Trade analysis: Sherrill to Dodgers

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Dodgers acquire LHP George Sherrill from the Orioles for 3B Josh Bell and RHP Steve Johnson
So much for the thought that the Orioles would have to be overwhelmed to move their closer.
Sherrill can’t be considered an elite reliever when his career high for innings is 53 1/3, but he’s as effective against lefties as anyone in the game and he holds his own against right-handed hitters. Now that he’ll again be a matchup reliever, he should be even more effective. In theory, he’d also be a better bet to stay healthy. However, Joe Torre is going to have something to say about that. Sherrill might have been better off throwing an inning at a time as a closer than he will be when Torre decides to use him four times a week with the occasional warm-up, sit-back-down usage that he rarely had to deal with in his set role.
What figured to really help Sherrill’s trade value — and make him more attractive as a keeper for the Orioles — is that he’s under control through 2011. However, this isn’t far off the kind of return he might have brought in as a free agent at season’s end.
Bell isn’t the problem. The switch-hitting 22-year-old was hitting .296/.386/.497 with 11 HR, 52 RBI, 70/50 K/BB and 3 SB in 334 AB for Double-A Chattanooga this season. I view him as a potential 25-homer-per-year regular for Baltimore. However, he’s never going to be better than average defensively at third base and some think he’ll require a move to first base or an outfield corner. Also, he’s yet to show much power as a right-handed hitter. In fact, all of his homers this year had some left-handed. He’s a top-50 prospect, but he’s not a sure thing.
Johnson is the weak link here. The Orioles should have insisted on a better second prospect than the 21-year-old. It’d be very disturbing if they let the fact that his father, Dave, was a former Oriole influence their thinking here. Steve Johnson was 8-4 with a 3.82 ERA for Single-A Inland Empire this season. He just moved up to Double-A and posted a 1.69 ERA in his first two starts. Overall, he’s allowed 55 runs — 43 earned — and 15 homers in 107 1/3 innings this season. The Cal League is a tough place to pitch, and he does have 117 strikeouts. However, he’s a long shot to become a quality starter. The Dodgers had at least five better pitching prospects, and the Orioles have around 10.
So, I think the Dodgers did quite well here, though it’s a pickup that could backfire easily. Sherrill’s arm and Torre’s tendency to overuse his setup men could be a bad match, and while Sherrill’s contract status makes him more valuable, if things go badly enough, it’s entirely possible that he’ll be non-tendered this winter.

Jorge Soler diagnosed with strained oblique, Opening Day in doubt

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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.

The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.

When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.

Report: Cardinals, Yadier Molina making “major progress” on contract extension

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.

Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.

Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.