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)
In today’s edition of Grade That Trade! we have three very young, talented teams swapping players. It looks like the Marlins got sick of Heath Bell thinking that walking OTHER people would help burn calories. But that contract was surely burning a hole through Jeffrey Loria’s pockets.
Bell was shipped off to Arizona, to join a bullpen that actually didn’t need that much help. Miami ate $8 million of the $21 million left on Bell’s contract, and received a highly-ranked third base prospect, Yordy Cabrera (no relation to Miguel – I checked), from the Oakland A’s to complete their end of the deal.
Aside from taking on the behemoth contract of Bell, the D’Backs snatched middle infielder Cliff Pennington from the A’s, and sent outfielder Chris Young to Oakland. Whew, that was a doozy. Let me break this down for you:
3B Yordy Cabrera (Single-A)
RP Heath Bell
SS/2B Cliff Pennington
OF Chris Young
This trade has a lot of question marks surrounding it, a lot of bad contract cash flowing through it, and plenty of very interesting theories because of it. For example, who the hell is Yordy Cabrera? According to friends of the organization, he is “pretty damn good.”
When looking at his stats, I have to question if my sources were tailgating for college football all day – Cabrera’s best season was 2011, when he hit .231 with 6 homers, 47 RBI and 23 stolen bases (he also had 21 doubles and 5 triples in 359 at-bats). His on-base percentage was below .300 and his OPS was a staggeringly-low .664 that year (.625 in 2012).
I can’t deny that on paper, the kid has potential. At 6’1″, 205 pounds, only 22 years old with gap power and speed, you’ve got to like what he could become. But he better play some solid defense if he’s not going to develop into a serviceable Major League third baseman some day.
If Cabrera has his head on straight, you could be looking at a player who turns the doubles into homers, cuts down on strike outs and steals 30 bags a year. That could equate to a mid to high-.200’s hitter with 15 homers and 30 stolen bases. Time will tell, but the Marlins could have turned Bell in for scrap metal if Cabrera doesn’t pan out.
The most interesting question for me is what the A’s are going to do now with such a crowded, talented outfield. My gut says there is no way they can cut ties with the heart and soul of that lineup, Coco Crisp. He was a spark plug down the stretch and proved that when healthy, he’s one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball.
That being said, with the immensely talented (yet always hurt or underperforming) Chris Young on board, there are four starting outfielders for three spots. We know Billy Beane isn’t crazy enough to trade away Josh Reddick or Yoenis Cespedes, but is he possibly thinking of swapping Young back to someone for some prospects?
Oakland could use a few infield bats to develop, as their outfield looks set for the near future. But the A’s have question marks at catcher and second base (depending on how Jemile Weeks bounces back), and could use a solid, every day first baseman. One thing this move means for sure, is that Stephen Drew will likely be sticking around in Oakland with Pennington out.
As for Arizona. Oh, Arizona. I’m not sure I understand the moves they made at all. Not only did they take on $13 million of an overweight, over the hill relief pitcher’s contract, but they paid part of Young’s contract to send him to Oakland. They essentially swapped Drew for Pennington (the A’s picked up Drew from the D’backs in the middle of the regular season), which is a huge down grade. AND they lost Young, who has 30/30 potential if he can play a full, healthy, focused season.
Not only do the moves puzzle me, but I don’t see how they made the Diamondbacks a better team at all. Maybe Arizona has some tricks up it’s sleeves, because they usually make very savvy moves. Justin Upton could be the next outfielder out the door, leaving an outfield of Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra and Adam Eaton in the desert.
Sure, it’s not a bad outfield – but it was a lot better with Young and Upton there (assuming Upton gets moved). Either way, I have to grade this trade on what has happened, not what might happen. And for that, I give the following marks:
Oakland A’s: B+
The A’s now have a crowded outfield with a lot of options, and plenty of curious fans. What comes next for Billy Beane? Getting rid of Pennington was a long time coming, but now they are short on infield depth. If Yordy Cabrera does pan out, they might kick themselves down the road. Then again, this team proved it can win now. So I applaud the move to bring in immediate help.
Miami Marlins: A-
Sure, they got a Single-A infielder who got on base at a worse clip than Juan Uribe does, but he is only 22. There is plenty of room for Cabrera to turn into a great player. It depends how they develop him. Getting rid of Heath Bell and his ridiculous contract is reason enough for the Marlins’ front office to celebrate.
Arizona Diamondbacks: D+
I just don’t get it. Trade away an outfielder who could have star potential, just because you’re tired of waiting. In return, take on a big contract for an old, declining reliever and a slick-fielding, yet offensively inept middle infielder? Unless G.M. Kevin Towers has some tricks up his sleeve, this will remain a head scratcher.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)