Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Last week’s ranking is in parenthesis.

1. Yankees (1): The deadline deals brought in all kinds of spare parts, but is Joe Girardi going to use them properly? Lots of platoons and rotations and substitutions and stuff are now possible for the Yankees. Which presents opportunities, but also presents many new chances to screw things up too.

2. Rays (2):  It’s damn close, and the Rays have the momentum, but I’m using Ric Flair rules here: to be the man, you gotta beat the man. The Rays can take over the top spot if and when they pass New York. Woo!

3. Padres (3): Ryan Ludwick would not be an improvement in the outfield for most contenders, but he is for San Diego. Nice debut yesterday too, running and sliding into home, showing no sign of the leg injury that has cost him some time this season.

4. Rangers (4): The Rangers’ additions at the deadline — Lee, Cantu, Guzman — were the sorts of things teams who are heading to the playoffs do. I like the depth moves.

5. Giants (6): The Giants made it pretty clear this weekend that the NL West is going to be a two-team race. Bye-bye L.A.

6. White Sox (8): The blessing and the curse that is Ozzie Guillen. He’s so oblivious to outside stuff that he has no real problem turning a slow starting team around. He’s also so oblivious to outside stuff that he has no real problem throwing some ethnic/racial bomb into a postgame interview.

7. Twins (10): Same Ric Flair logic applies to the Twins and Sox. Plus, even Ric Flair tempered his “woo!” a little bit when he merely beat up some jobber, and the Mariners are the baseball equivalent of George South.

8. Braves (5): They’ve been driving me nuts lately, stranding runners, making defensive miscues. Thank goodness the Mets come to town for three starting tonight. Of course, the way things have been going lately it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Atlanta dropped two of three. There’s still a lot of 2006-09 in this team.
 
9. Phillies (11): At some point injuries become too much to overcome, no? How can a team lose Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco and Jimmy Rollins for stretches this year and still win it? If the Phillies do, Charlie Manuel has to win manager of the year, doesn’t he?

10. Red Sox (13): In a stretch of 17 days without a day off. This after coming back from a west coast road trip that felt like it lasted three weeks. Is it just me, or has the Red Sox’ season been really, really tiring?

11. Cardinals (7): I was confused by the Ludwick trade, and overall viewed it as a sideways kind of move for St. Louis that probably won’t make too much of a difference either way. I went on St. Louis radio this morning, however, and the coverage felt a lot like the stuff you hear after a national tragedy or a natural disaster occurs. It’s like everyone in Cardinals Nation (or whatever they are) is talking to everyone else in reassuring tones because, if they don’t, everyone will break down and bawl. To which I say: dudes: it’s just Ryan Ludwick.

12. Reds (9): A lot of nothin’ at the deadline, but calling up Aroldis Chapman to help the pen may trump the move St. Louis made.

13. Blue Jays (17): Big falloff from 12 to 13 this week. Basically, every team around 50-55 losses has been stinking lately. Not so bad that I’m going to elevate someone like the Astros above them, but between here and the true dreck at the bottom of the list, the specific order is rather meaningless. The Blue Jays have won six of ten, though, so I guess they’re the class of the 50-losers at the moment.

14. Rockies (15): I said the NL West is a two-team race. I suppose if the Rockies can take both games from an odd-for-this-time-of-year two game series with the Giants this week they can start working their way back into the conversation.

15. Athletics (16): Yeah, I know they’re behind the Angels, but Ric Flair rules don’t apply to battles for second place, jack! Woo!

16. Angels (20): Two of three from the Rangers is nice, but there’s still a great big chasm between those two teams.

17. Tigers (14): Amazingly, the acquisition of Jhonny Peralta hasn’t catapulted the Tigers back into the AL Central race.

18. Dodgers (12): No matter what has happened on the field this past week, it’s a sad, sad comment on the state of the Dodgers that a team with all of their financial potential is making little ticky-tack deals in which they’re getting money from teams like the Pirates rather than taking on salary and making bold moves in order to close the gap between themselves and the teams they’re pursuing. Teams that, had they been managed like the mega-market team that they are, they probably wouldn’t be pursuing in the first place.

19. Marlins (19): Dan Uggla became the Marlins all-time home run champ over the weekend, passing Mike Lowell. If Jeff Loria was smart he’d trade for Lowell right now and let them finish this thing off, Thunderdome-Style.

20. Mets (18): I’m listening to “Rust Never Sleeps” as I type this, and the narrator from “Powederfinger” seems less doomed than Jerry Manuel right now.

21. Brewers (21): Signing Corey Hart to an extension is the move of a general manager who doesn’t think a ton needs to happen to his team in order to be successful in 2011. The Brewers’ performance against the Astros this weekend made them look like a team who will not be successful until my kids are in college.

22. Nationals (25): They took the piss out of both the Phillies and the Braves in the last week and they held on to Adam Dunn.  That last bit may or may not have been the right move, but Nats fans have to feel pretty good about the past week, all things considered. Well, not the part in which the franchise pitcher goes on the DL, but the other stuff is nice.

23. Cubs (22): I like Ted Lilly trade more than I probably should, probably because I like Blake DeWitt more than I probably should.

24. Astros (26): A nice little run after losing Oswalt and Berkman. Of course like the man sang: funny how fallin’ feels like flyin’ for a little while.  Reality of the gutting of this team will set in soon enough. As it should, because that’s what rebuilding is all about.  Just too bad it took the Astros this long to figure it out.

25. Royals (24): Ned Yost’s contract extension and the unloading of Ankiel and Farnsworth are both the kinds of moves that smart franchises in the Royals’ current state make.

26. Indians (23): The Indians sending money to the Yankees along with Kerry Wood is not too far behind “The Decision” in recent Cleveland sports atrocities. If I was running the Tribe I would have kept Wood out of spite and issued a press release — in Comic Sans font — decrying the chutzpah of Brian Cashman for asking for cash in the deal.

27. Diamondbacks (28): They should probably be bumped up a few spots for dumping Edwin Jackson on the White Sox, but the Nationals probably deserve an assist for that one, what with the deke-job they pulled on Kenny Williams.

Last: Orioles (30), Pirates (29), Mariners (27): The convention for ties in rankings such as these is to give all teams the same number that would appear next, which in this case would be 28. I can’t rate any of them that high, however, because they’re all just playing awful and uninspired baseball. The Mariners look like they’re trying to get someone fired. The Pirates are sending money to the Los Angeles Dod
gers in deals. The Oiroles a
re, well, the Orioles.  They all get a “last” in my book.

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.