Tag: Brian Fuentes

Game 50 Recap: Oakland A’S Blow Ninth Inning Lead and Lose 3-2

Talk about a good walk spoiled. Brian Fuentes gave up a two out, three-run home run to former Oakland slugger Josh Willingham and the A’s lost their seventh straight game, 3-2 in Minnesota. Fuentes took the loss, giving up all three runs on two hits and a walk. 

The blown save negated a solid start by Jarrod Parker, who went six shutout innings and was staked to a 1-0 lead when Colin Cowgill singled in the first run of the game in the seventh inning. Coco Crisp, who has been mired in an awful hitting slump, went 2-for-2 with a walk and a sacrifice and his eighth inning RBI single appeared to be insurance as the A’s lead 2-0. But the win and ultimately the game both slipped away.

Fuentes began the ninth by allowing a single to Jamey Carroll and walking Denard Span. After Ben Revere’s attempted sacrifice was bunted back to Fuentes, Joe Mauer hit into a fielder’s choice putting the runners on first and third. Willingham then hit a 1-0 pitch to left center to end the game.

Good: Coco Crisp. He reached or produced in all four plate appearances. Considering he was hitting .156 entering the game, that is remarkable. In all seriousness, it is a great start to hopefully turning his season around at the plate.

Bad: Twelve men left on base. Too many chances to score runs and too many left on base. It came back to bite the A’s again.

Ugly: Brian Fuentes. The merry-go-round at closer continues as Fuentes can not get the job done. The A’s can only hope this is a blip and not what appears to be a real issue finishing games.

Now 22-28, the A’s look to salvage the final game of this series as Tyson Ross faces Francisco Liriano. First pitch is scheduled for 10:10 a.m. Manny Ramirez was expected to make his season debut for the A’s, but it appears as though that will be pushed back a couple of games.

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MLB Predictions 2011: 15 Setup Men Eyeing the Closer Role

Look at what fantasy baseball has done to us.  We pore over pre-season rankings, stalk the Internet for live game box scores, pray for injuries just major enough to open up opportunities for sleepers.  All in the hope of compiling enough saves to win the category.

Of course, roto leagues aren’t the only reason for the baseball-loving public’s collective love affair with closers, but they sure do bring out the fanatic in all of us.

Prior to 1969, saves weren’t even and official statistic.  Prior to 1960, they didn’t exist at all.  For roughly 70 years, the sport got along just fine without having a specific way of quantifying close-game, ninth-inning success, but in the decades since its inception, the save has come to dominate the way managers deploy pitching staffs.

As relievers became more popular in the latter half of the last century, the best arms were used more and more in high-pressure situations. Ultimately, that led to the modern “closer”, usually a bullpen’s most reliable arm that could come in and preserve ties or leads at the end of games.

With teams depending so heavily on closers, it’s not enough to have just one established guy.  Each club also needs a closer-in-waiting or two, setup men that, if needed, can step in and get the job done.

So who has staked their claim to the closer-in-waiting spot in 2011?  It’s time to review (in no particular order) the 15 best relievers who aren’t closing now, but could be in line for saves before the season is out.

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MLB Hot Stove: Oakland Athletics Quietly Building Dominant Bullpen

Nobody is talking about Billy Beane anymore.

Moneyball hit its talking peak five years ago; the last time the Oakland Athletics managed to make the playoffs, in 2006, after winning the AL West with a 93-69 mark.

Their record dropped to 76-86 in 2007 but held steady at 75-86 and 75-87 in the next two years, respectively. In 2010, the A’s returned to .500 after finishing 81-81, nine games behind the eventual World Series runner-up Texas Rangers. 

Their consistency and moderate progression in wins masks Oakland’s transition from a middling club filled with stopgap starters and power hitting health risks on one-year deals to a franchise with reason to be excited about its future after its spoils of struggle (and free agency departure) have finally begun to show.  

Brett Anderson (22), Trevor Cahill (22), and Gio Gonzalez (25) are a trio of young starting pitchers who have reminded A’s fans of the Hudson-Zito-Mulder combination from the early part of last decade in more ways than just their handedness (oddly, two left-handers and one right-hander; Cahill, Hudson).

Cliff Pennington and Daric Barton are good young defenders, who both hit just enough to keep themselves in the lineup. Kurt Suzuki is now an experienced and solid starting catcher, going into his fifth year, who looks poised to improve his power (if you don’t believe me, watch the video on the right). 

Additionally, Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham were acquired via free agency and trade to boost the power of the third weakest offense in baseball last year (.122 Isolated power, in front of only Houston, .115, and Seattle, .104).

Billy Beane also traded for David Dejesus of the Royals, who should play stellar defense in right field, and combine for a pest-like one-two on-base combination with center fielder Coco Crisp at the top of the lineup. 

With the No. 4 and No. 5 slots in the rotation filled by some (likely productive, and advantageous) combination of Dallas Braden, Rich Harden and Josh Outman, Beane’s next logical focus was the bullpen; a unit that finished 22nd in the league in 2010 in Fielding Independent ERA (4.19) after finishing first in the same category a year earlier (3.35).

If the A’s plan to return their bullpen to elite status, their blueprints will require the health of closer Andrew Bailey, who has a 133:37 strikeout to walk ratio in 132.1 MLB innings, but is coming off of elbow surgery during the offseason. 

The next in line behind Bailey is likely Brian Fuentes, the former Angel who was signed this offseason as insurance (or surplus in the event Bailey is full-go). Fuentes has lost effectiveness the past few seasons, but along with the very underrated Jerry Blevins, the Athletics bullpen should be death to left-handed hitters in the late innings.  

Grant Balfour, the hard-throwing Australian with the ironic last name who was yet another of the Rays’ offseason losses, will combine with Michael Wuertz and his nasty slider as the primary setup men from the right side. B

oth are strikeout pitchers, and Balfour might be the best setup man in Oakland since Chad Bradford. Wuertz’s peripherals declined towards the end of last year, but if he rebounds, he would make for a ridiculously good fifth man out of the gate. 

Brad Ziegler, while unspectacular, is a more than serviceable middle reliever with his ability to churn groundballs and keep crooked numbers off the board. Joey Devine, the former first round pick out of NC State, is also an intriguing name. Devine is in his second year of recovery from Tommy John surgery. If he is able to return to full strength, he has closer potential, and the minor league numbers to back it up.

This collection of arms is among the most talented I have ever seen in one bullpen before the start of a season. 

Combined with an above average rotation that may soon be among the best in baseball, and a lineup capable of playing defense and hitting just enough to let their pitching win, the 2011 Oakland Athletics are the bizarro Texas Rangers. With loads of young pitching, there’s a lot to be excited about in Oakland, for both this year and the future.

Nobody is talking about Billy Beane anymore. But they will be soon. 

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Billy Beane Makes Quiet, Effective Moves: Trying To Catch Up in the AL West?

Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane is still playing “Moneyball” to this day.

The team that used to perennially contend for the playoffs finished just exactly .500 last season, and was nine games out of first place behind the American League champion Texas Rangers.

Beane looks to compete more aggressively in 2011, as he has made quiet moves this offseason.

For example, they signed Hideki Matsui to a one-year deal to be the permanent DH. Not only is Matsui a consistent .270, 20 home run hitter, he knows what it is to be a World Champion as he won it all with the Yankees back in 2009.

The designated hitter spot was also one of the weakest spots in the lineup, so adding Matsui is already a good move. 

Another consistent hitter, Josh Willingham, will also join the lineup with his 15 home run, .260 seasons.

Grant Balfour was added to the bullpen for pitching depth. To further bolster that ‘pen, Brian Fuentes has reportedly agreed with the A’s on a two-year contract. Both of these guys had ERAs under 3 last season.

These free agents make Oakland a competitor, as they were just an average team before.

Did it take a lot to sign these guys? Yes, they aren’t minor league cheap guys, but they also aren’t big time free agents worth $15 million per year.

With the addition of a defensive outfielder in David DeJesus, who is a .300 hitter, this club is looking good.

Don’t forget about the dominant starting pitching, either, which is led by youngsters Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill.

And if some injured players regain their form from about two to five years ago, Oakland might just overpower the Rangers.

Conor Jackson had hit .300 in 2009 before taking a hit with injuries. Coco Crisp is always a threat on the base paths.

The Athletics are also set on defense, with Kevin Kouzmanoff at the hot corner and Daric Barton scooping ground balls easily at first.

Beane is up to something, and they can catch up in the AL West with the Los Angeles Angels not a great team like it used to be, and the Rangers losing Vladimir Guerrero.

“Moneyball” might just work in 2011. 

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Oakland A’s Sign Brian Fuentes

It’s game on in Oakland.

Very, very quietly, the Oakland A’s have had a very solid offseason. They have improved their offense with the additions of Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus and Josh Willingham (loved that move by them), and now they are really improving their already-existing solid bullpen.


Fuentes is the latest reliever signed by the A’s


To go along with Brad Ziegler, Craig Breslow, Jerry Blevins and Andrew Bailey, the A’s added Grant Balfour last week and now they have signed LHP Brian Fuentes.

According to the Associated Press, the A’s have signed Fuentes. Official terms of the deal haven’t been announced yet, but Ken Rosenthal believes it will be a two-year deal with a $5 million option for a third year. It looks like the first two years will be around $5 million annually for Fuentes.

Anyone who has visited this site on a consistent basis knows that I have always viewed Fuentes as a setup man/closer on a small market team rather than a closer on a World Series-contending team. So the fact that Fuentes will be primarily a setup man to Bailey and will occasionally close games—it’s the perfect role for him.

This is really a good signing by the A’s.

Last year with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Minnesota Twins, Fuentes compiled a 2.81 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 8.8 K’s/9, 3.8 BB’s/9 and a 22.8 Groundball Percentage in 48 total IP. Fuentes was really tough on lefties, holding them to a .128/.222/.149 with ZERO HR’s in 55 plate appearances.

Listen, is Fuentes a lock down reliever?

No, not by any stretch of the imagination. At this point in his career, he can’t get right-handed batters out and he will walk his fair share of batters. He is one of those relievers that will walk two and give up a hit in the ninth, but somehow gets out of the inning unscathed.

I also like this move for Oakland because it does give them some insurance if Bailey is not ready for Opening Day. I wrote last week that it appears all systems go for Bailey, but if he suffers a set back, Fuentes or Ziegler could fill in.

Now, can people complain about the contract Fuentes got?

Sure, but Joaquin Benoit set that market a long time ago. Three years and $15 million seems to be the going rate for middle relievers these days.

I think with the moves the A’s have made this offseason, they will be serious contenders for the American League West crown. I am not sure if they have enough fire power to overtake the Texas Rangers, but I would be shocked if they aren’t neck and neck come September.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

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MLB Free Agents: Eight Remaining Players Who Could Get a Team to the Playoffs

With Cliff Lee bleeding Philly red, serving the needs of his family and Phanatics, what free agents remaining could possibly take a team into playoff contention?  Adrian Beltre appears to be ready to sign with the Texas Rangers, does that return the Rangers to the playoffs or World Series?  Here are eight remaining free agents could be the missing pieces in the postseason jigsaw puzzle for certain teams. 

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2010-11 MLB Offseason: New York Yankees Still Have a Chance

Brian Cashman and the entire Yankees organization are still hiding under the covers. It’s been a rough offseason for New York; not necessarily because they missed out on talent, but because the organization was continually embarrassed.

It started, of course, with Cliff Lee. After we were led to believe that Lee would be a Yankee without any kind of disturbance, the Phillies walked in and lit the Yankees desires on fire. No big deal, everyone said, the Yankees just didn’t want to spend that kind of money. That’s fine, but maybe we should have heard that earlier.

Derek Jeter also earned a spot on this list as well. As if it wasn’t ridiculous enough for Jeter ask for five or six years, his agent decided to take it to the next level and call the Yankees actions “baffling.” The Yankees won that battle without ever shedding a drop of sweat, but an embarrassing result for Jeter is an embarrassing result for the Yankees

Then, to add insult to injury, Kerry Wood decided to sign with the Cubs for a fourth of the money he could have made with the Yankees. I want to be a Cub for life, he said. Don’t ask me what’s going through his mind.

The Red Sox also did a small number on the Evil Empire. In an attempt to swarm the tabloids of the baseball world, Theo Epstein decided to take a shot at signing Mariano Rivera. Although Rivera swept it off with virtually no thought, the last thing the Yankees needed was to be on the wrong side of a joke.

To top it off, another small Yankee dream was diminished. The Yankees missed out on Zack Greinke, mostly because they didn’t want to give up their entire minor league system, but also because they were never too excited about bringing him to New York.

Here are the two ways to look at the Yankees’ 2010-11 offseason: (A), the cynical view, would be to say the Yankees two best additions are Russell Martin and Pedro Feliciano—not too inspiring; (B), the optimistic and realistic view, would be to say the Yankees will enter the 2011 season with the same team that won the 2009 World Series.

Ultimately, this offseason was hyped up beyond belief for the Yankees. But the problem was that the actual Yankees organization had different plans. Cashman would have loved to add Lee or Crawford, but evidently he wasn’t too eager to sign either of them; at least for the prices the market demanded.

However, that is not a reason to let this offseason slip away. A couple weeks ago, the Yankees were hit with their lowest luxury tax since 2003. Clearly something is missing. Not to say the Yankees should spend for the sake of spending, but there is still room to improve.

By now it is quite obvious that the Yankees are not going to improve their starting pitching. If, by some miracle, Prior can help this team, the Yankees will have a great pitching staff; but don’t count on it.

As it stands, the Yankees starting rotation is projected to have a higher WAR in 2011 than it did in 2010, so the Yankees can feel comfortable entering the season with C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and a fifth starter of their choice. (The Yankees still await a verdict from Andy Pettitte.)

But with the remaining money the Yankees have left on the table, they can still make significant improvements to their bullpen.

If the Yankees want to take a risk, they can go with a young Chad Cordero or a much older Brian Fuentes. Both can be labeled as “very high risk, very high reward.”

If the Yankees want to make a big splash, they can strike a deal with the Royals for Joakim Soria. But after the Yankees listened to ridiculous offers for Greinke, it is unlikely that these two teams can work anything out this offseason.

Then, there is Rafael Soriano. The Yankees have been clear throughout that they do not want to spend the money he will demand. But if things get too close to the finish line, it wouldn’t hurt the Yankees to spend some of their extra cash on a guy who had 45 saves last season.

When I heard that the Yankees were having “internal conversations” about Manny Ramirez, it became evident that the Yankees just weren’t taking this offseason seriously. There are plenty of places to improve, and it’s time for Cashman to wipe away the tears and get something done.

Listen to Jess on What’s on Second: The Seamheads.com Radio Hour Monday nights at 9 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter @jesskcoleman or send him an e-mail at jess@jesskcoleman.com.

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2010 MLB Hot Stove Rumors: Four Players The Minnesota Twins Should Pursue

It’s been a relatively uneventful offseason for the Twins, albeit only on the major league side. The Twins have landed a slew of relievers for their minor league system, as well as a few promising young prospects. Most notable is 17-year-old shortstop Javier Pimentel of the Dominican Republic. 

Besides the signing of Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the Twins’ major league squad remains fairly depleted. Key losses of Carl Pavano, Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch and J.J. Hardy seem to overweigh the small but earnest gains.

Former Braves reliever Chuck James and young infielder Matt Brown are the most notable of the few major league additions this offseason. The Twins also added catchers in Steve Holm and Rene Rivera, who have spent limited major league time with the Giants and Mariners, respectively. 

Make no mistake, the club is headed in the right direction. Young arms like Brett Jacobsen and Jim Hoey (from the J.J. Hardy trade) will be ready to compete for a bullpen spot come spring training.

In-house bullpen candidates include Alex Burnett, Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins, Anthony Slama, Carlos Gutierrez and Jeff Manship, to name a few. With another veteran arm or two from the open market, the Twins should be able to put together a fairly decent bullpen in 2011. 

With the biggest concern being the bullpen, the starting rotation also has some question marks. The aforementioned Carl Pavano remains on the market, although a deal with Minnesota seems imminent.

The Nationals are also in the race for Pavano’s services, but the consensus seems to be that Carl will don a Twins uniform for at least the next couple seasons. 

As it stands, the Twins’ rotation rests with Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey. All have shown shades of brilliance, but seem to be repeatedly bitten by the inconsistency bug.

Liriano earned AL Comeback Player of the Year honors for 2010 after posting a 14-10 record with a nice 3.62 ERA and 201 K’s. Minnesota is no doubt expecting big things from Franky Franchise next season.

Kevin Slowey also had a good 2010, earning a record of 13-6. Injuries once again derailed what could have been a great season. His name has been mentioned as a possible trade chip, however. 

Young starters like Kyle Gibson and Kyle Waldrop may make a late-season appearance if any rotation patchwork needs to be done. 

Even with a host of young talent, the Twins will need help from the Hot Stove. Banking on Pavano signing, here’s a neatly ordered list of who could fill the open slots in Minnesota:

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Carl Pavano, Zack Greinke and Players Who Would Benefit the 2011 Minnesota Twins

Coming into the 2011 season, the Twins have a lot of questions marks:

Relief Pitching has been the main concern. After losing Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain out of free agency, only a few bullpen locks remain. Matt Capps was the steady closer for 2010, and Jose Mijares will most likely return with a bigger roll in 2011. Returning All-Star closer Joe Nathan should be ready for spring training, but it doesn’t make sense to expect too much from him after so recently undergoing elbow surgery.

Another area that could use help is starting pitching. It looks like Carl Pavano may return to the Twins with something like a 2 year/$20 million deal. But if they can’t retain him, The rotation would seem to look as follows: Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey. The Twins have recently announced that Slowey may be traded, so the retention of Pavano will be key this offseason. 

As far as the lineup pans out, the Twins are looking good. Since negotiations are complete with Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the starting 9 may look something like this:

1. Denard Span (CF)

2. Tsuyoshi Nishioka (2B or SS)

3. Joe Mauer (C)

4. Justin Morneau (1B)

5. Delmon Young (LF)

6. Jason Kubel (DH)

7. Michael Cuddyer (RF)

8. Danny Valencia (3B)

9. Alexi Casilla (2B or SS)

Depending on Nishioka’s effectiveness, the Twins could even move Span down in the order, and bat Nishioka and Casilla in the number 1 and 2 spots. Either way, having Span or Casilla at the bottom of the order bodes well speed-wise when they bat back into the top of the order. 

If veteran Jim Thome returns to Minnesota, he would give the Twins a great DH option and pinch hitter. But regardless if he comes back, the Twins may look for another bat or two to grace the bench

Trades and free agents could be the answer for the Twins, beyond their minor league depth. Let’s look at a few remaining free agents that could help the Twins in 2011.

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Boston’s Unfinished Business: Red Sox Need More Than Adrian Gonzalez This Year

As a Red Sox fan, I’m as happy as anyone that the Red Sox have acquired Adrian Gonzalez. However, Boston’s work is far from done in this offseason: if they are to succeed in 2011 and beyond, the Red Sox need Carl Crawford and several relievers.

While the prospects dealt to San Diego in the Gonzalez blockbuster are tremendous talents, they’ll probably hit the bigs too far in the future to help a Red Sox team poised for success now. Casey Kelly would find himself logjammed behind a locked-up rotation, Anthony Rizzo is a first baseman, and Reymond Fuentes is years away from achieving anything close to the success of his cousin Carlos Beltran.

San Diego snatched a strong haul, but it’s a much stronger haul for a small-market team than for a team capable of filling any need through free agency and less reliant on a farm system’s continual production. While the Red Sox need quality homegrown players like Bard, Buchholz, Ellsbury, Lester and Pedroia to produce at a high level for a relatively low cost, they don’t need to fill an entire 25-man roster with low-cost pre-arbitration youngsters. The Sox can afford the Adrian Gonzalezes of the world.

So, yes, I’m a big fan of this deal, which also means that Boston avoids committing four or more years to a productive but inconsistent and aging corner infielder like Adrian Beltre. This move gives Boston tremendous flexibility moving forward.

That said, Boston cannot rest on its laurels and settle for only minor improvements between now and spring training. Boston needs both Carl Crawford and multiple relievers.

Although Gonzalez may hit .320 and provide more than 40 homeruns and 100 RBI per season, he less than replaces the combined 2010 production of Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre. Those two sluggers launched 48 bombs, drove in 181 and averaged .310 for the season.

The Sox need another bat, and it had better be in an outfield that’s only one year removed from losing JD Drew and Mike Cameron. Crawford’s dominant speed and defense make him by far the best available option for years to come.

Just take a look at the potential free agent outfielders next Winter, and you’ll quickly recognize what an opportunity teams have right now to sign the likes of Crawford. The Sox shouldn’t be afraid to sign two franchise players to six or eight year deals at the same time. Crawford and Gonzalez can carry this club for a long time.

Then there’s the bullpen. Young flamethrower Daniel Bard recently commented to the Boston Herald that the pen needs a veteran presence. They need some help out there.

With Hideki Okajima non-tendered, Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez dealt away last season, and Jonathan Papelbon diminishing each time he takes the mound, the Sox need to bolster the pen for 2011. Recently, they’ve been connected to Matt Guerrier, Brian Fuentes, Koji Uehara, and Ron Mahay.

The smart money’s on Fuentes and Guerrier. Either way, the Sox cannot rely on recent acquisitions Andrew Miller and Taylor Buchholz. Soon the free agent relievers will be gobbled up like holiday leftovers.

The Sox need to get in on this arms race.

For breaking Red Sox news updates, follow Peter on Twitter at BoSoxUpdate.

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