Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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The Rays and Yankees have been the default top pick all year, primarily on the strength of having the best record. But that’s only part of what goes into my Power Rankings special sauce, even if it’s an important part. For this week at least, it ain’t enough.

1. Twins (3): Closer out with Tommy John? No problem. First baseman — who was having an MVP caliber season — goes out with a concussion? No problem. The White Sox go on a couple of tears? No problem. You can find faults if you look hard enough, but in my opinion the Minnesota Twins are the best team in baseball right now.

2. Yankees (1): Derek Jeter hasn’t had a multi-hit game since August 21st, but I still have this feeling that he’ll activate that little chip in the back of his head and that he’ll hit .400 against the Rays this week and next week and get a bunch of annoyingly well-timed hits in October.

3. Rays (2): Seven of their next ten come against the Yankees. What’s the more important thing to play for right now: winning the AL East for its own sake, or winning the AL East so they don’t have to face the Twins in the first round?

4. Phillies (5): The Halladay-Oswalt-Hamels attack is working exactly as planned. Woe be to whomever has to face those three in the playoffs.

5. Giants (8): Just as they take three of four from the Padres they lose Andres Torres for the season. Talk about a bummer.

6. Rockies (10): En Fuego. They may be 1.5 behind the Padres and Giants, but they are probably the best bet to win the division right now. My best bet anyway. Series against the Padres begins tonight. They’ve played very well against San Diego this year.

7. Braves (6): Hitting the wall, it seems. Hudson is tired. Jurrjens hasn’t looked right and Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami just aren’t that good. I’m not going to write them off, obviously, as a one game deficit is meaningless when you still have six games left against the team you’re chasing. But no, my confidence is not high at the moment.

8. Padres (9): Also hitting the wall. Mat Latos is at 166 IP right now. I can’t imagine the plan was for him to pitch that many, let alone the four more starts’ worth he’s scheduled for if he stays on regular rest.

9. Rangers (11): Jeff Francoeur: the secret weapon. He’s 5 for 13 with three RBIs and a .400 OBP since coming over to Texas. Then again, he always makes a good first impression, doesn’t he?

10. Reds (4): That black and purple buzzsaw they ran into last week was no fun, but a lot of teams are experiencing that these days. Two of three from the Pirates is better, and a six game cushion still seems comfy enough. I’d feel confident buying playoff tickets for these guys right now.

11. Red Sox (11): Reading the Boston papers and all the Martinez/Ortiz/Papelbon talk and you’d think it was December and this was hot stove season already. At some point it’s going to dawn on everyone that this was a pretty good team that sadly (a) had a metric ass-ton of injuries this year; and (b) looked way worse than they really were by virtue of playing the AL East.

12. White Sox (7): A friend emailed me this morning to tell me that he saw Mark Buehrle getting a pumpkin spice latte at a Chicagoland Starbucks. Then — just as he was sprinkling on his extra cinnamon — Joe West jumped out and called a balk on him. True story.

13. Cardinals (13): Dropping two of three (Brewers) and splitting a four game series (Braves) is not going to get the job done. They needed a Rockies-like run, and they’re not getting it.

14. Marlins (15): I like watching Mike Stanton hit home runs. But as an NL East partisan, I won’t particularly mind if he doesn’t cut down on his strikeouts and up his OBP until he’s playing somewhere else. In the meantime, I think I’ll enjoy the Dave Kingman act.

15. Athletics (16): Question: will the Silicon Valley CEOs who want the A’s in San Jose help pony up for the parking and utility improvements and all of that side stuff that will end up costing San Jose taxpayers tens of millions even if the stadium is “privately built?”

16. Blue Jays (14): We hear a bunch about the Mets and Cubs, but does anyone have any idea who’s going to manage the Blue Jays next year? I don’t think I’ve heard any real speculation about it. Let’s create some: Bobby Valentine is a perfect fit for the job because he has extensive non-United States managing experience. Really, there’s nothing easier than creating your own Bobby Valentine rumor. You should try it at home!

17. Tigers (18): Back to .500, thanks in part to taking three of four from the White Sox. Give Jim Leyland — a man who has taken some lumps for late season fades in recent years — for not letting his team quit.

18. Mets (20): They probably didn’t deserve a two-spot bump for taking two of three from the Nats, but at this point I’m just feeling sorry for them. Speaking of New York, this may be the best thing the Onion has written in years.

19. Dodgers (17)/Astros (19): The mood among Dodgers fans is impossibly grim right now. The mood among Astros fans is pretty damn good. Easy to forget, then, that the Dodgers are almost certain to play much better than they are right now next year and the Astros to play much worse.

21. Angels (21): I’ll admit: Mike Scioscia worrying about where the playoffs are being held this year gave me a chuckle this morning.

22. Brewers (23): Ken Macha is almost certainly gone, I would imagine. Does Willie Randolph have a shot at that job, or do they clean house entirely? Seems to me that Randoph deserves another shot at the top job someplace.

23. Cubs (22): Seven of their final 19 games are against the Padres and Giants. So I guess they Cubs could claim they’re involved in a pennant race if they really want to.

24. Orioles (25): Baltimore has to close things out at 8-11 or better to avoid 100 losses. With the way the season started, the fact that they really could do it is amazing.

25. Indians (28): Things you did not know because you spend almost zero time paying attention to the Indians: Travis Hafner has been pretty darn good this year.

26. Royals (27): There’s nothing more frightening than being threatened by a guy named Ned. Well, except for everything.

27. Nationals (24): I swear, I’ve seen at least three D.C. reporters write some variation of “Nyjer Morgan is not likely to stick with Nationals after this year” in the past week or so. Do the weather reports there include percent chance that the sun rises too?

28. Diamondbacks (26): Kevin Towers may or may not come to run this team, but I know two things: (1) the Padres under Towers always managed to put together nice bullpens on the cheap; and (2) if the Diamondbacks had a halfway decent bullpen this year they would have been a far more dangerous team than they ended up being.

29. Mariners (29): Every
thing going on in Seattle right now is a disgrace
. I can’t wait to read the translation of Ichiro’s autobiography someday.

30. Pirates (30): After all of this season’s ugliness, it’s pretty shocking to see that they’re on pace to outdraw last year’s attendance totals.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.