Indians win, Rangers win, Rays lose as AL Wild Card intrigue grows

21 Comments

The Indians won their ninth consecutive game this afternoon against the Twins, moving into the first of two AL Wild Card slots. They have now won 19 of 24 games since September 3, doing anything and everything necessary to secure themselves the opportunity to advance from the Wild Card play-in game.

Starter Scott Kazmir was solid, striking out 11 over six innings. He allowed just one run on six hits and two walks. The Indians provided more than enough offense, scoring twice on Carlos Santana’s two-run home run in the fourth, and three in the fifth on a two-run triple by Michael Bourn and an RBI single from Yan Gomes. Mark Rzepczynski, Cody Allen, and Joe Smith combined for three shutout innings to wrap up the 5-1 victory, which pushes the Tribe to 91-71.

The Rays, who entered this afternoon’s game tied with the Indians and a game ahead of the Rangers, lost to the Blue Jays 7-2. Archer got into some trouble in the third inning and manager Joe Maddon wasn’t willing to take risks. Archer allowed three consecutive singles to start off the frame, the last of which tied the game at 1-1. After Archer struck out Moises Sierra, Maddon brought in reliever Alex Torres, who exited the inning without any further damage. But the Jays were ready to pile on, scoring twice in the fourth on an Adam Lind two-run single, and four times in the fifth on two two-run home runs by Ryan Goins and Kevin Pillar. Jays starter J.A. Happ was solid, holding the Rays to one run in seven and one-third innings of work. The Rays attempted a rally in the ninth, scoring once, but lost 7-2 to drop a game behind the Indians.

Looking to pick up ground, the Rangers battled it out against Angels starter Garrett Richards. Every batter in the lineup logged a hit as the Rangers staked themselves to a 5-1 lead after two innings thanks to a four-spot in the second on some poorly-executed baseball by the Angels. Rangers starter Derek Holland nearly coughed up the lead in the fifth as the Angels brought it to 5-4, but reliever Joakim Soria came in to put out the fire and get the final out of the inning. The Rangers got two back in the next inning on two RBI singles and from there, the bullpen was able to hold the Angels at bay. The 7-4 victory moves the Rangers into a 90-71 tie with the Rays for the second Wild Card slot.

The standings:

  • AL WC 1: Indians (91-70)
  • AL WC2: Rays (90-71) and Rangers (90-71), 1 GB

It all comes down to tomorrow’s action. If the Indians lose and the Rays and Rangers win, we could have a three-way tie. Tomorrow’s scheduled starting pitching match-ups:

  • Rays (Matt Moore) at Blue Jays (Todd Redmond), 1:07 PM EDT
  • Indians (Ubaldo Jimenez) at Twins (Scott Diamond), 2:10 PM EDT
  • Angels (Jason Vargas) at Rangers (Yu Darvish), 3:05 PM EDT

If 2020 season is cancelled, which players would be hurt the most?

Miguel Cabrera
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Last week, I went over a few teams that stood to be hurt most if there were to be no 2020 season as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Today, we will look at some players who may be adversely effected by a lost year.

Milestones

Players chasing milestones, especially those towards the end of their careers, would be stymied by a lost season. Tigers DH and future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera is the first one that comes to mind. He is 23 home runs short of joining the 500 home run club. Though he hasn’t hit more than 16 in a year since 2016, he would likely have at least hit a few this year and would have had an easier time getting there in 2021. He turns 37 years old in 10 days. Cabrera may be under contract through 2023, but it is not clear that his age and his health would allow him to play regularly such that he would be able to reach 500 home runs if the 2020 season were to be cancelled. (Cabrera is also 185 hits shy of 3,000 for his career.)

Mike Trout has 285 home runs for his career. It’s almost a given that he would get to 300 and beyond in 2020. He is currently one of only 13 players with at least 250 home runs through his age-27 season. The only players with more: Álex Rodríguez (345), Jimmie Foxx (302), Eddie Mathews (299), and Ken Griffey Jr. (294). Trout likely would have also reached 1,000 runs for his career, as he is currently at 903. Losing a full season could really make a difference where he winds up on the all-time leaderboards at the end of his career.

Veteran catcher Yadier Molina will be a free agent at season’s end, though he and the Cardinals have expressed interest in a contract extension. He turns 38 this summer and is 37 hits shy of 2,000 for his career. Even if this season never happens, Molina will likely join the 2,000 hit club in 2021 whether or not he signs a multi-year extension. Molina is also 84 RBI shy of 1,000 and 21 doubles shy of 400.

Free Agents

Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto headline the free agent class heading into the 2021 season. Even if there eventually is a 2020 season, or something resembling it, teams are losing money across the board and that will result in stinginess in the free agent market. Make no mistake, Betts and Realmuto, as well as Trevor Bauer, Marcus Semien, and Marcus Stroman will still get paid handsomely, but they likely won’t get as much as they would following a typical year. The players that really stand to get hurt are the mid-tier free agents, whose cost won’t match their relative upside — players like James McCann, Howie Kendrick, Yuli Gurriel, DJ LeMahieu, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, Justin Turner, Michael Grantley, Marcell Ozuna, Jackie Bradley Jr., Jay Bruce, and Josh Reddick.

2020-21 Draftees and International Free Agents

At the end of March, MLB and the MLB Players Association reached an agreement on a deal covering issues including service time, pay during the pandemic, and the amateur draft. In exchange for players on active rosters getting credit for a full year of service time whether or not there is a 2020 season, the league got the right to shorten the 2020 draft to five rounds and the 2021 draft to 20 rounds. The league also gained the right to delay the start of the 2020 and 2021-22 international signing periods.

The MLBPA effectively sold out what will be their future union members. A shortened draft this year and/or next year would mean that players who would otherwise have been drafted this year will go undrafted and thus will either become unsigned free agents or return to the draft next year as part of a crowded pool of players. Likewise, pushing back the international signing period will add more players to the market at the same time. This, obviously, benefits ownership as a surplus of labor diminishes those laborers’ leverage.

Bounce-back Candidates

Players coming off of injuries or otherwise down years in 2019 were hoping to use 2020 to bounce back, reestablishing themselves in the league. Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani didn’t pitch at all last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery and was hopeful to rejoin the starting rotation at some point in the first half of a normal 2020 season. We learned yesterday that Ohtani is expected to throw off a mound “soon.” If a 2020 season does happen, it likely wouldn’t begin for another couple of months at minimum, which should afford him enough time to get into pitching shape.

Ohtani’s teammate and perennial Gold Glove Award candidate Andrelton Simmons played in only 103 games last season due to an ankle injury. He mustered a meager .673 OPS as well, compiling just 1.9 WAR, his lowest total in any season since debuting in 2012. In 2017, he peaked at 7.8 WAR and put up 6.3 the following season. Simmons will become a free agent after the 2020 season, so he most certainly needed a healthy and productive 2020 to maximize his leverage on the market.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, now 36 years old, is coming off of the worst offensive season of his career. He hit .261/.357/.411 with 15 home runs and 47 RBI in 608 plate appearances, continuing a downward trend. He registered a 167 adjusted OPS as recently as 2017, but that declined to 126 in ’18 and 98 last year. The Reds, back to being competitive, were definitely banking on a bounce-back year from Votto. (Votto, by the way, is also 56 RBI short of the 1,000 milestone for his career.)