Chase Utley, Emilio Bonifacio

Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

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We’re to the point of the season where so many games have been played that actual record and power ranking are at the closest they’ve been all year. No one who is better than their record is considerably better than their record. No one who is worse than their record is considerably worse. I mean, 130 games or so, dudes.

As always, the number in parenthesis was where they were the last time they were ranked. But remember: I skipped last week, so the last ranking was two weeks ago. So please, none of that “Really? [Team X] won five games last week and went down in the rankings?!!” stuff.  Maybe they’re way up from where they would have been last week. We’ll never know!

1. Phillies (1): Did you know that Vance Worley has “swagger?” Either that or multiple personality disorder. I’m not quite sure.

2. Red Sox (2): I’m pretty sure that they’re still playing the A’s in the first game of Saturday’s double header.

3. Yankees (3): Did you know that there’s a bill working its way through the New York legislature that would decriminalize non-lethal beatings of A.J. Burnett?

4. Brewers (4): They’ve now swept two straight series from the Cubs. I feel like driving to Kenosha to see if I can sense the loyalties shifting. Or did that happen a long time ago?

5. Braves (5): Frankly I have no idea where to rank them seeing as though they haven’t played a game in several weeks. Or perhaps it just feels that way.

6. Rangers (6): They skidded but then they righted themselves to take two of three from the Angels.

7. Tigers (11): They’re ranked a little high. Do you think I ranked them too high? I kinda feel like I ranked ’em too high, but I just can’t shake the thought that they’re going to be more dangerous than most people think come playoff time.

8. Rays (9): They’d be in the thick of the playoff hunt if they played in the AL Central, AL West or NL West. Too bad they don’t.

9. Angels (8): Was that post-Rangers-series run a fluke? I guess we’ll see now that they’ve dropped another series to Texas.

10. Diamondbacks (7): Sure, they’re winning, but can it’s not like they’re intimidating anyone.  Check out this Padres fan givin’ Justin Upton what-for. In Phoenix.

11. Giants (10): There ain’t no runs to be had for these dudes. They’re dead last in runs, in fact. And, as Buster Olney tweeted this morning, they have posted 0, 1, or 2 runs in 22 of 42 games since the All-Star break. If that wasn’t ugly enough, in seven games against the Astros in the past week and a half, they went 3-4. Yuck.

12. Cardinals (12): Lance Berkman complained on Saturday about how a weird national-TV-driven start time led to a game played in long shadows that made it hard to see. Afterwards, Tony La Russa protested the sun.

13. Reds (13): With the win yesterday it’s the Reds’ first time over .500 since July 3rd.

14. Blue Jays (15): At night I sometimes lie awake and wonder things like “will DeWayne Wise have more stints with the Blue Jays than Ric Flair had stints as NWA/WCW champion?” And yes, I only went for the Ric Flair reference so I can link to this pic I took of a guy I saw yesterday who was not Ric Flar but who looked enough like him to where I almost felt like asking him if he was just to see what he said.

15. White Sox (16): In second place now, but six back. I’m not feelin’ ’em, but I still can’t shake the idea of what could have been had they gotten an iota of production from Dunn and Rios.

16. Indians (14): Jim Thome is back! Woulda been nice if he was back a couple of weeks before, but hey, they got a couple of really nice crowds out of it. The Tribe is now in third place.

17. Dodgers (21): A pretty spiffy week for them, running through the Cardinals and the Rockies quite nicely.

18. Rockies (20): Carlos Gonzalez has had a hell of an August.

19. Mets (17): Post-Hurricane Tweet of the Day yesterday came from Mets fan Baseballcrank: “Next storm up: Jose. Fortunately it’s expected to pull a hamstring on its way north.” Burn.

20. Nationals (18): Davey Johnson must be gettin’ bored. He had Jayson Werth in center and Mike Morse in left on Saturday.  Overheard between him and bench coach Pat Corrallesy: “Pat, I ain’t kiddin’. I put in, like, five catchers and four pitchers in a lineup next weekend. See if anyone notices. No one says I thing, I betcha.”

21. Pirates (19): Twelve of their next 13 games come against teams that, theoretically anyway, they’re better than.  Last year’s Orioles team showed us that we can’t really read too much into late-season mean-nothing series, but I am rather interested to see if the Pirates’ midseason mini-surge is suggestive of anything or if it was just a fluke.

22. Padres (25): A big three-game series in Los Angeles this week. Can the Padres make up the three games they need to in order to lose the battle for last place in the NL West?

23. Athletics (24): Poor Jerry Blevins.

24. Marlins (22):  They’re gonna bring Josh Johnson back for a start or two? Why?

25. Mariners (26): They beat up on the Indians on the road and then got beat up by the White Sox at home. I imagine this fact contains some deep insight into the AL Central, but I just can’t make myself care.

26. Royals (28): Dayton Moore is willing to give up prospects for pitching. I’m gonna call him and ask if he’d take Derek Lowe for Eric Hosmer.

27. Cubs (23): In the future, everyone will be rumored to be the Cubs’ next GM for 15 minutes.

28. Twins (27): A stellar 6-19 month for the Twins. But hey, at least they traded away a fan favorite for nothin’.

29. Orioles (29): A pretty damn fine week, actually, trouncing the Twins and then taking the aborted series against the Yankees. Maybe not technically — I suppose you gotta wait for the makeup games for the final series outcome — but wins are wins.

30. Astros (30): Carlos Lee got hurt while making a hard slide while legging out a double yesterday. See, he was right not to try all along.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.