Jays and Uggla seem an unlikely match

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Not to say it couldn’t work out.   But Buster Olney’s report that the Jays, according to rival executives, have emerged as the favorites to acquire Dan Uggla strikes an odd chord.

The Jays not only led the majors in homers last season, but they did it with a total nearly 20 percent greater than any other team’s.  They hit 257, while the Red Sox came in second with 211.  The Yankees were the only other team to reach 190, finishing with 201.

And, of course, the Jays have a second baseman who ranked as one of the AL’s better players in 2009.   Aaron Hill slumped terribly last season, finishing at .205/.271/.394 in 528 at-bats, but he’s a far better defender than Uggla there’s little to suggest that he’s going to be shipped off this winter.

Now the Jays have weighed shifting Hill to third base, more to give themselves greater flexibility than because of any concerns about his defense.  However, if they did trade for Uggla, one would hope he’d be the one to switch positions.

There’s also the matter of what the Jays would give up.   In theory, the team has a lot of pitching depth.  In practice, Jays pitchers tend to get hurt a lot.  They had 11 pitchers make at least three starts last year and nine in 2010. 

Two names quickly spring to mind as potential key pieces in an Uggla: J.P. Arencibia and Brett Cecil.

Arencibia, the Jays’ first-round pick in 2007, broke through with a big year in Triple-A last season, hitting .301/.359/.626.  He’s lacking in plate discipline and he’s average at best defensively, but he still qualifies as one of the game’s top catching prospects and the Marlins have a big need behind the plate.

Cecil, 24, quietly won 15 games for the Jays last season.  His 4.22 ERA and 117/54 K/BB ratio in 172 2/3 innings were unremarkable, but he was pitching in baseball’s toughest division and he made 13 of his 28 starts against the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees.  Despite his success, the Jays probably value him behind Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum and Brandon Morrow, making him somewhat expendable.

I can’t imagine the Marlins would get both in an Uggla deal, but they’d likely want one of the two and then some additional talent.   Second basemen with 30-homer ability don’t come cheap.

Video: Albert Almora, Jr. saved by the ivy

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The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.

After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.

Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.