Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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1. Yankees:  If they’re at the top of baseball with a half dozen problems at any given time, how good will they be when things really start clicking? I just feel like they’ve been playing the season with one hand tied behind their back and that pretty soon they’ll rip off like 14 wins in a row or something crazy.

2. Rangers: I was tempted to move them to the top slot for a minute, but the big recent push has come mostly against cupcakes. Not that it hasn’t been a nice push.

3. Red Sox: Banged up as all hell, but they have been all year, right?

4. Padres:  We’ve waited for them to turn into a pumpkin all year, and they just won’t. They’ve been the most consistent team in baseball. In this they remind me a lot of the 1991 Braves. A lot of people are gonna wake up in September and say “Jesus, the Padres clinched?”

5. Braves: No shame in getting beat up by the White Sox, but let’s be clear: they’re not playing great baseball at the moment. Heyward’s injury is bothersome, but let’s be honest: he has been only moderately effective for the bulk of the team’s turnaround. The real concern has been Troy Glaus’ recent slump and the sudden ineffectiveness of Tommy Hanson.

6. Mets: Every day they don’t trade for Cliff Lee is a day the Braves and Phillies breathe a bit easier. If and when they do pull that trigger, Phillies and Braves fans will freak the hell out.
 
7. Rays: They were bound to come down from their early season highs, but I wasn’t guessing it would be this far down.  Nothin’ is working right at the moment.

8. Reds: The Reds sign Gary Matthews Jr. and then surge back into first place. Coincidence? Why yes, yes it is.

9. White Sox: I try to keep some sort of connection to the reality of the standings, but I’m sorry, just because they’re a game and a half behind the Twins doesn’t mean I can’t put the White Sox here. They’re surging right now and it just feels right.

10. Phillies: Their recent bounceback has them looking a lot like the beast that roamed near the top of the Power Rankings earlier in the season.

11. Cardinals: The reason they can’t hold on to first place? Too many holes in the lineup.

12. Twins: Gleeman’s take on the current blah of the Twins: “Had the timing of the good and bad stretches been flipped, with the
Twins starting 10-14 and then playing well for two months, the
perception of their current situation would be different.” And if wishes were fishes we’d all have a fry. Not that Aaron’s wrong or anything. I mean, we can’t expect that the White Sox will continue to win just about every game they play, right?

13. Tigers: How Miguel Cabrera isn’t leading the league in All-Star voting at first base is beyond me.  Well, it’s not totally beyond me — I get that there are more Yankees fans than Tigers fans — but it’s pretty telling all the same.

14. Angels: The pitching has come around nicely. If they pick up a bat and the Rangers fall back to Earth as they must, we’re gonna have a good race.

15. Giants: Pablo Sandoval: .273/.331/.415. Vald Guerrero can get away with swinging at everything. Panda can’t.  I’d hate to see him not learn that lesson the way Jeff Francoeur didn’t learn that lesson.

16. Blue Jays: Time to think about dealing. Bautista? Overbay? Five years ago teams would jump at guys like that. Now I’m having a hard time seeing them bring back any value.

17. Rockies: They ought to do something with Manny Corpas, what with the laws against keeping dead bodies lying around and everything.

18. Dodgers: There were a lot of storms in the Midwest this past week. Must have blocked the V Energy from flowing from Boston.

19. Brewers: Nice week for the Brewers. I doubt they’ll be doing more this year than fighting the Cubs for third place, but unlike the Cubs, they’re approaching what has turned into a bummer of a season with dignity and some fight.

20. Athletics: If it makes anyone feel better, there were way more votes for contracting the Yankees than contracting the A’s in my little contraction post this morning.

21. Marlins: This ranking reflects the on-the-field product. If it reflected front office chaos, they’d be at 156.

22. Cubs: The only silver lining of the Carlos Zambrano insanity is that between his past history and their year of living with Milton Bradley, the Cubs have a handbook on how to deal with this kind of jazz.

23. Royals: Outside of the 1985 World Series it probably hasn’t ever counted as a true rivalry, but the Royals have to have enjoyed taking two of three from the Cardinals.

24. Nationals: I predict the Nats will score a half run in support of Stephen Strasburg tonight. Difficult, I know, but I think they have it in them.

25. Mariners: I may have lost count, but I think this marks the 23rd straight season in which a team has started the year thinking “sure, Casey Kotchman can handle first base for us,” only to cut bait before the trading deadline.

26. Diamondbacks: I was tweeting like crazy about this on Friday night, but I’ll reiterate here: I have no problem with Hinch leaving Edwin Jackson in to throw 150 pitches for a no-hitter. You don’t do it with some young franchise-quality pitching prospect, but you can do it with a solid, experienced contributor-type like Jackson. Odds are he’ll never win a Cy Young. The competitive part of the season truly is over for the Dbacks. You have to let him and the fans have this.

27. Indians: I’m surprised the Tribe found a taker for Russell Branyan so quickly. I figured they’d have to wait a few weeks for that kind of a deal to develop. Pure gravy for them that they could get that done, get some bodies in return and open up a slot for LaPorta to prove himself with so much of the season left to play.

28. Astros: Are Astros fans experiencing some delicious schadenfreude seeing Nolan Ryan — the man who many in Houston feel abandoned them twice — having so much trouble assuming ownership of the Rangers, or are they worried that all that difficulty is killing the market for Roy Oswalt and thereby preventing them from getting their hands on a prized Ranger prospect or two?

29. Orioles:  When you’re in as deep a hole as the O’s have been in all year it’s not likely that you’ll ever climb out, but they won some damn games this past week, and they at least deserve to be out of the cellar.

30. Pirates:  I saw some glimmers of faint hope as the season began. Now it’s like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none.
None more black.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.