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Texas Rangers: A Couple of Nice, Small Moves for the Team

Coming off a season in which the Rangers went to the World Series for the first time in franchise history, the team has made a couple of small moves that should improve, if only slightly, the 2011 squad.

Specifically, they signed catcher Yorvit Torrealba for two years for a total of $6.25 million, and they also signed right-hander Japanese reliever Yoshinori Tatekama to an undisclosed one-year deal with club options for 2012 and 2013.

These are small moves, indeed, but they are good moves. The Rangers improve at two positions (catcher and bullpen) where they need improvement, and neither move cost them much.

You pretty much know what you can expect from Torrealba: A veteran presence, decent defense and acceptable offense for a catcher. He won’t win any pennants by himself, but the odds are good that he will be well worth the money he’ll get under this contract.

The biggest knocks on Tateyama are that he’s old (35 in 2011) and he’s been inconsistent in his Japanese NPB career: 1.80 ERA in 2010, but a distinctly unimpressive 3.43 career ERA. Nevertheless, I like his chances for 2011 sucess.

First, no one in MLB has seen him pitch, which is almost always an advantage for a pitcher. Second, his peripheral numbers the last three seasons in Japan suggest he’s a better pitcher than his ERAs necessarily indicate and he’s also got MLB-worthy command.

Finally, mid-30′s Japanese relievers have had more success in the U.S. than mid-30′s Japanese starters, most likely because the relievers don’t face any hitter in the line-up more than once. I don’t know what Tateyama cost the Rangers, but I suspect the guaranteed amount is more than reasonable, given his potential upside.

Deals like these won’t build a pennant winner, but assuming the Rangers retain most of the true stars who got them to the postseason in 2010, these moves make the 2011 Rangers just a little bit stronger.

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Los Angeles Dodgers Sign Juan Uribe, San Francisco Giants Get Miguel Tejada

The Dodgers signed Juan Uribe to a three-year $21 million contract today, and the Giants responded by inking Miguel Tejada to a one-year $6.5 million contract (plus incentives).  The moves strengthens the Dodgers and weaken the Giants in 2011.  After that, the moves are better for the Giants.

In fact, the thing that strikes me most about these two deals (and also the Giants’ decision to re-up Aubrey Huff for two years and $22 million, which I discuss below) is how much the market for baseball talent has improved compared to the last two offseasons, at least as far as the players are concerned.

Replacing Juan Uribe with Miguel Tejada is definitely a down-grade for the Giants.  Uribe will be 32 next year, while Tejada will be 37.  Since both players will be over age 31, you have to expect that both players will decline offensively in 2011.  However, I would expect Tejada to decline more, since he’s considerably older, and Uribe had higher OPS numbers the last two seasons.

More importantly, Uribe is a better and more flexible fielder than Tejada.  Fangraphs likes Uribe’s defense more than Tejada’s at both third and shortstop, while Uribe can also give a team above average defense at second base, a position Tejada hasn’t played, not even once, in his long major league career.

In short, I’d rather have Uribe in 2011.  That being said, Uribe cost the Dodgers a lot more, and I don’t expect Uribe to hit nearly as well in Dodgers Stadium in any of the next three seasons as he hit in AT&T Park the last two seasons.

Tejada is essentially a place-holder for 2011.  Unfortunately, the Giants don’t have anyone who Tejada is holding a place for.

The Giants’ top SS prospect, by far, is 21-year-old Venezualan Ehire Adrianza, who hit .256 with a .682 OPS (but a respectable-for-a-shortstop .333 on-base percentage) at Class A+ San Jose in 2010.  Given the reports of strong defense, there’s no reason to think that Adrianza isn’t still the Giants’ shortstop of the future, but his 2010 offensive numbers don’t suggest he’s going to be ready in 2012, unless he takes a BIG step up in 2011.

You never know with players this young, but I wouldn’t hold my breath that Ehire is going to take the NL by storm in 2012.

My gut feeling is that both Juan Uribe’s and Miguel Tejada’s contracts are more than they’re worth, but it’s awfully hard to say so when Aubrey Huff just received two years and $22 million.  Of course, I thought that was too much also.

The best thing I can say about the Huff contract is that the Giants are generally pretty good about rewarding players who have performed for them.  An example I will provide is Scott McClain, a classic 4-A player, to whom the Giants gave two September call-ups in 2007 and 2008, even though McLain had no hope of being part of the Giants’ future.

At ages 35 and 36, McLain had two fantastic seasons as the starting 1Bman at AAA Fresno.  There was no way he was ever going to help the major league team win anything, but, even so, the Giants rewarded him for his fine AAA performances with September call-ups.

I think there’s value to that, because management is sending a message to every player in the organization, “Perform, and you will be rewarded.”  That’s the way MLB should operate.

If the Giants were willing to give Huff $22 million over two years, why not give Juan Uribe $21 million over three years (assuming Uribe would have remained a Giant if they matched the Dodgers’ offer)?  The obvious answer (aside from the fact that Huff is white and Uribe isn’t) is that Huff got there first.  Once the Giants matched the $22 million offer Huff reportedly received from someone else, they didn’t have the money to give Uribe the same and stay within any semblance of a budget.

For roughly the same money, I’d rather have Uribe for the next three years than Aubrey for the next two, entirely because Uribe has so much more defensive value.  Huff is obviously a better hitter, but he can play only 1B and the corner outfield positions, while Uribe can play 2B, SS and 3B, much more valuable defensive positions and play them well.

It will be very surprising if at ages 34 and 35, Huff hits as well as he did in 2010.  Huff had an even better year for the Orioles in 2008, but he hasn’t been worth much more than the $3-$4 million he earned in 2010 in any of 2005 through 2007 and 2009.

You never can tell, but I suspect 2010 was a last hurrah of Huff’s major league career.

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Los Angeles Dodgers Sign SP Jon Garland

The Dodgers just signed Jon Garland for 2011 at $5 million with $3 million in performance incentives and a guaranteed $8 million in 2012 if he pitches 190 innings in 2011.  My first thought on hearing this was Garland must want to play in L.A. next year.

The Padres paid Garland $4.7 million in 2010.  He went 14-12 with a 3.47 ERA and an even 200 innings pitched.  The Padres offered Garland arbitration, which meant he likely would have made at least $7 million or $8 million in 2011 through that process.  Given that, you have to think the Padres would have matched or bettered the Dodgers’ offer if the opportunity had been given to them.

My second thought was the Dodgers are going to have a great rotation 2011.  It know looks like the rotation will now be Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly and Garland.  That looks plenty strong.

I may not be a fan of the Dodgers, but I am certainly a fan of the 2011 prospects for Kershaw and Billingsley.  They are both under 27 and have had consistently fine ratios throughout their careers.

At this moment, you’d have to prefer Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, but I certainly won’t be surprised if Kershaw and Billingsley ended up with the combined better performance in 2011.  In fact, I’d probably handicap it only 55/45 in favor of the Giants’ aces.

Kuroda and Lilly are getting up there in years, and you have to expect them to decline in 2011.  However, both have been consistently strong in each of the last three seasons, so it’s reasonably likely their combined performance won’t be much worse than 2010, if they stay healthy.

I’m not a big fan of Jon Garland, but it’s hard to see much daylight between him and Barry Zito.  As fifth-starters, you could do a lot worse.

As is often the case, it will probably come down to which rotation stays healthier between the Giants and Dodgers.  The Giants starters were exceptionally healthy in 2010 (only Todd Wellemeyer got hurt, and that allowed for the promotion of phenom Madison Bumgarner).  You have to figure the law of averages is going to catch up with the Giants in 2011.

Obviously, the Dodgers rotation is even more likely to break down, with Garland at 31, Lilly at 35 and Kuroda at 36 next season.  In fact, it may come down to which of the two teams can come up with the best sixth-starter if and when someone in the starting five goes down.

Not really surprising the Dodgers would go after Garland.  With the Giants as defending world champions, every team in the division figures it has to have a strong starting five if they’re going to compete in 2011.

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MLB Rumors: Whoever Signs Adrian Beltre Will Regret It

I saw a post on quoting uber-agent Scott Boras as stating he has never seen more interest in a player than he is currently receiving for client Adrian Beltre. 

Most likely, that is just puffery by Boras, who well understands how important it is to throw as much bull up against the wall as possible, since at least some of it will stick in the minds of MLB’s general managers.

One thing is for certain, though.  Whoever signs Beltre will pay top dollar.  That is the first, second and last thing 90 percent of the players who choose Boras as their agent are looking for.

Whoever ponies up for Beltre will likely regret it.  Don’t get me wrong—on balance Beltre is a fine third baseman, but whoever signs him will almost certainly pay way more than what he’ll actually be worth for the life of the contract.

Beltre is essentially a great defensive third baseman who is no better than mediocre or a little above average as an offensive player, except that he has had two fantastic seasons with the bat completely out of line with his career norms.

Beltre established himself as a major league regular at age 20 in 1999, and for the first two years he absolutely looked like he would be a future superstar, posting OPS numbers of .780 at age 20 and .835 at age 21.

Then he hit a wall, posting OPS numbers over the next three seasons of .720, .729 and .714.  Those are decent numbers for a third baseman with Beltre’s glove, but hardly what you look for in a superstar or even a player who can carry a team.

At age 25, Beltre finally broke out and looked like he was going to be the superstar everyone had predicted and been waiting on since the late ’90′s. 

He hit .334 with 48 HRs and a 1.017 OPS, while playing his home games at Dodger Stadium, a graveyard for hitters.

The Mariners rewarded Beltre with a five-year contract for $64 million after his monster 2004 season.  In the greater scheme of MLB, that really isn’t that much money, and Beltre played reasonably well for the money the first four season as a Mariner, posting OPS numbers of .716, .792, .802 and .784.

Again, you can build a winning team with a third baseman with those offensive numbers who fields like Beltre. 

However, it’s worth noting that the M’s failed to make the post season in any of Beltre’s five seasons in Seattle and finished under .500 three of those five seasons.  Thus, it’s difficult to argue the Mariners got what they were paying for when the signed Beltre.

In 2009, Beltre’s OPS fell to an ugly .683, and given the bad state of the economy, the Red Sox were able to sign Beltre for a one-year deal at $9 million. 

The Red Sox figured that Beltre, who was still only 31 in 2010, would have an offensive bounce moving from Safeco Field to Fenway. The Red Sox were right, and Beltre had a terrific season, hitting .328 with 79 extra base hits and posting a .919 OPS.

Odds are Beltre will never post an OPS over .900 again.  Beltre was 31 in 2010, which, at least before the Age of Steroids, was usually the last year of a player’s prime seasons. 

Beltre probably won’t be playing his home games in a hitters’ park as good as Fenway next year, and with eight seasons in his career below an .800 OPS and only two above an .850 OPS, you have to figure that Beltre will be lucky to have even one season significantly over .800 on the multi-year deal he’s likely to sign.

The only way I can see Beltre being worth the money he’s going to get on this contract is if the team that signs him is a third baseman away from post-season success in the next two or three seasons. Otherwise, they’ll likely regret the contract, the same way the Mariners did.

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Oakland Athletics and Billy Bean Post High Bid for Hisashi Iwakuma

The A’s have won the bidding for Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma.  As yet unsubstantiated reports indicate the A’s offered roughly $17 million for his services to the Rakuten Golden Eagles, Iwakuma’s old team.

I became aware of Hisashi Iwakuma back between the 2004 and 2005 seasons.  In 2004, at age 23, he had gone a spectacular 15-2 for the Kintetsu Buffaloes, one of the Pacific League’s perennial also-rans.

It was the second year in a row he had won 15 games, which is a lot given NPB’s shorter seasons, and his great 2004 season positioned him as one of the top young pitchers in Japan’s NPB.

That offseason, there was a great deal of conflict in Japanese baseball.  The second division teams were tired of losing money, and the Kintetsu Buffaloes and the Orix Blue Wave, another Pacific League also-ran, decided to merge to become the Orix Buffaloes.

NPB threatened to contract 11 teams, and the Japanese players union finally struck for the first time in its history to prevent the loss of what would have been 8.3 percent of their jobs.  A deal was eventually worked out to create a new expansion team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, to keep the Pacific League at six teams.

Here’s where Iwakuma came in.  He was the best player on either the 2004 Buffaloes or Blue Wave, and the new Orix Buffaloes fully intended for him to be their ace in 2005.  Iwakuma had other ideas.

Iwakuma didn’t want to play for the merged team, held out for more money and eventually forced Buffaloes management to let him play for the expansion Golden Eagles.  What impressed me about Iwakuma is that there are not a lot of ace pitchers in their prime who would rather play for what everyone knew was going to be a brutally bad expansion team, instead of sticking with a team that would have the best players from two major league squads.

It was apparently at least in part a matter of principal for Iwakuma (I don’t know if the Golden Eagles ended up paying him more than the Buffaloes were offering—they might have).  I had a feeling then and there Iwakuma, as a player willing to make waves in a culture where that is not highly appreciated, would pitch in MLB one day if his arm held out.

In fact, Iwakuma had his struggles.  In 2005, he went 9-15 with a 4.99 ERA.  However, the Golden Eagles were even worse, finishing their inaugural season a dreadful 38-97 with a team ERA of 5.67.

I suspect Iwakuma was pressing in 2005, trying to do to much and be too perfect for an awful team.  However, a big part of pitching is defense by the other eight players on the field, and the 2005 Golden Eagles were as bad at all aspects of the game as their season record indicates.

He also had a sore arm.  His shoulder was bothering him in 2005, and he had significant arm problems in 2006 and 2007, pitching in only 22 games and 128.2 innings the two seasons combined.

Iwakuma came back with a vengeance in 2008.  He went an astounding 21-4 on a Golden Eagles team which finished the season 65-76.  He did it by setting personal bests of a 1.87 ERA, 201.2 innings pitched and 159 strike outs against only 36 walks.

Iwakuma wasn’t as good in either 2009 or 2010, although he did post fine ERAs of 3.25 and 2.82 and had double-digit win totals both seasons.

I really don’t know how well Iwakuma will make the transition to MLB.  On the plus side, he’s only 30 in 2011 and he obviously knows how to pitch.  On the down side, he’s a small right-hander (he’s listed as only 170 lbs.) who has thrown a lot of innings in Japan and has had arm problems in the past (shoulder and elbow).

One thing that concerns me also is that Iwakuma wasn’t a strikeout pitcher in Japan, never recording more than 159 in a season.  One wonders how he will fare against MLB’s better hitters if he doesn’t miss a lot of bats.

On the other hand, Iwakuma has exceptional control (well better than three Ks per walk in Japan), and he doesn’t give up a lot of gopher balls.  Those are skills that will serve him well pitching his home games at the Oakland Coliseum where both home runs and base hits are hard to come by.

He’ll likely need good defense behind him to be successful because major league hitters can be expected to put the ball in play against him.

All in all, I like the risk the A’s are taking in going after Iwakuma.  While I am generally not one to give a lot of weight to intangibles, Iwakuma is a pitcher who has shown a consistent ability to win even on bad teams.

Of course, there are no guarantees, and the failure of Kei Igawa to establish himself as a major league pitcher means that not every pitcher who has had success in Japan is going to be able to make the transition to the American game.

Looking at Igawa’s stats in Japan and the U.S., one thing stands out to me.  He gave up a lot of home runs even in Japan, and the gopher ball has really dogged him in the U.S.  That shouldn’t be a problem for Iwakuma.

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Chicago Cubs: How about a Fukudome for Rowand Trade?

I saw a post on today stating the Cubs are interested in moving Kosuke Fukudome this offseason.  That won’t be easy, given the $13.5 million in 2011 salary Fukudome has coming to him under the last year of his contract.

Nonetheless, the article notes that the Cubs were able to move clubhouse-cancer Milton Bradley last offseason and actually get something out of the deal, so anything is possible.

One such possibility might be a trade for the Giants’ Aaron Rowand.  Rowand has $12 million coming to him in each of 2011 and 2012, the last two years of the five-year, $60 million deal he signed before the 2008 season.

If each team is willing to essentially pay the remaining contract of the player they signed in the first place, there could be a deal here.  The Giants would get one year of Fukudome at the price the Giants would have paid Rowand, and the Cubs would essentially get Rowand for free in 2012.

Rowand has more power than Fukudome, at least over the course of their respect major league career, and Rowand might benefit from playing his home games in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.  Rowand’s got some good will in Chicago left over from his days with the White Sox, and he’s also a better defensive centerfielder than Fukudome.

Fukudome’s one great offensive attribute is his ability to get on base.  Through his three major league seasons, he has a .368 on-base percentage, compared to Rowand’s .335 career OBP.

I’d much rather have Fukudome and his likely higher OBP than Rowand in 2011, so my suggestion may be nothing more than wishful thinking.  However, both teams are looking to move these players, if only to go in a new direction, so it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility.

Of course, if the Giants decide to re-sign postseason superman Cody Ross, the Giants won’t need another rightfielder, the position at which Fukudome would be most valuable.  There’s always left field, but with another overpaid veteran, Mark DeRosa, coming back from injury next year and possible re-signings of Aubrey Huff and/or Pat Burrell, there isn’t a lot of room there either.

In other Giants-related news, the Nationals just released former Giant and still right-handed reliever Tyler Walker.  Walker had a fine 3.57 ERA with good ratios in 24 games and 35.1 innings pitched for the Nats in 2010. Walker didn’t pitch more because he hurt his shoulder and didn’t pitch in the majors after June 19 of this past season.

Walker was popular during his time as a Giant, so if his arm is healthy again in the spring (he’s 35 next May, so we’ll see) and no one else signs him this offseason (quite likely), don’t be surprised if the Giants invite him to Spring Training for a shot at one of their low-cost, bottom-of-the-bullpen slots.

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Prince Fielder’s Consecutive Games Streak Ends at 327

Prince Fielder’s streak of 327 consecutive games played ended tonight due to reported flu-like symptoms. Given Fielder’s famed dimensions ( and list him as 5’11″ and 268 lbs), he’s not the first guy who’d pop into mind when hearing that a player had just ended a 327 consecutive games played streak.

One can be certain that the streak will become talking-point No. 1 when Scott Boras markets Fielder for his long-term free agent contract, especially in light of wide-spread concerns that a player of Fielder’s size will not age well after age 30.

Fielder is 26 this year, and I doubt that how many games he’s able to play in a row in his mid-20′s will have any predictive ability on his ability to play 140 or 150 games a season after age 30.

In apt comparison, perhaps, would be Frank Thomas (6’5″ 270 lbs).  In 1996, he had a 346 games played streak ended with a stress fracture in his left leg.  He still managed to play in 141 games that season and played in at least that many games through 1998, the year in which was 30 years old.

After passing age 30, he only managed to play 140 or more games in a season four times in 10 seasons, even though he was used almost exclusively as a designated hitter during that period of his career.

The point, I guess, is that no matter how healthy a 250 lb-plus player is in his mid-to-late 20s, they have a hard time staying in the lineup once they pass age 30.

By the way, Ryan Howard (6’4″ 255 lbs) is also 30 years old this season.  As such, I expect he’ll begin to have recurring injury problems sometime in the next two or three seasons, in spite of the exceptional health he’s shown so far in his major league career.

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Washington Nationals’ Yuniesky Maya Loses First Major League Start

The New York Mets beat Yuniesky Maya and the Nationals tonight 4-1.  Ike Davis’ three-run homer was the big hit.  Dillon Gee, also making his first major league start was the winning pitcher.

It was the first time both starters were making their major league debuts since the Tigers’ Rick Porcello and the Blue Jays’ Ricky Romero faced each other on April 9, 2009 and only the fifth such game since 1980.

As you may know, Yuniesky Maya is a 29 year old pitcher who was a major star in Cuba before he defected in September 2009.  In the 2004-2005 season, he led the Cuban Serie Nacional with a 1.61 ERA.  After a down year in 2005/6, he finished second with a 1.40 ERA in 2006/7.

He had a great season in his last year in Cuba (2008/9), where he went 13-4 with a 2.22 ERA, good again for second best in the Serie Nacional, and notched 119 Ks and allowed only 113 hits in 146 IP. 

His strikeout total was second only to Aroldis Chapman’s 130.  As you well know, Chapman has also gone on to bigger and more remunerative things.

Maya also has lots of past experience and success against top international competition.

The Nationals signed Maya to a four-year $8 million deal on July 31, 2010, which was really a three-year deal, when you consider that with two months of the 2010 season left, Maya is working to get back to where he was when he last pitched for Cuba at some time in 2009.

The Nats raced Maya through their minor league system, giving him only a total of five starts across three minor league levels (the rookie Gulf Coast League, the A+ Carolina League and the AAA International League).  He posted a 3.38 ERA with a line of 21.1 IP, 18 hits, one HR allowed and 10 walks allowed and 18 Ks.

Maya pitched better in his two AAA starts than he did in the low minors; but, he didn’t pitch enough at the three levels combined to say much more than he seems to know how to pitch, and his control might be suspect.

The Nationals have reasonably decided, since they’re going nowhere this season and have lost their top pitching prospect Stephen Strasburg for a year, there’s no down-side to promoting Maya now and letting him learn the major league game sooner rather than later.

While the odds are good that Maya will continue to get beat up this year in however many starts he has left before the season ends, the Nationals’ decision to give him $8 million was a calculated risk to take. 

Maya really was good in the Cuban league as recently as eighteen months ago, and he’s not particularly old (he’ll be 29, 30 and 31 from 2011-2013).

Maya really needs to have only two seasons out of the next three in which he’s an adequate 4th starter for the signing to be a good one for the Nats.  If he develops into any thing better than a 4th starter, even if for only one year, the Nats will get well more than their money’s worth.

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Colby Rasmus Not Long for St. Louis Cardinals? (and Other Notes)

Colby Rasmus may have a one-way ticket out of St. Louis this off-season, if the reports are true he’s unhappy with the Cardinals. 

Rasmus has denied asking to be traded back in July, but Albert Pujols made a pointed comment this weekend that if Rasmus didn’t want to play for the Cardinals, then he should be traded.

Tony La Russa was also quoted as saying it’s up to management, not Rasmus or his teammates, to decide whether he remains in St. Louis.

One thing is for certain: the Cardinals shouldn’t have trouble finding willing trade partners. 

Rasmus only just turned 24 on Aug. 11, and, as I write this, he has an .848 OPS.  Not many center fielders hit like that at any age.

As for Rasmus’ center field defense, the only thing I can say for certain is fangraphs’ UZR ratings don’t tell you jack.

According to UZR, Rasmus was a great defensive center fielder in 2009 and a poor one in 2010.  It’s possible, but I doubt the accuracy of UZR more than I tend to think that Rasmus really declined so steeply in from 2009 to 2010.

If I were the Cardinals, I wouldn’t get rid of Rasmus unless it’s really clear that he’s unhappy and likely to be a future cancer.  He’s too promising to send away otherwise.


A new Marlin

A 28-year-old rookie from the Dominican named Adalberto Mendez won his first major league start tonight as the Marlins beat the Phillies tonight 7-1.  I love these kind of September stories.

I really don’t think Mendez is good enough to have much of a major league career.  He came into this season with an unimpressive 3.98 career minor league ERA (although he has better ratios), and this year he was no world beater, mostly at AAA New Orleans (3.98 ERA again).

However, Mendez was good enough tonight and beat the Phillies handily in a game the Phillies really needed to win. 

Just because a pitcher has never appeared in the majors before doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t good enough to shut down one of MLB’s better offenses, at least for one night.


Prior’s comeback journey

Mark Prior struck out two, allowed two hits and a walk but no runs in one inning of work in his first appearance in AAA ball since 2006.

If you haven’t heard, Prior spent a month pitching for the Orange County Flyers in the independent-A Golden Baseball League. 

He made nine appearances there without allowing an earned run.  His line was 11 IP, five hits and five walks allowed and 22 Ks.  Obviously good enough for the Rangers to think Prior was worth another opportunity.

The Oklahoma City RedHawks made the Pacific Coast League play-offs, so one has to think that Prior will get a few more opportunities to pitch at the AAA level before the Rangers decide whether to promote him to the major league team before the end of September.

On the subject of AAA baseball, the Beavers have just finished their season and will apparently be leaving Portland, a Pacific Coast League town for most of the last 108 seasons going back to 1903. 

The Beavers’ ballpark is being retrofitted to lure a Major League Soccer team to Portland.

Since the last round of expansion in 1998, Greater Portland been the largest American metropolitan area without a major league franchise.

Unfortunately, given the current dreadful state of the economy, it will probably be years before another round of major league expansion finally brings a team to Portland.

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Washington Nationals’ Nyjer Morgan Draws Eight Game Suspension

MLB handed out suspensions today following Wednesday’s brawl between the Florida Marlins and Washington Nationals.  Nyjer Morgan received eight games (in addition to the seven game suspension he has been appealing for hitting a fan in the head with a ball he threw into the stands on August 21); Chris Volstad received six games; Marlins’ pitcher Alex Sanabia received five games, Gaby Sanchez and Nationals’ pitcher Doug Slaten and 3B coach Pat Listach each received three games, and managers Jim Riggleman and Edwin Rodriguez received two and one game suspensions respectively.

Frankly, an eight game suspension for Morgan seems just about right.  He charged the mound, but only after being hit by a pitch in the fourth inning and a second pitch was thrown behind his back in the sixth.  I don’t think MLB could reasonably suspend Morgan for either of the two big home plate collisions, mainly because they waited too long on the cheap shot Morgan took on Cardinals’ catcher Bryan Anderson last Saturday and the collision with Marlins’ catcher Hayes on Tuesday really wasn’t a play justifying discipline.

MLB does not have unlimited discretion in disciplining players, because the Players’ Association will file a grievance for any discipline that does not comply with prior precedents for similar conduct.  MLB could take into account Morgan’s previous suspension, but it’s also worth noting that MLB justified Morgan’s relatively long eight game suspension (five or six games seems like a more typical suspension for charging the mound and setting off a brawl in these circumstances) by handing out significant suspensions to the other players, managers and coaches involved in the brawl.

One has to suspect that Morgan’s recent spate of bad conduct has a lot to do with the poor season he’s having and the fact that he must at some level realize his major league career is in serious jeopardy.  He turned 30 in July, which is getting old for a marginal major leaguer.

Also, after a fine 2009 campaign in which Morgan was a solid lead-off man (.369 on-base percentage, 42 steals with a 71 percent success rate and a .757 OPS) and was also one of the Senior Circuit’s best defensive outfielders, (according to fangraphs’ UZR ratings), Morgan has been terrible in 2010.  His .317 OBP doesn’t cut it, and his center field defense (according again to fangraphs) has been a shade below average.

Not surprising then Morgan is either frustrated or determined to be more aggressive to try to get better results as the season winds down.

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