The HBT staff makes its World Series predictions

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If you think about it (and look at it a bit sideways, with one eye-closed), this isn’t a seven game World Series. It’s a best of 169, with the 97-65 Red Sox and 97-65 Cardinals in a dead heat before their final games.

OK, maybe that’s not true. But if it were, it would absolve us from making any sort of prediction, because all of us here at HardballTalk already whiffed on a 169-game prediction. We took the Nationals or the Tigers or someone back in March, so claiming we have some sort of clairvoyance now is disingenuous in the extreme. But, hey, that’s baseball, right? We can know an awful lot about it — and I think we do — yet still have no idea what’s gonna happen. Indeed, some crazy people may argue that that’s what makes it so cool.

But of course, convention is such that people who opine about baseball are supposed to make predictions. And we will. Even though this is one of the more evenly-matched World Series in living memory. Even though anything can happen. Even though Silva is a degenerate Cardinals fan and most of the rest of us couldn’t give a care one way or the other, thereby infusing our predictions with a fun mix of both bias and indifference.

But here goes:

  • Craig: Cardinals in seven because, well, I don’t know and I kinda like their starting pitching. Still not abandoning my pick of the Nationals to win it all. DON’T COUNT THEM OUT!
  • Aaron: Cardinals in six. He didn’t say why, but I’ll assume it’s because he really doesn’t want a Game 7 interfering with his trick-or-treating next Thursday.
  • D.J.: “Cardinals in six games. Carlos Beltran WS MVP (the only way such an outcome is palatable for me).” Mets fans: even more degenerate than Cards fans.
  • Drew: He eventually said Cardinals in six. For a while he didn’t respond to my email asking for a prediction because he was busy posting insane crap like this on Twitter. I’m actually surprised he didn’t pick the Cards in two “because of Ditka” or something. He claims this is an unbiased selection, though, so we’ll take him at his word.
  • Matthew: Red Sox in six. This is quite the improvement over his last Red Sox prediction.
  • Bill: “Cardinals in five.” Please excuse his curtness, though. He’s too busy sobbing over footage of the Joe Carter home run, which happened 20 years ago today.

So that’s that. Given our usual level of accuracy, I think these predictions mean that the 1969 Seattle Pilots will prevail over the 1874 New York Mutals in 11 games, with Brabender going the distance with a two-hit shutout.

The Nationals sign Kevin Jepsen

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Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports the Nationals have agreed to terms with free agent reliever Kevin Jepsen.

Think of this as the latest in what will likely be a series of no-risk bullpen additions. The Nats, basically, collecting as many almost free arms they can find in an effort to fix their bullpen woes without having to give up anything valuable at the trade deadline. Just like the K-Rod signing earlier this week or the Edwin Jackson signing two weeks ago.

Jepsen pitched for Tampa Bay and Minnesota last year, posting a 5.68 ERA with the Rays and a 6.16 ERA with the Twins, appearing in 58 games in all. He went unsigned this past offseason.

Eh, it might work. It probably won’t, but it might.

Rival Executives Expect Justin Verlander To Hit The Trading Block

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About a month ago, a report circulated that if the Detroit Tigers weren’t above .500 by the end of June, they were going to chuck the season, look to trade off veterans and rebuild. It’s now June 29 and the Tigers are 34-42 and sit six games out of first place.

As such, we should not be too terribly surprised to see a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo that multiple baseball executives expect Tigers ace Justin Verlander to hit the trade market sometime in the next two weeks. Passan notes that the Tigers haven’t formally offered him and that he’s just passing along speculation from rivals, but it’s pretty astute speculation.

The question is what the Tigers can get for Verlander. On the one hand, yes, Verlander is Verlander and has been one of the top starters in baseball for a decade. While he had struggled for a bit, last year featured a return to Cy Young form. He still has a blazing fastball and there is no reason to think he could not anchor the staff of a playoff caliber team.

On the other hand, as Passan notes, his 2017 has been . . . not so good. He looks amazing at times and very hittable at other times. Overall his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is down. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with him — various ailments contributed to his 2014-15 swoon — so it’s possible he’s just had a rough couple of months. Like I said, Verlander is Verlander, and it may not be a bad gamble to expect him to run off a string of dominant starts like he has so many times in the past.

The problem, though, is that anyone acquiring Verlander is not just gambling on a handful of starts down the stretch. They’re gambling on the $56 million he’s owed between 2018 and 2019 and the $22 million extra he’ll be guaranteed for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. Those would be his age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. There are certainly worse gambles in baseball, but it’s a gamble all the same.

If the Tigers don’t find any gamblers out there on the market, they’re going to have to make a gamble of their own: let Verlander go and get relatively little in return if another club picks up that $56 million commitment or eat it themselves and get prospects back in return to help kickstart a rebuild. Personally I’d go with the latter option, but I don’t work for the Illitch family.