State of the Baseball World After the Trade Deadline

The days and weeks leading up to baseball’s annual trade deadline is always a hectic time around Major League Baseball. Virtually, no player is safe from the trade market if the right offer is presented, and there is guaranteed to always be some exciting moves. In the end, it’s the trades made now that can make or break any team’s season two months down the road.

Over the last week, or so, before Monday’s trade deadline, a number of big-time transactions (18 trades, involving 49 players, on Monday alone) took place. Although some where bigger than others, and will therefore have greater impacts, they all will have some impact on the landscape of Major League Baseball. Since it would be nearly impossible to discuss every single move, here’s a recap of some of the larger ones in my mind:

Arguably the biggest trade made of the entire week was the one that saw Aroldis Chapman heading to the Cubs for a Chapmanquad of prospects, in Adam Warren, Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford. While giving up four future stars for a closer isn’t necessarily always a good move, it definitely is in this case. With Chapman possessing a fastball that can be cranked up to 105, Chapman is one of the most dominant at what he does and definitely makes the Cubs the World Series favorites again after they had fallen off a bit as of late.

Another move that made a team favorites once again was the one that saw Melvin Upton Jr. getting sent off to the Blue Jays for Hansel Rodriguez. Upton has truly been having a breakout season after a few down years, and he will be able to help make the Jays even better. Although he pales in comparison to Toronto’s power group of Troy Tulowitzki, Edwin Encarancion, Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson, Upton Jr. is still a big pickup for the Jays.

The only true blockbuster trade of the past week involved a total of seven players. Andrew Cashner, Colin Rea (later returned due to injury concerns) and CashnerTayron Guerrero were sent to the Marlins for Jarred Cosart, Carter Capps, Luis Castillo (the prospect returned for Rea) and Josh Naylor. While Cashner hasn’t been having the greatest of seasons, he has shown signs in the past of being dominant at times. On the flip side, Cosart hasn’t really ever lived up to the hype and will be looking to breakout with San Diego.

Speaking of hype — while the Nationals have lived up to the preseason billings to this point in the season, their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, has not. For that reason, the Nats went out and secured what they view as the answer to the problem, getting Mark Melancon from the Pirates for Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn. I like the move a lot, as Melancon can truly be a big impact player towards the end of any given game and should give them added security to lock up close games.

One of the oddest trades of the lot occurred when Matt Kemp was sent to the Braves for Hector Olivera. While Kemp is going to be a Brave for the foreseeable future due to his large contract, Olivera, on the other hand, was immediately released upon his arrival to San Diego. Overall, Olivera has been more trouble than he’s worth, not playing the way he had been expected and getting involved in a lot of off-the-field issues. For that reason, the move works out great for the Padres, as they finally were able to free up Kemp’s contract, despite losing him to the Braves, who are looking to rebuild.

Another team who made it apparent they were in the rebuilding stage are the New York Yankees. After sending off Chapman earlier in the week, the Yankees parted ways with another piece of the Yankees’ “three-headed monster” in the form of Andrew Miller, leaving just Dellin Betances in what was once seen as the best bullpen in baseball. Even so, the Yankees were able to acquire Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen to reload their subpar farm system.

But the Yankees weren’t yet done with their team reshaping. On the day of the deadline, the Yankees sent Carlos BeltranBeltran to the Rangers for Dillon Tate, Nick Green and Erik Swanson. While the Yankees felt confident heading into this season that they could make the postseason, things haven’t gone their way, and the Yankees are obviously planning for next year and beyond by adding a ton of great prospects to their farm system.

However, the Giants are seemingly planning for now, going out and picking up Matt Moore from the Rays for Matt Duffy, Lucius Fox and Michael Santos. This move gives the Giants yet another key piece to their rotation to attempt another run at the World Series. Whether or not they get there is yet to be seen, but Moore will assuredly give them good outings that improves their chances greatly.

But while the Giants are on top in the National League West, the Dodgers made a move to attempt to chase them down. On Monday, the Dodgers acquired Rich Hill and Josh Reddick from the Athletics for Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes ad Jharel Cotton. Although those three are some big time pieces to give up, the Dodgers received back a nice piece in Josh Reddick and a pitcher who (once healthy again) should help them make up a few innings with Kershaw on the DL.

BruceOne of the moves that I liked the most is the pickup of Jay Bruce by the Mets for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell. Anticipated to be slotted behind Yoenis Cespedes in the Mets’ lineup, the addition of Bruce makes the Mets a very formidable bunch. If the Mets didn’t have a any sort of chance before at chasing down the first place Nationals, they certainly have a decent shot now.

But while the Mets are looking to chase down the Nationals, the Rangers are looking to extend their lead in the American League Central. After Jonathan Lucroy was reportedly traded away to the Indians for a few prospects, that deal turned out to fall through, as Lucroy vetoed the trade. In the end, however, Lucroy found himself heading to the Rangers, in addition to Jeremy Jeffress, in exchange for Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz. Although I really liked those two prospects, Lucroy and Jeffress should help the Rangers in their push towards the postseason, especially with Beltran being added as well.

Finally, the Blue Jays made another splash just before the deadline arrived, getting Francisco Liriano, Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez from the Pirates for Drew Hutchinson. With the Jays’ rotation needing a bit of a boost, I feel that Liriano will give them just that. It remains to be seen how much of an impact he will have, but Liriano could be a major difference maker for Toronto in the weeks to come.

While not all of these trades will wind up paying off, it will certainly be interesting to follow them all as the season progresses. Sometimes it’s the simplest of moves that can cause a team to take off. You never can tell from one year to the next what will be the key to taking teams to the ultimate high of a World Series title.

Baseball Returns With a Three-Game Slate

It’s been a little over five months since the last non-exhibition Major League Baseball game was played, but meaningful baseball is finally taking place again today (Opening Day, part one). After a month of Spring Training games, six of baseball’s thirty teams are scheduled to dual it out over the course of this afternoon and evening, with the remaining twenty-four squads playing their opening games on Monday.Opening Day

Game one of the regular season is set to kick off at 1:05, and sees the Cardinals taking on the Pirates in a National League Central battle. Francisco Liriano and Adam Wainwright are the scheduled starters for the contest, leaving little to doubt that it will be a great game. With the NL Central likely to be a very close race throughout the coming 162 games, it’s never been more important to get off to a good start against a division rival.

The second game on the docket for today is another divisional faceoff, as the Blue Jays are going up against their American League East counterpart Rays. While the Rays aren’t predicted to hold up against Toronto in the long run, anything can happen in the first game of the year. On the mound for Tampa is Chris Archer, with Marcus Stroman toeing the rubber for the Jays. It will likely be a fun one to watch, with this game beginning at 4:05 in the afternoon.

But while the previous two games are sure to be exciting and well worth watching, the one I’m going to be watching the closest and am looking forward to the most is the World Series rematch between the Mets and the Royals at 8:37. Game five of the Fall Classic way back on November 1st saw Matt Harvey starting for the Mets, with Edinson Volquez setting the tone for Kansas City, which just so happens to be the pitching matchup for tonight. For that reason, this should wind up being an unbelievable game.

As we all know, the Royals walked away World Series champions over the Mets in 2015, however, that was last season. It’s a new year, and with it comes new opportunities for each and every team around baseball. The road to the World Series starts with game one, and the first week always promises excitement from teams and individual players around baseball, as they all look to get off to hot starts.

Let the season begin.

Gregory Polanco Headed to the Pirates

The wait is finally over for Pirates fans.

Gregory Polanco — the 12th overall ranked prospect in all of baseball, and one of the highest praised young outfielders in years — is set to make his MLB debut later tonight against the Cubs, receiving the call after second baseman, Neil Walker, was placed on the disabled list.8396068

Set to play right field for the Buccos, Polanco is joining an already talented outfield of Starling Marte (left) and Andrew McCutchen (center), taking over for Josh Harrison, who has done a fantastic job this year in right field, hitting near .300 and making numerous spectacular catches. Nonetheless, replacing Harrison with Polanco instantly makes the Pirates outfield one of the best in baseball.

And that’s why, in the minds of many baseball fans, the arrival of Polanco is long overdue. After getting off to such a great start to the year at Triple-A Indianapolis, the idea of a big league call up for Polanco began to gain mention (several rumors were started just in the past week regarding a promotion), but when he continued to stay hot, making it up to seven home runs and 49 RBI’s, to go along with a .347 batting average before his call up, Polanco truly left the Pirates no other choice.

With the Pirates struggling somewhat so far this season, the hope is that the young, talented Polanco will arrive on the scene and help turn things around.

Sitting three games back of .500, and 7.5 games back of first place, it’s still too early to count out the Pirates, especially now that Polanco is going to get some time for the club. Despite lofty predictions being made for this year after the Pirates made the playoffs for the first time in twenty years last season, at this point in 2013 they were eleven games above .500, which is allowing understandable concern to come into play.

But could Gregory Polanco’s mere presence truly be enough to turn around the Pirates?

Well, though it’s going to take the entire team playing better for the Pirates to go on a run, we’ve seen big time players make big time impacts before. Take Yasiel Puig for example. The Dodgers were doing terribly last season before his call up, and after Puig’s arrival, the Dodgers went on a record-breaking streak that ultimately led them to the playoffs. Sure, the entire team began playing well, but the initial spark undeniably came from Puig.

However, while it’s certainly possible that Polanco will kick start the Pirates, it’s not all that likely. The biggest difference between the Dodgers’ team, and the Pirates’ 2013 team for that matter, is pitching — bother the starting rotation and the bullpen.

Last season, the Pirates had a magical year, where nearly every one of their pitchers from top to bottom was superb. But the loss of A.J. Burnett this offseason, the recent injury to Gerrit Cole, and the terrible performance by 2013 ace Francisco Liriano, has hurt the chances of an already poor team.

And thus, it will certainly be interesting to see just what type of impact Polanco has for the Bucs. Asking him to put the whole team on his back and carry them to the playoffs for the second straight year is an awful lot to expect from Polanco, but with young phenom prospects, you never truly know what they can do.

But one thing’s for sure: Gregory Polanco is just as excited as Pirates’ fans to finally be making his way to the Steel City, regardless of the current struggles; saying in a tweet on Monday night, “Pirates fans, thanks for being patient with me . . . The wait is over. My dream has officially come true.”

2013 GIBBY Awards

The 2013 Greatness In Baseball Yearly (GIBBY) award winners were announced Tuesday afternoon. The GIBBY awards — which began in 2002, but were referred to as the ‘This Year In Baseball Awards’ until 2010 — are awarded annually for 23 different categories, including Rookie of the Year, Play of the Year, MVP of the Year, etc.

These awards are given to the players voted on by the fans at MLB.com, media, and front-office personnel, as the best for each category. I, as always, have my own opinions, and have included them below, along with the winners:

MVP OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Chris Davis

Winner: Miguel Cabrera

I originally picked Chris Davis for this award, however, I have no problem with Miguel Cabrera getting it instead. He was very deserving, batting .348 with 44 home runs and 137 RBI’s this season, coming up just short of a second straight Triple Crown award.

HITTER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Miguel Cabrera

Winner: Miguel Cabrera

Though I didn’t necessarily deem him as the Most Valuable (the category above), I easily picked Miguel Cabrera as the best hitter of the 2013 season. Anytime you hit in the mid 300’s, launch over 40 home runs and drive in way over 100 runs, you have my vote.

STARTING PITCHER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Clayton Kershaw

Winner: Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw had a career season; one of the best in MLB history for a pitcher. Kershaw is very deserving of this award, and there really wasn’t any competition, as no one could compete with his 1.83 ERA.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Wil Myers

Winner: Jose Fernandez

With three players having incredible rookie seasons — Wil Myers, Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig — it was difficult to pick just one. Therefore, while my original pick was Wil Myers, I feel Jose Fernandez is just as worthy. Fernandez’s 2.19 ERA over 28 starts is truly remarkable for a rookie.

CLOSER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Craig Kimbrel

Winner: Craig Kimbrel

While Mariano Rivera was the most followed closer of the 2013 season, after announcing his retirement this year back in March, Craig Kimbrel continued to be the most dominant. Though there were a few other closers who had great seasons, Kimbrel stood above the rest, recording 50 saves with a 1.21 ERA.

SETUP MAN OF THE YEAR

My original pick: David Robertson

Winner: Mark Melancon

This was another difficult category to pick, but I feel the right player received the award. I didn’t originally pick him, however, Mark Melancon was truly remarkable this season as the setup man for the Pirates, with an ERA of 1.39. He should continue to help out the team moving forward.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Brandon Phillips

Winner: Yadier Molina

Though I don’t really agree with Yadier Molina winning this award, I do have to acknowledge his great defensive skills behind the plate, blocking pitches better than nearly any other catcher in the game. While I still think Brandon Phillips, or a few other players, should’ve received this award, Molina is still worthy of the honor.

BREAKOUT HITTER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Matt Carpenter

Winner: Chris Davis

I really felt Matt Carpenter had a shot at this award, as he was a big part of the Cardinals’ success this season. But I suppose hitting 2o more home runs and 53 more RBI’s than 2012 stands out for Chris Davis deserving this award.

BREAKOUT PITCHER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Koji Uehara

Winner: Matt Harvey

My original pick, Koji Uehara, had a great finish to the season, and a great postseason. I thought that would be enough, however, Matt Harvey ended up taking home the award. Harvey truly had a breakout year, lowering his ERA by nearly 50 points the year before, and I’m happy he received this award.

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Mariano Rivera

Winner: Francisco Liriano

I don’t think Francisco Liriano should’ve won this award, and I’m shocked that he did. Liriano had a come back year, no doubt, but Mariano Rivera had a better one, in my opinion. With the combination of coming of an injury in 2012, pitching another great season, and retiring after the year, I would’ve thought Rivera would’ve won easily.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: John Farrell

Winner: John Farrell

John Farrell took a Red Sox team that finished in last place the season before and led them to winning the World Series. This was an easy category to predict, and Farrell deserves it, no question about it.

EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Billy Beane

Winner: Ben Cherington

I’m a big fan of Billy Beane and the great work he does every year, but Ben Cherington, being the general manager of the Red Sox, had a few more accolades for the award than Beane. As with John Farrell, the Red Sox winning the World Series put Cherington over the top in this category.

POSTSEASON MVP

My original pick: David Ortiz

Winner: David Ortiz

David Ortiz stood alone for this category as no other player came close to posting the stats he did. All throughout the postseason, Ortiz came up big, posting a batting average of .353 throughout October, and he truly earned this award.

PLAY OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Ben Revere’s diving catch in Cincinnati

Winner: Manny Machado’s offbalance throw in New York

The play with the biggest “wow” factor for me all season long was the catch Ben Revere made up in Cincinnati. Running back on the ball and diving at the last second to make an unbelievable catch that ended in doubling off the runner at first, Revere’s catch was one of the most amazing I’ve ever seen. But Manny Machado’s throw from foul territory to first base to nail the runner, after bobbling the ball, was remarkable as well.

MOMENT OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Mariano Rivera pitching in his final All-Star Game

Winner: David Ortiz’s speech in first Red So game after bombing

I guess I’m such a big fan of Mariano Rivera that I felt he should’ve won every award he was nominated for. But instead, the award winner was David Ortiz, for his speech he made before the first game played at Fenway Park after the Boston marathon bombings.

STORYLINE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Mariano Rivera’s final season

Winner: Pirates making the postseason

Again, as I stated in the last category, I thought Mariano Rivera should’ve won this award as well. But the Pirates were voted the storyline of the year, finishing above .500, and making the postseason, for the first time since 1992.

HITTING PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Alfonso Soriano’s 2-homer game with 7 RBI’s

Winner: Mike Trout’s cycle

Alfonso Soriano’s two home run game in which he notched seven RBI’s was impressive, and was the one I voted for, but I really didn’t have a favorite from this category. Mike Trout’s cycle at the age of 21 won the award, and I cant really argue with that.

PITCHING PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter

Winner: Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter

This was a fairly simple choice, as while there were several no-hitters, Tim Lincecum’s stood out the most, with his 13 strikeouts. While Lincecum has had some ups and down over the past couple seasons, I feel he’ll have a bounce back season in 2014.

ODDITY OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Ball goes through padding for ground-rule double

Winner: ‘Hidden Ball Trick’ by Evan Longoria & Todd Helton

My original pick was a ground rule double in St. Louis that bounced between two pieces of padding in the outfield wall — I mean, what are the odds of that? But, instead, Evan Longoria and Todd Helton received the award for the “hidden ball trick” performed flawlessly by both during the season.

WALK-OFF OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Giancarlo Stanton scores on wild pitch to clinch no-hitter

Winner: Giancarlo Stanton scores on wild pitch to clinch no-hitter

Giancarlo Stanton scoring on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth to secure Henderson Alvarez a no-hitter, who hadn’t allowed a hit but didn’t have any run support, was hands down the best walk-off of the year. That’s something you may never see again.

CUT4 TOPIC OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Carly Rae Jepsen’s bad first pitch

Winner: Munenori Kawasaki’s Speech

Carly Rae Jepsen throwing one of the worst first pitches in baseball history down at Tropicana Field was the one I originally selected, but Munenori Kawasaki’s speech up in Toronto was the winner. I’m actually glad Kawasaki won, despite not picking him, as he is one of the funniest guys in baseball, and I still get a laugh by watching footage of his speech.

POSTSEASON MOMENT

My original pick: Allen Craig scores on obstruction

Winner: Allen Craig scores on obstruction

This was one of the most unusual endings to a postseason game in baseball history. Allen Craig scored, tripping over third baseman, Will Middlebrooks, on an obstruction call to end game three of the 2013 World Series, and it was truly an incredible, and memorable, moment.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

My original pick: Mariano Rivera

Winner: Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera is on his way to the Hall of Fame, after having one of the best careers for a pitcher in MLB history. The greatest closer in MLB history, with 652 career saves, Rivera won this award fairly easily, with the respect he has earned over the years and the stats he’s been able to put together for the Yankees.

2013 Players Choice Awards

The 2013 MLB Players Choice Awards were announced last night on MLB Network. These awards, as the name would suggest, are voted on by players from around baseball — American League players vote for American League players, with National League players voting for National League players, in most categories — each September, when they receive a ballot to make their pick for each category.

The winning players for each category are awarded a grant from the MLB Players Trust, ranging from 20,000-50,000 dollars depending on the category they win. The money goes to the winners’ choice of charity, with some players deciding to split up the money between multiple causes.

This marks the 21st annual Players Choice Awards, which began in 1992.

Here’s a recap of the winners, with my thoughts on each:

OUTSTANDING ROOKIE AWARD ($20,000)

AL Nominees- Chris Archer, Jose Iglesias and Wil Myers

AL Winner- Wil Myers

NL Nominees- Shelby Miller, Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig

NL Winner- Jose Fernandez

In my opinion, the players got it right. While there were several good candidates from both leagues to win the Outstanding Rookie, none deserved it more than Wil Myers and Jose Fernandez. Myers batted .293 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI’s while Fernandez went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA. Truly incredible inaugural seasons, and I hope the baseball writers pick them for the Rookie of the Year award next week.

OUTSTANDING PITCHER AWARD ($20,000)

AL Nominees- Anibal Sanchez, Yu Darvish and Max Scherzer

AL Winner- Max Scherzer

NL Nominees- Francisco Liriano, Clayton Kershaw and Jose Fernandez

NL Winner- Clayton Kershaw

There was really no competition here. While every nominee had a great season, both Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw stand above the rest. While Darvish’s 2.83 ERA and 277 strikeouts are impressive, beating out Scherzer in each category, it’s hard to ignore Scherzer’s win-loss record of 21-3. Likewise, it’s hard to ignore Clayton Kershaw’s ERA of 1.83 for the season. Both will likely be named the Cy Young award winners for their respective league.

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD ($20,000)

AL Nominees- Scott Kazmir, Victor Martinez and Mariano Rivera

AL Winner- Mariano Rivera

NL Nominees- Marlon Byrd, Francisco Liriano and Troy Tulowtzki

NL Winner- Francisco Liriano

Of the American League nominees, you knew it was going to be Mariano Rivera. There was no way his final season, in which he recorded 44 saves after suffering a season ending injury in 2012, was going to be overlooked. Rivera truly had a comeback year for the ages. On the National League side, Francisco Liriano had a great year, going 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA, however, I thought Troy Tulowitzki deserved the award, after the subpar seasons he’s had lately. But it is what it is.

OUTSTANDING PLAYER AWARD ($20,000)

AL Nominees- Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and Chris Davis

AL Winner- Miguel Cabrera

NL Nominees- Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen and Yadier Molina

NL Winner- Andrew McCutchen

It came down to Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis for me in the AL, as both had amazing years — not to take anything away from Mike Trout. Cabrera ended up receiving the honor, as his batting average of .348 to go along with 44 homers and 137 RBI’s made the hard decision a little easier. Andrew McCutchen won for the NL, and I by no means agree with that. McCutchen had a great year, no doubt about that, but Paul Goldschmidt’s .302 average with league leading 36 home runs and 125 deserves it more.

MARVIN MILLER MAN OF THE YEAR AWARD ($50,000)

Nominees- Carlos Beltran, Raul Ibanez and Mariano Rivera

Winner- Mariano Rivera

The Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award is given each year to the player most recognized for outstanding on-field performance and off-field contributions to his community. Past winners include Mark McGwire, Albert Pujols and Chipper Jones. This year it went to Mariano Rivera, and I couldn’t think of a better person to receive this award.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD ($50,000)

Nominees- Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis and Clayton Kershaw

Winner- Miguel Cabrera

It’s always difficult to pick between a hitter and a pitcher, as their stats are completely different. Having to choose between a .348 average, in Miguel Cabrera, 53 home runs, in Chris Davis, and a 1.83 ERA, in Clayton Kershaw, makes things even more complicated. But the players went with Cabrera, and I can’t argue against that. This is the second straight season Cabrera has been named player of the year by the players. In addition, it was announced that Miguel Cabrera will be the new cover player for MLB 14 The Show. Not a bad year for Cabrera.