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NL Central Preview: Reds Ruling the Day

Cincinnati Reds. Open and shut case, right? NL Central Division winners. Preview, done.
 
Not so fast.
 
After years of rebuilding, tinkering and teasing, it seems that the Cincinnati Reds have what it takes to become the class of the National league. The Reds unexpectedly won 91 games in 2010 (leading to a sweep and a no-hitter at the hands of the Phillies in the NLDS) and bouncing back to  97 games in 2012 after a sub-.500 2011 (getting bounced in 5 games to the eventual champion SF Giants), but 2013 is the first year where organization is facing external expectations. Most writers, bloggers and talking heads are calling for an easy Cincy playoff lock. With good reason.
 
The Reds are positively stacked. They may have the NL’s best offense, starting with arguably the league’s best hitter in 1B Joey Votto, and a cast of All-Star-caliber sluggers: 2B Brandon Phillips, OF Jay Bruce, OF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Todd Frazier and OF Ryan Ludwick. The bullpen might actually be just as strong as the offense, with Aroldis Chapman re-taking his place as closer, and Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton and Manny Parra throwing in front of him.
 
The starting rotation begins with ace Johnny Cueto and nominal co-ace Mat Latos, but doesn’t give up much from there. Homer Bailey is a solid 3/4 starter that’s capable of ace-like performances (see his 7 inning, 1-hit, 10 strikeout start in the playoffs), while Mike Leake and Bronson Arroyo are steady options at the back of the rotation. Truly, the Reds don’t have any apparent weaknesses. They should win this division.
 
But as good as they’ll be, I don’t necessarily think they’ll be head and shoulders above the rest of the division, specifically the St. Louis Cardinals.… Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Dan Haren to the Chicago Cubs

(Editor’s note: This trade was consummated last night….for about two hours. The Cubs pulled out of the deal late, and as a result, Haren was still an Angel…for another hour. 

The deadline for Anaheim GM Jerry DiPoto to exercise a $15.5 million dollar option for Haren’s 2013 season was 9pm PT, and thus the mad rush to try and trade him. However, after such a poor 2012 and a very expensive price tag, DiPoto declined and thus, the right-handed pitcher is now a free agent and could leave the Halos for nothing. Even for as badly as Anaheim wanted to trade him, ironically Haren becomes one of the biggest free agents on the 2012 winter market

But this was a pretty sweet trade analysis post. Take a look into an alternate reality where this happened)

Anaheim Angels get: RP Carlos Marmol

Chicago Cubs get: SP Dan Haren

A little less than a year ago the Los Angeles Angels appeared to be the front-runners for the American League pennant. And that was before they traded for a 28-year-old former Cy Young Award winner and before we knew that they had the best 20-year-old ever to play the game.

Once again though in the beautiful world of sports we found out that’s why they play the game. Josh Reddick and the Oakland A’s took the AL West division crown and Albert Pujols watched his old team come within one game of going back to the World Series without him. Pujols, Mike Trout and the Angels will certainly not be taken lightly again next year, but if they could not win with Dan Haren, it’s hard to see how they get better without him.
Even with a down year, Dan Haren was valuable to the Angels. His ERA was a quarter of a run higher than league average, but he has had rough years and bounced back before. The year he was originally traded to the Angels back in 2010 his ERA was actually very close to the league average. His strikeout to walk rate would indicate that nothing is too wrong with his efficiency. Again it was just a slightly down year, but the Angels had to make a decision.
They already are paying C.J. Wilson $11 million next season and $16 million after that…and then still money for another two years after that. Jered Weaver will make $17 million per year the next couple of seasons. Arte Moreno has deep pockets, but there’s a limit to everything.  Haren was due $15.5 million if the Angels picked up his option for this season. With Zack Greinke a free agent right now, the Angels apparently had to make a choice and they are rolling the dice on Greinke. If no money is exchanged (and the report is that this is a straight swap) the Angels will wind up saving about $6 million for this season.
On the other end of this trade, Theo Epstein and the Cubs got an amazing deal. There is a reason that the Cubs have had to turn to players like Rafael Dolis and James Russell in save situations; Carlos Marmol has been prone to horrible runs of inconsistency with finding the strike zone. In a city that doesn’t need another reason to lose faith the last thing they need to see to start a ninth i… Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers

Texas Rangers get: SP Ryan Dempster


Chicago Cubs get: 3B Christian Villanueva, P Kyle Hendricks

Tears of Texas baseball fans everywhere still saturate the dirt despite the unforgiving southern summer sun, but GM John Daniels is doing his best to see that the waterlogged field doesn’t get damaged any further. In a bid to get to their third straight World Series, the Texas Rangers acquired starter Ryan Dempster just minutes before the trade deadline expired on Tuesday.


Just weeks ago, playoff hero and de facto staff ace Colby Lewis went down for the season with elbow surgery, leaving Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Roy Oswalt and of course, unhealthy MAMBINO favorite Yu Darvish as the only members of the Texas rotation left standing. With CJ Wilson leaving for the Angels in the offseason and former closer turned starter Neftali Feliz undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Rangers needed another starter badly if they wanted to stay up with the hard-charging Angels, who acquired SP Zack Greinke from Milwaukee on Friday.

What the Rangers got certainly wasn’t the postseason hero that they had in the battle-tested Lewis, but is good and bad in his own right. Dempster is having a strange year, having spent time on the DL after pitching at least 200 innings for four straight seasons. His ERA is a career-low 2.25, cutting his walks down to 2.3 per nine innings down from 3.6 per nine the two seasons before that. However, he’s throwing one strikeout less per nine innings than he did the year before. Now 35, Dempster’s performance seems to be due to better pitch control, rather than a late career renaissance involving missing bats. The latter is a troublesome development for a starter that’s been a typically high strikeout pitcher, but also encouraging in that he’s changing his style as he advances towards the end of his career.


Regardless, Dempster’s value to the Rangers is apparent: he’s there to help the Rangers fend off the Angels for the division title. Anaheim showed that they are not merely trying to make a wild card berth with their trade for Greinke, and now boast a better rotation than Texas, and perhaps a comparable lineup. Remarkably, Dempster has only been to the postseason twice, but perhaps less remarkable when you remember that he’s spent a majority of his career with the Cubs. However, the most important role he’ll play with Texas, for now, is pitching every five days to make sure the Rangers are guaranteed at least three games in the playoffs, rather than the crapshoot one game wild card round.

New Cubs GM Theo Epstein continues his complete revamp of the organization by cutting ties with the nine-year Chicago veteran in Dempster. Moving forward, I thought the Cubs might try to re-sign Dempster, who still provides value and had seemed to want to stay in the Windy City. However, after the former Cubs’ last week veto of a trade to Atlanta, it seems unlikely that such a reunion, even after a trade, would be unlikely. More and more signs point to Theo getting this team ready to compete in two years, rather than next season, when Dempster would be most valuable.


The Cubs got a pretty good return from a guy they weren’t interested in keeping for the long term, so says mlbtraderumors.com:

Villanueva, 21, has a .285/.356/.421 batting line in 425 plate appearances with Class A Myrtle Beach this year. The third baseman entered the 2012 season as the 100th-best prospect in MLB, according to Baseball America. He has a .286/.350/.438 batting line in four minor league seasons.

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