San Francisco Giants

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.

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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.

Signing: Kung Fu Panda Headed to Boston

Pablo-Sandoval[1]

Pablo Sandoval and the Giants were number one, three times.

On the heels of the rumored Hanley Ramirez signing by Boston, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman is reporting that the Red Sox have signed third baseman Pablo Sandoval to a five year, $100MM contract.

The Red Sox went from World Series winners in 2013 to last place in the AL East this past Summer. One of the biggest concerns was team defense, something the Red Sox have prided themselves on over the years. With shortstop Xander Bogaerts and third baseman Will Middlebrooks struggling on defense and offense, GM Ben Cherington has made a big splash by replacing the left side of his infield.

Sandoval had been rumored for over a week to be headed to Boston and it appears to now be true. The San Francisco Giants were thought to still be in the race to resign him, but with concerns about his conditioning and diluted offense, they had decided they wouldn’t overpay Sandoval just to keep him.

The Red Sox are taking a gamble for sure – while his defense has been excellent – the big guy’s offense does not merit a $20MM per year contract. (The Red Sox have definitely followed the Yankees’ Jacoby Ellsbury signing model – overpay to blow away the competition.) Over the last three regular seasons, Sandoval’s OPS has been .789, .758, and .739. His slugging pct. went from .447 in 2012 to .415 this past season. He will be a decent addition for getting on base – he hit around .280 with 40 walks the last three years – but as a left-handed hitter he’ll need to adjust to Fenway Park.

The 28-year old was signed by the Giants in 2003 and made his debut five years later. He was on all three Giants’ World Series championships in the last five seasons. He’s 20-44 (.455) in the last two World Series combined with 3 HR and 8 RBI in 11 games.

The two signings by Boston could mean they won’t be able to bring back their ace Jon Lester. The left-hander was dealt to Oakland at the trade deadline this past season. Boston is more likely to turn to a less expensive alternative such as James Shields or Ervin Santana to help fill out their starting rotation.

While Middlebrooks does not have much trade value, Boston will likely deal Bogaerts to add some pitching.

A Chat With Indians Great Kenny Lofton

Kenny Lofton showing off some of the skills that earned him four Gold Glove Awards.

Kenny Lofton showing off some of the skills that earned him four Gold Glove Awards.

Kenny Lofton enjoyed a successful 17-year Major League career with 11 different organizations. Of course, he is best known as a member of the Cleveland Indians, a team he spent parts of 10 seasons with on four different occasions (1992-1995, 1996, 1998-2001, 2007). His speed and grace helped earn him four Gold Glove Awards and the .299 career hitter was a member of six All-Star teams.

Our Jim Monaghan recently sat down with Lofton to talk about his career in baseball, the World Series, and life after baseball in the film industry.

JM: Just a terrific Major League baseball career that you had Kenny. 17 seasons in the Major Leagues; in the postseason 11 times; in the World Series twice; an Indians Hall of Famer. You had quite the career.

KL: Yeah, it was fun. I had a great time. I mean I enjoyed every minute and the experiences I had with different teams that I played for. And my 2 greatest moments were the World Series (’95 w/Indians, ’02 w/Giants) I played in. They were pretty fun.

JM: The team I associate you most with, of the 11 you played with, is of course the Cleveland Indians. And you played with them for one good chunk of time and then came back with them a few other times. The KC Royals this year, Kenny, remind me an awful lot of that Cleveland Indians team in 1990s. That team you played on, the Indians team, you played on in the 1990s. That Indians team you played on was just so much fun to watch. And the Royals team really recaptured that spirit for me in this postseason. Guys like Lorenzo Cain and Nori Aoki.

KL: Well you know I think we had a combination of pretty much everything. We had speed, defense, we had power…we had it all. We didn’t have the best starters in the world, but we had a team that was very steady, you know we got the job done. We all worked together, and had a great bullpen. We had an all-around great team, but I think our speed and defense stood out and that’s what’s going on with Kansas City. Their speed and defense is standing out right now. When you get in the playoffs, you get on a roll and that’s what Kansas City has done, has gotten on a roll and they have not stopped.

JM: Yeah, sometimes it’s not the best team that wins (the World Series), it’s the team that’s the hottest. And that may be what this San Francisco team is walking into, because this Kansas City Royals team has been incredible.

KL: Oh yeah, they’re (the Giants) in trouble. They (the Royals) have this attitude. They’re very confident in what they’re doing, and what it means for them to play defense and when they get on base they use their speed. There’s no team in baseball that SF has faced this year like this. There’s going to be a rude awakening for them once the process all starts.

JM: Safe to say Kenny that you’re picking Kansas City in this World Series?

KL: I like Kansas City because of that reason. That was my style of play. They’re doing what I liked to do. And baseball had gotten away from all of that because of the steroids and all that. But baseball is back to the way it’s supposed to be. Fun, speed, defense…so you know that’s the reason I’m liking them, because they play my style of game.

JM: You played with a very controversial player in your career, Albert Belle. I actually know somebody who roomed with Albert when he was coming up in the Cleveland system early in his career. He said that Belle was completely misunderstood. Do you think that’s going to keep Albert out of the Hall of Fame?

KL: With the Hall of Fame you don’t know how it’s going to…how they go about the process with the Hall of Fame, because it’s very tricky in who they want in and who they don’t want in. So, I don’t know, I think you know what, your on-field numbers should show up and your “off-field” numbers are in a separate category. Just like Pete Rose. Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame

His numbers on the field is what depicts what goes on. What you do a little bit off the field should kind of weigh a little bit, but his numbers are above and beyond anybody I have ever seen ever. So if you’re going to look at it, Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. But I don’t think, again, with Albert, you can’t look at how someone’s attitude, or what it’s like. Look at Eddie Murray. People complained about Eddie Murray, and he was a first ballot Hall of Famer. So it’s about the numbers. It’s about what you put up in the game. So that’s what the people should look at, not all that other stuff.

JM: You just mentioned about a team getting hot at the right time. We’re at the 10-year anniversary of that 2004 Red Sox team that came back from three games down against the Yankees. You were on that Yankees team. As you were watched those four games unfold after that 19-8 clobbering, what was going through your mind and the mind of your teammates at that point? Could you really believing what was happening as that Red Sox team got hot?

KL: Well I was on the bench. So I felt like I was a guy that should have been on the field and wasn’t. So I was sitting on the bench and it was tough to where I know what it’s like to play in those situations and I felt I should be in the game and I wasn’t.

But you could saw it coming and unfolding, and nothing. And the tough part about the whole thing, I was upset, because there was nothing I could do about it. I wasn’t in the game. That’s what kind of made me feel like I know what I can do and what I could bring to the table. Just watching it unfold and you got your hands are tied and couldn’t do anything about it. Actually, it was a sad feeling for me to sit there and watch it.

JM: Kenny, last week I spoke with Dean Cain (TV’s Lois and Clark) last week about this new movie he’s working on, “My Last Christmas”. There’s an indie funding project that’s tied in with it. What’s your role with this film, with Dean?

KL: I’m good friends with Dean. I brought the project to him from a guy who works with me. I’ve got a company called, “Film Pool” that I’ve had since 2004. The guy that works with me brought the project and said, what do you think of the project? I liked it and took it to Dean and a few other people. It’s a project that I’m very passionate about. You go to indiegogo.com/mylastchristmas and it was a film about a form of a cancer, Myelodysplastic Syndrome  (MDS), that a lot of people don’t know about. It’s very rare and if you’re multi-racial there’s a good chance you could come up with this cancer.

We hooked up with a company called “Project Race”. They’re a company that goes out and tries to get people to register for bone marrow (to donate.) Because you need this type of bone marrow… you’ll need to find a match. We felt very strongly about it. I talked to Dean he was very passionate about it and he liked it, because family members and friends he knows as well, besides me, that are multi-racial. If something was ever to happen and you can’t find that match you’ll feel very sad. When you have that opportunity to go out there and make awareness to this form of cancer and that’s what this film is all about.

JM: And your college degree was actually in film studio production, right, at University of Arizona? And what is the website again for the film.

KL: Yes it was and I had an opportunity to start up my company in 2004 and this is where I am right now. The website is My Last Christmas and you can also go check it out on Twitter.

JM: Best of luck to you and Dean on this film. Thanks Kenny, and continued success to you.

KL: All right, thanks a lot!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Jim Monaghan can be heard Monday through Friday mornings on the WDHA Morning Jolt from 6-10AM & Sundays from 7-10AM with “All Mixed Up.” He’s also an instructor at Professional Baseball Instruction in Upper Saddle River. Follow him on twitter – @Monaghan21.

Ishikawa’s Blast Solidified Bochy’s Hall Of Fame Entry

Champagne showers or not, Bruce Brochy belongs in Cooperstown.

Champagne showers or not, Bruce Brochy belongs in Cooperstown.

by Drew Sarver

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy can easily identify with Travis Ishikawa, his sparingly used first baseman. Bochy appeared in just 358 games during a nine-season Major League career. Ishikawa has played in 444 games in his seven-year Major League career. Bochy hit 26 career home runs, while Ishikawa has hit 22 career home runs during the regular season.

But last Thursday night Ishikawa sealed Bochy’s entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager. Ishikawa, who played one game with the Yankees last year, struck out twice and was booed off the field, smashed a walkoff three-run home run to give the Giants a 5-2 NL pennant winner over the St. Louis Cardinals. The blast off of St. Louis Cardinals reliever Michael Wacha sent the Giants to their third World Series in the last five years.

The Bochy-led Giants won the championship in 2010 (vs. Texas) and 2012 (vs. Detroit) and will now face the Kansas City Royals, who have become America’s darlings. This is the first time a Bochy squad has made it to the finals as a wild card entrant. Madison Bumgarner pitched a complete game in the Giants 8-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the one game NL wild card showdown.

As a player, Bochy was best known for the size of his head. Whenever the Houston Astros, New York Mets, or Padres were on television and Bochy was in the lineup at catcher, the conversation would invariably lead to the larger than normal sized pate atop Bochy’s neck and the custom made batting and catching helmets and cap he needed. Apparently the, reportedly, 8 1/8-size baseball cap holds a lot of brains beneath it. You don’t get to the World Series three times in five seasons merely on talent alone. There’s been plenty of teams with talent that never get to the World Series.

The career .239 hitter was hired to skipper the Padres in 1995, eight years after he had retired as a player. Bochy took over a team that had finished a combined 63 games under .500 with manager Jim Riggleman in 1993-1994 and led them to a 70-74 in his first season, which was shortened by the strike that overlapped from the prior year. A year later, the Padres won 91 and the NL West, and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since the team won the NL pennant in 1984.

They were swept in three games by the Cardinals, losing a one-run game and a pair of two-run games. After a subpar 1997 season, the Pads won 98 games, beat the Astros in the NLDS (4-1), and the Braves in the NLCS (4-2) to capture the second NL pennant in club history. The Padres had the unfortunate task of then going up against the New York Yankees, who had won 114 regular season games. After  blowing a 5-2 lead in Game 1, the Padres were swept by the Yankees in four games.

San Diego didn’t make it back to the playoffs until 2005, where they were swept in the NLDS and lost three of four in the following year’s NLDS as well. After the 2006 season and 12 years at the helm in San Diego, and with one year remaining on his contract, the then-51-year old Bochy decided it was time to move on. The Padres granted permission to the Giants to talk to Bochy about their managerial opening and he agreed to a three-year deal to move to northern California.

The Giants had lost the 2002 World Series to the Angels in seven games, but made the playoffs just once more in the next four seasons under manager Felipe Alou. Bochy kept Alou’s pitching coach Dave Righetti, bullpen coach Mark Gardner, hitting coach Joe Lefebvre, and bench coach Ron Wotus. All four remain in their position today (Lefebvre moved to the front office as a senior advisor and serves as an assistant hitting coach to Hensley Muelens) as does Tim Flannery, who joined Bochy as third base coach in 2007 after having served in the same position for part of Bochy’s time with the Padres.

After 71- and 72-win campaigns, the Giants won 88 games in 2009 and were World Series Champions a year later. Two years later they captured 94 victories and their second title under Bochy. Though he has won only one Manger of the Year Award, he certainly has been deserving of more (perhaps this year he’ll add a second).

Bochy has compiled a 1618-1604 regular season record (18th all time in wins) in 20 Major League seasons, 2 World Series titles so far and four pennants. 12 of the 17 managers that have won more games than Bochy have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Of the five not in the Hall, only Ralph Houk matches Bochy’s two World Series titles. None of the five can match the four pennants that Bochy-led teams have won.

Other than the ’98 Padres, which featured Greg Vaughn, Kevin Brown, Tony Gwynn, and Trevor Hoffman, Bochy’s teams in San Diego were not talent laden. Ownership was more into keeping a low payroll than obtaining/keeping talent. The 2000 San Diego roster was drastically different than the 1998 squad despite just two years between.

Bochy has had more to work with in San Francisco, especially when it comes to the Giants’ pitching staff. He also has an ownership that will spend a little extra money here and there, and a front office, led by GM Brian Sabean, that has done a good job of development of home grown talent.

Whether Bochy wins or loses this year’s “Fall Classic”, he should have already earned his place in Cooperstown.

Perhaps on a larger plaque.

 

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

Lester and Price Lead The Winners and Losers of Deadline Day

Tigers supergroup

Three Cy Young winners All in a row.

It’s been a five days since the craziness of the final hours of the Major League Baseball trade deadline came to an end. I cannot recall the last time there was such monumental team changing/game changing deals on July 31. Lately, many of the bigger trades have taken place as the deadline neared. This year, it was a frenzy right down to the final minutes, with some deals announced shortly after the deadline had passed.

So, who came up as the winners and losers at the deadline? Let’s take a look.

Winners

Oakland A’s: This isn’t Moneyball, this is sending and receiving at its finest. The A’s needed to strengthen their starting rotation and add some veteran presence to it. Prior to the deadline, they went out and got Chicago Cubs ace Jeff Samarzdija and fellow starter Jason Hammel for a package that included highly rated shortstop prospect Addison Russell.

Inserted in the A’s rotation, Samarzdija pitched to his reputation, but Hammel struggled, leading GM Billy Beane to pull off a bold move. He sent his slugging left fielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for their ace, Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes. The A’s outfield had been thinned with an injury to Coco Crisp, so the addition of Gomes gave them another World Series ring-wearing veteran.( Beane would later flip aggrieved starter Tommy Milone for outfielder Sam Fuld to strengthen the bench and play centerfield while Crisp is out)

Lester was the key maneuver, though, joining a rotation of Samarzdija, veteran Scott Kazmir and youngsters Sonny Gray and Jesse Chavez. The left-hander started his first game as an Athletic on Saturday, in front of a charged Oakland crowd. Lester allowed three earned runs in 6.2 innings pitched in the A’s 8-3 victory. It was Lester’s 110th career victory and his first in a uniform other than that of the Boston Red Sox. (A day later Lester took out a full page ad in the Boston Globe to thank the fans.)

Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly. That’s a pretty intimidating starting rotation right out of the box. Now add David Price to it and look out. That’s exactly what Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski was able to do on Thursday. As soon as Lester was dealt by Boston, Tampa Bay Rays’ Executive VP of Operations and GM, Andrew Friedman, began to get inundated with calls about Price.

The 2012 AL Cy Young winner still had another year on his contract, so Tampa did not need to trade him this year with the worry of losing him to free agency in the offseason. But Friedman found a deal he liked and brought in the Seattle Mariners as a third team to get it done.

The Rays sent Price to Detroit, who in turn traded centerfielder Austin Jackson to the Mariners and Smyly and minor league infielder Willy Adames to the Rays. The Rays also received second base prospect Nick Franklin from Seattle.

The Tigers now have the last three AL Cy Young winners with Verlander (2011, also MVP), Price (2012) and Scherzer (2013). Sanchez is now the best number four starter in the Major Leagues. The Tigers still need to work on their bullpen –as the Phillies can attest, a great rotation (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt) doesn’t always get it done – which has not performed up to par, but they may not need to make too many appearances with a group of starters that can routinely pitch into the 7th and 8th innings. Price makes his Tigers’ debut Tuesday evening in a place he has started 23 games, Yankee Stadium. (Price is 10-5, 3.66 vs. the Yankees, including 6-2 in the new Yankee Stadium.)

Boston Red Sox: There were a lot of disgruntled Red Sox fans on Thursday, most of them not wanting to see Lester go. But with a better than 50/50 chance of Lester returning as a free agent, GM Ben Cherington took a team that went from first to worst and got it back on the road to future success.

In Cespedes, he got a bona fide power hitter whose power had been lessened by the A’s spacious home ballpark. Now he has the Green Monster to pepper shots off of. It also gives David Ortiz more protection in the lineup than he had with Mike Napoli and allows manager John Farrell to move Dustin Pedroia into the number two slot in the order. Cherington also sent John Lackey to St. Louis for first baseman Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly

Craig drove in 90-plus runs the last two seasons before an ankle injury robbed him of much of the current season. He’ll give depth to a lineup that has struggled to score runs this season. The Red Sox also added youth with the just turned 30-year old Craig and the 26-year old Kelly. The right-hander was solid the past two seasons as a reliever and occasional starter, and helped the Cardinals to their second NL pennant in three years in 2013.

Kelly was limited to 10 starts between the Majors (7) and minors (3) this season due to a strained hamstring that kept him out of action for three months. He’ll join the only remaining Boston starter, Clay Buchholz, from the rotation that began the year. (The Red Sox had already dealt Jake Peavy prior to the deadline and sent lefty Felix Doubront to the Chicago Cubs on the 31st.)

The Sox also dealt veteran shortstop Stephen Drew, to the Yankees of all people, to free up playing time for Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks, and Mookie Betts. The aforementioned Peavy deal brought them pitcher Edwin Escobar, ranked in the 2014 top 100 MLB prospects by Baseball America and MLB.com, and a possible addition to their bullpen in right-hander Heath Hembree.

 

Losers:

Philadelphia Phillies: One has to wonder how GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has managed to keep his job. Yes, the Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and repeated as NL pennant winners a year later. But the writing was on the wall for quite some time and Amaro ignored it. He also doled out way too much money for too many players and was unable to move any of them by the deadline.

One of those players was starting pitcher Cliff Lee. The former AL Cy Young Winner still has about $37.5MM owed to him for the next two years. Whether he’ll be able to play or not is another matter. Lee was bothered by elbow problems this season, which made him and his contract harder to move. But Amaro should have done something, even if it meant not getting much in return. He may have been able to move some of Lee’s salary. He didn’t and Lee re-injured his elbow and is likely done for the season, which means no waiver trade either.

First baseman Ryan Howard is not what he used to be, which was a home run smashing, RBI-producing, bad-fielding first baseman. Okay, he is still the last part. Amaro foolishly gave Howard a six year, $106MM extension after the 2012 season. It’s a deal that will be paying Howard $25MM the next two years when he is 35 and 36. The Phillies are just lucky, if you want to call it that, they have a $10MM buyout on a $23MM option in 2017.

If you are to believe the reports, Amaro was also asking for too much in return for outfielder Marlon Byrd. As of this writing, the 36-year old had a .799 OPS with 21 HR and 63 RBI in 110 games. Ah, but Amaro’s over-generosity did him in again. There are plenty of teams that want Byrd for this year, maybe even next season at the $8MM it may cost them. But they don’t want a 38-year old Byrd with another $8MM in 2016.

Amaro was clearly counting on Byrd not being able to attain the vested portion of his contract – 600 plate appearances (PA) in 2015 or 1100 PA between this year and next. Byrd already has 462 PA as of this writing, with nearly two full months of the season left.

Amaro could have also moved A.J. Burnett, whose performance has dropped off from last season. Burnett makes $15MM and has a mutual option with just a $1MM buyout for next year. In today’s market, Amaro did a good job on Burnett’s deal. Burnett is the most likely of the Phillies to pass through waivers and be dealt. He’d better be or Amaro’s trade season will be a complete flop. Not that it still won’t be a complete flop even if Amaro does move Burnett.

There were a number of teams that hoped to improve with minor moves that fall somewhere in between winner and loser. Time will tell which of the categories those deals fall into.

 

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.