Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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It’s the second-to-last full-blown Power Rankings of the year — on October 4th I’ll rank the eight playoff teams and after that we’ll let the games speak for themselves — and for the second straight week we have a new number one.

1. Phillies (4): This is in partial recognition of their big winning streak and scorching-hot-September, but this is forward-looking too. They’re a playoff lock now, and with Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels, they have by far the best 1-2-3 punch of any of the potential playoff teams. I suppose a lot can happen in two weeks, but I like their chances to win it all better than anyone’s right now.

2. Twins (1): A bit of a letdown following the White Sox series caused them to drop two of three to Oakland, but — assuming Mauer’s knee thing from yesterday is no big deal — they’re still sitting pretty right now.

3. Yankees (2): They’re starting this week’s series against the Rays the same way they started last week’s series against the Rays: with a bullpen that could use a bit of a breather.

4. Rays (3): Taking two of three from the Yankees was sweet, but dropping two of three to the Angels was sour.

5. Braves (7): Not that they really kicked ass last week or anything — the Mets sweep was nice, but that Nats series was no fun for them, and they are farther behind Philly now than they were this time last week — but just about every other candidate for this slot had a worse week by my reckoning. I was half-tempted to make this a five way-tie between the Braves, Rangers and the three-contenders in the NL West, but that would have merely been fun, satisfying and time-saving, so why bother?

6. Rangers (9): A nice cushion gives them a chance to rest Josh Hamilton. Hopefully his MVP chances are the only thing that come out of this injured.

7. Giants (5): Their 1-2-3 — Lincecum, Cain and Sanchez — is pretty darn good too, but it looks like they’ll be in a dogfight all the way to the end. They have the division lead at the moment, but you won’t find bigger Philly fans this side of Pennsylvania than you will among the Giants during the Phils-Braves series.

8. Padres (8): The only good news this past weekend was that the Rockies got beat by L.A., keeping them at bay for the time being.

9. Rockies (6): Yesterday’s game was a heartbreaker, what with blowing a big lead against a team that had been sleepwalking and everything. One game may very well prove to be the difference in the west. Was that game it for the Rockies?

10. Reds (10): Sporting a 7-11 record in September which simultaneously should give Reds and Cardinals fans pause. The former for the team’s October prospects, the latter for what it’s failure to make up ground on a scuffling team means.

11. Red Sox (11): With J.D. Drew announcing his retirement effective after next season, the Boston writers have just over a year to decide on the next repository for their ire. I guess Lackey will work, but a real replacement will be someone who is actually pretty good most of the time, but whom they hate with an irrational passion.

12. Cardinals (13): They end the season with a four-game series against the Rockies, so it’s not 100% accurate to say that St. Louis is not longer a playoff factor. They are, but just not for their own chances. Beating San Diego this past weekend and crushing Colorado to wind things up would be a pretty neat trick.

13. White Sox (12): How long can Manny Ramirez be the scapegoat before people get bored and turn their attention to Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen? Jeez, Peter King was beating on Manny in his column this morning for cryin’ out loud, and he writes about football (or so I’m told).

14. Athletics (15): Based on the 2011 schedule, I’m wondering if there isn’t a plot to drive A’s attendance down even lower than it is. Instead of two series hosting the Yankees and Red Sox there’s only one. Interleague visitors: Marlins, Diamondbacks. Bud Selig doesn’t seem to want to make the case for San Jose overtly, but by gum, he and his schedule makers will do so passively!

15. Tigers (17): Austin Jackson, Alex Avila and Scott Sizemore led the Tigers to a sweep of the White Sox this weekend. Should Tigers fans be hopeful, or is this merely a quick trip to the Island of Flukeopolis?

16. Blue Jays (16): Jose Bautista will get his 50th home run this week in all likelihood. This is the first time 50 home runs has felt special to me since Cecil Fielder did it in 1990.

17. Astros (19): They have to finish 9-4 to reach .500.  Yes, I really was being serious when I said that I was following this “race.”

18. Mets (18): I have no idea how the Braves’ season is going to end, but even if it ends up short of the playoffs, Bobby Cox leaving with a sweep in his last series against the Mets makes for a fitting sendoff.

19. Angels (21): How you lose two of three to the Indians and take two of three from the Rays is a bit of a mystery, but there are a lot of mysteries hiding in the records of non-contending teams playing out the string.

20. Dodgers (19): Apropos of nothing, I noticed last night that someone with a Los Angeles Dodgers IP address had been Googling me by name and reading my personal blog. My first impulse was to worry that Frank McCourt had finally gotten fed up with me ragging on him all the time and was doing some intelligence work in preparation for my assassination, but then I remembered that hit men tend to work on a cash-only basis, so now I know I’m safe. 

21. Cubs (23): I know they’re behind Milwaukee in the standings, but a six game winning streak when they have every reason to pack it in ain’t hay. Mike Quade is making it really hard to hire someone besides him for the permanent job, isn’t he?

22. Brewers (22): I said this morning that the Astros could be a reasonable pick for third place next year. The big caveat: if the Brewers unload Prince Fielder — get me, I mentioned both baseball playing Fielders in the same post! — for a frontline starter, that could change things.

23. Marlins (14): Yeah, this is a freefall, but they lost every game last week for cryin’ out loud.

24. Orioles (24): And yes, they’ve had a much better go of it than Florida lately, but at some point you have to acknowledge that they still have 15 more losses than the Marlins do. You can’t just pretend the early part of the season didn’t happen, even if it weighs less and less each week. Because of that, this is really they’re ceiling, I think.

25. Indians (25): 9-8 in September and a half-game lead for fourth place over the Royals. Little victories, right?

26. Royals (26): 5-11 in September and a worse winning percentage in the second half than the first. Remember all of those “Ned Yost is resurrecting the Royals” columns from earlier this year? Yeah, whatever.

27. Nationals (27): Jim Riggleman is probably coming back. I suppose that’s the right move. This has nothing to do with anything let alone whether it is the right move, but I met Riggleman back in spring training, and I found him to be the most patient and polite of the eight or ten managers with whom I interacted.

28. Mariners (29): They still have a realistic shot of scoring below 500 runs for the seaso
n. A bit of a long shot — t
hey have to score 27 runs in 13 games to reach 499 — but I have faith.

29. Pirates (30); 30. Diamondbacks (28): Pittsburgh is probably still technically the worst team in baseball, but they did sweep the Diamondbacks, so I should give them their props for at least one week.

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.