The World Baseball Classic returns for the 3rd time starting March 2nd. Fellow blogger Jeremy Dorn gave his rankings of every team in the WBC last week. (I haven’t figured out how he has South Korea 11th either) I wanted to delve more into team USA’s chances and how the roster stacks up.
Who’s In: Joe Mauer-Twins, J.P. Arencibia-Blue Jays, and Jonathan Lucroy-Brewers
Who’s Out: Buster Posey-Giants and Brian McCann-Braves
Interesting that the deepest offensive position with three players is at catcher. They clearly want to rotate these guys so they don’t get too banged up before the MLB season begins. Not being able to score the defending NL MVP in Buster Posey is a tough blow to team USA, but having hitting machine and former AL MVP Joe Mauer lessens the blow. He could even be the designated hitter option, when Arencibia or Lucroy are behind the plate. Arencibia’s inclusion seems to coincide with R.A. Dickey’s appearance on the roster. The two are now teammates in Toronto and have been working together to have knuckleball success. I’m sure the Blue Jays will be pleased with them getting reps together in high pressure situations. Lucroy had his best season at the plate last year, but was hampered by injuries. He’ll be a solid offensive piece down the lineup. Getting Posey on board would’ve made this an easy A, but alas. Grade: B+
Who’s In: Mark Teixeira-Yankees
Who’s Out: Prince Fielder-Tigers, Paul Konerko-White Sox, Adam LaRoche-Nationals, and Freddie Freeman-Braves
I would’ve much preferred the bat of Prince Fielder, but I have no qualms with Teixiera joining team USA for the 2nd time. He’s not the hitter he once was, but does have pop, will provide for some interesting decisions with his switch-hitting ability, and is one of the best defensive first baseman in the game. He’s going to get a lot of work in as the only true first baseman on the roster, but could get spelled by Mauer and maybe even Ben Zobrist. Grade: B-
Who’s In: Brandon Phillips-Reds and Ben Zobrist-Rays
Who’s Out: Dustin Pedroia-Red Sox, Ian Kinsler-Rangers, and Aaron Hill-Diamondbacks
Pedroia and Kinsler are probably better hitters than Zobrist, but the Zorilla’s ability to play mulitple positions makes him a suitable choice. I don’t think we’d see any of the other possibilities manning right field or shortstop the way Zobrist does for the Rays. Brandon Phillips will get the majority of time at second base and the three-time Gold Glove winner will flash plenty of leather for the red, white, and blue. The only better second baseman in the tournament is Robinson Cano for the Dominican Republic. Grade: B+
Who’s In: Jimmy Rollins-Phllies and Willie Bloomquist-Diamondbacks
Who’s Out: Derek Jeter-Yankees, Troy Tulowitzki-Rockies, and Ian Desmond-Nationals
One would have to believe that Rollins is on the roster over Desmond just based on experience and leadership ability. Jeter’s ankle may not be 100% in time for the WBC and with Tulo’s injury history it was clear he wouldn’t risk it. Rollins is the defending NL Gold Glove winner at the position and played in the last WBC for USA. He’s not the hitter we once was, but can provide speed atop the lineup. Bloomquist is the questionable pick for the roster, but he’s a clear utility player and can play numerous positions in case of injury. When compared to the players team USA could’ve had if healthy, I can’t give out a great grade. Grade: C
Who’s In: David Wright-Mets
Who’s Out: Chase Headley-Padres, Ryan Zimmerman-Nationals, and David Freese-Cardinals
This was the easiest call for team USA. Wright is the best third baseman in America right now. The only problem for the Stars & Stripes is that Venezuela (Miguel Cabrera) and the Dominican Republic (Adrian Beltre) have better options at the position. Grade: A-
Who’s In: Ryan Braun-Brewers, Adam Jones-Orioles, Giancarlo Stanton-Marlins, and Shane Victorino-Red Sox
Who’s Out: Mike Trout-Angels, Bryce Harper-Nationals, Andrew McCutchen-Pirates, Josh Hamilton-Angels, and Matt Holliday-Cardinals
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Even without Trout and McCutchen, I love this outfield. Braun is the best left fielder in the game and a perennial MVP candidate. Jones is a budding superstar that helped turned the Orioles around and is one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. Stanton is a straight masher that you can’t pitch around in middle of the lineup. Victorino doesn’t have the name of some of the other players that aren’t playing, but his ability to play all three oufield positions, while filling in as pinch-runner and possibly designated hitter is good enough. I know Mike Trout wanted to have a traditional spring training entering his 2nd full season, but I think that he’s going to come to regret not being around this talented group. Grade: A
Who’s In: R.A. Dickey-Blue Jays, Kris Medlen-Braves, Ryan Vogelsong-Giants, Derek Holland-Rangers
Who’s Out (for now): Justin Verlander-Tigers, David Price-Rays, Jered Weaver-Angels, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee-Phillies, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw-Dodgers, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner-Giants
It’s pretty easy too look at those two lists and get a lump in your throat. There is one spot still open for a starting pitcher that’d presumably would go to Verlander if he wants it. Let’s look at what is definite right now. Team USA sports the defending NL Cy Young winner in Dickey, who’s knuckleball will give batters fits seeing it for the first time this season. Medlen was arguably (and I’d argue was) the best pitcher in the 2nd half last season. When he’s on his game, he’s unhittable. Vogelsong is a fantastic story since returning to MLB from Japan and can be useful as he might have some inside knowledge on the Japanese hitters. Holland is a decent southpaw, great in the clubhouse, and let’s be honest we’re all secretly hoping he faces the Netherlands. If Joe Torre has a sense of humor, it’ll happen. It’s not the best, but it’s certainly not the worst. Grade: B-
Who’s In: Jeremy Affeldt-Giants, Tim Collins-Royals, and Glen Perkins-Twins
Who’s Out: Sean Marshall-Reds, Eric O’ Flaherty and Jonny Venters-Braves, Darren Oliver-Blue Jays, and Sean Burnett-Angels
No offense to Tim Collins, but I’d rather have all five pitchers in the “Who’s out” list than him. Affeldt is a great big-game pitcher as he proved in the 2012 postseason. He’ll have to come through in big spots as the best of this bunch. Perkins has become a solid lefty. He’s climbed his way up the ranks to become the Twins closer. Seeing a lot of quality lefties staying in their spring training homes is a little disheartening though. Grade: C+
Who’s In: Heath Bell-Diamonbacks, Mitchell Boggs-Cardinals, Steve Cishek-Marlins, Luke Gregerson-Padres, Craig Kimbrel-Braves, Chris Perez, and Vinnie Pestano-Indians
Who’s Out: Jim Johnson-Orioles, Jason Motte-Cardinals, Jonathan Papelbon-Phillies, Joel Hanrahan-Red Sox
As long as the words “Heath Bell in a high pressure situation” aren’t used I really like the bullpen that Greg Maddux has to work with. Craig Kimbrel is the best relief pitcher in the world right now and should lock down any game in the 9th inning. Perez and Pestano work well together in Cleveland. Boggs was a revelation in St. Louis this past season. Cishek will be a change of pace reliever with his submarine delivery. Cishek did really well filling in as the Marlins closer when Heath Bell fell apart last season. Gregerson is one of the leagues most underrated relievers because he pitches in San Diego and has never had an ERA over 3.24 in his four seasons. Having Kimbrel on the roster is such a boon for this bullpen. Grade: A-
Final Thoughts: Team USA will have a real shot at knocking Japan off the top of the WBC mountain. The coaching staff with Joe Torre, Greg Maddux, Dale Murphy, Gerald Perry, Larry Bowa, Willie Randolph, and Marcel Lachemann is top notch. The only real question marks are at shortstop and left-handed pitching to me. I believe that if the starters can get a lead to the bullpen though, USA will be dangerous. I expect at least another run to the semi-finals and a trip to San Francisco. Every team at that level is so talented, it’s going to come down to the little things to decide the champion.
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
By now you’ve undoubtedly heard the news. The latest transaction to hit Major League Baseball is that Roy Oswalt has signed a contract with the Texas Rangers.
The only specifics released by the Rangers so far is that it is a one year deal pending his physical.
The deal will allow the Rangers to move some pieces around and his experience could become very useful but at what cost?
The Rangers have been one of the forefront teams all season to sign Oswalt. With the recent injury to starter Neftali Feliz this move makes a lot of sense right now. What about in a month when Feliz is scheduled to be back?
This deal could present a problem for the Rangers rotation. Or could this be a blessing in disguise?
When Feliz comes back there could be another rotation spot that he can slide into. The Rangers have a lot of young arms that don’t have necessarily a lot of miles on them. The problem with them though is the increased work load they were subjected to last season.
Players like Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, in the rotation, saw their innings drastically increase over previous seasons. So at some point this season they both may need some time off and having a team that features 6 starters (7 if you include Scott Feldman) really becomes quite useful.
Alexi Ogando was moved into the bullpen in the postseason last season and he remains there now. He was moved out of the starting role because he grew tired towards the end of the season. As a starter though he was dominant enough to make the AL All-Star team. A similar fate may be in store for Feliz.
Feliz being moved back into the bullpen would be a scary thought for the rest of the American League. If they had that many quality arms in the bullpen the Rangers starters would only need to go about 5 or 6 innings and just keep the game close. With a bullpen that features Mike Adams, Alexi Ogando, lightly used Koji Uehara, and Joe Nathan closing things out. Add Feliz in there and that is a daunting task for any offense that has to face them.
Oswalt could however anchor this rotation if they make the postseason. Colby Lewis has been a beast in the last two seasons when the calendar turns to October. Behind him however the starts have been spotty to say the least by the rest of the rotation. With a veteran like Oswalt who has postseason experience from when he was with the Astros and the Phillies this could be a formidable rotation.
He could also become a mentor for some of the younger pitchers as they do not have an established long tenured pitcher necessarily.
The longest tenured starter is Colby Lewis and he is only in his third year since coming back from Japan. This new and improved Lewis is suspect during the season and lights out in the postseason. He can not however guide some of the younger players through the season as he himself has to be watched with an extremely close eye for much of the season.
Oswalt will begin his time with the Rangers this weekend as he will make a AAA start and see if he is ready to be moved up.
Coming off the heels of the latest defeat I don’t know if Ranger fans can take too many more starts from Scott Feldman.
– Brian Boynton
Five years for $28.5 million with two club option years, pushing the contract to seven years. Not a bad day’s work for the Texas Rangers and Derek Holland. Jon Daniels really is a Baseball Jedi mind Ninja.
JD seems to be stockpiling this team with youth and signing them to long term manageable contracts. Every one of Daniels’ young players seem to be studs in the minors and on the major league roster. Look at the top tier of the minors and you will see the Rangers peppered throughout the top 100.
Even though the Rangers will have more money to spend when their TV deal goes into effect after this season, it is still smart to lock him up now. They can now allocate the extra money elsewhere on the team, especially since they have several players due huge pay increases shortly.
Both sides accomplished what they wanted:
- Rangers have a potential ace locked up through his arbitration years and likely 3 years into his free agency.
- Derek Holland has the security of knowing he will be paid for at least the next 5 years. Wouldn’t you like that kind of security?
Holland also mentioned today during the press conference that “It’s all about being in Texas.” He has weathered the many trade scenarios involving himself over the past three seasons.
He has been mentioned in trade rumors most of his career including but not limited to James Shields (repeatedly), Matt Garza, and John Danks. Thankfully, for whatever reason, those trades all fell through and we now finally get to see what he can become.
The Texas Rangers have set themselves up nicely for the foreseeable future with this signing. If the club picks up the 2017 option, the Rangers will be paying Yu Darvish and Derek Holland a combined $22 million. YU know YU like the deal now (They just come to me).
Holland’s contract is similar to those of John Lester (5 years, $30 million) and Clay Buchholz (4 years, $30.5 million) when they signed extensions around the same age.
If Holland becomes the player everybody thinks he can and Darvish can become the greatest Japanese pitcher to ever grace MLB, this team is set for some serious long-term success.
The reason I really like this deal is the potential for seeing Chuck Norris throwing out a first pitch to Holland just increased exponentially. Yes, Holland is a big fan of a good Chuck Norris joke. Plus, his nickname is Dutch Oven which carries its own awesomeness.
– Brian Boynton