Rangers celebrate

Winners and losers at the trade deadline

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One person’s thoughts on who made out best and worst at the trade deadline.

Winners

Texas Rangers: GM Jon Daniels wasn’t interested in parting with third baseman Mike Olt, much less shortstop Jurickson Profar, in order to counter the Angels’ Zack Greinke pickup, but he was able to keep his best prospects and land Ryan Dempster anyway. All Dempster has done in 104 innings this season is amass a 2.25 ERA, good for second in the NL. I’m less enthused with acquiring the struggling Geovany Soto to replace Yorvit Torrealba in the catching tandem, but there’s some upside there. The Rangers will get Neftali Feliz back (uhh, scratch that, Tommy John surgery coming) and they have the option of moving Alexi Ogando to the rotation if things don’t work out with Roy Oswalt, so I’m feeling better about their chances of staying ahead of the Halos in the NL West.

Miami Marlins: Deciding to hold on to Josh Johnson, the Marlins made a couple of smaller deals before the deadline and did well in both. In getting Zack Cox from the Cardinals for reliever Edward Mujica, they picked up a guy who would have been a top 10 overall pick in the 2010 draft if not for his bonus demands. Cox has been something of a disappointment in the minors, particularly in batting .254/.294/.421 in Triple-A this year, but he’s hit for very good averages in the past and there should be more power on the way. He should get a look at third base in September. The Marlins also traded Gaby Sanchez to Pittsburgh for speedy outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and a draft pick that will probably end up around 40th overall.  Hernandez is a fifth outfielder, but that’s a nice return for someone who wasn’t in the Marlins’ future plans. Logan Morrison needs to be their 2013 first baseman.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Time will tell whether the Pirates got better with their trades Monday and Tuesday; they certainly got more interesting with Travis Snider in ight field and Sanchez replacing Casey McGehee in the first base platoon. Snider hasn’t been quite as much of a disappointment as everyone thinks — he has a .248/.306/.429 line and 31 homers in 835 at-bats — and he’s just 24 years old. Sanchez is a career .298/.390/.488 hitter against lefties. He’s been way off this year, but if the Pirates can get him straightened out, he’ll be a nice part-timer. Again, I’m not sold on the moves — Brad Lincoln was looking pretty good since a switch to the pen — but factor in the Wandy Rodriguez pickup last week and they belong in the winners category.

Casey McGehee: From starting against lefties only on a still relatively anonymous team in a ballpark that punishes right-handed hitters to a wide-open corner infield situation on the game’s most celebrated team in a ballpark that loves everyone. McGehee was one lucky dog, getting to go from the Pirates to the Yankees for reliever Chad Qualls. The Yankees figure to use him primarily against lefties, too, but with Alex Rodriguez out, Mark Teixeira’s wrist still a bit iffy and Eric Chavez always a possibility to spontaneously combust, it’s a great situation for him.

Kansas City Royals: I thought the Royals’ asking price for Broxton would go unmet, but the Reds surprisingly coughed up enough talent to satisfy them in left-hander Donnie Joseph and right-hander J.C. Sulbaran. Joseph ranked as one of the game’s better relief prospects, having struck out 68 and posted a 1.72 ERA in 52 1/3 innings between Double- and Triple-A. He could help right away. Sulbaran is 7-7 with a 4.04 ERA and a 111/54 K/BB ratio in 104 2/3 IP for Double-A Pensacola. He might be a reliever, too, but he has mid-rotation potential if his secondary pitches come along.

San Francisco Giants: The Giants didn’t get the reliever they needed, so they wouldn’t quite get an A grade here. Still, picking up Hunter Pence at a modest price tag is a win. Pence should be a significant upgrade getting at-bats that were going to Gregor Blanco and Nate Schierholtz, and the Giants will no longer be reduced to having Angel Pagan bat fifth. Catcher Tommy Joseph was the only major piece the Giants gave up, and he had Buster Posey and Hector Sanchez ahead of him anyway.

Losers

Arizona Diamondbacks: Lots of smoke, no fire. Caught in between deciding whether they were buyers or sellers, the Diamondbacks kept Justin Upton, Stephen Drew and all of their top pitching prospects, instead making only a minor deal to acquire reliever Matt Albers and outfielder Scott Podsednik from the Red Sox for reliever Craig Breslow. It’s not a bad move — Albers is serviceable and Podsednik adds protection in case an outfielder gets hurt — but the Diamondbacks wasted a chance to set themselves up better for either the present or the future.

Minnesota Twins: The Twins got next to nothing for Francisco Liriano from the White Sox last week and then did nothing at the deadline, even though they had Josh Willingham, Denard Span and Glen Perkins all in demand. The major league team is going nowhere fast and the minor league system rates among the bottom third in the game, so this was absolutely the wrong path for GM Terry Ryan and company to take.

Philadelphia Phillies: At least the Phillies tried; I just don’t think they did all that well in their returns for Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino, Pence especially. They’re going to need a whole lot of help offensively next year, and the money they saved will only go so far. If they could have turned around and traded for Chase Headley, I would have been more impressed. Of course, they could always try that this winter.

Settling the Scores: Memorial Day edition

ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 21:  American flags are shown after being placed by members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment at the graves of U.S. soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in preparation for Memorial Day May 21, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. "Flags-In" has become an annual ceremony since the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) was designated to be an Army's official ceremonial unit in 1948  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died in military service. At some point in the past couple of decades, however, it has become an all-purpose flag-waving, patriotism-declaring, civilians-in-camouflage holiday. It’s understandable why this is the case. We, as a country, haven’t always done mourning well. I think it’s part of our national cultural DNA that we don’t and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make days like this difficult.

I feel like the flag-waving and troop-supporting stuff is some sort of subconscious reaction to death. It’s our way of instantly trying to justify those deaths or to explain how they were not in vain, much the same way we might tell someone upon the death of a loved one that they’re in a better place or that they had a full life. Feeling the pain of loss is hard. We want to soften it in any way we can and make our pain serve a larger, better purpose. And so we get today, when Major League Baseball puts its players in camouflage caps and in jerseys with camouflage logos. They’ll sell them too, with proceeds going to good and noble veterans charities. The intent is noble and the ultimate effect of it all is beneficial. But it’s also a little beside the point. Maybe not beside the point as much as mattress sales or big celebratory barbecues which have come to characterize Memorial Day for so many, but still not exactly the purpose of the holiday.

I don’t condemn it. As I wrote last year, the men and women who actually fought and died in wars were hoping that they were, ultimately, making a better and happier world for those they left behind. And they no doubt hoped, among everything else they hoped, that others didn’t have to face what they were facing. They wanted our lives to be happy and our country to be safe and part of a happy and safe country involves 300 million people doing whatever it is they damn please, even if it’s just having barbecues and wearing camo at the ballpark.

I won’t say have a happy Memorial Day because that seems odd. Have any kind of Memorial Day you want, really, even if it includes barbecuing, drinking beer and wearing a cam ballcap. But as you do, please make sure you take some time to think about those who died in military service. And remember that they didn’t get to have as many days like the one you’re having as they were meant to have. And make at least some effort to offset your happy, patriotic or silly pursuits with some mourning and reflectiveness. It’s OK for that to stand on its own.

The scores:

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3
Orioles 6, Indians 4
Yankees 2, Rays 1
Nationals 10, Cardinals 2
Brewers 5, Reds 4
Royals 5, White Sox 4
Cubs 7, Phillies 2
Rangers 6, Pirates 2
Astros 8, Angels 6
Athletics 4, Tigers 2
Twins 5, Mariners 4
Giants 8, Rockies 3
Diamondbacks 6, Padres 3
Marlins 7, Braves 3
Dodgers 4, Mets 2

 

Should Dave Roberts have taken Clayton Kershaw out of Sunday’s game?

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch in the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 29, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will likely be second-guessed heavily during tomorrow’s news cycle. Starter Clayton Kershaw had pitched a terrific ballgame, as is his tendency, but with 114 pitches to his name, Roberts decided to pull him from the game in the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on first base.

Roberts opted not for closer Kenley Jansen, who hasn’t pitched since Wednesday, but for another lefty in Adam Liberatore. He was playing the numbers, with the left-handed-hitting Curtis Granderson coming up. Liberatore, much to Roberts’ chagrin, served up what turned out to be a game-tying triple to Granderson, hitting a rocket to right-center just out of the reach of a leaping Yasiel Puig.

Jansen has, for six years, been one of the game’s elite relievers. Kershaw, though at a high pitch count, doesn’t seem to suffer from the times through the order penalty like most pitchers. Kershaw’s opponents’ OPS facing him for the first time was .525 coming into Sunday. Twice, .597. Three times, .587. Four times, .526 (but this suffers from survivorship bias so it’s not exactly representative).

Furthermore, Kershaw held lefties to a .546 OPS over his career. Liberatore, in 99 plate appearances against lefty hitters, gave up a .575 OPS. Jansen? .560. It seems that, faced with three decisions, Roberts arguably made the worst one. Playing conservative with Kershaw at 114 pitches is defensible, but only if Jansen comes in. If Roberts wanted the platoon advantage, Kershaw should have stayed in.

Luckily for the Dodgers, Mets closer Jeurys Familia didn’t have his best stuff. He loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth on a single and two walks, then gave up a two-run single to Adrian Gonzalez, giving the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Jansen came on in the bottom half of the ninth and retired the side in order to pick up his 15th save of the season.

Royals sweep White Sox over the weekend on three late rallies

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 28:  Brett Eibner #12 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates his game-winning RBI single with teammates in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on May 28, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals won 8-7. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Royals had themselves a pretty good weekend. The quickly fading White Sox, not so much.

On Friday, the Royals fell behind 5-1 after the top of the sixth. They would score once in the bottom of the sixth, four times in the seventh, and once in the eighth to steal a 7-5 win facing pitchers Miguel Gonzalez Dan Jennings, Matt Albers, Zach Duke and Nate Jones.

On Saturday, the Royals entered the bottom of the ninth down 7-1. They scored seven runs on closer David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to win 8-7.

On Sunday, the Royals were down 4-2 after the top of the eighth. They plated three runs in the bottom half of the eighth against Jones and Albers, going on to win 5-4.

Coming into the weekend, the Royals were 24-22 in third place. The White Sox were 27-21, a half-game up in first place. Now the Royals are in first place by a game and a half, and the White Sox are in third place, two games out of first.

Here’s video of the Royals’ comeback on Saturday, since it was so unlikely:

Report: Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there”

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 24: Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers waits to hit during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 24, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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In Saturday’s column for The Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo notes that, according to a scout, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there.” Braun has been bothered by neck and back issues this year, missing on Sunday his eighth start out of the Brewers’ last 14 games, but he has still put up a quality .351/.424/.583 triple-slash line in 170 plate appearances this year.

More importantly for an acquiring team, Braun is in the first year of a five-year, $105 million contract. He’s earning $19 million this season and in the ensuing two seasons, and then his salary decreases slightly to $18 million in 2019, $16 million in 2020, and $15 million if both sides pick up his mutual option (else a $4 million buyout would be exercised).

Per Cafardo, the Astros, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Giants, and White Sox are potential landing spots for Braun.