Evan Longoria

Rangers have no answer for the Rays’ stars


The simple fact is that things lined up better for the Rays than they did for the Rangers in Monday’s one-game playoff.

With no maneuvering necessary, the Rays had their 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner, David Price, ready to the take the mound. The Rangers, having used Yu Darvish on Sunday, were forced to turn to rookie Martin Perez or go to Matt Garza on three days’ rest. Perez on regular rest was clearly the better of those two options, and he held his own after a rocky start, but it just wasn’t enough in Tampa Bay’s 5-2 victory.

That this wasn’t the Rangers’ year had long seemed obvious. They struck out on their biggest targets last winter, losing Josh Hamilton and failing to bring in any big names to replace him. They eventually settled on Lance Berkman, but his bad knees caught up to him quickly after a fast start and he was a non-factor down the stretch. Starting pitchers Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis ended up missing the entire season with injuries. Nelson Cruz got handed a 50-game steroid suspension. The Rangers brought in Garza and Alex Rios as reinforcements and managed to battle their way into the play-in game by winning their last seven after a big September swoon. But the better team won tonight.

Led by Price, who pitched his fourth complete game of the season, and Evan Longoria, who went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer to right-center that just kept carrying and carrying, the Rays won relatively easily, if not entirely comfortably. And the game was won by the stars; to play what was essentially a postseason game with 40-man rosters is patently ridiculous, but in the end, the Rays used 13 players, the Rangers 15. The only way the game would have gone differently under Aug, 31 rules is that the Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier wouldn’t have come in for defense in the ninth.

The Rangers have another tough winter coming up. Cruz, a free agent, seemed to be welcomed back with open arms by the fanbase in his return Monday, but the front office probably won’t be so generous with its affections. Closer Joe Nathan and catcher A.J. Pierzynski could also exit in free agency. Room must be made in the starting lineup for Jurickson Profar, either by trading or shifting Ian Kinsler. Expect the Rangers to make some sort of splash in free agency, perhaps with Cuban first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu. Alternatively, they could dip back into the well that brought them Darvish and aim for fellow Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka.

The Rays will now go to Cleveland for another elimination game, this one with Alex Cobb on the mound. Again, they’ll face a rookie starter in Danny Salazar who may well battle some nerves. Cobb, meanwhile, is throwing about as well as any pitcher in the postseason. The Red Sox await the winner on Friday, and while they’ll never admit it, it’s a safe bet they’ll be rooting for Cleveland.

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.