MLB

2014 in review in poetry

Photo courtesy New York Times

Photo courtesy New York Times

 

This is the final entry for Designated For Assignment. Coming January 5, 2015, D4A becomes “On the Warning Track”, dedicated to baseball at all levels.  See you there at http://onthewarningtrack.com.

Our Brandon Karsten gives his year in review a poetic twist. Good night to all and to all a good night.

 

By Brandon Karsten

This year started with the crowning of a national champ in Florida State.

When it came time to select Jameis Winston for the game’s MVP, there was no need to hesitate.

This year’s Super Bowl was quite boring.

Seeing Peyton Manning’s Broncos fail miserably reduced all of us to snoring.

 

The Winter Olympics for this year saw Russia playing host.

After two weeks of competing for medals, Russia came away with the most.

From March to April, we saw UConn march from a seventh seed to champions in the Final Four.

With so many exciting finishes, next year we’ll be back screaming for more.

 

With the beginning of spring came another season of baseball,

And with it came the eager anticipation of who will win in the fall.

Before Spring Training, Derek Jeter said the 2014 season would be his last,

And seeing him get the game winning hit in his last Yankee Stadium at-bat was a blast.

 

Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was caught with something on his neck called pine tar.

And with that stunt he did not go very far.

One pitcher who was dominant this year was Clayton Kershaw.

On his way to the NL Cy Young and MVP, he left all of us in awe.

 

We saw an exciting World Cup in Brazil.

Every minute of soccer action seemed to offer a thrill.

The most talked about incident was Uruguay’s Luis Suarez’s bite,

But Mario Götze’s game-winning goal in the Final showed Germany’s might.

 

In the NBA Finals, the Spurs finally got to the Heat,

Showing the trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can be beat.

It was hard to hear L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling ripping black fans and Magic.

Seeing that racism and prejudice in sports still exists today is quite tragic.

 

LeBron ultimately decided to return home to the Mistake by the Lake,

And we hope to see if a Cleveland title drought will finally break.

In the NHL, the L.A. Kings won Stanley’s Cup with Alec Martinez scoring the game-winner.

In five games, the New York Rangers were done like a TV dinner.

 

The NFL had a PR crisis with Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé Janay.

Rice and Adrian Peterson showed when it came to domestic violence, the NFL was in disarray.

Rest in peace Ralph Wilson, Don Zimmer and Kevin Ward, Jr. and others who died in 2014.

But we can’t forget Tony Gwynn, one of the best sluggers baseball has seen.

 

The person we’ll miss the most is Robin Williams, Giants fan and king of funny.

His wit and humor seemed to turn even the gloomiest of days bright and sunny.

With him gone, in our lives he has left a big gaping hole.

I think what we will miss is what he put into every one of his movies: Soul.

 

Robin would be happy to know that the Giants won the World Series, their third in five years.

But the story was the red-hot Royals who brought K.C. fans a lot of joy and cheers.

Those Royals ran into a pitcher by the nickname of MadBum.

After seeing Madison Bumgarner pitch in the Fall Classic, he left all of us feeling numb.

 

This year for Michigan football was a complete joke.

AD Dave Brandon resigned and the next guy looking for a job was coach Brady Hoke.

With 2015 upcoming, something new called a college football playoff will begin.

Right now it’s hard to predict who will win.

 

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton signed the biggest contract extension in sports history.

Whether that will help the Marlins make the playoffs in 2015 is only a mystery.

Let’s rejoice in the reason for the season: God sending His son to show us the light.

I say Merry Christmas to you all and to all a good night.

 

Brandon Karsten is a contributor to Designated Four Assignment. He can be found on Facebook or reached through bkarsten2009@hotmail.com.

White Sox Get Melk, Headley Re-Ups With Yankees

The Melkman is back delivering across the border.

The Melkman is back delivering across the border.

The latest free agents are comprised of a player moving on to his sixth team in seven years and one that is staying where he was two-month rental. The Chicago White Sox have been busy this offseason and they continued their re-tooling over the weekend with the free agent signing of outfielder Melky Cabrera. Meanwhile, the New York Yankees agreed, on Monday, with Chase Headley to keep the free agent third baseman for the next four years (at a cost of $52MM).

Cabrera, who played four full seasons with the Yankees, then spent one season in Atlanta, one in Kansas City, one in San Francisco, and two years in Toronto. He’ll replace the lackluster bat of Dayan Viciedo in left field and join newcomers Jeff Samardzija and former Yankees teammate David Robertson on the list of big time acquisitions by GM Kenny Williams.

The Melkman was suspended for 50 games in the second half of the 2012 season due to his involvement in the Biogenesis Clinic scandal. The Giants could have brought him back for the playoffs, but chose not to. With the suspension impacting a new deal, Cabrera signed a two-year, $16MM contract with the Blue Jays prior to the 2013 season. 2014 saw him produce the second best home run (16) and RBI (73) totals of his career.

Cabrera had his best season to date when the Yankees won the 2009 World Series, but he was sent with pitchers Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino to Atlanta for pitchers Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan. The deal was a disaster for both teams. Cabrera produced a .671 OPS with 4 HR and 42 RBI with the Braves. A year later he was a new man, and maybe Biogenesis was the reason.

The then-26-year old put up career numbers in batting average (.305), HR (18), RBI (87), hits (201), and stolen bases (20). With free agency to come after the 2011 season, the Royals dealt Cabrera to San Francisco for pitcher Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo.

Headley played his first six-plus seasons with the San Diego Padres until the 2014 trade deadline came around. The Yankees, who had been interested in Headley since his 2012 MVP-like season. (31 HR 115 RBI, .875 OPS, 17 stolen bases) Headley had never approached those caliber numbers before 2012 and has not after. The price to obtain the third baseman was much lower than during or initially after his magical season. The Yankees were able to acquire Headley for rookie infielder Yangervis Solarte and pitcher Rafael De Paula.

While the Yankees’ defense on the left side of the infield has improved drastically with Headley and the two-headed platoon at shortstop with Brendan Ryan and Didi Gregorius, the production of the lineup has not. In fact, it’s gone in the opposite direction.

The move has produced some head scratching, particularly the length of the contract.  A four-year deal based on a very good September after a terrible August. Two months in pinstripes, one good, one bad. It also shows that Headley most likely did not have a four-year, $65MM offer from another team.

The Yankees starting nine hitters, for now, are

1B Mark Teixeira
2B Martin Prado
SS Brendan Ryan/Didi Gregorius
3B Chase Headley
LF Brett Gardner
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
RF Carlos Beltran
C Brian McCann
DH Alex Rodriguez

Not exactly intimidating.

Twins Sign E. Santana, Royals Ink Morales

esantana

Ervin Santana joined his 4th team in 4 years.

 

One former Royal is going to Minnesota and one former Twin is going to Kansas City. Starting pitcher Ervin Santana and 1st Baseman/DH Kendrys Morales have found new teams for the 2015 season.

Santana is coming off a one-year, $14.1MM deal he signed with the Atlanta Braves last March after injuries had depleted the Braves starting rotation. Santana, who turns 32 on Friday, won 14 games in 31 starts. Except for a rough patch in May, Santana kept the Braves in most of the games he started and was 3-0, 1.95 in four April starts. The Twins rewarded him with a four-year deal worth about $55MM. While the average is less than the pay he got from Atlanta, he gets the long term deal he sought prior to last season. This is Santana’s fourth team in four years.

Morales was just starting to become a star in the league when he broke his leg celebrating a game winning grand slam home run for the Los Angeles Angels in 2010. He missed the rest of the season (111 games) and all of the 2011 season as a result.

He hit well in his return in 2012 (.787 OPS, 22 HR 73 RBI in 134 games), but the Halos dealt him to Seattle in December for pitcher Jason Vargas. He was a player without a team in 2014 until early June when the Twins signed him to a deal for the remainder of the season. At the deadline, he was sent back to Seattle for pitcher Stephen Pryor.

Morales’ deal with the Royals is for two years and $17MM. The 31-year old will replace Billy Butler at DH and occasionally spell Eric Hosmer at first base.

Kemp, Cespedes, Porcello on the Move In Wild Wild West Meetings

kemp-gordon

The Dee Gordon – Matt Kemp victory celebration is a thing of the past.

 

Ron Burgundy would be going crazy right now if he were in “Sahn De-ago”.  After a bunch of minor moves and a couple of big ones, there was a flurry of active Wednesday night and Thursday morning. The team that was the busiest was the Los Angeles Dodgers, which dealt star outfielder Matt Kemp, young second baseman Dee Gordon, and veteran Dan Haren (who may retire instead).

Kemp, the runner up to the 2011 NL MVP/Prize Winning Cheater Ryan Braun was sent to the San Diego Padres along with catcher Tim Federowicz for catcher Yasmani Grandal, pitcher Joe Weiland, and prospect Zach Eflin. The Dodgers will also include $32MM to cover part of the $107MM still owed to Kemp.

The 30-year old had an explosive season in 2011, when he led the league in home runs (39), RBI (126), total bases (353) and runs scored (115). He also won his second Gold Glove Award and second of three Silver Slugger Awards. Injuries derailed Kemp’s career in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, but he bounced back nicely last season. After  a slow start, Kemp put up pretty good numbers – 25 HR, 89 RBI, and a .506 Slugging Pct.

Grandal is a 26-year old former first round draft choice (12th overall picky by Cincinnati in 2010), who has 216 games of Major League experience. He topped 100 games played (128) for the first time this past season and produced 15 HR and 49 RBI to go along with a .728 OPS. The Padres acquired him in December, 2011 as part of a four player package from San Diego in return for pitcher Mat Latos.

Plain and simple, this was a salary dump by the Dodgers.

The Dodgers also acquired shortstop Jimmy Rollins from the Philadelphia Phillies for Eflin and Tom Windle. The Dodgers sent second baseman Dee Gordon, who stole 64 bases last year, pitcher Dan Haren, infielder Miguel Rojas and a player to be named later/cash to the Miami Marlins for prospect Andrew Heaney, 1st baseman Enrique Hernanedz, catcher/infielder Austin Barnes, and pitcher Chris Hatcher.

The Dodgers also did business with their SoCal rivals, the Los Angeles Angeles, acquiring Gordon’s replacement, Howie Kendrick, for Heaney. The nine-year veteran can be expected to hit in the .290s with some power and about 14 steals (he stole 14 bases in four of the last five seasons). Heaney was the 9th overall pick by the Marlins in the 2009 draft and made his Major League debut last season with five starts and two relief appearances. The results were not good, but the left-hander pitched very well in a minor league season split between Double- and Triple-A.

Yoenis Cespedes was used by Oakland at July’s trade deadline to land Boston ace Jon Lester. Now the Red Sox have used Cespedes as part of a package to acquire right-hander Rick Porcello from the Detroit Tigers. Pitchers Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier are headed to Detroit with Cespedes for the New Jersey native who had a breakout 2014 season.

The 27th overall pick in the 2007 draft, Porcello topped 200 innings for the first time, won 15 games, and had a career best 3.43 ERA. Cespedes drove in 22 runs in his first 24 games with Boston, but slumped over the last month of the season.

Detroit then went out and got Porcell’s replacement, sending shortstop Eugenio Suarez and pitcher Jonathan Crawford to the Reds for pitcher Alfredo Simon. Used as a reliever in five of his six previous seasons, Simon was a full-time starter for the Reds this past season and made his first All-Star team. The 33-year old neared 200 innings pitched, won 15 games, and put together a respectable 3.44 ERA and 1.207 WHIP. Suarez could have a shot at the starting shortstop job, with incumbent Zack Cozart coming off a sub.-600 OPS season.

Signed: Lester Goes To The Cubs

lesterbye

Jon Lester says good-bye to Boston.

 

All along the thought here was that Jon Lester would return to the Boston Red Sox, the team he played for eight-plus seasons until a 2014 deadline deal to the Oakland A’s. But the free agent lefty instead opted for a reported six-year, $155MM deal with the Chicago Cubs.

The deal, which was agreed upon late Tuesday night, includes a vesting option for a seventh season that would bring the total worth of the deal to $170MM. According to ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Estes, the Red Sox top offer was six years for $135MM with no vesting option included.

Lester, who doesn’t turn 31 until January, was 16-11, 2.46 in 32 starts (21 with Boston) between the Red Sox and A’s last season. The pending free agent was dealt with outfielder Jonny Gomes to the A’s on July 31 for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and a draft slot. Cespedes has been the subject of trade rumors, which now may pick up with the increased need for a front of the rotation starting pitcher.

The Red Sox reportedly made a one-year offer to bring back another former pitcher, Justin Masterson, but the righty struggled last year with Cleveland and St. Louis. You can expect renewed talks with the Philadelphia Phillies for Cole Hamels.

New Cubs manager Joe Maddon was more than happy to have an old AL East nemesis on his team.

“It’s not often you get to win the lottery,” he said. “We won the baseball lottery so far this year, but now it’s up to us to put it into effect. It’s all theory right now. We’ve got to make it real, but you need pieces like this to make it real.”

“He’s been [to the World Series] before. He understands what it feels like. I want to believe that he could foresee the same thing happening here,” Maddon said.

“Yeah. It definitely sends that message about how [Cubs president Theo Epstein] and the group feels about this particular group, but understand we have a lot of young players that have to grow up, and we have to do a good job of nurturing that and making it happen,” Maddon said. “It’s possible, but having Jon there definitely adds to the flavor and the believability.”1

Baseball free agency…expect the unexpected.

1 – espn.com

Lester Moves On to Chicago and Delivers Retort

lesterbye

All along the thought here was that Jon Lester would return to the Boston Red Sox, the team he played for eight-plus seasons until a 2014 deadline deal to the Oakland A’s. But the free agent lefty instead opted for a reported six-year, $155MM deal with the Chicago Cubs.

The deal, which was agreed upon late Tuesday night, includes a vesting option for a seventh season that would bring the total worth of the deal to $170MM. According to ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Estes, the Red Sox top offer was six years for $135MM with no vesting option included.

Lester, who doesn’t turn 31 until January, was 16-11, 2.46 in 32 starts (21 with Boston) between the Red Sox and A’s last season. The pending free agent was dealt with outfielder Jonny Gomes to the A’s on July 31 for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and a draft slot. Cespedes has been the subject of trade rumors, which now may pick up with the increased need for a front of the rotation starting pitcher.

The Red Sox reportedly made a one-year offer to bring back another former pitcher, Justin Masterson, but the righty struggled last year with Cleveland and St. Louis. You can expect renewed talks with the Philadelphia Phillies for Cole Hamels.

New Cubs manager Joe Maddon was more than happy to have an old AL East nemesis on his team.

“It’s not often you get to win the lottery,” he said. “We won the baseball lottery so far this year, but now it’s up to us to put it into effect. It’s all theory right now. We’ve got to make it real, but you need pieces like this to make it real.”

“He’s been [to the World Series] before. He understands what it feels like. I want to believe that he could foresee the same thing happening here,” Maddon said.

“Yeah. It definitely sends that message about how [Cubs president Theo Epstein] and the group feels about this particular group, but understand we have a lot of young players that have to grow up, and we have to do a good job of nurturing that and making it happen,” Maddon said. “It’s possible, but having Jon there definitely adds to the flavor and the believability.”1

Baseball free agency…expect the unexpected.

UPDATE

What’s not unexpected is the reaction by some Red Sox fans to Lester’s departure. Lester took to Twitter to thank the fans and then delivered a witty response to one cranky New Englander.

lestertwitter

1 – espn.com

Cashman and Dombrowski Set The Record Straight on Robertson and Scherzer

drob

The Yankees never intended to resign David Robertson once they signed Andrew Miller.

 

New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski met with the media at the Winter meetings in San Diego Tuesday afternoon and had something interesting things to say.

Cashman admitted that once the Yankees signed Andrew Miller (four years, $36MM), they had no intention of resigning closer David Robertson, preferring a 2015 draft pick instead. The Yankees never made an official offer to Robertson, who signed a four-year, $46MM deal with the Chicago White Sox. Miller and Dellin Betances will each get a shot to close in the coming season, with manager Joe Girardi using them situationally.

There’s been some speculation that 2014 2nd round pick (from Mississippi St.) Jacob Lindgren could be in the mix, but although he struck out 48 batters in 25 innings, he also walked 13. Lindgren will likely start the season at Double-A Trenton, the highest of the four levels he pitched (and struggled) at this past season, or advanced ‘A’ Tampa.

Dombrowski addressed a statement attributed to the Tigers earlier on Tuesday concerning their free agent starter Max Scherzer. ESPN’s Buster Olney had reported that Scherzer remained a top priority for the Tigers and that they were willing to spend the money necessary to keep him.

Earlier this year, Scherzer had turned down the Tigers six-year offer worth $144MM. This time it was Dombrowski’s turn to do the rejecting.

“I don’t know where he (Olney) got that from,” Dombrowski said. “That’s not accurate. I’m not sure where it comes from, how it comes. I know it didn’t come from this room, but that’s not accurate.”

“The other thing I’ll say is I hope Mr. I (owner Mike Ilitch) didn’t see that,” Dombrowski said, “because he’d be saying, ‘Well, where did that come from?’1

Dombrowski went on to add that starting pitching “was not a priority” and no talks had taken place between the two sides.

 

1 – mlive.com

Lester, Kemp, Melky, Cespedes and Other Rumors and Factoids

kemp

With the winter meetings commencing in San Diego Monday, there should be a handful of big named players that are dealt, signed, or talked about in the coming days.

Jon Lester and Matt Kemp are the two biggest names that are constantly creating a buzz on the line. It’s clear that Lester will set the bar for free agent pitching with his signing almost certainly to come before that of fellow free agent pitchers Max Scherzer and James Shields.

UPDATE – ESPN’s Buster Olney has reported that a decision by Lester is expected between Monday night and some time on Tuesday.

The only reported contract that has been offered to the left-hander is a six-year, $138MM deal that the Chicago Cubs have served up. On Saturday, Red Sox owner John Henry flew to Atlanta to meet with his former star to see if a deal can be struck to bring Lester back to Boston. You can be sure Henry flat out asked what will it take, and will certainly be looking for a hometown discount. Especially after the boatload of money given to free agents Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.

The Red Sox rotation for 2015 is, at the moment, Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Rubby De La Rosa, Alan Webster, and either Anthony Ranaudo or Brandon Workman. Even if Lester returns to the Red Sox, whom he played parts of nine seasons for until his trade to Oakland at the July deadline, the Red Sox will be looking to acquire another proven starter before Spring Training.

In dealing John Lackey and Lester, the Red Sox received outfielder/1st baseman Allen Craig and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.  Boston appears to be willing to move one or both to strengthen their starting pitching. Rumors flew on Sunday that the Red Sox and San Diego Padres were discussing a Cespedes for Ian Kennedy deal.

Kennedy bounced back from a rough 2013 season with 201 innings pitched, a WHIP under 1.3 and a 3.63 ERA in 2014. He finished 13-13 to remain 13 games over .500 in his career. Cespedes started hitting like a house afire when he joined the Red Sox (22 RBI in 24 games), but ended up with a .719 OPS in 51 games after a weak September.

The Los Angeles Dodgers continue to look for a new home for outfielder Matt Kemp. Bob Dutton of the Tacoma New Tribune reported Saturday that Dodgers and Seattle Mariners were close to a deal, but the Dodgers insisted that one of Seattle’s top pitching prospects – Taijuan Walker or James Paxton – be included in the deal. Seattle responded with a big “NO” to that.

According to FoxSports’ Jon Morosi, the Texas Rangers have now joined Seattle, Baltimore, and San Diego in pursuit of Kemp. Bob Nightengale of USA Today believe the Padres are the likely landing spot for the veteran outfielder.

Kemp isn’t the only Dodger being shopped. LA spoke to the Arizona Diamondbacks about a swap that would sent first baseman Andre Ethier to the desert for catcher Miguel Montero.  A potential deal was negated by Arizona ownership, per FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal. Trading within the division is always a tricky thing and it’s understandable that front offices get nervous about a player coming back to haunt them 15-20 times a year.

The market for Melky Cabrera is beginning to heat up. The Mariners are reportedly very interested in a Melky – Robinson Cano reunion. The contract could be similar to the four-year deal the M’s gave Nelson Cruz. The San Francisco Giants, who the Melkman played for in 2012, are also showing interest. Cabrera missed the last 50 games of the regular season due to his Biogenesis suspension and the Giants decided against bringing him back for the playoffs.

Pitcher Jason Hammel appears headed back to the Chicago Cubs, per the NY Post’s Joel Sherman. Hammel was dealt by the Cubs to Oakland at the deadline last season and subsequently bombed.

ESPN’s Adam Rubin reported that the New York Mets, very much in need of a shortstop, have talked to the Mariners about Chris Taylor and Brad Miller. Wilmer Flores is the Mets shortstop in the meantime.

Rosenthal’s sources say the Milwaukee Brewers are open to dealing outfielder Gerardo Parra. The 27-year old was sent from Arizona to Milwaukee for a pair of minor leaguers at this past season’s trade deadline.

Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun has the Blue Jays talking to the KC Royals about closer Greg Holland. The Royals need to replenish their starting pitching with the likely departure of free agent James Shields. The Royals have a number of hard throwing relievers, with Kelvin Herrera as the favorite to replace Holland if he’s dealt. The price for Holland would be steep after the 29-year old saved 93 games and blew just five opportunities over the last two seasons.

Traded: Yankees Go From DJ to DIDI

didi

The last time the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, and Arizona Diamondbacks pulled off a three-team trade (2009) the players involved included Max Scherzer, Curtis Granderson, Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, Daniel Schlereth, Ian Kennedy, and Edwin Jackson. The names weren’t as sexy this time around when the three teams agreed to a deal earlier Friday.

The Yankees, looking for a shortstop to replace their future Hall-of-Fame inductee, Derek Jeter, picked up the underwhelming Didi Gregorious from the Diamondbacks. The Tigers received gritty starter Shane Greene from the Yankees and the Diamonbacks got pitcher Robbie Ray and infielder Domingo Leyba.

This one is a head scratcher for fans of both the Yankees and the Tigers. The Diamondbacks clearly did not believe that Greene was worth taking straight up  for Gregorious. The Tigers felt Greene was worth sending two players to the Diamondbacks. And the Yankees already have a good glove, can’t hit shortstop in Brendan Ryan. (UPDATE – Cashman was on WFAN and said that Gregorius, who struggles against left-handers, will platoon with Ryan.)

Replacing Jeter is an unenviable task for anyone, but should Yankees GM Brian Cashman get someone who is better suited to play every day (or platoon)? Gregorius was signed as teenager by the Cincinnati Reds in 2007. Nearly a year ago today, he was part of another three team deal, one that involved the Cleveland Indians and the Diamondbacks.

Arizona sent pitchers Trevor Bauer, Bryan Shaw, and Matt Albers to Cleveland, who also received utility man Drew Stubbs from Cincy. The Reds also sent Gregorious to the desert with Cleveland sending 1B/OF Lars Anderson and reliever Tony Sipp to the same destination. The Indians sent of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and infielder Jason Donald to the Reds.

Gregorious got an eight-game call up for the Reds in 2012, but played 103 games in his rookie season the following year with the Diamondbacks. His numbers were decent for a light hitting newbie – a .252/.332/.373 slash line – however, his sophomore year went in the wrong direction. The 24-year old put up a .226/.290/.363 line in 80 games.

Prior to the 2013 season, Baseball America had Gregorious as their 80th best prospect out of their top 100 and MLB.com had him rated at number 63. The ranking were based on the 2012 minor league season that Gregorious split between Double-A (81 games) and Triple-A (48 games). The native of the Netherlands had a combined .717 OPS with 7 HR and 54 RBI in 129 games. He slugged .393 by adding 21 doubles and 11 triples.

The shortstop, who has also played some second base, has worked hard on his defense. He committed 32 errors in the minors in 2010, but had 13 for the Diamonbacks in 2013, and six last year. The Yankees are taking a low risk here in what they gave up, but are taking a big gamble on Gregorius showing an improved bat for a team desparately in need of run production. For now, Gregorius seems like the next Bubba Crosby.

Greene was a pleasant surprise as 25-year old rookie that was forced into the rotation due to injuries to CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova, and Michael Pineda. The Yankees had selected Greene in the 9th round of the 2009 MLB Amateur draft out of Daytona Beach (FL) Community College.

Greene won four of his first five decisions, tossing 7.1 shutout innings against the Baltimore Orioles, and eight scoreless frames against the Tigers. He beat the Tigers a second time three weeks later after he allowed two earned runs in seven innings. Perhaps his shaky five starts in September convinced the Yankees to deal Greene while there was still a market for him. Apparently those two wins over Detroit convinced the Tigers he was worth it.

Greene finished the season 5-4, 3.78 with 9.3 Ks per nine innings and eight home runs allowed in 78.2 innings pitched.  With the uncertainty of the health of the starting rotation, Yankees fans better hope Cashman is swinging a deal for a pitcher or signing one of the big time free agents.

The acquisition of Ray by the Diamondbacks is an interesting one. The 23-year old is still somewhat of an unknown commodity. He made six starts and three relief appearances for the Tigers this past season and was roughed up, though he was impressive in his first two starts (11.1 IP, 1 ER 7 K). The 6’2″ left-hander was selected by the Washington Nationals in the 12th round of the 2010 draft and was traded to Detroit last December as part of a package to get Doug Fister.

Ray averaged better than 10 Ks per nine innings in a 2013 season that was split between Advanced A’ Potomac (Carolina League) and Double-A Harrisburg (Eastern League). Perhaps it was the trip to the Majors, but Ray wasn’t as effective last season at either Triple-A Toledo or with Detroit.

Leyba just turned 19 in September and had an impressive 30 games (.914 OPS) stint for Western Michigan in the Midwest League, after a rough 37 games in the New York-Penn League.

Rumors Flying As Winter Meetings Approach

Headley

You would be fired up too if someone offered you more than $16MM a year.

Baseball’s Winter meetings will convene in San Diego this weekend…SoCal in December vs Northeast in December…sigh…’nuff said. A number of rumors concerning free agents and possible trades have been floated out there as the weekend approaches.

The latest is a reported (by Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan) four-year, $65MM offer for free agent third baseman Chase Headley. No matter how much the owners complain, they still make ridiculous offers and this is certainly one. Headley, who has a fabulous glove, has not been productive at the plate since his one huge year that made baseball stand up and take notice.

Maybe it was fear that the Mayans would be right, but Headley hit in 2012 like his life depended on it. The Padres third baseman hit 31 home runs, had 115 RBI, and an .875 OPS. Numbers that Headley has not approached before or after 2012. Prior to his trade to the Yankees at this past season’s deadline, Headley had a .651 OPS in 77 games with San Diego. In 58 games for the Bronx Bombers, Headley had a respectable .768 OPS, but he was a non-factor in August before a hot streak in September gave him decent numbers, in a small sample (58 games), in pinstripes.

The Yankees made the mistake of giving Ichiro Suzuki a two year deal after one hot month in 2012. While Headley is much younger than the Ichiro, he has nowhere near the Hall of Fame career the Yankees gambled on when they gave Ichiro a new contract prior to the 2013 season. Headley seems like a good guy and flashes the leather with the best of them, but I would not be happy if that four-year, $65M deal was offered by a team I was a fan of.

Lester nearing a decision?

CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam reported on Wednesday that free agent pitcher Jon Lester was “likely” to make a decision on his future by the end of the week. Why McAdam felt that way remains to be seen – is this from a source or sources, or a hunch? – but there are reportedly four teams in on the bidding.

FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal stated Wednesday evening that the Los Angeles Dodgers were making a late, hard push for Lester’s services. The Chicago Cubs had reportedly made Lester a six-year, $138MM offer on Tuesday. The Boston Red Sox, who Lester played for in parts of nine seasons before his deadline deal to Oakland, and the San Francisco Giants are the other two teams trying to sign the lefty. (It’s still a mystery how the New York Yankees have not been involved since a relatively young left-handed pitcher is always a need in the Bronx.)

Speaking of the A’s, they are reportedly shopping Brandon Moss, who had offseason hip surgery. Moss, once touted as a prospect, floundered in the Major Leagues until he arrived in Oakland. He had 21 HR and 52 RBI in a little more than half a season in 2012 and followed that up with 30-87 and 25-81 the last two seasons as a first baseman and outfielder. He was selected to his first All-Star team in 2014.

In his second year of arbitration eligibility Moss would get a bump from the $4.1MM he earned last season. The kind of money that does not fits into GM Billy Beane’s budget.

Jays and Mariners Swap Players

The deal that took place Wednesday night between the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners flew under the radar, but could have a fairly significant impact on both teams. Seattle sent outfielder Michael Saunders to Toronto for left-handed starter J.A. Happ.

Saunders missed 1-1/2 months of baseball due to a strained oblique, which was unfortunate since he was arguably having his best season in the Majors. He finished with a career-best .791 OPS and had 8 HR and 34 RBI in 78 games. With Jose Bautista entrenched in right field, Saunders will slide over to left field to replace Melky Cabrera. GM Alex Anthopoulos made the move knowing that the Melkman preferred not to return to Toronto.

It’s the third time that Happ has been traded, with his value diminished in each deal. He was part of a package that the Philadelphia Phillies sent to the Houston Astros for Roy Oswalt at the 2010 trade deadline. He was part of a deadline deal again two years later, when Houston sent him, and pitchers Brandon Lyon and Dan Carpenter to Toronto for outfielder Ben Francisco, reliever Francisco Cordero, and five minor leaguers.

Happ made 26 starts and four relief appearances for the Blue Jays last season and finished with an 11-11, 4.22 record. He struck out 7.6 batters per nine innings, which was down nearly 1.5 strikeouts since 2012. Happ made just 18 starts in 2013 after being struck in the head by a comebacker off the bat of Tampa’s Desmond Jennings.

So if Happ is to start, who does he replace? Seattle’s rotation, prior to the deal, consisted of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, and Roenis Elias. Paxton was limited to 17 starts – 13 with the Mariners, four in the minors – after undergoing left shoulder surgery in October, 2013, but he’s still highly thought of. There have been rumors that Seattle was shopping Iwakuma, but GM Jack Zduriencik flatly denied that was the case.

Taijuan Walker was the 43rd overall pick in the 2010 draft and is one of the top prospects in baseball. That leaves Elias, who was a surprise rookie success in 2014. In 29 starts, the Cuban-born right-hander struck out 7.6 hitters per nine innings pitched, gave up less than a hit per inning and put together a respectable 3.85 ERA. He finished 10-12 three years after the Mariners signed him as a free agent.