Spare Change – Pretenders and Contenders – All Star Game Reflections

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Distinguishing the Pretenders from the Contenders:

Heading into today, the Yankees, Royals and Angels all sit atop their respective decisions. Meanwhile, the two AL Wild Card spots are being held by the Houston Astros and the Minnesota Twins. The two (surprise) teams have a 3 game lead over their closest threat (Toronto Blue Jays) and both are in dire need of reinforcements.

In the National League (to no one’s real surprise), the Nationals, Cardinals and Dodgers lead their respective divisions, with the Pirates and Cubs holding the two Wild Card positions. As it stands right now, the Pirates have a 3.5 game cushion on the Cubs, with the Giants (1 GB) and the Mets (2 GB) being the only real threat to the Cubs.

Despite all of, if not most of these teams currently sitting in, or near a playoff position, many of them still have glaring holes to fill and needs to address before it can be determined which teams are legit contenders, and which teams are just pretending.

Pretenders with NO CHANCE:

miggy

Detroit Tigers

Current Record: 46-47 (4 GB in Wild Card and 10.5 GB in the AL Central)

Biggest Need(s): Starting pitching and bullpen help.

Reason(s) They’re a Pretender:
• Justin Verlander looks completely lost on the mound.
• Outside of David Price, the entire starting pitching staff has been woeful and far from consistent.
• The Tigers pitching staff currently ranks in or near the bottom 5 in most major pitching statistics.
• Seem to be more in a position to sell off assets than to add them.
• Soon to be free agent players like David Price and Yoenis Cespedes could fetch a sizeable reward and help the Tigers in the near future.
• Depleted farm system might not be deep enough to make any trades of importance.

Bartolo Witness

New York Mets

Current Record: 49-46 (2 GB in Wild Card and 3 GB in the NL East)

Biggest Need(s): Offense.

Reason(s) They’re a Pretender:
• Sure they have a solid pitching rotation, but the Mets have one of the more inconsistent offenses in all of MLB. They currently rank in the bottom 10 in almost all of the major offensive categories.
• Injuries and durability concerns to key contributors like David Wright, Michael Cuddyer, David Murphy and Travis d`Arnaud.
• Despite being loaded with young pitching talent, the Mets management seems to be unwilling to move key pieces of the future for offensive help today.
• Could be more tempted to spend money on offense in the offseason than to move prospects at the trade deadline.

maddy bumgarner

San Francisco Giants

Current Record: 50-44 (1 GB in Wild Card and 2.5 GB in the NL West)

Biggest Need(s): Outfield offense and pitching help.

Reason(s) They’re a Pretender:

• Matt Cain hasn’t been Matt Cain for a while
• Tim Lincecum has become even more of a shell of himself and was recently diagnosed with a degenerative hip disorder
• The veteran trio of Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong, have performed more like washed up vets than crafty one.
• In the outfield, Nori Aoki and Angel Pagan have been pedestrian at best and have struggled to contribute consistent run production.
• It’s not an even numbered year…
• Not possessing the deepest of farm systems, the Giants may be hesitant to further deplete a system that is in the middle of a rebuild.
• More likely to attempt to add a big named starter in the offseason. Recent rumours have them linked to pursue Zack Greinke if and when he hits the open market.

Honourable Mention: Tampa Bay Rays.

Pretenders with SOME chance:

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Toronto Blue Jays

Current Record: 48-47 (3 GB in AL Wild Card and 4.5 GB in the AL East)

Biggest Need(s): Pitching, pitching, pitching and even MORE pitching.

Reason(s) They Still Have a Chance:

• Their ridiculous offense. The big bad bats of the Blue Jays currently sit atop or in the top 5 in nearly every MLB offensive category.
• No seriously… the offense, nothing else.

Reason They Will Remain A Pretender:

• Despite having one of the deeper farm systems in the majors, one that could (easily) be dipped into it in order to make a move or two, and an apparent $10 million in payroll flexibility, the Blue Jays front office seems unwilling to mortgage the future for a chance today.
• Even though he hasn’t been shy to make a move in the past, GM Alex Anthopolous seems to be a bit hesitant when it comes to moving top prospects, especially after being burned in the Dickey trade.
• If they don’t make a trade to help their poor pitching staff, the Blue Jays will definitely be adding another year to their playoff drought; 22 and counting.

bux

Minnesota Twins

Current Record: 50-43 (Leader in AL Wild Card and 6.5 GB in the AL Central)

Biggest Need(s): Offensive and pitching depth.

Reason(s) They Still Have a Chance:

• Received fairly consistent production from a somewhat unheralded or “no name” offense.
• Pitching staff has been above average to good and the return of Ervin Santana from suspension gives the Twins some pitching depth without having to make a big move.
• Similar to the Royals in 2014, the inexperience of the Twins helps them to shrug off stressful situations. It has been a big factor in their “never give up” attitude.

Reason They Will Remain A Pretender:

• They don’t have the payroll flexibility of big market teams to take on additional payroll.
• May be unwilling to dip into their deep farm system in order to make a run at it this season.
• Inexperience could work against them as the season progresses.

kris bryant

Chicago Cubs

Current Record: 51-43 (Leader in NL Wild Card and 9 GB in the NL Central)

Biggest Need(s): Starting pitching and bullpen help.

Reason(s) They Still Have a Chance:

• Joe Maddon’s supply of fairy dust that he brought with him from his tenure in Tampa Bay.
• Currently possess one of the best statistical pitching staffs in MLB.
• Depth of farm system and a management team that is hungry to win and willing to spend to do so, could see the Cubs be one of the more active teams at the trade deadline; and not as a seller for once.
• Similar to the Royals in 2014, the inexperience of the Cubs could be a blessing in disguise for the Cubs and could help them shrug off stressful situations down the stretch.

Reason They Will Remain A Pretender:

• Asking price on trade targets could be more than Theo Epstein and crew are willing to spend. Sure the Cubs are looking good this season, but don’t think that they will mortgage their very bright future for a chance this season.
• Could be more willing to take on payroll and spend money in the offseason, especially with a deep pool of free agent pitching help.
• Youthful Cubs could succumb to the grind of a 162 game season and start to break down as the season goes on.

Honurable Mention: Baltimore Orioles

Contenders with BIG Needs:

arod pouty

New York Yankees

Record: 51-41 (1st AL East) • 4.5 game lead.

Biggest Need(s):

• Regression of C.C Sabathia and the durability concerns of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova, could see the Bronx Bombers pursue a starting pitcher or two.
• Could also look to add infield and outfield depth to take load off of aging roster.

Most Likely Outcome:

• GM Brian Cashman was quoted as saying that he predicts that the Yankees were “more likely not doing anything than something significant.” He then followed that up by saying that they were “still making their calls” though.
• My take away from this is that the Yankees aren’t necessarily looking for the big name addition, but could look to add depth to the back end of their rotation like they did last season when they added Brandon McCarthy.
• Even with their respectable division lead, the Yankees will need to make a move in order to firmly solidify their grasp on the AL East.

Division Series - Kansas City Royals v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Game Two

Kansas City Royals

Record: 56-36 (1st AL Central) • 6.5 game lead.

Biggest Need(s):

• The season long struggles of Yordano Ventura and the recent news that Jason Vargas needs Tommy John surgery will have the Royals tied to every big name pitcher available leading up to the trade deadline.
• With the injury to Alex Gordon and the durability concerns that are Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales, don’t be surprised to see the Royals also look to add some outfield depth or some bench help.

Most Likely Outcome:

• I would honestly be shocked to see the Royals not make a move of significance to bolster their starting rotation. They have enough top prospects and a deep enough farm system to add one, if not two, starting pitchers.

Correaa

Houston Astros

Record: 52-43 (AL Wild Card leader and 2nd AL West)

Biggest Need(s):

• With rookie phenom, Lance McCullers Jr., facing an innings limit and the back end of the rotation being suspect at best, the Astros could and will be in the market to add an impactful starter.
• George Springer’s injury could mean that the Astros will also be on the hunt for some outfield help or depth. This isn’t a top priority, but it could be something that is addressed nonetheless.
• It wouldn’t be surprising for them to look for some 1B help, especially with Chris Carter currently hitting under .200.

Most Likely Outcome:

• Rumours have already started to swirl in regards to the Astros being tied to the big names available on the trade market. This week alone they have been linked to the trio of Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels and David Price.
• No guarantees that the Astros land one of the big name pitchers available, but they may look to add an arm or two of lesser status.

Joc Pederson

Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 54-42 (1st NL West) • 2.5 game lead.

Biggest Need(s):

• The injury to Brett Anderson earlier in the week was just the latest blow to an already paper thin Dodgers rotation. Outside of the dynamic duo of Kershaw and Greinke, the Dodgers had also been leaning heavily on Anderson and Mike Bolsinger to fill the void left by Hyun Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy, who both suffered season ending injuries.

Most Likely Outcome:

• The severity of Anderson’s injury will really dictate just how active the Dodgers are leading up to the deadline. That being said, even if the injury isn’t severe, you can bet that the Dodgers will be looking to add some starting pitching depth. This week alone the have been linked to actively pursuing Cole Hamels.

Honourable Mention: Pittsburgh Pirates

Contenders with Minimal Needs:

• Los Angeles Angels
• Washington Nationals
• St. Louis Cardinals

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Reflections on the Dinger Derby and Mid Summer Classic:

• Introduction of the new format helped revitalize the Home Run Derby, not only from a timing standpoint, but also helped add some much needed life into something that had become stagnant in the past couple seasons.
• A combination of seasoned veterans (Pujols and Fielder), up and coming stars (Rizzo and Donaldson), the 23 and under stud club (Pederson, Bryant and Machado) and the home town favourite (Todd Frazier), easily made fans forget about the “big” names (Trout, Harper and Stanton) not in attendance.
• Even if you’re not a Reds fan, hearing the Cincinnati crowd basically will Frazier to the finals and the Derby title, was one of the best moments in recent All Star game memory.
• This interaction between Albert Pujols and Joc Pederson’s brother, Champ. Moments like this are really what the game is all about.

• The “Franchise Four” announcements prior to the All Star game fun to hear, especially with teams like the Rays naming 4 players who are not only still playing, but also 2 that are no longer with the team.
• On the whole, there weren’t too many snubs or surprises in the balloting, although Marlins fans selecting Gio over Josh Beckett and DBacks fans naming Goldy over Steve Finley could be considered a bit of a shock. I’m also a tad surprised that Mets fans went with Piazza over the Kid, Gary Carter.
• No matter what your thoughts or opinions are about him, you have to admit that it was hard not to get goose bumps when Pete Rose was announced to the Cincinnati crowd.
• The naming of the four “Greatest Living Players” (Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Johnny Bench) was an emotional moment that is up there with Ted Williams being carted out for the 1999 All Star Game at Fenway.
• Sandy Koufax showing us, and 50 cent, how to properly throw out a first pitch:

• Mike Trout doing Mike Trout things. With the leadoff home run, Trout became the first batter since the legendary Bo Jackson to lead the game off with a ding dong. Not to mention that it helped to complete his career All Star Game cycle. Keep in mind that this was only his 4th All Star appearance.
• Very fitting that Trout would become the first player since Bo to leadoff the game with a home run, especially with his AL All Star teammate, Adam Jones, referring to him as the “white” Bo Jackson.
• It would be amusing to see what Trout could do on the gridiron seeing as he could play either offense (fullback) or defense (safety).
• Jacob deGrom needed just 10 pitches and his 98 mph fastball to strike out the AL side in the 6th inning. In doing so, deGrom joined 19yr old Doc Gooden as the only Mets pitcher to strike out the side in the All Star game.

Over Looked Season of Yesteryear:

1996: Ellis Burks • Colorado Rockies • 3rd NL MVP

156 G • 613 AB • 142 R • 211 H • 40 HR • 128 RBI • 32 SB • .344 BA • 1.047 OPS

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