One thing is for certain: The Rangers are going for it.
They better be, because they just gave up quite a haul for a rental. Meanwhile, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik successfully turned Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and JC Ramirez into Justin Smoak and three other prospects. Impressive, to say the least.
As Craig just mentioned, Larry Stone of the Seattle Times is reporting that the Mariners will also acquire right-handers Blake Beavan and Josh Lueke and second baseman Matt Lawson. Beavan, a former first-round pick in 2007, was ranked as the organization’s No. 17 prospect by Baseball America over the winter. Neither Lueke or Lawson ranked inside Baseball America‘s top 30 for the Rangers, however the latter is averaging 14.6 K/9 this season while the former has an 809 OPS at Double-A Frisco.
The other prospects are intriguing in their own right, but Smoak is the real prize here. The 23-year-old first baseman is batting .209/.316/.353 with eight homers and 34 RBI in his first taste of the big leagues — and just .148 (4-for-27) this month — but the young switch-hitter put together a .293/.411/.461 batting line over 599 plate appearances in the minor leagues.
Smoak is viewed as a top hitting prospect with a polished approach for his age, but he still has a lot to prove against left-handers. He batted just .215 with a 635 OPS against southpaws in the minors and those struggles have translated to the big leagues, as evidenced by his .139 batting average (11-for-79) and 473 OPS. It’s a small sample, to be sure, so while I don’t think Smoak is overmatched, he’s not exactly a finished product yet, either.
It’s a great deal for the Mariners in that they were able to take advantage of a vulnerable franchise, but keep in mind that this isn’t what their fans had in mind at the start of the season. They expected to compete for the playoffs. In essence, now the Mariners have essentially handed the Rangers the keys to the American League West. This isn’t something to be thrilled about in the short-term. And it will hurt if Lee plays playoff hero once again. But several months from now, after Cliff Lee signs with the Yankees or some other high-payroll team, the M’s will be primed to torture the Rangers with Smoak for years to come. Meanwhile, the Phillies will be fortunate if even one of Aumont, Gillies or Ramirez turns into an impact player in the big leagues.
In a show of good sportsmanship, the Cleveland Cavaliers have moved their championship ring ceremony start time back to 7 PM EDT to avoid conflicting with the start of the World Series opener on Tuesday. The Indians are set to host Game 1 at Progressive Field on October 25, while the Cavs will open the 2016-17 NBA season against the New York Knicks at the nearby Quicken Loans Arena, preceded by a ceremony recognizing their first franchise title.
In the event that the Indians clinch a World Series title, it’ll be the first time Cleveland has seen two championships in the same calendar year since 1948, when the Indians’ last Series title came on the back of the Cleveland Browns’ All-American Football Conference championship against the Buffalo Bills. The same was true for the Dodgers in 1988, when their World Series win against the Athletics coincided with the Los Angeles Lakers’ 11th championship, while Chicago has yet to see a multi-title year among their NBA, NHL, NFL, and MLB franchises.
Regardless of the Series’ outcome, Cleveland fans will get the chance to revel in one long-awaited championship win on Tuesday before watching the beginning of a nail-biting conclusion to another long-awaited playoff run. The Cavaliers are scheduled for 7 PM EDT on October 25, while the Indians will take the field at 8 PM EDT.
If any team can turn a six-day rest period into an advantage, it’s the Indians. The club polished off their pennant race with another injured starter and an overtaxed bullpen, as Trevor Bauer exited in Game 3 of the ALCS with a laceration on his right pinky finger, leaving the bullpen to shoulder 16 innings through the last three games of the series. On Friday, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reported that injured starter Danny Salazar could rejoin the rotation in the World Series, though he’ll need at least one more simulated game before Terry Francona determines whether or not he’s fit to return for the team’s last postseason push.
Bauer, who has been under the close watch of hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham, told the press that he feels confident that he’ll be ready for a World Series start when the final showdown commences on Tuesday. Keeping the wound bandaged is not an option during games, and Bauer said that Dr. Graham decided against additional stitches to keep the laceration from re-opening. Instead, they’re banking on extra days of rest to heal the cut naturally. Should Francona pencil the right-hander into the lineup for Game 3 or 4, he’ll have had 10-11 days to rest his finger between starts — just a hair under the seven games Bauer said he was prepared to pitch.
Salazar, too, has been preparing for a World Series showdown. He’s scheduled to pitch three innings of a simulated game this weekend, and if it goes well, it could land him a spot in the starting rotation alongside Bauer, Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, and newcomer Ryan Merritt. Salazar has been sidelined since September 9 with a right forearm strain, and even after undergoing a rigorous throwing program over the last several weeks, any kind of comeback is expected to be curbed by a strict innings limit. Francona has been understandably tight-lipped about his World Series roster, but he hasn’t yet nixed the idea of utilizing Salazar out of the rotation, provided the right-hander remains healthy for another week or so.
The Indians have had to remain flexible throughout their seven-game playoff run after weathering injuries to Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, pushing their rotation through several games on short rest and relying heavily on Andrew Miller and Cody Allen‘s one-two punch in the ‘pen to clinch more than a few postseason victories. While history doesn’t always favor the first team to secure their league’s pennant race, an extra week of rest should only benefit Cleveland’s beleaguered pitching staff.