OK, so the comparison isn’t quite perfect, but I needed a catchy headline to get you to read about this craziness.
When the Cardinals lost starting shortstop Rafael Furcal for the season they called up Pete Kozma from Triple-A, where he’d hit just .232 with a .292 on-base percentage and .355 slugging percentage in 131 games. And that offensive ineptitude was nothing new for Kozma, whose career numbers in the minors include a .236 batting average and .652 OPS.
Kozma was the 18th overall pick in the 2007 draft coming out of high school, but at no point in his six-season career as a minor leaguer has he ever hit. His career-high OPS is .702 and his batting averages by season are .233, .258, 231, .243, .214, and .232. Based on his lengthy track record Kozma projected to be one of the majors’ worst hitters.
But the Cardinals called him up, mostly because they lacked other options, and then a funny thing happened: Kozma started hitting. So much, in fact, that manager Mike Matheny couldn’t possibly take him out of the lineup. So now through 23 games as a major leaguer Kozma has hit .338 with a .600 slugging percentage and .975 OPS. And the Cardinals, despite injuries to multiple key players, have hung tough in September and are headed to the playoffs, where Kozma can see if his deal with the devil extends past Game 162.
Over the winter there was serious talk about the Pirates trading Andrew McCutchen to the Washington Nationals. His move to left field to allow Starling Marte to take over center further served to make McCutchen a less important part of the Pirates long term plans.
Then the season began, Marte got suspended for PEDs and, after a bumpy start, McCutchen caught fire. He hit .411/.505/.689 in June he has a .333/.444/.561 line in the month of July. For the year he’s now at .292/.384/.507 with 17 homers and 57 RBI. Even with Marte back on the roster, McCutchen is the Pirates’ center fielder. What’s more, the Pirates, after beginning the season slowly have righted the ship somewhat and are now only three games back in the NL Central.
All of which makes this, from Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, unsurprising:
That option is a quite reasonable $14.5 million, so it seems sorta crazy that they wouldn’t pick it up. Of course if they remain coy enough about it for now perhaps someone will bowl them over with an offer. Letting McCutchen walk seems insane. Unloading him for a hefty haul would, well, still be kinda crazy given how popular McCutchen is with the fan base, but not truly insane.
The Brewers were rumored last week to have been “aggressive” in talks for Tigers reliever Justin Wilson. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports, however, that the talks are a bit more wide-ranging than that.
Crasnick says that the two clubs are also discussing Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, potentially in a package deal with Wilson. Crasnick says that the Brewers “would love to have Kinsler,” but their main focus at the moment is pitching help. Of course, the Brewers current second baseman — Jonathan Villar — is hitting a meager .223/.285/.348 in 334 plate appearances.
Kinsler is having a down season for him — .237/.331/.400 — but he’s better than that and, of course, would represent an improvement. He’s under contract through the end of this year but he has a very affordable, $10 million club option for 2018. Wilson will be arbitration-eligible this offseason, so he’s still under team control as well. As such a Kinsler/Wilson package would likely cost the Brewers a high price, so you have to think they’d try to exhaust cheaper options before making such a deal.
The Brewers had been in first place in the NL Central since June 7, but the Cubs caught them yesterday. They’re in a virtual tie, with Chicago percentage points ahead. This should prove to be a very interesting week for the Brewers’ front office.