Rough day for three potential free agents

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Along with the big Johan Santana and Billy Wagner news today, there were three lesser items that figure to negatively impact a few of this winter’s potential free agents.
Wanting to make room for Chris Davis, the Rangers placed Andruw Jones on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring.
Jones’ OPS stood at 903 on July 29, but he’s gone 8-for-53 with no homers since, leaving him with a .217/.329/.482 line for the season. Just as much of a concern for his value going forward is that leg injuries have limited his outfield time, making him primarily a DH even after injuries to Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz opened up spots. Jones does have his 17 homers in 253 at-bats this season, so if he were still an adequate center fielder, he’d be well worth considering as a regular next year. However, as is, that’s an awfully difficult thing to judge. It would help if he got himself into better shape and then logged some innings in winter ball.
In this case, Jones’ loss is another free agent’s gain. Hank Blalock could have lost a lot more playing time to Davis, but he’ll likely stay in the lineup against right-handers now.
The Mets revealed that J.J. Putz suffered a setback with his forearm and probably wouldn’t pitch again this season.
If that’s the case, Putz could well end his Mets career with a 5.22 ERA and a 19/19 K/BB ratio in 29 1/3 innings, all accumulated during the first two months of this season. GM Omar Minaya expected him to function as an elite setup man in front of Francisco Rodriguez, but it seems clear now that the one-time dominant closer will never be so effective again.
The Mets have the option of keeping Putz at $8.5 million or buying him out for $1 million next year. It’d be a lot to pay for a setup man anyway, and there’s just no way that Putz is worth it now. Exercising the option and trading him might have worked if Putz came back and impressed in September, but that’s also out. Odds are that he’ll become a free agent, and he might latch on with a low payroll club willing to give him an opportunity to close (Florida? Baltimore?).
Nick Johnson has been slower than expected to recover from a strained hamstring and could be placed on the DL prior to tonight’s game.
Incredibly, Johnson went 4 1/2 months without suffering an injury of any significance. However, the slow healing first baseman is down now after appearing in just 13 games following a trade from the Nationals to the Marlins. Johnson, who is batting .296/.419/.408, had a ton to gain as a free agent by playing in 150 games this season. It likely would have put him in line for another three-year deal. Something like $15 million for two years might be more likely now.

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.