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Cleveland Indians

AL Central Preview: Can Anyone Beat the Detroit Tigers?

Much like the their Senior Circuit brethren, the question for the AL Central is easy: can anyone beat the Detroit Tigers?
The answer is: no. No, they can’t.
The Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins are all just playing for second…and hopefully an accompanying Wild Card berth.
Baseball writers and bloggers all across the inter-web are quick to anoint the Tigers, but without proper recourse. And that’s why you come to MAMBINO, right? So that we can make you sound smarter than you are. Let’s take a second to describe the reigning American League Champs. They run out a very good, very healthy starting five headed up by the best (or second best, depending on who you ask) pitcher on the planet, Justin Verlander. Behind him, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister are walking no-hitters ready to happen. 24 year-old former first rounder pick Rick Porcello has disappointed in the past, but if you believe reports out of spring training, he’s poised for a breakout year.
On the other side of the ball, the Tigers are mighty similar to the Anaheim Angels in that they can beat you in almost every single way. They’ve got Gamma-powered mashers (2012 AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, 1B Prince Fielder), speedy leadoff men (OFs Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter) and patient hitters that can spray the ball all over the field (DH Victor Martinez, OF Andy Dirks and 2B Omar Infante).
The bullpen is the only real question for the extremely well managed Tigers, as skipper Jim Leyland is currently without a closer. Phil Coke was certainly overextended as the team’s 9th inning man last October, but managed to look the part even though his stuff never really has. Detroit will close by committee for the moment, with Joaquin Benoit, Coke and Octavio Dotel all getting shots. However, the Tigers are all-in this season; if one of the incumbent relievers (or Triple-A closer-in-waiting Bruce Rondon) don’t claim the role, the front office is certain to go out and pay whatever price necessary to bring in a shut down hurler.
Make sense now? You’re welcome!…

Instant Trade Analysis: Shin-Soo Choo to the Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds get: OF Shin-Soo Choo, IF Jason Donald

Cleveland Indians get: SP Trevor Bauer, RP Matt Albers, RP Bryan Shaw, OF Drew Stubbs

Arizona Diamondbacks get: SS Didi Gregorius, RP Tony Sipp, 1B Lars Anderson

In the second major transaction of the night, the Reds may have gotten the final piece to their championship puzzle in outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, while the Indians bolstered their team for the future and the Diamondbacks…did something.

Just two months ago, the Reds were on the precipice of eliminating the future World Series champion Giants with a commanding 3-1 lead at home. However, their offense scuttled in games 4 and 5, as Cincy’s first two hitters in their line-up scored one combined run in 18 at-bats. In fact, both SS Zack Cozart and 2B Brandon Phillips managed to plate only 3 runs the entire series, which isn’t so strange when you consider that Reds top two leadoff hitters all season hit to a below .650 OPS overall and had a nearly 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio. In other words, Cincy’s 3-8 hitters were so good that even without placesetters, they were able to score the 9th most runs in the Majors. Amazing. 

With a rock solid bullpen (with or without Aroldis Chapman, who may be converted to a starter), a devastating rotation led by Mat Latos and Johnny Cueto and a young, versatile line-up of mashers that only had a one-legged Joey Votto last season, the Reds’ sole weakness was a leadoff hitting corps who were more comparable to Endy Chavez than Tim Raines. In many ways, Shin-Soo Choo allays that problem.

After a down 2011, the South Korean wonder returned to his all-world ways, hitting to a .815 OPS, with a .373 OPB, 21 steals and 16 homers in 155 games. He’s the solid, leadoff hitting center fielder that the Reds always wanted former first rounder Drew Stubbs to turn into, but never could. Shin Stubbs-Choo should slot in nicely in front of a lethal Cincy line-up that’s only getting better with an emerging Todd Frazier with a full year at third base, and a trio of All-Stars in Votto, Phillips and Jay Bruce behind him.

The Reds did give up some talent here, including Gregorious, a Dutch shortstop with a fantastic glove and arm, but a questionable bat. Cincy already has that on the field in a 27 year-old Zack Cozart, who rates as a positive fielder according to, so for the time being, they’re not really losing much. Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers said that he sees a lot of “Derek Jeter in Gregorius”, which is a pretty intense statement, to say the least. Stubbs has regressed the past three seasons (.773, .686, .610 OPS, 22, 15, 14 HR, .255, .243, .213 AVG) and just isn’t showing signs that he’ll ever have the plate discipline to match his tantalizing mix of speed and power.

Cincinnati’s not on the clock here, seeing as Latos and Cueto still have multiple years left on their rookie deals and the core of their offense is locked up for many seasons to come. However, the Reds needed a solution at leadoff hitter if they expected to get past a hyper-competitive NL Central division in 2013, as evidenced by a first round bouncing by the Gigantes by getting very little run production out of their 1 and 2 hitters. The biggest downside to trading for Choo is that he’ll be a free agent in just one year’s time, but for the Reds, the window to win is now. They had to make this deal.

For the Indians, the motivation was clear–Trevor Bauer. The former UCLA Bruin was Arizona’s number one prospect and one of the very best in baseball. As a former fir… Read more...

MAMBINO Fantasy Mondays: The Kevin Youkilis Non-Trade Fall-out

In the move that everyone saw coming, the Boston Red Sox finally traded Kevin Youkilis on Sunday. After rumors flew around fast and furious like a CC Sabathia batting practice, GM Ben Cherington shipped his third baseman to the Chicago White Sox for reliever Zach Stewart and utility man and First Team All-MLB Ugly member Brent Lillibridge.

The trade fallout has been discussed all over the internet: the deal has largely been called a great one for the White Sox, who get a former All-Star third baseman to man their MLB-worst hot corner, who hit to a combined .466 OPS. Boston has rookie Wil Middlebrooks handily playing third and mashing, so at this point, an unhappy Youkilis wasn’t doing any favors sulking in the BoSox locker room and creating an uncomfortable situation for everyone. RP Stewart was one of the main pieces Chicago got back in the Colby Rasmus/Edwin Jackson/Marc Rzepcynski deal with the Cardinals and Blue Jays last summer, but has so far not panned out on the South Side. He’ll be sent to Triple-A Pawtucket, while Lillibridge will largely serve in the same utility man capacity when on the White Sox.

The impact that this deal will have on both side is pretty clear: the White Sox get a formerly great hitter to play a position that was absolutely killing them day-to-day. On top of everything else, the Red Sox foot nearly $5.5 million of his salary, so unless Stewart turns into the next coming of Jonathan Papelbon, the White Sox largely gave up nothing for a guy who could potentially help them win the division. For Boston, this clears the way for Middlebrooks, and to a lesser extent DH David Ortiz and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, to play every day, and hopefully Stewart will be able to help a beleaguered Red Sox ‘pen down the line.

What’s more interesting though is how this trade impacts the teams that didn’t quite have enough to acquire Youkilis. According to, the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Indians, Pirates and Braves were all involved in talks with Boston to some extent. Let’s take a look at how this non-move will affect these teams going down the line.

Los Angeles Dodgers

How badly did they need him? Pretty badly. The Dodgers third base situation has been tenuous from the onset, with offensive millstone Juan Uribe taking his historically bad season right into 2012. Adam Kennedy (.616 OPS), Elian Herrera (.716 OPS) and Ivan DeJesus (.708 OPS) have all taken their shots at the hot corner, with only Jerry Hairston (.821 OPS, .311 average in 36 games with 11 extra base hits) having any success there. However even Hairston, a lifetime utility man, can’t be counted on for production over the long term. LA has no third base prospects in the pipeline, and considering the cheap price the White Sox paid, it’s hard to believe that another game-changing third baseman will come along in a month that could potentially replicate Youkilis’ production (especially, keeping in mind that he’d be going from the AL East to the NL West).

So what do they do now? Jerry Hairston is the answer for the next month or so, but a very expensive (prospect-wise) inter-division trade for Chase Headley could be coming down the line.

Fantasy Spin: If you’re in a deep NL-only league, you’ve already got Jerry Hairston on your roster. I do think Headley is going right out of San Diego’s door in a month, as he won’t be under team control whenever they’re ready to compete. I’d most expect him to head to the Dodgers, but wouldnt’ be surprised if he g… Read more...