Can Yankees’ CC Sabathia Still Be an Impact Pitcher After Latest Surgery?

There's seldom good news when a player is ruled out for the rest of the season. For CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees, there's actually very good news in the announcement that he'll miss the remainder of the 2014 season due to impending knee surgery, as noted by Bryan Hoch of MLB.com.

Sabathia has been out since mid-May with knee problems. He made a rehab start and had a setback. Instead of heading back to Dr. James Andrews, Sabathia checked in with several surgeons, leading many to expect Sabathia to have microfracture surgery. Instead, the Yankees announced that Sabathia will have an articular cartilage debridement, which is a cleanup and smoothing. This type of procedure is far less problematic than microfracture

Sabathia saw several surgeons, but when it was announced he was seeing doctors that did not specialize in microfracture, such as Dr. Dick Steadman, who pioneered the procedure, there was some hope. After seeing Yankees team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad and Rangers physician Dr. Keith Meister, Sabathia chose to go with Dr. Neal ElAttrache

All are qualified surgeons, but ElAttrache has a great track record with knees. One of ElAttrache's best known cases is not in baseball, but the return of Tom Brady after an ACL reconstruction is one of the best results we've seen. ElAttrache also put Zack Greinke's collarbone back together aggressively, getting him back on the mound quickly, and repaired Kobe Bryant's ruptured Achilles.

The normal recovery period for this type of surgery is varied. In some situations, a player could return in as little as two months, but the Yankees realize that Sabathia's size and the internal damage in his knee are significant enough that rushing him back for this season would be counterproductive. Instead, they'll focus on getting him ready for next season, much as they did with Derek Jeter late in 2013.

"Because we're in July, I think he'll come into spring training, in theory, ready to go," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said via Hoch of MLB.com. "Given the number of things that have gone on, we'll have to be careful with him nonetheless."

The rehab for this type of operation is relatively straightforward. Sabathia will have around eight weeks of normal therapy as they focus on making sure the knee heals up well after the procedure. There will likely be a focus on making sure his secondary stabilizers are strong and that his pitching mechanics will not put an undue stress on the repaired portion of the knee. 

Past that, the Yankees will focus on maintenance. Making sure Sabathia doesn't have problems between starts or at least making sure the problems are manageable will be key. Overall conditioning is not likely to be a major concern, but if any specific mechanical changes are needed, the Yankees want to give Sabathia plenty of time to adjust.

The fact that Sabathia has avoided microfracture is a major positive. While the procedure has been used for nearly 20 years in helping certain knee issues, it still has a very low percentage of success in baseball. There's really no explanation for that, but the fact remains that there are few successes. Avoiding the procedure, at least for now, gives the Yankees one less thing to worry about heading into 2015. 

The best comparable situation in baseball is not a pitcher. Instead, it's Chase Utley, the Philadelphia Phillies second baseman who had two straight years of problems with damage inside his knees. The Phillies struggled to get Utley back to function, unable to find a maintenance program that would keep him on the field without significant swelling.

It took some time, but Utley has been very solid since coming back. Utley faces a different situation than Sabathia. He has less specific demands on his knees, but he has to play every day in the field. Sabathia will have the normal off time between starts, so some swelling wouldn't be devastating, though it would indicate that there are further issues.

While the Yankees can't count on having Sabathia back for 2014, they certainly have to feel better about the chance of having him take his turns in 2015. If they can get Sabathia at the top of the rotation alongside Masahiro Tanaka (who is still hoping to avoid Tommy John surgery, per Howie Kussoy of the New York Post) and keep them both healthy, they'll be a far better team.

To do so, New York's medical staff will have to overcome a lot of challenges and show better results with maintenance than it has in the past. As Mike Axisa of RiverAveBlues suggests, Cashman and the Yankees should take a hard look at their plan for 2015.

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Not Signing Brady Aiken Will Come Back to Haunt Houston Astros

The signing deadline for 2014 draft picks officially passed Friday at 5 p.m. ET, and the Houston Astros were not able to sign No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken, according Jim Callis of MLB.com (via Twitter). He also reports that the Astros failed to sign fifth-rounder Jacob Nix and 21st-rounder Mac Marshall.

It wasn’t long after the draft, two days to be exact, that Aiken reportedly agreed to a $6.5 million bonus with the Astros. On June 23, the Cathedral Catholic High (San Diego) left-hander arrived in Houston to make his signing official, which obviously didn’t happen.

After two weeks of speculation as to why Aiken was yet to sign, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Astros saw something they didn’t like in a post-draft MRI of the 17-year-old’s left elbow. As a result, the team immediately reduced its offer to Aiken from $6.5 to $5 million, well below the $7.9 million slot value for the No. 1 overall pick.

However, it wasn’t until earlier this week that we learned the specifics of Aiken’s elbow issue. According to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle:

A person with knowledge of the situation told the Chronicle on Tuesday that there is a ‘cut-and-dry’ issue with the anatomy of Aiken’s ulnar collateral ligament, even though he is currently able to pitch. Aiken has visited five doctors, the person said: two affiliated with the team and three who were not, including the renowned Dr. James Andrews.

He may have some (of the UCL), but not much, the person said, adding that Tommy John surgery, which has become common in baseball, would not be a straightforward solution in this instance.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports confirmed in a separate report that the Astros believe “Aiken’s physical revealed a ‘significant abnormality’ in the area of his elbow ligament,” and he also added the team once again had made a revised offer to the southpaw of $3,168,840.

However, Aiken’s adviser, Casey Close, has maintained throughout the ordeal that his client is fully healthy, despite reports of an elbow issue, via Rosenthal:

Brady has been seen by some of the most experienced and respected orthopedic arm specialists in the country, and all of those doctors have acknowledged that he’s not injured and that he’s ready to start his professional career.

Aiken’s personal trainer, Paul Flores, also said that the left-hander was healthy and ready to begin his professional career, via Drellich:

When it comes to throwing off a mound, that’s not my area of expertise. But I know he’s throwing, so. He’s not in pain. He comes to me after, and I always ask, as a trainer, the first question I ask any of my clients or athletes is, ‘How do you feel today?’ Just to make sure that whatever it is they’re feeling is going to dictate how the intensity is going to be. He always tells me he feels great — and not good, great.

He’s in incredible shape.

Furthermore, the Astros handling of the situation with the No. 1 overall pick was widely criticized by industry members, including MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, though technically it did not break any rules outlined in Major League Baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement.

A $3,168,840 bonus (40 percent of his slot value) would have been the lowest figure the Astros could have offered Aiken in order to guarantee they receive the No. 2 overall pick in next year’s draft. Because Aiken chose not to sign, the Astros lost his slot value ($7,922,100) from their bonus pool, giving the team considerably less to spend on its other unsigned first-round picks, according to Rosenthal.

The uncertainty surrounding Aiken’s signing also affected contract negotiations with their remaining unsigned draft picks, including fifth-rounder Jacob Nix, who previously had agreed with the Astros on a well-above-slot bonus of $1.5 million and already passed his physical, and 21st-rounder Mac Marshall, who also was a candidate to sign an above-slot deal thanks to the money saved with Aiken.

Since the Astros failed to sign Aiken, it presumably left them unable to sign Nix without incurring a defined penalty in next year’s draft, let alone Nix and Marshall.

Based on Fridays news that the team came up empty with all three pitchers, it would seem as though thats precisely what happened.

Meanwhile, the Astros now face another public relations nightmare after failing to sign Aiken, whom general manager Jeff Luhnow claimed (in the above video) is “the most advanced high school pitcher he’s ever seen in his entire career,” before the deadline.

Needless to say, not signing Aiken is a major disappointment for the franchise, whom Sports Illustrated expects to win the World Series in 2017, and especially when considering the ongoing struggles this season of 2013 No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel at the High-A level.

But with the news that Aiken won’t be joining the Astros organization, at least not this year, the team will shift its focus to the 2015 draft, as it’ll now have the No. 2 overall pick after failing to sign the prep left-hander.

While they’ll still be able to land a top-flight amateur prospect next year, the Astros won’t find a player more talented than Aiken, argues Jim Callis of MLB.com:

If the Astros cant land Aiken today, theyll get the second choice in the 2015 Draft and be in position to grab a premium talent. Thats not a bad consolation prize, though its not optimal, because theyll have to wait a year and wont get someone quite as gifted as Aiken.

Former big league All-Star Mike Camerons son Dazron, an outfielder from Eagles Landing High in McDonough, Ga., is the consensus No. 1 talent for next years Draft. Theres no clear No. 2 prospect, especially not one who stands out like Aiken does.

Furthermore, after striking out with No. 1 picks Appel and Aiken in back-to-back years, it’ll be interesting to see whether or not the Astros alter their draft strategy in 2015.

While they obviously would benefit from adding more high-ceiling arms to their already-impressive farm system, their success in developing shortstop Carlos Correa, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, could push the organization to target another impact hitter next year rather than a pitcher, even if he’s not perceived to be the best player available.

Unfortunately, the Astros 2014 draft now will forever be remembered as a complete and utter failure. That said, only time will determine how the organization’s inability to sign Aiken (as well as Nix and Marshall) will impact its long-term success.

One thing is certain, however: Failing to reach an agreement with the No. 1 overall pick is a crushing blow for an Astros franchise that’s in the midst of a rebuilding process and potentially a few years away from playoff relevancy.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz Surronding David Price, Joakim Soria and More

The MLB All-Star break came and went, and now the 30 major league franchises have no choice but to stare down the rest of the season and decide whether they are in the buyers or sellers camp in 2014.

July 31 is the trade deadline, and teams would be loathe to linger on the deals that can either set them up for future success or bring in the high-caliber talent that will put them over the top in their respective divisions. 

Pitching, as always, it as a premium this late in the season. Let's check out the buzz on some of the better pitchers who could be on the move this month.

 

Rays Continue to Engage in David Price Trade Talks

Let's start off with David Price, the man who's seemingly led the charge when it comes to midseason trade rumors in the major leagues. According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, the Seattle Mariners may be looking to deal a few high-profile prospects to secure Price and/or Ben Zobrist from the Tampa Bay Rays:

The Rays are said to have talked to the Mariners about pitching prospect Taijuan Walkerplus two or three other top young players in talks involving pitcher David Price, league sources said. Talks are ongoing and fluid, and deals being discussed could include just Price from Tampa Bay, Price plus Ben Zobrist or Zobrist alone.

Price is 9-7 on the year with a 3.23 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP, per Baseball-Reference.com. The Rays are 44-53 on the season and operate on a very limited budget. To his credit, Price has been very understanding about all the talk surrounding his situation with the team.

"Since 2012, (the Rays and I) both understood that for Tampa to continue the kind of success we've had over the past five or six years, this is the way they operate. I would love to stay there and for us to continue to be successful. But I don't know if that's a possibility," he said, via ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.

The Mariners have a wealth of prospects to offer. Taijuan Walker is a tall, right-handed pitcher with a bright future ahead of him. The 21-year-old has thrown just 10 innings so far this year with the big club, giving up seven hits and four earned runs while striking out nine. He would be a tantalizing replacement for Price, especially if the Rays are looking for like-for-like players from other teams.

Developing young players is a hallmark of the Rays' recent success, and this could be a trade that is too good for the team to pass up, as it looks to move one expensive player for several cost-effective building blocks.

 

Phillies Would Rather Move Lee Over Hamels

According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, the Philadelphia Phillies would be more inclined to trade starting pitcher Cliff Lee than Cole Hamels this season.

The Phillies are dead last in the NL East and could be looking to bolster their farm system, which was ranked 25th by Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks in February 2014.

As Heyman writes, both pitchers have no-trade clauses, and Hamels is more likely to use his in a possible trade: 

Both Lee and Hamels have no-trades with at least 20 teams on them, but people around the team suggest Hamels is more likely to invoke his, as he wants to remain in Philly. Lee, like closer Jonathan Papelbon, would likely choosing winning over city, they say.

If the Phillies are willing to sell a top-of-the-line starter to revamp the organization, they would almost certainly get more for Hamels than Lee.  

Both pitchers are left-handed, always a plus, but Hamels is having the better season and is five years younger than Lee. 

Lee is currently on the disabled list and is 4-4 on the year with a 3.18 ERA. At 35 years old, franchises around the league may not be looking to get much more out of him than a solid performance down the stretch run this season. Hamels, sporting a 3-5 record and a 2.93 ERA, would be a blockbuster move that could land the Phillies a wealth of excellent prospects.

  

Tigers Are Looking at Joakim Soria

The Detroit Tigers are looking for a reliever to bolster the bullpen for the second half of the season. According to Fox Sports' Jon Morosi, they have their eyes on Texas Rangers reliever Joakim Soria:

The Rangers are in an interesting position. They've won at least 90 games over the past four seasons, but injuries to the likes of Prince Fielder and inconsistent performances have them in last place in the AL West this season.

They may not be quite ready to start giving up solid veterans in the hopes of turning their play around over the next couple of seasons.

The right-handed Soria boasts a 2.60 ERA with 16 saves and 40 strikeouts in 30.1 innings pitched this season. He could fill the role of set-up man for the Tigers or perhaps supplant closer Joe Nathan, who has five blown saves and a 5.61 ERA on the year.

Soria is used to taking on the closer role, as his 176 career saves will attest to, so he may not be best suited for a typical reliever role where he is called upon to eat innings. The Tigers will likely have to give up players or prospects that the Rangers believe will set them up for a bounce-back season in 2015.

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Derek Jeter’s Retirement Ceremony Announced by New York Yankees

New York Yankees fans will want to clear their calendars on Sept. 7 as the team will celebrate the career of Derek Jeter.

The Yankees announced on their official website that they will be honoring their retiring captain before the final game of a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals. New York will also be giving every fan at Yankee Stadium a commemorative coin.

After last year's Mariano Rivera bobblehead fiasco, the Yankees will certainly be hopeful that Jeter's night goes off without a hitch.

This is the cherry on top of an already good week for the 40-year-old. First, he went 2-for-2 in his final All-Star Game, scoring the first run of the game for the American League. Jeter was removed during the top of the fourth inning, allowing him one more All-Star victory lap before heading to the dugout for the final time. The Target Field crowd gave him a standing ovation.

"It was a special moment and it was unscripted," he said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "I was unaware of it."

In addition to that, on Friday night, he's poised to set the record for most games started at shortstop, surpassing Omar Vizquel, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post:

This is just another highlight to add to Jeter's farewell campaign.

Although the team doesn't wrap up its regular season on Sept. 7, it is the penultimate Sunday home game for the team, which still leaves Sept. 21 against the Toronto Blue Jays as a possible backup in case of a postponement.

The Yankees' last game of the 2014 season will be at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 28 in what is a fitting bit of irony—Jeter's last hurrah will be against New York's most hated rival. Jeter's last home game will be on Sept. 25 against the Baltimore Orioles.

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Breaking Down the 1 Trade Deadline Deal the Boston Red Sox Have to Make

The July 31 MLB trade deadline is less than two weeks away.

For the 43-52 Boston Red Sox, who are currently sitting in fourth place in the American League East—and 9.5 games back from the first-place Baltimore Orioles—the time has come for them to determine whether they'll be on the buying or selling side of the trade fence come deadline day.

We could have a lengthy debate about which direction the Red Sox should go. 

A 9.5-game deficit within the division is daunting, even with over two months remaining in the season. But we have seen crazier things happen before, and bottom-dwelling teams can light up at the right moment.

Perhaps this is exactly what Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is hoping for.

In a way, Boston hasn't even decided about its future this season.

Manager John Farrell described this position further via Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe:

Time will tell. I'm not privy to every conversation Ben has. This is a busy time of year for the entire industry. So I'm sure there will be additional rumors continuing to grow, but until we know something concrete, our job is to maintain our focus on the field each and every day with the intent to win each and every night. ... No one has given up anything. No one has conceded anything. But we also have been in the game long enough to know that over the next two weeks names are going to start getting bantered about.

This conundrum leaves Boston at the aforementioned crossroads.

What if there was a move, however, that would be beneficial to either direction? What if the Red Sox could execute a deal that would not hinder their chances of salvaging 2014, but would also serve as a bonus if Boston decides that its postseason prospects have waned?

There is such a deal—the kind that would make sense on either side of the fence.

In short, Boston needs to trade incumbent closer Koji Uehara.

Let's get the numbers out of the way first. Uehara's 2014 statistics aren't indicative that his age is catching up with him.

Over the course of 42 games and 43.2 innings pitched, Uehara has posted a 1.65 ERA along with a 0.756 WHIP—and he's 39 years old.

His strikeout-to-walk ratio is down slightly from last year—9.50 in comparison to 11.22—but all other signs point to Uehara being as effective as ever.

So why trade the most venerable member of the Red Sox bullpen?

First, there are contractual considerations—Uehara is set to become a free agent no matter how Boston's season ends. Having signed a one-year contract for the 2013 season with an option for 2014 that vested last August, Boston will have to determine his future with the team sooner or later.

Given his age, it is hard to judge where Uehara sees himself a year from now, but the fact that he is still pitching effectively suggests that he will want to retain a prominent role next season.

The only real question is whether or not it will be with the Red Sox.

In 2014, their lineup of batters has gradually transformed from that of aging veterans toward a younger cast of characters, who should comprise the team for years to come.

Outfielder Mookie Betts and catcher Christian Vazquez are two examples of Boston's young talent breaking into the big leagues.

Since the Red Sox also have a plethora of pitching prospects awaiting their eventual debuts, they should also consider applying this theory to the pitching staff in general.

Granted, finding an effective reliever to serve in Uehara's stead would be tough. Few closers have equaled Uehara's performance in his two seasons with the Red Sox.

There are those analysts—like ESPN's David Schoenfield—that would argue the closer position is overrated. 

"The point isn't that a closer isn't important; of course he is," he writes. "The point is that a lot of guys can do that job—and that the job is extremely volatile."

This isn't to suggest that Uehara is overrated or that his contributions are no longer needed, but if one wants to strike a balance between a quick fix and a long-term solution, then dealing Uehara makes sense.

Contending teams are almost always looking for pitching help, and they become even more desperate as the trade deadline approaches. Adding serviceable relievers can often be the difference between success and failure in the playoffs.

And how many postseason games are decided in the later innings? This author has seen more than a few.

Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles (h/t Ben Shapiro of MassLive.com) pointed out a possible buyer in the relief-pitching market via Twitter, suggesting that the Los Angeles Dodgers might be pursuing added bullpen help—namely former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. 

But Papelbon has a year remaining on his four-year, $50 million contract—with an option for 2016. While the cash-laden Dodgers have little concern over the price tag, a considerably cheaper move for Uehara seems much easier to pull off. 

The trade package would also appear more amenable from both parties' standpoints.

As only a matter of speculation, a possible trade-chip commodity is Dodgers' outfield prospect Joc Pederson.

With a loaded outfield consisting of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig, Pederson's chances of making the Dodgers' big league roster appear distant.

In an article on ESPN.com back in November, Saxon pointed out this dilemma even after listing Pederson as the No. 2 prospect in the Dodgers' farm system.

The Red Sox need outfield help—we know that all too well. Los Angeles has an overload of outfielders, and they want relief pitching, according to Saxon.

This sounds like a plausible trade opportunity. Of course, Boston could be enticed by a possible exchange for veteran outfielder Ethier, who is another rumored target, according to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe (h/t Marc Normandin of SB Nation).

But why not go after a younger player with incredible upside?

Ethier is 32 years old, and his numbers have fallen considerably from the All-Star caliber stats he posted in 2010 and 2011.

The Dodgers, however, aren't the lone entity when it comes to a potential trade partner. Other teams certainly come to mind when discussing the acquisition of relief help.

The Detroit Tigers are another contender with bullpen needs; Chris Iott of MLive.com suggests the Tigers will be aggressive when it comes to upgrading this component.

We might as well add Uehara to that discussion as well.

Additionally, teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Angels are other teams that could possibly be in the same boat.

Any plausible transaction like this begs two questions—will it actually happen and, if so, who will take over the closer's job in Boston?

Let's address the second question first.

Lefty Andrew Miller would be the best option to fill the void, in this author's opinion. He has been as serviceable a reliever as the Red Sox could have hoped for over the past two-plus seasons. Both righties and lefties are batting under .200 against him this year.

Miller is a pending free agent, and the Red Sox would like to keep him into 2015, per Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. Miller's current contract is worth a little over $1.9 million, making him a much cheaper commodity than Uehara.

Why not preview what an increased role would do for Miller's future in Boston?

The bigger question, of course, is whether or not the Red Sox would actually execute this idea. One could make the argument either way.

Cafardo reasons that Boston would like to retain Uehara for just one more season, based on the fact that Uehara has shown no signs of slowing down. Cafardo also points out the obvious—Uehara's age alone could thwart a potential transaction, and the Red Sox would not be likely to get much in return.

We also know too well that teams get desperate as the playoffs draw closer. Exchanging highly touted prospects for two-month rentals is nothing new.

Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston shares this perspective—he suggests the Red Sox should trade Uehara if they can get something of value in return.

Edes' statement is essentially our conclusion.

Boston won't trade Uehara for some mid-range prospect or major league platoon player. The deal would have to be lucrative enough to convince Cherington that it's the right one to be had.

As we have stated numerous times, however, teams in need of bullpen help at the deadline can be too aggressive—sometimes even overpaying for the talent they want.

From the Red Sox's perspective, dealing Uehara would not mean conceding the 2014 season: As mentioned, Boston has bullpen options. More importantly, any upside addition to Boston's beleaguered outfield would be nothing short of a bonus.

In addition, the Red Sox could secure at least something for Uehara if they decide that retaining him for 2015 is no longer worthwhile.

This is more speculation, of course. Trades can be a tricky thing to evaluate. While it is nice to play fantasy GM and swap excess components for the best players out there, the reality is that both teams involved need to come to a mutual agreement.

The complex nature of such agreements is nearly impossible to ascertain, which is why so many trade rumors never materialize.

Still, the Red Sox would be wise to shop Uehara. Given the fragile nature of the closer role, combined with Uehara's age and contract status, we can deduce that the six-year veteran is not a part of Boston's long-term plans.

From that vantage point, why not try to get something in return?

 

All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com—and contractual information via Cot's Baseball Contractsunless otherwise indicated.

Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report covering the Boston Red Sox. Be sure to check out his entire archive for Red Sox news, insight and analysis. Follow him on Twitter @PeterMcShots.

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MLB System Check 2014: Milwaukee Brewers’ Top Prospects

The Milwaukee Brewers Systems Check video offers a quick overview of the team's farm system, addressing its strengths and weaknesses and how it can improve moving forward. The video also provides a breakdown of the Brewers' top prospects for 2014, right-hander Jimmy Nelson and outfielders Tyrone Taylor and Mitch Haniger, including each player's ETA in the major leagues and potential long-term role within the organization.

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Deal Of The Day: 150 Duracell Batteries For $56, Ending Soon

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Last time we posted about this deal, you guys stocked up on batteries in droves. Well, the deals is ending soon, so if you missed out the first time, now’s your chance. You’re looking at 100AA and 50AAA batteries from a trusted company for $56, which works out to $0.37 per battery. If you’ve ever bought batteries in a convenience store, you know they can fetch upwards of $2 each, so this represents significant savings.

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Mets Trade Rumors: Why New York Should Target Starlin Castro

Let me begin by assuring you all I am not totally crazy. Partially crazy, perhaps, but not totally. But what I am about to suggest may actually be a reasonable and logical step for the New York Mets to take in order to hep get them to (and keep them in) relevancy once again in the National League.

Cutting right to the chase, general manager Sandy Alderson should have his eyes set on Chicago Cubs' All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro. To get him, the Mets should not be afraid to trade away a young starter (just one of either Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard or Rafael Montero).

Just looking at the Mets' 2014 first half, the team has actually been getting very good starting pitching. Their 3.50 collective ERA is better than the league average, and they are allowing fewer than four runs per game. All of this has been without their ace Matt Harvey, who was lost for the season following Tommy John Surgery. 

The rotation has been spearheaded by Jon Niese, who is currently on the disabled list. Niese, though he struggled through most of spring training with injuries, currently sports a 2.96 ERA—which is good for 12th in the league—and 74 strikeouts through 103 innings pitched in 2014. He hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in a start since September 7 of last season.

The Mets have also benefited from a very impressive Major League debut of Jacob deGrom. The 26-year-old right-hander made his brilliant debut on May 15 against the Yankees when he spun seven innings of one-run ball, striking out six. Although his record sits at a lackluster 3-5, that is by no means a reflection of how he has pitched—his 3.18 ERA is. And he has seemingly gotten better as the season has rolled along, striking out 27 batters over his last three starts, including 11 Braves during a seven-inning shutout on July 8. 

And while Dillon Gee has missed a major chunk of the season, the Mets have gotten solid work from veterans Bartolo Colon and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Colon, who was signed as a free agent to a two-year, $20 million contract over the winter, has been somewhat inconsistent but still features a decent 3.66 ERA to go along with 89 strikeouts over 121 innings. Colon himself has been subject of a few trade rumors recently. 

Matsuzaka, meanwhile, has been a nice fill-in for Gee. After starting the season in the bullpen for the Mets, Dice-K has made nine starts, including eight of his last nine appearances. For the year, the veteran has a 3.55 ERA and has looked better over his last five starts than his numbers would suggest.

Gee himself has been a solid contributor when healthy, flashing a 2.56 ERA through nine starts. After missing much of May and all of June, Gee was activated off of the disabled list and started on July 9, going seven strong innings against the Braves. In fact, Gee has pitched fewer than six innings just once this season—5.2 innings on April 5—and has allowed one or fewer earned runs four times.

Then there is Wheeler, who has been the poster boy for inconsistency so far in 2014. The 24-year-old owns a 5-8 record with a 3.90 ERA. He's shown signs of brilliance, as evidenced by his three-hit shutout of the Marlins on June 19. He closed out the first half in dominant form, allowing one earned run in each of his last three starts.

But he's also looked ugly at times, giving up five earned runs each in two consecutive starts in mid-May, while permitting four earned runs in four starts this season. He also had a forgettable start against the A's (right after his shutout of the Marlins) in which he gave up six earned in just two innings.

At just 24 years of age, Wheeler has the talent and the ability to blossom into a legitimate stud pitcher. The same can be said for Syndergaard and Montero. But with the quality pitching the Mets have in place, including Harvey, could they expend one of these young hurlers to address a much-maligned hole in their lineup, such as shortstop?

After all, Montero made his debut earlier this season and was unimpressive at best (0-2, 5.40 ERA in four starts). And the latest reports indicate Syndergaard may not make his debut until next season, as he as struggled this season in Triple-A (5.74 ERA and 11.3 H/9 allowed in 84 innings pitched). 

Meanwhile, the Mets have received virtually nothing out of the shortstop position this year, with Ruben Tejada hitting a meager .237 in 2014. And while some light-hitting shortstops are known to be wizards with the glove (see Everth Cabrera), Tejada is a decent defender, at best. 

That brings us to Castro, who believe it or not only turned 24 in March. After a disappointing 2013 season, Castro is enjoying a resurgent 2014 campaign, hitting .276 with 11 home runs and 52 RBI for the last-place Cubs. He was selected to his third career All-Star game and is under team control and owed $43 million through 2019 (plus a $16 million team option for 2020). 

The Mets have a couple of shortstop prospects down on the farm in Amed Rosario and Gavin Cecchini. But neither of them are close to the cusp of reaching the big leagues, and even when they do, they still might not be the impact player Castro has been for the Cubs. Even still, it may not be too late to move one of them to the outfield, which is another weak area for the Mets. 

Now, of course, the Cubs have made no indications they will be trading Castro. And in fact, Jon Morosi of FoxSports tweets the Cubs have no intentions of moving him before the July 31 trade deadline, despite the presence of top prospect Javier Baez and the recent acquisition of Addison Russell from the A's for Jeff Samardzija. They also have Arismendy Alcantara up with the big club right now, and he has impressed early on his career. 

Regardless of the Cubs' willingness to field offers for Castro, the time for the Mets to make a bold move is now. They need to show their fans they are listening and are willing to make the hard choices to field a winning club. And the window to trade one or some of their young arms for an impact bat is closing the longer the club waits. And just to prove I'm not totally insane, John Harper of the New York Daily News seems to concur with this suggestion. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Dan Uggla Released by Braves: Latest Details and Reaction

After an especially painful season in the batter's box for Dan Uggla, the Atlanta Braves have released the struggling second baseman.

The team's official Twitter account confirmed the news:

The Braves were willing to make the move even though they will have to pay Uggla a hefty sum of money, per Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal:

In fact, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien notes that the Braves' decision to eat the contract is unprecedented in team history:

The release comes just days after the Braves rather mysteriously suspended Uggla for one game just before the All-Star break.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez was loath to explain the team's reasoning for the suspension.

"I'm not going to say anything other than that it's an internal matter," he said, via The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "That's the way I like to handle stuff, and the Atlanta Braves like to handle stuff. And that's it. You can ask me 400 different ways and my way is that we're going to handle it internally."

Jayson Stark of ESPN noted how toxic things had become with the second baseman:

Uggla was a powerful force in his first season in Atlanta in 2011, collecting 36 home runs and 82 RBI despite hitting just .233 on the season. 

Never one to hit for average, Uggla's value in the middle of the infield plummeted with his power numbers. He was batting just .162 in 2014 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 48 games before his release.

ESPN's Mark Simon noted that Uggla had little in the way of sweet spots in the strike zone over the past two years:

Uggla could benefit from a change of scenery, and an enterprising franchise might be able to pick him up on the cheap with the Braves paying out the majority of his salary until the end of next season. Few could look at him as an everyday player, but he may still hold value as a pinch hitter due to his ability to hit the long ball and draw walks.

The Braves will now count on Tommy La Stella to hold down the fort at second base. The 25-year-old is hitting .292 with zero home runs and 17 RBI in 43 games this year. La Stella is a capable player, but the Braves may look to find the power they expected from Uggla before the July 31 trade deadline as they make a run at the NL East crown.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Cold Hard Fact for Friday, July 18, 2014

Fact: The most runs scored by a team in an MLB game is 36 runs by the Chicago Colts vs. the Louisville Colonels. The AL record and post-1900 record is the Texas Rangers' 30 runs vs. the Baltimore Orioles in 2007.

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: Baseball Almanac, MLB.com

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Padres Invite 105-Year-Old to Throw out 1st Pitch as a Birthday Present

Agnes McKee may not be a big baseball fan, but the San Diego Padres have invited her to throw out the first pitch—in honor of her birthdaybefore their game on July 20.

At 105 years old, McKee will become the oldest person to ever throw out the first pitch at a Padres game.

McKee has been busy as she prepares for her big moment Sunday. She has been practicing her throwing for months, and she has even spent time learning some of the Padres players' names.

Fox 5 San Diego sat down with McKee to discuss her big birthday and the first pitch:

[Fox 5, h/t Uproxx]

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

So This Guy Turned His Shower Head Into a Girl…

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The title says it all. A man who goes by the handle ARuFa was bored and lonely, so he embarked on a small DIY project to transform his shower head into something more…personal, weird, and downright creepy. As you can see, he built a girl right over his shower, for lack of a better word.

With a mask, acrylic paint, some newspapers, and duct tape, ARuFA created the face. He completes the look with a wig, a pair of balloons which are stuffed into a hastily put-together body that’s dressed in flimsy lingerie. Either he was really bored or…really bored.

Hit the break to check out in-the-making pictures of the sort-of human shower head.

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Yeah, it looks like ARuFa is happy with the end result.

VIA [ Incredible Things ]

The post So This Guy Turned His Shower Head Into a Girl… appeared first on OhGizmo!.

Record Anonymous Video Confessions With the ‘Awkward’ App

'Awkward' App_001

Got something that you want to say out loud, but can’t because it’s something that’s meant to be kept private? Then download the Awkward app and start filming. It’s an app that lets you record blurred video confessions so you can get them off your chest without compromising your identity.

Created by Redcyan, Awkward lets users film themselves for up to ten seconds. It then provides options for the degree of blurriness that the user wants his or her video to be. They can also opt for zero blur, if they’re ready to let the world (or whoever uses the app) about their deepest, darkest secrets. After the videos are uploaded, they can be embedded to websites and shared via email and social media.

Awkward can be downloaded for free from the iTunes App Store.

VIA [ Mashable ]

The post Record Anonymous Video Confessions With the ‘Awkward’ App appeared first on OhGizmo!.

MLB Trade Rumors: Updating Latest Buzz on David Price, Jonathan Papelbon, More

As MLB teams head out of the All-Star break, the trade deadline will serve as the make-or-break point for plenty of clubs on the fringes of playoff contention.  The two weeks before the July 31 deadline should bring lots of intrigue and action as teams vacillate between buying and selling on a seemingly daily basis.

Because of the surprises in the standings throughout the league, plenty of teams that harbored postseason or even World Series aspirations at the beginning of the year could turn into sellers shortly.  While it's unclear how much talent will actually move this month, the available players are enough to create more excitement than baseball fans have seen in years.

For those looking for the most recent scoops on the biggest names, check out the latest rumors surrounding players who could potentially shift the pennant race this summer.

 

Contenders for Price?

David Price will move out of Tampa eventually.  But with the Rays' recent surge, the postseason is no longer a total improbability in the mediocre AL East, even as Tampa sits 9.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles.

The fact that Price is still under team control in 2015 could allow the Rays to wait until the offseason to deal the former Cy Young Award winner.  As ESPN's Jim Bowden reports, Tampa would command a haul superior to what the Cubs received for Jeff Samardzija (subscription required):

The impression teams are getting is that if the Rays manage to get back in the playoff chase, they will hang on to Price, and if they don't, they will trade him only if they get a better package than what the Chicago Cubs got for Jeff Samardzija, which eliminates a number of possible suitors. 

The Rays would be looking for an elite prospect and a top prospect in exchange for Price, and there are only a few organizations that have that type of package to offer, including the Los Angeles DodgersSt. Louis Cardinals, Cubs and Minnesota Twins, and the latter two teams aren't really a fit for Price. (Both the Cubs and Twins have been adding prospects, not trading them.) 

It's not unreasonable for the Rays to set their expectations high, as Price is a superior pitcher to Samardzija.  Even though the latter has experienced a breakout year, Price has produced more wins above replacement (3.0 to 2.4).

Still, it will be difficult for any team to match what the Cubs received for Samardzija in Addison Russell.  A package for Price would require a premium major league-ready prospect, such as the Dodgers' Joc Pederson or St. Louis' Carlos Martinez.  Even so, Price might not be willing to accept a trade unless it sends him to his preferred geographic location:

Ultimately, though Fangraphs gives the Rays just a 5.8 percent chance of reaching the postseason, they also give them the best projected record from now until the end of the season.  At the moment, Tampa seems likelier to hang onto the slim chance of surging into October rather than shutting down their window of contention.

 

Papelbon Going West?

Philadelphia Phillies' general manger Ruben Amaro Jr. held onto delusions of contending headed into the season.  With his last-place Phillies at 42-53 and 10 games out of first place, however, it appears a fire sale is closer than ever to becoming reality.

One prime candidate to go would be closer Jonathan Papelbon.  The 33-year-old Papelbon does not have tremendous trade value because of his age and onerous contract.  However, at least one plugged-in reporter believes that the Los Angeles Dodgers could seek out Papelbon's services:

It's a bit unclear why the Dodgers would want to add Papelbon.  After a rough start, closer Kenley Jansen has rebounded to post nine consecutive scoreless appearances.  Moreover, his .391 BABIP and 1.87 FIP suggests some poor luck that will eventually correct itself and bring his 3.49 ERA down.

Nonetheless, Papelbon could be interested in joining the NL West leaders.  According to The Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Gelb, Papelbon recently hinted at frustration over the team's losing and a willingness to accept a trade to a contender:

Some guys want to stay on a losing team? That's mind-boggling to me. I think that's a no-brainer.

You know, I came here for a reason...and I say that because I'm with a group of guys in the bullpen that can do very special things in the future. I've been waiting for that, you know what I mean? It's fun to be a part of that, it really is. We are there finally with our bullpen. So that aspect of it would kind of [stink] to leave. But at the same time, winning is the cure-all of cure-alls.

Papelbon has had his best season for the Phillies, posting a 1.21 ERA thus far.  However, there are numerous alarms that regression is imminent—an 85.7 percent strand rate well above his career average, an overall increase in walks and decrease in strikeouts, a .232 BABIP that is 45 points below his career average and the fact that he has yet to allow a home run even in the bandbox of Citizens Bank Park. 

Still, someone is bound to take the leap based on Papelbon's experience and reputation as a big-time playoff performer after his time in Boston.  The Dodgers don't have a clear need, but they could at least absorb his salary without so much as blinking.

 

Bullpen Help for Angels?

The Los Angeles Angels have surged to the second-best record in baseball and are just 1.5 games behind the Oakland Athletics for the AL West lead.  With the A's having made their big splash already, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that the Angels could be readying an answer:

Street has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise grisly season for the San Diego Padres, whose historically impotent offense has the team floundering at 41-54.  Though his sterling 1.09 ERA has been aided by a .195 BABIP, he has also increased his strikeouts, reduced his walks and induced worse contact.  A slight correction is likely coming, but Street is not turning into a pumpkin this summer.

For his part, Street appears tired of floundering on poor teams.  The 30-year-old has not pitched on a playoff team since the 2009 Colorado Rockies, and according to the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaiken, Street would welcome the opportunity to play in Anaheim:

'I would love it,' he said.

Street cited the chance to 'play with guys like Albert Pujols and Mike Trout' as well as to play for Manager Mike Scioscia. Street broke into the major leagues with the Oakland Athletics from 2005-08, when the Angels won the American League West three times in four years.

The Halos have had bullpen issues for much of the season, a bullpen that ranks 27th in WAR.  Even with Joe Smith's recent emergence to stabilize the closer position, Los Angeles ranks just 18th in bullpen WAR over the last 30 days.  The trio of Street, Smith and Kevin Jepsen would secure the final three innings for the Angels, turning arguably their greatest weakness into a strength.

The fickle year-to-year performance of relievers makes it harder to construct lockdown bullpens at the beginning of the season, but the trade-off is that acquiring help during the season is easier.  Acquiring Street and perhaps upgrading the back of the starting rotation would leave the Angels among the small handful of favorites for the World Series.

 

*All stats via Fangraphs.com.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Disposable E-Cigarette is the Next Best Thing to a Cigarette

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E-cigarettes are one alternative for people who want to ease off smoking or for those who want to keep smoking without all the negative effects that come with it. Somewhere in between real cigarettes and e-cigarettes are the YJ4931 disposable e-cigarettes by the FirstUnion Group. The company has dubbed it the “world’s first long-lasting disposable e-cigarette” and claims that it can provide up to 400 puffs.

The disposable e-cigarettes utilize new battery materials with a new circuit controller and provides ultra-thick vapor, even under low voltage. The design itself replicates the typical look of most cigarettes. 

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With typical e-cigarettes, there’s no tar, smell, or ash. You definitely get the best of both worlds with this new player in the e-cigarette industry.

VIA [ Damn Geeky ]

The post Disposable E-Cigarette is the Next Best Thing to a Cigarette appeared first on OhGizmo!.

Mega Hammock: Now You Can Chill With the Whole Gang

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What can beat lying on a hammock on a warm summer’s day with a cold drink in hand and not a care in the world? Doing the same thing but with your friends, that’s what! Most people don’t have enough hammocks (or trees to hang the hammocks on) in their backyards to accommodate everyone in the gang, but that’s what the Mega Hammock is for.

It’s huge enough to fit up to three people, but a few more can probably squeeze in as it has a total weight rating of a thousand pounds. The lying surface measures 8 feet by 5 feet, so as long as you have a big empty space out back, then this should fit. The hammock is made from handcrafted from coated ripstop nylon by an FAA-certified parachute rigger, so you’re assured of its quality and durability.

The Mega Hammock retails for $375.

[ Product Page ] VIA [ Gear Hungry ]

The post Mega Hammock: Now You Can Chill With the Whole Gang appeared first on OhGizmo!.

Making the Case for New York Yankees to Be Sellers at Trade Deadline

Imagine an alternate world for the New York Yankees.

It's the All-Star break in 2014, Derek Jeter's still retiring at season's end and domestic beer still costs $9 at the Stadium.

But in this reality, they did not make the postseason in 17 of the last 19 years.

Imagine that from 1995-2013 they didn't win five World Series titles, and picture an '09 season where they hadn't backed up their first of two failed campaigns with immediate success.

Perhaps it's into this other reality that we could actually fit a scenario where—with the Yankees now at 47-47 after their second failed campaign, maybe heading toward a third—the front office might feel more comfortable blowing the whole damn thing up.

Because often the biggest hindrance to beginning a path of true soul-searching, self-improvement and accountability is one's own obscuring mask of past success and current adequacy. Seventeen out of 19 postseasons, right? And only five games back. And .500, but not significantly worse.

And it's the Yankees.

That's the issue. It's the perception of what the Yankees have always been and what they should be—rather than the acknowledgement of what they've become and what they now are—that may ultimately harm them in the second half of the season and in the future. 

FanGraphs tells us the Yankees have an 11.3 percent chance of making the postseason. A fan on the corner, having just learned Masahiro Tanaka is out a minimum of six weeks, tells us the Yankees probably have no shot. 

Now, a quick qualification, whether one views it as optimistic, fair or necessary to say this before continuing: Yes, both of those projections may prove horribly wrong if the Yankees' offense catches fire and some dark-horse pitching heroes (David Phelps, Shane Greene, Brandon McCarthy?) buoy them through a second-half surge. 

This idea would be especially reinforced by the continued parity (feebleness?) of the AL East and some lucky breaks—like the returns and success of CC Sabathia and Tanaka coupled with more major injuries to contenders (think Toronto's sidelined Edwin Encarnacion).

But right now, consider the trends—or truth, or however you'd like to paint this picture: The Yankees are damn mediocre. In many respects, they're quite paltry. On the surface, $500 million bought them .500 baseball. Beneath, it's actually worse:

If you choose to take the escapist route and claim injuries, misfortune and timing are the sole blame, I would mention that New York headed into the season without a true insurance plan—let alone any plan (if the sole "plan" was to stay under their $189 million threshold, they fell short of it). 

On the back of a successful spring training, I wrote on March 27 in the season preview:

[E]ven with optimism continually rising, no team's 2014 outlook is more bipolar than New York's. Think about how stunningly dominant, effective and efficient this ballclub could be with all its pieces in harmony; yet think of how many unstable, moving parts could send the same club into a tailspin.

And in the face of potential embarrassment from (a) that tailspin materializing as they miss the postseason in back-to-back years, (b) declining attendance at new Yankee Stadium, (c) diminishing viewership for the YES Network and (d) being haunted by George "The Boss" Steinbrenner's angry ghost—no longer rolling in his grave, but banging on the lid of the casket—Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner only know how to be buyers.

This all raises the following two questions—it's the Yankees, remember: Would the front office realistically consider the classic fire sale of its older, expiring, movable parts in exchange for young talent? And isn't the cherry on top the fact that New York doesn't possess blue-chip young talent in their own farm?

OK, make that three questions: If they don't (really, since they won't) consider becoming sellers instead of buyers, should they?

Yes. At least partially. Because only continuing to buy is like wrapping gauze and smearing Neosporin on the chest of a patient with a leaky valve and collapsed lung.

Based on the notion that the Yanks' management and operations have yet to, and don't seem willing to, adjust with their own organization's markedly different foundation—and different power structure in MLB—yes, they should sell.

This argument should be looked upon, at the least, as a blueprint for the Yankees to begin their journey of self-refinement and enrichment. They should engage in some selling before the July 31 deadline; not using their refined brand of elitist history and their riches to buy their way out of what could be a debacle the next three months.

There is no magic cream, no quick-fix solution; neither by only buying the antidote off the top of the market nor by solely developing it within. Balance is the wise choice here.

After their winter spending spree, I noted in a February 10 Yankees spring training preview:

With or without true Yankee 'success' through overvaluing and overspending, they will still be one year delayed in setting into motion what could be a smarter long-term model. One that, in part, finds undervalued pieces from outside, and trusts the younger, unproven ones from within.

Halfway through the season, it's time to set that renewed model in motion. And better now than the first week of November. 

 

The Overreliance on Buying: No More Core; the Shifted MLB Power Dynamic

There's no more validity in the "lost art" of buying as there is in a one-time "failed experiment" of buying. It's just that the identity of the Yankees and the rest of the league has transformed in a way that makes a strategy largely based on spending headed for failure.

Back in February, I led off that season preview by asking fans a simple though profound question: "The pinstripes and interlocking 'NY' look the same, but what about the new identity of the team as 2014 ushers in a new era? What does that change mean, and how would you begin to identify with the present state of the franchise?"

The idea was to consider what I called "[A] fault line forming in the Bronx since last season." It runs between the transformed, attractive team we'll see on the field and the shifted foundational pieces beneath the organization's surface, the most integral of which have been removed since Game 162.

It was to point out the possibility that their method of winter spending, as they'd always done, may end up biting them in their collective behinds if losing the foundational pieces—Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Robinson Cano, etc.—were not taken into account and sufficiently offset.

I argued, as I still do now in July, that while it should have been supremely important to fill the holes left by the most significant Yankees of the past 20 years, valuing positional depth and reliability would be as, if not more, vital than buying the top-tier free agents off the market and locking them down in the Bronx.

A few more premonitions from that preseason piece:

It's not that 2014 is suddenly the year of the rupture and the collapse at the epicenter, but it feels like there are tremors on the eve of camp because a number of anxious, cosmetic fixes were made to correct what went wrong in 2013.

Yet for all the signings this winter, and despite paying for what they see as the cost required to win, the Yankees could be entering spring training teetering on a fancy idea of success and a reality of coming up short. ...

That free will to spend is a pragmatic modus operandi when there's a working foundational structure already in place—take the 2008 spending antidote and the 2009 outcome. But this isn't 2009, and putting a flashy lineup on the field should translate to revenue but it may not translate to contention. ...

And still the Yankees could win 95 games in 2014.

They could capture the division crown and make a run in the postseason—and Yanks brass may look cunning by season's end. ...

This isn't meant to castigate or doom the organization; it's a reminder that things are simply different in the Bronx, and that there's a heck of a lot to consider about the larger trends.

What's the larger trend? While big spending is a large chunk of the Yankee identity, we shouldn't discount the core of Yankees around whom that spending occurred from the late-'90s through late-'00s.

Instead of trying to replicate it this winter, perhaps management could have accepted that Jeter is the only one left from that (yes, magic) run and begun to search for or build a new youthful core in conjunction with bringing in players in their primes, not past them.

On Thursday, Joel Sherman of the New York Post poignantly titled his column, "Core Four's Greatness is a Recipe Yankees Can't Keep Chasing." This isn't to say Sherman is five months late to the party. It's more to substantiate at baseball's midway point, through a few excellent points, how many of us may have been feeling about those larger, anxious trends months ago.

Here's what he wrote Thursday:

[W]hile a thick wallet is credited for much of the Yankees’ success the past two decades, I believe it misses the key factor, which also will not be replicated anytime soon, if ever again: The Yankees developed en masse five of their greatest players, and that group proved durable and capable of handling New York and October.

Really, with all that has been written and said about Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams, I do not think what they meant is properly assessed.

We are talking about 20 percent of a roster. And not just any 20 percent, but stars at catcher, shortstop, center field, lefty starter and closer. I don’t want to downplay how difficult it is to form a winning roster, but it is a lot easier to fill in the other 80 percent when you begin with that 20 percent at such key positions year after year. 

But one of his keener undercurrents comes shortly after:

It is hard to keep even a talented group healthy, hungry and humming from one year to the next. So imagine the fortune of what the Yankees had. ... But because those guys showed up at the doorstep and stayed and prospered, it made everything else easier to construct around. Even the 2009 champion that was burnished by the purchases of CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett still was fortified by high-level results from the Core Four.

And, still, there's more to the "struggle" story in which the Yankees find themselves mired in 2014.

Simply: The system of power and wealth of MLB has changed, and the way teams scout, draft, develop, trade and spend has metamorphosed, too. Well, for most teams besides the Yankees.

I mentioned in the preseason preview:

We're in a new era in which the power structures of success have changed not only in MLB, but also within the longtime leviathan of the league, the Yankees. ...

Continuing the trend to throw cash at free agents, they've repeatedly failed to properly value the MLB draft, player development or real trust in the farm. And that's just one issue; one of the few unchanged aspects. 

Sherman agrees that "The game has changed too much for any club to assemble that kind of consistent success for two decades. Having a financial advantage is less relevant today than ever for many reasons."

He credits the well-known proliferation of and advancements in statistical analysis with leveling the financial playing field.

More to the point, he sharply notes the influx of wealth into the game, illuminating how it has translated to the new landscape where "every franchise can sign its elite performers before free agency, so players on smaller-market squads who you could once envision just biding their time until they joined the Yankees...do not hit the open market, at least not in their primes."

Though it's a fair, almost defeatist point about the Yankees' inability to sign anyone they want, it misses two facts First, outside of Cano, the Bombers signed just about everyone whom they coveted most this winter. Second, through three months of underperformance they seem to have missed the mark on their mass half-billion-dollar, half-baked plan to contend.

As the game and horizon has changed, it's no longer smart to bring in the majority of your talent through free agency. More than that, it's just irrational to think that you can replicate the Core Four by signing four free agents in one single winter, with one of them past his prime and the second one passing through.

 

More to the Story than Injuries: The Failed Free-Agency Frenzy; the Farce of the Farm

From the jump, I mentioned the obvious discomfort of the Yanks' brass to "blow the whole team up" at a key juncture—several major injuries to several of the most important players; poor performance; aging veterans and expiring contracts—where that M.O. would be Plan A for many teams.

(A team like the 2014 Rays, on the other hand, has suffered from a team-wide slump for the first half; without major injuries and aging veterans, it's more rational to wait out the storm. They're 9.5 games out of the AL East lead, and David Price hasn't left...yet.)

The Yankees rotation has already taken care of blowing itself up, after all.

Sabathia? Knee. Degenerative. Remains out. Could be a bigger chance his career is over than the 11.3 percent of New York marching into October baseball. Sherman goes so far as to argue the Yankees would benefit most from the team deeming CC "physically incapable of playing" to get some insurance money for one of their priciest assets.

Ivan Nova? Elbow. Tommy John. Gone this season. May start throwing again by September.

Michael Pineda? 19.2 innings pitched since '11. Shoulder issues. Still out. Possibly returning in August

Tanaka? Elbow. Partially torn UCL. Gone for now. Last-ditch effort of platelet-rich-plasma therapy to save his season.

And Hiroki Kuroda is far from an ace (97 ERA+, 3.91 FIP). He's also 39 and will be a free agent who may be contemplating retirement at season's end. 

The position players are largely a disaster so far. And bless Chris Stewart: Brian McCann, the prized catcher, is hitting .239 with 39 RBI (83 wRC+, 1.1 fWAR, minus-7.7 oWARfor all his stellar clubhouse leadership.

Carlos Beltran, who wanted to be in pinstripes years ago, is batting .219 with nine homers and 28 RBI this year (78 wRC+, minus-0.8 fWAR, minus-8.5 dWAR), and he's had knee and concussion issues.

Jacoby Ellsbury, plugged in the Bronx for another six seasons after this one, has six home runs and is on pace for his highest strikeout total of his career (105 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR), and via defensive metrics, he's been a liability so far (minus-5 DRS, minus-5.6 UZR/150).

No one was going to follow Robinson Cano beyond simple adequacy, and Brian Roberts' .241 and 89 OPS+ actually looks somewhat good (then again: 87 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR). That idea of platooning Eduardo Nunez (no longer a Yankee) with super-utility man Kelly Johnson (unfortunately still a Yankee) sounded nice this winter.

Until now, because Johnson might be one of the most uneventful players to ever take the infield in the Bronx—he's hitting .214 with six homers and 50 punch-outs (87 wRC+, 0.4 fWAR, 23.7 K%)—and, for the platoon romanticists out there, he's hitting lefties (.194, 113 wRC+) better than he's hitting righties (.218, 83 wRC+).

Moving down to the farm situation, the shortcomings of the Yankees system are well-documented and understood at this point.

We know that none of Baseball AmericaBaseball Prospectus, MLB.com, FanGraphs or Bleacher Report see much value from Tampa and Staten Island all the way up to Scranton. We know Gary Sanchez has been the No. 1 prospect for a few years but has a great shot (.270/.339/.420, 60 K, 18.3 K%) to become the next Jesus Montero

And to give plaudits to Yankees scouting and development for the sacrificial and somewhat life-saving performances by David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, Chase Whitley and Shane Greene would be overly simplistic.

No, that's largely lucking out on the only in-house options available. If they had better talent at the most significant position for any team—pitching...starting pitching—they likely would have come up with something better than Jeff Francis and Brandon McCarthy through trades this month. 

They also wouldn't have felt the need to saturate the farm with pitchers in this year's draft, selecting five with their first five picks, 15 out of their first 21 picks and 13 of those 15 from the NCAA.

In other words, they not only were desperate for pitching, but for the most advanced, developed, MLB-ready pitching. Their top pick, Mississippi State's closer Jacob Lindgren, was praised for the talent capable of appearing and contributing this postseason for the Yanks.

But looking at the big picture, it points to the holes in the farm.

Sherman lends more perspective of his own, as well as some context:

[T]he only trick this pony knows is to spend. By winning all of these years, the Yankees have not had access to the top of the draft, and generally they have done a poor job of drafting and developing what was available. The sense around the sport is the Yankees’ past two drafts have been better and the system is improving.

And even if Lindgren becomes a key piece of the bullpen down the road, if Shane Greene sticks and if another dark horse (like Robert Refsnyder) breaks out in pinstripes, the Yanks still lack the depth or development team for sustainability.

"Still, there are not many ready-made solutions internally and the idea of losing enough to get a top-10 pick a few times is as palatable to the Steinbrenners as playing patty-cake with an alligator," writes Sherman. 

 

Knowledge Trumps Power

None of this is to say the Yankees should move each and every one of their aging, expiring vets.

But to incessantly hear this type of definitive wording about remaining buyers until death from Cashman and Co. no longer seems most pragmatic—especially when stated upon learning Tanaka would take the injured starting total to four of five, per NJ.com's Brendan Kuty: "We'll continue to look at any options to upgrade ourselves, and I'll certainly present that to ownership. And until I'm told otherwise I'll continue the course of action."

Kuty highlights the biggest irony, describing how it appears "the team will remain trade market buyers despite — or maybe in spite of — Masahiro Tanaka's elbow injury." 

Because what if, rather than buying in spite of losing him, they view his (and CC, Nova and Pineda's) absence as the reason to do some selling before the end of the month?

What if they reframed and reduced their reliance upon their financial power (which has seen some diminishing baseball clout) to work in unison with better knowledge—that is, better scouting, drafting, development and understanding of how to enter a season with real insurance and depth?

Maybe Cashman will keep searching for more bandages and ointments until the deadline, since they've come this far (to give credit where credit's due, they're still in the postseasons hunt).

And our patient with the leaky valve and collapsed lung can obviously still benefit from a few layers of gauze and Neosporin

But only post-surgery.

Only in synchronicity—and balance—with other structural, foundational fixes.

"No one is suggesting the Yankees lower their payroll, but instead just re-imagine it," Sherman adds.  "The Yankees keep trying to recapture the past, and that is not doing much for their present and it is potentially destroying their future."

 

Common statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and advanced stats/metrics via FanGraphs, unless noted otherwise. 

Peter F. Richman is a New York Yankees Featured Columnist and Expert, as well as a B/R Copy Editor. For more NYY opinions, discussion, debate and analysis, feel free to reach out via Twitter: 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Mean Cards Unfold to Reveal Heartwarming Messages

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Sometimes, things aren’t always as they seem. A book with a boring cover might be the most interesting piece of literature ever written. A tough-looking guy might actually be the kindest, most soft-spoken guy you’ll ever meet. Cards with mean messages on the front might unfold to reveal words of wisdom and messages that’ll warm even the coldest of hearts.

The latter is what Etsy Shop FINCHandHare have created. Snarky, even rude, messages are printed on the front. However, once the card is unfolded, the true message is revealed to its recipient.

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The cards are available for $5 each.

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The post Mean Cards Unfold to Reveal Heartwarming Messages appeared first on OhGizmo!.

Fantasy Baseball 2014: Week 16’s Buy-Low, Sell-High Trade Advice

What good is talent to a fantasy owner who lacks timing?

Fantasy baseballjust like the real thingis a game of skill, luck and timing. That last trait, in particular, comes in handy with regard to getting value in the trading game.

Knowing which player(s) to trade away and which to deal for—and knowing just the right time to do so—can make all the difference.

After all, it doesn't get much better than making a move to unload a hot flavor-of-the-week type who's about to cool off in exchange for a slumping stud who's ready to take off. And now that we're more than halfway through the season, repeat names are fair game going forward.

Speaking of timing, let's get to some players to sell high and buy low.

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Selecting the 2014 All-MLB Team Through the All-Star Break

You've got the MLB All-Star teams, celebrating the best that the American League and National League have to offer, and there's no shortage of fictional midseason awards that have been handed out to some very deserving players.

But none of those things identify the best of the best at each individual position. 

Stats, obviously, do most of the work in helping to answer that question, but inclusion on Bleacher Report's All-MLB Team isn't earned by numbers alone.

Production at the plate and with the glove carry equal weight among position players, though if someone's offensive numbers are just so off-the-chart good that we can overlook some shoddy defense, they're given serious consideration.

On the mound, it's about dominance. Which pitcher has had the filthiest stuff and made batters look foolish most often?

Here's a look at who made the cut.

 

*Unless otherwise linked/noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs and are current through the All-Star break.

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