Report: Kazmir will go to Angels in waiver deal

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A deal rumored in July was surprisingly near completion Friday, as the Angels reportedly acquired Scott Kazmir from the Rays for prospects Alex Torres and Matt Sweeney.
As a 25-year-old lefty with a 55-44 record, a 3.92 ERA and 874 strikeouts in 834 innings, Kazmir hardly seemed to be a likely candidate to be part of a waiver deal. However, since it was the Angels picking him up, he only needed to get through 11 American League teams. That meant no interference from the Yankees. The Red Sox, Tigers and Rangers all could have thrown a monkey wrench into the Angels’ plans, but the price tag scared them all off.
That is the problem here. Kazmir isn’t currently the same pitcher he was two years ago, and he’s owed $8 million next year, $12 million in 2001 and either $13.5 million or a $2.5 million in 2012. This could turn out as badly as the Dontrelle Willis acquisition and signing (more so the signing) did for Detroit.
When Kazmir was at his best in 2006, he averaged 92 mph with his fastball, 84 mph with his slider and 82 mph with his changeup. These days he’s at 90.7 with his fastball, 81 mph with his slider and 79 with his changeup. The slider just doesn’t have the same snap it used to, and he’s never developed better command to help make up for the diminished stuff.
It’s very possible that Kazmir will be an injury-prone No. 3 or No. 4 starter going forward. The Rays couldn’t take that risk when he’s due so much cash, so shedding his contract was the right move. It’s the timing that’s questionable, as the club is still just 3 1/2 games back in the wild card chase. However, Andy Sonnanstine is ready to move back into the rotation and Wade Davis is deserving of an opportunity. The Rays may well be better off without him.
At the same time, it’s hard to blame the Angels for making the move. They’ve needed another starter since way back in spring training, and while the lousy bottom of the rotation hasn’t prevented them from compiling the AL’s second-best record, it could kill them come playoff time. Now they have choices. They won’t necessarily have to stick Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana in their postseason rotation if they struggle next month. And if either Saunders or Santana goes down again, they won’t have to face the scary possibility of making Trevor Bell or Sean O’Sullivan their fourth starter in the postseason.
In order to acquire Kazmir, the Angels parted with a couple of prospects who ranked between fifth and 10th in their system. Torres, a 21-year-old southpaw, has helped his stock a bunch by going 13-4 with a 2.74 ERA, 116 H and 149/80 K/BB in 147 1/3 IP between Single- and Double-A this year. He projected as a reliever going into this year, but he’s now a very intriguing rotation possibility. Sweeney has power potential, but he’s been held back by injuries and he’s not going to last at third base. The 21-year-old has hit .299/.379/.517 in 211 at-bats for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga this season. There’s a chance that he’ll make it as a starting first baseman someday.
Neither prospect is on the 40-man roster, so waiver rules won’t apply in this case.
The Rays may well be blasted for making this trade while still in contention, but in the end, they’ll probably be better off for it. Losing Kazmir doesn’t necessarily hurt their playoff chances at all, and by dumping his salary, they’re giving themselves greater flexibility for next year. Perhaps that means Carl Crawford will stick around after all.

Brewers’ Julio Mendez remains hospitalized after hit by pitch

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Brewers’ minor league infielder Julio Mendez remains in “critical but stable condition,” club GM David Stearns announced Friday. Back in August, Mendez suffered a cardiac event after he was inadvertently struck by a ball from the Angels’ Austin Krzeminksi during a game between the rookie-level affiliates. The 20-year-old was removed to a Phoenix-area hospital for treatment following the incident and has recently been transferred to a hospital in his native Venezuela.

Mendez was in his fourth season with the Brewers’ organization. He spent the majority of his 2017 run with the rookie-level AZL Brewers, slashing .255/.294/.355 with 10 extra-base hits, 16 RBI and four stolen bases over 119 plate appearances. He currently holds a career .241/.324/.309 batting line, 33 extra bases and a .633 OPS through 668 PA.

Baseball is still on the back burner, however, as Mendez appears to have made little progress nearly a month following the hit by pitch. Thoughts go out to his family during this difficult time.

Brad Ausmus out as Tigers manager

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The Tigers just announced that they will not be bringing Brad Ausmus back as manager in 2018. His contract was going to be up at the end of this season and they have decided not to renew it. Ausmus and his staff will manage the club for the final week of the season.

In the press release announcing the move, Tigers GM Al Avila said “[a]s we transition the ballclub in a new direction, I feel it’s best that we have a new approach and a fresh start with the manager position.” He went on to praise Ausmus for “doing an admirable job under difficult circumstances, especially this season,” a clear reference to the club’s decision at mid-season to blow things up. Justin Verlander and J.D. Martinez were traded in July and August, as were some more minor players. The club is clearly embarking on a lengthy rebuild of which Ausmus, who was brought in four years ago to lead a contending team, will not be a part.

In his four seasons at the helm the Tigers are 312-325. He won 90 games and the AL Central in his first season in 2014, but the Tigers were swept out of the ALDS in three games. In the past three seasons they finished fifth, second and will either finish in fourth or fifth this year. Injuries and poor bullpens have been the biggest problem, but clearly this Tigers team was supposed to win more over the past four years.

It’s unclear what direction the Tigers will take in their managerial search, but it’s clear they’re going to go outside of the organization, as Avila said in his statement that the status of the current coaching staff will be contingent on the wishes of whatever new manager they hire.

Happy trails, Brad Ausmus. Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager is now Baseball’s Most Handsome Unemployed coach.