Handicapping the Halladay chase

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With a deal seeming more likely by the hour, let’s run through the candidates to pick up Toronto’s ace:
Yankees – Money isn’t much of an issue, and the Yankees certainly have the pieces to get a deal done between Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, elite hitting prospect Jesus Montero and outfielder Austin Jackson. Also, new Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has stated that he’s willing to trade Halladay within the AL East. If the Yankees are willing to part with Chamberlain and Montero together or Hughes and Jackson together, then they’d have easily the best chance of landing Halladay. Getting it done with just one of the first three players might be possible, but only if no one else steps up.
Odds: 3:1
Dodgers – With Chad Billingsley to dangle, the Dodgers are the one team that can exchange top-of-the-rotation starters with the Jays. They’re not going to give up Clayton Kershaw, though. If the Jays want to stay competitive in 2010, a package of Billingsley and major league-ready players like left-hander Scott Elbert, outfielder Xavier Paul, shortstop Ivan DeJesus Jr. and catcher A.J. Ellis could trump anything another team would offer. The Jays, though, might prefer to build for 2011 and beyond, and Billingsley, who is eligible for arbitration for the first time, is going to start getting expensive soon.
Odds: 5:1
Phillies – Able to hold on to much of their elite young talent in the Cliff Lee trade, the Phillies still have quite a bit to offer for Halladay. It’s doubtful that they’d be willing to send both of their top prospects, right-hander Kyle Drabek and outfielder Domonic Brown, to Toronto, but if they gave up one of those two, J.A. Happ and Michael Taylor, I doubt the Jays would turn them down. The problem is that a Halladay acquisition would push the Phillies’ payroll up to $135 million, and the team would still need a third baseman, a setup man and bench help.
Odds: 6:1
Red Sox – The Red Sox would be in a better position to pick up Halladay if it didn’t part with Justin Masterson and Nick Hagadone to acquire Victor Martinez over the summer. It could well come down to how Anthopoulos feels about Clay Buchholz. If the Jays see Buchholz as a potential top-of-the-rotation guy, then the Red Sox would be able to build a package around him, one of their two advanced outfield prospects (Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish) and a couple of lesser pitching prospects. If not, then the Red Sox would likely have to trade closer of the future Daniel Bard and their No. 1 pitching prospect, Casey Kelly.
Odds: 6:1
Mariners – With no elite pitching prospect or top young shortstop, the Mariners may be too short on minor league talent to pull off a Halladay acquisition. Brandon Morrow and Phillipe Aumont have big-time arms, but Aumont is a reliever and Morrow might be. The Mariners would probably have to part with both and outfielder Michael Saunders to compete with what other teams have to offer. Lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith is another to throw into the mix.
Odds: 8:1
Angels – The Angels and Jays discussed Halladay at the trade deadline, but former GM J.P. Ricciardi held out for Erick Aybar and nothing got done. Unfortunately, the Angel farm system isn’t what it once was. Top pitchers Trevor Reckling and Jordan Walden didn’t help themselves this season, and there are no future stars on offense. Aybar would be a huge piece if the Angels relented and moved him, but barring that, they’d have to hope the Jays really like Brandon Wood, Mike Napoli and outfielder Peter Bourjos if they want to get something done.
Odds: 10:1
Rangers – Halladay to Texas was viewed as a possibility at the trade deadline, and the Rangers certainly have the talent to pull off a deal. Halladay, though, isn’t thought to want to pitch in Texas, and owner Tom Hicks’ financial woes might make a trade impossible anyway. It’s too bad, since a swap of Derek Holland, Chris Davis and Taylor Teagarden for Halladay could work out well for both teams.
Odds: 12:1
Mets – The Mets have so many problems that it would seem pretty foolish to commit $15.75 million next year and give up half the farm system to fill one spot. The Jays would likely hold out for outfielder Fernando Martinez, shortstop Wilmer Flores and two of the team’s best young arms.
Odds: 20:1
The field – The Orioles have all of the young pitching the Jays would require, but even the addition of an ace probably wouldn’t make them more than a fourth-place team next year. … The Diamondbacks might have the cash to take on Halladay, but their farm system still hasn’t recovered from the Dan Haren deal. … The Cubs don’t have the money or the motivation to acquire an ace with their offense in shambles.
Odds: 9:1

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.