Matt Garza

Cubs make out well in trading Matt Garza to Rangers

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The new rules that took effect last year made trading quality free-agents-to-be to be trickier than ever. That’s because the deal itself makes a supplemental first-round pick just disappear into the ether. The acquiring team is forced to offer extra compensation for something it’s not going to get back in return, while the seller knows it will get something in return if things fall through.

The Cubs, though, had too much to gain to let Matt Garza walk away for only a draft pick this winter. Since there’s been little hint of Cliff Lee or Chris Sale being available, Garza was clearly the top pitcher up for grabs in trade talks at the moment. The Rangers had to stay ahead of the A’s, Dodgers and others in trade talks.

In the end, the Rangers pulled off the deal without having to part with Jurickson Profar. Surrendered instead were three prospects ranked second (Mike Olt), fifth (Justin Grimm) and 14th (C.J. Edwards) in their system by Baseball America at the beginning of the season, plus two players to be named.

Olt, 24, was always the obvious piece to be included in a Rangers-Cubs trade. Texas, of course, has Adrian Beltre at third base, while the Cubs never have anyone there. Luis Valbuena is their current stopgap. Olt could have been a long-term answer at first or in an outfield spot for Texas, but he projects best at the hot corner. A disappointment earlier this year after battling vision problems, he was hitting .213/.317/.422 with 11 homers in 230 at-bats for Triple-A Round Rock. Throw out his April and that improves to .253/.352/.524 in 170 at-bats. Last year, he came in at .288/.398/.579 with 28 homers in Double-A. If he remains hot in Triple-A, the Cubs will likely give him a shot to replace Valbuena next month.

Grimm, a 24-year-old right-hander, had spent most of the season in the Texas rotation, going 7-7 with a 6.37 ERA. That he’s allowed 15 homers in 89 innings has taken quite a toll, but his 68/31 K/BB ratio is pretty good and the jump to the NL should help. He has the solid three-pitch arsenal to be a No. 3 starter going forward. He should step right into the Cubs’ rotation in Garza’s place.

Edwards, a 48th-round find for the Rangers in 2011, had seen his stock jump this year after an 8-2 start with low Single-A Hickory. The 21-year-old has a 1.83 ERA and a 122/34 K/BB ratio in 93 1/3 innings. In a Cubs system much stronger offensively than from the mound, he may well rate as the team’s top pitching prospect.

Even without factoring in the PTBNs, that’s an ample return for a guy who was going to make about 12 more starts as a Cub. They don’t get a sure star in the bunch, but Olt and Grimm are both nice assets and Edwards brings a lot of upside to the table. The Rangers can get away with it since they have a star locked up at Olt’s position, but it still hurts a bit to bleed that much talent for a guy who could depart this winter.

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
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Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]