Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Last week’s Power Rankings are here.  As is usually the case, they have changed.

1. Yankees: Their rise to first has been occasioned by a lot of games against poor teams and the Rays’ recent slide. Not to be one of those people who nitpick success, but first place or not, they have room to improve.

2. Braves: Heyward and McCann have been slumping, they might add an outfielder and they will be getting Jair Jurrjens back soon, so we may not even be seeing this team at its best yet.

3. Red Sox: En Fuego. Cue the Mark Twain quote.

4. Rays: Still ahead of the Sox by a skinch in terms of winning percentage, but on a decidedly different trajectory. While everyone as totally high on the Rays for so long, it’s becoming apparent that this is a team that can be pitched to.

5. Mets: No one is ever as good as they look beating up on Baltimore and Cleveland and no one is ever as bad as they look losing two of three to the Yankees. I’m still not convinced that they’ll hang in it, but if they make a big move . . .

6. Rangers: En fuego like the Sox and could make a big move like the Mets. If they go from bankruptcy to winning the division I don’t think we’ll be able to hold back the “rags to riches” headlines.

7. Twins: Their idling has not only allowed Detroit to pull close, but it has allowed the Chisox to get back in it too. Or at least to think they can.

8. Padres: This is the kind of thing that you can’t do until late July or early August. Even then might be too soon. Sensors are picking up an enormous amount of hubris emanating from that nearby nebula, Captain.

9. Tigers:  The Pirates, Nationals and Diamondbacks are not the stiffest of challenges. Up ahead: Mets, Braves and Twins.

10. Cardinals: I had figured that the Reds would hit a skid or three and that the overall talent of the Cards would ultimately prove superior, but I’m going to write a bunch of crap this fall about how the acquisition of Jeff Suppan made all the difference. And don’t you think for a minute that I won’t!

11. Giants: Fun conversation going on in the Giants’ blogosphere: do you have to give credit to Brian Sabean for the fact that a bunch of his old guy and bargain bin pickups are hitting? My gut reaction: I’ll give him credit the minute he takes the blame for his old guy and bargain bin pickups who didn’t hit for the previous several seasons. And I’m still mad at him for not having Stan Conte’s back way back when

12. Dodgers: I’ve been yo-yoing them for a couple of weeks now. I had them too low two weeks ago and too high last week. This feels about right, though. 

13. Reds: You’re not going to have a more dispiriting series than the Reds had this weekend against the M’s. One run in three games. The only saving grace is that most of the fans back east were asleep when the games were going on.

14. Phillies: The lack of offense has been the problem during their big swoon, but Saturday’s atrocity against the Twins reveals what some of us thought was Philly’s biggest problem all along: a suspect pen. Sure, it was covered over to some extent back when Jose Contreras was doing his Dennis Eckersley impression, but that seems to be over now.

15. Angels: Brian Fuentes gives all of us hope that one day even we can close for a major league team. I mean, it appears as though results don’t matter, so why not us?

16. Blue Jays: Two of three from the Giants and two of three from the Padres. Too bad they don’t play in the NL West.

17. Rockies: Tulowitzki out for two months? Well, we’ll always have Ubaldo.

18. White Sox: Well, look who’s at .500. Give me another good week and I’ll pay closer attention. Two more good weeks and I may start believing.

19. Marlins: Four of six from Tampa Bay this year is almost enough to make fans forgive the vuvuzelas.

20. Athletics: Optimism in the A’s blogosphere: “no matter how bleak things feel right now it could be worse. At least
we’re not the Pittsburgh Pirates.”

21. Cubs: I was on the radio with Brian Moline at the mighty WDWS in Champaign, Illinois on Friday night and the subject of the Cubs’ maybe needing to sell off some players came up. I’m paraphrasing, but the conversation basically went like this:

Brian: So, is it time for the Cubs to make some moves? Maybe have a bit of a fire sale?

Me: [thinking for a second] . . . man, I don’t know that they have any players anyone wants . . .

Brian: Yeah, I think you’re right.

22. Nationals: 4-8 since Strasburg was called up. Which is probably the best thing that could happen for his development, really.

23. Royals: I’m finding myself scoping out Royals games just to watch David DeJesus to see if he’d be worth the Braves trading for him. It just feels so . . . dirty.

24. Brewers: Attention Brewers fans who think that the team needs to move Prince Fielder for some much needed pitching and a bat and some magic beans and stuff: it ain’t gonna happen.

25. Mariners: Your Cliff Lee quote of the day: “Another walkless performance from Cliff Lee last night puts him at four
unintentional walks and zero hit batters of 305 batters faced. That’s
1.31% of hitters.Cliff Lee also strikes hitters out, works fast, smiles and isn’t Carlos
Silva. He also isn’t going to be a Mariner for as long as Silva was.”

26. Indians: Carlos Santana is hitting .393/.514/.786 since being called up from Columbus. The Indians today send David Huff back down to Columbus. This is why I don’t go crazy to make it to a ton of Clippers games.

27. Diamondbacks: The Dbacks could trade a bunch of dudes here pretty soon, so at least fans will have something to hold their interest.

28. Astros: You could put any of the bottom three teams at the bottom and I’d be cool with it. We’ll lead with the Astros because they come first alphabetically, but really, you can make an argument that they are worse than the Pirates and Orioles.

29. Orioles: Signs you’re not having a good season: when you have to ask your manager how his current team differs from the team he coached for which lost 119 games.

30. Pirates: More telling signs you’re having a bad season: when you feel it necessary to fire an anthropomorphic potato dumpling for dissent.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.