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Young Core Starting to Shine for Arizona Diamondbacks

Lost in the ugliness of the Arizona Diamondbacks‘ 4-14 start to the season and the team’s marquee hiring of Tony La Russa has been the gradual growth and development of the D-backs’ young core position players.

First baseman Paul Goldschmidt is a known quantity in the desert but still struggles for recognition on the national level. It’s too bad because there may not be a better pure hitter in the National League. Once the D-backs can identify a cleanup hitter to protect Goldschmidt long-term, his numbers could actually improve as he moves into his prime with more protection.

The 26-year-old Goldschmidt has followed up his 2013 season, where he finished second in the National League MVP voting to the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ Andrew McCutchen, by having another quality start to this season. While Goldschmidt‘s walks and OBP are down, the rest of his numbers look like they will be very much in line with what he did last season. It is reasonable to suspect that Goldschmidt has pressed to provide offense during Arizona’s terrible start to the season, causing the drop in walks and expanding his strike zone.

Where Arizona can be cautiously optimistic right now is in the development of center fielder A.J. Pollock and shortstop Chris Owings. Given the D-backs’ rough start to the season, the fact that both young players have thrived is a really good sign of their ability to deal with the grind of the regular-season MLB schedule.

Pollock is already one of the better defensive outfielders in the National League, but the surprising part of his game has been the continued growth of his offensive abilities. After 49 games, his batting average is solid at .301, and he has an improved OBP of .352. Both are really good signs, but the biggest improvement is in Pollock’s power. His slugging percentage this season is .518, well over his .409 number from 2013.

If there is an area of the 26-year-old Pollock’s game that the D-backs would like to see improve, it would be his walk rate and his ability to cut down on strikeouts. Pollock currently strikes out at a 3-1 ratio over his walks. If he can make that ratio closer to 2-to-1, Pollock will be an extremely effective and cost-controlled player for the D-backs through 2018.

If Pollock continues to have this type of season, I would expect the D-backs to take a long look at creating a contract extension that would take Pollock through his arbitration years and buy out a year or two of his free agency. With the television revenue that continues to come into the sport, MLB teams are making a concerted effort to lock up their young talent early.

As good as the start of the season has been for Pollock, the only player that has had a better start is Owings. The 22-year-old has been a revelation so far for the D-backs, making the deal last season for Didi Gregorius even more questionable. While Owings has slowed down from the hot start that earned him National League Rookie of the Month honors for April, he has still managed to have good at-bats.

Much like Pollock, Owings needs to work on cutting down on his strikeouts while improving his walks and on-base ability to move to the top of the lineup.  

Watching Owings play defensively has been the biggest surprise. Before the season, I believed the D-backs would have been better served to deal veteran Aaron Hill, slide Owings over to second base and insert Gregorius at short. Owings has played shortstop so well that the D-backs are moving Gregorius around the infield at the Triple-A level to increase his versatility.

When the D-backs start making deals at the deadline, Owings should be safely entrenched as the team’s shortstop this season and a potential building block for the future. If Owings can improve his offensive numbers during the season, I have to think the D-backs will eventually look at moving him into the leadoff spot or No. 2 hole based on his minor league numbers and solid speed.

If Hill is eventually dealt this season, Arizona can look at having Gregorius at second base, Owings at short and Pollock in center field, letting the D-backs build up through the middle with young players, a key for long-term contention in the NL West.

Now, it will be up to La Russa and the D-backs to determine if 30-year-old catcher Miguel Montero is the right fit for the team behind the plate. Montero is ranked No. 16 overall among regular catchers in baseball defensively and also struggles throwing out base stealers. The D-backs might be in the market for a defensive upgrade behind the plate.

While it is unlikely that the D-backs will turn the season around and get back into playoff contention, there are still many reasons to watch this team during the summer.

And three of those reasons will be to watch the continued growth and development of Goldschmidt, Pollock and Owings.


Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs.

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Tony La Russa Changes Everything for the Arizona Diamondbacks

In a move that was surprising and seemingly came out of left field, the Arizona Diamondbacks announced last Saturday that the organization hired Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa to become the team’s newly created chief of baseball operations. La Russa will report directly to team CEO Derrick Hall.

This move is a game changer for the D-backs. La Russa changes everything moving forward in the immediate future. The D-backs had seemingly been handcuffed during the team’s terrible start to the season by having limited in-house options to replace general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson.

La Russa brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table, but the biggest thing he will bring to the desert is credibility and a history of success. La Russa is a known quantity, someone most baseball fans will know from his track record with the Oakland A’s and most recently the St. Louis Cardinals. In short, he can inspire confidence with the fans as the D-backs try to dig out of this hole.

As Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi points out in this tweet, La Russa has been involved in one losing season since 1999. One. Compare that to the D-backs’ six losing seasons and two .500 seasons since 1998 and you can see why La Russa will be empowered to bring consistency to the organization.

If the 69-year-old La Russa can bring a semblance of his success from the Cardinals to Arizona, this might turn out to be a franchise-changing decision. La Russa has won three World Series, six pennants and has 2,728 victories to his credit over his 33 years of managing in the game.

Just as impressive is that the Cardinals have hardly missed a beat since La Russa left the organization after the 2011 season. He set up the Cardinals to have long-term sustained success, something the D-backs have struggled to find since their inception in 1998.

It would seem fairly obvious that this move will eventually spell the end for Towers and maybe even Gibson in the desert. It is to the credit of Hall and managing general partner Ken Kendrick that Arizona seemed reluctant to make changes just for the sake of making a change. Firing Gibson after the team started 4-14 would have likely endeared the organization to the fans, even if it wasn’t the right move.

I am still not convinced that Gibson needs to go. I believe he was given a poor roster and a below-average pitching staff this season and asked to create magic. Towers is far more culpable for the poor trades and bad decisions that the organization has made since making the playoffs in 2011.

La Russa is likely to want to bring in more of his own people. He already has his longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan on board as the Diamondbacks pitching guru, former coach Dave McKay as the team’s first base coach and Roland Hemond involved in the team’s front office. It provides a level of comfort as La Russa learns the Arizona organization.

Outside of Arizona, La Russa might be tempted to raid the Cardinals for front-office help in the form of Cards director of player development Gary LaRocque, as Peter Gammons speculates here. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal mentions bigger names such as Walt Jocketty and Al Avila in this article. If the D’Backs look for a new manager, USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale mentions St. Louis bench coach Mike Aldrete as an option, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tabs Joe McEwing as a name to keep an eye on.

All of these names would figure to be in the mix for the D-backs given their ties to La Russa.

To his credit, La Russa made it very clear that he has no interest in managing again. Perfect. Find the next John Mozeliak or Jocketty to be general manager. See if Gibson can morph into Mike Matheny if given a better team and pitching staff.

This is a coup for Arizona. While this season looks like it is going to be remembered for wasted opportunities, it might ultimately be remembered for bringing about the necessary and needed changes to get the D-backs back on track.

Information used via Arizona Diamondbacks/TwitterBaseball-ReferenceJon Morosi/Fox Sports, Peter Gammons, Ken Rosenthal/Fox Sports, Bob Nightengale/USA Today Sports, Jerry Crasnick/ESPN and

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Arizona Diamondbacks’ Organization Is at a Crossroads in 2014

In 2007, the Arizona Diamondbacks made a surprising run toward the playoffs and reached the National League Championship Series before finally falling short against the Colorado Rockies. Three years later, the architect for that surprising run, general manager Josh Byrnes, was fired in July 2010.

After starting this season by winning only nine of their first 31 games, the D’Backs look doomed to repeat that cycle. General manager Kevin Towers is likely to pay the price for Arizona’s struggles this season due to his questionable moves and the poor performance of the team’s core players and pitching staff.

Towers enjoyed early success in his tenure with the D’Backs, building the 2011 squad into a group that advanced to the 2011 National League Division Series before falling to the Milwaukee Brewers. Arizona looked to be a force in the NL West, primed for a strong three- to five-year stretch based on the depth of the team’s farm system, promising young core players and the improved financial flexibility.

Now, just three years later, almost all of the optimism around the organization has vanished. Much of the fault falls at the feet of Towers for building a poorly constructed team that has failed to capitalized on the window of opportunity that the franchise seemingly had.

It is hard to understand how things have gotten to this point.

Arizona has good ownership, led by Ken Kendrick. Kendrick has been surprisingly approachable while running the team and has seemed to grow into the role as managing general partner. The D’Backs are completely involved and invested in all of the communities of Arizona, operating as great ambassadors of MLB.

The man who Kendrick has picked to run the day-to-day operations of the franchise, Derek Hall, is one of the most genuine and engaged executives in the game.

Hall should find himself on the short list of candidates to replace outgoing commissioner Bud Selig when Selig finally steps down. Hall has the experience of working in a large market with the Los Angeles Dodgers and a mid-market like Arizona. His background in media, communications and business only add to his resume as MLB looks to embrace the new age of social media and lure back younger fans.

Towers has a lengthy resume built in the game among his time with the San Diego Padres and now the D’Backs. Towers has been very accountable with the media concerning the D’Backs‘ struggles and has a strong reputation within the game. But in his 17 years as a general manager, his teams have only made it to the playoffs five times and have only had a winning season in seven of those 17 seasons.

Manager Kirk Gibson is in a tough spot.

He is tied at the hip with Towers, and both men seem to genuinely like and support each other. But the D’Backs, as currently constructed, are not winning anything. And much of the blame goes back to the construction of the pitching staff and the poor player evaluations that the team has made over the past three seasons.

While Gibson might appease his critics by throwing things and calling out his players, he has continued to operate like a professional who has been placed in a no-win situation.

If Gibson is sacrificed, it won’t be because he is to blame for this mess. It is simply because it is the easiest thing to do before blowing up this roster. Arizona talked about being a playoff team this season, not scouting for next season’s draft. It’s not fair, but the D’Backs cannot afford to go through an entire summer with an empty building.

With all of this executive talent, it is hard to understand how this organization has drifted so off track again so quickly. When the D’Backs fired Byrnes, they were undertaking a culture change within the organization. The man they finally picked to replace him, Towers, was basically the polar opposite of Byrnes in terms of building an organization and establishing the organization’s philosophy.

Where Byrnes favored the new-age analytics of the sport, Towers was much more of an old-school executive. Byrnes was viewed as a young, paper-pushing bureaucrat, while Towers was viewed as a wily, seasoned veteran.

Many of the moves that Towers has made during his tenure in the desert fly in the face of the information that is readily available to all of the team’s in MLB and have left the organization open to much criticism. Continually trading away prospects while trying to build a successful mid-market team is virtually impossible to do.

The numbers don’t lie. Arizona features the worst pitching staff ERA (5.20) in the major leagues and an offense that is in the middle of the majors in runs. All of this coming with a franchise-high payroll of almost $113 million to start the season.

Barring a miraculous turnaround, the D’Backs will likely be forced to make changes with Towers and Gibson during the month of May if things continue to trend in a negative direction.

Towers is likely to leave the D’Backs in worse condition then when he was hired, leaving a below-average farm system, high payroll, bad contracts and very little quality starting pitching outside of Wade Miley, an injured Patrick Corbin and top prospect Archie Bradley.

The next general manager and manager of the D’Backs will need to be people who can combine the old-school mentality of Towers with the new-school analytics of Byrnes. They will need to be able to build a consensus and adhere to a three-year plan while developing a blueprint for this team to become a perennial contender.

Change is coming for the D’Backs, and it’s incredibly important that Kendrick and Hall hit a home run with their next moves in order to get the franchise back on track.  


Information used from FanGraphs, Cot’s Baseball Contracts/Baseball Prospectus.

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Miguel Cabrera’s Contract Is a Terrible Move for the Detroit Tigers

Great player. Bad move. Terrible contract.

“Why?” That was my first thought when it was first reported by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman that the Detroit Tigers had extended the contract of Miguel Cabrera through the 2023 season. The deal makes the Tigers total commitment to Cabrera now a 10-year contract worth $292 million. Heyman also reports that there is a vesting option for two more seasons if Cabrera finishes in the top-10 of the MVP voting in 2023.

The numbers are ridiculous and completely unnecessary. There was no need to make this move right now.

The Tigers still had Cabrera under contract for two more seasons at a very reasonable $22 million per season for both sides. Unless Cabrera was voicing his unhappiness behind the scenes and demanding a new deal, it is hard to understand the urgency to make this deal at this time.

The move is just one of many in this curious offseason for the Tigers and general manager Dave Dombrowski. Dombrowski has long been considered one of the best executives in the game, but he has had a very erratic winter.

Detroit is very close to being a World Series team again, and they seem to be operating with that mindset. The Tigers added closer Joe Nathan while trading Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler. Both of those moves seem to signal that Detroit was going for it. 

Getting out from underneath the majority of Fielder’s remaining contract was a huge move for the franchise in the long-term. It should have allowed Detroit to lock up ace Max Scherzer. Fielder simply wasn’t producing up to expectations during the regular season, and especially the playoffs, as he was starting to show slight signs of decline at the plate. 

Instead, Cabrera’s extension comes on the heels of the Tigers publicly embarrassing 2013 Cy Young winner Scherzer over his unwillingness to take a deal that Detroit felt was more than fair. Dombrowski has since had to clear the air with Scherzer as reported here by USA Today‘s John Lowe.

Looking at Detroit’s payroll obligations for 2014 and beyond, it is hard to see the Tigers retaining Scherzer. Detroit already has $98 million committed to six players on the 2015 payroll without factoring in Scherzer. It certainly feels like once Scherzer rejected the Tigers’ offer, they made the decision to lock up Cabrera long-term. 

At the same time, Detroit seemed to suddenly pinch pennies, dealing off above-average starter Doug Fister for very little immediate return. On this Tigers staff, Fister was easily the best fourth-starter in MLB. The bullpen and the bench for the Tigers could have clearly stood an infusion of talent. 

This is nothing against Cabrera the player. The 30-year-old Cabrera is already in the midst of a Hall of Fame career that will likely land him in Cooperstown on the first ballot that he is eligible. He has won the AL MVP the past two seasons and will likely battle for the crown again this season barring something unforeseen. 

Unfortunately, though, this deal will take Cabrera to the age of 40. Cabrera struggled through injuries last season, something that impacted his play down the stretch and in the playoffs. Cabrera underwent core muscle repair surgery this past winter to fix the groin/abdominal injury and has looked healthy this spring. With the departure of Fielder, Cabrera will benefit greatly from the move back to first base.

Detroit was freed from a cumbersome contract when they moved Fielder to the Rangers at the beginning of the offseason. It was something that Detroit should have learned from. Now they have gone and put themselves in even more of a precarious position over the next 10 years with Cabrera.

Dombrowski, Cabrera and the Tigers would have been much better served to spend this money by keeping Fister earlier this winter and signing free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew once it became clear that Jose Iglesias was likely going to be lost for the season due to injury. This team is built to win the World Series now, not just the AL Central

Instead, Detroit will be going into the season with a below-average shortstop situation, questions in left field and questions in the bullpen while also having weakened the starting rotation in the process. 

Detroit made Cabrera an offer he simply couldn’t refuse. Now, the question is how long before the Tigers regret making the offer in the first place?

Information used from Jon Heyman/CBS Sports, Jon Heyman/CBS SportsBaseball-ReferenceJohn Lowe/USA Today Sports, Cot’s Baseball Contracts/Baseball Prospectus

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Elbow Injury Is Terrible News for Arizona Diamondbacks and Patrick Corbin

The season for the Arizona Diamondbacks might be over before it begins with the news, first reported by AZCentral’s Nick Piecoro, that the D’Backs’ young ace Patrick Corbin has a UCL tear in his elbow that might require Tommy John surgery. 

It’s the worst thing that could have happened to the D’Backs this spring outside of an injury to Archie Bradley or Paul Goldschmidt. Losing Corbin effectively takes Arizona out of the NL West picture. 

Piecoro reports that Corbin will likely get a second opinion this week, but more than likely this means Corbin will be heading toward surgery that will likely cost him the entire 2014 and part of the 2015 season as he rehabs from injury. 

The 24-year-old Corbin was one of Arizona’s bright stars last season, turning in a 14-8 record with a 3.41 ERA in 208.1 innings. It was good enough to land Corbin in the All-Star Game last year and allowed Arizona to project a rotation headed by Corbin and top prospect Bradley going into the future.

It’s hard to fault the D’Backs for anything that has happened to Corbin. His innings have increased at a normal pace over the past five seasons. Corbin pitched 144.2 innings in 2010 followed by 160.1 innings in 2011 and a 186.1 innings in 2012. It’s a gradual increase that led to Corbin passing the 200-innings barrier last season. 

The surgery and rehab alone isn’t a guarantee that Corbin will return to form. The D’Backs have to only look at Daniel Hudson‘s recovery from Tommy John surgery to know that nothing is guaranteed. Hudson was an extremely promising young pitcher who underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2012. While making a rehab start in June 2013, Hudson injured the elbow again, causing him to undergo a second Tommy John surgery that month. 

Outside of nine starts made in 2012, the 27-year-old Hudson may effectively lose almost three full seasons in the prime of his career. If the D’Backs are out of contention this summer, it makes very little sense to push Hudson at all in his recovery this season. 

In trying to look at the D’Backs 2014 campaign in a positive light, the hope was that a rotation built around Corbin and Bradley coupled with free agent Bronson Arroyo and the improved performance of veterans Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley and Brandon McCarthy would allow the D’Backs to contend for a playoff spot in 2014. 

Instead, the rotation stands in shambles before the season has even started. Arroyo has been dealing with a disk issue in his back for much of the spring, Cahill left Wednesday’s game after having a minor issue with his knee, and now Corbin is potentially lost for the season before even the first game is played. 

Randall Delgado should be the obvious answer to fill Corbin’s shoes. Delgado was a central piece in last winter’s Justin Upton deal, and now the D’Backs will get a chance to fully evaluate him this season. Delgado was 5-7 with a 4.26 ERA in 19 starts for Arizona in 2013. 

While it was hard to imagine the D’Backs contending for the NL West or a wild-card spot with Corbin, it is virtually impossible to see this pitching staff replacing Corbin and matching up with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants this season. Arizona simply doesn’t have the starting pitching to match up head-to-head. 

If Corbin has surgery this month, it effectively means he will be coming back next season after a 12-month absence with the hope of impacting the rotation by the middle of next season. That rotation figures to look very different then the one that takes the field this season. 

Unfortunately for the D’Backs, they continue to be snake-bit while attempting to get back into playoff contention. 

Information used from Nick Piecoro/AZCentral, Baseball-ReferenceWikipedia

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Toronto Blue Jays Need to Stop Settling for Also-Ran Status

The Toronto Blue Jays made the biggest trade of the winter last season, acquiring Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle in a mega-deal with the Miami Marlins. It was a 12-player deal, per Gregor Chisholm of, that seemed to signal that the Blue Jays were ready to get back into serious contention in the AL East

After making the deal with the Marlins, the Blue Jays turned around and picked up NL Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets. These were the type of bold, aggressive, win-now moves that Toronto needed to make in order to return to contention. 

The moves were long overdue and made Toronto one of the teams to watch last year. The new additions were expected to propel the Blue Jays into the playoff race and bring the once successful franchise back into national recognition. 

But a funny thing happened on the way to the playoffs—the Blue Jays finished in last place in their division at 74-88. The fact that neither one of the huge deals provided the desired effect seemed to make the Toronto front office extremely timid going into this winter, making the Blue Jays one of the least active teams during this offseason.

It’s enough to make someone on the outside looking in at the situation wonder if it is time for the organization to clean house in the dugout and front office and start over if this season ends up being more of the same. General manager Alex Anthopoulos has gone 228-258 in his three seasons running the team. The Blue Jays have reached only as high as fourth place in the division under Anthopoulos‘ tenure, all the while spending $273.4 million over the last three seasons. 

Anthopoulos can’t say he doesn’t have the financial means to contend. If baseball has shown anything over the past couple of years, it is more important how a team spends its money than how much is spent. It is how the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland A’s are in contention every year. All the Blue Jays have to do is look at the Rays and A’s and realize that they can’t play the small-market card.

Even more perplexing for Toronto was the decision to rehire former manager John Gibbons to the same position with the team. Gibbons already served one somewhat unsuccessful tenure with the team from 2004 to 2008. During that time, his record stood at 305-305. Gibbons wasn’t terrible in his first time around, but he never really took the Blue Jays anywhere, and the team struggled under Gibbons again last season.

Gibbons might not be a bad manager, but it certainly gave the appearance that Toronto was willing to settle for a safe, known quantity after losing John Farrell to the Boston Red Sox. Farrell left Toronto under a heap of criticism and questions about his ability to manage.

A year later, those questions about Farrell seem silly after he led the 2013 Red Sox to the World Series championship.

Farrell’s success puts the spotlight squarely back on the Blue Jays. How did Farrell manage to go from question mark to one of the best managers in the game in just one season? Is it as simple as switching uniforms, or are their bigger issues at play?  

This year, the Blue Jays are expected to spend roughly $132.6 million on their 2014 roster. Toronto has talent on offense and defense, but it is hard to envision this club finishing much higher than fourth place in the AL East. Toronto’s core looks solid from the outside, but due to injuries and poor performance, the Blue Jays seem to perennially underperform. 

It hasn’t gone unnoticed. Agent Scott Boras, the highest-profile player agent in MLB, questioned the Blue Jays’ direction in a recent interview with Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Boras directs most of the blame at the ownership of the Blue Jays, saying the team hasn’t given the front office the freedom to make moves. 

I understand that Boras is trying to drum up interest in his players, but I am not sure that I agree with him saying the front office has been hamstrung by ownership. Players like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, Reyes and Dickey should be successful with any organization. Toronto has spent money recently; it’s just that the Blue Jays haven’t received a very good return on their investment. 

Toronto needs to set its sights higher. Until the Blue Jays make the decision to clean house or contend, then they will appear to be just settling for being an also-ran in the AL East.

For a once proud franchise, it truly shows how far the Blue Jays have fallen. The question now is, will the Blue Jays settle for also-ran status, or will they make the necessary moves to get back into contention?


Information used from Gregor Chisholm/, Baseball-ReferenceCot’s Baseball Contracts/Baseball Prospectus, Cot’s Baseball Contracts/Baseball Prospectus, Ken Rosenthal/Fox Sports.

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Injury Concerns for Bronson Arroyo and the Arizona Diamondbacks

Bronson Arroyo is having trouble with a slightly bulging disk in his back and was scratched from his scheduled start Tuesday by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The news first came from’s Steve Gilbert. 

In the overall scheme of things, it might turn out to be a minor issue. But, right now, it can’t be seen as anything other than a red flag for Arroyo and the 2014 D-backs. 

The 37-year-old Arroyo was signed late in the offseason to a two-year deal worth $23.5 million. Although I liked the signing of Arroyo, it seemed like the D-backs paid well above market value for a player who had few options at that point of the winter. 

Part of the attraction to Arroyo was his durability and the fact that the D-backs wouldn’t have to surrender a draft pick for signing him. The ability to pencil in Arroyo for 200 innings, double-digit wins and the knowledge that he would take the ball every fifth day was a very valuable thing for the D-backs to bank on.

If Arroyo comes to the desert and immediately starts having health issues, then this deal will lead to a lot of questions for D-backs general manager Kevin Towers. Towers doesn’t sound too concerned yet in this article from AZ Central’s Zach Buchanan. There still is time in the spring and Arroyo has a history of overcoming injuries and illness as Towers points out. 

Towers had to bring in a veteran arm like Arroyo due to the inconsistency and struggles of Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill. The D-backs are giving both pitchers plenty of opportunity to gain spots in the starting rotation this spring, but have no idea what to expect from either. The early returns show that McCarthy has been very good while Cahill has continued to struggle. Both pitchers will need to give the D-backs more this year. 

Which is why the signing of Arroyo was so important for Arizona. He has been nothing but consistent in his major league career, giving the D-backs some stability in the rotation to go along with young lefties Patrick Corbin and Wade Miley. Arroyo also allows the D-backs to take their time with talented prospect Archie Bradley, although he has been very impressive this spring. 

But, a bulging-disk issue for a 37-year-old starting pitcher has to be a concern, especially when Arroyo just passed a team-administered physical in order to be signed. Which means that this injury, even if it is minor, is something that has come about since Arroyo signed with Arizona.

Arroyo will be shut down for seven to 10 days in order to give his back time to heal. Arroyo was already behind the rest of the pitching staff after signing right before the D-Backs reported for spring training. This might raise the question of his ability to be on the 2014 Opening Day roster.

This delay could allow the D-backs to take it very easy with Arroyo. By having him start the season on the disabled list, it would allow the D-backs to target the first week of April without having Arroyo rush back to meet an arbitrary deadline. The team could also get Bradley’s feet wet at the major league level. 

If the D-backs are to contend for a playoff spot this year, they will need Arroyo to be healthy and in the starting rotation. 


Information used from Steve Gilbert/, Baseball-Reference, Zach Buchanan/AZ Central,

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Kansas City Royals Need to Re-Sign Pitcher Ervin Santana

It’s March and Ervin Santana is still sitting out there in free agency without a home. The Kansas City Royals still have a glaring hole at the top of their starting rotation. 

The solution for both sides would seem to be pretty simple at this point: a one-year deal for the $14.1 million qualifying offer that Santana turned down at the start of free agency. It allows both sides to save face and move forward for the 2014 season.

Santana would come back to the Royals with the understanding that the Royals would not place the compensation tag on Santana again after this season, making him a true free agent. They could also offer a handshake agreement to trade him if the team falls out of contention by the July trade deadline. 

It seems obvious. But it hasn’t happened yet. Why?

The 31-year-old Santana was excellent for Kansas City in 2013, and in the process, he salvaged his career and looked primed to cash in on a pitching-starved free-agent market. Don’t be deceived by his 9-10 record; the rest of the numbers are indicative of a top-tier starter—a 3.24 ERA in 211 innings with a 1.142 WHIP.

The draft pick compensation has obviously become a bigger hindrance to all of the players and teams in MLB more than anyone would have anticipated. In the past, teams would not have been nearly so reluctant to surrender draft picks. Teams have now come to the understanding that young, cost-controlled prospects are the most valuable commodity in the sport.

This slow market should actually be helping the Royals at this point. At the start of free agency, it looked extremely unlikely that Santana would return to Kansas City. Now, unless Santana wants to give himself away, the Royals are clearly his best option at this point. 

Which begs the question: What else might be holding up a deal for Santana?

Besides being reluctant to surrender a draft pick, teams might simply be wary of Santana’s inconsistent performance and be unwilling to commit to a long-term deal when they are unsure of the return. Santana has always displayed tremendous stuff, but the results have mostly failed to live up to expectations during his career after a solid start. 

Santana spent his first eight seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, posting a 96-80 record with a career ERA of 4.19. Indicative of his struggles to put it all together with the Angels was the fact that he only posted three seasons of a sub-4.00 ERA during in his eight-year stint with Los Angeles. 

Payroll might be another factor playing a huge part in keeping the Royals from re-signing Santana. Last year, the Royals spent $81.8 million on player salaries. This year, they are already on the books for $90 million without Santana. Increasing payroll another $14 million might be tough to justify, but this would be a one-year deal to try and get the team to the playoffs.

This is a huge year for Kansas City. The Royals finished with a 86-76 record in 2013, good enough for third place in the AL Central. Kansas City has to seize the opportunity in front of it to try and make the playoffs this season. The Royals will likely lose staff ace James Shields to free agency at the end of the season, putting even more pressure on Kansas City to make the most of the 2014 season.

On paper, the Kansas City rotation will be led this season by Shields and veteran Jeremy Guthrie. Earlier in the winter, the Royals invested $32 million into a four-year deal with lefty Jason Vargas. The deal for Vargas seemed far too rich back in November and looks even worse now in March. That money looks like it would have been much better spent on trying to bring back Santana and solidifying the Royals rotation.

Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost were both given two-year contract extensions, taking them both through the 2015 season. Even with the extensions, patience must be running out and there has to be some frustration from fans and ownership about the Royals’ inability to get over the hump within the division. Last season was only the second time since 1993 that the Royals have finished with a winning record.

The Royals have a good, young core of position players like Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez, along with a great bullpen headed by Greg Holland. The Royals are a team who might be capable of surprising in the American League this season

But without Santana, it’s hard to see the Royals contending for a playoff spot. 


Information used from, Cot’s Baseball Contracts/Baseball Prospectus and

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2014 MLB Payroll Paints an Ugly Picture for Arizona Diamondbacks

The payroll numbers don’t lie and they tell a very disturbing story for the 2014 Arizona Diamondbacks and their potential fortunes for the upcoming season. 

Arizona looks to be on the books for roughly $104 million for the upcoming season, which on the surface might seem like a realistic number for a middle-market franchise like the D’Backs. Looking at the numbers a little deeper and it is easy to see why D’Backs ownership might have been initially reluctant to pick up the option of general manager Kevin Towers. 

Towers has done an extremely poor job of spending the team’s money and identifying players to sign and build around. Of the $104 million, Towers has spent roughly $27.6 million trying to sign the same type of pitcher. First it was Trevor Cahill, then it was Brandon McCarthy. Towers must now hope that the third time is the charm with the recent signing of Bronson Arroyo, which was first reported by 98.7 Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro.

Having Arroyo is fine, but paying all three pitchers roughly $27 million combined this season really hurts trying to build the rest of the roster. 

The outfield is another area where the D’Backs have spent money with very little return to speak of. Last season, the team signed Cody Ross, eventually to replace the departed Justin Upton. The only problem is that Ross was injured for most of the season and enters this season as a giant question mark as he recovers from a bad hip injury suffered last August. 

Ross sits on the books at $9.5 million for this season and next. Ross will also likely sit on the bench with the D’Backs having acquired Mark Trumbo earlier this winter and the re-signing of outfielder Gerardo Parra. Even with the $19.1 million tied up in Ross, Trumbo and Parra, the D’Backs will still likely receive below-average production from their outfield this season and Trumbo‘s defense will be a concern in left field. 

The D’Backs need catcher Miguel Montero to have a serious rebound season in 2014 or legitimate questions will continue to be raised about his five-year deal for $60 million and how little return that Arizona has seen on its investment so far. 

The money spent on Ross, Parra, Montero, Trumbo, McCarthy, Cahill and Arroyo comes out to be $56.8 million this season, with only Trumbo looking like a potential core player past 2014. Throw in the $22 million due to Martin Prado and Aaron Hill and the $7 million golden parachute given to J.J. Putz this season, and the D’Backs will have over $85.8 million tied up in just 10 players. 

It means that the D’Backs have less then $20 million left to fill out the rest of the holes on the roster this season, illustrating the potential lack of depth that might hurt the team by continuing to trade prospects and young cost-controlled players. 

The masterstroke from Towers was getting a contract extension done with legitimate star Paul Goldschmidt before his breakout season in 2013. It was something that I advocated last March and something the team finally got done at the end of last March (ESPN story). Goldschmidt was one of the biggest bargains in sports last season outside of the Los Angeles Angels‘ Mike Trout, producing a ridiculous 7.1 WAR on a contract that paid him only $500,000. 

Outside of Trout, you could make the argument that Goldschmidt has the best contract in baseball over the next three seasons, with the D’Backs on the hook for a little over $10 million through the 2016 season. It’s value that the D’Backs will need, given the inefficient spending on the rest of the roster. 

It is also shows how much pressure there is on pitching prospect Archie Bradley to be as good as advertised when he finally makes the D’Backs rotation and how Arizona can ill-afford Patrick Corbin to have a sophomore slump in his second season. 

While $104 million might sound like a lot of money, it needs to be spent on the right players. If the D’Backs are going to contend in the future, it is something that they need to keep in the forefront of every deal that they make and every contract that they sign moving forward.

Information used from Cot’s Baseball Contracts/Baseball Prospectus, Baseball-ReferenceJohn Gambadoro/Arizona Sports, ESPN

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It’s Time for the New York Yankees to Release Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez finally learned his fate when arbitrator Fredric Horowitz dropped his suspension from 211 games to 162 games, first reported by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. In the process, it has given the New York Yankees salary relief for the 2014 season by wiping A-Rod’s money off of the books. 

Now is the time for the Yankees to release Rodriguez.

The Yankees are faced with the date of February 14. That’s the date when pitchers and catchers report to spring training. ESPN’s Jayson Stark says that it is unlikely that Rodriguez would attend spring training or be allowed on the major league fields by the Yankees.

At this point, A-Rod might want to come to camp and make the Yankees squirm. There doesn’t seem to be any love lost between the player and the entire organization. Even after losing his arbitration hearing, A-Rod has moved on to filing a lawsuit, detailed here by the AP’s Ronald Blum and Larry Neumeister, against the MLB and the player’s union.

It’s the last thing the Yankees and manager Joe Girardi need to deal with, answering questions and dealing with a huge media presence for a player who won’t even play one game for the Yankees this season. While New York could stash him at the minor league complex, it still seems like it would be a giant distraction and impact the ability of the Yankees prospects to conduct a normal spring routine.

New York needs to make a clean break and avoid the circus that would likely come to spring training this year or next. A-Rod’s suspension covers the regular season and the postseason, but he might still be allowed to work out with the team and go to spring training.

The Yankees need to take it a step further and spend the next two weeks trying to find a resolution to make the A-Rod headache go away. New York must make it clear to Rodriguez and his representatives that he will never wear pinstripes again. The Yankees might be able to broker a settlement with A-Rod’s camp, giving him a year to rehab and pick his next opportunity.

If the sides can’t come to an agreement, the Yankees must release A-Rod immediately. While New York will be frustrated by eating the remaining three years and $61 million left on his contract, this is still an ideal time to cut A-Rod loose and be done with him. 

A-Rod might have some right to claim that MLB and commissioner Bud Selig are out to get him, but he is unlikely to find anyone sympathetic to his cause. Nobody knows what the truth is, and no one believes that A-Rod is completely innocent here. A-Rod is not the victim here, he is simply part of the problem. 

The Yankees need to do the right thing and remove the headache. They saved millions when A-Rod’s suspension was upheld. Sure, eating the remaining $61 million will be difficult to swallow, but it would be worth it just to get A-Rod as far away from pinstripes as they can. Maybe they feel they can get some of that money back in court, but again, they have already recouped roughly $24 million. Whatever additional money just might not be worth it.

This figures to be a huge transitional year for New York. The organization will already be dealing with the defection of Robinson Cano as well as the retirements of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte while welcoming newcomers like Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann into the fold. 

The last thing the Yankees need is A-Rod bringing a black cloud over all of that and causing even more drama than he has already brought to the team. 

Rodriguez seems like he is only motivated at this point by money and his legacy. A-Rod will never get into the Hall of Fame. The suspension being upheld guarantees it. It is unlikely that A-Rod will even play in the majors again.

Barry Bonds was unable to find a job in the majors after leaving the San Francisco Giants, even though it would have required only a one-year deal on short money. Bonds was still a productive player and wasn’t coming off of a one-year suspension. 

Rodriguez should take a look at Bonds and realize that it’s over now. Would the Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays or Houston Astros take a shot at him next year? I think it is doubtful that the interest in A-Rod would be enough for those franchises to add a player like Rodriguez to the team. He’ll basically be a 40-year-old designated hitter with bad hips and enough baggage to fill an entire clubhouse. 

It’s hard to see anyone interested in bringing that aboard. 

Information used from Bob Nightengale/USA Today Sports, Baseball Reference, Jayson Stark/ESPN, Ronald Blum and Larry Neumeister/AP

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