Tag:John McDonald
Posted on: February 29, 2012 9:54 pm
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Spring primer: Arizona Diamondbacks

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By C. Trent Rosecrans

Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers didn't rest on the team's unexpected division title, adding Trevor Cahill to an already strong rotation, anchored by Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. Arizona also added outfielder Jason Kubel to a two-year, $16 million deal to help out the offense. The Diamondbacks surprised everyone in 2011, but it's safe to say they won't sneak up on anyone in 2012.

Major additions: OF Jason Kubel, RHP Trevor Cahill, RHP Takashi Saito, LHP Craig Breslow
Major departures: RHP Jason Marquis

Probable lineup
1. Stephen Drew SS
2. Aaron Hill 2B
3. Justin Upton RF
4. Miguel Montero C
5. Chris Young CF
6. Jason Kubel LF
7. Paul Goldschmidt 1B
8. Ryan Roberts 3B

Probable rotation
1. Ian Kennedy
2. Daniel Hudson
3. Trevor Cahill
4. Joe Saunders
5. Josh Collmenter

Back-end bullpen
Closer: J.J. Putz
Set-up: David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler, Takashi Saito

Important bench players
OF Gerrardo Parra, UTIL Willie Bloomquist, 1B Lyle Overbay

Prospect to watch
The Diamondbacks traded right-handed starter Jarrod Parker, named the team's No. 1 prospect by Baseball America before the 2011 season, to Oakland in exchange for Cahill. While top-flight pitching prospects don't grow on trees, it may seem like it in Arizona. With two top-10 picks in last season's draft, Arizona took two right-handed power arms in Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley. Those two, along with lefty Tyler Skaggs, give the Diamondbacks perhaps the best trio of pitching prospects in the game. Of the three, Bauer is the one expected to contribute the soonest. The right-hander was the second overall pick in the draft out of UCLA, won the Golden Spikes Award, given to the top amateur players in the country. While he can throw up to 98 mph, his curveball is his best pitch. The Diamondbacks thought about bringing him up for the stretch run last season, but he stayed in the minors, where he made seven starts. While his ERA wasn't pretty (5.96), he did strike out 43 batters in 25 2/3 innings.

Fantasy sleeper: Jason Kubel
"[The Diamondbacks] play in a hitter's park, much like the Metrodome, and recognize that a 29-year-old like Kubel is still young enough to salvage whatever he lost to expansive Target Field. Given his improvement against left-handed pitchers last year, a full season of at-bats could feasibly return Kubel to the 25-homer range. It's a reasonable enough possibility that he's worth a late-round flier in mixed leagues." -- Scott White [Full Diamondbacks fantasy preview]

Fantasy bust: Ryan Roberts
"You can't overlook the fact that his breakout season hinged on an unsustainably hot April in which he hit .313 with a 1.007 OPS. He hit .239 the rest of the way. Power and speed numbers aside, if his batting average is lagging right out of the gate, the Diamondbacks have little reason to give him the benefit of the doubt. He's already 31. It's not like he's any sort of building block. With higher-upside third basemen like Ryan Wheeler and Matt Davidson quickly rising through the minor-league system, Roberts is on a shorter leash than his ranking would have you believe." -- Scott White [Full Diamondbacks fantasy preview]

Optimistic outlook
After last season, how can you look at the Diamondbacks as anything other than a World Series contender? With Kennedy and Hudson continuing their development and solidifying themselves as legitimate top-of-the-rotation starters, plus Cahill and a Saunders that appears to have figured some things out, the pitching takes the Diamondbacks to an easy division title.

Pessimistic outlook
Last year proves to be an aberration, with all the pitchers taking a step back. Meanwhile, Drew never seems to recover from his injury, meaning a full season of Bloomquist and John McDonald at shortstop. It worked for a while last season, but it's unlikely to work again. Hill plays like he did in Toronto, as opposed to the way he played in the desert. With the offense and pitching struggling, the Diamondbacks could fall behind not just the Giants and Rockies, but also the Dodgers.

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Posted on: November 5, 2011 11:31 pm
Edited on: November 5, 2011 11:34 pm
 

D-Backs, Boras feuding over Willie Bloomquist

By Matt Snyder

Utility player Willie Bloomquist may not be returning to the Diamondbacks for the 2012 season, in part due to a miscommunication between the Arizona front office and Bloomquist's agent, Scott Boras, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.

Bloomquist had stepped up and logged some very important innings for the Diamondbacks this season once they had lost starting shortstop Stephen Drew to injury. While he's hardly a star, Bloomquist's ability to play so many different positions is helpful. He hit .266/.317/.340 for the NL West champs and is currently a free agent. There was a mutual option on his contract, and the D-Backs chose to exercise that option. Bloomquist declined the option, making him a free agent. And that's where it becomes a bit of a he-said, he-said game.

Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers is reportedly frustrated that they haven't heard from Bloomquist or his agent since the declination, as Arizona expressed interest in bringing Bloomquist back by exercising its end of the option.

"I don't think it's up to us to lob a call," Towers said (AZcentral.com). "We exercised our end. We showed we wanted the player back. By exercising the option, we're pretty much saying, 'We'd like to have the player back.' By them declining, it's like, 'We don't want to come back at what you want us at.' Then, well, what do you want?"

Fair point.

Boras claims his side did try to contact the Diamondbacks, however. From AZcentral.com:
Boras said one of his assistants, Scott Chiamparino, called Diamondbacks assistant GM Billy Ryan the same day to confirm receipt of the letter and that Ryan said the team would be back in touch during the week.
Ryan reportedly did receive the letter, but had no idea about the phone call in question. Ryan also reportedly said he talked to Chiamparino on October 28 and was told that the D-Backs had some "significant" ground to make up in order to satisfy the contract demands of Bloomquist.

Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks did re-up with backup shortstop John McDonald.

"We knew we needed shortstop depth and we had two in-house guys that we had a comfort level with," Ryan said. "'Johnny Mac' was proactive about it and given the uncertainty with Willie, we moved forward with that."

The signing of McDonald makes it less urgent for the D-Backs to lock up Bloomquist, and they're reportedly more focused now on bringing back second baseman Aaron Hill. Not surprisingly, this movement didn't exactly endear the D-Backs to Boras, who was angry enough that he managed to get in a swipe at an innocent bystander (McDonald):

"Is it our duty to be in touch with them every hour on the hour so we know nobody else signed?" Boras said (AZcentral.com). "When you want someone, you go get them. We're not the employer. They offer the contracts and pay the money. We don't. It sounds to me like what happened is, they got upset when Willie opted out. They got emotional and they went out and signed a guy who hit .169."

There's definitely no reason to go after McDonald's batting average, considering his value is by being a superior defensive player, but that's beside the point here. The major takeaway is that Boras' statement is a contradiction to what Towers' expectations seemed to be in his above quote. Thus, unless lots of things change in the coming weeks, Bloomquist is headed elsewhere.

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Posted on: November 2, 2011 8:06 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2011 9:15 pm
 

Diamondbacks sign McDonald to two-year deal

McDonaldBy Evan Brunell

The Diamondbacks have reached a two-year agreement with utility infielder John McDonald, the team announced on Wednesday. McDonald will recieve $3 million total, split evenly over the two seasons.

More Free Agency
Position rankings
McDonald's signing likely means Arizona will wave sayonara to Willie Bloomquist, who was a utility infielder last season for the Diamondbacks, but started at shortstop following Stephen Drew's season-ending injury. McDonald has 13 full seasons in the majors, and less than two of these seasons were spent not as a member of the Indians or Blue Jays. McDonald came over from Toronto, whom he had played for since 2005, in an August deal along with Aaron Hill to shore up the infield defense.

McDonald should play the next two seasons in a backup role. He is known for his defense and is far from being a decent hitter. In fact, for Arizona, McDonald hit .169/.222/.203 as he swiped playing time from Bloomquist thanks to his ability to pick it. If he gets pressured into a starting role for 'Zona, you know things aren't going according to plan. But as a backup middle infielder, McDonald's defense gives the Diamondbacks one of the better options in the majors for such a role.

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Posted on: October 27, 2011 3:05 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2011 3:06 pm
 

Free agent shortstop rankings: High risk, reward



By Matt Snyder

The theme here is high-risk, high-reward guys, at least toward the top. In the top two (and I'd include number four as well) teams are possibly looking at All-Star seasons or an albatross contract down the road, depending on how things shake out with health and the aging process. The entire list here contains gambles, but you know what? Sometimes in gambling you win.

List of MLB free agents

1. Jose Reyes. The 28 year old has now been an All-Star four times. He's led the majors in triples four times and the NL in steals three times. He upped his on-base percentage to .384 (nearly 30 points higher than his previous career high) in 2011 while winning the NL batting title. Had he not injured his hamstring twice, he may have been an MVP candidate. Of course, therein lies the issue. From 2005-08, Reyes was very durable. Since then, he's been unable to shake injuries. Someone is going to give him a big contract, there's little question about that. If Reyes can stay healthy, he'll be worth every dime. If he can't, the contract could end up handcuffing a franchise.
Potential teams: Mets, Tigers (shifting Jhonny Peralta to third), Giants, Nationals, Phillies, Brewers, Mariners

2. Jimmy Rollins. He turns 33 in a month and is actually coming off his best season since 2008. He can still steal bases, can still hit for moderate power and play good defense. He's just not a star anymore, and Rollins seems to be seeking a star-like contract. The hunch is some team that misses out on Reyes gives Rollins three to four years and regrets the deal by the third season, but it's possible he could be a good signing. 
Potential teams: Same as Reyes, Rollins is just the second option.

3. Marco Scutaro. He'll be 36 in less than a week, but he should have enough left in the tank to be a meaningful starter for the next two seasons. He had a .358 OBP in a tough division, so Scutaro could prove a good option for some ballclub that isn't capable of spending big money to fill a hole at short. Of course, they probably won't have a chance, because the Red Sox are expected to pick up Scutaro's option.
Potential teams: Red Sox

4. Rafael Furcal. It seems like Furcal has been around forever, and that's because he was a rookie at the ripe young age of 22. He's 34 now and certainly has lost some speed and power. Plus, he has only been healthy enough to play at least 100 games once in the past four seasons. Furcal has played better since joining the Cardinals, but he still hasn't shown enough to be considered a big name on the free agency market. He has said publicly he wants to remain in St. Louis and a one-year deal there is a distinct possibility.
Potential teams: Cardinals, Twins, Reds, Giants, Brewers, Mariners, Phillies

5. Clint Barmes. Barmes had a decent 2011 season for the Astros, shifting back to being an everyday shortstop -- the position he lost to Troy Tulowitzki in Colorado. He'll be very affordable and the Astros may let him walk, considering that's very little chance for them to compete in the next two seasons. It makes Barmes a nice, cheap option for teams strapped for cash.
Potential teams: Twins, Reds, Braves, Pirates, Giants

6. Willie Bloomquist.
The Diamondbacks will be getting Stephen Drew back from injury, but Bloomquist still has value to the franchise as a sort of supersub -- someone who can be plugged in as an injury replacement anywhere on the field (in 2010 he played every position except pitcher and catcher). The D-Backs are expected to pick up his option.
Potential teams: Diamondbacks

7. Yuniesky Betancourt. He has power, but his inability to get on base (.271 OBP in '11) and awful range at shortstop make Betancourt a liability most games. He did have a great offensive NLCS, so it's possible that lands him a few extra bucks on the open market. It's possible the Brewers pick up Betancourt's option if they can't get one of the above guys, but it's a $6 million option. That's hard to justify for a guy who can't get on base or field very well.
Potential teams: Pirates, Astros, Brewers, Twins, Braves

8. Ronny Cedeno. He's 29 and already shown his upside is severely limited. If the Pirates don't pick up his option, it's hard to see anyone signing him to come in and be the starter, at least not unchallenged.
Potential teams: Astros? Otherwise he'll be a backup just about anywhere.

9. Alex Gonzalez. The veteran will be 35 before next season starts, but he still has some pop. A team looking to bolster the offense's power could give him a one-year deal. There is talk the Braves will end up keeping him, so that bears watching.
Potential teams: Braves, Twins, Giants, Mariners

10. Cesar Izturis. He's only 31, but he's long since shown that he can't be a decent major-league hitter. He can help someone as a backup middle infielder that is only used as a defensive replacement, but his value is minimal. Look for teams with a good offensive shortstop that can't field to see Izturis as a late-innings defensive replacement -- but it can't be a star. Stars don't usually come out of the game.
Potential teams: Blue Jays, Braves, Padres, Rays, Nationals, Brewers, Retirement

11. John McDonald. Very similar to Izturis in that McDonald can play defense but not hit. He's just depth.
Potential teams: Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Braves, Padres, Rays, Nationals, Brewers

12. Edgar Renteria. Is there a place for an old backup who can barely hit or field anymore, but was once an All-Star and has a penchant for dramatic postseason hits? It's possible. Renteria could realistically be forced into retirement, but the guess is someone gives him a modest one-year deal.
Potential teams: Brewers, Twins, Mariners, Astros, Pirates, Retirement

13. Felipe Lopez. He's a headache off the field and has alienated himself from several ballclubs. He was an All-Star in 2005, when he hit 23 home runs and stole 11 bases, but Lopez hit just .206/.247/.277 in 2011 and he's north of 30 years old. If he gets a chance somewhere, it's gonna be on a minor-league deal.
Potential teams: anyone other than the eight teams he's already played for ... or forced retirement.

14. Orlando Cabrera. The soon-to-be 37 year old can't hit and his defense is drastically declining. With more and more teams ready to go young instead of wasting money on veterans, there is likely to be zero market for Cabrera's services early in the free agency period. It's possible when several of the names above fly off the board that some club grabs Cabrera on the cheap, but he also might end up like Jermaine Dye a few years ago ... just waiting on the right deal that never comes along.
Potential teams: Marlins? Mariners? Brewers? Retirement very possible.

15. Drew Sutton. He hit .315/.362/.444 in 31 games for the Red Sox, but there is little chance of that keeping up in the long run. Sutton is probably more likely to land a job -- for different reasons -- than Cabrera (age), Lopez (personality) or Renteria (asking price), but it's hard to tell who is going to view him as the proper fit to back up their shortstop.
Potential teams: Anyone and everyone.

Other free agents who could play shortstop: Jamey Carroll, Jerry Hairston, Ramon Santiago, Jack Wilson, Nick Punto, Omar Vizquel, Craig Counsell, Alex Cora

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 7, 2011 10:05 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 5:22 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Arizona Diamondbacks
Record: 94-68, 1st place NL West. Lost to Brewers 3 games to 2 in NLDS
Manager: Kirk Gibson
Best hitter: Justin Upton -- ..289/.369/.529 with 31 HR, 88 RBI, 21 SB
Best pitcher: Ian Kennedy -- 21-4, 222 IP, 33 GS, 2.88 ERA, 1.086 WHIP, 198 SO, 55 BB

2011 SEASON RECAP

Nobody expected much from the Diamondbacks and even when they did surprise by leading the National League West, nobody thought they could hold off the Giants. Not only did they hold off the defending champs, they left them in the dust. The Diamondbacks were ruthless in making decisions early in the season, demoting or just flat-out getting rid of players that didn't produce, like Armando Galarraga, Barry Enright, Wade Miley and Russell Branyan. The Diamondbacks won 16 of 18 in late August and early September, while Ian Kennedy became a legitimate Cy Young candidate. The team also discovered it has the makings of a stout rotation with Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders and Josh Collmenter. They even survived the season-ending injury to Stephen Drew, winning despite his absence.

2012 AUDIT

The Diamondbacks are in a pretty good situation. So it seems they have some good, young talent that's not going to cost too much -- something that's very important to the Diamondbacks' front office. The team that they have should only get better and develop. There are small spots to fill, but nothing huge. And with Stephen Drew coming back, the team should be even better than they were in the playoffs.

FREE AGENTS

RHP Jason Marquis
1B Lyle Overbay
2B Aaron Hill ($8 team option)
LHP Zach Duke ($5.5 team option)
OF Xavier Nady
SS John McDonald
C Henry Blanco ($1.5 mutual option)UTIL Willie Boomquist ($1.1 mutual option)

OFFSEASON FOCUS

  • Remember last offseason when the Diamondbacks were listening to offers for Justin Upton? Don't do that.
  • Hill was acquired in a change-of-scenry trade with the Blue Jays in August and it seemed to work for both teams. Hill played well for the Diamondbacks -- but not $8 million well. The team should decline his option, but see if he'd entertain an offer for less. The other side of that trade, Kelly Johnson, talked about returning at a discounted price. If Hill's not interested in coming back on the cheap, Johnson may be.
  • The team could upgrade in left field, but that's not a pressing need. And even if it were, there's not a lot of money to spend on the likes of Josh Willingham. There should be enough on the non-tender scrap pile to bring in competition for the spring and push Gerardo Parra.
  • There's a lot of talk about the White Sox trying to trade Carlos Quentin -- at least listen and see how desperate they are to get rid of him. If they take the bulk of his contract, he wouldn't be a bad fit to put in left.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 4:29 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 3:22 pm
 

2011 NLDS matchup: Brewers vs. Diamondbacks

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Milwaukee made a splash in the winter acquiring Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum -- it was a signal to the baseball world that the Brewers were going for it in 2011 and anything short of the postseason would be a disappointment in what figures to be Prince Fielder's last season in Milwaukee. Well, the Brewers responded by winning their first division title since 1982, when Harvey's Wallbangers went to the World Series as the American League representatives. While the Brewers were picked by many to be in the playoffs, the Diamondbacks were a complete surprise. Both teams have used pitching to get here, so expect some strong pitching performances.

TEAM INFORMATION

Milwaukee Brewers (host games 1, 2, 5)
96-66, NL Central champions
Manager: Ron Roenicke
Team batting statistics: .261 batting average (3rd in NL), .325 on-base percentage (4th), .425 slugging percentage (2nd)
Team pitching statistics: 3.64 ERA (7th), 1.240 WHIP (3rd), 2.86 K/BB (2nd)
Star player: LF Ryan Braun -- .332/.397/.597 33 HR, 111 RBI, 109 R, 38 2B, 6 3B, 33 SB

Arizona Diamondbacks (host games 3, 4)
94-68, NL West champions
Manager: Kirk Gibson
Team batting statistics: .250 batting average (10th in NL), .322 on-base percentage (7th), .413 slugging percentage (3rd)
Team pitching statistics: 3.80 ERA (9th), 1.286 WHIP (7th), 2.39 K/BB (7th)
Star player: RF Justin Upton -- .289/.369/.529 31 HR, 88 RBI, 105 R, 39 2B, 5 3B, 21 SB

SCHEDULE (Click here to view the entire postseason schedule)  

Game 1: ARI @ MIL, Oct. 1, 2:07 p.m. ET. Ian Kennedy (21-4, 2.88) vs. Yovani Gallardo (17-10, 3.52)
Game 2: ARI @ MIL, Oct. 2, 4:37 p.m. ET. Daniel Hudson (16-12, 3.49) vs. Zack Greinke (16-6, 3.83)
Game 3: MIL @ ARI, Oct. 4 Shaun Marcum (13-7, 3.54) vs. Joe Saunders (12-12, 3.69)
Game 4: MIL @ ARI, Oct. 5* Randy Wolf (13-10, 3.69) vs. TBD
Game 5: ARI @ MIL, Oct. 7* TBD vs. Gallardo
* if necessary

TEAM BREAKDOWN (Click player name for statistics)

Catcher
Milwaukee: Jonathan Lucroy
Arizona: Miguel Montero

Hands-down Montero is the better offensive threat, hitting .282/.351/.469 with 18 homers and 86 batted in. The 27-year-old made his first All-Star team this year and while he was once thought of as an all-offense catcher, his defense has improved.

Advantage: Diamondbacks

First base
Milwaukee: Prince Fielder
Arizona: Paul Goldschmidt

The rookie Goldschmidt has come up big in some important games, but he still has 222 fewer career homers than Fielder.

Advantage: Brewers

Second base
Milwaukee: Rickie Weeks
Arizona: Aaron Hill

The Diamondbacks and Blue Jays pulled off an August deal for struggling second basemen, sending Kelly Johnson north of the border and Hill going to Arizona. The change of scenery worked for Hill, who is hitting .315/.386/.492 in 33 games with the Diamondbacks. Weeks' numbers are down and he's coming off an ankle injury that limited him to 14 games since the end of July.

Advantage: Brewers

Shortstop
Milwaukee: Yuniesky Betancourt
Arizona: John McDonald

McDonald was an emergency stopgap acquired from the Blue Jays along with Hill in August, for the injured Stephen Drew. And Yuniesky Betancourt is Yuniesky Bentancourt, one of the worst all-around players in all of baseball.

Advantage: Diamondbacks

Third base
Milwaukee: Casey McGehee
Arizona: Ryan Roberts

Roberts is better known for his tattoos, but he's also had a decent season for the Diamondbacks, while McGehee has had a disastrous 2011. With a .223/.280/.346 line, McGehee's OPS+ is just 69. There's pop in that bat, but it's been hard to find.

Advantage: Diamondbacks

Left field
Milwaukee: Ryan Braun
Arizona: Gerardo Parra

Braun is going to be one of the favorites to win the MVP, Parra is not.

Advantage: Brewers

Center field
Milwaukee: Nyjer Morgan
Arizona: Chris Young

Young is one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, but has struggled a bit at the plate. Morgan is the Brewres' spark plug and resurrected his career in Milwaukee. Morgan's intangibles are huge -- and in the Brewers' favor.

Advantage: Brewers

Right field
Milwaukee: Corey Hart
Arizona: Justin Upton

Hart sometimes get lost in the shadow of Fielder and Braun, but he's had a pretty good season, as well, hitting .285/.356/.510 with 26 homers in 130 games. That said, Upton is one of the best young players in the game and will be in the top 10 of the MVP results.

Advantage: Diamondbacks

Starting pitching
Milwaukee: Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf
Arizona: Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders

Both teams are strong at the top, but the Brewers have more depth, with Marcum starting Game 3 and Randy Wolf possibly starting Game 4. Of course, the three-man rotation could really help the Diamondbacks, allowing Kennedy and Hudson to pitch twice if needed. Greinke wanted out of Kansas City so he could pitch in the playoffs, and now he gets his shot.

Advantage: Brewers

Relief pitching
Milwaukee closer: John Axford
Arizona closer: J.J. Putz

Last season the Diamondbacks had a historically bad bullpen. This year it's one of the reasons they're in the playoffs. While Axford is the best of the three closers in this series (counting the Brewers' Francisco Rodriguez), the Diamondbacks have the deeper bullpen, which only improved when Kirk Gibson decided to go with a three-man rotation and put right-hander Josh Collmenter in the bullpen, where he started the season.

Advantage: Diamondbacks

Total advantage: Tie: Diamondbacks (5), Brewers (5)

PREDICTION (click here to see full postseason predictions)

CBS Experts
Evan Brunell: Brewers in 5
Gregg Doyel: Brewers in 5
Danny Knobler: Diamondbacks in 5
Scott Miller: Brewers in 4
C. Trent Rosecrans: Brewers in 4
Matt Snyder: Brewers in 4

Trent's take: I'm still not exactly sure how the Diamondbacks wound up in the playoffs. The team has been doubted from spring training to the All-Star break and even at the start of the regular season's final month. Nobody has believed in the Diamondbacks at any point of this season. So I'm pretty sure they won't be too upset to be picked against here. Milwaukee has famously "gone for it" since last season, pulling off moves big (Greinke, Rodriguez) and small (Morgan). No pitcher likes to see Braun and Fielder back-to-back in that Brewers lineup, not even a 21-winner like Kennedy. The Brewers also have the arms in the rotation to be dangerous. I like the Brewers, but it wouldn't be the first time I was wrong about Arizona.

More Brewers-Diamondbacks NLDS coverage

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Posted on: September 10, 2011 1:11 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2011 4:57 pm
 

Latest concussion a concern for Morneau, Twins



By C. Trent Rosecrans

While football and hockey are putting a renewed emphasis on safety in light of the rising concern over concussions, baseball's not immune to head injuries just because it's a so-called "non-contact" sport.

The poster boy for concussions in baseball may end up being former MVP Justin Morneau, who missed the second half of last season after suffering a concussion on a play at second base when he took a knee to the head while trying to break up a double play. But that may not be the play that defines Morneau's struggles with concussions. Instead, it could be the concussion he suffered on Aug. 28. The play didn't look anything out of the ordinary -- a first baseman diving after a ball happens all the time. The results don't.

Morneau said he believes he suffered a new concussion in the second inning of the Aug. 28 game at Target Field when he dove for what ended up as a double for Alex Avila. He finished that game, but hasn't played since.

There's plenty we don't know about concussions, but one thing we do know is that once you suffer one, you're more susceptible to more. And that could be the problem for Morneau.

"It's definitely something that concerns me," Morneau told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "I mean, that's not normal. You see guys dive all the time. You see guys run full speed into the wall, and they're all right after that."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told the newspaper that he doesn't expect Morenau to play again this season, and if he does, it will be as a DH.

"He hit the ground pretty hard, and it definitely didn't help matters with him," Gardenhire said. "There's always concern. As I've said all along, we don't know enough about this concussion thing … I'm just hoping we can get past these things over the winter, and get into next year and maybe they'll be a thing of the past."

That's a huge hope -- and one that may not have much backing other than just hope.

Last season when John McDonlad's knee hit Morneau in the head, he was having another MVP-type season. He was hitting .345/.437/.618 with 18 homers and 56 RBI in 81 games. A full offseason didn't have him ready to return immediately to the field, as he missed some of spring training. He was there for opening day, but in 2011 he wasn't the same player he'd been before the injury, hitting just .227/.285/.333 with four homers and 30 RBI in 69 games.

MLB added a seven-day disabled list for those diagnosed with concussions and it's been a good first step. But we still don't know near enough to really understand the problem or how to combat it -- for now, vigilance and awareness are the two things that can be done and need to be expanded on by players and management. There's still a lot of ignorance out there about the problem -- just read any entry here on Morneau or concussions and you'll see comments from people telling them to "man up" or "get over it," implying that if no bone is broken, it's not a real injury and players should be on the field.  That type of fundamental misunderstand of concussions is what many health providers are fighting against. The bottom line is a concussion is a legitimate brain injury -- there's no such thing as a "minor" brain injury and anyone who questions the toughness of a player with such an injury aren't using that organ.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 23, 2011 4:02 pm
Edited on: August 23, 2011 7:22 pm
 

Jays swap Hill to Diamondbacks for Johnson

Hill

By Evan Brunell

Aaron Hill has been traded to the Diamondbacks in a surprising move. Hill and infielder John McDonald were sent to Arizona in exchange for second baseman Kelly Johnson in what appears to be a change-of-scenery deal.

The trade is primarily constructed around one struggling second baseman being moved for another, with Hill once hitting 36 homers in 2009, his career season to date. The 29-year-old also had a strong year in 2007, but since then has fallen off a cliff. In 2011, Hill is hitting just .225/.270/.313 and is one of the worst offensive hitters in the game, as I outlined last Monday, saying "[Hill] still has a good chance to return to being a league-average player, but anything above and beyond that at this point is just wishful thinking."

To GM Kevin Towers of Arizona, though, Hill isn't wishful thinking. He's a risk, sure, but one that Towers would prefer to take over than continuing to play Kelly Johnson, who began the year as starting second baseman but has seen his playing team decrease; hitting just .181/.246/.324 since the All-Star break will do that. In reality, Johnson has only had two good months, that being May and July. These months are why Johnson is hitting .209/.287/.412 overall. Still, it's better than Hill, and Johnson has a better shot at recapturing past glory, as he has strong seasons in 2007, 2008 and 2010 in his resume.

"He's struggled to put together a year like he had last year," Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson told the Associated Press. "It wasn't from a lack of work. To be honest with you, it was very tough to tell him he got traded today. He has high expectations of himself, he's very professional. He worked harder -- he probably worked too hard."

Johnson is an impending free agent, but currently qualifies as a Type-B free agent, which would net the Jays a compensatory pick. Anthopoulous greatly values acquiring picks and has made moves in the past to pick up players who can return draft-pick compensation. Of course, Johnson could always mess things up and accept arbitration, but his ensuing contract would be far from crippling. A hot streak to finish the season could also vault Johnson into Type-A territory, although it's difficult to imagine a team willingly giving up its first-round pick to sign Johnson to a deal in that case.

Hill is also slated to be a free agent assuming Arizona doesn't pick up $18 million in club options to pay Hill over the next two years, which it won't. That will allow Hill to walk, and he will likely qualify as a Type B free agent. The better chances of Johnson recapturing his value is where John McDonald comes in. McDonald is a backup infielder who can't hit, but does provide strong defense. That's in high demand for Arizona, who needs more bodies behind starting shortstop Willie Bloomquist with incumbent Stephen Drew out for the season with injury.

Given that both principal players in the deal will both be free agents and both likely to fetch similar compensation picks, this deal smacks of a change of scenery. Johnson wasn't working out anymore in Arizona, and with a division race to worry about, Towers grabbed a replacement second baseman with prior success that could break out in the desert, while adding a quality backup infielder. The Jays, meanwhile, get someone with a touch more upside and a better chance to stick long term, so one could argue that Toronto came out on top of the deal.

The Diamondbacks transferred starting pitcher Jason Marquis to the 60-day disabled list to clear out room for Hill and McDonald on the 40-man roster, while the Jays called up catcher Brian Jeroloman.

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