Annoyingly, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi have been doing a blog that’s not a blog for FOXSports. Rosenthal is the best in the biz at putting legitimate rumors out there, but FOX has made it more and more difficult to access his latest tidbits, with too much content that doesn’t carry over to RSS and nothing being carried over to twitter. FOX just wants people checking the website at random intervals, apparently.
Also, in many cases, there’s no way to tell what is written by Rosenthal and what comes from Morosi, who simply doesn’t have Rosenthal’s track record in this game. That’s not a knock on Morosi, but it’s a ridiculous call from FOX and it’s incredible that Rosenthal puts up with it.
OK, enough complaining. Let’s check out the latest to see what Rosenthal, or perhaps Morosi, has for us:
*The Mariners have discussed Edwin Jackson with the Tigers and also like center fielder Curtis Granderson, though talks “are not all that serious,” according to FOXSports.com’s source.
The Tigers have way too much money tied up in horrible contracts and may choose to move Jackson, who is due $5 million-$6 million in arbitration and is two years away from free agency. Granderson is less likely to go, particularly to the Mariners, who already have an excellent center fielder in Franklin Gutierrez.
The report mentions right-handers Brandon Morrow and Shawn Kelley as possibilities for the Tigers in a Jackson trade. Detroit would insist on more than those two, though. Morrow still hasn’t made it as a closer or a starter, and Kelley is probably a setup man at best.
The Tigers are in need of a closer and could well target David Aardsma instead. Aardsma likely has more trade value than Morrow and Kelley combined, and the Mariners have the potential to cobble together a pretty good bullpen without him, particularly with top prospect Phillip Aumont on the way. Aumont is another pitcher the Tigers are surely asking about in return for Jackson, though he’d be hard to pry away.
Aardsma and a second-tier prospect for Jackson may well make sense for both teams. The Tigers would get a closer who is under control for three more years and save some money in the process. The Mariners would win from a talent standpoint.
*Agent Bean Stringfellow said the Red Sox, Braves, Nationals, Astros and Orioles are five of the eight clubs currently showing interest in free agent Billy Wagner.
That’s awfully straight-forward talk from Stringfellow, but of the five teams mentioned, only the Astros come as much of a surprise. It seems unlikely that they’ll come up with the cash to bring Wagner back to Houston. Atlanta, Washington and Baltimore all have to be rather appealing to Wagner from a location standpoint. The Virginia native likely would prefer to remain on the East Coast, and he’ll have the opportunity to do so.
There’s been talk of Wagner potentially accepting arbitration and staying with the Red Sox, but it’s highly unlikely that he’ll go that route. He’ll get a fair amount of cash and a guaranteed deal as a free agent. If he accepted arbitration, perhaps he could get a higher salary on a one-year deal, but it wouldn’t be in the form of a guaranteed contract. If he struggles or gets hurt during spring training, the Red Sox could cut him and owe him just one-sixth or one-quarter (depending on the timing) of his salary. The Red Sox are also perhaps the only interested team that wouldn’t use him as a closer.
*The Nationals are “drawing strong trade interest” in 30-year-old outfielder Josh Willingham.
The Nats buried Willingham at the beginning of last season, giving him just 35 at-bats in April, but as Lastings Milledge, Austin Kearns and Elijah Dukes all faltered, he stepped up and went on to hit .260/.367/.496 with 23 homers in 427 at-bats. That’s not out of line with his career 840 OPS. The problem is that he’s a big liability in the outfield, and he has a history of back problems.
Washington’s current plan is to go with an outfield of Willingham, Nyjer Morgan and Dukes next year, with Adam Dunn at first base. The team has been trying to upgrade its defense, though, and Willingham’s departure could help in that regard.
Willingham is due about $5 million next season and is under control for two more years, so he’s an attractive piece. The Nationals won’t give him away like the Marlins did last year, but they should consider moving him if it’d bring in a legitimate young starting pitcher.
A lot of people who work at the league office or who take paychecks from the Fox network probably wanted to see the Yankees and the Cubs in the World Series. They won’t admit it, of course, but I suspect that many did, as the ratings for a Cubs-Yankees Series might’ve broken modern records. If they are at all disappointed by the Astros and Dodgers winning the pennant, however, they should let that go because they’ve been gifted by a wonderful matchup from a purely baseball perspective. Indeed, it’s one of the best on-paper matchups we’ve had in the Fall Classic in many years.
Before the Dodgers went on their late-August, early-September swoon, this was the potential World Series pairing most folks who know a thing or two wanted to see. At least I did, and I don’t think I was alone. It was certainly the matchup which represented the teams with the two best regular season records and storylines at the time. While Cleveland ended up winning more games than Houston did, for the first time since 1970 we have a World Series pitting two 100-win teams against each other.
Like that Orioles-Reds series in 1970, which featured Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and a host of other All-Stars, the Dodgers-Astros provide us with an embarrassment of big names and future Hall of Famers. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and Astros DH/OF Carlos Beltran are destined for induction already. Astros ace Justin Verlander may very well join them, especially if his late 2017 surge is evidence of a second career peak. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve‘s first seven years and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen‘s first eight are the stuff upon which Cooperstown resumes are made as well. People will be arguing Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley‘s Hall of Fame case for years once he retires.
Youth is served as well in this matchup, with each club featuring a handful of the game’s best young players to accompany their big name veteran stars.
The Dodgers will bat their no-doubt N.L. Rookie of the Year first baseman Cody Bellinger second or third in the lineup every game. 2016 Rookie of the Year Corey Seager, who sat out the NLCS with a bad back, is expected to be activated for the Series where he’ll be the Dodgers shortstop. The Astros are actually an old team on paper — Verlander, catcher Brian McCann, starter Charlie Morton, first baseman Yuli Gurriel, outfielder Josh Reddick and DH Evan Gattis are all over 30 while Beltran is 40 — but young players are essential to their attack as well. Shortstop Carlos Correa just turned 23 and he’s one of the game’s brightest stars. Third baseman Alex Bregman, also 23, made the play that may very well have broken the Yankees’ back during Saturday night’s pennant clincher. Age aside, the Astros are the product of a major, multi-year rebuild and many of their players are making their first national splash this postseason.
Beyond just the names and resumes, though, the Dodgers and Astros represent a fantastic strategic matchup. The Dodgers attack this postseason has featured admirable plate discipline, with third baseman Justin Turner, right fielder Yasiel Puig and center fielder Chris Taylor all letting balls out of the zone pass them by while abusing pitches left out over the plate. Astros pitchers not named Justin Verlander, however, have lived by getting the opposition to chase bad balls. Game one starter Dallas Keuchel did this by relying on his very fast sinker. Lance McCullers pitched well starting Game 4 of the ALCS and pitched spectacularly closing out the final four innings of Game 7 mostly by virtue of his curveball, which Yankees pitchers could simply not lay off. Indeed, his final 24 pitches of Game 7 were all curves, many of them low and away. Who will give in first in this series?
On the side of things, Dodgers relievers have made a living by pumping in strikes. Particularly strikes high in the zone from Jansen and Brandon Morrow. There may be no better fastball hitter in all of baseball than Jose Altuve, however, and the team as a whole was one of the best in the bigs in dealing with gas in the zone. This was a big reason why the Astros struck out less than any team in baseball this year while simultaneously boasting the best offense in the game. The Dodgers throw strikes. The Astros make you pay when you throw them strikes. Again, something’s gotta give.
Maybe the suits in New York wanted the Yankees and Cubs. But everyone else is getting exactly what we want: a matchup of the two best teams in the game. A matchup of strength against strength. What is, from a purely baseball perspective, the best World Series we could’ve possibly hoped for.