Report: Angels make Peter Bourjos, Kendrys Morales available

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According to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, the Angels are willing to part with Peter Bourjos in order to upgrade their bullpen and could consider dealing Kendrys Morales as well.

Bourjos, perhaps baseball’s premier defensive center fielder, has been made expendable in Anaheim by the emergence of Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo. Still, there are a lot of teams that would love to have him. A lifetime .252/.302/.413 hitter, he’ll make close to the minimum again next year and he won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season.

The market for Morales would be more limited, since he’s probably still not ready to be an everyday first baseman after tearing up his ankle a couple of years ago. Also, he’s been pretty average offensively this year with a .284/.330/.428 line and nine homers in 264 at-bats.

The Angels are hoping to shore up both their rotation and pen, and they’re in the market for big names like Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke. The Phillies and Brewers both likely would have some interest in Bourjos. The Nationals would surely love to have him, but with Drew Storen still trying to work his way back from elbow surgery, it’d be difficult for them to part with the relief help (likely Tyler Clippard) the Angels would want in return.

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

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In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.