“Ozzie & Harriet Days”

I’m often asked the same question: Were the guys “back then” better than they are today? I’ll try to answer that.

Take away the fame and fortune. Take away the television show and the hit records. What remains is a family that was very much like the Nelson’s on the 1950’s. My dad was of similar age to Ozzie, the rather quiet patriarch. My mom didn’t dress like Harriet, but she was always kind and supportive, just like Mrs. Nelson. My older brother seemed to be the same age as David -and had little to do with his younger brother. That would be me. Ricky was older than me, but I somehow related to his life. In our own way, we were the Nelson’s. Without the hair, looks, fame and fortune.

When I was strong enough and big enough, I mowed lawns and shoveled snow to earn money. I spent it all on baseball cards, “Sport” magazine and “The Sporting News.” I “flipped” baseball cards day and night. But I never put a baseball card in my bicycle wheels.

The focal point of my young life as baseball. I went to my first games with my parents on a Sunday afternoon when I was eight years old. I shut my eyes and vision it today. Cleveland Stadium was packed. There were more people there than I had ever seen in my life. It was a doubleheader. Indians vs. the Orioles. I’ll never forget the impact on my senses. The smell of cigars. The unbelievably green grass. The size and noise of the place was overwhelming. It was enormous. I had an orange drink in a carton that looked like a funnel. I tried peanuts for the first time in my life. Unfortunately, I loved them. The hot dogs had brown mustard on them and were wrapped in the thinest paper I had ever seen. And they were fantastic. They were made by Warsaw. I remember that. No longer in business. They were so good, I ate two.

Were the players better? They were different. There were only eight teams in each league. That’s a huge difference. Roster spots were treasured. There were six Minor League classifications. It began with Class D. Players were promoted to C, B, A, AA, and then AAA. Of course, the great players skipped levels.

Were the players better then? Some were bigger than life itself. Ted Kluszewski had arms like Popeye in his short-sleeved shirts. He could probably tear the seams apart on a baseball when he hit the sweet spot. Frank Howard was so big I thought the bat looked like a toothpick in his hands. Were they better? They were really good. But guys today are really good. Things are just different now.

Were the players better? I was a huge Cleveland Indians fan. I was so excited in 1954 I could hardly breathe. My Indians were in the World Series against the Giants. And then it happened. Dusty Rhodes and Willie Mays. Two names from my past. Dusty Rhodes hit .667 in the three games he played (there were only four) and Willie Mays made the best catch I’ve ever seen in my life. You’ve seen it. The catch and the throw. It was amazing. He was amazing. Clearly, Willie Mays is the best player I ever saw.

My memories of the teams of the 50’s include a vision of second baseman Nellie Fox with a huge chew of tobacco in his jaw bunting for a single. I still have the only baseball glove I ever owned. A Nellie Fox model. It’s still in great shape and game ready.

I remember waiting outside Cleveland Stadium on Sunday afternoons to get autographs. Guys like Elston Howard and Andy Carey of the Yankees and even Ted Williams stopped to sign for me. I was 12 years old and I had a Sunday/Holiday pass to the Indians. I rode the Rapid Transit to the games by myself and followed the players as they walked back to their Public Square hotel.

Were they better then? I saw Mickey Mantle hobble on bad wheels but destroy my Indians hitting from both sides of the plate. I saw the big four of Mike Garcia, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn and Bob Feller dominate teams. Don’t dig in on Early Wynn. You’ll find yourself on the ground. Kind of like Bob Gibson. No warnings to the benches. No warnings to the pitcher. Are you kidding me? They were pitching inside the hitter’s baseball caps. No helmets then. And nobody complained. But they had such great control they could throw a ball into a tin cup if it was placed on home plate. Were they better? They had command and control, that’s for sure. Billy Pearce, Warren Spahn, Johnny Sain, Allie Reynolds, Whtey Ford, Juan Marichal. Every staff had two or three aces. Some, even more. And an ace was an ace.

I got to see Chico Carrasquel and Luis Aparacio, two amazing Venezuelan shortstops that probably set the standard for the off the chart defensive wizards we see today. And I got to watch the Yankees Scooter Rizzuto, one of the spark plugs of the ever-winning Yankees. I hated the Yankees. Hated them! I don’t anymore. In my old age I have learned to admire what they’ve accomplished. The past. It was just prologue. I tip my cap to them and what the franchise has done.

I got to take my little transistor radio to school during each World Series every year and hit it, so I thought, as I listened to Gillette razor commercials during the games. It was usually the Yankees and the Dodgers. Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella , Gil Hodges. Billy Martin and Hank Bauer. Micky, Whitey and the Moose. And Yogi. Were they better then? Wow, they were awfully good. But along with my friends, were were watching through young and very impressionable eyes.

Were they better then? I had six years to recover from the World Series loss to the Giants when on April 17, 1960 total disaster struck. My world ended. The Indians traded my beloved Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers for good hitting Harvey Kuenn. I was devastated. There was only one Rocky Colavito. A big, strong hitter with charisma. On June 6, 1959 he hit four home runs in a game. Of course, I didn’t know what charisma was then. But I know it now. That’s what he had. Charisma. And a loud bat. I promise you, I never knocked the Rock. Even when he struck out four times a game.

I got to watch Larry Doby, Jim Hegan and Al Rosen. My heroes. I got to listen to Jimmy Dudley on the radio calling games. I was fortunate to see Al Kaline play for the Tigers. And i actually saw the great Roberto Clemente play baseball. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. I got to see Harmon Killebrew and Jim Lemon. Willie McCovey and Stan Musial. Wow, could they murder a baseball.

Were they better then? Some were. There were fewer players. They each got more attention. They changed teams far less often. Fans were able to bond more quickly and for longer periods with their favorites. They weren’t all so big and strong. They had their vices then, too. They had their contract issues then, too. They had their clubhouse conflicts then, too. People are people. They were then and they are now.

Were they better then? There are players today with equal ability and charisma. Every era has its guys. We’re getting to see Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Altuve, Andrew McCutchen, Yasiel Puig, Clayton Kershaw, Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Felix Hernandez, Jose’ Abreu, Chris Sale,, Adam Wainwright, Paul Goldschmidt and on and on. Soon we will marvel at Kris Bryant, Byron Buxton, and Kevin Correa. We’ve started to see the world of Javier Baez, Oscar Taveras and Gregory Polanco. They’ll be joined by countless other future stars currently waiting in the development wings.

Were they better then? It’s all in the eye of the beholder. I am grateful for today’s new, bright, shining stars. The game is healthy. It’s thriving. It’s creating memories for eight year olds who are living in homes just like I did with the Nelson’s. Only now they are like those on “Modern Family” or “The Middle.” Has anything changed? Not really.

As always, thank you for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.

 

Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You

I have aging kidneys. No, in true disclosure I have to admit I have old kidneys. I watch lots of live baseball every year; from spring, to summer, to fall. That’s lots of trips to the bathroom. And, of course, I love to eat. So that’s getting up for food late in games as well. But there are times when my kidneys have to be put in a holding pattern. There are times I just have to let my stomach grumble. Those times are when these guys come to the plate. I am glued to my seat. I don’t want to miss an at-bat.

Keep in mind, I have countless other guys that I love to watch. Guys like Paul Goldschmidt and Sal Perez. Guys like Michael Brantley, Hunter Pence and Christian Yelich, Chris Sale and Corey Kluber. My guys are special to me. I talk about them on the radio and in the podcast because they’re special players-their my guys.

But the guys I list below-well, I can’t miss an at-bat, a pitch or a defensive play. They have an electricity about them that makes me marvel at their talent. I can’t take my eyes off them. So here they are, in no particular order of importance or talent.

Andrew McCutchen- Every time I watch him in person he does something special. He barrels the bat and hits the ball over the wall or he motors from first to third in a flash. Or he makes a fantastic play in the field. But his at-bats are special. He has a knack for hitting a baseball to the right place at the right time. And he isn’t bothered by pressure.

Jose Altuve-Just to watch him play is a treat. Small in physicality but huge in heart and talent, Altuve is the engine that can spark any team. He just makes contact at the plate at-bat after at-bat, gets base hits and steals bases. He’s electric. Uniform? Dirty.

David Ortiz-I just think something special will happen every time he gets into the box. I don’t want to miss it. The shift has hurt him, but the long bombs still beat the shift. He hits in the clutch and I’ve seen him carry his team-like in the 2013 World Series. The ball makes that “special sound” coming off his bat. He’s huge.

Mike Trout- Is there anything this guy can’t do? I love to watch him hit a ball to the gap and take off running. I saw him very early in his career and I’ve seen the progress. He’s special because he hits for average and power, runs and plays amazing defense. His eye-hand coordination and his instincts are off the charts. I hope he can stay healthy.

Pablo Sandoval- He blows me away every at-bat with his lack of plate discipline and the fact that he can hit a ball in the dirt or over his head. He’s a tremendous hitter. I want him to get in better shape, but he can do it all now. He’s a much better fielder and runner than people think. He has power and hits line drive darts. He’s the Panda.

Yasiel Puig-Say what you will about his antics, Puig is some kind of special player. He can hit a ball over the wall, hit the ball to the gaps or swing and miss while screwing himself into the ground. I don’t want to miss a moment. His arm is huge. His speed is real and he plays bigger than life. He’s reckless and fearless. He’s one of a kind now.

Gregory Polanco- My newest “can’t take my eyes off you” guy. Long legs, long arms. Loping strides. Gap hits. Sweet swing (although a little long). I see a star in the making. He’s a tremendous player to watch. He’s still learning. I hope he keeps the hustle. The at-bats from the 2 hole let him show off his speed. He made my list very quickly.

Billy Hamilton- Woosh-there he goes. He’s a blur out of the batter’s box. He’s a blur on the bases. Watching him hit a triple is poetry. I’ve seen two. And seeing him close on a ball in center field is something special. He’s made himself into a fine outfielder. The speed is beyond special. Seeing him bunt for a hit is a thrill for me. Love to watch him.

Dee Gordon- I’ve seen him steal second base on the throw back to the pitcher from the catcher. He gives 100% every at-bat. He wants to contribute to his team. And he does it with his legs. He gets some dink and dunk hits, but they’re still hits. He’s getting better at every phase of the game. He’s found a home as an All Star second baseman.

Bryce Harper- I know he’s scuffled. I know he’s been hurt. But watch him play. Watch him run into the fence. Or swing from his shoes. This guy is just in the beginning stages of what I think will be a great career. He can hit for average and for power. The way he does it is what is so neat. I don’t want to miss an at-bat because something special is going to happen. He’s never boring. Never average.

—–a couple pitchers—–
There are pitchers I can’t keep my eyes off, too. I want to see every pitch. Sure, I love to watch Kershaw and Ryu. Anibal Sanchez and Wainwright. But these two guys have me mesmerized each and every pitch.

Aroldis Chapman- I enjoy watching the 100 mph to 104 mph fastball. But I like watching the slider after the fastballs even more. See ya. The guy has an amazing arm. It’s much more electric in person than on television. The anticipation is tremendous.

Yu Darvish- Everything moves. Every pitch. He can get a hitter with a fastball or any pitch ever invented. He doesn’t look tired on the mound. He doesn’t look like he’s in trouble, even if he’s in trouble. He has ice water in his veins. And I never know what I’m going to see. That’s why I don’t like to miss it.

—–three infielders—–
There are three infielders that make me sit up in my seat and marvel at their talent. I don’t quite know how they do it play after play. I know there are many, many more infielders with fantastic talent, but these guys make it look so easy. The ball just disappears in their gloves. And they throw bullets to first base-even off balance.

Didi Gregorius-One of the most athletic players in the game today. He floats to the ball. He has a cannon for an arm. His footwork and soft hands are lightning quick.

Alcides Escobar- I saw him when he played his very first game in the Fall League. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Skinny and raw, he flashed range that I hadn’t seen since Omar Vizquel in his prime. He has a great arm with tremendous instincts. Super.

Andrelton Simmons- Another magician at shortstop. He makes impossible plays and he has to be seen to be appreciated. I will never take him for granted. I’m jus thankful I’ve gotten to see him play shortstop. It really is poetry in motion.

—–On The Cusp—–
Here are guys that I may not be able to take my eyes off real, real soon:
Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor, Oscar Taveras, Jose’ Abreu, George Springer and Masahiro Tanaka.

—–Not Anymore—–
My old kidneys don’t have to wait while these guys are at the plate anymore. But-I admit that I find it very, very hard to get out of my seat when they come to the plate:
Albert Pujols, Adam Dunn, Ryan Howard, Miguel Cabrera.

That’s my list. Those are guys I can’t keep my eyes off. I’m sure you have your guys that are “electric” to you. I hold auditions all the time for new players to emerge and a I encourage a few existing players to add a few volts of juice to their game.

Thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @Bernie Pleskoff. As always, your support is greatly appreciated.

That’s it. I’m done.

Rearranging The Deck Chairs

I’m exhausted. After yesterday’s non-stop non-waiver trade deadline ended I was kind of dizzy. I’ve been around for lots and lots of trade deadlines, but this one was amazing.
So many times the anticipation of the final hours far exceeds the reality. It often reminds me of the years when my neighbor set off firecrackers on the 4th of July—lots of excitement before the event and then…duds! Not yesterday. There was sizzle and very little fizzle. Unless your club sat on the sidelines and watched. Is there anything worse? “Hey, didn’t we get invited to the party?” I’ve been there…waiting and waiting for your team to make a trade and then… nothing.

Here are some of my thoughts about the deals that went down. I will skip much of the obvious and try to put my own spin on things:

David Price to the Tigers-I think the Tigers brass felt the heat of ownership in the past month or so. Mr. Ilitch was born in 1929. He’s one of the great owners in sports. He wants to win. Now. Dave Dombrowski is one of the fine general managers in the game. He wants to help deliver that winner. After his attempt to shore up a leaky bullpen with the acquisition of Joakim Soria he won the David Price sweepstakes. Frankly, the price wasn’t that steep. Keep your eye on shortstop Willy Adames. He may be the key to what the Rays were all about. For me, he’s more than a “throw in.” Only 18, he has gap power and patience at the plate beyond his years. From the Dominican, Adames can also play third base. The Tigers rotation is now even more lethal–they swapped Drew Smyly for David Price. Smyly will likely come up big for the Rays in the future, as he’s still ironing out some kinks. The Mariners came away with a nice bat and a fine glove in Austin Jackson-giving up a nice bat in infielder Nick Franklin. Nice deal for everyone. But I think the Rays “settled” at the end and may have been offered even more earlier in the entire process, prior to being under the gun late in the day. We’ll never know. But they probably got more yesterday than had they waited until the off season.

Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox and Jon Lester and Jon Gomes to the Athletics- I’m not ready to declare the Athletics the World Champions. I admire the intestinal fortitude of Billy Beane. However, what if they lay an egg? No more Cespedes to break up a game and Lester can fly the coop as a “free” agent. I think Cespedes is a game changing bat. I don’t think you’ll trip over that type of player walking around your garden. They’re as rare as vegetables on my dinner plate. Think of the damage he can do in Fenway. I’m sure the Red Sox are thinking of that and sleeping peacefully. Lester’s usually good. But I’ve seen Lester bad. Cespedes can be bad three times a week and be good three times a week and really, really help the Red Sox. If Lester is bad once a week for the Athletics—watch out. Lester has gone more to the curveball as opposed to the cutter. That’s good. His new park is huge and very pitcher friendly. That’s good. Lots of good. But remember—one bad start or two in the next two months and it’ll really hurt.

John Lackey and lefty Corey Littrell to the Cardinals for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig-This one is a bit risky for the Red Sox. Who is Allen Craig? Is he the old Allen Craig or the newer model? Can he use the Green Monstah to his advantage? If yes, he and Cespedes will help in the middle of the order, no doubt about it. But who pitches for the Red Sox? They’ll figure it out. Lackey could be the guy that puts the Cardinals back in the postseason. He’s a winner. He’s a tough cookie who pitches and doesn’t just throw. He’s perfect to pair with Adam Wainwright and the rest of the rotation. Great trade for St. Louis and maybe for Boston, but I’m less inclined to like their end of this one. Kelly has been sporadic, but he’s still got upside and he could make this deal really work for Boston.

Martin Prado to the Yankees for catcher Peter O’Brien. I saw O’Brien at the Futures Game. This guy has powwwwwer. And quick hands through the ball. He has to learn the mechanics of catching and the Dbacks are sending Bill Plummer to work with him. But Prado wasn’t helping in Arizona. They Yankees are picking up his tab. It’s a great move for Arizona. I’ve heard New York will be playing Prado in right field. I think he’s adequate at third base-I’ve never seen him in right. I’ve seen him in left. He’s adequate at third base. I do think Prado will take some balls into the right field seats at Yankee Stadium as his swing is geared that way—and slower than it’s been in the past. It turns out the Dbacks traded Justin Upton and Chris Johnson for Peter O’Brien, Randall Delgado and Nick Ahmed.

Gerardo Parra to the Brewers for Mitch Haniger and lefty pitcher Anthony Banda- I think Parra will help the Crew because they have few left-handed hitters. He has lost a step or two of speed, has declined at the plate and isn’t the same player he was. But he will help the Brewers as a solid outfielder. Haniger has some power. I can’t wait to see him hit in Chase Field. I really liked him in the Fall League. He’ll surprise some people. Banda is supposedly a projectable lefty mid-rotation starter. I haven’t scouted him. I think the Dbacks will be very happy with this deal, but I don’t think the trade puts the Brewers over the top in the Central. But it may help.

Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals for Zach Walters. I really like Walters. He has some pop in his bat (switch hitter) and can play shortstop and second base. He’s a good fielder and is almost Major League ready. Cabrera is in his walk year. His game has declined for two consecutive years. I think he’ll be playing 2B in Washington. That’s good, because his range had slipped in Cleveland. He’s a streaky hitter. The Nats have to hope he finds his stroke. If not, it isn’t pretty to watch. Cabrera’ slip is showing.

Red Sox trade Andrew Miller to the Orioles for Eduardo Rodriguez- Well, one of the future starters for the Red Sox could very well be Rodriguez. He has an outstanding arm but hasn’t put the command and control together yet. He’s a lefty and he was probably the best lefty in the Orioles system. I think he could give up some bombs off the Monstah, but he’ll be fine. Miller has begun to find command and control and was probably the biggest prize of the available left-handed relievers. He will really help the Orioles. I like the deal for both clubs. But I think the O’s still need to go get a starter.

Tommy Milone goes to Minnesota for Sam Fuld- The Athletics bring back Fuld in a deal that will set up a future platoon with Jonny Gomes in left field. Fuld will play center until Craig Gentry returns from injury. I love Fuld. He gets his uniform dirty and his on-base percentage is always off the charts (.370) for a man of such slight build at 5-foot-10, 175-pounds. He’s a winner. Milone wanted out of Oakland and got his wish. The Twins get a legitimate lefty starter, and one that can be there a long time.

Padres trade Chris Denorfia to Seattle for switch-hitting OF Abraham Almonte and RHP Stephen Kohischeen- I’m a huge Denorfia fan. He’s a superb 4th outfielder. He can hit, hit with some pop and play solid defense. If needed, he can fill in for a long period of time as opposed to just being a guy off the bench. The Mariners upgraded with both Austin Jackson and Denorfia. I don’t know what more Almonte brings than Denorfia. More speed and youth probably. Almonte can fly. Kohischeen is a righty reliever. I haven’t seen him.

Stephen Drew goes to the Yankees for…Kelly Johnson-Are you kidding me? That was a steal for the Yankees, I believe. Drew was beyond rusty for Boston. I think he adds to the Yanks infield depth with a bat that will play well in Yankee Stadium. But be aware that he isn’t a pull hitter. I’ve seen him hit tons of fly balls to the left/center warning track. That may frustrate some fans if he still does that. I do think he’s an upgrade over Kelly Johnson. Can he play 2B? Can he play 3B? Derek Jeter plays shortstop, right?
Drew’s value will be greater next year if he stays with the Yankees.

Emilio Bonifacio and lefty James Russell go to the Braves for catcher Victor Caratini? Remember the name Victor Caratini. He’s a line-drive switch-hitter with a background as a 3B-catcher. He has some pop in his bat. He’s a work in progress behind the plate. But if he can hit, as many think he will, the Cubs may have a future catcher for two players that didn’t have long-term roles with the big league team.

Jarred Cosart, Enrique Hernandez and Austin Wates go to Miami for OF Jake Marisnick, 3B Colin Moran and RHP Francis Martes-Didn’t the Astros just trade for Cosart recently, or am I dreaming? He was coming along very nicely as a member of their rotation. What am I missing here? Hernandez is a plus player as well. What am I missing here? Or did I say that already? Marisnick has shown me a slow bat every time I’ve seen him play. And that’s a lot. Moran was a first round draft pick, but I didn’t see much from him last fall, at all. I think the Astros will have to be patient with him. Especially with any potential power he may have. Patient? I love this deal for the Marlins. They just keep adding good pitching in every deal they make.

Remember-teams can still make deals, but waivers have to be acquired on the player. I look for some expensive players like Alex Rios to change teams. So, if your team was on the sidelines yesterday and this past month, they may awaken and want to rearrange some deck chairs. Just hope they aren’t like my neighbor and start shooting off some duds.

Some of the deadline deals may come out as flat as my three day old soda pop sitting on the kitchen counter without a lid. There is no guarantee in a trade. But this year, more Major League players were moved. Fewer prospects were included in the blockbusters. That was exciting. There are teams that are shouting we want to win NOW. We love that-as long as it’s our team doing the shouting.

Thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. Your support is always appreciated.

That’s it. I’m done.

Where’s The Beef?

Does it concern you that we are seeing a reduction in scoring by a number of teams in baseball? I think fans really like offense more than a great pitcher’s dual or stellar defense. Maybe not the diehard fans like us, but the people that might see one or two games a year on television or at the closest ball park. They want offense. No doubt, I think the triple is the most exciting play in baseball. But offense seems to be taking a back seat. There are some calling for an elimination of the defensive shift as a way to increase offense. I disagree. I think the offense has to adapt to what they see. Bunt if you have to. How about lowering the pitcher’s mound back to where it was in the 60’s? Not bad. I can like that reversal to the past. I don’t think that’ll happen. But I still love to watch two great pitchers go head to head and frustrate the opposition. Where’s the beef? The beef is gone. But some guys are still hitting tremendous home runs. We haven’t lost that.

The beef I’m really missing is the good ol’ fashioned nose to nose, throw dirt on the umpires shoes argument. It’s gone. Replaced by instant replay. That’s a part of the game I think fans miss. The vein popping, raise the hair on your neck beef. Earl Weaver, Billy Martin type beefs. The best. But gone.

I think the Rangers made a fantastic deal for Joakim Soria. The two young arms going back to the Rangers from Detroit are both solid pitchers with upside. Maybe not now, but in the future. Jake Thompson is a starter with sink on his fastball and a good repertoire. Thompson is 6-4 and 235 pounds. Huge. Corey Knebel is an able reliever with some big league experience. For his part, Soria is slated to pitch the 7th inning for the Tigers. We’ll see how long that lasts. He could easily slip into the 8th or 9th inning in a mix or match scenario with Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan.
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Jake Peavy to the Giants? That’s a big, big home park. It fits him nicely. And he likely slots as the #5 starter behind Bumgarner, Hudson, Lincecum, and Vogelsong. He probably won’t have to work the playoffs from the rotation. The need was great for San Francisco and I don’t think the price was that high. I do think Heath Hembree has a big arm for the bullpen and maybe Edwin Escobar can help the Red Sox as a starter from the left side. But they aren’t proven. Peavy has some quality starts left in his right arm.

Trades and free agent signings are risky. I give you the Cleveland Indians. I know, you don’t want them. Anyway, I give you their situation. The franchise was in the dumper in 2012. Fans were staying away in droves. They had to do something in the off-season to perk up interest. So—they gave the moon, the sun to Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. They ended up with no stars. The rest is history. Financially, the team’s hands are tied. They have to find inexpensive, controllable right-handed hitters and pitchers to fill gaps.
Good luck with that. Everybody wants those type players. Swisher and Bourn are signed thru…2017.

Once he gets some protection in the lineup, I think Anthony Rizzo can be the next big star in the National League.

What happened to Nelson Cruz? Who’s the real guy? The first half slugger with a great batting average or the hitter scuffling now? Hope he comes back. The Orioles need his big bat.

Miguel Cabrera still looks hurt to me. He can’t open his hips and use his lower body as he has in the past. Run? Fuget abow did.
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What happens to the Royals after this season if they don’t make the playoffs? What does the team do with Hosmer, Moustakas, Butler and Gordon? I’m just askin.

I think the Giants would have been better off with the defense of Darwin Barney than the ??? of Dan Uggla. I’m just sayin.

OK-I get it with the Astros thinking Brady Aiken has injury issues. What the team does with their first round draft selection is up to them. However, they had a deal on the table with Jacob Nix, a right-handed pitcher from Los Alamitos, Texas. He was an innocent victim in the entire process. He is now without a contract to chase his dream. He couldn’t be signed due to the bonus money tied to Aiken. It’s a sad situation.

The Rays are proving how critical pitching is to winning baseball. They’ve come from nowhere to be somewhere. I still think they’ll fall short, but their surge has put the brakes on any movement of David Price in trade. Healthy pitchers=they’re winning.

I guess any team can have Ryan Howard if they agree to pay the rest of his $25MM salary this year and the same amount for 2015 and 2016. But there’s good news. The price drops to $23MM in 2017-a bargain. Of course, the Phillies could pick up some of the money for a team to obtain the contract. Yikes!

Did any of us ever think the Texas Rangers would have the worst record in baseball at the end of July? That they would have won only 41 games? By the way- I still like the Orioles to win the East. I haven’t wavered.

If you haven’t seen David Peralta of the DBacks play, make it a point to watch a game if you can. He’s an exciting left-handed hitter nobody talks about. I think he’s a legit Rookie Of The Year candidate. And I like Jose Abreu for that honor in the AL.

Time to look at some mid-season numbers that strike me as fascinating:

As of today, B J Upton has struck out 127 times. He leads Marlon Byrd-the subject of many trade rumors, by two. Upton is hitting .217. Byrd .266. Upton is having to get by this year on $14MM. 2015 $15MM, 2016 $16MM, 2017 $17MM and then….in 2018 he becomes a free agent. It’s actually more each year, but I rounded it down.

Carlos Santana has walked 72 times. Jose Bautista is next at 69.

Jose Altuve has 148 hits. Dee Gordon has ten triples.

If you would have told me Stephen Strasburg would have more losses (eight) than wins (seven) at this point of the season I wouldn’t believe you. But he does. And Scott Kazmir has a 12-3 record.

Thank you for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s It. I’m Done.

Reflections From Minneapolis-All Star Game

There’s something about seeing so much talent on one baseball field that is electrifying. Last night’s game just made me love the game of baseball even more-and I don’t know how that’s possible. I’ll tell you why a bit later.

The day began with the red carpet parade of players right outside my hotel door. There was excitement in the air. The hotel had set up a charcoal barbecue station with hot dogs, hamburgers, etc. right outside the revolving doors. The smell of charcoal provided a fantastic backdrop to the parade. The crowd was about eight people deep lining the sidewalks for as far as my four eyes could see. Minnesota has these fantastic walkways (with shopping malls and restaurants) above the streets for pedestrian traffic during inclement weather. The walkways were packed with people-their noses pressed to the window if they were in the front row. It was great to see and be part of.

Right down from my hotel is a statue to Mary Tyler Moore-star of the bygone days sitcom about a Minneapolis news room. The statue is wonderful and I’m glad I got to see it.

The All Star Game was really Derek Jeter Night, and he didn’t disappoint. I know there are people who don’t like him or anything Yankees. However, don’t count me among them. He’s a great player-a team player. He’s a gentleman. Classy. Intelligent.
His play on Andrew McCutchen’s first inning grounder set the tone for his overall game.

It was more than fitting that Jeter and Mike Trout hit one and two in the AL lineup. Because if Jeter is No. 1 now, at the end of the season, Trout will take that honor. And he deserves it. And he deserved his MVP Award last night. Imagine what he’ll be like when he’s in his prime at 27. Or if he plays until he’s 40, like Jeter.

I missed seeing Big Papi and Albert Pujols. They belong on the biggest stage of stars.

Chris Sale didn’t seem comfortable coming in during a game as opposed to starting.

I don’t know if anyone will ever hit a home run further in Target Field than Giancarlo Stanton hit during the Home Run Derby-just had to get that in. Sorry about that.

Jonathan Lucroy may now be a household name and not a secret anymore. The man is a double’s machine. He can hit, plays great defense and his game is coming to its peak.
He could help the Brewers into the playoffs if he keeps swinging like I think he can.

Dee Gordon was a blurrrr circling the bases faster than I could swallow a swig of water on Lucroy’s double. And he made a fine defensive play on Michael Brantley.

Yasiel Puig may have gone back to Los Angeles with a bit of humility. All Star Week saw him take a donut in the Derby and strike out three times in three plate appearances at the ASG.

I would have started Clayton Kershaw on the mound for the NL, but nobody asked me.

How cool was it that Glen Perkins of the Twins finished the game throwing to Kurt Suzuki of the Twins.

American League gets home field advantage in the World Series. Think it isn’t important? Ask the Dbacks and Yankees.

Next year the ASG will be in Cincinnati. The following years have not been announced. Here are my guesses-two of these three: Washington and either Los Angeles Dodgers or Oakland. I have no inside information. Just my hunches.

There was an ASG first yesterday-no pitcher went more than one inning.

Aroldis Chapman hit 101 mph twice.

Broadway singer Idina Menzel did a spectacular job with the National Anthem. It was stirring. Don’t know if they showed it on television, but if they didn’t, you missed a beautiful moment. F-16’s buzzed the field as she concluded.

I would like to hear God Bless America sung at every park in every 7th inning or before every game. It’s a beautiful song and it reminds us who we are, what we have and where we are.

I heard that Adam Wainwright said he threw Jeter a pitch in the first inning he knew Jeter could hit. Um…I’m not buying. I think Adam Wainwright threw Jeter a mistake Jeter could hit in the first inning.

Did you like the greeeeen shoes and the orange laces and trim? I’m just wondering.
I’d love some greeeeen shoes, but I can’t find any in my size. I wear a wiiiiide. Did you like the caps? I think I did. I had to think about it for a while, but I decided I liked them.

I walked back from the park last night. It was the most peaceful, happy, non-threating crowd I’ve seen in years. Folks were having a great time. I didn’t see one drunk.

Derek Jeter’s was the first car in the Red Carpet parade yesterday.

I really got a laugh seeing 6-foot-5 Jose Abreu standing next to 5-foot-5 Jose Altuve.

Isn’t it time for Fernando Rodney to put his cap on straight? I’m just asking. Or maybe he can just have a head tilt operation. I think the tilted cap is so…what’s the word….yesterday. So…… last decade.

Name the pitcher: 1 inning, 3 hits, 3 earned runs, 0 walks and 2 strikeouts. Does that sound like Adam Wainwright? Remember when Justin Verlander blew up in Kansas City? And how about Jon Lester?…1 inning, 3 hits, 2 earned runs. He let the NL back in the game. And one more. Pat Neshek. 1/3 of an inning, 3 hits, 2 earned runs and a closing ERA of…54.00. I’m sure each of them wanted the ground to open so they could crawl in.

So now I return to Phoenix. All Star Game activities are over for another year. It was great. Thank you Minneapolis. Thank you Twins, MLB and MLB.com. This was a wonderful week. And thank you for reading my Reflections From Minneapolis.

I hope you will keep up with my work on MLB.com and MLBPipeline.com and follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. I have the best followers in the world and you can become one yourself.

That’s it. I’m done.

Reflections From Minneapolis-Home Run Derby

My seat last night during the Home Run Derby was directly behind 3B in the Auxiliary Press Box. Usually the auxiliary box is in the outfield. These seats were outstanding. I’m hoping to claim the same seat tonight for the All Star Game.

The rain came and went three different times. Fans were getting restless and wondering if the Derby would ever begin. But the end result was worth the wait.
Mother Nature made a cameo appearance to make up for the rain delays. The rainbow was spectacular. Full arc. I’ve seen lots of those in Arizona, but this was very fitting as sort of a “consolation prize” for the long wait.

I did a poll on twitter asking who would win each league and who would win the overall competition. I had tons of entries, but only one was correct. The fly in the ointment was Todd Frazier. Surprisingly, several people picked him to win the NL. But two people had him winning the entire competition.

Be honest with me here-were you among those that cheered when Yasiel Puig took a donut? The crowd in the stands was kind of pleased.

The ovations for Justin Morneau were spectacular. I expect to hear similar volume tonight for Derek Jeter.

I’m not sure the new format helps the first round winner. They didn’t remain in a groove and both seemed to cool off with the time off.

Lots of people on twitter told me they were bored watching the lengthy Derby. I was only bored during the rain delay. However, I wish they had an umpire and that a called strike would count as an out. That’s how it was in the 1960’s original Home Run Derby television show. It would speed the process tremendously. Lots of pitches are taken that are down the middle of the plate. But then again, all the sponsors and network wouldn’t have the time to get their needed revenue.

I wish we could have seen Big Papi, Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Cabrera just to name four big boppers. Then I think it would have been a much more competitive and exciting event. A truer Home Run Derby.

Most everyone in the contest looked exhausted at the end of the first round. Not just from the physical standpoint, but from the mental wear and tear as well.

Did you like the new format?

I want to see a “Baseball’s Fastest Player” contest replace the Home Run Derby. For example, imagine seeing Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon settle the issue from home to first. Each club would get to send one player. Elimination rounds would go quickly.
Injury worries? Maybe. But these guys are in great shape. I don’t think there would be more injury potential than in the Home Run Derby. We could settle the speed questions once and for all. is Mike Trout faster than Peter Bourjos? I like it. I really do.

I would like to see the All Star Game players wear their regular uniforms during the week’s activities. Whites for the home club, grey for the visitors. Simple. Clean. Many fans in attendance never get to see those uniforms. Even if there are duplicate numbers, the uniforms would be different.

I thought Jose Bautista would win it all.

Cespedes hit the longest shot at 452 feet. Cespedes was also second at 447 feet. And um, he was third at 446 feet. Giancarlo Stanton went 430 feet in the first round.

Stanton and Cespedes are the two guys I try not to miss during batting practice. At Chase Field, Stanton hit the restaurant at the top of the left field bleachers this month.

In my twitter contest, not one person picked Troy Tulowitzki to even win his league. Imagine, Frazier was picked several times. Not Tulo.

The infield wasn’t covered with a tarp during any of the downpours. I thought that was odd. Maybe they wanted the rain to soak into the ground and soften the infield. Anyway, during the Derby puddles were evident.

The Derby was a sellout.

Yasiel Puig not only has a form of a mohawk, he has a star cut in as well.

Tomorrow I’ll provide my reflections of tonight’s All Star Game. I feel very fortunate to be here for Derek Jeter’s last All Star Game. As usual, he is handling this event with calm and cool. Almost like it’s just another game. The players, the media and especially the fans know it’s different. By the way-he’s the only guy to come to the media interviews in a suit and tie. I’m just sayin. He’s just different. In a positive, special kind of way. Some people dislike Jeter because he plays for the Yankees. I think that’s silly.

With Ken Griffey, Jr. being the last guy to win back-to-back Home Run Derby contests before Cespedes, people are wondering if Cespedes can be the first to win three in a row? I wouldn’t put it past him.

I didn’t have time to visit the candy store yesterday. I could almost feel the lack of carmel corn with nuts ruining my entire day. I’ll try to make up for that today.

Thanks for reading my articles on MLBPipeline.com and MLB.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. Your support is always appreciated.

That’s it. I’m done. For today.

Reflections From Minneapolis-Futures Game

Way Cool. No doubt about it, Minneapolis is way cool. I walked outside today in just a short sleeve logo shirt and almost got blown away. The forecast isn’t too good for tonight’s Home Run Derby. But hey, this is only July.

When I arrived in Minneapolis on Saturday it was pouring. I mean pouring. Living in Arizona, I hadn’t seen rain for months. It was a welcome sight and it went away quickly.

The City of Minneapolis is all dressed up in All Star finery. The local folks have been great. Very friendly. They bring warmth to the chilly outdoors.

Yesterday was my first look at Target Field. The stone on the outside gives it a special look and the interior is done tastefully as well. I enjoyed that everything is well marked and easy to find. Beautiful place.

I was pleased to speak with several of the players prior to the Futures Game. Joey Gallo told me about he and Kris Bryant growing up together and Gallo’s dad throwing batting practice to the guys. Gallo’s older brother played with Bryant. Gallo is a bit younger.

Kris Bryant indicated he is really happy to be playing with Manny Ramirez, one of his new coaches. He said Ramirez takes time to help him and that Ramirez is a very hard worker. Bryant really appreciates being around him. Bryant wore number 23 in the Home Run Derby, but he won’t be getting that number when he’s with the Cubs. It belongs to Ryne Sandburg.

I asked Indians shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor to tell me something he’s never told another writer. He laughed and said he was a member of Concert Choir in high school. He loved it, but he said he can’t sing.

I can’t tell you how impressive Joey Gallo’s batting practice was. He cleared the stadium over the right field wall and shattered a window on a display car. He said he broke a window once before in his Minor League career. This guy has awesome power. And he’s working hard to control his strikeouts.

Yankees prospect Peter O’Brien put on quite a show. Usually a guy goes easy in his first round of batting practice. Not O’Brien. He was swinging for the fences on the first pitch. I was standing next to the batting cage and I asked him about it. He said he “had to get his rips in when he could.” Makes sense to me. Everybody was watching. He’s definitely on my radar now. And he took every swing with a smile on his face.

The Red Sox Henry Owens and the Mets Noah Syndergaard both told me before the game they would mix in some off speed pitches to go along with their wicked heat. They did and it kept hitters off balance. Syndergaard is sporting a “modified” mohawk. He loves it and it looks good on his tall, thin frame.

It was amazing to see legend Tony Oliva out on the field with the World Team. He can probably still hit. He still walks with a limp from his bad wheels, but Oliva looks like he can play today. Bert Blyleven threw batting practice to the World Team and kept telling the players “I gave up lots of homers in my career, so don’t be shy about doing it to me here.”

Nationals pitcher Lucas Gioloto got touched for 2 hits, and 2 earned runs in his 2/3 inning of work. He suffered a blown save. Larry Doby Futures Game MVP Joey Gallo saved the day for the U S Team with the Tigers Jake Thompson getting the win. Syndergaard picked up the save.

The U S Team struck out eight times. The World Team 10. There were only two walks issued in the game, one by the Angels Victor Alcantara and the other by the Orioles Hunter Harvey.

I was blown away by Mariners prospect Gabby Guerrero’s physical resemblance to his uncle Vladimir Guerrero. He looks, swings and acts just like him. I predict a huge future for him as a game-changing hitter. He needs some more meat on his frame, but he has all the makings of a star. He doesn’t wear batting gloves…yet.

Orioles outfielder Daniel Alvarez has a great arm. Both in strength and accuracy.

We may have Big Papi junior in Twins prospect Kennys Vargas. I’ve heard comparison to former Pirates star Dave Parker. I agree.

Keep your eye on Tigers prospect outfielder Steven Moya. This guy has big time power on a tall, thin body. He has work to do on recognizing pitches coming off the bat, but he’ll hit his way on to the Tigers club. Big upper body with thin legs. Quick hands can take the pitch to the opposite field for him.

OMG-there’s a candy and popcorn store right next to my hotel. I promise I’ve only purchased the smallest size carmel corn…twice. The one that’s loaded with a variety of nuts.

Food carts are huge here in Minneapolis. They’re on every corner. But I haven’t ventured down that road…yet. If I do, I’ve learned to choose the one with the longest line. Makes sense, right? Or is that just because people are told to choose the food cart with the longest line? You see my point, right?

A guy in the Celebrity Softball Game was named Fat Joe. He was.

Ricky Henderson could probably play today and steal bases. He’s in great shape. Looks wonderful and can still play the game.

I think the World Team had better overall players yesterday, but they still lost the game. I’m just sayin’.

It’s such a shame that Twins prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton weren’t in the Futures Games lineups. Buxton is just now returning and Sano is still hurt. But Alex Meyer threw 95-96 in his four pitch inning, making the Twins proud. And of course, Vargas represented the club well. Jose Berrios threw well.

Tonight is the Home Run Derby. You may want to check out my MLB.com feature on the original 1960 Home Run Derby television show. I loved watching that and I wanted to bring it back to life in my MLB.com piece. Hope you like it.

As always, thanks for reading my work on MLB.com and MLBPipeline.com. Thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. And please listen to Short Hops, our podcast on iTunes.

That’s it. I’m done.

Only Yellow Bananas

The last thing any analyst should do is criticize a front office or ownership group for not spending the money to put his team over the top. Opportunity knocks infrequently for some clubs. Teams have to take advantage when the opportunity presents itself.

I think of the 2013 seasons of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians and can’t help but wonder. Why didn’t they finish the job? Why didn’t the Pirates go out and find that additional pitcher or do whatever it took to sign A.J. Burnett? Why didn’t the Indians strike quickly to keep Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez? Then I remind myself that I’m not in those meetings. I didn’t hear the conversations. Maybe they both did try. Maybe the players just wanted to pitch elsewhere. So I give them a pass. Reluctantly.

This past winter Oakland General Manager Billy Beane struck quickly and took Kazmir off the board as a free agent. It was a swift move and it left the Indians reeling. I was told he was their first priority in the off-season. But they waited too long. Kazmir is now pitching for the Athletics. And doing well, thank you. There will be hiccups along the way, but he has helped a starting rotation that is without A. J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker and Drew Pomeranz. Actually, he’s done more than helped. He’s saved the bacon.

And now Mr. Beane has struck again. The man is fearless. And his timing is usually impeccable. Why wait until the trade deadline to pluck one of the two best starting pitchers from this year’s trading block? And, oh, by the way, why not get another outstanding arm in the same deal? Two starting pitchers were added to the Athletics rotation in one striking, swift and savvy deal. But once again, that’s Billy Beane. He must have ice water in his veins. He traded away one of the most athletic players I have scouted in quite some time. Addison Russell has it all. Size, strength, speed, great hands, quick feet and a wonderful temperament. He has the tools and demeanor of a winner.

Billy Beane lives for the moment to win. He sees the opportunity to win a World Championship this season-not two or three years down the road. Billy Beane buys bananas when they are ripe. He’s not waiting for green to become yellow. Actually, he wanted Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in yellow and green. And he got them. Just where he wants them. I believe they will be one and two in the new Athletics rotation, followed by Sonny Gray, and Scott Kazmir. And then some configuration from among Tommy Milone and Jesse Chavez. And maybe even Brad Mills. That, my friends, is pitching depth.

Oakland now has a chance to get past the Tigers in the postseason. That’s something they haven’t been able to do. In a short series, they will need all the pitching they now have. This trade had “beat the Tigers” written all over it. Who can blame them?

For their part, the Cubs get another fantastic piece to their ever growing prospect puzzle. At some point, at least one of the shortstops from among Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, Addison Russell, or even middle infielder Arismendy Alcantara will have to be moved in a trade for starting pitching or they will have to change positions. But the adage is true-a team can’t have enough good prospects. And man, do they have prospects. Billy McKinney came over in the recent deal with Oakland. He’s a former number one draft choice. And he’s a center fielder. Not to mention guys like Kris Bryant (who I feel is their best overall prospect), Jorge Soler and Albert Almora. They also have starting pitching prospect C J Edwards. And don’t forget that the Cubs got Dan Straily in the deal. He’s got starting pitching experience-but for me, he’s doesn’t have quite the same type upside the Cubs need long term. But if needed, he’s an option.

The winner in this deal? Fans of both the Athletics and the Cubs.

Oakland has shown again that they will do whatever it takes to win. Top prospect Russell? But—unproven at the big league level. Great upside. Great makeup. A physical presence. Jeff Samardzija? A proven, experienced top of the rotation pitcher to get the team through the playoffs and give them a chance to win a World Championship. Now. This year. Not later. Now. And Jason Hammel is right behind him.

The Cubs buy more time to find the right starter. They have a perfect group of chips to throw in the pot when the stars align. Could it be David Price? Why not? Could they hold the prospects and go head first in the pitching market next year? Why not?

And now the rest of the AL West reacts once again to Billy Beane. So must the Tigers react. They need bullpen help.

No tomorrow for the Oakland Athletics. They want their run now. Before opportunity stops knocking at the door. Before their core players get too expensive or lose skill or drop in value. Not tomorrow or next year. Now. The Cubs? Tomorrow may have come a bit sooner. Take another great prospect and turn water into wine. Maybe. We’ll see. The proof will come when the prospects are promoted. But this deal gives them even more hope.

I loved this deal. Just loved it.

Thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. Catch Short Hops weekly on iTunes.

That’s it. I’m done.

 

The David Price Sweepstakes

There is no doubt several clubs would love to add Rays left-handed starter David Price to their rotation. He may be the final piece of the puzzle for a number of teams in contention.

Price is coming off a start in which he just missed a complete game shutout. He gives his team a chance to win every time he steps on the mound. And that’s what several teams need right now-a chance to win.

I have examined every club I feel has a good chance of trading for the year and a half left before Price becomes a free-agency. He would give his new team two good chances to get to the postseason and possibly win a World Series.

There are several factors that come to play when discussion Price. It all comes down to …price. What is the cost to add David Price to a pitching staff? If a team has a chance to win NOW-they have to take that chance. It is very, very difficult to win a championship Just ask the Texas Rangers.

If I am a team looking to deal with the Rays, I have the following condition: I must have several days to try to pound out a contract extension with Price to keep him from going to free-agency. If I can get the extension, I am willing to add a 3rd prospect and perhaps a Major League player (3 to 4 players) for Price.

If I can’t get Price to sign an extension, I am less willing to forfeit more than two prospects to obtain his services for a year and a half. I can not deplete my farm system for less than several years of David Price.

Price is 28. He will be 29 in August. That’s a factor for me. He has thrown 1097 Major League innings on top of the 151 innings he threw in his 3 season Minor League experience. He has some pitches on that left arm.

So here’s what I would do if I’m the Yankees:
I would offer one from among catchers Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy. Each has Major League potential and can stabilize the catching position for years to come. Each is an upgrade to their existing catching corps. Ryan Hanigan would be my backup catcher with one of these three the primary receiver. If I were the Rays I’d choose Murphy. He can really hit. So can Sanchez, but I really like Murphy.
Then I would have to sacrifice Dellin Betances. He has closer potential and could be very attractive to the Rays. Their closer issues would be settled for years to come.
So my deal would be a catcher and Betances. If I had to throw in a third player, it would be pitcher Ivan Nova. But I’d hate to throw in another player for Price. The two guys I’ve offered are top prospects. Nova is more than a journeyman. He can become a 5th starter for the Rays. They would yield a starting catcher, a closer and possibly a starting pitcher for a star quality pitcher they will lose in 2016 anyway unless he signs that extension. Price could provide a championship for the Yankees. And I think he would extend with New York for the right money.

Here’s what I would do if I’m the Cardinals:
I would offer the Rays the outfielders they need to contend. Outfield has been a need for the club for quite some time. I would offer one from among Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, or James Ramsey. The second player I would offer would be a pitcher. I would give them a choice of either right-handed pitcher Carlos Martinez or lefty Marco Gonzales. Both of those are quality pitchers with upside remaining. Each would really be the focal point of the deal, not the outfielder. Each can fit with the Rays sooner than later. If I had to offer a third player, it would be outfielder Peter Bourjos and not the other outfielders or another pitcher. It would be Bourjos. That would be a tremendous package of players for Price. It gives the Rays a much needed injection of fresh players and it provides the Cardinals with the starting pitcher they need while they face injuries to Michael Wacha and Jamie Garcia.

Here’s what I would do If I’m the Astros:
The Astros aren’t in contention, right? Why would they need him? If they could sign David Price to an extension, he could be a piece to the puzzle that helps them complete their organizational makeover. He could be the ace they seek to compliment a great group of up and coming position players. But there would be a steep cost to pay in addition to the extension money. I would offer one from either Mike Foltynewicz, Asher Wojciechowski or Lance McCullers. Each of those are outstanding pitchers and I could understand if the Astros would be reluctant to give any of them up in trade. But Price might be the guy worthy of such a deal. The second player would be outfielder Domingo Santana, an outstanding corner outfield prospect. Those two players would be a terrific duo for Price. If I had to add a third player, I’d let the Rays choose from among outfielders Marc Krauss, Delino DeShields or Robbie Grossman. It would be a great deal for both clubs.

Here’s what I’d do if I were the Cubs:
The Cubs need pitching more that anything. But their chances of landing Price are minimal because they don’t have pitching to offer in return. I would offer these two players for Price-the focal point of the deal would be outfielder Jorge Soler. He has a big future and would play well on the Rays club. The other player in the deal would be Arismendy Alcantara an outstanding prospect that can play either shortstop or second base. He could become a star and isn’t spoken of in the same conversations with Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler or C J Edwards. Alcantara could fill an infield need for the Rays. Especially if they plan on dealing Ben Zobrist. if a third player is needed to complete the deal I would offer either third baseman Christian Villanueva or pitcher Jason Hammel. This deal is not as deep in “can’t miss” prospects, but it gets Price out of the American League and yields two potential stars in Soler and Alcantara with a good third player in the mix.

Here’s what I would offer if I were the Orioles:
If I knew for sure that Dylan Bundy will return to form after Tommy John surgery I might include Kevin Gausman in a deal. But I don’t know that and I need Gausman for the future. Even if I can get Price. If Bundy were healthy, I could give up two very high quality pitchers to get one back. As it is, I am willing to give up huge upside in Eduardo Rodriguez, a lefty with big upside. I would offer either Hunter Harvey or Mike Wright as the other pitcher in the deal. The Rays would be getting two quality starting pitching candidates in Rodriguez and either Harvey or Wright. I am holding on to lefty Tim Berry and Bundy. Especially if I’m dealing Rodriguez. I would not offer a third player in this deal. Two quality pitchers, one of them my best left-handed prospect is enough.

If I were the Marlins I would offer:
The focal point of my deal would be Justin Nicolino. He’s a crafty left-handed starter with a great ability to get sink on his fastball and induce ground balls. I would add pitcher Nick Wittgren to the package as a reliever that could become a closer for the Rays. He’s got a big fastball with the mound presence to take the ball in the 9th inning. I would also add outfielder Jake Marisnick as a third player in the deal. I’d include him right off the bat in a 3-for-1 package of two pitchers and an outfielder. Marisnick has some upside. If a 4th player were needed for me to get David Price, I would reluctantly add Anthony DeSclafani, a right-handed starting pitcher. The Rays would get 3 quality arms and an outfielder. And Price would put the Marlins in position to win the NL East by next season. No-I would not give up Jose Urena or Andrew Heaney. This is a very deep package, but the Marlins have enough organizational depth to withstand the loss of prospects provided they can sign Price to an extension.

There are other teams that covet starting pitching. I don’t think clubs like Texas, Kansas City, the Angels, the Giants or the Indians have enough in their system right now to fetch Price. The Rangers are so depleted they have to hang on to their able bodies and not trade them away for one pitcher. But they may need him for the future more than any other team in baseball. Texas has been torn apart by pitching injuries.

Those are my projected deals for David Price. Each comes with a caution sign: He must be signed to an extension to give up the quality prospects I am proposing.

Thank you for reading my work at MLBPipeline.com and MLB.com and for listening to Short Hops on iTunes. Please follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.

 

Greetings From Chattanooga

I greet you today from Chattanooga, Tennessee, the location of the 2014 Southern League (Double-A) All Star Game. I’m hoping to see some fine prospects while enjoying the Home Run Derby and the game itself. I’ll be commenting about both events starting Monday night and continuing Tuesday @BerniePleskoff on twitter.

Lots of people have asked me who I would have taken in the recently concluded First-Year Player Draft. I have watched lots of video but I haven’t seen any of the players in person. I generally like to watch players live before commenting. However, from the video, my choice would have been Shepherd (Texas) High School flame thrower Tyler Kolek. I don’t think that physicality and that arm strength come around all that often. He’s just a massive guy with the potential to get even bigger and stronger. My second choice would have been Brady Aiken of Cathedral High School in San Diego. There are no “sure things” in any draft. But these two guys look like winners. I just would have reversed the order.

Where do the Cubs go with Jeff Samardzija? Well, Oakland is looking for another starter and they may have the prospects to play. How about the Braves? Would they give up catcher Christian Bethancourt among others? The Yankees? They have a couple of prospect catchers in Gary Sanchez and J R Murphy. Yes, I think the Cubs need a catcher along with a pitcher or two in the deal. I like the Giants to get Samardzija. Why? They always pick up a very good player in late June or July. They have outstanding catcher Andrew Susac waiting in the wings. Would they trade him? If it meant winning another World Series, why not? I have no “inside” information. I’m just sharing my ideas.

Do I think David Price gets traded? Yes, if they move rather quickly. The longer they wait, the lower the value. He can fetch some players to rejuvenate the franchise. If he’s traded now he brings a season and a half of play for his new team. Justin Masterson? I don’t think so. The Indians have a shot at a Wild Card and they would have to get a starting pitcher in return. Not happening IMO.

The Throw. The only other throw I’ve seen that is close to the one Yoenis Cespedes made on the fly from the left field corner to the point of home plate was years ago by Roberto Clemente. But I was much younger then and I was amazed by everything. But Cespedes proved his arm is a treasure to be enjoyed by fans for years to come.

Few teams have fallen from grace as quickly as the Rangers. And lo and behold, they are only 8 games out of first place in the A L West as I write this. But they have three teams to jump over. And we don’t talk about them anymore.

Albert Pujols is hitting .258. Joe Mauer is hitting .261. Evan Longoria is hitting .265. And Giancarlo Stanton is hitting .301. What’s wrong with that mural? The times are indeed, changing.

“Baseball America” has done a study on Tommy John surgeries. One of the conclusions is that drafted college pitchers have greater rates of Tommy John surgeries than drafted high school pitchers. The study was based upon data from Jon Roegele of “The Hardball Times.” 30% of the surgeries were college draftees, 25% high school, and 25% international. 9% were junior college and 9% were non-drafted free agents. The other 2% were signed out of independent leagues.

I hope the Diamondbacks plan on giving Jordan Pacheco some playing time. I do think he has a loud bat-especially at Chase Field. But he has trouble hitting from the bench.

Do the Blue Jays need another starter? Do they have the prospects to land David Price or Jeff Samardzija? It would have to start with Aaron Sanchez and that’s a huge price to pay for a year and a half. I think they’d have to have an extension deal in place before they made that type of move. Sanchez is a fine prospect. Maybe the Rays would require less. I doubt it.

Of all the teams that could have signed Kendrys Morales, the last I had on my list was the Minnesota Twins. Be honest now, they weren’t on your list either.

Are the Indians wise to keep Jason Giambi around once he returns from the disabled list? Does he still have magic in his bat? I’m just askin’.

Giancarlo Stanton, Yasiel Puig, Mike Trout? Your choice? Is Ryan Braun in that conversation? Bryce Harper? Andrew McCutchen?

Dynamic trio-George Springer, Jon Singleton and ultimately Carlos Correa. Yikes! Just think what the Astros may have on their hands with those 3 guys. Then add pitchers like Mike Foltynewicz and Asher Wojciechowski, Mark Appel and Lance McCullers. It might not be fair. And they don’t all have to be stars to elevate the Astros. Just good, solid players. But at least 3 will be stars IMO. Maybe more.

Then there’s the Cubs Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, C J Edwards, Albert Almora, Dan Vogelbach and Arodys Vizcaino, just to name 6. Not to mention one of my favorites in Arismendy Alcantara. Which team soars further? Quicker? I’m really wondering myself. Just think of what’s ahead of us in the next couple years.

Have you watched Gregory Polanco play? How about that outfield of Marte, McCutchen and Polanco. It can be scary good.

I’ll pretty sure I’ll see Kris Bryant tonight in the Southern League Home Run Derby. If not then, he’s on the Southern League North Division team and will be playing in the game.

That’s it for this time. I’m done.

As always, thank you for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and for listening to Short Hops. Please follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. Much appreciated.

 

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