Asdrubal Cabrera, Orlando Cabrera

Your Monday Morning Power Rankings


1. Indians (5): They’re on pace to win 107 games. Even if they go .500 the rest of the way they’re an 87-88 win team. Does anyone think that won’t win the AL Central?

2. Cardinals (9): Not just winning — a 6-1 week — but winning impressively. They have the second best run differential in baseball after the Indians.

3. Giants (4): On the other hand, the Giants continue to win the close ones.

4. Phillies (6): Chase Utley comes back today, hitting third. Given how well they’re doing despite how little they’re scoring — really, any other team would be on a hellacious skid with their offense —  even a half-effective Utley should allow them to press down on the accelerator in the NL East.

5-7. Yankees, Rays, Red Sox (11, 2, 15): Or pick your order, I don’t care, because there isn’t a big difference between 5 and 7 in my mind.  A half game separates all three of them. Run differential is crazy, though: Yankees: +50, Rays: +25, Red Sox: +5.  But they don’t decide divisions by run differential, and for now we have a helluva race shaping up.

8. Marlins (7): A nice performance from Javier Vazquez on Saturday. If that’s a harbinger of things to come, the Marlins’ prospects are way brighter.

9. Reds (1): Cleveland is good now, so it’s not quite the same, but no one looks at the schedule back in March and says that getting swept by the Pirates and the Indians is part of the plan.

10. Brewers (19): The mood around this team has perked up in the past week as they seem to be turning the corner from erratic, sometimes good, sometimes bad play to something a lot more sustainable.

11. Blue Jays (14): The immediate future holds three against the Yankees, four against the suddenly-respectable White Sox and then three against the Indians. Not the easiest week if they expect to make the three-team AL East race into a four-team race. Not sure their week was worthy of a three-spot jump, but (a) I probably undersold them last week; and (b) I really needed to drop some teams ahead of them. Believe it or not, these rankings aren’t an exact science.

12. Braves (8): Don’t expect this position to last. Heyward to the disabled list, McLouth out, Fredi Gonzalez continuing to trade one nickel for two pennies when it comes to his offensive strategy.  I see a plummet in their future.

13-14. Rangers, Angels (12, 10):  Hard to separate these two at the moment, but with Josh Hamilton coming back soon, don’t expect that state of affairs to last.

15. Rockies (13): Jeckyll and Hyde: they won three of four games against the Giants/Phillies and then get rolled by the Brewers. And don’t look now, dudes, but you’re about to get passed up by the Diamondbacks.

16. Tigers (3): They went from the hottest team in baseball to one of the coldest, just like that. You can’t see it, but I just snapped my fingers.

17. Diamondbacks (22): Wins against the Padres, Braves and Twins count too, and Arizona got a bucket of them last week.

18. Mariners (28): Like Arizona, not the toughest schedule lately, but in a division that none of the contenders seem to want to take control of, the putatively non-contending Mariners sit one and half games back and sport a killer rotation. I ain’t gonna make any predictions about where this is heading, but I will say “hmmmm.”

19. Mets (18): Personally I think they’re treading water just fine and, if anything, are more respectable this year than many figured they’d be. But who am I to second-guess the team’s owner? So, “shitty” they are.

20. Athletics (17): After getting swept by both the lowly Twins and their cross-bay rivals, those couple of wins against the Angels early in the week seem like a long time ago.

21. Pirates (26): Two wins against the Reds and two against the Tigers combined with some improving attendance numbers make for a nice week.

22. Royals (16): I still can’t get my mind around how they walked 13 Cardinals yesterday while taking one walk themselves.

23. White Sox (27): 5-2 in the past week and they still stand nine games back. Just puts the size of hole they dug for themselves in perspective.

24. Orioles (21): They went 2-4 against Tampa Bay, Boston and New York in this last little stretch, but the road gets a bit easier going forward with Kansas City Oakland and Seattle.

25. Nationals (20):  The Nats’ offensive output over the past five games: 0, 0, 17, 3, 1.  One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong.

26. Cubs (24): I would just like to go on record and blame my pick of the Cubs to win the NL Central on swamp gas, weather balloons, my rough upbringing and society.

27. Dodgers (23): A bad series in Chicago as, in addition to losing, they left banged up.  This is turning into a totally lost season for L.A., both on the field and off.

28. Padres (25): My brother got tickets to Saturday’s Padres-Mariners game. He isn’t necessarily a Padres fan, but he’s been in San Diego for close to 15 years now and is getting there. His response to the game: “I didn’t think I’d have much fun and probably wouldn’t have gone if someone didn’t give me the ticket. But man, that Michael Pineda kid sure can bring it.”  Padres fever: catch it!

29. Astros (29): With the losing and the new owners coming in, the talk of the team now is who gets traded and when.

30. Twins (30): It’s not fun for Twins fans, but it is somewhat amusing for non-Twins fans who have been beaten over the head for years with the largely erroneous “Minnesota is fundamentally sound and does all of the little things right!” talk to hear the team’s downfall this year blamed largely on being fundamentally unsound and not doing the little things right.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.