Grading All of MLB’s Biggest July Trades 1 Month Later

As the calendar turns over to September and the 2014 MLB season enters its final stretch, it's hard to believe it's already been a month since one of the most exciting trade deadlines in recent memory.

Now that some time has passed, it's time to re-evaluate the winners and losers of each notable July trade, though postseason performance will eventually be the biggest determining factor for whether or not a number of a deals were really worth pulling off.

For now, here are updated grades for both sides of each July trade around the MLB based on how players have performed so far with their new teams and how the trades project to work out long term.

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Grading All of MLB’s Biggest July Trades 1 Month Later

As the calendar turns over to September and the 2014 MLB season enters its final month, it's hard to believe it's already been a month since one of the most exciting trade deadlines in recent memory.

Now that some time has passed, it's time to re-evaluate the winners and losers of each notable July trade, though postseason performance will eventually be the biggest determining factor for whether or not a number of a deals were really worth pulling off.

For now, here are updated grades for both sides of each July trade around the MLB based on how players have performed so far with their new teams and how the trades project to work out long term.

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ESPN Analysts Provide Insight to Kansas City Royals’ Validity

The Kansas City Royals have seemingly been in a perpetual form of rebuilding. The team has struggled to find any consistent progression over the years. General Manager Dayton Moore has reminded fans for years to trust in "The Process." Craig Brown examined the history of "The Process" before the 2014 season at Royals Review, an SBNation site. It appears that "The Process" might finally be coming to fruition.

On the last day of August, the Royals will take the field against the division rival Cleveland Indians, and ESPN will feature the game in its Sunday Night Baseball broadcast. This late in the season, the sports channel focuses these broadcasts on exciting teams that are in the thick of the playoff hunt. That is unfamiliar territory for Royals fans.

It seems to be justified, however. While many fans have been waiting for the Royals to collapse, the team has continued to hold on to a first-place position in the standings. It is a spot that they share with the Detroit Tigers heading in to play August 31. They are a team that ESPN analyst Mark Mulder feels is capable of reaching the playoffs:

They are for real. They have a great bullpen and five consistent starters. They know what they are getting from their starter every night.

Indeed, pitching is a primary concern for most every playoff team. Mulder is not alone in his evaluation of the Royals' playoff aspirations. His colleague Buster Olney has similar sentiments:

Among the many dumb picks that I made before the season started—the Rays representing the AL in the World Series, for example—I picked the Royals to make the playoffs as a wildcard team. Now, I think they're better than that; I think they'll win the AL Central, because every day they run out a dominant bullpen and defense.

It sounds like the Royals are starting to make believers of the experts. Convincing Mulder that they can go far in the playoffs is still a different story. Speaking specifically about the Royals' style of play—which includes low strikeouts, strong defense and putting the ball in play—Mulder is not confident that the team can go far in the postseason:

Probably not. You never really string together 5 to 6 hits in an inning come playoff time. You need to be able to hit with some power.

Reaching the postseason may be enough for the Royals. Drawing attention this late in the season is certainly new to them and their fans. The progression continues.

Maybe this is all part of "The Process".

Quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by the writer.

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com.
Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things baseball.

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Adam Dunn to A’s: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reaction

Needing a bat to bolster a starting lineup that's struggled since the departure of Yoenis Cespedes, the Oakland Athletics acquired designated hitter Adam Dunn from the Chicago White Sox.

The Athletics announced they will send minor league pitcher Nolan Sanburn to Chicago:

ESPN's Buster Olney reports that Oakland will pay approximately half of Dunn's remaining $2.5 million salary.

Dunn will join Oakland on Monday for the first game of its series against the Seattle Mariners. The deal comes just hours before MLB's waiver trade deadline. Teams must agree to terms and send deals into the office for approval by 11:59 p.m. ET Sunday evening.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also passed along that it will likely be Dunn's final season:

Dunn, who successfully passed waivers earlier this month, was eligible to be traded but controlled his own destiny thanks to his no-trade clause. Landing in Oakland, which sits comfortably ahead in the first American League wild-card spot, should allow Dunn to compete for his first championship.

The 34-year-old slugger is hitting .220/.340/.433 this season with 20 home runs and 54 RBI. He is in the final season of the four-year, $56 million deal he signed with Chicago before the 2011 campaign. Sitting in fourth place in the AL Central, with their season all but over, the White Sox were eager to recoup something of value before Dunn hits free agency.

"It has been a very difficult time here," Dunn recently told reporters. "And there are so many young guys on this team, I really want them to know not only how to play on the field...but how to handle themselves by being good teammates, by being good people. More than anything I do on the field, that's the most important thing I will leave, hopefully a lasting impression."

Sanburn was Oakland's 10th-best prospect coming into the season, according to Baseball America. The 23-year-old righty is 3-1 with a 3.28 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 71.1 innings with Single-A Stockton, working entirely out of the bullpen. He was a second-round pick out of Arkansas in the 2012 draft.

Sanburn is the third top-10 prospect the Athletics have traded in 2014. With general manager Billy Beane sensing an opportunity for his first World Series, he sent shortstop Addison Russell and outfielder Billy McKinney—the top two prospects in a deep system—to the Chicago Cubs for pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.

Beane also rolled the dice at the trade deadline by sending Cespedes, their second-best offensive player behind Josh Donaldson, to Boston for Jon Lester. The moves have ultimately backfired thus far, with the A's sliding behind the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West while struggling to produce runs. While still holding the highest run total and run differential in baseball, Oakland is tied for 20th in runs scored in August.

Dunn profiles similarly to Cespedes from a production standpoint and should help right the middle of the order in time for the playoffs. Adding Dunn might also force John Jaso into a full-time backup role, though that depends on whether Oakland plans on using Dunn in the field. Dunn has played 23 games at first base and six in the outfield this season.

Openly considering retirement, going to Oakland could reinvigorate his love for the day-to-day grind or provide a final opportunity to ride off in the sunset. With Oakland all-in on earning a pennant in 2014, Beane and Co. are crossing their fingers for the latter.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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The man with his head in an invisible vice – and the puzzle that took a decade to solve

Dr Phil Whitaker’s Health Matters column. 

A model of Van Gogh’s severed ear: a routine ear operation caused years of head pain for one patient. Photo: Getty
A model of Van Gogh’s severed ear: a routine ear operation caused years of head pain for one patient. Photo: Getty

David was a patient during my earliest years in general practice: an otherwise fit man in his early sixties who needed an operation on his ear. The procedure went without a hitch but afterwards David noticed that he was markedly off-balance and he developed dreadful headaches. His description stuck in my mind: he said it was as if one side of his skull was being “squeezed and crushed in a vice”. He illustrated this with his hands, clamping and pressing them against his scalp as he tried to explain.

Initially, I hoped it was something that would settle spontaneously: side effects of the general anaesthetic or the painkillers, perhaps, or some deep bruising that would take a while to resolve. After a few weeks without improvement, I organised blood tests and examined everything my training suggested might be relevant. I drew a blank.

My ear, nose and throat (ENT) colleagues were similarly perplexed when he attended his six-week follow-up appointment. The surgery had been successful, they confirmed, and everything was well healed. They were at a loss to explain his new symptoms.

So began a tortuous process. The ENT surgeons approached the problem from every angle they could: head scan, X-rays, more blood tests, specialised tests of balance. Each flurry of activity was interspersed with interminable periods of waiting for the next outpatient review. Eventually, after many months, the verdict was delivered: they could find nothing wrong and could only suggest I refer David to a consultant neurologist. 

A year later, David was no further forward. He continued to complain bitterly of the grinding headaches and the disequilibrium. The neurologist and an ENT second opinion had failed to produce a diagnosis. As so often with “medically unexplained physical symptoms”, the spotlight began to shine on the psychosocial sphere – were these symptoms an expression of emotional turmoil?

David was emphatic: he had emotional turmoil, all right, but that was because the bloody operation had left him in pain and no one seemed to have the first idea how to put him right. His relationship with the medical profession reached rock bottom and though I tried to support him as best I could, I began to dread seeing his name on my appointment list, so impotent did his case make me feel and so angry had he become.

Eventually, I moved to another part of the country, leaving my first practice and David’s insoluble symptoms behind. A decade later, I went in for dental surgery under general anaesthetic. Shortly after getting home, I began to feel giddy and off-balance and I developed headaches that felt as though one side of my skull was being crushed in a vice. I tried various measures but nothing helped. Memories of David inevitably came back to me.

In the intervening years, I had seen a number of perplexing musculoskeletal problems respond to chiropractic treatment where conventional medicine had reached a dead end. I went to discuss my situation with an experienced chiropractor and he knew immediately what had happened: the surgeon, in manoeuvring my head to get access to the back of my mouth while I was under the anaesthetic, had unwittingly deranged the alignment of the bones at the top of my neck. With a few manipulations, my debilitating symptoms melted away.

Since learning this lesson, I have seen several similar cases in which patients can date the onset of back pain or headaches and dizziness to receiving a general anaesthetic. Most doctors are mystified because there is nothing in medical training that teaches us that this kind of thing can happen. To a chiropractor, however, it’s unsurprising. If you haul insensate bodies from trolleys on to operating tables – if you twist heads this way and that while the protective neck muscles are paralysed by anaesthetic – you will very likely put vertebrae out of kilter.

Medicine is a lifelong education. The training that we get in our early years is only a starter guide. Life experiences (our own and those of family and friends), the patients we encounter and the stories we hear continue to expand and refine our understanding of the myriad ways human beings work and don’t work. As well as learning lessons from chiropractors, I have also seen startling results with homoeopathy, acupuncture and psychotherapy. Yet these kinds of approaches are frequently derided by conventional doctors, who reject them because they can’t be understood in our current scientific terms.

If there is one thing that can be said with confidence about our understanding of the human organism today, it is that, like all bodies of scientific knowledge, it will be shown to be woefully inadequate over the next 50 years. The provisionality and partiality of our knowledge should serve to keep our minds open to other ways of thinking.

I can now direct patients with anaesthetic-related back or neck injuries to someone who can help them. My regret is that I didn’t have this understanding when David needed help. I can still see him, clamping and pressing his hands to his scalp, trying desperately to communicate what he was going through but being met with the incomprehension and impotence of his physicians. That has been one of the defining lessons of my career and I try to remember it whenever a patient presents puzzling problems that defy a conventional diagnostic approach. 

The 10 Biggest Takeaways from August’s MLB Action

There are usually plenty of MLB takeaways in the month of August.

After all, it is the month when division and wild-card contenders begin pulling away from the pack and each general manager finalizes plans for the postseason roster.

It is also the time for players to hit the waiver wire, making for interesting discussions as clubs in need of an upgrade have the chance to make additions after the MLB July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. To be sure, there haven't been many trades this season, but that hasn't stopped the speculation from running rampant.

Let's take a look at 10 of the bigger takeaways from the last month.

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Pitch perfect: the ten football matches that changed the world

Jim Murphy’s book combines a blokey ethos with a serious tone, and includes the Eton-smashing 1883 FA Cup final, the 1943 Spanish Cup semi-final and Robben Island’s  “Makana League”.

The politician and his playmaker: Tony Blair and Alex Ferguson in 1996. Photo: Steve Eason/Getty
The politician and his playmaker: Tony Blair and Alex Ferguson in 1996. Photo: Steve Eason/Getty

The Ten Football Matches That Changed the World . . . and the One That Didn’t 
Jim Murphy
Biteback, 352pp, £16.99

 

The unofficial New Labour Sunday league football team is called Demon Eyes, taking its name from the infamous 1997 Tory election poster by M&C Saatchi “New Labour, New Danger”, which portrayed Tony Blair as a crazed Stalinist Satan. The idea that such a crypto-socialist agenda existed was of great amusement to the confident new intake of MPs who arrived in Westminster on the back of the 1997 Labour landslide: no radicals they. Among them was the Celtic fan and talented striker Jim Murphy who, as an erstwhile president of the National Union of Students, had already earned himself a rebuke from Ken Livingstone for his reputation as a moderniser with a soft line on the abolition of student grants.

Here I should declare an interest. I’ve played a few seasons at centre-half for Demon Eyes, mostly alongside the Terry Butcher-esque former work and pensions secretary James Purnell. I’ve never met Jim Murphy, though I have man-marked Ed Balls, who is both sharp-elbowed and surprisingly mobile. Whereas Clement Attlee was a cricket man and Harold Wilson’s 1970 election loss has often been attributed to the national gloom that followed England’s World Cup quarter-final defeat by West Germany four days earlier, football was very much the New Labour thing. Even Gordon Brown professed an encyclopaedic knowledge of Raith Rovers and, in better times (1998), would pop next door to No 10 to watch Scotland in the World Cup.

Murphy goes as far as to claim that football played a crucial role in the rise of Blair. He tells the story of how, after 12 failed attempts, the nervous young barrister was desperately trying to win the nomination for Sedgefield in 1983 to save his fledgling political career as others, including Brown, stole a march. It was only when watching Aberdeen’s victory in the European Cup Winners’ Cup in May that year, masterminded by the Labour man Alex Ferguson, that the then 30-year-old Blair was finally able to bond with local party power brokers over a beer. Football remains the British common denominator.

Murphy’s book is very much in this mould, combining a blokey ethos with a serious tone and right-headed engagement with global affairs, as befits a shadow secretary of state for international development. Of the ten matches that “changed the world”, his first choice is an open goal for a Labour frontbencher: the 1883 FA Cup final, in which the previously dominant blue bloods of Eton College were beaten by the working men of Blackburn Olympic at the Oval cricket ground. This signalled a transition of football from the public-school playing fields to the industrial heartlands of the north-west and north-east. London has wrested much else from the rest of the country since but our national sport has yet to be dislodged from its power base in the industrial north.

Beyond these shores, too, Britain’s “most successful export” has been a uniquely powerful force – more so than any other sport, though not always to good effect. Although biting your opponents is a recent innovation, politics, violence, sectarianism and even match-fixing have been entangled with the game since its inception. Much of the bitterness that marks the Barcelona-Real Madrid rivalry to this day can be traced to the 1943 Spanish Cup semi-final, in which Barça travelled to Madrid with a comfortable 3-0 lead from the first leg. Allegedly threatened by the director of state security before kick-off, they had little choice but to succumb to the Madristas, capitulating 11-1 by the final whistle.

There is the inspiring story of the three-tiered “Makana League” on Robben Island, in which the prisoners of the apartheid regime in South Africa eventually won the right to play for a precious half-hour every week. Nelson Mandela, however, as a high-security prisoner, wasn’t allowed to watch from his window.

Most football fans will be familiar with many of the anecdotes in the book (Mo John­ston’s transfer, Peter Bonetti’s flap, Rod Stewart’s support for Celtic, quotes from George Best). There are also quite a few platitudes (“Nothing, including football, lives in a vacuum”; “England v Germany is a footballing clash with a century-long significance”) that put one in mind of the Fast Show character Ron Manager. Nonetheless, Murphy’s enthusiasm is catching and he reminds us how – despite the advent of Sky TV and all-seater stadiums – the game remains entrenched in our hearts.

At an 1863 meeting at the Freemasons Arms in Covent Garden, London, convened to codify the sport, a delegate warned about the likely effects of outlawing handling the ball and hacking opponents’ shins. “You will do away with the courage and pluck of the game and I will be bound to bring over a lot of Frenchmen who would beat you with a week’s practice.” Plus ça change

John Bew is a historian and New Statesman contributing writer

Exposing MLB’s Biggest August Duds, Position by Position

From getting booed on your own bobblehead night to striking out at an outrageous clip, there are a variety of ways to land a spot on the anti-all-MLB team for the month of August. 

For some players like Adam Wainwright and Brandon Moss it was simply a matter of turning in consistently poor performances. The likes of Yasiel Puig and Jesus Montero earned the distinction courtesy of embarrassing episodes on and off the diamond. 

While the players who comprise this infamous team all took divergent paths, each one will be hoping for far better results in September.

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Miguel Cabrera Injury: Updates on Tigers Star’s Ankle and Return

Updates from Monday, Sept. 1

Miguel Cabera is back in the Detroit Tigers lineup on Monday (via MLB Lineups):

Manager Brad Ausmus spoke about Cabrera before the game (via Chris Iott of MLive.com):

 

 

Original Text

Detroit Tigers star Miguel Cabrera hasn't looked like his usual all-world self at the plate in 2014. It appears that the injury concerns surrounding the slugger finally caught up to him Saturday night, as he left the game against the Chicago White Sox in the fourth inning with an apparent ankle injury.

Chris Iott of MLive.com reported the news:

Cabrera was removed from the game Saturday night after trying to beat out a single on a ground ball that deflected off Chicago White Sox pitcher Chris Bassitt in the top of the fourth inning. There was no immediate word from the Tigers regarding why Cabrera left the game, but his right ankle has been bothering him for some time.

His exit from the game might not come as too much of a surprise for most observers. Rotoworld's Matthew Pouliot noted he looked abysmal at the plate:

Normally one of the league's best hitters—he led the American League in batting average from 2011 through 2013, all by fairly wide margins—Cabrera has seen both his average and power diminish this year, especially in recent weeks. The nine-time All-Star was hitting just .260 for the month of August, with a paltry .350 slugging percentage, per Baseball-Reference.com.

This may have been due to an overall lack of fitness. Manager Brad Ausmus noted in early August that Cabrera had some "aches and pains," per MLive.com's James Schmehl.

The ankle injury could also be a critical blow to the Tigers' playoff hopes. They are currently 73-61 on the season and just one game back of the Kansas City Royals in the AL Central.

The team made it clear that it has high hopes for the season when it traded for starting pitcher David Price back in July. The left-handed ace and Cabrera are integral to the team's plans of winning the AL Central and making a deep playoff run.

Should Detroit have to play for an extended period of time with a gaping, Cabrera-sized hole in its lineup, the Royals could pull away down the stretch and leave the Tigers scrambling for a wild-card spot.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Dustin Pedroia Injury: Updates on Red Sox Star’s Head and Return

Updates from Monday, Sept. 1

The Red Sox announced Dustin Pedroia's status for today's game:

Manager John Farrell later spoke about Pedroia's status (via Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe):

 

Updates from Sunday, Aug. 31

Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports Dustin Pedroia's status for today's game:

Following the game, Abraham updated Pedroia's status:

 

Original Text

Dustin Pedroia's Saturday night was over quickly as the Boston Red Sox second baseman left early after getting hit in the head by Logan Forsythe of the Tampa Bay Rays.

According to Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com, Pedroia was hit by Forsythe's forearm as he slid into second:

McAdam had more after the game:

Some Sox fans were crying foul on social media, but The Boston Globe's Pete Abraham felt that there was nothing untoward about the play. Abraham added that it doesn't take much to set off the powder keg that has become the Rays-Red Sox rivalry:

Coming into the game, Pedroia was averaging .281, which was second on the team, along with seven homers and 51 RBI, also second on the team. Taking the 2008 MVP out of the lineup leaves a massive hole in Boston's offense.

With the Red Sox still mired in last place, though, his injury will have little impact on the standings. The end of the 2014 season can't come soon enough for Boston.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Dustin Pedroia Injury: Updates on Red Sox Star’s Head and Return

Dustin Pedroia's Saturday night was over quickly as the Boston Red Sox second baseman left early after getting hit in the head by Logan Forsythe of the Tampa Bay Rays.

According to Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com, Pedroia was hit by Forsythe's forearm as he slid into second:

Some Sox fans were crying foul on social media, but The Boston Globe's Pete Abraham felt that there was nothing untoward about the play. Abraham added that it doesn't take much to set off the powder keg that has become the Rays-Red Sox rivalry:

Coming into the game, Pedroia was averaging .281, which was second on the team, along with seven homers and 51 RBI, also second on the team. Taking the 2008 MVP out of the lineup leaves a massive hole in Boston's offense.

With the Red Sox still mired in last place, though, his injury will have little impact on the standings. The end of the 2014 season can't come soon enough for Boston.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Ranking Top 7 MLB Contenders by Who’s Best Built for the Playoffs

Regular-season success and postseason success are often two different things in Major League Baseball, as some teams are simply better built for postseason success.

The article ahead offers an in-depth look at the seven teams best built to win in October.

The following areas carried the most weight when it came to ranking the teams:

  • Projected rotation: Pitching wins championships, and it carried the most weight here. For a team to be a serious contender, it really needs to have an ace it can lean on atop the staff, two more plus starters and a passable No. 4 who is capable of turning in a quality start.
  • Late-inning relief: Teams generally lean heavily on three or four bullpen arms once the playoffs roll around, so while a team does not necessarily have to have a phenomenal bullpen top to bottom, it does need a handful of arms it can count on.
  • Offensive firepower: A team can get by with an average offense if it has strong pitching and is capable of coming up with clutch hits. Again, pitching wins championships, but having a high-powered offense certainly doesn't hurt any.

Those three factors were examined for each team considered to be a contender at this point in the season, and the following is a ranking of the seven teams best built for playoff success.

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Dodgers Use Extreme 4-Man Shift with Bases Loaded vs. Padres

MLB teams usually aren't afraid to utilize an infield shift for hitters who tend to pull the ball, but the Los Angeles Dodgers went a bit extreme with this one.

In the bottom of the 12th inning on Friday night with the bases loaded against the San Diego Padres, the Dodgers used a four-infielder shift, moving everyone to the right side of the infield. The move ended up paying off, with the Dodgers getting a fielder's choice at home for the second out to stay alive.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, Yasmani Grandal ended up hitting a walk-off single shortly after to give the Padres the 3-2 win.

[MLB.com, h/t For the Win]

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Last-Minute Waiver Trade Ideas for MLB Contenders’ Biggest Weaknesses

To many, July 31 is known simply as the trade deadline. Of course, that's not entirely accurate.

Plenty of deals go down in August; the process just gets more complicated.

To be traded post-July, players must clear revocable waivers. Meaning, in essence, other teams have an opportunity to snatch a guy off the trading block, and the team that offered him up has a chance to yank him back.

To be eligible to play in the postseason, however, a player must be traded by Aug. 31 (11:59 p.m.).

That date's almost upon us. Which means, for baseball's playoff hopefuls, the real trade deadline is looming.

Injuries and exposed weaknesses have shifted the balance of power in both leagues. Multiple contenders, including elite squads, are searching for an upgrade somewhere.

With that in mind, here are a few 11th-hour swaps that could benefit some clubs with their sights set on October.

They're based on the needs of each specific team and players who have either cleared waivers or have been the subject of waiver-trade rumors. They're also conjecture, naturally. And, as with all trade talk, most of them probably won't happen.

Still, it's always fun to speculate.

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Brian Cashman on the Hot Seat If Yankees Miss Playoffs

The New York Yankees are not accustomed to missing the playoffs, let alone missing them in consecutive seasons. The last time that happened was in 1993.

The Yankees are in danger of missing the postseason for the second straight year, and it is entirely likely heads will roll again.

The first candidate on the chopping block: Brian Cashman, the team’s general manager since 1998. Cashman has four World Series trophies on his resume, and his contract has not been extended beyond this season.

Not helping that speculation: Principal owner Hal Steinbrenner had the opportunity to back his GM at the owners meetings earlier this month but instead played the wait-and-see card.

"We’ll be talking about that soon enough,” Steinbrenner told reporters. “You know me. We’ve got enough things to worry about during the season.”

In other words, he won’t discuss Cashman’s situation until he knows the team’s final standing. The Yanks currently sit 7.5 games out of first place in the American League East and 3.5 out of the second wild-card spot with two teams ahead of them.

Cashman has always gotten the clamps put to him as the Yankees GM but sometimes unfairly simply because his organization allows him to spend the most money. Expectations are always a World Series title in the Bronx, but with other front offices utilizing resources as wisely as ever, Cashman’s seemingly endless reserve of cash just doesn't buy what it did in the past.

The rich teams have found less and less success by trying to outspend others, and predicting success based on alphabetical order works just as well as predicting based on dollars dished out, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal

Cashman and the Yankees are the poster boys for that lately. After an offseason of going back on their word about trimming payroll, the Yankees spent big on free agents to the tune of $471 million.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Hiroki Kuroda, Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson, Brendan Ryan and Matt Thornton are what that money bought, and aside from Ellsbury and Tanaka, who has been on the disabled list since July 8, there hasn’t been a good return on the investments. Johnson, Roberts and Thornton aren’t even on the team anymore, and the seven-year Ellsbury contract could end up looking terrible if a decline cements itself within the next couple years.

Noticeably absent from that list of players signed last offseason is Robinson Cano, the second baseman who spent his entire career in Yankee pinstripes before heading to Seattle to become an MVP candidate and possibly help that franchise into the postseason this year. Cashman didn’t seem overly interested in pursuing Cano most of last winter, saying time and again that the team was “more engaged with others.” Cano eventually signed with the Mariners for 10 years and $240 million. If that was Cano’s asking price all along, Cashman was wise to not hand it to him on the wrong side of 30 years old.

Still, it doesn’t reflect well on Cashman that Cano is having success while his acquisitions are gone, ineffective or injured. That’s not the lasting impression you want to leave come October without a contract for the next season.

So Cashman got to work in July. The primary goal was to save the Yankees’ floundering season, and secondly, his job security.

On July 6, with the Yankees 4.5 games out of the division lead and 4.5 out of the second wild-card berth, Cashman made his first shrewd trade. He picked up Brandon McCarthy from the Arizona Diamondbacks in what looked like a desperation move considering McCarthy was 3-10 with a 5.01 ERA at the time. But since getting to New York, McCarthy has gone 5-3 with a 2.47 ERA and 56 strikeouts against nine walks.

Two weeks later, Cashman completed a two-year pursuit of San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley. Since that trade, Headley has given the Yankees Gold Glove-caliber defense and a .341 on-base percentage.

“I have more work to do,” Cashman told Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com the day of the Headley trade. “I’m going to still continue to try to improve on what we have.” 

He lived up to that statement. In the final minutes of the non-waiver deadline, Cashman acquired Martin Prado from the Diamondbacks. 

Prado has hit seven doubles and four home runs for the club and is hitting .375/.388/.688 with a 1.075 OPS and three of those homers over his last 12 games. He has also played four different positions and is credited with giving the clubhouse a newfound life

This trio of trades has helped the Yankees slightly in the standings, but they are still on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. Cashman did what he could, but the Yankees still have so many other flaws to overcome, some of them Cashman’s doing in previous years. It is unlikely they can upend two more teams to find a berth.

Ultimately, the marquee, high-priced players are the last ones to pay the price when things like this happen. Since manager Joe Girardi signed a contract extension last winter, and since Cashman does not have a deal in place for the next one, failing to RSVP for the playoffs for a second consecutive year could mean the end of his era with the Yankees.

Anthony Witrado covers Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. He spent the previous three seasons as the national baseball columnist at Sporting News, and four years before that as the Brewers beat writer for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here. 

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Justin Verlander’s Rejuvenation Is Everything the Detroit Tigers Need Right Now

All of the pitching luxuries the Detroit Tigers seemed to have four weeks ago have systematically evaporated and been replaced by the first stages of panic.

When the Tigers maneuvered a trade for David Price at the non-waiver deadline, they were quickly anointed American League Central champions, champions of the league by some and champions of everything by a few others. The expectations for a team with the game’s most prolific hitter and three former Cy Young Award winners in its rotation were too high to measure.

Then, they came crashing down as the calendar did away with August and the Kansas City Royals did away with Detroit’s lead in the AL Central division.

Now, the Tigers are happy to get anything in the realm of positive as they chase the once-buried Royals and a wild-card berth. Justin Verlander’s start Friday night against the Chicago White Sox qualifies as positive, and if the Tigers are going to live up to any expectations created for the coming October, they will surely need more of this from their former-ace-turned-middle-man.

Verlander turned in seven innings and struck out eight, and despite giving up nine hits, he surprisingly allowed only a single run Friday night. It was a flashback to the Verlander of 2012the 2011 Verlander was on another planet and probably would have made the entire White Sox lineup disappear with some sort of ray gun. 

The Tigers are desperate for those kinds of outings from any starting pitcher right now.

With Anibal Sanchez hitting the disabled list on Aug. 9 and probably out for the season with a pectoral muscle strain, Verlander missing a start a week later because of shoulder inflammation and David Price alternating between front-line starter and mediocre/terrible, the Tigers are in need of someone to step up and provide life to the rotation.

Rick Porcello has provided a boost with a 2.11 ERA over his last seven gamesone of those was an extra-inning relief appearancebut the Tigers clearly need more, or else they wouldn’t be staring up at the Royals.

Add that to the fact that the Tigers offense went into a slump earlier this month and Miguel Cabrera has one home run and nine RBI since July 26 and the pitching becomes even more important. 

And because the bullpen is a serious source of worryits 4.41 ERA this season is the third-worst in the league, per FanGraphsit will have to be the starting pitcher, once seen as the best in baseball, to carry this team into October. 

Verlander’s first start back after missing one because of the shoulder discomfort was not comforting. He went 5.2 innings and gave up four runs. He got the win, pushing his record to 11-11 but raised his ERA up to 4.82 as he continued to stare at his worst season since 2008. Concern reigned all around him and the Tigers.

But in Verlander’s best years, he has had an ability to find a supercharge when he needs it most, whether it was a 101 mph fastball in the eighth inning for a key strikeout or a 130-pitch shutout.

Friday’s outing was in that mold. Another bad start by Verlander and full-on panic might have been setting in in Motown. But after a shaky 23-pitch first inning, Verlander didn’t allow a run, struck out seven and didn’t walk another batter as his fastball lived in the 93-95 mph range.

Once he came out of the game, the bullpen, which has been so maligned all season and in recent games as well, pitched two scoreless innings to make it 15 in a row without allowing a run for that group.

Suddenly, the Tigers are a half-game back of the Royals, and Verlander is providing hope rather than uneasiness, which is exactly what the Tigers need as they try to rebound from a team in distress to one on the attack.

When Verlander was at his best in 2011 and 2012, he was maybe the best in baseball. Expecting a 31-year-old arm with nearly 2,000 major league innings on it to regain that form is unrealistic. The Tigers don’t need that Verlander anyway.

They need him to be rejuvenated from what he has been since May, which is an average starter with average command. Maybe that one-start break will give Verlander that jump-start.

If it does, that is all the Tigers will need to win the Central division and again be a legitimate threat in October.

 

Anthony Witrado covers Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. He spent the previous three seasons as the national baseball columnist at Sporting News and four years before that as the Milwaukee Brewers beat writer for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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Coco Crisp Injury: Updates on A’s Star’s Neck and Return After Wall Collision

Coco Crisp almost made a spectacular catch to rob Chris Iannetta of a home run Friday, but the fact that the ball went over the wall was the least of the Oakland Athletics’ concerns. Scott Miller of Bleacher Report and Brodie Brazil of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area filled fans in on the details:

Crisp left the game before the next pitch was thrown.

The Athletics need a healthy Crisp going forward, especially in this critical series against the Los Angeles Angels. Oakland is staring up at the Angels in the American League West as we enter the stretch run of the season, and a division title and home-field advantage in the playoffs are on the line. 

What’s more, Crisp has been a productive member of the lineup and in the field this season. He is hitting .254 with nine home runs, 45 RBI and 16 stolen bases. It is his speed that helps him change the game by disrupting pitchers while on the basepaths and covering plenty of ground in the outfield.

Stay tuned for updates as they develop.

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Top MLB Prospect Call-Up Radar Report, Week 22

The 2014 season has seen a number of notable prospects receive call-ups to the major leagues. With the final month and the corresponding roster expansion approaching, there will be more to come—and soon.

September brings with it 40-man rosters, so Monday should be filled with prospects getting promoted.

During the past week or so, Jorge Soler and Daniel Corcino debuted, among a handful of others.

Soler, as you might've heard or seen or read, hit a homer in his very first plate appearance with the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday. Corcino, a right-hander in the Cincinnati Reds' system, hurled a perfect inning on Aug. 26—which just so happened to be his 24th birthday.

Meanwhile, outfielder Randal Grichuk and reliever Heath Hembree returned to contribute yet again to the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox, respectively.

Highly regarded youngsters such as Marcus Stroman, Jonathan Singleton, Oscar Taveras, Ken Giles and Javier Baez have been seeing regular time for their respective clubs for quite some time now. Others, such as Mookie Betts and Taijuan Walker, have been shuttling up and down between the minors and majors for much of the year.

More young impact talent will be joining the mix too. Who will be the next to reach the major leagues? In order to predict estimated times of arrival this season, we've classified the prospects on this list using the following color-coded scale:

  • Red: September call-up, at best.
  • Green: Call-up within a week/call-up is imminent.

Here's a look at the top prospect call-up report for Week 22 of the 2014 MLB season.

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Giants’ Yusmeiro Petit Retires MLB-Record 46 Straight Batters

San Francisco Giants pitcher Yusmeiro Petit set a major league record during Thursday's outing against the Colorado Rockies by retiring a 46th consecutive batter, per the Giants' official Twitter account.

Petit entered Thursday's game having retired 38 consecutive hitters, thus needing just eight more to break the record of 45, set by Mark Buehrle for the Chicago White Sox in 2009, per ESPN.com.

Making his first start since July 22, Petit proceeded to retire the first eight batters he faced, with the record-setting out coming on a strikeout of Rockies second baseman Charlie Culberson.

Just one batter after breaking the all-time record, Petit surrendered a two-out double to pitcher Jordan Lyles, followed by an RBI single to outfielder Charlie Blackmon.

The 29-year-old righty then settled down to go six strong innings, allowing just the one run on four hits, with nine strikeouts to boot. He improved his record to 4-3 while ensuring that he'll get another turn in the rotation.

Used as both a starter and reliever over the last two seasons, Petit has been rather successful in both roles, yet the Giants have been oddly hesitant to deploy him as a full-time starter.

It's not as if the team's options ahead of Petit have been great, as the Giants suffered from poor starting pitching last season, with the problem carrying over to this year. Both Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum appear to be in the decline phase of their careers, and the Giants went so far as to trade for a struggling Jake Peavy at the trade deadline.

Finally, with few other options available, the team decided to replace Lincecum with Petit, who immediately made the decision look like a smart one.

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Why the Future Pittsburgh Pirates Will Have One of the Best Rotations in MLB

With only 29 games remaining in the regular season, the Pittsburgh Pirates trail the San Francisco Giants by just 2.0 games for the second wild-card spot.  

Currently, the organization cannot be thinking about the future, as it has a chance to win right now.  

Still, when the season is over and talks arise about potential call-ups in 2015, the organizational leaders in Pittsburgh have to smile.  

Lately, fans and analysts across the nation have been talking about just how good the New York Mets can be with a potential pitching rotation consisting of studs Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard, but the Pirates have a chance to match or even top that rotation.  

Starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow has been lights-out in 2014 with the High-A Bradenton Marauders.  In 23 games started, Glasnow is 12-5 with an earned run average of just 1.74.  

According to his team's official Twitter page, Glasnow even set a team record this season:

The 21-year-old right-hander was ranked third among all Pirates prospects entering this season, according to Baseball America.

According to Karen Price of the Tribune Review, Glasnow and teammates Nick Kingham and Josh Bell will play in the Arizona Fall League.  The league serves as a showcase for some of the game's brightest prospects, providing them a chance to display their abilities deep into the year.  

Glasnow recently was named Florida State League Pitcher of the Year, according to Sam Dykstra of MiLB.com.  There is no doubt this kid has the potential to be the future ace of this organization in the next few seasons.  

Like Glasnow, Kingham has performed well in 2014, going 5-4 with a 3.28 ERA in 13 starts with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians.  Kingham was called up from Double-A Altoona only 12 starts into the season.  

According to the same report from Baseball America, Kingham is ranked fifth among all Pirates prospects. However, considering he is two years older than Glasnow and has already pitched at the highest minor league level, it is conceivable that he may get the call to the majors first.  

Now, let's not forget about the most highly touted pitching prospect of all in the Pirates farm system, Jameson Taillon.  

Many believed Taillon would make his major league debut at some point during this season.  However, he was just another victim of a torn UCL leading to Tommy John surgery in April.  

The 22-year-old has played three minor league seasons for the Pirates, averaging 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.  

Taillon was ranked 22nd among all minor league prospects around the league heading into the 2014 regular season, according to Baseball America.  

Barring any major setbacks in his road to recovery, Taillon should be ready to pitch again next spring, and if he pitches as well as he had prior to the injury, we may see him in a major league uniform sometime during 2015.  

These three prospects alone have the potential to make up one of the strongest starting rotations in baseball in the next few years, and the Pirates have to feel pretty good about that.  

A player who cannot be forgotten about is one who has already proved he can excel at the major league level, starting pitcher Gerrit Cole.  

Over his first two major league seasons, Cole has gone 17-11 with an ERA of 3.42, and he was one of the main reasons the Pirates won 94 games last season.  

Cole is not eligible for arbitration until 2017, and he will not become a free agent until 2020.  The Pirates have locked in a player who has the ability to lead the rotation, which is what they will need going forward.  

Pittsburgh also currently has the four-year veteran Jeff Locke, who has done well in 2014, going 6-3 with a 3.51 ERA in 16 games started.  Locke will not be a free agent until 2019.  

Then there is Francisco Liriano, who led the Pirates to the postseason in 2013 with a 16-8 record and a 3.02 ERA.  Although Liriano has improved during the second half of this season, his poor start to 2014 has resulted in his 3-10 record and 3.98 ERA.  

Liriano will be a free agent at the end of the 2014 season, and unless he is willing to take a short-term deal, the Pirates probably won't bring him back.  After all, he will turn 31 in October and has made over 30 starts in a regular season just once in his nine-year career.  

With the amount of talented prospects in the farm system, it would not make much sense to sign Liriano to a huge deal, as a number of players are just a few seasons away from making an impact at the major league level.  

As they are led by Gerrit Cole over the next few seasons, the Pirates may have one of the best rotations in baseball for years to come, and while it is certainly true that all prospects do not pan out, it is hard to doubt the talent the Pittsburgh Pirates have in their farm system.  

 

*Statistics Courtesy of Baseball-Reference

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