Pouliot’s 2014 American League awards picks

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If the American League MVP race doesn’t provide as much intrigue as usual this year, at least the Cy Young competition still offers some controversy. Here are my AL picks for the three player awards, with the NL selections to follow on Tuesday.

AL MVP

1. Mike Trout
2. Michael Brantley
3. Robinson Cano
4. Victor Martinez
5. Adrian Beltre
6. Jose Altuve
7. Josh Donaldson
8. Jose Abreu
9. Adam Jones
10. Jose Bautista

Trout wasn’t quite as good this year as he was the previous two, but he’s still the AL’s best player and he’ll finally get his much deserved first MVP award, thanks to the Angels’ ascension. It’s not a particularly close race for first. Trout was third in the AL in OPS behind Martinez and Abreu, but the margin was minuscule. In fact, in OPS+, they graded out at 169 for Abreu, 168 for Martinez and 167 for Trout. And if Trout wasn’t as valuable defensively or on the basepaths as he was in previous years, he still obviously had much more value there than Martinez or Abreu.

Brantley is the clear No. 2 in my mind: 156 games with the AL’s seventh best OPS, plus 23 steals in 24 attempts. WAR isn’t fond of his defense, but I don’t find any fault with him in left field. It gets a whole lot more difficult to separate the candidates after that. Both versions of WAR favor Donaldson and Alex Gordon because of their defense. I’m going Cano third because he was a better hitter than both and still an above average defensive second baseman in my mind. Martinez comes in fourth despite his total lack of defensive value; it was just an awesome offensive season. Particularly nice is that he grounded into a modest 17 double plays, despite the fact that he’s slower than molasses, he was always putting the ball in play (just 42 strikeouts) and he so often had Miguel Cabrera on first base ahead of him.

Abreu’s lack of defensive value, combined with his early DL stint, drops him to eighth on my ballot, though I’m guessing he’ll finish third behind Trout and Martinez when the actual results are revealed in November.

Tough to leave off the list were Kyle Seager, Gordon and both Cy Young candidates.

 

AL Cy Young

Felix Hernandez: 15-6, 170 H, 68 R, 56 ER, 16 HR, 248/46 K/BB in 236 IP
Corey Kluber……: 18-9, 207 H, 72 R, 64 ER, 14 HR, 269/51 K/BB in 235 2/3 IP

That’s awfully, awfully close.

Fangraphs WAR, which is based strictly on homers, strikeouts and walks, obviously favors Kluber. Baseball-reference WAR, which isn’t FIP based, also prefers Kluber.

The ERA crown went to Hernandez, who finished at 2.14 after having four earned runs from his next-to-last start taken away over the weekend (it was his own error that led to the runs, and yes, it was clearly an error). Kluber finished at 2.44. Even with the extra four earned runs, Hernandez would have come in at 2.28, though he would have lost first place to Chris Sale at 2.17.

As for Sale, I’m discounting him from this discussion. He was more effective than either Felix or Kluber, but he finished 60 innings shy of both. The other two pitched 33 percent more than Sale did.

Hernandez led the AL with a 0.915 WHIP. Kluber’s was a much more pedestrian 1.095.

Kluber faced the tougher competition; his opposing batters had a .715 OPS, whereas Hernandez’s came in at .704.

In the end, I think this comes down to defense. The Mariners’ had the second best defensive efficiency in baseball, behind only Oakland. The Indians ranked 25th. That goes a long way towards explaining how Kluber gave up 37 more hits despite recording 21 more strikeouts and surrendering two fewer homers.

If you buy into that — that the gap between Seattle’s defense and Cleveland’s defense was that huge — then you have to give the Cy Young Award to Kluber. If you don’t, then you might prefer Hernandez. Personally, I don’t think the Mariners’ defense was quite that good — the outfield was something of a mess until Austin Jackson arrived and Brad Miller isn’t anything special at short — but I do believe the Indians defense was that bad and perhaps worse. For that reason, I’m throwing my support behind Kluber. It’s still close, but I think it’s the right call.

1. Kluber
2. Hernandez
3. Sale
4. Jon Lester
5. Max Scherzer

 

AL Rookie of the Year

1. Abreu
2. Dellin Betances
3. Collin McHugh

A year ago, I had Jose Iglesias edging 3 1/2 months of Wil Myers atop my ROY ballot. Neither of those seasons would have cracked the top five for AL rookies this year.

Just look at the starting pitching options:

Collin McHugh: 11-9, 2.73 ERA, 157/41 K/BB in 154 2/3 IP
Yordano Ventura: 14-10, 3.07 ERA, 153/68 K/BB in 179 IP
Masahiro Tanaka: 13-5, 2.77 ERA, 141/21 K/BB in 136 1/3 IP
Matt Shoemaker: 16-4, 3.04 ERA, 124/24 K/BB in 136 IP
Marcus Stroman: 11-6, 3.65 ERA, 111/28 K/BB in 130 2/3 IP
Roenis Elias: 10-12, 3.85 ERA, 143/64 K/BB in 163 2/3 IP
Jake Odorizzi: 11-13, 4.13 ERA, 174/59 K/BB in 168 IP

Only one of them can make the cut, and I’m choosing McHugh. Betances was probably the AL’s best reliever, or at least he and Wade Davis were 1 and 1a. Abreu was Abreu. Honorable mention goes to Danny Santana and Kevin Kiermaier on the offensive side. Santana hit .319 and swiped 20 bases in 405 at-bats. Kiemaier’s .263-10-35 line in 331 at-bats doesn’t look like anything special, but he played some terrific defense in right and center.

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.