of the sixth, four times in the seventh, and once in the eighth to steal a 7-5 win facing pitchers Miguel Gonzalez Dan Jennings, Matt Albers, Zach Duke and Nate Jones.

On Saturday, the Royals entered the bottom of the ninth down 7-1. They scored seven runs on closer David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to win 8-7.

On Sunday, the Royals were down 4-2 after the top of the eighth. They plated three runs in the bottom half of the eighth against Jones and Albers, going on to win 5-4.

Coming into the weekend, the Royals were 24-22 in third place. The White Sox were 27-21, a half-game up in first place. Now the Royals are in first place by a game and a half, and the White Sox are in third place, two games out of first.

Here’s video of the Royals’ comeback on Saturday, since it was so unlikely:

Report: Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there”

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 24: Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers waits to hit during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 24, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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In Saturday’s column for The Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo notes that, according to a scout, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there.” Braun has been bothered by neck and back issues this year, missing on Sunday his eighth start out of the Brewers’ last 14 games, but he has still put up a quality .351/.424/.583 triple-slash line in 170 plate appearances this year.

More importantly for an acquiring team, Braun is in the first year of a five-year, $105 million contract. He’s earning $19 million this season and in the ensuing two seasons, and then his salary decreases slightly to $18 million in 2019, $16 million in 2020, and $15 million if both sides pick up his mutual option (else a $4 million buyout would be exercised).

Per Cafardo, the Astros, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Giants, and White Sox are potential landing spots for Braun.