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Toronto Blue Jays

AL East Preview: 5 Team Toss-Up

If the Tampa Bay Rays won the division, would you be surprised? With reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price towing the line, TB does what they’ve done every year since 2008: reload, relock and fire all over again. Starting pitchers Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Roberto “Don’t Call Me Fausto….Wait, I Made Up a Fake Name and I Chose Fausto?” Hernandez do what Matt Garza, James Shields, Wade Davis, and a half dozen others have done before them–step up, fill the new free agent void and dominate. The offense cobbles together enough runs with 3B Evan Longoria providing the middle order pop and OF Desmond Jennings and OF Wil Myers enjoying breakout seasons. The bullpen is put together with spit and dental floss (again), but somehow, pitching coach Jim Hoey and King Emperor manager Joe Maddon make it work. The Rays win their fourth playoff berth in six seasons, and their third division title.
If the Boston Red Sox won the division, would you be surprised? After a winter expunging the locker room sewage that took down a 90-win 2011 season, the Sox ride a resurgent Jon Lester, Clay Bucholz, Ryan Dempster and John Lackey to the AL East crown, in spite of a offense that’s slightly above average, at best. The reason for it being even above par? OF Jacoby Ellsbury and 2B Dustin Pedroia look like a MVP candidates again, rookie outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is the ROY and 3B Wil Middlebrooks enjoys a fully healthy season. Yes, the Red Sox miss DH David Ortiz, OF Shane Victorino and 1B Mike Napoli for large chunks of time to the DL (at their age, is it unexpected?), but the younger performers are able to keep them afloat. Despite the baggage of 2011 and 2012, Boston remembers they’re not too far removed from a 90+ win season, September collapse aside. They’re not heads and shoulders better than the other teams, but good enough to survive the gauntlet of the AL East.… Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays get: SP R.A. Dickey, C Josh Thole

New York Mets get: C Travis d’Arnaud, SP Noah Snydergaard, C John Buck

Timing is everything, and in R.A. Dickey’s case, timing apparently wasn’t worth two years and $25 million dollars.

The 38 year-old knuckerballing 2012 NL Cy Young winner was shipped to the Toronto Blue Jays for two of the team’s best prospects, including one of the most elite in all of baseball’s minor leagues.

Dickey’s story is one of the best in baseball, in which he missed two of the last twelve seasons not from injury, but because he wasn’t good enough to make a team. He reinvented himself as a knuckleball pitcher in the middle of the last decade after several seasons in Texas. As a Ranger, Dickey established himself as one of the game’s worst every day pitchers, throwing up a 5.72 ERA, 1.56 WHIP and just 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings, amongst many other ghastly stats. In short, he was absolutely terrible and was actually fortunate to stick around int he Majors as long as he did.

However, after two seasons in Seattle and Minnesota honing his craft (to the tune of a 4.99 ERA, 1.58 WHIP and 5.1 strikeouts per nine innings–about as on par with his Texas numbers as he could get), Dickey was a scrap heap signing with the Mets in 2010. He immediately became a bright spot amongst an otherwise forgetful NYM season, throwing together a stunning 2.84 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 26 starts and 174 innings. Since then, Dickey has been simply amazing, doling out two seasons of 32 and 33 starts, with 2012 being his masterpiece: 2.73 ERA, 20 wins, 1.05 WHIP, 230 strikeouts (!) to only 54 walks and a NL Cy Young Award. The blessing and the curse of the knuckleball is that because it’s thrown without rotation, it’s hard to predict where it’s going to land. Luckily for Dickey, he’s been able to understand the art of the ball’s static nature and put it into places where he’s able to accurately deceive the hitter.

The problem is that he did all of this at age 35. Going into 2013, Dickey will be 38 years old for a Mets team that’s, from all projections, is a couple years away from contending. The future of the franchise is built squarely around two young prospects, Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler. Harvey already made it to the Majors this year, posting a devastating 2.73 ERA, 70 strikeouts, 29 walks in just 59 innings. Wheeler, who came from the San Francisco Giants last year in the Carlos Beltran deal, is the organization’s second best prospect (or perhaps best, depending on who you talk to), and could be up in the Majors late this year or early in 2014. With Dillon Gee and Jonathan Niese, the Mets 2014-2016 rotation looks just about set, just as long as these youngsters can stop themselves from becoming the next Rick Ankiels. Dickey, at his age, was simply too far out of the Mets’ forecast for playoff contention to pay him a contract that essentially would have placed him with the Ryan Dempsters of the world. Ryan Dempster, last I checked, finished the season with an ERA over 5.00. R.A. Dickey won the Cy Young Award.

There’s a couple flaws in the Mets’ logic here, most of which sits with nature of knuckleballers. For the most part, throwing the pitch takes stress of the pitcher’s elbow and shoulder, allowing guys like Tim Wakefield to pitch effectively into his mid-forties and for a guy like Dickey with a missing ligment in his throwing elbow to win the Cy Young at age 37. In the words of MAMBINO contributor Pucklius, R.A. could be pitchin… Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: The Miami Marlins Trade Everyone to the Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays get: SS Jose Reyes, 3B/OF Emilio Bonifacio, C John Buck, SP Josh Johnson, SP Mark Buerhle

Miami Marlins get: SP Henderson Alvarez, C Jeff Mathis, SS Yunel Escobar, Shame and prospects SP Justin Nicolino, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, OF Jake Marisnick,

Less than twelve months removed from a massive winter shopping spree that preceded the team’s long-awaited move into a brand-new stadium in downtown Miami, the Marlins have completed a fire sale that many thought they’d started this summer by trading Hanley Ramirez, Edward Mujica, Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. The Fish have removed almost every vestige of considerable major league experience or salary demands from their roster, leaving only SP Ricky Nolasco, OF Giancarlo Stanton and new imports Mathis and Escobar as the only players on the roster with three or more seasons of service time. Stanton has already voiced his disapproval, and there are rumors he’ll be the next star to go, though I find it hard to believe that Miami would trade him with four years left on his rookie deal.

In a nutshell, the Marlins have completed their once a decade post-championship fire sale, except this time they haven’t won anything besides the award for “the franchise least deserving of success in major North American sports”. For the purposes of this post, I’ll leave out the repercussions this will have the possibility of there ever being success for Major League Baseball in South Beach, as well as the unscrupulous manner in which the Marlins seemed to have conned the city of Miami into paying for a brand new ballpark for what amounts to an expansion team. Let’s just focus on what happens to these two teams. 

For Miami, it’s fair in some ways to say this was just about dropping salary, but in others…this was a baseball trade. If all the prospects that go to the Marlins that were supposed to, the Fish are getting three of Toronto’s top 10 prospects, as well as a major league-ready pitcher in Henderson Alvarez. The Marlins next year are going to look like an expansion team, but then again, they lost 93 games this year and ranked 29th in runs scored, 21st in team ERA and 17th in errors. On every conceivable level, this team was subpar and that’s even before the comparison to their payroll, which was the 7th highest in baseball. Miami had a roster full of post-rookie contract vets in or past their primes who weren’t going to get better. 

As MAMBINO examined this past summer after the Hanley Ramirez trade, perhaps the expectations put upon the Marlins during the preseason weren’t particularly fair–maybe this team wasn’t that good in the first place. In the three to four seasons preceding their big move into downtown Miami, the Fish stuck around as a speculative playoff dark horse, with youngsters like Josh Johnson, Ramirez, Nolasco, Sanchez, Dan Uggla and Andrew Miller on the roster. Yet, year after year, the Marlins failed to win more than 87 games or finish any better than 2nd place. Predictions remained stagnant for a “sleeping giant” Florida team, as they waited to add big money pieces to an “almost there” stadium situation in which they’d finally be able to supplement a rich system of homegrown players with free agents

The truth is, maybe we all got caught up in the interim. This team’s window to pay for free agents like Reyes, Buerhle and Heath Bell to supplement the home grown product wasn’t 2011–it was 2007, 2008 and 2009. Our exRead more...

Burning Qs for the 2012 MLB Season (Part 2)

The MLB season has partially gotten underway (16 teams have yet to throw a single pitch as of Friday morning), so to prep, we started our world famous internet renowned popular burning questions for 2012. We launched part 1 back on Wednesday, and here are, what we think, the most important questions from now until October.

Are the Rays the best team in the AL East?
BockerKnocker: No, of course not.

But they will give the Yankees and Red Sox fits, possibly all the way through game 162, just like last year. As everybody knows, Tampa’s rotation is one of the best in the bigs. David Price and James (dare I say “Big Game,” KOBEsh?) Shields form one of the best 1-2 punches in the game, but it is the #3 and #4 slots in the rotation that has the folks in Florida beaming. Matt Moore is probably the game’s brightest prospect right now, including The Bryce Harper Experience. Moore struck out 15 in 9+ innings last year and was credited with the Rays’ lone win against Texas in the ALDS. Then again, he struck out 15 in 9+ innings last year. To anoint this guy so quickly is problematic; not only will this be his first big league season, but he will probably be pitching on an innings limit. Following Moore will be an absolute stud in Jeremy Hellickson, who proved that he can win on the big stage last year. Hellickson posted an ERA under 3 in the vaunted American League East on the way to the Rookie of the Year award. Hellickson, however, had an awful spring, allowing an earned run per inning pitched. Veterans are usually able to shake off the effects of a horrendous spring training, but how the young buck deal with it remains to be seen.

Got to get it together, BJ

The pitching will carry the Rays all year. Even if a starter gets injured here and there, the team has some minor-league depth in Wade Davis and Alex Cobb. The problem for the Rays lies with their lineup card. The franchises in New York and Boston will produce hitting clinics all summer, featuring brand names like Cano, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Gonzalez, and Granderson. Tampa struggled to put runs on the board all year, so they did what any bat-starved team would do. They went out and signed Luke Scott, daily golden sombrero candidate and Rays retread Carlos Pena, and Jeff Keppinger. Nice. There are some familiar faces returning in Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist. But even if those guys have the years everyone knows they can have, the team will need breakout seasons from B.J. Upton (seriously, B.J., we’ve been waiting forever for one from you) and Desmond Jennings.

The Toronto Blue Jays have become somewhat of a sexy sleeper pick to make the playoffs with the extended wild-card format. The always dangerous Jose Bautista leads a decent hitting squad, especially at home, but the Jays just don’t have the firepower on the mound to make a significant move in this 3-horse race. The Baltimore Orioles round out the AL East, but they don’t deserve any more than 1 sentence because they lost to a COMMUNITY COLLEGE team on Tuesday.

Are we in any danger of seeing the Orioles, Pirates, Mariners or Royals ending their years-long futility?
KOBEsh: No, don’t be silly Peter Pan. But that doesn’t mean there’s not signs of life.

There’s not a team in that sad bunch of glorified minor league teams that I would guess play for better than third-place in their divisions, and that’s partially because the Mariners play in a four-team division.

Out of the four, the O’s have the greatest opportunity to continue their tradition of absolute abject suckitude. Looking at … Read more...